Nature Notes

Mount Rainier National Park

Vol. III July 21st, 1925 No. 4

Issued weekly during the summer season, monthly during the winter by the Nature Guide Service.
F. W. Schmoe,
Park Naturalist.
O. A. Tomlinson,

By Charles Landes Nature Guide.

All the old timers about the mountain use its clouded summit as a barometer. When after clear weather the cloud wreaths gather and settle down to form a cap over its top they predict an approaching storm. These predictions are in large percent correct. Westerly winds in contact with our mountain are raised to higher altitudes and condense into clouds. Lifting his head far above the neighboring mountains he is first to catch the moisture laden winds of the approaching storm and gives out his warning. The recent rain, very general along the coast, was heralded by a distinct cloud cap on Rainier that lasted for several days but no rain fell in this region. The opposite condition also oftentimes prevails. Clouds about the mountain may precipitate rain in the Cascades and none in the Puget Sound Basin.

Innocent appearing clouds about the top are nearly always blizzards of snow and climbers to the summit are sometimes turned back by the terrific winds and cutting ice sleet of these blizzards although the day is calm and the sunshine bright about the mountain's base. At altitudes of 12,000 feet and over the temperature is rarely above freezing and all precipitation is in the form of snow.

Clouds about the mountain add much of beauty and also much of discomfort to the visitor at the base. Whether visitor or permanent resident one never tires of the old mountain. The great mass of rock and ice never appears the same on any two occasions of successive days. Clouds about it constantly change its appearance. They may drift across its face in endless procession opening up vistas of glacier or cliff that stimulate the imagination of the beholder. But like many of the joys and pleasures of man, clouds give us more pleasure in perspective than in reality. Occasionally these same clouds so beautiful when seen from a distance about the mountains drop down and engulf the whole mountains base. Then we hunt our coats, sit about our camp fires and await the coming of the sunshine again, but even these cold, damp fogs are wonderfully refreshing to the flowers of the mountain slopes and they at least lift up their heads in grateful thanks.

The most beautiful effects come with the breaking up of the storm clouds upon the mountains. After the storm the stratus clouds break up into great masses of ever-changing cumulus, with their lights and shades and billowy massiveness. These great cloud masses melt gradually into higher, small clouds, until at last they are replace by gauzy lace-like currus clouds moving rapidly and ever changing. Then if it be evening you see the mountains catch and hold for a moment the last rays of the sun upon their tops. As these rays disappear and the great dome is left in quiet repose you lift your eyes again and catch the rosy glow of the same rays as they shine upon the gauzy cirrus above.

If you have been fortunate enough to witness this pageant of the skies you will come again for the mountains will surely have caught you in their spell.

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