Wheels Outside the Garden--Descent from Paradise

* Introduction * Wheels Outside the Garden * Wheels in the Garden * Garden Trails *

* Descent from Paradise * Sunrise Descent * Stevens Canyon Road * Carbon River Road *


The descent from Paradise is not the one described by Milton, but the road from Paradise to Longmire in Mt. Rainier National Park. It is a thirteen mile drop from alpine meadows at timberline to into a Pacific Northwest old growth lowland forest. The short ride is equivilant to traveling from the Arctic to a latitude several thousand miles south.

I first became fascinated with the Paradise-Longmire road during the summer my family took its first annual triip from New Jersey to Mt. Rainier in the early 1950s. This picture was taken in July.

We had a picnic at Paradise this July, on a trip to assess the Paradise-Longmire road for a trike ride.

Below is the July view from near the start of the ride.

Looking in the opposite direction, one sees the Tatoosh Range on a horizon just a few miles distant, with the newly cleared Paradise-Longmire road in the valley.

In early October, most of the snow is gone, leaving only the twenty-eight glaciers on the peak.

Nearly sixty years after my first trip up from Longmire to Paradise, I prepare to ride down.

The road leaves the Paradise Inn parking lot and begins with a long sweeping curve through the open alpine landscape.

This descent is unique in that the entire ride can be accomplished without pedaling except in the parking lots at the beginning and end.

Most visitors head up the mountain in the morning, so downhill traffic is sparse. On October mornings, it is almost nonexistent. You will likely not be passed anyway since a trike travels this road at about the same speed as a car.

The speed limit of 35 mph is easy to maintain on much of the ride. I could have gone much faster pedaling in high gear, but reached my limit of confidence carrying a video camera. One-handed steering and braking has its limits on a road with cliffs.

My wife was hesitant to drive down because there are only ocassional guard rails. I didn't tell her until after the ride that a car did go over the edge here last month, plunging 750 feet. (The lone driver survived.)

This is a truly thrilling ride. You leave the mountain glaciers and drop past huge ravines, precipices, two large waterfalls, a long curving bridge, thirteen switchbacks, and dense forest. There are restaurants at the top and bottom, picnic areas along the way. You can coast the entire way or stop and enjoy the many sights. Too bad it takes only thirty minutes!