On the Way to Paradise . . .
Exit 68 for Hwy 12 is about 75 miles north of Portland on I-5. It's a wonderful way to go.
Lewis & Clark State Park
Washington’s Lewis & Clark State Park is only about 2.5 miles from I-5, exit 68. From Hwy 12 take the Jackson Hwy south to “one of the last major stands of old-growth forest in the state. Coniferous trees, streams, wetlands, dense vegetation, and wet prairie comprise the park environment. The park contains a vast stand of rare old-growth forest. It is a Civilian Conservation Corps park, and many of the buildings constructed by the corps remain in use today.” I don’t think Lewis and Clark were ever even close to where this park is, but then General George was never in what’s now the state of Washington, either, so it’s just a way of appreciating their accomplishments.
Note that the Day Use area is closed Oct-Apr15, but at least some campsites are open year-round. One group kitchen shelter is reservable, the other first-come-first serve. There’s a forest exhibit, playground, playfield, amphitheater, and June is Youth Fishing Month when kids 14 and younger can fish the creek. Some campsites are ADA accommodating, but not much else is, such as restrooms and old growth trail.
More info at https://www.stateparks.com/lewis_and_clark_state_park_in_washington.html and https://parks.state.wa.us/538/Lewis-Clar
Jackson House State Park
As mentioned in the links above, on the way to Lewis & Clark State Park, you will pass by or stop at the Jackson House State Park on the Jackson Highway. Very interesting for history buffs, and has picnic tables and room to run for kids needing to stretch their muscles. Site says there are restrooms, but nothing about accessibility.
Ike Kinswa State Park
The turn-off for Ike Kinswa State Park is not quite 14 miles from I-5 on Hwy 12. There’s a ½ mi hint, but the turn-off comes up suddenly with little notice (small sign) where to turn north off Hwy 12 onto Hwy 122-E. You’ll travel through farmland on the north side of Mayfield Lake. The boat launch area is first (has picnic tables and restroom, beside boat launch and great views; Discover Pass and launch permit fee, dump station fee). Continue on Hwy 122 east a little, and the campground is to the right, the day use to the left. You can get a useful map and info at the entrance to the campground.
There are lots of great amenities at this park, which is open year-round, but I was attracted initially for the accessible fishing pier, which is nice and easy to get to. There’s as restroom with an accessible stall, and the paved path past the restroom leads down to the accessible fishing pier. The handicapped parking spots at both entrances to the day use area are hemmed in kind of narrowly. Nice picnic spots, swimming area roped off (looked kind of murky), kayaking, trails (some wheelchair friendly paths), horseshoes, etc. The campground has campsites, hookups, RV dump (seasonal), cabins, 4 restrooms, 10 showers.
“The nine cabins at Ike Kinswa State Park sit along Mayfield Lake and are within walking distance of the lake. Each cabin is 12-by-24-feet in size and features a 6-foot covered front porch, picnic table, electric heat, lights, and locking doors. Bathrooms and showers are nearby. Cabins are furnished with bunk beds that sleep three and a full-size bed. Outside is a fire grill, utility hookup, and a deck that is ADA accessible. Pets are allowed in cabins 4, 5 and 9 with a $15 (plus tax) pet fee per night.”
More info at https://parks.state.wa.us/519/Ike-Kinswa and https://www.stateparks.com/ike_kinswa_state_park_in_washington.html
Highway 122 rejoins Hwy 12 at Mossyrock if you keep going east.
The turn-off for Mayfield Dam is just a bit past the west end exit to Hwy 122 off Hwy 12. It’s on the right. There’s a fenced cul-de-sac that looks way down on the dam at the south end of Mayfield Lake, with a bench or two and some info signs. It’s just a small paved area, but those interested in dams would like to see. The view across the lake is nice. Only personnel allowed in the fish hatchery at water level.
The privately owned Mayfield Resort & Marina can be seen across the lake from the dam, and you get to it south (right) off Hwy 12 via Winston Creek and Hadaller Roads. There are accommodations, playground, marina, restaurant, and nice people. https://lakemayfield.com/
Mayfield Lake Park was developed and is maintained by Tacoma Power. It’s a great family place with a nice beach, playground, boat ramp, restrooms, campsites (water & electricity) and day use ($5 fee summer holidays & weekends), group camp, fire rings/grills, coin-op showers, accessible sites and restrooms, reservable kitchen shelter, fishing, horseshoes, volleyball. From I-5 drive east on Hwy 12 about 17 miles, turn left on Beach Road and the park entrance is ¼ mile.
Mossyrock and Mossyrock Park
Mossyrock is a cute tiny town a bit south of Hwy 12 (pop 759 in 2010, though the K-12 school district of 400 serves the surrounding area). It’s been around since 1852. The town’s website has some interesting history at http://www.cityofmossyrock.com/ The August Blueberry Festival had to be cancelled in 2020 due to COVID-19. ☹ See also https://discoverlewiscounty.com/mossyrock
For more photos of the hamlet of Mossyrock, scroll to the end of
Mossyrock Park is another of Tacoma Public Utilities’ developments. It’s a family-oriented campground and picnic area on Riffe Lake, with a boat launch, fish cleaning stations, swimming, playground, horseshoes, volleyball, coin-op showers, laundry, water faucets throughout the campground, reservable kitchen shelter, trails (including .8 mi wheelchair accessible), handicapped campsites and restroom, and group areas. Each campsite has a fire ring and picnic table, but be aware of fire restrictions. Day use parking is $5 on summer weekends and holidays, otherwise free. It’s only a 6 min drive (3.2 mi) to Mossyrock Park from Mossyrock town, if you don’t mistakenly take a right when you should go straight. Head east on Main Street, take a slight left onto E. State St., and continue on Mossyrock Road E. and Ajlune Road. Don’t veer to the right at Swofford Rd, unless you are trying to go to Swofford Pond and fish, but it’s not handicapped friendly.
Cowlitz Wildlife Area
We came across the sign for Cowlitz Wildlife Area, but weren’t sure what it was. At home I found it at
Taidnapam Park, Cowlitz River Project, Tacoma Power
Taidnapam Park is about 15 min (9.5 mi) east of Morton WA (total about 2 hours from Portland to Taidnapam). Take Kosmos Rd from US-12 southeast of Morton, then Bridgeover Rd, and a sharp left onto Champion Haul Road. Warning: Taidnapam Park is so popular that you should reserve 9 months in advance. During COVID-19 we had no problem with crowds in the day use areas. We didn’t check the campground.
And there are reasons Taidnapam is popular: fishing bridge over Riffe Lake, fish cleaning station, accessible restroom, 2 boat launches, picnic tables with grills, playground, and swim area in the Day Use ($5 summer holidays & weekends). The forested campground has fire rings & picnic tables in each site; campsites with water, electric, and some with sewer hookups, group camp with hookups, coin-operated showers, accessible restrooms, and primitive camping. Year-round camping and day-use (except Dec 20-Jan1). Lake levels may affect swim areas and boat launches. You can call to find out—look for the number at the link below. Be aware of fire restrictions, and heavy logging truck traffic.
Packwood Lodge & Cuisine
Restaurant choices are limited in Packwood, so we decided to buy a pizza there at Cruisers, and brought salad and cheesecake, fruit cups and drinks and such from home. I wanted a Pacific Northwest themed salad, so I topped the spinach greens with chopped apple, dried cranberries, chopped hazelnuts, feta crumbles, and cedar plank-grilled salmon. It was so good I didn’t use the dressing I brought, but you could top it as you like. The gourmet combo pizza was expensive, but delicious, even left over. For breakfast we likewise brought some choices—for myself I brought crepes, combined whipped cream with a small piece of the cheesecake to wrap the crepes around, and topped them with blackberries. White Pass Taqueria is right there by the Packwood Lodge, and they feature breakfast burritos and other choices, as well as a lunch and dinner menu (menu provided in-room).
Likewise, it didn’t seem like there were many good choices of hotels in and near Packwood, but after looking at the website and calling the Packwood Lodge, we decided to give them a try. The Tudor exterior is a bit dated, but the King Suite we got was very nicely appointed. The bathroom was tight to maneuver in a wheelchair, so I was glad for the grab bar by the toilet. All was clean, recently renovated. There was the usual (reasonably sized) frig and microwave, tables and chairs in the spacious quarters. The French doors were a nice touch, but didn’t open onto a private area. Two sleeping areas could have had a curtain between, at least. Nice big flat screen TV in my room. I forgot to measure the height of the bed, but it was high, if that’s an issue for you or yours. The room was octagonal, so made an awkward angle between the bed and nightstand. Inconspicuously wheeled furniture made it easy to adjust for that.
Mt. Rainier—from Stevens Canyon (SE entrance) through the park to Nisqually (SW entrance/exit)
Grove of the Patriarchs—Very close to the park entrance booth is the parking lot for the Grove, without announcing that you’ve found the place. The restrooms are old and over-used. Only the vault toilet is maneuverable with a wheelchair. I was very disappointed that while they emphasize that the trail is easy, it is not for wheelchairs. I had to miss out on that classic experience.
On the drive up to Paradise the scenery is absolutely awe inspiring, and there are excellent photogenic views of Rainier. You become aware how massive a mountain it is when you see it in person. I was awfully glad to be driving up from the south so that we were on the up-side of the steep mountain incline and somewhat narrow scenic route. Marvelous stonework all along the roadway, constructed by the Depression era WPA workers nearly 100 years ago, is telling of the rigors of the alpine environment. On the way down roadwork delayed us somewhat.
Despite the pandemic, the parking lots at Paradise were pretty well full. We parked in a handicapped space of the additional parking lot, and my helper pushed me up to the visitor center. I didn’t want to wear out too soon. Only a booth was open of the visitor center, beside the busy restroom. My helper said the restroom was nice enough, though. There we got the information that would have been useful to have before going, while in the planning stage. Additionally, the ranger marked the most wheelchair friendly “hike” where I could see wildflowers and a glacier. Another time we will try that out.
There are opportunities for learning, lunching (picnic tables), and looking. The lodge there was closed for COVID, though. I couldn’t fit everything in one photo. You can see photos, and even a link to Youtube videos at their site: https://www.nps.gov/mora/planyourvisit/paradise.htm , accessibility info at https://www.nps.gov/mora/planyourvisit/accessibility.htm
Longmire sounds like it has a lot to offer, but it seemed too crowded to find easy parking when we were there, and we were tired, not wanting to get home too late. See more (including links to videos) at https://www.nps.gov/mora/planyourvisit/longmire.htm
We exited the park at the Nisqually entrance at the SW corner of the park. Immediately Gateway Inn and Cabins met our view. It’s 4.3 miles from the center of Ashford WA, where more places to stay offer some choices, though not any 5-star hotels. Nisqually Lodge looks pretty good on the internet. Or, Paradise Village (hotel, restaurant, café/bakery), Alexander’s Lodge, Mountain Meadows Inn . . .
Here are a couple virtual/video ways to experience or prepare to experience Mt. Rainier. And then some photos from previous years . . .
5 min video—“Mount Rainier, Sumer in 4K – National Park, Washington State – Short Preview”
A montage of video scenes of Mt. Rainier including some animals, only natural sounds
13 min video—"Mt Rainier: Washington’s Highest Peak”
Climbing Mt. Rainier--with commentary--Aug 5 (posted Aug 15, 2019)
I've been in a wheelchair for 30+ years. It poses some challenges for traveling. Maybe others can benefit from my experiences.