An All American 4th

After 21 straight dry days here in the northwest, it would figure that we would wake to the sounds of rain and thunder and lightning on 4th of July morning. It was 5 o'clock and we already had the backpacks loaded with water and snacks and, rain or not, we were heading down to Mt. Rainier National Park to do some hiking. Despite living in the Seattle area for four years now, we've only been to the park at Mt Rainier once and it was a less than stellar trip with my in-laws. Not because they were there mind you, but because we took an exceedingly lengthy time to get there and then, once we did, turned back in search of a place to eat before actually seeing anything. In short, it was a non-visit to the park.

As we headed through the town of Enumclaw and out Highway 410 towards the Sunrise entrance to the park, the thick blanket of clouds began to part and by the time we parked the car, we were standing under a cloudless cobalt sky. Our first order of business was a morning hike along the Glacier Basin and Emmons Moraine trails. After spending a couple of hours taking numerous photos of Emmons Glacier, Mt Rainier, and Little Tahoma Peak, we headed back down the trail and drove up to the Sunrise visitor center. There, we found a way to pick our jaws up off the parking lot and left many of the drive-by snapshot-seekers behind as we headed up to Sourdough Ridge. We followed the ridge to Frozen Lake and then onward to Burroughs Mountain before returning along a small section of the Wonderland Trail. The trails were in great shape, even if we did have to glissade down a few snow-covered sections.

We were hungry and more than a bit sweaty so we cleaned up at the truck and quickly engulfed the large chocolate bar we bought we at the visitor center. It was filled with a delicious huckleberry syrup, but made one hell of a mess as we ate it.

We had only hiked about 8 miles so far and it was early yet so we drove out of the park and back along Hihgway 410 to the Greenwater area where I often mountain bike. Kristin had wanted to see what the forest road climbs I do on my mountain bike rides were like so I drove her up the road leading to Sun Top. The road climbs about 2700 feet in 6 miles. At which point we hopped onto the trail and hoofed our way up another 400 feet in about a half mile to the summit. She couldn't believe that we often begin our club rides with grunts up forest roads such as the one on Sun Top and, I have to admit it, I find it rather surprising too.

As we reached the Sun Top lookout, we began to hear thunder in the distance and, sure enough, there were a lot clouds back in the direction of home. And they were moving in fast -- or so it seemed. We ran back down the road to the truck and headed to Enumclaw, where I anxiously looked forward to another trip to The Mint, where John brought us on Sunday. Unfortunately, The Mint was closed for the holiday and after driving around "E-Town" looking for somewhere to eat besides Godfather Pizza and Quiznos we settled on the Rainier Bar & Grill. What a dump. The food was terrible, the service horrible, and the beer selection pretty abysmal.

If I may digress for a moment, I'd like to point out that we're not ones to get too wrapped up in holidays. For that matter, we make a point of skipping all the biggies at least every other year. But despite our lack of planning, we found ourselves having a true good ol' fashioned American 4th of July. After all, we visited a National Park; dined on burgers and beer; and were now listening to a ballgame on the radio while sipping a McDonald's milkshake. And what can possibly get your patriotic blood flowing more than listening to America's pasttime on the radio? I definitely felt a surge in my own personal American pride as I cheered on my Mariner favorites: Go Ichiro, Kenji, Jose, Shin-Choo, Raul, and Yuniesky!

Umm... nevermind that last part.

The only thing we were missing was some fireworks. And being that we happened to live in one of the towns where personal fireworks were still legal (if not encouraged), they weren't hard to come by. The mere suggestion of fireworks brought Kristin's sheltered childhood beliefs to the surface, but it wasn't hard to convince her that they were safe. No, actually I just ignored her. Anyway, we pulled up to the first fireworks tent we saw and promptly purchased an emasculating quantity of the cheapest poppers we could get. we spent a grand total of $15 and if that wasn't a surefire sign of my noob-ness, I actually asked if they sold any "ordinary firecrackers or bottle rockets". Yeah, ummm, they've been outlawed for years. I did manage to save a little face by at least purchasing one product with the word "artillery shells" across the front in a huge, angry, manly font.

And so our day was complete: National Park, hiking, burgers, beer, baseball, McDonalds, and now fireworks. Lighting off the fireworks was fun. For about 5 minutes. Then it became obvious that many of the people in our neighborhood were cranking up their own semi-professional shows. For every 50-cent ground flower I lit, they each sent a half-dozen mortar shells a quarter mile into the sky. And although my box of six artillery shells did make a large boom and look pretty cool, I eventually failed to hold even my own attention and soon wandered down the street to where my neighbors were all gathered.

One of the folks on our street apparently has an aunt or mom who works for one of the fireworks distributors and she "brought some things home from work" for the barbecue. What she brought home was three (and I'm not making this up) wheel-barrows filled with professional-grade fireworks worth well over a couple thousand dollars. Who needs to go into the city to watch the fireworks when you have the same fireworks going off a block away? Their show went on for over an hour and they had four large mortar tubes firing off in unison from the middle of the street with all of us neighbors more than happy to light a few. Nevermind that we were so close to the action that we were actually getting showered in cardboard, ash, and gunpowder. It was still awesome.

But eventually our 4th of July had to come to an end. So we strolled back to our house, shook the ash out of our hair, and finished the day with one final tip of the cap to this great country of ours... we had a piece of apple pie.

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