Summer has officially begun as of the solstice on June 22nd, and Mt. Rainier’s trails are beginning to thaw out. An easy and accessible trail to avoid the snow and learn about Mt. Rainier’s earliest history is the Trail of Shadows, directly across from Longmire National Inn.
A flat and wide .7 mile loop, the Trail of Shadows allows families of every age to stroll together and admire the lush vegetation, babbling brooks that circle a beaver pond and Longmire Meadow. The area is great for viewing wildlife, particularly at dusk and dawn, and children and adults alike will be enchanted by the vibrant green foliage that nests itself at the feet of old growth trees. On a clear day from the West side of the meadow, you can see Mt. Rainier towering over the hillside to the Northeast.
Aside from natural delights, the walk also allows visitors a glimpse into vestiges of the past. James Longmire discovered the pond while his horses wandered off for a bit of water during a hiking expedition. To his delight, he saw that the pond was fed in part by bubbling mineral springs, which can still be seen today. Longmire laid his claim to the land, built a thirteen-mile wagon trail to the springs, and erected cabins and in 1890, a hotel for his late-19th Century “therapeutic” spa.
While the cedar tubs that visitors once soaked in at the turn of the century are now long gone, visitors can still admire Soda Springs, which are springs enclosed by a ring of stones and including a seating area and high stone wall. Of the 49 total mineral springs discovered in the Longmire area, “Iron Mike” is another spring enclosed by rudimentary rock walls that visitors can behold.
The trail also passes by the oldest building in the park – a cabin built in 1888 by James Longmire’s son, Elcaine Longmire, where he often would live during the summertime. Everyone loves to peer inside and wonder at how the small, simple interior of the cabin, and imagine a life so different from our own.
Rainier National Park introduced a competing hotel in 1906, and eventually bought the Longmire’s out of their property in 1939. The springs were tested and found that they did not have any medicinal value, and the springs were ceased to exist as a tourist attraction, yet remained an important part of Mt. Rainier history.
The Trail of Shadows beckons you and yours. Enjoy!