Tag Archives: Elbe

EZ Times Outfitters, a Great Time for All!

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Some people think that the only time to come to Mt. Rainier is in the summer. Those people are WRONG! There’s plenty of fun to be had at the mountain in the winter, that, combined with less crowds and gorgeous scenery, looks like Mt. Rainier just became your family’s winter destination.

What’s a great activity for you, you ask? How about trail riding with some great horses! EZ Times Outfitters is just 14 miles from the entrance to Mt. Rainier National Park off Highway 7. If you’ve been to Rainier before, chances are you’ve driven by it! With friendly and knowledgeable staff, exceptionally well trained horses, and some breathtaking views, it’s an outing everyone will enjoy.

Not super comfortable on a horse? Never ridden one? No worries! The horses and guides have done trail rides with people at all levels of comfort on a horse. To be honest when we went on our ride, it’d been years since I’d been on a horse! The staff helped me get on and off, and always made sure we were comfortable with the pace. The horses are so well trained they followed the guide and his horse- we just had to keep them from snacking on ferns (my horse LOVED to sneak snacks). Our ride took us up into the Elbe hills shared with the DNR Horse Trail System. We splashed through puddles, climbed up slopes, trotted for a bit (only if you want), and got to take in some great views of the Nisqually River and Mt. St. Helens in the distance.

EZ Times offers a couple of options, 1hr or 2hr mountain trail rides, sunset trail rides, Nisqually River trail rides, and kid rides. EZ Times Outfitters currently has 10 horses. They can take children as young as 5 and carry up to 250 pounds. If you’re worried about a small child, they have lead ropes they can tie up to the guide’s horse for extra peace of mind.

This isn’t just a fair weather activity either. The horses are ready to go in sun, rain, or snow. They even have rain coats that cover you head to toe, as well as your horse. As long as you dress for the weather, you’ll have fun regardless!

See their youtube video here.

Check out other activities here.

Mount Rainier Scenic Railroad

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All aboard! If you are exploring Mt. Rainier and are looking for an extra activity outside the park, the Mount Rainier Scenic Railroad is an amazing ride. Located just twelve miles from the west entrance to Mt. Rainier, the Mt. Rainier Scenic Railroad (MRSR) is close to the action and family-friendly, with beautiful scenery and a stop at a historic logging museum

The Mount Rainier Scenic Railroad train has been operating out of Elbe  since 1981. The non-profit organization’s mission is two-fold: to educate visitors and locals alike about the  logging industry that shaped the region over the last 100 years, and to preserve the steam engines that made the lumber industry possible in the first part of the 20th century.

Rides are offered Saturday and Sunday at 10 am, 12:45 pm, and 3:30 pm through October 27th, when the trains will stop for the winter season. You can reserve seats in advance (recommended) or arrive at least 30 minutes early to purchase tickets. Check here for occasional Groupon opportunities to save some dough.

The staff will let you and your family know when it is time to board, and then let you take your seats.  As the train pulls out of the Elbe station, a staff member will come around to punch tickets, answer questions, and provide safety rules for the journey.  Once you and your family depart on your adventure, you’ll cross over the highway and head west towards Ashford (and Mt. Rainier Nat’l Park) until the train turns southwards at Park Junction and makes its way south towards Mineral. The other branch (which is no longer in use), once  made its way onwards to Ashford and National the first half of last century, where one of the largest logging mills in America used to reside.

Continuing on the adventure, the train will cross back across the high way and across a bridge over the Nisqually River.  On a clear day you can look upriver to enjoy the grandeur of the river’s source – Mt. Rainier. The mountain will show her face a bit throughout the latter half of the ride, peaking above the hills and adding another dimension to the scenes of changing leaves, flowing rivers, and forested hillsides.

The train will stop after approximately 30 minutes in Mineral, at the Mount Rainier Scenic Railroad’s own version of a railroad camp.  Historic logging camp buildings from all over Washington have been brought together to form this camp. The largest structure is the MRSR restoration and repair shop which contains a track with a servicing pit, and all the necessary tools to rebuild a steam locomotive.  The staff and volunteers work here on the MRSR trains, using skills and tools employed since the 1800’s. The railroad camp is still under development to restore and furnish each of the camp buildings to accurately portray life as it once was at a railroad camp.  On each visit you can come to enjoy something new!

Once run on coal, the train now runs on used motor oil. The round-trip adventure from Elbe to Mineral and back takes 150 gallons of the recycled oil, and 1,500 gallons or more of water. A steam locomotive works by burning a combustible material (in this case used motor oil),  producing steam in a boiler, which is then driven through an engine.

The water is an incredibly powerful source of combustion – when a molecule of water is heated to 387 degrees, it expands to more than 1600 times it’s original size.  The steam engines are marvelously effective, but their disuse came about because of their difficulty to maintain.  Steam engines were used until the 1950s.

Interestingly, the steam also explains where the “choo-choo” sound comes from. When the slide valve opens the high-pressure steam into either side of the cylinder, the escaping steam makes the recognizable “choo!” sound as it exits.

Learn all about steam engines and the fascinating logging history of the Nisqually River region on the Mount Rainier Scenic Railroad.  The views are beautiful, the people friendly, and the ride is sure to please everyone in your family, young and old.  Enjoy!

More information can be found at the Mount Rainier Scenic Railroad website here.

DNR Horse Camp

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Looking for a place to camp that can accommodate a large RV outside the west entrance of Mt. Rainier Nat’l Park?  Or perhaps you are looking for a place to camp when the auto campgrounds at Mt. Rainier close on Sept. 29th, 2013. Look no more! As long as you can live without hookups and can pack out your own garbage, the Sahra Creek DNR Horsecamp is just the place for you.

The DNR Horse Camp is located about 8 miles from the west entrance to Mt. Rainier, in a beautiful wooded locale.  The sites are large and plentiful, there are pull-through spots that can accommodate large RVs, and most of the sites have picnic tables and fire grates.  There are two water spigots and a couple of fairly nice pit toilets, and there’s a central grass area that has horse shoe pits if you bring your own shoes.  There is even a building in the center of the camp with over a dozen picnic tables – perfect for a group gathering when the weather isn’t optimal.

The campground accesses a large system of horse trails, meaning that summer weekends and holidays during the summer finds the campground filled with horse trailers. However, mid-week and into the fall season, the campground is very quiet. Since this is a horse camp, you can expect to find some horse “residue,” though most folks are good about cleaning up after their animals. Pets and tent camping are welcomed! This is a great family-friendly place, although the grounds are quite open – so privacy is minimal.

The campground is free to use, but a Washington State Discover Pass is required.  These passes can be obtained at sporting good stores, anywhere a fishing or hunting license are sold, or at the AVG gas station in Ashford (approximately 2 miles east of the DNR horsecamp).  Licenses are $30 for a yearly pass or $10 for daily passes (with transaction and dealer fees the totals are $35 or $11.50), and can also be bought online here: http://www.discoverpass.wa.gov/.

The DNR horse camp is located approximately 5 miles east of Elbe.  When heading east, the DNR sign and drive will be on the left side of the road.  The Visitor Center is just two miles further east in Ashford, and the Mt. Rainier west entrance is less than a 10 minute drive away.

Happy camping!

Address: 262nd Ave E, Ashford, WA 98304
South Puget Sound Region DNR phone: 1-800-527-3305

Lake Alder adventures

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Trying to get out of the crowds, and into some water?  With this heat wave, it can be great to take a break from hiking in the sun, and spend part of your Mt. Rainier visit lounging on Alder Lake!

About 15 minutes before the Nisqually entrance to Mt. Rainier lay one of the jewels of the Nisqually Valley.  As the Nisqually River flows from the Nisqually Glacier, through the park, and through Ashford (passing just a mile from our Visitor Center), it empties it’s jade-colored water into Alder Lake at Elbe.  Formed by Alder Dam, Alder Lake stretches 7 miles, past the town of Alder, winding along HWY 7.

There are three fantastic parks for your family’s enjoyment (all part of the Alder Lake Park system).  If you have a paddleboard, kayak, canoe, motorboat, jetskis, or other water vessel – bring it along! Park fun includes swimming areas, boat launches, barbeques, bathrooms, playgrounds, and plenty of picnic space – but not all three parks include all facilities.  Read on for the what’s what of Alder Lake summer fun!

Driving west from the Ashford Visitor’s Center on SR 706, you’ll reach Elbe after 7 miles, and join HWY 7.  Drive through Elbe, and you’ll see the first park, Rocky Point Campground on your left.  With the least facilities of the three parks, Rocky Point is best used for it’s boat launch, camping and fishing.  There are a couple of picnic tables, but there is not a swimming area. There are 25 campsites with electric and water hookups, and a bathroom facility. You can fish for largemouth bass, rainbow and cutthroat trout from this westernmost area of the lake, and the boat launch is free of charge.  It is a great option for launching the boat when the other parks are super-busy! More info can be found at http://www.mytpu.org/tacomapower/parks-recreation/alder-lake-park/rocky-point-campground.htm

Sunny Beach Point is 3 miles further west along HWY 7. There is a swimming beach, a sheltered picnic area, restrooms, and 20 picnic tables with grills. Sunny Beach Point is open May 15th – September 15th, and there is always free entry.  No alcohol allowed, and there is no camping. Pets are welcomed on-leash. More information can be found at http://www.mytpu.org/tacomapower/parks-recreation/alder-lake-park/sunny-beach-point.htm

Alder Lake Park is .6 miles west along HWY 7 from Sunny Beach Park. Alder Lake Park is the most expansive of the parks by far, with a swimming area, boat launch, and 149 campsites. There are coin-operated showers and restrooms.  The park has free entrance on weekdays, and a $5 parking fee on weekends and holidays.  If the day-use parking lot is full, the gates will be closed, but that does not mean the park itself is closed! Open year-round.  More info at http://www.mytpu.org/tacomapower/parks-recreation/alder-lake-park/

Bring your family, dogs, swimsuits, and a picnic blanket and soak in the beauty of Alder Lake.  Summer doesn’t get much better than lake swimming, bbqing, boating and camping!

Details:

Rocky Point Campground
52910 Mountain Highway E
Eatonville, WA 98328

Sunny Beach Point:
50316 Mountain Hwy E
Eatonville, WA 98328

Alder Lake Park
50324 School Rd
Eatonville, WA 98328

For all 3 parks (all part of the Alder Lake Park system):
Park office: (360) 569-2778
Fishing and recreation line: (888) 502-8690

*Note – while State Highway 7/Mountain Highway is closed to through traffic for construction this summer, the parks are still accessible, as they are considered local traffic. Coming from the south, continue through road closure signs.  From the north, follow the detour routes, until you can pass the road closure signs from the south as directed above.