Great Lodges of the National Parks
Pacific Northwest: Paradise Inn
Mt. Rainier and Paradise Inn have long and curious histories. Here you can explore some of the facts, legends and curious true stories.
Paradise is, according to experts, the snowiest place on earth. In 1971, a record 1,027 inches of snow fell. The following winter that record was broken with 1,122 inches, or slightly less than 100 feet. The last truly serious snowfall was in 1974, when 1,071 inches came down. It's hardly surprising that Paradise Inn has required constant maintenance and multiple structural upgrades.
The "Funny" Furniture
The Paradise Inn's unusual furniture began to appear around 1918. It is the work of Hans Fraehnke, a German-born carpenter who spent several years crafting items for the Inn. His Bavarian woodwork can be seen at the registration desk, and on the piano and grandfather clock. He also made a pair of thrones, and split-log tables weighing 1,500 pounds.
The "Silver Forest" Fire
An old issue of "Mount Rainier Nature News Notes," says that visitors to Paradise were still traveling through 2 miles of the burned "ghost forest" in 1924. The story also claims that a party of berry pickers started the fire that killed the trees. Apparently they stirred up a nest of yellowjackets and, "in their enthusiasm to burn out the hornets nest made a larger fire than they could control."
A Safe Landing?
In 1951, Air Force Lt. John Hodgkin decided to land his personal plane on top of Mt. Rainier. When he couldn't restart the engine, a ranger rescue party climbed the peak to assist. Upon reaching the summit, rescuers found that Hodgkin had decided to glide off the mountain (with a dead engine) and land at Mowich Lake. He was later tried for ignoring the ban on landing airplanes within the Park.
About 100 climbers rest at Camp Muir (elev. 10,188 ft.) every night during climbing season. At this elevation, freezing cold prevents normal decomposition. So, in 1985, the NPS installed a solar-assisted dehydrating toilet at the Camp. A similar facility is now available at Camp Shurman (elev. 9,702 ft.). Dried material (lighter by about 1/3) is air-lifted off the mountain at seasonal intervals.
A Cautionary Tail
In 1976, dog owners discovered a new reason for keeping their pets on leashes (as required by Park rules). When two dogs were allowed to play and run freely, one jumped over the safety railing into Cowlitz Box Canyon. The second dog promptly gave chase. Neither dog's body was retrieved.
It's a Bird? It's a Plane?
On June 25, 1947, Kenneth Arnold, a Forest Service employee, was flying his own plane over Mt. Rainer when, according to newspaper reports, he spotted 9 flying objects at the mountain's 9,500-foot-level. Arnold estimated their speed at 1,200 miles an hour. He described the objects as flat, with a length and width of about 50 feet - a description that introduced the phrase "flying saucers."