Peace, prosperity and happiness are what one expects to find in Paradise. So a drive to Ashford Washington, located on the road that leads to Paradise at Mt. Rainier National Park is a great way to start the journey. While on your way to paradise, you might want to fuel up at one of the very unique restaurant experiences in the area.
While the name of The Wild Berry restaurant would lead you to expect a typical country eatery in the vicinity of Mount Rainier, once you walk in the door, you find that you’ve actually entered a world more akin to Mount Everest. Owner Dawa Fhuti Sherpa and his wife Pawan Lama Sherpa grew up in Nepal. They established two successful restaurants and lodges along the trail that leads to the Everest basecamp. In Nepal they perfected the food and hospitability business and when they decided to relocate in the states, they were warmly welcomed to the Rainier area by the climbers that frequent both mountains. While they have kept some local American favorites on the menu, the Nepalese offerings make dining at The Wildberry a truly special occasion.
A highlight of the menu is the beef momo, which is a steamed dumpling, first introduced in China and now commonplace in Nepal and Tibet. Momos are traditionally served with a fiery sauce of dried red chili peppers. Even on the American side of the menu, there is opportunity for culinary adventure – you can have a regular old hamburger – or a Yak Burger! And of course – there is berry pie for dessert.
After lunch is a great time for some light exercise. Just a short ten minute car ride brings you to the entrance of Mt. Rainier National Park and the Westside Road. A short hike along the road has outstanding views of waterfalls and wildflowers. Since the road is flat (and is closed to cars during snow times), it is ideal for cross-country skiing or snowshoeing in the winter.
A slightly more ambitious hike is the Kautz Glacier trail. This trail provides a bit of a history lesson because it still bears the effects from a heavy rain event 1947 that released a huge mudflow from part of the Kautz Glacier. The result was over 50 million cubic yards of mud that covered the road and forest. Hiking on the Kautz trail you can still see the damage to the trees and streambed. Luckily, that has been the only major mudflow since the park open in 1899. A mile and a half in you will arrive at a split log bridge that can serve as a turn-around point for a short hike. Or – you can also keep going for the full 12.5 miles of the trail.
Another great destination in the National Park is just a short ten minute drive away. Longmire Lodge currently offers many services including lodging, food, gift shop and general store. The original lodge was built in 1883 by James Longmire. (Longmire’s daughter Martha is credited with naming the Paradise area by proclaiming “This place is paradise!” when she first saw it.) To promote his lodge, Longmire also advertised that the hot mineral springs nearby, had curative powers (a claim which never really had staying power). Most visitors to the area find that just being in the lovely surroundings is very curative. Just across the street from the lodge is the Trail of the Shadows (a short stroll – under one mile). This takes you past Longmire’s old cabin, evidence of old mineral springs and views of Eagle Peak. There is also a junction to Rampart Ridge Trail which is a four mile loop with views of Mt. Rainer at the top of the ridge. And for the truly adventurous (and fit) there is the trailhead to the Wonderland Trail which circumnavigates the mountain. It is a 93 mile hike with (as one ranger states) “lots of elevation gain.”
Continuing the road up to Paradise in the car you’ll find spectacular views of Nada Falls. In the spring there is still snow and ice on the hillside, framing the falls, which creates a magical sight. The last stop on the road is Paradise which is worth the trip in all seasons. Wildflowers litter the meadows in the summer, fall foliage and bright colors dot the hillside in the fall and hundreds of inches cover the ground in the winter. And, the road is kept open year around so you can enjoy all of the seasons in this . meadow.
Part way down the mountain road you will find the Copper Creek Inn & Restaurant . In continuous operation since 1946, Copper Creek has been a long standing favorite for generations of Northwest travelers. The menu includes fresh salmon and trout along with a great selection of steaks, hamburgers and stews. Every meal is accompanied by freshly baked bread and “house-made” blackberry butter. And – save room for their famous blackberry pie.
A popular event in the area is the twice yearly Road to Paradise Wine Festival in Ashford. The festival showcases over 10 local wineries, a brewery and a creamery. A small entry fee provides lots of wine tasting and plenty of snacks. Many of the winemakers initially made small batches for themselves and are now retired from their mainstream jobs, focusing on their new career as a winemaker in small communities southwest of Mt. Rainier. The delicious cheese offered among the snacks was from Mountain Lodge Farm. This new creamery makes some of the best melt-in-your-mouth cheese. The smooth sweet goat cheese comes from the 27 happy goats (all of whom have names) who are treated with lots of love by founder and “heard master” Sherwin Ferguson. Sherwin, who holds a Masters in Nursing, nurtures her goats with tender loving care to make sure they are happy and healthy, which she says, gives the cheese such a wonderful flavor. The farm is a family partnership with, brother Brian as the farm carpenter and friends Meghan (the cheesemaker) and her husband Shawn (the farmer) rounding out the crew.
For a lovely place to stay – check in to Jasmer’s at Mt. Rainier . Jasmer’s, in Ashford, has 10 guest cabins, all with their own unique mountain personality. The rooms feature a fireplace, wireless DSL service, satellite TV, a hot tub, telephone and at least one birdfeeder. There is a constant stream of birds outside the window – making one wonder about the need for internet or tv. On the grounds is a short hiking trail that is part of a new Pierce County Park.
The Mount Rainier area offers all you could want for an outdoor recreation retreat. You’ll find great places to stay and eat, small town feeling and outdoor activities for all seasons.
Information on places listed
37718 State Route 706 East
Ashford, WA 98304
Cooper Creek Restaurant
35707 SR 706 E
Ashford, WA 98304
On the road to Paradise- Wine Festival held twice a year
Mt. Rainier Lions Grand Tasting Hall
27726 State Route 706 E
Ashford, WA 98304
1 (877) 617-9951
Mountain Lodge Farm
PO Box 370 Eatonville, WA 98328
Jasmer’s at Mt. Rainier
(360) 569 – 2682
30005 SR 706 E
Ashford, WA 98304