Is the Mountain Out?
Is the mountain out? It's one of the most commonly asked questions in the Pacific Northwest. And when asked, there is no need to clarify which mountain you mean. THE mountain is Mount Rainier. Also known as Tahoma or Tacoma to the native Salish indigenous tribes of the region.
Standing at 14,411 Mount Rainier is the highest mountain in Washington and the Cascade Range. Located about 60 miles southeast of Seattle, it dominates the skyline of much of Washington on a clear day (and even can be seen into Canada and Oregon). But Mount Rainier is no ordinary mountain - it's a stratovolcano - part of the Cascade Volcanic Arc that runs from northern California to British Columbia, Canada (within the larger Pacific Ring of Fire). It last erupted in 1894 and is listed as one of the world's most dangerous volcanos due to its proximity to many highly populated city centers - Seattle, Tacoma, Olympia, and Portland.
I love seeing Mount Rainier. No matter when or where you see it, it looks huge. Usually mostly snow covered, it's bright white jumps out at you on the horizon and is a dramatic contrast to the city and landscape around. I also love how Mount Rainier always surprises me. You can turn a corner or go up a hill and all of a sudden there it is, jumping out at you, when you least expected it. Always makes me gasp and stare in awe until it disappears around the next corner or down the hill, just as fast as it came.
It's not just me...In general, people of this area have an obsession with Mount Rainier. Specifically, the question "is the mountain out?" is closely related to the weather. If Mount Rainier can be seen on the horizon that usually indicates a sunny or (mostly sunny), clear day. In Seattle we savor a good weather day (enter stereotype of the gloom and rain). If the mountain is out, take that as your clue to get outside and enjoy! To help locals keep up with the mountain visibility and weather conditions, a camera from the top of the Space Needle provides a constant view (https://ismtrainierout.com/) and the "is the mountain out?" yes/no results are tweeted out daily (https://twitter.com/ismtrainierout?).
Another related local thing is Rainier Beer, clearly named after the mountain. Rainier Brewing Company operated in Seattle from 1878 to 1999 when it was closed and sold. Pabst Brewing Company bought the company and still distributes the trademark Rainier Beer - a cheap, light lager similar to PBR. In the Pacific Northwest, Rainier Beer has the cult following and, of course, is the hipster beer of choice!
One day I was walking around town with a friend (local born and raised) when we ran into a view of Mount Rainier down by the waterfront. I let out a loud "ohhh" and stopped for a picture like a tourist would do. I then laughed and asked her if you ever get used to seeing it. She said "nope, it never does get old." That's just the Mount Rainier effect.
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