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There are many myths about the mountain.
The Lummi, a native tribe of the Coastal Salish people who originally inhabited the lands around Washington’s Puget Sound, have a generations-old legend about the peak that is today named Mount Rainier.
Kulshan, known to most of us today as Mount Baker, was, according to the legend, a handsome young man with two wives. The more beautiful one was Duh-hwhak (“Clear Sky”). His other wife, while not as beautiful, was whip-smart, cunning and very jealous. She deceived Kulshan and convinced him to cast Duh-hwhak aside. Heartsick, Duh-hwhak wandered south, stopping to stand on her tippy toes, always gazing longingly north in hope that she might see her love beckoning her home. Staring out over the hills and valleys, she became Mount Rainier, draped in a beautiful white dress of snow and glaciers.
To see Duh-hwhak, you can meet up in Enumclaw and grab some coffee. State Route 410 takes you out of town toward the mountain. Within a few minutes of leaving Enumclaw you’re enveloped by old-growth evergreen; in places it nearly blots out the sky.
The ride starts just inside the gates of Mount Rainier National Park at White River. You climb to Cayuse Pass—it’s nearly straight up. Sections of the climb near 13 percent as you gain 1,000 feet in less than 3 miles. From there, the traffic lightens as you head left and climb up to Chinook Pass. The road is sinuous, Euro-like, winding along beside subalpine meadows, wildflowers and the ever-present big mountain. At Chinook Pass you flip it and head back toward White River and onto Sunrise. Six miles of downhill; you fly. At White River you begin going up, up, up to the Sunrise Lodge. In fewer than than 15 miles, you then switchback down 3,000 feet to Enumclaw.
The town has outstanding beer.
From issue 50. SOLD OUT!