It's a round-about road to Paradise

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A view of Mount Rainier fills a frame west of Chinook Pass.

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A dry fly drew little action on the Naches River.

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Falls Creek provided one of the many roadside attractions.

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Nora takes in the panoramic view from a pullout at Chinook Pass.

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Nora the Schnauzer met several people at Rainier National Park.

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One of the Reflection Lakes provides a special view of Mount Rainier.

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Several trails at Paradise allow close-up views of Mount Rainier.

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Several trails at Paradise allow close-up views of Mount Rainier.

On the way to fish the Naches River west of Yakima last week, I suggested we take the opportunity to visit Paradise.

That's Paradise as in Mount Rainier National Park.

Some suggestion, but we had not done so since the 1970s or '80s.

Anyway, Darlene agreed.

"We could make a loop over White Pass and back over Chinook Pass," I said. "Then we could catch the hot Naches bite in the late afternoon."

"Sure," Darlene said.

We, with Nora the Schnauzer, then settled into separate reveries of the distant past.

Minutes later I checked back into the present and paused in Naches for gas.

I had caught the bug to fish the Naches River when checking the Red's Fly Shop (in the Yakima River Canyon) website (Google "Red's Fly Shop").

I found the following irresistible:

"The Naches River is a wild freestone stream that sees little angling pressure and boasts productive fly fishing for moderate sized wild trout. (Fewer) anglers and a chance to catch native Westslope Cutthroat on dry flies makes for a memorable adventure!"

The fat, strong fish include the cutthroat and wild rainbows in the 10-16-inch range.

So, we buzzed toward Yakima with a 6:56 a.m. start. We stopped at the Prosser rest area for the facilities, to let Nora go and to refresh our coffee and pastry supply.

That's when the idea of Paradise popped into my head.

Then, a few minutes past Naches, a blinking sign announced road work with up to two hours delay at the 12-mile mark of Highway 12.

Our loop plans tottered. They tumbled at the White Pass turnoff, where a line of waiting vehicles reached the junction.

"That's a 12-mile traffic jam," I deduced.

"So much for White Pass," Darlene said.

Nora stood with her nose against the window.

"No problem," I mumbled. "We'll scout the fishing spots on the way up the river."

We did.

I noted a dozen spots with access to the water. Public campgrounds beside the rushing water especially caught my eye.

The Naches River, by the way, forms when the Bumping, American and Little Naches rivers merge.

Soon we climbed the slanted road up the mountainside to Chinook Pass. Deep drifts lay on the slopes, although our map listed the pass altitude at 5,432 feet, a few feet higher than the summit of the Blues near Tollgate.

"Must be the rainfall," I surmised.

"Dah," Darlene surmised.

So, we stopped more often than I can count to gawk at - and take photographs of - unsurpassed mountain scenery.

We visited on a Sunday, often standing elbow-to-elbow with wide-eyed and droop-jawed fellow gawkers at the mammoth mountain and its stunning panoramas.

At each stop, Nora stretched her legs and her leash to meet other tourists.

From Chinook Pass we turned south on Highway 123 for a narrow, winding downhill slant with pullouts toward Highway 12. We turned right at the Stevens Canyon entrance. We climbed again for 20 scenic miles to the Paradise Visitor Center.

En route, we passed the overflowing parking area at Grove of the Patriarchs and stopped at a couple waterfalls. We stopped beneath dramatic views of the mountain and walked along a snow-drift covered path at Reflection Lakes.

We spent an hour-plus at Paradise before retracing our route toward Chinook Pass. Again we found no parking space at Grove of the Patriarchs.

At the pass we tipped downhill toward the Naches River. I stopped at Sawmill Campground at 4:04 p.m.

I rigged up a four-weight, 9-foot Sage rod with a No. 14 caddis dry fly primed with Gink to keep it floating.

Nora and I dashed to a rocky bar, and doubts immediately weighed in. A bright sun shined in my face and glistened on the water. I lay the caddis on an upstream riffle time after time and squinted as it bobbed along unmolested.

Soon sweat dampened my back, arms and cheeks. Eventually, I changed to a nymph and started over.

We worked our way upstream along the campground's sunny shore. I passed a family swimming at a riffle halfway up and reached the convergence of water around an island.

I cast the nymph endlessly.

Finally, drained of enthusiasm for casting at 5:28 p.m. and with my stomach drained of solid fuel, I put away the gear.

We headed for Naches and greasy food.

We arrived home at 9:23 p.m. neither bright eyed nor bushy tailed, yet filled with renewed reveries of Paradise.

Contact Don Davis at dondavis@wwub.com. More of Don's photos can be found online at www.tripper.smugmug.com .

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