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Mount Rainier: national park that wouldn't be drowned out

After having to close for repairs for the first time in a quarter-century, Mount Rainier National Park is set to reopen, at least partially, on Saturday. The subalpine meadows, or "mountain parks" that make the area one of the Northwest's leading visitor attractions, took a beating last fall when heavy rains (1-1/2 feet in 36 hours) damaged roads and hiking trails and wiped out other facilities that had gone unscathed since it became part of the system. Estimated loss: $36 million. Reports say it will take 55,000 tons of rock and stone just to rebuild Route 123, the main highway at the park's eastern end. Visitors centers will be open again, but not all roads and trails will be passable for a while. So, as park superintendent Dave Uberuaga says, this might not be the year to hike the popular Wonderland Trail, especially for visitors coming great distances. Some random facts about Mount Rainier National Park and its central feature, culled from various sources:

Distance from Seattle: 50 miles
Age: Formed 730,000 years ago
Summit elevation: 14,410 feet
Most recent eruption: 2,200 years ago
Number of glaciers: 25
Established as a national park: 1899
Number of native plants: 800

– Associated Press

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