Friday, August 1, 2008

James Longmire and the Trail of the Shadows

Note - I've taken this information directly off the signs posted along the trail.

Longmire, located at 2700 feet, is always our first stop once we enter Mt. Rainier National Park through the south entrance.

In 1870 James Longmire served as guide to the base of the mountain for the first two parties to reach the volcano's icy summit. During an August, 1883 ascent of Mt. Rainier Longmire found this lush grassy meadow with numerous bubbling mineral springs. His dream of developing the area into a resort and health spa soon became a reality.

The Trail of the Shadows is an easy three-quarter mile walk that circles the meadow and wanders through the surrounding old forest. There are many historical signs like the one pictured above that tell the story of the area. Though we have taken this walk dozens of times over the years we never tire seeing it again.
"Longmire's Medical Springs" was founded in 1884. By the next year hardy travelers were lodging in a small log in and bathing in cedar tubs sunk into the springs. Tourists came to partake of the alleged curative powers of the springs and left captivated by the beauty of Mt. Rainier. The Longmire springs hotel was built in 1890 - it was a welcome sight for weary travelers who had journeyed many days over rough roads by horse and wagon to reach the resort.

Soda Springs stone masonry was constructed about 1920. It's water contains soda, magnesium, iron and sodium chloride. Longmire told John Muir, ". . . drink at these springs and they will do your good. Every one's got medicine in 'em. A doctor said so - no matter what ails you." If you enlarge the picture of the sign you can see the warning - which always makes me smile - "Please don't' drink this water. It could make you very sick!"

James Longmire's son built this cabin in 1888. Shaded by the old growth forest, it was mainly used to house the Longmire's helpers. This son continued to develop the resort after Longmire's death. At this same time more and more people were pushing for protection of Mt. Rainier and the surrounding countryside. On March 2, 1899, Mt. Rainier was designated as the nation's fifth national park. By 1907 the Longmire era began drawing to a close. The sale of the land was completed the year following Longmire's son's death in 1915.

The reddish-brown color of the water provides the Iron Mike spring with it's name. A cold rushing stream flows closely nearby. At one time a shelter build over part of the stream provided a cold place to keep milk and meat fresh for the visitors to the mineral springs.

The rustic National Park Inn provides modern day visitors a place to stay in Longmire. A wide porch full of rustic rockers faces the meadow and Mt. Rainier rising beyond. We can vouch for the food in the dining room there - we ate two lunches at the Inn on this visit. There is also a museum, a circa 1920's gas station (no longer operational) and a great gift shop. In keeping with our tradition, we both bought ourselves new Mt. Rainier shirts the first afternoon.

Leaving Longmire, we headed up the highway about two miles to Cougar Rock campground, our traditional home-away-from-home when visiting this incredible park.


Tanya said...

Your trip around Mt. Rainier brings back many memories... but I've never been there. I once knew a family from that area and I'm almost postitive the woman's maiden name was Longmire. I think she did glasswork up in a gift shop in the Mt. Rainier area. Is that possible? This was back when I was a very little girl so I know she wouldn't be there now but I wonder if the gift shop is the same...

Anonymous said...

I found your blog on your trip to Longmire. I was showing a friend of mine James Longmire on google. James Longmire is my G-G-G Grandfather. The cabin was built by his son Elcaine who is my G-G Grandfather. Both my G-Grandmother, and Grandmother were born in that cabin. Thanks for showing it on your site, it was a real thrill.