I recently did a trip to the stomping ground over a short period of cold but clear weather, mixing it up discipline wise. Over the years I have come to do various biking trips in the park, and during the winter the 11 mile road from Longmire (2800') to Paradise (5400') is open, at least from about 9 AM until 5 PM. 10 years ago I used to think that this 2600' climb was quite the workout, but like anything else, one becomes adjusted, at least mentally. On this past Tuesday (2/13/18) I decided to do a usual February ride but tacked on some hiking to the Muir snowfield to complete the day. I'm finding this mix of disciplines very invigorating, and on numerous occasions I have biked into the park (before the roads are open to vehicular traffic) toting skis, then hiked or skinned to various places, then skied back to the bike. I like the challenge of equipment and clothing choices. For instance, on this latest foray (with temps in the 20's) I wore some biking thermals top and bottom with a Beyond Clothing jacket. The Rig jacket fills a sweet spot in that it is breathable enough for the climb, yet warm enough for the frigid winds I encountered after climbing above Panorama Point. For footwear a pair of Inov8 ArcticClaw 300's, an insulated and spiked winter running shoe, kept my feet warm all day with no gaiters or covers, even on the invigorating descent. A balaclava for the head and 3 pair of gloves (one for climbing on the bike, a pair with zippered backs to free up fingers for photography in the hike section, and an insulated lobster pair of Pearl Izumis for the descent) completes the picture. If I am skiing I take a pannier and put the boots there, changing out of trail runners when off the bike. Or, if the approach is long and not on snow, I will take my HMG 4400 pack (customized for skis) and carry the skis A frame with the boots buckled in.
I've learned a lot from mixing disciplines, not just clothing and equipment wise, but nutrition and hydration aspects also. There's a lot of clothing choices in the bike side that work well for hiking. On summer trips on snow I'm usually wearing some sort of bike gloves, including skiing. And the workout choices are innumerable. Want to bike the West Side road to hike? An excellent way not just to vary the workout but to quickly access trails on the western side of the park, enabling one day trips. One of the most unusual trips I've done is biking the closed portion of Highway 410 (low snow year), into the White River entrance of the park to the Fryingpan Creek trailhead, then hiking to Summerland. Or making a loop by biking from the Stevens Canyon entrance to Owyhigh Lakes trailhead (18 miles/2600' climb), the hiking back to my vehicle (17 miles/2600' climb). Or just biking the whole park for a real quad buster.
By judicious use of timing (i.e.,biking closed roads) I have had plenty of solitude in Mt. Rainier National Park these past few years, even in the dead of summer. Whether it's for training, suffering or just plain fun, one can romp around the roads, hike the trails, go off trail, ski, run...the possibilities are endless, which is why I find myself going back here over 35 years.