On September 12, 2013, Jeff, a fellow Old Willys Forum member and resident of Puyallup, WA, made the 1 ½ hour drive over to our lodging in Packwood, WA in his nearly as-original early 1950 Jeep station wagon to guide us through a tour of Mt. Rainer in our Jeeps.
Jeff with his early 1950 Jeep station wagon in Mt. Rainer National Park
As it happens, Jeff’s and our station wagons provide an interesting contrast on many levels. First, Jeep actually made a styling change halfway through the 1950 model year. The front of the wagon (and I believe all of the models of this body style) was changed from the relatively flat nose and front fenders incorporated when these models were first introduced in the mid-forties, to more pointy features. Also, five horizontal chrome bars were positioned in the grill. On the mechanical side, in the latter part of 1950 the 4-cylinder “Go Devil” flat head engine first used in the military Jeeps of World War II was revised to incorporate overhead intake valves (the exhaust valves remained in the engine block). This unusual, but convenient to implement configuration named an “F-head” was claimed to increase the engine’s output from around 61 hp to 72 hp. The “new” engine was named the “Hurricane 4”.
The other significant difference between Jeff’s station wagon and ours is that while our Jeep has undergone an abundance of restorations and rebuilds during the 36 years that we have owned it, Jeff’s is largely unmolested – cosmetically at least.
Jeff early and Dan’s late 1950 Jeeps with Mt. Rainer in the background – illustrating the changes in the front end made mid-year
So, as Jeff and we traveled through Mt. Rainer in our respective wagons, we displayed a noticeable contrast in body style, power plant, and level of restoration to those who were interested. Incidentally, while I tend to baby my wagon when it comes to pushing on it, Jeff is not reluctant to drive his wagon (which is his daily driver) hard when the situation is called for. He had no problem outpacing us when climbing the mountain roads; although we both taxed our cooling systems pretty heavily on the long inclined stretches to the Visitors Centers.
The first place in Mt. Rainer that we visited was the Sunrise Visitors Center. From there we were able to get a close up view if the mountain’s northeast face. From there we backtracked to the Stevens Canyon Park entrance on the southeast boarder of Mt. Rainer National Park, stopping to take a small hike among the tall standing trees and huge fallen trees in which younger trees had taken root. The trail took us across a suspension foot bridge on to a pristine island.
Dan & Jean on Suspension Bridge in Mt. Rainer National Park
We then proceeded to Paradise Visitors Center. Although it was now mid-September, the parking lot was packed. Can’t imagine what it is like during peak season. Someone back in the lodge where we had stayed the previous evening said that the visitor profile shifted from families with children in the summer months to “the newlywed and nearly dead” in the off season. Makes one stop and think where one fits in. Anyway, Jeff and I climbed Alta Vista Trail to an elevation about 1,000 feet above the parking lot before deciding that the view was just fine from there (the trail continued on for a vertical distance of another 500 feet).
View of Mt. Rainer’s southern face from 6,300 feet on the Alta Vista Trail
Looking south down the path of receded Nisqually Glacier the Alta Vista Trail, Mt. Rainer, WA
Looking north toward the origin of the now receded Nisqually Glacier, Mt. Rainer National Park
After rejoining Jean at the Paradise Lodge, we had a light lunch and parted ways with Jeff who began his 1 ½ hour journey home. We enjoyed our time with him and really appreciate his taking the time to show us around the Park. Jean and I then commenced our two hour drive to Lacey, Washington (near Olympia) to spend the evening with our prior neighbors in Cary, NC. Jeep continued to perform well and we arrived in Lacey, WA in time for a pleasant dinner with our friends Barbara and Herb. Barbara and I were running partners for the three years prior to their move to the West Coast last year. We would run before dawn with our headlamps on over a 3 mile course that we mapped through the Prestonwood Golf Course. I am sure we were a source of entertainment for the first few runs as we fumbled our way around trying to find the right paths. All and all we survived pretty well during those days.