It was 36 hrs in the park before I actually got sight of the mountain, due to inclement weather. I took advantage of this to explore the waterfalls and lower areas. Due to the November '06 storms, you have to detour a hundred miles if you want to complete the loop around the mountain. I came in the Nisqually entrance, explored east up to Paradise (Henry Jackson Visitor cntr), and exited out through Stevens Canyon and the Ohanapecosh visitors center. I took 12 west to FS rd 25, which led me into the northeast (Windy Ridge) viewpoint of Mt St Helens. There is certainly a whole lot more to Rainier than I explored, and I spent a whole lot of time talking with climbers who had summited for their first significant climb. I don't think I am ready to tackle that yet, but it was fun to hear the experience firsthand, while their adrealine was flowing from the acheivement. This is just a beautiful mountain, and it is understandable why the native tribes held, and still do hold it, in such high regard. The glaciers are certainly suffering losses, but still are magnificant. I made it to the foot of Nisqually, while doing the Skyline trail (not be missed!). Another fascinating stop is Box Canyon, at the east end of Stevens Canyon. The Cowlitz River has carved a very narrow slot up to 180' deep (to the river surface).
I certainly hold Rainier as one of my favorite mountains explored, and do expect that I will spend time here again soon.