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Mars (far left) and the full moon get together over Mount Rainier on the night of July 26-27. Click on the image for a larger version. (Photo by Kevin Lisota)

MOUNT RAINIER NATIONAL PARK, Wash. — Warm weather, clear skies and a full moon brought me out in search of two of my favorite shots Thursday night: moonrise and moonset above Mount Rainier.

Along with everyone else in North America, I missed out on seeing the longest total lunar eclipse of the 21st century, but I did get to see a glorious full moon and its bright, butterscotch-colored buddy: Mars!

Mount Rainier National Park offers some great vantage points to capture the full moon’s rising and setting, if you’re up for a little advanced planning and a lot of driving in the middle of the night. I ended up circumnavigating the park to get the angles I needed.

I started the evening looking for a northwest location to capture the moon rising over Rainier in the southeast. I caught the moon right outside the northwest park boundary, on Mowich Lake Road.

The moon rises over Mount Rainier. Click on the image for a larger version. (Photo by Kevin Lisota)

With moonrise complete at about 9:15 p.m., I had time to grab a bite to eat, then made my way to Paradise in the southern section of the park.

Mars was distinctly visible and tracked right beside the moon all night. I don’t know if it was the extra brightness or the lack of light pollution, but the butterscotch color was readily apparent to the naked eye.

The full moon and Mars twinkle over the Tatoosh Mountain Range in Mount Rainier National Park. Click on the image for a larger version. (Photo by Kevin Lisota)

My final destination was Sunrise, needing an eastern location to capture the moon setting in the southwest over Rainier.

The drive from Paradise to Sunrise is a bit long and lonely at 2 a.m., but the moonlight was so strong and scenic that I just had to stop at one of my favorite locations, Reflection Lakes.

I was all alone, which was good, given the tumble that my tripod and I took down a slick lakeshore bank before getting this shot.

Mount Rainier in the moonlight, plus its reflection in Reflection Lakes. Click on the image for a larger version. (Photo by Kevin Lisota)

The sweeping views of Rainier at sunrise from Sunrise (I’m guessing that’s where the name comes from) are sublime, made even more special by the combination of a full moon, Mars and the lights from climbers approaching the summit at sunrise.

The full moon and Mars set over Mount Rainier. Flashlights from climbers can be seen near the summit. Click on the image for a larger version. (Photo by Kevin Lisota)
Lights from climbers summiting Mount Rainier at sunrise. (Photo by Kevin Lisota)
Sunrise over Mount Rainier at Sunrise. Click on the image for a full-size panorama. (Photo by Kevin Lisota)

Mars will be getting even bigger and brighter over the weekend, while the moon will be only slightly less full. And if you can’t rush out this weekend to make the rounds at Mount Rainier for moonrise and moonset, don’t fret: There’s always next month.

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