Mt. Rainier National Park Backpacking Trip – Day 5

After a quick breakfast of ramen noodles, we packed our bags for our last day ofLooking back from the trail backpacking. The day started out with a steep uphill with plenty of switchbacks. The trail soon turned into the Spray Park Trail and we were rewarded with amazing views of misty mountains and winding creeks. Hiking on the trail, we crossed a lot of small creeks and began seeing more and more snow. We rested for a few minutes when we reached a small pond shaped almost exactly like the yin and yang symbol.

After we began again, we soon came to a point in the trail with bowls of snow on either side of the trail. This was too good of an opportunity to miss! We dropped our packs and were soon immersed in an intense, really cold snowball fight. (We had to pause a few times to let our hands warm up a bit.) However, we soon had to leave and got back on the trail.

Hiking up the snow covered mountainWithin a few minutes of hiking we reached a steep slope completely covered in snow. We were able to see where the trail continued only due to the depressions in the snow from other hikers’ boots. Slipping a bit now and then, we made our way up the hill. After resting for a few minutes at the top of the hill, we continued on along the trail as it took us around the edge of a snow covered mountain as fog began rolling in.

We stopped for lunch on the edge of a giant snow field and had a great view of the peak ofView of Mt. Rainier next to giant snow field Mt. Rainier. However, as the fog continued to roll in, Mt. Rainier was soon covered and we couldn’t see further than 40 feet in front of us, aside from dark, blurry shapes. To the right side of the trail,nothing was visible and it seemed like the mountain ended after 40 feet. We split into two groups and had another intense snow fight. (After all, who’d want to miss such an amazing opportunity?)

We moved on after 2 hours, somewhat wet but with high spirits. The trail continued Spray Park Trail in the mistthrough the snow field for half a mile before continuing downhill and into the trees. The mist was pretty dense in the trees and we got somewhat damp. When we got to a fork in the trail with a sign for the Spray Falls Viewpoint, we left our packs and went left, towards the falls. The falls are immense and the roar from the falls and the river is very loud. The water rushed around the rocks we were standing on, which were pretty slippery. (Watch where you step here – falling in the river would really ruin your day.)

Upon getting back to our packs, we continued on, passing the Eagle Cliff Viewpoint. (It’s Mowich Lake camping areaprobably really nice when there’s no fog, but with the fog there’s nothing to see.) The trail continued uphill for the last couple of miles before coming out in the Mowich Lake camping area. The camping area is completely open and is arranged in a ring around a fenced-off wildlife preserve. There are tables at each site and raised platforms to pitch tents on. There are also enclosed pit toilets, which I must say seemed very nice after the open toilets on the trail.

For dinner we had Mountain House freeze-dried “Beef Stroganoff with Noodles” and hot chocolate from powder pouches. I didn’t have any high expectations for the stroganoff, but it actually turned out very good! We went approximately 7 miles on the last day and played another game of cards before going to bed.

In total, on our trip we went 45.2 miles, with a cumulative elevation gain of 14, 831 feet and a loss of 12,266 feet. So far, this has been my all time favorite trip. There’s nothing more refreshing than leaving the city and spending a few days backpacking in the wilderness. The scenery is beautiful in Mt. Rainier National Park and is so different from the desert scenery of Southern California. I hope to go on another week-long backpacking trip soon!

Good luck on all of your travels and I hope you have an awesome time backpacking wherever you go!


Mt. Rainier National Park Backpacking Trip – Day 4

After making breakfast and packing our bags on Wednesday morning, we left our campsite, continuing downhill towards the log that crosses Granite Creek. The trail took us uphill for a while before turning downhill for 2 miles. Hiking down, we were able to glimpse Winthrop Creek flowing out of the bottom of Winthrop Glacier. Upon leveling out at the bottom, the trail passes alongside a large, dried-up stony basin which we eventually passed through.

After crossing the basin, we were back in the trees and soon passed Mystic Camp. (Here there are pit toilets and individual campsites.) The trail then took an uphill turn and soon came out of the trees, where we were rewarded with a beautiful view of Mystic Lake. The lake was calm enough to reflect the mountains and trees on the other side. We stopped for lunch here and had peanut butter and jam on pita bread. (So good!)

Continuing on after lunch, we hiked for a while in a meadow-like area with small bridges that traversed small streams. Once again the trail took us back into the trees and began to slope uphill. We passed a park ranger who told us about a forest fire. (Luckily it was pretty far away, so it wouldn’t affect us on our trip.) At the top of the ridge, we passed another group of our friends who were doing a shorter hike in the opposite direction. We then began a long downhill hike through densely packed trees and lush greenery. We hiked alongside Moraine Creek for a while and it soon began to drizzle.

Soon we were able to see the Carbon River below us through the trees and a short while after that we reached a fork in the trail. If you take the trail to the left, you’ll stay on the Wonderland Trail. The trail on the right side is the Northern Loop Trail. We were continuing on the Wonderland Trail so we went left towards the suspension bridge. From here it is possible to see Carbon Glacier. I didn’t realize it was a glacier at first because it was so covered in dirt and looked like a giant, rocky mountain.

We stopped by the bridge to read the warning signs and also noticed the duck-tape on two of the cords anchoring the bridge to the ground. I don’t know about you, but seeing duck-tape on a suspension bridge isn’t exactly a confidence booster. It didn’t help that the bridge reminded me of the skinny rope bridge in Indiana Jones. It was about 2.5 feet wide and the wooden boards were around 2 inches apart. The sign said to cross the bridge one at a time, as if it may not be able to bear the weight. We began crossing the bridge one at a time. Running is not recommended, as it already bounces and sways in the wind a lot even when you walk. In the middle there’s a great view of Carbon Glacier and the Carbon River 40 feet below.

After crossing, we left the Wonderland Trail and continued on the Seattle Park Trail, which parallels Cataract Creek for a while before continuing alongside Marmot Creek. At this point it was pouring and the trail took on a steep incline. The rain pounded out a rhythm on the plant leaves bordering the trail. Fortunately, the rain began to let up as we got closer to Cataract Valley Camp, where we were stopping for the day.

The camp was filled with puddles from the rain and was surrounded with a dense, intensely green foliage. Dinner was the Mountain House Freeze-Dried Lasagna with Meat Sauce, which I must say is the best freeze-dried food I’ve ever had. Despite the rain, this was my favorite day of backpacking so far. We hiked a total of approximately 10 miles, the scenery was beautiful, and we were able to see a lot of glaciers and creeks.

One more day of backpacking!

Mt. Rainier National Park Backpacking Trip – Day 3

On Tuesday morning, we left Sunrise at around 10 a.m.. We didn’t take the trail leading past Sunrise as I had expected we would; instead we took a dirt road up a hill to where the Wonderland Trail resumed. Soon thereafter, we began seeing patches of snow up close for the first time. A few times, the snow covered small parts of the trail so we hiked through it. It was packed down and slushy from the boots of backpackers before us, so our boots didn’t get that wet.

Trail Junction by Frozen LakeAfter passing a particularly large marmot that went scurrying off across the rocks and boulders on the side of the trail, we came to an intersection where the Sourdough Ridge Trail, North Burroughs Mountain Trail, and Mt. Fremont Trail met the Wonderland Trail. From here hikers have a great view of one side of Mt. Rainier and a small glacial lake to the right of the Wonderland Trail called Frozen Lake. Continuing on, we passed through meadows covered in lush greenery and flowers. After passing by the fork in the trail where the  Northern Loop Trail meets the Wonderland Trail, our trail grew steadily steeper as we Meadows surrounding trailapproached the top of Skyscraper Pass. Rounding a bend in the trail as we went over the ridge of the mountain, we saw that the ridge deserved its name. To the right of the trail was a very steep and rocky drop-off. After crossing a foot-wide section in the trail that was covered in snow, slush, and crumbling rocks, we got to a gently sloping expanse of rocks where quiet a few people were resting and talking. From here there are amazing views of the surrounding mountains and the valley into which the trail continues.

Skyscrapr PassAt this point we also happened to pass our friends in the other group doing the same route as we were, albeit in the opposite direction. (As I mentioned in an earlier post, we were exchanging vehicles and meeting back up at the airport.) After talking for a few minutes and taking some group pictures, we continued on down the trail and into the valley.

The trail sloped downhill for the rest of the way to the Granite Creek Camp, where we stayed for the rest of the day. The Granite Creek campsite has both group and individual sites, and Granite Creek is only a couple hundred feet down the trail. There are a few slow moving parts that are relatively deep and perfect for washing off, of course only if you’re willing to brave the freezing glacial melt water!Mt. Rainier from Skyscraper Pass

We went approximately 6 miles, and after a dinner made in a cleaned out bear bin, went to sleep.

Mt. Rainier National Park Backpacking Trip – Day 2

On Monday morning, we woke up at 6:00 and after a quick breakfast of oatmeal (and someone accidentally tossing their bowl off the side of the mountain when cleaning up) we got back on the Owyhigh Lakes trail.

Sunrise Park Road

Sunrise Park Road

After a small amount of hiking we began to descend along a series of long switchbacks that came out on Sunrise Park Road. We hiked along the road for approximately 1.5 miles before we got to the bridge over Fryingpan Creek. A couple hundred feet after this, on the left side of the road, is a sign marked “Summerland”. We cut into the trees here and stopped for water and some trail food.

The White River with Mt. Rainier in the background.

The White River with Mt. Rainier in the background.

Directly after this clearing, we got off our trail and onto the Wonderland Trail. We hiked for one and a half hours through tall, dark trees, whose branches at times blocked out the sky. A couple of little squirrels (or ferrets?) chased each other around the trees at one point. After about an hour and 20 minutes or so we began to here the thundering, crashing sound of a huge river. As the crashing grew louder and reached a tremendous roar, we emerged from the trees on the rocky bank of the White River. We hiked along it to the “bridge”, a couple of long logs with a wooden rail on one side leaning at an unnerving angle. We stopped on the other side of the bridge for lunch and got our first clear view of Mt. Rainier from the trail.

The White River valley

The White River valley

After lunch we followed the rocky trail up an incline to White River Campground. We walked along the campground roads and past campsites before we got to the continuation of the trail. From here it was a brutal, steep ascent with an elevation gain of 200 feet. However, the view near the top made up for it a bit. We got an amazing panoramic view of the White River, the valley, and the surrounding mountains, all dominated by a majestic view of Mt. Rainier.

Sunrise Visitors Center

Sunrise Visitors Center

Continuing on, we reached a junction in the trail where the Sunrise Rim Trail connects to the Wonderland Trail. Dropping our bags and leaving them with a couple of the team leaders, we hiked along the Sunrise Rim Trail to the Sunrise Visitors Center, where we picked up the food for the rest of the week (it was stashed there before the trip) and a little bit of ice cream. (Yay!)

After getting back to our packs, we hiked the last 0.8 miles to our campsite at Sunrise. This campsite is right next to Shadow Lake and a wide area of small shrubs and grasses separates the group sites from the individual sites. There are also bear poles in each site and an outhouse. We had freeze dried backpacking food for dinner and saw a few deer close by. All of the trees in our site were stripped of their bottom 12 feet of bark. A ranger came by and told us that there had been bears in the area a mere week ago and that they’d trampled a few backpackers’ tents while the people weren’t there (just the thing you want to hear before getting in your sleeping bag, right?). He recommended we put everything that had any scent in our bear bins before we went to bed, so we gathered all of our snacks and toothpaste tubes and put them in the bear bins.

We did approximately 12 miles of backpacking with plenty of elevation gain and loss, and after a few games of cards, finally went to bed.

Mt. Rainier National Park Backpacking Trip – Day 1

This past summer, I went up to Washington with a group and did a 5 day backpacking trip in Mt. Rainier National Park. I can say without a doubt that it was the best trip BY FAR that I have ever gone on. We took a flight up to Seattle, Washington and after a week of camp, we prepared for the backpacking trip.

On July 27, 2013, a Saturday, we drove up to La Wis Wis Campground, where we were to stay overnight so we could get an earlier start on the trail the following morning. We stopped by Costco on the way to the campground, and we cooked steak over the fire for a nice dinner before we began our hike.

Eastside TrailheadThe next morning, we drove up the road to the Stevens Canyon Entrance to Mt. Rainier National Park and parked the cars in the lot by the Eastside Trailhead. (We would be switching cars with another group who were taking the same route in the opposite direction.) We began hiking around 8:40 that morning, and the weather couldn’t have been better: cool and crisp, but sunny, great for hiking. We began hiking through huge trees, with the Ohanapecosh River to our right. The trail took us over the river a few times, but hugged one of the banks of the river most of the time. We passed the beautiful Ohanapecosh Falls, and I took some pictures while we drank some water. Continuing on, we crossed Chinook Creek a couple of times on log bridges (literally, they were made of a single log with a flattened top). For lunch, we dropped our packs on the rocks at the side of the river and had a few snacks.

Ohanapecosh River

Ohanapecosh River

After this, we hiked on, soon reaching a fork in the trail. Leaving the Eastside Trail, we took the left-hand trail and began hiking on the Owyhigh Lakes Trail towards Owhigh Lakes. The trail was, for the most part, shaded by overhanging trees that kept the temperature cool. After crossing Boundary Creek, the trail took on a slight uphill until we got to Sydney Falls, where it leveled out a bit. We dropped our packs for a break overlooking the falls, exchanging small talk and jokes while getting some water. After 10 minutes or so, we shouldered our packs. Unfortunately, the trail soon began to switchback up a hill. Taking a few short breaks, we got up the switchbacks, after which the trail paralleled Kotsuck Creek for a while. At this point, we came out of the trees into beautiful meadows and expanses of flowers with vivid colors. MeadowsThe giant mountains towered around us as we hiked between them and then along them. At one point, looking down to the right from the trail, we saw the Owhigh Lakes at the bottom of a valley, and spotted what appeared to be either white wolves or mountain goats disappearing into the trees on the side of the lake. (Probably goats, but our imaginations preferred the idea of wolves.)

Owhigh Lakes

Owhigh Lakes view from the trail

Hiking into the trees in the dimming light, we finally got to the Tamanos Creek Camp, a little ways past the lakes. There were individual and group sites, a bear pole to hang food from, and a pit toilet covered by a box with a toilet seat a little ways off from the campsites. (It did have a great view, though!) For dinner, we had chicken fajitas (freeze-dried chicken, fresh onions, and tortillas) that we made on a couple of backpacking stoves. We were able to get water from a creek located just a short walk from the camp.

Tamanos Camp SignWe went approximately 13 miles and were happy to get into our sleeping bags after a long day of backpacking. The first day was amazing, and although tired, I couldn’t wait for the next day to go further and see more amazing views!

Backpacking in Los Padres National Forest

A few weeks ago I went backpacking with some friends in Los Padres National Forest. (I’m just writing about it now because I’ve been up in Washington for the past two weeks, the second of which I spent on an awesome 5-day backpacking trip in Mt. Rainier National Park. But more on that later.) We drove into Los Padres National Forest and through Reyes Creek Campground until we came to a stop in a parking area by the Reyes Creek Trailhead. After some final pack adjustments, we set off on the trial!

View from first ridgeWe ascended the trail for about 2.5 miles through brush and low trees to a ridge, stopping along the way to let a 4 foot long rattlesnake cross the trail (we gave it plenty of room), and began a small descent. Upon reaching Upper Reyes Campground, we dropped our packs and had lunch. (And a lot of water, the temperature was in the mid-90’s.) After lunch, we continued on towards Beartrap, our final destination for the day. Over the next ~1.7 miles, we got up over a ridge and then descended through shady trees towards the campground. There is a small creek at the camp (Beartrap Creek) that is there year-round. (We used a Katadyn water filtering pump here to fill up our water bottles and Beartrap Creekreservoirs.) After a dinner of quinoa and chicken, we went to bed.

The second day of our trip we broke camp relatively early in the morning to resume our backpacking. From Beartrap, the trail winded through tall, green trees and big, vibrant plants, crossing small streams intermittently. The air was very cool on this part of the trail and the scenery was beautiful. However, all to soon we were leaving this cool, shady portion of the trail and ascending a high ridge, (great views from the top, by the way) from which we began a descent towards Haddock, another camp. We stopped for a short break there before continuing on towards the next camp, Three Mile. This part was pretty easy, and would probably have been more so if the temperature wasn’t constantly hovering around 100 degrees F. Oh well. We finally arrived at Three Mile, where we broke for lunch.

After an hour or so, we moved on. (At this point I had about a half liter of water left, which certainly helped motivate me onward to a water source.) Luckily, we came across water Pine Mountain Lodge Camppretty soon, right after passing a bush that someone swore they saw a bear cub in. We refilled our water bottles with filtered water from a stagnant pond, and just for good measure, put in a couple of chlorine tablets in to make sure the water was completely safe. The next part of the trail traversed over rolling hills (which were doubly uncomfortable due to the high heat) before finally reaching our final camp for the day, Pine Mountain Lodge. After some cards and a dinner of Mountain House’s freeze dried Lasagna with Meat Sauce (which is very good by the way, probably my favorite of the freeze dried foods), we retired to our tents for the night.

Our final day on the Gene Marshall-Piedra Blanca National Rec. Trail began with a long ~3 mile descent towards Twin Forks camp, where we stopped for a short rest. Then after resuming, only 0.3 miles down the trail we passed Piedra Blanca camp. From here the trailPiedra Blanca Bluffs was relatively flat and the landscape was mostly occupied by a lot of scraggly bushes and some small trees. However, the trail had one last unpleasant surprise waiting for us. After rounding a bend in the trail, we were confronted with a giant rock formation. We ascended the last steep uphill of the trip and found ourselves on top of a huge rock formation with a huge 360 panoramic view. We rested there for an hour or so and then began our final descent. Eventually we reached the Middle Sespe Trail junction and took a right (Southeast). Soon thereafter, we reached a small dirt road and took another right (Southwest). After a few hundred feet, we came around a bend and emerged by a parking lot, bathroom, and big sign with a map of the trail. (This is the Piedra Blanca Trailhead.) The sight of the cars there to pick us up was very welcome, needless to say.

Map of the area and the TrailThe Gene Marshall-Piedra Blanca National Recreation Trail was great for backpacking and I had a great time on the trip. The area was very beautiful, and the trail was nice. I would only recommend going in lower temperatures, as it would no doubt be a much more enjoyable experience. This trail would be great for a short 2 or 3 day backpacking trip, or even day hikes, if you want to go out and back. If you’re looking for a short backpacking trip in Southern California, take a look at this area!

Have fun on your next trip!