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!

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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!