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After a quick breakfast of ramen noodles, we packed our bags for our last day of 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.
Within 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 of 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 through 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 probably 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!
This gallery contains 28 photos.
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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.
After 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 approached 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.
At 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!
We went approximately 6 miles, and after a dinner made in a cleaned out bear bin, went to sleep.
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