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!