This gallery contains 28 photos.
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!
This gallery contains 12 photos.
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.
This gallery contains 27 photos.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.