So forest fires in Oregon chased my wife and I northwards and what better place to land than Mount Rainier National Park. We left on a rainy Sunday afternoon after a frantic packing session in which I forgot all sauces for our lunches and dinners and the cheeses for the crackers. I don't think I lived that down the whole week. So we spent the first night in our car to wake up and get to the Carbon River Ranger station early to pick up our back country camping passes and pay our park entry fees, $35 seemed a bit steep for both. Then we were off.
The start of our loop-ish trip began at Mowich Lake and while a picturesque lake the campground attached left a bit to be desired. The campsites resembled nothing short of a druid dance around a central pole. Each identical to the next very close together with raised perfectly leveled platforms. It must have taken the Army Corp of Engineers to pull it off. The worst part for us is Not a Tree nor pair of trees in the camping area. Luckily though we were not staying there only our car was.
We made our way down the Wonderland trail and then took the Spray Park trail up and over the northern flank of Mt Rainier. May I say what a beautiful area, with the mists the low vegetation, small ponds of water and the rocks laying around I was half expecting to hear bagpipe music and see some highland warriors descend out of the mist. On this leg of our journey we walked across snow fields, and met a fearless Ptarmigan. We ended up arriving late Monday evening just as the sun went down at Carbon River Camp. We were able to set up our hammocks at this location although with our set up I had to use a gift from my friend Gary_R to expand coverage over my storage shelf. Sorry didn't get a pic but thanks to Gary for the tarp.
The next morning (Tuesday) we left camp and went on our shortest day up to Mystic Lake. May I say that the Carbon Glacier (which is the lowest Glacier south of Canada and north of Mexico) was absolutely gorgeous. Most of my camera shots where of this Glacier or of Mt Rainier a couple even included both. This glacier certainly earns its name by an almost graphite quality to its coloring. Absolutely amazing. The trail also had several surprises for us including a wonderful meadow in which I saw my first Marmot which was one of my key goals to this trip. Also we ran across a trail maintenance crew who where being supported by none other than a helicopter. After that the day would have seemed almost anti climactic were it not for the view across the lake of some fellow hikers swimming/ cleaning themselves in dishabille. We were then able to set up our hammocks and have a great night sleeping except for the little mouse that walked its way into my gear hammock and licked my empty drink flavor packet, completely ignoring the Jolly Ranchers I had accidentally left in pocket of the borrowed backpack. Oops my bad but I did get to knock a mouse off a tree, don't worry he was fine and came back to nibble the package I had not found yet again.
On Wednesday we had a day of ups and downs to Berkeley Park Campsite. On the way we passed Winthrop Glacier and it was active dropping rocks and such down its face. The long slog up Granite Creek to the pass and into Berkeley Park. Wow what an amazing view and what greeted us was another high point of our trip. There was this beautiful bear grazing in the meadows below us. Too bad I didn't have a telephoto lens. This was where we had to start tenting it. I have rarely had a more uncomfortable night of sleeping than that night.
Thursday was our longest day at almost 12 miles we hiked from Berkley Park to **** Creek Camp just about opposite Carbon Glacier. My knees started doing some massive complaining on the downhill and I made it into camp limping quite badly.
Our last day was another long day at 10 miles from **** Creek Camp up through Ipsut Pass and back to Mowich lake. This was also the day we met the most day hikers while we limped back to our car and then drove home.
We learned quite a bit about ourselves on this trip. My wife's hiking boots don't work. She ended up with quite the collection of blisters, blackened toes and what looks like a blister under her toe nail. I found the cure for a blister problem that I have been having in the form of wicking toe socks (Thanks to Injinji your products are a miracle to me.) We also learned quite a bit about Mount Rainier National Park. Not all campsites will accommodate hammocks, so if you plan on going make sure you get individual accounts of each campsite to plan your route, otherwise you may end up on the ground and regretting it.