Wonderland Trail: 7/30/20-8/3/20

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Born2BBrad
Posts: 992
Joined: May 1st, 2011, 7:26 pm
Location: The Dalles

Wonderland Trail: 7/30/20-8/3/20

Post by Born2BBrad » December 4th, 2020, 7:58 pm

What: Backpacking the Wonderland Trail around Mt. Rainier
When: 7/30/20-8/3/20
Who: (Born2BBrad) and Chase

Opening picture (marmot hanging out):
Image

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General Information

Route: Started and ended at Longmire, going clockwise.
Miles: 93
EG: 23000’
Number of NP rangers encountered: 1

Elevation profile (follow link):
https://www.nps.gov/mora/planyourvisit/ ... 18_Web.pdf

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Trip Narrative and Pictures

My hiking buddy Chase was able to procure a permit to hike the Wonderland Trail in Mt. Rainier National Park. It was an aggressive itinerary, having to do the 93 miles and 23,000’ EG in four and a half days. Were we up to the task? Read on…

Not wanting to get up at 3:00 AM to meet Chase at the TH, I opted to sleep at Hotel Subaru at Longmire Village. There was a concern the parking lot would be patrolled by NP rangers and I would be booted out. No government official of any kind was seen. It was much quieter and cheaper than staying at nearby Cougar Rock Campground.

Day 1
Longmire to North Puyallup CG
19.2 Miles, +6100 EG, -4900 EL

Brad and Chase starting out:
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Example of the well maintained trail:
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First view of the mountain:
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Example of one of the many great water crossings:
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One of the food hanging bear poles:
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Indian Henry’s Hunting Ground patrol cabin:
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Wonderland Trail in Indian Henry’s Hunting Ground:
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Suspension bridge over Tahoma Creek:
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Glacier Island with Rainier behind it:
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St. Andrews Lake:
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The North Puyallup CG is 200 yards off the Wonderland Trail. Campsites are 100 yards from a water source. The open air pit toilet is on the other side of Puyallup River. A communal food hanging bear pole is there.

Day 2
North Puyallup CG to Isput Creek CG
20.9 Miles, +4300 EG, -5400 EL

Sunset Park patrol cabin:
Image

Upon reaching the South Mowich River, the bridge that used to be there was washed out. In its place was a large, barkless log with water flowing over it, with a raging river on either side. Slipping on the wet, barkless log would be a 100% drowner. For the first time in my life I was scared to attempt a water crossing – fearing for my life scared. Chase bravely and carefully crossed, but I balked. Visions of my wife crying at my funeral, assuming my body would be found, entered my thoughts. This is not an exaggeration.

Meanwhile Chase had completed parts two and three of the crossing and was waiting for me, fearing I had fallen in. He came back, and motioned for me to butt-scoot across the log. Fortunately as I did the butt-scoot, the river flow subsided slightly so I only got wet from the waist down. Even so, my adrenalin was pumping.

That crossing is an accident waiting to happen.

Chase at the South Mowich crossing:
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Badly filmed video of the South Mowich crossing with subsided flow:


Link: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HgOa_yM5zqE

South Mowich crossing part 2:
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North Mowich crossing:
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Descending Isput Pass is a rocky, ankle-twisting knee-breaker:
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The descent also had more bear scat than I’ve ever seen before. I stopped counting after 50. Could be the high fiber diet.

Bear scat:
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Isput Creek patrol cabin:
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Upon reaching Isput Creek CG, I couldn’t figure out why there was a bike there. The reason is that the road to the CG washed out in 2006 and never rebuilt, but hikers and bikers can still access the CG via the road.

Bike at Isput Creek CG:
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Isput Creek CG was my favorite of all the sites we stayed at. Many large, flat, open sites to choose from. Picnic tables. Large metal bear boxes at each site. Water source close by, albeit a little silty. Two solar powered outhouses.

Isput Creek CG:
Image

Day 3
Isput Creek CG to Sunrise CG
17.1 Miles, +3100 EG, -2500 EL

The Carbon River suspension bridge washed out The trail to the Carbon River suspension bridge washed out in 2017 so we had to take a short detour. The detour wasn’t too bad, but the suspension bridge would have been cool.

Alternate Carbon River crossing:
Image

The Wonderland Trail follows the Carbon Glacier very closely for several miles. However, due to that section being forested, the glacier can only be seen towards the bottom. Trivia facts: the Carbon Glacier is the lowest elevation glacier in the lower 48. It is also the longest, thickest and largest volume of any glacier in the lower 48.

Carbon Glacier warning sign:
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Terminus of the Carbon Glacier:
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Nearing Mystic Lake, I stopped in a meadow to snap a shot of Mt. Rainier. I spotted what looked like a sack someone had left on a rock 15 feet from the trail. Who would leave a sack there? Turns out it was a hoary marmot! Chase had passed it and it hadn’t moved. I stopped for more pictures, getting closer and it still didn’t move.

Mt. Rainier, meadow a sack someone left on a rock:
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Me and the marmot:
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Can you find the pika?
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Mystic Lake:
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Scrambly descent:
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Fun tilted Winthrop Creek crossing:
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Near Berkeley Pass:
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Sunrise CG was OK. It is near the Sunrise Village Visitor center, so there are many people on the nearby trails. There is no moving water source nearby. The aptly named Shallow Lake, with no inflow or outflow is the only source. Communal bear boxes. Outhouse. Hot food and snackies about a mile and a half away one way.


Day 4
Sunrise CG to Nickel Creek CG
21.5 Miles, +4200 EG, -7000 EL

The first notable water crossing was White River. Numerous hikers told us that, later in the day as the flow increased, the Wonderland Trail crossing of the White River was impassable due to high water, but there was a safe detour. Some people said if it was early enough in the day, the Wonderland Trail crossing was likely passable. We opted to not bother and see if it was passable, as if it wasn’t, we would have to backtrack, adding mileage. Neither wanted to walk one more foot than we had to. The detour was a level road walk with a car bridge crossing. Very uneventful.

Detour warning sign:
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The road walk detour wasn’t too bad:
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The section of trail leading up to Summerland, over Panhandle Gap, through Ohanapecosh Park down to Indian Bar was by far the highlight of the trip. Almost constant views in all directions.

As we neared Summerland, the crowds got heavier, likely due to the beautiful views. At the Summerland shelter we encountered the first and only NP ranger. He was there due to a bear stealing someone’s food that had been left on a picnic table. This is why we can’t have nice things. The people, not the bear.


The approach to Panhandle Gap:
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At Panhandle Gap:
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The other side of Panhandle Gap:
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Lots of snow and rocks here:
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There must be mountain goats around here:
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Indian Bar shelter:
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View just past Indian Bar:
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The Nickel Creek CG is 25-50 feet off the Wonderland Trail. Campsites are 100 yards from a water source. Open air pit toilet. A communal food hanging bear pole is there. Very uninspiring, but a flat place to lay my head.

Day 5
Nickel Creek CG to Longmire
14.3 Miles, +2300 EG, -3200 EL

This section of the trail is mostly forested, except for the touristy part by the road below Paradise Village. Good thing it was overcast and a Monday to keep the crowds down. Chase said last time he went through that area it was cheek-to-jowls with people.

There was an upcoming section of trail that we had been told was hazardous due to a landslide. While it was sketchy, fortunately for us is was less dangerous in the direction we were going due to the trail being uphill at that point. Going downhill would not have been enjoyable.

Trail warning sign:
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Chase finishing the landslide section:
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Section that is often times crowded:
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There were quite a few face masks dropped along the trail:
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Yeah! We’re done!
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Good thing because I was almost out of tape:
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Ewww, gross!
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Final Notes

• The lack of NP rangers may have been due to Covid.
• My estimation is 85% or more of the trail is forested with no views.
• The campsites are not scenic and mostly off the main trail. Not a destination to spend much time at.
• The Wonderland Trail is almost always either climbing or descending. Not much level.
• Excellent signage, as to be expected for a NP.
• Most water crossings had bridges, as to be expected for a NP.
• Communal cache boxes located along the route so people taking longer to complete the trip can have food stored along the way.
• This was the hardest hike I have ever done. 93 miles and 23,000 EG in just under four and a half days. I still got it!
• I was out of cell phone range the whole trip. When I got back to Longmire and checked my messages, there were many from my wife. She was frantic due to having to prepare for evacuation by herself due to a wildfire threat. The threat had mostly passed by the time I spoke with her. Later we did have to evacuate twice for two different fires. I may be banned from backpacking trips during fire season. Thanks again global warming!

Link to lots more pictures on Google Photos:
Link 1: https://photos.google.com/u/1/album/AF1 ... 5ParTMuzRg
Link 2: https://photos.app.goo.gl/6NHp4uKU1ErzAeHC7

Hike the good hike,

Brad
Last edited by Born2BBrad on December 6th, 2020, 10:16 am, edited 2 times in total.
Make now always the most precious time. Now will never come again.
- Jean Luc Picard

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Chip Down
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Joined: November 8th, 2014, 8:41 pm

Re: Wonderland Trail: 7/30/20-8/3/20

Post by Chip Down » December 4th, 2020, 8:49 pm

Cute marmot!

EG 23000'?! Whaaaat? :shock:

There's a Hotel Subaru? Oh, I see.

Rainier gets all the nice bridges.

See that snow gully right of Glacier Island? Goes to fun places. :D

I don't recall that Sunset Park cabin, but I researched, and it's not new. Hmm.

I encountered South Mowich in the dark. Not fun. Not as bad as your crossing though. Your video though, cripes, the pic was fine, why did you make us watch that?

Oh, no more Carbon River suspension bridge! That's too bad.

Glad you posted Carbon terminus. I haven't seen it in decades, nice to get an update. What a beast!

Interesting estimation that 85% is viewless. Makes me feel better about the segments I haven't done.

Those feet! Clearly, you need to do more hiking (more frequently, I mean). I can talk to the wife, if that would help.

leiavoia
Posts: 119
Joined: April 24th, 2015, 9:53 pm

Re: Wonderland Trail: 7/30/20-8/3/20

Post by leiavoia » December 4th, 2020, 10:35 pm

Thanks for posting. I went in September but bailed out after 65 miles due to inbound Pineapple Express. I agree it’s very strenuous and a different mindset due to having to make your mileage and campsites each day.

The carbon river bridge was up when I was there. Must have been repaired.

Here’s a tip for protecting the back of your heels from blisters, and I swear it works: take an empty candy bar wrapper, cut or rip the ends open to form a tube shape. Put the wrapper against your heel and then put your sock over that. The two layers of plastic with oily residue in between create a wonderful gliding anti-friction patch. Has saved me several times.

bushwhacker
Posts: 134
Joined: September 7th, 2009, 3:56 pm
Location: Troutdale

Re: Wonderland Trail: 7/30/20-8/3/20

Post by bushwhacker » December 5th, 2020, 6:59 am

Well done. We did this a number of years ago before the lottery system went into effect taking a more leisurely 7 days. I guess we were lucky in that there didn't seem to be all that many folks on the trail. Like you one of the takeaways was that you seemed to be either going up hill or down hill. Think Zigzag Canyon times two. Nice to see that all of those old patrol cabins are still there. Must be a never ending task trying to maintain bridges over those creeks. Love the suspension bridge. We need something like that over the Sandy River going to Ramona Falls.

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Chip Down
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Joined: November 8th, 2014, 8:41 pm

Re: Wonderland Trail: 7/30/20-8/3/20

Post by Chip Down » December 5th, 2020, 11:44 am

bushwhacker wrote:
December 5th, 2020, 6:59 am
Love the suspension bridge. We need something like that over the Sandy River from Paradise Park to Yocum Ridge.
Fixed that for you. :D

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Born2BBrad
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Joined: May 1st, 2011, 7:26 pm
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Re: Wonderland Trail: 7/30/20-8/3/20

Post by Born2BBrad » December 5th, 2020, 12:07 pm

Sorry, misspoke about the Carbon River suspension bridge. The bridge didn't wash out, the TRAIL TO the suspension bridge washed out. Fixed it in the TR.

Also edited the video to remove the shaky start. The shakes were due to taking the video too close to the dangerous part. I was watching my feet and not the camera.

Regarding the blisters, normally that is no problem. My "summer feet" had been built up, but almost constant, difficult hiking over the course of four and a half days was twice my normal difficult trip.
Make now always the most precious time. Now will never come again.
- Jean Luc Picard

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Chip Down
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Joined: November 8th, 2014, 8:41 pm

Re: Wonderland Trail: 7/30/20-8/3/20

Post by Chip Down » December 5th, 2020, 2:53 pm

Oh, okay. They might want to build a series of suspension bridges...you know, a mini suspension bridge to the main suspension bridge. Of course, the footing where they meet would have to be unwashoutable.

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RobinB
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Location: Portland, OR

Re: Wonderland Trail: 7/30/20-8/3/20

Post by RobinB » December 5th, 2020, 11:23 pm

What a fantastic read - thank you for posting! I've missed this sort of trip report.

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MarkInTheDark
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Location: Portland, OR

Re: Wonderland Trail: 7/30/20-8/3/20

Post by MarkInTheDark » December 6th, 2020, 8:39 am

Great report and photos!

bushwhacker
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Joined: September 7th, 2009, 3:56 pm
Location: Troutdale

Re: Wonderland Trail: 7/30/20-8/3/20

Post by bushwhacker » December 6th, 2020, 4:23 pm

Chip Down wrote:
December 5th, 2020, 11:44 am
bushwhacker wrote:
December 5th, 2020, 6:59 am
Love the suspension bridge. We need something like that over the Sandy River from Paradise Park to Yocum Ridge.
Fixed that for you. :D
No, no! That's where the zip line(s) are supposed to go. Imagine zipping across with the Sandy River a thousand feet below you. Way cheaper then a bridge and what could possibly go wrong on a crossing like that :mrgreen: .

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