Mount Rainier National Park

Northwest Loop Trail

August 28-30, 2000


We had another free three days before back to school so we decided to make the most of it and hit yet another National Park for backpacking.  We had looked at the North Cascades but decided our best bet was the short, 18 mile loop in the northwest corner of Mount Rainier.    So, on a sunny Monday morning we set off for the Carbon River entrance and began our journey.

Day 1 - Ipsut Campground to Carbon Glacier to Cataract Valley

Today's hike started out with perfect weather - sunny skies and moderate temperatures.  The trail, too was moderate as we followed the Carbon River on a gradual uphill slope to the Carbon River camp area.   Here's the river near its source with the dark-looking Carbon Glacier in the background:



At Carbon River camp we decided to go visit the glacier for lunch which meant crossing a bridge that looked like something out of an Indiana Jones movie.   To top it off, the trail report claimed it was "missing some slats" which made me even more nervous.   After watching one group pass and seeing the bridge sway all over I decided I had to go first or I may not make it across.   Well, I made it and got a picture of Catherine's crossing.

The Glacier was a great place for lunch.  We sat on a boulder and listened and watched as a few big rocks came crashing off the glacier.  This is one of the few spots in the US where you can sit and watch a glacier's slow progress down.  Here's the glacier up close:











After lunch we had to cross the bridge again, of course, and then head up the trail to our camp at Cataract Valley.  The camp was set back in pretty heavy woods but we had the entire campsite to ourselves which was very nice.  Here's our camp all nice and snug in the trees:



Day 2 - Cataract Valley through Seattle Park & Spray Park to Mowich Lake


Day 2 started with Cornmeal/Bulger hot cereal, a tear-down of camp, and the start of a long day of ascent up through Seattle Park and into Spray Park.    We began the climb out of Cataract Valley and into the snowfields of Seattle Park.  We were glad we had our trekking  poles with us for one pretty good sized snowfield that we needed to cross:

As we were ascending, the clouds were descending and we came up expecting great views of the Mountain but instead saw clouds.  Looking down though, the view was great, as you can see from this shot of Mist Park which lies below Seattle Park.

We contiued onward until we hit the pass between Seattle and Spray Parks:

We finally entered Spray Park and had lunch among the rocks with marmots and camp-robbers all around us.  We didn't get a view of the Mountain at all but could see Observation Rock (right) and Echo Rock (left) very well:

We ate our lunch before the camp-robbers got it and headed to Eagle's Roost camp just as some misting started.  We arrived at Eagle's Roost to a light rain and found it was a nice camp but very far from water and it was only 1:30 p.m. and raining.  We opted to put on some more miles and head to Mowich Lake for the evening so tomorrow's journey would be shorter by 2 miles.  We hiked the last two miles in on and off rain and arrived at Mowich to basically a parking lot campground that was fully exposed to the elements.  We set up camp in the rain and managed to get almost everything wet to some degree.  We crawled in the tent to wait it out a bit and at a lull got out and cooked dinner before the rain started up again - the lentil chili tasted great.   We spent some time talking to hikers on the Wonderland Trail who were also at Mowich for the evening which made us want to do that trail now even more.

Day 3 - Mowich Lake to Ipsut Campground via Ipsut Pass

The rain stopped in the night and we woke to clear skies though everything was still pretty damp from the night before.   We got up, made breakfast and started trying to get things in the sun to dry as much as possible before packing.  After a few hours we were loaded up and heading out just as fog started building and moving into the camp area, blocking the sun that was out.  Here's the shot from camp just as we were underway with the fog rolling in from one direction and clear skies in the other.

We hiked up the pass in fog as the sun came through the trees...


And we went down the very steep Ipsut Pass in total fog with occaisional glimpses of cliffs, and steep walls...

Once we hit the valley floor the going was very easy and we did the last 4 miles at a nice slow pace, taking  time to stop and eat and visit with other hikers.   We arrived back at the car shortly after noon, packed up and headed home.