Entiat River, July 2014 · Index · Lake Waptus, May 2015

Wonderland Trail, September 2014

The Wonderland Trail, in Mt. Rainier National Park.The Wonderland Trail is about 93 miles long and has a cumulative elevation gain of about 22,000ft.

I had long wanted to backpack the Wonderland Trail. While living in Omak, WA, I finally got the chance. I arranged a bit over a week of vacation. Prior to starting the backpack I spent few days camping with Genevieve.

Genevieve and I found a great spot to car camp at Johnson Creek. We spent the weekend there and enjoyed a short hike part way up Angry Mountain Trail.

Our campsite at Johnson Creek.

Genevieve had a Whymper tent which, at the time, she was quite happy with. Later on it turned out not to work very well when exposed to 2 days to rain, but that is another story. The important thing: you can start camping with cheap gear and stuff from thrift stores. Get better gear over time, as needed.

A new, cheap, camo a-frame tent.

On Sep 1st I got started up the Wonderland trail, and Genevieve headed back home. I finally left Longmire around 4:30pm, and had a short backpack to the Pyramid Creek Camp Site.

Starting up the trail the evening of the first day.

2 miles from Longmire and 1.7 to Pyramid; the total climb to get to the camp was 1300ft. I started questioning the couple pounds of homemade peanut butter cookies I brought.

Sign at a junction on the first day.

Step 1: get to camp.

Step 2: lie on ground staring at the sky.

Looking up at the sky through an empty spot in the trees.

Once I had camp set up, the cookies secured where the animals couldn't get them, and was done staring at the sky, I went exploring. I then observed that one of the marks of a true Washingtonian is that you don't care what the guide books say, the state flower is moss.

A large pile of large mossy boulders near the first nights camp site.

In Washington State, the trees are larger, the fish are larger, the bears are larger, and even the fungi are larger.

A mushroom near the first camp site.

As the author of Scary Bridges I was happy to find a bridge. Sadly, it did not meet my very low standards for posting.

Bridges like this were quite common on the hike. The park service tethers one end of the log bridge down with a cable. When a flood washes it away the tether prevents it from going too far. After the flood they pick it up and put it back across the creek.

A log-over-river with a railing stype foot bridge.

Somebody got a little too enthusiastic when making cairns.

Cairns marking where the trial leaves the riverbed.

Packing up to leave Pyramid Creek.

In areas this damp, keeping your gear dry is extremely important. Air it out every day if possible.

Drying gear before packing up the first camp.

Indian Henrys

Mt Rainier and the Indian Henrys patrol cabin.

A rare photo of the author, taken by a friendly backpacker.

The author with Mt. Rainier in the background.

The Indian Henry's patrol cabin ranks among the most scenic places to work that I have come acorss. Depending on if you prefer greenery or desert, more scenic than my former workplace at the Atacama Large Millimeter Array.

Mt Rainier and the Indian Henrys patrol cabin.

The ranger was not in.

The ranger statin at Indian Henrys.

Western Washington State specializes in mossy creeks. They are a nice change from the dryer climates in which I spend most of my time.

Crossing a creek on the way down to Tahoma Creek/Canyon

Upper Tahoma Canyon was rugged and impressive.

Looking up Tahoma Canyon from the Wonderland trail.

After a careful inspection, I found that the Tahoma Creek Suspension Bridge was, alas, unworthy of a full listing on Scary Bridges. It did, however, merit an honorable mention. And one of the u-bolts make 2014 Most Scenic Clamping U-Bolt of the Year.

Looking at Tahoma Creek suspension bridge from the North.

Crossing the Tahoma Creek Suspension Bridge. The creek was further down than it looks in this photo.

Looking from the bridge down into Tahoma creek.

As the Tahoma Glacier melts at the upper end of the Sough Puyallup Canyon it leaves behind quite the blasted hellscape!

The end of the Tahoma Glacier above South Puyallup canyon.

I paused to take a break, eat a spoon full of smashed doritos, and enjoy some of those cookies.

Another view of the Tahoma Glacier above South Puyallup canyon.

By the time I arrived at North Puyallup Campground it is around 7:15pm. It started raining at 3:15PM. My altimeter went nuts, but the hiked was about 15.8 miles and climbed about 4400ft. Trip total: 19.5 miles, 5,700ft climb. Note: all climbs are vertical feet up, and do not include descending, of which I did plenty.

Arriving at North Puyallup in the evening; it is rather damp.

Nothing to do but camp in the damp.

Camped at North Puyallup camp

When you walk down the damp trail the damp trees rub off damp water onto your dampness. Thankfully, I had carefully kept my sleeping bag and the interior of my tent dry.

Typical damp trail in North Puyallup area.

Long ago there was vehicle access to this area. While the pavement is long gone (or buried in forest debris), the old roads and parking areas are still held up by retaining walls.

A rock wall from the old road at North Puyallup campground.

Another not-scary bridge.

The foot bridge across North Puyallup Creek.

They did a good job of concealing that this is not a wooden bridge, but actually steal. (Remember: click on an image for a larger version)

A side view of the bridge, showing the well-conceled steal support underneath.

The view of Mt. Rainier from North Puyallup Campground.

A view of a bunch of fog where you would see the peak if it weren't foggy.

It was still raining when I got up. I explored the area a bit and found the campsite where I camped with a scout troop about 15 years before. It kept raining, so I had to pack camp wet and carry that extra water on to the next campsite. After I hiked awhile it cleared up.

On the trail above the North Puyallup canyon.

Further up the trail.

Further up the trail above North Puyallup.

A nice day, but I didn't manage to dry my gear until the following morning. I made it to Mowich lake without any trouble.

Trees and forest south of Golden Lakes.

Drying gear at Mowich Lake the next morning.

15.1 miles and 4400ft climb from North Puyallup Camp; 34.6 miles, 10300ft total.

After drying my gear I headed down Ipsut Creek. I tried to take a photo of where The Wonderland Snow Bridge was, but I couldn't find the spot. It was probably overgrown with vegetation, and I didn't have the time to backtrack and search for it.

A log footbridge across a side-creek of Ipsut creek.

Another of the large mushrooms that roam freely in the area.

A large fungus growing out of the side of a log.

After reaching the bottom of Ipsut Creek I started up the Carbon River.

Carbon river, surronded by rocks.

There was a nice suspension bridge connecting the Spray Park to the Wonderland trail. One of the u-bolts was a runner-up for The 2014 Most Scenic Clamping U-Bolt of the year.

And, while stopped here, I ate the last of my cookies. No more weight to carry. No more cookies to eat...

Clamping U bolt on Carbon River bridge.

The snout of Carbon Glacier.

The snout of Carbon Glacier

Melting glaciers leave behind a highly unstable pile of rocks. While there are often ice caves in them, they are just too dangerous to be worth going to.

A close up of the snout of Carbon Glacier

Every so often, be sure to pause to appreciate the moss.

Moss in upper Moraine Creek.

And enjoy the scenery.

It took awhile. But, despite the cookie depletion, I finally made it to Mystic Lake Camp. Days hike of 13.5 miles, 4,100ft. Total 48.1 miles, 14400ft.

A rocky slope.

That evening I tried some nighttime photography.

Trees at night with new growth light up by the flash.

I found that the new growth on the trees reflected the camera flash far more than the rest of the tree. It created a unique effect.

Another picture of trees at night with new growth light up by the flash.

The next day I departed for Sunrise Camp. I have now circled about halfway round the mountain.

North face of Mt. Rainer.

This was a shorter day, giving me some time to relax and hike around the Sunrise area. This is the view of the Mt. Rainier from near Sunrise.

Mt Rainier from near Sunrise

My first attempt at climbing Mt. Rainier was via the Camp Sherman / Emmons Glacier route, which can be seen in this photo. I didn't make it that time, but did make it later on via the more common Camp Muir / Ingraham Glacier route.

A close up of Mt Rainier from near Sunrise.

Looking back the way I came.

Looking back to the east shortly before reaching Sunrise.

Views at Sunrise were often like this one.

A view from one of the overlooks near Sunrise.

Arriving at Sunrise Camp around midday, I setup camp, stashed my gear, and secured what was left of my food.

Days hike 8.6 miles, 2,600ft climb. Total 56.7 miles, 17,000ft climb.

Tent in the shade at Sunrise campground.

Little Tahoma Peak, seen from Sunrise.

Little Tahoma peak from Sunrise

I had been looking forward to getting a good meal after days on the trail. It doesn't take much to count as a good meal when you have been hiking that long. I got nothing but a burger of disappointment, and the ice cream machine was broken! Hopefully their food service has improved since then. At least I was able to combing some huckleberry coco and coffee to make a huckleberry moca

One of the buildings at the Sunrise visitor center area.

After finishing the burger of disappointment I hiked around a bit and enjoyed the views.

Mount Rainier from Sunrise

Another view of Little Tahoma Peak.

Little Tahoma and the Sunrise area.

Mt. Rainier from Sunrise, at sunset.

Mt Rainier from Sunrise at Sunrise.

The next day was a long one, headed for Nickle Creek Camp. Seen here is Mt. Rainier from the Panhandle Gap area.

A view of Mt. Rainier as I approach Panhandle Gap.

Cowlitz Chimneys

Cowlitz Chimneys from the south.

I see that, as of 2014, they still had their scenic restrooms. Also known as an outhouse minus the house...

Given just how common video cameras are these days, they really need to move something that gives more privacy.

A outhouse without any walls, but with a good view.

The view from the scenic restroom.

The view from the scenic outhouse.

Near Indian bar, looking upstream. Once past Indian Bar, I just focused on getting to camp, not taking pictures.

Once I was to Nickle Creek Camp, the days hike was 21.1 miles, and the climb 4,000ft. Total 77.8 miles, 21,000ft.

Near Indian bar, looking upstream.

The following way was a bit easier. The trail sort of parallels the road in the part of the park. Probably just as well, as it is a lot easer to take the bridge over the Muddy Fork of the Cowlitz River than to cross some other way.

Stevens Canyon Road bridge over Muddy Fork Cowlitz River.

We clearly need the canyon to be deeper. At least twice as deep.

Sign stating that the bridge is 180 feet above the river.

The Muddy Fork isn't that muddy.

Looking down 180ft down into the canyon.

Looking down the Muddy Fork of the Cowlitz river.

Another view, down the canyon.

The road goes through a tunnel under the trail.

Road tunnel near the bridge.

On top of the tunnel.

Above the tunnel, leaving the Cowlitz box area.

As the trail is below the road for a good ways, you get an interesting view of the Stevens Road Viaduct.

Looking up at Stevens road, where a mix of viaduct and tunnel takes it across the mountainside.

They need some way for the drivers to see what is, and isn't, below them.

Close up of Stevens road from below.

Another rest stop...

Looking up at the tall trees.

Mt. Rainier from Reflection Lake. A nice place, except for the crowding.

Mt. Rainier from reflection lake.

Narada Falls

Picture of Narada Falls.

For some reason I keep thinking it is rainbow falls.

A close up of Narada Falls.

I guess they got tired of replacing the log here and went for a more permanent bridge.

A permanent bridge across Paradise river.

Paradise River Camp; the last camp of the backpack.

Days hike 9.9 miles, 2,900ft. Total 87.7 miles, 23,900ft.

The last camp of the backpack, at Paradise River Camp.

The last day was just hiking down Paradise River to Longmire. A good part of the trail followed an old wooden pipe held together with steal bands. Presumably it used to supply water to the Longmire area.

The old water pipe for Paradise.

Parts of it were still in good shape.

A close up of the old water pipe.

And parts had a few holes.

A close up of the old water pipe showing a hole in the pipe.

After crossing the last footbridge I returned to Longmire, got in the car, and drove home.

Days hike 3.6 miles, no climbing. Total 91.3 miles, 23,900ft climb.

The last footbridge on my hike.

It was a great backpack. Hopefully I can do it again someday.

Entiat River, July 2014 · Index · Lake Waptus, May 2015

Last Updated: Mar 26 2023; Fixed typo on canyon depth, added tag to jump to wooden pipe.

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