Mt. Rainier National Park – Northern Loop Day 2

The possible thunderstorms forecast for our first night had never really materialized. We heard a few rumbles in the distance but nothing had seemed close and we didn’t experience any rain overnight. The sky was a little cloudy as we packed up our tent but they seemed to be breaking up. We stopped at Mystic Lake to eat breakfast and enjoy the beautiful morning that was developing around us.
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From Mystic Lake the Wonderland Trail climbed through gentian filled meadows to a saddle between the mountain and Old Desolate.
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We were hiking with the animals this morning passing birds, frogs, chipmunks, and an owl who silently flew over our heads and down into a lower meadow.
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The owl flying low over the meadow just before disappearing down the hillside.
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Mt. Rainier was visible beneath the ever shifting clouds as we crested the saddle. The Carbon Glacier filled the valley before us and beyond that was Echo Cliffs and Mother Mountain.
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Further down the glacial valley a mass of clouds covered the terrain. We were heading down toward those clouds and we remembered the rain that had been in the forecast for the day.
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We followed the trail down to the meadows surrounding Moraine Creek. Along the way we spotted several pikas and had great views of a huge waterfall below Observation and Echo Rocks.
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As we continued along Moraine Creek we entered the clouds.
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About four and a half miles from Mystic Lake we came to the junction where the Northern Loop Trail split from the Wonderland Trail. The Wonderland Trail crossed the Carbon River on a suspension bridge while the Northern Loop Trail continued to follow the river down the valley. We took a short break here and took a peek at the bridge.
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We continued on the Northern Loop Trail for another mile passing through a damp forest to another trail junction.
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This junction was located near the lowest elevation point of our whole trip. From the junction the Northern Loop Trail turned uphill for a steep climb to Yellowstone Cliffs. We would be gaining some 2200′ in less than 3 miles to reach the spur trail to Yellowstone Cliffs Camp where we were to camp for the night. The park ranger who had given me our permits said the climb consisted of 38 switchbacks so we began counting them as we climbed. As we trudged up the hillside we were thankful for the clouds since they were keeping the temperature down. We were pleasantly surprised when we ended the switchbacks after about two dozen, well short of the 38 we had expected.
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Heather coming up the switchbacks.
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The trail became less steep after the swtichbacks before entering the meadows below Yellowstone Cliffs. The cliffs were shrouded in clouds as we started down the spur trail to camp.
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By the time we arrived at the tent sites we were soaked due to the moisture on the plants. We quickly picked out our site and set up our tent.
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Shortly after getting set up the rain began. It was early afternoon when it started and it wouldn’t let up until sometime during the night. This was our first experience with backpacking in the rain and we were a little concerned about our ability to stay dry. This became more of a concern when I noticed water pooling up outside of the tent near our heads. The ground was so dry and hard that the water wasn’t being absorbed at all. I quickly grabbed our trowel and attempted to drain and steer the water away from the tent. We’d also managed to forget to keep any food out for dinner. When it had started raining I ran the bear bag down to the bear pole and hung it without pulling anything out for dinner. We were left with some peanut m&ms, a small package of green olives, and a meat and cheese stick package apiece.

We stayed in the tent except for a quick trip the bathroom before attempting to sleep. Heather didn’t seem to have any trouble but I had a difficult time. The rain kept coming and I couldn’t stop wondering if we would stay dry and on top of that there was an occasional sound of large rocks falling from the cliffs. The camp was far enough away that I wasn’t worried about them at the time, but I wondered what would happen if they were still falling while we were on the trail in them morning. To top it all off my stomach decided that it really would have enjoyed dinner and that made it just a little harder to get any sleep. I managed to get a couple of hours of broken sleep waiting for morning to arrive. Happy (dry) Trails!

Flickr: https://www.flickr.com/photos/9319235@N02/sets/72157657416432875

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