So what do you do after a trail nearly wipes you out? You go back. And so I did.
Mother Mountain Loop:
My friends Drew and Marty joined up with me in June to do the Mother Mountain Loop at Rainier. The loop covers the Wonderland Trail and the alternate trail through Seattle and Spray Parks. It is an incredible loop trail that is relatively underused.
You can start it in two places: Mowich Lake or Ipsuit Creek. We elected to start high and go downhill first, so Mowich it was. At nearly 17 miles it is a hike where you never quit moving. We started just after daylight came up and finished as the sun was threatening to go behind the ridges. We left Mowich Lake on the WT to Ipsuit pass and looked down, so far down to the Carbon River Valley. The miles go fast as you slam down the hanging valley. Hitting the super highway of the Carbon River Trail we headed upriver. (This trail doesn’t exist currently due to the massive flooding in late 2006.) As we reached the Carbon Suspension bridge we hooked uphill towards Seattle Park. This trail is brutal – old with stairs cut into the trail. I believe this is the trail that coined “groinial cramps” from how bad it hurts climbing miles of stairs. As we broke out of treeline in lower Seattle Park I stopped. I knew I had found something even better than the alpine heaven I saw in 2004. This was what I loved: the look, the smell, the feeling that you could sit there forever and be happy.
We walked across upper Seattle Park in a near white out, following Drew closely. The upper park is a land of ice, snow and grey rocks. They painted years ago arrows on the rocks to show you where to go in whiteouts. Follow them closely for safety. As we crossed over the high point into Spray Park I found we had got lucky: the glacier (avalanche) lilies were in bloom. One reason so many go to Spray Park is to see those lilies. As we crossed those last miles back to Mowich I felt like I had done something that mattered to me. This trail was an intense journey – one that I hope is fixed down below.
Drew & I at Ipsuit Pass:
Looking down Ipsuit Valley:
Carbon River plains:
The lower end of Seattle Park:
Middle Seattle Park:
Crossing the final ridge before Spray Park:
Drew & Marty at the top of Spray Park:
Heading down out of Spray Park:
Kautz Creek to Indian Henry’s Hunting Grounds and out The Wonderland Trail to Longmire:
Late August 2005. Drew tossed out to me an idea: a quick overnighter, a loop to grab some miles in that I hadn’t done. Here it was, almost the end of August so why not? The trip was Drew, his friend Steve, Rainrunner, Ford and I. We parked cars at both ends to make a loop.
We started at Kautz Creek Trail. This was a trail that never stops, brutally climbing straight uphill to the blue sky. An awful trail in many ways but once you reach tree line it is simply beautiful. It is worth the pain of going up it.
We stepped over the high point and came gently into Indian Henry’s Hunting Grounds. There we left the Wonderland and found the trail to Mirror Lakes behind the cabin. From there we took the old abandoned trail towards Pyramid Peak and then went cross country. We spent that night in absolute beauty. Ford and I found fresh black bear prints in the small water source. The huckleberries surrounding us were ripe. All you had to do was pluck then from your tent.
In the morning we headed down the Wonderland towards Devils Dream and out to Longmire. This is often day 1 for many thru-hikers. I was glad I was going the other direction.
Looking back at Mt. Adams:
Ford nearing Indian Henry’s:
The cabin at Indian Henry’s:
Resting at the cabin:
Sunrise & the start of a Lenticular cloud:
Ford, Drew & RR:
Lenticular loud forming:
On the WT, crossing Kautz Creek: