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(Note: the introduction page and links to all other pages is here: Wonderland Trail Hike Introduction)

The final day of a long hike is often bittersweet. The prospect of having a nice shower and meal is attractive, but the return to the real world looms over you like a spectre. Our route for the day started with a gorgeous walk through alpine forests to meadows at Skyscraper Pass. Then we descended into Berkeley Park through a high valley surrounded by the higher peaks of Mt. Fremont and Skyscraper Peak. We contemplated whether we should take the Wonderland Trail down from Sunrise Visitor’s Center or make one last detour up and over Mt. Burroughs.

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Grand Park in the distance (and Glacier Peak!)

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Berkeley Park

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Berkeley Park

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Berkeley Park

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The weather was very pleasant, lots of sunshine and light breezes. We could also see more smoke moving in creating a thin haze in the atmosphere. As we wandered through Berkeley Park, we saw abundant wildlife including several marmots. We saw our first dipper bathing in a small spring. Those are my favorite birds to see in the mountains. It’s always a treat to see a dipper.

It was early when we got to the fork in the trail and Nathan agreed to go up Burroughs. It’s not that steep and the views of Rainier and the surroundings are impressive. When we got to the top of Second Burroughs, we had a snack and could see down the slope to a trail which seems to plunge off a cliff into Glacier Basin. The terrain in this area reminds me of the tundra in Rocky Mountain National Park, barren, rounded, and treeless.


Mountain goats on First Burroughs

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Steamboat Prow and Interglacier

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Glacier Basin and lower Emmons Glacier

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Goat Island Peak

We transitioned from backcountry, to tourist front country, and back to wilderness again. The route to Glacier Basin is more like a mountaineer route, barely graded or switchbacked but it is open and quite scenic with views of Goat Island Peak, the Emmons Glacier, and Summerland. We could see the route upon which we had embarked only a week ago and it was very satisfying to feel the circuit completed.

In the valley once again, tourist traffic increased and reached a steady stream as we plodded along the several miles back to the car. Nathan seemed to pick up speed as we walked and my muscles were screaming from the fatigue and strain of the previous days and I had trouble keeping his pace. We finally made it back to the cacaphony of the White River campground, the cars, the people, the junk and noise. We stashed our packs in the trunk and headed back down to the White River to soak our feet and wash off some of the trail dust. Our journey was complete.

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Today was supposed to be short and easy but life on the Wonderland Trail is rarely easy.  Day 7 followed the script with longer-than expected climbs and hot conditions.

We started at 8am by crossing the Carbon River on another impressive suspension bridge. The trail climbs along a steep glacial ravine and soon we were traversing above the remnants of the Carbon Glacier. This glacier goes very low in elevation, being on the colder north side of the mountain. The ice is covered with dirt and rocks and looks like a long tongue probing down the valley. Water gushes out from beneath the dirty ice.

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Carbon River

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Top of the Carbon Glacier

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Carbon Glacier

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At Dick’s Creek, we found a broken water pump layed out on a rock and we thought it was trash so we packed it up. On a trail like this there are hikers with all sorts of skill levels so we could envision a frustrated hiker leaving behind their broken water pump.

The climb contoured above the glacier, turned left, and ascended through forest, finally reaching subalpine meadows beside a boggy creek. It looked like a canyon made of trees and was quite beautiful. We took a break in a shaded meadow with a big view of Willis Wall and the top of the Carbon Glacier. Willis Wall forms an enormous amphitheater , dark and menacing. Occasionally rocks fell. Evaporation and dust made hazy clouds that drifted upward.

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Light play

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Willis Wall

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We meandered through a small meadow, then up and over a steep forested pass before dropping down and ascending shortly again to Mystic Lake. We sat on the sand beside the lake and had lunch. A woman jogged up and asked if we had her water filter. We immediately gave it back . She said she had left it out for her friend. She grabbed it and quickly jogged back the way she came. It was over 3miles from where we picked up. Oh well.

During lunch a bumblebee landed in the lake and was struggling. Nathan slowly brought it in with his ski pole and coaxed it onto a fat stick in the sun. It driedoff for about 20 minutes then flew off. Before heading out over the lake, it buzzed in front of Nathan momentarily as if to say “thanks!”.

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Mystic Lake

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We checked out the view of Rainier from the far side of Mystic Lake. You can see Rainier but there is another mountain eclipsing part of Rainier. Mystic Camp is 1/4 mile from the lake in the forest. We descended steeply, crossed N. Fork White River, then climbed steeply again to an open area. It was very sunny and hot and dry. We crossed the raging torrent of Winthrop Creek on a fat log. The Winthrop Glacier also sits low in the valley like the Carbon Glacier and is covered with tons of rocks, so the rocks are more evident than the ice.

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Winthrop Creek

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Trees trying to live on a rock

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Winthrop Glacier

Granite Creek is a nice mid-elevation forest camp. There are no views but there is a lovely creek nearby. We were in the group camp so we had a nice open area. There were tons of wasps but they didn’t bother us much. We discretely used the pool in the stream away from the trail and felt very refreshed, then ate dinner by the creek to avoid the wasps.

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Today was to be another long day interrupted by our second resupply. We got on the trail just before 7am. The skies were clear and it was not too hot. On the ascent up to Mowich Lake, I got stung at least 5 times when we passed a nest burrowed into the ground beside the trail. At the time, Nathan was leading and must not have seen the nest but the bees saw him by the time I came by, they were ticked off and looking to punish someone for disturbing them.

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We got to Mowich Lake by 9:30. This was our first road crossing since Longmire. There is a big car campground at the end of the road and the place was a zoo with people coming in early for the holiday weekend. We got our cache and packed it into our bear can and gave away our containers to a guy we chatted with in the campground.

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We took the alternate route through Spray Park instead taking the low route along Ipsut Creek. It was well worth the extra climbing because we got to see the iconic waterfall, Spray Falls, as well as some beautiful meadows before the final ascent up into the very high country. Here we had a great ridge walk with awesome views to the north. The skies were clear and we could see all of the way to Mt. Baker and all of the North Cascades and Snoqualmie Peaks. We were also back on the northwest side so the views of the mountain were more familiar and we were seeing close-up the features we normally see from 90miles away. We could also see three big fires including the two nearby fires. It was windy and chilly near the ridge summit. It was also getting late and we had a long descent to the Carbon River ahead of us. This was one of those descents which never seemed to end so we were glad to get to camp.

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Spray Falls

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Glacier Peak in the distance

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One of several fires in the distance

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One of the things that often seems to occur to me on long hikes is just how many trees there are in our state. Well, I’m sure most states have lots of trees but when you pass so many at close range and stand on a ridgetop and see nothing but trees to the horizon, it can be impressive. Nathan and I had a discussion about whether there might be more trees in Mt. Rainier Park than people. We came up with estimates that established a range of between 63 and 225 Million trees in the park alone. So it seems likely that all the trees in Washington outnumber people in the entire world. I am heartened to think this is true but it does not mean our race should feel threatened by the number of trees and try to cut them down to size.

Ants on the other hand… ;>)

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Cascade near Carbon River Camp


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Foggy forest

This was a pretty easy day with just one climb and one descent, from N. Puyallup River to S. Mowich River camp. We got a late start. The weather was foggy but muggy. We ascended through lovely forest with scattered old-growth. We took a break at the start of the huckleberry zone and I grazed on the sumptuous berries. Near the ridgetop, the trail traversed through a recent burn zone. This entire section had tons of huckleberries. It was strange to see pine trees sprouting throughout the burn area.

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The clouds parted for about an hour as we side-hilled through a sub-alpine zone. We stopped for lunch at 11:15 at the only scenic landmark of the day, Golden Lakes. There was no view at all as clouds enveloped the lake. I figured that even if the weather was clear, we would not see any views of the mountain because we were on the wrong side of the ridge and in the trees for the entire hike.

As we ate our lunch, Nathan gave me the full run-down on the Jane Austin book he was reading. I enjoyed hearing him talk and am impressed how deeply he appreciates good literature.

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The largest lake at Golden Lakes

The descent was very long, about 6 miles with tons of switchbacks through nice forest. We crossed the North and South Mowich Rivers very near their confluence. There were a lot of braids and the water was muddy and fast. One bridge was out so we found a knee-deep section to cross. I had brought my sandals but Nathan didn’t have any so after I crossed, I tossed them across the river to Nathan. I made a bad toss and Nathan had to go after it before it washed away.

Camp was quite nice. We had a riverside view. The clouds cleared. I went down and sat on a log on a bar and watched birds scurry about, as the sunlight disappeared from the treetops.

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Riverside camp at Mowich River

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We got another early start at 6:51am with another hard 14mile day ahead of us. We quickly topped out into meadows and found that overnight, the sky had cleared and all the smoke had blown away from our side of the mountain. We had lovely views of the south side of Rainier as we hiked through Indian Henry’s Hunting Grounds. Since we live to the north of Rainier, these south views are views we are not used to seeing. We had great views of the Tahoma and Puyallup glaciers and the morning light painted all the colors of the mountain.



Squaw Lake

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Grouse crossing the trail

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Indian Henry’s Hunting Ground

The surroundings were very quiet because we were far from any roads or tourist access and we saw very few people this day, probably no more than 20 people all day. Near the old patrol cabin, a family of grouse crossed the trail right in front of us.

Our first descent ended with a crossing of Tahoma Creek on a long, high suspension bridge. The creek below, and all the other creeks we would see this day, was a roaring, silty, glacial creek. We trudged uphill as the day warmed and emerged beside a massive moraine. We hiked among massive cliffs and volcanic formations, wilder than any I have seen around Rainier. We had close-up views of the Tahoma glacier, which was very ragged on its leading edge.

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Suspension bridge over Tahoma Creek

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Tahoma Creek

At the top of the ridge, we had views down to the South Puyallup River. The water came off the glacier and went under a massive orange-colored moraine. In the middle of the moraine was a huge, round sinkhole. You could see the water blow and rocks were tumbling in and made loud crashing sounds. We sat for awhile and enjoyed the sights and the amazing good weather.

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Tahoma Glacier

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Ridge dividing Tahoma Creek and South Puyallup Creek

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Sinkhole on Puyallup River moraine

The descent was very hard. There was loose gravel the whole way down. We were glad to reach the bottom and had lunch by a tiny creek and napped and pumped water. Then we immediately climbed again to St. Andrew’s Park. There were more awesome views of Rainier including a far-off ridgetop hoodoo called Tukaloo Spire. We passed one of the most-desired camps on the trail called Klapatche Park Camp. There is a “lake” in front of the camp which ordinarily would make for great reflecting photos of the mountain but on this day, the lake was entirely dry.

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Crossing South Puyallup River

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South Puyallup River

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St. Andrew’s Park and Tukaloo Spire

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Dried pond at Klapatche Park

At the beginning of the descent, we passed a cliff-edge with a view overlooking the N. Puyallup Valley. This was truly the most awe-inspiring scenery (to me) of the entire trip. In the distance, there was a towering ridge with lots of volcanic cliffs pillars. Several watercourses cascaded from the top of the ridge to the valley floor. I’ve never seen the Yosemite Valley in person, but I would imagine that there are features here that are comparable to that famous place.

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Headwall of North Puyallup Valley

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The descent was beautiful too, winding in and out of lush forest and brush. We were glad to be passing through the brush in the late afternoon as this could be very damp in the early morning. There were lots of huckleberries too which slowed our progress to camp. We saw two piles of bear scat on the trail. We expected to see bears at some point on the trip, but this and a few other piles of bear scat was all we saw.

The descent ended at the N. Puyallup River. Camp was very close to the terminus of the West Side Road. The West Side Road was once open to cars but rockfall and washouts have closed the road to motorized travel. I think this has made this amazing valley and the wonderful meadows of Klapatche and St. Andrews Parks inaccessible to casual tourists.

We set up camp, had a bath in a side pool near the river, washed our clothes, pumped water, ate dinner, and went to sleep. Life is good.

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Bridge over N. Puyallup River at the end of the West Side Road

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I planned for this to be the longest day of our trip because I knew that much of it would be near the road (along Steven’s Canyon and Paradise Roads), there would be no meadow walking, and there were hardly any camping options along the way. It did turn out to be perhaps the best day of waterfalls on the trip including a few surprising ones at the beginning of the day. The weather was still hot and smoky so we planned to get up very early so we would not have to push hard in the heat of the day and hoped for some rests along the way. Nathan was totally on board with the early start so we hit the trail at 6:15am and reached Reflection Lakes at 9am! Reflection Lakes is an often-photographed destination. There is a parking area right beside the road and the path alongside the lake is often lined with photographers. However when we passed the lakes, we could only see a faint outline of the mountain through the smoky haze. We kept right on hiking and started the long descent to Longmire.

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Sylvia Falls


Stevens Canyon

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Martha Falls

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Martha Falls

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Modest reflection in Reflection Lake

We found our first significant stretch of blueberry bushes which slowed our (well, my) progress considerably. If there is one thing to recommend hiking the Wonderland Trail in late August, it is the abundance of ripe blueberries! We also passed several fantastic waterfalls, including Narada Falls and Carter Falls. Both are very near to the road so tourist traffic was thick on the trail.

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Narada Falls

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Madcap Falls

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Carter Falls


Abandoned penstock (for power generation)

We had lunch near the Nisqually River. The Nisqually is probably the largest river valley to cross but the valley is broad and all of the channels could be crossed on large log bridges. We napped in the shade as the air around us started to broil.

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We started hiking again and reach Longmire Ranger Station by 12:30. We quickly got our cache and knew we had a tough afternoon ahead of us even though we only had 5 miles or so to reach our camp at Devil’s Dream. The climb of Rampart Ridge was terribly hot with no views or breeze. We passed several tourists and wondered why of all places on Mt. Rainier to visit, they had chosen Rampart Ridge. We descended to Kautz Creek, another thundering silty creek, and filtered water because we had heard there was no water near our camp. At about 5:30, we reached our camp, situated in dark forest at about 5000 ft. It was mosquito-ridden and there were no views, creeks, or breezes to be had. I did a little wandering after dinner to try and find a small pond which was on the map but only found a shallow, mosquito-ridden muck about 1.5 miles from camp.

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Near Kautz Creek

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Descending to Kautz Creek

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Mosquito-free havens

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We had a pretty uneventful day, hiking from Indian Bar Camp to Maple Creek Camp. It was only 10 miles, but conditions made for a smoky, scorching hike. We ascended and descended through meadows for the first three miles. The mountain was mainly behind us or hidden by cliffs but it didn’t matter because all the views were erased by the wildfire smoke. It was kind of a downer, not knowing if we would be hiking in smoke for the entire week. In addition, the temperatures were very hot and we relished any time in the shade. It was not a good day to be above the trees and fortunately we descended below the treeline by late morning.

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We had a nice lunch and cooled off by Nickel Creek. As we rounded the northeast corner of the mountain and crossed the road at Box Canyon, all we wanted to do was find a shady creek and sit in it. We finally got our chance at Stevens Creek and dropped our packs and laid down and napped on giant boulders beside the creek.

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Nickel Creek lunch stop

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Mountain view near Box Canyon

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Peering down into Box Canyon

Maple Creek Camp was not that exciting though there was a nice creek nearby. I sat by the creek and read a book, but there were a ton of mosquitoes bothering Nathan so he rested in the tent. Then we had an early dinner by the creek and went to bed knowing our longest day was coming up tomorrow.

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Cooling off at Stevens Creen

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