A February assessment of washouts on the Carbon River side of the Wonderland

My feet were antsy this past rainy Tuesday. They couldn’t stop bouncing under my desk as I threw together paragraphs and marinated myself in trail talk.

After several hours of writing my brain couldn’t take one more sentence so I hit the kitchen for a snack and turned on the news. The weather gal, looking dapper in her woolen suit, grinned and said Wednesday’s weather was going to be unseasonably warm and partly sunny. That was all it took for my wheels to start turning and for my busy brain to formulate a plan. It was February, but I had to get my legs out for a day on the Wonderland Trail.


After the heavy rains this past fall, I knew that there would be some trail damage and I wanted to see what kind of spring the trail crews would have in store. As I suspected Mount Rainier had been at it again with her water-chisel, overtaking stretches of the Wonderland and trying her best to wipe out what’s left of the Carbon River Road.

Trip Details and updates:

I entered and exited via the Carbon River Road in the Park’s northwest corner. The road walk was enjoyable, and I nearly tweaked my coccyx in my happy dance when I saw that the Park Service had restored and reconstructed the historic log cabin that had been removed when the floods of 2006 undercut it’s foundation. Now, the beautiful old structure, sits at Ipsut Creek Campground, waiting for summer months and visitors to admire its aged timbers. The true mystery is how, in the Sam Hill, did the Park get the logs up the washed out Carbon River Road? Regardless, what a joy to have it back!DSC00379DSC00338

The Ipsut Campground is looking very lonely these days compared to the busy times I remember when car camping was allowed. There is an eerie tranquility about a quiet, backcountry campground inactively resting without a soul in sight. The mossy picnic tables, the debris strewn over the tent sites and the mellifluous singing of a Winter Wren in an old growth tree high above made me feel grateful to experience that fascinating moment.


Ipsut Creek Campground looking lonely



mysterious note on the trail….

Where the Wonderland intersects with the Ipsut Connector trail, someone had left a hand-written note, complete with a drawing. The paper was soaked with rain so the writing was nearly illegible. Despite squinting, I was able to read the following and I quote “2 miles away, road blockage due to washout, not available for amateur.”

The drawing looked like a bunch of lines, then circles which I presume were rocks. Arrows showed the trail dropping off and the river directly below the washout. I stood and considered my plight of seeing this washout with fading daylight left in my outing. Summit fever overtook me, so I huffed as fast as I could 2 miles up the trail as the sun popped down over an opposing hill. Sure enough, there was a washout. In fact, there were three of them. The worst one was where the Wonderland had been completely chewed off a hillside by a loose scree and sand field. Photos do not do this justice, and yes, not for “amateur”. One slip has you sliding down the loose debris and doing the backstroke in the milky, churning Carbon River.


The washout just before the Wonderland Trail detour over the lower Carbon River. The bridge is out as well.


More trail issues…log across narrow trail…


Look what I found! I didn’t’ stop for a sniff….


A section of the Wonderland where the river has overcome the pathway…


Another stretch of washed out Wonderland…

DSC00454DSC00467 DSC00448 DSC00435 DSC00430  DSC00414

Another stretch of the Wonderland along the riverbank is completely gone and now has become an ankle-twisty game of navigation through colorful rocks and sandy shorelines until you find the trail again on the other side.  More casualties were every where I looked.  Chenius Falls is missing it’s bridges, and even the Rain Forest Loop at the parking area was missing a bridge.


Ipsut Falls and Creek…

But it was beautiful; oh how beautiful! The old growth trees and mossy forest almost burned my eyes with shades of lime and emerald. On the way back, I stopped by an old mine, originally part of 30 mining claims established by Washington Mining Company in the area in the early 1900’s. My mind zipped back in time and I tried to envision going to work every day with primitive tools pounding away at stone. How spoiled we are to live in this present generation! Then again, are we? Things have become so much more complicated, yet, the average life span is much longer and life is pretty good overall. Technology is great, but the constant communication without much respite for quiet… bleh. There were many thoughts to chew on as I popped the last of my almonds into my mouth.


It was great to be back at Mount Rainier.

2 thoughts on “A February assessment of washouts on the Carbon River side of the Wonderland

  1. Thanks for an update! I’ll be a first time WT backpacker I hope in 2016, 2015 will be shakedown trips to the Olympics and day hike sections of the WT. I’ve been out of backpacking for a few years, so many new and lighter gadgets to consider now.

    • Hi Ted! Yes, so many great ways to save weight on your shoulders, hips and knees. Unfortunately fancy gear, gadgets and apparel come with a price tag, but so do all enjoyable vacations. I bet you are looking forward to summer and training for your WT trip. Have a fantastic season and enjoy the WT in 2016!

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