|Date: Day length:||9/14/2012 13 hours|
|Elevation Gain:||4900 ft (700ft on bike)|
|Total Distance:||16 mi hiking, 10 miles biking = 26mi day|
|Elevations:||1700ft carbon river trail head, 2400ft Ipsut creek (hiking start), 6100ft ridge, 5600ft lake.|
|Access:||Carbon River ranger station. National Parks Pass Required|
|Crowds:||2 day hikers and 4 groups of backpackers|
This marks my longest hike I have ever done in one day. The Hike distance its self of 16 miles is more than I have taken on and to stick it between two, 5 mile segments of biking on a fairly eroded dirt road made its all the more strenuous and adventurous.
This Friday was one of the days that Seattle had poor air quality from forest fires on the east side of the cascades. Once you got south to near mount Rainer the smoke was not noticeable; inside the park it was another beautiful clear fall day like we are having so many of this season. At the trail head (carbon river ranger station) there were about 8 cars in the parking lot at ~9am. There was one other person preparing to set out by bike when I left; we stayed kind of close together for the majority of the trail to Ipsut Creek, though he must have stopped somewhere early as I didn’t see him for the rest of the day. Along the road /trail to Ipsut Creek Campground there are a number of spots currently under construction rebuilding the road with the apparent goal of eventually reopening it to car traffic.
Once you get to the actual trail head at Ipsut Creek (2400ft) the bike gets locked up and you continue on foot. The first about 3 miles are pretty steady walking along side of the Carbon River- there are a few log crossings of the river and other small creeks. Right before the Glacier view point you come upon a Suspension Bridge across the Carbon River, today it wasn’t on my trip but still made a crossing of it just to experience it. The bridge is about 2 feet wide at the deck and 3 feet wide at chest level. Bounces a fair bit with normal walking stride and could be unnerving to some, but is apparently safe :). Just after the bridge (0.3 miles) you gain your first good views of the retreating Carbon Glacier. Makes for a good rest stop being about half way to Mystic lake; also you can sit and watch the actively retreating glacier produce rock and ice falls into the headwaters of the Carbon River coming out from beneath the glacier.
Continuing up the trail really starts to gain elevation now; lots of switch backs. Dick Creek Camp is perched right on the side of the glacial valley overlooking the toe of the Carbon Glacier. After Dick Creek (4185ft) you continue up the steep trail, eventually entering Moraine Park which has alpine meadows complete with little creeks and wild flowers- though the flowers are now on their last leg for this season. For a long way you are walking between lateral moraines of the carbon glacier so there aren’t views of distant peaks, until you near the ridge separating you from the basin where mystic lake sits. Right before the last uphill section there is a large meadow with one rock to sit on for a snack with excellent views of Mt Rainer and its northwestern glaciers. Once you get to the top of the ridge (~6100ft) your about 0.8 miles from Mystic lake, you drop down about 500ft on the other side of the ridge which I wasn’t very excited about knowing that I would have to climb back out not too long after.
At the lake I was somewhat surprised to realize that Mystic Lake isn’t a high alpine glacial fed lake but more like the alpine lakes of the rest of the cascades; not saying it wasn’t pretty. The views of Mt. Rainer from Mystic lake are limited since Mineral Mountain sits right between the lake and Mt. Rainer, though you can see the Russell and Winthrop Glaciers coming off Mt. Rainer on either side of Mineral Mountain. Today I sat at on the far side of the lake off the patrol cabin trail for a little while, about 20 min. I would have stayed longer except it was already getting on 3:30pm and I knew I was 13 miles from the car and had no real interest to have to hike the last bit of trail in the dark.
As I started back down some cloud cover started rolling in, a good part of the day there were some clouds hanging on Mt. Rainer but now they were becoming more extensive. Going downhill as one would expect I made much better time though the shadows were getting quite long when I was getting down to the Suspension bridge (still 8mi from the car). When in got back to Ipsut it was basically dusk, could see some sunset colors through the trees to the west. Got on my bike (with lights) and started down. To my great enjoyment I realized then why the bike ride in was more difficult than I had expected, I hadn’t accounted for the vertical rise along the road. Now at the end of my day it made for the greatest end to the trip. I was able to coast almost the entire 5 miles back to the car. Since my mussels were very tired at this point I was ecstatic with a big grin on my face. Getting back to the car 15 min after dark around 7:45pm without running out of water (just barely) or getting hurt on this long adventure completed another great hike.