Wonderland Trail – Day 0

Today I spent the day driving around Mt Rainier to place my food caches. It took me a full 7 hours to drive around the entire park, including a little time to sightsee at Longmire and to run some errands in Enumclaw. My food is cached in 5 gallon buckets, as Mt. Rainier requires food to be stored in plastic animal-proof containers.

My Food Caches

After running some errands in Enumclaw, my first stop of the day was at Carbon River Ranger Station, at the Northwest entrance of the park.  It was the quietest ranger station that I encountered today.  I suspect that they don’t get as many visitors as other parts of the park.

This leg of the trip wasn’t terribly interesting, as it mostly involved driving through some rural communities that looked a lot like where I grew up in the Nooksack Valley.  I did get to drive through a number of quirky small towns such as Buckley, Wilkensen and Carbonado.  Saw a lot of stores that were out of business.

The Wilkeson Saloon, which is now out of Business

Then I drove another couple of hours through more of the same on the west side of the mountain to Longmire.  Once I got close to the park entrance at Longmire things got interesting again – lots of places to stay just past Ashford outside of the park that I might scope out for a future visit.

At Longmire I dropped my second food cache and my fuel cache.  Checked out the gift shop and bought some souvenirs, including a Mt Rainier coin so I can put it into my National Park coin collection passbook (yes I’m nerdy like that. I collect National Parks). I passed by the Mt Rainier Inn, which has lovely views of the mountain – the clouds cleared up and the mountain was visible for the first time during my visit. I think it would be cool to come back and stay at the Inn sometime.

Gratuitous Selfie with First Glimpse of Mt Rainier

It was starting to get late in the afternoon at that point, but I’ve never been to Paradise before and so decided to swing by on my way back to White River.  I got a little confused at the top and ended up on a one-way road heading down the mountain before I had a chance to get out of the car. Oh well, I’ll have to visit Paradise another time.

The drive back to White River was spectacular – the road hugged the side of the mountain as it wound up and down valleys and peaks. On more than one occasion the ground dropped off at the edge of the road, plunging hundreds of feet down to some chasm below. Good thing I’m not afraid of heights *that much* 🙂

At the White River Campground, I parked in the day-use area. I found the “hike-in” permit section and set up my tent.  There was one other hiker camped back there; he was friendly and offered me a beer (which I couldn’t drink) so I offered him one of my gluten-free beers.  He seemed nice enough but I am a little cautious about meeting other hikers especially since I am hiking solo. I told him I was married.  My partner and I agreed prior to this trip that I would tell other hikers that I was married if it came up in conversation.   Just seems safer that way.

It was starting to get dark, so I got out my backpacking stove and heated up my dinner.  Just submerse the pouch in boiling water to heat it up and presto!  Easy peasy.

My Super Fancy Dinner

After dinner I put all my food and smelly items away in my bear bag and hung it from a pole using a long hook.  All of the backcountry camps at Mt Rainier have them.  It was a little tricky to get my unwieldy 10 lb bag up there but I managed it.  Maybe I should lift some weights when I get back home and beef up my bear bag muscles 🙂

My Bear Bag (mine is the yellow one)

After I got my food squared away, I went down to White River to watch the sunset over Mt Rainier while enjoying my last gluten-free beer.  Not a bad way to end the day.

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