Mother Mountain Loop Hike - Day 1


Mother Mountain Loop Hike - Day 1: Carbon River Park Entrance to Ipsut Creek Campground

Distance 5 miles – Elevation Gain – 500 Feet

We drove to the National Park Service Carbon River Ranger Station at Mt. Rainier to pick up our back country camping permit for our father/son 4-day backpacking trip.  We arrived there around 1:30 pm.

Josh Picking Up Permit

Our back country hike would start and end at the Mt. Rainier Carbon River Park entrance and would cover a total of 28 miles, with approximately 6300 feet of elevation gain.  Not sure this 64-year-old guy was up to the trek, but I was willing to give it a try.  I hadn’t trained for this trek, unless you count the 45-minute stroll I took with my fully loaded pack, in the park behind my house.  I hadn’t been back packing for at least a decade or more.   Josh, my 31-year-old son, provided me with lots of encouragement convincing me I was up in great shape and up for the challenge. Only time will tell if this senior citizen was capable completing this high-altitude outdoor adventure.

Carbon River Park Entrance

After leaving the park entrance, we travelled along the washed-out road next to the Carbon River.  It was an easy trek to the campground along a gravel road, with a few washed out spots. The afternoon sun was beating down.  The bright sun and heat causing me to sweat profusely.  Between the sweat soaked t-shirt, and beads of water rolling off my face you would have thought I just got out of the shower, or had been sprayed by a water hose.

Trail Leading to Ipsut Creek Campground

We eventually arrived at Ipsut campground after around 2 hours of hiking, and 5 miles of gravel road.  There were a few other hikers camped there.  We walked around checking out the different camp spots and eventually dropped our packs in camp spot #8.  I was glad I finally could take off my 44-pound pack.  After dropping the pack, it was hard to walk.  It took a while for my hips and leg muscles to realize I was no longer carrying all that extra weight.

With the pack off it was time to go soak the feet in the Carbon River.  Walking in the cool glacier water in sandals was a refreshing change from hot hiking boots and wool socks.  Just what my sore feet needed.

Cool water on hot feet put a smile on my face

We gathered up some glacial water to be filtered back at camp.  Was that a mistake! It almost clogged our water filtration system from glacial silt infused water.

Gathering water for filtration system

With a fresh supply of water, we set up camp and made dinner.  I had a couple packages of Top Ramen, while Josh made a rice dish of some kind.  A warm meal after a hard day of hiking was just what this tired body needed.

After dinner we found out there was a cleaner, silt free water source up the trail about a ¼ mile, at Ipsut Falls.  We head up there to check out the falls and gather enough water for the start of our second day. 

Ipsut Falls

Once back at camp, it was time to sit and discuss our day, as well as determine our plans for tomorrows to Ipsut Pass.  My old man mentality had me a little apprehensive to whether I’m up the 3,500 feet of elevation gain in 3.5 miles to the top of the pass.  I’ll find out tomorrow how I fair.

As with most mountain campgrounds the bugs were out.  We sprayed some 99.5% Deet insect repellant on our exposed skin, with hopes of not getting eaten alive by the mosquitos and other biting insects.  I don’t think it helped that much.  The bugs still were assaulting us.  I was constantly wiping my hair and slapping at the bugs that landed on my skin.  Josh eventually lite his citronella candle in hopes the scent would send them flying away.  It might have worked, because in the end I didn’t get too many bug bites.  But I have to wonder if it was the stench of the dried sweat on my skin that sent them on to sweeter pastures.

Citronella candle flickering in the light breeze

We sat around until it got dark and then climbed into our separate tents at around 9:30 PM.   The ground was hard, but at least I had a thin pad to help soften my sleeping spot.  My back was hurting, my legs where tight, as I tossed and turned to get comfortable.  I sure hope the Tylenol I took, rejuvenates my aching muscles while I sleep.  The rippling, gurgling water of the Carbon River, as it flowed down the valley, eventually lulled me to sleep on Day 1 of our high mountain hiking adventure.