Lesson Learned: When planning a backcountry trip in a National Park, don’t set expectations, and be flexible with your itinerary.
And check to see what filter is set on your iPhone camera.
By 5:30 p.m. on Friday, we were Northbound on I-5, heading towards another weekend of backcountry adventure. We crashed at a gorgeous campsite just within the southwest boundary of Mount Rainier National Park and woke up early to pick up a wilderness permit from the Longmire Ranger Station. We had our sights set on something in the south section of the park—Indian Bar, or Klapatche Park—but we weren’t the only ones taking advantage of the good weather and permits were scarce. After being taught a lesson in flexibility (confession: we had only researched Indian Bar and Klapatche Park), we snagged the last campsite at Mystic Lake: a backcountry destination in the northern part of the park.
After another 1.5 hours in the car from Longmire to the Sunrise Visitor Center, we were at our trailhead. We’d link up to the infamous Wonderland Trail from Sunrise Loop, follow it about 9 miles to Mystic Lake, camp for the night and head back the way we came the next day. Instantly, the views exceeded expectation. We crossed sub-alpine meadows, took in stunning views of Mount Rainier, saw a family of five mountain goats, hiked next to the Winthrop Glacier, crossed streams, ate our weight in Minestrone and Lit’l Smokies, drank whiskey, swam in Mystic Lake and were surrounded by jagged peaks and stunning beauty. Turns out my iPhone’s camera setting was on black and white tonal, the entire trip.