Despite going to bed as it got dark, we still couldn't catch up on sleep, thanks to our 3 AM alarm. We broke down camp quietly and quickly and drove the 15 minutes to the ranger station. With relief, we noticed that we were indeed the first ones there.
Brazenly, we parked the car squarely in front of the door and tried to sleep some more in the car. I didn't manage more than an uncomfortable slumber. Another car pulled up around 6 AM. At dawn, it was time to get out of the car to sit in front of the ranger station's door.
🐦 Early birds get the worm
By the time the doors opened at 8:30, about 20 people had gathered. There were climbers to request a climbing permit. An all female group also going on the Northern Loop and several smaller parties with different backcountry plans.
Our pre-planning from the day before and the ridiculously early arrival at the ranger station paid off. We got our 7 day permit for the Greater Northern Loop!
Bolstered by our success we set off for the White River Campground to score a site for the night. Though still early in the morning, sites started to open up and soon found a nice site.
We pitched our tent, had breakfast and started organizing our food supplies. Within no time the picnic table was covered in food bags and bars as we took stock of our supplies. We loaded all the food we might want to eat during our hike in the car for further sorting at our resupply point. The rest went into the site's bear locker. (The brown steel box in the picture above.)
📦 Dropping our resupplies off
Our resupply point is the Mowich Lake Patrol Cabin. The cabin is adjacent to the Mowich Lake Campground, which can be reached by car via a 17 mile (ca. 27 km) dirt road. But first we would have to drive around the mountain to get to the dirt road. This is a ~2 hour drive through Enumclaw.
The dirt road offered some great views of Mt Rainier.
There was a surprising amount of traffic on the dirt road. The last half mile to the lake was lined with parked cars. We asked a ranger at the end of the road if it would be OK to temporarily park at the end of the road while we drop our resupplies off at the patrol cabin. To our surprise, he told is that this is not the place to drop off resupplies. Instead, we would have to drive the 17 miles (ca. 27 km) back, make a right turn and head for the Carbon River Ranger Station.
We certainly couldn't drop off at the Patrol Cabin, for we didn't have our resupplies in a 5 gallon (ca. 19 l) bucket. However, the Carbon River Ranger Station could supply one, and would then bring the bucket up to the Patrol Cabin. The only problem was that they could not guarantee our bucket would make it to the Patrol Cabin in the 3 days it would take us to hike to our resupply point. They would be too understaffed to deliver buckets to the Patrol Cabin if they got called out on an emergency. Since we had no other choice, we had to take our chances and drove back the way we came.
There was indeed an empty bucket for us at the Carbon River Ranger Station. Again, the ranger impressed upon us they might get called out and not be able to bring the bucket up to Mowich Lake. We sat down outside at a picnic table to go through our supplies with a fine comb, portioning of meals per day and snacks per person per day. About an hour later we handed a fully filled 5 gallon (ca. 19 l) bucket over to the rangers containing 4 days of food for 3 people plus a fresh propane cartridge.
For the 2nd time that day we drove through Enumclaw on our way back to our tent at the White River Campground. Tomorrow we start hiking!