🗻 Greater Northern Loop - Day 5

⛺ Carbon River to ⛺ Mowich Lake Campground, 8.29 miles (ca. 13.34 km).

🗻 Greater Northern Loop - Day 5
Date Start End Trip 🚶miles Today's 🚶miles
2018-08-21 Carbon River Mowich Lake 22.1 8.3

We all slept well. I had a great night under the stars, while Casper and Tatyanna were cozy in the tent.

Today's elevation profile is the opposite of yesterday's long descent. We backtrack to the Carbon River which we follow downstream for 3 miles (ca. 5 km) to then climb to a gap leading to our destination of the day: Mowich Lake.

Carbon River campsites to Mowich Lake Campground, 8.29 miles (ca. 13.34 km).

⛺ Carbon River

A couple of other groups left the Carbon River sites while we ate breakfast and packed up. We were still in the shade of the surrounding mountains as we hiked out ourselves.

Casper back across the Carbon River swing bridge
Casper coming back across the Carbon River swing bridge. The Carbon River campsites are among the right hand trees on the other site of the Carbon River.

We turned left coming of the swing bridge to step into a new trail for us. It is less than a mile to the junction with the trail to Yellowstone Cliffs. We'll pass that junction today, but in a few days time, we'll take it to complete our figure of eight.

The first 3.5 miles from Carbon River campsites to Mowich Lake Campground are slightly downhill. Followed by 3 miles of steady uphill to a pass below Tolmie Peak. The last 1.5 miles around Mowich Lake are level and smooth. 

It is a pleasant hike on soft thread through the trees. Everyone is pleased how easy today's start is on the legs after yesterday's long downhill.

Winding trail through the forest
Winding trail through the forest.

🚧 Yellowstone Cliffs Junction

The warning on top of the junction's sign is rather dire. I can't help but think that it is written with less experienced hikers in mind. And yet, I don't want to underestimate nature's power. We'll have to be extra careful when we get to the crossing of the West Fork of the White River in a few days.

Bridge out warning
Warning that the bridge over the West Fork of the White RIver is out at the junction to Yellowstone Cliffs.

Instead of going up, we step down to the Carbon River to cross it for a second time today.

Cairns (or stone men) mark the route to a log bridge across the main stream of the river.

Cairn marking the way
Cairns mark the way across the Carbon River.

The sun has come out over the ridge by the time we reach the bridge. Each of us has already stripped a layer of clothing.

Log bridge across the Carbon River
Casper & Tatyanna crossing a log bridge across the Carbon River.

We enjoy our 2nd breakfast at the bridge before continuing towards Ipsut Creek.

Casper & Tatyanna enjoying 2nd breakfast at the log bridge across the Carbon River.

The trail is nice and level. Perfect for spacing out while making miles.

Tatyana hiking along the Carbon River
Tatyanna hiking along the Carbon River.

These lower elevations are dominated by ferns, blueberries and what looks to be a cousin of the Alaskan Devil's Club.

Devil's club cousin?
A cousin to the Alaskan Devil's Club?

We reach the junction to Ipsut Creek in about half an hour. From here you could hike out to the Carbon River Ranger Station where we dropped off our resupplies for Mowich Lake.

Bart arrives at the Ipsut Creek junction
Bart arrives at the Ipsut Creek junction.

Here we turn our noses uphill and start the 3-mile climb to the gap between Tolmie Peak and Castle Peak. The climb is gradual and steady with lots and lots of blueberries for the picking as we hike.

More delicious blueberries on the climb to Mowich Lake
More delicious blueberries on the climb to Mowich Lake.

The climb is bringing Casper to his breaking point. He is hot, tired and in pain. His feet are bothering him, slowing him down to a crawl. Sometimes literally. The only thing that helps is taking his backpack.

Casper is glad to have made it to the top
Casper is glad to have made it to the top.

Eventually, we do reach the gap. Up to this point, we've seen only a handful of people all day. That changes the moment we top out. There are scores of day hikers on the trail to Tolmie Peak.

The mile to Mowich Lake is level, but we're parched and out of water. I hike ahead in search of water. The trail contours the lake's shore without access, until I find a steep side trail down to the water. Finally, relief!

Bart & Casper celebrate their arrival at Mowich Lake
Bart & Casper celebrate their arrival at Mowich Lake.

The south end of Mowich Lake is less step and the trail meanders close to the water.

⛺ Mowich Lake Campground

We stop by the Ranger Cabin to see if our resupplies have been brought up from the Carbon River Ranger Station. Luckily they have! And best of all, we score an extra propane canister. We no longer need to ration!

Dinner at Mowich Lake Campground
Dinner at Mowich Lake Campground.

We pick a tent platform in the backpackers' section of the Mowich Lake Campground. With cups of red wine in hand, received from a Seattle family camping at the lake. Bliss!

When our tent is up and the wine finished, we return to the lake to filter water and soak our feet.

Bart & Casper in Mowich Lake
Gingerly walking back to shore in bare feet.

Water play and Mac-n-Cheese for dinner do wonders for Casper's mood. Yet, it is clear we have a decision to make. We can't have these daily on-trail meltdowns. They are torture on all of us. We either continue our loop without meltdowns or we end our hike here, where we might be able to catch a ride back to our car at the Sunrise Trailhead.

As we weigh our options, we can't help but overhear our neighbors' conversation. At first, it is their discussion about relationships that draws us in. I'm even more intrigued when it turns out that they are the support crew for an ultra runner friend who is running the Wonderland Trail. Today he ran 34 miles (ca. 55 km) from Longmire and tomorrow he will run the 21.5 miles (ca. 35 km) to Sunrise that we hiked in 3 days. Maybe we could get a ride with their crew?

Casper's setup for the night
Casper's setup for the night.

We decide to make our decision in the morning so that Casper can sleep on it. Tonight he sleeps in the bivvy bag.