Dan and Hannah Hike in Mount Rainier National Park

Including Carter Falls, Madcap Falls, and Rampart Ridge Loop Trail

CMF 3 H on Wonderland Trail

Hannah hiking on the Wonderland Trail at Mount Rainier

There’s just something about the physical challenge of hiking in the great outdoors for us.  Hannah and I regularly hit the Coastal Fitness gym in Kittery, Main, rocking the elliptical, rowing machine, and recumbent.  We play Pickleball up to three times per week for an excellent work out.  Though we knock ourselves out at home, there is just a different challenge hiking seven miles with nearly 2000’ of elevation gain with a must finish end game.   When hiking, we just can’t stop when we are tired or coast in.  We do have to get back to the trailhead.

MR 3C  D and H vertical at MR  VC

At the Jackson Visitor Center at Mount Rainier

While Hannah drives west on the park road to Henry Jackson Visitor Center at Mount Rainier National Park, I ice my foot by wrapping it in a plastic bag of motel ice.   You see, four days ago I dinged up my Achilles playing ping pong putting our entire hiking trip to the Northwest in doubt.   Daily icing and stretching have put me back in the game.

MF 4 waterfalls

Moulton Falls on the Lewis River

Yesterday we hiked the mostly level river trail at Moulton Falls in southwestern Washington for five miles.  My Achilles held up well, and even complemented me on not being an idiot.  But today we are stepping up our game with seven miles of hiking with 1800’ elevation gain.  After yesterday’s success, it really doesn’t seem foolhardy to climb another mountain.  I shall soon see.

CMF 1  sign to CF and M falls

On a crystal clear blue sky Memorial Day Monday, we find the park happy busy, not Yosemite or Yellowstone in the summer busy.   Spotting parking on the side of the road at the Carter Falls trailhead, we head into the interior for a warm-up 2.2-mile round-trip hike to the Carter and Madcap Falls.

CMF 1A  rock strewn river

Crossing the Nisqually River with Mount Rainier in the background

Descending into the dry 200-yard-wide rock and boulder strewn Nisqually River, we have a quasi-rock framed trail guiding us across the river bed.  A narrow stream of rushing milky blue glacial snowmelt passes under the handrail log bridge.


CMF 2  Carter falls

Carter Falls

Quickly we are climbing into the woods on a trail of hard packed dirt, pleasant to the foot.   Heavily shaded, the trail is a steady climb of 500’ elevation in the arboreal wonderland of Mount Rainier.  Perfect for families, the trail gets us to the crashing 50′ Carter Falls in 30 minutes.   Five minutes later we arrive further inland on the Paradise River at the Madcap Falls.  Check out the video below of all its frothiness.

CMF 1AAA D on log bridge over river

Crossing  back over the Nisqually River

All downhill back to the trailhead, we have had a delightful one hour plus warm-up hike that has got the endorphins sweetly caressing my Achilles and no whining about overuse.

Next we’ll tackle the 4.7 miles of the Rampart Ridge Loop Trail with its 1300’ of elevation gain to see if I am biting off just a little bit more than I can chew, Achilles-speaking.

Parking roadside, we start up the Wonderland Trail, a 93-mile trail that circles the base of Mount Rainier itself.  Our 1.5-mile climb is steady and punishing for the Achilles-challenged among us, as we come in and out of the forested sunshine.

Relieved at arriving in less than an hour at the Rampart Ridge Trail’s levelness, we rock on toward the Vista Point 1.1 miles away.  Hannah sets the pace when we hike, but today she is a good 30’ ahead as I hike/plod on with my Achilles in tow; though not barking, it is letting me know with each step, I’m still here, Danny Boy.  That said, I’m not in any pain, just taking the slow boat to China.

CMF 3 H on Wonderland Trail

As we climb a final assent to the top we come out into the sunshine.  Hannah turns around and says, “Look!”    The video below shows you what we see.

Nearly at the top we assume we have just seen the promised Vista Point.  We are wrong, as a quarter mile later we see a sign that says “Vista Point 200 feet.”   Thinking this is going to be another spectacular view, we take the spur to the vista and are let down.  Oh, we do see across the valley but have no view of the grand 14,410’ Mount Rainier at all.

CMF 4A  H on Ramparts trail

Returning to the trailhead

Finally, at the trailhead, my Achilles is tender, but I am in no pain.  With ice from the cooler, I use two rubber bands to secure the plastic bag of ice to my left Achilles.   Today’s nearly 7 miles of mountain hiking is something I couldn’t have imagined doing three days ago when my Achilles said, “Don’t even think about it!

Well, I thought about it and my Achilles came through in the clutch.   So it’s on to the waterfalls hikes on the Eastside of Mount Rainier tomorrow.  Of course, I’ll ice and flatter my Achilles all evening long, and see what he thinks come morning.


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