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Carbon River Road, Mount Rainier — December 2008

By Dan Paquette

Mount Rainier lures us to its flanks throughout the year. This December, walk along the Carbon River Road, still closed to vehicles because of the rain damage from November, 2006.

Park your vehicle at the entrance, pay your fee and begin your walk. The road can also be biked or snow shoed depending on conditions. Very little elevation gain occurs on the road, as it begins at about 1800 feet.

During the first mile, look for the few spruce along the road and the much more plentiful Corydalis. In the second mile, the road begins to have breaks and you’ll typically follow a newly formed trail running on the right side of the channel which runs dry part of the year. In this area, note the large number of new bridges (fallen trees) crossing the channel. A couple of the root balls are still intact suggesting that these trees may have been undermined in the current, succumbing this past year.

Back on the road, be on the lookout for the delta-like fronds of Gymnocarpium dryopteris Oak Fern (Pojar, p.423) and in the third mile, cliffs come close and trees fall away as the road comes down close to the forces of the Carbon River. On the cliff walls, look for the abundant, toothed, leafy liverwort, Scapannia americana (Pojar, p.442). It often grows in dense communities with stems about 2 centimeters in length. A hand lens is needed to see the teeth clearly. Just ahead, at the Green Lake Trailhead, note the large Doug Fir just off to the right as the trail begins. This tree is about eight feet in diameter at breast height and about 260-265 feet tall. Trees in this valley may be as much as 580 years old, the last major fire event on the lower slopes being around the year, 1428 (Source: Hemstrom and Franklin, Quaternary Research 18:32-51).

From this point, you can head up to Green Lake, turn back, or head onward another 1.8 miles to Ipsut Creek. Other possibilities include the old Boundary Trail (near the entrance). If you take any of the hiking trails, be sure to check with the ranger for trail conditions, snow level and avalanche conditions.

The Carbon River entrance will generally be manned during the month of December, 2008 on Wednesdays through Sundays from 8:30 a.m. – 4:00 p.m. except right around the holidays. Call the Carbon River entrance number (360) 829-9639 for road, trail, snow level, and avalanche conditions. The main park phone number (Longmire Museum) can also be called if no one is at the Carbon River entrance. That number is (360) 569- 2211, extension 3314.

Updated: July 3, 2016
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