The first leg of this year’s 3 Rivers Expedition is in the books, a combination of hiking, cycling and canoeing the Carbon River from the flanks of Mount Rainier to its confluence with the Puyallup River, near Orting. Along the way, four water samples were collected at specific points along the river to be analyzed later for microplastics.
Getting to the toe of the glacier didn’t happen, mostly because of significant trail and bridge washouts that occurred over the winter. From Ipsut Creek, the trail is only usable for the first 1.7 miles. To get past that point, you have to be willing to scramble over rockfall and cross the river a few times if you want to get further up. That’s what we did but even at that, you get to a point where all meaningful progress has stopped. That’s where the first sample was collected, about a mile below the glacier in the alpine portion of the river.
Sample #2 was collected the next day after riding out from Ipsut Creek down the old park road and out past the National Park entrance. Numerous car camps were set up along the water just down from the park boundary, and the amount of debris and garbage the occupants of these roadside campsties (sic) generated and left behind was truly astounding. Everything from old tires to piles of disposable diapers, shattered styrofoam coolers and countless empty cans that once held crappy, yellow macrobrew. Just downstream from all this is where the second sample was collected.
Not far down from here, the river enters a gorge and becomes a steady Class V for a few miles. Just below the town of Carbonado, the canoeing portion of the trip began. Sample #3 was taken at the put-in and Sample #4 was collected about 1/4 mile up river from the confluence. The canoeing started off a steady Class 2+ and gradually eased up as the river entered the flatlands. Still, rapids were fairly continuous at the top of the run, some sections were pretty wet rides and there were several stops early on, just to empty water out of the boat. It felt good to back in a canoe again, though, and I’m looking forward to the next installment already.
And now that the Carbon is in the rear-view mirror, the focus turns to the White. Almost triple the length of the Carbon River, the White River begins on the east side of Mount Rainier and wraps around the north side of the mountain before it finds its way to the Puyallup. It’s a long and winding river with a long and complex history. Just a few weeks to go!