23 October 2015
Carbon River at Manley-Moore Road, Carbonado, Mt. Rainier Region
2.5 miles, 200 ft. climb to 1500 ft. maximum elevation
As with every Friday this fall, my Little Hiking Buddy and I have embarked on an outdoor adventure. Today, in the spirit of Halloween, we decided to venture into new territory in search of Melmont Ghost Town, an abandoned coal mining town along the Carbon River west of Mt. Rainier. After dropping Big Hiking Buddy off at school, LHB and I drove an hour south through Western Washington’s rich historical region to reach our destination. It was enlightening to learn and read about towns that drove the fuel economy of the Pacific Northwest over a century ago. We followed two-lane highways throughout the drive, over the great Fairfax Bridge spanning high above the Carbon River, and down the the valley until we reached a quaint one-lane bridge at Manley-Moore Road. Once we parked off the side of the road and got ourselves geared up for the adventure, we set off in search of Melmont Ghost Town.
We headed down a trail just off the bridge, which took us through the forest along the Carbon River. With the seasonal change, most of the muddy trail was hidden under fallen leaves. After managing a quarter of a mile through this terrain, and realizing we were actually nowhere near our intended destination, we decided to head for the river and make up our own ghost stories there. Given the long summer drought, the Carbon River was so low that we were able to safely explore the exposed river bed, whose gorgeous river rock would otherwise have been hidden under the flowing waters fed by the Carbon Glacier of Mount Rainier.
As we continued east along Carbon River, we saw Mount Rainier peaking out in the distance. Today turned out to be the perfect dry, autumn day to explore the low river. LHB had a blast discovering new textures, patterns, formations and colors in the rocky river bed. We investigated the smoothness of the stones caused by years of water erosion, the hanging roots of plant life dependent on running water, as well as wildlife tracks from bears and elk looking for food in or along the river. She enjoyed hopping over rocks, sliding down boulders and climbing over logs.
After walking a little over a mile, we decided to enjoy our picnic on a few large boulders in the middle of the Carbon River. Yes, the same area that usually can’t be crossed without a boat! Better yet was that we had a lovely view of both Mt. Rainier in the distance, the changing gold foliage along the shore, and a gorgeous little yellow cabin on the other side of the river. It was a perfect spot to munch on our outdoor feast of Nutella and almond butter sandwiches! (Hmm, ghost town? What ghost town? We were having too much fun to remember.)
LHB was ready for more exploration once she devoured her grapes and crackers. Unfortunately, we were short on time so I turned us around to walk along the other side of the river. She wasn’t the least bit disappointed because she was in her very own playground, filled with felled trees to climb, gigantic boulders to slide down, sandy puddles to create witches brew, and an endless supply of pebbles to toss into the rushing white water. I absolutely loved seeing her creativity yet again flourish during these moments on the trail.
We had a splendid day together even without ever finding the remnants of Melmont Ghost Town for our Halloween haunted hunt. I adored every minute of this non-trail, non-hike Adventure Friday. We even topped off the day with a fantastic view of Mt. Rainier on our drive back to pick up Big Hiking Buddy from school.