Carbon River, Carbonado, Mt. Rainier Region (The continued search for Melmont Ghost Town)

30 October 2015

Carbon River at Fairfax Bridge/Mowich Lake Road, Carbonado, Mt. Rainier Region

2 miles, 50 ft. climb to 1450 ft. maximum elevation

After failing to find Melmont Ghost Town last week, Little Hiking Buddy and I decided a second attempt would be in order to properly celebrate Halloween. (Really, it was at LHB’s insistence!) Although we were returning to the same destination, a completely different site and situation had unfolded before us. The weather today was an eerie invitation to Hallow’s Eve, with blustery winds, thick fog and constant drizzle compared to last week’s beautifully overcast fall day. A storm was on the horizon and we seemed to be heading straight into it.  We came prepared for the harsh elements today, with our many layers insulating fleece and waterproof rain gear.

A local resident directed us to a trail starting at Fairfax Bridge, a steel-latticed arch bridge located 250 ft. above the Carbon River. Built in 1921, Fairfax Bridge is part of the National Register of Historic Places because it connected the remote town of Fairfax directly to the outside world for the first time following its construction. Oddly enough, we ran across a filming crew scoping out the site for a potential television series – I guess we will have to keep our eyes peeled.

Once they left, LHB and I scrambled down the debris-filled trail through overgrown brush and steep boulders to the nearest trestle. From there, we headed east through the seemingly untouched forest. LHB surprised me with her adeptness in maneuvering through unexpected roots along narrow ridges, as well as using natural resources to maintain her balance and support her weight when needed. Unfortunately, we hit a dead end in the trail, i.e. STRAIGHT DOWN A CLIFF TO THE RIVER.  So, we made a joint-decision to abandon our quest for the elusive Melmont Ghost Town and disappointedly climbed back up to the bridge.

Back at the car, we decided to make the best of our adventure and headed down to where we enjoyed ourselves the week prior. We drove east along Mowich Lake Road to the little bridge we visited on our first try. From there, we took the trail westbound in the opposite direction of the last week’s Adventure Friday. With the recent rain and brewing storm, the river was fully flowing unlike our last visit. We stayed high above the shoreline and further inland, away from any potential hazards. I could barely see LHB’s makeshift boulder slide protruding above the waterline. Large drops of rain started to come down rather steadily, even through the trees, but it didn’t matter to LHB. She loved being in this setting, where the collision of natural forces made for exciting moments.

When I was finally able to steer her back into the forest, LHB chose a moss-covered log as her lunch seat. It gave us a wonderful view of limbering trees drinking from the river with brightly colored leaves providing us the perfect lighting to enhance our dining ambiance. It was organic and beautiful. And our food was as yummy as ever.

With the winds picking up, we decided it was best to trek back before too late. We were both sopping wet and completely covered in mud from the outside, but we barely noticed with our dry inner layers. My best decision today was having LHB pull on her REI Salix Pants, which kept her comfortable throughout our rain adventure. Thank goodness for dry, clean clothes in our warm car! Even though we didn’t find Melmont Ghost Town (AGAIN!), our journey was definitely a remarkable sensory experience.  LHB remembered our rocky trail along the now-covered river bed and noted all the changes created by the transitioning weather.  It was a humble reminder that nothing ever stays the same.

Visit Rainier: Carbon River

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