Wonderland Trail Part 3: Family for Life

The morning of day seven arrived with a few clouds, the first sign of any weather since we had started. We packed up our gear and headed toward Indian Henry’s hunting grounds. We trekked up the switchbacks and made our way through Devils Dream. We passed through the stunning valleys. Passed by Squaw Lake.

We rounded one last bend. Mount Rainier towered in the background awash in a haze. The patrol cabin sat nestled in a bright green field dotted with wildflowers.

We sat up our makeshift kitchen and prepared a delightful brunch on the porch. Bacon, hashbrowns, scrambled eggs, and coffee filled our bellies. Both Damon and Bobby had coffee flavoring, which I happily added to my cup of joe. The morning was fantastically perfect. We headed back onto the trail. The sparse clouds barely put a dent in the heat. Heading down to Tahoma Creek went quickly. Crossing the Tahoma suspension bridge views of the massive glacially carved valley could be witnessed. We made our way back up more switchbacks before crawling along Emerald Ridge. My stomach began to gurgle and churn. An emergency run off the trail was quickly made. The awe-inspiring cliffs against the stature of Mount Rainier helped occupy my mind.

tahoma suspension bridge

I finally caught up with the boys and enjoyed a snack. A panorama of the giant mountain standing proud. Tahoma glacier flowing down into the Puyallup River. A striking plethora of colors lit up the afternoon.

We headed onwards. My stomach churned and gurgled again. I felt sick. My paced dragged. Stops along the way to photograph the impressive scenery slowed us down further.

We took another short break in the shade, offered by the sparse trees, once at the top of the relentless switchbacks. We arrived at St. Andrews lake.

We had learned from another group of hikers that Klapatche was dry. This would be our last water source. We took the chance to eat and enjoy more coffee. While resting, I took a gander at the ingredients list of the coffee flavorings. Both of them contained an ingredient I am allergic to. The mystery of my stomach troubles had been solved. Washed up, water containers refilled, stomachs happy, we continued to Klapatche Park, home for the night. Another night of dinner and conversation led us into sleep.

Day eight was another stunningly beautiful day.

The trail led us through a tunnel of gorgeous trees. Sparse views could be seen. Finally, the landscape opened up into a forest of silver snags.

The trail led through a marshy field. Abundant blueberries lined the path. We finally arrived at Golden Lakes.

We chose our campsite of the night and went for a swim. The small pond behind the patrol cabin was a comfortable tepid temperature.

Back at camp, gear was set up. I took a break and roamed the hills before attempting to take a nap. The scorching heat didn’t allow much of a break. I went roaming again.

As the sun began its decent. Sunset views from our campsite were stunning! Bobby and I made our way to a small peak I had found earlier in the day. The views of the sun setting on Mount Rainier were phenomenal.

mt rainier sunset

Our last night on the trail had come to an end. Friday, July 10th, we awoke. We took our time getting ready. A good morning was had.

Fog had rolled in, the only day we didn’t have endless views. A quiet walk led us back to Mowich.

We said our goodbyes. My new brother Bobby rode home with his fantastic mother and her friend. Damon and I spent the drive back to his home chatting incessantly about our awesome trek. After a hot shower, and some delicious grub, I headed back home. Another wonderful journey complete.

Raise a toast to the great outdoors, and I will see you on the trail!

Wonderland Trail Part 2: Getting in the Groove

Traveling around the Wonderland Trail was a plan in the works for months. Damon, Bobby, and myself could hardly believe that the first three days had already flown by. Day four was a short day. A day to relax, take our time, enjoy ourselves. The trek from Summerland to Indian Bar was just over four miles in length, but felt much longer. We stuck together as a group for most of the morning. The water melting off the snowpacks made rivers through the rocky terrain as we climbed out of Summerland.

A bright teal tarn, amongst the gray landscape, caused us to drop our packs and admire the beautiful contrast.

A bit further down the trail, a rocky tower called our names. We scrambled up the boulders to admire more awe-inspiring views.

Again on the trail, separate paces were set as we each got into our own groove.Breathtaking vistas appeared before me as I crested Panhandle Gap. Giant tumbling waterfalls cascaded down rocky cliffs. A glacially carved valley led the way to Indian Bar. Brightly colored wildflowers dotted the landscape.

creek at panhandle gap

A knee-jarring staircase led down towards the emergency shelter.

Finally at our destination we set up camp. The sandy patch we set our tents on had no shade. However, the views from our roost left us speechless.

The full heat of the day pounded down on us. Damons rainfly was rigged up to offer us a small break from the relentless sunshine beat-down.

Another load of laundry was washed in the chilly Ohanapecosh river water. I rinsed my hair and scrubbed off the days grime. The cold water offered a brief reprieve from the scorching heat. The boys cooled themselves in the water then warmed themselves on the rocks. The next morning brought a gorgeous sunrise.

Damon and Bobby took off early as I slowly prepared for the day. Mother Nature had decided that Aunt Flo needed to pay me a visit, a week early. I was woefully unprepared. I made do with what I had and headed onto the trail. Lenticular clouds crowning Mount Rainier and stunning views kept stopping me in my tracks.

lenticular clouds over mt rainier

The sounds of elk bugling filled the air. I came upon the boys overlooking a valley. Tiny brown dots in the distance were the source of the cacophony. We finally pulled ourselves from our perch and continued on. I took the lead and made it to Box Canyon. I enjoyed the chance to use a restroom, dump my trash, and explore a bit before Damon appeared. Bobby lagged behind. His mom was meeting him at this location to take him out to eat and deliver his food cache. Damon and I arrived at our next stop, Maple Creek. I fashioned a marker to indicate the direction of our campsite. Traffic from a nearby road filled the silence. Overwhelming heat and an abundance of bugs kept Damon and I in our tents, cowering in the shade. More time spent in a nearby creek helped to ward off both the bugs and high temperature.Bobby arrived at camp. Another night filled with dinner and conversation ensued before day five was complete.

An early start to the day was in order to beat the heat on day six. I took off from camp at 5 AM, heading to Longmire. The mostly easy trail led me near the road, having to cross a few times to continue on the Wonderland Trail. Sounds of traffic were a constant companion.

I took the chance to visit Louise Lake as I enjoyed a leisurely pace.

Reflection Lakes, rippled by a light breeze, laid below the grandeur of Mount Rainier.

Another short jaunt off the main trail led me to Nirada falls. It was a nice addition to the other falls which dotted this portion of the path.

I arrived at Longmire in quick order. I took the opportunity to enjoy another makeshift bath in the women’s restroom. A wonderful cashier in the gift shop allowed me to stash my pack in a woodbox. Another couple fabulous employees charged my camera battery in the safety of the Inns office, while I waited for my companions. Mount Rainier was my view as I sat awaiting their arrival on the porch of the Inn.

Two hours later, my compatriots arrived. They thought I was behind them and had slowed their pace to allow me to catch up. Damon picked up his second food cache before we all headed to the restaurant to enjoy a real meal.

After lunch was complete we all sat in the comfortable chairs that lined the front porch. Lively and humorous conversations filled the afternoon.

I made a quick run back to the gift shop. The use of a newly purchased razor and lotion made me feel more human (and smell more human), even if only for a couple hours. Our reluctance to depart was palpable as we loaded up our gear. We headed back onto the trail. A sluggish pace was set. Another blistering day, after a wonderfully comfortable break, made our feet drag. We finally made it to the sixth camp of our journey, Pyramid Creek. Welcoming shade, and a lower population of insects, made us happy. We set up camp. Some fun was had in the nearby glaciated waterway. The boys spent their time playing in the water as the sun began to set on another fabulous day.

Two-thirds of our trek had been completed.

Raise a toast to the great outdoors, and I will see you on the trail!

Wonderland Trail Part 1: Humbled by the Mountain

As I mentioned in my post on the Ladies’ Retreat Hiking Trip, we like to take hikes when we’re together as a group. But I also like to take solo and small group hikes. I am an enthusiast hiker and would do this in every bit of my spare time. Here I’m sharing my notes on a trip that I took with a few good friends on the Wonderland Trail around Mount Rainier in Seattle.

I have done many hikes. Between January 1st and June 30th, 2015, I have done nearly six hundred miles of backpacking. Through all those miles, I have never spent more than four nights in the woods. I wanted to try something more challenging. I wanted to do a long-distance hike. Luckily, my friend Damon won the lottery for the Wonderland Trail, and I was invited to go. The Wonderland trail is a 93 mile traverse around the base of Mount Rainier. Stunning beauty lays over every ridge and around every bend. Over 22,000 feet of total elevation gain make your legs feel alive.

On Thursday, July 2nd, Damon and I were euphoric as we drove to Carbon River Ranger Station. Bobby met us there as we acquired the permit. With the proper paperwork in hand, we headed to Mowich Lake. Dust plumes covered my car. Bobbys mom, following behind me, was also lost in the clouds flying from the dry road. We finally arrived at the trailhead. I smoked my last cigarette. Damon, Bobby, and I loaded on our packs. My pack weighed a whopping 45 pounds as we headed off on our journey. I started questioning my decision to carry my entire food supply as the temperatures, as well as the elevation, increased. Due to the early abundance of wildflowers in Spray Park, we decided to alter our route. Rather than head through Ipsut Pass, we chose to travel through a marvel of color. As we neared Spray Park, a couple quick side trips took us to a marvelous viewpoint and beautiful falls.

Mount Rainier stood proud as we made our way through the glorious meadow.

mount rainier from the valley

Continuing onto the rocky terrain of Seattle Park we found our first snow.

The temperature crawled towards 90°F as we slowly made our way across Carbon river. Climbing along the glacier carved valley, the sounds of rushing water, cracking ice, and falling rocks could be heard. We all finally arrived at Dick Creek.

The heavy weight of my pack, along with the scorching heat, made me ecstatic that our days end had arrived. Food and sleep were in store as the sun set over our home for the night.

Morning arrived and we all prepared for day two on the Wonderland Trail. The boys took off before I did. I took my time, my pack still at a hindering weight. I enjoyed the solitude as I paced myself. A field of giant boulders afforded me my first Marmot spotting. Scampering off the rocks, the adorable critter hid at my arrival. I dropped my pack and took a snack break. My patience paid off as it reappeared and began to pose for my camera.

Back on the trail, I arrived at Mystic Lake not far behind Damon and Bobby. We all took the opportunity to take a break. I washed my clothes while the boys enjoyed a swim.

My pace was slightly faster as we passed Winthrop Glacier on our way to Granite Creek Campsite, our home on the second night.

Independence day welcomed our third day on the trail. Appropriate attire was donned by Damon. Our patriotic march led us towards Summerland campsite.

Once again, I lagged behind the boys. I trekked along the trail solo. I traveled the switchbacks above Granite Creek.

As I crested the ridge the vistas took my breath away. A marmot took a break from sunbathing to model before a stunning backdrop.

Traveling towards Frozen Lake, on Burroughs Mountain, more awe-inspiring panoramas stopped me in my tracks.

A marker at an intersection pointed me in the right direction.

As I got closer to Sunset, thoughts of food began to dance in my head. My stomach began to rumble. Trails widened and the buildings of Sunset became visible.

The boys had already gotten cleaned up. We found a picnic table to sit at while we waited for the Snack Bar to start it’s grill up. I took the chance to take a bird bath in the sink of the women’s lavatory. The odd looks didn’t bother me as I washed my hair in the sink. I used my adorable little purple camping towel to scrub some grime off my limbs.Smelling slightly better, the boys and I headed to get some grub. Giant, delicious, bacon-cheese burgers were ordered. Short order was made of the hot meals.Our bellies filled, and our body odor slightly less offensive, we got back on the trail.

As we trudged on, Summerland got closer. We all hiked our own hikes the remainder of the day. Damon ran ahead. My pack weight still slowed me down. Bobbys’ knee slowed him down. With Damons’ knee brace, he was able to push forward. Arduous elevation gain and sweltering heat made the last leg seem to last forever. As I neared camp, a fellow hiker welcomed me to Summerland. I had made it.After setting up my gear, exploration was in order. A beautiful valley laid beneath Mount Rainier. Brooks, already running low, babbled through the lush greenery. Marmots ran about, whistling their warnings. The trail leading the way out of this haven extended into the distance.

Dinner and conversation occurred before a night watching the sun disappear. A third of our journey had been completed.

Raise a toast to the great outdoors, and I will see you on the trail!