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!