The Wonderland Trail: Round 2 – August 2015

Rainier!

Round 2 on the Wonderland Trail! This time around we’ll be hiking the trail a bit differently to give it enough scenery change to feel like a new trail. Last year we hiked in early September, this year late August. Last year clockwise around Rainier, this year counter clockwise. Last year we started at Longmire, this year Sunrise. Last year it was just Tyler and I hiking the 93 mile loop in 5 1/2 days. This year it’s Jared, Tyler, Tara, and I in an extra 2 days, finishing in 7 1/2 days. The mileage per day will be shorter this year, which means easier on the knees and more time for resting and enjoying the scenery. This season is dry – a 5th consecutive year of draught with wildfires raging across the state. Expect a followup post comparing last years pics to this year.

Fresh faces ready for Wonder
Fresh faces ready for Wonder

August 17
Day 1, 12.9 miles
Sunrise to Dick Creek

Jared and I wake early, around 5:30. We all plan to be at Rainier to pick up our permit by 10am, otherwise they’ll give it away to the soonest bidder. Tyler is coming by at 7:30. Around 6 we get a text from Tara – her medication is missing and she needs to fill it today at 9 at the earliest. Turns out someone swiped it, which is a bummer, but turned out to be no big deal for the hike – we call a rangers station at 7:30, ask them to hold for a late pickup, and all is well. That means there’s time for breakfast burritos… Tyler comes by at 7:30 anyhow and we all eat way too much food. He brings the coffee as usual.

“Before” picture

We meet Tara close to 10 and leave Seattle for Rainier. Wonderland here we come. On our way down we have our requisite McDonalds stop – chicken nuggets and fries which make us all feel mediocre. We enter Rainier National Park through the Sunrise Entrance and pick up our permit behind an older couple from Iowa, here for the first time. Drive to Sunrise visitors center, organize our things, and hit the trail around 2 pm. We chat with a ranger in the visitors center who is shocked that we’re going to Dick Creek today. NBD. We have 12-13 miles to make today, at a 2 mph pace that should put us at camp around 8:30, before sunset. Nice.

Hello mountain - view from below Skyscraper peak
Hello mountain – view from below Skyscraper peak

We hike the 1.1 miles that leads us to the actual Wonderland Trail. Rainier is out in all her glory. It’s a beautiful, sunny, warm day. We hike past a ranger who tells us of the camps low or out of water: Klapatche, South Mowich, etc. We hike past Frozen Lake to great expansive views. Group selfies. We get other spectators to take our picture too. Tara and I are hiking a little ahead of Jared and Tyler. We slow down when we reach the Skyscraper Peak lookout spot and soak in the views. Another group on the trail tells us about their experience so far: mostly sun, but one day of torrential downpour, things have finally dried out.

The warm waters of Mystic Lake
The warm waters of Mystic Lake

Hike down into the woods past Granite Creek camp. We pass two women who are also surprised that we’re hiking so far today. NBD. They tell us about the two tiny campsites at Dick Creek. Snack break at Winthrop Creek then uphill to Mystic Camp where we see a mama deer and her two speckled fawns. Amazing. Up to Mystic Lake where we all dip our hands in the warm water and rinse our faces. The light is waning and gives everything a bit more character. After Mystic we pass two young guys who are appalled and chortle at the fact that we’re going to Dick Creek, “it’s already 7!” they exclaim. Come on guys, chill out, it’s only 3 more miles.

Marmot meadows
Marmot meadows

We top out at what we’ve dubbed “Oracle Hill”, where last year we met an old gentleman who we remember told us wise words. What the words are elude us, but it’s all in the memory…looking at my journal from last year, I wrote, “At the very top of the pass, we come across this old dude with a sweet english accent. I’m convinced he’s the ghost of John Muir. He informs us about the location of water in camp and encourages us on.” Awesome. Then down into moraine park – aka marmot park. The meadows are filled with marmots here this year just like last. They’re slightly skiddish. We catch sight of a few picas too. So much wildlife already!

Sun setting on our way to Dick Creek Camp
Sun setting on our way to Dick Creek Camp

Down into the woods again, along the switchbacks that take us down to Dick Creek Camp. Down, down, down. A nice sunset shines the way. Tyler and Tara’s knees are both hurting and they’re ready to be there. We arrive as dusk settles in to find a large German family occupying both of the two tiny campsites. Hmm. I’m hangry and ready to battle, but I take a breath and nominate Jared to talk rationally with the nice family, which he does, and they are. They kindly and happily move a tent so that we can make our camp, and they even offer to send their children to fetch water from the stream for us, but we just filled up, thanks anyway.

We set up our tents – Tyler in the two man, Tara in her bivy, and Jared and I cowboy camp under the stars. Dinner time – we all boil water. I come in last place for fastest stove – I have my old trusty pepsi can alcohol stove and it takes at least two or three times as long as everyone else. I’ll have to get a head start next time. And also cook on a rock next time – the uncontrolled flames make me fear that I’m going to burn down Rainier. Please no. Tara has noodles, Jared and Tyler ramen and mac&cheese (two of the three “trifecta” of camp meals, which also includes Idahoans), and I have corn chowder, smoked salmon, and astronaut ice cream. Hot chocolate too. A mouse tries to steal our wrappers. There’s so much food for day 1, but I cram it in my belly, which makes me immediately run for the open air privy. We clean up and tuck in to bed. The air is relatively warm. I’m roused soon after I drift off by one of the German guys stumbling around – must be looking for the privy. He disappears and I drift off…

Camp, night 1
Camp, night 1

August 18
Day 2, 13.6 miles
Dick Creek to South Mowich

Log crossing by the Carbon Glacier
Log crossing by the Carbon Glacier

I wake up at 6:30am, I’m ready to hike! I know most everyone else has slept poorly lately, so I keep myself occupied until they wake up a few hours later. I wander down to the creek, watch the sun rise over the Carbon Glacier, pull the food bags down from the bear pole, enjoy my coffee, write, and study the map. I plan a convincing argument for hiking through Spray Park – the northerly route.

Making my coffee and admiring the glacier at sunrise
Making my coffee and admiring the glacier at sunrise

Everyone stirs and is up around 10. We take our time, eat breakfast – various combinations of granolas and grits. We chat with the nice German folk. At one point the friendly German woman asks me if we’re hiking the “Wonderful Trail”, which means that for the rest of the trip we constantly exclaim about the “Vunderbar Trail!” in high pitched German accents. Amazing. A ranger comes by and checks our permit, and we’re on the trail at noon.

Carbon glacier blanketed in debris
Carbon glacier blanketed in debris

The sun is hot and we all pile on the sunscreen and hike in the exposed section next to the Carbon Glacier. Down hill the one mile to the suspension bridge where we cross and begin climbing uphill. We go up past Cataract Valley camp towards beautiful, rocky spray park. We pause for a snack break along the way at Marmot Creek, where we surmise thousands of marmots flow downstream. Turns out, it’s just water. No marmots. We drink nuun. Jared busts out the Expedition Espresso Trail Butter which is truly an amazing mixture of nut butters, coconut oil, honey, and coffee beans. We hike on.

Top of columnar jointing in Spray Park
Top of columnar jointing in Spray Park

Tara and I are a few steps in front of Jared, who is a dozen steps in front of Tyler when we hear a rustling in the bushes. Tara gasps, I yell “bear!”, Jared rushes us to get a look, and Tyler is still a few steps behind when we see a smallish black and brown bear (probably 2 or 3 years old) running into the bushes. We definitely surprised him. He runs up the hill and pokes his head above the bushes long enough for us to get a good look at him, but not long enough to snap a picture.

Spray park loveliness
Spray park loveliness

We hike on into Spray and Seattle Parks – beautiful rocky basalt and who-knows-what-kind-of-rock outcroppings of black, white, red, and orange. Everyone we pass today is friendly and not at all surprised or shocked by our intended distination. Spray Park is a happy place. We cross up and over the high point and meander down into beautiful meadows with lovely Rainier views. Last year, Tyler and I took the low route along the actual Wonderland Trail here and it was ok but nothing to write home about. We all pee in various epic spots.

Rainier being all Rainier
Rainier being all Rainier

Just beyond the meadows at the start of the switchbacks in the woods we stop for another snack break. I bust out the Bar Harbor Kippers on saltines, which are delicious, but the kippers bring the gray jays out in droves. They circle us and wait for an opportunity to swoop down and steal something. We see a cute tiny frog – aww! isn’t it cute! Until…dun dun…the gray jay swoops and snatches the cute frog up in it’s mouth. No more cute little frog. Bastard.

Downhill to by Eagles Roost camp. We pick up the pace so we have enough time to pick up our food cache at Mowich Lake before going to South Mowich River Camp by dark. A brief stop at a Rainier view.

Rainier illuminated in alpenglow
Rainier illuminated in alpenglow

We pick up our food at the Patrol Cabin around 6:30 pm, just in time for sunset over the lake. We chat with a family there while we load the food into our packs. Tyler eats what he can of a Cindog before abandoning the rest to the hiker box. I’m excited for my block of Tillamook monterey jack cheese. Then down through the woods and along the soft trail of switchbacks to camp.  Rainier is illuminated in a bright pink alpenglow.

We get to camp around 9 pm. This is the same exact campsite we had last year along the river, tucked in the back at S. Mowich. It’s nice, secluded, has a great sitting log, and is better than I remembered. Last year Tyler and I were exhausted, we crashed and then Jared and Sid met us in the dark after night hiking. This year we’re less exhausted, but still tired. We set up (cowboy camp again), eat dinner (I think I had a handful of tortilla chips and cheese, and hot chocolate), and crash.

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Spray Park views

August 19
Day 3, 14.5 miles
South Mowich to Klapatche Park

Crossing the South Mowich riverbed
Crossing the South Mowich riverbed

We wake around 8:30-9. We eat breakfast: coffee, various granolas, ramen, I eat my epic biscuits and gravy meal which I’m pretty sure just gives me gravy anger (granger). We’re on trail just after 10 after a few stretches. Today will be more uphill than down, which should make all of our knees a bit happier.

Lunch at Golden Lakes
Lunch at Golden Lakes

The day starts with a 4.5 mile uphill through the woods. It’s nice to have shade from the hot sun. The weather has been sunny and dry so far, on par for this summer. We all eat a few snacks while Jared digs a hole, then continue up to the top of the ridge, have another quick snack, and amble along the ridge toward Golden Lakes. We walk along the top of the ridge for a few miles. Through berry bushes and burned out areas. Beautiful Rainier views in the burned out areas. I remember more wildflowers here last year. And we see another bear! We startle this one, just like the last. This one is bigger and darker than the wee one we saw earlier, but again pauses just long enough for us to catch a glimpse.

Rainier views in the burn area
Rainier views in the burn area

Lunch break at Golden Lakes camp. We fill our water from the pond, trying to avoid the pollen and dead bugs. A lazy lunch. Just before we get too comfortable, we get back on the trail. Jared stops to attend to a heel blister. We all pick blueberries.

Crossing the North Puyallup River
Crossing the North Puyallup River

Downhill 3.1 miles to North Puyallup River. The river is raging and a cloudy brown yahoo color like the other major rivers. A beautiful spot. We pause for another snack before our end-of-day climb up to Klapatche Park. Uphill another steep 2.8 miles up tight switchbacks through overgrown bushes and past the occasional salmonberry. We have amazing Rainier views along the way. We talk about old injuries.

To the top of the ridge! Nice meadows in Klapatche Park. And a pink-tinged alpenglowy Rainier. Aurora Lake is almost entirely dried up. It was super low last year, this year it’s just a puddle. A guy had set up his tent in our campsite but moves it no problem for us. It’s a great site with an amazing view of the sunset. I watch Rainier in her alpenglow while boiling water, then come back to camp for the remainder of sunset. As the sky darkens we get amazing views of the dots of light that are Seattle and Tacoma. Pretty incredible. The sky is beautiful and clear too – a clear view of the milky way and drifting satellites. Sleep.

Clouds rolling up the valley. Views from Klapatche camp
Clouds rolling up the valley. Views from Klapatche camp

August 20
Day 4, 13.2 miles
Klapatche Park to Pyramid Creek

Rainier photo op at Klapatche camp. There's dry Aurora Lake
Rainier photo op at Klapatche camp. There’s dry Aurora Lake

We wake a bit earlier – 8 am today! At this rate, we’ll be up by 4am at the end of our trip. It’s sunny and warm. There’s a 10% chance of rain today. Clouds are sneaking up and filling in the valley. Eventually they’ll overtake the sky, but for now they’re down low. Breakfast as usual: coffee, granolas, grits, and I have oatmeal (an amazing concoction with almonds, coconut, dried cherries, and maple syrup of course). Stretch. We leave camp around 10 or 10:30 today. Lots of Rainier pics as we leave camp. There are more smaller ups and downs on the agenda today.

Couples shot!
Couples shot!

We hike along the ridge for a few miles in the sun. We fill our water at St Andrews lake – as predicted even lower this year than last. But just like last year, the water is full of tiny red crustaceans, leading to the nickname “Shrimp Lake”. I hold onto my liter as backup water, not wanting to drink the crustaceans or get them jammed in my filter. Not many other hikers out now.

Das ist wonderbar!
Das ist wonderbar!

Downhill and into the woods, down 7 long switchbacks. Snack and water break at a nice creek in the shade. I’m grateful for Tyler’s peanut butter M&M generosity. Then past South Puyallup River Camp, where we stayed last year. Then uphill. Jared’s knee is nagging him, so Tara and I surge ahead. Eventually we pause once we’re able to get nice views of the bright orange moraine emanating from the Tacoma glacier. This is the first of many epic views from Emerald Ridge.

Dry little St Andrews/Shrimp Lake
Dry little St Andrews/Shrimp Lake

We all hike together up to the top of Emerald Ridge, pausing often for pictures. We take in the insane views. I think the glacier is smaller this year, but it’s hard to tell without photographs on hand.  There’s so much to look at! Glaciers, moraines, debris, strange green pools in the moraine, gushing rivers, islands of land, hills, etc, etc. We take an extended nuun break on the hill at the crest of Emerald Ridge, exactly where Tyler and I paused last year. We soak it in.

Orange moraines from the Tacoma glacier
Orange moraines from the Tacoma glacier

Eventually we have to leave. But not without plans to come back with a backcountry permit to camp. We hike down along recessional moraine crests with more breathtaking glacier views of the Tacoma and South Tacoma glaciers. We tuck into the woods briefly before the epic Tacoma Creek suspension bridge crossing. We catch a glimpse as we’re heading downhill. Yes, it’s just as big and daunting as I remember.

Grays and oranges, and whites, oh my
Grays and oranges, and whites, oh my

We chat with a middle aged couple just before the bridge – they’d just crossed it. They didn’t seem too phased, which was a good sign. We discuss schedules, the trail to come, water availability and continue on.

Emerald ridge joy
Emerald ridge joy

Bridge crossing time. Jared is first, Tara second, me third, and Tyler last. It’s sketchy, but not as terrifying as last year. I know singing will help, so I sing the first upbeat song that comes into my head – Sugarpie Honeybunch by the Four Tops. I only know one verse, so I’m forced to sing it outloud over and over as I totter across the wooden planks suspended hundreds of feet above the rushing rapids. I make it safely to the other side. We all do.

Tacoma glacier
Tacoma glacier

A few snacks before the next uphill. Somehow Tyler, Jared, and I all have tuna and crackers to eat. Then 1.4 miles up and 1000 feet of gain to beautiful Rainier views from Indian Henry’s Hunting Ground. So many blueberries up here! We snack on them for a while.

The best vantage point
The best vantage point

There’s some flat ground before going down, down, downhill past Devils Dream Camp to Pyramid Creek Camp. We talk about languages, traveling, living abroad, and which actor or actress we’d want to be stranded on a desert island with (Tara: Ian McKellen, Jared: Julianne Moore, me: Tom Hanks, and Tyler: Meryl Streep [as a place holder]). Everyones knees start hurting. Devils Dream is meh. Pyramid Creek is the worst campsite of Wonderland – there’s bad juju here.

Tacoma Creek Suspension Bridge. Yikes, that's high
Tacoma Creek Suspension Bridge. Yikes, that’s high

We’re the only ones staying at Pyramid Creek too. We arrive earlier than usual, around 6:30. The campground is empty, wooded, and boring. I start getting a headache. We set up camp and decide to put up our shelters – there’s a chance of rain tonight. It’s the only night we set up the 2 man ultralight cuben tarp that I made for the trip. I’m nervous someone will touch it and it will shred. Nobody does, and it stays intact.

Tacoma Creek
Tacoma Creek

For dinner Jared, Tyler, and I have the trifecta (ramen, Idahoans, mac&cheese) and Tara has a beans and rice meal. And hot chocolate of course. After hiking the Long Trail in June/July, I’ve adopted the new tradition of making and drinking hot chocolate while my dinner rehydrates. It’s just better that way.

Rainier selfie from Indian Henry's
Rainier selfie from Indian Henry’sI sleep ok, but wake in the night.

We all tuck in for the night, under our shelters and out of the way of any possible rain puddles that might form. The night is dry – no rain. I toss and turn and wake in the night. Most everyone does. The headache persists.

Aurora Lake
Aurora Lake
Tacoma glacier
Tacoma glacier

August 21
Day 5, 13.9 miles
Pyramid Creek to Maple Creek

Crossing Paradise River
Crossing Paradise River

We wake the earliest yet at 7:20am. It goes unsaid, but we’re all eager to leave the bad juju of Pyramid Creek behind us. My headache throbs. I need water, ibuprofen, maybe food. Clouds blanket the skies. It didn’t rain last night, but chance continues today. The air is cooler. We pack up quickly, eager for real food at Longmire, maybe even a shower. We’re all out of water. Coffee and food will have to wait. It’s 3.5 miles mostly down with a small blip of up to Longmire. The trail is mostly forested except for the Pyramid Creek crossing. We all get about a liter and continue down.

Narada Falls
Narada Falls

We make it to Longmire before 10am. Breakfast first. We all order coffee, eggs, english muffins, hashbrowns, ham, bacon, etc, etc. I wash my face and legs in the bathroom. Then we manage to ask the right guy at the Inn, and we get showers! Woo! So clean. So good. The hotel dude is very sweet and hands us each a towel, a tiny bar of soap, and a mini hotel shampoo. Das ist wonderbar! Me, Tara, and Tyler wash a few things in the sink.

Gray and blue skies at Reflection Lakes
Gray and blue skies at Reflection Lakes

We buy snacks and beer at the General Store. We refill our packs with the food from our resupply buckets. We backflush our filters and fill up on water. My headache (okay, realistically a migraine at this point) nags and I rest. Eventually, 4 hours later, we’re back on the trail. And we have sunny skies! The air is still somewhat cool, it feels like a precursor to a crisp fall day. We go at a slow pace due to my migraine and Jared’s bum knee.

Views of the mountains in the Tatoosh Range. Must go!
Views of the mountains in the Tatoosh Range. Must go!

Up to Cougar Rock Campground, across Paradise (or was it Nisqually?) River, paralleling the Paradise-Longmire Road for most of the day. A less remote portion of the trail for sure. Last year when Tyler and I were here it was cloudy too, so it looks basically the same this time around. We see Carter Falls and Madcap Falls. Snack break at Narada Falls. My migraine is feeling better but now it feels like a migraine hangover.

Martha Falls. If it was a bit warmer, that water would be mighty inviting
Martha Falls. If it was a bit warmer, that water would be mighty inviting

Up to Inspiration Point, which like last year was a dud – there’s nothing there! (well maybe it’s because the clouds are low?) Mostly downhill to flat from there as we coast toward Maple Creek Campground. Past Reflection Lakes where the sky is half gray, half blue with white fluffy clouds. The rain clouds are clearing. Past Louise Lake, across the road, down to Martha Falls, across the same sketchy hillside we crossed last year (this time around it wasn’t raining, which made it less harrowing), past Sylvia Falls, down below and alongside hills made of columnar jointed basalt columns, and down to Maple Creek Camp at 7:21 pm! MUCH better than Pyramid Creek.

Sketchy hillside crossing. Thankfully it's not raining
Sketchy hillside crossing. Thankfully it’s not raining

The sound of rushing water, the good juju, and the company of other campers all made this a nice camp spot. Tyler and Jared tuck our cans of Rainer in the river to cool down before we continue with our tradition of Rainier on night #5. We make dinner: I have cheesy beans and rice with tortilla chips and squash/pumpkin baby food (not too bad), and others eat grits, Idahoans, and Ramen. We hang our food. Tara and Tyler spy a mouse on the bear pole, scurrying across the food bags – WTF?! Fingers crossed they don’t eat (much) food! We cowboy camp.

Reflection Lakes
Reflection Lakes

August 22
Day 6, 9.5 miles
Maple Creek to Indian Bar

On the way to Indian Bar
On the way to Indian Bar

We wake sort of early at 7:45am. Breakfast (mmm oatmeal) and coffee. Pack up and hit the trail around 9:45. It will be a moderate day, mostly uphill but relatively short around 9 miles or so. We’re headed for one of the epic spots – Indian Bar. So idyllic.

Above Indian Bar
Above Indian Bar
Indian bar
Indian bar

We start along the flat portion that parallels Stevens Creek, then to Box Canyon. We smell smoke in the air – it kind of smells like smores or a campfire. It must be wildfire haze blowing in. We get a few view spots and bam! smoke fills the air and obscures all but the closest views. Man. A short stop at the Box Canyon parking area for snacks, blister care, bathroom break, and TP smuggling. Up to Nickel Creek – our last campsite of the trek last year. I remember being so exhausted. We fill up on water at Nickel Creek for this next dry stretch. We run into a guy we saw in Spray Park. It’s sweet to see the same people on the other side of the mountain. Then moderate climbing up something like 15-20 switchbacks.

Indian Bar sunsetting
Indian Bar sunsetting

Up, up, up switchbacks in the woods. We get up onto Cowlitz Divide and pass the Cowlitz Divide Trail. Tara talks about snacking but we wait for a better spot. I’m in the lead when I hear a gentle rustling, slow down, and see a brown shadowy thing through the trees – another bear! I shout bear and Jared goes ahead to check things out – it’s a mama bear and her cub (3rd and 4th bear sighting of the trip). We’ve sufficiently scared them off the trail, but we move quickly just in case.

Up on the divide portions of the trail get pretty steep and exposed – tougher than I remember. Suddenly Tara says she needs to stop – she’s hypoglycemic and her sugar is crashing. She pops a few glucose tabs and needs to rest for at least 15 minutes in a sugarless haze as it kicks in. We’re in an area surrounded by wasps but they don’t sting (unlike the two that have already stung Jared). A ptarmigan scurries into the woods.

The bar
The bar

We hang out for 20 minutes or so, continue on, and stop again for a snack/lunch along the way. Plodding uphill. Sun and smoke. I yearn for views but feel like an entitled jerk in doing so because half of the state is on fire. It could be much worse.

Pee break. I spot 9 or 10 white animals down below from my epic pee spot. What’s that, sheep? Ohhh, mountain goats! Duh! I’ve never seen them eating in a field before – usually they’re perched on high rocks. The food situation must be more scarce, driving them into the outer reaches of their usual territory. Up to our local high of 5930 feet then down to Indian Bar at 5000 feet.

Epic shot
Epic shot

We get to camp nice and early at 4:15pm to soak in the chillness that is Indian Bar. We drop our stuff and hang out at the river. Wash feet, rinse hair, rinse face, relax, read, take pictures, etc. Privy break – I forgot that the privy is wayyy up the hill. Back to the river for sunset. Back to camp where I run into a ranger who’s scoping things out. We get scolded for setting a few of our camp things on the grass surrounding the campsite (sorry!) and leaving a bag of food unattended (oops sorry again).

We cook dinner – Mexican beans and rice, Idahoans, Beef stew, and Shepherds Pie. What do we do with ourselves being in camp so early? We hang out. Make a half attempt at “Row, row, row your boat” in rounds. We play “I spy”. A few stars come out. It’s chilly tonight, not cold but chillier than the previous nights. I shuffle the down to the top of my sleeping bag and don my buff band. Sleep.

Indian bar camp
Indian bar camp

August 23
Day 7, 4.4 miles
Indian Bar to Summerland

Toward Ohanapecosh
Toward Ohanapecosh

Man, I slept well. 12 hours! I wake last at 9 am. Jared said he’d been awake for a few hours. We have only a tiny 4.4 miles to cover, so we really take our time and laze about. Breakfast of coffee, granolas, cheese/crackers/tuna. A couple comes in to our site – they’d already made the trek down from Summerland (where we’re headed) and want to stash their packs in the site to claim it. Sure. We aim to be out around noon, and we are. We fill water and begin the hot, smokey, sunny stairway climb up to Summerland. Today is even smokier than yesterday somehow.

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IMG_7804We take our time going up toward Panhandle Gap, the highest point on the trail. We start out at a slow and steady pace, taking rest breaks in the shade, admiring hazy views and eagles. Vitamin I for a smoke induced headache. Reapply sunscreen. We break at the top of Ohanapecosh Park – water, snacks, I nestle into a shady nook. Feel a little woozy – probably lack of oxygen from the smoke and fires.

Sarvent glacier
Sarvent glacier

Back on the trail across Ohanapecosh. We see a few marmots. This section of the trail is so much drier than last year. It feels a bit post-apocalyptic. We have a nice, long stop at Panhandle Gap. Snack. Admire the view – smoky but still awesome. A big herd of mountain goats are on the ridge – 15 or 20 of them including a baby and a pregnant goat. A Spanish woman talks to us about the awesome goats. We get cell phone reception, check texts, and look up the news about the fires – the smoke is emanating from the Cougar Creek fire on Baker that is 35,000 acres and has been downgraded from 25% to 15% contained. Yikes. Not good.

Another sarvent glacier
Another sarvent glacier

Randomly, a girl that Tara grew up skating with shows up with her father and brother. Small world. They catch up, we all chat for a while.

Sarvent glacier
Sarvent glacier

Then down the 1.4 miles to Summerland. It’s slightly less smoky on this side, we think. But just as dry. No patches of snow to cross, like last year. Formerly blue, clear, inviting lakes are now murky and small. We arrive at Summerland Camp – a Disney-like oasis still (though flowerless) amidst the drought and smoke. Fat marmots frolick. Fat chipmonks scurry. We set down our stuff and go down to the creek to admire the waning light. A chipmonk with a bum leg or possibly a neurological condition hops/rolls away which is quite sad.

Looking at the falls
Looking at the falls

We admire the sun setting behind Rainier and watch a tiny bird, an American Dipper, jump in and out of the creek, dig for food, and bounce on the rocks (I’m convinced it’s doing squats).

Falls
Falls

After sunset, we head back to camp for dinner (a triple ramen tonight). I pass a strangely-acting chipmonk on the trail next to our camp. It’s sitting still but kind of quivering. Weird. That’s the second chipmonk with off-behavior. As dusk sets in, we spy a deer next to our campsite in the meadow! Awesome. We watch it for a while then drift off to our sleeping bags – we’re all cowboy camping tonight. Because all of the down is on the top of my bag, I’m burning up. I flip it over and fare better. Much cooler. Plans to wake earlyish. Sleep.

Summerland
Summerland
Sunsetting at summerland
Sunsetting at summerland
Sunset from camp
Sunset from camp
Summerland
Summerland

August 24
Day 8, 9 miles
Summerland to Sunrise

Sunrise from our Summerland camp
Sunrise from our Summerland camp

It’s our last day on the trail! I think I hear Tyler’s alarm go off at 6:15. I stir and get up a few minutes later. It’s still smokey out but there’s better visibility today. The air is less irritating to my lungs. The mountain looks good today!

Deer in camp!
Deer in camp!

Suddenly there’s a deer in our camp! Chomping on grass under a tree. Amazing, it’s so tame. Eventually it gets bored and wanders away. We eat breakfast: I have Idahoans, Tara and Tyler granola, Jared biscuits and gravy. We break camp, get water at the creek, and I drink emergen-C. Jared reports on the strangely-acting chipmonk (the second one) – it’s dead. It was laying dead next to the spot we found it last night. Very strange. We’re out at 8:02 and we hike quickly down 6.9 miles to White River Camp including a few miles of road walk because the bridge is out over the river. Burgers on the brain.

Booking it down the last half-mile stretch
Booking it down the last half-mile stretch

We have our last snack at the campground right before out last few miles uphill. Then up! Switchbacks 2.6 miles. I lead the charge and try not to death march everyone too hard. We have a few water breaks. It’s warm but not hot and we’re mostly in the shade.

Rainier for Rainier!
Rainier for Rainier!

We make it to the ridge at 11:52am, then it’s only another half-mile from there! Woo! Nice Rainier views along the way. It’s just hazy enough that the mountain looks fake, like an old timey postcard. We get to the parking lot and tag Tyler’s car at 12:04 pm. Not bad.

Boy team
Boy team

Good job, team. Post trail wind down. I change into a clean shirt and bra and wash my face. Jared tells the rangers about the weird chipmonks at Summerland. We all duck into the snack bar/gift shop. I pick up an apple juice, a chocolate milk, a few postcards, and a coaster. Jared buys surprise Rainiers for us! One more for the mountain! We drink to Rainier at the edge of the parking lot. Then we drive on back to Seattle. Tara and I doze off at a few points along the drive.

"After" picture
“After” picture

We rally at Uneeda Burger in Fremont (with a pitstop at Blue Moon for gluten and egg free burger food for Tara). I manage to jam a bacon cheeseburger, fried mushrooms, sweet potato fries, a saison, and most of an oreo milkshake into my belly before I tap out.

The feast
The feast

A great celebration feast! Solid hike. Until next year, Rainier…

2 thoughts on “The Wonderland Trail: Round 2 – August 2015

  1. Just found your blog — I’m hiking Wonderland this summer and you had a pretty similar itinerary.. thanks for the tips and whatnot!

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