This is the long awaited narrative of my backpacking trip around Mount Rainier on the Wonderland Trail. WARNING!! this is a long one.
Well as most of you know, we made it back from the trip around Mt Rainier in one peace. It was a long 10 days, but well worth the pain and suffering of traversing 100+/- miles around a very large mountain.
Ever sense we committed to doing this trip it has been on my mind, with questions like. Can I handle a trek of this magnitude? What can / should I do to get in shape? How much will my pack weigh with 10 days of food and essential gear? What kind of food will we eat? How can I reduce my pack weight?
I began to mentally and physically prepare myself for the most intense hike that I have ever done. By studying topo maps, reading books and articles about the Wonderland Trail, I mentally prepared myself for the trip. I started going on monthly hikes with a group of guys from the Nazarene church to help get in shape physically. Over all I think that mentally understanding what I would be facing day in and day out for ten days was probably the best thing I did in preparation for this hike.
I began working on lowering my pack weight about a month before we left. Packing, unpacking, repacking, and unpacking each time looking for things that were completely unnecessary or that I could live without. Everything I had read indicated that an ideal pack weight for this trip would be 45lb including food and water. Let me tell you this is not as easy as it may seem. All that ultra light gear adds up from grams and ounces into pounds real quick. I did however get my base weight (no food/water) down to around 25-30lb. This was great except that we were estimating food weight to be about 20lb per person for the 10 days, still not counting the water. Depending on the distance between good water sources we were each packing about 80-132oz of water weighing about 7-8.5lb. Grand total was around 60lb +/- a couple of pounds.
The next thing we needed to do was come up with food. This sounds like an easy task, but it’s more involved than you may think. After doing some research we came to the conclusion that we needed to take food that was around 115-130 calories per ounce. This calculates to about 2 pounds of food per person per day, and a daily calorie intake of around 3500-4000 calories. The next question is, what kind of foods can you take that meet these needs? The options we found were limited and hard to find the desired serving portions for an individual and /or a party of three. Our choices were prepackaged freeze-dried food like Mountain House or we could try to make our own pack food. After talking it over we agreed that we would have an easier time with portion sizes by making our own pack food, and we would probably have better flavor to boot. The three of us individually worked on putting together a 10 day menu. We would later compare our menus, looking for similarities and fill the days that we didn’t come up with a meal idea for. Over all the three of us came up with very similar meal ideas. After deciding on the meals we had to find recopies that we could use with ingredients that would keep for 10 days along with being light weight. Doing some research on making our own pack food I came across this web site full of backpacking recopies. I then went shopping for the ingredients and started cooking, dehydrating, and vacuum sealing enough food for three guys over 10 days. Let me tell you some of the meals looked less than desirable after the cooking, dehydrating and vacuum packing. I was not feeling confident that the meals would re-hydrate and taste like they should. At this point it was to late for a change of plan, we were leaving in 5 hours.
Gear list for my pack was the following:
On Body Gear- nylon t-shirt, nylon convertible pants, pair of trekking polls, internal frame pack(Kelty slick rock), wool blind socks, hiking boots
Clothing- nylon t-shirt, nylon convertible pants, medium weight "Dry Light" long sleeve shirt, rain pants, rain jacket, flees pants, flees long sleeve shirt, 4 pairs of wool blend socks, 3 pairs of undies, stocking cap, flees gloves, full gaiters
Bedding- solo tent, therm-a-rest mat, 20deg synthetic mummy bag
Cooking- MSR pocket rocket stove, titanium pot, titanium spork, 2- 8oz fuel canisters, food cozy, lighter, water proof matches, heat/wind shield, water purifying pump (with a 2 liter water bag), 100oz water bladder, 32oz Nalgine bottle
Toiletries- soap, roll of TP, pack towel, sunscreen, chap-stick, toothbrush, talc powder
Navigation- water proof map, compass, GPS (and extra batteries)
Mic- 50ft of rope, 2 weight rated carabineers, 1 locking weight rated carabineer, parachute cord, head lamp, 6 extra zip-lock bags, camera (2 extra batteries), watch, whistle, first aid kit, iodine tablets, 2 extra compression straps, flip-flops, sunglasses, lots of ibuprofen, pocketknife, cell phone(for emergency), money, drivers license, bandana
Food- Breakfast: 5 days of oat meal, 5 days of cream-o-wheat
Lunch: 11 Cliff bars (1 per day + 1 extra), 10 Power bars (1 per day), 2 pounds of beef jerky (rationed for 10 days), 2 pounds of trail mix (rationed for 10 days), ½ pound of craisins (dried cranberries), 10 GU energy gels (1 per day), powdered Gatorade mix (64oz of drink per day),
Dinner: ground turkey (1 pound), Stove Top stuffing (1 package), and cream-o-chicken cup-o-soup (3 envelopes) [feeds 3]; spaghetti (1 pound ground beef, 2 envelopes spaghetti mix, 2- 6oz cans tomato paste (dehydrated into tomato leather), 4 cups dried pasta) [feeds 3]; beef and rice stew (1 pound ground beef, 3 cups instant rice, 1 ½ cup dehydrated veggies (corn, peas, carrots), 1 beef bullion cube, assorted spices)
I got up at 3:30am, 3 ½ hours after I finished preparing the meals and last minute packing. I took a quick shower (last one for 10 days) put on the clothing that I would be wearing for the next 10 days and headed up to Ryan and Todd’s parents house. Arriving at the Morgan’s house I found both Ryan and Todd scrambling around pulling together all the last minute things together. We through our packs in the back of Todd’s pickup along with the bag of dinner meals I put together that we still needed to divide between us. We were then off on our adventure.
As we left the comforts of home and hit the road for the mountain, excitement was high. We talked about trail conditions, and other concerns we might have had about a hike of this magnitude. As we exhausted our conversation about our expectations, concerns, and excitement of the trip I started drifting in and out of sleep with my head rattling against the cold window of Todd’s pickup.
We arrived at the entrance to the Rainier National Park around 8am and continued to the Longmire ranger station to check in and pick up our backcountry camping permit. Ryan and I worked on dividing up the dinner meals while Todd went in and signed for the permit. After adding my share of the dinner to my pack it became evident that I had too much junk and I needed to do some thing to lighten my pack.
I proceeded unpack my backpack looking for anything I could do with out. As it turned out I removed some stupid things like my house keys, car keys, and wallet. That was not enough I needed to remove more weight from my pack. I started looking at my food, asking myself can I get by with less, if so what can I get rid of. I decided that I didn’t have to have the coffee or hot chocolate, and I thought that I might be able to do without the beagles and peanut butter. This seemed to come close to put my pack weight close to what it was before the dinner meals were added. After reloaded my pack, we reluctantly strapped on the backpacks and went in search of the trail head.
Soon we found the trail and we were on our way into the wonders of the Wonderland Trail. The trail started off easy enough, but we knew that the trail would soon turn to a long steep grind to our first camp. Sure enough about a half mile from the start we began the grind. A mile +/- of steep switch backs up Rampart Ridge. This was followed by a moderate mile down the other side of the ridge to Kautz creek and Pyramid creek. We finished the day by climbing the last mile and a half to our camp at Devils Dream.
We arrived at our first camp (Devils Dream) about 1:30pm. We soon learned that the Devils Dream area was appropriately named. As there were no views of anything, it was dark, and worst of all the mosquitoes were so bad we had to set up camp immediately and hide in our tents. Any time that was spent outside the tents we had to put on our rain gear to keep from being eaten alive. We only left our tents long enough to pull water for dinner and the next day, and to prepare a quick dinner (burritos (Ryan burned the beans)) followed by hanging our food on the bear pole. Hanging the food bag no easy task, when your food bag weighs about 20+ pounds and you have to lift it 10-12 feet in the air using a pole with a hook to get it up there. Gravity is not on your side let me tell you!!
This would turn out to be one of the longest hardest days we had during the trip. When we woke up it was about 7:30-8am and the mesquites were still in full force, still trying to eat us alive. I proceeded to skip breakfast pack up my gear as fast as I could and make a run for it. Leaving Ryan and Todd to fight of the nasty little blood suckers on there own, I headed up the trail looking for some relief from the bugs.
The first few miles were a moderate climb up to and across a beautiful meadow with Mt Rainier in the back ground. This is where one of the ranger patrol cabin is located. I continued on down the trail and caught up with a pair of backpackers who were collecting water from a stream in the meadow. The mesquites were not bad in this area so I stopped to talk with the hikers. They had also camped at Devils Dream and were trying to escape the hungry mesquites. As I was talking with the two other hikers the ranger from the patrol cabin walked over to see how things were going, and check permits. Come to find out the ranger had hiked down to our camp to check permits and found us hiding in our tents from the bugs.
Ryan and Todd soon caught up with me and we started down what seemed to be a never ending valley. We descended for abut three miles before crossing the South Puyallup River, only to hike another four miles back up the next ridge. This is where I started to loose steam, all I could do was keep telling myself one foot in front of the other. I knew that when I reached St Andrews Lake I would only have about another mile of mild up hill before I reached camp. That last mile seemed like ten, I didn’t think I would ever get there.
Finally we reached Klapatche Park it was about 5:30pm. We meet another group of three hikers that had arrived earlier and had their camp set up. After saying a quick “Hi, how are you.” We picked out the next best site at the camp area and began to set up our tents.
Once we got camp set up we sat on a near by log and began studying the map of the next days travel and discussed what we thought we would encounter. We soon started feeling the effects of the long day taking its toll on us. This prompted us to start dinner (beef stroganoff).
It quickly became apparent that we had not completely thought out how to prepare all of the dinner meals. Most of the dinners we had not tested before the trip we didn’t have any directions on how to make them ether. Dinner time became a lesson in chemistry and physics. “How much water do we use?” “How long do you cook it for?” “Will this be eatable?” After some creative cooking we had an excellent dinner that surprised all of us on how well it turned out, for not knowing what we were doing.
After dinner we took another look at the next leg of our hike. As the sun started to set the fog rolled in, so we turned I for the night in order to try and get a jump start on the other group camping near by.
We crawled out of our tents around 7:30-8am, and made up a quick pot of oat meal. After breakfast we packed up camp and headed for the trail. As we were leaving camp we found the other group packing up their camp. They were taking their time packing, hoping that the fog would soon burn off so they could get a great picture of the mountain with the lake in the fore ground. We however didn’t think the fog would burn off for a wile and we wanted to beat the other group to the next camp so we could get the pick of the best camp site.
Heading down the trail we soon found ourselves in the middle of bear country. The trail was thick with black caps, salmon berry, black berry, and wild strawberries. We also started coming across piles of bear scat most of it was still very fresh. Making our presents known we continued down into the valley were we came across a section of the trail that had seen some severe winter storm damage. There were many very large (4 foot plus diameter) trees that had been blown down. Most of the damage had been cleaned up and repaired, but there were still a few tricky spots to navigate over, under, and around.
At the bottom of the valley we crossed the North Puyallup River using a very rickety old crooked bridge. We then began the 5 mile climb up the next ridge. This climb would much easier than the day before. The first two miles were spent traversing the canyon wall gaining very little elevation. About mile three of the climb it started to get much steeper and I soon found myself having to stop and resituate the weight in my pack. I had packed most of the heavy stuff in the bottom of my pack in order to make it less top heavy when hiking down the hill. Now that we were climbing it felt like someone was pulling on my pack from behind. Wile I was reorganizing my pack I was passed by another group of hikers that were going the other direction. This was there second day on the trail and they looked like they were already in pain. They said that we had about 2 ½ -3 miles to go. I finished re packing and I was off. Three mile isn’t so bad, right? Well that’s what I thought. About a mile and a half farther up the trail I ran out of water. I was not sure how much farther to the next water source, and I knew that if I was out of water so was both Ryan and Todd.
I caught up with Ryan and Todd about a mile later at the next stream, they had both gone dry much earlier than me and were in desperate need of water. The three of us filled our water and took a look at the map to see how much farther to camp. It looked like we had about a half mile to go, but other than the lakes it didn’t look like we would have much for water near the camp site. We decided that we should get extra water from this creek for dinner and breakfast incase the lakes turned out to be scum ponds.
We finally got to the Golden Lakes Camp area, were we found a very clean clear lake back behind the ranger patrol cabin. We were all a bit disappointed that we packed the weight of the extra water when the lake turned out to be so clean, but we would rather be safe than sorry.
Todd and I sat resting at the patrol cabin, wile Ryan went exploring the camp and pick a site. All of the camp sites were a bit of a hike off the main trail. When Ryan returned indicating that he had found the best site, Todd and I reluctantly put our packs back on and hiked to the site Ryan had found.
After relaxing for a bit I unpacked my tent and hung it in a tree in the sun in order to dry of the dew from the night before. I then stumbled down to the lake. I needed to give myself a bath and rinse out my t-shirt. It was a good thing the sun was out because that water was only a few degrees above freezing. I hung my shirt in a tree to dry and I sat in the sun myself until I dried off and wormed back up. I then hiked back to our camp site and set up my tent. About this time we heard the group that we camped with the night before arrive and start setting up their camp.
Soon we thought it was time we make some dinner (spaghetti). As we started eating the ranger came up to check our permits and see how our hike was going. We finished eating and started studying the map for the next day before we hit the sack.
We woke up a bit later around 8-8:30am. As we were making breakfast we could hear the other camp moving around. So we quickly finished our oat meal and packed up our camp so we could get another head start on the other hikers and get the best camp site again.
I was feeling good this morning. I was in the lead and we were making good time, about 2 ½-3 miles per hour. We kept that pace for about 2 ½ miles. This is when we started down the canyon to the South Mowich River. About three quarters of the way down we caught up with the other hikers that we thought we left back at Golden Lakes. They had snuck out of camp wile we were busy packing up our camp and we had been on their heels all morning. It seemed that we only caught up to them because they had stopped to have a snack. After a bit of small talk we passed them as we continuing down the trail. The other group stayed with us for the next mile and a half. We started to pull away as we began to climb over Paul Peak. We gained two plus hours on the other group in just over three miles.
The Mowich Lake Camp area was pretty pathetic. First off there is road access to this area so there were way too many day hikers and car campers for our taste. Second the camp was just a big open patch of gravel that used to be the parking area. Did I mention the over abundance of people.
I picked the best spot I could wile Ryan and Todd looked around hoping this was not really the camp. They soon came returned after finding no other options. We got our camp set up and took turns wandering around the lake taking pictures and staying around camp to keep an eye on things. Let me tell you staying around the camp watching all the car campers and day hikers, was very amusing. I hope that I don’t look and act that retarded when I car camp or day hike.
The group that was following us for the last few days finally got to the lake. One of the group started setting up their camp wile the other two dropped their packs and headed for the ranger cabin. When they returned they were packing a 5 gallon bucket. The bucket contained items for re-supply (food, TP). This was something we had not done, but should have.
After dinner (sausage gravy and rice) we hung our bear bags and started studying the map. As we looked over the map the ranger came around checking permits, but this ranger was a bit odd. He kind of strolled over near our camp looking around, stopped. We turned and said something like “How’s it going?” The ranger didn’t say anything. We all looked at each other like, “what’s this guy’s deal?” Then out of no ware he runs to Todd’s pack grabs the permit, looks it over and says “You got some long days.” And he walked away. About ten minutes later the ranger came back with a camera and started taking pictures of the bear pole, lots of pictures. Someone from the other back pack group approached the ranger and asked what all of the pictures of the bear pole was for. The ranger said that he was working on some educational material to give to the car campers that don’t know what a bear pole was or how to use it.
After it got dark things quieted down for the night, so we hit the sack.
We got up late, about 8:30am and found that we were still the first ones up. To our surprise there were two new tents that appeared during the night. As we started breakfast the other camps started to awaken. After we had our morning oat meal we packed up camp and hit the trail.
The trail started out relatively flat for the first mile and a half. This is when the trail seemed to drop off the face of the earth. A rock wall was in front of us to the left was heavy vegetation and to the right was a very steep drop into a spectacular valley. After some pictures we headed down some very tight switch backs into the valley. With the morning sun beating down and few trees for shade, it got hot very quickly.
On the way down we met a couple that was going up. We stopped and talked with them for a bit. They had done the Wonderland Trail tree other times. This time they were doing it “Ultra Light”. One had a pack weight of 17 pounds the other 23 pounds. Asking, how they got their pack weight so low? They told us that it took them ten years and lots of $$$ (money). After getting some other tips for the trail we continued on.
Soon we found ourselves in the midst of a mess of day hikers. This kind of sucked because it would be this way the rest of the way to Carbon River Camp where we were to camp. When we got to camp we found the trail in to the camp area was up a very steep hill. To top it off it appeared that we were not the first to arrive. The best camp site had already been taken. We dropped our packs in the next best site and looked around a bit. It didn’t seem like anyone was at the camp, and we were disappointed that we didn’t get the good site this time. The thing that we couldn’t understand was how someone could beat us here. We were the first to leave Mowich Lake. Coming from the other way the first camp was only about three miles away and the next was about ten miles. We had come about seven miles at a pretty quick pace.
We waited about an hour and a half before thought about setting up camp. It was a good thing that we waited too because the group that had the good site came back and moved out. As soon as they were gone we moved in, not wasting any time. We got camp setup and laid down for a nap. When we woke up we found that three other groups had moved in.
By the way this was our crapper for this camp, and you had a great view of the trail from this fine throne.
I headed down to the creek to filter my water for that night and the next day. The day hikers didn’t know what to think of a guy (me) pumping water out of a stream into a water bottle. I think I was asked 10 times in five minutes what I was doing. I was also asked to take a picture of some guy and his kid. Someone from one of the other groups that we had not met also came down to get water wile I was there. She said that this was their first day on the trail. Wile we were talking I seen she was having problems with her purifier pump. She asked if I could help. I took a look at her pump and found the shipping plug still on the end of the nozzle, I removed it for her. She then said that this was the first time that she had ever used the pump (no kidding!). Why anyone would do a trip like this with out testing their gear at home first is beyond me.
I hiked back to camp and we started dinner (turkey and stuffing). Being within day hiker reach we found the chipmunks to be extra bold. As we were eating we had to keep chasing them away. They would be climbing on our packs and all over camp. After dinner we sat and talked about old times before going to bed.
We got up early, hoping to beat the heat of the day and knowing this would be a long twelve mile day. After having breakfast and packing up camp we made our way to the suspension bridge crossing the Carbon River. We began climbing over the ridge caved out by the Carbon Glacier.
We climbed about six miles with some spectacular views of the mountain. This is where we started seeing the marmots. Ryan just about stepped on one when it darted out of its hole in the side of the trail.
The trail leveled off a bit with a slight down hill as we approached Mystic Lake. The Mystic Lake camp area was where most of the other backpackers would stop for the night. How ever we were pushing another three miles on to Granite Creek Camp.
The next three miles would turn out to be tricky to traverse. The book (The Wonders of The Wonderland Trail) published in 2002 that I have mentioned a trail detour around a wash out. This detour was also mentioned in the latest trail condition report from the park service. The park’s trail report stated that the detour was steep and muddy but otherwise navigable. This shouldn’t be much problem for us, or so we thought. We soon came across a problem. The detour around the wash out had washed out in several spots recently and had not yet been re-detoured. We were able to tip-toe along the edge of some of the wash out, praying the edge wouldn’t give way on us. A few spots we had to bushwhack our own trail. Let me tell you bushwhacking on a steep hill with a full pack on is not fun, it’s a bit unnerving when you look down and see the consequences if you slip.
We then made our way around the Winthrop Glacier up the other side to the Granite Creek Camp. I was so focused on the trail that I missed the sign for the camp. I kept on hiking past the camp along with Ryan and Todd. I got about 200 yards down the trail when I seen the sign for the other direction. I started looking around to see were the camp was and also were Ryan and Todd where. When I turned around I seen Ryan standing in the trail looking at me like, “Where are you going?”
After finding my way, we setup camp and we all crashed for a few hours. When we got up, I went down to the creek and scrubbed myself down. We then looked over the map for a wile before we walked down to the creek to get our water.
Another group moved into one of the other sites across the camp. We soon saw the gal in the group head down to the creek with her water bottle. But rather than pull water from the obvious spot, she cut off the trail and made her way to the creek. We thought this was odd so we watched to see what she was doing. It appeared that she was just pulling water. Soon the guy hiked down to the same spot. Still wondering why they were pulling water from this spot, we kept watching. It was not long before the clothing was off and they were full on nude scrubbing down in the creek.
We started telling stories before we decided to make dinner (bean and beef stew). After telling more stories we went to bed.
This was the day I had been looking forward for the last few days. This was the day we would hit Sunrise Visitor Center and have a chance to buy some real food from the “restraint”.
We fixed our oat meal and packed up camp around 8am. Hoping we would see some wild life in the meadows that we read were just ahead of us we quietly hiked over the last bit of Skyscraper Mountain. This is where things opened up into enormous meadows along with one of the best views of Mount Rainier. Other than a lot of marmots we did not see any other wild life.
Soon we started seeing group after group of day hikers coming from Sunrise. Talking with some of them we learned that the “restraint” was open and we were about two miles from Sunrise. It was about a quarter after 10am, this meant we would be there about 11am or shortly after.
Before we knew it we had arrived at the Sunrise Visitor Center. It was kind of strange being back in civilization again after seven days. There were large wooden shelters, they called buildings, and these strange things they called cars that moved people from place to place without walking. They also had this great luxury of running water. The restrooms smelled clean.
We dropped our packs and took turns looking around and using the facilities. I took the opportunity to take a sponge bath. I then went to the “restraint” that was more of a snack bar and got a ham sandwich that cost me $6.75. They got $6.75 for a four inch hoagie roll with two slices of ham, one Kraft Single cheese slice, a baggie with a piece of wilted lettuce and a pickle, and a bag of potato chips. Overall it was nice to get a change of food.
After a short break in civilization we continued down the trail. This last leg of the day would turn into what seemed to be a never ending down hill hike. About three quarters of the way down we met a group of day hikers hiking up from the White River Campground they wanted to know if they were almost to the top. We just laughed and told them that they had just started and continued on our way.
We soon arrived at the White River Campground. Finding less than desirable backpack campsites we dropped our packs and looked around. We found that the campground was nearly empty. So we tracked down the camp host and asked if we could use one of the car campsites for the night, he agreed to let us do this without a charge. We moved to a campsite near the trail, and set up camp.
After a nap I was sitting at the picnic table looking over the map when some car campers moved in next to us. I watched as they unloaded more crap than you would think would fit in their SUV. It became very amusing to watch these two guys setup their tent. The first guy laid out the tent and began to stake the tent. He then picked up one of the poles, looked at it for a bit. He set the pole down and picked up another one and did the same thing. Digging through the box it came in he pulled out the instructions. After reading the instructions he again picked up the tent poles looked at them for a bit, looked at the tent and back at the poles. He put the poles down again to look at the instructions ones again. Wile the first guy was looking over the instructions the other guy started looking at the tent and the poles trying to put it together. The second guy then took the instructions from the first and began reading. This went on for at least 30 minuets before they finally got their tent setup. After all the work getting the tent up they had to celebrate with a bottle of wine. The best part was when another camper moved in on the other side of us. This camper was a single lady and it took her all of 2 minuets to setup her tent. It was funny to see these two guys fumble with their tent for so long and then have this single lady set hers up with no effort at all.
After a wile we filled our water and began dinner (chili). In my opinion the chili was the best meal we had along the trip. I’m thinking I will have to try the chili recipe again at home with out dehydrating anything.
When we were done with dinner we all looked over the map. The next day was going to be long with a lot of elevation gain from about 4000ft to 7200ft over Panhandle Gap. This elevation gain was all in the first half of a ten plus mile day.
As it began to get dark we headed to bed. I woke up about midnight with raindrops hitting my face through the screen of my tent. I quickly pulled the rain fly over my tent and zipped the door shut. This was the first time on this trip that I had sealed up my tent. I then tried to go back to sleep.
When we got up it was still raining. We put on our rain gear found a tree to try and hide under wile we made our oatmeal. After finishing our soggy breakfast we quickly packed our waterlogged camp and began making our way down the trail. Soon we were sweating like pigs with all the rain gear on. Being in the trees the rain wasn’t as bad so we stopped and removed the rain gear. What a relief to get the rain gear off. Continuing down the trail Todd spooked a couple of elk that were on the trail.
Coming over the hill to the Summerland camp area the rain had stopped and it looked like a seine from The Sound of Music or something. After a few pictures we continued our way over Panhandle Gap. This is where we encountered some snow patches. On our way up we found a log bridge precariously perched over a fast moving steep glacier river, kind of scary.
We then met a couple of rangers that were up there marking the route through the snow. They asked us if we had seen the bear around the Summerland Camp. We were disappointed that we had missed seeing the bear, as we said “no”.
After we got over Panhandle Gap we seen some goats up on a near by hill. The goats seemed as curious about us as we were of them. We watched them for a wile trying to get a good picture of them before we moved on.
As we approached the Indian Bar camp area I seen both Ryan and Todd stopped dead in their tracks, looking across the meadow. Slowly I tip-toed over to them, I was hoping to see what they were looking at. It was a bear!! I couldn’t believe it I got to see a wild bear, how cool is that. The wind soon shifted blowing at the bear. As soon as it could smell our stench it headed off in to the trees. We then crossed the meadow to the Indian Bar Camp, where we picked a nice spot looking over the meadow.
As we unpacked and hung things out to dry the wind picked up. Blowing cold air off the mountain, we layered up and waited for the tents to dry out a bit. After a wile we all gave up and crawled into our tents to get out of the wind and take a nap.
When we got up we hiked down to pull our water. We found that the camp area had filled up wile we were taking a nap. We went back to our camp and made dinner (turkey and stuffing). After dinner we looked over the map and we all came to the same conclusion that ten days is a long time to be on the trail. We agreed that 7-8 days is a good length of time, after that everything becomes more of a chore and the hiking becomes a grind.
When it got dark we went to bed. Because my tent was not fully dried out I had the rain fly on trying to get it to finish drying. I left the cover off the door for some air flow. Ones again I was awaken by raindrops on my face. This time all I needed to do was zip the door shut.
When we got up the sun was already trying to burn off the clouds from the night before. We made our oatmeal and packed up camp. We took our time packing up, because we were hoping the sun would finish burning off the clouds so we could get a picture of the mountain.
The sun didn’t cooperate for us so we hit the trail. A few miles down the trail the sky cleared up and we got a few pictures of the mountain before we turned the corner to head west.
We started down the hill to Nickel Creek where we stopped for lunch. After a quick bite to eat we continued to Box Canyon. Box Canyon was pretty cool. The canyon was about 6-8 feet wide and the sign said that it was 115 feet from the top down to the water. It was impressive to see something so deep yet also that narrow.
When we got to Maple Creek Camp we set camp for the last time. After camp was up we all went down to the creek to clean up. As I was washing up I looked over to see Ryan chest deep in the creek. I’m not sure what Ryan was doing because that water was freezing, and it was no accident that he was sitting in the middle of the creek.
After drying out we all took a nap. After the nap we looked over the map. We thought that if we got up early around 6:30-7am we could be back to the truck around 1:30-2pm.
It was time to pull some water for dinner and the next day. After pulling water we made dinner (beef gravy and rice). We talked about ideas for our next hike. Things like the Olympic National Forest, the Wallowa Mountains, along with a few others that I can’t remember. After a wile we hit the sack.
We got up early around 6:30am made the remaining oatmeal. Knowing that this was the last time we would have to pack our gear felt nice. We were on the trail by 7:20am.
With in the first mile the blue sky was gone and it began to rain. I stopped to put on my pack cover on and the next thing I knew Ryan and Todd were out of site. As we reached Reflection Lake the wind started blowing and things got cold. At this point I could no longer see or hear Ryan or Todd ahead of me. Because of the miserable whether I decided to pick up the pace and try to catch Ryan and Todd. Any time the trail was clean and smooth I would kick it into high gear (almost a run).
I had a couple of day hikers flag me down to ask if I knew where Carter Falls was. I told them that I just passed it 10 minutes ago what they didn’t know is that I had kicked my pace up to about 3.5-4 miles per hour in hopes of catching Ryan and Todd. I was moving at a good pace when I got to the Nisqually River and I was stopped by some older RV campers as I crossed the log bridge. They asked how many miles I had hiked. I responded “Just short of 100 miles”. This surprised them. They then asked how many days I hade been on the trail. I said “This is the tenth and final day”. They then congratulated me and asked how many more miles I had left. I told them that I was not sure, because I didn’t know exactly where I was in relation to Longmire Ranger Station. One of them said that I was at the Cougar Rock Camp. I knew that I only had a mile to go if what they told me was true so I put the hammer down. Pushing as hard as I could about 4-5 miles per hour I got to the truck at 11:15am, ten minutes after Ryan and Todd.
I removed my pack and grabbed my clean dry cloths and headed to the restrooms to change and clean up. After cleaning up we decided we needed to find a pizza parlor for beer and pizza. Boy did that pizza and beer hit the spot. On the way home we got caught in the rush hour traffic on I-205, but we still got home by 4:30-5pm.
When I finally got to my house the first thing I did was grab the bathroom scale and weigh myself and my pack. The pack weight was 40 pounds (about 20 pounds less than it started). I weighed 140 pounds (5 pounds more than when I left).
Over all this was one of the best hikes that I have done. I would do sections of the Wonderland Trail again if the opportunity comes up again. Click here for Ryan's trip report.