Thursday, August 29, 2013

Day 4: A Drab, Dreary Day

I'm all packed up and ready to start hiking for the day.
Can you figure out where our tent was set up during the night? =)
It rained for most of the night, which eventually tapered off and stopped by morning. Technically speaking, the rain had stopped, but everything was still exceedingly wet from a thick fog. Leaves from the trees continued to drop tree snot on everything below.

It would have been a good day to sleep in. Except--this would be my longest day yet of hiking at about 15 miles to the North Puyallup Camp, and this section of the Wonderland Trail is infamous for having some of the most strenuous climbs and drops of the entire trail. I really couldn't linger too long at Mowich Lake. I was going to need to get hiking.

I was taking some of our gear to Amanda's car in the parking lot when I saw a group of people wearing a bunch of suspiciously red shirts that looked not unlike the one Amanda wore--the shirt from the Hike-a-Thon--and I took a closer look at the people in the group and definitely recognized a couple of them. One of them I even knew the name of off the top of my head--Kara. I'm not actually sure what her official position is at the WTA (does it matter?!), but almost all of my interaction with the WTA tends to be through her.

So I wandered over to say hi. =) How many people that I knew was I going to bump into on this hike?! First Sarah from the Camino, and now a group of Hike-a-Thoners! Although admittedly, I was less impressed with this coincidental meetup. It's not exactly a huge shock to discover people from the Seattle area involved with the Washington Trails Association doing a hike at Mount Rainier. You almost expect to bump into them! =) In fact, we did bump into other Hike-a-Thoners (hello, Kristin and Christina!) when Amanda dropped me off at Sunrise who had just gotten back from a day hike. I didn't know them or even recognize them, though--just their shirt that gave away their WTA affiliation.

But I didn't know about the organized hike that was happening today. Actually, for all I know, I might have had an email about it sitting in my inbox--I hadn't checked my email since I started my hike. I might have gotten an email about it before I even started my hike but just deleted it without really reading it if I saw the date overlapped my Wonderland Trail hike.

So finding them was still a surprise--even if it wasn't a shocking one. =)

I joked that it would have been more convenient had they postponed the hike for another week until the next Saturday. That's when I'd be coming off the trail at Mowich and I didn't actually have a ride off the mountain! This weather is awful anyhow! "Yep," I said, "you should definitely come back and do this again next Saturday."

I finished putting stuff back into Amanda's car then walked back to our campsite and told Amanda that the parking lot was filled with a whole group of people from the WTA, on a hike to Spray Park. (The wildflowers were awesome, I told them! I would know--I saw them just the day before. Although the weather was certainly a lot better the day before.)

It wasn't raining, but the fog was
thick enough to keep everything completely wet.
Amanda ended up going down the trail with them a bit to take their group photo while I continued packing up my backpack. My backpack would be gaining a lot of weight today--five days and four nights worth of food to get me back to the food cache I hid back near Sunrise.

Amanda eventually came back, my pack was packed, and the rest of the gear was stored in the back of Amanda's car, and it was time for me to head back off. Amanda had to go back to work and I charged down the trail alone.

The trail was in pretty good shape and dropped about 2,500 feet down to the North and South Mowich Rivers. I took a quick break at the bottom, eating some snacks, then started the 2,500 climb back up to Golden Lakes.

This section of the trail was grueling. The trail climbed a steep series of switchbacks that had nothing on a StairMaster! I found a good rhythm getting up the mountain, but I sweat profusely during the climb despite the cool temperatures. Whenever I passed anyone going in the opposite direction, I'd cry out something to the effect, "For the love of God, please tell me the top is near!"

I put some real emotion into that cry, and it wasn't entirely faked. =) I was also more than willing to stop and talk to anyone who would give me an excuse to take a break from my climb. I could have rested at any time, but I felt compelled to keep pushing myself and not actually stop to rest until I reached the top or died--whichever came first. Unless I had someone to stop and talk to, then I was willing to take a short breather. =)

Two girls headed down the mountain stopped to talk. They didn't tell me their names, and I didn't ask for them, but I asked the usual questions about where they started from and how far they were going (started at Longmire and were planning to hike completely around the mountain).

I told them that I was headed to the North Puyallup Camp, and they said that there was a nice river just beyond it to watch the sun set or whatever. Almost all of the campsites on the Wonderland Trail are horrible, claustrophobic things, so I took the suggestion to heart. I'd check it out--definitely. Maybe I'd even eat dinner there if I liked it. =)

Just idle chit chat, and as we started to continue on in our separate directions, I made a passing comment about "see you on the other side of the mountain!"

The shelter at the South Mowich River camp. That would be a
nice place to set up camp during a rain storm!
In theory, we would almost certainly cross paths at some point on the other side of the mountain. In practice, it's more hit and miss. Maybe I'd be off on a side trail as they hiked by on the Wonderland Trail. Or maybe they'd be eating lunch at Sunrise and I decided to skip it pressing onward to camp. Or maybe they got into camp early in the afternoon and I'd walk passed their campground to the next one later in the day. There's a lot of ways you can pass people going in the opposite direction without knowing it, so I didn't really mean that I'd definitely see them on the other side of the mountain--just recognizing the possibility.

But the one girl seemed surprised at the thought. "Yeah, I guess we will!" The surprise in her voice kind of amused me. I guess she hadn't really thought about the logistics about how hiking completely around a mountain would work before. =) I wouldn't be the only person they may bump into--anyone hiking in my direction who started within a few days of when they started were distinct possibilities. But now I found myself really wanting to find them on the other side of the mountain. I wanted my "prediction" to become true. =)

I'd already left them behind and I started trying to figure out the math of where we would likely cross paths. I suppose if I thought fast enough, we could have compared permits and figured out exactly what day we would cross paths again. For all I knew, we might even be sharing a campground on the other side of the mountain on of those nights. But it was too late for that now, so I mentally started trying to think out where we would likely pass. I figured three days from now--I was hiking pretty fast at this point. Maybe four days if they were going slow. But three days would put me somewhere around Summerland, I figured. Perhaps a little sooner, perhaps a little later. Not a lot of side trails in that area to lose myself on, so as long as they weren't in a campground I passed by, the chances of meeting them on the trail were fairly good.

I continued my climb up the steep slope. If the steep slope wasn't exhausting enough, the overgrown sections of trail made it absolute misery. Although it still wasn't raining, the thick fog condensed on the plants and brush next to the trail which rubbed against my legs and shoes absolutely soaking them. The bottom half of my body looked like it had been rained on.

Crossing the South Mowich River on a footbridge.
It was miserable.

I finally climbed up the last switchback and the trail leveled out and started following a ridgeline. So easy to walk! In could practically run! Not with my pack on, but wow--it felt good to finish with that climb.

I continued on to Golden Lakes where there was a ranger cabin next to the trail. The cabin wasn't open and there didn't appear to be any rangers nearby, but the porch of the cabin was covered and dry and I immediately declared a long lunch break on it.

My topo map showed another five miles or so to my campsite for the night, which was all generally flat or downhill which meant I should be able to cover it very quickly. Looking at the time of day, I figured I could sit around and rest for a solid three hours and still make it to the North Puyallup Camp by 6:00. I'd been making excellent time! Part of the reason was because everything was so darned wet I didn't want to stop in it, but apparently I was healthier than I gave myself credit for too. =)

So I took off my shoes, ate snacks, kicked back, and read my Kindle. About an hour later, a father and son arrived coming from the opposite direction and we chatted for a bit.

Then I hear a patter against the roof. I looked up at the meadow and saw rain. A steady, constant rain. It wasn't a wet fog anymore--it was actual rain. That was the most dispiriting thing I'd seen all day. Ugh. I so did not want to hike in the rain.

I had gotten a bit bored sitting around the ranger cabin for about two hours and had been thinking of pushing on, but with the rain, I delayed my departure.

A half hour later, though, I was ready to keep going--rain or no rain. The rain had died to the slightest of drizzles. I wasn't even sure if it could be called a drizzle--it might have been really fat fog that was sinking towards the ground. It was still too wet for my taste, but nothing I could do about that now!

Remarkably, the further I walked, the more the clouds went away. I even saw my shadow peek out once!

It might not have been raining, but brushing up
against stuff like this was just as bad as rain!
When I reached the North Puyallup Camp, I immediately recognized it. I had stayed at this campsite before on my previous thru-hike of the Wonderland eight years earlier. After that much time, I didn't really remember which campsites I stayed at or what each one was like, so in a lot of ways I felt like I was hiking the trail for the first time. But I immediately recognized this site. I'd spent some time here.

I walked a bit passed the camp and the trail passed some impressive stone walls that were clearly once part of a long-abandoned road until it reached a small bridge crossing the North Puyallup River. The two girls were right--the view here was wonderful! And much nicer than the claustrophobic campground.

It still looked like it could rain, but it wasn't now and the rocks around the river had even mostly dried so I sat down in a dry area and started cooking dinner. I didn't want to linger with dinner, though--just in case it did start to rain again, I wanted dinner to be done!

Dinner was great, though. It didn't rain. But then I headed back to the campsite. I needed to set up camp before it started getting dark. With the thick clouds overhead, I expected darkness to descend much earlier than normal.

The campground and three campsites to it, and only one of the sites was already filled with about five or six guys. I chatted with them some, but none offered for me to pull up a proverbial chair so I continued deeper into the campground and set up camp. I really wanted to get my tarp up anyhow--just in case the rain started. It certainly looked like the rain could let loose and I should be prepared.

I hung my food bag on the bear pole--after asking the group of guys where the bear pole was. Somehow, I completely missed it at the front of the campground when I first walked in. "We did too," one of the guys told me. Ah, well, at least I wasn't the only person to suffer from temporary blindness. =)

One of the Golden Lakes.
A second time I chatted with them a bit, but once again, none of them suggested that I take a seat and join them, and after I ran out of idle chit chat, I headed back to my campsite, crawled into my sleeping bag under the tarp and started reading my Kindle. My day was done.

In completely unrelated news.... August is once again here, which means it's time for the annual Hike-a-Thon drive! Amanda and I are trying to raise money for the Washington Trails Association which does some great work building and maintaining trails in Washington state, and please, if you can help us out, even if it's just $5 or something, please do so! Sponsor us now!

This year, I've decided that anyone who sponsors me will be in the running to win an autographed copy of my book, A Tale of Two Trails about my exciting adventures on the West Coast Trail and Juan de Fuca Trail. For anyone that donates at least $40 to the cause, I'll send you a free autographed copy! The catch is.... you have to sponsor my page. Yeah, Amanda and I are a team, and everyone likes her more, but we also have separate accounts and I'll only be looking at those who donate under my account. So if you donate $40+, I'll mail you a free copy of my book. If you donate less than $40, I'll put all of your names into the proverbial hat and choose one at random who will get a free book. =)

That $40 also can give you a membership to the WTA which includes a subscription to the Washington Trails magazine. A book, a magazine subscription and all for a good cause--just $40! =)

The Sunset Park Patrol Cabin at Golden Lakes. I hung out under the porch for
about 2 1/2 hours where it was actually dry! =)

I leave the dryness of the patrol cabin for the uncertainty of the trail at large.
(You can't really see them very well, but the father and son I spent the better
part of an hour chatting with are hanging out under the porch as well.)

These impressive stone walls were obviously created for vehicular
traffic, although they are clearly no longer around this part of the trail.
I learned that the road to this point kept washing out. The cost of
continually having to fix the washouts eventually became to much
and they turned the old road into a hiking trail where things stand today.

North Puyallup River

The bridge over the North Puyallup River.

Cooking dinner on the side of the North Puyallup River.
Hamburger Helper--yum! =) Notice the rock my foot is on
has actually managed to dry on this otherwise very wet day!
(I'm also sitting on a dry section of the rock as well, even if I'm
cooking on a wet, dirt section.)

Home, sweet, home for the night! =)

1 comment:

Okie Dog said...

Yikes, that picture of the South Mowich river footbridge gave me vertigo just looking at it. That looks scary!