Wednesday, September 4, 2013

Day 7: To Summerland!

Box Canyon is only 14 feet wide at its narrowest,
about 180 feet deep!
I'd been looking forward to today. The last time I hiked the Wonderland Trail, the section between Summerland and Indian Bar was my absolute favorite section of the entire trail, and I'd be covering that section this afternoon. Well above tree line with incredible views--which sounds like all of Mount Rainier, I know, but this section seemed to bring it to an entirely new level.

So I was feeling pretty good when I woke up in the morning. I'd have a lot of trees to get through at first and a long, steep climb to get above treeline, but the views would totally be worth the effort!

Not a whole lot actually happened today, though. I saw very few people on the trails--but that did include the two girls I first saw while climbing the steep slope on the other side of the mountain. I had guessed that I'd be most likely to pass them somewhere around Summerland, give or take, and I wound up seeing them again a few miles short of there near Panhandle Gap. I also learned that there names were Liz and Anne and it was fun to catch up on our respective war stories. They had stopped to eat at Sunrise earlier in the day and I asked about the burgers there. Last time I did the Wonderland, I was absolutely disgusted by their hamburgers--a rubbery, awful thing that McDonalds would have been embarrassed to serve. And I was thru-hiking the Wonderland Trail! That says a lot right there--it would not have been difficult to make a good burger.

But the girls assured me that their burgers were delicious. Hmm.... maybe..... It was eight years earlier that I last ate there. Things could have certainly changed since then, but these were now the second group of people that gave the burgers two thumbs up. I might have to give the place a second chance.

They also warned me to keep an eye out for mountain goats that they had seen near Panhandle Gap, which I certainly did! But I never did see any of the darned goats. *sigh* I'm sure they were out there, but I didn't see them this time around. (I did see them at Summerland the last time I hiked the Wonderland Trail, though.)

And, they told me, there was a fat, friendly marmot further up the trail I should watch out for. I was skeptical that a marmot would stay in place so long that I'd see it, but they're adorable little things. I'll certainly keep my eyes out for them. They're quite common to see out here already.

We chatted some more and I told them about the food cache in the bear canister I had stashed near Sunrise, to which they complimented me on what a great idea that was.

"It's only a great idea if the bear canister is still there when I go to look for it tomorrow!" I told them. "If I can't find it, then you would be saying what a stupid idea it was!" =)

They laughed. I did have a valid point, after all. =) If I couldn't find that bear canister where I stashed it a week earlier, my hike might be coming to a premature end as early as tomorrow.

For most of the day, the weather stayed overcast and didn't look good. I still hadn't looked at a weather forecast since before I started my trip a week earlier, but it was only predicting a 10% chance of rain at the time so I didn't worry too much about it. Maybe there would be a light sprinkle, I supposed, but surely nothing horrible.

Evidence of glaciers could be found everywhere....
including the rock you are standing on! =)
I stopped at the shelter at Indian Bar for lunch--what fantastic views from there! This would be a leisurely 15-mile day hike for me so I hung out for a couple of hours there relaxing. At one point, a light drizzle did start--although "drizzle" might actually be too strong of a term. More like a few drops of rain, but it was enough to surprise me and take precautions to put all of my gear into plastic bags that I needed to keep dry.

Panhandle Gap is the highest point on the Wonderland Trail, which normally would be a milestone of sorts, I suppose, except I had exceeded it by about 500 feet while hiking around the Skyline Trail the afternoon before. It might be the high point of the Wonderland Trail, but it wasn't the high point of my hike.

As I descended down from Panhandle Gap to Summerland, I met a ranger on the way up who asked to see my permit. No surprise there, but then he did surprise me when he asked if I'd be willing to share the group site with a father and son who were hiking together. Apparently, the main computer that handled reservations at Longmire had gone down the but computer at White River didn't get that message and continued issuing permits causing a number of double-bookings to happen.

Yeah, sure, I had no problem sharing a group site with two other people, but I couldn't help but find the situation ridiculous. Out of 7 nights so far, I'll have spent 3 of them in group sites now--none of which had been on my permit! And 3 of my 7 nights on the trail, I'll have wound up in a campground where--when I arrived--all of the campsites I was permitted to use would be full. Good grief, this whole permitting system was seriously a huge, inconenvient joke.

The group site at Summerland has one of the few shelters found on the trail, so I was rather pleased that, in the unlikely event it did start to rain overnight, I could just camp out inside the shelter and stay dry, and I was a little annoyed to see that the father and son I'd be sharing the site with felt it was a good idea to set up their stupid tent in the shelter. HELLO?!!!!

Which way is north?
It was so utterly stupid to set up the tent in the shelter. If the bugs were bad, I might understand, but they weren't bad. There weren't any bugs at all flitting around and the father and son were sitting around outside enjoying the view. It certainly wasn't to keep them dry from the rain--the shelter is kind of designed for that purpose. Why the heck did they put up their stupid tent in the shelter? It filled practically the whole shelter! And the entrance for the tent was on the side of the shelter which meant the one, small section of the shelter it didn't fill was needed so they could get in and out of their tent.

Good grief. Inconsiderate bastards. Well, you can't blame the young boy for that. Obviously, that was dear old dad's responsibility. I had just as much right to use the shelter as these two did. They had started their Wonderland Trail hike from White River just that afternoon and I had little doubt if the computer at Longmire hadn't gone down, they wouldn't be camped at this campground at all.

I wasn't actually too upset at them, though. I still didn't really think it would rain and, so long as it didn't rain, I'd just as soon sleep out under the stars (or under the dark clouds, as the case may be) than in the shelter. The principle of the thing kind of bothered me, though. It was an awfully presumptuous and inconsiderate thing to do. If they did that in a shelter on the AT, that would have been a hanging offense.

I laid out my ground sheet with a terrific view down a canyon and cooked dinner as the sun set. It had been a nice day.

The dad and son retired to go to sleep, and I started to get ready to curl up with my Kindle and do the same when I felt the first drops of rain. Ugh.

It was just a few random drops, though, and undoubtedly nothing to worry about, but I set up my tarp anyhow. I didn't want even a few drops of rain to get my gear wet, and--heaven forbid--what if it did get worse?

The Wonderland Trail crosses this road
just above that tunnel, then loops around
a bridge (not in this photo) across Box Canyon.
I got off the Wonderland Trail briefly here
to check out the views and read the signs
around the Box Canyon trailhead.
So I set up the tarp. It wasn't an optimal setup and would be genuinely problematic in a heavy rainstorm due to drainage issues, but for a light rain, it would be fine.

I crawled into bed, read my Kindle a bit, then went to sleep.

And a couple of hours later, the rain really started coming down. Hard. Way too hard!

I turned on my light and checked the tarp, finding a large pool of water forming in indentations at both ends of it, held in place only because the weight of the water was so heavy, it pulled my tarp down until it actually rested on the ground.

That was so not good.... I could prod the fabric so the pool of water flowed off the edge of the tarp, but my problem with that idea was that it was the uphill side of the tarp. That much water flowing off the uphill side of the tarp would drain right down under the middle of the tarp. I looked back at the shelter, still full with that stupid tent, and seethed in anger. Now was the time I was ready to make a run for the shelter--if it hadn't been so full from that stupid tent which wasn't even keeping them dry. If they wanted to use their tent so bad, they should be the ones camped where I was.

In the meantime, though, I still needed to do something about the growing pools of water forming on my tarp. I used a stake to create a small berm around the uphill side of the tarp with the loose dirt, then pushed the pool of water hard towards the end of the tarp rather than the uphill side of it. The majority of the water I did manage to fling off the end of the tarp, but a good portion still flowed over the side and started to drain directly under the tarp where I predicted it would. The berm of dirt helped, and I frantically built up the berm further and tried to draw the water sideways around from under the tarp. It worked for the most part, but immediately a new pool of water started to form on the tarp. It was a delaying action at best.

I did the same thing with the second pool of water at the other end of the tarp, the one closer to my head, and pulled all of my gear deeper under the tarp. The water that did managed to flow under the tarp at that end only did so where my head had been rather than down the middle of the tarp, so it wasn't as problematic. Just pull my head deeper under the tarp.

I then strung out the side of the tarp with rope. I usually only secure the corners and ends of the tarp and leave the sides along except in strong winds. The winds weren't very strong, but I figured stringing it out tight might help pull more tension into the fabric and reduce the pools of water that were forming in it.

Then I tried to go back to sleep. I didn't sleep well, though, knowing that new pools of water were probably forming on the tarp again. Another hour later, I checked them again, and emptied the pools.

Argh! Then I tried to go back to sleep again. It would be a long, restless night....


Wildflowers near Indian Bar.

The skies had definitely turned dark, but I was optimistic that
rain was not in the forecast. Oh, how wrong I would be....

I stopped at this viewpoint for about an hour to snack and admire the view. =)

The trail leading down to Indian Bar Camp. The shelter near the
bottom of the photo is the group site for the campground, and
Indian Bar is one of the nicest Wonderland Trail campgrounds
you'll find! =) I stopped for a two-hour lunch at the shelter.
Because, come on, the views from there were awesome!

The shelter at Indian Bar.

Wildflowers overlooking Indian Bar.

I took this panoramic photo by stitching together eight separate photos. I took it near the top of the steep
climb coming out from Indian Bar Camp. (If you look at the original stitched-together photo, you can even
see the shelter as a small dot--but it's not visible in this shrunk down photo.)

Liz and Anne, who I first crossed paths with on the other
side of Mount Rainier. They warned me to watch out for
mountain goats and that the burgers at Sunrise would be delicious. =)

That's Mount Adams in the distance. Despite the ugly clouds,
visibility was actually still surprisingly good!
Panhandle Gap--that gap in the hill straight ahead--is the highest point
of the Wonderland Trail.

Patches of snow on the other side of Panhandle Gap was rather sketchy in places,
such as this one. Sliding down this snow bank probably wouldn't kill me,
but I could imagine that a few broken bones wouldn't have been out of the question.

This marmot didn't seem at all camera shy! I suspect this might
have been the marmot Liz and Anne warned me I might see.

Oh, for crying out loud..... Very bad shelter etiquette!

1 comment:

Anne Bonny said...

What the...?? Why even...? I am not a hiker in the sense that anyone hiking would need this sort of equipment is a hiker. That being said however, even I know, you don't do something like that! Dumb!