Sunday, September 15, 2013

Wonderland Trail: Day 4 Indian Bar - Snow Lake

Saturday 9/7
16.4 miles

The most exciting thing happened at 1:19 am. When I looked out the shelter doorway I saw stars. Honest to goodness stars and the outline of a ridge line covered in trees. I wanted to get up and shout but I figured the other 4 sleeping people might not appreciate that. So I sat there wide awake in my damp sleeping bag, plotting. How could I see the things I had missed, would the sky stay clear or was this all just a mean trick? Minutes ticked by and eventually I fell back asleep. Finally other people started stirring. I realize this may be my least favorite part of shelters, I was ready to get going but felt rude being noisy and waking people. I quietly (okay as quietly as possible with all the loud fabrics we backpackers favor) slipped out as it got light.

Freezing cold in wet shoes I stared at the valley I could finally see, mountains, trees, the raging river (okay I had seen that but it was way prettier when not in a cloud) and the pink touched mountains as the sun rose. I was in heaven.

I finally went back to my cozy bag, damp but way warmer than the freezing air. At some point the others started to get up and make breakfast. I packed an item or two at a time. Dryer but by no means dry and so incredibly filthy and cold that my hands could only take so much at once. The others laughed at me. Dave and Don were bailing on their trip at box canyon (only a few miles down the trail) and Steph and James were taking it slow. The trauma of the day before didn't seem to have quite worn off Steph yet but with only one night to go she decided to stick it out (They had started at Longmire so were almost done). I on the other hand had 15 plus miles planned and wanted to actually see the world!

So at 8 am I said my goodbyes and at the last possible minute put on my icy cold sopping wet shoes and socks. Through the wet grass and up the mountain I went, it was glorious. Grinning the whole way I quickly shed layers and within an hour was up on the Cowlitz Divide. Amazing views, at one point I turned around and couldn't believe how close Rainier looked, huge and majestic and finally visible! 

The creek/river at Indian Bar

One last look back

I saw a few other folks and after a mile or two the trail left the divide and headed downhill. I chattered excitedly to all the hikers I met and meandered down for ages. Very wet and forested, and no mountain views, but it wasn't raining and I was almost totally dry (the feet are just a lost cause right now).
Past the Nickel Creek Campsite and down to Box Canyon. Full of tourists but quite the cool creek, I managed to lose the trail sightseeing and after a quick detour through a tunnel I was back on track.

box canyon

More raging creeks as the trail went down, I gave myself the goal of Maple Creek Camp for lunch. By noon I was there and after finding a nice sunny spot I spread out a few things to dry and sat back. The lack of sleep was catching up to me and I was dragging. Clouds were gathering and back to the trail I went. Within a few minutes of getting back on the trail I ran into 3 guys heading the opposite direction. One has vague plans about hiking the PCT and suddenly almost an hour had passed and we realized we should probably get back to hiking. It was so much fun talking about the trail and the PCT I enjoyed it more than I realized.
Energized I started the climb, the roller coaster that is walking along a river commenced. Not to bad but a fair bit of rolling. Raging water and a waterfall or two and then the climbing began in earnest.

I finally hit the road and sat there staring at my map for a good 10 minutes. My campsite for the night was supposed to be Snow Lake, which I knew was 1.3 miles from the trailhead. The problem was that according to my map that trailhead doesn't actually link to the Wonderland trail. I dislike road walking and I was staring at a road with no shoulder and a fair bit of traffic. Another hiker came by and kindly let me look at her more detailed map but I learned nothing. I finally decided to head farther up the trail and backtrack down the road because it looked like a shorter distance on the actual road, plus I would have no trouble starting in the morning (since I knew where the trail restarted). I sped up the climb much to fast (silly ego, who cares if you are faster than the other hiker) and then down the road. It worked just fine and 1.3 very hilly miles later I made it to Snow Lake.

Literally two minutes after I had spread out every item I owned it started raining. Washington you almost broke me there, I had been doing great but rain you were supposed to be done and I so didn't want another endless wet night. Luckily it was short lived and the rest of the evening was spent doing basically nothing and hiding from mosquitoes. Tomorrow is a short day and I'll be going through Longmire which is pretty much a full service land of amenities in the park. I figure I'll kill a bunch of time there for fun. Hopefully learn some good weather news and probably grab some food that hasn't been smacked, rained on and generally mistreated for the last 4 days. So excited. 

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