Thursday, September 12, 2013

Wonderland Trail, Day 1 Mowich CG - Cataract Valley

I woke up cramped and disoriented. I grumbled about paying for a campsite I used for less than 6 hours but figured Karma's a bitch so I sucked it up and headed towards the park. The sun was blinding and with actual daylight I was able to get my first look at the park. I of course showed up over 30 minutes before the permit station opened but that was plenty of time to scope out where the heck everything was, Longmire is quite the village. Into the office I finally went flinching when I saw the posted weather report and crossing my fingers when I asked about a walk up Wonderland Trail trip. No worries the lovely ranger said, here's a map and here's what's already full the next few days. Well shoot that was more decision making than I actually wanted on very little sleep. I was hoping for a "oh, this is where you should go" moment. After staring for quite some time and realizing my two potential starting points of Longmire or Sunrise looked pretty impossible due to the surrounding sites being full the ranger took some pity on me. Most plans I had read about seemed to start at Longmire or Sunrise, although you can start at pretty much anywhere the road hits the trail (at least 6 or 7 options).  I hadn't even considered any of the other options.

not my itinerary but you get the idea

basically 4000-6000' elevation gain daily at a minimum
After the brilliant suggestion (really this turned out to be fantastic advice) to start at Mowich Lake Campground I was able to cobble together a 7 day trip. Clockwise or counter clockwise didn't matter much to me, there's burly climbs no matter which way you swing it. Clockwise ended up being the name of the game and once I had a starting point it was fairly easy, I even nabbed Indian Bar which is apparently one of the prime sites on the whole trail. I was warned that I had a few challenging days but I figured the low mileage ones evened those out and wasn't too worried. After assurances that my car would be fine on the dirt/gravel road to Mowich and getting directions for the 2 hour drive that would be required to get me there I took one more glance at the weather and headed out. Apparently I was in for thunderstorms that evening, heavy rain Thursday 9/4 and then clearing Friday. Heavy rain might be awful, but those weathermen always seem to be exaggerating anyhow. More crossed fingers...
An hour plus later I took the turnoff and headed onto a gravel road that wound up the mountain for what felt like ages. I sorted out 7 days of food, which I of course had not done yet and at 1130 finally started walking.
The Wonderland Trail has at least one alternate route that I had read was prettier than the official trail and that's exactly where I started. I only had 6.5 miles to go to get through the Spray Park alternate to my official campsite at Cataract Valley. The alternate isn't on the elevation profile and with only my free park map in hand (no topo on that thing) I basically had no clue what I was in for.
It didn't matter, it was so pretty the giant climb was insignificant because I took pictures about every two minutes.

first few forested steps

water absolutely everywhere

worthy side trip to falls 
I think this was my first view of spray park

Rainier hiding was soon to become a theme for the first half of my trip...

As the trail climbed up higher towards the ridge line I was treated to views of Rainier, wildflowers, huge mountains and mushrooms of all types. Not to shabby a start.

Once I reached the first plateau I think I had a grin plastered on my face for a good two hours.

Up and over, only a small bit of snow to navigate, and then down into the mist.

And it was quite the descent. Once I was enveloped by the clouds it was mostly mushrooms and flowers occupying my view.

I made it to my campsite nice and early. Set up my tent and proceeded to hide from the drizzle and nap. I eventually made friends with the other folks camping there but due to the weather it was a pretty quiet evening.

No comments:

Post a Comment