Monday, September 16, 2013

Wonderland Trail: Day 5 Snow Lake - Pyramid Creek

Snow lake - Pyramid Creek
11ish miles

I woke up early but tried to stay in bed a bit longer. With only 11 miles planned it seemed silly to get going crazy early. 
It was a fun time packing up, there's nothing like being the only person at a campsite. Unfortunately my shoes and tent were no where close to dry. Camping right next to large bodies of water is pretty much a recipe for massive condensation but I chose the scenic campsite and the belief in a sunny day. Wet feet regardless I could still see the sky so life was good. Plus Rainier felt like it was about two inches from my face, good job tricky afternoon clouds you hid that mountain well.

Even taking my time I left far too early, although I quickly ran into a day hiker and chatted for a good while so I almost made it to 8. I have yet to master the skill of sleeping in. The first few miles flew past, out to the road and back on the Wonderland trail. Only a bit of climbing and then I was in the reflection lakes area. Quite the tourist spot (even at 8 am) as it is directly on the road and very picturesque. 

And then it was all downhill to Longmire. Mostly following creeks complete with a few spectacular waterfalls and a very green forested tunnel. As I got closer the trail became wide and super easy. Quick fun miles. 

Mid morning and I had already made it to Longmire. It's pretty much a full service stop in Mt Rainier, there's a ranger station, a small store, an inn with a restaurant and even a museum although it was closed for the season. Plus a huge number of the park employees seem to live there so lots of employee housing and other mystery buildings. I had no desire to spend hours at camp alone and with only 3.5 miles to go to my planned campsite I figured I would kill most of the day hanging around and head out in the afternoon. 

My first stop was the rangers at the permit station. They were incredibly nice and answered all of my questions. I have a few things I'm contemplating but we'll see how the next few days go before I commit.
Longmire is one of the spots people cache food on the trail and the three lovely gentlemen I had met the day before mentioned they left quite the haul in the hiker box. So I checked that out as well. I have far to much food but I left with a few choice items regardless. I started off carrying seven days of food so a few extra items won't kill me. 
hiker box snacks
I checked out the store and the inn, stalling the few minutes before they opened for lunch and enjoyed a delicious meal. Warm berry cobbler with ice cream, why yes please. 

I then managed to kill over three hours with the rangers at the permit station after lunch. One was a former AT hiker from 07 and we talked gear and other nonsense. Hiker trash have a knack for trail gossip. Hanging out behind the Ranger station I learned far more than was probably safe for my life planning about backcountry rangers and medical staff in the parks. Along with CDT dreams I am now debating how to swing actually getting a backcountry job and then convincing my employers it's a genius idea to give me a leave of absence. Or maybe the Pacific Northwest Trail, or the Great Divide Trail and there's always New Zealand. There are just too many options out there!

I finally left and started the haul up the mountain. It was feeling pretty darn difficult. I had met 2 ladies who had bailed that day after that particular climb when their massive packs left them in doubt about their abilities. I looked at my watch when I reached the top and realized why it had felt hard, I was hauling my butt up that mountain pretty darn fast. Steep elevation gain and a fast pace for me, very satisfying. Hidden in the trees with only glimpses of surrounding ridges the trail quickly became less populated as I got farther from the trail head. 

The last 1.7 miles was just cruising. Down into a big glacier drainage, and up to the camp. I set up my gear and headed back to the creek where I sat in the icy cold water pretending it made me smell slightly less bad. 
Tomorrow could be pretty fun. It's supposed to be cloudy so I'm assuming that means no Mt Rainier  just like this afternoon but still dry so who cares. My original goal was on the shorter side, to Klapatche around 12 miles away. However after spending way too much time at the ranger station I was told if I felt like hauling to Golden Lakes I was more than welcome. It's 19 hard miles away but I'll admit I'm pretty drawn to the challenge, we shall see...

the sides of the glacier drainages are huge and crazy

I headed back to camp and then realized that while the mountain hadn't been visible there was a chance that the sunset could still be pretty darn great with all the clouds. So back I went yet again (I think I made the 1/4 miles trip well over 4 times). Sitting alone on a glacial creek I watched the mountain slowly re-materialize just in time for sunset. So good.

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