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The Wonderland Trail: Part II

Volume 63: Sat September 17, 2005

At Sunrise, the fog came in fast and heavy!

A short account of Rick and Ryan's gallant attempt to thru-hike the Wonderland Trail around Mount Rainier continued

August 1

I woke up very early this day. Must have been around five in the morning and a very loud alarm clock brought me to consciousness. Yes, Rick—a.k.a. Pretty Boy—brought an alarm clock. The dork! I grumbled and went back to sleep. Rick got up and was on the trail before it was finally late enough to justify my getting up.

I had been planning to get up early anyhow—just not quite as early as Rick! Since Rick's knee was hurting, our plan was to hike into Sunrise—our first civilization since we started the trail—by around 7:30 when the Wilderness Information Center at Longmire opened. I'd try calling and see about getting our permit changed to give Rick a couple of extra days to rest.

I woke to clear skies, but by the time I left camp I could see dark, ominous-looking clouds slipping over Mount Rainier. The trail this day was pretty easy—a few hundred feet of elevation gain and a whopping five or so miles into Sunrise. Having done this section the year before, I was sorely disappointed with the lack of views. The fog dropped visibility to, at best, a quarter of a mile. I hoped Rick had a chance to see the amazing views before the fog caught up to him since it was his first time through this area.

Sadly, I didn't get any of the stunning views of Mount Rainier on the hike to Sunrise like one normally would

The hike went quickly, and I arrived in Sunrise just after 7:30. I saw no sign of Rick—okay, I saw no sign of anybody—which was odd since he was supposed to be ahead of me. The last mile or two, however, a couple of side trails off the Wonderland also led to Sunrise, so I surmised that Rick must have taken an alternate trail and I passed him by staying on the Wonderland. He'd be around soon, though.

Sunrise, clearly, had not yet come to Sunrise. Nobody was moving around. The visitor's center had yet to open. The parking lot was weirdly empty of vehicles. Even the squirrels didn't appear to be up yet—a fate I wished upon myself.

I called Amanda and my mom from the dreaded Phone of Failure with the happy news that this trip, it was the Phone of Success. =) We reached our first major check-in point and my health—knees included—was excellent! Of course, I also explained the same couldn't be said for Rick, though he wasn't ready to call it quits either.

While talking with Mom, Rick wandered up. Turns out he was at Sunrise the whole time—he'd just been using the restrooms. Flush toilets! It's an exciting thing when you haven't used one for several days.

We called the park's information line and got the number for the Wilderness Information Center at Longmire, which I then called.

I explained the predicament with Rick's knee and wanting to slow down our pace. Our first option—taking a zero day at Sunrise Camp—I wasn't very optimistic about. I really wanted it to work out—it would give me a whole day to hike around the Sunrise area on some non-Wonderland Trails I really wanted to see—but our next campsite was at Summerland. Summerland was an extremely popular campground that's almost impossible to get without a LOT of advanced notice. We crossed our fingers that perhaps somebody unexpectedly canceled their reservation for the day after we were originally scheduled, but alas, that was not the case. A zero day at Sunset was not in the deck.

Cairns marked the trail over the rocky areas

Our second idea for slowing down the pace a bit included an extra stop on the southern side of Mount Rainier. This one I felt pretty certain could be easily accomplished—none of the especially popular campgrounds would be of concern, and our scheduled itinerary wouldn't deviate for another three days. This is a good thing. Because Mount Rainier saves 40% of the backcountry campsites for walk-in reservations, there's almost always room at a campsite as long as it's several days in the future. But alas, the gods of luck had deserted us. One of the campsites we needed five days out was already full!

I couldn't believe it. I hung up and told Rick the bad news. Our original schedule is what we'd have to stick with. On the plus side, Sunrise Camp was only a mile or so away, and that was our site for the night. An easy, six-mile hike for the day. His knee won't even realized it hiked!

By now, the visitor's center opened, so Rick and I went in to check things out. We also got the weather report which included a "chance of showers" later in the evening and perhaps the next day as well, but clear for the rest of the week.

"Just as well today was a short day," I told Rick. "It's not like there are any views to see!"

Rick picked up some postcards to send to friends and family. He also admired the relief map of Mount Rainier—a 3-D map with the Wonderland Trail clearly marked and the steep ups and downs along the route. I pointed out where we'd be camping each night.

Done with the visitor's center, we next headed to the ranger station to pick up the first of our two food drops. Two other hikers were already there, though their food drops, most unfortunately, were not. They had dropped off their food drop elsewhere on the mountain and the park service was supposed to move it to Sunrise a few days before but somehow overlooked it. The ranger called down to where their food drop actually was located. I could hear the other end of the conversation where they told the ranger they'd bring it up and it would arrive in about an hour.

The ranger turned to the two, starving hikers and told them, "The food drop will arrive in about an hour and a half."

That cracked me up. I heard what he was told, and it wasn't an hour and a half. =) Somehow, I got the feeling this wasn't the first time the NPS botched a food drop delivery.

Happily, our own food drop was right there on the floor, my having dropped it off personally a few days before.

Sunrise, our first civilization on the Wonderland Trail!

Rick and I took it outside where we took off the lid and WOAH! It reeked of alcohol! The water bottle I filled with denatured alcohol for Rick leaked enough to give our all of our food a nice, denatured alcohol taste. Yum. Rick took one bite out of his Hostess pies then threw the rest into the trash with disgust.

A maintenance guy walked up to us to chat. I think he gets lonely, because he must have stuck to us like glue the entire time we were going through the food drop. And he told us a lot of really awful jokes. I faked a chuckle or two to be nice, but those jokes just weren't very funny. Right up there with why the chicken crossed the road. The kind of joke where, when he gets to the punchline, you aren't sure if that was really supposed to be the punchline. Should you fake a laugh now? What if the punchline is still ahead? I'd look pretty dumb pretending to laugh before he reached the punchline. But if that was the punchline, I'd look pretty cold-hearted if I didn't at least pretend to be amused by it.

It was a very thin line I was treading, and I kept hoping the maintenance guy would leave us alone. He didn't.

Just another signpost to the meaning of life

He also told us the fine for picking flowers was $100. Not that either of us were picking flowers, but I think he liked to impress us with his vast knowledge of the area. I was kind of curious about how much picking flowers would cost—I always knew it was illegal to pick flowers in a national park, but I didn't know anyone who'd ever gotten in trouble for it. Rangers at Mount Rainier hand out tickets to those evil flower pickers, however, or give them to parents who let their kids pick flowers.

"That's a nice hundred dollar bill your little girl has!" he told to such a father. The father, the maintenance guy explained, didn't get the 'joke' so he explained that if a ranger caught the girl with the flowers, he'd get a hundred dollar fine. He's just the maintenance guy, though—he doesn't give out tickets—he told us. The father made his little girl get rid of the flowers. (As an aside, you can't really distinguish a 'maintenance guy' from a true-blue 'ranger' since they wear the same uniform.)

After filling up our packs with the food drop, we said goodbye to the maintenance guy and headed into the restaurant for some real food. Or at least food that hadn't been dehydrated and still had some real substance to it. I ordered the bacon cheese burger with fries that set me back $7.23. It's an insane amount for that terrible piece of food, but darn it, I wanted civilized food!

I took the Sourdough Trail back to Sunrise Camp, which did have small pockets of views, though a clearer day would have been much appreciated! This photo overlooks White River Canyon, which we'd be hiking down into the next day

The year before, I remembered ordering a chili cheese dog and thinking it was the most wonderful tasting food I'd ever had. Clearly, I had not been on the trail long enough before I ordered this bacon cheese burger. It tasted like crap—and that's saying a lot when you can say that about 'real food' after coming off the trail! At least both Rick and I had the foresight to include a soda with our food drop, so we didn't have to buy the overpriced stuff at the restaurant.

A bus load of old people filed in and filled up the rest of the tables. I read Selecciones, the Spanish version of the Reader's Digest, while Rick wrote out his postcards. Neither of us was anxious to hike into camp. It was only a mile away, threatening to rain, and pretty darned cold outside to boot! May as well kill our time in civilization where we could be warm and comfortable.

As one of the old people left, they offered us an extra can of Diet Pepsi he had left. Okay.... We said thanks, sounded somewhat animated, then left it on the table—unopened—when we finally left ourselves.

When we were finally ready to call it quits, I decided to take the scenic route to Sunrise Camp along the Sourdough Trail. On a clear day, the views from it are nothing short of breathtaking. On a day like today, I hoped for an occasional breathtaking view between breaks in the fog. And I did get a couple, but nothing that could match a clear day. Rick, with his hurting knee, took the most direct route into camp.

The water source at Sunrise Camp had a lot to be desired, though it was scenic in an eroded kind of way =)

Sunrise Camp, as it turns out, doesn't have a good drinking source. Just a small, stagnant lake with no water flowing into or out of it. We did not realize this before we arrived and didn't think to bring any extra water from Sunrise with us. It's not the kind of water source you want to drink out of—especially if one didn't bring any options to filter or purify one's drinking water. Like me.

Rick and I with our tarps set up at Sunrise Camp

I boiled water.

Being such a cold day, I was a bit concerned I'd be uncomfortably cold that night and did something I never did before—I pulled out my emergency blanket for extra warmth. I guess it worked well enough—I stayed plenty warm during the night, but every time I'd roll over or move, it sounded like rain hitting my tarp. Rick told me later that he was sure it was raining at some point during the night, but no, it never did rain. Just lots of fat fog, dew, and an emergency blanket to recreate the calming sounds of rain hitting the tarp. =)

August 2

Rick once again woke up before sunrise while I lounged around in my sleeping bag until the sun was getting up. Fortunately, this time, Rick's alarm clock wasn't used to wake us up.

Starting the day's hike with wildlife

Eventually I got myself up, ate some breakfast, packed up camp, and continued down the Wonderland Trail. I waited until the first creek crossing before replenishing my water supply since I wanted to avoid consuming the water at Sunrise Camp. Just as I reached the creek, I saw a buck. With antlers and everything. We stared at each other for a bit, then he went back to eating grass in the nearby meadow. I pulled out my camera and tried to take a few pictures before he retreated out of view.

Filled up with water, I continued my trek. Today, the trail dropped dramatically a couple thousand feet down towards White River Canyon. One girl I passed going the other direction—near the top probably not five or ten minutes after I had refilled my water—I encouraged saying she was almost there! Almost!

"Yeah, that's what the last person told me over an hour ago!" Then, quickly adding, "Am I really almost to the top?"

I laughed and decided not to tell her that that was probably my brother-in-law she passed promising the top was near. And explained that yes, the top was, in fact, not far at all. I hadn't been hiking downhill for more than about five minutes at the time.

We compared notes and I found out she was also a thru-hiker—visiting from Indiana—and she started from Longmire. There was a good chance I'd pass her again on the other side of the mountain so when we went our own ways, I said goodbye with, "See you on the other side of the mountain!" Turned out I did see her on the other side of the mountain several days later, though we hardly recognized each other with all the dirt and grime we'd collected by then. =)

The view from the campsite at White River Canyon and where Rick ate breakfast

At the bottom of White River Canyon stands the White River Campground, a place for car-campers to become one with nature. It's an excellent place to stop for a break. Picnic tables and benches to sit on everywhere! Trash cans to throw out any extra weight. I didn't have much trash to throw out since I chucked all of it the day before at Sunrise, so I sat down and ate some snacks. Then threw the left over trash away.

I assumed Rick stopped to eat breakfast here, as well, though I didn't see him by the time I reached the campground. Rick likes to hike out on an empty stomach and find a nice, scenic place to eat breakfast. Unlike myself who likes to eat before doing anything else in the morning. I wake up hungry and the beast must be fed!

That delicate-looking bridge would get us safely across the White River

Having done all I could do at the campground, I continued on the trail and did finally catch up with Rick at Frying Pan River. Pretty Boy was lounging in the shade of a large tree trying to nap. I sat down on a log nearby where we told each other of our non-adventures since we parted ways earlier in the morning. Yes, as I suspected, Rick had cooked breakfast at the campground.

While resting there by the creek, four young boys, overloaded with teetering packs that seemed to slide down their backs, hiked past. One poor guy even had an empty—at least I hoped it was empty—milk jug hanging off his pack. These guys, clearly, had very little experience backpacking. They looked like they could have been high-school students, and their packs were training for an Everest expedition. And they looked exhausted.

I also knew, they hadn't been hiking for long. I'd been making very good time on the trail and I could walk circles around these guys. They must have just gotten on at the trailhead a mile or two back.

"You're almost there!" I encouraged them. I always try to be encouraging. =)

"How do you know where we're going?"

"Well, I don't," I answered honestly. But having thru-hiked the Appalachian Trail, anywhere in Mount Rainier National Park was 'almost there' in my book. "But that's the beauty of it—it doesn't matter where you're going! You're still almost there!"

They shook their heads, perhaps in pity of lack of understanding. "Okay," I continued, "Where are you hiking to?"

Wildflowers were in abundance around Summerland Camp!

"Nickel Creek!" one of them replied with a half-hearted grin, continuing his slow saunter down the trail.

I smiled. "You're almost there!"

When they got out of hearing distance, I turned to Rick. "You don't think they mean Nickel Creek is their destination tonight, do you?"

"It sounds like that's what they meant."

I shook my head. "They're screwed! There's no way in hell they're going to make it to Nickel Creek with those heavy packs! And tonight?!"

Surely, they meant, they'd be camping at Summerland or Indian Bar tonight, then get off the trail tomorrow at Nickel Creek. I wasn't even sure *I* could have made it to Nickel Creek that night if I had to—and I was in much better shape with a much lighter pack to boot.

Rick continued his nap and I continued my hike. It didn't take long before I caught up to the four boys again, and this time I asked about their destination that night.

"Nickel Creek."

Woah. That was a long way off! They explained that when they tried to get permits, Summerland and Indian Bar were already full, so they decided they'd just hike through all the way to Nickel Creek. They had two nights at Nickel Creek. Their ultimate goal was Longmire over four days.

"Well, you guys are going to need that day of rest after you make it into camp at Nickel Creek tonight!"

I tried to sound optimistic to them, but frankly, I thought the chances of them making it to Nickel Creek were probably slightly worse than winning the lottery. Dumb kids have no idea what they've gotten themselves into.

I said goodbye and continued up the trail, leaving the boys in the dust—figuratively and literally.

Some of the dramatic scenery near Summerland

The rest of the hike went well and the last mile or so came out into some beautiful flower-filled meadows with towering views of Mount Rainier dominating the skyline and incredible views over the canyon we just hiked out of. Summerland Camp, I had been told by more than one person, is perhaps the most scenic, most amazing, and most coveted campsite in the entire National Park. I was not to be disappointed!

The shelter at Summerland Camp

Additionally, this campsite also had a shelter—the first of only two I'd see on the entire trail. I stopped at it first—it was nearer the trails than the individual campsites. Sadly, however, the shelter was the group site, and I would not be permitted to stay in it that night for old time's sake. =(

Reaching camp so early in the afternoon, I hadn't even had lunch yet. It was a little late for lunch, but not really dinner either, but I whipped up a batch of Hamburger Helper, and set my tarp over at a campsite precariously balanced near the edge of a sheer cliff.

Rick finally wanders into camp a few hours later saying those four boys we saw earlier were resting at the shelter. I was stunned. They hadn't even gotten past Summerland yet and they still hoped to reach Nickel Creek tonight?! When were they going to realize it wasn't going to happen. Start planning for contingencies!

Rick figured they'd slink off somewhere on the trail to Indian Bar and try to stealth camp between sites. I shook my head and said no, that wasn't going happen. They were too green. They didn't even know the meaning of term stealth camp. They'd be too scared camping out in the middle of nowhere by themselves. Nope. My guess is they'd hike into Indian Bar, probably well after sunset, then try to crash at somebody else's site for the night under the protective flag that it would be too dark to continue on. Pretty Boy stuck to his stealth camp theory, I assume, because that's what he would have done had he been in their situation.

Okay, I was fascinated by the old, dead tree in front of the shelter

We met a fellow hiker who was also a former ranger at the park who warned us of a bridge being out at the North Payallup River. But not to worry because we wouldn't have to deal with it until our last day on the trail.

Now that ticked me off. I explicitly asked that ranger when I picked up the permit if there were any trail conditions I should be aware of—anything that might be a problem along the way. First he wasn't helpful providing information about the bugs at Granite Creek campground, and NOW he didn't tell me about a friggin' BRIDGE having washed away over a major river crossing?! I so wanted to go down to that ranger station and slug the dumbass ranger that issued my permit. He had to be the most incompetent ranger I've ever dealt with in my life.

He also warned us that there have been a lot of bear sightings near this camp, so be sure to hang our food. Rick joked about the bear poles not being very high, and the former ranger admitted that it wasn't to keep bears away from food so much as it was to keep the chipmunks, squirrels, and other smaller animals away from food. A bear could probably push the pole over or stretch high enough to get the bags hanging from it if it had a mind to. Fortunately, bears had not become problems at Mount Rainier and more stringent measures to keep bears from food hadn't been necessary.

Well isn't that good to know. =)

By now, I was ready for my second dinner—mashed potatoes that Rick looked at with scorn. "That's not a meal! It's an appetizer!" I ignored him—I'd already had a BIG helping of Hamburger Helper which was still digesting quite nicely.

Rick, reading his book by the dying light of the sun

A non-former ranger came by camp to check our permits and warned us of the bear nearby.

We also found out from some other hikers that a large herd of bighorn sheep were on the trail up ahead. Rick and I immediately took off to a vantage point at the shelter where we could see the bighorn sheep—probably about 50 of them—moving around the cliffs above us. We were enthralled. Watching those animals move around such sheer cliffs with such grace and ease is an amazing thing to see. At best, from our vantage point, we could only see the white dots moving around the background. Details were sparse, but even this far-off view was a thrilling experience.

While admiring the bighorn sheep at the shelter, we also met the shelter's guests for the night—a group of four people from Southern California. Rick and I didn't realize it just then, but we'd be seeing a whole lot more of these folks on the trip. They started at Mowich Lake the same day as us and were thru-hiking the Wonderland Trail in the same direction as us, and would be getting off at Mowich Lake the same day we'd be getting off. It was rather remarkable we hadn't crossed paths for the first time until that night at Summerland.

We said goodbye to the group not yet knowing how much more we'd be seeing them in the future. =) Then headed back to our individual site where we told funny stories of Bob, my step-dad and Rick's... step-dad-in-law? He died about a month before, and we laughed the rest of the night away about his crazy mis-adventures over the years. (Most notably, the day Bob and Rick sank in a small boat in Lake Lopez, but that's another story....) I'm sure we had to have annoyed some other campers at another individual site with our out-of-control laughing, but we didn't really care at the time. =)

This was our water source at Summerland Camp. Just a bummer, huh? ;o)

August 3

Rick, naturally, was up before the sun. I took my time and slept in late yet again. The mountain wouldn't be going anywhere! Despite my tardy departure from camp—I think I may have even been the VERY last person of all the people who camped at Summerland to leave—I was really looking forward to the day. Allegedly, if the rumors were true, the next section of trail would be the most spectacular of the entire trail. At the very least, it would definitely be the highest of the trail peaking out somewhere near 7,000 feet above sea level. (Only halfway to the top, a cynic might say!)

Summerland rests above tree level, and the trail just went up from there. I passed the ranger who checked our permit the night before, who was doing a bit of trail maintenance. She didn't check the permit again, though it did take her awhile to remember me from the night before. "Weren't you hiking with a partner?"

More like camping with one—the hikes are largely by ourselves. Then I explained his penchant for getting up before sunrise and eating breakfast an hour or so out of camp. Which we both agreed seemed pretty strange.

The trail up to Panhandle Gap crossed pockets of snow to the highest point on the Wonderland Trail

I said goodbye and continued up towards Panhandle Gap—the highest point on the Wonderland Trail. The trail crossed a couple of small patches of snow though I'm happy to report the experience wasn't nearly as harrowing as that patch of snow at Paradise when I was driving around the mountain to deliver the food drops.

Still photos didn't do well capturing the beauty of Panhandle Gap, so I tried to capture it with his 15-second movie

The last ten feet up Panhandle Gap were the most incredible of the entire trip. The ridge blocks the view in that direction until those last ten feet, then a view stretching all the way to Oregon bursts into view. Mount Adams burst into view, along with large meadows bursting with flowers lining the canyon down Mount Rainier. There was lots of bursting! Talk about a grand entrance—this clever section of trail had to be designed for maximum impact! God's country. I never really liked that phrase—as if God would create this land but he had nothing to do with the wretched places that might be found elsewhere—but that was the phrase that came to mind. Heaven could have never looked so beautiful.

And I was the only person for miles around. It seemed remarkable—that entire view, all to myself. It was emotional, too. Grabs your heart, makes you feel happy to be alive, and like the luckiest person alive to be right there, at that location, at that moment.

Who thought to give it such a generic name as Panhandle Gap?

I punched my fist into the air and shouted gleefully. "YEEEESSSSS!!!!!" It probably looked pathetic. I was kind of surprised at the unexpected echo. So I shouted some more. "Hello, World! Hello, God! Hello, Everybody! Wooo-whooo!!!!"

Wearing myself out, I finally sat down on a nearby bolder and gazed at the view again but with a bit more dignity. Wow.

My picture at Panhandle Gap

That's me, in the flesh and blood! Notice the tennis shoes I use to hike with. =)

I couldn't imagine ever getting tired of that view. I started taking pictures. Dozens of them. Then a thought occurred to me—I needed a picture of myself. This was something of a challenge since I didn't have someone else to take the picture for me, so I settled on taking a picture of my shadow instead. It would have to do.

On second thought, I also took a picture of my leg. That way, I'd have at least one picture of my flesh and blood (figuratively speaking about the blood, of course) at such a momentous occasion.

Later, I was vastly disappointed with most of the pictures I took at Panhandle Gap. Nothing I tried could capture that bigger than life feeling—certainly no still photo. So I tried one thing I didn't do anywhere else on the hike: I used the 'movie' option on the digital camera. This is a big file, about 3.21 megabytes in size, but if you want to see it, view the 15-second Panhandle Gap Movie. Keep in mind, the camera shrinks everything—it's still a huge disappointment compared to the real deal!

Then I sat and watched the view some more. I just couldn't take it all in. The only thing that got me going—eventually—was knowing how many more amazing views like this must be lurking ahead on the trail.

Until I reached Panhandle Gap, I was largely hiking in the early morning sun or even in shade from the ridge that makes up Panhandle Gap. At Panhandle Gap, however, I was directly in the sun and the temperature got noticeably warmer. Not hot, but definitely warmer. And knowing most of the day I'd be above tree line, I took out the sunscreen and applied it liberally. Then I took out my umbrella and continued my hike.

Sadly, this was probably the best picture I got from Panhandle Gap. The rest I took I can't bear to show since I don't think it gives the place nearly the credit it deserves!

Yes, my umbrella. When you're hiking in the sun, an umbrella provides great sun protection for the face, and allows the wind to run through your hair instead of wearing a large, floppy, but constricting hat. Today, it was time to use the umbrella.

The scenery didn't let up until I reached Indian Bar Camp. It was still amazing scenery—don't get me wrong—but the highlight of the trail was definitely the section between Summerland and Indian Bar.

At Indian Bar, I caught up with two hikers carrying a pink flamingo. That's something I can respect. Hair gel, I don't really get, but a pink flamingo has hundreds of possible uses miles in the middle of nowhere from signaling for help in an emergency to taking lots of gag photos—mostly for gag photos, in fact, as they had carefully set up the pink flamingo on a small bridge crossing a creek. I thumped my forehead—I should have brought my chicks! What a bonehead I am. Those chicks don't weight two ounces and I neglected to bring them along. Oh, well, at least I could take pictures of the pink flamingo crossing the bridge. =)

This is Penguin, the pink flamingo I met on the trail

I asked the two guys about the pink flamingo and if they had a website such as pinkflamingo.com where they post photos of their flamingo. Alas, that is not the case. What a shame, because I think that's a brilliant idea myself. =) They also told me the flamingo's name was Penguin—to confuse people more than anything else. As a side note, I checked that domain after returning home just to see if somebody else might have created such a domain for silly photos of pink flamingos—not exactly, the site sells erotic stories and novels! But if you happen to check my browsing history and are wondering about that, that's the reason! Honest! Just looking for silly pink flamingo photos! =)

"Okay," one of them said to the other, "I think Penguin has been out there long enough. Let's bring him back."

The shelter at Indian Bar Camp was my favorite so far. I imagined sleeping in front of it with nothing but a moonlit Mount Rainier dominating the foreground and a sea of stars laid out across the sky. The night-time view at this location had to be nothing short of stunning, and I was disappointed I wouldn't have the opportunity to camp at this site. =(

I ate some snacks and continued on my way where I come across an elderly lady who looks at with with a surprised look and says that I'm the second person that day she's seen carrying an umbrella! I laugh and say the first person was probably my brother-in-law, Rick.

The shelter at Indian Bar had some pretty amazing views! But alas, we would not be camping there. =(

"Oh, he was so nice! He took all the stuff out of his pack and showed me his stove made out of soda cans! So nice and very cute!"

Yeah, that was definitely him: Pretty Boy.

We chatted a bit more and I learned she had recently returned from a trip to Peru to see Machu Picchu which made me very jealous since I've wanted to go there for I don't know how long. Turns out she'd also been to the ruins at Tikal in Guatemala and we swapped stories about our experiences there. She seemed surprised at my travel experience given how "young" I was.

I took this photo from the shelter at Indian Bar. Wouldn't you like to spend the night here too?

She finally went off to eat lunch by a meadow and I continued my hike. A couple of miles later, I caught up with Pretty Boy himself, lounging under a tree, taking a nap while wrapped in a long-sleeved shirt and pants with his head covered by mosquito netting. There weren't mosquitoes, but the flies were ferocious.

We traded our adventures for the day. I told him about the elderly lady who thought he was such a handsome and friendly young man, and Rick told me that his conversation with her included the additional tidbit that pot makes the hike up to Machu Picchu much more enjoyable. Yeah, she definitely didn't say anything to me about getting high in more ways than one on her way to the mountain ruins.

One last look at Mount Rainier before delving back under tree line shortly past Indian Bar Camp

Rick also told me that the four boys we saw backpacking the day before that neither of us predicted would reach their destination—he saw them camped out at Indian Bar. They were leaving just as Rick had arrived in the camp. I felt a ping of joy in predicting their movements—stumbling into Indian Bar late and trying to crash at the camp with someone else. They stayed in the group site with the shelter since the 'group' consisted of only a couple of people. (They'll assign even one or two people to a group site if that's the only site left available at a given camp.) So there was plenty of room for them to stay at the group site.

I mentioned before that glacial flour is formed by glaciers—basically ground-up, pulverized rock turned into dust that makes water from active glaciers turn a milky color. Look at the calm areas between the rapids for where glacial flour is visible.

I wasn't wearing protection from the countless flies and finally told Rick goodbye and fled down the trail.

I passed the four boys just before reaching camp at Nickel Creek and staked out our claim to a site literally right next to the creek for which the camp was named. Most campsites are usually situated away from water sources, but this one was an exception.

I took off my shoes and waded into the ice-cold creek wearing my Waldies. Rick, in fits of insanity each night, liked to soak his whole body. He claimed it was good for his knees to ice them in the water, but every night he was quite religious about finding a watering hole that he'd lay down in. This is glacier meltwater. This water may very well have been below freezing. Usually he'd go off for a half hour and come back dripping wet shivering like he was suffering from hypothermia—which he probably was. He'd tell people about the experience with pride. I thought it was kind of stupid myself, but I was certainly willing to soak my badly battered feet and clean them as best I could.

For dinner, spaghetti was on the menu. A big, filling bowl of it. We'd just finished our longest day on the trail yet—just over twelve miles according to the pedometer I carried.

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