Saturday, September 24, 2011

Wonderland Trail in 3 days (day 1)

As the actual date of to do the Wonderland Trail in 3 day my original group of a dozen or so people became just three, then two: my friends Tom S and Tom M (this was going to be confusing). The week before the trip my friend Ben decided to join us "off the couch". We were now four, with a fifth friend Dave providing support.

Day 0 - Getting to the Trail Head

The trip started off with us all meeting early afternoon on Friday September 9th, and making our way to the to Mowich Lake on the secluded North end of Mount Rainier. After several discussions over the phone with park officials, I had a very real concern about our ability to find a campsite at Mowich Lake which doesn’t take reservations. Because of this I kind of rushed the group to get to the campsite, passing up on the traditional pre-trip big meal for quick sandwiches to go at Subway. When we arrived at Mowich there were in fact quite a few people camping there, but it was by no means full. However, as we set up the tent, it didn’t take long to realize that mosquitos were going to be a real problem, so we ended up eating our sandwhiches in the truck and having pre-trip celebratory Rainier Beer tallboys.

Day 1 - Mowich Lake to White River Campground

sunrise on Mt. Rainier from Spray Park
I didn’t sleep well in the small tent 4 man that all four of us were in (assume any tent size is at least 1/2 a person smaller than described). I was awake well before the first alarm went off at 4:30 AM. Then with the alarm, everyone got up pretty quick and we quietly went to work putting our gear away, taking down the tent, and moving everything we wouldn’t be taking with us to the truck.

For me breakfast was a hard boiled egg and a banana. I wasn’t hungry, but I knew I needed to get some starting calories in me. After we all choked down our breakfast we headed out at 5:25 AM (about 2 hours before the sun would come up).

The night before we had made the decision that rather than head over the quicker and easier route of Ipsut pass, we would go up and over Spray Park. About a mile longer, and much more vertical, but much more scenic, and besides, no one wanted to start off right away with over 5 miles of downhill running in the dark.

crossing the snow at Spray Park
Things were bad for me from the start, as my headlamps batteries were dieing, and I could barely see the trail in the dark woods. Not being able to see I was constantly tripping over roots and trying to keep up with the others who were trying to keep it at a fast hike or slow jog. The others headlamps eventually disappearing in the darkness up ahead. Luckily Tom S stopped to check up on me. He tried to get me some new batteries in the dark, but between fumbling with the batteries and being feasted on by mosquitoes, we gave up and Tom S ended up following right behind me with his much more adequate headlamp.

A few miles of hiking uphill and we reached Spray Park as the first light of morning was making it so that headlamps were no longer needed. At that point we picked the pace up to a slow jog. Up around Spray Park we found quite a bit of snow, but the travel on it was quite easy as it was very consolidated and sun cupped. Crossing the snow that was side lit by the sunrise was pretty cool. Ben really picked up the pace the moment he hit the snow, he was in his element even if he wasn’t wearing skis.

crossing the Carbon River
As we cleared the high point, and started heading down to the Carbon River we were all pretty much moving at a good jogging pace. When we reached the Carbon River we stopped for our first real break of the day. I ate my second and last banana and second and last hard boiled egg. Nothing more for me that day other than energy food. As we headed out we encountered the first of two large foot suspension bridge, this being the one over the Carbon River.. It hangs quite some distance over the Carbon River and ominously warns hikers to only cross one at a time. The crossing provides a bit of a ride, bouncing and rocking.

We headed on up again, this time towards Mystic Lake, climbing along side the Carbon Glacier. An ominous sign told of the dangers of the glacier as we heard giant boulders previously frozen in the glacier breaking off of and falling over a hundred feet to the river below. Once past the the Carbon Glacier the trail weaved up amongst fields of very fragrant wild flowers filled with the constant sound of bees.

From Mystic Lake we headed down past the Winthrop Glacier, over the Winthrop River, then up to a high ridge near Skyscraper Mountain. I was a bit behind, and by the time I reached the high ridge the others were already relaxing a bit and taking a break. I was running low on water so I decided that rather than stopping, I would head on down the trail and take my break where ever I found water.

enjoying a beer at White River at the end of day one
I headed down towards a very unfrozen Frozen Lake to refilled my water at a small creek, then shortly after met Dave who had hiked in from White River to meet us. The others soon caught up, we all gathered in some of the sparse shade to say our hellos, and then took off jogging. Dave and I held back a bit and instead hiked on down towards Sunrise Camp then down to White River where the car that Dave had driven down that morning was located. That night he took over cooking and made us awesome carne asada steak quesadillas. After dinner and a Rainier Beer, it was early to bed, for another early start the next day.

Wonderland Trail in 3 Days?

Wonderland Trail in 3 days (day 2)

Wonderland Trail in 3 days (day 3)

All the pictures from the trip

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