Saturday, September 24, 2011

Wonderland Trail in 3 days (day 2)

trail up to Summerland
Our early alarm clock failed to wake us, so we weren’t awoken until 5AM, after which we didn’t get started until 6AM. Again tear down the camp, a breakfast of a hard boiled egg and a banana, and we were off. Today was the climb up to the highest elevation point on the entire trail, Panhandle Gap. However the climb was not too bad as much of the trail seemed to only climb 500 feet a mile. As we headed up toward Panhandle Gap we entered the beautiful open fields of wildflowers found in Summerland.

As we continued to climb fields of wildflowers gave way to fields of snow, making the travel fairly interesting. Tom S and Ben were moving along a ways ahead of Tom M and myself. Tom M and I couldn’t seem to get enough pictures up along this high point. As Tom M and I appraoched and crossed over Panhandle Gap I felt great. Panhandle Gap ws the highest point on the trip and it felt like everything would be down hill from here.

Eventually we reached Ben who had found some shade and was relaxing with his shoes off. As we spoke to him he said he had just started getting some pretty serious pain in his hip, but he felt that after taking a break he would be okay to continue and he would then catch up. A little further down the trail we found Tom S who was coming down the trail towards us. He had lost the trail in the snow. After a bit of looking at the map, we decided the trail headed nearly straight up. We ascended a fair ways before we were able to look back down and see where the trail had actually continued along well below us right after a large patch of snow. At that point Ben had caught up and we directed him which way to go, and Tom S, Tom M and I crossed the snow higher up then dropped down to meet Ben.

crossing fields of snow
Ben was moving pretty slowly at this point down the steeply descending trail. The trail heading down to Indian Bar is a seemingly endless series of steps and not a fun section if you are experiencing any leg pain. I swapped my two poles for Ben's single hiking pole hoping two poles would make it easier for him to continue on, then I headed on down. At the Ohanapecosh River Ben caught up and we all refilled water bottles and rested near the Indian Bar hut. As we soaked our sore feet in the ice cold Ohanapecosh River we discussed how to handle getting us all to Longmire with Ben’s leg problems. Ben decided he would head on at his own pace with his one pole and finish up the day at Box Canyon. At Box Canyon Ben would hitchhike to Longmire. We wished him luck and continued on towards Box Canyon.

down to Indian Bar
Reaching Box Canyon was a real boost to my spirits. The three of us took a short break and tried to figuring out where the trail continued on. After studying the map, we opted not to do the little 0.3 mile loop into Box Canyon, instead headed though a car tunnel at Box Canyon and catch the trail on the other side, continuing on from there.

At this point I really wanted us to make it to the National Park Inn at Longmire. We were staying there for the night, but I believed that the restaurant closed at 8PM, and I wanted a sit down dinner. I began to really encourage the others to move fast “pick up the pace guys, this one is about getting steak dinners or having 3 day old un-refrigerated hotdogs”.

We crossed Stevens Creek, but then right before the trail headed up from Stevens Creek to Reflection Lakes rather suddenly bonked hard. I realized I hadn’t eaten much in at least a couple hours or probably longer. I had to stop and eat. I downed a Cliff Shot Gel, a package of Gummy Bears and a Honey Stinger Waffle; I was getting pretty sick of energy food at this point so I had to force myself to eat everything other than the gummy bears (I love gummy bears).

From here the trail started up though thick overgrowth covering the trail. The travel was slow at this point as I tried to ease my way around nettles. Eventually the overgrowth disappeared as the trail went into the woods and headed on up to Reflection Lakes. After a 1/2 hour or so the food started doing its job I was starting to feel better. I picked up the pace and caught up with Tom S where the trail met the road near Louis Lake. I went ahead to get water, but found myself attacked by black flies at the first water stop so I continued on to another. I quickly filled up my Camel Back and an extra Nalgene for the guys, then waited, and waited. Where were they? I was really wanting to get going, I really wanted that sit down dinner at the lodge. Tom S and Tom M finally caught up, they split the extra liter of water and we were on our way.

Around this point the trail actually went along side the rode for about a half-mile. I was so desperate to get my dinner that I tried to hitchhike, but there were no takers. So I tried push the pace as much as I could once we hit the trail again. The trail dropped down to the Nisqually River, we crossed the river and had 1.7 miles to go. At this point Tom S had to stop and to deal with some painful foot blisters. Tom M and I offered to order him food if necessary. We pushed it as much as we could (but that wasn’t much).

Finally at 7:15 we rolled out of the woods to the sight of the National Park Inn. I was really hooting and hollering, and high-fiveing Tom M. Ben was at the entrance all cleaned up and shiny in fresh cotton clothes. Unfortunately Ben had bad news for us: The kitchen closed at 7PM. But with a little work, Ben was able to convince them to keep the kitchen open a little longer so we could get an order in.

my feet didn't look too bad after day two
The restaurant was still very full as we rolled in stinking and covered in sweat and dirt and sitting down with Ben and Dave. I found the fact that people throughout the restaurant were looking and pointing at us rather amusing. I ordered pot roast and devoured it. Then downed 2 beers. It was all so good. However Tom S and Tom M were having trouble eating. Tom M couldn’t handle the hot restaurant which was making him feel claustrophobic, and had to go sit outside. Tom S was bonking hard and not feeling much like eating. A little later on the both were feeling better and were able to eat. I pretty much crashed in a very comfortable bed after a shower and organizing my gear for the next day. I made the decision that for our last day we would sit down at the restaurant one more time for breakfast even though the restaurant didn’t open until 7AM (much later than we had started the previous days). We would eat and try and get going right after breakfast with the full knowledge that we wouldn’t finish the day until well after dark.

Wonderland Trail in 3 Days?

Wonderland Trail in 3 days (day 1)

Wonderland Trail in 3 days (day 3)

All the pictures from the trip

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