Chapter 16~ Four Women and Golden Lakes

The following is a prelude to Video Episode 11 you can either click here to watch the video or read through and click at the end.

Video Synopsis: Episode 11 finds Sandy joining Lisa where the weather heats up to the mid 90’s. A potentially perilous crossing ends safely over the South Mowich River and a new way to bake camp cookies for a yummy dessert at Golden Lakes on The Wonderland Trail. Runtime 9:50

Sandy crossing the South Mowich River at a dangerous stage.

Meet The Four Women

Day 12

Apparently there is some new trail rule that applies to only some people.

At least this is what we were told by one woman.

I have this inner code of ethics of how I conduct myself, women should always empower other women and when there is a person who decides to act contrary to this, it is challenging for me to take the high road and be a better person.

In the attempt to divert our attention and create a bit of confusion that then turned into a competition, we cross trails with a group of four women hiking The Wonderland Trail having lunch just past the North Mowich River crossing.

As we approach, I happily greet them all in my normal happy tone however, my greeting was not well received.

Referring to my handheld video camera I am using at a raging river crossing, we are met with, “What is that?” in a grouchy tone as these four women lay all sprawled amongst the boulders.

I reply, “It’s is a video camera.” still standing and waiting for salutations and an invitation to visit.

I am careful not to photograph or video people I do not know without their permission, I was already switching it off.

The conversation stops when they decide not to engage, ignoring us along the North Mowich River.

A glimpse of the Four Women (smirk inserted)

Earlier in the morning I had met up with Sandy at Mowich camp. We are excited to start the last leg of this journey around Mt. Rainier together.

Sandy and I have been neighbors for a number of years and I recently got to know her better through the gym we both go to. We also started walking 5-6 miles per day when COVID-19 shut down the gym.

I absolutely adore Sandy. After being shut in my own home for going on 2 months out of fear of COVID, She magically appeared in my front yard one lovely evening, calling out my name.

I had never been so excited to see another human outside my own family circle that day and our first day at Mowich I feel like this the beginning of a grand adventure we had talked about and trained for the last 6 months.

The Raging Mowich River

Sandy and I decide we weren’t going to let anything get us down so we continue on the trail as we were not greeted in a very welcoming tone from the four women which in general is usually not the case. We carry on about our business up the trail a short distance then stop to gather a small amount of water on an extremely hot day.

While filtering water we visit with a small group of going the opposite direction who had just crossed the South Mowich. This last stop for a quick creek filter is between the two forks of the Mowich River, the North and South. We will be thankful to put the next hazardous crossing behind us as early as possible.

The plan beyond was to continue a few more miles uphill and take a long break for lunch in the shade, rehydrate, and gather our wits.

In a smart way we are breaking this steep climb into two chunks with the heat.

Crossing the North Mowich has a nice footbridge but the South Mowich River is hazardous each summer. Many times the footbridge shifts sideways or rolls or is found downriver. People have lost their lives crossing here a number of times.

Upon approach the shifting boulders from the raging river, rocks and boulders knocking could be heard from under the murky swift, waters. The river’s edges appeared unsettled and I could easily imagine a whoosh making the bed of the raging river disappear from underfoot. A shifting of the footbridge while crossing could easily toss either one of us into the water.

After returning from our trip we learn a man had fallen in a few days after we crossed and had died. This summer would be no different that others of the past.

To be honest here, this was by far one of the scariest crossings I have ever managed. I would have turned around in a heartbeat had there been any detection of shifting or if there was visible signs of the river bank collapsing into the currents. I wouldn’t have done it, put my friend in harms way and my nerves were on edge.

Another few miles up the forest trail and out of the danger of the river, we find just the spot at another small creek to have our lunch in the trees.

Next to the rocks the air feels cool and is a welcome relief to our sweat. We decide to take our time and contemplate the day and the mystery of the poor reception and lack of responses from the four women earlier. We decide there is only one logical explanation, there must be a splitting of the ranks, a fight, a disagreement, a scuttle or perhaps maybe they’re exhausted, or homesick or all the above.

Then from around the corner below, one woman appears. She seems eager in her approach but alone and on a mission.

My friend Sandy is such a wonderfully nice person. We reach out again and say hello. This time we get a nod and smile.

We are just finishing lunch, packing and stretching, putting our packs back on and another woman appears. She too seems equally all smiles, eager in her approach and cordial.

We finish cleaning up and adjust our buckles and packs for the climb to Golden Lakes Backcountry Camp.

It was at that precise moment when we hear panting and two more women show up as we continue to stand.

That’s when fireworks begin. One hollers out, “Our party is up ahead. You’ll have to wait until we pass.

We are standing watching these two huff and puff and I think, bring it on, you are not going to pass us. Still thinking this is is not a rule and we don’t have to wait for anything.

I make the move, take the bait and holler back, “No problem, if you catch up, you are welcome to pass us.”

Seriously have I fallen for such ridiculous child’s play?

Apparently rude numbskulls come in all sorts of shapes, sizes, sexes and ages. We continue our step up the trail in a posturing move.

Now clearly hiker etiquette is written to say if you are traveling downhill you should step to the side and stop while uphill hikers come up and pass you but, I’ve never in my forty plus years of hiking or backpacking have heard of this rule of not breaking up a party especially when they are spread out over a half a mile or more.

Clearly as well, Sandy and I were summed up down at the river as a negative asset on the trail by at least one of the four women. We find out later why and catch a glimpse of them in the video. Smirk inserted here.

Empowering each other can be limited to your own tribe.

Golden Lakes at Sunset Park

Arriving to camp at a decent time in the afternoon, we have a good choice of campsites at Golden Lakes. There is a large patrol cabin, and 5 neatly tucked away sites scattered up the hill. One large group site sits at the main lakes edge.

We decide on site #3 after seeing #2 is occupied, #1 is teeny, and then number #4 and #5 are back down past the outhouse and up on the hill. I run into three people at site #4. Two men and woman, all very friendly from Bend, Oregon.

Sandy and I try to decide who is the couple and then who is the third wheel and then how and why they all ended up together. Both men are very chatty so it was hard to even begin to decide at this point in time. Regardless, the threesome will continue on with us for the remainder of the trip as we have somewhat similar itineraries ending at Longmire.

Night fell quickly and dinner tasted even better. The highlight for the night being a warm S’mores hot cookie that cooked it self.

S’mores and a good friend make life better. It’s okay to limit the tribe you empower. As far as the four women, we didn’t see them the remainder of the evening. The thing that fell between them on the trail was apparently they didn’t choose their tribe well.

Watch Video Episode 11