Chapter 7~ A Warning at the White River Crossing

Day 3

If finding Deer Creek Camp was like a needle in a haystack, White River Camp was like finding Woodstock.

After our Summerland day excursion, we end back at Frying Pan Creek. The Wonderland Trail continues north a short mile or so jaunt along the highway and crosses the muddy White River. This junction is where we split from Shannon and Sheli so they can get to camp and set-up and so Carrie and I can dance with the cars as we strategically place them at various trailheads.

Earlier in the month however, the footbridge over the White River was completely underwater and the hazard had become so concerning to the park, they placed a detour back to the highway, over the vehicle bridge and then trail and road meet back at the White River Campground.

Meet Sheli

If there ever is awards for rock star of backpacking Sheli has my nomination. It’s a given, backpacking takes mental will and physical endurance but it also takes a lot of problem solving.

Like I said earlier, Sheli is the one who had found the sign for Deer Creek that saved us from spending the night off trail. She also gets A+ for tent skills. Her tent could hold up in a hurricane if necessary. Also, she has eagle eyes, so we gave her the spotter badge along with a keen sense of hearing. On a different trip Sheli woke me around 4:30 am with a whisper “Lisa, did you hear that?”, when an early riser porcupine trying to be stealth squeezed itself between our tents and scrapped its bristley quills along the outer walls.

Sheli is also intrepid and unfathomable. Rather quiet at the right times, for example when I was being stubborn in wet clothes a few days earlier, she was a perfect person to have along on our adventure.

Sheli, volunteering to lead crossing the White River

Water lapping at your heals…

Late in the day is never a time to cross a river and especially this one but Sheli was the first one out. Footbridges around Rainier are no joke. Many people loose their lives crossing them each year. People use poor judgement, they get thrown off balance, they try to ford rivers that they shouldn’t have forded. My preferred method is the “butt scoot” where you literally ride the log like a horse and bump yourself up and down using your hands and arms like a pommel horse.

The Butt Scoot

The rule is to always unbuckle your backpack before making a river crossing so if you or when you fall in your bag doesn’t prevent you from saving yourself.

White River Campground

I should have asked the ranger last week the question, why were we assigned in the group camp at White River? Little did I know Shannon and Sheli were making their own group camp. It explained why we couldn’t find them at a site or group camp. As our car and driver fetches the caches at the ranger station, Carrie and I then drive in circles through the haze of campfires, people in shorts, some shirtless.

When we are finally going to make our third trip around the campground, Shannon spots us and flags us over to the “group site” she has made. Another fine example of the type of problem solving you must take while backpacking.

Shannon and Sheli see possibilities
Shannon and Sheli clear pinecones and sticks
Shannon and Sheli find success

As the day draws to an end, I head back home to resupply with my newly shipped rain cover and waterproof gaiters. Another fine example of problem solving in the woods, have someone at home place an order at REI and go pick it up.

Tomorrow I will meet my group at Sunrise for lunch, find Bob and Wendy, and say good-bye to Sheli for this trip.

Shannon, Sheli and Carrie Hike Glacier Basin to Burroughs to Sunrise

The trip from White River up Glacier Basin around Burroughs is beautiful but a nice elevation gain in the heat. The three find themselves taking frequent stops to gather their courage and strength but the views are worth the stops.