Happy New Year to my followers and fellow lovers of the outdoors.
Wishing you a happy New Year with the promise of better times ahead for all of us.
The following is a prelude to Video Episode 7 Wildflowers of Berkeley Park. You can click here to play video or read and watch at the end.
Video Synopsis: Now on the Northern Loop Trail, Episode 7 takes us through Berkeley Park wildflowers and a lovely creek that meanders parallel and gives us perfect background music to a relaxing and lovely day. Runtime 6:55
Headed for the Northern Loop Trail, we leave Sunrise Camp directly to the cache to resupply for the next 3 nights and 4 days. It is already getting warm with the extra weight but most of Berkeley Park is downhill.
We meet several groups of people enjoying the brilliant wildflower display that makes this hike so delightful in August. Like Summerland, a hill that blooms from the bottom up most of the month of August. As if planned for us our coming, the entire hill was in bloom.
I think about how each lovely arm on the north side has been nothing short of a showcase. To the far northeast of Sunrise the seven lakes glisten next to path below the Sourdough Ridge an intense blue. Forest Lake with a peek into a past glacier with enormous rocks chiseled and carved with water and freezing temperatures, the last remainder of time past. Then down the Huckleberry Creek area, a lovely jade green forest and spa camp. Now the Berkeley Park trail, showing off every color it can in a buzzing fury of insects.
We aren’t at Berkeley Camp long when a couple a long way from home arrive at camp. Berkeley Camp is a small camp like a bed and breakfast and you must walk by other sites to either go to the pit toilet or to filter water in the creek, making it impossible to avoid the other campsite.
While hanging my food at the bear pole, we exchange greetings and have a short one-sided exchange about plans. I never say too much that wouldn’t make me feel safe as a female in woods. The couple proceeds to tell me about all their forthcoming accomplishments, together they are hiking The Northern Loop, then the man was going to run around the mountain by himself supported by a commercial group he had paid that would help him. There is nothing humbling in this exchange. That means, a commercial company helps him finish, feeds him, sets up his tent, gives him encouragement, praise, food, shelter, and whatever else it takes to allow him bragging rights.
We pick a site, the one with the stump kitchen, that gives us a little forest cooking table and logs to sit on and carry on with our routine of filtering water, organizing the insides of tents, and decide to have an early evening since tomorrow is a long day.
First, I want to say I am a runner. My runs have been at the most half marathons and 5ks. I run all winter and early spring to train for hiking season.
The last few years however, there have become more and more of supported groups of ultra runners on the Wonderland Trail. Most backpackers have something to say about them in forums on the internet. At times it seems they do not get along with one another.
While I am all about creating access to the wilderness and believe trails are for everyone. I also believe trail runners, like hikers and backpackers do cause an impact to the environment and need to adhere to trail etiquette. Since trail runners can finish so quickly with assistance, they also need a way to marshal their numbers with a permit system.
There are truly only a few really stellar endurance athletes that can run The Wonderland Trail without someone by their side or close by. My advice is if you cannot run over 100 miles at sea level do not attempt this, use it as a training ground in order to tromp the vegetation, scare the critters and ask backpackers to step off the trail or if they have an aspirin or ice pack.
The fact that runners can do this quickly means they don’t need a permit to be there. Companies that get paid good money, get away with sending literally hundreds of people to the trails.
It goes without saying , furthermore we will have nothing left of the fragile alpine meadows with this kind of attack by humans.
Trail runners also have a long way to go as far as etiquette.
On more than a few occasions during our time up a hill with heavy backpacks, we were forced off to the side. One young lady with nothing but her shorts and tank top, telling us how much she loved the wildflowers as she made her way down the narrow path through the meadow. My thought was if you have two men on the sides of you, assisting you, you do not respect the wildflowers.
Another time I was approached from behind and elbowed to make room and move. The excuse came later after the two runners could finish and get their breath.
Then there is the occasional runner who doesn’t even step off trail and stop, they just run down the meadow, or up the meadow, avoiding the trail all together.
I truly hope they do stop to look at the scenery. I truly hope they stop to appreciate the beauty of a wildflower and mostly I truly hope they advocate to protect it now that they’ve seen it.
Trail runners need to start a permit system and adhere to a code of environmental ethics and we must be respectful of one another, above all respectful of the environment that has no voice.
Watch Video Episode 7 Wildflowers of Berkeley Park.
The following is a prelude to Episode 4 Video of 14 Days of Wonderland. If you want to watch the video click here or read and click the link at the bottom of this chapter.
Video Synopsis: Mushrooms and Lake Swimming continuing into day two at Forest Lake and a trek along Huckleberry Creek looking for fungi as well as a refreshing swim in Forest Lake. Runtime 7:28
Bob and Wendy arrived at Forest Lake ahead of the rest of us. They had met up with a man who had commandeered our already reserved camp spot complete with personal outdoor toilet, bear pole and fresh-running Huckleberry Creek for our water source.
He was compliant about picking up and leaving and did not know that you needed a permit to stay at all backcountry camps in Mt. Rainier. There was some discussion later with some friends of mine who said you used to be able to camp any where, no permit at least 1/4 mile off trail. I’m still uncertain about that one because there is quite the process to get permits and it is an extremely protected area. In an emergency, I read if that is the case and only the case.
Regardless, Bob and Wendy are a delightful, fun couple. Bob an avid cyclist and bicycle attorney and I hit it off quickly. I bike pretty much all summer every where. Wendy, a former high school art teacher and I also hit it off quickly. I am a retired elementary teacher. Both Bob and Wendy spent two nights with us at Forest Lake.
As we learn more about each other and had said our good-byes to Sheli at Sunrise, I find Wendy absolutely loves shelf fungi and really any mushroom or fungi for that matter. Wendy takes photo ops with fungi any time she can. With that being said, Forest Lake was just the ticket for her.
On day two we rise, get our breakfast, hang our extra items on the bear pole, and head down Huckleberry Creek Trail. We learn from Shannon at the end of the creek and at the park boundary may have been one of the original entrances to Mt. Rainier National Park.
After 4-5 or so miles we break to have lunch and decide to head back. The trail becomes very overgrown and with many blown branches and logs to cross. Which could be one of the reasons it was a less desirable area for the park to try to maintain.
With all the snapped off trees, this is where the lovely shelf fungus loves to grow and some of those had even blown down and were the size of our hands and as big as our heads.
After returning to camp, we take a much needed swim in Forest Lake, dunk our heads, cool our feet and then are treated to the most delicious coconut cream desert Shannon makes.
Shannon and Lisa walk Carrie back to Sunrise for a glorious sunset as we say our sad good-byes to Carrie.
We complete the evening with forest spa and yoga.
Episode 4 Video of 14 Days of Wonderland.
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 meet back at the White River Campground.
If there ever is awards for Rock Start 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 squeezed itself between our tents and scrapped its bristley quills along the walls.
Sheli is also intrepid and unfathomable. Rather quiet at the right times, for example when I’m being stubborn in wet clothes, she was also a perfect person to have along on our adventure.
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 when there are no handrails 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 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.
I should have asked the ranger last week the question, why are we in the group camp at White River? It explained try finding a spot or the group camp. As our car and driver fetches any 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 because there isn’t one. Another fine example of the type of problem solving you must take while backpacking.
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, say good-bye to Sheli for this trip.
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 it.
Day Two on the Wonderland Trail of fourteen had me calling it quits in the rain. We slogged up the trail in mud and crossed lovely Deer Creek spirits high for the start of our next day’s adventure. Strapping on our backpacks trusty rain covers, we were set for our first full day.
Washington has a way with words and numerous ways of describing rain. There is drizzle, downpours, washouts, spitting rain, rain that hits puddles and rains up, icy rain, summer rain, fog, mist, overcast, and showers. Most of us do not use or can even find an umbrella on a regular basis and we can spot a tourist or newcomer when they pull their’s out. I would say we are a hardy lot when it comes to the rain and actually many of us, really love the smell a light drizzle conjures from the ground. Many times on the westside of the state we do not see the sun for weeks and one summer I counted 41 continual days of rain.
In the mountains it can be dangerous. The rain can also suck the life out of you even in August. It did just that on day two. The beautiful scenery in the fog and drizzle had me a bit euphoric at first. Or, it could have been that celebratory bottle of wine I had to run the empty back up to the car before setting out. In my skort with exposed legs, I actually felt pretty comfortable in just a long sleeve shirt layer and an old pair of ankle gaitors. Especially when carrying a heavy pack that weighed between 32-45 pounds, it actually felt quite refreshing.
By the time lunchtime rolled around my body was completely drenched and I simply hightailed it to camp to change while the others in my party stayed at gorgeous Owyhigh (OH-Y-HIGH) Lakes for their lunch.
When Carrie showed up from the other direction, my friends Shannon and Sheli were attempting to push as much hot liquid and tea down me as they could and I was wrapped in an emergency I blanket and poncho. I wanted to go home. Carrie was like a happy angel that had been sent with a magic bag. She kept pulling out clothes andI kept putting them on. She rubbed my hands together, gave me her gloves, hand warmers, toe warmers and by the time I had changed, had all my wet items hanging on the trees to dry.
Later on that evening, with ziplocks in my soaked boots, I clambered up to Tamanos Mountain for a Fireball happy hour. I would like to say at the top we had a gorgeous view of Rainier but what the heck, more rain.
Tomorrow is a new day and we settled in for the night, two bugs snug in a rug.
Episode 2– 14 Days of Wonderland video is on the very popular Summerland Trail on the Wonderland system.
Still boasting the ziplock plastic bags in her shoes, Lisa contemplates returning them to Carrie. Upon summiting to camp it is found the camp had recently been ransacked by a bear. Runtime 6:46