Being prepared comes in many shapes and forms. When you are outdoors all the time, you learn what it takes to be both comfortable and safe. Eventually you learn to do things better. This past weekend was one of those learning experiences.
What Led to Illness
Day 1~ We had just spent the day at the Crystal Lakes area of Mt. Rainier on the park boundary where it meets up with the PCT. The temperatures were climbing as we hiked over 6 miles and at least 3000′ of elevation gain. The lakes, just being melted out, were a welcome relief to our feet. We replenished our water at Upper Crystal Lakes using a pump filtration system.
Day 2~ Heading over to Mowich Lake at the NW boundary of Rainier, we set-up our camp and decided on a lovely evening hike to have dinner. Again, the lake was a fun spot to dip our feet, take in some evening stretches and a few fun Pilate moves and Yoga. We filtered more water at lovely Eunice Lake before heading out for a spectacular sunset using a gravity filtration system and then boiled water before using it to soak our dehydrated meals.
Day 3~ Overnight things were a bit windy. As I shook off my morning, thinking that my sleepiness had more to do with a flapping tent than illness. As we headed to Spray Park we decided to have lunch at a small tarn. Again, a great place to soak our feet. We had a few hard boiled eggs that were left in ice overnight in the bear locker. Also filtered water using a pump system opting for a small creek rather than the tarn that had some sediment floating on the water.
After lunch, it was truly a struggle for me to get back to camp. I felt like I was pushing myself and not really fully enjoying all that surrounded me. I hardly spoke and I felt I was turning inward and shutting down mentally.
We arrived home some time around 3 pm, said our goodbyes, holding back my internal cranky mode as it was in full tilt by then. My husband and I had had chicken skewers and salad for dinner.
The next day still feeling unsettled, with no energy I went to bed early only to be shook awake by horrible stomach cramps.
FoodPoisoning or Drinking Water?
I spent the next 6 hours vomiting with diarrhea. At some point it was so uncontrollable and unstoppable. My husband contemplated taking me to the hospital but I couldn’t get up off the bathroom floor long enough before I had to rid my body both ends. I couldn’t crawl or walk.
After that night, I had little to eat for 3 days. I drank only soda water with ice, later some pudding and jello.
Yesterday I went to the doctor after finally being able to keep fluids down and feeling somewhat recovered. I honestly was looking for answers more than anything. There wasn’t anything out of the ordinary that myself or my friends ate or that we all drank or shared. I wanted to know if I needed further tests if it could be something else. She assured me if I was getting better to continue to rest and drink plenty of water. She thought it was probably tied to the egg.
Recovery Day 5and Research
Today I feel better but I am still unsure about my filtration system. I’ve researched cleaning and bleaching before storage and I feel I may have gotten a little sloppy with the care but I’ve hiked for 14 days in succession before with having no ill effects and not bleaching or drying. Knowing I am just filtering bacteria is one thing and I do understand to fully be safe the use of a viral treatment such tablets or a Steripen is optimal.
This leads up to the egg. Research says eggs do not last at room temperature past two hours.
I am super excited for the launch of my entire season on podcast titled “A Year of Wonderland”. It is full of wonder and adventure set in the gorgeous Pacific Northwest on Mt. Rainier in Washington State.
You will enjoy the history, Native American lore and descriptions of my great-great uncle who came to Washington in 1843 when it was part of the Oregon Territory as I tell the story of my backpacking journey around our nations fifth nation park, Mt. Rainier National Park.
Please consider supporting my writing and podcast.
This past weekend Washington experienced unusually high temperatures in the low 100’s! My friend Carrie and I had a trip to Leavenworth scheduled and we were bound and determined to hike to both Lake Stuart and Lake Colchuck. Since both lakes’ trailheads start at the same parking spot, we headed to the left at the Y to Lake Colchuck first for our 12 mile hike.
Getting up at 3:30 am to hit the trail early would be our goal as we left our cozy hotel room a bit after 4:00 am. There was nothing too unusual about the drive except the moon over the Alpine Lakes Wilderness, a deer in headlights and man who literally was sleeping face up on the side of the Icicle Creek Road, as we traveled along.
We applied plenty of DEET, unfortunately the only thing I know of that truly combats the reported mosquitos and ticks here. Trust me, I’ve tried many products in my 50 years of outdoor activity and every time someone comes up with a new line of environmentally friendly insect repellent, I am willing to give it a go but I end up spraying the DEET on top after a few minutes.
We headed up the rocky trail, already in the toasty 70’s along Mountaineer Creek with its flowing winds cooling us. Upon seeing the trail junction for Lake Stuart and Lake Colchuck, we luckily took Colchuck, and I’ll get to that later as to why we did.
Getting passed by backpackers, I realize I am getting old and slowing in my 63 years of age. Luckily I have such wonderful hiking companions like Carrie that are a part of my tribe. I suppose they realize my experience is an asset and in return I appreciate their enthusiasm and energy.
Arriving at Colchuck
We arrive at Lake Colchuck just before sunrise. As we watched in amazement, it was everything I had dreamed it would be. The deep navy blue of the lake and surrounding mountain turned a jewel toned turquoise. Dragontail Mountain with snow still tucked on Aasgard Pass reminded me of of a little slice of heaven. The sun then peaked over the mountain to the east and in it’s golden light began to cast shadows and contrast to the trees.
Carrie and I just sat in wonder and amazement at the spectacle of the alpine wilderness.
Arrive at Sunrise
Lucky us! For the hot temperatures got us up and moving that morning after a fun day in Leavenworth, as we made our way back down the mountain.
We passed quite a number of people that day on the trail and stopped and chatted with “Dave” a firefighter from Cape Cod. Then an entire family at the junction to Lake Stuart.
A nursing mom and two families were stopped at the junction to Lake Stuart. As we chatted, they shared yesterday another group had been run out of camp by swarming mosquitoes but they did not heed their warning to turn around.
One of the women shared her horrid evening in a tent in triple digit temperatures with the rest of her family. What should have been a magical backpacking trip ended with they too leaving early completely covered in bug bites.
I asked what they used and it was pretty much every thing but DEET. I just filed it away in my mind figuring there really was nothing left to say that hadn’t been already been said in their experience the evening before.
Although I felt we could have added this extended trip to Lake Stuart, with the heat and getting up early, I felt completely spent at this moment in time, perhaps it was all the wine the day before and just didn’t want to fight bugs like they had.
Until I return again, hopefully soon, it will be an experience of a lifetime at Lake Colchuck in the Alpine Lakes Wilderness.
14 Days Around Mt. Rainier wasn’t an easy walk in the park. It included 150 miles at elevations between 2800′ to 6200′. When I added up the elevation gain and loss on my Garmin, it was 60,000′ up and down steep trails carrying a backpack that weighed any where from 32 pounds base weight to 38 pounds with food and water.
Prior to the leaving in August, I was training on average of six days a week for a triathlon I was was planning to participate in, in September. I worked at weight training in a high intensity interval class plus either, ran, walked with a backpack of 20 pound kitty litter or road my bike. On additional days I was off I would swim at least a mile.
Regardless, still after all the training, each night we made it into to camp, I felt like I was crawling there.
Was there something I missed in my training, nutrition or equipment selection?
Giving myself a little more credit where credit was due, I compared myself to the many younger people who do not finish and leave early off the trail due to a variety of reasons. You cannot control the weather but you can control your physical preparedness and being physically unprepared is probably the number one reason hikers leave the trail. The second being rain or adverse weather conditions.
Putting physical preparedness aside, for me it was more of a personal, emotional and mental challenge that started my ability to live in the moment and relax with all that was around me.
A Native American Tells His Story “Behold This Day”
by Black Elk Hehaka Sapa, Oglala Sioux, Lakota
Black Elk, 1863-1950, a holy man of Oglala Sioux, told the story of his life and his vision to the poet John G. Neihardt in 1931. He received the great vision by which he steered his life at the age of nine.
And a Voice said: “All over the universe they have finished a day of happiness.” And looking down I saw that the whole wide circle of the day was beautiful and green, with all fruits growing and all things kind and happy.
Then a Voice said: “Behold this day, for it is yours to make. Now you shall stand upon the center of the earth to see, for there they are taking you.”
I was still on my bay horse, and once more I felt the riders of the west, the north, the east the south, behind me in formation, as before, and we were going east. I looked ahead and saw the mountains there with rocks and forests on them, and from the mountains flashed all colors upward to the heavens. Then I was standing on the highest mountain of them all, and round about beneath me was the whole hoop of the world. And while I stood there I saw more than I can tell and I understood more than I saw; for I was seeing in a sacred manner the shapes of all things in the spirit, and the shape of all shapes as they must live together like one being. And I saw that the sacred hoop of my people was one of the many hoops that made on circle, wide as daylight and as starlight, and in the center grew one mighty flowering tree to shelter all the children of one mother and one father. And I saw that it was holy.
Live Your Life and Behold Each Day of Your Journey
1.If You Lack Confidence and Walk in Fear, Make a Plan
As I thought about using Nathan Olney as my first chapter, what gives me confidence is to have a plan and choreograph my moves. I used a table and on each day I had across each column, distance, elevation gain/loss, elevation of camp and miles. I memorized my map, studied each camp, planned each meal in every column and row. If this is what it takes to lessen some fear, do it. Otherwise you are the very adventuresome type who craves living on the edge.
2. When You are Faced with Humbling Challenges, The Opportunity You are Presented is to Think Things Though.
The option I chose most often was to break things in to manageable chunks. Most important, do not be in a hurry. Most of the time we arrived at camp at dinner time or later.
3. Gritis The Drive that Conquers Pain.
Beauty can be both great and small. Beauty always follows Pain, but you must keep your mind open, have enough trust and look for it. Having a Growth Mindset that you can do hard things is essential to staying with your plan and having daily reflection and practice that allows for you to seek positives in your life are essential to enjoying your journey when you need a rally.
4. Your TribeShould Be Your Allies
If you are taking others along in your journey, go for a test run. Set limits on discussion if there are sensitive topics. Nothing is worse than to have a conversation hijacked.
5. Maturity and Wisdom Matters.
Use your experiences in life to apply to solving problems.
6. Decision Making is a Combined Effort
Over and over, we discussed the possibilities and weighed outcomes over dinner each night. We checked in with each other in the morning to make sure we were still good with the plan or if something came up as we slept on it. A good night’s sleep in a cozy tent of fresh air can inspire revelations.
7. If You Are Always Hungry, Then you Must Learn to Delay Gratification
I’ve done a lot of reading on this topic. Being a retired teacher there is an abundance of research around children that can delay gratification are the most successful in life. Forage for food as much as you can, drink an abundance of water otherwise you’ll be miserable trying to pack treats and trail mix 150 miles.
8. Do not succumb to Competition. Through EmpowermentWe can Grow
Our capitalistic world has it backwards and there is nothing that shows this more completely than being on the trail together. This is your makeshift family and you all look out for each other. Any other way is a waste of energy and a distraction from what you should be focused on.
9. Experiences are what You Bring to the Table
Every person has something to offer in life no matter how young or old, little experience or well seasoned, they may have.
10. Reflection with Grace is Your Right Spot to Be.
The stories and use of Raven the trickster in Native American lore is a creature that is magical. It often transforms itself into another natural object or life form, even human. It cannot be trusted to always do the right thing and is often portrayed as an antagonist or protagonist. He keeps secrets and focuses on his own self preservation but can also be a hero.
The Tlingit story, “Raven, The River Maker”
At first, the animals had no fresh water, no water at all to drink. The water on earth was filled with salt, and the animals were thirsty. Raven was thirsty too.
With feathers white as clouds, Raven floated above earth searching for water to drink.
Just like a cloud, Raven could move about wherever he pleased, unnoticed by anyone.
Even Wolf did not see Raven as he passed over his tiny island. But Raven saw Wolf.
Raven saw Wolf fill buckets of fresh water from his well.
Raven saw Wolf carry buckets of fresh water to his house. Raven saw that all the fresh water on earth belonged to Wolf. So this was why the other animals had no fresh water no water at all to drink? Raven flew down.
This is just what Raven wanted him to do.
Soon it was dark. When Wolf fell asleep, Raven tiptoed over to the buckets of fresh water.
How thirsty he was!
Raven drank until all the buckets were empty.
Raven drank up all the fresh water in the world.
Wolf woke up. He saw that his buckets were empty. He saw Raven fly up the smoke hole to escape.
But, Raven, fat and swollen, full of water, got stuck!
Wolf lit a fire of green wood. Thick smoke quickly rose up and darkened Raven’s feathers. Now Raven was black like the night of no moon.
When Raven escaped, drops of water dripped off his feathers as he soared high above land. Each drop of water became a river. Each river split into other rivers and small streams.
Now, thanks to Raven, the thirsty animals all over earth at last have fresh water to drink.
Trust and Serving Others
When you learn you can trust others, and can be resourceful and smart, life goes a lot easier for everyone. We are lucky as humans we can problem solve, think through various scenarios and come to consensus as we work together.
Just this past weekend, I was volunteering for our local fire lookout organization, Snoqualmie Fire Lookout Association and my continual haunt was back. I had a hard time working as a team and wanted to prove myself but it is a newer tribe and a mixed group of female and male, across age groups. I guess I will always feel like I need to prove myself even though I can still pick up 40 pound rocks, move logs and dig out the sides of trails to make them wider. It is the kind of work I like doing still today at 63.
Once you know your tribe and your tribe knows you, it is easier to assume or delegate responsibility. Most importantly, you also build trust and collaborate more freely understanding each others talents and safety decisions they make.
The Wolf and The Raven can work together.
Crossing Kautz CreekOne Month Prior
Earlier in the summer, prior to the 14 days on the Wonderland, Sandy and I had gone on a scouting trip from Longmire up to this exact location at Kautz Creek Video Here.
Crossing Pyramid Creek and Kautz Creek was one of the biggest challenges we would have, I believed. Raven had done his work, the creeks had spilled over its banks multiple times this year and the footbridge was tossed over and sideways. Due to COVID and reduction of staff at the park, it was doubtful it would be able to be repaired. I realized I needed to be Raven in the clouds and have my eyes on this area, take a close look at options and the lay of the terrain.
As you leave Longmire you walk east on the Wonderland and then turn and cross the Paradise Road to go clockwise on the Wonderland. Heading up to Pyramid Creek Backcountry Camp the trail cuts steeply across a former washed out area where the bank has not grown back. The trail then skips across a younger alder grove and the trail is mostly sand here where you can watch for boot prints as they make their way around smaller and then larger and larger boulders.
As you continue to cross the delta of multiple fingers that make up Pyramid and Kautz Creek, the main creeks both become bolder hopping or if you grow tired of that, you just precariously walk across through the water. If early enough in the day the river will not be too high and difficult to balance our packs across.
Sandy and I lay out several options this day and we practice with our packs and poles, balancing, hopping on this gorgeous beautiful day.
We have lunch then head back home.
August 2020 AnAbundance of WaterCrossing Kautz Creek
In the heat of August there is an abundance of water on Rainier. The heat swells the rivers and creeks even more and we plan to leave camp early from Devil’s Dream and give ourselves plenty of time in order to cross the Pyramid area before noon.
Sandy’s sandals and taped feet and toes seem to be holding up fairly well for flat ground but in my mind as we walk the trail, I realize we are going to have to cross boulders that are round and fat and not exactly the best shape for a pair of sandals and tape in water with a backpack that weighs about 20 pounds by now. We discuss our options to find the best areas up and down the river’s bank.
As we walk and get closer, we notice a man standing on top of some very large boulders peering off in the direction down river. I holler over to him and we make our way over to talk to him. He says he is lost on which direction to go up the river bank or down, he is not sure where exactly he is. I think, he is Raven who has changed into a man.
We assure him that we had just been out to the area a month ago and could spot the cliffside where the trail traverses down on the other side as it comes out of the woods. At the point where he was standing we convinced each other the crossing would be down river , so we continue down a distance until the trail that was cut in the hillside appears on the other side. Now we just have to get across.
At this point in the day the river has risen noticeably. The farther down river we go the swifter the current. It is so swift we cannot have a conversation with each other without stopping and standing within a foot of each other.
It was obvious we would need to boulder hop, toss our backpacks across and then ford. Luckily, Sandy and I do a lot of box jumping at our gym because we are both not the longest legged ladies and our hops end up being more like powerful frog hops across the river at the swiftest part.
Next, we cross several other small ones and then another larger one where there are several fingers converging with each other into more rapids with no boulders.
As we walk down the middle of the delta we notice the grove of alders and on the other side the trail.
With feet completely soaked, our nerves completely rattled, Sandy’s sandals falling to pieces, we put our trekking poles away and begin to bend the small alders to use and trekking poles to guide us across like railings on a bridge and catapult our way across the raging water.
I never was so glad to finally be through an area in my life and if this would have been where we started, I probably would have given up on our first day.
As we make our way across, the man is gone. Raven makes water for the animals and can also be a hero as we were able to gather our thoughts and cross safely.
We arrived at Longmire just shortly after lunch, did the backpack boogie and high tailed it over to meet up with our friends from Bend and burger and fries thanks to our trickster friend.
Earlier this year I finally made it to Indian Henry’s (Soo-Too-Lick) burial site.
I never realized Indian Henry had been near me where and when I lived in Eatonville all along. He wasn’t that hard to to find either. A 4-H Club had built his monument, a few Eagle Scouts later refurbished and cleaned up his grave, and years later here he lays south of Eatonville along the Nisqually area on the side of the Mashel Prairie Road. There is a small shaker church cemetery where he and only a few others rest.
If you remember from one of my episodes back, Indian Henry had been one of the three only Indian guides who was immortalized by areas of Mt. Rainier being named after them and he probably never fully understood at the time how one person could have such a big impact.
Indian Henry came to Western Washington in the 1850s, banished from the village of Simcoe, where my great great uncle was an Indian Sub Agent on the Yakama Indian Reservation at Ft. Simcoe for killing a medicine man. Today I am unsure if their paths had crossed.
Born Soo-Too-Lick in 1825, historians aren’t sure of his tribal origin. He is believed to be of Nisqually, Cowlitz or Klickitat origin. He eventually settled on the Mashel Prairie near present-day Eatonville in 1864 among other Native Americans primarily of Nisqually and Klickitat descent.
According to Edmond Meany, when Henry Winsor, a mail carrier, met Soo-Too-Lick he asked him his name. It was unpronounceable to Winsor prompting him to joke, “that’s no name-your name is Indian Henry,” offering Soo-Too-Lick his “Boston” name. The name stuck. Indian Henry adapted well to this name as he did with many of the customs of the “Boston” settlers. He was equally as comfortable with his Native customs and had little problems living within both of these “worlds.”
Indian Henry wore western style clothing and took up farming on the Mashel Prairie. He raised horses and cows as well as cultivated grains and vegetables. He was fluent in English and several Indian languages. He converted to Christianity. He was hospitable to both natives and non-natives, establishing many friendships and companionships. Many folks who headed to Mount Rainier would stop and stay at Henry’s homestead for a night, purchase supplies from him and use his guide services.
Indian Henry became known as an excellent woodsman and guide. He led several climbing parties to Mount Rainier, but never summited the mountain. Like most area Native Americans, he held the mountain as a sacred place and would not venture onto its glaciers believing to do so would bring bad luck. Some of the notables Henry guided included James Longmire, George Bayley, Philemon Van Trump, and A.C. Ewing. In 1888, Henry guided John Muir and his party to Mount Rainier. Fay Fuller spent the evening at Indian Henry’s place on her way to the mountain for her historical ascent.
Indian Henry Had Three Wives
Indian Henry had three wives as was customary of his people at the time. One story goes that Henry was brought before Judge James Wickersham in Tacoma to explain his marriage to these women. The judge told him that he would have to give up two of his wives. He kept his first wife which he ended up having five children with including a son he named Wickersham Soo-Too-Lick. Despite the conflict of having to let go of two of his wives, he apparently didn’t harbor any ill will for the judge, naming a son after him. Henry respected that Wickersham had an understanding of native cultures. Henry’s other two wives remained nearby working for him.
Indian Henry became fairly well off. It was believed by many of the area settlers that Henry had a gold mine somewhere on Mount Rainier. He always paid for his supplies at the local mercantile with gold nuggets. Some area settlers looked for this mine around Henry’s favorite hunting grounds but to no avail. Aside from the gold, Henry made a decent living by providing travelers lodging and supplies at his farm.
Despite raising cattle and cultivating crops, Indian Henry often left his farm for periods of time to hunt and gather food for the winter; keeping within his native routines. One of his favorite spots for hunting mountain goats is a beautiful alpine meadow area splotched with sparkling tarns-a beloved place by hikers today known as Indian Henry’s Hunting Ground.
Indian Henry’s Hunting Ground
Indian Henry’s Hunting Ground was one of the first hikes I took my 3 boys on.
Coming up from Kautz Creek, my then husband took our 8 year old twin boys and 6 year son on our first attempt. We started our adventure early in the day but soon the steep hill and large steps were too much for them. We ended up having lunch, treats, snacks, cookies, and just having fun playing in the forest that day.
Years later, my second attempt from Longmire was with my friend Diane. I believe it was around 90 degrees that day. We ran out of water, the bugs ate us alive, and because of the fact there was no way to treat water or filter water on me that day, I ended up jumping into snow banked Mirror Lake to cool down. If I wouldn’t have, I probably would have become so dehydrated, I wouldn’t have made it back the 17 mile round trip.
After that experience, we decided to only go in early or late summer and not during the heat. Diane and I would spend many years hiking in this area between the Nisqually entrance to Paradise and Camp Muir. It was my good fortune to have a friend like her during a difficult and challenging time of my personal life after becoming a newly divorced 40 year old with three teenage boys.
The following is a prelude to Video Episode 10 you can either click here to watch the video or read through and click at the end.
Video Synopsis: Taking you high across snow fields to the beauty of Spray Park. Lisa says goodbye to Shannon with a backpack boogie send off. Runtime 9:04
My first experience with Mowich Lake happened when I was about 18. When you’re 18 you do just about anything.
Mowich Lake in the 1970’s
Living so close to Mt. Rainier, we frequently would camp up at Ipsut Campgrounds. Back then you could simply drive your car into a camp spot and just spend a night or two. The ranger would be around in the evening to collect payment for the spot usually sometime around evening supper.
Back 45 years ago we had rustic equipment. An old nylon tent that leaked was always accompanied by a blue tarp to over hang in the trees so it didn’t get too damp. At each corner of the tarp you would place a rock and gather the ends of the tarp forming a ball so you can wrap your cord around it then hoist it to a tree. Our Coleman camp stove had to have a few pumps to pressurize the tank and then there was our Thermos brand ice chest that kept things cool for most of a day.
Keeping things simple, the main thing I remember is collecting our own wood to keep warm, which is taboo now, then trying to light wet wood and twigs that steamed because they were so soggy. With little control of the environment we would wake up to cascading water inside the tent mixed with pine needles, an unsettling alarm to get up to. I was always cold.
The experience I remember most hiking on the Wonderland up from Ipsut Campground was a very steep climb that lead to Ipsut Pass. From there you follow the ridge about 1/2 mile leading to Mowich Lake.
That early summer we decided to take on the 2800′ elevation gain early in the morning before heat caught up with us.
This trail starts out lovely and passes Ipsut Falls then takes a sudden sharp uphill grade full of switchbacks through the forest. What kept me going this particular day was the thought of this beautiful blue pristine alpine lake glistening in the sun above. I was reeling and ready with my swimsuit bikini top under my halter top. With an extra pair of jean cutoffs in my bag, I couldn’t see bringing a towel because I was just going to bask on the banks until I dried out in the middle of a secluded paradise.
My thought was I might even just take my clothes off all together, and take a little dip, no one would be there.
The first few miles we made our way easy enough. No one owned trekking poles back then. My hiking boots were tough girdled leather uppers with stiff hard soles. By the time we made it to a clearing where the pass began, we knew the last 1/2 mile would either condition us or kill us straight up to the sky.
What stood before us was giant boulders and loose rock that we ended up climbing on all fours to make our way. It was a scramble. No longer did the trees shelter us from the heat of the day that already lapped at our heals. Needless to say it was tough going and slower than we had predicted.
When we made it to the saddle we celebrated our accomplishment and walked our way along the ridge to Mowich seeing the remainder of a beautiful hot day and glistening lake ahead in our minds eye.
As we caught our breath our conversations started again. In the distance only sounds if faint breezes swayed trees above and low humming noise coming from very far off in the distance. As we continued, the faint noises became slightly louder in a low rumbling tone.
That sound was the sound of cars. A complete caravan of cars headed to Mowich Lake in the dust and music that trailed behind them.
At that point I remember falling to my knees and crying out, “I could have driven the car here!” Dust and people accompanied each and every car. Cars piled up in the parking lot, jockeying for positions, people chewing dirt but still smiling to be outdoors in a party of serenity.
My souvenir was not being able to sit for a week after that hike and there was the continual moaning that went along each time I squared down, “I could have drove, ohhhh,”
The road below to Ipsut Campground is closed and now the only was into the campground is on bike or foot.
And for the really brave person, you can drive the 11 miles of chuck holes if you dare.
Just remember your towel and some repair tools if your car disagrees with your decision and preemptively revolts.
Cataract Valley Campground, Seattle Park, Spray Park and Mowich
After the Big W our camp for the evening was at Cataract Valley. Shannon reminded me she had stayed here before in her earlier trip around The Wonderland and it was one of her least favorite camps mostly because of the fog they had encountered.
At the time we rolled in late in the afternoon, we began our search for we thought would be the best spot. The first two sites, unoccupied, looked like they had just melted out of snow and appeared damp. As we grew closer to the creek, we found an ideal spot next to water, the bear pole and a happy couple just across the way.
We pitched our tents and I hardly remember dinner that night and fell asleep early putting away the long day. Day 10 had been a rough one.
Morning sunrise breaks around at 6 am in August in the Pacific Northwest and like clockwork we were up having our breakfast and gathering our tents up. The reality of this being the last day for Shannon was setting in on her.
Our last day would include over Seattle Park, to Spray Park and then our final day at Mowich.
Day 10 to Seattle Park we come across more downhill assisted trail runners. As we attempt to merge to one spot it’s impossible. The trail is so narrow and only a deep rut uphill. Shannon and I step off and stop to avoid doing trail damage. At this point we know if we don’t the runner will step off and then run down the sides of the trail trampling the little plants that have taken a half century to get to the size of a peanut.
At this spot at tree line, the trees start to look like they are growing sideways because of the snow and wind they carry with them as they stretch toward the sun. It truly was one of my most favorite areas so far. The mountain in the background, creeks babbling and cascading, a few rock challenges, snow,
The snow at Seattle Park still exits in August and the insects appear so excited for the opera of spring to begin, they want to carry us off in their ecstasy. At the rocky outcropping painted orange as a monument to Seattle Park we see backcountry skiers heading to glacier ski probably around Flett Glacier and just below Observation Rock. This the glacier the professor my grandmother admired so well was named for. At this point a few day hikers emerge from the opposite direction telling us of a mama bear and cubs just over the next hill.
We’ve grown accustomed to seeing bears but ask for exactly what was seen, eyes on, not just someone said they saw a bear and decided to pass information on.
Happy but sad, my last day with Shannon.
Along our way we are bear aware but mostly we see day hikers at mid day traveling from Mowich Lake. We start to get a lot of questions at this point. Where have we been, how long have we been out here, etc. Our big backpacks are tell tale of our adventure. I notice other tell tale signs, like white lines at the crease at inside of my elbows due to grasping poles and an uneven tan line and my legs look chiseled and sinewy.
The original Wonderland Trail would have not taken us through Spray Park but instead down to Ipsut Campground and back up the Ipsut Pass to Mowich. Many “Wonderlanders” now choose the Spray Park alternate.
The last time Shannon was there it was foggy and that is what many encounter here but I have been here enough times day hiking to know the beauty of a blue bird day.
Episode 2 Video The following is a prelude to 14 Days of Wonderland video is on the very popular Summerland Trail on the Wonderland system. You can skip to the video by clicking Episode 2 here or read and click at the bottom of this page.
Video Synopsis: Still boasting the ziplock plastic bags in her shoes, Lisa contemplates returning them to Carrie. Upon summiting at Summerland camp it is found the camp had recently been ransacked by a bear. Runtime 6:40
We wake up to gorgeous weather at Tamanos Camp and decide on taking a popular trail on the Wonderland for a day hike. Earlier during our planning Summerland Camp and Indian Bar Camps were both full and we could not make arrangements to backpack through both of these beautiful areas. A recent sign, posted, boot prints and a single track of something being dragged across the ground is all that remains of evidence to a scary day to campers who had camped there a few days prior.
The story from the other campers was, campsite #2 was occupied at Summerland. During lunch a bear walked into campsite two, snatched a backpack out of the possession of a camper and dragged it and commandeering the bag and contents.
After crossing Frying Pan Creek, having lunch on the rocks and taking a brief moment to catch a few golden rays of sunshine, we were met with a spectacle of wildflowers. Everything from Lupine, Columbia Tiger Lily, Columbine, Magenta and Orange Indian Paint Brush, Pearly Everlasting blooming all at once. In the background the lovely scents were married with the mountain as if standing so proud of her work.
The trail up to Summerland is a sought after day hiking spot, especially on a weekend in summer. It starts from lush, green forests, on a wide forgiving pine needle filled path that is easy on the knees. Later it switches back and forth as Frying Pan Creek cascades and falls over the rocky face of the hill. From it’s crossing you catch a glimpse of Rainier, here and there along with wildflowers that forever fill the hillside all summer.
When we a arrived to take a walk through camp, we found a posh pit toilet, and high end, solidly constructed rock walled group site. I’ve been here many times with the chipmunks and marmots looking for a handout. I spotted one lazy marmot hiding from the heat under a tree.
Which is probably how the bear came to be.
In essence I feel sorry for the bear. People feed the chipmunks, they are aggressive when you sit for a split nano second. They jump all over your bag, and hop inside if you walk away to peak over the hill. The marmots take their share too.
So why not the bear?
Just there for his share of take-out.
Most, if not all of Rainier’s backcountry camps, have bear poles. We never leave any of our food unattended. Ever.
It goes without saying Rainier’s bears are generally mild and do not aggressively take food away from humans but this bear decided it would go about his business differently. That’s when the rangers started putting up signs, checking in with hikers, and doing what they call mitigation to scare it away.
We didn’t ask for details what mitigation was, air horn, rocks, yelling, we were just more concerned there was still that particular bear there.
After filtering some water for the trip down, we take in a snack on a nice warm rock.
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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