The Wonderland Trail today circumnavigates Mt. Rainier in Washington State. We begin this episode with an excerpt from the 1915 book, The Mountaineer, describing the first ascent of Tahoma by a white man named Tolmie. Travel back and time to 1833 long before Washington was a state, and then again in the 1974 for a look into two journeys quite different. This episode ends with Lisa saying goodby to Shannon after their ten days together backpacking in 2020. You can find this podcast and others at “A Year of Wonderland” on Spotify, Apple Itunes, Overcast, RadioPublic, Google Podcasts, and many others.
More About Bears
I do not carry bear spray while hiking in Washington State. I never have and probably never will. However I do carry pepper spray for self protection from humans. You actually have a 60,000 times better chance of being murdered by a human than a bear in Washington.
Washington State however used to have a grizzly bear population.
The grizzly bear is said to be a part of the cascade wilderness area according to North American Bear Center
According to The North Cascade Institute for Environmental Learning in 1860 there were approximately 1000 grizzly bears in the North Cascades of Washington State. That number soon declined to approximately 650.
Human attacks can happen and can be extremely dangerous. The most recent being in Montana in 2021 where the grizzly was protecting its food a moose near by. Most attacks are by females protecting their young.
The second largest removal of the grizzly population happened when prospectors came to the North Cascades in search of gold. The number declined another 200.
Finally with open grazing and the final push out west the last one was located in 1967 in the Glacier Peak Wilderness of Washington State.
The last confirmed tracks in mud were located in the North Cascades in 1996 and in Canada in 2010.
The following Native American story was used to tell about the grizzly bear. It is symbolic with hot rocks being shots and the coyote being an animal that is a trickster, perhaps man.
Chances are if you hike long enough you’ll encounter a black bear in Washington State. It is estimated there are between 25,000 to 30,000 black bears.
They range in color between a cinnamon brown to black.
Black bears can startle you because of their quiet demeanor and large size but are in general not harmful.
The biggest misconception according to American Bear Center is females are dangerous if their young is present or you get between them. The centers best advice is speak calmly and back away slowly. If a bear becomes nervous it will “bluster” and really it is trying to communicate it is nervous and has a problem with you. None of the bears I’ve encountered at Mt. Rainier have ever shown a sign of being bothered with me.
Startled black bears often run up a tree so if you are bothered by them, your best bet is just to walk on by and continue to talk calmly.
The permit system has changed again this year. New for 2021 is the permit system through Recreation.gov.
This is the timeline for three opportunities to get a permit for 2021.
The following is a prelude to 14 Days of Wonderland video on finding camp on the Eastside of Rainier. You can skip to the video by clicking Episode 1 here or read and click at the bottom of this page.
Episode 1 Video synopsis: A search for a lost camp known as Deer Creek as well as a rainy first day through gorgeous wildflower meadows. Lisa ends up wet from head to toe but with the help of her friends, ends up wearing gallon zip lock bags in her shoes and Carrie’s clothes for a climb up Tamanos Mountain. Runtime 9:31
Out in the middle of no where, our first day didn’t go quite as planned. To begin, Shannon’s car experiences a low tire alarm which keeps her driving at a snails pace in order to not cause any damage to her vehicle.
From past experience, Mowich Lake road is pot-holed, chuck-holed, dusty and busy. Hiker’s and their vehicles hoping to get a parking spot at least a mile within a trailhead on a weekend in summer, get antsy and sometimes plain old crazy. They pass each other, drive erratically, and in more than one case, as the scattered evidence proves, loose pieces of their vehicles to the belly of the washboard gravel road.
Shannon arrives safe and unharmed but her sweet car may never be the same.
From here on out is easy enough!
Our first day out was mostly trips to cache and plant vehicles at various locations and luckily we have all day.
If all goes according to plan, we will make it to camp at Deer Creek for a relaxing JetBoil dinner, filter water for the morning, get plenty of rest and settle in to the sights of the evening forest and sounds of babbling Deer Creek.
Shannon and I plan to meet at Mowich Lake on the north side of Rainier around 10 am. We plan to leave Shannon’s parked car, then proceed to drive together, masked up, in my car to Sunrise, pick-up Sheli where she will be leaving her vehicle. Then we all three will head to White River Campground to drop our cache location behind the ranger station. Finally, we will arrive at the Deer Creek Trailhead on the Southside to Owyhigh Lakes.
Raspberries make everything better from Shannon’s garden as we ditch Shannon’s car in a somewhat safe and cozy spot we were lucky to get. After jockeying our backpacks, we head down the mountain once again to the other side, a 1 1/2 hr drive away.
Chewing dust couldn’t taste more sweet as we head toward our rendezvous with Sheli.
We arrive at Sunrise around 2 pm. Sheli has encountered a bit of traffic leaving her home in Seattle as Shannon and I enjoy the sights and scenes of Sunrise. The wildflowers are blooming, the summer breezes felt lovely even in a COVID mask and bandana. Luckily we have pad our day with time and aren’t rushed because we know the backcountry camp at Deer Creek is right off the highway with best part being downhill. We could just roll down it if we had to.
We find a good spot for Sheli at the overnight parking area just as she pulls up, stretch our legs, jockey our gear once again in the back of the Jeep and are on our way!
The journey from Sunrise is a short 20 minutes as we pass the image of the mountain in our mirror and through our window as we weave in and out the hills and forest of the dryer side of the mountain. Finally, descending deep into Steven’s Canyon, I remember my comment how the hike tomorrow will be somewhat the same going back up with full backpacks. I am confident mentally we will be ready and prepared for whatever this mountain gives us over the next two weeks, the good the bad and the ugly if there will ever be one given the beauty of what our first evening will hold in our memories.
When I spoke with the ranger the week prior, she gave me specifics on where Deer Creek camp was located. Since I had never been to that particular trailhead, I needed a bit more information on where to park or some interesting landmark that might help me if we had a later start and it got dark in the canyon. The ranger assured me it was right off the highway within 1/2 to 3/4 of a mile on the Owyhigh trail, just past the bridge over Deer Creek.
Shannon as well looked Deer Creek up on several websites, Washington Trails Association and AllTrails. She comes prepared with a printed copy of a recent trip report that gave directions supporting our start location.
With the beep of the Jeep, we set off for our first night at lovely Deer Creek.
Passing by Deer Falls, a popular tourist stop, we come upon just a few families who are making their way back up the steep hill. The smell of the forest and the falling waters create a peaceful Zen and worthwhile stopping point for travelers heading west to east in the summer. As soon as we find camp, our first night will be a celebration complete with a bottle of Summit wine and an evening of relaxation.
As soon as we find camp.
We come to the Eastside junction, of four corners. To the west Owyhigh Lakes, to the North Eastside Trail, to the South Eastside Trail, to the East, where we came from the highway. No sign said Deer Creek.
We continue west on the Owyhigh Lakes Trail as Shannon pulls out her trail report. We read, it can be hard to find and “Good Luck”.
We walk, and walk some more, then start heading uphill. Things are going to get sweaty now.
We walk, and walk some more. Lisa in a cautious yet hopeful tone says, “Shannon, in your mind did you envision this being this far off the highway?”
We walk, and walk some more. Shannon, in her cool as a cucumber voice speaks positively, “Hmm, maybe not.”
Lisa then says, “Let’s turn around. It is getting late.” realizing I know where my car is but not the camp.
We return to the four corners and talk.
We talk and talk and decide which direction to take, between North Eastside and South Eastside.
Sheli with confidence pointing a trekking pole and says, “That way!” and then points to the tiny etched arrow and scratched in words of Deer Creek.
We are home after a short what was known as our pre-tour of tomorrow.
Sheli earns her badge as trailblazer, wild animal spotter and she also gets an A+ in pitching a tent.
According to Wikipedia, Sam Hill is a euphemism for the devil.
Episode 1 contains a search for a lost camp known as Deer Creek as well as a rainy first day through gorgeous wildflower meadows. Lisa ends up wet from head to toe but with the help of her friends, ends up wearing gallon zip lock bags in her shoes and Carrie’s clothes for a climb up Tamanos Mountain. Runtime 9:31