Sunday, July 30, 2017
All the things Wonderland – in one day.
Today was a really long day. It was also quite challenging terrain. And sunny. And hot. And hard. And so beautiful that I barely noticed all the hard things. And when I did notice something was hard, I was quickly distracted by something amazing. It was… just… too much amazingness. I have to make up new words to describe things out here. I am so in love.
The plan was to hike just a little over 18 miles from my Nickel Creek camp to White River campground (over one of the most scenic sections of the whole trail!). After a very comfortable night (with barely any bugs!), I was up at 5am. Adam and I had everything packed up and ready to go by 6am. He decided to stick around one more night, so his plan was to meet me at White River campground where I was going to end my long day… So… Slack pack, baby!! I gave him my extra food, my tent, sleeping bag, sleeping pad and a few other small things. All together I probably lessened my load by 6 or 7 pounds. So nice!
I hit the trail around 6:30am, and shortly thereafter realized I wasn’t at all sore from the day before! And that was a long first day! Could it be that this keto thing kinda works? I was giggling to myself after I took a swig from my bottle filled with water, Chia seeds and MTC oil, imagining my liver saying, “Hey! Gimme that! I know what to do with that! Ketones, baby!” Or at least I hope it goes something like that. These quick recoveries can keep happening, I won’t mind! But it’s only day 2, so we’ll see how it goes. Keto while backpacking is new to me, so I’m guessing there’s going to be some learning happening. Maybe I’ll still crash and burn. I know it’s a possibility.
On I hiked, all up, for what seems like hours. Wait. It literally was hours. These climbs and descents out here are crazy long.
Eventually I popped out of the forested climb to some amazing views of Mt. Rainier, and I even caught a nice glimpse of Mt. Adams off on the horizon behind me. I crossed a few small snowfields and quickly realized that my Bedrock sandals were pretty slippery on snow. I didn’t mind the cold, wet toes, but I was finding it difficult to walk confidently.
I tried to capture pictures of the wildflowers up there, but the photos just didn’t do it justice. There were so many bright purples, yellows, pinks, fluffy whites… And they were everywhere.
On my climb down out of this meadowy wonderland down to what’s known as Indian Bar, I met a hiker that was pretty wound up about the snow that was ahead of me up high – after I climbed back out of Indian Bar. She said she slipped in the snow (the ranger even warned me of the large snow fields up there when I obtained my permit), and that slip sent her sliding down. She said she almost slid off – whatever that means. She tried giving me all kinds of directions like which way to turn after the 3rd, or was it the 4th, snow flag (how they mark the trail when it’s covered in snow), and where to take the high footpath, by some boulders, and… I was so confused. It was her first time ever hiking in snow, so she was already really nervous, so after we head off in different directions I realized she passed a little of her nervousness on to me. Then I started to think about it. I was pretty sure I’d be just fine up there. Man, fear-mongering even happens on shorter trails! I tried to tell myself that’s all it was, anyway. Going up there all tense was probably the worst thing I could do. So I leaned in on my experience and decided to take it as it came.
I got down to Indian Bar, and it was more beautiful than anyone has tried to describe to me. There is a camp here, and I felt envy towards the lucky dogs that were able to get this as one of their campsites. There was a group shelter that looked like a quaint little brick cabin smack in the middle of a wildflower-laden bowl surrounded by lush mountainsides in every direction and a clear, cold river running right through the middle of it all. Sounds too perfect, right? Yeah, I know. Because it is. But I’m not kidding.
I happily took a long break at that river and ate the bag of salad from Adam, mixed with my avocado, olives, parmesan cheese, olive oil, balsamic vinegar, salt and more everything bagel seasoning. I felt all gourmet – it was so delicious! I also ate the cucumber straight up, crunching away happily.
Right before I left, I rigged up my lightweight umbrella to my pack strap, and was surprised that it worked! Now I was protected from the sun and could still use my trekking poles. I was feeling pretty proud of myself. I also changed into my Topo hiking shoes for the upcoming snow fields. I at least knew I had to change shoes for this.
Then I climbed out of Indian Bar. That was an insanely long, steep climb. And it go so hot. I just took it slow as molasses and tried to keep my heart rate at a somewhat steady beat – just something I could maintain. I did okay and made it to the top, but I was pretty worn out. Again, though, it was so pretty all the way up that I was continually distracted from my pounding heart, sweaty face and rubberized legs.
I looked out ahead of me once I reached the top and took in the endless field of white. So much snow. I stepped on the already-established footpath and hiked on. I was using muscles that don’t get worked a lot because of the way your foot shifts in the slippery snow, so it was slow-going and tiring.
But then I saw my footpath again, but way below me. I didn’t think too hard about it – I pulled out the groundcloth for my tent, sat on it, and glissaded on my butt down to the path! It was cold, invigorating and sooo much fun! I was laughing out loud at the bottom, just happy with life in general. I was in this amazing, gorgeous place, and I basically just went sledding, on my ass, down a mountain, in the middle of the summer. I love the mountains.
Then I hiked along the edge of this little rocky prominence, and got a little to close to the edge. At the edge of snow and rock, the snow can be a little unstable, and I knew this, but for some reason I didn’t let my experience surface here. I took a step and down I went. I broke through the snow, postholing up to just above my knees. My right shin scraped along snow and the rock below, and my left knee caught the edge of another rock. I was able to easily crawl out, but I ended up with a pretty nasty gash on my shin. I kneeled in the snow for a couple of minutes, got up and hiked on, being sure to keep my distance from the rock/snow edges when I could help it.
After climbing through more snow, glissading a couple more times, and eventually over panhandle gap, I began a descent toward Summerland where the snow eventually petered out into fluorescent meadows of trickling snowmelt streams, flowers and moss in shades of color that don’t yet have a name. I took one more break near a wild river to treat some water, eat my leftover salad, and change back into my sandals for the rest of the long descent down to White River campground.
As I was coming around the bend of a switchback, super-tired and maybe slogging a little bit, I heard a lady exclaim, “Toots Magoots!” Oh boy…. I did not recognize this person, and felt totally awkward because she obviously knew me. So I flat out asked her, “Uh-uh, I’m sorry I don’t recognize you… How do you know me?” And she replied, all smiles, “We met your husband! He was down at the road with cold drinks, chairs, and blueberries! Doing trail magic!” Hah! Of course he was! Is he seriously not the best ever!? I laughed and just tiredly replied, “Aww, that’s great. He just loves doing that for hikers! I hope he saves me some blueberries!” (which he did, of course).
I had an extra pep in my step with this new knowledge that Adam was waiting for me at the bottom of this descent, but I still had a long three miles to trudge. About a mile from where he was I knew I was going to have to poop (I promise this won’t be poopy-graphic, but stick with me here). I couldn’t wait. I scoped out a spot in the woods (this was a pretty busy trail very close to a road, so I had to be extra careful with my chosen spot). It was a steep downhill slope, but I got a hole dug, got myself all set up and in position and I heard a noise uphill. I looked up and there stood a deer. Very close. He just stared at me! Then he walked around me, cautiously, and even came in a little closer to check me out. I was actually trying not to laugh out loud, as I didn’t want to scare him away. So, yeah. A deer watched me poop today. That was one of my very best, most entertaining backcountry poops ever. What a day!
At around 5:45pm, after 11+ hours of hard hiking, I saw Adam, sitting in a camp chair along the edge of the hiking trail. I sat with him a bit and we chatted about our day. Then we hauled everything down to the car, I got in, munched on some blueberries, and we head to White River campground. We were able to get a car camping site, which was a treat because we were allowed to have a campfire (none of the backcountry sites allow campfires). We cooked hot dogs for dinner and Adam made percolated coffee. We played a couple games of cribbage, I took advantage of the flushy toilets, running water, and garbage cans, and we snuggled up in our Hubba Hubba tent for a second night. And tomorrow I’m sleeping in, as I have a short day! I’m one lucky hiker!
Today was just… epic. It’s an overused word, I’m sure, but I can’t think of one more appropriate for today. Climbs, descents, views, valleys, flowers, streams, snowfields, post holing, glissades, exhaustion, a deer watching me poop, blueberries, campfire, coffee and cribbage with my favorite person?
Tonight I love glissading! So much fun!