Tuesday, August 1, 2017
Bears and springs and rocks and side trips and swims and…
I didn’t set my alarm last night, and naturally woke up at 7am. I unzipped my tent and stepped out. I stretched my arms up into the air and took a deep breath. I decided the first thing I’d do was walk down to the bear bins to retrieve my food bag. I started down the trail and a guy standing across the campsite from me says in a sudden tone, “Stop – bear.” I stopped in my tracks and looked down where he was looking. Sure enough, a smallish brown-colored bear was nibbling on the tender green tips of the tiny pine trees that were all over camp. And she was right by the bear bins! Guess I’ll wait to get my food! Then the same guy who warned me of the bear says, “and she’s got a cub. It’s up in that tree there” and he pointed to a pine tree in front of me a little ways.
Of course I did what I do, and set back towards my tent and grabbed my phone so I could get some photos of my first bear(s) encounter on the Wonderland Trail! I took a few photos, but kept a safe distance. With all the people around, you could tell this mamma bear was totally used to us gawking. She didn’t care one bit that we were all around snapping photos of her. Then the cub came climbing down the tree and adorably bounded over by its mom. Seriously so cute. Now that’s the kind of bear encounter I like!
Cute little cub!
She and her cub finally wandered down out of camp, so I was able to get my food and back to my morning of packing up. I was able to get out of there by 8:20am.
I hiked into this beautiful meadow full of wildflowers (which never gets old!), and nearly tripped a bazillion times because I kept looking all around me. I had a great view of Mt. Rainier behind me, and all kinds of other mountains I don’t know the names of!
Way up on a talus field on one of the mountain sides I noticed little moving white spots. GOATS! There were three – two big and one little. A little goat family – billy, nanny and baby. I tried to grab a few photos, but they turned out pretty blurry because they were so far off. I kept track of them and watched them in awe how they walked across those tumbling rocks with so much ease.
A little while later I heard a loud, “eeeeep!” and looked over to see a marmot! These guys are so adorable, too! He was a little shy, but he let me take a photo before running into the rocks to hide as I walked right past his sunning rock.
Next I saw a squirrel. I know, just a squirrel, but I got within about a foot of him and watched him dig a hole, uncover a nut and eat it. That was a new one.
Then! I came across a spring right off the trail. I dropped my pack and decided this was the kind of spot I needed to stop and enjoy. I followed the path upward from where the water was seeping out of the ground, and I didn’t see any source except for the snow way far up the mountainside. Yup, a spring. I grabbed my bottle, dipped it in and took a drink. Ice cold, too. I sat there and drank and drank. It’s one of the best things when you can safely drink water in nature without putting chemicals in it or having to push it through some sort of filter. And all the little flowers and mosses that were around? It was great.
While I sat at the spring filling my belly with water, a young guy walked by. I said hello, but he seemed kind of shy. I asked him if he was hiking the loop and he said it was his last day! I asked him what he was getting to eat when he gets off the trail, and he lit right up. Without a moment’s hesitation he said “a bonzai burger from Red Robin.” I laughed. Perfect! I snacked on some nuts, filled up as much water as I wanted to carry up the hill ahead, and moved on.
I took a side trail up a mountain because I had time. So why not!? I met a really friendly couple that were also climbing it, so it was nice to have some friends to share that with. The mountain is called skyscraper peak, and from the top you get a huge, majestic view of Mt. Rainier on one side and to the north you can see Glacier Peak and Mt. Baker. It was such a nice, clear day! But at the very tippy top summit I was greeted by a complete swarm of some kind of flying ant. They didn’t bite, but they were flying all over like they were drunk. They must have just hatched. They were landing all over me, flying down my shirt and into my ears… Yuk! Needless to say, I didn’t last long up there. I snapped a few photos and head back down. It was still worth the views, though.
A little further down the trail I met a friendly hiker named Brandon. The irises of his eyes were surrounded by red, solid bloodshot, and he explained that he was scuba diving, and failed to just let a little air out of his nose, felt a pinch in his eyes and got what is called “mask squeeze.” He said he’ll fully recover from it, but it can last for up to a month. (I later hoped I could meet up with him because I really want to give him the trail name “red-eye.”)
Almost to my camp near Mystic Lake, I climbed. The sun was beating me down pretty bad so I popped open my umbrella. It helped a little, but the angle wasn’t quite right so the sun kept peeking in. I have to work on my rig a little to get it just right. I think it still helped a little bit.
I finally arrived at camp at 3:45pm. I was glad I got there so early because I heard the walk up to Mystic Lake was worth it. Not only is it a pretty mountain lake, but it’s also a swimming lake! I was so hot and sweaty, I could barely wait. I immediately picked a spot, set up my tent, put all the stuff I didn’t need at the lake in there, then put my food and change of clothes in my pack and head for the lake.
Brandon joined me shortly after I got there, and it was really nice to talk to him. He’s a runner, wants to get into ultras (I told him about the “Ten Junk Miles” podcast – he’s gonna love it!), he’s usually an aggressive hiker but taking this trip easy, and was excited about seeing if he find a summit guide service after his hike that has a cancelation so he climb Mt. Rainier! We seemed to have a lot in common, so it was pretty easy to talk to him. I hope he gets to summit!!
I jumped into the lake and swam, avoided a thousand ants that were crawling all over, swatted a few flies and mosquitoes, ate dinner, and probably added another light layer of sunburn on top of my current sunburn. God I love summer. Especially out here. Bugs and all.
After the lake fun I made my way back down to camp, hung my smellies on the bear pole and crashed out pretty quick. I was beat after another long, hot, sunny, tough, incredible day.
Hey! I saw a bear today! And goats! And a marmot! *sigh* What a day…
Tonight I love the stupid bugs. Because you know why? Look where I am! I’ll take the bugs if it means I’m doing exactly what I’m doing right now.