Wednesday, August 2, 2017
No big deal… I just hiked around a glacier today.
I woke up at 2am last night with some pretty gnarly heartburn. I had no way to sleep elevated, so I just sat up and stared, bored, into the dark forest around me for about 10 minutes until I felt better. Then all of a sudden I had to poop! So I frantically grabbed my headlamp and found my toilet bag and made the dark trek to the camp’s lovely 3-walled pit toilet. Yup. At 2am. I did feel much better afterward, so it was a worthwhile late-night trip. I think the pepperoni I ate for dinner went just a little too long unrefrigerated. That’s going in the next trash can I find.
I woke up at 6am and got packed up and on the trail by 7am. I’ve been finding breakfast to be unnecessary right when I wake up, so I’ve really been enjoying just heading out without the fuss. I’ve also been feeling my best early in the morning before eating (well, besides some pink salt for electrolytes) – but also hiking in the cool of the day, most other hikers are still asleep or just waking up so the trail is quiet, and I have a better chance at seeing some wildlife. Oh, and I was the first one this morning to reach a surprise-patch of the most plump, beautiful salmon berries. Seriously, these are the prettiest berries! They’re just a little tart for flavor, so for someone that doesn’t eat much sugar anymore? Soooo good. Now that’s a breakfast!
This morning in particular I watched a mamma deer and her fawn cautiously cross the tail directly in front of me all tranquil-like. Except that in the background the mountain was being angry. As I watched the peaceful scene unfold in front of me – these beautiful deer in the morning light, a large rock gave way somewhere on the mountain, and I could hear them crashing down, tumbling and echoing across the valley and into the forest I was standing in. I could almost feel the sound in my chest. It was actually very cool. I just hoped I was lucky enough to be able to see something like a rock fall happen – instead of just hearing it.
A little further down the trail I got a pretty close look at Carbon glacier. Mt. Rainier has a bunch of glaciers coming down off of it, and the trail gets pretty close to a few of them, but not nearly close enough to be too dangerous. And I was surprised at their appearance. I always imagined glaciers like the ones you see on TV in Alaska – all blue and transparent. Or like the ones on Mt. Everest with the ginormous crevasses. These were just solid chunks of ice covered in rocks. But you could tell they were ice underneath because in a few spots the ice would be broken off where the sun must’ve melted and weakened a section until some of it gave way.
As I stood there in awe of this crazy thing (this is the closest I’ve ever been to an actual glacier), I heard a deep “crrruuuunch” and saw a big rock, probably about half the size of a smartcar, let loose and tumble down over one of the broken-off ice chunks, taking a bunch of smaller rocks with it, leaving a cloud of dust in its wake. The sound was incredible. Just a loud, rock-tumbling “boom-boom-crack” that you could actually feel. I really don’t know how to describe it, but it was a really neat, new experience for me.
I hope you’re able to hear it through the video:
There was a part of the trail this morning, too, that went down a steep slope to a river crossing, and it was so steep that there was a rope to help guide you down (or up if going the other direction). I threw my trekking poles down and climbed on down. It was fun! It’s like a playground out here!
Speaking of playground, next up was this giant suspension bridge. But no, in all seriousness, as cool as this was, it’s definitely NOT the place to play around (too much). This thing is huge and spans across the Carbon River waaaay down below (which is melt-off from the crazy glacier I was talking about a minute ago). Once you get on it and start walking across it, your footfalls alone make it sort of bounce up and down slightly, and because your right foot lands, then your left, it also twists back and forth. So it kind of teeters in two directions at once. I’m really glad I’m not too afraid of heights! I think this thing would be incredibly terrifying if I was. It was a long drop down with only a cable to hold on to while wobbling up, down and side-to-side. But for me, it was fun. I even laid down in the middle of it… And maybe I shouldn’t admit to it, but I sat and dangled my feet over the edge of it, feeling the narrow boards tilt with my weight on one side.
After the suspension bridge I started to climb up towards Seattle and Spray Parks, which is an alternate section of the Wonderland Trail, but one I was told by a few people to take with no question. So I did. And I’m so glad. It was a suuuper hot day (word on the trail is that there are heat advisories in Seattle and Olympia nearby and that tomorrow it could reach 100° in the park! But who knows… Trail rumors are a thing. But then again, as hot as it was today, climbing up to the beauty that is Spray Park, I kind of believed it!)
I stopped at a little babbling creek in the shade of what appeared to be one of the last good pine trees before ascending into some pretty exposed terrain. I treated some water, ate some lunch and really noticed how hot it was – even in my shady little oasis. Eventually I had to get up and move on. And it got much hotter. And much prettier.
As I climbed, there were trickling waterfalls lined with an array of vibrant wildflowers that bled into the meadows that stretched out all around me. The flowers were so abundant that the air smelled like cotton candy, and I was softly stepping along a little dirt ribbon of trail that wound through it all. I actually thought to myself as I walked through this perfectly naturally-landscaped scene, “Every day feels like a magical wonderland out here.” So I guess the trail’s name is truly appropriate!
Higher up I popped open my sun umbrella to ward off a little more of the sun’s heat, as I was now climbing into some loose talus, or shale, or both. I followed a light path through the rocks by spotting a cairn off in the distance every so often. Once I was up and over that section, I found myself once again on a high, flat meadow – again with more flowers.
Then I saw a big brown bear! He was slowly walking along the edge of some pine trees right toward the trail I wanted to walk on. So I kept my distance and just watched him for a while. He even stopped in a shady spot for a bit, sat on his rump and scratched himself. Finally he stumbled on across my path and out of my view. I made some noise during all of this – you know, talking to him like an idiot and stuff, just to let him know I was there, but he couldn’t have cared less. He looked up at me once, bored-like, and kept doing what he was doing. I kept on chatting away and clanking my trekking poles together until I was through that area and feeling out of his zone.
On my descent down to camp, I swung into a side trail to Spray Falls to get some water for camp and wash up a bit. The cold water really felt refreshing, and I was the only one there. Spray Falls was impressive, too. I was glad I checked it out. I was pretty tired out from the day. It was something like a 12-mile day with a lot of climbing under a relentless hot sun. My feet were definitely feeling tired, too.
I arrived at camp at around 4:40pm, so still fairly early. I set up my tent, ate a few snacks, took a nap, then tried to eat a little more but wasn’t feeling too hungry so I didn’t push it. As much as I love sunshine, I really thinking it’s been taking a toll on me out here. But damn, am I feeling glad it’s not raining at all! What great weather. Even if it is hot. I still love it.
Another night with no tent rainfly needed. Tomorrow morning I pick up my food cache. That’s going to be a fun experience. I just hope it doesn’t take too long, because I know I have waaaay too much food in that bucket!
Best new thing ever:
So today? Glaciers are super-cool and kind of alive, suspension bridges are fun, and my friends were right on – you can’t miss Spray Park.
Tonight I love the Carbon glacier. That was damn cool.
Wanna cross the suspension bridge with me?