Saturday, August 5, 2017
Chewed-up feet, a case of the grumpies, mean flies and so much beauty that I didn’t even care. Well, eventually.
I woke up a little tired-feeling at 5:25am and was packed up and hiking out of camp by 6:10am – before any of my neighbor campers at Klapatche were even awake. Okay by me! I love these quiet mornings on the trail all by myself! It’s really become my favorite part of each day on this trip!
I hiked up toward St. Andrew Lake where I swam yesterday and stopped there to rearrange my pack, as it acquired a really aggravating squeak that I assumed was because of how I packed it. The rearranging helped, but the squeak didn’t totally go away. It didn’t take long for me to shut it out, though. There’s this scenery thing that was happening around me that is a really great distraction from these sorts of things.
I then started downhill and cruised along pretty good, but then I got a little grumpy. The only thing I could figure was that it was my last full day on the trail, and I think I was deeply saddened that it had to end. I wasn’t really sure, though. I kept getting distracted by my surroundings, then a fly would bite me and I’d cuss at it and feel so frustrated for a minute. Then I’d hike on, look around, and do it all over again. It was extra hazy from smoke in the air that morning, and then I slipped on a mossy rock while getting water in a small stream and muddied my foot and one of my legs. It just felt like I was having an “off” day. (Edit: I later realized that this moody day fit right into my monthly schedule – sorta – it wasn’t on my radar because it came a week early. But at least it makes sense now!)
Then I started to climb and I felt better. Strangely. I felt so good. Like I had my hiker legs and could go forever. And then the forest opened up to another glacial view as I ascended toward what was called emerald ridge. The name itself sounded pretty, so I thought I’d wait until I got up there to eat my bacon and snacks – with the marmots, I hoped. I was getting cheery again!
Emerald ridge was really nice. It was kind of a knife’s-edge hike for a little while along a ridgeline that dropped down pretty steeply on both sides of the trail (hence the name “emerald ridge!”) and the colors surrounding the view of the Tahoma glaciers was really colorful – lots of grays, reds and browns from the rock and green from the trees and blue of the sky – and the haze was giving it all a sort of peaceful pastel glow. It was so pretty.
At the top, I found a great rock that I could lean up against for my break, and ate my first food of the day – at 9:30am! I wanted to hike this trail in ketosis, and it’s been a crazy-weird experience – not feeling the need to eat for the first few hours of hiking, and get this – I’ve really had no off-trail cravings. I mean I guess I thought a little about crunchy lettuce and a cold drink a couple of times, but maybe that was more because of thirst? I dunno. I even tried to think about pizza. Nah… Burger? Nah… Beer? Nah… An apple? Nah… I mean, come on! I’m backpacking! I’ve gotta really want something! I was starting to feel envious of that young guy I met that couldn’t wait to get his bonzai burger from Red Robin. I later met another guy that said he was going to eat fries until he puked. So I felt sad that I wasn’t craving anything… I guess. But I sure was still enjoying my trail food – especially the mixed raw nuts, coconut butter, and cheese! So, I can’t really complain. That’s pretty yummy stuff!
On my break some mosquitoes decided to join me. I slathered on some deet, leaned back and watched as the buggers buzzed around my face, hovered by my ears and landed on the rim of my hat, but the deet kept them from wanting to land on my skin. Perfect. I ate in peace. Well, besides the annoying buzzing. And a couple of marmots did run across the meadow as I munched on some bacon! But they were just as shy as all the others I’ve seen this far, and I wasn’t quick enough to grab a good photo. Too bad, because they’re so dang cute – especially when they run!
The day was turning out to be a yo-yo kind of day. Up to St. Andrews Lake, then down to the South Puyallup River, then up to Emerald Ridge, and now back down towards Tahoma Creek. That hike downhill, at first got me excited because I started to see a bunch of salmon berries and a few huckleberries. I started to pick some, collecting them in a baggie, with the thought that I’d give them to Adam that night if he shows up at my campsite. But the black flies took over and killed my mood. I was able to gather a few handfuls, but then gave up (these flies do NOT care about deet! They bite right through the stuff!). They weren’t horribly swarmy or anything, but just annoying enough to make me want to keep moving to they to get away. I was making good time because of them, though! I eventually got so frustrated (because of my grumpy state, I think) that I practically ran up the next hill!
When I arrived at Tahoma Creek I was surprised with another suspension bridge! I totally forgot in my early reading and research of the trail that there were two suspension bridges! I took my time crossing it, enjoying the slow bouncing feeling as I stepped my way across, really appreciating the engineering of the thing, and especially appreciating that I again didn’t have to rely crossing such an angry river without a bridge! I stopped for a quick break once I got across and ate some more food. I was feeling a little more hungry than previous days. Maybe a craving would hit soon!
I started to feel tired when I came across a huge, smooth rock that was just soaking in sunshine with a great view of a valley below. I decided on a whim to drop my pack and try for a short nap. I was making really good time. Might as well! Well… About five minutes into my attempt at a nap and I was sitting up and cursing at the flies that were biting at my ankles. I got up in a huff, threw on my pack and angrily, practically ran up another hill I was climbing.
Wanna know how to tell when the flies are really getting to you? When you’re trying to take a drink of water and one flies into your mouth, and you quickly take swig, swallow and say out loud, “There! I hope you struggle all the way down and survive until you hit my stomach acid, you asshole!” It made me laugh a little at the thought. Okay, maybe I was losing it. I decided I was done letting the little bastards try to ruin the last half of my last full day in one of the greatest places I’d ever hiked before.
“Go ahead, flies, bite away. I don’t even care any more.” All I had to do was say it and I began to tolerate them much better. My climb was bringing me up towards Indian Henry’s old hunting grounds, and I was starting to see wildflowers and meadows with pretty little trickling streams. There’s no way the flies were going to ruin this for me! So I turned it into a mental game. And won.
It also helped that I stopped to treat some water, then make up a cold, caffienated coffee. That put a bounce in my step, and before I knew it I was playfully stepping up the trail, happy as can be. I remembered I still love hiking! Flies and all. I even took a side trail (which ended up being about a 2-mile round trip) to Mirror Lakes. Because why not? It was a worthwhile excursion, too. The flowers got insane, completely exploding over rolling meadow hills, and then I got a great view of Mt. Rainier reflecting in a small lake surrounded by it all. Mirror lakes – appropriately named!
After I got back onto the Wonderland Trail, I soon found myself approaching the historic (but still used) Indian Henry patrol cabin. Seriously? This place. If I could just live anywhere… It might be in that very cabin. I can’t even… Here. Here’s a photo or two below. Am I right? I took a few minutes there, mostly to pretend it was my front yard, then continued on down the trail. I didn’t want to leave that place!
I stopped at the Devil’s Dream camp area to make use of the pit toilet there. I felt satisfied that I’d used the very last of my toilet paper, knowing I’d probably be just fine making it out tomorrow without any. It’s strangely satisfying when these things turn out to be perfectly portioned. It means you didn’t carry extra – even if it weighs as little as some TP – it’s a good feeling. Also, stopping at Devil’s Dream reminded me of how glad I was that the ranger booked Pyramid Creek for my last night’s camp instead of here. The bugs were a little crazy. I didn’t stick around.
Just a couple of miles later and I was approaching camp. Would Adam be there? Did he make it across Kautz Creek okay? As I walked in, it looked like someone had already taken site #1, but I didn’t see our Hubba Hubba set up, so I proceeded towards site #2. A quick glance back at site #1, though, and hey! I recognized that head through the trees!
He stood up, said hello, and I joined him in our site. He said he got across the river okay. There was someone else there to help him find the good spot to cross at, and over an old part of the bridge that had washed out and a few skinny, bouncy logs, he made it with no problem. Whew! I was so nervous for him, but of course he did just fine. I was so happy to see him! He hiked three miles, a lot uphill, and across an angry glacial river to spend the night with me in the woods! He’s the best.
We set up camp, hung our smellies and walked back where I’d come from about a half mile to where I crossed a nice, clear stream. We gathered some water to drink, I waded in to pick a few plump salmon berries (that water was bitter-stinging cold!), and then I rinsed the day’s dirt off of my feet and legs.
I don’t know if it’s because of how far I hiked (I think with my side trip it was around 14 miles), how fast I hiked (I blame the flies), the terrain, the heat, the fact that I didn’t wash my feet throughout the day, or just that my feet had had enough for a while, but they got a little tore up. They were great yesterday… But just after today, for some reason, I had a couple of raw rub spots that I actually had to stop for a few hours earlier to cover up – one with a blister pad (I only had one in my first aid kit) and the other with some duct tape. My poor feet were looking rough. Guess it was time to give them a little break. “Just a few more miles,” I told them. “Just a few more miles.”
Back at camp Adam and I took our food back down off of the bear pole, scarfed down some trail food, brushed our teeth, rehung our smellies and crashed. Another great night with no rain fly. And three or so miles back to civilization in the morning.
Tonight I love trail coffee.