The Wonderland Trail. Day 6.

Thursday, August 3, 2017 

I got me some huckle-tongue! 

I have the huckleberry daze in my eyes and the purple “huckle-tongue,” so it’s been a good day!

After a long night’s sleep I was up, comfortably at 5:10am. It was just starting to get the tiniest-bit light outside, and I felt sort of wild, like I could see in the dark. I didn’t even turn on my headlamp. I just crawled out from under my quilt (I’m using Adam’s down quilt on this trip because it’s lighter and packs down smaller – and I’m loving it over my mummy sleeping bag!), stuffed it away into its waterproof stuff sack, let the air out of my Neoair mattress, changed my clothes, rolled up my mattress, and started to set everything outside my tent in the dirt. At this point I had a pretty good routine down, and it felt so natural – so good. 

I was packed up and hiking out of the Eagle’s Roost campsite at 6am. Today was resupply day, and I really wasn’t sure how long that was going to take. A couple of hours? I really didn’t know. 

Every day you get a view of this beauty – from a different angle and in different light. Even with a little firesmoke haze, it’s so pretty.

On my two-mile hike to Mowich Lake where my bucket was waiting for me, I started to notice a few ripe huckleberries. I thought these guys wouldn’t be ready until late August. It was one of my trade-offs going a little earlier in the hiking season. Earlier and you get wildflowers and bugs. Later in the season you get berries and potentially cooler temps. I’m definitely not getting cooler temps (it is SO hot and dry – and I love it, mostly!), but I’m getting the wildflowers for sure, and now berries? They must be early because of the heat! Nice! I was able to pick a couple of handfuls – just enough to successfully acquire purple fingertips and a purple “huckle-tongue.” 


I arrived at Mowich Lake at about 7am and was out of there a whole lot faster than I thought I’d be – I was back on the trail at 8:15am! 

When I stepped up toward Mowich Lake there was a small campground – I smelled bacon. There’s a parking lot here and some car camping, so somebody was cooking some sort of delicious breakfast. I head right over to the ranger patrol cabin and found the bear-proof bin that holds resupply buckets. There she was! My bright green bucket covered in colorful duct tape and full of way too much food! 


Resupply and filling that clear bin on the picnic table with all my extras. That’s the hiker box.

I laid everything out on the picnic table that was right there, opened a package of prochuitto and started eating it while I worked. I added quite a lot of snacks to the hiker box, and neatly stuffed the rest into my backpack. I donated my precious green bucket to the NPS, treated some water, finished my bakers chocolate with some almond butter, saddled up my now heavier pack, and started my way back toward the trail. I walked along Mowich Lake, which was really pretty and quite inviting for a swim, but it was still pretty early and I wasn’t super-hot and sweaty. Yet. 

Mowich Lake in the morning light. If I hadn’t still been enjoying the coolness of morning, I’d totally have taken a dip!

Next up was the S. Mowich River crossing. This is another glacial river that comes down from the Mowich glacier way up on the mountain. So it’s large, silty, strong and can be quite angry. The nature of these glacial streams is interesting. In the afternoon they get higher and stronger as the sun beats down on the glacier all day, slowly melting it. Then overnight as it cools off, there is less melt-off, so the river lowers. 

So if there happens to be a bridge out, which was the case with the S. Mowich, it’s best to try crossing in the morning, as it’s going to be a little shallower, not as angry, and safer. Along the trail, talking to hikers who had already been through it, it sounded pretty scary. It’s kind of like the snow crossings. Everyone has a different comfort level with this stuff, so the ones that are the most freaked out by it are going to be the ones that want to warn you how dangerous it is, where the best place to cross is, how to get there, how the log is totally underwater and slippery and the current is sooo strong and it’s way too deep to wade and… and… and… 

Now, I certainly don’t disregard any information anyone tries to share when it comes to this stuff. These rivers are dangerous. People die in them every year. All it takes is a quick slip, and if you get swept down river with a pack on your back, you’re going to be in a pretty bad situation really quick. (Which reminds me – if you are ever crossing a river that looks really swift, it’s always a good idea to unclip your hip belt and sternum strap in case you do fall in – that way you can easily ditch your pack so it doesn’t try to push you underwater. You’ll have a much better chance getting out if you’re able to quickly shed your pack.) 

Pretty quick current going through there!

Anyway, I arrived to the crossing at about 10:30am, and I could see the old log bridge across the water. The current was flowing over the far end of it pretty good, but there was another smaller downed tree that someone laid down next to it that looked pretty sturdy, so I unbuckled my pack and started across. I’ve always had pretty good balance in these situations somehow, and I think wearing my super-minimal sandals really helped, too, because I could really feel the log’s surface and kind of set my feet in just the right spots. Before I knew it I was over the heaviest part of the river. There was one smaller section I had to cross yet, but I could tell it was pretty shallow, not very wide and not too strong. I took my time planting my trekking poles and my feet and just waded across. Then I looked back, kind of impressed with myself for not getting too freaked out, and started up a climb that would continue going up the rest of the way to my campsite. And it was getting HOT. 

Crossing the *easy* part of the S. Mowich River: 

Thankfully a lot of my climb was in forest, so it was shady. And I was actually feeling pretty awesome, steadily just crawling up, up and up. I got to Golden Lakes, where my camp was, at 2:30pm! It was so early, especially for being a 12-ish-mile day – I was so in the groove and feeling so good! I was also excited about my early arrival because I was able to grab one of the best sites there, in my opinion. I got site #4 which sat on kind of a ledge and had a really nice view of a mountain lake way down below. Wildfire smoke from up in Canada was still affecting the views, but it also made for great red sunsets, so I knew I had that to fall asleep to later. 

Ledge site with a view at Golden Lakes camp.

At Golden Lakes camp there’s a ranger patrol cabin (which was unoccupied and locked up when I was there), but just behind it is a small, clear lake with a tiny little stone island in the middle of it. I set up my tent, packed my little camp towel, spare sport bra and dinner stuff into my empty backpack, and head to the lake. Swimming time, baby! God I love this hike! 

Swimming hole!

At the lake I treated water before myself and the other campers had the same swimming thoughts and jumped in, stirring the water all up. Then I enjoyed my avocado dinner, and just as I was finishing up, others started to come down. At first it was just me, a lady I met (Mary) and her two younger daughters (I think the youngest was 13 years old and her sister looked to be maybe 17 or 18), and another girl around my age who was hiking her first solo trip. All of us girls chatted, got down to our hiker swimsuits and jumped in! It was so fantastic. Just cold enough to be refreshing, but not so cold that you wanted to jump right out again. So we hung out in the water for a long time. Then three more joined us! Two middle-aged guys and another lady – it turns out they thru-hiked the Wonderland Trail 20 years ago! And they all used to be park rangers out here! It was such a fun crew of people, and we really had a nice time swimming, chatting and relaxing. It is so nice getting to camp with time for this stuff! I could get used to this! I plan to do something similar tomorrow – I love this hike so much! 

My new favorite backpacking meal, demonstrated in cheesy video-style: 

After drying off in the sun and packing up all my sun-dried clothes, I head back to my quaint little camp and walked a little ways down the trail to a different view, sat quietly by myself and made a decaf coffee while enjoying some of my bakers chocolate with raw pecan butter. It was the perfect way to wrap up my day. After my little dessert I packed up my smellies and hung them all on the bear pole, crawled into my tent and watched the sky slowly glow to a deep, blood-red color through the tent mesh. I still have no need for a rainfly! It’s plenty warm at night so I don’t need it to hold the heat in, and there’s been a zero-percent chance for rain. Perfect. 

Decaf coffee during the golden hour at Golden Lakes camp with a view. Perfection.

This has been one of my favorite camps so far. Oh. And owls sound so fricking awesome in the mountains when their “who-cooks-for-you” echoes through the huge valley down below. 

Talk about a great way to doze off into sleep! 

Tonight I love avocados.

Dinner-time explosion.

My power drink. This is mountain stream water with Chia seeds and MCT oil.

The view over the ledge at my Golden Lakes campsite.

Some of my hiking today was through beautifully lush, shady forest.

Next to wild berries, this is my favorite dessert! Baker’s chocolate, raw pecan butter and a chunk of pork rind! Yum!

Trail gold!!

Oh, and this video is in fast forward – I don’t talk OR swim that fast! Haha! 

The Wonderland Trail. Day 5.

Wednesday, August 2, 2017 

No big deal… I just hiked around a glacier today. 

Up high along the Spray Park alternate route. It was a good choice!

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! 

Rewarding early-morning views. That light!

Salmon berries! Are these not *the* prettiest berries ever? And hugest? Is that even a word? I don’t know! But these berries! So huge! So pretty! So colorful! Soooo delicious!

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. 

Mamma deer. Little spotted fawn followed behind her.

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. 

Glaciers are dangerous. And really cool.

That giant chunk in the middle of the photo that looks like a pile of rocks is a glacier. You can see some of the spots where it’s melted in the sun and broken off. Bottom right is where the glacial-melt Carbon River comes out from under the glacier. I was completely intrigued by these things!!

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:

That is Mt. Rainier – that big cloud of dust is from a huge rock slide. Kinda scary. Humbling. Mountains are crazy. And amazing.

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! 

A knotted rope rigged to help hikers down (and up) a steep section of trail.

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. 

Suspension bridge over the Carbon River. So freakin’ fun! Glad I’m not afraid of heights!

Thankful for these bridges – that water down there is angry and wants to swallow up poor passing hikers!

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. 

A perfect little break spot during my climb up to Spray Park.

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! 

Wildflower-lined waterfalls and creeks wound their way all through Spray and Seattle Parks on the Spray Park alternate trail.

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. 

On the way to the top before it got really rocky and hard to navigate in a few spots. Mt. Rainier is peeking at you!

More trail from up high where more flowery meadows start to show.

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. 

A big brown-colored black bear! I had to hang out for a while until he crossed my trail and moved on. I hope he liked my singing. ;)

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. 

Pretty Spray Falls. I had the place all to myself, so it made a nice spot to wash up.

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. 

Camp at Eagle’s Roost.

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! 

Time for resupply! Tomorrow!

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? 

Morning view of Mt. Rainier. Never gets boring.

Leaving Mystic Lake in the early morning. So glassy, calm and peaceful.

Remember the suspension bridge I mentioned? I laid down on it. Which was a little freaky. But fun.

I also hung my legs over the side – which was even freakier – because the whole thing kind of tilted in that direction. I was hanging on pretty hard.

Paintbrush flowers in Spray Park. I didn’t realize that shade of pink existed. I love it!

Another flower. Sick of them yet?

Because here’s more!

Spray Park is amazing. Be sure to take this route if you ever find yourself on the trail.

The Wonderland Trail. Day 4.

Tuesday, August 1, 2017 

Bears and springs and rocks and side trips and swims and… 

This. This is where I belong. Here is where I am just simply… Happy.

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. 

Mamma bear in our camp at Sunrise in the morning. So exciting!!

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! 

And mamma: 

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! 

Flowers & Mt. Rainier

Trail & Mt. Rainier

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 long ways away, but can you spot the goats?

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. 

Marty the Marmot!

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. 

Clydington, my new nut-eating squirrel friend. We hung out.

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. 

Best water, in my opinion, on the Wonderland Trail! It’s a spring that didn’t need treatment, so… Win!

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. 

The climb to the tippy top of skyscraper peak rewarded me with a grand view of Mt. Rainier.

And a great view from the other direction. I don’t think they’re visible here, but I was able to see Granite Peak and Mt. Baker on the horizon.

Bug swarm at the peak! I shook about five out of my shirt later on. Awwww, nature.

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. 

Mystic Lake sunshine happiness!

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. 

Happy! (And about to take a “hiker bath.”)

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.

Rushing river crossing before the hot, exposed climb up towards camp.

Baby huckleberries. Too early in the season… Boo.

My simple little camp at Mystic.

The path up skyscraper peak. Can you see it?

More pretty meadow from the day.

Daily foot shot! They’re doing great! I love my strong feet!

That, my friends, is an active glacier – the Winthrop Glacier, to be specific, and I’ve got more super-awesome glacier stuff to share tomorrow! 

The Wonderland Trail. Day 3.

Monday, July 31, 2017 

Who neros on a 93-mile thru hike? Me. 

Dusk on the Wonderland Trail.

Well, it’s just the way my itinerary worked out. Day three was only a 3-mile day. Well, actually, it ended up being about five because I had left the trail a couple of miles short of the White River campground with Adam the day before. But still. That’s a short day! So I totally slept in and took my time getting going and hanging out with Adam. I took a nero. And it was splendid after such an intense day. 

My calves especially appreciated the break. They were pretty sore from all that snow walking. You just end up using weird muscles you only put to use in just the right combination when hiking on afternoon soft mountain snow. And I was sunburned, too. Not only is the sun a bit more intense up there, it reflects off of the bright snow fields, too. So I was most likely a little dehydrated on top of all that as well. A short little hiking day was perfect. 

I reorganized my food and left about 2/3 of it behind for the next stretch (seriously brought way too much! It’s crazy, this keto thing!) While I was getting my backpack ready to go, Adam pulled out his fancy Coleman stove and cooked up some scrambled eggs and percolated some coffee for me. What a great breakfast! 

Before I knew it it was after noon and I was on the trail, hugging Adam a final good-bye – he was heading off to do his own thing, so I wouldn’t see him until my last day. 

Even on a short day, I can’t go without a great view of this beauty. I love her.

What exactly is Adam doing while I’m hiking? I don’t know for sure, and neither did he, which was part of his plan. He tossed around the idea of visiting a friend in Portland, but wasn’t sure he wanted to drive so far. He was definitely going to hit up a county fair he found in Lacey, WA where he’d get a corn dog, maybe a caramel apple (where better to get one of those than Washington state!?), and walk the midway (hopefully winning me a teddy bear, of course!) 

He did end up going to the fair! I didn’t get a teddy bear, but that’s OK.

He also thought he might try to intercept PRT. For those of you that followed my PCT thru hike, you’ll remember PRT (stands for Pacific REST Trail because they took so many zero days). This was a group of fun hikers we met and became good friends with – mostly Adam because he had the Pickle Jar (our car) and met up with them a lot along the way. Anyway, three of them (Dishcloth, Hoop Dreams and Peter Pan) are hiking the last 200 miles of the PCT up to Canada at the same time I’m out here on the Wonderland Trail. (I ALMOST joined them… But this trail was pulling me hard.) So I hope he gets a chance to meet up with them and provide some trail magic like he does – totally “Aloha-ing.” 

And he met up with PRT. I am a little jealous. Wish I could’ve been in two places at once! Sad I missed seeing these guys!

So who knows! I’m excited to hear all about whatever it is that he decided to do. He seemed pretty happy with how loose his schedule was. Maybe he just holed up in a hotel room and watched movies! I’m sure whatever he’s doing, he’s having a great time. 

He also met up with our friend, Lighthouse (also a fellow PCT 2013 thru-hiker). Again, a little jealous and sad I couldn’t do all the things. ;)

This was also in his photos. Thankfully he didn’t spend any time here. I’m sort of a big fan of his chest hair. ☺️

So back to the WT – I hiked uphill from where Adam dropped me off to Sunrise camp, and on the way I met a super-friendly guy who is friends with Doodles, a girl I met on the PCT, who also thru-hiked that year! Small world! Unfortunately I forgot to ask his name. I need to get better with that! 

When I arrived at the Sunrise area, it was bustling with day-tourists because it’s pretty close to a wilderness center, parking lot and day hike loops. There was also a group of teenagers staying at the group site there, so there was a lot of people around. But I didn’t care. I was just content with everything. 

A well-worn trail near Sunrise camp. Busy, but for good reason! So pretty.

I arrived at camp around 3:45pm and picked a nice little site (#8) at the end of the individual campsite area. It was a short walk down to Shadow Lake where I just sat for a while and watched some kids swim and day people take photos of all the flowers. The black flies came out and I got a few bites, which really swelled up. One bit me on my pinky finger and it swelled so big that I couldn’t bend it! Nasty little buggers. I retreated to my tent for a reprieve, wrote in my journal and took a nap. 

Shadow Lake.

Shadow Lake resident.

I had bone broth for dinner, as I wasn’t super hungry, then walked back down by the lake one more time. It was empty, now. I laid down and just enjoyed the sky and the quiet for a little while, then retreated to my tent, getting to bed around 9:15pm. I didn’t set an alarm. 

Mmm, bone broth with garlic, salt, pepper, red pepper, green and red bell pepper, and onion. And way more filling than you’d think!

A colorful good-night tent selfie.

Tonight I love sleeping in my tent. Especially when I don’t need my rainfly.

Sunrise camp, night three.

Stuff pile!

Sunrise area at dusk. 

And, of course, the Sunrise area was loaded with wildflowers. It’s kind of been a daily thing out here! And I’ll keep showing photos of them!



One more flower photo.

I lied. One more. :)

Rufus vacation, Part 2. The Wonderland Trail. 

Getting a permit and organizing for food caches. 

We woke up in Ritzville, WA at the Days Inn later than I’d hoped, but sleeping in also felt like it was exactly what we needed. We were going to just shoot for Mt. Rainier National Park a couple of days early, and with the hope we’d get there before the Wilderness Information Center closed that night (at 5pm). The plan was to catch a ranger and ask a few questions so I’d be as prepared as I could be to get a walk-up permit on Saturday morning. So we hit the road. 

A little stop-off at the Pacific Crest Trail at White Pass!! *home*

Besides a quick detour for fuel, and a short stop at the – I couldn’t NOT stop – PCT! – we pretty much went straight to Longmire (one of the spots in the park we can get permits), and on the way I started getting teaser views of Mt. Rainier way off in the distance. Once we entered the park the mountain grew closer and bigger and more and more amazing. The views from the drive alone were stunning. We were both already pretty much in love with the place. I was getting so excited that my stomach physically hurt. 

Mt. Rainier and our sweet annual National Parks pass!

After getting our fancy, new annual National Parks pass, and then an hour or two of dodging other weekend tourists and cruising along switchbacks, and even a little road construction, we made it to Longmire. At 4:00pm. They close at 5! I wasn’t expecting much to happen. But it felt good to be there, at least. And then I stepped in, where there was a ranger at the counter ready to help me out. I told him I was hoping to get a permit for the whole trail, opened my notebook to my potential itineraries, and he clicked his computer mouse and said, “let’s see what you’ve got.” I was a little shocked. I really didn’t even think he or I would even entertain the idea of actually seeing if I could grab a permit that night – a Friday. One hour before they closed. But off we went. 

I gave him my first few, but all my first night’s options were full. We found one site that was open Saturday night – Nickel Creek, so we started there. Then he said Summerland (which I was stoked for as it was one of my top choices for camps, which comes up again later), then Sunrise, and on we went. Open. Open. Open. I even got Mystic and Klapatche which were another two of my top choices. He wrapped it up and printed it out. I was just in awe. Was I really going to start tomorrow!? This is crazy! And a sweet itinerary to boot! 

But… You know how things go when you’re rushed! First of all, you could tell this ranger has done this a few times – definitely not his first rodeo. He was booking the itinerary before I had a chance to think about it – but that was in case someone else in the park at a different ranger station was also trying to put something together. Better to run it through and have to adjust it then miss it all together, I suppose. 

He printed out a copy for Adam, and Adam noticed right away, “Why is Sunrise camp on here twice?” 

Uh-oh. Sure enough, in the rush of things, I got booked two nights at Sunrise instead of my lovely Summerland camp. Which ended up being full. Along with the other camp near there. But the White River camp was open, and currently my only option. So I said to heck with it – I can do this – and grabbed it. I was really hoping to take this trip easy, keep my mileage nice and low… and now my first three days looked like this: 

Day 1: 15 miles 

Day 2: 18 miles (dude!) 

Day 3: 3 miles (say what!?) 

But… Whatever. I had a permit in hand and I was starting a few days early. Awesome! I just had to reset my head to push the first couple of days. The rest of the days seemed pretty normal, so I could chill for the last part of the trip, at least. And I enjoy a challenge – and I enjoy hard hiking – so really, this itinerary kind of started to feel like it was perfectly set up for me. It was meant to be. The mountain loves me. I hope! 

SO EXCITED to have a permit in hand!! This is SO on!

It was getting late, so Adam and I bought out the gift shop, adding two new great stickers to our lid, and immediately went into prep mode. We drove a little ways down the road to an Inn, but all the lodging and campgrounds in and near the park were full (again, Friday night – we were originally planning on arriving on Sunday or Monday). The Inn had a picnic table out front, so I took it over. I split my food all up in a way that I thought made sense with my new itinerary, and threw it all in two of my fancy green buckets, labeled them, and with a final “ok” Adam hammered down the cool locking lids. I was ready to roll. Or so I thought. 

Food cache buckets! All full of my keto deliciousness!

It was after dark at this point, and our least-stressful option for the night was just to drive an hour to Tacoma and grab a quick room, get up early and head back to the park so I could start with my crazy 15-mile day. So that’s what we did. 

What an absolute rollercoaster-in-a-whirlwind kind of day! But it was going to happen. I was going to thru-hike the Wonderland Trail. 

The official itinerary: 

Day 1 – 15 miles, Longmire to Nickel Creek 

Day 2 – 18.6 miles, Nickel Creek to White River 

Day 3 – 3.5 miles, White River to Sunrise 

Day 4 – 10.6 miles, Sunrise to Mystic 

Day 5 – 11.2 miles, Mystic to Eagle’s Roost (Spray Park) 

Day 6 – 12 miles, Eagle’s Roost to Golden Lakes 

Day 7 – 7.8 miles, Golden Lakes to Klapatche 

Day 8 – 11.8 miles, Klapatche to Pyramid Creek 

Day 9 – 3 miles, Pyramid Creek to Longmire 

Tonight I love my body for being strong, allowing me to do amazing things like this.

Rufus vacation, Part 1. The wind-down. 

Day 1 on the road. 

It always takes me and Adam a few days to decompress and really get into vacation/relaxation mode. Or really, to realize, “hey! We’re not working!” Maybe some of that has to do with the fact that a lot of our vacations are road trips, and we drive for a living. It might be seem crazy to some – that we drive for work, then drive when we have time off. But it’s so different, and we love it. In fact, we love pointing out that we can stop for a break anywhere we want, not just rest areas and truck stops. We don’t have to log our hours driving, on duty, off duty, etc. We can switch off driving whenever and how often we want to. We’re going where we want to go (the biggest one!) and driving on whatever roads we want to. We’re in our beloved Subaru Outback (PJ2) – which we absolutely adore. And best yet? We’re both awake at the same time, and we’re on the same sleep schedule. 

But even if we weren’t driving for fun, and maybe chose to fly or something, I think it would still take a couple of days to wind down and really get into vacation mode. This is how our first few days on the road went down: 

We finished work up around 9:30am on Monday and went into vacay-prep mode – aka we’re excited, so let’s get our s&*t together and get outta dodge! It was a whirlwind! We did our laundry, dishes (in the laundromat sink), packed our bags (also at the laundromat) did a bunch of shopping, packed our cooler with healthy food and ice, and reorganized the car, leaving as much as we could in the big truck so we had room to breathe in the car. It’s a tough thing to do when you practically live out of your car! 

Our overstuffed pickle jar before we reorganized.

Once we finally finished up our pre-vacation chores, it was getting late and we were hoping for a good night’s sleep, so we decided we’d just grab a cheap hotel room and hit the road early the next morning. Upon searching, and finding that one of our standby hotels cost three times as much as it normally does, we scoffed as we realized it was stupid EAA week. All the hotels get insanely, unfairly expensive that week. Almost $300? Awwww, hell no! So we got outta there. 

Down the road, we stopped in Abbotsford, WI, which was only a few hours away, and we grabbed a normal-priced room there. We played two games of cribbage and went to bed. We were tired. 

Day 2 on the road. 

We wanted to find a coffee shop where we could sit, relax and drink a coffee – continue our wind-down. We head into Menomonie, WI, and on our way to the coffee shop we stumbled into a local co-op. I found raw, unsalted pistachios for the hike, which I was pretty excited about. They’re kind of hard to find! 

Then we stopped in at The Blind Munchies coffee house. We loved it here. It was decorated with old signs and antiques and they sold some really cool hand-made jewelry and clothing from the Philippines that they used to help fund mission trips. I actually bought a leather bracelet and a new necklace bobble. We sat on a cushy couch and sipped a hot decaf coffee before getting back on the road. 

The Blind Munchies Coffeehouse.

Our next stop was Duluth Trading Company in Minneapolis. Adam loves this place. In fact, we were kind of joking that he might get pulled aside and questioned because everything he was wearing – down to his boxer briefs and socks – were DTC-brand clothing. “Excuse me, sir, do you have a receipt for that?” Haha! It didn’t happen, thankfully. How awkward would that be! He should’ve gotten some sort of discount for being a super-fan, though! He bought a new outfit (both pants and shirt a whole size smaller! Good job, hun!), and then we jet across the parking lot to Caribou coffee to play a game of cribbage and have a(nother) coffee. Hey – we drink decaf, so we don’t have to worry about the jitters and side effects to having too much caffeine. So we go nuts. We love it! And after hitting the road once again, we were starting to feel it, just a little – we’re on vacation. 

Duluth Trading Company & Caribou Coffee/cribbage

We drove to Steele, ND and grabbed a room at the Cobblestone Inn – we were able to use a free stay on, so that was nice! We hoped for another night of really good sleep and pretty much went straight to bed. 

Day 3 on the road. 

We got going about 7:30 and made our first stop at the Theodore Roosevelt National Park rest area. I went for a tiny little trail run/hike on a nature trail there while Adam cooked up some brunch for us at a picnic table using his new Coleman stove. He made fried duck eggs and bacon! We also finally found our first new stickers for the cargo box on our car. (We refer to the cargo box as “the lid,” as in “pickle jar lid.”) These little things, like stickers, make us so happy! Hey, we’re pretty simple. 

A stop at Theodore Roosevelt National Park rest area. A really fun stop!

I was actually having kind of a rough day, and I wasn’t sure why. Adjusting my sleep schedule, maybe? I don’t know, but I was feeling kind of sluggish and my legs were feeling mighty heavy during my little pre-brunch trail run. I was starting to question whether or not I was going to be able to actually hike the whole Wonderland Trail. I was also stressing out about not having my permit in hand, and found myself wanting to come up with a few more itinerary options for when we arrived at Mt. Rainier National Park. So, we swung in at a Starbucks, got some coffee, and I went through all my notes. I was pretty much as prepared as I could be, so I decided to just move on and see what happens. There wasn’t really much I could do at that point anyway. Maybe it was just an excuse for another coffee stop. 

We wanted to camp some on the road trip part of our vacation, so we figured what better place to do that than Montana – our favorite state!? We pulled into a great little campground in Livingston, MT right before dark. The camp hosts were super-friendly, directed us to the two available sites and even drove over in their golf cart with some firewood for us to purchase. Adam and I were excited to camp, but we got there a little too late to have a campfire. I was planning on getting up really early so I could squeeze in a 5-mile warm-up hike up the Pine Creek Trail, which starts right at the campground. So we got our tent set up, I got my daypack together for the next morning’s hike and we crashed. 

Day 4 on the road. 

Now it had begun. I felt like I was in full vacation-mode. I think all it took was waking up in our tent! And maybe being in the mountains. 

I head out on the trail, which pretty much went straight up. I only had time for about five miles, but I’ll come back here sometime to do more – it eventually winds uphill to an alpine lake, and then a little further yet to the summit of Black Mountain. Even though I didn’t get to hike as far as I would’ve liked (but do I ever, anyway!?), I had an amazing time. First of all, I decided to hit the trail fasted, meaning no breakfast. I felt sooo much better. Maybe my body just needed the short break from digestion or something. Whatever it was, my sluggishness and heavy legs were gone. I felt energetic and bounded up the trail like it was no thing. A little over a mile into the trail I arrived at a big, powerful waterfall. I soaked that in for a few minutes and continued on where the trail wound around and up even more until it reached the top of that very waterfall. I ventured toward the edge as much as I could while feeling safe and tried to let myself just soak in its energy. It felt so good to be there. Then I turned around and booked it downhill and back to our campsite. 

Waterfall! In the mountains! #happytoots

More from my little warm-up hike/run.

While I was gone on my little hike, Adam got a fire going and tried to make pork cracklins, but something didn’t go quite right. They shrunk down to grape-nut size and eventually burned. He’ll figure it out another time. He also pulled out his stove and cooked up some liver and onions for me. I had some for breakfast, and had just enough left over for breakfast the next day, too. How lucky am I that he keeps cooking for me like this!? 

We packed up our camp, doused the fire with buckets of water and got back on the road around 10am. We made a quick pit stop on our way out of town at a store called Murdochs – they had everything. I was able to get my 5-gallon buckets that I planned to use for my food caches on the hike – with locking lids, even! 

We drove into Missoula and found a little coffee shop called Drum and had delicious cappuccinos, and I tried a new drink called a piccolo. I guess it’s made with a lighter-flavored coffee, so even though it was delicious, I prefer the ol’ cappuccino. Maybe even with an extra shot. We got a couple games of cribbage in while we were there, and after taking off, we drove on, finishing our road trip through Montana (oh, but we’ll be back!) 

Pretty little piccolo drink. :)

We drove right through the panhandle of Idaho and into Washington. We stayed at a Days Inn in Ritzville and got some amazing sleep, even sleeping in later than we planned. See? We’re on vacay for sure, now! And that sleep ended up being important because our next day was the start of the Wonderland adventure. We were to arrive at Mt. Rainier National Park. Late, but we were going to get there. 

Tonight I love our Subaru, the PJ2. It’s nice to get to really spend a lot of time in it! 

One more yummy coffee photo! Delicious cappuccino, my latest favorite!

A near rollover, video-style. 

When I started truck driving, I kinda thought I’d see more car accidents. Not that I wanted to, of course, but I just figured with the large amount of time I’d be spending on the road, it seemed as though my chances were much greater for witnessing more crashes. But I haven’t, really. I usually show up to most wrecks after emergency vehicles have already arrived and things are being taken care of. I’ve driven past a few that had JUST happened, but other witnesses were already assisting, emergency vehicles were on the way, and since I didn’t see any of it happen or wasn’t involved, I’d just slow way down, pay attention to the road and drive on.  

I did witness one very minor accident in Chicago where a car lost control and side-swiped another car. They both pulled off to the shoulder, and since I witnessed it and knew I’d have footage on my dash cam, I pulled over – Adam was up with me, so he jumped out right away to make sure both drivers were okay. They were fine and already calling the authorities. We ended up moving on.  

But recently I got really, REALLY close to witnessing what would have been a terrible rollover. It was a couple of weeks ago. It was about 3:20am and I was cruising along the I-694 bypass in Minneapolis. I was driving 60mph, which was the speed limit along that stretch, and noticed a vehicle coming up alongside my truck pretty fast on the left, passing me. Then I saw his lights get a little too close for comfort, so I reacted by slowing down and moving onto the shoulder a little bit. Even with slowing down and moving over he still almost clipped my front end as he cut in front of me.  

I kept an eye on him after he passed, and things got crazy shortly thereafter. Watch the video I pulled from our dash cam! You may want to pull it up full-screen, and wait at the end – I zoom in and replay it in slow-motion. 


After he passed me, I watched him swerve around, and then he started fishtailing. At first, it was really short, tight fishtailing. I slowed down again, and that’s when he really started to swing back and forth.  

It’s amazing how many thoughts can run through your head in such a short amount of time. This same week, I came close to hitting a deer. He started walking out in front of me, and I started braking, but I had to strategically brake so I didn’t lose control of the truck. I also happened to be changing lanes after passing by a weigh station, so I was also making sure I kept my line of travel and didn’t swerve. It was raining, so the roads were wet. All these things were processing in my mind, and on top of those decisions going on, I clearly remember thinking, “I’m going to hit this deer. There’s no other traffic around me. There’s a good shoulder here I can pull off on. I’ll have to get out and check out the damage it caused. Then I’ll have to call safety…” And just then, the deer looked up at me and ran. I missed him by what seemed like inches. After my heart rate slowed down a little bit, I still couldn’t believe that I was already in action-mode, taking care of business. It was like two seconds! 

So as this driver in the video started to fishtail, I was already throwing on my four-ways and pulling off to the shoulder because I was certain I’d be calling 911 to report an accident while running out to check on the driver. I was scared.  

I remember saying over and over as it was happening, “Oh God, Oh God.” Adam had just gone to bed, and he felt me slow down and move over, and then he heard my panicked-sounding chant along with the pickup driver’s squeeling tires. He asked if everything was okay, and I just said, “not really” and continued to explain to him what I just saw.  

I tried to get the vehicle’s license plate number, but he was too far ahead by then – he hadn’t stopped! When he finally did stop, he pulled into an off-ramp and drove up onto the curb. Another car also saw what happened, and they pulled off behind him. I was thankful someone else saw it and was able to pull over, because at that point there was no longer a safe place for me to pull over.  

I was still moving slowly with my emergency flashers on, and just as I was approaching where he nearly crashed, I looked in my mirror and saw a police car come flying down the on ramp behind me with his lights on! I thought, “great! He saw it all happen, and he’ll check on this driver!” Then he flew right past the whole situation. Obviously he missed it and was off on some other call.  

It was crazy, and one of the scarier things I’ve seen while on the road. I’m so very thankful he somehow – miraculously – kept that pickup under control. I don’t know what happened. Given the time of night, my first assumption was that he was drunk, but it could’ve been a health issue – a seizure, a heart attack -or  maybe even a mechanical issue with his vehicle or something. But… It’s hard not to jump to the conclusion that this was alcohol and/or drug related. But who knows. Either way, it’s a good reminder – don’t drink and drive, people! 

All I can say is this dude got damn lucky. That, or he’s a Hollywood stunt driver. But I’m leaning towards the luck theory.  

Tonight I love designated drivers. If you can’t find one, be one. :)