The Wonderland Trail. Some final thoughts. 

Now that the Wonderland Trail is behind me, and I’ve recorded my daily notes in blog-form here, I thought I’d share a few things that didn’t make it into the entries. It might get a little long, but I’ll talk about gear, food, highs and lows. And shoes. For just a little bit, though. Promise.

Blogging

First of all, the way I managed the blog for this trip was to first take notes each day on a tiny Moleskine notebook with a super-fine Sharpie marker. This notebook might be the smallest one you can buy. It’s 4″ x 2-1/2″, but it’s nice for backpacking because it’s so small. It easily fit into one of my backpack’s hipbelt pockets or my skirt pocket where I was able to access it without much effort. I oftentimes stopped on the trail, pulled it out, jotted a note down and kept walking. Once the trip was over and I no longer had to conserve battery power on my phone, I turned my notes into blog form while it was still fresh in my mind, typed out on that tiny phone keyboard (yup, every word) – and that’s how you see it in my posted entries. I save those as drafts until I have a strong internet connection, because adding the photos takes some effort on WordPress, and a strong internet connection seems to make it a whole lot easier. As for photos, picking the ones I want to show is the toughest, because I have LOTS. I place my chosen photos in a separate folder on my phone, then add them in through the app, and then publish it. I don’t hardly ever have access to a laptop or desktop computer anymore, so I always just hope everything turns out okay in that format. I try to review it on my phone, but that’s the best I can do. And I’m sure I still miss things.

My tiny little Moleskine journal.

Gear

I don’t want to get into every single piece of gear I brought along, because honestly, I know I could go on about gear forever. I don’t even think I’m that much of a gear junkie! I just don’t know how to keep it short! Anyway, before I left I weighed my backpack and it came out to 25 pounds – that included 40 oz. of water and 3-1/2 days’ worth of food (I learned later that I could’ve cut down my food by almost half). I was pretty happy with that weight. Below I’ll make a quick list of what I had along, and then I’ll pull out just a few things that I want to expand on. Footwear was the biggest one!!

A quick rundown of what I brought along:
Backpack – Gossamer Gear Gorilla
Sleeping Bag – Adam’s 20-degree quilt
Tent – MSR Hubba
Sleeping Pad – Thermarest Neoair
Pillow – SeaToSummit Aeros LW inflatable pillow
Stove – Jetboil & small fuel canister
Other “kitchen” items – Ziploc 2-cup container with screw-top, Long titanium spoon, two 4-oz. Nalgene bottles (for olive oil and MCT oil), one 2-oz. Nalgene bottle (for balsamic vinegar)
Clothing (worn) – Long sleeve hiking shirt from Duluth Trading Company, Purple Rain skirt, cheap Target sport bra
Extra clothing – short spandex shorts, extra sport bra, 2 pairs Injinji socks, Brooks running hat, Patagonia Nanopuff jacket
For sleeping/extra warmth if needed – Smartwool beanie, silkweight gloves, Buff, Patagonia lightweight leggings and long-sleeve top, knee-high Injinji socks
Footwear – Bedrock sandals, Topo Terraventure trail shoes (worn with Dirty Girl Gaiters and Injinji socks)
Other stuff -Black Diamond Spot headlamp, tiny 1″ swiss army knife, toiletries, first aid, toilet kit (trowel, tp and sanitizer), Aquamira water treatment, paracord bear rope, lightweight chrome hiking umbrella, Black Diamond trekking poles, two 20-oz Vitamin Water bottles, Trails Illustrated waterproof map, bandana,  super-cheap but totally fun heart-shaped sunglasses, headnet, DEET, sunscreen
Raingear – Arc’teryx rain jacket, ULA rain kilt, REI pack cover
Camera – My phone (Samsung Galaxy S6) with Otterbox water resistant cover

Typical gear “splosion” at camp.

Gear thoughts! I really love all my gear… but I’ll just pull out a few things that stand out for me. First of all, if I had known the weather was going to be insanely hot and dry and amazing, I wouldn’t have had to bring my tent rain fly, rain jacket, rain kilt, or pack cover – but of course, I will always carry these things, because obviously I can’t tell the future, and I always find it to be better safe than sorry when it comes to rain stuff! But I never once used any of these things – I never even put the Otterbox cover on my phone! It all stayed packed in the bottom of my pack all nine days. My warm sleeping stuff was also overkill. Never used the gloves or Buff and I could’ve used my hiking socks instead of the extra sleeping pair. I also barely used my Jetboil (I’ll talk more about that in the food bit).

Clothing – I really liked my clothing setup. First of all, the Purple Rain Skirt is THE BOMB. I love this thing so much! 

It’s a great length (meaning not too short and doesn’t have one of those annoying liners underneath so you can choose if you want to wear underwear or not), and it’s got a nice big pocket on each side that I don’t even notice when I have my heavy phone in one and my notebook and pen in the other. Also, apologies for the TMI, but as a girl, it’s totally freeing to hike commando and so much easier to pee discreetly this way. And my new, latest awesome thing I taught myself during a training hike for the Wonderland Trail is that I can pee standing up if I need to. It really comes in handy on a busy trail (which the WT can be in some places). My shirt was a last-minute purchase at Duluth Trading Company because I loved the color so much. I know, vain, but it was great! It was super moisture-wicking and quick-drying, the sleeves rolled up really easy and weren’t too tight around my arms, and it was really easy to button them one-handed. And it was the best thing I could’ve had when I was up high and hiking through hot, sun-exposed areas. Besides a cheapo sport bra from Target, that’s pretty much all I wear. I love the simplicity of it.

Sleeping bag – this was the first time I used a quilt, and I loved it. I sleep with a 1/4-length inflatable sleeping pad, and then I put my backpack under my knees and feet (keeps them off the ground and my feet elevated, which is a nice bonus). I decided to try Adam’s quilt because it’s quite a bit lighter and packs down smaller than my mummy bag. I stayed plenty warm, and actually kind of liked the way I could wrap it around me in different ways – and I could kind of grab onto the edges and almost cuddle with it (I’m such a pillow/blanket/Adam cuddler when I sleep!). I might be a convert!

Umbrella! One of my newest pieces of gear that I really wasn’t too sure about. I didn’t really get too much of a chance to train with it, and when I tried to rig a DIY hands-free setup, it just didn’t work. But on day 2 of my hike, I was getting so hot, and heading into exposed snowfields. On one of my breaks I messed around with it a little bit and got it to hold pretty still – the trick was to put the handle under my sternum strap – then there’s two shock cords with cord locks that I could tighten – one up by my shoulder, and the other down by the handle. It was so slick and seriously saved me a few times on this trip when it got really, really hot.  I still got a little too much sun on day 2, so I can’t imagine what I would’ve felt like if I didn’t have it! I love this thing! I also figured if it rained, I could use it then… but it never did rain.

SHOES! Oh my gosh! So, if you read my past blog about looking for the perfect pair of shoes after my trusty Altras changed their style and became too narrow for me, you know that I went through hell and back to find something that I liked. I settled on the Topo Terraventure. It’s a great shoe, lightweight, very comfy, pretty wide in the toebox, and only a 3mm drop (I prefer zero, though). Then later I picked up a pair of Bedrock Cairn sandals – mostly for a summer casual shoe that I can wear on a short hike if I wanted. Well, I wore them on an 11-mile training hike with plans to switch out to my Topos a little ways in, but I never took them off. I had a little foot fatigue on that first hike at about mile 8, and started feeling a little hotspot on my heels shortly after that. The most surprising thing was that the toe thong didn’t bother me at all! I barely felt it. I wore them for a few more miles after that on a couple of training hikes, and packed them for the Wonderland Trail with the thought that they would be mostly used for camp shoes, and maybe I’d wear them for a few miles of hiking. Well… I wore them for almost the entire trail – all except for maybe 7 miles. They didn’t perform well in the snowfields – I was sliding all over the place, so on day 2 when I got up high into the long stretches of snow, I wore my Topos. But know what? They’re sandals. So I don’t think less of them for not getting me through those long stretches of snow. But I did NOT want to take them off! Letting my toes out to splay and breathe how they naturally wanted to felt amazing. 

I was so happy about hiking in my Bedrocks that I had to take a lot of photos, I guess!

They are very much zero drop – the soles are very thin, but very tough (Vibram soles), and I love feeling the ground’s surface under me as I walk. Small streams (or big ones, for that matter) were easy – just walk right through. In fact, it was nice to just stand in the streams once in a while to cool off or wash off a little bit. For some reason, the day before I finished, I got a couple of sore spots, but I theorize that I had them too loose for a couple of long descents, so they were putting extra pressure on certain points of my feet. I’m not sure. Also, I learned that hiking for a long time in sandals dries your feet out pretty quick, so I ended up with a small heel crack that was pretty painful. Next time I’ll apply some Aquafor overnight or something. Oh, and the bottoms of my feet were permanently dirty afterwards, but that was kind of a badge of honor. It just took a pumice stone and some time to clean them up.

So that’s all I’ll go into about gear for now. As I mentioned, I really like all my gear, but if I went into all of it… just imagine!

Weather

I already mentioned in my gear section that I could’ve left all my rain gear home. And I didn’t use the rainfly for my tent even one time. It was great. I expected to have some foul weather on this trip. It is Washington, after all! I’ve heard stories of it snowing in July on this trail… so I wanted to be prepared for anything. And I was. But as it turns out, all my rain gear ended up being extra weight packed way down in the bottom of my backpack and never taken out. I’m not complaining, that’s for sure! I love the sunshine and I love summer hot weather, and I got tons of both. In fact, while I was out there, there were heat warnings in cities outside of the park, and even a rumor that traveled along the trail that it was going to reach 100 degrees in the park! I kind of wouldn’t be too surprised. It did get insanely hot for a couple of days. (Thank you, umbrella!) The last few days of the hike started to get hazy from nearby wildfires in British Columbia, so my views got a little compromised from that, but I was very thankful for the crisp, clear views I got for the first part of my trip, and the unique beauty that the smoke brought with it for the last part – spectacular sunsets and a really soft, pastel touch to all the color in the landscape. It wasn’t bad enough to affect my breathing, so I was able to enjoy it for what it was.

Food

This is another topic I could talk about way too much, so I’m going to try not to get into too much detail. You’ve probably read already that I was in a state of ketosis before starting this hike, meaning I eat a low-carb, moderate-protein, high-fat diet. My body has been trained to use ketones and fat for energy instead of sugar (carbs). It’s super-efficient and long-lasting – great for endurance sports – like hiking! In the past, when I hiked on a normal “hiker’s diet” of oatmeal, noodley dinners, Snickers, jelly beans, energy bars, cookies, sugary drink mixes, tortillas, etc, I would have to eat often as my body burned off the sugar quickly (like it’s supposed to do) then asked for more as soon as it was gone. With ketosis, your body uses ketones made by the liver and the ample supply of body fat that most of us already have, so it’s a steady, slow burn, and hunger is lessened, even when doing something active like running or hiking. But beware, cutting carbs on a hike would be a bad idea if you haven’t trained your body to be a fat-burner yet. There is definitely a transition period, and that wouldn’t be fun to do on something like a long hike when you don’t have access to food options in case you were to bonk. But I definitely encourage you to look into it and give keto a shot!

Food “splosion.”

Anyway, some of the things I ate on the hike, with a few shout-outs to some products that I’m in love with:
-Raw, unsalted nuts (brazil, macadamia, cashew, pistachio) – this was one of my favorites. Ate them every day.
-Grass-fed beef sticks
-Cheese (individually wrapped – so easy) Fontina, mozzarella, and pepperjack

Epic bites – they have a few different flavors. The bites are my favorite. And it’s an awesome company!

Phat Fudge – check it out! This stuff is awesome. It even has caffeine in it, so it gave me a little extra boost when I had one (I am a decaf drinker, normally)

FBomb nut butters – check this out, too! This ended up being one of my favorite things. There are three flavors of nut butters, they are made with totally clean ingredients, and no added sugars or flavors, so as low in carbs as a nut butter can get (nuts do have some carbs in them). They also sell packets of oil, which I might use in the future.

-MCT oil and chia seeds mixed in water – I made this up every morning and sipped away at it all day long. MCT oil is the same super-good-for-you-fat you find in coconut oil, but it doesn’t harden and has barely any taste so works great for mixing in cold drinks (also works great in hot drinks, actually).

MCT oil and Chia seeds. Looks nasty, but I don’t care. It’s powerful.

-Artisana brand nut butters – I brought a few of these to supplement my FBombs. The FBombs have a plain macadamia nut butter (which is to die for), but Artisana has an almond, cashew and pecan butter that are very clean with no added ingredients. It just provided more variety.
-Pork Cracklins and Pork rinds – I had one bag for each leg of the trip. I used to carry potato chips on every backpacking trip, crush them up and eat them with a spoon. I’d also add them to a lot of my meals. The pork rinds ended up being the perfect replacement for the crushed potato chips. In fact, I liked them better.
-Baker’s chocolate – since going keto, things that used to be appalling to my taste buds because they were bitter or not sweet enough are now tasty to me – this is the best example. I used to spit baker’s chocolate out – now I love it. I would add a little nut butter to it and some crushed pork rind – YUM!

-My favorite “meal” – Avocado (I packed six total on the trip, two for each leg), tuna, olive oil (I use Villa Cappelli because I know it’s a good-quality oil and not cut with other oils – it’s a big thing, Google it if you get into food geekery), balsamic vinegar, pink Himalayan sea salt, and everything bagel seasoning (white and black sesame seeds, poppy seeds, dried garlic and onion)

Pink Himalayan sea salt – I considered this one of my luxury items because I brought a small grinder of the stuff in rock form. This was important to my keto diet, because when in ketosis, your insulin levels ride pretty low, and insulin is a storage hormone. It stores fat, but also elecrolytes, so if it’s on the low side, you have to supplement with extra electrolytes, and the Himalayan sea salt is great for that because it’s not stripped of all the natural nutrients that normal table salts are – and I don’t do the sports drink mixes any more because of all the added sugar and nasty artificial colors and crappy ingredients. I would even sometimes just grind some into my hand and lick it (although I really don’t enjoy doing that – but I can tell it helps with my energy, so it’s worth the few seconds of displeasure). I do love it on my food, though.
-Decaf coffee (and a few Starbucks VIA packets) – I enjoyed a hot decaf coffee one morning, and a couple of evenings with my chocolate. I used a Starbucks VIA twice in cold water to give me a little boost midday – and it was a tasty addition to whatever lunch I was eating.

Natural Choice pre-cooked bacon – DUDE. Must-have. I would hike, feeling frickin’ amazing, for a few hours in the morning before eating (totally a bonus from keto), and when I finally stopped, I would happily devour a package of pre-cooked bacon and love every bite of it. It’s the stuff you get in the grocery store that doesn’t need refrigeration until it’s opened. Perfect for the backcountry!

 – Powdered bone broth – I wanted to take the benefits of bone broth with me on the hike, but the liquid form would’ve just been too heavy. So I found a powdered version on Amazon that wasn’t too bad as far as additives. It was actually super-filling, and I only ended up having two or three times, just because I wasn’t hungry enough for it. I would add dried garlic, onion, salt, pepper, and dehydrated red and green bell pepper to it. It’s good by itself, too, but the extra seasonings made it feel like I was eating a soup. I could easily have gone without this and the decaf coffee in hot form — and I would’ve been totally food-cold and wouldn’t have had to even bring my Jetboil and fuel, saving myself a pound or two. Next time!

Lastly, a few of my favorite things from the trip, my lowest point, and what will be different next time!

My favorites from the trip? All of it, duh! If I had to pick a few things, the first one that really stands out is the wildflowers. 

More. 

They were seriously insane out there. I felt like I was walking through a rainbow, and I’m not even kidding you – it smelled like cotton candy in some places! Another favorite would be the views of Mt. Rainier every day, from a different angle each time. That’s a gimme. 

My grid app only let me use 15 photos. Good thing I had a limit.

Another? The glaciers. Carbon Glacier was my favorite, as I got to see it in action when some rocks came loose and went tumbling down along an ice wall that was melting in the summer’s sun – and the sound that came with it was just incredible. It’s a tough one to describe. But it was super-cool. The swims! I swam three times and could’ve swam a bunch more. I love swimming in those clear, crisp mountain lakes, especially after a long day of hiking and sweating! Another one was the solo aspect of it, being on my own schedule, and just being able to go and stop as I pleased. And lastly, the way it can be so hard (the first two days were intense with big miles), or pretty chill (I had a couple of low-mileage days that were pretty easy walking). The climbs are usually long uphills or long downhills, and that challenge was fun.

A few downsides? Well, not really a downside, but I did post-hole up in the snow on day 2 and ended up scraping my shin and knee pretty good. I hiked the rest of the day with a dried blood trail down both shins (I’m sure it looked totally badass, though!). It didn’t really hurt, as it happened really fast, so it wasn’t a big deal. I felt kind of proud. Like it was a souvenir for my hard hike that day. So, yeah. I guess not much of a downside. I loved hiking in the snowfields, but there are certainly some precautions you need to take to be safe.

One definite downside was the black flies on day 8. They just got to me. The bugs, overall, really weren’t nearly as bad as I thought they were going to be, considering the time I was going to be out there. I never even used my headnet! Well, if I had some sort of netted contraption for my ankles, though, I would’ve used it on day 8. I also found out later that my super-short fuse was also linked to a certain hormonal cycle that I deal with every month, and this one unexpectedly shortened on me by 6 days, so I was thrown off-guard. But a few bazillion flowers, sweat, caffeine and trail love helped me through it.

Last – the biggest downside? That it had to end. Awww…. So cheesy, I know. But it’s true. I did not want to stop hiking. It doesn’t matter if my hike is 2 days or 165 days. They’re never long enough.

For anyone that wants to go on a solo backpacking trip, but has been a little nervous about taking the plunge and doing it?
Do it here.
And don’t be at all afraid. There’s quite a few people on the trails, but not so many that you’re running into someone every few minutes. Camping at night is a piece of cake. There’s bear poles or boxes at every camp, so it’s super-easy to manage food safety out there, and the way the camps are set up, you’ll have neighboring campers that are at least a shout away if something were to go wrong. But I doubt animals would even be a bother. The few bears I saw were super nonthreatening. I mean, you don’t want to entice them or rub yourself in coconut oil (which I almost did before going to bed one night to help with dry skin, but quickly rethought the plan – saved it for morning), but it’s not really something to worry about if you take even the simplest of backcountry bear precautions.

So ohmygosh, I think I’m finally done blabbing! There is still probably so much more I could add, but I’ll just wrap it up here. The last thing I want to say, is this:

Mom and Dad – next time I hike this trail, you are both going with me, and I will not take “no” for an answer. I thought of you both every single day out there. The flowers, the waterfalls, the wildlife, the scenery – I know you would’ve loved it. So I’m dragging you along next time! (They won’t argue, my friends. Trust me.)


Tonight I love those of you that stuck it out and read this whole thing. You are my hard-core readers and followers! Thank you! I wish I could give you some sort of prize. You’ve got my love, that’s for sure. :)

Love my Gossamer Gear Gorilla

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The Wonderland Trail. Day 9.

Sunday, August 6, 2017 

“I WANNA YO-YO!”
(Yo-yoing in thru-hiking terms means you get to the end of a long trail, then turn around and hike back to where you started. Imagine thru-hiking the 2,660 miles of the PCT from Mexico to Canada, then turning around and hiking back to Mexico. Cool, right!? It’s been done. No kidding! 

Let’s go back to the start… And do it again. Pretty please!? (Photo is from Day 3)

I was so sad it was my last day on the trail. We only had three miles to go to exit at Longmire where I’d be reunited with our PJ2 Subaru and civilization. 

The hike out was mostly downhill, and I got to experience the Kautz Creek River crossing that Adam got do once already on his way out to meet me. It was pretty swift – enough to warrant unbuckling my pack straps for the crossing. We both made it across on a few skinny, bouncy logs that a kind hiker before us laid down as a makeshift, temporary bridge. Adam said someone added a couple more since yesterday. Thanks, other hikers! 

Adam crossing Kautz Creek on some pretty flimsy little logs. He did just fine.

We hiked down, down and down some more, then I started to hear vehicle traffic, then we crossed a road, and then we popped out of the woods into the Longmire parking lot. I head right to our car where Adam took a photo of me just like he did at the beginning. It was amazing how relaxed I looked compared to when I started. The wilderness does great things for me. 

A side-by-side of me at the start and finish. I really love this photo comparison. It actually makes me feel all warm and fuzzy inside with happiness to see how chill I look after the hike. It was so amazing.

And so I ended with no post-hike cravings because I eat damn keto (which I love anyway), but it turned out to be a blessing in disguise because the restaurant at Longmire was frickin’ CLOSED when I got there (at 10:45am) because apparently they shut down between meal hours. I was going to go in and just get a celebratory burger or something for tradition’s sake, but that was a no-go. 

Oh, well. I decided I’d just hit up the bathroom for its flushy toilets and running water. I’d wash up a little bit and change so we could hit the road and find a good coffee somewhere. (I guess I was sort of craving a good cappuccino. So, there’s that!) 

I grabbed a tote bag with a change of clothes, a bandana to wash up with, and my tooth brush. I approached the one public bathroom to see a line. *sigh* Can’t I just please go back into the woods!? 

I waited in that line for about eight other ladies to cycle through, but once I got inside I was shouldered-bumped by another lady who apparently thought her hand-washing needs were way more important that mine or anyone else’s. Then after I finally got to the sink to wet my bandana I got repeatedly skipped for a stall. I wanted to punch someone! I said out loud out of frustration, “Oh, forget it!” and walked back outside in a huff and back to the car – dirt-covered and still having to pee. Civilization is really hard. 

Adam got out of the bathroom (big surprise, no line. I should’ve just use the men’s) and we walked over to the restaurant to see how much longer it would be until they opened, and it was another hour – but they had their own bathroom! So I took the big stall and was able to wash up and change in peace. Thank goodness. Then we left. I needed to get the hell out of there. I was over-peopled – way too much exposure at once first thing out of the mountains. 

We drove on, stopping at the first Starbucks we came across so I could get my cappuccino. We drank our coffees out of ceramic mugs in the store, played a couple games of cribbage and then drove on. We got as far as Yakima, WA, and stopped at the Oxford Inn for the night. We had a first floor patio so I was able to drape my tent outside to air it out, and that was nice. 

Starbucks and cribbage.

And then I took the world’s longest Epsom-salt bath. I was filthy – I hadn’t showered/bathed (other than a few mountain lakes, streams and wet-ones) for what I think is a new record for me – 10 days! I love it! It took some serious scrubbing, too. My feet were the toughest. I hiked almost the entire Wonderland Trail in my Bedrock sandals, and it showed – in a pretty awesomely hardcore-dirty kind of way. I had dirt permanently tattooed into every crease on the bottoms of my feet, and I gave a new pumice stone a pretty good workout! (I’ll probably talk a little more about backpacking in my sandals in another blog entry where I’ll go over some of my specific food and gear choices for this trip.) 

It probably took 30 minutes of pumice scrubbing to get that one foot as clean as it is in the photo.

After scrubbing a few layers of skin off and dousing myself in lotion, Adam and I head out to a local, popular burger joint called Miner’s. It was amazing! For not having any specific cravings, this place couldn’t have been more perfect. I got a double cheeseburger in a lettuce wrap (that was as big as my head – literally), I ate some of Adam’s fries and got a fresh strawberry malt afterwards. It was fun, and so dang delicious. I didn’t feel too awesome afterwards – I ate a little too much and it was pretty much the most sugar I’d eaten in four months – but it was oh, so worth it! 

Fun neon sign at Miner’s in Yakima, WA

Yup. As big as my head! And so good!

Then back at the hotel it was late and we pretty much passed right out. We had a lot more fun vacation to do yet! Next up was Glacier National Park for some camping, driving and sight-seeing, trails, and on a weird whim I wanted to try stand-up paddling on Lake McDonald. I did zero research for this – I just assumed it existed. And I hoped it did! But first? A good night’s sleep. In a cushy bed with crisp, cool, clean sheets. 

Aaah. The simple things. 

Tonight I love pumice stones. 

This was actually my first off-trail meal – summer sausage and cheese – with a cold, lime-flavored La Croix seltzer water. It was perfect. Because I could eat it in the car as we drove away from all the people. 

Adam’s compass fell apart, but I said, “good.” I don’t like these compasses – can you see why? There’s two Norths on it. It’s so dumb!

Still stopping for the little things – even with only 3 miles left.

A great morning view looking up Kautz Creek.

LOVE.

Also LOVE.

And… One last on-trail view of my latest favorite beauty. I love you, Mt. Rainier. I’ll see you again. That’s a promise.

The Wonderland Trail. Day 8.

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. 

Yeah, it’s seriously like this every day on the Wonderland Trail.

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. 

Firesmoke haze really adds a unique beauty to everything.

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. 

Emerald Ridge.

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!  

Western pasqueflower, or… more like Truffula trees from The Lorax.

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! 

I know! Another picture of berries in a bag! But look at those suckers! Huge!

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! 

Tahoma Creek suspension bridge!

Another view – with Tahoma Creek winding down the valley.

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. 

See? How can a few stupid flies ruin my day when I’m surrounded by this! Bite away, little jerks!

It’s crazy to think that this pretty little stream made a delicious cold coffee.

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! 

A half-sunken bridge on the trail to Mirror Lakes. It was a little more rugged, as it’s unmaintained, but I really enjoyed that aspect of it.

Mirror Lake and a hazy Mt. Rainier reflection.

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! 

Indian Henry’s hunting grounds – everything about this little place seemed like perfection.

I could live here so easy. There’s even a little lake in back!

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! 

“Adam!?” 

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. 

Yaaaay! It’s Adam!

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.” 

Youch! Hang in there, tootsies! I love you!

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. 

Yay? 

*sigh* 

zzzzzzzz 

Tonight I love trail coffee.

I put these suckers through so much and they just keep on going. I love my tough feet!

Flowers. Trail. Trees.

Another colorful glacier view, including a small melt-off pond, from Emerald Ridge.

Tree skeletons and flowers.

Trail friend. Cutie!

High alpine foliage is so cool. And vibrant!

Seriously, flowers! These have really been a highlight of this trip for sure!

The incredible colors of this glacial landscape! Crazy-pretty!

No more words…

The Wonderland Trail. Day 7.

Friday, August 3, 2017 

Skinnydipping in a mountain lake and one of the best sunsets I’ve ever seen.  

Dusk view across Aurora Lake at the Klapatche Park camp.

I woke up in my pretty little ridge-side camp at Golden Lakes about 5:45am. I had kind of a short day ahead of me, but I’ve been enjoying hiking in the early, cool, quiet mornings, so even though I could’ve slept in a few hours, I naturally got up. Mornings are so much easier for me when I’m backpacking. Probably because I’m where I belong. Wish I could just do this forever! 

I took lots of photos so I might just randomly pop them in throughout today’s blog entry. This one was the first I took.

Anyway, I got all packed up, and my skin was so dry after my swim yesterday, that out of desperation I cracked open one of my single-use packets of coconut oil (that I brought to eat) and warmed it my hands and applied it like a lotion. I got the idea last night, but figured it would be a bad idea to rub smelly coconut oil all over myself right before wrapping myself up in my sleeping bag for the night. I mean, I’m already a bear burrito! I didn’t need to add a condiment – that’s just asking for trouble! It felt pretty awesome to moisturize, though! An hour after waking, at 6:45am, I was hiking out of camp. 

I hiked through an old burn, and it was incredibly beautiful. And so quiet.

My first five miles were pretty much downhill. That’s how this trail has been, quite consistently. Half of the day is either consistently climbing up or descending, and the other half is the opposite. I knew I only had about 8 miles to hike, but after my five downhill miles I had about three that went up pretty steeply – about 2,000 feet – to my camp at Klapatche Park. 

More of my descent.

The downhill felt really good. I was fasted, and it’s been so crazy how amazing I’ve been feeling in the mornings before eating, so it’s been nice to just go with however I’m feeling. I flew down those five miles in just a couple of hours, and was happy to stop for a nice long break at the North Puyallup River – and eat a package of bacon! I had the pre-cooked bacon that doesn’t need refrigeration until after it’s opened, and it’s one of the most amazing things ever! 

Baaaaaacon!

My views on my descent to the river were a little hazy (still from the firesmoke up north), so Mt. Rainier was a little difficult to see, but I hiked through an old burn for a portion of the morning, and it was just gorgeous. I had to stop a few times, stare and just smile. 

More from that burn area. Morning light is the best! Well, almost…

Crossing the North Puyallup River was very cool. This is another glacial river, so the bridge over it was strongly-built and high up over a strong waterfall cascading down into a deep, dangerous-looking swirling pool of water. I was very happy for that bridge! This is not a river you’d want to try crossing on wimpy logs or a rock-hop! I spent a good hour or more there, taking in the power of the river and enjoying the sounds and cool mist coming off of the edge of the falls. And then it was time to climb. 

The beautiful scene at the North Puyallup River crossing. 

The waterfall at the N. Puyallup River crossing. Don’t fall here!

I took the climb nice and slow, just taking in the surroundings. Because I could. As it was, I was going to arrive at camp ridiculously early. Then I started to spot some pops of color in the green brush along the edge of the trail. Salmon berries! I stopped and dug out a snack-size ziplock baggie and picked until the bag was full. Score! Dessert for later… And some snacking for now! And one of the best on-trail time-wasters! 

I spy with my little eye… Something delicious!

Even with my berry-picking, I still arrived to my camp at noon. At first I was bummed because, even though I got there so insanely early, a couple had JUST beat me there and grabbed the best site out of the four that were available – it has a nice view of Mt. Rainier. But I picked a spot that I think I ended up liking a little better in the end, anyway. It was a little more private and I got a peak of the sun going down behind the trees later in the evening. And besides, the view that you’d get from the “best” site? You get the same view along a nice big sitting log along the “lake,” which was really just a still pond full of wriggling pollywogs… A still pond that reflected Mt. Rainier on its surface in a pretty spectacular fashion. This really was a great place to be for the night. 

Another, perfect, simple little camp at Klapatche Park.

Yeah. The view from the Klapatche Park camp was pretty great with Mt. Rainier reflecting in the glassy Aurora Lake. But just wait… It gets SO much better. If you can believe that!

But I had hours to spare, so what to do? Easy. Talking with some folks a few days ago that were heading the opposite direction as me, and had already been past this section of trail, they told me, “The hike from camp uphill to St. Andrew lake is worth it for a swim.” Well, duh – swim!? Yes, please! 

Wouldn’t ya know it? I found more wildflowers!

I hung any smelly things on the bear pole, packed a few snacks, my jetboil, an instant coffee, and change of clothes and started the beautiful little hike uphill through wildflowers to St. Andrew lake. It was almost a mile, but when the lake came into view I instantly knew it was worth it. My trail friends were right! It was a crystal-clear, fairly shallow lake, surrounded by mountains. 

Beautiful St. Andrew Lake.

I made my way around to the opposite side from where the trail went through, found where a stream feeds the lake and got some water first thing (better than the still lake water for drinking) and then found a perfect little spot to hang out along the lake’s edge. It was nice and sunny and I had my own little tiny sandy beach-like spot. 

My own personal tiny beach, on my own personal mountain lake, with a tiny Christmas tree drying my wet clothes, hanging like decorations.

First things first. Goals. I looked across the lake at the trail, saw no one, shrugged, stripped down naked as the day I was born and dove in. Glorious. There is no freer feeling than that of sun-warmed high mountain lake water against all inches of your bare, sweaty, dirt-covered, sun-kissed, tired hiker skin. I got back out, put on my hiker swimsuit (sweaty sport bra and short spandex undies), and jumped back in for a more extended swim. I stayed in for a quite a while just floating and paddling around until I was ready to get out and dry off. Then I made a hot coffee and sipped it while watching the sudden slough of trail runners that started coming through across the small lake on the Wonderland Trail. Well, by “slough” I mean maybe 5 or 6 within an hour or two – but all while I was clothed, so I guess I timed it right! 

Post-swim coffee and sunshine. I think I’m in heaven.

Another sped-up video – this one is of my swim at St. Andrew Lake (don’t worry, I’m clothed in this one! Haha!) 

I left the lake around 3:30pm after all my clothes were dry and hiked back downhill to camp. I took about a 30-minute nap and head down the the big log with the great view of the mountain and had some dinner. I made my avocado special and had some bakers chocolate and my wild-picked salmon berries for dessert. 

Berries for dessert – again!

My neighbors from site #1 came down and we chatted for a bit. Turns out a bear walked right past camp shortly after we arrived! Good thing I hung up all my food for my little lake trip! They also warned me of another river crossing that has a bridge out that I’d be crossing on my last day – Kautz Creek – another one of them crazy, silty, fast glacial rivers. I felt okay about it, but then I remembered Adam was planning on hiking the three miles into my last night’s camp to meet up with me! He was going to have to cross it – and probably wouldn’t be going over first thing in the morning when it’s nice and low. I felt nervous for him. I hoped there would be some other people around when he got there. Not much I could do at this point! I just decided if he wasn’t at camp when I got there, I’d set up and walk down to the river in case he was there, stuck and needing some help. 

After dinner I brushed my teeth, put on my warmer sleeping clothes – mostly to ward off a few pesky black flies – hung my smellies and wandered around the pollywog pond enjoying the flowers, butterflies, frogs, pine trees, and the mountain. 

My favorite. ❤️

Then the sun began to lower behind camp. I knew the sunset was going to be pretty red from all the firesmoke in the air, and I hoped it would reflect off of the snowy Mt. Rainier. It did. It slowly turned a spectacular pink color, and I took a bunch of photos trying to capture that color, but I’ll have to keep that one for the memory bank, because photos just weren’t cutting it. They turned out pretty, but only about 50% as pretty as the real deal – if you can believe it! 

I can’t believe I hiked out here, and sat there in the dirt, leaning up against a log and watched the firey sunset reflect onto Mt. Rainier. Sometimes the best parts of life are free, and leave you feeling more wealthy than the largest amount of money – there’s really no comparison. Life. These are the moments that remind me that it’s oh, so grand.

After the pink went away and the mountain dulled into shadows I walked back up to my tent and crashed for the night. 

What another incredible day on the Wonderland Trail. One more night left… I’m sad that it’s already almost over, but jeez. If that’s all I’ve got to complain about, then it’s been a good trip! 


Tonight I love mountain water. Drinking it and swimming in it.

The Wonderland Trail isn’t all up high with constant views and meadows chock full of wildflowers, although that was a huge part of it – but there are also sections that traverse through deep, lush forest. Which is also amazing!

Two rivers collide.

Aurora Lake at Klapatche camp was full of cute, fat little polywogs.

I “washed” my skirt in the lake, but before I did I was sure to snap a photo of my sweaty salt lines. I’m always so proud of them. :)

Day 7 and I still don’t have this mountain selfie thing figured out! Haha!

Crisp moon at bedtime.

I enjoy taking breaks near water like this. There is so much energy coming out of that raging river and waterfall – I hope to absorb some of it to help me up the next climb.

Just one more from early sunset. Every few seconds the colors deepened as the sun set behind me. And because of wildfire haze hanging heavy in the sky, it turned a deep, beautiful red – the way it slowly laid its color on the mountain was a once-in-a-lifetime experience. I will never forget this sunset.

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.” 

Huckleberries!

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! 

Pre-resupply-explosion.

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!