The trouble ain't that there is too many fools, but that the lightning ain't distributed right.-Mark Twain (a.k.a. Thomas Jefferson Snodgrass)
I love Mark Twain, which the reason I know that he also, at one point in time, went by the pen name Thomas Jefferson Snodgrass, but that's off the topic. On the second day of my solo trek to complete the Wonderland Trail, however, I prayed that the lightning that struck the mountain during the latter half of that day's hike, would not be "distributed right".
After my night time talk with my camp 'friends', I decided that I would take it easy the next morning. I would sleep in, eat my breakfast slowly and savor every minute of the morning before I began the eight mile hike to Granite Creek Camp. I'm not sure what changed that plan, but it didn't quite pan out that way.
I woke several times throughout the night feeling something outside my tent. I barely heard anything but I could feel footsteps not too far away. I will never know exactly what it was but I sensed it was deer or some other hoof-footed animal. It must have been a busy night for the critters because I once woke to a noise on my tent. I couldn't sleep until I found out what that was, so I lie there awake, eyes fixed on the thin flap of material that kept me safe from the prowling wildlife. Just before I was about to drift off to sleep, the mystery was solved. I saw the silhouette of a small mouse run a circle on the door of my tent before it got down and scattered away. That was pretty much the end of my sleep for the night and since my phone died the previous day, I had no way of telling what time it was. Still dark, that was what time it was.
I drifted off to sleep only to feel like moments later my eyes were opening to daylight. I lie there relishing the fact that I was on nobody's schedule but mine. Soon, nature was 'shouting' however and the knowledge that I had to walk right next to the guys camp and use the 'toilet' practically in their "backyard" made me feel much less sociable than when I arrived to camp. Nonetheless, I did just that and then quickly packed up, ate a granola bar, and bid them a friendly farewell as I began the long ascent to Mystic Lake.
I was forewarned that I would be hiking uphill for quite sometime, and they weren't exaggerating! I climbed onward through a forested hillside with a series of long switchbacks. I reach several small meadows bejewled with wildflowers of all colors. Several small creeks played the soundtrack of that beautiful soothing music that only nature can get just right.
About 2.5 miles past camp, I reached Moraine Park. This was a place as close to heaven as many of its residents would ever get. Chipmunk, pikas and marmots abound. They frolicked in the meadows chock-full of alpine wildflowers. They basked in the glow of warm sunlight upon large boulders, and they ducked in and out of holes alongside the trail's edge. It was a brief respite from a mostly uphill hike so far as the trail leveled out.
May path continued to take me through ups and downs in meadows that were buzzing and busy, with both it's own residents and several groups of day hikers who were visiting Mystic Lake. On several occasions I was warned of an upcoming family of bears consisting of a mama and two cubs. I looked forward with a bit of anxiety to the wild sight, but it wasn't in God's plan for me to see any bears on my solo portion of the Wonderland Trail.
At 3.6 miles from camp I arrived at Mystic Lake. My fellow campers at Dick Creek told me of a bustling lake with picnic-ers and skinny dippers. Upon my arrival, however, I fortunately found a place of serene solitude. Not a soul in sight, a peaceful silence fell upon my ears and I relished the beauty around me. I looked forward to taking in all the lake had to offer, for me, a place to set my pack down and soak my tired feet. The sun was warming and the lake was cool but not cold.
I took off my boots and tucked my socks inside them. Hiking up the knee-high leggings that I wore under my skirt, I slowly walked on the soft sand that settled at the bottom of the lake. The water was crystal clear and as I moved pollywogs quickly swam away. I walked ever so slowly, not wanting to break the silence that surrounded me and not wanting to intrude on the lives of those that called this place home. Fish jumped from across the lake and a few feet away a salamander swam toward me. I watched closely with fascination and joy. It felt like I was surrounded by God Himself.
Soon, my stomach grumbled for food and I sat down for a bite to eat. My appetite was next to nothing but by the noise my stomach was making I knew I should probably eat something. All I could manage to eat was a few pieces of beef jerky and several Bit o'Honeys. I'm not sure why, when I was expending so much energy, I had such a lack of desire to eat (heavens knows quite the opposite is true when I'm home).
I knew I couldn't stay here forever, and the thousand of just hatched dragonfly babies, (at least that's what I diagnosed them to be) prompted me to move on. I dried my feet, bandaged my blisters, heaved Violet back in place and started out, rejuvenated and prepared for the second half of my day's trek.
Less than a mile after leaving the lake, I came to the first water crossing of the West Fork White River. As a crow flies, I wasn't far from where I acquired my backcountry camping permit just two days prior. I didn't know how far I was from a road, however, because all the roads nearby had been washed out by the 2006 floods. In fact, as I hiked, I traversed some of the flood damaged terrain. The trail itself had to be rerouted at some point and looked like nothing more than a rocky wasteland, the path marked by a line of stones.
I followed several more footbridges over glacial debris and the power of the great volcano was evident through all my senses. Even with my eyes closed I could feel its great capacity to build...and to destroy. A cool wind blew down off the flanks of the mountain and falling rock and ice could be heard as I approached Winthrop Glacier. The weather began to take a turn for the worse. Most of the day it had been pretty sunny with a slight bit of overcast, but dark, ominous-looking clouds had been building.
The trail began to climb again as I hiked away from Winthrop Glacier. I stopped to get my rain gear out, so as to not have to change in the rain. It was coming for sure. Growing up in Western Washington one knows without a doubt exactly how much time they have before the drops start falling, and I knew it was soon. I put my rain pants on over my leggings, stuffed my skirt in my pack, covered my pack with a plastic garbage bag and before I was heading uphill again it began to rain. Not a light sprinkling, but giant juicy drops that splattered when they hit. Almost as soon as the sky began weeping, the clouds began to fight. Lightning bolts were hurled and thunderous words were spoken. I prayed that the storm would pass as quickly as it did the day before. I'm not one for confrontations and this one was particularly intimidating.
My prayers must have been used for other purposes that day, however, because the rain continued falling....ALL. NIGHT. LONG. The thunder and lightning stuck around too.
The way turned steep and alternated between dense forest and brushy creeks. I simply kept putting one foot in front of the other getting more and more wet as the miles passed. The trail that had been bone dry when I started just one day ago now had little streamlettes running down its center. I kept telling myself, "Just a little further and you can snuggle down into your warm sleeping bag with dry clothes...and...warm coffee...and....sleep until the sun comes back out." I reached camp 4.6 miles from the sunny memory of Mystic Lake.
The campsites were soggy mud holes and the thought of getting my tent out and setting it up made me want to crawl into a bear den and cuddle up with the family. I went from campsite to campsite looking for one with the most tree coverage and the least amount of mud. The third one I came to was actually under a huge tree and the ground around the tree was relatively dry. Perfect! I began to set my tent up but as I did, puddles began to form on the ground around me. In the frustration of the situation I made mistake after mistake in setting up my shelter and it seemed to take forever. Finally, I took off my wet outerwear and climbed inside the tent, backpack and all.
I changed out of every item of clothing I was wearing, and with so much gratitude that I still had dry clothes in my backpack, I put them on and climbed deep inside my sleeping bag. Coffee was completely undesirable as that would require heating water on my stove...in the rain. Sleep was all I wanted, sleep and warmth.
Well, it rained and rained and rained. Oh, and did I mention that it rained with thunder and lightning storms ALL. THROUGH. THE NIGHT! Sleep was evasive as I lie awake dreading that my tent would begin leaking or my camp would be flooded. Several times I was startled out of "almost sleep" by a cold droplet landing on my face. The thought of next day's hike being short and final was the only thing that kept me sane.