“In every walk with Nature one receives far more than he seeks.” -John Muir
"Immediately we were in awe of the beauty around us..." This was the first line of my journal that I wrote in each day while on the Wonderland Trail. I read those words, in awe of, and it reminds me once again of the vast magnitude of Mt. Rainier's presence. When someone is in awe of something you usually think they are seeing it for the first time, but for me, the Mountain being my favorite place, is somewhere we go frequently from late May to early October. No matter how many times I view the mountain from Sunrise, however, I am always and always will be in awe.
We waved goodbye to Mom and Dad by 6:45 am on July 27, 2013 after taking a few goofy "Pre-Hike" pictures:
|So much about this picture makes me laugh. Feel free to nominate me for 'What Not To Wear'.|
We stopped at McDonald's for our last bite of civilization. During the hour and twenty minute ride I remember feeling nauseated and anxious as well as excited. I didn't know if the feelings were brought on from the never-ending winding roads or the overwhelming excitement of the adventure awaiting us (or possibly the greasy fast food that now sat in my gut). Nonetheless, we headed down Hwy 410 and didn't stop until we arrived at our destination: Sunrise Visitor Center, the highest point on Mt. Rainier that you can reach by vehicle. It was our starting point, but first we had to contact a ranger to let them know the vehicle we had previously registered was not the one we would end up leaving in the parking lot. The day before we left my engine light came on in my van and I didn't feel comfortable driving it the forty uphill miles to the mountain, so Emily drove us in her VW Bug. That issue took longer than desired to clear up, but soon we were pointed in the right direction and hiking the half-mile trek that led to the Wonderland Trail. It was 9:30 am and this was the first thing we saw:
The day could not have been more beautiful. It was sunny and clear, free from any haze that would obscure the amazing glacial details you can see from our starting point. The buzz on the trail from other hikers was that a couple of bears were up-trail less than half a mile "if we wanted to go see them". We thanked them for the info and continued in the southward direction we intended to take. There was no desire to see a bear just yet, and even more we were just anxious to reach the Wonderland Trail. Being a circular trail, you can head either clockwise or counter clockwise around the mountain, we took the clockwise direction once we reached the trail head.
The soothing sound of rushing water grew louder and louder as the scenery changed from alpine meadows to alpine forests to low alpine forests with many old growth trees strewn here and there. The hiking was all downhill and easy the first three miles to White River Campground and it went by very quickly. When we reached the campground we found a picnic table and stopped for lunch.
Favorite trail food (at White River Campground)
All nerves and uneasiness that I felt when we got there were now gone and we were thoroughly enjoying the day. Before we left White River (caution: TMI coming up) we made sure to use the last flushing toilet we would see in over a week. Trying to leave the campground and find our way back to the Wonderland Trail was difficult as the signs were a bit misleading (but then, maybe they weren't, neither of us have ever been known to be very good at directions). Once found, however, it led to a gorgeous view of Mt. Rainier and the log bridge that crossed the roaring and silty White River.
Coming out of the forest past W.R. Campground, this is what we saw.
View from White River
Log bridge crossing the White River
The trail beyond the White River was smooth and flat. Once back in the forest the silence was deafening. It seemed like we were the only ones on the mountain. After about 2 miles we began the four mile climb to Summerland where we would camp our first night. We were graced with amazing views of the surrounding mountains, waterfalls and Fryingpan Creek. Before long the trail became steeper and the air was warmer as the forest opened up to meadowland. Absolutely gorgeous views could be seen from every direction. Wildflowers covered the grassy ground that crowded the trail which became bustling with fellow hikers as we neared camp.
Upon reaching the back country campground we were greeted by a ranger who checked our permit and pointed out which way to go and what camps were still open. We decided to stay at site #3 which had great views of Mt. Rainier summit and Emmons glacier.
Despite having practiced setting up our tent at home with no problems, it seemed to take us forever to set it up after we plopped our heavy packs on the ground and rested on a nearby log (which would be our only place to sit other than the ground itself). After we finally got our sleeping arrangement settled, it was time to hang our food on the bear poles, which proved to be more difficult than it looked:
After a hot meal before bedtime (which, on the mountain got earlier and earlier with each days' added exhaustion) we fell fast asleep....excited for the day ahead of us.
More pictures from Day 1