Thursday, May 8, 2014

Adventures in Wonderland: Day 5, 8.5 miles

Looking back on this day, it was one of my favorite days of the hike, but probably the day that changed Emily's mind about the outcome of our journey. It was certainly a pivotal day for me in that I realized my feet, with a little tender loving care, could, in fact carry me the rest of the way.

The sun rose early but we didn't stir for quite awhile. The very idea of getting up and hiking kept us in our tent longer than usual. I moved my toes around in the bottom of my sleeping bag. To my surprise, they felt so much better than the previous night. When we finally emerged from our tent I was relieved that walking was not as painful as it had been.

With nothing more than a Lemon Zest Luna Bar for breakfast, we headed out of camp. Before getting too far we filled up our water bottles at the silty Pyramid Creek. The water was cloudy and a bit gritty but we purified it and it tasted fine.

The trail started out uphill and we didn't stop hiking uphill for three and a half hours. The bugs nipped at us every chance they could even through our clothing and I was helpless without bug spray. (Although, I'm convinced that the mosquitoes and flies around Rainier are immune to the stuff) I was thankful for my head net. In fact, I don't think I would have enjoyed much of anything without it. Earlier on during our trek we saw a woman in full body mosquito gear, a net covering her whole body. I am ashamed to admit that I snickered under my breath at the excessiveness of it all, by this time, however, I wanted one of my own!

The scenery was monotonous as it didn't change from the shadowy forest setting for the first half of the day, but after awhile the trees opened up to flower-filled meadows and high alpine shrubbery. In the sunlight the variety of flying insects were highlighted as they busily flitted this way and that. The bees bounced from wildflower to wildflower fulfilling their God-given purpose, while the flies and mosquitoes flew aimlessly looking for their next meal, and the butterflies adorned the path with their array of color and gracefulness.

As we approached Indian Henry's Hunting Ground, we saw a sight that I had been hoping to see from day one; a young black bear leisurely meandering along the edge of a pond that separated him from us. We stopped in our tracks and pulled out our cameras. He wasn't very near but near enough to enjoy the sight of him without fear. This filled me with joy as I had been a little disappointed in the lack of wildlife thus far. I must add here that earlier that day Emily told me that she had been praying that we wouldn't see a bear, which prompted me to silently pray a Rosary in hopes to see one. There was a brief moment where the bear looked up and our eyes met before he jaunted off into the woods in the opposite direction.

Not a very good picture, but proof of our bear sighting!
 The low hum of insects became our background music and now that we were out of the shade of the forest and into meadows and sunlight we were constantly attacked by bugs. Flailing arms and trekking poles would have been a hiking hazard to anyone passing by too closely. Nearly the entire day, however, other than each other, we saw no one. A few hundred feet before reaching Indian Henry's, amidst the hypnotizing hum of bees and the quiet rhythm of our footsteps, I was jolted to full awareness by Emily wailing the alarm of one under attack. I turned around, my heart racing, fearing the worst.
"Something just bit me!!" she shrieked.
Her hat and head net already lying on the ground at her feet, I figured the 'something'  must have just bit her on the head. Sure enough, a fat bee flew out from her head net unscathed. It had stung her on the forehead. Frustrated at the unprovoked attack of semi-venomous creatures, Emily seemed to me to be unable to thoroughly enjoy the rest of the day.

 At Indian Henry's Hunting Ground, (or should I be politically correct and call it 'Native American' Henry's Hunting Ground?) a big open meadow gave way to an amazing view of Mt. Rainier's summit. At one end of the meadow sat an old patrol cabin - the oldest in the Park that is still in use, since 1915. This day, however, there were no rangers on duty. We sat on the benches on it's front porch and ate our lunch. As I sat there I imagined seeing the meadow in it's heyday.

According to Hiking the Wonderland Trail, by Tami Asars, this area is rich in history. To the west was Mt. Ararat, named by Ben Longmire who wrote,
"I named it because I found there some long slabs of wood that had turned to stone and I thought they might have been part of old Noah's boat. I also found a stump with a ring around it as if his rope might have been tied there. It was all stone." (quoted in Dee Molenaar's The Challenge of Rainier)
Indian Henry's Hunting Ground itself comes with its own stories. Two pioneer explorers are said to have first encountered a friendly Native American man in 1862 near Mt. Rainier. When they asked his name he said what sounded like, "Sotolick." As legend has it, since that name was too difficult to pronounce the pioneers decided to rename him Indian Henry. History has it that Indian Henry had recently had contact with Jesuit missionaries and might have been trying to say 'Catholic', but the truth belongs to Indian Henry himself.

The patrol cabin at Indian Henry's Hunting Ground
What is known is that Indian Henry had three wives, a successful farm and a log home. He spoke broken English and three different Native American dialects. This area of Mt. Rainier, where we sat at that point in time, was once actually used by Indian Henry for hunting, grazing his horses and cattle, and picking berries. Among the Native Americans and pioneers alike, he was deemed quite wealthy.

Meadow view from the patrol cabin's front porch.
It was easy for me to get lost in imagining this place bustling with the activities of so many years ago, but the bugs found us and just sitting there we became easy targets. The trail ahead was flat and meandering and soon began to descend back into the forest. We were glad to be in the shade once more where the incessant biting wound down. The path was smooth and easy going but the downhill angle caused misery to my feet! In the distance we could hear the rushing sound of a very fast river and off and on we could see views of the swiftly flowing, muddy brown river; Tahoma Creek.

At last, we came to a place that was on my summer bucket list last year: Tahoma Creek Suspension Bridge. I never got around to checking it off my list last summer, but now was my opportunity to do so. Approximately 150 feet long and more than 200 feet high, this massive bridge spans the angry Tahoma Creek far below. I have a passion in my soul for suspension bridges. There is just something about being suspended in the air by a swaying and bouncing bridge that thrills me to the core. A cool breeze flowed off the Tahoma Glacier and down the path of the river. It blew my hair and rosied my cheeks. I could hear nothing but the rumbling of the river far beneath my feet. We took our time and many pictures. This was yet another 'favorite' moment on the Wonderland Trail.

Tahoma Creek Suspension Bridge

The thrills of our fifth day were far from over. After the bridge, we climbed a relentless 3.2 miles up, up and up! The scenery moved from forest to volcanic and sub alpine terrain. We were among the few fortunate people that day to take in the view of Success Divide, on the flank of Rainier and the rocky and barren moraine of Success Cleaver above the divide. Just slightly to the northeast was the rocky Glacier Island, tucked between the Tahoma and the South Tahoma glaciers looking like a large, stone, crumbling tower.

Tahoma Glacier

As we approached Emerald Ridge we discovered the reason for it's name; a green grassy meadow provided the perfect spot to stop and take in the surrounding views. The odd view of the mountain from this angle made Rainier seem decrepit, ancient and fragile. The summit seemed only an arm's reach away. Coming around the corner of Emerald Ridge we were greeted with another breathtaking view of the glacier carved landscape. A bright orange rocky 'scar' was left behind from the retreating glacier over so many years ago and it surrounded the muddy South Puyallup River. Mountains were visible from every angle. Being there provided one of those moments when you feel the overpowering sense of insignificance. Not in a negative, but a comforting way. The feeling of being so small that all the problems in our lives that we perceive to be huge seemed to lose their importance. This was God's country and right then, to me, it felt as though He held us lovingly in His hands.

Rainier from Emerald Ridge

Rocky and  barren moraine of Success Cleaver

Walking the narrow, crumbly path near Emerald Ridge.

Beginning the descent to South Puyallup River Camp
From there we began the excruciating decline to the South Puyallup River Camp where we would stay the night. The ground was rocky and unstable, the worst stuff for blistered feet and mine were beginning to tell me they wanted to be done walking for the day. We moved at a snail's pace making sure each step was stable before moving the other foot. Eventually, not far from camp, we reached a clear running creek and filled up our water supply.

At camp, we took the first available site, #4. The most difficult hike of every day is when you reach camp and then have to hike the little trail to your site. When we first began hiking the Wonderland Trail we were picky, but this day we would have been happy to set up our tent in the middle of the trail and call it good.

We unloaded our gear and with great anticipation I began to make our long awaited 'half-way to the end' celebration dessert of cardboard soup "banana cream pie". It sounded so good but tasted so bad! My appetite throughout the hike had been unusually low but this destroyed it altogether. While cleaning our dishes we could hear the distant sound of thunder. This made Emily very uneasy.

I usually like a good thunderstorm but I'll admit it was a little creepy, especially as the storm drew closer and closer. Each clap echoed off the rocky walls of the mountain making it all the more intense.  Emily's anxiety grew and soon she was talking about going!! The wind began to blow and we both crawled into the tent. Between the wind, the thunder and Emily worrying about the trees falling on us, I thought I'd never get to sleep. We laid there listening as the storm came closer. I began to grow uneasy and asked Emily if she wanted to say the Rosary with me. She did.

I wasn't surprised, as I have full confidence in the power of God and the help of His Blessed Mother, but I was amazed that as we spoke the final prayers of the Rosary, the thunderstorm had passed and the wind died down completely. On top of that the sun shone for the last hour of daylight.

I thanked the Good Lord for this day and fell asleep scratching the numerous bug bites that covered my arms and legs.

Emily snapped the first picture just as a mosquito found its dinner, my smile in the second picture hides my incredible urge to itch!

Disappointment dessert

Creek near camp where we purified and filled our water supply.

Glacier Island

Friday, April 25, 2014

Adventures in Wonderland: Day 4, 14 Long Freakin' Miles!

Mt. Rainier from Reflection Lakes

I recently read back over my posts about this trip and loved recalling the beautiful scenery, the solitude, the absolute freshness of being in such a pristine place where the only 'taste' in the water is cold. When I read my journal entry for day four, however, I noticed a "slight" change of tone. This was the first paragraph in the Rite in the Rain spiral notebook that I brought with me,
"I want to be home!!! It's the end of day four and I can hardly walk....literally. I just got done popping seven blisters on my feet. I hobbled into camp barely able to hold myself together. Okay, I couldn't actually. I threw an all out tantrum when I couldn't hang my food from the bear pole."
I laugh at the memory now, but Emily can fully attest to the account of my negativity following day four's fourteen-mile hike.

I will tell of the day from the beginning so as to not start off on a sour note. We woke at 6 am with the intention of leaving by 7 o'clock. We knew we had the longest hike of our whole trip ahead of us, but we were excited because today was the day we would stop in Longmire and pick up our resupply items. We also planned on stopping at the restaurant there and getting a giant juicy burger with fries. I couldn't begin to tell you how good that sounded after days of eating mostly dehydrated foods.

Once more the weather was ideal. We packed up, ate a quick breakfast of whatever we could stomach. For me it was a landjaeger (German-style pepperoni stick) and a protein bar. Then we stopped by the creek on our way out of camp to purify water and fill our bottles and Platypus bags. We were on the trail by 7:20.
Leaving Maple Creek
Not five minutes into our hike we heard a loud growl nearby in the woods just off the trail. I stopped quickly and turned to Emily thinking maybe I was hearing things. "I heard that too," she said before I even spoke a word. We hurried along the brushy path. The scenery changed frequently from the picturesque Sylvia Falls which was framed by a mossy forest to berry patches (unripe berries, it seemed we were just a few weeks too early for prime berry picking) to river banks where parts of the trail were pretty sketchy from the complete destruction and rebuilding following the devastating floods of 2006.

Here the trail consisted of loose rocks and wobbly pebbles (come to think of it, those two things are the same, oh well), but soon it spit us out onto a section of freshly laid pavement, with the smell of tar assaulting our senses. We crossed the road and dipped back onto a more natural feeling gravelly section of the trail.  After continuing for almost a mile we came to the first and largest of the Reflection Lakes, Louise Lake. We saw a lot of people here taking pictures of the mirror-like lake with Mt. Rainier directly behind. We stopped and took a few pictures ourselves and forced smiles as a rather obnoxious group of adults asked us to take their pictures.

You can see here the growing irritation in my face.
 In another half-mile or so we reached an area where we had to walk along the road for at least .5 miles. The funny thing is .5 miles to me now sounds like nothing. But the same amount of distance in the mountains with blistered feet can seem like forever. I remember thinking to myself, "Look at all these people with so much energy. They walk with such ease! I wonder what that feels like." I even felt myself becoming irritated at their smiles as the blisters on my feet were more prominent than ever while walking on the pavement.

I was amazed at my stamina throughout the trip, though. I was never overly exhausted. My body never became sore. My legs felt stronger each day. It was my feet that seemed to fail me. Just as when my feet are cold, my whole body is cold; when my feet hurt, so did my mental attitude, and my feet were hurting! 

We passed several other lakes with many people "ooh-ing" and "aah-ing" over them, but we just wanted to get to Longmire. Once we were back in the woods and out of sight of the crowd we came to a series of gentle switchbacks. We opted to skip the opportunity to see Narada Falls which would have added another .4 miles to our already long journey. We had both seen it before and our feet were screaming, "You see one falls, you've seen 'em all!"

We passed Paradise River Camp and knew then that we had "only" 3.8 miles to go before reaching Longmire...and "only" 3.7 beyond that to Pyramid Creek where we would camp for the night. The farther we hiked the more hopeful we became as the trail widened and day hikers became more prevalent. Still, though, those 3.7 miles dragged on and on. Finally, we could see the Wilderness Information Center where our food was cached and the other buildings, including National Park Inn where we would enjoy our fresh, hot meal.

Business first. We got our cache from the rangers and switched the food that we could no longer bear the thought of eating (specifically any dehydrated breakfast meal). I also cached an extra roll of toilet paper which I stuffed in my pack. From there we walked into the National Park Inn and stood there; dirty and stinky and wearing our backpacks. After standing there awhile, a kindly looking woman came over and asked if she could help us. "I need food!" I literally blurted out. At this point in the game my tact was no longer intact.

The restaurant wasn't the hiker/climber hang-out as I expected. It was more retreat-like with many older people looking to "get away" from the noise of the city. It was a place where people looked out their windows and gazed at the flower-filled meadows and large trees and perhaps an occasional deer passing through. We felt out of place but with our tired and hurting feet, together with our appetite for fresh food, we would have been fine had we walked in on a black tie event.

Dinner was excellent. We ate slowly, and savored every bite. All too soon we were finished and it was time to get back out on the trail. Not before stopping at the "little girl's room", however. I have to add a little TMI (too much information) here because the story of the day just wouldn't be complete without it. So I invite any gentlemen who might read this to please skip ahead a paragraph.

I must say I have been very poop shy out in the woods. The trees and outhouses just weren't cutting it for me. At Longmire, however, things changed. Emily and I thought we were the only ones in the small restroom and there was no background music. So when my shyness ended I breathed a sigh of relief. "Lucky!" said Emily from the other stall. "Hey, I've been waiting four days for that!" I replied. We laughed and silence fell on us once again. "I wish there was some background music in here," I said as we continued our business. "Maybe I will just step out and give you two some privacy," came an elderly voice from outside the stalls. What!? We weren't alone?? As we heard the door close we laughed so hard we cried and then wondered how we could leave without making eye contact with the poor old lady. It was the comic relief we needed on this long and difficult day, the last stretch would be torture.

My feet ached from all the blisters and the steep uphill after leaving Longmire was almost more than I could take. As we hiked, silence filled the air as we each struggled inwardly with different weaknesses. The trail took a downward dive and spit us out at Kautz Creek.

At Kautz Creek you can see the damage from the floods of 2006.
This area was heavily hit with mudflows in the flooding of 2006. The damage was impressive and could still be seen seven years later. At the time the trail was wiped out and the existing trail felt freshly made. It was sandy and hard to distinguish in some places. I knew at this point that we were close to camp but I felt I had reached a point where I could go no longer unless I stopped to take my boots off. So far in all of our hiking our boots didn't come off until we got to camp, but my feet were screaming. I soaked them in the freezing cold water of Kautz Creek for 5-10 minutes then laced them back up and, out of sheer willpower, forced myself to go on.

In twenty minutes we reached Pyramid Creek Campground. It was small, but we wasted no time setting up our tent, blowing up our air mattresses, and pulling out our sleeping bags. I was at the end of my rope at this point and the aforementioned tantrum was imminent. It began when I tried to hang my food on the bear pole. I must have been pretty weak because it seemed like an impossible task to me. Some of the poles you use to get the food up there with were bent and quite difficult to the average person, but to the person on the verge of losing it, it was beyond imaginable. I hobbled back to camp threw my food in the tent and said in a voice that I'm sure I learned from my seven-year old, "I can't do it! I don't care if the bears try to eat my food, Let them!"

Then, because the bugs were out in full force, I dug through my backpack to find the bug spray. I sprayed one arm before I used it all up. A moment of panic set in as I realized I was helpless against an army of blood sucking flies and mosquitoes. I gave up and retreated to my 'bed', buried my face in my sleeping bag and allowed the tears of frustration to flow like the water of all the falls we had witnessed that day.  The last lines in my journal sum up how I was feeling at that moment,
"I stink, I'm hairy, dirty and in severe pain. It's only day 4! How am I supposed to walk 50 more miles with these dang feet?!"
I remember being mad at my feet as though they weren't apart of me, but yet were failing me. Emily was the calm that got me through that day. She didn't say much. She let me have my childish fit but didn't indulge my negativity with added complaints....and she hung our food for us.

Before I went to bed, I popped all my blisters with a pocketknife that I sanitized by heating with the flame from my cooking stove. I don't know if all that was necessary but it worked. I doctored them up with some First Aid ointment and left them without bandages to heal overnight. I was in bed by 7:44 pm.

More Pictures from Day 4
An awe inspiring outcrop of andesite columns not far after leaving Maple Creek.

Day four, definitely time to start covering our heads!

I think I was the one who needed a hug this day.

Beautiful waterfalls marked this day on the trail.
Mt. Rainier summit from near Longmire

Louise Lake

Sylvia Falls
Near Longmire
One of the many beautiful waterfalls we saw this day.
First sight of the Reflection Lakes

Painful memories

I'm sure this picture was taken early on in the day.
I would have liked to have seen one of me by the end of the day. 

Thursday, April 10, 2014

Adventures in Wonderland: Part Two, Day 3, 10 miles

"It's not enough to be busy, so are the ants. The question is: What are we busy about?"
-Henry David Thoreau 

Leaving Indian Bar was difficult because the beauty of our surroundings compelled us to want to stay forever. The sun shone on our tent and we were engulfed in the tint of green light. The color of the tent was the same color of the moss that adorned the evergreen boughs that speckled the hillside we camped on. The sight of the sun's light was deceptive to one hoping for warm morning air. Outside it was cool and crisp.

My second night's sleep was restless. I woke several times wondering what time it was and once on account of hearing some nocturnal animal in the near vicinity. Breakfast left a lot to be desired. It sounded so good: scrambled egg hash with peppers, onions, sausage and potatoes. It was of the freeze-dried variety and eating the eggs was like eating sponges, the rest was a watery soup-like texture that was hard to stomach. Emily had oatmeal and I envied her like never before!

Before we left we filled up our water supply at Wauhaukaupauken Falls, then we began the steep ascent on a 'staircase to heaven'. Stairs made from dirt and logs led us out of the valley as we climbed and climbed and climbed into the surrounding hills. We stopped frequently to turn around and let the view permeate our spirits. All around we saw evidence of those mountain goats I saw the night before, but this day we saw none.

Upon reaching the top and entering a beautiful meadow, we were treated to 360 degree views of Mt. Rainier, the Cascades and the jagged teeth of the Tatoosh Range. The air smelled of wildfire, however, and a haze obscured our view of the gaping peak of Mt. St. Helens. The wildflowers were in full bloom though and were such a joy that we stopped for a break to soak in the beauty. In the distance we could see how far we had come and Indian Bar Valley was merely a speck in the grand scheme of mountain bliss.

Slowly we began our descent into high alpine meadows that led into a few trees, soon into low alpine forests and eventually, after what seemed like forever, we began to come into forests with trees that rose far above the shady, forest floor. We hiked in silence. My mind wasn't silent, however. I found myself, as I'm sure Emily did, making ways to help the miles pass by more quickly. Praying the Rosary became, for me, a way to make every painful step seem manageable. "Hail Mary...full of grace..." the words were like a metronome helping my legs keep pace to the music of my own breathing.

Aside from prayer, I thought a lot about my children. Around every corner I pictured them bounding off the end of fallen old growth cedars, hanging from endless branches and poking their noses in the holes of rotting trees that could be none other than abandoned gnome homes. Although I was thrilled to be accomplishing a long held goal, I missed them like crazy!

Before long, we reached the Box Canyon area and Stevens Canyon Road. Civilization!? It was an unexpected sight. As it turned out it was a popular place for people visiting the Park for the day and as we emerged from the woods we both felt like indigenous forest people. Here were people well dressed in their slacks, khaki shorts and Hawaiian button down shirts. They were stepping out of their sports cars to take pictures of the deep waterfall and scenic overlook. In contrast, we were dirty, stinky and carried everything we needed to survive on our backs. Some people definitely looked at us with question marks in their eyes.

Looking into Box Canyon from the bridge.
For the most part, we ignored the crowd and made a beeline for the "Comfort Station" as it was appointed by a brown and white sign. Without going into detail, it just felt so good to sit, I didn't want to leave. It also felt great to wash my hands. I was beginning to understand how spoiled we are in our daily lives that these little things seemed like such great luxuries. Leaving the 'comfort station', we felt halfway human again and it was easy to make eye contact with people. One woman in particular, Marcy, was facsinated by our journey thus far and wanted to know every detail. She drove an RV and lived an adventurous life in her younger days. She even offered to give us a ride to wherever we wanted. We showed her our pictures, thanked her, and told her we were set on walking the whole way. We then crossed the road and disappeared into the woods once more.

The Wonderland Trail passed through Box Canyon itself, or rather, over it. We stopped on the bridge and gazed at the Muddy Fork Cowlitz River that raged over one-hundred feet below us. The fascinating part is that the canyon was no more than 25-40 feet wide making it quite a deep, narrow slot that continued for a quarter of a mile. Just on the other side of the bridge we wandered off the trail into the scantilly treed woods that sat right at the edge of the cliff. The roaring water gave us a soundtrack for our lunch break that day. I plopped my pack down next to me and sat on the bedrock. Emily declared I was too close to the edge and refused to join me so near the drop off and so, lost in our own thoughts, we enjoyed a solitary meal. My lunch of German sausage, fruit snacks, and nut mix never tasted so good. I ate my food and drank my water in silence, the loud river below flooded my thoughts.
Time for food and reflection at Box Canyon.

Once again my kids came to mind, this time I was glad they were not there. I would have been a nervous wreck with them sitting anywhere near where I was at that moment. My feet dreaded the inevitable fact that we had to keep going, and my body screamed, "NO!" as I heaved my pack back in its place.

After hiking another 1.5 miles we came to a sign that pointed to Maple Creek where we would be camping for the night. It said only one mile left! We were beyond happy and so ready to be done walking for the day.

Along the way we ran into some women who were out for a day hike. They were excited to talk to us and hear all about what distant hiking was like. I felt like an imposter. Here it was only the third day of my first backcountry backpacking trip and people were asking me what it was like as though I knew what I was doing. Yet, every mile, every turn was something knew and I was learning as I went. Nonetheless, we answered their questions and exchanged joyfull conversation but it was when they offered us fresh, cold cherries that they won a spot in our hearts forever. Never were we so grateful as we were then!

That "mile" was the longest mile we'd ever walked. We were both convinced that the sign was wrong. At last on the southeast side of the Wonderland Trail, we reached the buggy lowland river camp. We were so exhausted that we stopped at the first site available, site #2. Then we decided on #3, but after being attacked by biting flies we settled on site #4 which was sunnier and overlooked a small meadow. As it turned out, there were tons of bugs here as well. We set up the tent as soon as possible making sure to be careful not to let the bugs inside.

Neither of us could stand our own stench so we decided to head down to the creek to bathe and clean our laundry. Maple Creek was freezing but Oh! so refreshing. The sun warmed our backs and the cold water numbed our blisters. Once everything was cleaned with biodegradable, Ph neutral citronella soap we laid our clothes out on rocks to dry. We sat on the rocks, feet in the water, and flapped a towell across our shoulders back and forth to keep the hungry flies from landing. We talked, imagined, and laughed until our stomachs hurt and our eyes watered. It was beautiful and one of the most enjoyable experiences so far.

Back at camp, the dang bugs swarmed! We hung all of our clothes or laid them on rocks to dry. While making dinner, Emily noticed that my pants looked like they were crawling with flies. It turned out they were crawling...with ants! This had to have been my worst nightmare. I am quite seriously myrmecophobic...inexplicably fearful of ants! I think it's the very thought that all the ants in the world outweigh all the humans, not to mention the uncanny intelligence for such small's just a thing to be feared, trust me. And at that moment, exaggeration, were crawling on my pants! Ants IN MY PANTS!

I kept my distance and prepared to leave my pants right there for some pant-less backpacker who would appreciate them. As we ate, the constant army of ants marching over my pants just a short distance away, we noticed that soon they were completely gone! Perplexed, we moved closer to figure out where they went. They were completely gone! We couldn't believe it, and yet, I still wanted nothing to do with the pants. Dinner complete, we began cleaning our dishes when what to our wondering eyes should appear?!!! Thousands of ants climbing back onto my pants this time each one with a small white larva in tow!!!!! Now fear was replaced with fascination. We inched our way closer and even tried unsuccessfully to get the whole escapade on camera. We crouched down and watched until, just as before, the millions of ants were out of sight!

When they were gone again, we stood there dumbfounded. It would be my luck that of all times an entire society of ants would choose to move their nest it would be the time my pants lie in their line of pheromone! After that, I hung my pants on a tree branch overnight in hopes that they would be creature-free by morning.

We locked ourselves in the tent by 6:05 pm. I wrote in my journal and fell fast asleep.

Pictures from Day 3
Amazing view from the Cowlitz Divide
Hazy skies fom a wildfire somewhere near the Park
Taking in the view at the Cowlitz Divide

Sunbathed Maple Creek
Hiking the steep trail near the Cowlitz Divide

Sun shining on the Mouse on a Stick wildflowers.

The Wonderland went along Stevens Road under a tunnel near Box Canyon.

Definitely one of my favorite wildflowers in the Park!


Wildflowers adorn the foothills of Mt. Rainier