Disclaimer: The Well Pickled Wonderland trail journal is more about my experience on the trail vs. descriptions of the trail itself. If you are looking for specific details on the actual trail, terrain, etc. I recommend picking up the book – Hiking the Wonderland Trail, written by Tami Asars. Listed mileage and elevation were sourced from the aforementioned book.
- Day 3 – Devils Dream to Klapatche Park
- 11.2 miles; 3420 Gain, 2980 Loss
This section was epic! The climb out of Devils Dream was relatively short and I soon found myself strolling across Indian Henry’s hunting ground. As the picture shows, it’s pretty clear why Indian Henry built his cabin where he did. It was a fairly flat section until after the bridge.
Next up was the Tahoma Creek Suspension bridge which sits over 200ft above Tahoma Creek. I had been looking forward to walking across this bridge and will admit it was a little scarier than I anticipated it being, as it bounces right along with every step you take. But it was pretty fun too!
After a nice healthy climb out of the forest, the hike transitions into this crazy mix of forest and desert like scenery, somewhat like the Yakama Valley if you’ve ever been there. And there she is front and center, Mt Rainier and great views of Tahoma glacier. This was the first time I got such an unobstructed view of the mountain and this was a side you absolutely cannot see unless you walk this section of the trail. She (yes, Rainier is a she) looked a little decrepit from this angle, but was still so beautiful to look at.
Once you get around the glacier you start to climb into a meadow straight out of the Sound of Music. I swear I was expecting Julie Andrews to come running out and singing. It’s unbelievably stunning to have these beautiful meadows and mountain vistas on one side and Mt Rainier with Tahoma glacier on the other. I was sitting there eating lunch, had been alone for hours, and had these views on either side of me. It was insane and epic and I sat in awe at seeing this with my own eyes.
Once I passed through the meadow, the trail starts to descend and I incorrectly assumed it would be an easy peasy path back down into the woods. Mother Nature laughed at me. First I came across a section that had been washed out, with a 1ft wide path remaining and beyond that a very severe drop-off. For about 10 steps it was imperative that my feet stayed within the narrow path granted to me or else tumble quickly to my probable and prolonged death down the side of a washed out mountain. Did I mention I’m hiking solo and had not seen anyone for hours!
As the washout transitioned back into a trail I quickly discovered it was loose rocks on dry soil. If the soil is wet, rocks mostly stick in the ground, but dry ground and loose rocks on a descent means you have this fun slip and slide hiking action going on. Except its’ not so fun when your hiking down a ridge line and there is a steep drop off on one side and a tree lined slope on the other. My money was on falling left towards the tree lined slope if need be, at least my backpack might get hung up on a tree trunk or at the very least it would slow my roll so I could enjoy a leisurely descent to death.
After a couple of questionable switchbacks I cleared the ridge line and was back into the forest. Now let me paint a brief picture of this forest I entered. If you’ve ever seen the movie Narnia, I entered it. All around me were huge boulders and logs covered in bright green moss. The light was filtering through the trees creating this vivid green wonderland. I was looking forward to walking through this real life version of Narnia and getting some shade, until I realized the loose stone slip and slide fun continued. See, if you spend your time looking at Narnia, you will inevitably slide onto your ass and get a perfectly sized stone lodged up your bum (this did not happen to me, but oh the trail tried its mightiest). So you spend your time looking down at the very thing causing you to roll your ankles, testing your core strength, and with every other step flailing you backwards. If your me, or like me, you end up having a curse filled conversation with said stones.
I made it to the forest floor without busting my ass in Narnia land (I may have thrown my poles once or twice but we won’t talk about that)! I celebrated my success by dunking my shirt into this beautifully pristine river and taking a break. Soon after, I crossed the brackish S. Puyallup river and it was back to climbing into a mix of forest and mountainside.
About 2.5 miles to camp I was back on a ridge line walking through the sound of music again. I had one more mountainside trail crossing that left little room for error. It’s not a good day if the trail doesn’t make your ass pucker once or twice, and it didn’t help that I was starting to get a little tired. There was one final meadow walk filled with flowers and butterfly’s and then onto to Saint Andrews Lake for a water stop before hitting camp (I’m not lying…the pics prove just how beautiful this section is).
The scenery on this day was truly nothing short of epic (I know I’ve used that word a lot). I knew this was going to be a long day and while I was mentally prepared, I was definitely ready to hit camp. After setting up camp, I chatted awhile with Tamara and Bear, who had made it there a bit before me. We ended up being the only ones at Klapatche and were treated to an amazing sunset over Mt Rainier and the surrounding mountains.
- Day 4 – Klapatche Park to Golden Lakes
- 7.8 miles: 1500 Gain, 2100 Loss
I got the best night’s sleep I’ve had in such a long time! So much so that I slept way longer than I expected to. But clearly my body needed it after yesterday’s hike. Not long after I got up it started to rain so I went back to sleep in hopes to wait it out a bit. I had a short hike today so I knew I could get a late start.
The trail started off with a pretty good descent and was quite muddy, so I was happy to have the luxury of taking my time. I came across a nice little stream to wash all my rags in and get some water. It feels so refreshing to have a clean snot rag, pee rag, and cloth to wash up with (in case that wasn’t clear it’s 3 separate rags and not the same rag for all 3 functions). Four days out in the woods really makes you appreciate the little things!
I got to N. Puyallup camp and stopped to have lunch per a friend’s advice who had hiked the trail recently, and he didn’t let me down. There was a great view of the mountain with the Puyallup River crashing down into a waterfall right in front of me. This is when I met Luke, who popped out of the woods while I was enjoying my tuna fish and crackers. We chatted for a bit and then he went off hiking.
I stayed at the site to finish my lunch and take some pictures of the mountain. Not long after, I came upon Luke hanging out at a stream. We chatted again briefly and I went back to hiking. I knew what was coming next and likely so do you. As I figured, Luke caught up to me and made no effort to pass or continue at a pace faster than me. I would slow down and he would slow down. I was trying to be nice but short with my words (e.g. bringing out the RBF) and he still didn’t get it! Finally I said I was going to stay back and catch my breath and he went on.
I hit the ridge line not long after and he was sitting in the meadow, off the trail eating berries. One, it pissed me off running into him again and two, it pissed me off that he was off trail on protected land not meant for us hikers to be. I acknowledged him and kept walking. I got through the ridge line and into yet another magnificent meadow and was looking for a rock or spot to stop and eat a snack when a very large ball of fur caught my eye.
Sure enough, it was a big ole bear standing right off the trail eating berries. I knocked my hiking poles a couple of times and he just looked at me and went back to eating (I assume it was a he by the size). I stopped to take some pictures, because that seemed the sensible thing to do when faced with a bear. Soon after, no surprise, Luke came up behind. I pointed out the bear and he proceeded to climb into the meadow and get what I would consider to be unreasonably close to this bear. What a jackass this dude is. Not only for trampling on protected land but getting close to a BEAR.
The bear wandered over to the first set of trees closest to the trail and I took it as my opportunity to get past both the bear and Luke. As I was walking past the bear, I saw him look at me as I was looking at him. We both acknowledged each other’s presence, kept a healthy distance, and it was a successful bear encounter!
But of course Luke caught up to me again and every time I hiked faster, he did too and when I would stop to take mushroom pictures (I became enthralled with the various mushrooms along the trail), he would wait up ahead. I finally reached Golden Lakes camp and he went to one side of the lake to filter water and I went to the other. I waited until I saw him hike on before I setup camp.
Look, Luke seemed nice, but as I’ve said in my previous post, I came out here to purposefully hike SOLO! If this post teaches anyone anything, it’s that many solo hikers are out there alone because they want to be, even solo female hikers! And if you don’t want to hike alone than don’t go out alone! At the very least, please ask if the person wants company before just assuming so.
You might be asking me, why didn’t you just tell him you wanted to hike alone? Well good question. Much of the day was spent hiking up to and on a ridge line and then through a steep sloped forest. If this dude where crazy, or off balance, and got offended by me saying I didn’t want to hike with him, he could have easily pushed me down the mountain! As much as I wanted to fuck politeness (Thank you Karen Kilgariff & Georgia Hardstark from the Stay Sexy and Don’t get murdered podcast for that term) I also wanted to keep my bones intact. I wasn’t truly scared he’d push me down a mountain, but I didn’t want to be mean either. I have such a backbone in other areas of my life, I don’t know why it escaped me here.
At this point in my hike I was trying not to let things get to me, but ended up frustrated much of the day due to my unexpected trail friend…and not the bear! Once I got settled into camp and had a moment to relax, I was able to let most of the frustration go and grateful that overall I’ve experienced much more solitude than noise. Tomorrow I’m camping at another front country camp, Mowich Lake, which means I’ll have a chance to dump my trash and use a real bathroom (these are singular so I won’t have the Cougar Rock Bathroom experience thankfully).