Wonderland Trail | Day 7
Oof. What a night. Couldn’t fall asleep for a while because the sky was bright, the river was roaring, the crickets were relentless, and it was so hot. Sweaty in the sleeping bag, not comfy without it. Left ear exposed to the river when on my right side, right ear exposed to the crickets on my left side. I’ve never wished for earplugs more. Maybe I just wasn’t exhausted enough. I kept trying to imagine crickets calming down and falling asleep. Can you tell how loud the crickets were?
Obviously, I fell asleep at some point. Only to wake up to quiet crickets and RAIN. We didn’t set up the rain fly because it wasn’t supposed to rain. I woke up Alex when I saw lightning. Quickly stumbled outside to pull out the rain fly and throw it on top of the tent and our shoes. Didn’t have it in me to actually secure it to the tent and stake it.
Alarm woke us up at 4:30. The sky was still bright enough to get ready without a headlamp. We put everything in our packs and started hiking at 5. We saw 3 headlamps at the group shelter. Thought Damien (Jeff’s name is apparently Damien) must’ve joined Chelsea and Steve. We filled up 1.7 L at the stream below camps. We quickly hiked through the Indian Bar valley and started climbing.
We only had one headlamp and I turned it off once we got out of the trees. It was a steep climb and both of us were tired after that weird night. The first landmark was the Ohanapecosh Glaciers only 1.2 miles into the climb. But we checked the map a couple of times before then because we couldn’t believe how hard the 1.2 miles were.
From there, we could still see the group shelter cabin and the headlamps in there. They were taking their time getting ready! The sky was getting soooo pretty and the light so blue and soft. I couldn’t stop taking pictures. The view was just getting better and better. The landscape really reminded me of Goat Rocks — my favorite place on the PCT. I thought we were looking at Mt. Hood in the distance, but it was Mt. Adams. Duhhh.
My stomach was grumbling as soon as we started climbing, but we wanted to make it to Panhandle Gap before breakfast (3 miles from camp). We got water at the top of the first climb, then slid down into the hard snow and hiked up to Panhandle Gap. We were there at 7. The clouds were pink and the sun was peeking out from behind the mountains to the East.
From Panhandle Gap, we had a great view of Mt. Rainier to the West and a meadow to the East. While I was eating the last oatmeal of the trip (still too soupy ugh), I spotted white goats eating grass and traversing the ridge that we had just crossed to hike to Panhandle Gap. I was so stoked to be there for my birthday eating soupy oatmeal with leftover butter and chocolate chips. With the breeze and snow fields around us, it was finally chilly enough to pull out our puffies. Perfect morning.
We saw a family with a teenage son with great flow that we had seen a few days ago going clockwise. Rolled down through the beautiful valley with impossibly green moss, the most beautiful camp at Summerland, and Summerland wildflower meadows. That’s when we started seeing day hikers. I put on Bad Blood in my headphones and we cruised down.
I was so focused on the 3 mile climb, I didn’t really think about the 8.7 miles back to the car. The miles kind of dragged on as we pulled over to the side of the trail for every dayhiker group. 1.5 miles away from Fryingpan trailhead and girl stopped me and asked, “hey, when does the pretty part start? Is it far, like a mile?” I asked which pretty part she meant and she said “the part with the flowers”. Oof. It was 4 miles away.
Ran into a park ranger who told us that White River is impassible because of the heatwave. We should take a road alternate. And he showed us the video of the creek. It didn’t seem like much to me, certainly not by PCT standards, so we decided to give it a try.
Ran into a pair of girls we had met right after Spray Park who cautioned us against crossing White River, also. Both of us still didn’t feel like road walking more than we didn’t feel like having wet shoes.
At least the trail between Fryingpan trailhead and White River was totally empty. It was a little underwhelming to cross the river. Our shoes were totally soaked, but the water was only up to our ankles. It wasn’t even thrilling.
And just like that, we were back at the car. We put our backpacks down and went to the bathroom. I took out the trash, washed my hands and face, and sat on the pavement wringing out my socks and insoles. Alex came back from the bathroom and we started driving just before noon.
I was already kind of sad about the trip being over. We stopped at the first town out of the park - Greenwater. We decided to eat at Naches Tavern because it looked like they had cheeseburgers. It gave me the heebie jeebies as soon as I swung open the door. I promptly closed it and stayed outside while Alex ran to get his mask. Inside, we ordered a long awaited cheeseburger and fries and walked to outdoor seating to dry our feet and shoes.
The good news is our shoes were bone dry by the time we left. The bad news is it took foreverrrr. We were sitting next to a nerd turned tech bro loudly talk to another about stock grants while his girlfriend tried to not look at her phone and nodded occasionally. Another guy had just gotten off his motorcycle and was on his second beer while his handgun was teetering the space between his butt crack and belt. Despite sitting outside, the place smelled of something that reminded me of staying at random people’s houses at juggling conventions. Alex said the smell was stale beer. When the food came out, we got a chicken sandwich with cheese on it. Hahah. What a mess. We scarfed it down in 10 minutes and left.
It was a rude awakening. Ruder still when I got service and Selby told me that my dad tagged me in a poem on Facebook.
I was lost in a haze of notifications and the reality of turning the big three oh. Blink and we are stepping out of the car at the hotel. Alex got us a really nice hotel room Inn at the Market.