Scott & Rachel's Wonderland Trail Journal
Mystic Lake up to Eagle's Roost
Day Three - Wednesday, August 15th
(Entry by Rachel) - There is only one thing worse than being sick and that is being sick in the woods. A number of factors that can easily contribute to exhaustion are excessive exertion, heat, not enough food and not enough water. I don't know which combination of the above I fell subject to today, but shortly after reaching camp, I was very nauseous and sick.
The day started off earlier than most, as we knew we had a long hike ahead of us.We were up at 5:30 AM and out of camp by 6:45 AM. (The last couple of days we haven't even been awake by that time). The first little bit of the day's hike was a 460-foot climb out of the Mystic Lake area and up onto another ridge. Already we were hot and sweaty.
As we reached the ridgeline, we bumped into Lia (the solo hiker who did the PCT). She was just rejoining the Wonderland Trail after spending the night cross-country camping. She joined up with us for the following three miles, until we reached Dick's Creek. While it was great to hike with her, as it gave us the opportunity to pick her brain about the PCT, her superior condition (due to having done the PCT and also that she was almost finished with the Wonderland) and significantly lighter pack meant that she set a quick pace down the 1,500-foot descent. My knees were beginning to groan and I was eager to slow down a bit. Lia headed onwards while Scott and I took a break to rest our aching knees and feet.
Another 1,400 feet later, Scott and I finally reached the bottom and Carbon River Camp. Aside from the minor aches and pains, we were still feeling good. But, we were about to begin the 3,300-foot ascent up to Spray Park. It was the second time already that we have left the Wonderland Trail. While this segment is a tiny bit longer than the route via Ipsut Creek, it is supposed to be much more scenic.
The climb began, and it was steep. Fortunately, however, it was in the shade most of the way, otherwise it would have been horrendous. We plodded along, setting a slow, but steady pace and gradually we made our way up. 1.6 miles later, and after a 1,600-foot elevation gain, we were at Cataract Valley, our predetermined lunch spot. We finished off the last of our dry salami, cheese and French bread and headed on again. Within another mile and a half, we were out of the trees and into the open meadows of Seattle Park. It was absolutely gorgeous to see the all the wildflowers and the brooks meandering their way down the hillside, but the climb kept going up, now intensified by the sun. The anticipation of Spray Park was becoming great. Everyone we had spoken to had said that it was superior to Seattle Park, but unfortunately we had to reach the summit first. The last 400 vertical feet were slow going, as I needed to stop and rest every couple of minutes.
Rule #2: When you are tiring that quickly, something is beginning to go wrong. Stop and listen to what your body is trying to tell you.
At last, the summit was in sight. The only thing between the top and us was a couple of snowfields. Unfortunately, however, by the time we finished those, we were too tired to take the 100-yard side trail to admire the view from the top. Instead we just continued down the trail and into Spray Park.
I must admit, I was a little disappointed with Spray Park. We had heard all of these people tell us how spectacular it was, but I thought Seattle Park was more lush and beautiful. Nonetheless, I can appreciate that anybody passing through, in the opposite direction, would have had outstanding views of Mt. Rainier ahead of them. For us, it was behind, which undoubtedly detracted from the ultimate beauty of the Park.
The whole way up, I had been longing to reach the top so that I could then begin the descent into Eagle's Roost. It wasn't long into that descent, however, when my knees were screaming that enough was enough. At that point, every step became painful and all I could think about was making camp. As I passed day hikers, still on their way up to Spray Park from Mowich Lake, I asked, "How far is it to Eagle's Roost Camp?" When one lady and her mother told me that it was about one and a half miles still to go, I almost broke down and cried.
When at last, I stumbled into Eagle's Roost, it was as much as I could do to take off my pack and pitch the tent. That done, I lay down to give my feet a rest and began to feel distinctly nauseous. The feeling didn't pass and got worse and worse, until at last, I was relieved of the few remaining contents of my stomach.
Rule #3: Keep eating, even on the downs.You may not be thinking about food, but your body still needs the energy.
Rule #4: Keep drinking water and other fluids. On a hot sunny day (it was in the 90's) when you're working hard, your body sweats out fluids almost as fast as you can put them in.
After I had recovered for a while, we busied ourselves with the nightly camp chores, such as making dinner and preparing for the next day. Tomorrow we have another long one of twelve miles with a 2,100-foot descent in the morning, down to Mowich River, and then a 2,400-foot climb to Golden Lakes. I'm not sure which I'm dreading more, the up or the down.