Scott & Rachel's Wonderland Trail Journal
Golden Lakes to Klapatche
Day Five - Friday, August 17th
(Entry by Rachel) - As Scott mentioned in yesterday's entry, we have had a bit of a mishap with our water purification and we are now forced to ration out our Pristine and resort to other sources of purification for the rest of our water needs. Today we seem to have managed reasonably well, but we are still a day and a half from Longmire. Last night, before going to sleep, I boiled a couple of liters of water to see us through the morning routine and to start us off on the day with treated water.
We got a later start this morning than the last couple of days, as we didn't get out of bed until 6:45 AM. Other groups were already heading out on the trail by the time Scott went down to retrieve the food bags from the bear pole. We had another breakfast of oatmeal and then busied ourselves with packing up the camp and preparing for another day of hiking. It was 8:00 AM before we slung the packs on our backs and headed out onto the trail.
We were taking it relatively slow on the 1400-foot descent down to North Puyallup, which wasn't too hard considering the gentle grade (an easy climb for the groups coming in the other, more favored, direction). About halfway down, Rob showed up on our tail. He had obviously gotten an even later start out of camp, but his fast pace quickly made up for it. He hiked with us down to the North Puyallup and told us all about his summer escapades. He has just graduated from Veterinary school at Iowa State University and had spent the past three months traveling around and hiking wherever and whatever feasible. It would seem that he has been everywhere west of Iowa, and after he leaves the Wonderland Trail, he is off to the high Sierra's to do the John Muir Trail. The most interesting thing about him is that he hikes in Teva sandals and has done so on each of the countless hikes he has done so far this summer. For someone like myself, still stuck in the "old school" frame of mind and wearing a five-pound pair of boots, sporting a large blister on each heel, his Tevas were looking like a very comfortable idea, (one which I haven't yet implemented outside of camp).
After crossing the raging North Puyallup River, we began our ascent through the trees up towards Klapatche Park. We had prepared ourselves mentally for a grueling 2.8 miles and an 1800-foot climb, as the contour lines on the map are very close together. Clock-wise travelers had forewarned us of the task ahead, but once again, I was pleasantly surprised at how quickly we rose, despite the pressure on the blisters.
We filled our water bottles at a tiny creek about three quarters of a mile from the top, as we had been warned that it was the last available water before camp. We wanted to be as fully laden with water as we could when we arrived in camp so that we wouldn't have to go hiking for more. A couple of switchbacks before the top, we came out into a steep meadow area, covered with wildflowers. The sun was shining down, warming the otherwise crisp air, and we decided to stop for a quick lunch of peanut butter and honey sandwiches and a few precious mouthfuls of water each. Once we were up and moving again, after our short break, we were surprised to find that, not only did we reach the top so soon, but also that the camp was right there. As we were pulling in, we watched Rob head off over the next bluff, which gave me a good feeling to know that we must have kept a reasonably good pace.
We were greeted at the camp turnoff by a part-time volunteer backcountry ranger. We asked her if she had any extra iodine tablets, which she did. She gave us a few, which will help to take some of the pressure off our water purification concerns. Finding ourselves the only ones at the camp, we had our pick of sites, pitched the tent and then headed out to the meadow. We sat by the lake to soak up the sun, begin writing this journal entry, and admire the spectacular view of Mt. Rainier and the Puyallup Glacier.
During the short time we were sitting there, we watched the clouds rise up through the Puyallup Valley (which we had just climbed) and hover around Mt. Rainier and then disperse again. It is truly amazing to watch the mountain as it is constantly changing with the clouds coming and going and the glaciers constantly melting away. You listen to the roar of the rivers and when you see them up close, you marvel at their ferocity and then you think that all that water is coming from the glaciers. In fact, we heard a report today that a whole chunk of the Nisqually Glacier broke off, causing an ice dam to build, which burst yesterday, causing a torrent down the river, which in turn washed out a bridge. Apparently crews are working hard to get a foot-log in place, but with all the debris and unstable banks, we may have to walk eight miles on the road to get around it. But alas, that is another two days away.
We were graced a little earlier with a visit from two does and a fawn. We were in the tent when we heard rustling right near by. A quick look out and we realized that thee deer were passing within ten feet of the tent. We got out and watched them graze in the nearby meadow for about fifteen minutes before something on the hillside above had them spooked and they moved along.
We have had a good dinner of homemade, dehydrated spaghetti and now we are enjoying the view westward from camp and the unique lighting that is happening around us. The clouds rolled in earlier and obstructed our spectacular views of Mt. Rainier, behind us, as well as the valleys and distant Olympic Mountains to the west. We have been chilled this evening with the lightly blowing winds and the moisture in the clouds around us, so tonight is the first night in a few that we have put the fly on the tent. Now that the sun is about to set, it is glimmering through the two layers of clouds (those above us surrounding the mountain, and those below blanketing the Puget Sound). The sun's rays have put a golden light all around us, caught in between misty baffles.
All in all, it has been a magical evening. While Klapatche Lake can maintain its reputation as a "scum puddle" it is still a beautiful location.