Scott & Rachel's Wonderland Trail Journal
Devil's Dream to Snow Lake
Day Seven - Sunday, August 19th
(Entry by Rachel) - Today has been a day of mixed blessings. It began early, like many of our others, at 5:45 AM. We were the first ones up at Devil's Dream Campground, which has been a first for us, so we were moving around as quietly as possible. Even so, it wasn't long before other hikers began to stir from their burrows. It was a cool morning, but the sky showed large patches of blue so we were holding out hope for a break in the cloudy weather of the last couple of days. By 7:15 AM, we were ready to go, eager to get to Longmire for our re-supplies as well as word on what lay ahead in our day, being that the Nisqually River crossing hasn't been replaced yet. They figure it will be another week or so before they can truck in a large enough log to cross the river.
The descent down to Longmire was about five miles and relatively uneventful. We were in trees the whole way and Scott enjoyed raiding the plentiful blueberry and huckleberry bushes the whole way down. We passed fresh day hikers, and the other Wonderlanders going in the other direction, up the hill, and as they passed, we filled our nostrils with the smell of clean clothing and bodies, longing for when we would be that clean again. As we approached Longmire, the trail paralleled the road for a short way, and we found that our sense of smell has been heightened to other, less pleasant, things such as car exhaust and hot pavement.
We arrived in Longmire at approximately 10:30 AM and dropped our packs off at the Hiker's Center, as we went off to the store to purchase those extra provisions that we needed (as well as a few goodies to be consumed immediately). First things are first and we replenished our supply of toilet paper as the few remaining squares had been used earlier this morning. Unfortunately, however, we had to buy a double-roll. A typical roll of toilet paper has 250, 2-ply sheets. This store only sold rolls with 1000, 1-ply. We had to laugh, as we will now have what seems like an unlimited supply of "squares" and that tomorrow morning we would make good use of them.
With that load off our minds, we directed our attention to other provisions such as lip balm, bread, cheese, camp soap, and a couple of snickers bars to fuel our jets up some pass still to come. As with other hikers coming into a re-supply station we also indulged ourselves with a snack and lunch: Doritos, ice cream bars, a beer for Scott, and chocolate milk for myself. We then returned to the Hiker's Center to collect our cache, repack our bags and devour our goodies.
The good part about collecting our caches was that we now have a fresh supply of food, including more salami. The bad part is that our packs are a good ten or more pounds heavier. When you think that each hiker must carry about two pounds of food, per person, per day and we just restocked for another five days (plus we still had some remaining food supplies) the difference to the pack is huge. When I picked up my pack to sling it over my shoulders, (like I have come accustomed to doing these last few days) I was distressed to find that I could hardly even pick it up, let alone sling it. The effect on my legs was equally as bad. Leaving Longmire, heading towards Cougar Rock Campground (the car accessible site), we had a slow and gentle climb, but I might as well have been making the climb from Carbon River to Spray Park for how I was feeling. My knees were groaning, and I had to reconsider how good of shape and conditioning I thought we had gotten into over the past six days.
A mile and a half later, we were at Cougar Rock Campground, which also happened to be where the bridge was washed out (if you didn't read it earlier, here is the news article about the cause of the washout). For the second time today, we ventured out onto the road, and this time we hitched a ride the eight miles of pavement until we could rejoin the Wonderland Trail two miles from where we had left it. We put on a clean shirt each and pleadingly watched each car and truck drive by. It is Sunday, so there was lots of traffic but even so, we were beginning to wish that we could make a sign explaining that the bridge is out. About ten minutes later, three women who are doing the trail in three weeks time picked us up. They had heard about the lahar and had come to check it out and see if there would be any problems for their trip. Fortunately for them, the foot-log will be in place by then.
While we were pleased to get a lift, we were somewhat disappointed to miss a segment of the Wonderland Trail. In hindsight, however, we did manage to bypass a 1500-foot elevation gain with our heavy packs. But, alas, as with everything, there is always a balancing component: we had to camp 1.3 miles off the official Wonderland Trail tonight. While the elevation of Snow Lake Campground is no higher than the nearby segment of the trail, we did more up and down in that short hike than many other segments of the trail. Consequently, we are not looking forward to the hike back out tomorrow morning ... or the additional half-mile of road back to where the spur trail intersects the Wonderland Trail.
Aside from the up-and-down trail in ... and the dust ... Snow Lake is a very picturesque spot. There were plenty of day hikers and fishermen hovering around when we first arrived, partly because it's so close to the road. Now that the evening is progressing, we are alone, except for one other hiker in the second site. Our tent is pitched on a little peninsula with the lake on both sides. It is a deep, cold lake, and a snow patch is visible just on the other shore (hence the appropriate name). Mt. Rainier is towering behind us and we have views of the Muir snowfield, and the Paradise and Cowlitz glaciers. When we arrived, a family occupied our spot with two kids doing a two night get-a-way, but they were packing to move to the other side of the lake into a cross-country zone. While waiting for them to vacate, we decided to take a dip in an attempt to get clean. Scott was first in and even plunged in a second time before I mustered the guts to dive in the once. The water was so cold I was straight out and then sat on the rocks to warm in the waning sun.
With the re-supply of camp soap, Scott was back at the wash pot, trying to keep his socks, underwear, and t-shirts clean. The bushes around us are draped with drying clothes, but as night sets in they are getting damp from the dew. Tomorrow we are off to Nickel Creek. Until then, goodnight.