July 11, 2014
Up at 6am, feeling refreshed from a warm and open night in the tent. No rainfly nights were the best, but most nights were too cold to not have it on. Maple Creek Camp, with its warm breezes and sounds of flowing waters and rustling trees, felt like our own personal low-elevation forest spa. I felt especially excited to begin hiking that morning, as it would be our last day on the Wonderland Trail — “just a dayhike,” I even called it.
Coffee, oatmeal, pack up, wrap up, lace up, head out.
We departed camp around 8am. The forest was crisp and quiet on our 11th morning, and the trail leaving Maple Creek Camp was mostly shaded from the rising sun. We moved quickly to stay warm, enjoying the silence of a slowly awakening south side of Mt Rainier.
Soon the trail began to climb out of the cool forest, moving through overgrown brambles of foliage open to the hot sun. Some of the plants had little thorns, and I had regrettably decided to go capri that day. My excitement from camp disappeared as the rising temperatures and the full morning sun began to take their toll as we continued to climb. At several places the trail crossed over loose rockslides with the rushing river below, making me very thankful for a light pack and trekking poles.
The south side of Mt Rainier seemed to have huge, beautiful waterfalls around ever corner. I realized on that last day I had hardly snapped any photos of the ‘falls along the trail, so I got one after crossing the log bridge at the base of Martha Falls. The rivers provided cool breezes in the thick of hot air, but we also wanted to keep moving quickly.
The arrival at Reflection Lake meant the end of our last ascent on the Wonderland Trail. We drove past this lake on June 30th, and there was still tons of snow. Now, barely any! We did step on just a bit in the lakes area, meaning we encountered snow every day on our Wonderland hike.
There was a partially blocked view of Mt Rainier as we turned to begin our last descent from Inspiration Point, and that mountain looked about as big as I had ever seen from that vantage point! We rushed by because of our excitement to finish, but I really enjoyed that quick scene.
Our last full view of Mt Rainier passed as we crossed over the Nisqually River to the Carter Falls Trailhead.
We rushed down the last two miles to find the junction for Longmire, the point where we began this epic adventure. Luck was with us again as a day hiker and his daughter happened to pass by at the moment we finished to snap our photo. He told us they had been camping there the past couple days and he had been teaching his daughter about the Wonderland Trail. He said they were happy they could experience our joy and overwhelming sense of accomplishment.
It felt so good to walk back into the Longmire WIC to return those damn bear canisters and tell the rangers we finished.
First stop, beer and snacks at the Longmire General Store, then beer and burgers and milkshakes in Packwood, WA, then home for a shower, two cats, and a bed.