July 2, 2014
We knew we’d have a long day trying to cover 11+ miles (half of which would be in snow), so we awoke at 6am. We filtered water by a small snowmelt creek near camp, ate breakfast, packed up our first morning, and hit the trail by 8am.
“Here we go…”
We hiked up out of Devils Dream camp and were immediately navigating through full snow. Just out of camp, we crossed paths with a ranger coming from Indian Henry’s patrol cabin, just up the trail. He seemed skeptical of our navigational abilities, reminded us of the large amounts of snow that lay ahead of us, checked our permits, and said we could follow his footprints at least as far as Indian Henry’s Hunting Ground. We assured him we’d be fine and didn’t mind all the snow — though perhaps we were a little uneasy about the snow.
It was a blue-sky day as we hiked through the snow past a partially-melted Squaw Lake and up to Indian Henry’s Hunting Ground.
Although it was nice to have footprints to follow, I continued to check the GPS as we went, knowing I would need to be very familiar with using it after the morning. There was just so much snow.
Indian Henry’s Hunting Ground was incredibly beautiful. Mt. Rainier was looking beastly and fabulous that morning! I remember thinking how lucky that ranger was to be stationed at the patrol cabin there, because DAMN!
We began our descent toward Tahoma Creek, soon leaving the snowy higher elevation behind. Our next stop would be after crossing the Tahoma Creek suspension bridge, hanging more than 200 ft in the air. A sign on the bridge states, “recommended one person on bridge at a time,” and for good reason. The swinging and creaking of the bridge with just one person on it was enough to make my heart pound.
After our short break, Xin and Daniel caught up and told us they were going to change their plan of staying at South Puyallup Camp that night to Klapatche, so they could follow us through the snow. They were not prepared for as much snow, and knew they would have trouble getting through it.
We began our ascent up to Emerald Ridge, stopping only briefly to snap a couple photos along the way.
We hit snow again as we climbed back up. It was fairly easy to navigate up to Emerald Ridge, despite the lack of visible trail. Tahoma Glacier looked huge from this vantage point, and we decided this would be an excellent place to stop for a snack break. We still had one more descent and ascent before reaching our day’s destination, so we rested up and enjoyed the view. The trail was beginning to melt out from the days with afternoon sun.
The descent to South Pullayup Camp was relatively uneventful (still beautiful!), but then we began our final climb for the day, heading up to St. Andrews Park and Klapatche Camp.
I didn’t have my camera out during this part of the trip as movement was pretty complicated. We climbed through snow, enjoying views of Mt Adams, St Helens and Hood to the south as we gained elevation. We had been following a set of footprints for a while before we realized we were about 500 ft higher than we needed to be, off the Wonderland Trail. Xin and Daniel were following us, quite a ways behind. We stopped for some jerky and began looking over cliffs for St. Andrews. We realized how high we were when we spotted the frozen lake much further below.
Thus began the sliding and rock-scrambling descent. Although perhaps slightly treacherous, we took one calculated step after another until we finally reached St. Andrews Lake and the Wonderland Trail again. We of course realized our mistake and agreed to not follow footprints anymore for the remainder of our adventure.
The GPS was out in full force by this time and we used it to locate Aurora Lake and Klapatche Camp. Both were snow-covered, but we lucked out and were able to set up camp in a mostly melted-out site 4. We had arrived at 8pm, making it a 12-hour day of hiking. Our boots were soaked, our clothes were wet from a mixture of sweat and snow, and we were exhausted.
The sunset was awesome that night as we watched low clouds work their way into camp for two hours. We reflected on how it had been one of the hardest days of both our lives, but we knew then that we were going to finish the trail, no matter how hard or snowy it would be.
Photos of camp would have to wait until morning, because after scarfing down dinner and setting up camp, we were asleep by 10pm.
“Hardest, longest day of my life. Fuck! Climbing up and down snow. Boots soaking. The dad slipped! Navigation not easy, but I feel stronger, braver. Klapatche is snow covered and beautiful.”