July 3, 2014
We had agreed the night before that we could sleep in a little after the challenge of day 2, so we emerged from our tent at 8am. I immediately ventured over to Aurora Lake to take in one of my favorite views of Mt Rainier from the whole trail.
Our boots and clothes were still wet, and our sleeping bags felt damp. The sun was peaking through the trees, so we were able to take advantage of its warmth and dry out some of our gear.
“Bag is getting tighter and lighter. About to put on wet boots and the day begins.”
We packed up and departed camp at 10:30am. One last shot of Mt Rainier from Klapatche.
Xin and Daniel followed us out of camp as we began the third day’s journey through the snow. It was difficult to find the actual trail along the ridge for our descent, so I did the best I could to lead the group with my map and GPS in hand and making deliberate steps in the snow. Unfortunately, there was still a light layer of ice from the overnight temperatures, and one miss-calculated step sent me sliding a number of meters. It was a little unnerving, as the weight of my backpack made a swift self-arrest challenging, but at least I got some practice. Scuffed up my arms a bit, but I slid right to the trail! And then the snow began to only be behind us.
The rest of the day was awesome. The clouds were low and misty that day, so we never got any views of Mt Rainier, but it wouldn’t be the great Pacific Northwest without at least one cloudy day. We began hiking through a sea of green with walls of waterfalls — it felt so good to have Klapatche behind us. Although beautiful, that would end up being our most difficult section on the Wonderland.
Our descent led us to the North Puyallup River, where we had lunch and enjoyed exceptionally vibrant Indian Paintbrushes.
Our ascent to Golden Lakes was relatively easy and quite lovely. Beargrass dominated the mist-covered trail, making it feel a bit like a fantastical fairytale world.
As we gained elevation we prepared ourselves for the snow, which never really got that bad. Julia and I had a blast leaping up and down snow mounds in the last mile and reached the patrol cabin at Golden Lakes before we knew it (5:15pm)! As we approached, however, we saw another group of hikers coming in from the opposite direction. Although tired from our ascent, Julia and I immediately began sprinting toward camp in hopes of finding the best spot. There were two areas with sites, so I ran left and Julia ran right, following the other hikers. I found the highest site, number 5, with its series of clifftop viewpoints and knew immediately that we scored.
At least three other sites were occupied that night, and we learned from another group just beginning their adventure that the road into Mowich Lake Campground (our next destination) had a postponed opening. We were scheduled at Mowich Lake for Independence Day, and as it was a drive-in campground with an expected road-opening of July 3rd, had planned on having a friend drive in with his dog and camp with us for a night to celebrate America (and bring us beer and awesome food). Our hearts sank a little when we realized our plan was foiled and we would still have no means of contact for at least four more days. But hey, Golden Lakes was awesome, the day was awesome, our campsite was awesome, the rest of the trip would be awesome, and so we carried on as usual and began setting up camp.
Everything was damp, but completing our third day on the trail felt great. We hoped for sunshine the next day as we hit the bag at 10pm.
“The tent is the best. So warm. Outside is NUTS.”