July 4, 2014
We had set the alarm for 6am and shot out of the tent once we realized it was a sunny morning. We took all of our damp clothes and gear and dispersed them throughout our spacious site and were delighted when we saw our morning view of Mt Rainier.
I was definitely feeling sore from the previous 24 miles and hadn’t slept well the night before as it was a cold evening. But the warm sunshine melted most of my fatigue away as I prepared an oatmeal breakfast. I took a trip down to the lake and enjoyed its stillness and the silence of the morning.
We hung around camp for several hours that morning, allowing our belongings to really dry out. It was at this point when I realized I had not packed my raincoat – I left it in my bike pannier from my last shift at work before the trip. I prayed for no rain, but came up with a plan just in case — my raincover for my backpack might need to be replaced in case of showers.
“Excited for dry, warm clothes. Excited for another adventure. It’s awesome out here. Mt Rainier is back, which is very comforting, like a giant beacon, landmark, trail god, friend. I feel far away from everything. All I think about is outside, GPS, map, FOOD, my sore body, my friend, and the end of these 95 miles. My hair is gross – ha!”
As we were packing up, Xin came to inform us that he and Daniel would be stopping at South Mowich Camp tonight and having their family pick them up the following day, cutting their trip very short. He thanked us for all our help, telling us they wouldn’t have made it this far without us, and offered us their food caches as thanks. (After trail side-note: because of their kind gesture, I have enough freeze-dried meals to last me the next two small backpacking trips I have planned this summer! Those things aren’t cheap! Thanks, Xin and Daniel!)
We packed up and began hiking at 9:30am. We passed by several more lakes that morning before descending down a sunny, beargrass-coated ridge with Mt Rainier behind us. The day was absolutely beautiful! Our backpacks felt so light, as we had eaten most of our food. Although we wouldn’t have beer and sandwiches waiting for us because of the delayed road opening, we now had two caches to pick through at Mowich Lake!
We reached the South Mowich River crossing within a couple hours and decided to hang out by the raging river to leisurely enjoy a sunny lunch.
Within a couple minutes of dropping packs, two guys came down from the opposite direction — they were completing the Wonderland going counter-clockwise and were heading to Klapatche that night (which was a really long ways away still). We talked with the guys for at least 20 minutes about trail conditions, them asking us about Klapatche, and us asking them about the Panhandle Gap. We shared stories and experiences, discussed gear and backpack weight, and felt comforted knowing that prepared groups were making it through the troublesome areas. We wished each other luck and they continued on their path. We took our boots off and ate so many snacks.
We said our good-byes to Xin and Daniel and began the second half of our hike. The ascent to Mowich Lake was surprisingly challenging. Although our packs were the lightest they’d been (we were even purposefully keeping water weight down knowing we could filter at the lake), the trail was steep and our excitement for new food made it seemingly take forever. The last half-mile was especially daunting as we passed the Spray Park alternate trail, knowing we were just so close… but were still climbing and climbing.
We finally arrived at Mowich Lake at 5:30pm to find tons of snow but not a single other person. How ironic that we anticipated tons of people at this drive-in campground on the Fourth of July, but because of the road being closed, it would end up being the only camp that we had to ourselves.
First stop: food caches. We found the patrol cabin where our goods were stashed, trudging through cold, wet snow to get there. We each had to carry a loaded five-gallon bucket back to the designated camp area, and dang those things were heavy! But we were ready to feast, and we had so much unexpected food from which to choose! We also had a little whiskey stashed.
We shared FOUR freeze-dried meals. Our appetites had definitely grown since beginning the trail four days and 33 miles ago.
The sites at Mowich Lake are all right next to each other and pretty terrible, so we were thankful to have the place to ourselves. It was also really cold and windy there, and the sunshine from earlier in the day was gone. We set up camp and were in bags by 9pm, exhausted and cold, but also quite full and happy.
“Really starting to feel the pains from the trail. My feet hurt! Damn it’s so cold and not dark yet. No one is at Mowich – it’s our first night alone on the trails – kinda weird! It’s hard out here on the cold, wet mountain. Third of the way done! 33 miles, 4 days, 10,000 ft!”