The Wonderland Trail

Day 8 Cougar Rock Campground to Devils Dream Camp

Rampart Ridge headwall
Rampart Ridge

Up at 6:00am, on the trail by 8:20am. Only 5.4 miles today, so we are in no real rush. Start a gradual climb in forest, then starts to really climb as soon as we get to Rampart Ridge, and it doesn’t stop until we get on top. 1000ft climb. Once on top, we’re still in forest. Start descending to Kautz Creek, get a quick glimpse of mountain, and Pyramid Peak. Not much to look at here.

Kautz Creek crossing
Kautz Creek

Right after the creek crossing, we notice a tree that has a large, rounded chunk taken out of it, about 12 feet off of the ground! Only thing we can figure did that, was during one of the torrents coming down Kautz creek from a glacial outburst, it launched a boulder out of the creek bed, and it hit this tree! The really amazing thing about all of this was the fact that this tree is at least 30 or 40 feet above the creek bed on the bank, and maybe 20 to 30 feet back from the edge!! Man, that rock had to really have been launched to have done that!!!

On to Pyramid Creek camp. Stop for a bit at Pyramid Creek, good water here. Continue up again, another 1000ft climb, or so, to Devil’s Dream camp. Along the way, we pass a couple of rangers by a stream, and they tell us that they are looking for a lost hiker, and that’s what all of the helicopter’s flying around is all about. We had wondered what all of the commotion was for. They show us his picture, and ask if we’ve seen him, and we hadn’t…

Pyramid Creek Crossing, Ed standing by...
Pyramid Creek Crossing

We cross some small streams, about 25 minutes before we reach Devil’s Dream camp, it’s our first dry camp, as the local stream has dried up. We reach camp around 12:20pm. After setting up camp at site #5, we put all of our water bottles in an empty pack, and Ed carts them up to Squaw Lake, a place we had heard we could get water from, another .5 mile further up the trail.

Just beyond the lake, is a small stream that feeds Squaw Lake, and the water is good. Once we make it back to camp, we nap. Around 3:00pm, I hear other voices in camp. We were the first ones here, so once again, we got first choice of sites. I go over to one of the other campsites, and introduce myself, meeting Mike and his son and daughter, who are from Ohio.

He was 59, and had an interesting story to tell…

Told him about the water situation, and where to find it, and we traded notes that I had penciled in on my map. He was 59, and had an interesting story to tell. He’d been in the military, stationed out here in 1977, and remembered Mount Rainier, so, he decided this year to tackle the Wonderland with his son and daughter, Brad and Brittany, and so, they jumped on a plane, and headed out west! Stopped at REI, and Mike told them what he had in mind, and they outfitted him with everything that they felt they would need.

Well, after a few days on the trail, he decided they were carrying more stuff than they really needed, like an $80 rain jacket that he didn’t think they would need, so they were looking to jettison some stuff. Funny how a few days on the trail will make you feel that way…Anyway, when they got to Longmire, he was saying that he just wanted to get this brand new, never been used, $80 jacket mailed back to Ohio…Bereft of options, he started approaching people in the parking lot at Longmire, asking them if, for 50 bucks, they would be so kind as to mail this jacket home for him…He said he got a lot of blank stares from people.

Devil's Dream camp
Devil’s Dream camp

In his words, “You know, after 3 days on the trail, I stink, my face is scruffy with growth, and people just would shake their heads and walk away in disgust.”…yeah, I had to admit, we certainly didn’t look or smell like anything you could trust anymore…Finally, he said that a couple of women agreed to do it for him, a couple of complete strangers, took his money and jacket, and said they would mail it for him…Desperation can make us do some funny things sometimes…I wonder if he ever got that jacket back?

In his words, “You know, after 3 days on the trail, I stink, my face is scruffy with growth, and people just would shake their heads and walk away in disgust.”…

I told him about the bridge being out at the South Mowich River crossing, and he swore, and then said that “they were in some trouble now”, and sounded as if he was ready to quit. I urged him not to quit, as long as the knees and back would hold out!! I was impressed, him just deciding to come out here and hike this trail; it’s not exactly the easiest one around, with all of the elevation gain!!! My prayers are with him and his family,                                                                  hope he sticks it out!!!

Some thoughts so far:

After day 6, my legs and lungs seem stronger, not relying on Ibuprofen as much, and my far sight has greatly improved!!! I noticed this after about day 4, that it seemed I could see to the horizon as sharply as I did when I was young.

I normally have about 20/30 vision now, don’t need glasses, but I notice normally, that things far off in the distance seem a little blurry or fuzzy…Now, though, everything seems so sharp and focused!! Taste and smell, have also been sharpened it seems, from days out here in the wilds. A list of the people and where they come from that we’ve had the pleasure of meeting out here on the trail, in the usual Wonderlander’s greeting…”Hi, how are you? What day are you on?” “What’s the water situation” (if they have come from the west side).

Devil's Dream camp facilities and bearpole. A shame there was no creek left for a water source!!
Devil’s Dream camp

in the usual Wonderlander’s greeting…”Hi, how are you? What day are you on?” and “What’s the water situation?” (if they have come from the west side).

The places to date that people hail from, are, Idaho, Eastern Washington, Western Washington, Oregon, Michigan, Kentucky, Ohio, California, Chicago, Florida, Germany, and Ireland. That’s to date. Also, taking today as an example, some of the long distance trudges uphill…They leave you sweating, and hurting, and you ask yourself, “What am I doing here, why am I doing this? I could be home right now, warm, cozy, doing some serious sofa surfin’”…Get to camp, though, and the worries and discomfort experienced on the trail seem to just melt away…

I won 3 dice games today, count em’, 3!!! Ed won 1. Fell in to bed around 8:30pm tonight, we plan on making a side trip to Mirror lake tomorrow, and, that mileage added onto our already big day, will make the days mileage around 11.5 to 12 miles…Will need to get up and out early.

I think I mentioned it before, but time is so stretched out on the trail, it hits home again tonight. 2 days ago, seems a week ago. Eleven o’clock last night I hear the strangest bird call I’ve ever heard before. Can’t describe it, just very strange and foreign sounding, as if it had been startled out of sleep by something. Not scary, just strange. Also, could hear boulders clacking together most of the night. Didn’t sleep well here…

Day 9 Devils Dream to Klapatche Park

Squaw Lake
Squaw Lake

Knew we had a big day, so we were up by 5:30am, out of camp by 7:30am. Walked through Squaw Lake area again, very pretty, and once we get to the stream, we fill up. Then, short climb up to Indian Henry’s Hunting Grounds.

Also, very pretty here, nice rolling meadows through alpine trees. We stop at the ranger station and talk to the Ranger for a few minutes, curious about the water situation. From her, the water sources don’t sound as bad as we had been led to believe coming around to the West side. From here, we walk the short distance to the turn-off for Mirror lakes, our side trip for today, and we are very glad that we did it.

Indian Henry's Hunting Ground Ranger Station
Indian Henry’s Hunting Ground Ranger Station

The water was as smooth as glass, not a ripple evident, and get a great picture of the mountain reflected on the waters surface. Also, very scenic around here, the camera gets a work-out. From Indian Henry’s, descend down to Tahoma Creek, and cross the big suspension bridge. Cool bridge, really rocks and rolls, a couple of times, as I’m trying to film what it’s like crossing it, the bridge tilts to one side so radically, I feel as if I’m going to be pitched over the side, and have to grab quickly for the hand rail!!!

Once across the bridge, then it’s up, up, and up to get around Emerald Ridge, nice pull here…Trail mostly in tree cover, until getting close to the leading edge of ridge, and then, trail gets very rocky, and loose. When you finally get above the tree line, it really opens up, with great views of the mountain, and it’s very rocky and barren here. Good views of Glacier Island, also.

Indian Henry's meadows
Indian Henry’s meadows

As we stop to take pictures, and video, we hear this extremely loud chirruping sound, echoing off of the cliff face of Emerald Ridge…What is that noise that is so loud? It’s flying grasshoppers! I’m gonna take a stab at why they named it “Emerald Ridge”…The leading cliff face of Emerald Ridge is green!

From here, we can see the South Puyallup River running out of the Tahoma Glacier. Impressive!!! Big views here. Can also see the Sunset Amphitheatre, and St. Andrews Rock.

Mirror Lake
Mirror Lake

We finally reach the saddle, signifying the top of this climb! From here, we can see the South Puyallup River running out of the Tahoma Glacier. Impressive!!! Big views here. Can also see the Sunset Amphitheatre, and St. Andrews Rock. Just so much to see, and we try to video tape a panoramic scene, in between being bitten by horse flies!!! Ouch! These little buggers hurt!!! While I’m trying to tape, Ed becomes my defender, swatting them away, as I am defenseless while trying                                                                 to video tape our surroundings.

I swear, that the same horseflies circle us like buzzards all the way to Klapatche Park! I am beginning to discern the differences in their relentless buzzing, assigning individual characteristics to each one from the sound of their buzz, and the glint of light off their reflective bodies. Some of them are actually kind of pretty, if you could look beyond their predatory habits. I just want to kill them all!!!

We travel down the ridgeline, with our horse fly entourage, to the South Puyallup River crossing. Nice bridge here. Man, is the water boiling, as it rages down river. Across the river, begins another long uphill trudge, all the way to St. Andrews Park.

This is a long, hot, trudge to the top. Trail crew has been busy here, a lot of brush clearing has been done. The clear spots make for good views, but also places for the hot afternoon sun to get a chance to broil us. There continues to be trees for shade in places, and where the trees are not present, there is loose, smaller rock on the trail. As we finally hit the top of the ridgeline, ran into a moraine field, and then more big views of canyons and meadows.

“Stairmaster” is the name we give to the steps trail crews have made in the trail, using logs as little berms, creating a stairs of sorts, usually on a steep uphill, or downhill, and they usually carry on for 10 or more steps in a row, giving you that nice burn in your quads…

Tahoma Creek Suspension Bridge
Tahoma Creek Suspension Bridge

Then, as we come out by Aurora Peak, WOW!!! Huge view of the North Puyallup, boiling down from the Puyallup Glacier, into the North Puyallup River canyon. From our distance, it looks like close to a mile away, at least, but you can hear it roar as it heads in a hurry down the mountain side.

By now, I’m starting to get tired. Been a long day already, and we’re still not in camp yet. Soon, after another “Stairmaster”, we reach St. Andrews Lake. “Stairmaster” is the name we give to the steps trail crews have made in the trail, using logs as little berms, creating a stairs of sorts, usually on a steep uphill, or downhill, and they usually carry on for 10 or more steps in a row, giving you that nice burn in your quads…

Tahoma Glacier, with Ed standing on Emerald Ridge
Tahoma Glacier from Emerald Ridge

St. Andrews Lake will be our drinking water for the day, as Klapatche Park is another dry camp. Aurora Lake is nothing but a large mud puddle now.

 

 

St. Andrews Lake
St. Andrews Lake

While we’re filling up our water bottles from the lake, there is a shore bird not 25 feet away from us, wading close to shore, and, all of a sudden, we hear this loud “WOOOSH!” in the water close to us, and looking up, startled, we see this hawk swoop down, hitting the water, as he made an attempt at grabbing the little shore bird! It missed, and the loud noise we heard was it’s wings and feet hitting the water when it dove in…It made me jump, wasn’t expecting that! Of course, I think the little bird was more dazed than I, as it kind of wanders aimlessly for a few moments, surprised to be alive, I think. First time I’ve ever seen an expression of bewildered surprise on a bird before!

We reached Klapatche Park by 5:10pm, it’s been a long day. About 9 ½ hours worth of hiking. We get a good site here, only one other group is here before us. We have run into them earlier on the trail, at Nickel creek.( I think they are the group that I felt was a captive audience while I was setting on the throne!)

We talk for awhile, and find out that they, too, are headed for Golden Lakes tomorrow. 3 of us decide to see if we can see Golden Lakes from here, as according to Bette Filley’s book, “The Wonderland Trail”, we should be able to see them like “golden coins” from our sites. Nope! Never see them, but, when the sun goes down, we can see the “golden” lights of what appears to be Tacoma in the distance!!

We sit out front of camp, on the edge of the dust bowl that used to be Aurora Lake, and wait for the sun to set on the mountain, get good pictures of Mt. Rainier at sunset. Right about 8:30pm, we see the family from Ohio come down the trail into camp!

They just beat the sun setting! And, Brad from Bonney Lake, and his 12 year old son, has been walking with them. They decided to come the distance to Klapatche Park, instead of stopping at South Puyallup camp.

Klapatche Park Views
Klapatche Park Views

Luckily for them, there is the one site left, and they camp together there. We watch the sunset from our site tonight, and then turn in at 9:10pm. A final note on this camp…Very nice, actually, it has an outhouse, but…

The biting black flies are bad here, and as soon as they are done with us, then the mosquitoes come out to feast. It’s a pleasure to be inside the tent, away from our tormentors…