Sunday, July 12, 2009

Wandering the Wonderland

Wandering The Wonderland

The Wonderland Trail is a 93 mile trail that encircles the entire portion of Mount Rainier National Park. For those in tip top shape the entire trail takes about 9 days to hike. For others whose pace is a bit slower you can take around two weeks. Yesterday, I hiked a whopping 4.5 mile portion of the trail from Narada Falls to Longmire Historic District. I began the hike from the top of Narada falls, a pounding and thrashing waterfall that comes crashing down from the misty mountain top. Perfect for a hot summer day, to stand at the base of the falls and allow the cool mist from the falls to make you feel completely refreshed... After around .2 miles I came to the intersection with the Wonderland Trail that continues on to Historic Longmire. The trail continues to descend somewhat steeply and I encountered a lot of wash out areas where there are uneven parts of the trail. Despite that, the trail is gorgeous through the Old Growth Forest and I had it all to myself. After around ½ mile I noticed a very small baby Fawn near the trail. The little fawn saw me and was frozen as I imagined the mother was foraging below. She was probably under a week old and so adorable. I decided to hide behind a tree so I wouldn't frighten her more and stayed behind the tree for a bit. When I peered out she was gone, so Mom must have come to get her. The sun was glowing through now and again, which made the light in the forest so beautiful and the color apple green. After another ½ mile I finally came to the first river crossing. At first I was a bit intimidated by the bridge to cross the river. Part of it had been washed away and you had to climb up a precarious looking stump to even get on the bridge… since I was hiking by myself I wasn't all to sure whether I wanted to even cross it, however, soon a couple approached and I always believe in safety with numbers. Amazingly it wasn't too bad; I climbed up pretty easily and made it across rather swiftly. The Paradise River continues to flow down another 2.5 miles nod I a good place to perch myself on the rocks for awhile. It was so beautiful and peaceful and for me it is very healing and rejuvenating to be by the water. I sat there for awhile and then I decided to move on.

The trail then continues through the forest , and I then made two more small stream crossings and both bridges were new so that was a breeze. There were still a few patches of snow along the way, however, most of the snow that low has melted away .At the 2 mile mark I came upon another waterfall, affectionately known as Madcap falls. Even though it was a smaller size than Narada it still had an incredible amount of power and the sound of the pounding water was healing to me. There was an overview point and at that point I encountered more hikers. The most I had seen so far. After another couple of hundred yards I came to Carter falls, the final waterfall on the trail. Carter was much higher than Madcap and was breathtaking. I absolutely adore waterfalls, the refreshing mists that shower you are so calming, and definitely allow my mind to drift away. I was starting to see more and more hikers at this point, since the Cougar Rock campground is less than a mile away. Not to worry, soon I would be in my place of solitude once again. After Carter falls you hike down a pretty flat trail and soon come to the junction with the Nisqually River. This River is one of the largest Rivers in the park and has experienced a great deal of damage from storms over the past few years. There are wash outs everywhere and debris floating throughout the river. Since the Nisqually Glacier dumps into this river, is full of Glacial Silt and the color is a grayish brown, and thundering at speeds of light. As I approached the continuing trail, it began to turn into sand and I started to notice people who were attempting to cross the river in spots that they really shouldn't of. Along the way I ran into a really awesome Backcountry Ranger named Kelly. We had a really nice conversation about her job and the area so that was great. After that I crossed the final bridge of the trail , which if you looked down was rather scary. The roaring rapids of the river below were awesome, yet you do not want to fall off that bridge. Again, there were many hikers as the campground is so close. After crossing the river, I climbed up towards the main road and soon it reconnected with the trail that continues another mile and a half to Longmire. Once again I was in solitude and did not see a soul. The trail at this point follows the Nisqually River so there were views the entire way. As I began to approach Longmire I heard sirens coming and soon I saw a couple of ambulances. I was curious if one of those silly people attempting to cross the River at unsafe points had fallen in. Later I found out a woman had fallen on the same trail and broken her ankle. No one knew exactly how, yet it took the crews three hours to get her out. The trail in many sections was only one way, so apparently she was in a precarious area and it was quite a challenge getting her out. I say always been cautious when you are hiking and be aware of where you are walking. As I continued to follow the Nisqually I felt very peaceful. Not a soul in site which is what I wanted. Soon I saw rooftops coming into my view and I knew I was near the Historic Longmire district. So, I hiked a mere five miles of the Wonderland trail, only 89 more to go.

Oh! I forgot to mention that along the way I met this amazing woman. She was carrying quite the load so I thought she was going long distance. As it turned out she was on a conditioning hike. She was 67 years old, and she had a goal of hiking the entire Pacific Crest and Appalachian Trail before she turned 70. So far this year she has hiked over 700 miles. I was in awe of this woman. Determination and spirit keeps pushing her. I really admire people like that and it was very inspiring.

So all in all it was a wonderful day, with beautiful waterfalls, old growth forests, wildlife and interesting people along the way.

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