Wonderland Trail Adventures- part 4


P7200123Wonderland Trail- Day 3

This morning I tried to hit the trail early, knowing I had almost 9 miles of hard hiking ahead of me. I felt fantastic, though. Last night the mosquitos were ferocious, so HBB and I hit our tents very early. She managed to cook her dinner by just sticking her hands out of the zipper from inside her tent, but I settled for cold dinner out of my food bag. When we got up this morning, the skeeters were swarming everywhere but we had hopes that once we started hiking, they would relax a bit.
Todays hiking was simply stunning. First rolling hills through a deep green forest, and then sub-alpine meadows full of wild flowers.  My favorite part of the day was when both sides of the trail were thick with vibrant, purple wildflowers. They smelled so good and I kept stopping to take pictures of them.
I just kept thinking, no one back home is ever going to believe this.
I climbed steadily for much of the day singing my favorite uphill song, “One
Hundred Bottles of Beer on the Wall”.  Before long, I topped out over Packtrain Ridge.  The views were 360 degrees and I totally felt like I was on top of the world. 🙂
From there I was above tree line for a while, with nothing but brown rock surrounding me. I finally caught sight of one of the famous whistling marmots that had been singing us both to sleep, and awake.  They are small, fat, tan and brown furry things, about the size of a house cat.  I came across a man and woman that were day hiking and they said that I had just missed a bear…..that she had come within 50 feet of them! I remarked that that was much to close for my personal comfort, and the man just laughed and said that she wasn’t the bit interested in us. Hmmmmm…..I think I will just keep my eye out anyway so one doesn’t get that close to me!

After a gorgeous day of hiking, I pulled into Sunrise Camp and since the Babe wasn’t there yet, I picked out a site and set up camp.  The mosquitos are seriously unbelievable. They swarm continuously, and you can see clouds of them in the air.  I was pretty sure that they couldn’t get much worse. Wrong! There is no water at the camp, so I had to walk down to the lake to
filter water. I can see the skeeters thick in the air and can hear a continual ‘buuuuzzzzz’, which is a bit like being in a bad horror film.    It is a little weird.  Then I got down to the water and wow, oh wow….. The lake is extremly shallow.  A good 20 feet out into the lake, it is still only about three inches deep.  And the entire thing is full of mosquito larve.  I am not kidding.  Thank goodness for my new Sweetwater filter!!  Between the silt and larve, it is a miracle that I got water at all, but it did the trick beautifully.
By the time I get back to the tent, I am starting to not feel so good. I dash into my tent to escape the bugs and crash on my sleeping bag.  When the Babe shows up three hours later, I am dead asleep. She had met Silver Lining and Little Bit at a road crossing and Hiker Biker Babe had brought back treats.  As soon as she said the word ‘treats’ I knew I was in trouble.

My stomach is not well at all.

With that in mind, I am signing off.
Anna aka Mud Butt

Wonderland Trail Adventures- part 4

P7190093Wonderland Trail- Day 2, part 2

From that point on the trail climbed a bit more, and yes, from time to time there was more snow. But I was so happy to be on the trail that I didn’t care! Soon I was reaching full-on alpine meadows, the hiking got easy and the world opened up before me.  All of the sudden, there were wild flowers everywhere. The
sun was warm and the meadow rolled out in front of me like a carpet of colors with a gentle brown trail running through it. I looked up and saw Mount Ranier hovering above the meadow…the closest I have been to her. I stood there as tears flowed down my cheeks and thought,


“How did I get this lucky and blessed?” I tell my traildames all of the time to look at a view and to realize that the only people that get to see it are the ones that worked their way up to it. Well, I had worked hard today, but I didn’t deserve this! It was flat out the most beautiful thing I have ever seen.
After a while, I pulled myself together and walked a bit further til I heard a familiar voice calling me. Hiker Biker Babe was laying on a giant, flat rock, basking in the sun.  She graciously moved over and we shared our tales of the day.  I was right in the middle of telling her my saga when I grabbed her arm. Across the meadow, lumbering along, was the biggest black bear I have ever seen! HBB began
humming “From A Distance”, which is our personal motto for how we would like to view wildlife….especially bears.  We watched as he wandered around and she finally remarked that if he came any closer, we would be doing the ‘Dance of the Scared Woman”!  But he stayed far
away, enjoying his meadow and enriching our day.
He really was beautiful

P7190105   The swarms of mosquitos eventually drove us to our feet along with the call of camp.  The final 1.5 mile of the hike was beautiful and gentle and we finally settled down at Mystic Lake. Tomorrow’s going to be a hard day so now I am going to sign off.

The marmots are whistling and the creek is singing. Good night.
Anna aka mud Butt

Wonderland Trail Adventures-Part 3

HBB 136Wonderland Trail- Day 2

Today was full of surprises, some great and some soooo not great! We all woke up
this morning sharing complaints about the rude, inconsiderate camper nearby that
was blowing a whistle at 4:45 this morning.  Silver Lining got so upset that she
went around to the other sites to chastise the offender.  She was unable to find
them though and I joined in the griping. So rude!! After all the complaining, we
all settled in to eating breakast and packing up.  Dr. Lining and Little Bit are
headed back to the car and will meet us in a couple of days. Little Bit has been
fantastic!! Never backpacked before and doing 17 miles in 2 days.  And hard miles!
And she did not complain a bit even though she was in considerable pain by last
night. She is definitely my new hero!
My day didn’t start off so well. You know how sometime your head just isn’t
in the right place? I left the camp and immediately had to cross a log bridge.
Last night I sailed over it but this morning it made me nervous. By the time I got  across, the adrenaline was pumping and I was shaking.  Then .2 of a mile  later, I had the cross the giant suspension bridge again.  This time the swaying, 207 foot long jumble of cables got to me.  I was on the verge of a panic attack, and the thing is, you can’t rush across and get it over with.  You
have to go slow and steady as it bounces and sways more and more as you near the
middle. By the time I got across, I was somewhat of a mess.

Luckily, after I got off of the bridge, I had a very, very long uphill in which to calm myself down. Rocks, rocks and more rocks for a while, and then a long, really nice uphill through a
towering forest. Did I mention that I am still going uphill?  (Good thing I like to go uphill!) I finally stop for lunch on this huge rock next to a tumbling mountain stream and kick back in the sun.

Ahhhh…..things are looking up. The sky is brilliant blue, the trees are tall and thick and just when it couldn’t get any better, a hummingbird flew by. I layer three- day old cheese, summer sausage and mayo on a tortilla and took a bite. It was the best thing I have ever tasted in my life.
I considered hanging out for awhile, but a little voice said, “you have no idea what lays ahead…you had better get going!”.  Smart voice, as it turns out.
Right before I left, however, I looked in the guidebook and read all about the famous Mount Ranier Whistling Marmots. I realized I had been hearing the same whistle that had woken us up this morning all day long!! Whistling marmots! How cool is that?! And I had to laugh at us getting all bent out of shape at the “rude hiker blowing the whistle”. 🙂 Isn’t is amazing how your perspective can change with just one little bit of information?  Well, I peeled myself off the rock, threw my backpack on and headed down the trail. Around the corner was a very unpleasant sight………….

Lots and lots of snow.

HBB 257

Now I knew there was going to be lots of snow on this hike…remember the ice axe sitting back in the car?  I just didn’t think I would see it so soon! I will let you in on a little secret… I am scared of hiking on snow. It is slippery, unpredictable and you can’t tell what is under it. Well, I spent the next hour struggling as my ankles flopped around and my feet refused to stay where I put them.  The thing that made it really frustrating was that it was stunningly beautiful. Like, ‘I-have-never-seen-anyplace-this-beautiful’ beautiful! It looks like a Courrier and Ives painting…..rolling
white hills, dark green clusters of trees, black rocks and a gurgling stream.
How can it be so beautiful and so hard at the same time?   I really don’t like
this at all. I put on my Yak Traks, but they don’t seem to be helping and the
front keeps coming off. I feel blisters coming on and figure this is going to be
the low point of my day. Wrong.
I have been following footsteps for ages, (cause you can’t see the trail at
all), when they disappear. I circle around and around and they are just gone!
After lots of indecision, I squeeze through some trees and see a wash of gray
rocks leading to a sweeping snow valley that goes up and up. Are those foot
prints I see? I clamber up there and see two pairs of old footprints. I know
there are at least 10 people in front of me, and that this can’t possibly be right, but decide to follow them anyway. I know that I am a wee bit lost, but I also know that I can follow my own footsteps
back down, so I am not in any danger.
Well, I climb and climb. I fall a few times getting more and more upset.  All
of the sudden the footsteps stop. I have come to an alpine area where the snow is interspersed with
scattered rocks and bushes. As my eyes search for more of those blasted footprints
I was following, I see them! They are moving through the rocks and bushes headed
for a wall. It is then that I look up and see what looks suspiciously like a flat, straight edge.  Could it be….I do believe it is! The trail! My ghostly friend’s footprints make a bee-line for the wall and clamber up.  I realize that  someone had done the same thing I had, and for a moment, I felt a strange sense of camraderie with this person I will never meet.  At the very least, you gotta admit that great minds think alike.   When I finally climbed up onto the trail using my hands and knees, I staggered to my feet and did a little dance of joy.  There was no snow up here!

From here my day was definitey looking up!
(to be continued)

Wonderland Trail Adventures- part 2

P7180023 Day 1- continued…

When we finally got to the trail itself, we all got excited, gathered around the sign for pictures and then headed straight up the trail.
The forest here is so different from Georgia! It is really thick and has a million plants that I have never seen before. When you feel the call of nature, ducking off the trail is quite an adventure! Fallen trees, vines, undergrowth
and moss as far as the eye can see! The cool thing is, though, there are really no snakes to worry about.  I guess it is too cold up here for them to be happy. It
makes stepping over all of those half-rotten logs a little easier when you don’t
have to worry about a slithery friend lounging under it.     We crossed about a zillion creeks today on log bridges, some of which the amazing trail volunteers have nailed hand rails of sorts to. I really appreciate it cause walking across a log makes me very nervous!

Later in the day we have our first ford. The river we are crossing has four different sections, the first of which has no bridge. As we prepare to cross, HBB give us a lecture on fording safely and the other three take off their boots. I prefer the stability of keeping mine on, however. I don’t mind wet
boots as long as I can feel secure crossing a river.
The water here is fascinating! This is glacial run-off, so the water is full of rock flour. It makes the streams and rivers look like weak chocolate milk, which is cool to look at, but a bit nerve racking in that you have no idea if the water is 2 inches deep, or twenty feet.   Since the rocks surrounding the water are the exact same color, sometime you have to concentrate to actually see where the water starts and stops.
The crossing goes off without a hitch and only comes up mid-thigh deep.  It is still a bit disconcerting since you can’t see anything below the surface at all!  It is very cold, and quite fast, but the bottom is smooth and sandy, and I only squealed once when I almost lost my balance.
We scramble across piles of rocks and cross three more sections, all of which have bridges. The last one was wild because the water was so fast and turbulent that when you looked down it made you very dizzy Not a good feeling when you are on a log balanced over a torrent of chocolate milk!!
Where is Willy Wonka when you need him?

The rest of the hike was beautiful and peaceful with the only excitement coming at the very end. There is a famous suspension bridge here that is 207 feet long. It is narrow and very, very swingy and bouncy. They advise only one person on it at a time and I totally understand why. Unlike other suspension bridges I have been on, this one is not fun. By the time you get to the middle,
it not only bounces and sways, but pivots side to side, making it feel like you
are going to be pitched into the roiling, mad water below. Before I go on the bridge, there was a man there waiting for me to cross before him.  As I reached the center, the movement got really intense and I thought to myself, “How RUDE!! That man did NOT wait til I was across!!  The sign says ONE PERSON at a time and he decided to come anyway…..REALLY!!!!”  As I stepped off, I turned around to give him a piece of my mind and realized that he was still patiently waiting at the other end.  That is just exactly how wobbly that bridge was.  Well, I was a bit ashamed of my thoughtless assumption, but in all honesty, I was  so happy to be across that I didn’t give it a whole lot more thought.  🙂

Our campsite for the night was nice, and had a privy of sorts and a bear pole near by.  ( which
incidentally would not have kept the bears out or food, cause it was too short!!)  The privy was a simple seat with two walls forming a sort of ‘V’ around it.  It faced out into the rich, green woods and while it didn’t offer much for privacy, it was by far the best view you could get while answering the call of mother nature.
After a dinner of instant mashed potatos and mini snicker bars, we all went to sleep listening to the water of the tributary and the wind in the trees. It was one of the best nights
sleep I have had in a long, long time.
Anna aka Mud Butt

The Wonderland Trail Adventures-part 1

HBB 158

Recently I was lucky to get the chance to hike part of the Wonderland Trail in Washington State.  The trail encircles Mt. Ranier and is 93 miles long.  My initial plan was to do the entire thing in a 12 day trip, but isn’t there a saying about ‘best laid plans’ and all that?  🙂  The following journal entries are a record of my adventures in this gorgeous place…..   I hope you enjoy them.


After months of planning, scheduling, dreaming and scheming, I am finally on the
Wonderland Trail!!  I am laying in my tent listening to a glacial stream crash down the mountain, smelling fresh resin from fallen trees and feeling like the luckiest girl in the world.  Oh, my feet are aching, my left ankle is throbing,
my calves are laughing at me, knowing that they will keep me awake much of the
night with cramps, and frankly, I smell bad!  But I still feel very, very lucky!
This all started in Peru last year when my friends Deb (Silver Lining)
Julia (Hiker Biker Babe), and I promised to stop letting so much time go by
without seeing each other. There is a very special magic between the three of
us, and we do have grand times!   So we agreed to do yearly summits where we
would meet for an adventure of sorts. After throwing several ideas around, we
came up with the Wonderland Trail in Washington State for our 2009 Summit.
The Wonderland is 93 miles long and encircles Mount Ranier.  It has 23,000
feet of elevation gain and loss, and we are taking 12 days to hike it.  As the
Spring drew to a close, Silver Lining learned that her neice would be spending
the summer with her, so three became 4. Liz is a sharp, cool 16 year old and is
lots of fun to be with. She is a great addition to the group and I really love
being around her. 🙂  We are all excited that she is joining us and as she has never hiked or backpacked before,  they decided to take it easy.  (Well, as easy as hiking on the WT can be!) Liz and Silver Lining will hike some and jump on and off the trail, meeting us different places
with our food caches while The Babe and I will keep trekking on.

It is with these plans that we loaded up the car this morning and headed
towards  Mt. Ranier.  This mountain is beautiful beyond description.  You see
her from lots of different places around Seattle and she towers above all the
surrounding mountains. I get chills and butterflies everytime I catch a glimpse of her and I cannot imagine living here and getting to see her every single day.
We arrived at the Carbon River Ranger Station this morning and picked up our
permit from a fantastic ranger whose name tag read ‘Flash’. He answered all of
our questions and said that the snow and ice weren’t going to be a problem for the next few days, so it was with a sigh of relief that I left the Ice Axe in the car for now. My friend, Alpine, has loaned me this axe and I have been talking about it for months.  Just looking at it makes me feel all cool!!  But the truth is, with all of it’s jagged, sharp edges, it scares me to death!  And I have no idea what to actually do with it!  So it is probably a good thing that I won’t seem to be needing it……at least on this leg of the trip.

The actual WT starts 5 miles away, at the end of a forest service road that
is closed due to storm damage.  As we walked up this beautiful meandering lane
we wondered if there was really any damage.  However, before long, we came to a
section of rocks, downed trees and ankle deep gray rock flour.  Yep, this road
is closed. The rest of the 5 miles was alternating of smooth forest service
road and areas that look like all hell broke loose. It is kind of mind boggling
what this river can and did do!!HBB 169
So as it turns out, glaciers pulverize rocks.  As a result, you get rocks as huge
as cars interspersed with medium sized rocks, small rocks and completely ground
up rocks, which look like greyish-brown flour. Hence the name ‘rock flour’, or
glacial flour. It is very cool to look at, but tough to walk through. Imagine
ankle deep, sugar-fine sand!
However, it is all part of the experience! I am still fresh and excited enough about this hike that I could probably find quick sand to be acceptable!!   The non-flood part of our hike so
far looks exactly like the movie “Twilight”.  The trees are GIANT! And the woods
are thick and everything is covered with thick green moss.  It looks like a
fairy tale, and I am pretty sure that Aragon is going to come sweeping out of it at any moment and wisk me away…….  to be continued….
Anna aka Mud Butt