Wonderland Trail – Day 13

Day 13 – Indian Bar to Summerland

4.4 Miles
2000 Feet Elevation Gain
1000 Feet Elevation Loss

This morning I was awakened to the sounds of elk bugling.  Earnest calls that increased in pitch and then descended again.  Frost crunched beneath my feet and my breath hovered in the air in front of me.  My thermometer read 35 degrees.

Sunrise over the Cascade mountains to the east shone strands of warmth as early as 7:00 am.  Now that I’m on the east side of the mountain again, the sunrises are once more a spectacular event.  Even the morning constitutional is an occasion for inspiration.

The Indian Bar Commode at Sunrise

I packed up camp slowly today.  I had only less than 5 miles to hike, and Indian Bar is one of the most beautiful places that I’ve ever seen.  Having almost hiked all the way around Mt. Rainier, that’s saying something.  I’m glad I saved this leg of the trip for last.

I hung my wet things to dry in the sun and spent some time relaxing on a rock, meditating and enjoying the morning.

Ohanapecosh River by Indian Bar Camp

Around 10:00 am, I finally hit the trail.  The climb out of the valley was a steep one, up 1500 feet in elevation in about a mile and a half.  My own personal stairmaster!  As I hiked out of Indian Bar, I paused to take in the valley behind me one last time.

Indian Bar Valley

As I hiked, I had to watch my step for grasshoppers that kept flying by on the path in front of me.  I was lucky enough to get one on camera.

Grasshopper on the Path

Today I would be hiking over the infamous Panhandle Gap, the highest point on the Wonderland Trail at 6800 Feet.  My guidebook warned that this could be a dangerous crossing as some years it is mostly covered with snow.  It was advised to attempt the crossing in mid-day, after the sun gets a chance to thaw the ice a little but before it gets an opportunity to re-form again.  There was a potential of rain forecast for later afternoon, so I decided to try and cross around noon or 1:00 pm.

After a mile and a half of stair climbing, I entered the Ohanapecosh Park.  Wow!  Although I couldn’t see the dome of Mt. Rainier from this vantage point, I could see south to Mt. St. Helens and Mt. Adams. The clouds were amazing today, forming fluffy white puffs across the sky.

View from Ohanapecosh Park

A butterfly landed on the path in front of me as I hiked through the Park.  I was lucky enough to get a picture of him today too.

Butterfly in Ohanapecosh Park

At the end of Ohanapecosh Park, I reached Panhandle Gap. There was no snow on the top, although there were some snow patches here and there.  A little anticlimactic. I paused for some lunch, and watched the clouds roll in.  It started to hail a little, so I packed up and headed down the other side.

View from the top of Panhandle Gap

Panhandle Gap, Approaching from the North Side

I did get to walk over some snow fields.  Turns out I didn’t need my light snow gaiters, as the snow was pretty packed. The gaiters did come in handy as I walked through wet meadows though.

As I headed back down the other side of Panhandle Gap, I could see Summerland beckoning in the valley below. I also finally got to see my first marmot of the trip, and a whole family of goats. Apparently today was my day for optimal wildlife viewing.

Marmot

The view of Mt. Rainier from Summerland is supposed to be pretty spectacular.  Today clouds were obscuring the top of the mountain, but it is still amazingly beautiful.

Clouds Obscuring Mt. Rainier from Summerland

As I set up my tent, the weather finally broke.  Hail the size of peas poured from the sky and covered the ground in a white blanket. I quickly put up my tent and took refuge inside.  After the storm passed, the hail melted quickly, but I got a picture of some of the remainders.

After the Hail Storm

It was a cold and damp evening.  The clouds hung low and a chill hung in the air with poor visibility.  I decided to call it a night early and climbed into my sleeping bag, shivering.

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