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Wonderland Trail Day 1 – White River to Sunrise Campground

Last updated Apr 13, 2021 | Published on Sep 10, 2016

Wow. I couldn’t have asked for better weather on my first day of hiking the Wonderland Trail. It was 65 degrees and sunny with gorgeous views of Mt Rainier for my hike from White River to Sunrise. But it didn’t start out that way. It got down to 40 degrees last night and I was flipping cold!

A Cold Morning

When I went to bed last night, I had on my light-weight base layer (top and bottom) and socks, and lined my 23-degree 3-season bag with a sleeping bag liner for some extra warmth.  Turns out that wasn’t enough clothing for me.  I was super cold.  So I put on more layers – I added my thermal base layer (top and bottom) and added my new puffy vest with a hood that I put over my head.  I zipped my mummy bag around my entire face and still felt chilly.  I slept fitfully and finally by morning I had warmed up the bag a bit to where it finally felt comfortable.

A blurry photo of all the layers

I wasn’t in a big hurry to break camp this morning.  I knew I had a short hike today and took my time.  I finally hit the trail around 10:00 am, after stopping for one last moment down by the river.

Sunrise at White River

Hiking from White River to Sunrise

The hike from White River to Sunrise is a steep one, starting at 4300 feet and going up to 6300 feet in just 2 1/2 miles. The first part of the hike consisted of switchbacks through moss-draped forests.  Whew!  The nice thing about hiking solo is that I can go as slow as I want, and I certainly did so today.  Between the recovery from surgery and pneumonia that I had earlier this year, I’m just not in as good as shape as I should be.  But I’m working on it :). It will be interesting to see how I feel in 2 weeks after my hike is over.

Gratuitous selfie break so I can catch my breath

Then, after about a mile and a half, I broke out of the forest and there was Mt Rainier!  Wow!  I’ll never get tired of marveling at Mt Rainier, especially on a day as gorgeous as this one.

I *heart* Mt. Rainier!

After 2 1/2 miles, the trail quit climbing in elevation and I had a choice to go right (to the Sunrise visitor center) or to go left to the Sunrise backcountry camp.  I was just at the Sunrise visitor center a few weeks ago and didn’t feel the need to hike the extra miles, so I headed off to make camp.

Setting up Camp at Sunrise

Apparently it pays to arrive at camp before 1:00 pm, as I pretty much had my pick of sites.  I found a lovely spot with a view of Shadow Lake and settled in to make some lunch.  Today, I had powdered hummus (just add water and olive oil!) with some tortillas and snap peas (the last of my perishable food).

Since it’s the first day of my hike, my pack is as heavy as it’s going to get, except for when I resupply at Mowich Lake.  No one ever tells you how heavy food is!  I have 5 days worth of food right now and it’s heavy! Most of my food only requires that I add boiling water to a bag.  No dish washing for me!

What’s in my food bag

The Pee Incident

The lowlight of my day happened after lunch.  Sunrise camp features an actual outhouse (with walls and a door!) and so I headed over there to answer the call of nature.  Sunrise campground is very close to the Sunrise Visitor Center, and so it sees a heavy amount of day hiker traffic. And apparently the outhouse sees a heavy amount of traffic too.  There was pee not only on the toilet seat but all over the wooden platform and all over the floor. Gross!

I have to pause here and interject with a comment about women who pee on on public toilet seats.  Seriously, women are the worst when it comes to peeing in public restrooms.  I understand that not every woman wants to plant her ladylike butt cheeks directly on the porcelain god, but seriously, if you feel the need to hover have the courtesy to put up the seat first!  And if you make a mess, clean up after yourself! Gah! I can’t tell you how many times I’ve cleaned up other ladies’ pee in public restrooms.  Did I mention that this is a pet peeve of mine?

Anyhow, I did my best to avoid getting pee all over myself and utterly failed.  SO GROSS!  My pants ended up with other people’s pee all over them and so I promptly decided it was time to practice my backcountry laundry skills.  I’m sure in two weeks from now, seasoned backcountry me will laugh at my silly shenanigans and consider my need to wash my clothes instead of simply letting the pee dry utterly adorable. But I was too grossed out.  A line had been crossed!

I brought some biodegradable soap with me and washed my pants and stinky socks in a gallon plastic baggie and dumped the water far away from the lake, as per backcountry camping regulations.  And now I’m an expert at backcountry laundry!

My newly cleaned clothes

I had a very mellow afternoon after I did my laundry. I relaxed in the sunshine, took a nap, caught up on journaling, and tried to recharge my solar charger.

After a tasty dinner of re-hydrated bean and bacon stew, I went for a walk as the sun was setting.

Shadow Lake at dusk

Sunset near Sunrise Camp

It’s 9:15 pm as I write this all cozy in my sleeping bag. I’m not nearly as cold tonight. So far.  For one thing, it’s not as cold outside – it’s only 47 degrees.  Also I have a few learnings from last night.  I’m wearing more layers, and made a point to go for a walk before bed to get the blood flowing so I was warm before I even got into bed.  That seems to have helped a lot.

Wonderland Trail 2016 Hike Information

Date: September 9, 2016
Miles Hiked: 3.4
Elevation Gain: 2200 feet
Elevation Loss: 0 feet

For more information on my Wonderland Trail 2016 hike, check out my Wonderland Trail Blog page.

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Hi, I'm Unicorn!

I am an avid hiker, traveler, and adventurer who is on the mission to explore hiking trails around the world.  I’m also obsessed with National Parks, long-distance trails and other outdoorsy things.

I hope to share this knowledge with you and inspire you to explore new hiking trails too!


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