Day 14 – Summerland to White River Camp Trailhead
2000 Feet Elevation Loss
400 Feet Elevation Gain
The ground crunched beneath my feet this morning as I walked to retrieve my bear bag. White frost covered the grass and alpine shrubs, and lacy tendrils of ice formed intricate patterns on the trail.
Today there is not a cloud in the sky. All traces of last evening’s hail storm and threatening clouds are gone. It’s just me and Mt. Rainier, enjoying the day together. As the sun slowly rose, Mt. Rainier reflected the morning light and glowed luminously, even as the rest of the landscape remained dark.
Sunrise at Mt. Rainier from Summerland
Gratuitous Selfie with the Sunrise
As I approached the bear bag pole, my calm introspective mood was slightly broken when I saw how many bear bags were up there – including one on the same branch as mine blocking access to my bag. I’d have to take it down first to reach mine, and then put it back up again when I was done. Typically this wouldn’t be an issue as I’ve been developing my bear bag hoisting muscles, but this bag looked heavy. And, the pole at Summerland is higher than other bear poles since there are more bears in the area. But the hanging stick is the same length as the ones at all the other bear poles. So, I spent a good 15 minutes standing on my tippy toes trying to hang the darn thing and feeling like some sort of incompetent track and field athlete. Eventually I got the bag hung and continued back to camp where I feasted on the last of my food.
It has been an amazing trip. Spending 14 days by myself in the wilderness is one of the best things I could done for myself. But I miss my family and my partner. I’m ready to go home.
This morning I practically flew off the mountain as I hiked back down to my car. The trail was exceedingly smooth and flat, and very easy to walk on. Also I proactively took some Ibuprofen before I hit the trail today, as my feet have been giving me some touble ever since I did the 12-mile hike to Longmire. But this morning I had no foot pain at all.
At the top of the trail, I passed an AmeriCorps Crew doing trail maintenance. They had all been staying at the Summerland Group Shelter and were covered in muck and mud. I thanked them for their work on the trail as I passed. “Nice hat,” one of the girls said.
Autumn colors were more noticeable as I hiked today. I could see the changes to the leaves slowly progressing during my trip. The hillside was painted with amber and rusty hues where it once was awash with green.
Autumn colors on Mt. Rainier
Before I knew it, I was back at the White River Campground. I took a moment at the final river crossing, remembering my first evening drinking gluten-free beers at this very spot and watching the moonrise over Mt. Rainier. It was going to be weird not waking up every morning on the mountain. I felt a little emotional for a moment and wiped a stray tear from the corner of my eye.
And then I piled into my car and was gone.
The Last Selfie at White River