Wonderland Trail Day 4

Paradise River to Pyramid Creek: 8ish miles — +1120/-1250

Resupply day!! We had a pretty easy hike on this day, and in the middle we would be stopping at the miraculous Longmire patrol station to pick up the bucket of food we mailed ourselves. Better yet, we would be able to have a real lunch in the real restaurant at the inn. I know we had only been out for a few days at this point, but I was dying for a cheeseburger and a coke, and I could not wait to get there.

We woke up early but not too early, and I hobbled to the privy and back on my “stumps of pain.” Toby’s feet often felt better after this short walk, but mine had some deep, intense blisters in the arches that made it feel like I was walking on knives. I kept asking other hikers for advice, and a guy the night before suggested duct tape, which I tried but was not making things any better. Nonetheless I was in a good mood for this hike. A couple of days ago I had strongly considered bailing at Longmire. My feet were killing and I was worried they were getting worse. But by this point I was pretty sure I was at the maximum amount of pain I was going to feel, and that I could tough it out for at least the second leg of the trip. Better yet the trail for the first part of the day was smooth, wide, and flat. Downhill hurt my feet worst, so I was looking forward to having no steep descents in the first part of our day at least.

Madcap Falls.
Madcap Falls.
Penstock pipe running along the trail to Longmire.
Penstock pipe running along the trail to Longmire.
One of my favorite pictures of Mt. Rainier. From the Nisqually River crossing.
One of my favorite pictures of Mt. Rainier. From the Nisqually River crossing.

We passed some beautiful views during a relatively uneventful hike, and arrived at Longmire around 11 a.m. We asked the ranger for our bucket, and were thrilled when he actually produced it – the whole bucket mailing process was a bit new and nerve-wracking. Then we sat outside the patrol station and started sorting. The food routine we had planned for the trip was the following: breakfast was oatmeal, or instant potatoes with powdered cheese; AM snack was a baggie of trail mix; Lunch was two meat sticks (jerky) and two string cheeses, though after this resupply we would be switching to either a foil packet of tuna or two meat sticks and a tortilla with peanut butter and honey; a ProBar for afternoon snack; one of the four dehydrated meals that Toby put together for dinner (couscous, ramen, mac & cheese, or instant potatoes – all with freeze-dried chicken and veg and flavoring); and some sort of dessert, usually snickers or nutella. [We also brought electrolyte drink tabs and energy chews, which were invaluable on hot sweaty days. –Toby] This had been working pretty well for us, but while we definitely needed all of these calories, we were not typically eating all of our food. I found myself to be ravenous at lunch, but not eating many snacks, and having a hard time eating more than half my dinner, especially the mac & cheese, which was shocking because it was the one I most looked forward to pre-trip but it did not taste great on the trail for some reason (though I always finished because it seemed much worse to pack out the leftovers than to finish [As the person carrying the food-related waste, I agree! –Toby]). We tried to sort our food according to what we were actually eating, leaving some extra in the bucket to put in the free box for other hikers because we had our long day coming up on Day 5 and didn’t want to carry extra weight if possible.

At the ranger station. I'm looking a little dazed here - I'm clearly off in a fog of cheeseburger craving.
At the ranger station with a 3D model of the park. I’m looking a little dazed here – I’m clearly off in a fog of cheeseburger craving.

Once we did the best we could with that, we headed over to the inn for lunch. It was closed when we arrived; when it finally opened, the waiter chuckled at the two backpackers who were hovering eagerly near the door. We apologized for our stink, and promised that we had tried to put on our cleanest clothes. He said not to worry, they loved backpackers. And indeed all of the wait staff was super nice to us, though we couldn’t help but notice that they seated us in a corner of the restaurant, and seated everyone else who came in as far from us as possible.

Then we had an hour of bliss. Not only did they have cheeseburgers and coke (well, Pepsi, but whatever), but they had FRIED PICKLES. My usual love for fried pickles is pretty intense; after three days in the woods it was one of the best things I have ever eaten. Seriously, it was heaven. We also got to use real bathrooms (no amount of scrubbing could get the dirt out of the creases of my hands, but I figured it was at least clean dirt). Total luxury.

2015-08-13 12.18.29
I took this photo of a table card at the Longmire restaurant, to mark the heavy rhetoric of land ownership embedded in the national parks system. This rhetoric appears through/alongside the erasure (yet constant nominal presence) of indigenous peoples and stolen land. I want to think, read, and write much more about this aspect of U.S. national parks and hiking trails, and hope this will be part of a new zine issue soon. But for now, the photo is a reminder that this nature is not simply “natural.” –Toby

And then it was back into the woods. We had a long steep climb out of Longmire. It was definitely hard to do with my belly full of lunch. It was getting very hot and dry. And I started to realize that I felt bitter toward day hikers who were speeding past me on hills while carrying basically nothing. But still we had beautiful views and ran into a few other backpackers with whom we had pleasant exchanges (one pair helpfully alerted us to lots of blueberry bushes up trail, which meant bear potential). And then we started the downhill. It was short but still my feet were screaming and I was starting to regret not getting a ride back to our car from Longmire and calling the whole trip.

But the trail always provides reasons to keep going. Aside from Mt. Rainier constantly egging me on, we stopped to get water at Kautz Creek and there I found Pillow Rock. I took off my pack, my boots and my socks and told Toby that he was in charge of getting water while I rested my feet. Then I lay on the ground and rested my head on a rock without much expectation of comfort, but found instead a rock that so perfectly conformed to my head that I thought I would never get up again. I propped my feet up on my pack and lay there for a blissful 15 minutes, enjoying what was by far the most comfortable position I would be in for the entire 10 day trip. Pillow Rock let me relax and revive and eventually I found the will to put on my boots and finish my hike to camp.

My feet, covered in tape to try to deal with existing blisters and prevent future ones.
My feet, covered in tape to try, unsuccessfully, to deal with existing blisters and prevent future ones.
Me with Pillow Rock.
Me with Pillow Rock.

I was rewarded when, for the first and only time on the trip, camp was much closer (not farther, as was typical) than we thought. I was guessing we had at least another 20 or 30 minutes when suddenly the sign was right there, directing us to Pyramid Creek. We were early and the first, and ultimately only, ones there. We picked a campsite, dumped all of our stuff, and tucked in to a well-earned snack. I did a little interview with Toby, and then he went off to find water, since the Pyramid Creek itself was too silty to filter, while I just sat and listened to the birds. [I really ramped up my bear announcements on my solo trip back to a good water source, since blueberry bushes surrounded us. I developed some little songs for the bears that I sang heartily. Backtracking to Kautz Creek also meant I traveled the same path twice, once with a full pack and once with just four liters of water. The difference in my speed and agility on the trail was remarkable. Backpacking is hard work! –Toby] We were beyond thrilled to be able to spend several hours resting, especially since Day 5, the day we had been worrying about the whole trip, was just around the corner. –Cyn

Toby near Kautz Creek.
Toby near Kautz Creek.

Toby’s interview.

Bonus Pic: I took off my bandana and Toby exclaimed that my hair looked Epic. So of course it was gross-backpacker-selfie time.
Bonus Pic: I took off my bandana and Toby exclaimed that my hair looked Epic. So of course it was gross-backpacker-selfie time.

2 thoughts on “Wonderland Trail Day 4

  1. I had the same issue with food on our River to River trip. I was shocked at how much I couldn’t even put in my mouth. (ex- peanut m&ms, a usual fav) My appetite tanked and I lost nearly a half pound a day on that hike!

    Loving the blog! Wish you’d keep one regularly. 🙂


    1. Yes, it was so interesting how my appetite worked on this trip. Mac & cheese was the one thing we tested out on the trail before we left (on that Illini Trail trip no less, that was some serious hiking) and it tasted great then. But for some reason I really had to work to eat it. Not the ramen, though. Ramen forever. And I was surprised that I wanted to eat everything in my food bag at lunch, but felt not hungry at all by the time dinner came around. Ah backpacking. So many things to discover. -Cyn

      Liked by 1 person

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