Friday, October 12, 2012

This is a Test

Or more correctly, a story about a test:   my first backpack trip since 2007 and Maggie's first in maybe 8 years.  Also my first since developing arthritis in my right hip.  For these reasons I wanted  a leisurely hike, something we could do easily if given enough time.  I chose Longmire to Pyramid Creek Camp on the Wonderland Trail in Mount Rainier National Park, all of 3.5 miles.   We'd base camp there two nights and day hike in between.  Take our time.  See how it all works out.  The trip was September 25-27 in fine, fall weather.

The hike in is not hard but not exactly easy.  The trail is very good  and climbs steadily from Longmire over Rampart Ridge for the first couple of miles, following some steep switchbacks.  Some effort is required.  We take our time, which offers much opportunity to fully immerse into the surrounding forest.  As I climb I am increasingly removed from the world of pavement and commerce.  I remember why I make this kind of effort.

After Rampart Ridge the trail drops into Kautz Creek, gradually at first, then more steeply a through the forest until it scrambles down into the creekbed.

The creekbed is wide and rocky, filling the remains of a glacial valley with runoff from the Kautz Glacier on Rainier's southwestern slope.   At first glance, it looks like hardly any water at all.  Up close, the water runs strong and fast in channels spanned with log bridges.

As we begin to climb out of the creekbed, we spot a small bird, an American Dipper, darting about on the rocks at waters edge, pecking occasionally and pumping up and down on its legs.  Most amazingly, it simply runs into the pools and swims across string currents.  Coming out of Kautz Creek the trail climbs slightly as it crosses a broad divide between Kautz and Pyramid Creeks.  Pyramid Creek Camp is located about a half mile after Kautz.  The divide is forested glacial till with no major elevation change.  About the same time we hear Pyramid Creek's roar we reach the campsite turnoff.  At the same time we spy upon a moss-covered glacial moraine, almost glowing in the late afternoon light of sunny day.

So enchanting and fascinating is this sight that we miss the small sign and side trail into Pyramid Creek Camp and proceed along the trail.  The trail crossng at Pyramid Creek is our first warning that we'd missed the camp.  A brief exploration of the terrain on the other side of the creek (if somehow, this is maybe a last channel of Kautz Creek) confirms that judgment.  We backtrack, find the side trail into the camp just by the glacial moraine and set up.  It's later than we planned but we are in the tent before dark with all chores complete, to include hanging food on the bear pole using an eight-foot length of conduit.

(to be continued)

cross-posted at Speed of Foot

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