This is a Test (Part 2)
Concluding the saga of my late September Mount Rainier National Park hike...
One thing I've never forgotten about backpacking: I sleep different on the ground than I do in a bed. Tonight I am laying on full-length not ultralight Therm-a-Rest. Maggie has a three-quarter ultralite Therm-a-Rest and a Ridgerest for her feet. My challenge is to find a comfortable position that doesn't stress my right hip or left shoulder. I feel the day's hike in my hip, sore but not painful. I managed not to aggravate the tendonitis in my shoulder. My feet are sore and tired. Today was the first trail test for my new boots. They did fine. No blisters or hotspots. I sleep on and off.
We have the fully buttoned up this first night. I don't ever fully close my 20 degree bag and am comfortably warm. I'm up at first light to stretch, relieve myself and make the trek to Pyramid Creek for morning breakfast water. The morning is cool enough for me to bail back into the tent for another hour or so until it's warmer. I'm out around 8:30. Maggie's scoots on to my long pad so I can grab her Ridgerest for a sitting pad.
The temperature is around 40 degrees and is warming as the sun begins to filter through the forest canopy. I am wearing all of the layers I brought for warmth and am reasonably comfortable as I make coffee, write, eat breakfast and do other small chores. This site is near perfect. It is one of three at Pyramid Creek Camp and by far the best. It is farthest from the trail and offers the finest of camp lounging opportunities: a log for making a backrest out of my pack, convenient rocks for draining pots, a flat space for stove and places to put everything in reach without having to get up. I spend considerable time just sitting there, looking into what feels like infinite forest, watching the day slowly brighten.
The site has a good space for one tent. Two solo hikers in one-person tents could possibly fit in the space but it would be tight. One other site nearby is much better for multiple tents. None of the sites are visible from one another.
Pyramid Creek Camp has a pit toilet that during our perfect weather stay offered a grand view for the hiker taking care of necessary business. In less accommodating weather, the experience may differ.
The trail levels out at the top of the switchbacks and begins a traverse toward Fishers Hornpipe Creek. We've heard the rushing water much of the way up and caught a few glimpses through the forest. We reach the crossing and find a good spot for a break.
We amble back the way we came, taking in the forest along the way. Happy to be here. Happy to not be in a hurry. Knowing that camp and comfort await not far down the trail. Remember, I said "leisurely". I meant it.
Back in camp I make make dinner. Last night was the quick boil water for instant mashed potatoes and salmon. Tonight the menu is more complicated: mac and cheese with tuna. Simple enough, though. We're done with chores before sunset and take a few moments to watch dark slowly rise from the forest floor as the light fades. In the tent, I leave my side door open so I can see the forest throughout the night. The bug netting on the door is so fine that I wake up thinking the door is fully open. I think the open door helps me sleep better this night.
The morning is much warmer than yesterday. I am out of the tent at first light. This morning I figure out that I can add the ultralight Therm-a-Rest to the Ridgerest sitting pad for extra comfort. Once again, I watch sun light up the forest. For the I-don't-know-how-many-th time, I remember why I am here and rejoice in my good fortune.
After a leisurely morning, we are on the trail heading out. Crossing Kautz Creek we get the view of Mount Rainier that we did not have walking in.
But mostly we walk through forest as we descend from Rampart Ridge.
And then we are done.
cross-posted at Speed of Foot