19.8 miles (allegedly)
Klapatche Camp to Eagle’s Roost Camp
We woke up damp, the ceiling of our tent covered in suspended condensation, just waiting for a light gust of wind or an clumsily moving tent dweller to come along and knock it all off. Kyle very carefully got dressed and fled the tent, reporting that it wasn’t raining outside, the tree we were under was just dripping on us. I delicately got everything stuffed into dry sacks and rolled up the sleeping pad before wiping down the inside of the tent with our tiny towel. We called over to Molly and Josh to see how they had fared – not well apparently, they had been on a slight slope and the sleeping pad had slide downhill, exposing Josh to the elements and causing him to sleep in a puddle all night. Spirits were low.
When everything is wet the best thing you can do is just get it all squirreled away into your packs so you can forget about it for a while and then later, when you find a sun patch, dry it out. We did that as best we could but the sheer amount of granola I had packed for breakfast for all of us was causing problems. Kyle and I had only made a smidgen of what was in our food bag because I didn’t feel that hungry and immediately realized it was too much. I swear it was the same amount that I packed for us on the PCT but clearly hiker hunger turns you into an actual monster. Josh, not knowing any better, poured the whole bag into their pot and added water. Kyle and I couldn’t leave them to suffer alone, we chipped in and slowly we all managed to consume what seemed like a bottomless amount of granola. Despite having had a cold breakfast we were not off to a quick start.
Before leaving the campsite though we got a glimpse of why people rave about Klapatche – for a moment the clouds thinned and the sun shone from behind them, silhouetting the giant mountain we would be walking all the way around. We all nodded our heads in appreciation before taking off down the trail. Of course, the first thing you want after a night of rain is a brushy trail and so that’s what we got! Thimble berry and salmon berry, holding rain clouds of water on their leaves, reached into the trail soaking us from the chest down. The cedars and hemlocks above us drip-dropped on our heads and we all hiked with our hoods up. By the time we reached the North Puyallup river we were thoroughly soaked. We stripped off our rain pants and jackets because if we didn’t we would sweat through them on the ensuing climb.
However, the next climb was surprisingly pleasant! A mellow, pine needle-strewn path switchbacked gradually up until the trees started to shrink and bear grass began encroaching on the trail. There we got our first rays of sunshine and some views of the hills and mountains that surround the west side of the park. We all grinned as the sun hit us – we were planning a stop at Golden Lakes to dry out our stuff, so we hoped the sun lasted.
When we got to Golden Lakes our packs practically exploded our gear all over the rangers cabin and the trees and paths around it. It is amazing how quickly things can dry out given a solid twenty minutes of sunshine. We rotated our tents and our trail runners as we snacked. Josh and Molly’s pasta dinner exploded and they spent most of their break playing pick up sticks with angel hair pasta. After about an hour of drying the sun seemed to slip behind a more stationary cloud and we decided to pack up. We still had a ways to go before that night’s camp so we couldn’t laze around all day.
The descent down to the North Mowich River took forever. We were all sick of it with two miles left to go. It is a mellow descent, which is nice but it goes on and on. The most exciting part of it came right at the beginning when we passed a gentleman going in the opposite direction who told us, “There is a bear up ahead on the left hand side of the trail, in a couple tenths of a mile.” We thanked him and then immediately discovered how useless his description was. His left or our left? Why not say uphill or downhill? And is a couple tenths of a mile two tenths? And who could really estimate tenths? Why not tell us how many minutes ago he saw the bear? This led to a conversation about what we all consider “a couple” to mean and then suddenly, on the uphill side of the trail and a little ways up the hill, a bear popped its head out of the blueberry bushes. We all stopped immediately and it turned and meandered further uphill, revealing two bear cubs who bumbled along behind it.
The bear clearly gave zero shits about us and settled down next to a new blueberry bush to strip off all the ripe fruit it could find. The babies took turns standing up on their back feet and looking at us as we passed below them, saying, “Hey bear!” so that everyone would know where we were. It was magical. And the baby bears were freaking adorable. We immediately took note of the time so that if we saw someone headed up we could give them much better directions than we had received. We told the next five people we saw about the bears.
We took another break down at the North Mowich River because after that we had a long climb all the way to camp. We were taking the Spray Park Alternate (although apparently Gaia GPS lists Spray Park as the actual Wonderland Trail) and our campsite for the night was located on the alternate. Which was fine except that our Guthook App doesn’t really “do” the alternate very well and so we couldn’t tell how far down the alternate our campsite was. Total miles for the day were something of a mystery. Nothing to do but to get it over with! The clouds had rolled in during our descent and everything was feeling very dark and cold under the thick canopy of trees.
Early on in our climb we came upon a scrap of paper that said, “Hornets nest in first stump after next switchback.” Okay we thought, thanks for the information. Then we didn’t see another switchback for the next mile and a half. Certainly the note couldn’t have been meant for us! Why would they have waited so long to write it? Finally we hit a switchback but there was no hornets nest. However, as we neared the turnoff to the Spray Park alternate we began to find our own hornets nests. I noticed a couple buzzing around a clump of moss but I was already upon them. I felt one bite the back of my leg and went sprinting up the trail, squealing, which only confused my trailmates because of course you are supposed to shout “BEES!” Everyone eventually figured it out though and came running up the trail after me.
Then we found another hornets nest right after the turn off to Spray Park and right as a ranger was coming down the trail. He witnessed a fair amount of swearing as we all sprinted down the trail, they got Kyle that time. Finally we were at the turn off to our campsite but things only got more confusing when we got there. Eagle’s Roost has seven sites, three of which were full when we rolled in and the other four were “Closed due to hazard trees”. But we had a permit to stay there… and so did everyone else apparently. We were confused and honestly a little perturbed. I have a lot of fears when we are hiking but the threat of being smashed by a tree in the middle of the night is maybe one of my bigger ones – I am more scared of that happening than of bears.
So we surveyed all of the sites very carefully and chose one that didn’t appear to have any hazard trees anywhere near it and jigsaw puzzled together our two tents with their many guy lines. Then we made a MASSIVE dinner of pasta (we didn’t even cook all the noodles – I seriously prepared enough food for a small army) and Kyle and I continued to look up nervously at the trees around us. Molly admitted that she didn’t understand why we were so scared and we promised not to tell her any of the horror stories we knew. And then, just in the nick of time some other folks rolled in and also had to sleep in a hazard tree site. In fact I think all but one of the sites were filled that night. For some reason, the prospect of other people also having to sleep in hazard tree sites put Kyle and I into a much better state of mind. We slept well that night.