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Backpacking, Hiking, Mount Rainier, Solo, Top Trip Reports

Ingunn in Wonderland

Sometimes last-minute, totally random adventures are the best. Summer arrived late in Washington, and I was faced with an absolutely fantastic stretch of good weather…and no one to play with. JK volunteered to dayhike somewhere with me and then leave me to my own devices before picking me up a couple of days later. I decided on an area we rarely get to explore, since dogs (even Wellies!) aren’t allowed – Mount Rainier National Park.

Meadows at Sunrise

I randomly chose the Northern Loop Trail from my guidebook, and scored walk-in permits for the exact two camps I wanted.

Burroughs Mountain hikers

I started out nervous. I’ve backpacked solo before, but only for one night…and on a trail I already knew. This trip would cover all sorts of new ground for me.

Flower power

JK waves goodbye

JK accompanied me as far as Skyscraper Mountain, then released me into the wild on my own. I loved it. Going at my own pace, stopping wherever I wanted, strolling past flowers and glaciers and marmots and, oh, that big volcano.

Mukmuk summits Skyscraper Mountain

I moseyed on up to my first camp by Mystic Lake and had dinner (ugh, those Mountain House meals are way too big for one person) and a swim before snuggling up with my Kindle in the tent. Bliss.

First bridge

Right before dawn, I woke up to the sound of bugling elk (I didn’t know this until I asked the ranger “What’s the animal that sounds like a cross between a coyote and an elephant?”) and the oh so familiar nauseating pounding of a migraine – the aura must have occurred while I was sleeping, so it was too late for my medication to be effective. Ugh.

Mystic Lake in the morning

I knew I wouldn’t be able to make the climb up to Yellowstone Cliffs that day (or the 16-mile hike out the next day), so I spent some time looking at my maps to find a bailout option. In the end I decided on a very easy downhill day to Carbon River Camp, then keep following the Wonderland Trail out to Mowich Lake the next day – via Spray Park or Ipsut, depending on how I felt.

Marmot nom noms

Luckily the ranger patrol cabin by Mystic Lake was manned (and handsomely so). The ranger radioed in to change my permit and to get someone to contact JK to tell him to drive to Mowich instead of Sunrise. Thank you, ranger man!

Huh, I guess it's not as bad as I thought

Now I just had to stagger down to my next camp. I lazed around with the myriad marmots (and mosquitoes) along the way, but spent most of the miles worrying about crossing the Carbon River on the evil suspension bridge. I had seen photos of the Tahoma Creek suspension bridge before, and assumed that this one would be just as horrifying.

I did it!

Fortunately I needn’t have worried; the bridge was fun, even for a weenie like me. Huzzah!

Western Anemone

I made it to camp at 1 PM, no other humans in sight. I collapsed in my tent and spent the rest of the day reading, sleeping, drinking as much water as possible and trying to eat something.

The infirmary

Still a bit peaky at dinner

The next morning I woke up feeling so much better. I felt hung over from the migraine (or maybe it was from all the drugs), but good enough to chose the high route over Spray Park.

Willis Wall This trail ain't ugly
Pretty pretty trail Double Volcano

The day started off with over 3000 feet of elevation gain, so I decided to wear my Merrell Pace Gloves – I had brought them to use as camp shoes – to lighten the load on my feet. This worked brilliantly; even in my sickly state I felt great during the climb. I think I can thank those shoes for making me feel so light on my last TNAB, too.

Spray Park

The Beekeeper of Spray Park

Soon enough I made it to Spray Park and was greeted by bug swarms of biblical proportions – I finally got to show off my fashionable new headwear – and lots of dayhikers. Clearly I was getting closer to civilization and the end of my journey.

Goodbye, Tahoma

I tried to freshen up and wash off the trail grime by swimming in Mowich Lake, but when JK arrived to pick me up he assured me that I smelled as if I had hiked the entire Wonderland Trail. And I really do wish I had. I loved the trail, bugs and migraine and all. Next year, perchance?

– Sunrise to Mowich Lake | 25 miles | 6000 feet elevation gain –

Sunrise to Mowich Lake

My friend just posted this on Facebook and I found it fitting, given the title of my post and all:

‎”Would you tell me, please, which way I ought to go from here?”
“That depends a good deal on where you want to get to,” said the Cat.
“I don’t much care where–” said Alice.
“Then it doesn’t matter which way you go,” said the Cat.
“–so long as I get SOMEWHERE,” Alice added as an explanation.
“Oh, you’re sure to do that,” said the Cat, “if you only walk long enough.”

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13 Comments

  • Reply Ewa September 14, 2011 at 4:20 am

    I love backpacking solo and after completing half of JMT on my own, I am hooked.
    Wonderland Trail is on my list to do things and after seeing your amazing pictures I want to go there NOW! Thank you for sharing.

  • Reply Kelsie September 14, 2011 at 7:40 am

    I’m inspired by your solo trip, and, of course your beautiful pictures. I’m already daydreaming about future WT trips. Such great beauty. Such great adventure.

  • Reply Heidi September 14, 2011 at 8:41 am

    Fantastiske bilder og fantastisk natur!

    Jeg er imponert over at noen tar sånne turer helt alene, men det er kanskje ikke så uvanlig… Er det ikke litt skummelt? Eller farlig? Ville dyr og sånn…? Eller er det akkurat sånn som i den norske fjellheimen der man stadig møter andre mennesker på tur? Tviler på om jeg noen gang hadde dratt ut sånn helt solo. Men jeg fikk fjellstøvler til bursdagen min nylig, så ut på tur skal jeg nok! Sammen med noen… ;o)

  • Reply Ingunn September 14, 2011 at 8:51 am

    Jeg møtte mange andre (flere solo menn men ingen andre solo jenter) på dag 1 og 3, men ikke dag 2. Det er ikke mobildekning der, så for sikkerhets skyld så tok jeg med meg en Spot Satellite Messenger som kan tilkalle hjelp hvis det går skikkelig gæli.

    Av dyr så er det både bjørn og fjelløver der, men sjansene for at et menneske blir angrepet av dem er så bittesmå at jeg nekter å la det holde meg igjen. :) Men jeg har bestemt at jeg ikke går alene mens det er mørkt, for det er da de er på jakt.

    Jeg føler meg veldig komfortabel ute i naturen, så en gang i blandt er det deilig å være helt alene der ute, gjøre akkurat det jeg vil og vite at jeg klarer meg på egenhånd! :D

  • Reply Andrea September 14, 2011 at 12:04 pm

    What? Your guidebook prompted you? I thought it was me. ;)

    You got to hear elk at Mystic?! Lucky! We heard a lone coyote calling out for friends. I have yet to hear elk bugling…

  • Reply Wendy Witkoski September 14, 2011 at 3:06 pm

    Wow! You are so awesome to do that solo! Your pictures are amazing! I too am daydreaming of doing the WT.

  • Reply Jo September 14, 2011 at 4:13 pm

    My favorite line: “Luckily the ranger patrol cabin by Mystic Lake was manned (and handsomely so).” And my least favorite: “Soon enough I made it to Spray Park and was greeted by bug swarms of biblical proportions.” Actually the writing is great but the skeeters, ugh! Sounds like a fantastical journey, migraine aside. Well done lady ~Jo

  • Reply Libby September 14, 2011 at 11:02 pm

    Oh my gosh Ingunn – you are one amazing lady. I’m all for travelling by myself (and staying in hotels) but hiking and camping… not so much. But I can definitely see the allure of it. Being to able to exactly what you want when you want. So glad you were able to do this – despite the mirgrane – looks like you had gorgeous weather and got to enjoy some beautiful scenery.

  • Reply Christina September 15, 2011 at 11:53 am

    I love how you just went out into the mountains by yourself and just went with the flow of things! That’s so awesome! And you take the most awesome pics! My husband and I are always drooling over your pics!

  • Reply Mark Griffith September 15, 2011 at 6:25 pm

    Congrats on getting out and making it part way round the mountain!

  • Reply stacymarie September 19, 2011 at 11:01 am

    GREAT photos and an excellent adventure :) If you ever need a partner to hike with, I’m free pretty much all times!

  • Reply Andra September 22, 2011 at 2:39 am

    You are so inspiring!

  • Reply Mary October 4, 2011 at 5:45 pm

    I just found your blog (after you commented on mine) and I can’t stop reading! This post has given me so many ideas for the next time I’m out that way.

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