On Monday morning, we woke up at 6:00 and after a quick breakfast of oatmeal (and someone accidentally tossing their bowl off the side of the mountain when cleaning up) we got back on the Owyhigh Lakes trail.
After a small amount of hiking we began to descend along a series of long switchbacks that came out on Sunrise Park Road. We hiked along the road for approximately 1.5 miles before we got to the bridge over Fryingpan Creek. A couple hundred feet after this, on the left side of the road, is a sign marked “Summerland”. We cut into the trees here and stopped for water and some trail food.
Directly after this clearing, we got off our trail and onto the Wonderland Trail. We hiked for one and a half hours through tall, dark trees, whose branches at times blocked out the sky. A couple of little squirrels (or ferrets?) chased each other around the trees at one point. After about an hour and 20 minutes or so we began to here the thundering, crashing sound of a huge river. As the crashing grew louder and reached a tremendous roar, we emerged from the trees on the rocky bank of the White River. We hiked along it to the “bridge”, a couple of long logs with a wooden rail on one side leaning at an unnerving angle. We stopped on the other side of the bridge for lunch and got our first clear view of Mt. Rainier from the trail.
After lunch we followed the rocky trail up an incline to White River Campground. We walked along the campground roads and past campsites before we got to the continuation of the trail. From here it was a brutal, steep ascent with an elevation gain of 200 feet. However, the view near the top made up for it a bit. We got an amazing panoramic view of the White River, the valley, and the surrounding mountains, all dominated by a majestic view of Mt. Rainier.
Continuing on, we reached a junction in the trail where the Sunrise Rim Trail connects to the Wonderland Trail. Dropping our bags and leaving them with a couple of the team leaders, we hiked along the Sunrise Rim Trail to the Sunrise Visitors Center, where we picked up the food for the rest of the week (it was stashed there before the trip) and a little bit of ice cream. (Yay!)
After getting back to our packs, we hiked the last 0.8 miles to our campsite at Sunrise. This campsite is right next to Shadow Lake and a wide area of small shrubs and grasses separates the group sites from the individual sites. There are also bear poles in each site and an outhouse. We had freeze dried backpacking food for dinner and saw a few deer close by. All of the trees in our site were stripped of their bottom 12 feet of bark. A ranger came by and told us that there had been bears in the area a mere week ago and that they’d trampled a few backpackers’ tents while the people weren’t there (just the thing you want to hear before getting in your sleeping bag, right?). He recommended we put everything that had any scent in our bear bins before we went to bed, so we gathered all of our snacks and toothpaste tubes and put them in the bear bins.
We did approximately 12 miles of backpacking with plenty of elevation gain and loss, and after a few games of cards, finally went to bed.