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Pain is the currency of beauty–Day 2

Posted by joeabbott on August 13, 2013

I realize that I’m being a bit dramatic to talk about this trip in terms of “pain”: we walked gravel roads and solid paths about a dozen miles and climbed something under 4000’. In all, a good bit of work but pales a bit to the rigors of mountaineering on even a modest scale. But, for us, it was tough, which made our second day a veritable gift.

Day 2 – Being there

imageWe woke about 7AM and the first thing that was obvious is that blue skies were visible through the trees. Well, if you looked past the socks hanging from the tent “attic”.

We had a couple of goals for the day but, after the foot-pounding beating we took the day prior, we opted against heading the 5 miles (and 2000’) to visit Skyscraper Mountain, a local bump just off the Wonderland trail outside of Sunrise Park on Mt. Rainier’s NE flank. Instead, we’d hike a couple miles to the terminus of the Mowich Glacier, enjoy some lunch and a bit of reading, and then head back.

We headed out around 10AM, a leisurely start to the day. I’d enjoyed a Costco muffin for breakfast and Pete had his oatmeal. The oatmeal was likely a superior meal on many fronts but I’m not worried about diet on these outings: I punch in a bunch of calories and expect to burn them and a bit more.

We were poking about, snapping shots of waterfalls and other enjoyable scenery and got to our final destination around an hour later. We weren’t setting speed records and we were happy with the time we made.

imageLunch for me was a sandwich I’d vacuum-packed via Seal-a-meal. Love it. While it smashes the heck out of my sandwich (tip: use a firm roll for your bread) and makes it a touch soggy, it gives me the confidence to have chicken or ham and cheese lunches so many hours out of the refrigerator. I’m sure I’m susceptible to some sort of bacterial issue but so far I’ve happily enjoyed a fresh-tasting sandwich on every hike I’ve tried this method on.

But, after an hour lounging, we noticed clouds coming in and decided it was time to head back. We were heading back not necessarily because we were worried about rain, but I had hoped to get to a high point to photograph Mt. Rainier using the Photosynth technology! It’s pretty neat stuff, allowing you to take a picture in 360 degrees both horizontally and (if you have enough cloud cover so it can register things) vertically, too! I’ll post later showing the results … not great but pretty good for my purpose.

As Pete and I bushwhacked and charged up loose silt and boulder moraine shoulders, we realized just how tiring it was. Pete waved me on and let me run my fool’s errand solo.

I managed to get to a reasonable high point overlooking the Mowich Glacier, but the clouds were already heavy in the air and had stolen the once-clear Mountain from my pictures. I snap-snap-snapped some shots and retreated, hoping Pete had stayed in the clear and that I could find him amid the tumble and clutter of the moraine detritus.

Soon enough he popped into view and I headed toward where I’d last seen him. After a bit of peek-a-boo, I managed to arrive higher than Pete and we shared stories of our minor adventures while we’d separated. I then tried to hop over a boulder to join him when the slope gave way.

P8030085P8030081I’m not sure what happened, but the boulders and rocks are held together only loosely by the loose, dry silt. While I was maneuvering, the boulder I had rested on started sliding and a couple things happened: first, my leg was locked in place and my knee was almost torn in two; second, somehow I got my pinkie either smashed between two rocks or it was twisted hard on the surface of the boulder I was on; and finally I rolled head-over-heels through the filthy silt while boulders rolled toward me.

It was a modest scare but turned out reasonably well: no problems with my knees or legs, my hand was still useable, and the rocks stopped descending before striking me. All’s well, as they say.

As we gathered our persons and gear, I set my GPS to beep when we hit the trail we’d come down and started bushwhacking westward. In under 10 minutes we struck the trail and started back to camp, which seemed to appear much sooner than I was expecting. It was only 2:30PM but we’d both had enough excitement for the day and we fell into our usual campsite routine: Pete’s turn to get water, we took a short nap, had dinner, and then read for a while before turning in.

At least this night we got dinner!


I usually love reading late while out. You doze a bit, read a few more passages, look around, enjoy the night air, see stars and the Milky Way, and then let slumber steal you away. Unfortunately, I wore my “continual” contacts and I’m finding that it’s hard to read in low lights with them in. I either needed reading glasses (didn’t bring any), bigger print (again, no luck), or more light and longer arms … which I tried to make happen but I was frustrated by the conditions.

And so, after a good but short day, I fell into a long and welcome slumber.


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