The next morning I woke up a little after 4:30 am, stumbled around a bit, ate some food and was on the trail by 5:30 am. Oh boy, I was definitely tired and sore. In fact, I was about as tired and sore as I had ever felt from an all day run to this point (maybe, except for Hole to Hump). The only thing that got me up and going in the morning was my stubbornness, psych and a bit of stupidity.
(up and ready to go...I think)
I had no prior experience to base a belief in success for this day. I have never tried to travel so many miles in two days. This would be a first for me and what a way to do it...limited support, extremely light and some of the most burly terrain I have ever traveled in a day. Believe it or not...this was just how I need the cards laid out to succeed. This is when I perform at my best, when my back is against the wall in the wilderness. Something deep down inside me knows that I will rise to the occasion in this setting. Wilderness is my home, my inspiration and where I draw much of my energy from.
Where was I...oh yeah...I left Mowich Lake at 5:30 am and I was moving slow. The trail was flat or downhill for the next 8 miles or so to Carbon Glacier but I probably walked more of this section than I ran. I just couldn't get the muscles going yet. I was very, very tired from the day before. Surprise...
When I reached Carbon Glacier, I got a little psyched because it was a powerful sight. There was constant noise from the Carbon River rushing out of the glacier's mouth and never ending rock fall that would tumble down it's towering cliffs of ice and smash into the talus below. All this glacial action, with Mt. Rainier towering above, made for quite the setting.
I enjoyed the sights and sounds for about a mile until the Carbon Glacier disappeared below me. From that point, I began my first climb of the day, struggling up steep switchbacks toward high meadows and Mystic Lake.
This first climb of the day was an eye opener. It shocked me back into the reality of what lay ahead of me. I wasn't going to be pampered with flats and downhills the whole day. There was going to be plenty of huge climbs too. In fact, I was in the middle of a 3,200 ft. climb at that moment. It was time to wake up.
When I reached the top of the hill, I was rewarded with some of the best views of the trip and finally some energy. I was able to run on the flats and downhills of this section, enjoying the classic, narrow paths that wandered through marmot filled meadows (classic Wonderland Trail). In fact, I caught one marmot sunning himself right next to the trail on a big flat rock. I was able to sneak within 5 feet of him before he realized I was there and fled to his hole for protection. Pretty cool.
(Alpine meadows before Mystic Lake)
By the time I reached Mystic Lake (awesome place to be) I was feeling pretty good and able to run along at a pretty good pace.
I enjoying the high of where I was at and what I was doing until I literally ran into some excitement near Winthrop Glacier. I found a couple hikers that were pretty frazzled and they informed me that, moments before, they were charged by a mamma black bear. I guess that when they came across mamma there was also a cub and mamma decided to scare the hikers off. It looks like it worked because they were freaked out! They told me that I probably just missed the bears and that if I see them I should run or climb a tree. Hmmmm....I don't think any of those things would work but I don't think I would look very intimidating if I stood my ground in my withered state either. Best to just not run into them.
After all the bliss of running downhill, I was again reminded of the difficulty of this ordeal when I started another 2,000+ ft. climb up to Sunrise.
All was going well, though, and I was feeling good. I wasn't moving very fast but I felt secure in finishing. My spirits were elevated even more when I crossed over a pass and could see my parents on the trail. This meant that I was near Paradise and making good time. It also meant that my parent would have some water and food that I could definitely use (I was out of water and I figured I had enough food but was concerned with eating pretty much all of it before I would finish)
(Breathtaking pass just before Sunrise)
My parents were rad and they had some food and water. I refilled my water bottles, ate a banana and got a couple more cliff bars from them. Thank you Kim and Dick!!! It was really nice to see them, we got to talk for a few minutes on the trail and then I had to continue.
From Sunrise it was all downhill or flat for the next 5 or 6 miles. I felt pretty good on this section, jogging and fast walking most of it (I was no longer running all flats and downhills, my body wouldn't allow it).
(trail along Fryingpan Creek, right before the climb up to Summerland and the last place I saw my parents before the end)
The last few miles up to Summerland was where things started to get tough again. I wasn't in horrible shape at this point but I wasn't moving fast anymore either. I was starting to feel the immensity of what I was doing and my pace showed it. Slow, slow and slower.
When I reached Summerland (another excellent camping spot, a place you could spend days) I thought that it would be a hop, skip and a jump over to Indian Bar and then I would be cruising downhill to the car. This thought lifted my spirits for a bit.
Boy, was I wrong in the end. The last stretch from here to the car ended up being one of the hardest things I have ever done.
It went well for a few miles until I reached the ridiculously steep steps that lead for miles down to Indian Bar. OMG! This section was hell. It would be a stretch to call what I did down this section of trail walking. It was more like step, groan, try to stay upright, step, wobble, feel extreme pain shoot up my leg, whimper, step, wobble, grab a tree branch, repeat endlessly! It got so bad that I sat down a couple times and put my head between my legs and tried to forget about the pain. My legs just couldn't handle such big, steep, downhill steps at this point in the game.
I did eventually make it down to Indian Bar where I regrouped and for some magical reason started to feel better on the climb out. A big reason I felt better was the realization that Indian Bar was the last big landmark before the car. From Indian bar I had about 7.5 miles to the car. That was nothing compared to the 85 miles I had come so far. Chump change! I could crawl that distance (well...maybe).
The section from Indian Bar to the car ended up being one of the prettiest of the whole trip. Most of this section traveled along the backbone of an awesome ridge. Near the end of the ridge I saw one of the better sunsets of my life with Mt. Rainier, Mt. St. Helens and the rest of the cascades turning purple and pink. Quite memorable.
Believe it or not, I was able to get the energy to run a large portion of the ridge before descending into the trees and the final few miles to the car. I must have been like a horse returning to the barn, nothing could stop me. The coming darkness didn't hurt my urgency either. I really didn't want to spend any more time traveling in the dark then I had to.
Once I reached the trees, I lost my running burst and resorted to walking again. No matter, I was sure to make it to the finish at this point and didn't want to put myself through any more pain then I needed too. Besides, it was dark now and in my state it was probably a lot safer to walk.
After what seemed like forever, I heard my mother cheering for me from the valley below and I knew it was over. I had completed the Wonderland Trail in 2 days! 13 hours on day one and 17 hours on day two!
The next bit was as much a blur as the run was. I met my dad on the trail, we hugged. We met my mom in the parking lot and I hugged her too. We talked about how amazing the adventure was but I didn't really grasp it. It seemed like an impossible blur to me. Had I really done it? My mind wasn't ready to accept it yet. In fact, I felt strangely calm and unemotional, very detached, like I hadn't participated in the last 2 day. Weird, because my body sure felt it. I was completely exhausted.
Two weeks later:
I feel great now, all healed, and what I did on the Wonderland Trail is slowly starting to sink in. I think posting this on my blog helps. It has allowed me to recount the moments, one by one. Everything was such a jumbled together mess of sights, sounds, smells, suffering, elation and then I became detached and there was nothing. From that nothingness, I hope to find something and learn more about my limits and where to push them next. What will be my next moment of intensity so powerful? I look forward to finding out...