WONDERLAND TRAIL, Day 5, Summerland – Nickel Creek, 8/8/2012
With a long day ahead of us, longest so far, we decided to have an early start but when we woke up the first time, everything was socked in. Our site felt like an island in a never-ending sea of fog.
When we woke up the second time, the conditions seemed better. Even though some clouds were coming in and out, the sky showed signs of blue, and visibility around us improved dramatically.
As I was preparing myself to get out of my cozy sleeping bag, a chipmunk run to a lupine nearby and started his breakfast. Quietly I reached for my camera to capture the precious moment.
The views were spectacular all the way to Panhandle Gap. We arrived there first, the group of three ladies were right behind us, and once we were at the top, we saw Florida group making their way up also. This was a part of the trip they were not super comfortable about, not having much opportunity to play in snow, so we made sure we kicked good steps for them, and left a sign where route finding could become a problem.
The view from the top of the Panhandle Gap was the last view we had for a while. The clouds rolled in, and were there to stay. Visibility varied from poor to none. At one point, we were not quite sure if we are still heading the right direction, and that was the only time we during the entire trip we consulted the gps.
The views returned as we dropped below the cloud. We were now on a ridge that led us down through beautiful meadows. Across the valley a tall dark walls rose to the sky, a home to 16 waterfalls we counted from a single vantage point. I’ve never been to this part of the park but right then I knew that if I should pick my favorite part of the Wonderland Trail, it would be hard to find competition for the stretch between Summerland and Indian Bar, and I was very sorry we were not spending the night.
Once we fully descended the hill and arrived at the beginning of Indian bar Meadow, raging river stood in the way of our progress. We could see the shelter at the far side of the meadow and we knew we would somehow have to cross the river. The cairn at the bank pointed out this was the crossing point but something did not feel quite right. The river run too strong to be crossed safely, and fed by all the waterfalls above, it did not seem to ease at any point through the meadow.
After a few minutes of exploring we found a path through the bushes that connected us back to the trail. It was not an obvious one and in the past the trail likely led closer to the water; however that part seemed now washed out, and impassable.
Once back on track we made for the shelter. At the very end of the meadow, we found Indian Bar Camp, up in the hillside the sides were laid, some with a view of the valley, a very peaceful camp, but the best site was no doubt the group site which was located at the shelter.
We crossed the river on a bridge and enjoyed a lunch at the shelter in a company of a couple from Monroe who started their trip just the day before, they got lost in Panhandle Gap, and never made it to Indian Bar where they were supposed to spend the night. The night fell, and unable to proceed they pitched their tent on a hillside. They did not dare to resume their trek until they saw people in the morning and could follow them through the snow laden, foggy stretch of the Gap. We never saw them during the reminder of our trip, and part of me wonders if they perhaps decided this adventure was beyond their skills and abilities and turned around.
Here in Indian Bar we also said our farewells to both of the groups we befriended in last couple days, and from now on we were on our own again. We climbed a steep hill, the last 900 feet of elevation gain we had to conquer before being able to cruise down to our camp sites, and as we were ascending, the views grew, and wildflower displays made them even more spectacular.
It was a late day, we did not get in the camp until around 6:22 p.m. Soon after we rolled the pads out and set up bivis, we stroke a conversation with two girls from next lot. It was their last night, and the day before they run out of fuel. We could spare a boil. Their faces lit with smile over the prospect of warm dinner. It’s amazing how people became part of your journey and you part of theirs. Little acts of kindness go a long way in the wilderness.