Wonderland Trail, Day 2: Bear Growls & a Rope Climb

Wonderland Trail, Day 2: Bear Growls & a Rope Climb // jessconnell.com

{NOTE: For those readers who don’t know our family, we’re the Connells. Doug’s my husband and I’m Jess. At the time of this trip, we had 7 kids (Ethan-14, Baxter-12, MeiMei-10, Silas-8, Moses-6, Theo-3.5, Luke-18 months), and I was 6 months pregnant with our 8th child. Over the next 3 weeks, I’m publishing journal entries, pictures, & memories from our 12-day family adventure on the Wonderland Trail, one day at a time. Day 1 is here, and now… Day 2.}

 

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Good Morning! (waking up for the first time on the trail)

Wonderland Trail, Mt. Rainier

Monday, 8/15/2016: Cataract Valley to Mystic Lake (6.4 miles)
Elevation changes: -1000, +2800, -200

JOURNAL ENTRY: 

“We had a decent night’s sleep. I slept between two little wigglies (Theo & Luke) who mostly slept OK. I thought my back and hips wouldn’t ever recover– but this morning, everything looked and felt better.

Ethan, Luke, Theo, & I took off a full hour from camp before everyone else. We heard 2 bear growls nearby & saw slide tracks and a paw print in the mud but didn’t see the bear. Our loud talking & singing probably warned him enough.

Ethan rolled his ankle & we wrapped it. Theo and I (w/ Luke on back) went across Carbon River– and now we’ve stopped for lunch about 1/2 way up a steep climb to Dick Creek, and then we’ll press on to Mowich Lake tonight.

—— (Snack/potty break- 2:15 pm)

We just did a crazy rope climb over Dick Creek. It was cool to see Baxter helping MeiMei–

——-

Another good, long day. Got to Mystic Lake barely @ dusk.

Ranger Paul (head @ Mystic Lake) booked it past me & Theo & it motivated Theo to go so much faster and we made it to camp in good time.

Lesson:

— a day as a hiker is like a person’s life– you start out w/ zest– but soon learn your limits and eventually need to rest more often.”

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still drying out Theo’s clothes from his fall the 1st night!

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MEMORIES:

  1. The bear growls— Ethan and I kept reminding ourselves of everything we knew about black bears. “They’re not interested in people.” “They’re more scared of us than we are of them.” “If we make loud noises we probably won’t see them.” Still, it was unnerving because we were on a slim path on a hillside and we knew that– with a baby, a 3-year-old, a pregnant lady, and a teen with a rolled ankle–  a confrontation wouldn’t be a good thing.
  2. There was a sketchy place where the trail had fallen out, and we had to skitter across in a way that felt unsafe to me (especially with Luke on my back). Ethan hurried across confidently, then came back and carried Theo across. Through careful footing and using my poles to provide stability, I made it. Each time we were separated from Doug and the other kids, and reached a place like this (throughout the trail, not just this day), I would think of them and imagine how each of them might get across, and entrust them to God.
  3. We hit a place where I knew Doug & the kids wouldn’t know which way to go. We tied up an orange trail marker in the direction we were headed. Turned out to be a great decision. They said they would have gone the other way because of confusing signage.
  4. We saw our friends from the Longmire waiting line– the foursome of hikers from Michigan! We had a brief visit, two different times that day, and they took some pics of our family crossing the suspension bridge.
  5. The suspension bridge— it was a fun, adventurous thing to do. After we’d crossed, Theo (the 3-year-old) said, “whoa! I *LITE* that bridge!” (yes, he said ‘lite’)
  6. The Carbon River glacier was beautiful and it was a fascinating thing for this Texas girl to see the source of water. (In the part of Texas I’m from, it’s all from underground aquifers.)
  7. The hike up to Dick Creek was steep. We enjoyed taking a small dip there though.
  8. The steep rope-climb seemed impossible. Especially for this pregnant lady with a baby on my back.  But, with help, I somehow did it.
  9. We kept feeling like we’d reached the peak before we headed down to Mystic Lake, only to see that there was “a little farther” to go.
  10. Ethan & Baxter (14 & 12) ran ahead and got to fish at the lake.
  11. The kids couldn’t stop talking about Ranger Paul’s calf muscles. “His calves are RIPPED, mom!!!” “Did you SEE his LEG MUSCLES??!” “HUGE!!!!”

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Jess Connell

Jesus-follower, Happy wife, Mom of 8 neat people. Former world-traveler, now settled in Washington. Host of Mom On Purpose podcast (momonpurpose.com). I write and wrangle kids.

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17 Responses

  1. Jess Connell says:

    A FRIEND ON FACEBOOK ASKED:
    “Why did y’all go on ahead and did they ever catch up with you?”

    AH! Good question-

    Some of our friends who had done the trail before with their young children recommended that one of the parents set out 30-45 minutes ahead of time with the 3/4 year old, because it would allow us to make progress at his speed, and then let the other people catch up more quickly because they’re hiking at normal speed (rather than 3-year-old speed). We did this every day… setting out 30-60 minutes ahead of the others.

    On THIS day they caught up to us by our 2nd morning snack (maybe 10/11am)… most days they caught up by about that time. One day they didn’t catch up til the end of lunch. It was always fun to see how long it took them to get up to us, and made for a big celebration of being back together.

    Often toward the end of the day, too, Theo & I would be the ones at the tail end, bringing up the rear, and everyone else (or most everyone else) would head on to set up camp. This let us make better progress but still be together for the middle parts of every day.

  2. Catie says:

    I’m loving this series! I can NOT believe you did this WHILE PREGO! You’re one tough lady! :)

    Loved your podcast, btw! Looking forward to more!

    • Jess Connell says:

      Haha, not that tough! I felt so whiny and weak, so many times on the trail :) — I am sooooooo not the athletic girl… but God has been teaching me about perseverance, little by little. I used to think I just had to either “naturally” be athletic, OR be doomed to a constant battle of extra weight, lethargy, lack of desire to be active, etc.

      Now I’m learning that with the right blend of personal discipline (just deciding to do it) and an activity I actually enjoy & think is worth it, I can do more than I ever thought I could…

      And thanks for the feedback!! I’m so excited about both this series AND the podcast.

  3. Karla says:

    Why are your stories making me tear up?! I’m just so impressed. The dedication and unity is inspiring. It’s something we all desire for our familys.

    • Jess Connell says:

      Those are the motivations that kept us working toward this goal, despite the hardness of it.

      Thanks for entering into these memories with us :) This trip has become a big part of who we are as a family.

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