August 27th
Nickel Creek Camp (47.3)-Sunrise Camp(68.7)
Mileage: 21.4mi
Campsite Elevation: 6,620ft

Elevation chart courtesy of the Wonderland Trail app from Guthook Hikes and Tami Asars.

We had a 21.4mi day ahead with 7,578ft of uphill and 4,719ft of downhill. At the end of the day, just half a mile off the trail, would be the Sunrise Visitor’s center with burgers and other food. Buck-30 was motivated to make it plenty early to enjoy some time there and eat dinner, so we started hiking at 6am. Just like our second day of hiking, the elevation gain came off intimidating, so we wanted to start early to buffer plenty of time. Again, the climbs ended up going a lot quicker than we anticipated. The first couple hours of the day were in the woods as we climbed up to Indian Bar Basin, one of the more destined campsites that isn’t in a deeply wooded area.

Morning view of the southeast side of Rainier.

We were overwhelmed with great scenery once we broke out of the trees. As we hiked along the east side of the mountain, we had more great sights around every corner. This post will be a little photo heavy for good reason.

View looking back south towards Mt Adams and Goat Rocks to the left of Adams.

I’m a happy hiker! Love NW mornings!

Lupine! Notice Buck-30 celebrating far off in the center.

Sweeping view at Indian Bar Basin with the Ohanapecosh River below and Ohanapecosh Glaciers high.

Temps were much cooler today with fall coming soon and the clouds were great!

20 mountain goats chillin’.

Mountain goat!

Notice the cloud cap on Rainier.

Today was a Saturday and this section seemed to have one of the most popular day hikes in the park. An 8mi round trip hike that brings day hikers up 3,000ft to Panhandle Gap.

Panhandle Gap

I didn’t count the day hikers, but I seriously think it was over 100 day hikers that we saw today, and we were working against the grain. The hiker courtesy is for the downhill hiker to yield to the uphill hiker, so we had a few miles with a ton of stop and go hiking as we would frequently need to pause and step to the side to give the uphill hiker the right of way. It’s great that so many people are out hiking, but we did find the crowd quite frustrating. Other than day hikers, we also saw 30 Wonderland Trail backpackers (13 women, 17 men). Maybe we are missing many hikers in the camps early and late in the day, but we have been surprised that we haven’t seen more the last few days.

On the climb up to Indian Bar this morning, we both got LTE phone service. I now kick myself for not staying longer. I thought the service would only get stronger as we were headed further up, and it never returned all day. When we got up to the side trail to the Sunrise area, it was only 4pm. My original plan was to skip the highly tourist area and stick with the bag full of trail food I already have. I haven’t built up a craving for food and am just as happy lounging at the campsite. Then, when we got to the turnoff, there was a slight chance of phone service. I asked some people and a preteen told me she had Verizon service up there, so I decided to go. When we got there, there was no service, dang.

Mega wide trail along this popular section for day hikers.

I was still trying to resist getting food, and when we walked in, it was packed with people. We looked to share a table with someone and a couple recognized me and we joined them. Doug and Terry both turned 60 this year and are celebrating by doing the Wonderland Trail. They came to one of my presentations this past year and used the blog as they were preparing for this, their first really long backpacking trip. Today was actually Doug’s 60th birthday. I caved and had a burger and Buck-30 had a burger, chili, a monster hot dog, and at least five Pepsi’s. Yep, his stomach is amazing. It was great to end the day with the food and company.

Dinner with Doug and Terry. Happy birthday to Doug!

View of Rainier from Sunrise Rim Trail.

By the time we got to the Sunrise campsite, just a mile, it was just before 6pm. This is our least favorite site that we’ve been assigned so far. With the public walking through and it so close to civilization, there is a lot more commotion and little solitude between sites. For the first time at a site along the WT, we can see and hear the other campers and not all are WTers, so bedtime was not very early for some.

Camp at Sunrise Camp.

We got to camp so early that I made a second dinner, and we had time to watch another episode of UnReal. We are quite surprised by the mileage and elevation we are comfortably pulling out. On paper, it’s coming off much more intimidating. I wouldn’t want to do more than what we’re doing, and I’d say days under 20mi would be just right for relaxed days for people accustomed to thru hiking upper twenties. Remember, we both just came off of months of hiking and are in condition for these miles. I want to make it clear that most people do more around the 10mi/day range on this trail and really enjoy that. Why not take it in if you have the time and you can cache all the way around, to limit a big carry. We have a relaxing final full day of hiking tomorrow, and it will be nice to sleep in again.

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