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Wonderland Trail: Day 9

Wrong turn for the right views

I enjoy an apt place name, and our site at Sunrise Camp is in the perfect spot to catch the morning sun as it rises over the hills. I lie in the sleeping bag and watch sunlight slide down the trees to hit the tent.

After a (shockingly) high-calorie breakfast of packaged pastries, we start hiking at 7:30AM, feeling exceptionally cheerful—and immediately take a wrong turn. But it’s a great wrong turn!

Instead of going right to follow the Wonderland Trail around to the north, we assume that the correct direction must be the one that goes straight up again and go left onto what turns out to be the Sunrise Rim Trail. We do a significant amount of climbing before realizing our mistake, and since it eventually connects back to the Wonderland via the Burroughs Mountain Trail we decide to keep going—and end up finding some of the best views of the entire hike.

Rejoining the Wonderland Trail, we spot a herd of mountain goats in the distance and see marmots, marmots everywhere. The hillsides are littered with wildflowers, the horizon is littered with big peaks.

Spot the marmot! And the volcano!

The trail passes close to two glaciers today, Winthrop and Carbon on the northern side of the mountain—walls of brown ice covered with rock and dirt, water streaming out, the sound of rockfall and crack-popping ice.

In the woods approaching Mystic Camp, passing hikers say to be on the lookout for a young bear ahead. We hike on high alert for a while, but it’s still a surprise to turn a corner and see a big shaggy bear eating its way through the bushes maybe twenty feet from the trail. It is entirely uninterested in the humans quietly edging their way past, cell phones out.

Not much further away we cross paths with a couple hiking with an off-leash standard poodle—and shortly afterwards a ranger chasing them down. He says that they’re not only hiking with a dog but hiking without permits, and he’s already told them to leave the trail once. Hopefully the dog doesn’t have a run-in with the bear, and the humans get a big ol’ ticket after they are escorted out of the wilderness.

Mystic Lake is beautiful, and Dick Creek Camp seems awesome, with a perfect bathing spot in the creek and the sound of the Carbon Glacier next door. We’re still hiking, though, headed to Carbon River Camp on the Spray Creek Alternate. The downhill grade in this section of trail is over 900 feet per mile—almost twice what I considered “steep” on the PCT. Even with trekking poles and a slow pace, my knees oh god my knees are hurting.

Andrea + steep-ass trail on the left / Carbon Glacier on the right

The trail rewards us with another suspension bridge, this one with even more dire warnings than the last: “DO NOT BOUNCE OR SHAKE BRIDGE!” A comment in Guthook/FarOut says “A bear followed my friends across this bridge 7/12/17” and I really hope that’s true because it sounds terrifying but also awesome.

We climb up to the sites at Carbon River Camp, which somehow, miraculously, have almost no bugs despite being tucked into the forest between a river and a creek.

Today has been our longest day: 14.9 miles, only 1.1 of which were bonus miles from our unintentional detour to First Burroughs.

“Follow trail signs carefully”

Sunday, July 25, 2021
14.9 miles: 2,960′ up, 5,788’ down

(including an extra 330′ to and from our accidental highest point of the hike: 7,106′ at First Burroughs)
Sunrise Camp to Carbon River Camp

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