7.17.16 White River to Indian Bar - Traci McGowan
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  • 7.17.16 White River to Indian Bar


This was quite a day. I woke up with my husband which was very nice. Nate was tucked into his hammock next to grandpa's tent. It was a gorgeous, sunshiny morning. We said our goodbyes to Vince & Nate and were on our way. We made our way along the White River and through a beautiful forest. The hike up to Summerland was as beautiful as I remember. We saw a critter that was either a pine martin or a fisher. I'm hoping for a fisher of course! (it was a pine martin). Up we went to Summerland. There were more marmots at Summerland than people! So strange. We stopped briefly to have some trail mix and jerky and then we were off to Panhandle Gap. We encountered our first big snowfield on the way up to the gap (well, there was one at Skyscraper Pass but at the time I didn't find it notable - I do now!) and it was pretty easy, fun even! Up some rocks and the round 2 of snow. A bit more tricky this time but there was a pretty good path. There was a couple of people ahead of us, a husband and wife and he was stamping a pretty good foot path out for her. When we got up to the gap, the view did not disappoint even though it was a bit cloudy. We saw a herd of goats - at least 30 and some kids. I had a hummingbird visit while we there and Dick commented that he had never seen a hummingbird at that altitude. (Panhandle Gap is about 6800 feet). It was time to head down to Indian Bar. There were 2 potential issues: 1. There were thunderstorms rolling in and 2. Snow. Lots of snow. We could see fairly good footprints to follow so off we went. It was actually sort of fun. Then it started to sleet. Big, huge sleet balls. Marble size. Those feel really good when they are pelting you at 6800 feet! We stopped and put our rain gear on. Now it was raining, snowing and sleeting. Oh and thunder and lightening. We were still kind of having fun. The sleet however was making traveling on the snow a bit more difficult. Then the sleet filled up the footprints and we lost the main path.  We had to chose between 3 ways - up, down or middle. We chose middle because it looked like the most recent path traveled. We traversed a ridge and I felt that it wasn't the right way to go so we turned around and went back over the ridge. We got the map out and noticed some bare ground near us that had a clear path on it. We decided that it must be the right way. Back across the ridge. Really sketchy snow. 2,000 foot drop below us. We got all the way around and there was nowhere to go. Back across that ridge for the 4th time. Dick was in the lead. I'm not really sure what happened but next thing I knew... I was sliding down the mountain. I thought I was going to die. All I remember thinking was, "well, this is how it's going to end." I really did. I thought about how it was nice that I had seen Vince that morning and the last thought that went through my head was Nathan. Just his name. Then I was hanging from my trekking pole. Apparently I self arrested. I yelled for Dick, I yelled, "GRANDPA! GRANDPA! GRANDPA!" I'm not sure when that happened. Apparently I self-arrested with one of my poles and it broke. I continued to fall and hit a large rock field, smashing my left shoulder and hand and my right wrist and elbow. I was flipped over when I hit the rocks and then self-arrested with my other pole. I don't remember any of that. Dick yelled to see if I was OK. I was OK. But stuck face down in the snow. On a snowfield. On the side of a mountain. I let Dick know that I was OK. Somehow I flipped onto my back and dug my feet into foot holds. Again, I don't remember. Dick says that I slid about 150 feet down. About 15 feet to my left there was rock with no snow. Dick quickly climbed down that so he was level with me. He came out onto the snow to try to help me but I was so freaked out that he would fall I sent him back. Slowly I dug foot holds, 3 at a time and started to scoot myself towards the bare rock. Every few foot holds would give out and I would slide a few inches. So frustrating. I finally made it over to the dry rock, got off of the snow and we climbed back up. Like mountain goats. As I was hanging from my trekking pole and after I realized that I wasn't seriously hurt (or dead) I remember thinking that I didn't want our hike to end. My choices were to hike back to White River and call Vince or Mom (which would require us to go back over the snowfields at Panhandle Gap) or to continue onto Indian Bar (also more snow). I wanted to keep going. At the top of our bare rock (rock next to a waterfall, rock we would not have attempted to climb in a normal situation) I assessed the damage. My left hand had a HUGE hematoma on the back of my hand and scrapes on 4 knuckles. My right wrist had a hematoma and my right elbow was cut. My left shoulder hurt pretty bad but I could lift my arm and move it. Later I had a very gnarly bruise from my shoulder to my elbow pit (I'm sure that has a real name other than elbow pit). My hands were completely numb. I think I was clawing at the snow. It had stopped storming at this point, just clouds remained but they were slowly clearing out. We traversed back over two ridges. I'm not sure how I got over those two snowfields but I did. Dick stomped some pretty good steps for me! I prayed, A LOT. I felt like we had to try the upper route and when we got there, there were FRESH TRACKS! Praise the Lord! We followed those tracks and after a few more snowfields (none as sketchy as the ones down low) we were out of the snow. We hiked down into Indian Bar and I have never seen such a beautiful place. There is a shelter at Indian Bar that serves as the group camping site. It was near 7pm on a Sunday and we decided that if a group was scheduled to be there that night, they'd already be there and we set up camp in the shelter. We were able to hang all of our wet things up. Spread stuff out and just have a bit of protection. It's just what we needed. I noticed that the fresh set of tracks was down at the stream eating dinner in the form of two young men. I felt an overwhelming need to go down and tell them that their tracks saved us. They were fairly horrified at my story, one of the boys telling me, "I have a very extensive first aid kit." Back at our shelter we cooked a hot meal (Mac & Cheese for me,  Chicken Noodle Casserole for Dick) and we just enjoyed the beauty of our surroundings. The sky cleared up and we were truly in awe. I hiked up to the toilet. I say hiked because it was quite the trek up. The toiled at Indian Bar has the MOST spectacular 360 degree view of any toilet I have ever experienced. Seriously worth the hike. Miles hiked = 12.1. Total miles hiked = 36.2



A waterfall completes the view from the back of the toilet. Indian Bar is on the Ohanapecosh River and right above the Wauhaukaupauken Falls. The falls were totally amazing with a foot bridge right over the top. I was happy to be in Indian Bar. So. Happy. First I thought I was going to die, then I thought that our Wonderland Trail adventure was over. I was so thankful that neither of those were true. As we were sitting at the edge of our shelter watching the sunset a hummingbird flew right by. I know for sure now that the hummingbird is my spirit animal. We crawled into our tents as tired and thankful as could be. Our dry tents set up inside of the shelter. What a day. Miles hiked = 12.1 (adding 1 mile to the official 11.1 for the miles hiked while "lost"). Total miles hiked = 36.2.