Rainier Chautauqua

Ohanapecosh and a trek to Indian Henry’s Campground

Swimmers at Ohanapecosh Campground

Ohanapecosh. Crying babies, barking dogs and overzealous wood splitters punctuate the cool morning air. I wake up with sunburned warmth in the chill. A stark change from the hot meadow at Indian Henry’s filled with the constant drone and manic buzzing of hornets, bumblebees, flies, wasps and mosquitoes. The weather was oppressive and alien to my recollection of Rainier. The next day we awoke to blazing sunlight. By 10 a.m. the camp was bathed in a washed-out heat that left the forest a pale tired green. Instead of packing our backpacks we jumped in the truck and drove to Paradise to walk around a drink a coke. The Mountain was bare and dry in a hazy leaden sky. Over the radio I heard the announcer say that it reached a 103 degrees in Portland … I slept in the back of the truck that night, tossing …

The next morning we left camp and drove to Kautz Creek, where the trailhead to Indian Henry’s Hunting Ground begins. The packs were heavy. We moved slowly in the heat up the trail, through silent breezeless forest. The trail became steep. We had to stop more often. We were sweating ourselves into dehydration. I started to curse Indian Henry. By the time we hit the first ridgeline after a series of steep switchbacks my bota was empty; Ken had drank three liters. Every time we stopped the flies would home in on us, so it became unbearable to remain still for too long. I prayed to Sisyphus.

Indian Henry’s cabin

(Finally) we crested the ridgeline that leads below to Indian Henry’s Hunting Ground, a large meadow with an old log cabin ranger station. We stopped at the cabin, where two women from Seattle watched us approach as they relaxed in the shade. One offered me some ice from her Thermos. Can the sensation of ice on a sandpapered throat after lugging a 45 pound pack uphill for 6 miles be described?

Drawing water

After drinking more water from a still pond (Ken had a Swiss water filter) we pushed on, looking for a camp site. We found a flowing stream and ascended the bank to a small flat spot several yards above the water. Once again, the flies and coworkers came calling…

After setting the tent we crowded in and ate some warm, soggy pizza stuffed in the pack leftover from the Wild Berry. A restless night was spent in the still warm meadow.

Next morning we braved the insects, flailing ourselves awake, packed camp and descended in the heat. The glaciers were evaporating from Rainier’s flanks, and rock slides every few minutes were seen with a far-sounding booming seconds later. The heat seemed to be winning even against the Mountain, reducing it to an alpine rock heap.

Later that afternoon we made it to Ohanapecosh and pitched camp among the Winnebagos, dogs and teenagers with frisbees and bicycles. Unless you’re a weekend warrior or an armchair mountaineer, Labor Day weekend is a poor time to camp at that spot.

Ohanapecosh Campground

Outdoor experience. Sleeping in the truck that night sore muscles rebelled against the truck bed, yet the heat broke in the middle of the night, and I awoke to the cool morning air and the anticipation of a hot cup of coffee. Later that day we moved rom H-17 to A-4 while the campers packed up and left en masse.

We walked up to Silver Springs from Stevens Canyon and joyously stretched the legs, stiff from the Indian Henry’s trek. Took some pictures of the Falls, scampering around the rocks looking for the right angle. Spent the rest of the afternoon light at the Grove of the Patriarchs, a virgin stand of old-growth timber, mysterious in their awesome creaking in the wind. Stopped to skip rocks in the Ohanapecosh River…a favorite pastime and one that will be mentioned on my next job resume. Back to camp after getting more ice in Packwood. A good do-nothing-in-particular day.

The coolness has returned. Sitting at the picnic table at campsite A-4 in Ohanapecosh listening to the rive and a stream nearby. Shades of green filter down upon me, giving the coolness a visual quality of sensation.

Published by herestahuya

Passionate about the Pacific Northwest, the Mountain, irony, and good conversations, stories and laughter around a campfire.

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