There are places on this planet that are hard to describe in words. They are so breathtakingly beautiful that no matter what language is used to paint the picture of what such a place looks like, one really must go there themselves to fully experience, understand and internalize the splendor.
Indian Bar (photo by Debby)
One such place is a half-mile section of the 93-mile Wonderland Trail that encircles Mt. Rainier. It is known as Indian Bar. At 5,120 feet above sea level, yet 9,291 feet below the summit of Mt. Rainier, it is a valley overflowing with wildflowers, intersected by a river, surrounded by trees and mountain hills, and a place that leaves one breathless (and that is not from the hiking it took to get there.)
approach to Indian Bar (photo by Melissa)
Even the approach to Indian Bar (from Summerland, via Panhandle Gap) is something spectacular in-and-of itself. At about one-and-a-half miles after Panhandle Gap, and at 1500 feet above Indian Bar, you are already hiking amongst the wildflowers. On both sides of the trail, your feet are walking in a colorful display of nature. Off in the distance, the colors fade to a more black-and-white scene of rock walls, waterfalls and remnants of glaciers.
“black-and-white” scenery (photo by Debby)
Then you begin your one-and-a-half mile descent into Indian Bar. Still tiptoeing through the wildflowers, you look down into the valley below. There is nothing but more carpets of wildflowers, except for the gathering of a forest of hundreds of tall green trees. As you descend even further, not only are the views of the wildflowers and trees becoming more incredible, but you find yourself alternating between wondering which is more beautiful. It is hard to decide, but I think the whole combined picture wins.
flowers, trees and rockwalls (photo by Melissa)
And finally, Indian Bar arrives. A sub-alpine meadow, where the wildflowers are thigh-high. Purple Lupine. Red Paintbrush. Yellow Arnica. White Western Anemone. Green Hellebore. Pink Mountain Daisy…. Just to name a few.
After you are done staring down, you hear the sound of the river rushing by in the rock bed that it lays in. And then you look up. The trees beyond encircle you. And then you notice that you are contained in a 360-degree circle of mountain hills all around you. You stop. And this is where you realize that there are places on this planet that are hard to describe in words. You just have to be there.
“you just have to be there” (photo by Debby)
It was in Indian Bar that my hiking friend, Melissa, and I were fortunate enough to have a layover day the next day after we arrived. We were lucky in that the rain held out during our hike to this area. We were able to set up our tent without a drop. We cooked and ate dinner, and then finally fell asleep under a cloudy, yet dry sky.
But the morning was a different story. We were hoping for sunshine, but the rain had started to fall over night. Our tent was wet by the morning, and cooking and eating breakfast in the sprinkles was necessary.
But all was not lost, not in the least. For there was a shelter at Indian Bar. A stone building, with a wooden floor, where three sides of walls were filled in, a roof was overhead, and cots were set up to sleep 8. Even setting up a tent inside the shelter was allowed.
the Indian Bar shelter (photo by Melissa)
Melissa and I decided to spend a good part of our day in the shelter, out of the rain. We cooked our lunch, and read books and magazines that we actually brought with us. And at the same time, we were still able to experience the beauty of Indian Bar, through a walk in the area, and via the views from the shelter itself. Even with the rain.
It was during this layover day in the shelter that we met a group of other backpackers, who after their rainy descent into Indian Bar, decided to gather in the shelter to get dry. But who all, I’m sure, still experienced the splendor of the Indian Bar area along the Wonderland Trail of Mt. Rainier.
Please continue to read the story of “the Mt. Rainier Wonderland Trail Indian Bar shelter group.”
Photos by Debby and Melissa