Wonderland Trail Part 1: Humbled by the Mountain

As I mentioned in my post on the Ladies’ Retreat Hiking Trip, we like to take hikes when we’re together as a group. But I also like to take solo and small group hikes. I am an enthusiast hiker and would do this in every bit of my spare time. Here I’m sharing my notes on a trip that I took with a few good friends on the Wonderland Trail around Mount Rainier in Seattle.

I have done many hikes. Between January 1st and June 30th, 2015, I have done nearly six hundred miles of backpacking. Through all those miles, I have never spent more than four nights in the woods. I wanted to try something more challenging. I wanted to do a long-distance hike. Luckily, my friend Damon won the lottery for the Wonderland Trail, and I was invited to go. The Wonderland trail is a 93 mile traverse around the base of Mount Rainier. Stunning beauty lays over every ridge and around every bend. Over 22,000 feet of total elevation gain make your legs feel alive.

On Thursday, July 2nd, Damon and I were euphoric as we drove to Carbon River Ranger Station. Bobby met us there as we acquired the permit. With the proper paperwork in hand, we headed to Mowich Lake. Dust plumes covered my car. Bobbys mom, following behind me, was also lost in the clouds flying from the dry road. We finally arrived at the trailhead. I smoked my last cigarette. Damon, Bobby, and I loaded on our packs. My pack weighed a whopping 45 pounds as we headed off on our journey. I started questioning my decision to carry my entire food supply as the temperatures, as well as the elevation, increased. Due to the early abundance of wildflowers in Spray Park, we decided to alter our route. Rather than head through Ipsut Pass, we chose to travel through a marvel of color. As we neared Spray Park, a couple quick side trips took us to a marvelous viewpoint and beautiful falls.

Mount Rainier stood proud as we made our way through the glorious meadow.

mount rainier from the valley

Continuing onto the rocky terrain of Seattle Park we found our first snow.

The temperature crawled towards 90°F as we slowly made our way across Carbon river. Climbing along the glacier carved valley, the sounds of rushing water, cracking ice, and falling rocks could be heard. We all finally arrived at Dick Creek.

The heavy weight of my pack, along with the scorching heat, made me ecstatic that our days end had arrived. Food and sleep were in store as the sun set over our home for the night.

Morning arrived and we all prepared for day two on the Wonderland Trail. The boys took off before I did. I took my time, my pack still at a hindering weight. I enjoyed the solitude as I paced myself. A field of giant boulders afforded me my first Marmot spotting. Scampering off the rocks, the adorable critter hid at my arrival. I dropped my pack and took a snack break. My patience paid off as it reappeared and began to pose for my camera.

Back on the trail, I arrived at Mystic Lake not far behind Damon and Bobby. We all took the opportunity to take a break. I washed my clothes while the boys enjoyed a swim.

My pace was slightly faster as we passed Winthrop Glacier on our way to Granite Creek Campsite, our home on the second night.

Independence day welcomed our third day on the trail. Appropriate attire was donned by Damon. Our patriotic march led us towards Summerland campsite.

Once again, I lagged behind the boys. I trekked along the trail solo. I traveled the switchbacks above Granite Creek.

As I crested the ridge the vistas took my breath away. A marmot took a break from sunbathing to model before a stunning backdrop.

Traveling towards Frozen Lake, on Burroughs Mountain, more awe-inspiring panoramas stopped me in my tracks.

A marker at an intersection pointed me in the right direction.

As I got closer to Sunset, thoughts of food began to dance in my head. My stomach began to rumble. Trails widened and the buildings of Sunset became visible.

The boys had already gotten cleaned up. We found a picnic table to sit at while we waited for the Snack Bar to start it’s grill up. I took the chance to take a bird bath in the sink of the women’s lavatory. The odd looks didn’t bother me as I washed my hair in the sink. I used my adorable little purple camping towel to scrub some grime off my limbs.Smelling slightly better, the boys and I headed to get some grub. Giant, delicious, bacon-cheese burgers were ordered. Short order was made of the hot meals.Our bellies filled, and our body odor slightly less offensive, we got back on the trail.

As we trudged on, Summerland got closer. We all hiked our own hikes the remainder of the day. Damon ran ahead. My pack weight still slowed me down. Bobbys’ knee slowed him down. With Damons’ knee brace, he was able to push forward. Arduous elevation gain and sweltering heat made the last leg seem to last forever. As I neared camp, a fellow hiker welcomed me to Summerland. I had made it.After setting up my gear, exploration was in order. A beautiful valley laid beneath Mount Rainier. Brooks, already running low, babbled through the lush greenery. Marmots ran about, whistling their warnings. The trail leading the way out of this haven extended into the distance.

Dinner and conversation occurred before a night watching the sun disappear. A third of our journey had been completed.

Raise a toast to the great outdoors, and I will see you on the trail!