Wonderland Trail Mt.ainier
I'be been asked to put a few trip reports on. I've actually written some short stories over the years about my hikes. Here's the first one.
The Wonderland Trail--Mt. Rainier.
I sat in my small room at the Longmire Inn and stared out the window at the enormous white mountain looming in front of me. It was quite visible in the dark as the full moon reflected off its forbidding icy glaciers. I had been watching Mt. Rainier for two days and nights preparing myself for the arduous journey ahead of me. Throwing my backpack over my shoulder I tiptoed down the stairs and emerged into the half-light of dawn. I felt confident as I crossed the hotel parking lot and took my first step on the 93 mile Wonderland Trail. This trail, completely encircling the mountain has recently been voted the best long distance hike in America by a reader's poll in Backpacker's magazine. With a cumulative gain of over 20,000 feet, hiking the full length of the Wonderland trail is often considered a greater Challenge than summiting Mt. Rainier. It was uphill right away but I was rewarded genereously with spectacular alpine meadows and vast flower fields. As I strolled through this brilliant display of color I gazed in amazement at the endless fields of purple, orange, scarlet and gold. Continuing on in the late afternoon heat I arrived at my first reserved campsite hot and tired. Lying sweating in my tent I drank two full bottles of water before I fell asleep. The night's rest renewed my strength and I was back on the trail early,ready to press on. I would become stronger with every step I took now. My second day took me by several small pristine lakes and I couldn't rersist jumping in to cool off. I was still on the west side of the mountain as I camped for the second night a long ways from the trailhead. My third morning took me into the cold north side of the mountain and the most remote section of the trail. The sky remained totally clear as I followed cairns across broad snow fields and past snowy peaks and ice-choked lakes. After traversing miles of more alpine wonderland I descended to a forested river area and my third campsite. I was on the trail very early the fourth day motivated by the knowledge that I was closing in on the Sunrise visitor center and cafeteria. Arriving there in mid afternoon I lined up for the delicious smelling cheseburgers and fries. I drank for half pint containers of milk before I took my first bite of food. I hung around there for the rest of the day swapping stories with hikers coming the other way. The warnings I received about major snow ahead would ring true. Day five found me clibing up through deep snow fields to the trail's high point at Panhandle Gap with three other hikers. The clouds dropped suddenly and the visibility was very low. Then we could see nothing. We had to keep blowing our whistles to stay together. At times we would loose the trail, and then we decided to stop for lunch and wait a bit. Finally, after a few confused hours in the twilight zone, the trail appeared clearly in front of us again. We plodded on downwards past several waterfalls into a broad green valley, and into our rerserved Indian Bar campsite. Daybreak found us climbing up through the snow quickly as the low clouids threatened us again. It was 18 miles to Longmire Ranger station and trail's end. I had the legs of a young man now and moved briskly across the ridges and knolls. Finally leaving the snow behind I descended into the forest again and stepped up my pace even more. I ran the last 2 miles to the Longmire Inn for my long awaited steak dinner and apple pie. Since then on several occasions I have taken groups from my hiking club to show them the beauty of this area. Mt. Rainier is a world class hiking destination, and I highly recommend a visit there. I did return a few years later and summit the mountain, but the Wonderland trail was the better experience, and by far way more scenic.