[size=2]After completing a number of multi-days backpacking trips, I went searching for something different and came across the Wonderland Trail Report by Doug Edmundson and Aaron Fuegi. They wrote about their amazing experiences circumnavigating this 93 miles trail around Mount Rainier which planted the idea into my head to attempt it. Many thanks go out to them for their inspiration and advices
Here is a day by day journal of my experience on the big mountain. I have included links to trail map and trail elevation profile:
I left Vancouver at 6:00 pm, and arrived in Longmire at 11:00 pm. I found an open camp site and settled in for the night.
I got up at 7:00 am and made my way to the Longmire Ranger Station where I registered for my trail permit. I was second in line and the ranger was very helpful and hammered out a nine days itinerary for me in 15 minutes. I heard that it sometime it takes up to 45- 60 minutes to process a permit. I guess it depends on available and demands. A nice surprise was that there was no cost for the permit only a one week $15 user fee.
With permit in hand, the next step was to drive around the mountain and drop off my 5 L food buckets at the Mowich (Mile 33.9) and White Water Ranger Station (Mile 64.8) for pick up. I could have mailed it but I did not want to take a chance of it not being there when I showed up. This is a highly recommended strategy because you will be carrying less which make the trip more enjoyable.
I got back to Longmire (Mile 0), took a quick photo and was on the trail by 3:30pm. It was wide, well marked and mostly in the forest.
It opened up at Kautz Creek (Mile 3) where I got my first look of Mount Rainier and crossed my first log bridge.
I arrived in Devil Dream Campsite (Mile 5) by 6:00 and was harassed by a heavy concentration of mosquitoes. I threw up my tent, putted on my pant, ski jacket and head net. Citronella was ineffective. So I decided to not cook that night but to dive into my tent and get ready for the next day.
For future backpacker, you have been warned, do not camp here!!!
I woke up at 5:30 am thinking that I would beat the bug up but I could already hear them buzzing. I decided to pack up and hike to a mosquito free zone which was Tahoma Creek Suspension Bridge (Mile 7.4) and then have breakfast.I kept myself covered from head to toes until this point due to the fact I rather be sweaty than be bitten to death.
At Emerald Ridge, I met a couple (Kam & Allison) from Seattle who was on their honeymoon ...very nice people. I pulled into South Puyallup (Mile 11.1) at 10:30 to have a hot lunch and get some rest.
I got underway at 11:30 and headed to Klapatche Park (Mile 14.8) where there were two beautiful lakes, St Andrew Lake and Aurora Lake.
I ended the day at North Puyallup (Mile 17.6) by 4:30 where there was a nice view of the North Puyallup Fall and Puyallup Glacier as the back drop. I would have like to hike up and explore the river but after a long day I wanted to get something to eat and go to sleep.
This morning, I started at 7:30 am and made my way to Golden Lakes (Mile 23.6). It was a gradual ascent above the tree line toward Sunset Park Ridge. The view was gripping and reminded me why I love doing this. The mosquitoes were heavy in the Golden Lakes as I continued onward.
I descended 2200 feet and stop to have lunch beside the South Mowich River (Mile 30.6). Along the way, I ran into a sister team that were hiking the trail and both were in their late 50... way to go girls!!! At the river, I took off my boots and soaked my feet into the ice cold water. I was very tempted to camp here for the night but it was only 1:00 so I decided to ascend 2200 feet to Mowich Lake Campsite (Mile 33.9).
Mowick is a public campsite where local people drive in on a 20 miles dirt road to hang out for the day or stay overnight. There was a large lake close by where you can go for a swim and clean off yourself.
Also, this was where I picked up my 5 L food bucket for the next three days. It gave me a chance to repack my gear and throw out things that I did not need or brought too much of. I met two hikers (James & Chris) who I compared note with. Finally, Ken the guitar man who drove in and was staying for a few days offer us some wine and was quite an outdoor person himself.
After getting a good night sleep, today was a short hike to Dick Creek (Mile 43.1) so I started at 9:00. James and Chris took the Spray Park route whereas I followed the Wonderland Trail.
The first part was quite level to Ipsut Pass (Mile 35.4). Then I started my descent through an area filled with mosquitoes before passing Ipsut Fall (Mile 39.0). From here, I followed the Carbon River upstream before detouring over to Northern Loop Trail (Mile 40.9) due to a rockslide on Wonderland Trail.
After reconnecting with the Wonderland Trail at mile 41.9, it was 1 miles and 2200 ft climb to Dick Creek Campsite (Mile 42.9) under the baking sun. I arrived at 1:30 and took the campsite which had a stunning view of the valley. The rest of the day was spent resting, eating, tanning and cleaning myself off in Moraine Creek.
I was on the trail by 8:00 and planned to hike to Mystic Lake Ranger Station (Mile 46.5) to get some duck tape because the front of my left boot was coming apart. Along the way, there were some fascinating views of Mount Rainier and Carbon Glacier. However, the trail from Mystic Lake to Granite Creek (Mile 53.2) was mostly in the forest so it was head down and go.
A mile beyond Granite Creek at 6500 feet, the mountain opened up and I was awestruck by the views of Winthrop Glacier and Skyscraper Mountain. I was mesmerized by the beauty of scenery!!!
I arrived at Sunrise Campsite (Mile 61.4) by 3:30 and rested for an hour before heading to the Sunrise Visitor Centre to get some supplies and a roll of duck tape from the ranger. It was quite funny because I was trying to buy it off her but she would not take my money. So I donated $10 to the park and resolved the issue.
I could not resist ordering a cheese burger and a bottom less drink at the restaurant after 5 days of dry goods. I had three cups of coke cola which rocket my energy level through the roof. At the same time, I got a chance to chat with Ranger Dave who told me about his bike trip across America... interesting fellow. Lastly, this was the day James and Chris will depart from the trail due to an injury and weather condition.
Today was a short hike to Summerland Campsite (Mile 68.9). I started at 8:00 and descended 2400 feet to White Water Campground (Mile 64.8) to pick up my second food cache before climbing 2100 feet to Summerland (Mile 68.9) by 1:30. Along the way, I ran into the newly wed at Fryingpan Creek where we chatted and shared a few laughs about our adventure.
Summerland Campsite was definitively a nice place to put up a tent where it offered some amazing view of Mt Rainier, Emmons Glacier, Mt Tamanos and Panhandle Gap.
A number of events took places that made me decide to attempt a hike out tomorrow. One was meeting a backpacker who has been hiking 14 hr from Longmire. Second, the ranger said it was going to rain after tomorrow. Finally, I was thinking about a hot shower, some fast food and a warm bed after my cheese burger at Sunrise.
Today plan was simple get to Maple Creek (Mile 83) then make a decision to camp the night or continue on to Longmire. I got underway by 6:00 and the first action was to tackle the highest point of the trail, Panhandle Gap (Mile 70.3) the view was truly amazing.
There were a few snowfields that I have to transverse but nothing challenging.
As I got below the cloud cover at Ohanapecosh Park, the trail was wet and misty. It would be like this until Box Canyon (Mile 79.6) where it would be drier. In the meantime, I would continue to stop to re tape my boot until I reached Box Canyon.The trail around Box Canyon was tricky because I wandered into the parking lot and lost my scene of direction so I went back to my original position and found the trail.
Maple Creek (Mile 83) was reach by 2:00pm. I stopped to have something to eat and decided to go for it because I felt physically good and mentally determined. For the next 3 miles I would be bushwhacking until Martha Fall (Mile 86) which took a lot of energy out of me. So I rested and ate some trail mix.
Then the trail gradually ascended until I reached Reflection Lake (Mile 88.5). There are a few things to watch out for; first you have to walk on the road for 400 yard before the trail joins up again and second you have to be careful not to follow the High Lakes Trail which will take you around the Lake.
From here it was a slow descended to Paradise River Campsite (Mile 90) and finally Longmire (Mile 93). The last three miles seem to take forever. Maybe it was because I was checking the miles and watching the time.
After 13 hours on the trail, mission accomplished. I loaded up my car and went to the first Taco Bell Restaurant I can find before heading back to Vancouver.