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  1. #1
    Registered User colorado_rob's Avatar
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    Default Quick Wonderland Trail report

    I personally resist bragging about a trip with a long-winded report, but this one is really special, so I thought I'd go ahead and ramble a bit on the Wonderland trail, as it might be helpful to some. We just returned from a 7+ day, 7-night circle around Rainier on this marvelous trail, here are some thoughts:

    - The Permit Thing: we scored, just plain got lucky, submitted the application, got selected BUT the itinerary the NPS gave us was not much like what we asked for, though it worked just fine, no worries. Instead of a 6-night, 7-day hike, they added one day, basically making two very short days for us (one 5.5 mile, one 4.5 mile last day), the rest of the days being 11-15 miles. And they gave us different camps for the most part.

    We chatted with tons of WT hikers along the way, it really seems that almost everyone else had done the walkup thing successfully, so for those that cannot score an advanced permit, don't despair, just be a bit flexible and try the walkup thing. This all leads me to believe that the percentage of campsite permits saved for walkups is high.

    By the way, we did get checked 4 times for permits, twice along the actual trail, twice in camps.

    - Bugs. Basically almost none. Only the very first night, camping at Devil's Dream, did we have any bugs in enough quantities to be slightly annoying, I just put on my long pants, turned up my collar and ignored them. Keep in mind, we did this from August 19-26, pretty late in the summer in those parts, plus it was a low-snow year, maybe that helped.

    - Rain. One day/night, that was it. Maybe we got lucky, maybe that is about normal for August. I've climbed in the area (including Rainier many times) in July, a total of 8 other trips, and I don't remember any rain on those previous trips. Still, one must be prepared for rain, and we were.

    - Terrain. Up and down, repeat many times. Something like 23000 feet of gain/loss on the 93 mile loop. Most climbs were in the 2000' range, a couple at 3000, a couple 1000-ish. There is very little flat hiking on the Wonderland trail! The good news is that it is all at very modest altitudes, 6500' max, lots of time in the 3000-4000' range, and the trail is VERY GOOD, smooth, easy to follow, only rocky occasionally. We saw tons and tons of trail runners, for obvious reasons, this trail is popular with trail runners, I'm going to post a separate thread on that subject in the trail runner forum.

    - Crowds. No issue, you see way fewer people on most of the WT than on say, the AT or JMT, at least most of the time. Near the busier areas there are a lot of day hikers, especially Longmier and Sunrise areas. And the hike from White River to Summerland was crowded for those 5 miles, though we did hit that on a weekend, which made it worse. Most of the WT camps are modest in size, some only 3 sites, others maybe 6-7, hence the difficulty in getting permits, but also hence the lack of crowds.

    - Campsites: for the most part, we were kinda disappointed in these. The ones we were assigned to were kinda deep in the trees, dark, sometimes damp. At least they were all clean. One exception was Summerland, a fantastic camp. Try to get Summerland on your agenda. The walk-in camp at White River was horrible; it's like the WT hikers are the scum, lets shoe-horn them in amidst a bunch of deadfall, giving the folks with RV's the good spots. On well.

    We camped at: Devil's Dream (meh), North Puyallup (meh), Mowich Lake (another sad site), Mystic Lake (fantastic area, modest campsites), White River, Summerland (fantastic) and Maple Creek (horrible camp). I think there are a total of 18 sites, the others we didn't see much or any of, though Indian Bar looked cool.

    - Wildlife. Not great, we saw 3 deer, 2 bears, quite a few marmots but very little else except the usual squirrels/chipmunks/birds. The two bears we saw were from a pretty big distance, at least a 1/4 mile away, close together, foraging grubs above treeline in spray park.

    - Route. We took the spray park alternative on the NW side, from Mowich Lake to the Carbon river. Glad we did. From what we heard, way more scenic, with Spray Park being one of the scenic highlights. Not having done the "normal" WT route from Mowich to Carbon, I cannot comment directly oh this though. The Spray Park route does have an extra 1500' of vertical. Well worth it.

    Lots of trail-talk about some of the bridge crossings, and the "washout" on the south side near Maple Creek, all of which were complete non-issues, though earlier in the year, I can see how the bridge just south of White River CG can be an issue. They do have a walk-around (road walk) in place for that one. Totally unnecessary on our trip. We scouted it the afternoon we arrived at WRCG, and the water was close to lapping over the bridge, though the next morning when we had to cross it, it was 12-18" lower. So people hiking CCW camping at White River might get their feet slightly wet crossing it in the afternoon (flow is always higher in the afternoon due to higher daytime glacial melting)

    - Scenic Highlights. As mentioned, Spray park was amazing, as was the Emerald Ridge (west side), then approaching Sunrise (going clockwise), then Summerland and all the way past Indian Bar, maybe the very best part of the trail.

    And of course, there's Rainier. Truly one of our Great Mountains. It's in your face quite a bit of the time, of course. It was super cool seeing it from all angles. I probably took 200 pics of Rainier.

    - Gear. Same kit I carried on last year's CO trail hike, pretty much the same we're carrying in a couple weeks on the Maine section of the AT. 30 degree bag, Frogg Togg rain jacket with a UL down sweater, shorts the entire way with leggings for the evenings at camp, sawyer water filter, yada yada yada.

    - Disappointments. Somehow I thought more of the trail would be above treeline, so I was a tad disappointed at all the in-the-trees hiking. No biggie, just slightly disappointed. Also, as said, the camps were pretty modest, at least the ones we were assigned to. Not a problem, we were there to hike, not camp. Can't think of any other downers!

    Hike this trail. It's easily in my top 3 (with JMT and Sierra High Route).

    'Nuff said, I've rambled on enough. I'll post some pics later, just downloading them now.

  2. #2
    Registered User Venchka's Avatar
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    Thanks Rob!
    Quick question: Did you cache food? If so, how many day's worth and where?
    Thanks again. Great read!
    Wayne
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  3. #3
    Registered User colorado_rob's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Venchka View Post
    Thanks Rob!
    Quick question: Did you cache food? If so, how many day's worth and where?
    Thanks again. Great read!
    Wayne
    Oops! Meant to mention the cache... We cached at White River CG, 2 days/nights of food. Plus some beer, TP and small canister of fuel. 5 gallon Lowes bucket. We started with 5 days of food, though only 4 dinners, because we planned and made a dinner (late lunch) stop at the Sunrise cafeteria on our 5th day out. Good stop, sunrise, don't skip that place, only 0.6 mile detour from the WT. Crowded, but oh well.

  4. #4
    Registered User evyck da fleet's Avatar
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    Nice report! Thanks.

  5. #5
    Registered User JPritch's Avatar
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    Sweeeet! Great write-up, thanks for sharing. t-minus 2 weeks and counting til I'm out there. Sounds like a challenging trail...I need to do some more up/downs these next two weekends.
    While searching for that unknown edge in life, never forget to look home. For the greatest edge you can find in life is to stand in the protective shadow of those who love you.

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