Archives: September 2012

Backpacking the 93-mile Mount Rainier Wonderland Trail – August 2012 30 September 2012

Where to begin?! Well, Patricia started it 🙂 – she decided last year she wanted to backpack the Wonderland Trail to celebrate her 60th birthday this year, and to do it with friends and family. And we can now proudly count ourselves among fewer than 250 people who do it every year…less than 2% of visitors to Mount Rainier National Park. It was the hardest work I have ever done on vacation, and was actually well over 100 miles, and involved 51,000 feet of elevation gain and loss. This is also one of the most beautiful hikes I have ever done.

The Wonderland Trail is officially 93 miles long, winding around 14,411 foot Mount Rainier. The trail is often described as being like a pie crust, with very little ‘flat’ ground…going up, down, up, down the many, many ridges left by volcanic and glacier activity around the mountain. On our 8th night on the trail, we acquired the lovely book Discovering the Wonders of the Wonderland Trail by Bette Filley from some fellow backpackers who didn’t want it any more – Bette claims that the elevation gain and loss of the trail actually makes the distance feel more like 126 miles. The trail never rises above the 7,000′ elevation, but we camped off-trail for two nights right around 7,000′, and also took a 1/2-mile side-hike to the top of Skyscraper Mountain at 7078′. But at latitude 46 degrees we were often above timberline for long stretches, with exquisitely beautiful views of so many angles of the mountain. Now, it is so much fun to see the mountain from an airplane, or to look at photos or Google Earth and be able to say “We were there, and there…and THERE!!” (more…)