WT 2016

The Wonderland Trail (WT) is 93 miles (150kms) long and encircles Mount Rainier. It is a strenuous hike with lots of elevation gain and loss, through lush forests and valleys and into high alpine and sub-alpine areas. There is nothing like Mt Rainier National Park. It is grand. I have wanted to hike the entire trail for years, and this is my year. The park is handing out permits on a first come first serve basis. So, I think I will have a go….August 17th we jumped on the Wonderland Trail at Mowich Lake. Jayne was out for a day hike. Oakdale and I planned to hike the whole Wonderland Trail. When we arrived at the the trailhead at 11am, we quickly realized that there was no ranger station to issue a permit. I had been told incorrect information on where to obtain the permit. (I won’t throw anyone or institution under the bus here.) This was an honest mistake by a reliable source for many years. Anyway, We needed to drive 20 miles back to the Carbon River Ranger Station. I knew full well that we’d run into rangers, and I figured we’d risk it and if we had to walk to Sunrise 22 miles away, then so be it. We said goodbye to Jayne at Spray Park with gorgeous meadows and stunning views of the mountain. 20 minutes later we ran into two rangers. Both old timers. One was about 60, the other looked to be older than 70. After being grilled for not having a permit, the rangers told us that there were no campsites available anywhere. I explained our situation and after a few minutes the rangers finally understood as long distance hikers we were prepared to hike all the way to Sunrise. I cheerfully accepted the challenge. The older of the two says “If you are feeling woozy, you may sit down by the side of the trail. You may not set up any kind of shelter. The penalty for not following these rules is extensive. Do you understand?” I said yes, that is perfectly agreeable to me. Oakdale asks “So if we hike to Sunrise, we can get permits there?” Ranger: “Yes, you can get a permit at Sunrise.” Oakdale: What time does the ranger station open?” Ranger: “9am, I think.” The rangers gave us the ok to proceed and off we went!  We had 22 miles push to Sunrise. Sounds crazy right? Why not. The only other choice was to turn around and try to catch Jayne. That seemed crazier to me. Oakdale flew all the way from California to hike this trail. We hiked until about 9:30pm and had dinner close to Mystic Campground. The folks there were stunned we were headed to Sunrise. Still 9 more miles. I hiked until midnight. I hadn’t seen Oakdale in an over an hour. I bonked and did as I was told and sat right by the trail completely lit by the full moon, with no wind, and cool but mild temperature. I nodded off and woke up at 2:30 am and ate some food and water and off I went. I had some energy to get up Skyscraper Pass. I finally made it up there just after 3am. The upper basin was completely lit up by the moon. I didn’t even need a headlamp. I could make out details of Emmons and Winthrop Glaciers by moonlight. Everything was completely still. I was in one of those amazing places at that right time. Usually this place is overrun by day hikers. I had it all to myself. I shuffled along towards frozen lake, not wanting it to end. Shortly after I reached Sourdough Ridge and waited for the sunrise over Sunrise. It seemed appropriate, and worth it. After spectacular show of colors of pink and red on Rainier, I walked down to Sunrise at 6am. I rested on a bench for a few hours. Nobody seemed to care. Oakdale showed up and we waited until 10am for the ranger station to open. Finally, they opened only to find out that they don’t issue permits at Sunrise. I explained what I had learned from the other rangers. No dice. The closest was Carbon River Enterence. That’s seven more miles on the WT and a 3 mile road walk or hitch. By the time we made it there after 7 miles and the hitchhike, it was almost 1pm. Only to find out there were no permits available for that day or the next. We were done. Jayne came and picked us up. We hiked 33 miles in 25 hours. I had six days of food too! Training. We went home. The story is to be continued. I plan on finishing up here in the next few weeks…60 miles to go approximately.