|Map of the Wonderland Trail|
We left Seattle just after 5am to drive to Mowich Lake where we started on the trail about 7am. The section of the trail from Mowich to Longmire is probably the hardest and was definitely the longest of the three days at about 34 miles. It is harder if you plan a route running from Longmire to Mowich than the counterclockwise direction we ran since it is net downhill heading south. Making sure to fill up with water can be critical in this day's journey. There is water available at Golden Lakes and St. Andrews Lake, but the key places to get water in my experience are just north of the North Puyallap River and just south of the suspension bridge over Tahoma Creek. Many of the apparent water sources on the map are direct glacial runoff streams which are too silty to purify and drink.
|St. Andrews Lake and the western view of Rainier|
|Bear guiding us down the trail|
The trail reaches its highest elevation of the first day in Klapatche Park which is probably my favorite section due to the views. Bruce got a surprise here when he turned a corner to find a black bear. By the time I caught up with him he was busy photographing it. It was also a lazy runner and wanted very much to stay on the trail. We walked behind it clapping and shouting. The bear was clearly aware of us and wanting to be rid of us, but not at the cost of spending extra energy moving without the trail. So we spent about 10 minutes walking behind the bear urging it along until finally it had enough and moved off the trail. We arrived at the National Park Inn after covering about 34 miles at 4:45pm and were quite happy to find our packages awaiting us and hot showers and dinner at the restaurant went a long way towards recovery.
One note if you are considering running to the National Park Inn with mailed supplies, it turns out that they do not have a means to ship your stuff back home to you. I had not been able to get a clear answer about this on the phone, so took clothing the first day that I was willing to throw away, but in the end the extremely nice desk clerk agreed to mail the box back to us on his own time. Thanks Andy!
The restaurant at the National Park Inn doesn't open until 7am so we had included granola for breakfast in our packages and we were ready to hit the trail towards White River campground promptly at 7am. Starting day two I was amazed to find that although my legs were tired and maybe a bit wooden, neither my legs nor feet were actually sore. This discovery made for a much better start to the day.
|Southern view of Rainier from Paradise River crossing|
I have to admit that the next section from Longmire to Box Canyon is probably my least favorite of the loop. The trail is pleasant and spends a lot of time along Stevens creek. However, there are fewer views of Rainier and much of the trail is close to the road. There are several places where one could obtain water from the creek, but the important water stop is at Nickel Creek at the beginning of the big ascent to Ohanapecosh Park. This climb takes you from the lowest point of the trail at 2600 feet just before Box Canyon to the highest point at Panhandle Gap. This was the biggest section of the Wonderland Trail that I had not seen previously and for now at least, it is my favorite. The views in Cowlitz Park, Indian Bar, Ohanapecosh Park and on both sides of Panhandle Gap were unbeatable as shown in the photos below.
We completely refilled our water supplies at Indian Bar, but it turns out that there are plenty of snow runoff streams higher up in Ohanapecosh Park approaching Panhandle Gap so there is no need to carry so much water up from Indian Bar. There were a half dozen or so snow fields in Ohanapecosh Park leading up to Panhandle Gap, but the routes across the snow fields were well established with footprints and it was not difficult to navigate in running shoes without poles.
|Bruce navigating snow fields leading to Panhandle Gap|
|Approach to Panhandle Gap.|
|Clouds gathering over Mt. Adams to the south.|
|Descent into summerland with Emmons glacier in background.|
I had not slept well during the previous night due to noisy hotel guests followed by a huge thunder and lightning storm. But I was very relieved that it was not raining as we drove back to White River campground for another 7am start. As you can see in the photo below, there was a lot of fog and heavy cloud cover so there are very few pictures from day 3, but at least we did not have to suffer through rain.
|We spent day 3 under this cloud cover (photo from plane by Jen Edwards)|
Not too long after passing Sunrise Camp, we were surprised in the fog by another bear, this one quite a bit larger than the one we encountered the first day, but this bear had no desire to lead us along the trail and in fact disappeared into the mist before we could snap a photo.
The Winthrop glacier was hidden by the clouds and fog when we crossed Winthrop Creek, but we did get to see the end of the Carbon glacier as we descended down from Mystic Lake. The Wonderland Trail on the far side of the Carbon river was closed between the upper and lower river crossings, so we continued on the northern loop trail to the second river crossing where crossed over to rejoin the Wonderland Trail. The last climb up to Ipsut Pass is one of the steepest climbs of the entire journey, but it didn't hurt quite as badly knowing that it was the last climb.
|Terminus of the Carbon glacier|
|View back down the route we climbed to Ipsut Pass|
|Happy to arrive at the finish|
For more photos, follow this link to the complete photo album.