Trip

Backpack - Wonderland Trail -- Western Half

Wonderland Trail -- Western Half

Info
COVID-19: Learn about our most up-to-date guidance for participants and leaders on our COVID-19 Response page. All participants and leaders must agree to the COVID-19 Code of Conduct before participating in this Mountaineers activity.
Time & Place TBD
Although open to all club members over age 18, this trip is also part of the B3 Backpacking Building Blocks series and eligible for B3 course graduation credit.

Getting Wonderland Trail permits for a large group in August is something that you can hope for, but not count on, and particularly so given that 2013 saw about a 50% increase in applications to this already very popular destination. August is a fantastic time to hike the Wonderland trail, and we’ll do a bit more than half of it this trip, the Western ~half, starting at Longmire (to the S-SW of Mt. Rainier), and hiking clockwise to Sunrise (to the NE of the mountain).

When you hike the Wonderland trail you will on occasion ‘wonder’ whether there is any flat ‘land’ at all, or if it really does always climb up to something and then immediately start to descend again? Sadly, the most difficult day on this trip will be the very first day --- that’s just how the permit worked out. Hikers on the Wonderland trail must camp in designated spots specified by the permit, and ours has us hiking 12 miles with a whopping 4126 feet of elevation gain on day 1. Please do not ask to come on this trip if you’re not fully confident that you’ll start the trip with the aerobic and leg strength and a sufficiently light pack weight to successfully hike that the first day. Because of this challenging start, we’ll carpool to the park and car camp at Cougar Rock Campground the day before, leaving the Puget Sound area mid-day on August 14th. We’ll likely return late on August 20th. We won’t want to leave cars parked in a Park & Ride lot for that long. So we’ll coordinate ride sharing via email ahead of time. Plan to be collected as a carpool and driving south by noon on August 14th, earlier if your carpool wants to stop for any sort of food en route. It’s a bit over a 2 hour drive to Cougar Rock camp, but then the drivers will need most of four additional hours to shuttle cars to and back from Sunrise.

Expenses: You will be expected to reimburse trip leader for your share of the trip permit cost ($20 for the group), and campsite fee at Cougar Campground ($30 for the group). If you’re not a driver, then as always on Mountaineer trips you’ll need to also reimburse your driver for miles to/from the mountain, definitely to include your share of car shuttle mileage to position cars at both trailheads and to shuttle back at the end. You may also decide on your own to mail a food cache to Mowich Lake Patrol Cabin, so as to carry less food from the start. It’s possible that your carpool will decide to stop en route to purchase food somehow, either going to and/or coming back from the trip. Finally, as a group we may decide to meet for a meal or coffee perhaps a week or so ahead of time to get acquainted and talk through some trip details.

Specific daily agenda, including campsites (not subject to change):

  • Aug 14: carpool to Rainier area, drivers shuttle cars, camp at Cougar Rock Campground
  • Aug 15: Hike 12 miles and 4126’ elevation gain to camp at South Puyallup River Camp
  • Aug 16: Hike 7.5 miles and 1800’ elevation gain to camp at North Puyallup River Camp
  • Aug 17: Hike 10.3 miles and 1500’ elevation gain to camp at South Mowich River
  • Aug 18: Hike 12.2 miles and about 3000’ elevation gain to camp at Carbon River; pick up food cache en route at Mowich Lake if you mailed one there. Group decides if we take the Spray Park alternate route; leader guesses the group will opt for this
  • Aug 19: Hike 10.4 miles and perhaps just a few hundred feet of elevation gain to camp at Granite Creek
  • Aug 20th: Hike 5.6 miles and perhaps 1500’ elevation gain to exit at Sunrise Trailhead. Shuttle cars again. Drive home, likely arriving pretty late.

Gear notes: Bear canisters are not required, as all food is hung each night on bear poles. If you have an Ursack or similar, you might bring that, as it’s possible that rodents can get to the poles (or at least this has been noted in the past). Even though it’s August, be prepared for cold and wet, both in camp and on trail --- the mountain can make its own weather, any time of year.
If you’re ever inclined to bring a small pair of binoculars or monocular, this might be the trip, and ditto a camera; it’s really very beautiful. Given the almost continual climbs and descents, a pair of trekking poles would be no bad thing unless your legs and knees are really very strong and solid.
Tent sharing: for the first night (at Cougar Rock campground), we must all fit into 4 tents total, and for this trip the group size is limited to 10. The group sites on the actual trail will hold 5 tents --- we’ll all be sharing 2-person tents.
So before the trip we WILL be working out tent sharing arrangements, perhaps to include a larger tent or two just for car camping the first night. Please understand going into this that you won’t be able to have your own solo tent (and thus plan to bring earplugs). Best will be lightweight tents with two side exits.
We’ll also work out car-pooling ahead of time so that we don’t leave any cars at park & ride lots or similar for nearly a week.
Finally, if you’re accepted onto this trip please firmly block out this stretch of time on your calendar; this is a very popular and difficult to schedule location --- for our schedule it’s something special. So please take particular care to keep your schedule free and not drop out at the last moment. If you must drop from the trip, give those on the waiting list enough time to plan and prepare for it!
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