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Lightweight in Wonderland
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Addie Bedford
(addiebedford) - MLife

Locale: Montana
Lightweight in Wonderland on 12/09/2008 20:27:22 MST Print View

Companion forum thread to:

Lightweight in Wonderland

Jonathan Ryan
(Jkrew81) - F - M

Locale: White Mtns
Re: Lightweight in Wonderland on 12/10/2008 05:52:16 MST Print View

Great read!!! What timing to see this article as Jim Baily and I just decided to hit this trail up in 2010.

David Neumann
(idahomtman) - M

Locale: Northern Idaho
Wonderland on 12/10/2008 09:19:07 MST Print View

Thanks for the post. I have attempted to do the Wonderland twice. Haven't gotten on the trail yet. In 2006 the trail was wiped out by flooding and they weren't issuing permits. Then last season they had excessive snow and even though I had the permit and vacation time, the trail was under snow when I wanted to go. Maybe 2009 will be my year.

Tad Englund
(bestbuilder) - F - MLife

Locale: Pacific Northwest
Wonderland- check your weights on 12/10/2008 10:48:10 MST Print View

Great read, glad you had fun. You carried more weight then you thought-
Here are 2 that jumped out at me:
REI Sahara convertable pants weight more than 2.5 oz, the leg zippers weigh that much.
NF Cat's Meow at 28 oz, regular size is 42 oz.
You might want to check your scale.
Any way, you did a great trip in fast time in the spirit of lightweight backpacking. I have climbed Mt. Rainier but have yet to do the WT. I'm envious!

Jeffrey Dunning
(boredomhero) - M

Locale: Pacific Northwest
Good Weather on 12/10/2008 10:57:06 MST Print View

Sorry for the August deluge. I did the clockwise loop with two friends Sep 4 thru 11th. Not a drop of rain and one morning we hit a low of 37 degrees. We shared a Noah's Tarp, Jetboil stove and Steri-pen as community property. Our packs ranged from 32 to 26 pounds at the start. While mine was the lightest, I was also the oldest. I applaud your effort, but go back and do the Northern Loop by itself CCW to get the full benefit of seeing Carbon and Mowich Glaciers up close.

David J. Sailer
(davesailer) - F

Locale: Pacific Northwest
Ahhh, 2007 -- that was the year... on 12/10/2008 18:14:13 MST Print View

Aye, Laddie, I dunna fault ye. Ye did good.

But you maybe got the wrong year.

I realized in August 2007 that the trail had just been opened for the year (after repairs of massive flood damage). So I started on Labor Day around 1 p.m., and had glorious fun. Seven days (about right -- did it the first time in six days, which was too fast).

There was practically no one there, and I went the right direction. Met another hiker going opposite, and he had three days of rain. Me: none. Images:

I even missed the turn, missed the six mile road hike, and went through the biggest unrepaired washout, which was fun, going light.

Congratulations for making the trip. Fast or slow, heavy or light, anyone who wanders the Wonderland is doing the right thing.

Elliott Wolin
(ewolin) - MLife

Locale: Hampton Roads, Virginia
Don't rush! on 12/10/2008 19:51:31 MST Print View

We (five of us) spent 14 glorious days on the trail in Summer 2006. It was great to have lots of time in the afternoons and early evenings to just enjoy being there. Who cares if our mileage some days was only six leisurely miles. We took long lunch breaks and frequent scenery and photo stops. I took over 1000 pictures and I'm so glad I did.

The Wonderland Trail is our all time favorite. I recommend at least 9 days, the more the better. But you'll enjoy it no matter how many days you spend on it.

Note: our packs were 12-15 lbs not including food and fuel (we mailed two food caches so we never carried more than 5 days food). This was our first attempt to go lightweight and now we are hooked.

The picture to the left is my wife and me along the White River at the end of our trip.

Edited by ewolin on 12/14/2008 17:54:02 MST.

Jason Brinkman
(jbrinkmanboi) - MLife

Locale: Idaho
Re: Lightweight in Wonderland on 12/10/2008 23:47:24 MST Print View

Sounds like a textbook lightweight adventure.

I am curious how many of the streamcrossings have bridges. Any difficult crossings?

From the NPS Rainier WT website: "Each camp has cleared tent sites, a pit or composting toilet and nearby water source. Most camps have food storage poles for hanging food and garbage."

God bless the NPS for making the wilderness safe and confortable for us!

I tend to do mostly wilderness or off-trail trips, in which case I reserve plenty of extra time in the day to handle camp site selection, lack of toilet, and water collection. Would be easier to push the limits of dawn and dusk if I knew there was a tent site, toilet, and bear pole waiting for me!

Dana Sherry
(dsherry) - M

Locale: Southwest
weight of gear? on 12/11/2008 18:26:24 MST Print View

Does a TNF cats meow really weigh 28 oz? and zip-off pants that weigh 2.5 oz?

Dana Sherry
(dsherry) - M

Locale: Southwest
Re: weight of gear? on 12/11/2008 18:33:07 MST Print View

Edit: Other than the weight issues, thanks for the article- you have managed to add yet another fantasy trip to my list, which by the way is getting longer as I cannot manage to check off as many trips as I'd like these days with toddler around the house to keep track of... but it still can be done. I am inspired; that trail was just about off limits in my previous "mainstream" hiking days of 40+ #. but now is quite realistic for anyone with a week off and lightweight backpacking standards. I am now about 9# baseweight and will never look back!

Tad Englund
(bestbuilder) - F - MLife

Locale: Pacific Northwest
Re: weight of gear? on 12/11/2008 19:10:36 MST Print View

The TNF cats meow sleeping bags weigh 42 oz for regular and 46 oz for a long.
The zip off's weigh between 14 and 17 oz.
The poor guy was carrying at least one and a half pounds more then he thought.
I haven't looked through the rest of his list.

John Tunnicliffe

Locale: Northern California
Tacoma on 12/12/2008 20:06:11 MST Print View

Doesn't sound to me that hauling a few extra ounces around the base of Tacoma diminished the trip any. I wonder, why is that?

I've been thinking doing this loop for a couple of years now and this report got me to thinking harder about it. I may have the time to do it '09 and I know my gear is sufficient...

Looking northward now.


Dirk Rabdau
(dirk9827) - F

Locale: Pacific Northwest
A great adventure on 12/13/2008 16:59:17 MST Print View

Thank you for the great trip report. The "Rainier Loop" is an interesting spin on the two longest trails at Mt. Rainier. You certainly get the best of both trails (with considerable effort.) You also did it fast! Wow.

I am fortunate to live near the mountain and have to done both the Northern Loop and the Wonderland Trail. Both are challenging and offer several side-trip options.

For those who decide to tackle the Wonderland Trail, I would strongly suggest setting up your trip to use the food drops offered by the NPS. You can mail your packages to ranger stations or if you prefer (and especially if fuel is involved) drop them off at selected stations along the trip. It's a significant amount of a driving, but it would provide you with a valuable perspective on the amount of vertical involved. Or for those who perfer to take s shower, you can stay at the Lodge at Longmire for a night, breaking up your trip depending upon your starting point.

The camp sites are all permit based, and I believe the permit lottery begins in March or April (maybe earlier). Anyhow, information can be found here:

On a purely personal note, I'd recommend staying at Summerland Camp (go as far into the camp as you can go, the best site is at the end). If you stay at Indian Bar, climb, climb, climb far away from the river (the camp nearest the privy). The temperature is at least 10 degrees warmer there in the morning and it makes a huge difference in my enthusiasm to leave the warmth of my sleeping bag. If you do stay in either Summerland and Indian Bar and it's raining, you sometimes can make use of the three-sided shelters...These are generally group reserved but often, the groups are small and there are plenty of bunks empty. This was especially welcome during a rain/snow storm that left everyone a bit weary after a long day of hiking.

The camp areas generally are NOT spectacular, at least compared to other memorable areas of the Cascades. But they generally are near water and like the article said, have a bear pole and composting toilet (including an a pretty fancy one at Summerland).

Also, regardless of which direction you tackle the Wonderland (clockwise or counter-clockwise), I would suggest traveling through Spray Park instead of the traditional route of the Wonderland up to Mowich Lake (which has a parking lot/awful camp ground) adjacent to it. You won't miss anything (the trail climb significantly in both cases) and the payoff of walking through Spray Park is completely worth it.

For those who prefer a little more off-trail adventure, you can obtain off trail permits. They do require you to camp I think at least a quarter of a mile off the trail and out of sight of anyone.

Finally, I think taking this trail slow has a lot of benefits. You can take the time to do the side hikes and if you do shorter distances, can get to camp earlier and take the better spots. Finally, depending where you start, staying at the lodge in Longmire or climbing an extra 1,000 feet to the Paradise Inn is a possibility for a respite.

Roman Ryder
(RomanLA) - F

Locale: Southwest Louisiana
I can't wait! on 12/14/2008 11:36:53 MST Print View

Nice...I'm putting in for a permit for next August (and JMT Happy Isles to Bishop as a backup). I'll have to look into the off-trail permits. If you're still looking for gaiters, these are the ones I use (1.3 oz)...

Denis Hazlewood
(redleader) - MLife

Locale: Luxury-Light Luke on the Llano Azul
Re: Tacoma on 12/15/2008 22:51:29 MST Print View

John (BenWaller),
On a trip like this, how many miles per day do you usually hike.

Sarah Kirkconnell
(sarbar) - F

Locale: In the shadow of Mt. Rainier
It ain't the pack weight.... on 12/19/2008 10:06:57 MST Print View

It is the elevation gain that will do you in if you are not prepared ;-)

The Wonderland has about 2 flat spots I have determined over the years.....My favorite being the tiny flat spot at Panhandle Gap as one has just finished hiking the Stairs of Inner Thigh Hell from Indian Bar.

We did it in 04', the worst day for gain being Nickle Creek to Summerland. Since then I have found that it is quite comfy doing gain all day if you pace yourself. If you are a flat lander keep the miles under 10 a day for not killing yourself. Unlike the PCT, which is close, the grade is NOT graded for comfort. So the trail goes up fast, often at 15-20% or so.

As for bridges, the WT is awesome with that. Nearly everything is bridged - and usually the only reason something isn't is due to blowouts from a storm. Now having said that....some of the bridges will cause nausea ;-) All the glacier fed ones are is reclaimed trees that came down, planed on top with a hand rail. The two suspension bridges are fun as well - walk don't run or they buckle like crazy.

The backcountry campsites in Rainier are like no where else. Since you HAVE to have a permit you are guaranteed a place for your head at night, no matter how late you get there. On the flip side, you cannot change your mind mid day and stay elsewhere, which chaffs some people. But, alas, this is done for good reason - not many years ago Rainier was being destroyed by love.

Going cross country is the best - but they don't allow it for the WT. (And it is much easier to use the camps).

Now on those camps? Don't get hyped that they are great in views. Most are in ugly, dark copses of trees. And that is OK really - you hike all day in beauty, then go to the sites to eat and sleep. The bear poles work well, just be careful with mice in certain areas. Water is almost always right next door as well.

It is very, very easy to go UL on the WT. Easy since you can pick up food every couple days and toss garbage. Water is often plentiful so you don't have to carry tons of it.

But whatever you choose, do not leave your rain gear, hat, gloves and an insulating layer behind. Tahoma makes her own weather and can go from sunny and hot to snowing in hours. If you see a lenticular cloud starting to form up high on the mt, rain will be coming within 24 hours. (It looks like a cap swooping in on the summit, sometimes winding around the mt.)

Sarah Kirkconnell
(sarbar) - F

Locale: In the shadow of Mt. Rainier
Also be very wary on 12/19/2008 10:18:44 MST Print View

Of this statement:
"Thanks to the National Park Service, the WT is one of those hikes when a compass isn't required. The route is well-maintained, there are few intersections, and on clear days, you've got a view of Mount Rainier by which to navigate."

That is NOT NOT NOT true!!!! While the park has signs at most junctions, if it is snowy year one can go the wrong way. Also, in white outs one can get lost very fast. This would apply in a number of areas of the park, with Pandhandle Gap being a huge issue. If you choose to take the old WT/alternate route from the suspension bridge at Carbon River up through Seattle Park/Spray Park down to Mowich Lake you need to know that in a white out you can get lost very, very easily if you are not navigating. While in that area back in the day they painted yellow arrows on the rocks in the snow/white out it can be easy to miss one and go to high and miss the hump over into Spray Park (the first time I did this section was in a whiteout with my buddy Drew leading us - we did it via GPS from a previous trip he had done). Drew has posted quite a bit about the WT over the years on one of his sites: He has done the WT I am thinking 7 times now.

As well, the road to Ipsuit Creek Campground should be considered permanently closed now. Last year after the floods of fall 2006 the 5 mile road was made into a trail. The recent floods in this November made the issue worse. Now the road is blown out beyond the park boundaries, adding more mileage to even get in. The trail/road inside the park got damaged more. The WT trail itself was destroyed in 2006 on the way to the Carbon suspension bridge - the good thing is the other side of the river was OK (Northern Loop).

If family or friends want to meet, Sunrise is the best place on the loop. Also, if you do the WT after Labor Day you won't be able to use Mowich Lake or Sunrise for food drops due to closing.