August 17th, 2010

hiking - standing tall

Post-Wonderland update

  • 0 cell reception
  • 1 fall off the trail*
  • 2 nights of rain
  • 3 bear encounters**
  • 6 drives into Mount Rainier National Park
  • 7 hiking days (in two segments)
  • a 24-mile hitchhike with an Australian businessman
  • 47+ hiking miles***
  • 50+ mosquito bites
  • and 1000+ photos
... I'm done with the Wonderland Trail!*****

(Edited to add: I should clarify, I did not complete the trail. However, I finished my time there, and completed the segments I intended to hike. And I did do the much shorter Skyline Trail in its entirety.)

I got to see huge glacial canyons, endless forests, a few meteors in the Perseid shower, and dramatic views of Mount Rainier from pretty much every direction. There was hiking with friends, hiking with strangers, and solo hiking. There was miserable slogging through wet underbrush, stomping through snow fields, and shuffling over loose rock. There were steep slopes and flat spots, and much more of the former than the latter. There were marmots(*^6) and mountain goats and slugs and deer. There was a precarious suspension bridge, dangling 100 feet over a river canyon, which had quite visibly had some of its boards replaced. And there were some big damn views.

A more visual record of the trip will come once I return to my own computer (this will save me the headache of sifting through them on various friends' machines). Until then, I'm going to be wandering around through the Pacific Northwest, visiting friends in Seattle and Portland. I'm currently at kistaro,'s; it has also been great to see elynne, circuit_four, tracerj, etc., with more to come tonight and this week.

* Not by me.

** I am not technically lying when I describe it this way. However, I chose that phrase carefully, because it sounds a lot more impressive than saying "a single bear encounter, consisting of a mother and her two cubs." On the other paw, a mother bear with cubs is quite possibly more cumulatively dangerous than three single bears. On the gripping paw, when the largest of the three bears barely makes it up to your knee, it's a little harder to describe them as "dangerous" (though still potentially painful).

*** It is an axiom among hikers that the map is a filthy liar. Nowhere is this more visible than in examining listed trail mileage. Of my 47+ miles, 33.9 of them were on the Wonderland Trail (from Longmire to North Puyallup River and Fryingpan Creek to Box Canyon) ... according to the "Mount Rainier National Park Wilderness Trip Planner" map, anyway. The Green Trail Maps topo map calls those same Wonderland legs 38.3 miles. The book "Discovering the Wonders of the Wonderland Trail" (whose author walked the trail with a measuring wheel****) calls it 35.2. The on-trail signs disagree with all three, which is especially impressive considering that both they and the Trip Planner were made by park officials.

**** I quote from page 45: "All it takes to complete the Wonderland Trail is to put one foot in front of the other for 486,667 feet or 92.2 miles. This book was born of curiosity over that very figure. Researching the subject for the first time turned up seven major sources of authority on the trail. No two of them agreed on much of anything. But the main bone of contention was the mileage."

***** For now.

*^6 Well ... okay. I actually have this theory (which I believe with all the zeal of a righteous Discordian, mind) that there is only one marmot in all of creation. He first found me in the High Sierra, where the stories of marmot gear theft were legendary -- but he was unable to steal my backpack. Ever since then, HE HAS BEEN FOLLOWING ME. And when I venture far enough outside of civilization ... there he is, waiting, staring patiently with his beady little eyes ... and he will not rest, he will not waver, until he has taken my backpack and dragged it off into the night. So far my vigilance has proven sufficient. Someday, though ...