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About the Author
Lorain is a photographer and recipient of the National Outdoor Book Award. His books cover only the best trips from the thousands of hikes and backpacking trips he has taken throughout Washington, Oregon, and Idaho. His photographs have been featured in numerous magazines, calendars, and books. He is described by the Seattle Times as the "next great Northwest trail guide author."
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Section 1: Longmire to Mowich
Distance: 34.1 miles
A majority of those who hike the entire Wonderland Trail begin at Longmire and travel clockwise. Thus, the first section you will probably tackle is around the west side of the mountain between Longmire and Mowich Lake. This is a long and relatively tough section, with lots of ups and downs and some steep trails. It is also outstandingly beautiful, so you don’t have to wait to get to the good stuff. The scenery at Indian Henry’s Hunting Ground, Emerald Ridge, Klapatche Park, and Sunset Park is as good or better than anything else in the park, or just about anywhere else in the United States for that matter. Surprisingly, this section also provides solitude. With the permanent closure of the flood-prone Westside Road, day hikers can no longer reasonably explore most of the trails here. As a result, Wonderland Trail hikers typically share the scenery only with other backpackers.
Before setting out, it’s worth investing a little time checking out the historic buildings around Longmire, formerly the park’s headquarters. The two most important of the many log structures here, at least for the hiker, are the Longmire Museum and the Longmire Wilderness Information Center, both about 75 yards from the Wonderland Trailhead. The small museum offers fascinating displays on the natural and human history of Mount Rainier National Park and includes a gift shop where you can pick up postcards, a wildflower guide, or that ever-popular T-shirt. The museum is directly across the Longmire access road from the Wonderland Trailhead and is open 9 a.m.–5 p.m. daily July 1– September 5 and 9 a.m.–4:30 p.m. the rest of the year. The wilderness information center is just east of the trailhead and is where you should go to pick up your reserved permit (or ask about a first-come, first-serve permit) and to inquire about the latest trail and weather conditions. The facility is open 7:30 a.m.–5 p.m. daily July 1–October 10.
The Wonderland Trail starts beside a small sign just a few yards east of where the Longmire access road leaves the Longmire-Paradise Road (also known as Washington
Highway 706). Ascending gradually through a typical low elevation forest dominated by western hemlocks, Douglas firs, and western red cedars, the wide trail climbs beside the road for 0.1 mile before splitting to start the loop.
For the clockwise loop you bear left at the fork and continue paralleling the road for just less than 0.2 mile to a crossing of the highway, where the road makes a sharp right turn beside a small upper parking lot. Here you leave the road, and your wilderness adventure begins.
The route starts with an uphill that, initially at least, is quite gentle beneath a shady canopy of large evergreens. The undergrowth is an interesting mix of, among other species, deer ferns, various mosses, foamflowers, blueberries, and one small bog of skunk cabbage. The last plant graces the forest with huge, shiny, dark-green leaves and prefers wet areas at relatively low elevations. In early summer this plant has large, showy, yellow flowers. Though the odor from these blossoms is not nearly as offensive as that from the plant’s namesake, it is also unlikely to be the basis for a perfume any time soon. As with many perennially wet places along the trail, you cross the bog on a log puncheon bridge.
Table of Contents
List of Maps ix
1 Introduction 1
Mount Rainier and the Wonderland Trail 1
Mount Rainier's Human History 3
Natural History 8
A Word about Mileages 27
2 Have a Safe (And Fun) Trip 29
Blisters, Aches and Pains, and Injuries 34
Bears, Bugs, and Other Critters 38
Other Safety Issues 40
3 Planning and Preparation 47
Section Hikes or All at Once? 47
When to Go 50
Where to Start 52
How Long to Take 55
What to Bring 58
How to Get to Mount Rainier 71
Car Shuttles 75
Food Drops 76
Getting in Shape and Pacing Yourself 78
Leave No Trace Principles and Backcountry Etiquette 84
Other Items Worth Considering 86
4 Trail Description 91
Section 1 Longmire to Mowich Lake 91
Section 2 Mowich Lake to Carbon River Camp Junction via the Wonderland Trail 115
Section 3 Mowich Lake to Carbon River Camp Junction via the Spray Park Trail 121
Section 4 Carbon River Camp Junction to Sunrise via the Wonderland Trail 128
Section 5 Carbon River Camp Junction to Berkeley Park and Sunrise via the Northern Loop Trail 140
Section 6 Sunrise to Fryingpan Creek/SummerlandTraiihead 148
Section 7 Fryingpan Creek/Summerland Trailhead to Box Canyon via the Wonderland Trail 154
Section 8 Fryingpan Creek/Summerland Trailhead to Cowlitz Divide and Box Canyon via the Eastside Trail 164
Section 9 Box Canyon to Longmire 171
Appendix A Recommended Reading 181
Appendix B Selected Area Restaurants, Motels, Outdoors Stores, and Other Businesses 183
Appendix C Park Service Website and Telephone Numbers 186
About the Author 190