Thursday, April 28, 2011

Wonderland Here We Come!

Though we will be renovating from next weekend till what seems to be the end of time, we are not willing to spend the entire summer without at least one long distance hike. The Wonderland trail was picked for a couple of reasons:

1) It is reasonably close: The Wonderland encircles Mount Rainer which is less than a day's drive North of us. With rising gas prices, the proximity allows us to drive up and back without annihilating any kind of budget.

The red trail is the 93 mile Wonderland Trail. It stays well below what would be considered a need to rope up, but is often still covered in snow through much of July when we will be going.

2) It is a short one: Though considered one of the most beautiful long distance trails in America, the Wonderland is only going to take us 9 days to complete. If we want a zero day we can take it, but we probably won't unless the side trails are just too alluring. We can drive up, pick up permits, hike, and head home all in less than 2 weeks. The short time line means both the trip and the renovations this summer can be successful.

Since the entire trail is located with Mt. Rainer National Park, it is highly monitored wilderness area and kept as pristine as possible. Though not forest primordial, it is relatively unchanged since the trail was put in almost 100 years ago.

3)Oh and Ah Factor: The Wonderland Trail crosses up and down over the glacier carved ridgelines and alpine meadows creating incredible views both from high and from the valley. There are 2 suspension bridges, many raging river crossings where you only get a log to walk along, and you are within 500 feet of the lowest glacier in the Continental US (Carbon Creek). From canyons to waterfalls to being in the high Cascades, it is high interest every day while still maintaining an entirely wilderness status. In many places, that is hard to do.

The wildflowers supposedly come out in July and are well known to light up the alpine and sub alpine meadows. If the cold, wet weather keeps up, we are set to miss them and get much more snow.

4) It's a Hike: Though are days are only about 9-10 miles each, the elevation gain and loss is an average 3500 feet. You are literally climbing or falling almost the entire time with a total elevation gain of 22,000 feet. This is the sort of hike which keeps our family interested.

Part of this is also to feel small and at the mercy of the natural world. So much of the time it seems that we tend to forget that it isn't about us, we don't really have much control, and that isn't a bad thing.

5) Homeschooling: If we are going to say that we homeschool our child, we need to do it! Walking around Rainer will hopefully be a great intro to circumnavigating many more mountains (Timberline, Loowit, Three Sisters Loop, etc). The views of rainshadow, the ecosystem changes, the 25 glaciers, all of it shows the very direct effects of today's environment. If we have the freedom to not have to actually be "in school" we better live it up!

With three separate summits, the mountain looks different from every angle. Such is the life of a stratovolcano and part of the fun of circumnavigation.

6)Why Not?!: This is the biggest reason of all. If we can't take 2 weeks of our life to show our son this National Park, that is just pathetic. None of us have seen it, it is critically acclaimed, and we don't need any gear since we have all of it. We can all do it without much training and it won't cost us anything but 20 dollars for the reservation and gas. It seemed like an extreme no-brainer.
Note: Since crampons or micro-spikes should only be used when it is deadly to proceed otherwise, we won't be taking them. The chances of hurting yourself to the point of needing immediate hospital attention are just too high. Even when highly trained, people often panic and stupidly put their feet down instead of properly self arresting or glassading. We will carry ice axes as The Barracuda has been trained how to use one and will rope up if necessary. He will most likely not be using crampons until he is at least 14, ice climbing, and been through years of professional training. I'm just not willing to permanently kill my son's feet.

Confirmation of our reservation came today. Mid July we are heading up North. As of now Jules, myself, The Barracuda, and (oddly) my brother have decided to take it on. I don't know exactly how well my brother will fare (hopefully well), but we have been alpine training for quite a stint and don't plan on stopping anytime soon. The Barracuda wants to begin running with me every other day and has decided to trail run with Jules as well. Once his form really takes hold, we will apply some weight. He's pretty darn good to go!

2 thoughts:

Mel said...

Looks like an amazing hike--can't wait to hear the stories from the trail!

Alice said...

Wow ... that looks amazing. I really enjoy reading your blog updates and can't wait to read more!

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