Forum Index > Trip Reports > Wonderland Trail West 57 miles: 6.9/10.2015
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williswall
seeking tailwind



Joined: 30 Sep 2007
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Location: Bellevue, WA
williswall
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seeking tailwind
PostFri Jun 12, 2015 11:52 am 
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Yes, you can do the Wonderland Trail right now. I figured I'd take advantage of this unusual year to hike the better portion of the trail when (according to the rangers) no one has done it yet. It can be done, but not without some difficulties. Incredible flower show, bordering on overload, which fortunately is not possible when it comes to flowers.
Day 1: Longmire to Golden Lakes (25 miles)
This first day was basically a piece of cake, with no impediments to hiking the trail worth noting. There were a few blowdowns but hardly worth mentioning. I ran into 4 people the entire day, out hiking parts of the trail from the West Side road access. Swarming bug fest at Indian Henry's, almost as many mosquitoes as there were flowers. The day was hot but not unbearable, and the good forecast allowed me to tailor my kit: I was going really light with small packs (back and front), and my sleep system for the one night at Golden Lakes was perfect: NeoAir XLite, EE 50 degree quilt, and MLD 2.8 ounce "bivy."

1. Wonderland Path
1. Wonderland Path
2. Kautz Creek view
2. Kautz Creek view
3. classic Indian Henry's view
3. classic Indian Henry's view
4. rare water reflection Indian Henry's
4. rare water reflection Indian Henry's
5. let the riot begin
5. let the riot begin
6. Chocolate River-Tahoma Creek
6. Chocolate River-Tahoma Creek
7. Tahoma Creek suspension bridge
7. Tahoma Creek suspension bridge
8. flower sample1
8. flower sample1
9. budding evergreen shrub
9. budding evergreen shrub
10. approaching Emerald Ridge
10. approaching Emerald Ridge
11. riot patch on the moraine
11. riot patch on the moraine
12. Emerald Ridge pano
12. Emerald Ridge pano
13. Emerald Ridge crowding in
13. Emerald Ridge crowding in
14. unbelievable!
14. unbelievable!
15. descending to S. Puyallup
15. descending to S. Puyallup
16. swollen South Puyallup river
16. swollen South Puyallup river
17. the butterflies are out
17. the butterflies are out
18. tandem flight
18. tandem flight
19. fly and flowers
19. fly and flowers
20. path decorations
20. path decorations
21. approaching St Andrews Park
21. approaching St Andrews Park
22. St Andrews Park
22. St Andrews Park
24. St Andrews Park
24. St Andrews Park
25. St Andrews lake
25. St Andrews lake
26. flower carpet approaching Klapatche Park
26. flower carpet approaching Klapatche Park
27. crowded field
27. crowded field
28. living up to the name
28. living up to the name
29. a filled Aurora Lake
29. a filled Aurora Lake
30. Klapatche Park
30. Klapatche Park
31. creek near North Puyallup
31. creek near North Puyallup
32. North Puyallup River
32. North Puyallup River
33. North Puyallup River
33. North Puyallup River
34. waning light on N. Puyallup
34. waning light on N. Puyallup
35. North Puyallup bridge
35. North Puyallup bridge
36. setting sun approaching Silver Forest
36. setting sun approaching Silver Forest
37. Silver Forest
37. Silver Forest
38. after sunset Silver Forest
38. after sunset Silver Forest
39. Tacoma straight ahead
39. Tacoma straight ahead

ATTN Wonderland hikers: The major point I can make for people planning the trail is this; although the conditions snow and weatherwise are like August, the fact of the matter is the Park has done no trail maintenance. This is as close to a wilderness hike on the Wonderland as I'll probably ever experience, due to the fact that the Mowich Lake road is still closed and both crossings over the South and North Mowich Rivers are out. Unless you are willing to hike the Mowich Lake road (like two guys I ran into in Spray Park did), the west side of the park is empty. No rangers had even been to Golden Lakes yet (no bear poles). I was a good boy though and got a permit anyway.
Day 2: Golden Lakes to Sunrise (32 miles)
This would prove to be a difficult day for me, not just because of the distance but my bod just didn't want to get in gear right from the beginning. Still recovering from surgery? 60 years old? Slowed down by "trail difficulties? Don't know, combo of everything I guess. This is not to say this wasn't one of the coolest hikes I have done despite some small amount of suffering, but that just comes with the territory. The first obstacle, and in fact the only one I was slightly concerned about, was crossing both the raging Mowich Rivers. This is the sort of thing that would discourage "traditional" backpackers expecting a nice manicured trail. However, the crossings weren't that bad, and although the South Mowich is heavily braided, I was able to find 3 logs to handle each section and stayed feet dry. After a break at the S. Mowich River camp, I was able to cross the North Mowich with just a little bit of bushwhacking and 1 log. These rivers are bursting at the seams so fording is not a good idea.

I wanted to do the alternate route over Spray Park to check out the snow levels....August, anyone? Lower Spray Park was bursting with flowers and conspicuously absent of humans. The route over upper Spray Park is easy to follow with short snow sections. I'm thinking the snow will all be gone by July here, very unusual. This day would see more blowdowns with some serious work to do by the trail crews, more to come. The trail was fine until reaching the South Fork of the White River, an area that was trenched by an outflow event some years ago. For the rest of my hike I was in darkness and the trail is gone here, necessitating a steep scree drop (40 feet) where I had to be careful about dislodging rocks and boulders on the slide down to the river. Crossing is easy but the shorter scramble up the opposite bank proved interesting with avoiding joining the rocks and scree slides produced by me trying to climb. Getting over the lip was like climbing out of a crevasse, but once out I managed to regain the trail on the other side without much problem. I was very happy to see that the bridge over Winthrop Creek was intact. The next obstacle is a section of trail just above Garda Falls that simply collapsed. It looks like a small creek eroded this section and schwacking above it looked too tedious. I had to drop 8-10 feet into a small ravine that angled steeply to Winthrop Creek but veggie belays helped tremendously in finding purchase in both descending and climbing the opposite bank. After this the going was good and due to the lateness I probably would have just camped at Granite Creek, but my pickup was already at Sunrise so I simply soldiered on. Things were slow but fine with me enjoying short rest breaks with the star show above. Approaching Skyscraper Pass brought me into a different weather zone though, with 25 knot winds and cold temps. My last concern proved warranted, as there is a large snow section right on the north side of Skyscraper Pass, and I had to traverse on the high side using ridgeline veggie belays as the 60 degree drop wouldn't have been pleasant due to a slip. The snow wasn't frozen though and the last difficulty of the night was downclimbing the loose steep boulders to regain the trail after the snow about 20-30 feet below me. The rest of the slog to Sunrise had me crossing some snow patches but easy walking, still accompanied by the biting winds and sometimes stinging dust. Although it was dark here, I did notice that the flower show is yet to come in the meadows above Berkeley Park.

40. Golden Lakes early AM
40. Golden Lakes early AM
41. Golden Lakes
41. Golden Lakes
42. another flower shot on trail
42. another flower shot on trail
43. looking across S. Mowich braided area
43. looking across S. Mowich braided area
44. N Mowich mess
44. N Mowich mess
45. another water source on the WT
45. another water source on the WT
46. my perennial friends
46. my perennial friends
47. approching Spray Park
47. approching Spray Park
48. not white!
48. not white!
49. nature's perfect patterns
49. nature's perfect patterns
50. Spray Park
50. Spray Park
51. Spray Park path
51. Spray Park path
52. uh huh, there's more
52. uh huh, there's more
53. upper Spray Park
53. upper Spray Park
54. future flower field-upper Spray Park
54. future flower field-upper Spray Park
55. not August! 6000'
55. not August! 6000'
56. trail descending to Seattle Park
56. trail descending to Seattle Park
58. not all gone yet
58. not all gone yet
59. Mist Park
59. Mist Park
60. Seattle Park
60. Seattle Park
61. a splash of red
61. a splash of red
62. trail to Carbon River
62. trail to Carbon River
63. going to seed already
63. going to seed already
64. CZEK sucks
64. CZEK sucks
65. trail next to Carbon Glacier
65. trail next to Carbon Glacier
66. springing forth
66. springing forth
67. delicate details
67. delicate details
68. another water fillup station
68. another water fillup station
69. Moraine Park
69. Moraine Park
70. Moraine Park
70. Moraine Park
71. sunset on the rock
71. sunset on the rock
72. Mystic Pass
72. Mystic Pass
73. approaching Mystic Lake
73. approaching Mystic Lake
75. Venus in Mystic Lake
75. Venus in Mystic Lake

The trail crews probably won't get to serious work until July, so I'm not sure when the trail will be "normal" for hikers. The enticement of hitting the trail now is the isolation, wilderness experience (if anything happens out there you are on your own) and obscene flower show, I've never seen anything like it. The crowds will start hitting the Spray Park area after the 19th when the road opens, but right now nobody's there. In the 30 or so times I've hiked this trail, experiencing it in June before it is "open" ranks as one of the most immersive and rewarding (and a little hard) hikes I've done.

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"You run with me, not the other way around.” (Cassie re races)

williswall.com
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Straight Arrow
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PostFri Jun 12, 2015 11:57 am 
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Wow!! Wildflowers are a poppin'! Nice pics!

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It may be that your sole purpose in life is simply to serve as a warning to others.
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Distel32
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PostFri Jun 12, 2015 1:27 pm 
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up.gif both for the trip and pics.
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iron
getting old



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getting old
PostFri Jun 12, 2015 1:50 pm 
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up.gif  up.gif

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man, you go through life, you try to be nice to people, you struggle to resist the urge to punch 'em in the face, and for what?

--- moe sizlack
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Roly Poly
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PostFri Jun 12, 2015 3:22 pm 
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Those wildflowers are amazing!  And you really covered some distance!
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Don
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PostFri Jun 12, 2015 5:07 pm 
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What a crazy year.  Awesome trip and photos!  You cover some amazing ground! up.gif

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Photography Blog
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JVesquire
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PostFri Jun 12, 2015 8:09 pm 
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up.gif  up.gif
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bobbi
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stillaGUAMish
PostFri Jun 12, 2015 9:06 pm 
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what can i say about YOU!  absolutely crazy and fabulous!  you da man up.gif

thank you for the beautiful flower show!  incredible!

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bobbi ૐ

"Today is your day!  Your mountain is waiting.  So…get on your way!" - Oh, the Places You’ll Go! By Dr. Seuss
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marydave
Musical Hikers



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PostFri Jun 12, 2015 9:35 pm 
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Stunning flower pictures, and amazing work as always.
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Magellan
Brutally Handsome



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PostFri Jun 12, 2015 10:09 pm 
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Fantastic pictures WW!  up.gif  Thanks for the writeup, and I hope I'm half the hiker you are when I'm 60.
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mbravenboer
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PostSat Jun 13, 2015 4:10 pm 
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up.gif Great flower photos! Must have been great fun.
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