If you’ve never backpacked before, I would not recommend the Wonderland Trail as your first foray into wilderness marathon camping, unless you’re a little crazy*.
This series is entitled “Our failed Wonderland Trail backpacking adventure”, since we had planned to hike the full 93 miles, but for a number of reasons we decided to call it quits after 4 days and about 26 miles. After leaving the trail, we did some car camping and day hikes around the park, including some more of the Wonderland Trail, putting our total distance hiked at around 43 miles. Despite not reaching our initial goal, we made some great memories and gained some valuable experience.
As a family of 7, this was our first backpacking trip*, and some of our kids would probably hope it was our last. We have 5 kids between the ages of 13 and 3, and we have spent many a summer at Mt Rainier doing day hikes and enjoying camping. This trip was inspired by my dad, who talked about doing the Wonderland Trail with me when I was probably around 10 years old. Well, I don’t know how serious he was about it, but his mention of it stuck in my memory. He died a few years later, so he and I never hiked the trail, but the seed was planted.
Now, many years later with my own family, tackling the WT was not on my list of to-dos… until I came across some videos online of other larger families hiking the trail. This piqued my interest, and suddenly learning about the Wonderland Trail became a favorite past time. I spent a number of months reading books, looking at maps and trail profiles, researching online, planning various itineraries, and trying to gather as much information as possible to determine if a hike of this scale was even doable for our family.
And, I guess I never came to the conclusion it wasn’t.
We slowly acquired all the necessary gear, tried to pinch and squeeze weight out of every possible item, planned all the meals and logistics, and began training for what looked to be the toughest hike of our life.
We looked a bit silly, walking around the local parks and up and down bleachers with our big packs on. We sat down as a family to learn about the trail, read trip accounts, think about possible starting points, watch videos, learn camp names and locations, and much more. We spent time thinking about how much of this, what type, how much does it weigh, rain gear, first aid, sunscreen, shoes, blisters, water, tent size, what if this, and what if that.
We put together 12 days worth of food, split into 3 caches of 4 days each. Between Mowich Lake, Longmire, and White River, we would never need more than 4 days of food, so that was how we split it up. We mailed one cache to Mowich Lake a few weeks prior since it was the most remote location, and we were coming from the east side. The second cache we had with us ready to drop off at either Longmire or White River, depending on where we actually started hiking. And then we had the remaining 4 days worth of food in our packs.
Well, before we knew it, our backpacking trip was upon us, and all our preparation was about to be tested.
To be continued…