July 1, 2014
We drove up to Mount Rainier National Park on June 30th to drop off our food caches and mentally prepare ourselves for our upcoming journey. We stayed at the National Park Inn at Longmire and spent the morning making our final preparations.
We were up at 7:30am and took our last showers for eleven days. I had a breakfast of pancakes and bacon at the restaurant in the inn. While glancing over my Hiking the Wonderland Trail guidebook and map one last time, I was pleasantly surprised by the author of said book, Tami Asars, joining me at the table! She saw me reading her book and came over to chat, informing me she was in the park gathering information for a hiking book she was working on. We talked about the trail, conditions, camps, gear, etc. for about ten minutes before my food arrived. Her encouragement and guidance carried us through many miles in the following days.
After breakfast, we stopped in the Longmire Wilderness Information Center to obtain our permits and check in with the rangers about snow and trail conditions. We were informed that only half of our camps had bear poles up, maybe a third of them might not have melted out sites yet, and shown a map of snow presence along the trail. They said maybe two groups had completed the trail yet, and many groups had quit their trip early because of snow. Navigation would be extremely difficult, but if we could get through the next three or four days, we’d probably make it. Then they gave us bear vaults to carry for food storage, and those things were HEAVY.
We had to repack our packs to fit the bear vaults, but then hit the trail at 11:30am.
Within the first two miles, we ran into Tami Asars on the trail! She told us she was proud of us as we excitedly hustled by. It felt pretty awesome to have the support of the nine-time Wonderland hiker!
The first onslaught of bugs hit us about an hour into our hike, and thus the first appearance of my dear friend DEET. To be fair, they weren’t as bad as we expected, but some of us are unlucky enough to be especially desirable to skeeters.
Our first view of Mt. Rainier came at Kautz Creek. We took a lunch break, enjoyed some sunshine, and snapped a couple photos of the mountain. Our level of excitement was to the max, and we continued on the trail for Devil’s Dream.
We hit our first snow about a quarter mile or so before the camp. It proved to be a little challenging to keep track of the trail as we approached camp, but we made it there at 3:30pm. We had our pick between two or three melted out sites, so we dropped our packs in site 5 and high-fived for the completion of day one.
Shortly after our arrival, a dad and son (Xin and Daniel) arrived to camp, and we soon learned they too had just started their Wonderland trip. Some day hikers also came back down the trail, stopped and asked us where the trail was (as it was covered in snow), and we pointed them in the right direction to where we just came.
We explored camp, located the trail out for the next morning, tested out my GPS, and enjoyed our first dinner and evening on the trail.
“A little damp feeling, but not too cold. Very wet snow. Definitely feel good and nervous about tomorrow.”
Bedtime at 10pm.