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  1. #1

    Default Wonderland Trail in 2018

    Hello all. Lifetime hiker/wilderness canoe camper, but fairly new to long distance backpacking.
    With retirement on the horizon I hope to get in MANY thru hikes in my Golden Years. An AT thru-hike is on the agenda in 2019, but first I have a couple others on my radar...the Wonderland Trail being one near the top of the list. I had a few questions that I wondered if anyone could offer some assistance.
    1. I had read that to begin at a trail-head other than Longmire will increase the chances of the permit being approved. True/false? If this is true, where is the next best trail head to begin? I was looking at Sunrise, but it seems like it is a bit more difficult to access by car (I don't have a 4WD, and my Mazda 3 gets rather irritated by steep mountain roads). How difficult is it to get to Sunrise by car, and how much parking is available there?
    2. I have hiking experience in the mountains, but only day-hikes. So, I think I should keep my miles at around 10 per day. I wondered if there are any benefits to clockwise vs. counterclockwise though?
    3. I've been trying to note campsites that are highly recommended (Indian Bar, Klapatche Park, Golden Lakes, Mystic Lake) as well as those that are not recommended (Devil's Dream). Any others to make note of?
    4. Because I do not have to go at any specific time, but would like to enjoy the benefits of going in August, when filling out the permit, can I just say 'anytime in August'? Would that help to get the exact itinerary I am requesting?
    5. Bear safety? I know there are poles at all the campsites to hang bear bags, so I'm assuming a canister is not necessary, but how recommended is bear spray? I'm generally of the mindset that it's unnecessary weight, but I've also never hiked in WA, and don't want to be foolish in my decision.
    6. While I love hiking, I am a bit nervous about fording. How big of a concern should this be should I be able to get a permit for August?
    I have searched for these answers, but finally decided to ask the 'experts' here.
    Thank you so much for any help anyone is able to provide.
    Tammi

  2. #2

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    Quote Originally Posted by Overcast View Post
    Hello all. Lifetime hiker/wilderness canoe camper, but fairly new to long distance backpacking.
    With retirement on the horizon I hope to get in MANY thru hikes in my Golden Years. An AT thru-hike is on the agenda in 2019, but first I have a couple others on my radar...the Wonderland Trail being one near the top of the list. I had a few questions that I wondered if anyone could offer some assistance.
    1. I had read that to begin at a trail-head other than Longmire will increase the chances of the permit being approved. True/false? If this is true, where is the next best trail head to begin? I was looking at Sunrise, but it seems like it is a bit more difficult to access by car (I don't have a 4WD, and my Mazda 3 gets rather irritated by steep mountain roads). How difficult is it to get to Sunrise by car, and how much parking is available there? No problem whatever. It is an easy road. You could start at White River, near Sunrise but at much lower elevation as well.
    2. I have hiking experience in the mountains, but only day-hikes. So, I think I should keep my miles at around 10 per day. I wondered if there are any benefits to clockwise vs. counterclockwise though? Plan on shorter days, unless you are young and very fit. There is a lot of elevation involved. I have only gone clockwise, but either should be fine.
    3. I've been trying to note campsites that are highly recommended (Indian Bar, Klapatche Park, Golden Lakes, Mystic Lake) as well as those that are not recommended (Devil's Dream). Any others to make note of? Devils Dream is not too nice, but tolerable. You won't be disappointed wherever you stay. Indian Bar is also spectacular.
    4. Because I do not have to go at any specific time, but would like to enjoy the benefits of going in August, when filling out the permit, can I just say 'anytime in August'? Would that help to get the exact itinerary I am requesting? Give them your preferred itinerary. They will do their best for you. Call and ask now for best information.5. Bear safety? I know there are poles at all the campsites to hang bear bags, so I'm assuming a canister is not necessary, but how recommended is bear spray? I'm generally of the mindset that it's unnecessary weight, but I've also never hiked in WA, and don't want to be foolish in my decision. The bears there are not a problem. At worst you may have to wait for one to wander back off the trail. (Happened to me last fall.)
    6. While I love hiking, I am a bit nervous about fording. How big of a concern should this be should I be able to get a permit for August? Fording should only be a problem if there is a lot of rain and bridges are out. Last fall my son and I, among others, crossed one river on a very iffy bridge that ended three feet short of the shore. It was scary. Normally, no problem.
    I have searched for these answers, but finally decided to ask the 'experts' here.
    Thank you so much for any help anyone is able to provide.
    Tammi
    Also, if it is very dry some water sources may be dry. Bring something to haul a gallon or so to dry camps if needed. Rangers will advise you. Also, The Wonder Lake road is unpaved. I had no problem with my Prius last year, though. Have fun.
    "It's fun to have fun, but you have to know how." ---Dr. Seuss

  3. #3
    Garlic
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    Consider that the NPS keeps 25% of sites available for walk-ins. I've hiked the WT twice in recent years as a walk-in, and have gotten good sites including Indian Bar both times. Especially if you're able to walk a long day once in a while, or be flexible enough to take a short day, they'll get you on the mountain.

    If you can start mid-week, I can't imagine there being a benefit to not start at Longmire.

    Consider the west side has a bit more steep climbing. I wanted to hit that first while I was fresh. Others may want to hike themselves into shape.

    Check with the rangers before you hike about the bears, but I've never heard of a problem at MRNP.

    I don't recall even getting my feet wet on my hikes. Once a bridge was out and I had to hike five or six extra miles to a bridge.

    I've never driven to Sunrise, but I remember seeing tour buses there.

  4. #4

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    Quote Originally Posted by Overcast View Post
    Hello all. Lifetime hiker/wilderness canoe camper, but fairly new to long distance backpacking.
    With retirement on the horizon I hope to get in MANY thru hikes in my Golden Years. An AT thru-hike is on the agenda in 2019, but first I have a couple others on my radar...the Wonderland Trail being one near the top of the list. I had a few questions that I wondered if anyone could offer some assistance.
    1. I had read that to begin at a trail-head other than Longmire will increase the chances of the permit being approved. True/false? If this is true, where is the next best trail head to begin? I was looking at Sunrise, but it seems like it is a bit more difficult to access by car (I don't have a 4WD, and my Mazda 3 gets rather irritated by steep mountain roads). How difficult is it to get to Sunrise by car, and how much parking is available there?
    2. I have hiking experience in the mountains, but only day-hikes. So, I think I should keep my miles at around 10 per day. I wondered if there are any benefits to clockwise vs. counterclockwise though?
    3. I've been trying to note campsites that are highly recommended (Indian Bar, Klapatche Park, Golden Lakes, Mystic Lake) as well as those that are not recommended (Devil's Dream). Any others to make note of?
    4. Because I do not have to go at any specific time, but would like to enjoy the benefits of going in August, when filling out the permit, can I just say 'anytime in August'? Would that help to get the exact itinerary I am requesting?
    5. Bear safety? I know there are poles at all the campsites to hang bear bags, so I'm assuming a canister is not necessary, but how recommended is bear spray? I'm generally of the mindset that it's unnecessary weight, but I've also never hiked in WA, and don't want to be foolish in my decision.
    6. While I love hiking, I am a bit nervous about fording. How big of a concern should this be should I be able to get a permit for August?
    I have searched for these answers, but finally decided to ask the 'experts' here.
    Thank you so much for any help anyone is able to provide.
    Tammi
    Tammi, you will love the Wonderland Trail. I will respond to each of your questions.

    1. Trailheads other than Longmire. All of the trailheads are easily accessible without 4 wheel drive. I don't know if it will increase your chances, but you could indicate on your permit request that you will accept any of the trailheads: Longmire, Mirror Lakes, Box Canyon, White River, Sunrise and Mowich Lake. All have parking. All are reached by paved road except Mowich Lake. Mowich Lake is a gravel road, but does not require a 4 wheel drive.

    2. I prefer clockwise, but have done it both ways. It really doesn't make a difference. Because of the location of the camps, you may have to hike more than 10 miles in a day.

    3. This year, I had to stay at Devil's Dream because of the way permits were available. It wasn't as bad as I have previously recalled it. In the past, Dick Creek has been one of my favorite sites because one of the camp sites looks right down on the Carbon Glacier. When I stayed there last month, I discovered that trees have grown up to block the view. I will strike it off my "favorites" list. All of those on your "recommended" list are good.

    4. I think you can indicate that you are flexible on start dates. If I remember correctly, you just put your earliest and latest start dates. Flexibility always helps.

    5. Bear safety should not be a big concern. It is highly likely that you will see at least one black bear on the hike. I see one about 75% of my hikes. Consider it an opportunity. I have had dozens of bear meetings on the trail and have never felt threatened. The bear will be more afraid of you than you are of the bear. Bear spray is optional, but I don't carry it. And, please don't wear bear bells. They really irritate the rest of us who will be hiking.

    6. It is unusual to have to ford, but there are some times when the river crossing are scary. This year, the log bridge across the South Mowich River washed out. I attempted to ford, but found the current was too swift. I went upstream and found two logs that permitted me to cross. Each log reached to the middle of the river, but the point where they touched was tricky. Remember, if you have to cross on an downed log, be sure to loosen your pack straps and unbuckle your waist belt. If you slip and fall into the river, you will want to shed your pack easily. I assume that bridge will be replaced before you hike, but another could be washed out. Based on my experience, there is usually at least one river crossing on a log. When you check in at a Ranger Station to start your hike, the Ranger will tell you if any bridges are out and how other hikers have gotten past.
    Last edited by Shutterbug; 10-09-2017 at 13:45.
    Shutterbug

  5. #5

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    Thank you!

  6. #6

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    I missed your question about bear cannister. One isn't necessary on the Wonderland Trail. The rangers are really strict about hanging your food. Plan to hang your food on the bear pole and you won't have a problem.
    Shutterbug

  7. #7
    Registered User colorado_rob's Avatar
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    Wow SB, that is a wealth of great info, thanks! My wife and I are also planning on trying to get mid-late-summer 2018 permits/reservations, and your post will help our chances. Again, thanks!

  8. #8

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    Quote Originally Posted by colorado_rob View Post
    Wow SB, that is a wealth of great info, thanks! My wife and I are also planning on trying to get mid-late-summer 2018 permits/reservations, and your post will help our chances. Again, thanks!
    Colorado Rob, you are welcome. To increase your chances, both you and your wife should submit requests. Last year, they considered one request "per email address", but for 2018 it reads "one request per person." Apparently they realized that some of us have more than one email address.
    Shutterbug

  9. #9
    Registered User JPritch's Avatar
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    Great info! Also looking to do Wonderland next Aug/Sep. Fingers crossed!
    While searching for that unknown edge in life, never forget to look home. For the greatest edge you can find in life is to stand in the protective shadow of those who love you.

  10. #10
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    What about travel between Seattle Airport and Mt. Rainier?

    I've come across one web page that claims the only way to get out to Mt. Rainier from the Air Port is by rental car.

    A quick check on rental rates for a two week trip comes in around $300 to $800 for a car that spends most the time parked at a trailhead.

    Assuming you could get an Uber, the best I could quickly estimate based on published rates for Seattle came in around $200 to $400.

    I see that there are tour companies that will take you from Seattle to Mt.Rainer and back for about $100 to $150, but I've learned in the past that such tour companies don't like (i.e. won't allow) them to be used as a shuttle service.

  11. #11
    Garlic
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    My friend bought the tour option from a hotel near SeaTac. He said the bus company and driver were very supportive and friendly. He even got a chance to take the tour he paid for. That was two years ago.

  12. #12
    Registered User Venchka's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by garlic08 View Post
    My friend bought the tour option from a hotel near SeaTac. He said the bus company and driver were very supportive and friendly. He even got a chance to take the tour he paid for. That was two years ago.
    Great news. The second time I have read this at WhiteBlaze.
    Trust but verify. Company policies change.
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  13. #13
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    Quote Originally Posted by Overcast View Post
    Hello all. Lifetime hiker/wilderness canoe camper, but fairly new to long distance backpacking.
    With retirement on the horizon I hope to get in MANY thru hikes in my Golden Years. An AT thru-hike is on the agenda in 2019, but first I have a couple others on my radar...the Wonderland Trail being one near the top of the list. I had a few questions that I wondered if anyone could offer some assistance.
    1. I had read that to begin at a trail-head other than Longmire will increase the chances of the permit being approved. True/false? If this is true, where is the next best trail head to begin? I was looking at Sunrise, but it seems like it is a bit more difficult to access by car (I don't have a 4WD, and my Mazda 3 gets rather irritated by steep mountain roads). How difficult is it to get to Sunrise by car, and how much parking is available there?
    2. I have hiking experience in the mountains, but only day-hikes. So, I think I should keep my miles at around 10 per day. I wondered if there are any benefits to clockwise vs. counterclockwise though? We did it in three days and it was pretty cruisy. Without knowing your fitness level and desire, who knows.
    3. I've been trying to note campsites that are highly recommended (Indian Bar, Klapatche Park, Golden Lakes, Mystic Lake) as well as those that are not recommended (Devil's Dream). Any others to make note of? Even if you don't get those campsites you can spend time at those places.
    4. Because I do not have to go at any specific time, but would like to enjoy the benefits of going in August, when filling out the permit, can I just say 'anytime in August'? Would that help to get the exact itinerary I am requesting? I believe you need an exact date.
    5. Bear safety? I know there are poles at all the campsites to hang bear bags, so I'm assuming a canister is not necessary, but how recommended is bear spray? I'm generally of the mindset that it's unnecessary weight, but I've also never hiked in WA, and don't want to be foolish in my decision. We all used our food bag as a pillow. You will have to weigh your fears.
    6. While I love hiking, I am a bit nervous about fording. How big of a concern should this be should I be able to get a permit for August? Only one stream that I can remember. We crossed in early October with no issue but we had a very experienced group.
    I have searched for these answers, but finally decided to ask the 'experts' here.
    Thank you so much for any help anyone is able to provide.
    Tammi
    See above. It is a great hike.
    enemy of unnecessary but innovative trail invention gadgetry

  14. #14
    Garlic
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    Quote Originally Posted by Malto View Post
    See above. It is a great hike.
    Yes. Mile for mile, maybe the nicest I've ever seen.

  15. #15
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    Quote Originally Posted by Malto View Post
    5. Bear safety? I know there are poles at all the campsites to hang bear bags, so I'm assuming a canister is not necessary, but how recommended is bear spray? I'm generally of the mindset that it's unnecessary weight, but I've also never hiked in WA, and don't want to be foolish in my decision. We all used our food bag as a pillow. You will have to weigh your fears.
    This reply bothers me because it seems to be advocating a willingness to violate back country rules and regulations... and when you're talking about rules established by a National Park, those rules have the backing of law.

    The Mt. Rainier Compendium of Rules and Regulations states
    In backcountry sites, April through October, campers must use the provided food storage poles, approved bear resistant canisters or proper hanging procedures.
    So to sleep with your food bag as a pillow along the Wonderland Trail would be an illegal act.

    Sorry... but this sort of thing is a bit of a pet peeve of mine... because the way you need to handle food storage in a crowded National Park with a relatively high concentration of both bears and people is very different that the way you need to handle food storage in other areas. It's because people's unwillingness to follow the rules and regulations is what leads to things like the recent situation in GSMNP where nearly 10% of the back country campsites were temporarily closed.

  16. #16
    Registered User stilllife's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by HooKooDooKu View Post
    This reply bothers me because it seems to be advocating a willingness to violate back country rules and regulations... and when you're talking about rules established by a National Park, those rules have the backing of law.

    The Mt. Rainier Compendium of Rules and Regulations states

    So to sleep with your food bag as a pillow along the Wonderland Trail would be an illegal act.

    Sorry... but this sort of thing is a bit of a pet peeve of mine... because the way you need to handle food storage in a crowded National Park with a relatively high concentration of both bears and people is very different that the way you need to handle food storage in other areas. It's because people's unwillingness to follow the rules and regulations is what leads to things like the recent situation in GSMNP where nearly 10% of the back country campsites were temporarily closed.
    You are spot on Hookoo! So disrespectful not to follow the rules, and dangerous for others.

  17. #17

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    I've heard that mice are capable of climbing the bear poles. Anyone tried using a Loksak inside another bag? I have an Ursack Ultra but would prefer not to carry the weight/bulk if I don't need to.

  18. #18
    Registered User evyck da fleet's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by HeatherNC View Post
    I've heard that mice are capable of climbing the bear poles. Anyone tried using a Loksak inside another bag? I have an Ursack Ultra but would prefer not to carry the weight/bulk if I don't need to.
    I think it is squirrels instead of mice and possibly via close branches. I had one get into my hung bag at Carbon River this year. Luckily I had my garbage bag on top of my pot and stove. My food bag and garbage bag got ripped but my food was safe. I didn’t have a problem hanging at Klapatche. I used the bear box at White River and slept with my food at South Mowich, I think, during a rainstorm.

  19. #19
    GSMNP 900 Miler
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    Quote Originally Posted by HeatherNC View Post
    I've heard that mice are capable of climbing the bear poles. Anyone tried using a Loksak inside another bag? I have an Ursack Ultra but would prefer not to carry the weight/bulk if I don't need to.
    I use what some call a "mouse mobile"... Basically hang the food under an funnel (wide side to the ground).

    Take something like a 1 gallon juice bottle. Cut the top off at the point the top reaches the full width of the bottle (this is your funnel). Drill a small hole in the cap. Get a piece of twine. Tie a knot in the twine so that when you pass the twine thru the hole in the cap, the knot can't go thru. Tie loops in the ends of the twine. Now hang the contraption from the bear cables with a small carabiner and hang the food from the other end with another carabiner.

    The idea is that the mice won't be able to climb down the string and around the funnel, and they won't jump from the twine to the bag as they will still be 10+ feet off the ground with no way back up.

    If you have flying squires, the funnel trick isn't going to help. But where I camp in GSMNP, mice are a constant threat at all campsites... flying squirrels not so much (I hear they are there, but they are not a PRIMARY cause of concern).

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