The Wonderland Trail was never on my radar. Originally I was thinking I would be in the Seattle area in September and my friend Andrea had invited me along on a trip she had planned around memorial day. Since I ended up showing up in June, that changed my plans.
With practically zero research or planning I showed up at the Longmire ranger station at 7:30 to ask about a permit. A quick sit down with the back country planner I had what seemed to be a doable schedule of 3 days and some change. 24 miles the first day to golden lakes, 30 the second to granite creek, 30 the third to maple creek and an easy 10 back into Longmire the last day.
The first 50 miles or so of the trail largely stays in the forest which continuously changed the entire time. No forest around that mountain really felt the same. Some were deep in dark, devoid of sound and light, others were more sunny filled with moss and ferns, all were wet with a heavy cloud of humidity which left me sweating despite the temperature. The trail does eventually make its way out of the forest, opening up to views of impressive suspension bridges, massive glaciers or beautiful meadows of wildflowers and if you are lucky some actual views of Mt. Rainier without clouds.
About 56 miles into the hike my poor phone finally kicked the bucket when the power button failed and I missed getting pictures for a significant portion of the trail. I had almost brought a back up camera but at the last minute decided against it, I think in the future I will consider it harder.
Most guides I read after the fact recommend 9-12 days to complete the trail which it seemed that most other hikers I met were doing. I don’t think there is anything wrong with going whatever speed you feel comfortable with but the amount of gear people were carrying and the looks of absolute misery on their faces were very telling. There is a tremendous amount of elevation gain on this trail and extra weight going up and down can be a significant burden.