Meet Candace. This week Candace and I met to go over our itinerary we are submitting for the Wonderland Trail. We have a few others who may hop on and off the trail along the way but mostly it will be just Candace and myself and then the potential of meeting close to 100 more folks that we have no idea who they are and they don’t even know who they are yet. In other words, it is a random lottery fest to see who gets the coveted permit within the desired window of time. Mt. Rainier National Park holds the statistics on the lottery with only a small percentage being issued ahead of time and most all handed out after appearing at the door of a ranger station ready to go.
I am sure I put too much thought into it but, the most popular and currently used book is Tami Asars, “Hiking the Wonderland Trail”. Since Tami Asars book is currently so popular, we picked the more leisurely 13 day trek and settled on submitting our permits for both counter-clockwise and clockwise, mid August, beginning at Mowich, a less desirable starting point.
Timing is everything and the later the better. Reason one we decided on mid August is, the snow pack is much higher this year and will more than likely put us a week or two later in the season.
Mowich is also less desirable for the following reason. Mowich Lake drive-in campground is an eleven mile dirt hole drive through potholes and mud until you arrive at your even more dusty location.
After you leave your vehicle there for over a week, no telling what could happen. You may not be able to find it with all the dust. There is also no running water and pit toilets. The one desirable thing about Mowich is the beautiful crystal blue serene lake.
In the end, since the probability of being pulled out of a lottery for any itinerary published in Tami’s book is slim to none, coupled with the most desirable time to do the Wonderland being late July and August, I really thought through our strategy over and over again in my head in the middle of the night.
The window to submit is March 15th-30th this year. Here is where we started after meeting and then here is where we discussed again Tuesday and landed…
Here is my thinking why starting at Frying Pan Creek is most desirable….
First, the trailhead is in a good spot for one of the most challenging portions of the trip.
This trailhead leads to Summerland and the highest point of the Wonderland, Panhandle Gap. Panhandle Gap is usually always snow covered and there is a 2900′ elevation gain from the TH to the gap. The nice part about this is, we will stay at Indian Bar one night, then Nickel Creek day two. Our next cache is at Longmire, adjacent to our stay at either Paradise River or Cougar Rock or The National Park Inn.
2900′ elevation gain with two days of food sounds really desirable to me. It gives us a burger and a beverage at Longmire with our trip ending at Sunrise for another burger and adult celebration beverage.
After day hiking for years, I think Frying Pan Creek is most certainly the ticket!
This is the year of my own story. It begins at the Wonderland Trail. I plan to spend 10-12 nights in the backcountry of Mt. Rainier backpacking.
You will find many helpful tips on my blog because everything I have accomplished in my life so far has led me here to my own backyard.
My family came to the Pacific Northwest over 100 years ago. It was a family who respected all people, and who were above all else passionate about nature, service minded, and hardworking.
My name is Lisa Elliott. I have been a wife, teacher and mother most of my life now. My friends say I’m badass but, I am really a big woosy. I have some major fears with being outdoors at night and alone in my own home at night by myself for that matter.
Our family has grown a new generation of grandchildren now. Having my own grandchildren has brought back memories of when I was little. Memories that include what I hoped and dreamed for and what continues to matter the most in my life as an adult today.
In the very least I hope to inspire a strong generation of men and women who are fearless, compassionate and serving.
A Life of Purpose
I recently retired as a public school teacher but just because I gave up a paycheck doesn’t mean I’m done with life. As of late, I applied to be an Ambassador for Washington Trails Association in Pierce County, WA. It was quite the interview process too. The mission of the WTA is access for all. That means they take it very seriously when it comes to diversity, equity and access. Their mission to connect people to trails, to provide access and grow and nurture a lifelong appreciation for the outdoors, really fit me. So if you see me know on the trail, I might look more like this.
How My Purpose Changed
When I was a very young girl, my grandmother on my mom’s side used to tell me of when she lived on the mountain at Longmire, Washington. That mountain was Mt. Rainier, located in Washington State. The mountain and the community of people she encountered had such a tremendous impact on her as a young girl.
As a young child I began to know the mountain because my grandmother would take me on long nature walks and teach me the names of all the plants in our back forest of 10 acres. This brought her much happiness and joy because she frequently would speak about those times with a smile.
Grandma’s Life on the Mountain
Our own home was a small farm with an immense dense forest within the Fruitland area of Puyallup, pronounced Pew-all-up. Sometimes it felt like you could reach out and touch the mountain but we were still 30 miles away as the crow flies. We have a saying around here, “Live like the mountain is out.” With my grandmother’s encouragement and living like the mountain was out each day by being outdoors, climbing trees, and building forts, it instilled a lifelong appreciation of nature and for the environment that surrounded me. An appreciation that my grandmother passed on to me through her hand to mine.
My hope throughout the remainder of my life is to be able to do the same with my grandchildren and live a little speck of time on the mountain in order to conquer some personal fears of mine.
Stories and a Man they Named a Glacier After
My grandmother also had many stories of adventures from living on the mountain. One of my favorites was of when she lived at Longmire and would be stalked by a cougar at 11 years of age. Then there was the story of the raiding bears of Longmire Campground who came for dinner each night. Finally the stories of following Professor J.B. Flett around the mountain as he cataloged plants. Today there is a glacier named for Dr. Flett, Flett Glacier. Her first love was more than likely the mountain first, but I could tell she had a place in her heart for Dr. Flett, too.
Summers on The Mountain
The following is a part of my grandmother Ruth’s stories…
Most of my summers when growing up were spent at Longmire Springs in Rainier National Park. They were happy, healthy, carefree days and also very educational. My family all worked at Longmire and we lived in a tent community with all the other employees of the park. The tent frames would sort of remain there, year round except that they would usually need repairs in the spring. Everything else would be stored over for the winter in a large warehouse.
Living with the Bears
by Ruth Lillian Knoll
Bears were our constant companions and garbage cans could be heard being ransacked all night long. Days we swam in the sulphur plunge and drank the soda iron and sulphur water from the springs. No wonder we were healthy. Most wonderful of all were our days spent with our dear teacher.
Every morning when we would see him start out, every kid in tent city would be ready to follow him, to have unfolded to them the beauty and marvels of the universe. Especially those around Mount Rainier. The Pied Piper of Hamlin couldn’t have had more entranced followers.
Nearly everyday we would follow him up a different mountain trail and he would tell us all about the fishes and bugs in the creeks. All about the rocks and the mosses. We would gather flowers as we went along and he knew all their botanical and common names. He knew the names of all the animals and birds, and it seemed to us that he knew and loved everything and also loved all of us. And never seemed to tire of imparting his great knowledge to us.
The mountain and its pungent smells, meadows, streams and glowers always bring back a fond memory of this most wonderful man. What a privilege to have known him, not knowing who he really was or even caring, but later learning that he was Professor Flett, a renowned botanist teaching at Pacific Lutheran University and was classifying all the flora and fauna of Rainier National Park for the United States Government.
Professor Flett was a pioneer of Pierce County, Washington, and the Flett Dairy family are a part of him. His work on earth was very well done.
A bit more about my grandmother. My grandmother, Ruth Lillian Sharpe was born in Buffalo, New York, April 8, 1904. She came west with her family, when she was 2. Her family consisted of her older brothers, Carl W. Sharpe, and Clarence Sharpe. Her mother, Isabelle McPherson Sharpe (Belle or Bella) was born in Canada, Her father, Charles William Sharpe was born in Wateringbury, Kent, England. Her grandfather, Alexander McPherson also moved here, born in Scotland and buried not too much longer after coming here in The Old Tacoma Cemetery.
Great Aunt Mildred McPherson
In the early 1900’s the Sharpe family purchased a 10 acre plot of land in Puyallup between Fruitland and Woodland avenue on 104th and south to 112th. The trolly came down 104th and turned at Fruitland and headed down Fruitland Avenue and also flowed the opposite way allowed them access to Tacoma. During this time my great-grandparents mostly raised chickens while my great-grandmother and great Aunt Lil worked in the Elite Restaurant in downtown Tacoma at 26th and Pacific. I was told my grandma Ruth as a toddler used to sleep under the counter while my great-grandmother worked in the restaurant.
While working in Tacoma my great-grandmother, and her two sons, Clarence and Carl, who also worked in Tacoma came upon a grand opportunity. The opportunity was to move to Longmire at Mt. Rainier National Park and help run and work as the park was becoming more developed. There had been some debate over how the Longmire’s ran the current property as they were a private family who profited from their business. Eventually the park purchased all the property from the Longmire family.
Longmire Hot Springs
Sometime around 1910 my grandmother’s brothers Clarence and Carl, ended up managing the Longmire Hot Springs Hotel. Perhaps it was just Clarence because Carl worked as a postal worker in Tacoma. They were both handsome, full of energy, outgoing and hardworking. At Longmire, my great-grandmother worked at the store, my great-great grandfather, her father, built the rock fireplace in the store and community building across the Nisqually river. I believe big dreams eventually caught Uncle Clarence as there was mention of MGM studios and he ended up living in Los Angeles and married to my Aunt Edie who was a beautiful professional singer.
Longmire’s Gas Lanterns and Tents
The following is a part of my grandmother Ruth’s written stories…
My brother Clarence worked at the Rainier National Park Inn which is across the road from the only one Longmire now. My brother Carl drove the bus that carried the passengers that had come from Tacoma and Seattle by train to Ashford and then from Ashford the bus brought them to Longmire and up to Paradise. That was the way nearly everyone came to the mountain at that time. There was no electricity in the park yet and I can still see my father lighting all the gas lamps or lanterns they were called, and putting on new mantels so that they could be lighted before dark and the guests could see where they were going. I remember how he was always worrying about the plumbing that was always breaking down. Many of the guests sleep in the tents and the lanterns were spaced along the wooded walkways between the tents.
Longmire Sulphur Pool
by Ruth Lillian Knoll
At the back of the Longmire Inn was a sulphur swimming pool, called the plunge, that the hotel guests used but, we had use of it too. It was so buoyant that it was impossible to sink or drown in it and the sulphur water was wonderful for your skin. When you came out of the water you felt great. Longmire Springs was considered a health resort during those years.
The Longmire Family was Gone
by Ruth Lillian Knoll
The Longmire family, who had by now gone from the park and now lived in Yelm and Roy, came up every summer with their pack horses taking tourists in every directions, all over every part that wasn’t too steep for an animal. I managed to make a lot of these trips too, as one of the Longmire girls was a close friend and there were always horses that needed exercising. I guess I earned the trips tho, as I can remember washing an awful lot of dishes for a very large Longmire family that were in their own camp over by the Nisqually River. One of the other privileges I had was inviting any of my friends to have a milkshake or soda or sundae at our local confectioners anytime and my father or two doting brothers would pick up the tab. You can’t do better that that. Although they were a lot cheaper then, then they are now. We consumed a lot of them. Also a lot of candy won on a punch board.
Being Stalked by a Cougar
by Ruth Lillian Knoll
As a young child a hair raising thing happened to me. My parents were always working, and seemed to trust that I would take care of myself, which I usually could do but by some hook or crook, I managed to attach myself to a group of mountain climbers who were going to climb the Ramparts, a rather short climb out of Longmire Springs.
They were a group of doctors and their wives, about either or ten people, I did not know one of them personally and how they agreed to take me with them has always been a mystery. We left Longmire rather late in the afternoon, and had an uneventful climb up. After reaching the top and admiring the view with Longmire below, we were all sitting on a log resting. First we heard a cracking noise, and about 25 feet from us was a cougar sitting and looking at us, and absolute panic struck everyone. By this time it was beginning to darken and we hastened to start back. We were walking single file down a narrow mountain trail and the cougar was following us through the woods, not behind us but opposite us at what seemed a very close range. The men were saying that if the cougar attacked it would be the child (me) that it would go for so they put me in the middle of the line between two men. Some of the men carried flashlights and kept them turned on as it was getting darker every minute. No one had a gun.
That cougar followed us every step of the way back and it became dark and all we could see was its eyes. When we finally saw the lights of Longmire, we lost the cougar, much to to the relief of everyone.
I have often wondered what that big cat had on its mind.
Years later during high school in the 70’s, I became a member of our hiking club at Puyallup High School. We hiked much of the trail system at Rainier. At that time you could drive all the way in on Westside Road, now closed, clear up to the Tahoma, St. Andrews and Klapatche trailheads. You could also drive into Ipsut Campgrounds and access the Carbon Glacier, an easy day hike, or bust your butt on Ipsut Pass and onward to Mowich. My friends know this story.
In many ways getting around the mountain used to be easier when you could just drive up. I became familiar with and got around the Wonderland by day and could easily come home to a comfy bed and shower at night. In this way the mountain became a map is in my head like a walk in your own neighborhood might be however I never got to see it at night and for me that was a real good thing.
Today I see myself there, this year. This is my year. I am doing it.
#2 Skyline Loop Trail, Paradise, Mt. Rainier National Park
The Skyline Loop Trail is probably the most popular trail at Mt. Rainier National Park- Moderate 5.5 miles highest elevation at 6,200 ft. Best to go in August for wildflowers and marmots.
Click for Video. It starts at the Paradise Inn and loops around vistas, waterfalls and sweeping views of Rainier. This day was in August with Tami.
Best to go on a bluebird day, you will hear languages from all over the world with differing abilities and equipment.
She Can Climb It Without Oxygen
My favorite story has to do with when I was solo hiking here. It was a hot August day and I my hydration pack in my day pack along with the tube that connects and extents out which then you drink from called a bite valve. I was heading up the hill and a lady was coming down. I had the bite valve in my mouth taking a sip. She responds to me, “I can make it up that hill without oxygen.” I told her she was absolutely amazing and not many can. Then she told me I didn’t have very much farther to go to the top. Hang in the there.
Like I mentioned there are all kinds of people from all over the world there and it is also best treat others with respect. I also like watching the people in flip flops and shorts in the snow…
…the family dog (not allowed in the park), and the best was the family hauling a 1/2 case of beer up the hill for a picnic. Fun trip down I bet!
My friend Diane and me used to just head up to watch the climbers who were training for the summit climb in how to self arrest. This is also a great spot to watch those folks yell out falling while hurdling themselves down a snow bowl and self arresting with their ice axes as we sat on the sidelines tanning our legs and arms.
We also met up with a solo climber who kept us at bay with his stories for half the day. Some were a bit far fetched and rather dangerous for someone climbing solo.
And wait until you see the luxury toilet at Panorama Point.
Westside Road Tahoma CreekRoute– My husband and me were out for a day hike at Mt. Rainier. We veered off onto the West Side Road and followed it to the end at approximately three miles and parked at the small lot. Beyond that we walked up the road to the Tahoma Creek Trail Head (somewhat hidden) but look for a red piece of duct tape on a stick on top of a stump, a barrel or some kind of unmaintained trail head marker about 1 1/2 miles up the road. Next we entered a trail for 100 yards toward the Tahoma Creek. Next we followed pink markers staying close to the forest and in the smaller rocks. The Tahoma Creek often changes direction and floods often. Staying close to the smaller creek until the trail picked up again we set some markers on our Garmin so we could find our way back for a total of about 2.5 miles to the suspension bridge. 6 miles, and slight gradual elevation gain. By far my favorite route. The last two years it has become rather sketchy and unsafe along the unmaintained portion of the Tahoma Creek due to repeated flooding and washouts.. What makes this one my favorite is the Tahoma Creek Suspension Bridge that you get to walk across.
Click this picture below to watch the video of the Tahoma Creek Suspension Bridge. It swings and bounces and recommended only one person at a time.
#1 Indian Henry’s Hunting Ground is by far my favorite day hike in the park.
A great part of this hike is on the Wonderland Trail. I’ve started at three points to make it a day hike between 12-14 miles.
Indian Henry’s Hunting Ground is at minimum 12 miles and several thousand ft in elevation gain, along with several pushes up and over a ridge that puts you in sloping meadows carpeted with huckleberries and laced by little creeks: a precursor to your final destination. Continue on, arriving at a trail junction in Indian Henry’s Hunting Ground, two and a half miles from where you joined the Wonderland Trail.
From this junction there are plenty of options for exploration. Take the trail branching to the left to visit Mirror Lake, or continue straight on and arrive at the ranger’s cabin in about a quarter mile. From the patrol cabin that dates back to the 30’s, rest up and imagine So-To-Lick also know as Indian Henry living up here, hosting explorers and guiding them up the enormous mountain looming overhead. It was said he had three wives and many thought he came to this location because he had a secretly hidden gold mine. Mostly it was to hunt. Read more about Indian Henry.
Longmire Start– StrenuousRoute– 14 miles, 3,200 elevation gain. This by far was one of the hardest hikes I have been on in a day. This particular day I was with my longtime friend Diane. The forecast was for in the upper 90’s in Puyallup and we thought we would escape the heat and head to the mountain. I had shorts and tank top on, bug spray, lunch and a couple of water bottles. Good enough! As the elevation and climb started, I began to really heat up, then pour sweat that attracted hundreds of thirsty mosquitos.
After repeatedly having Diane spray my back and head to no avail I was pretty much eaten alive. We continue on, not taking any breaks so the bugs couldn’t swarm and with working at that intensity in the heat, I decidedly and thankfully drank all my water.
After reaching Indian Henry’s Hunting Ground, it was good thing I remembered a small little lake behind the patrol cabin about another mile north called Mirror Lake or I might have ended up drinking unfiltered water ripe with mosquito larva. I yanked off my boots, jump in and swim around with the salamanders for an immediate shock of relief. It probably saved my bacon as well. Walking back with wet clothes was a rather nice way to end the trip.
Kautz Creek Start– StrenuousRoute– 11 miles, 3,800 elevation gain. This particular hike Diane and me have done quite a few times but the day I attempted to showcase the beauty to my friend Tammi, her husband Paul and my Krysta and her husband Corey was misery.
The day we picked it was raining. You would think we would all be used to it but this rain was relentless and hard. It was early spring so I just stripped down to a tank top and base layer leggings and wrapped all my clothes tightly in a plastic garbage bag and stuffed them in my backpack.
The rain just cascaded down the steep steps going up the Kautz trail making the steps washed out and even steeper. By the time we made it to the patrol cabin there was another group of 6-8 standing at the porch, all in big heavy ponchos. We wedged our way in and had a nice chat with them since they were doing the Wonderland and had young teens with them from Puyallup.
After lunch and rethinking my trip up and all the water, I eventually put on every layer I had carried up, buttoned up, zipped up and covering every body part, I high-tailed it down the hill.
We never did see the mountain that day.
Westside Road Tahoma Creek Start Route– 12 miles, 2,502 elevation gain. Strenuous but by far my favorite route. The last two years it has become rather sketchy and unsafe along the unmaintained portion of the Tahoma Creek due to repeated flooding and washouts.. What makes this one my favorite is the Tahoma Creek Suspension Bridge that you get to walk across.
My friend Candace and me attended a book talk and slideshow by Tami Asars last evening at the Tacoma Mountaineers.
Tami really engaged the audience with hikes we have all shared and got me excited for planning our trip on the Wonderland. She is also a funny writer and very accurate in every respect.
As a part of audience involvement, she asked about who had been on various hikes around the mountain. Many people raised their hands except for one hike which was to the Paradise Ice Cave. I was the only one in the room that raised their hand.
The reason is the Paradise Ice Cave no longer exists. The mountain reclaimed it many years ago.
Since I was the only one, when asked what I remembered. My response was “I was eleven years old, and running around in tennis shoes and shorts in the snow.” The year was around 1968.
Now being only eleven at the time, what I really remember was my feet were super cold, and I was slipping all over the place, and climbing up stairs is hard work and the place for food was back down the hill.. Lucky my filter still works and I left that part out.
If she would have asked what did you see, it would have been a different story. It looked like this and it was an image I will never forget.
Many times I get asked what is my favorite snowshoes. My favorite snowshoes, I’ve owned for twenty years. They are MSR Evo. They are tough and are on the small side so easy enough to walk in. There are floatation fins that can attach if you are breaking trail.
Washington State is notorious for avalanches due to our topography and wet climate. Always carry the 10 essentials, bring waterproof poncho, handwarmers, microspikes, snowshoes, shovel, probe, and transceiver, chains for snow parks. Familiarize yourself with Northwest Avalanche Center where you’ll find there are many great videos on snow safety in the back country and stop by ranger stations for trail reports before heading out.
I found this nifty package at our local REI that contains the plastic shovel, probe and transceiver.
One of my favorite places to snowshoe is located in Ashford, WA. The Mt. Tahoma Trails Association is a hut to hut cross country ski or snowshoe trail. My first snowshoe this year was late, January 18th. I wore MyZone so I could figure my calorie output. For the day, with a 20 pound weighted pack and snowshoes 3,000 calories. Garmin recorded a 14 mile trip with 1,800 elevation gain to 4,200 ft. More on why I wear both to train in the gear section and nutrition section. Washington Trails Association Trip Report
I met my training and hiking friend Candace at Pt. Defiance in Tacoma for an urban trail hike for our first hike of the year.
This January, I set goals for two hikes per week in addition to my regular gym and and replacing my endurance running workout.
Since I recently trained and finished a 1/2 marathon in December, my body felt sore, tight and fatigued, so I took a well deserved running break. I also had some hamstring tightness that resulted in high hamstring tendonitis. It took about 6 weeks of recovery with no sprinting or high knee stepping at the gym. I also saw an acupuncturist for 3 non-invasive treatments to the area with the TENS unit hooked up to me.
Note: The best advice I can give you with any injury or before embarking on daily physical training is see a doctor. During your training make sure you have adequate rest and nutrition. Needing a nap at noon everyday, or having frequent injuries is a sign of overtraining, not enough calories or both.
Since my endurance training has now been mostly replaced with hikes, I will need to pay close attention to my weekly workout and calories. Some of my endurance training will count as endurance, while others days are simply beautiful urban hikes which refuel my recovery and add to my rest days and spirit.
I also continued to meet with my personal trainer who noticed my dietary intake had changed with poor eating habits over then holidays.. My potassium, calcium and iron percents were well below normal based on my nutrition tracker MyFitnessPal as well.
During January find a beautiful urban hike such as Pt Defiance Park. It has an abundance of nature trails. Garmin measured the loop at about 5 miles. Calories 400 at sea level and 420 ft at the highest point. Just breathing in the abundance of oxygen completely restores me. Washington Trails Association Trip Report