Wonderland Trail a No Go!

10:59 a.m. on April 30, 2012 (EDT)
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I finally got the letter I have been expecting from the Mt. Rainer National Park.  I had requested a reservation for the last half of August to hike the Wonderland trail (around Mt. Rainer) but by the time they got to my application, Day 25.  Almost all the camps were full.  

From what I understand their were over 1200 applications in the first 2 weeks of the application season (may 15 to April 01).   A "normal" year is usually around 500 applications! 

Their is still walk up permits, they keep some spots open just for that, but you really need to have a flexible schedule and be able to cover some ground.  Not the best plan with kids.  This is one of those hikes that is very popular and they restrict the number of people that can hike it.  

Actually it's not the number of people that they control, it's the camp sites and you are required to camp at designated camp sites on the trail.  But a reservation can be from one to ten people.  A little different then most parts but that's Rainer for you.

So now I am looking at longer loop trails in the North Cascades and the Olympics to come up with a new plan.  I thought about the JMT, given that they have almost no snow it should be a good season but it looks like it's full also.  If anyone has some suggestions let me know.  Just remember this is me and my kids so nothing to crazy!  :)


12:12 p.m. on April 30, 2012 (EDT)
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May I suggest checking out the vast array of trails here beside Vancouver, in the "North Shore Mountains". Much of this area is protected, very lightly used and has never been logged or disturbed in any other way.

Camping has some restrictions, however, you can camp and the wildlife is abundant and generally not agressive. There are some Grizzlies, however, not like the rest of BC's coastline and interior and Black Bears and Cougars are very numerous, but, seldom bother anyone.

This, is one of the real "treasures"of hiking and accessible to anyone who cares to come and enjoy it. People are polite, friendly and visitors come from all over the world to experience "Beautiful British Columbia" and are made welcome.

One point, tho', GUNS,especially handguns are banned and the R.C.M.P. enforce this with great vigour.

5:49 p.m. on April 30, 2012 (EDT)
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Sorry for your disappointment!

10:58 p.m. on April 30, 2012 (EDT)
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This is the reason I prefer National Forests or Wilderness Areas as opposed to National Parks or State Parks.

Areas like National Parks with lots of traffic require lots of management - that means a lot of management structure like registration, permits, lots of rules, first come first serve, etc.

I like more primitive - less used areas, places where you do have rules to follow such as LNT, but not the rules designed to govern high traffic. You can camp anywhere 100' from streams or trails and sometimes backpack for days without seeing anyone.

This allows you to be much more flexible instead of having to fit into a highly structured system IMO.

Mike G.

1:40 a.m. on May 1, 2012 (EDT)
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That stinks!

6:42 a.m. on May 1, 2012 (EDT)
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FishKiller, :)  I tend to agree with you, I really like the back country and wilderness areas too.  But it seems like some of the most spectacular places are parks and thus get more visitors and more restrictions.  JMT is the first thing that comes to mind.  I really don't think it's to bad of a thing, I can't imagine what would happen to the high alpine meadows if they allowed any and all to hike those trails. 

Oh well there's always next year.  :)

Dewey, I may do that, but I will have to get the kids their passports.  I did look at a trail above Vancover (north) but I don't remember the name right now.  It looked like quite a trail.  I remember warnings about bears and having to take a boat to the starting point.  Overall it looked like a great hike.  I'll have to look north again.


10:25 a.m. on May 1, 2012 (EDT)
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10:33 a.m. on May 1, 2012 (EDT)
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Depends upon how old and active your kids are.  The total gain/loss of the Wonderland is (without the altitude) almost climbing Everest from sea level with VERY long stretches of up hill (its up hill both ways).  Some other suggestions below start higher (about 10,000' so you are almost 1/3 of the way already, and can include other 12 and 13k' passes as well as 'walk up' 14,000' peaks (Whitney, Langley, Tyndall)

If thinking of the JMT and being that far south, the Sierra have some 'other' trails as well and many of them connect to the JMT. All the trails mentioned, I took my 8/10 yo kids on.  Waaay back around the ice ages.  The scenery in the following suggestions is breath taking and includes some of the most spectacular in the US.

Other than Yosemite, the trails and accommodations in the Sierra are still in a primitive state.  Even though there are controls on the number of people entering you will see your fair share of them closer to the JMT, High Sierra Trail or Whitney. There are restrictions in how you care for your food - including a requirement to carry a personal food canister.  There are larger over night storage of food in bear boxes on most of the trails mentioned. 


Bears are a minor nuisance in that you have to protect your food.

The passes on the JMT this year should all be  passable from around mid July through most of November when the first snows begin again.  August is the prime month and will include flowers, generally good weather, lots of mosquitoes and hikers.  There will be snow and ice near the tops but there will be a trench stomped thru most of it.  Or at least there will be something to show the way even if you have to kick steps.  The more into August the less snow (we're talking a few 100 feet of trail covering) and easier creek crossings that are near the Kern River.  Speaking of which, the Kern 'Trench' is a poor man's Yosemite.  You can only get there by foot/hoof.

The JMT runs along the back bone of the Sierra, and there are quotas on every trailhead that connects to the National Parks (Sequoia in south, Kings in middle and Yosemite in north).  If you can get it, try applying NOW for access from (e.g.) Horseshoe Meadows (Lone Pine), over Army/Cottonwood Pass, Lower Rock Creek, Crabtree Meadows up 'back side' of Whitney. then connect with High Sierra Trail to exit at Crescent Meadows in Sequoia.  About 9-11 days can be used up especially if you take side jaunts. 

If you do the High Sierra Trail you have a problem with a car shuttle that is a monster, that might have you going through LA to get back to the other side of the Sierra at Lone Pine.  The trail 'tails' on the east side require hitchhiking to get to them if you are missing a car at the end.

Another alternative is entering from Bishop (Bishop Pass and down to Kearsarge Pass (Independence) or over Shepherd Pass (end up just below K Pass's road) from the west side after going over Forester Pass, or continuing on down to exit over Army Pass (Lone Pine).  You can do it either north or south and enter/exit at any of the passes. 

You have better access to public transportation up/down the east side (US 395) to connect to a car.

There are loops out of Mineral King that can take you over passes (Franklin, Farewell Gap, Shotgun) down to the Kern River (the 'Trench') and back up to Little/Big Five Lakes and back (over Black Rock-Timber Gap/Sawmill) or extend you on the High Sierra Trail at Big Arroyo over Kaweah Gap down to Bearpaw Meadow (awesome scenery between Arroyo and Bearpaw) and then back to your car in Mineral King via Timber Gap.  Any route (other than Timber Gap) out of Mineral King involves a strenuous first day at altitude.

The other logistical problem is resupply.  On these suggestions, there are no easy access points to get more food.  You could hire a wrangler to bring in extra ($$) or to go along with you carrying your packs and cooking meals ($$$$).  There is a great fantasy of most back packers to be pampered.

Tom Harrison Maps (.com) are a good source of trail plots of the Sierra. TOPO!GPS California is also a good comprehensive source.  Winnet (et al) books on North and South Sierra are very good synopsis of what the trail includes.

The west side of the Sierra is a mellow sloping route beginning at relatively low altitude with a long approach to the higher Sierra.  The eastern side is almost vertical with short trails that generally start high and go over a 11+k' pass in the first or second day.

Sequoia NP is a backpackers park with only a small portion of the west side available to cars/tourists.  Kings Canyon has a single road into it and dead ends at a few of the trails.  Yosemite is, well, crowded.  All of the parks have trails from the east into them up to a pass along the 'backbone' that shares a border with the parks.  These trails to the parks are usually 6-8 miles and have lakes en route.  Almost all start high - 10,000' or so.  You won't be the only ones not acclimated.  Almost everybody lives near sea level.

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