It was the second climb on the second day of backpacking the Wonderland Trail aroundMount Rainier and we were in the middle of a heat wave. Roasting in the sun, sweating profusely, worn from hauling a 40-pound pack up a steep trail, tired of the monotony, I, being theinveterate chain puller that I am, decided to pull John's.“Remember, John,” I said. “This was your idea.”“Hey, nobody forced you to come along,” he replied with feigned irritation.In spite of the conditions, we were enjoying taking on this challenge together. I thoughtI'd get a small dig in and John responded as he invariably does, with an absence of malice. Asalways, with John I was in good company.Back in 2003, my good-natured and good-humored youngest brother called me.“Hey, you want to do the Wonderland Trail?”“What's that?” I asked.“It's a 93-mile trail that goes around Mount Rainier. You backpack the whole thing.”“Sure.” Whether playing golf (I'm awful) or installing a toilet, it's always a pleasure to bewith John. Putting down roots on opposite sides of Washington state prevents us from spendingmuch time together, but when we do it's always an enjoyable experience. He has a better wit thanme. Hard as I try to do otherwise, I tend to be more of a smart ass. John has the remarkableability to find genuine inoffensive humor in just about any situation which makes me try toemulate him. We laugh often and when we do it's usually in unison. Sometimes hearing my laughemanating from someone else is a little disquieting, but most of the time I think of it as acommon thread between us.
The Wonderland Trail
Since I had never heard of the Wonderland Trail I had to do a little research. I learned thetrail was built in 1915. It's 93-mile meandering route tours much of Mount Rainier National Park as it encircles the park's namesake. At 14,410 feet, Mount Rainier is the highest peak in theCascade mountains and, somewhat disconcertingly, it also happens to be the second most activevolcano behind the recently eruptive Mount St. Helens.And then there was this note of caution on the National Park Service web site:
Perhapsthe biggest aspect in planning to hike the Wonderland Trail is
knowing your hiking skills,abilities and habits. Rangers cannot tell you that. Nobody knows your skill level better than you.”Backpacking 93 miles is a daunting task in itself, but, depending on what you read, theamount of climbing you do when hiking the entire trail is anywhere from 20,000 to 28,000 feet. I1
The profile of the Wonderland Trail