Not Quitting on Mt Rainier’s Wonderland Trail

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Even at the sky-scraping altitude of 14,410-feet, Mount Rainer is not the tallest peak in the western states, but it is massive. We usually get a good look at this glaciated giant every time we fly into SeaTac (which is quite a bit) and a couple years ago got the chance to trek it’s famed Wonderland Trail. The 93-mile hike is known to be quite strenuous with over 25,000 feet of elevation gain. Since it is equally difficult to secure a permit for this trek, we slated 10-days for the circumnavigation of this huge volcano. On a crystal clear July day, we found ourselves once again on final approach with views of Rainier filling the windows.

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This was more of a mini-mountaineering expedition than a straight up backpacking adventure with plenty of mini-expedition challenges. The national park service at first granted us a permit to produce professional work during our trek, but then failed to issue us the permit in the end. After exhausting all our options, we relegated the 10-day hike to ‘personal work’. Next up, one of our team members had to drop out at the very last minute. Not a huge deal, but all the gear and food caches were setup for a team of four. A couple days into the circuit, I hiked to spot to check email and messages (yep, we do that). Someone we had invited on the trip had left a message that they were unexpectedly available if we still had space. A series of one-bar phone calls and we had our replacement fourth team member.

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The trek was incredibly enjoyable and we didn’t find it as strenuous as the rumors portray it to be. Views of Mt Rainier are unending as you hike around it’s convoluted base. Wildflowers were off the charts. We saw bears, goats and marmots. Camping is regulated to designated areas only that are chosen more for their ability to stand up to user impacts and not for views. We did a lot of hiking around in order to have our evening meals in more scenic locales. In the end, we still focused on shooting new backpacking and camping work. A few of the images now grace pages in our portfolio. Lesson learned: just because they cancel on you doesn’t mean you have to.    — Hages

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