Wonderland Trail: West 57 miles

just a ridiculous flower showWhat better way to really do a conditions report on the Wonderland Trail than actually hiking the better portion of it? My June 9/10 clockwise hike from Longmire to Sunrise can be summed up thusly: for snow and general conditions, it's like August. For trail maintenance, it's like June (iow, nada). This is probably the only time I would consider hiking the Wonderland a "wilderness experience" due to the fact that one of the major access points is not open until June 19 (Mowich Lake road) and both crossings over the Mowich Rivers are out. Throw in blowdown and a few eradicated sections of trail, schwacking and log crossing the Mowich rivers, and negotiating some snow at Skyscraper Pass, and the traditional backpackers that come to hike the Wonderland from all over might be discouraged at the moment. Every park I transited above 5000 feet was bursting at the seams with a riot of flowers. Unfortunately, those hiking the trail during the more "normal" season starting in July will probably not enjoy the spectacle I witnessed, but at least the trail crews should have fixed the problems I've mentioned. One thing's for sure, Wonderland hikers coming this summer will enjoy a snow free trail.

This link to a trip report I posted on NWHikers provides some details about the trip, including the difficulties enocountered, along with myriad photos. The photo album can also be viewed on the Willis Wall facebook page. The following video will give the reader a good idea of the August like conditions I experienced and perhaps an incentive for people with a date for the trail.

Wonderland Trail Snow Outlook 2015

Glacier lillies already at Indian HenrysOne to two months ahead. Pretty much sums it up when it comes to this year's snow levels in most parts of the Cascades. Usually I take a trip up to Panhandle Gap in June or July and report on the snow conditions, but this year it hardly seems necessary. Yesterday my daughter and I took a jaunt to Indian Henry's Hunting Ground on the Wonderland trail, nestled in a picturesque area at 5400 feet. There were no snow patches until above 5000 feet and what remains is patchy and sparse, with depths of no more than a foot. If current warm weather trends continue, this snow will be gone in a matter of days. I dare say one could hike the Wonderland beginning in June and experience the same kind of conditions normally seen in late July (in fact this is what I did, see report here). Problem areas may occur due to the lack of park personnel this early, as in facilities are not open and trail maintenance has not begun. Expect blow downs and possible river/creek crossings where the bridges have been washed out, although these will be high priority as soon as the crews get out. There is always a problematic area on the Wonderland below Martha Falls in the Stevens Canyon area that sees erosion and washout every year. Additionally, the steep areas on the trail between the North Puyallup camp and Klapatche park may be difficult to navigate if snow is still present. However, this can be bypassed if necessary by taking the St Andrews trail out of Klapatche Park and circumventing via the West Side Road to the North Puyallup camp. And of course the park service always issues navigation warnings concerning snow over Panhandle Gap. In a nutshell, anyone hiking the trail during the "usual" season starting in late June should enjoy snow free steps.

sparse snow at Indian Henrys and melting fast


Summerland 2/18/15

Summerland is an extremely popular hike in Mt. Rainier National Park during....the summer. It offers spectacular views and is under 10 miles for the roundtrip. Winter is a whole different animal; usually. The Pacific Northwest is "enjoying" very mild weather and low snow accumulations. I wanted to see firshand what was up so a trip to Summerland was in order. However, access is limited as HW 410 is closed from the Crystal Mountain turnoff, meaning that access to this area of the park is usually limited to snomobiles or people on snowshoes or skins willing to trek 9 miles into the park just to access the trailhead. For me it was a matter of mounting my mountain bike and enjoying snow free roads until less than half a mile from the trailhead. The following shots are frame grabs from video I took a week earlier when I checked out the road with my buddy.

HW 410 gate closurejunction for White River park entrance


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