Tomorrow is my birthday, and oh, I dunno, about two or three years ago, I decided I’d plan a backpacking trip to celebrate this one. Or, in more honest terms, use my birthday as an excuse to plan an epic backpacking trip. There’s no significance to it this year, I’m turning 38. Who cares. But the past two years wouldn’t have worked out for one reason or another, so this was just the next one in line. So Adam and I tentatively set aside a couple of weeks around my birthday in 2017 so I could plan something.
I decided on a trail that’s been on my list for a while. Well, again, to be honest, I think every (and any) trail is on my list, but this one just happens to be pretty high up there. It’s the Wonderland Trail.
The Wonderland Trail is in Mt. Ranier National Park in Washington State and circumnavigates Mt. Rainier (14,410 ft). So to be clear, I won’t be climbing or summiting the mountain (or technically, volcano), but I’ll be hiking 93 miles around the base of it. I’ve seen photos and they’re unbelievably gorgeous, and the elevation gain is impressive – cumulatively hitting 22,000 feet gain and loss. Sounds tough and pretty, it’s a thru-hike that’s only 93 miles and I can do it within a reasonable amount of vacation time. Perfect! Tough and pretty is my favorite combo! I plan to hike it in 9 days. I think I could do it in less, but I’ve made a couple of goals for this hike, and stretching it out to nine days just made sense.
Goal #1: Backpack it solo. I was originally going to drag my mom and dad along with me, but there is actually a family reunion of sorts happening in California that they are going to instead (which I sadly had to decide against – I’ve had this trip on the calendar for a long time, and it’s an opportunity I couldn’t stomach to pass up.) So solo it is. I’ve been wanting to do more solo trips to test myself, anyway. We’ll see how this goes. I honestly think I enjoy hiking with friends more. I worry I’ll get lonely, or freaked out in my tent at night. But, this is why I’m doing it. To challenge myself.
Goal #2: Take my time. Instead of planning to hike the whole thing in 5 or 6 days, which I’m sure I could do if I wanted to, I decided to stretch it out to nine and try to take my time. You know, take the climbs nice and easy, stop in meadows and sit while I eat a snack, soak my feet in streams, take tons of photos (obviously), play with marmots… Things like that.
Goal #3: Eat keto. This was kind of a newer addition as I’ve adapted the ketogenic way of eating a couple of months ago. I’ve gotten my body to make abundant ketones pretty easily and using fat and these ketones for fuel instead of sugar. So my hope is that I’ll have longer sustained energy instead of the short rushes I used to get from eating a Hostess fruit pie, then crash and need more processed sugar/junk to keep going (and also suffer from GI issues). I also think I’ll be able to carry less because the foods I now eat are so much more calorie/nutrient dense than the old junk I used to bring along. But I’ll probably bring way too much food anyway, because that’s what I do best!
So my plan to hike the Wonderland Trail is still tentative, though. In March I worked really hard studying maps, pouring over pre-set suggested itineraries and mileage charts and eventually came up with a custom itinerary that I was really happy with. I even went as far to plan out my resupplies (there will be two) and what I’d include in each box. I chose to start in a not-so-popular starting spot (it’s one big loop, so you can really start at any point on the loop), I chose to hike counter-clockwise, which is apparently more difficult, therefore less popular, and I chose to start on a weekday instead of a weekend. I figured this would help my chances at getting a permit.
The permit process seems pretty fair, considering they receive thousands of requests each year. In fact, this year they received a record whopping 5,900 permit requests! 2,500 of those (including my one little, itty, bitty request) were for the full 93-mile thru-hiker. And how many can they usually accommodate? 450. So it’s not a huge surprise I was denied my request for a permit this year. The way they do it is allow you to submit a request between March 15 and April 1 – any time in that window, then they are chosen at random once that window closes. So you don’t have to rush to the computer first thing on the morning of March 15 to try to be the first in line. So that was nice. I still got mine in pretty early, as it was ready to roll, but I just wasn’t one of the lucky ones. Bummer.
Thankfully there’s still hope. They save 30% of their yearly permits for walk-ups. This means I can show up at a ranger station a day or two before I’d like to start my trip and work with a ranger to come up with an itinerary that’ll satisfy me. So I’m going to give it a shot. I’ve got the time off already, it’s a trail I’ve wanted to do forever, I’ve planned it all out already, so I might at well just head there and see if I can get on the trail. I’m going to try to be flexible, but if I can’t work out something I’m happy with, I’m not going to settle, either. I’ll save it for another time and explore Glacier National Park instead – or something. But I have pretty high hopes something will work out. In the end, whatever happens, it’s going to be fun.
Also! As much as I’m looking forward to taking a solo backpacking adventure, one of the big parts of this vacation is the trip out there and back. Adam and I decided to take our Subaru (PJ2) on the trip, too. So we’ll be driving there and back, and I am looking forward to the road trip with Adam just as much as the hiking. We love road tripping. So, so much. Even though we drive for a living, jumping into our own vehicle, being on our own time line, not having to pull into weigh stations, clock every move into an electronic log and worry about truck routes is going to be such a nice break! We’re going to feel so free. Stop where and when we want. We plan to camp, explore, eat, relax, and enjoy some scenery from a little lower perspective.
So, hey! I’m going on a backpacking trip! I’m trying to be all giddy and super excited, but it’s a little dampened by the fact that it’s not set in stone because I don’t yet have a permit, and because I’m going solo, so I don’t have a fellow backpacking buddy to bounce the giddiness back and forth with. That’s one of the downfalls of a solo trip, but I’m pretty determined to try this out. Yeah, it’s definitely still really exciting, but just a little more mellow of an excitement. And… *sigh*… It’s not like a 2,000-mile-plus trail or anything. My favorite, of course. But some day. Some day again, I will hike a really long trail. Or several, hopefully. But for now, I’m going to be happy with what I can do with my current circumstances. And hey. This ain’t half bad, ya know!?
As for this here bloggity-blog, I plan to write each day like I have on previous long hikes I’ve done (American Discovery Trail 2006, Tahoe Rim Trail 2009, Pacific Crest Trail 2013, Knobstone Trail 2015), but I probably won’t be posting them until I’m done with the trip. Unless I miraculously have some internet coverage out there (which I doubt I will, and honestly might not care to check). I also just bought an almost 1-pound battery charger for my phone since I use it for journaling/writing and as a camera, so hopefully I at least have enough battery juice to get me through the nine days without needing an outlet.
Hopefully I’ll be able to post my gear list and food choices for the trip before I head out, but I can’t make any promises, as I’ve found out how much less time I have lately as a trucker to blog. I knew I’d have limited time with this line of work, but it’s even less than I’d imagined, so it can be really tough to keep this baby updated. I have so much I’d like to write, it’s just really hard to find the time (every single time I post a blog, I guarantee you it’s cutting into my sleeping hours.) So I’ll try. I really, really want to. I want to share those things! Whether it’s to help you folks that read this stuff and want to go on a similar adventure, hopefully learn a couple of things (maybe I’ll talk more about peeing standing up! I can do it now!), or maybe you’d like to try keto backpacking, or see if I totally bonk from it – or if it’s just for me simply to organize and basically make another checklist of things I don’t want to forget! Haha!
So, keep an eye out for future posts. I plan to post lots of photos with my blog entries of the hike, as I usually do, and WordPress doesn’t seem to make that super easy, so that’ll take some time. But that record of my trip is not something I’m willing to let go of. As I’ve mentioned in the past, a lot of the reason I write this blog is for my own memory bank, because my physical brain memory bank is not so good. So these blog entries can bring me back and help me remember. So you can count on those!
In the meantime, keep your fingers crossed for me that I can get a decent walk-up permit/itinerary! And maybe that I can still climb and hike in elevation and not die. It’s been a while!
Tonight I love my July birthday. I’ve always loved that it’s right in the middle of summer when it’s hot, sunny and well, summery. It makes me happy. :)