Wednesday, August 8, 2012

Wonderland Trail

Well, short breaks have interruptions, and so it happened while at the REI store in Tacoma (been member since early 1980's). While not finding what I wanted, which isn't that unusual for me with REI in the last decade or so. They've become more a retail store like the others but more so promoting and selling the REI brand products and only a few other brands for products they don't make.

But that's another story about who REI has gained a lot of members catering to more suburban actitivies and lifestyle and less so on their traditional core values I knew them for the first 20 years or so of my membership when they were in the old store in the Capitol Hill neighborhood. You could actually find products a range of products then.

Anyway, for the last twenty years the one and only book on the Wonderland Trail has been Bette Filley's book, "Discovering the Wonders of the Wonderland Trail", Dumanis Press, 1992 and 2006, which was and still is the definitive book on the trail, the 92+ miles trail which circumnavigates Mount Rainier in the NP.

There are two new books on the Wonderland Trail. The first is Douglas Lorain's book, "One Best Hike, Mount Rainier's Wonderland Trail", Wilderness Press, 2012. It's in the same vein as Bette Filley's book, the first half on information, planning and preparation and the second half on the trail.

While Bette's book is more informative on the trail with mileage and information, Douglas' book is more descriptive on the trail. Both are still good sources and it's a personal choice which you think is better as they're both good. The second new book is Tami Asars' book, "Hiking the Wonderland Trail", Mountaineers Books, 2012.

This book is about 50 pages longer than either of the other two, Filley's is about 210 pages and Lorain's about 190 pages, and more colorful with photographs and interesting maps. Tami spends fewer pages while covering more information than the other two which again, is personal choice on reading style than anything.

That's because the basic information about the Wonderland trail from your first thoughts to consider hiking it to the day you hit the trailhead to start is pretty much the same and known. Tami's book seems more for the overall idea and mental and physical preparation for the hike, which is important since it's 92+ miles taking 12-14 days depending on your hiking spend and stops.

Bette and Douglas' books start their descriptions of the Wonderland Trail at Longmire, which is the most common starting place as it's the easiest to get to via highways and has generous parking in the visitors' area. It, with several other places, is a cache location you can store provisions (clothes, food, replacement gear) if you start your hike elsewhere in the NP.

Tami also starts the description at Longmire but also offers information on alternatives hikes in both directions. The issue anyone hiking the Wonderland trail is that you are restricted to established campgrounds which require permits, either by reservation which opens in March or first come each day.

Camping outside these and other established campgrounds is restricted by the rules, and mostly in off-trail or scramble areas of the NP. They do allow camping for emergencies, but not part of any planned hike when and where you could have gotten permits at campgrounds. In short, you're not free to camp anywhere anytime.

I've only hiked portions of the Wonderland Trail. I've long lost the interest for backcountry camping and stay mostly to short to long dayhikes anymore. It's easier carrying more than a few pounds of photography gear with the normal hiking and emergency gear. And my body likes to sleep in a bed at night.

In conclusion, any of these books are great resources for interest in the Wonderland Trail, from just wanting to know, to hiking portions like me, or to wanting to do the whole trail in 3-4 days sections or in one shot. Personally if your interest is just casual, then Tami's book is the best of the three. If it's actual technical information, then Bette's book is still the best. Douglas' book is in between the two.

The one shortcoming of these books, while being great for hikers, as you would expect, falls short for photographers. That's because few serious to professional photographers venture more than a few miles off the road in Mt. Rainier NP, even me where the longest hike was 12 miles round trip.

It's why almost all the published photographs of the NP are either roadside or short hikes, the roads in the NP were designed that way, to enchance the visitor's experience. Few photographers venture past the those first few miles, Pat O'Hara is one of the most noted for his backcountry photographs in the NP.

Many of the rest of the photographers are primarily climbers or hikers who incorporated photography in their travels and books, which is where Tami's book is excellent for its images and ideas for photographic places, which is the best reason to hike the Wonderland Trail if only in sections, you'll never run out of places to photograph away from the crowds.

And for that alone, all of these are a great resource for photographers. Hmmm..., me thinks I see another set of Web pages with maps, the Wonderland Trail for photographers. Well, I'll add it to the list of things to do for the photo guide.

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