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Wonderland Trail: Day 1

Hammock for the win

These are long-delayed posts based on day-of notes from my July 2021 hike because srsly who’s got energy for blogging on trail. Though really, who even blogs anymore? I guess these should all be self-contained Instagram posts, or TikTok… dances? Or just gear reviews full of affiliate links. Whatever, I blog because it makes me happy to have a record of how it looked and felt to walk long distances through the mountains—and because maybe it will be useful to someone else planning a similar hike, like so many blogs and sites have been for me.

After hipster coffee and mediocre empanadas in Wilkeson and stalking deer through town for photos, we head to Mowich Lake to park our rental car and start walking. It’s a Saturday, and many, many other people have also headed to Mowich Lake to park a car and walk around, so parking is kinda intense and the trail is crowded at first, but once we get going and get past the Spray Park turnoff the trail empties out.

We’re basically hiking a controlled fall to the South Mowich River, more than 2,300’ down over less than four miles. The forest is green on green on green—trees and ferns and moss, tiny white flowers on low-growing shrubs, lumpy tree faces on tall thin trunks.

It’s cloudy and cool, and we do the 3.8 miles in two hours with lots of stopping for photos. At Mowich River Camp, our home for the night, there’s a group site with tents already set up, a three-sided shelter with space in front of it that seems to be Site 1, a riverside Site 4 that has already been claimed, and Site 3, which is a tad bit out of commission:

We can’t find Site 2, and we’re worried that there might be more hikers coming in who would be confronted with a tree-covered Site 3 and no other obvious place to make camp, so we chat up Site 4’s occupants and friendly-force our way into a spot next to them. This is ostensibly out of concern for late arrivals (who do eventually show up and do take the open site), but has the side benefit of giving us a great view of the river.

We have time to relax before dinner, so we break out what will prove to be the trip’s absolute best piece of luxury gear, an ultralight two-person hammock. BEHOLD:

This thing holds two people, packs down super small, and weighs 12.5 ounces with the tree straps. I’ve never hammock camped, so I can’t speak to its comfort as a primary shelter, but I’ve been on a long hike with a “lightweight” recreational hammock before, and while it was definitely nice to have, no way in hell was I going to carry something that heavy. But this is entirely worth its tiny size and weight for end of the day reading and even lunchtime naps. And after a last-minute order (my fault) and a shipping mixup (theirs), the crew at Hummingbird Hammocks went out of their way to get it to me before I left home. They’re basically the best possible version of a specialized cottage industry maker—high quality and accommodating—and I think you should treat yourself and any hikers in your life to a hammock.

We finished the day with freeze-dried dinner, chess on a tiny chessboard (another luxury item, and one that the game’s loser had to carry the next day), and the river’s white noise.

Saturday, July 17, 2021
3.8 miles: 58′ up, 2,360’ down
Mowich Lake to South Mowich River Camp

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