Our last day on the Wonderland Trail is a short one: 1.9 miles back to Mowich Lake, less than an hour of dodging day hikers.
We return to an impressively dusty car covered in hand-drawn dicks. And other genitalia, some of it helpfully dated.
And like that, we’re done. Freezing bath in Mowich Lake, driving back to the city, lunch at a taco truck, sitting in a Seattle park looking back at a hazy Mount Rainier on the horizon.
The Wonderland Trail was a stunning hike. We had almost perfect conditions—rain-free days and a mostly snow-free trail. But for me it’s impossible to enjoy unseasonably good weather without thinking about the larger context.
Climate change permeates hiking in the western United States. On our flight up to Seattle we saw the two-day-old Dixie Fire in California, which eventually grew to be the largest single fire in the state’s history, destroying entire towns and becoming the first fire to burn over the crest of the Sierra. We snuck in our hike between heat waves, during Seattle’s fourth-longest drought. Back in California in August, we watched what seemed like the whole state of Washington go up in flames. 2021 ended up being the state’s third-worst fire season on record. (The worst was 2015, actually, the year I hiked the PCT and had to dodge wildfire closures all the way to the Canadian border.)
I don’t know what the takeaway is. I love hiking. I hate watching forests burn out of control. The Wonderland Trail is a phenomenal hike and also a clear indicator of what’s coming—of what’s already here: hotter summers, smokier skies, and disappearing glaciers.
What a time to be alive. What a time to be walking through the woods.
Tuesday, July 27, 2021
1.9 miles: 130′ up, 20′ down (very roughly estimated)
Eagle’s Roost Camp to Mowich Lake