My Wonderland Trail Story by Troy Buglio

Troy Buglio is a 2022 FarOut Scout

Day 1: My Wonderland Trail Story from Colwitz Divide Trail to Maple Creek 

 

We started the Wonderland trail story 4 miles off the trailhead, sharing mimosas in the parking lot. 

 

As a result we may have started too late in the day. 

 

It was hot hot hot. This day broke down Tommy and Kaylan. Morale was low for one of the shortest days of the hike. This was not a great sign for what’s to come, considering our bodies and minds were as fresh as they would be for the next 8 days.

 

Our campsite was pretty cool. We were nestled right at the end of the forest, with awesome views of a valley and some mountains. The night rolled around and we were able to catch a few shooting stars. This was the highlight of the first day, for me. 

 

This was the first time I ever cowboy-camped. A mouse crawled on my face when I was sleeping. I jumped up and yelled, “OMG”. Grace popped her head up and jumped on me thinking I saw something, but really all she did was jump toward the mouse. 

 

Learn more about FarOut’s Wonderland Trail guide

 

Day 2: Maple Creek to Devil’s Dream

 

Grace’s last day on trail! 

 

This day was pretty long. We had a decent trek from camp to Longmire where Grace got picked up. The trail was mostly through tall trees with beautiful rivers and waterfalls. The first portion of the trail was nice, mostly flat, with minimal climbs or descends. I say that also knowing we had only climbed about 1,500 feet to this point.

 

Once we got to Longmire we did some gear changes and grabbed a bite to eat. We said goodbye to Grace who had to catch a flight back to NJ for a wedding.

 

We also got our first trail magic on trail from some friendly people visiting the park for the day. They bought us all frozen Snickers bars, bringing moral to the group.

 

The rest of the trail was going to be a little more intense. After a nap and internet break outside the ranger station, we carried on.

 

Most people we passed kept warning us of the mosquitoes at our campsite, which added anxiety and uncertainty toward the climb. But once we arrived at camp, the mosquitoes were not nearly as bad as everyone had been telling us they would be. We set up our tents for the first time on the trip just in case. 

 

I remember the last two miles of this day. It was awful to climb up to camp at the end of a long hot day. It was complete torture, but I put my headphones in and just forced myself up the climb.

A man laying on a sleeping bag and backpack
Photo provided by Troy Buglio
A mountain hillside covered in green grass and trees with clouds
Photo provided by Troy Buglio

Day 3: Devil’s Dream to South Puyallup 

 

After waking up, we stalled and killed some time knowing we would have one of our short days. The day was short but the climbing was still intense! 

 

The bugs and mosquitoes were insane on this part of the trail. I got bit about 20 times when I stopped to take a picture of the stunning valley. One bit me right on the forehead, it was wonderful. 

Suspension Bridge

We got to cross the suspension bridge today! Wow, this was super cool. With every step the bridge swayed. After crossing the bridge, we started to climb up to a ridge line where I saw one of the most breathtaking views I have ever seen. Wildfire smoke filled the air making what seems to be the most insane view of Rainier a little hazy. But this also added depth and layers creating a breathtaking experience all on its own. I will be attempting to hike this section again on a clear day to really take it all in.

 

I got a little time to myself today, mostly because I was just so beat up from the day before and moving a little slower than the group. Every step I took I had to stop and take pictures, it just kept getting better and better. As I approached the summit I started to cry because I just could not understand how a place like this could actually exist.

 

We got to camp early today, and we had a river nearby where I was able to rinse off and clean some of my sweaty disgusting clothes after three brutal, hot days. There is nothing like a refreshing dip in a stream or semi clean clothes on trail.

 

I attempted to go to bed around 4pm and was sleeping on and off pretty much from that point on. 

 

My body hurt.

 

Day 4: Long Day

Wow, this was a long day. We started hiking at 2:30am and did some night hiking. It felt great to be moving in cooler weather. Tommy was not doing so well. He started to get sick pretty early in the morning. Around 4:00am we came across what was believed to be a mountain lion lurking on the ridge line near the trees, just as we were about to approach a beautiful alpine lake. This led to some tension in the group since Sean was behind us and we were waiting for him to catch up. Kaylan started to yell at Sean for taking his time, while Sean got upset because he was running toward the group and fell and hurt his knee. 

 

This led into an altercation at breakfast. Kaylan took off shortly after eating and I sent Sean to go catch her. Tommy and I chilled for a few minutes before heading out. We hiked about an additional 5 miles before Tommy started to get sick. He threw up again but was able to keep moving forward. I ended up getting in front of him for about 15 min and hopped off trail to use the restroom. 

 

I got back on trail and waited about 15 min and then wondered if he had passed by when I was off trail. After some contemplation I sprinted forward to try and catch up but no luck. I was asking every hiker who passed by if they had seen him or if they do, to tell him I would be waiting. I stopped for another hour break hoping he would catch up but still no Tommy. A hiker came from behind and said they had not seen him so I figured once again he must have just made some ground.

 

I pretty much sprinted past golden lakes campground down to the south mowach river where the bridge was out. My plan was to cowboy camp on the side of the trail until Tommy got there and then we would cross the river together. But I was terrified, there were bear prints and poop all around this area and as time passed the river got more aggressive. 

Message on my Garmin

I eventually got a message from Tommy on my Garmin letting me know he hopped off trail and was heading to a hotel. At the same time a group of trail runners passed by so I crossed the river with them. Man, was that sketchy. I still had another four miles uphill and what ended up being close to a 30 mile day with 6,500 feet of elevation gain. And the worst part was it was getting dark. I climbed up the final section and made it to camp where Kaylan and Sean had been for hours. I ate my dehydrated meal and passed out.

a hiker sitting on the ground laughing while filtering water into his water bottle
Photo provided by Troy Buglio
a hiker with a backpack on hiking along a green mountainside
Photo provided by Troy Buglio

Day 5: Body Hurts

Wow, my body hurts. Everything hurts. I started off the day by breaking my water filter. I was devastated because now I needed to rely on others for clean drinking water. 

 

We decided to do the Spray Park Trail. This was a challenge because we added an extra 2k of elevation gain to our day. But it was absolutely stunning. I’m glad we did it but my body was not after 13 miles of hauling my body up and down hills through some of the most stunning landscapes I have ever seen. It would have been nice to have a rest day. But we made it to Mystic Lake and got to clean off and wash our clothes. I haven’t felt this clean ever in my life. It felt amazing. The sounds of the glacier falling off the mountain at camp was mesmerizing. I could not believe what I was experiencing. Even though my body is in extreme pain and we are starting to run low on our food I’m determined to finish.

We have just two more nights. It is a bittersweet feeling.

 

Day 6: Second Cup

I just woke up, having my second cup of coffee in my tent. My body has started to break down and it’s rough but we only have two more days and about 35 miles to go which feels amazing. I don’t think the rest of the trail will be as strenuous but we will also be hiking at the highest elevation yet, which is just under 7k feet. I’m excited to get to our next camp which is 9 miles away and just relax. This will be our second shortest day on trail and is going to be much needed after the past two days. 

 

Today was amazing, only 2k feet of elevation gain. We ran into Valorie on trail about three miles from camp. She took out beers and donuts for us. This simple act of kindness was the best feeling in the world. After getting to camp we walked to the Sunrise Visitor Center in hopes for burgers and wifi… well I wanted wifi. I was craving Instagram after a week with no service. 

 

There were no burgers and no wifi, but I did get some awesome snacks. I got some guac, fresh cheese, canned cheese, and a Kit Kat. I cannot wait to eat the Kit Kat tomorrow. 

 

We still managed to be back in camp by 5 pm. We must have hiked a total of 15 miles after visiting the visitor center, but about four of them were with no pack or in my case, a lighter pack. Stepping my first step onto the pavement was absolutely wild, my body did not know how to react. It felt like I was walking on a cloud or jumping on a trampoline.

 

We also ran into some people from New Jersey, who I bonded with over just being from the east coast. It’s always nice to find people from the northeast.

a hiker kneeling next to a trail sign in the woods
Photo provided by Troy Buglio
a skinny trail on a green mountain side with white mountains and trees in the background
Photo provided by Troy Buglio

Day 7: Cold Day

Wow, it was cold today, I only had shorts and some spring layers and my vest. I’m not sure what time I got up but I was heading out of camp before everyone had broken down their tents. I pretty much ran down to the white river campground to find our food cache. This was not easy. Apparently it was hidden behind a ranger station down the road off the trail and was pretty frustrating to locate!

 

After filling my water bottles and eating a quick breakfast, Sean and I attempted to find the trail. We walked around the campground confused. We stumbled upon Kaylan, Nick, and Mindy also looking for the cache near the trailhead. They asked if I wanted to join them but I was so cold I had to keep moving forward to stay warm. I got separated from Sean shortly after. Honestly this was one of the best things to happen to me.

 

I got to hike the entire day alone. This gave me time to reflect on the past week of living in the backcountry and what it meant to me to walk around the volcano. I was so overwhelmed with emotions throughout the day. Knowing this will be my last night on trail, am I excited to go home? Yes. Am I dying for a shower and a bed? YES! Am I excited to be off trail? No. This has by far been the easiest week of my life. All I did was wake up and walk. So simple. The normal stresses and anxieties of life did not exist on trail.

Summerland Shelter

I stopped for the first time at the Summerland shelter because it had started raining and the wind was blowing pretty hard. It was nice to get out of the elements especially since I was not prepared for this weather.  I had dropped my rain layers on day two when I passed by my car near Longmire, since it appeared it would be as hot as the devil the entire time I would be on trail. 

 

I will say I was a little disappointed there was some cloud coverage around Summerland because I had been looking forward to this segment of the trail since we started. But the moody Pacific Northwest did not disappoint. I took more pictures today than I had for half of the trip and killed an entire camera battery.

 

After leaving Summerland, I had no idea what I was in for. I climbed up past a beautiful, turquoise blue lake into what felt like the sky. It was way beyond my expectations, reaching the saddle at Panhandle Gap felt like summiting a peak. The wind was so strong. I felt as if I was going to get blown off the mountain. Looking out at the clouds dancing through the meadow ahead was mesmerizing. You could hear the marmots screaming. 

I found a small ledge overlooking some glaciers that for some reason stayed sunny while everything else was cloudy. I laid there for over an hour while I waited for Nick and Kaylan to catch up. 

Reflection

Laying in the sun, I reflected on my journey. I know I hiked with many people throughout the 7 days on trail, but the entire time I was on my own journey hiking my own hike. Not to say I didn’t enjoy the people I came across on trail, because I did. But this was a personal journey for me, a way to prove to myself what I can do, and what I want to do. As well as who I want to be.

 

I know on day three the thought of quitting crossed my mind but I quickly turned it off and continued on. As of today I’m looking forward to my next thru-hike or backpacking trip.

 

Day 8: The Last day of My Wonderland Trail Story

Last day!!!

 

I did not sleep well, likely my worst night on trail. It rained and was super windy. I felt like I was going to blow off the mountain. I had good intentions of getting up for the sunrise but I failed. We only have 5 miles of the Wonderland Trail left to have completed the loop but we have about 8 miles to the car. 

 

I’m so excited to shower! Using a loofah! Soap!

a group of hikers sitting next to a trail sign
Photo provided by Troy Buglio

Related Trail Guide

Mount Rainier is an imposing backdrop to a lush green meadow and stand of evergreens on the Wonderland Trail.

The Wonderland Trail is an adventure of about 90 miles (145 km), encircling Washington State’s Mt. Rainier. The loop is a challenging hike with lots of elevation change, taking travelers from high alpine peaks, to glaciers and glacial valleys, to sub-alpine meadows, to temperate rainforests, to cascading rivers, affording spectacular views of Mt. Rainier all the while. Situated in Mount Rainier National Park, the trail was built in the early 1910s and was designated a National Recreation Trail in the 1980s. As the trail circumnavigates the mountain, hikers will be treated to astonishing views of the different sides of Mt. Rainier, colorful wildflowers, and much more. The trail is ideal for thru-hikers, backpackers, and section-hikers.