Twenty years ago today, just about this time of day (slightly before 8 AM PDT), my rope team and I reached the rim of the Mount Rainier summit crater. I wrote in some details about that Mt. Rainier Summit Climb two years ago, on the 18th anniversary. While it was certainly a high point in my life–literally and figuratively–Mount Rainier has provided me with so very many other high points since I first discovered The Mountain in 1992.
All in all, I’ve made 16 return visits to backpack around Mount Rainier, including 13 times around the Wonderland trail (and one too close encounter with a bear, last summer).
A twentieth anniversary is often known as the China Anniversary, based on the traditional gift of china place settings. But for this twentieth anniversary, I’m giving myself an even better gift: a September trek around The Wonderland Trail. In the past, I’ve backpacked the WT only in July and August. (Carol and I did day hike parts of it in October of 1992, which was the start of my sick little addiction to The Mountain.) For some time, I’ve wanted to give September a whirl, so happy anniversary, to me. 🙂
My answer is simple: it’s never the same place.
People often ask me, “Why do you keep hiking the same place? Doesn’t it get boring once you know it?” My answer is simple: it’s never the same place. Though I’ve now logged roughly 1500 miles and spent 150 nights in the Mt. Rainier back country, every trip is different. Different weather, different flowers, different animals, and different people. Glaciers, winter storms, and spring rains can literally move mountains. Every trip I encounter something new, and every trip leaves me with a new list of places to explore. (Click on the panoramic image above and then expand the image to full size in your browser. This image was taken from one point on the WT; imagine walking all the way around The Mountain–you’ll notice there’s quite a bit to explore.) Experiencing the year-over-year changes (and permanences) in such a magical place is, for me, on the short list of really good things in my life.
Mount Rainier was unusually popular this summer and I was unable to reserve backcountry permits in July or August (or September, for that matter). So I’m not sure what route I’ll be taking around The Mountain until I get out there and see what permits I can get. But I know I’ll get something and that it will be wonderful. It always is.