Wonderland Trail, Day 10: It’s Still Hard.

Wonderland Trail, Day 10: It's Still HARD. // jessconnell.com

{NOTE: For those readers who don’t know our family, we’re the Connells. Doug’s my husband and I’m Jess. At the time of this trip, we had 7 kids (Ethan-14, Baxter-12, MeiMei-10, Silas-8, Moses-6, Theo-3.5, Luke-18 months), and I was 6 months pregnant with our 8th child. I’m publishing journal entries, pictures, & memories from our 12-day family adventure on the Wonderland Trail, one day at a time: Day 1Day 2Day 3Day 4Day 5Day 6Day 7Day 8Day 9, and now… Day 10.}


The night before: Baxter (12), putting on the rainfly, and Ethan (14) cooking, while I rubbed my weary feet after getting to camp with Theo.


Wonderland Trail, Mt. Rainier
Tuesday, 8/23/2016: South Puyallup River to North Puyallup (6.8 miles)
Elevation changes: -50, +2000, -100, +100, -2200


“It’s crazy… even on our tenth day of this, I still had moments (during the uphill, of course) of feeling like “this is too hard.” “I don’t think I can do this.” “What would happen if I just sat down & decided not to take another step?”

So weird. Cause I know we can. We’ve had days harder than this one. It’s still hard work, every time. Seems like we’re all stronger… but I could definitely see the appeal of a Northern Loop-type permit where we just go 3-6 miles a day. That sounds dreamy. :) But I am glad we did this. It’s turned out to be an 150-mile summer of hiking for us.

And… YAY… the baby is kicking and wiggling! I was hoping, all day, to feel him/her… so thankful to know for certain he/she is OK– I hadn’t distinctly/knowingly felt anything in a few days.

Today we went up one side of a ridge, walked up along the top of it, passing a small lake (St. Andrews Lake), before coming down a different ridge. So many rocks. So many steps. So many berries. The kids have gotten into a good rhythm of MeiMei, Silas, & Moses stopping to pick berries, while Theo keeps making forward progress.

Though it wasn’t an “easy” day, per se, we DID have a lazy morning & a more-leisurely-than-normal evening before sunset.

Tomorrow… our 4.8 mile day, an afternoon @ Golden Lakes, & our last campsite.

It’s bittersweet… this is an experience I know we can never again re-create. Any other time will be different… more realistic expectations… older children… different itinerary… I’m really thankful for this trip, this year, with these kids, at these ages. It’s been so hard, but very good.”

{I also journaled some private parenting observations and conviction-driven self analysis.}



a striking view of basalt columns, just across from the camp pit toilet :)



The bridge at S. Puyallup River camp



St. Andrews Lake



Silas, 8, catching tadpoles for the first time! (he put it back in the water, fast!)



We loved these clear, bright views of the mountain!!



Theo, 3.5, (our slowest hiker) leading the pack! This kept us from getting too spread out. We found that when we were all hiking together as a family, mid-day, having him at the front kept us all together better than having him toward the middle or the back of the pack.



One of the most private campsite pit toilets we encountered (look at that fancy privacy wall– woot!) Lap of luxury, right here. (Note the clip-down bear covering over the top.)



The view from our campsite, at sunset


  1. Isn’t this like our lives as moms in general?—-> (“It’s crazy… even on our tenth day of this, I still had moments (during the uphill, of course) of feeling like “this is too hard.” “I don’t think I can do this.” “What would happen if I just sat down & decided not to take another step?”) So often, as a mom, I can *feel* like things are TOO hard, TOO much, TOO overwhelming– even when they are things we’ve faced before. God is so faithful to carry us through hard things, and yet, I am still apt to doubt and feel like things are too hard.
  2. Silas found tadpoles at the lake. Another fun animal-encounter for the kids.
  3. I debated whether or not to include the last paragraph of my journal, and ultimately decided not to. I don’t want to share anything here that is too personal for my children. But I *do* want to share the hard things alongside the good things. Because they co-exist for us all. And when we work through the hardest things, the good things become even better. Darkness of sin provides backdrop for the brilliant shinyness of God’s goodness. I don’t want to come off as a perfect mother. I don’t want present my kids as perfect kids. I’m not, and they’re not. We’re all sinners in need of God’s work and grace in our lives. And He is so faithful to keep going in His work on us. I’m really thankful He doesn’t just leave us as hard, lumpy, set-in-our-ways CLAY, but He keeps soaking us with water, reshaping us, and refining us into the vessels He wants us to be. Through our time on the trail, God taught me, and them, some things about ourselves that were good and some things that are hard and need work. I saw certain qualities and relationships between pairs of my children that need my prayers and God’s work over time. Since this trip, Ethan and I have been actively working on the things that showed up in each of us during this trip. I wrote more about our conflicts on the trail here. I’m glad we can trust God to finish what He starts– in US, and in our KIDS.





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Jess Connell

Jesus-follower, Happy wife, Mom of 8 neat people. Former world-traveler, now settled in Washington. Host of Mom On Purpose podcast (momonpurpose.com). I write and wrangle kids.

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6 Responses

  1. Johanna says:

    I haven’t commented on many of these, but I am still loving each one. Thanks for the honesty, and thanks for all the pictures and experience notes. I am still living vicariously through you on this one!!

  2. Elaine says:

    Just a quick note, my hubs and I and bro in law hiked Longmire to St ANDREW’S lake and had a cross country permit and stayed the night up on the ridge on the far side of the lake. Stunning!!

    Thanks for putting that link in about you and Ethan’s convo. It really was meaningful and helpful to me. I am “mostly ok” a lot and need to work on that.

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