Wonderland Trail, Day 12: 6 Snacks+Dinner+Dessert =Tummyache

Wonderland Trail, Day 12: 6 Snacks+Dinner+Dessert = Tummyache // 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’ve published journal entries, pictures, & memories from our 12-day family adventure on the Wonderland Trail, one day at a time: Day 1, Day 2, Day 3, Day 4, Day 5, Day 6, Day 7, Day 8, Day 9, Day 10, Day 11, and now… Day 12.}


The view behind me on the trail, on day 12 (only 18 month old Luke is out of sight)


Wonderland Trail, Mt. Rainier
Thursday, 8/25/2016: Golden Lakes to Mowich Lake (10.3 miles) (to dinner, to dessert, to HOME)
Elevation changes: -2500, +2300


Here’s what I wrote on Facebook before bed:

“Random thoughts after coming off of 12 days on the Wonderland Trail:

  1. that was really really hard. Probably the hardest non-stop physical work I’ve done in my life.
  2. more beauty and diversity than botanical gardens or zoos or berry stands can contain. I’m dazzled by God’s power and creativity.
  3. I’ve never seen my fingernails so grubby. 
  4. judging by the stares (I think significantly more pointed and shocked than we normally get as a family of 9-going-on-10) we must’ve looked like homeless vagabonds at Chick-Fil-A tonight but wow that meal was scrumptious.
  5. I love my husband and kids so so much and am so proud of them and their work this week. I’m so amazed at the way God shapes people.
  6. Mt. Rainier is massive and incredible and even with as blistery tired as my feet are, I seriously cannot believe I just walked myself and 2 babies around that beautiful mountain.
  7. I’m so glad we changed the sheets before we left. I’m about to CRASH. 

More later…”


Starting out in the dark, with just headlamps to guide our steps, was a new experience for this last morning on the trail!



sunrise on the Wonderland Trail



Moses (6) and Luke (18 mos)



Luke, me, & Theo crossing over one branch of South Mowich River




A massive upturned tree, from the underside of the rootball!



A frog!!



Not sure of their real name, but we called these “Trumpet Mushrooms”… and we call him Silly-Theo



Moses & Doug



Our last view of Mt. Rainier from the Wonderland Trail



Every sign is a huge encouragement! This was a point when Theo tanked out and couldn’t do anymore. Doug was not with us at this point, so Ethan carried Theo in his pack for about 20 minutes. Definitely a ROCK STAR MOMENT!



One last head dunk on the trail!






Completely unexpected: Mount Rainier was on the wall behind our table, with a sign that read: “HIT THE TRAIL. EAT MOR CHIKIN.” We did both.



  1. We started out early… around 5am, with headlamps ON. That was tricky. Lots of roots for Theo to stumble over. But it was worth it, because we made so much progress in those cool morning hours.
  2. We covered our first 6 miles or so by 10/11am. That felt amazingly good.
  3. The last 4 miles, though, were a slog. It got warmer as the day wore on, and we kept having false “hints” that we were near the end. Just about the time you think you’re to Mowich Lake, there’s a little farther to go.
  4. We ate 6 snacks that last day. Some of our snacks were left uneaten on the easier/shorter-mileage days. On this day, we needed them all… and happily consumed them all during that last 10 miles. 
  5. It felt surreal to be done. Still to this day I really can’t wrap my head around the fact that we actually padded our way all around that huge volcanic, glaciated mountain.
  6. We decided to head to one of our Texas favorites: CHICK-FIL-A. We typically order a small party tray (64 nuggets) for our large family, and often come home with some leftovers. We ordered a Medium (120 nuggets) this time. AND ATE IT ALL. We came off that trail HUN-GRY.
  7. We went to a nearby mall for fro-yo afterward, and I saw the massage chair. That was all she wrote… I was delighted to lean back for that 10 minute leather-chair back rub while they went off to find the frozen yogurt place.
  8. One of the kids threw up on the way home, and several mentioned that they had tummy aches. We were CRAZY hungry, and seriously ate a ton of food… TOO much. Lesson learned!



What was most difficult?

  • The first few days- it takes a while for your “trail legs” to catch up to the work you’re asking of them. Once we got to about days 3-5, though my joints hurt more, my muscles were more willing and more capable than in those first couple days.
  • Keeping the 3-year-old motivated. I’ll probably do another article on just this topic, but we learned a LOT of tricks about how to keep young children GOING (and it has very little to do with physical ability– it’s really much more of a mental game).
  • The long stretch between Summerland and Nickel Creek. Not much water. Lots of up and down, and just a lot of miles. It felt like it would never end.
  • Self-control when you are exhausted. This is a theme for all of us– from the 3 year old on up to Doug and I. It is flat-out HARD to control what spills out onto others when you feel physically depleted. Snacks help. Forgiveness helps. But ugliness still comes out. That’s just reality.

What were the biggest benefits? 

  • We grew in our family relationships.
  • Each person grew in individual work ethic.
  • We all grew in physical strength, as well as tenacity.
  • My body has settled into a healthier relationship with eating. Something about going 12 days using up every calorie consumed has made it so my body is much happier eating appropriate amounts. I no longer crave seconds, or sweets, “just because”… it’s like this trip pressed a big “RESET” button for me, and erased a lot of long-held habits of eating just because I wanted to. It’s like my body has woken up to the reality that I should just eat what I need, and only want what I need. I’m really grateful for that.
  • Time away from beeps and dings. Being offline, away together as a family, was soul-quieting.
  • Living so simply with so little helped us all see how little we actually need to be content and have a great time. Since the trip, we’ve continually found ourselves evaluating and curating our possessions, and purging the clutter and duplicate items. I think that will continue for a long time to come.
  • Deepened appreciation for God’s creative power. We’ve never seen such beauty, and such variety, at the speed and frequency that we saw on the Wonderland Trail.

Would we ever do it again? Absolutely. Though it was very challenging, and none of us are eager to run back and do it right this second, we grew in almost incalculable ways.

After dinner we looked over from the Chick-Fil-A parking lot, and realized we could see Mount Rainier! So of course we snapped one last shot with that beautiful mountain. :)



Want to Start back at Day 1?

The PRACTICAL DETAILS of how we pulled it off:

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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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10 Responses

  1. Diana says:

    Thank you for sharing – I have enjoyed all of your entries!! Super-impressed. :)

  2. Jenni says:

    Really enjoyed this!!! Thanks for sharing so much of what you guys learned.

  3. Elaine says:

    This is such a special time in your family. Definitely keep going and moving forward and climbing those hills, because reward is not too far off. God is so good.

  4. Holly says:

    I enjoyed all of your entries and following your family’s journey! What an impressive accomplishment that you will be able to remember for years :)

  5. Kami Crawford says:

    More of a mental game for little kids…YES! definitely. I know we already said this but Great job finishing! Makes me want to get out there again. Maybe next summer:)

  6. shannon bradbury says:

    I loved this! And the fact you did this pregnant is so Amazing. What an awesome adventure for your family to remember!!! Great Job! It motivates me to know I too can do the hard things with my kids!!!!

  7. Audrey says:

    Thanks for sharing about your family’s journey about the mountain! I’m so happy you all did it! Those are awesome memories you’ve given your children. Thank God for good health for all of you along the way. My sister and I were on a very short hike this past week and the subject of you came up, so I thought I would come back and finish reading what I had started awhile back. I’m so encouraged. My husband has grand ideas about starting some backpacking trips like this with our children, so I’m soaking up all the info I can get. Thank you again for sharing!

  1. October 21, 2016

    […] Wonderland Trail, Day 12: 6 Snacks+Dinner+Dessert=Tummyache […]

  2. October 22, 2016

    […] time: Day 1, Day 2, Day 3, Day 4, Day 5, Day 6, Day 7, Day 8, Day 9, Day 10, Day 11, and Day 12. I’ve collecting them all here to have in one […]

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