Wonderland Trail, Day 4: Our Laziest Day

Wonderland Trail, Day 4: Our Laziest Day // 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. Over the next 3 weeks, 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 3, and now… Day 4.}


Wonderland Trail, Mt. Rainier
Wednesday, 8/17/2016: Sunrise to White River (FOOD CACHE) (3.7 miles)
Elevation changes: -1200


{Note: because this was such a short mileage day, I started out the day with some reflections/memories of things I hadn’t had time/energy to write down before.}

“Random Trail Memories:

from day 1— (Theo, me, Silas, & Mei Mei, walking at his pace to get to camp. It was late– almost sunset.)

Theo: “Mt. Rainier is not sleeping.”

(I laughed)

Theo: “Mt. Rainier not have a pillow. Mt. Rainier not have a bed.”


Theo: “WHOA! Loot (look) at Mt. Rainier! I tannot beLIEVE it!”

Theo, day 2, after crossing the Carbon River suspension bridge:

“I lite that bridge!”

day 3- the path down to the Winthrop Creek was busted shale… so extremely slippery, and STEEP. Theo started feeling nervous the 1st minute he saw it. Ethan ran down w/ his bag, then ran back up and carried Theo down, then across the Winthrop Creek, without a bridge. He has really done great caring for Theo.

day 4- by now, Luke is an eagle eye for berries, and has a trained ear for the crinkling baggy (he knows I’m giving Theo a SourPatch gummy worm & I always tear him off a little dot from the end of it)! Funny baby!!!


This morning, the boys set off to Sunrise Visitors’ Center to replace 2 lost water bottles and retrieve a food cache a man from Massachusetts– Frank Gallo– left for us. He and his wife stopped to visit with us at Granite Creek (where we stopped for lunch and naps yesterday). They were amazed by the kids and said the story of our family was “definitely the story they’d take home to tell their friends.” :)

A lot of people seem to feel that same way.


(Wed afternoon)

It was a short hike to White River (3.7 miles) so we got here by about 1pm– had lunch, and then found our campsite. While we ate, the kids found a smooth boulder with one side like a slide, so they spent a good bit of time on it.

Going into the toilet, and using a sink, felt refreshing. :)

I washed out some clothes, set them in the sun to dry, and up drive Frank & Sharon Gallo. They offered to take Doug & the kids for ice cream but since Theo was about to take a nap and Doug still had to get our cache, it didn’t work out. So kind of them though! They did open up the cache for us– and shared a ton of goodies… cookies, bars, chicken dinner, & coffee for the boys, hot chocolate, and more. Really kind of them. They said they’d come looking especially for us. WOW!

It’s wild to be here so early… the kids are playing cards, walking down to the river, sliding on boulders, & Theo is napping. What a nice, restful afternoon, together.


Wed evening, we had a great time… the kids heard from the Ranger (Caroline) that she would be doing a bear presentation from 7-8pm, at the mini-amphitheater right in front of our campsite. It was wonderful— all about bear safety, how to keep bears wild, and celebrating the fact that no one has ever been injured by a bear in over 100 years of history @ Mt. Rainier. At the end, a deer was by our tent!

Great end to a great day!”


Trying to spot Panhandle Gap, the highest point on the Wonderland Trail



Doug filling up the kids’ water bottles with chocolate Carnation Instant Breakfast powder (morning snack)


My backpack carrier had a little mirror on it so Luke & I could check in, face-to-face, from time to time on the trail



washing clothes at White River




Ranger Caroline’s bear talk


  1. The 3.7 mile hike felt like a cakewalk, compared to our previous days’ hikes. The kids had fun counting bridges on the way there. I think we passed over 20 bridges in that short hike to White River.
  2. The kindness of strangers surprised us! I couldn’t believe it when I saw Frank and Sharon driving up, but it was utterly shocking when they said they’d come looking for us! Their generosity in offering to take us for a treat, and giving us the best of their trail food, blew us away.
  3. A deer came up just at the end of the Ranger’s bear presentation. It was a surprise even to her, and a fun way to end the day.
  4. Ethan spent time before and after the presentation asking questions and talking with Ranger Caroline. He is an inquisitive, fun kid, and I need to remember the big picture of who he is when I am apt to get lost in minutiae/muddy muck of parenting an imperfect teen.
  5. We spread out the food cache on the tarp and arranged it in rows: breakfast, lunch, dinner, snacks, and consumables (diapers, wipes, TP, hand sanitizer, extra white gas canister, extra olive oil). Organizing it this way kept it clean from dirt and made it really easy to get into the right packs.

Doug said he remembers thinking, when he took this picture, “there’s NO WAY we’re gonna get all this into our packs.” But then… in a matter of hours… it was done.



HOW DID WE ALL FIT IN THAT TENT? (details here!) 

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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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8 Responses

  1. Jess Connell says:

    A friend on Facebook asked:

    “I believe it was day 3 you mentioned y’all considered filing an itinerary change at the Ranger station. So I guess that means u have to submit your plan in advance so they know where y’all are?”

    Yes! Because the Wonderland Trail is such a popular trail, but they want to maintain a “backcountry” feel to it, you have to reserve campgrounds in advance. This year was particularly difficult for that, because the popularity is soaring, but also because their online system for reservations crashed, so everyone was having to show up and get their itineraries 24 hours (or less) in advance of the desired trip.

    So, when we asked that, Ranger Paul was doubtful we could swap itineraries, because there were no openings that he was aware of. Each night, we had to hang our permit on the outside of our tent so that a ranger could come around to all the campsites and make sure everyone had made it.

    Slight rabbit trail– that fact (of having to get itinerary/secure campsite reservations in advance) is why this day(day 4) was so lazy (just 3.something miles) and why, just a couple days later, we were doing an 11+ mile day. We went in to get our itinerary and knew flexibility was the key to getting an approved/available itinerary.

    • Lydia says:

      I love your blog for encouragement as a housewife and spiritual person but wow this series is inspiring me the most! Our two kids are about the ages of your youngest two and this is showing me there is a lot more we can do as a family even though they are little. Thanks!

      • Jess Connell says:

        Thanks for sharing that with me, Lydia! I’m encouraged to know it. :)

        This summer has definitely shown me that I was underestimating what we could accomplish as a family (and not just the little guys… each of us!). Since the summer, I feel like that same benefit has extended into our home… I think we’re all harder workers than we were before the trip, so it blesses us all in terms of chores, getting the house cleaned up/organized faster, being quicker to do things like load/unload the van… just taking initiative in general.

  2. Karla says:

    Wow the kindness of Frank and Sharon! You guys definitely made an impression on your fellow hikers.

  3. Kami Crawford says:

    That is so cool. I can still remember many of the kindness of strangers on the trail. It felt so much more kind when you’re in that type of scenario. i.e. more desperate maybe?

  1. October 7, 2016

    […] CLICK HERE TO CONTINUE READING: Wonderland Trail, Day 4: Our Laziest Day […]

  2. October 11, 2016

    […] our 12-day family adventure on the Wonderland Trail, one day at a time: Day 1, Day 2, Day 3, Day 4, and now… Day […]

  3. October 14, 2016

    […] our 12-day family adventure on the Wonderland Trail, one day at a time: Day 1, Day 2, Day 3, Day 4, Day 5, and now… Day […]

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