Wonderland Trail, Day 8: The Hardest Day We Didn’t Expect

Wonderland Trail, Day 8: The Hardest Day We Didn't Expect // 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 7, and now… Day 8.}



Carter Falls

Wonderland Trail, Mt. Rainier
Sunday, 8/20/16: Paradise River to Devil’s Dream (via Longmire–FOOD CACHE) (9.9 miles)
Elevation changes: -1000, +1000, -200, +1300



About Sunday, Day 8″ {Note: I must have written this the morning after}

WOW. The day started excellently. We packed up at Paradise, and Doug “accidentally” burned the oat bran cereal. Which meant… BREAKFAST AT LONGMIRE! It was a long walk (3.6? 3.8?) there, but the meal was AMAZING!!! I got a meat lovers’ omelet w/ crispy, peppery hash browns and a homemade biscuit. The vanilla latte was exquisite. Doug got pancakes, an egg, and bacon. The kids all got whatever they wanted and enjoyed different syrups, hot chocolate with a mountain of whipped cream on each one, and Ethan got coffee. Theo had his own apple juice. :) The whole meal was perfect.

Then we picked up the cache, and I got it sorted while the kids played a pioneer game with a Ranger pretending to be from the 1920’s. They had to decide things like whether to do the Wonderland, or summit… what food to bring… etc. Baxter ended up dying from a boulder crash. (:-) Then I got some tylenol and saw (cue the music) Mug rootbeer & Dr. Pepper. So we had that, too. All in all, we had a wonderful time at Longmire. But it took too long. (9:30 am – 1:30 pm)

5.7 miles up to Devil’s Dream was mostly UP. The patch between Longmire & Rampart Ridge was tough– but we did OK. Problem was, ___ (initial removed to protect the individual 😉 ) got diarrhea and Theo tanked, so we gave him a 30-minute nap at a switchback, then a Honey Stinger gel.

The views from Kautz Creek and Pyramid Creek were spectacular and the kids did an amazing job on some tough terrain. At our Pyramid Creek snack break, Ethan & Baxter put the tent & extra snacks in their packs and set out the final (2-2.2) miles to set up camp alone. So amazing! They booked it… all uphill.

It was such a discouraging amount of switchbacks. Seemed like it would never stop.  We passed some trail runners who told us the boys had been rocking it, going fast to camp… so proud!


Then we passed a family of 3– man, young lady, and a baby (maybe 9-12 months) on their way back down to Longmire. 5+ miles, over creeks and sandy ledges… without cold weather gear (and the temps dropped FAST!) I don’t know what happened to them. Some of the people camped here had run up to get Rangers’ help for them. I hope they’re OK. Seemed like the parents might’ve been high, I don’t know?


It got colder and colder and dusk came quickly. Doug told me to go ahead with MeiMei, Silas, & Moses cause Theo was losing steam. We pressed on… very discouraged when we had to turn on the headlamps. MeiMei & Silas hiked like champs. Moses cried, then sang a sweet song to calm Luke down, then cried some more. Such precious children.

We left extra granola bars for Theo and Daddy…he said the M&Ms helped but Theo still ended up tanking not long after we left. So when he couldn’t do anymore, Doug carried him for about 20 minutes in his backpack.

Baxter & Ethan ran back, with headlamps, for the water jug & to give Theo a piggyback ride to camp. Ethan had already gotten dinner going, so Silas stirred & pumped the gas for a good 15 minutes while I got the pads and bags ready in the tent. Moses & Luke went down immediately and didn’t get back up for dinner. The dropping temps, their exhaustion, and all the extra calories we’d consumed through the day made me feel OK about just letting them SLEEP. 

By the time Doug got to camp, I’d eaten some and went to help Theo eat and get settled in bed. It was a cold, long, hard night… but in reality, the worst only lasted about 1-1.5 hours… and then we were all safe & sound. The next 3 days sounded like bliss:

… 6.8 miles to S. Puyallup
… 6.7 miles to N. Puyallup
…. 4.8 miles to Golden Lakes


Our hardest days (distance-wise, at least) are behind us.”






Caught back up for long enough to say “Goodbye” to our friend Michael, who was with us from Summerland (night 5) to Paradise River (morning 8)



Decisions, decisions…



Luke, enjoying the extra bits of cream


a mount of whipped cream on each hot chocolate


a game with the 1920s-clad Park Ranger


ready to get back on the trail


Theo– taking a nap, right on the trail




  1. The breakfast. Wow. So delicious. And so weird to sit in normal, plush chairs.
  2. After such an easy morning, I thought the afternoon would be easy, too.  I couldn’t have been more wrong. This was a difficult, difficult afternoon & evening for us.
  3. I felt guilty for not warning that couple when they first passed us on the way up to Devil’s Dream. We later learned that a Ranger had reached them around 9pm, not long after we passed them, and escorted them all the way back to Longmire. This definitely gave some practical “flesh” to the notions our kids had about “how super-cool” it would be to be a Park Ranger. A woman we met the next day told us that, on her hike up, the path had been littered with diapers and infant clothing (she thought it was from us! We made it clear that, no, we work to “Leave No Trace”). We’ve concluded the couple must’ve been high on meth. Otherwise, I have no idea how they got that huge jogging stroller up and down (and across!!) so many precarious places.
  4. This was, by far, the hardest evening. I think it made it harder because the day started out so great– we weren’t expecting the rough afternoon/evening. We didn’t anticipate Theo’s crash, and didn’t know how quickly the temperatures would fall. Doug has referred to that night (especially the period of carrying 35-pound Theo in his freshly-filled-up pack) as “his darkest moment.”

By the time we got here, we were glad to see the sign, but completely SPENT!



Subscribe to my newsletter, and I'll send monthly encouragement -- full of truth and grace for moms. SIGN UP, SO WE CAN KEEP IN TOUCH:

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.

You may also like...

11 Responses

  1. Lisa in NJ says:

    Wow! I have just so loved reading all of these daily trip memories. I am seriously just so impressed by you guys!!! I hiked, canoed and camped over night many summers growing up – but we’re talking 24 years ago! My husband and I now have three boys 5 and younger so I am just so blown away by your kids and how resilient they are! Must be those years as MK’s (for the older ones). Reading this has put a dream in my heart to do this someday as a family. Thank you for sharing all of the nitty gritty!

    • Jess Connell says:

      You know, I’m like you: blown away by my kids and how resilient they are.

      I started reading this book this summer: http://amzn.to/2dhTcIB (Women’s Diaries of the Westward Journey) and the more I read and think about it, I really think kids in general are more resilient than we give them credit for.

      Historically, kids have been WAY harder workers, earlier, than we have them do in America. I think this is less of something that’s unique to my kids, and MORE something that could be true of all kids if we cast the vision of hard work and big payoffs for our kids.

      It was interesting to me to see our kids “buy in” as time went along and they saw the pay offs (views, candy, time together, amazing places, playing in waterfalls, etc.) of their hard work. It’s changing the way I’m seeing a lot of things in regard to work, effort, and physical exertion of children.

      And I LOVE that this is planting seeds of “what could be…” in your heart. I would love to hear how God leads you to the adventures He has planned for your family. :)

    • Jess Connell says:

      This idea has also been VERY encouraging for me, personally. It’s called the 40% Rule, and the more I think about it, the more true I think it is, in all sorts of areas. We think “I’m done” and the truth is, we can do much more:

  2. Elaine says:

    Well done. Longmire is so incredible to have along the trail! I loved having something I didn’t have to share. Lol. Love that your boy took a nap on the trail. That climb is hard. The whole West side is challenging. I look forward to hearing about the rest of your days.

  3. Charisa says:

    “Moses cried, then sang a sweet song to calm Luke down, then cried some more.” Ahhh…this made me cry. And I think this is so true of our children: sometimes they can be so difficult (maybe even for very legit reasons), and then so utterly sweet and helpful, then revert back to difficult. I could really relate!

  1. October 14, 2016

    […] CLICK TO CONTINUE READING: Wonderland Trail, Day 8: The Hardest Day We Didn’t Expect […]

  2. October 18, 2016

    […] 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, and now… Day […]

  3. October 18, 2016

    […] 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, and now… Day […]

  4. October 20, 2016

    […] 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, and now… Day […]

  5. October 21, 2016

    […] 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 […]

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Join my e-mail list & get 30 Quick Fixes (for Tough Mom Days) FREE!

  • Stay connected with your kids, even on the hard days.
  • Get exclusive MOM encouragement
  • Let me help you become the best mom possible!

Enter your name & e-mail address & let's become friends: