Wonderland Trail, Day 9: The Bridge Was Missing 3 Planks

Wonderland Trail: The Bridge Was Missing 3 Planks // 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, Day 8, and now… Day 9.}



Wonderland Trail, Mt. Rainier
Monday, 8/22/2016: Devil’s Dream to South Puyallup River (6.7 miles)
Elevation changes: +100, -1000, +1500, -1500


“This morning, we woke up to full fog, which made for wonderful photography conditions. Family photos & hiking photos (through Indian Henry’s hunting ground– lush with flowers, bridges, ponds, & amazing scenery) was the order of the morning.

We crossed the “Indiana Jones bridge” just before lunch– it was swaying & bumpy in the wind. After Theo & I went across together, MeiMei pointed out that the sign said “recommended one person at a time” but when we went across it was FOUR people– me, Theo, Luke, and whoever this little baby in my tummy is! :) 4!

After that, we had a long haul up to Emerald Ridge, along the S. Tahoma glacier… really beautiful terrain… and we were really thankful for the cool, foggy weather. Even though we couldn’t see Rainier’s top, and the winds made us bundle up with watery eyes, it was super nice to not be sweaty & irritable from the lack of water supply. At the top of Emerald Ridge, the kids saw rock marmots, found their home holes, & saw some marmot babies.

Between the flora, fauna, geology, weather, map skills, & animal biology, I way underestimated how much, and the kinds of things, they would learn & encounter on this trip. It’s been HARDbut WOW! So good.

We had to descend 1500 ft. to S. Puyallup River camp– which was tough with my hurting knee, blistered feet, & tender ankles. I’m thankful for tylenol & for Doug’s knee brace. We had a snack & again let the 2 big boys run ahead. They’ve gotten amazing at setting up the tent & getting dinner going.

We arrived by 7:15/7:30 and had time to relax a bit by the riverside camp… so soothing to see the sunset over the ridge and hear the water rushing down from the huge Tahoma glacier. Now all the kids have eaten and Baxter & I are journaling… everyone else is quiet & asleep, or nearly asleep. What a trip this has been– now just 3 days, and 2 campgrounds left. WOW.”



Baby Luke, getting all the love



Ethan, 14 years old



Moses, 6 years old



Celebrating our hunch that the hardest days were behind us





The hike up to Indian Henry’s was LOVELY in the fog.





stopping by the 101-year-old ranger’s cabin


Stopped on a boulder (with a great view!) for some Fruit By the Foot




Berries for miles!! And a cute grubby-faced Theo. :)



Theo, Jess, & Luke heading out to the suspension bridge



MeiMei, 10 years old




Emerald Ridge, home of many rock marmots



  1. I loved getting the photos that morning. It was fun to have time, and good conditions, to capture a sliver of what it felt like to be on the trail together.
  2. We were all super excited to know that we were most likely past our hardest days. We had renewed energy, and relaxed into the remaining days of our trip.
  3. We passed a lady (before going across the bridge) who seemed really nervous for me with “all those little kids.” I’m sure we did look like crazy people, to many passers-by. As the trip progressed, we had an increasing number of people who greeted us by saying something like, “Oh, we’ve heard about you guys!”
  4. The bridge was very windy, and was missing 3 planks in one place out in the middle. That made for a big step for Theo. He handled it like a champ, though. Dangers like that are a little bit nerve-wracking for any mom, but I actually came to be really thankful that (over the course of this trip) they were learning to assess REAL risks and REAL dangers. For the average kid in America, much of life’s “scares” are dangers/risks viewed on a screen (thrill/adventure movies, haunted houses, video games), or truly dangerous/risky things (speeding cars, porn, drugs, excessive consumption of sugary drinks & fast food) that are under-assessed as to how risky they actually are. This trip gave our kids a chance to test their limits, to the point that, by this day– day 9– I felt comfortable letting them go across a long suspension bridge, on a windy day, with 3 missing planks, with (truly) little more than a heartfelt thrust of putting them in the hands of our big God who loves them more than I do.
  5. We had water enough… but it was dwindling by the time we got up on the ridge. Those moments are tough. You want to drink enough water to stay hydrated and feeling good… but you’re not operating with certainty about when you’ll actually be able to refill. You want to have enough left over for the REALLY thirsty moments that can come if you don’t reach a creek. There’s probably spiritual application there somewhere.
  6. The green meadow at the top of Emerald Ridge was a short, but fun, opportunity for our kids to drop their packs and explore. Because it *wasn’t* blazing sun, they had fun running around a bit and exploring… they found marmot homes… we stopped for a snack… it was a nice (if quick) break.
  7. The 2 big boys really loved getting to run ahead… I think it made them feel like men (which, they were being!), and it was such a blessing to the rest of us, as camp was (at least partly) waiting for us when we arrived after them. Total win-win.

With 4 of us going across at a time, Theo (3), Luke (18 months on my back), my baby-in-utero, & I TOTALLY broke this recommended rule :)




WHAT WAS IN OUR PACKS? (and how did we all fit in that tent?)

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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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4 Responses

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