Finding myself on the Wonderland Trail

When she laughed she was beautiful, when she cried she was beautiful, but when she was determined…she was sexy as hell. – Matt Baker

On the summit of Mt St. Helen's

I moved to Washington in October of 2016 and spent the first two summer’s on my road bike, training for and completing rides from Seattle to Portland and Seattle to Vancouver. During this time I had completed a handful of hikes, reaching the summit of Mt St Helen’s with my brother as my biggest hiking achievement yet.

Early in 2019 when I was thinking about what I wanted to challenge myself with next, I knew I was ready to hang up the bike and spend more time exploring the mountains. And to be totally real, I had just been hurt by someone I thought cared about me and was aching to wander, to get lost, to get away and sort through the unhealthy relationship patterns I continue to involve myself in…basically to try and figure my shit out!  So in the spring of 2019, I started to plan my solo thru hike on the Wonderland trail, the roller coaster hike that circumnavigates Mt. Rainier with roughly 22k feet of elevation gains/losses and roughly 93 miles in length. That seemed like a reasonable challenge, a good place to figure my shit out, or at least die trying:).

Growing up in Michigan, I had camped a decent amount in my high school days, but it was all car camping and I never had to carry anything more than a day pack on my back, let alone everything I would need for nine days! Crazy as it may seem it sounded like a lot of fun!

Sophie ready to hike

Me and Sophie started our training hikes in May and did our first overnight the first week in July. During that time I got my pack dialed in and gave half my bank account to REI. The pass to hike may be free…but the gear sure isn’t!

Fast forward to the day after Labor Day and I was walking on the Wonderland trail thinking to myself…holy shit, I’m doing this…and then immediately…holy shit, what have I gotten myself into. What proceeded was the most intense, cathartic, crazy, amazing, mentally and physically tough, yet rewarding week and a half of my year! In some ways you could say my life up until that point.

Mowich Lake

I now know what it means to hike your own hike, what it feels like to be consumed in a walking meditation. I know how liberating it feels to strip down to your skivvy’s and jump in a lake because your hot and it feels good, because you no longer care what people sitting near will think of you, and because at that moment you are exhausted, and raw and the most real, the best possible version of yourself that you can offer.

Solo thru hiking taught me that you are never truly alone. You’re surrounded by a community of individuals, most of whom are searching for the same things as you. It’s a breeding ground for true connection, from sharing trail stories at camp, sharing tips and tidbits along the trail, sharing food and resources, sharing fears with strangers without thinking twice. Where else do people connect so easily, willingly and without hesitation?

That trail changed me, it showed me what I was capable of, it showed me the benefits of slowing down, of observing, of being patient, of trusting in yourself and what is before you. It taught me to be a little more like Elsa and let some shit go. Disclaimer: I’m still working on this which is why I said some and not all, but hey, we’re all a work in progress!

Me at Summerland Bar

What I have come to learn is that when life becomes heavy… go take a walk in the woods, or take your dog to the park, or simply walk around your neighborhood. Sit in silence for a minute, look up at the moon (and observe how many other people look up just to see what you’re looking at, people can’t help it…it’s the whole FOMO thing), stare at a duck swimming in a lake, whatever it is, take just five minutes if that’s all you have to do something that calms your mind. Doing this has helped me gain perspective, to realize that I have so much to be grateful for, to realize the insignificance of my problems in the larger picture, and it usually ends up overpowering the negative, minuscule shit that creeps into my head many times.

Next up: I’ll be posting daily recaps from my Wonderland trail journey so make sure you’re signed up, that way you’ll get notified when new content arrives! In the meantime, head over to my photo gallery to check out pictures from my hike…my other adventures too, or just to look at pictures of Sophie!

6 thoughts on “Finding myself on the Wonderland Trail

  1. You make it sound so fun and you need a GoPro some the ones that are too scared to do something like that can live vicariously through you! Way to go Tara!

  2. Love this! I got into hiking because of the hike itself, being outside and having time and space to think. I think what kept me spellbound is the people and the connections. Wonderland is on my very long list of things to do, so looking forward to reading more!

    1. Hi Tammi, yes, the hiking community and connections made while on the trails are pretty amazing. I hope by reading my recaps it pushes Wonderland up a little closer on that long list! It’s not easy, but nothing in life that’s worth it is!

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