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Trail Moments: On the Wonderland Trail

Writing and Photography: Sarah Attar // Olympic Runner, Photographer & Muir Energy Community Lead


Wonderland Trail
with Aspire Adventure Running
3 days, 93 miles total
22,000’ elevation gain and loss

Mount Rainier National Park, WA
original name: Mount Tahoma, meaning “great snowy peak”

Mount Rainer National ParkBreath by breath and step by step, we wound our way up the switchbacks. The energy in the first few miles of a big trek is unique and beautiful. It’s a blend of anticipation and curiosity, the excitement is put into motion. We found a good rhythm in the forest, with the forest, for those beginning miles. As we ascended, you could feel the landscape transitioning. 

The trees began to thin and the trail started to level out into a wide dewey meadow. I looked up and through parting morning clouds took in my first view of Mount Rainier from the trail. This stands out as one of my favorite moments from the trip. It was early in day one of the circumnavigation around this great snowy peak, and we were able to finally observe this mountain that we would be getting to know intimately over the course of this run. I took a moment here to sit with the mountain.

 Wonderland Trail Mount Ranier

The morning was still cool and damp but the sun was beginning to grace the meadow. It was this beautiful greeting, an acknowledgement and a meditation on this landscape and the idea of circumnavigation. It truly is an amazing way to get to know a place, to get to know a peak. There is so much emphasis on summiting (which is definitely an amazing thing) that circumnavigating can fly under the radar. To run all the way around a mountain, to get to know all sides and angles over miles and miles, to be at the base the entire time, gazing upon the grandeur, is an incredible experience.


After a few more moments, my focus then shifted from the mountain back down to my map, studying once again the winding yellow line indicating our route, intimidated yet excited for the miles to come, excited for all of the ways I will see this mountain. After drinking some water, I folded up the map, packed up all of my gear, and continued running, through the meadow and back into the forest, step by step and breath by breath. 




Aspire Adventure Running organizes single and multi-day running adventures in wilderness terrain across Cascadia and Northern California. They provide logistical and emergency support paired with delicious meals and community for a unique and memorable backcountry running experience. Check out more of what they do here.

Comments (3)

  • Mark Finster on September 11, 2019

    Sounds like an incredible trip!!

  • Sevve Stember on September 10, 2019

    Well done on the circumnavigation! Looks like a meditative and memorable experience.

  • Margaret Pauls on September 10, 2019

    Sarah, this sounds like such a cool experience! Next time we are in WA visiting my in-law-Grandpa I hope we get to go to Mt. Rainer.

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