The plan was passionately conceived in my heart in early June of 2012. I was in the local REI store looking at maps of "The" Mountain and books of "The" hike. A friendly salesperson walked up to me and struck a conversation that eventually led to a miscarriage of my summer's intended goal. I was naive about the how-to's and the know-how's of the whole process, but that conversation lit a fire that would lead to a years' worth of burning desire and preparation for the birth of a life-long dream.
The conversations went something like this:
Salesperson - "Hello, is there anything I can help you with?"
Me - "I'm looking for a map of the Wonderland Trail and a good book about the hike."
Salesperson - "Oh, when do you plan on hiking the trail?"
Me - "Probably August." (It was currently mid-June) "Do you know when the best time to hike it is?"
Salesperson - "Well, do you already have your permits and reservations?"
Me - "Huh?"
Salesperson - "Yeah, you need to reserve back country hiking permits usually no later than March."
Me - (Feeling like I didn't really like this guy because he wasn't telling me what I wanted to hear) "Well, I guess I'll buy this map and start planning for next year."
Salesperson - "Make sure you try early to get reservations, I hear they are pretty hard to get."
Me - With my stubborn nature feeling all the more dead set on making this hike happen, "Thank you, I'll let you know how it went."
So I left the store with only a map, a water-proof, tear-proof map that, in time, would take on the feel of a well-worn cloth. I went home and immediately got online to find a guidebook for the 93 mile hike. I found just the one, Hiking the Wonderland Trail: The complete guide to Mount Rainier's premier trail, by The Mountaineers Books. It too, would become well worn and comfortable like a ragged security blanket. The seed of adventure was planted, my mind was set.