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The Changing Mountain

The following is adapted from Northwest editor Michael Lanzas new book, Before Theyre Gone: A Familys Year-Long Quest to Explore Americas Most Endangered National Parks ($24.95,,

The Wonderland Trail took hits in more than thirty locations. In 2007, parts of the trail remained closed, marking the first time since its completion in 1915 that backpackers could not hike the entire trail. Never before had a storm affected every road, every trail in the park. Repairs would cost $24 million. The park was closed to private vehicles for a record six months; even world wars and the ash fallout from the 1980 eruption of Mount St. Helens had not closed it for more than a few days.

The following summer, I saw mind-boggling devastation while backpacking here: trails kneecapped by landslides, numerous washouts, thousands of 100-foot-tall trees heaped like matchsticks, and the former site of a backcountry campsite buried by a lahar—fortunately, when no one was there. Rainier’s unusual climate-change story was part of the motivation behind my decision to take my kids on wilderness adventures in 11 national parks within a year’s time. We went backpacking, sea kayaking, cross-country skiing, rock climbing, and canoeing in places that are likely to be very different places by the time my children are my age.

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