First-time Plateau author pens adventure, horror story set in Mount Rainier National Park

Kimberly Wheelock’s first book, “Wonderland”, is available at The Dusty Shelf and Whistlin’ Jacks Outpost and Lodge

What happens when paradise and hell meet at 3,200 feet?

That’s the setting of Plateau resident Kimberly Wheelock’s first book, “Wonderland”, published last May.

Peri, struggling to escape the “live, work, die” hamster wheel, falls in love with hiking and, as a challenge, decides she wants to conquer the Pacific Crest Trail.

To train, she sets off on Mt. Rainier’s Wonderland Trail, a 93 mile trek that takes her through lowland forests to the subalpine meadows. But when she emerges from the wilderness, she steps into a world ravaged by a pandemic.

Fighting to survive, Peri and another survivor flee to the national park to escape a grisly death — but while she might have left the shell of society behind, she can’t escape the ghosts of her past.

Part sci-fi(ish), part horror(ish), Wheelock tells a story of a loner on an adventure, despite the fact that her characters don’t end up going very far (think “Hatchet” and “On My Side of the Mountain”, though “Wonderland” is not a young adult book).

“[Peri] has definitely had some difficult experiences in life that has removed her from the people that… would be closest to her, and she has struggled to develop meaningful relationships because of that,” the author said. And while this is a tale about confronting that sort of guilt and shame, “it’s also a story of found family”.

Born in Buckley and recently uprooted to Enumclaw, Wheelock (who has now fulfilled a dream she has had since she was 11) came up with the idea of the novel while hiking down from the Owyhigh Lakes in the fall of 2021. Her daughter had recently moved out to attend college, and she found the time to buy some backpacking gear and “just take off”.

“It was a lightning bolt — it just came to me,” she said.

It took a year to complete the first draft; it was “terrible,” Wheelock said. “It took me seven months to do a second draft that was, I felt, more in line with what the story was meant to be.”

Despite being plagued (pun intended) by what she said was impostor syndrome, Wheelock said her family and friends helped her stay positive and on track to getting “Wonderland” published through Amazon.

She said that using a pandemic as a plot device was not related to COVID — she just had to figure out how to build a world where there was no one left, but left the local environment intact — but admits “maybe it is too soon” for some.

Wheelock herself has yet to tackle the Wonderland Trail, but “I’ve hiked literally everything around here” and just returned to the Plateau from Glacier National Park, she said.

“Wonderland” can be bought both at The Dusty Shelf in Enumclaw, Whistlin’ Jack’s Outpost and Lodge on SR 410 in Naches, A Good Book in Sumner, King’s Books in Tacoma, and can be ordered through Barnes and Noble.