WHERE: Cascade Locks: Oregon, USA — Manning Park, Canada
WHEN: March–August, 2018
OBJECTIVE: Pacific Crest Trail (PCT) thru-hike
DISTANCE: 2147 – 2653 mi (back on track, total miles walked: 2333.4)
The Washington section July 13 — August 1. Walking across The Bridge of the Gods felt big, like a milestone, which it is since halfway across the bridge marks the border into Washington. Only one more state to go, or roughly three weeks of walking, and it felt a bit surreal. Time is running really fast all of a sudden. It has been super hot and very humid lately. I have not been sweating this much since the desert, or even then? Of course, Washington’s topography isn’t helping much. The Cascade mountains serve up a lot of ups and downs all day and every day so I am happy to have my trail legs already for this section.
It is very beautiful up here though. I especially love when the trail pops up above the tree-line for a stunning ridge walk with mile wide views. This is happening a bit more here in Washington, otherwise the PCT tend to sidle around the mountains just below the summits or ridges to better accommodate stock which I personally feel is bit of a shame. I wish we could climb all the way up and stay up high longer. Especially since the steep and severely overgrown switchbacks up/down can be annoying and hard work to maneuver and the narrow valleys in between rather bug ridden and swampy. Not my favorite. Not as many mosquitoes up here though, but instead there are black flies. They drive you absolutely mental if you stop walking, and they bite!
I have been walking in and out of a small bubble of hikers throughout Washington. Strawman and Airborne from The US and Guardian from Switzerland. We usually meet up at resupply stops, but sometimes leapfrog each other on trail during the day too and we have even camped up together a few times. First time I have had some company since the Sierra. A nice change.
The landscape is getting more and more dramatic the further north I get. There are still a few snow fields scattered about, but nothing worth noting. Thanks for that! After crossing over Cispus Pass I camped up at an elevation of nearly 7000ft with views of three volcanoes at the same time, Adams, Rainier and Mount St Helens. Beautiful! Next morning I enjoyed an amazing sunrise, the best yet on the trail, as I climbed up Old Snowy and down an amazing ridgeline suitably called The Knife’s Edge. This is the high alternate route to the PCT and really beautiful and dramatic with 360 degree views and still keeping the three volcanoes in sight all morning! One of my favorite stretches of the whole trail.
Next resupply stop was White Pass. Basically a truck stop with a small convenience store. They do make pizza and offer laundry and showers for hikers though so I have no complaints. I camped up behind the store in what soon grew into a small camp with a dozen or so PCT hikers, half of which are sobo’s (southbound) just starting their adventure. I met quite a few of them during my last couple of weeks on trail. Fresh faced and clean, in contrast to us dirty, skinny and hairy nobo’s… lol.
I keep running into sobo’s, there seem to be a lot of them this year! I probably saw 20 of them over the course of one day once. A lot of dayhikers in the area too and I met one who gave me a fresh banana. Oh it is the little things in life that really make your day on trail…
Next resupply stop, Snoqualmie Pass. I walked in around two on a very hot day. I got my resupply box and icecream before raiding the hikerbox at the Aardvark food truck. They also offer a free beer for PCT hikers, nice! Ice cream and beer… mmm priorities.
Next resupply, Stevens Pass. I was really dying for a shower and laundry, so I hitched into Skykomish and onward to trail angel Jerry Dinsmore for the night. The place was full of sobo’s when I showed up and a few more nobo’s came in later as well. We are probably 15 hikers here tonight. Funny, I am not used to so many people. I can’t even imagine the trail in another month when the herd comes through… huuu!
I got a hitch up to Stevens Pass in the morning but hung around for an hour or so talking to Scott before hitting the trail since I had good cell reception up at the pass. I still had 30 miles with a lot of climbing to do that day, but I made it to camp at the beautiful Sally Ann alpine lake by seven despite the late start.
The glacial wilderness was a really beautiful section which reminded me a little bit of Sarek at home. I met a really bold and curious Marmot there. It came right up to me, stopped to dig at something in the ground. Then ran off again and laid down flat on its stomach on a patch of snow just below the trail… clown.
Next day I camped up at Mika Lake, a beautiful little alpine lake that I was surprised to find it still frozen over! I had been watching the clouds all the way on the long climb up to the lake. Dark and brooding in the distance. Just as I summited the pass the first thunder clap hit. Hard! The dark clouds were now quickly moving my way! Time to get off the mountain to find lower ground. I got down to the lake, about 900 ft below the pass, and camped up just as the first drops of rain fell. I zipped up just as the storm hit in full force. Rain, thunder and really high wind gusts. It felt like sitting inside a washing machine. Still fairly exposed up here by the lake, but much better than up at the pass. The thunderstorm lasted all night and rain persisted on and off until lunch the following day. Can’t complain really. I only had one day of rain in the entire notoriously wet Pacific Northwest!
Climbing up out of the gorge on the other side the next morning sucked. The trail was totally overgrown with now soaking wet too from the rain. Narrow and slippery and totally overgrown with wet plants. I was soaked from both rain and sweat within minutes. Sun came out when I finally reached the top though, so I decided to take an early lunch to dry off a bit. I stripped off my wet clothes to dry. While drying off in the sun another hiker pass by… lol… never fails. I waved and smiled but he did not stop to chat.
As I started my climb up the next peak I hear more thunder in the distance. I am in the trees so I cannot see any lightning but one crash came very close and was very loud — the ground shook under my feet! I knew it must have hit somewhere and soon I saw smoke rise just up the mountain. A lightning fire! This fire would later be known as the Miners Creek fire… luckily I moved out in front of it.
My final resupply stop was in Stehekin. A beautiful spot on lake Chelan. Since you can only get there by sea plane, ferry or hike it is touristy but still pretty mellow. A bus shuttles hikers from the ranger station at High Bridge and back four times per day. I haven’t taken a day off since Bend so I was looking forward to a zero here just to soak it all in before finishing. Only 3-4 days of walking left to the border! I managed to stub a toe really badly on the way down, the overgrown valley trails hide a lot of rocks with the potential to trip you up. I ended up doing a bit of surgery on it otherwise the last 100 miles to the border would have been agonizing. Basically the nail needed to go. So after half a bottle of wine I pulled it out and drained the blister swelling underneath it — and then finished the bottle for good measure. Good thing I was taking a zero the next day, lol.
Quite a few hikers in town too. Us nobo’s stuck together… we are so close now. Guardian and Strawman are here and also Airborne, who is planning a yoyo. In other words, do the trail north than turn around to walk south back to back in the same season.
One reason I wanted to start early was to hopefully beat the fire season, and it has been a pretty intense one this year. Seems the whole west coast is ablaze! I have not been held up by any fires thus far even though there has been several fire closures right behind me. I saw the Miners Creek fire start and High Bridge closed the day after I came through! So while I have been extremely lucky on my hike there is one fire closure up ahead. The trail between Rainy and Harts Pass was closed, making about 30 miles of trail off limits. Unsure how long the fire closure would last I decide to hitch around it and continue north. I have easily done more than 30 miles of bonus miles on this hike so far, so I don’t feel bad about it.
After a night at Ravensongs Roost, a trail angel in Mazama, Guardian, Airborne and I set out to score a last hitch up to Harts Pass. Not an easy task as it is a 30 minute ride up a windy dirt road to get there. We eventually got one with a very nice day hiker and his dog. Rangers are now saying there are several fires burning in between Rainy and Harts Pass and that the high hot winds are not helping. Hope to get on before they close any more trail. At least it is supposed to cool down to a balmy 32C tomorrow after todays scorcher at 40C!
We were on trail by 9:ish. Guardian and I leapfrogged each other all day. Airborne got a late start chatting with some hikers at the trailhead so we did not see him until that night. This final section was really beautiful, one of my favorites in Washington actually. I spent most of it up high above the tree-line with awesome views. I could see a huge column of smoke from the fire between Rainy and Harts Pass but luckily the air was nice and clear going north. Good not breathing in all that!
By lunch Guardian and I decided to scrap the original idea to save the border crossing for the morning and just push a big 30 mi day and finish that day — and we did it! We got to the monument just as the sun disappeared behind the surrounding mountains. Kind of funny. These moments are always a bit anticlimactic… you round a corner on the trail and… there it is. It was nice to finish with someone though. We signed the log books, took some photos then made dinner while waiting for Airborne. We gave up when it started getting dark so we toasted in our baby bottles of champagne, wrote Airborne a note and walked the 0.2 mi down to the closest camp spot on the Canadian side. We were making camp when we heard a howl in the distance, Airborne was here! Guardian and I will continue on into Manning Park in the morning while he is turning back around for his sobo hike. Best of luck!
I feel really great about finishing!!! None of the melancholy I usually feel when a long hike is over this time. Instead, I just feel proud, strong and happy — such an amazing feeling and the perfect ending to an epic adventure.