Cascade Locks to White Pass

Day 127: Cascade Locks (2146.7) to Rock Creek (2166.2)

August 14 // 19.5 miles

As we do in town, slept in and didn’t bother to leave the hotel until checkout time, meaning yet another late start. We lose so much time on the days we arrive and leave town, not that I’m ever avoiding the luxuries that town provides. Did a resupply at the grocery store next to our hotel and got one last burger for the road, it’s hot as hell today and I wasn’t looking forward to the long climb out of the Columbia River Gorge.

We passed the Shasta boys on our way out, they’ve decided to stay here the next couple days until Trail Days, the yearly PCT festival that will be held here this weekend. Our group has a loose plan that we’re going to get about a hundred miles out from town and then PC’s parents will pick us up and drive us back for Trail Days. I do want to go, but I’m not sure it’s worth it since we have to haul to make it to our pick up point in time, and I get the feeling the trail around Cascade Locks will be crowded after the weekend… it’s a concentration of PCT hikers who are likely to be planning their arrival to coincide with Trail Days. Oh well, we’ll see.

On the edge of town it was time to cross the Columbia river on Bridge of the Gods. It’s the lowest point on trail (less than 200 feet above sea level, a far cry from 14000ft Forester Pass and Whitney) and the border between Oregon and Washington. The bridge had heavy car traffic and we had to walk in single file along the guardrail trusting the drivers whooshing past not to squish us. I spent most of the walk nervously watching my back instead of enjoying the last moments in Oregon, but then we were across and Welcome to Washington! Two states down and one to go.

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Back onto proper trail and hiking at 1pm, very hot and humid today. Started a six mile climb up and out, it was decently steep and there was no water all afternoon so my pack was heavy with a fresh resupply and full 4 litre water capacity. There might have been views off the ridge I was hiking on but the smoke was so thick I couldn’t make out more than the shape of the nearest hillside. On the upside, the bushes lining the trail were laden with huckleberries and blueberries and blackberries, the sweetest so far on trail.

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Near the top of the climb out of the gorge, crossed a couple dirt roads and the whole area seemed to be part of a logging operation, most of the trees had been clear cut. Not the most scenic introduction to Washington. Another wasp sting when I stopped for a break with Eli at a couple gallons of water that had been left alongside the trail, and it wasn’t even worth it since the containers were all empty anyways.

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Left the ridges behind to drop down into the woods to Rock Creek. On the way down, it felt like a rainforest...green everywhere you turned, below and to the sides and even above. Moss blanketed the rocks, the ground, the tree trunks and hung down in thick ropes from all the branches. A SOBO hiker climbing up from the creek told me that he had just seen three full-grown mountain lions crossing the trail which put me on edge the rest of the way, just waiting for 100 pounds of hungry cat to drop down on my back.

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There were tons of campers taking all the established spots at Rock Creek and I was worried we’d have to knock out a five mile climb in the dark to get to the next cluster of camp spots. I found my group sitting on the wide, rock covered bank beside the creek making dinner and we scouted around enough to find “sites” which were really just anywhere flat enough we could pitch tents. Bagels and I are a little ways from everyone else, to get from our tent back to the others requires some climbing over fallen logs and crossing a tributary stream trickling down into the creek. It’s difficult to get around in my camp flip flops trying not to slip on the slick rock and wouldn’t it be a bummer if I hurt myself now.

After setting up (it took some creativity to get the tent to stay put, tying two of the guylines to a fallen tree and just piling rock on the rest of them), we went back to join Eli, Cream, PC and Honeybee. We’ve packed out tequila and whiskey and stayed up too late drinking and talking. I had to find my way back through the obstacle course to our tent a little drunk and in the pitch black since neither Bagels or I had brought our headlights to dinner. The three mountain lions are in the back of my mind but I’m mostly just sleepy.

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Day 128: Rock Creek (2166.2) to Trailhead Campsite (2197.9)

August 15 // 31.7 miles 

The last to leave Rock Creek this morning. Barely had a chance to get warmed up before climbing out of the creek gorge we dropped into last night. It was still green and mossy and I didn’t have to carry any water at all in these rainforest conditions, creeks and streams everywhere. One big up and down over first ten miles today.

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 Stopped at Trout river, spanned by a footbridge. Sat with Honeybee collecting water and having a quick shade break. There was a very friendly guy packing up no less than 5 Golden retrievers into the back of his van after their daily walk. He asked us if we needed anything and offered a ride to town, I think we were both tempted to take it for the chance to ride with the five beautiful dogs but we regretfully stayed strong and passed.

The humidity today was brutal and it felt hard to draw in a full breath between the thick air and the still-lingering traces of smoke. A couple miles were through exposed grassy fields without the slightest hint of shade. The temperatures probably weren’t as high as the desert and NorCal, but the humidity made it feel so much worse and I didn’t have the best morning, plodding on through the heat and trying to drink enough water to keep up with my sweating.

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 At Wind River, there was a large wooden footbridge crossing the shallow rapids, I looked down and saw the group having lunch on the bank. It was almost too hot to function so first thing I did was get the shoes off and stand in the river. The water was uncomfortably icy, but at the point I’d take anything over the heat. It was too shallow for any swimming but I did a sort of lame pushup into the water to cool down. Even just minutes after getting out of the freezing river I was already too hot again and tried to find as much shade as possible under the sparse bushes.

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As I was packing up, I met the two hikers that are YOYO-ing the PCT this year. (Mexico to Canada back to Mexico) I was too shy to say that I recognized them from instagram, but it was still cool to see them on their super-hike, maybe one day I’ll give it a shot too.

A long ten mile uphill after Wind River but thankfully the trail was back in the woods and had more shade than the hot, exposed morning. Crossed lots of Forest service roads and I hauled on the climb (“AT&T service at the top!” promised Guthook) and took a break on the exposed ridge overlooking the horizon. We’re supposed to be able to see Mt Adams from here but no luck, nothing more than a couple miles out was visible before everything faded into the smoke.

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 Got into camp pretty late in the day, it was starting to get dark. Our spot is next to a dirt road trailhead, and there are tons of other hikers already set up for the night. Best part is that there were cement pit toilets to use! (No TP though.) Managed to find a space right beside the road but away from other campers to set up Bagels’ tent, the others are kind of scattered around in the trees. It’s a very warm night, no need for puffy jackets. I’m feeling pretty wiped after like 20 miles of uphill today but a good, achey tired and my headache seems to be completely gone, an amazing feeling.

Day 129: Trailhead Campsite (2197.9) to White Salmon River (2228.9)

August 16 // 31 miles 

I had a dream about being back at work trying to deal with an overload of phone calls on hold and slow computer systems and for some reason all my co workers were ex boyfriends? Woke with relief to find I was still on trail. I’m not sure how I’m supposed to go back to “normal” life, last year was bearable since I knew I’d be back on the PCT this summer. With no more hiking trips on the horizon after this one it’s going to be a long winter for sure.

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But no point in worrying about that for now, got out of camp about 7:30 feeling sore and stiff after yesterday, another long haul planned for today. Some of the flattest trail I’ve ever seen this morning, which is unexpected for Washington but I’m not one to complain about easy hiking and cruised along happily, it’s a warm and sunny day today. Unfortunately still pretty smoky which is too bad because I think Mt Adams should be visible already if it was a clear day and maybe even Rainier as well, we’ve just entered Indian Heaven Wilderness which is supposed to be a beautiful section. I’m grateful that at least the trail is open but it’s still kind of a bummer hiking with no real views.

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On the uphill, stopped for a coffee break on the bank at Blue Lake, which was, as advertised, a large blue lake. Lots of campsites around the shoreline and we picked out one that overlooked the water and had plenty of fallen trees to sit on. For a lake, the water was great quality-crystal clear, cold and easy to access. It was such a nice spot we ended up hanging around almost an hour cooking late breakfast/early lunch and watching for the splashes of leaping trout, too bad both Bagels and PC ditched their fishing poles.

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A quick climb later we stopped again for water at Bear Lake. Tried to be as unobtrusive as possible while collecting and filtering since there were a handful of fisherman spaced around the lake, all alone and enjoying the serenity of the quiet morning. The closest fisherman to me hooked a fish, carefully reeled it in, unhooked it and set it back into the lake. I sat under a tree on the bank while filtering my water and when I got up, realized I had sat in sap and now had to deal with a bum covered in stickiness and pine needles that made walking a little uncomfortable. The joys. At least the water was good and I made the fisherman laugh.

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Huckleberry heaven in the afternoon, there was an open two mile stretch where just about every bush alongside trail was laden down with perfectly ripened black berries. The locals were out taking full advantage, near the dirt roads there were dozens of people filling huge gallon buckets with berries and there was still plenty for us hikers to snack on.  As I was passing a family consisting of three grandmothers and seven or eight little grandkids, they told me that these are the best berries in the state for making pie and jam. I waved my purple stained fingers at them to indicate I was already finding that out for myself. Don’t mind if I doooooo Washington.

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Made camp at White Salmon river which is right next to a paved road, but the bushes are so thick we can barely make out the cars that pass us by. Tomorrow is the end of our big push for trail days, we need to knock out 22 more miles to get to Potato Hill trailhead, where PC’s wonderful parents are picking us up in their camper van and hauling us all the way back to Cascade Locks. Magic is back since the headaches have left me alone for a week now, and I’m trying to enjoy every moment out here. April and May seemed to stretch on forever this summer, but somehow I’m here in mid-August wondering where the heck the time went. I guess it always happens this way, but I wish I could extend a couple more months, I’m nowhere near sick of trail life yet.

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Day 130: White Salmon River (2228.9) to Potato Hill (2251.0)

August 17 // 22.1 miles 

Alarm went off at six, I can’t express how much I hate being woken by beeping when I’m on this trail. But we had a free ride to catch and I was grudgingly hiking by six thirty. It was COLD in the morning, my fingers were numb and I hiked with my puffy for well over an hour.

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Into Mt Adams Wilderness. Ten mile uphill that I hadn’t been looking forward to on today’s elevation profile, but was actually very gradual and manageable. For the first time in days the smoke has cleared almost completely and I was happily surprised to get the first proper view of Mt Adams, it was way closer than I had expected and we’re probably within a couple miles of the base. If the smoke had hung around I would have been completely oblivious.

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The trail skirted around Adams, got a good 180 degree view around the mountain, it’s such a handsome thing and number one on my climbing bucket list. Most of the morning was through a burn zone, a couple years old so that there were plenty of new growth beginning to cover the spaces between the charred trees. So many wildflowers. Near the end of the climb I found Bagels and Cream stopped for good reason-there was a beautiful view across the valley, could see Mt St Helens with her distinctive half-top and even Hood was visible far in the distance. It feels like the trail is just one giant game of connect the dots from volcano to volcano. There was also an inversion happening, the cloud was down in the valley with the volcano tops pointing up from

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As if it wasn’t enough to get Hood, St Helens and Adams all in the same day, rounded another bend in the trail and had a beautiful view of Mt Rainier, perhaps the most iconic of all the volcanos on trail. I’m not sure if there were opportunities to see it earlier, but it’s been so smoky today was my first time seeing it on trail. It’s only slightly smaller than Whitney, and is way more prominent since there are no other mountains around to take away from the scale. I’m so jealous of Bagels, living in Seattle he gets to look at that beautiful snow cap every day.

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Then sun made a huge difference in warmth, and I was chasing it down the trail trying to avoid digging out my puffy. We were making good time to get to our pickup spot, and stopped for lunch about twelve miles out next to a creek that was cloudy white from the minerals and again smells like rotten eggs. All the water here is glacial runoff and therefore ice cold. I’m curious as to what causes the sulphurous smell and “gritty” texture, you take google for granted until you don’t have all the resources in the world at your fingertips.

Climbed a little more after lunch, crossing more of the sulphur streams. The trail alternated between burn zone, pine forest and patches of black lava rock fields reminiscent of Oregon. The streams were so icy I was avoiding getting my feet wet at all costs and didn’t even bother checking out the few lakes scattered beside the trail. There were lots of weekend hikers out doing the trail around Adams, I would kill to live near here and be in such a beautiful area whenever I wanted.

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The whole group stuck pretty close together today, we’d leapfrog on and off at different water sources and I walked with Bagels for a little bit. The huckleberries were slowing me down as usual but I tried to be disciplined enough to keep moving and not be late for the ride. Reached Potato Trailhead at about 2pm, it’s really just a forest service road that intersects the trail, but there was a van parked under the shade of some trees…it was PC’s parents! They had come fully prepared and brought soda and beer, fruit, hot dogs and cookies. It was just what we needed after hauling for the last couple days and we sat around for a little while to rest, introducing ourselves and eating just so much food. PC’s parents have hit the road in their van for the summer, doing travels of their own with their little dog, Gabi. I am extremely jealous, the van has everything you would need for travel life-a little kitchen, bathroom and pull out bed in the back.

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It was a looooong drive back to Cascade Locks, the network of forest roads was full of potholes and rocks and terrible on the van, had to take it really slow and edge our way past any oncoming pickups, not that there were many. It was a little squishy with all of us huddled in the back, and the smell was brutal but still managed to get a bit of sleep once we got back onto paved roads. So looking forward to this mini-break, we’ve been working hard to get here on time (our original plan was to get another 40x miles to White Pass but we realized pretty early on it would be no fun to cram in so many miles and chose Potato Hill as a reasonable goal instead).

Cascade Locks was way more crowded for Trail Days than it was when we left, with hikers wandering up and down the main street and the beginnings of a tent city next to the river where the festival will be held. We’ve opted for a hotel room for tonight and tomorrow, and half the group went for the shower while the other half went for the McDonalds. Can barely keep my eyes open even though we still have to go out and get dinner at the brewery. It’s a tough life.

Day 131: cascade locks ZERO-Trail Days!

August 18 // 0 miles

My dear old Oregon friend The Migraine was back this morning, complete with the pounding eyebrow, some hangover-level nausea and general frustration. Eli gave me some prescription-grade anti-nausea medicine and I topped it off with a couple extra strength advils and decided to suck it up. I’m not spending trail days in a hotel room.

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Wandered down the main street of town towards the river, picking up coffee on the way. Hiker trash had descended upon Cascade Locks. Gear tents, food trucks and a stage covered the field on the shore next to the Columbia and spilled over onto the little island in the river, where there were hundreds and hundreds of tents set up. I kind of wish we had camped too, but I know that we definitely got a better sleep in the air conditioned hotel room vs the noisy campgrounds. Crowds were everywhere…curious townspeople, gear representatives and of course PCT hikers. it’s hard to believe there are so many of us on trail when we so rarely run into people outside our little bubble. I saw hikers that I met in the desert, in the Sierra, in NorCal that I passed and that passed me. Saw my friend Kim from last year, the Shady Shasta boys, Dodo, Nono, and Dutchie who I had a burger with on my very first night on trail and has since changed her name to Happy Feet. Wandered around checking out the gear tents and food trucks. At lunch there was a line blocks long for free hiker pizza at a local restaurant and their back patio was crammed to capacity.

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My migraine was making itself very known after lunch and I had to retreat back to the hotel for a short sleep and a shower, which seemed to clear up the worst of the headache. After the nap and rally, I found my friends lazing at a sunny picnic table half-listening to the stage presentations on LNT (leave no trace) but mostly drinking beer from the Thunder Island brewing Co booth. Bagels and PC had gone to a presentation on the PNT, Pacific Northwest Trail and were already planning on it for next summer. The Shasta boys had somehow managed to get themselves a job pouring beer and doing manual labor for the owner of Thunder Island Brewing in exchange for a place to crash. Somehow that night, I ended up at the owner’s house with a dozen or so hikers, using the hot tub and sitting on the porch listening to country music. Great night. Portland tomorrow with PC’s family!

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thats a lot of trash

thats a lot of trash

Day 132: Portland Zero

August 19 // 0 miles

A bit of a blurry day after partying last night. Portland was excellent, consisting of a 40-minute breakfast line (worth it), resupply at a bougie health food store (not worth it), Japanese food, fancy donuts, two naps, an inventive hotel bartender, an arcade. Jokingly suggested buying camp chairs at REI with PC and Bagels but then we actually did it, so now I’m adding a pound to my base weight, lightening my bank account 80 dollars and have somewhere to put my butt that is not dirt for the rest of Washington. I didn’t originally want to come all the way to Portland for just one day but it’s been a great side adventure. Back to hiking tomorrow if I remember how, it feels like we’ve been off trail for ages, not just two days.

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Day 133: Potato Hill trailhead (2251.0) to Walupt Lake Trail (2264.6)

August 20 // 13.6 miles 

Goodbye Portland, back to the trail to wrap this thing up. Slept in after a late night, enjoyed one more shower this morning. Packed up, got breakfast and then a long drive back to trail. Stopped at gas station and found another hiker, Stuck on the Ground, trying to catch a hitch so we added her to the van pack and kept on. The road that we were supposed to take back to trail may have been potentially closed due to fire, but we went through anyway. The air was incredibly smokey today, the worst it’s been since Crater Lake.

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By the time we got back to the trail it was 3:30. Feels so very good to be back. I’ve been so focused on making the milage for our Cascade Locks vacation and now that it’s over, the end of trail feels a lot closer than it did three days ago. I’m trying to accept that finishing is near and trying to appreciate the time I have left. I know in four months I’ll be sitting in my office chair at a job I enjoy but am not passionate about, staring at my trail screen background and wishing for it all over again. In Oregon I was almost desperate to rush through and be done so I could go home and just not…hike, but Washington has kicked that sentiment and now I want to keep hiking as long as I can.  

Said goodbye to PC’s parents, will see them again when we get to Steven’s Pass in a few days. They’re living full van life, which gives me hope that adulthood will be fun even when you’re supposed to be settled down with kids. The trail was flat and crowded with lots of people that had kept on from Cascade Locks after trail days. Moving slow out of town as usual but today I was content just to be on trail. Not many views today because of the smoke, hopefully it clears up by tomorrow when we hit Goat Rocks, one of the most scenic spots on trail. The PCT is actually closed right after the knife’s edge ridge walk with detour options to Packwood or White Pass, I’m just happy that we get to do the majority of Goat Rocks before the closure.

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After the late start we didn’t get too many miles in and pulled off trail for camp down near Walupt lake. Found a spot big enough for everyone’s tents and set up under the pine trees. Tried out my new camp chair for the first time, I felt a little silly having such a luxurious, unnecessary item, but god damn if I don’t feel classy sitting eating my dinner not sitting in the dirt, even if dinner is just a box of undercooked mac and cheese.

Not too tired after our short day and double zero, probably could’ve added a few more miles tonight. Tomorrow should be an epic day based on what I’ve heard about Goat Rocks. Some exciting news for our group…Honeybee is leaving early first thing in the morning to get to White Pass as soon as possible to pick up her dog! And dog will be coming with us the rest of trail!!

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Day 134: Walupt Lake Trail (2264.6) to Packwood Lake 

August 21 // ~21 miles

To 2278.6 + 7ish. About 21 miles

Woooooow what a day! Best on trail? Best in life? One of my best for sure and took almost 250 photos, every time I put my phone away I would have to pull it right back out again to take another picture. Got a great sleep last night and took extra time to make hot chocolate and coffee with breakfast, which probably just triggered the rest of the greatness. Honeybee was already gone before we woke up so she could get to White Pass early, we’ll meet her there the day after tomorrow.

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After packing up and getting back on trail, it was very flat to get started before the climb up to Goat Rocks. Lovely cool morning, the air was way clearer than it was last night. I was feeling really happy and enjoying the easy terrain and being back in the woods. The forest faded to scrub and then to nothing, with the first sweeping views of the day.

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After the first few miles of easy hiking, started climbing up towards Cispus pass. The air was a little smoggy, but clearer than last night and not bad enough to obscure the views of the ridges folding away layer after layer. The uphill was hard work but I had an energy high and it felt good to push my legs and try and keep up to PC and Bagels. We passed a couple groups of friendly day hikers, stopping to chat about our hike, everyone’s always interested to hear about our favourite and least favourite sections, (if they’re local I’m always sure to say favourite is the current one, and today it was the truth), what we eat, where we’re from.

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Cispus pass was absolutely incredible. The trail cut across emerald green slopes looking way down into a valley, and little waterfalls tumbled down the rock. Dayhikers were rambling about in abundance because why would you not be out here. Stopped for a chair break in a patch of trees near a particularly nice waterfall just to enjoy the view and eat one of my favourite new meat and cheese snacks.

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After finishing the downhill, there was the last push uphill towards goat rocks and the knifes edge. The terrain went from meadow to rock as we climbed higher and higher, had to watch my step to avoid any ankle breakers on the shifting, loose rubble. The energy high started to wear thin near the top but I could tell that the views were just ahead and pushed on without slowing.

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Near the very edge of the top of the pass, had to do a quick jaunt over a snow field to earn the views that came right after. It was amazing, the trail stretching away for miles ahead along what is literally a knifes edge on the mountain ridges. Would have stellar views of Mt Rainier without the haze, I saw the white cap glowing through the smoke but nothing else below that. We didn’t make great time since everyone was stopping every few feet to take pictures.

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The trail split for about a mile, it used to be the old PCT, but was too difficult for pack animals to get up and over, so there’s also now the new lower trail. We took the higher route and easy to see why there’s an alternate, no horse was getting across this steepness. Stopped again where there was yet another split and a side trail climbed up to the summit of Old Snowy Mountain. I was feeling a little wiped and not sure if I was up for it, but dropped my pack and headed on up with Bagels and PC. It was hard work to get up to the summit, some hand over hand climbing on the slippery shale, but we made it to the top for a quick photoshoot. On one side of the knifes edge below, there was a fire that was clearly the source of all the smoke, we could see it rising up thick in the valley and blowing across the trail. Definitely getting worse even in the short time we had been there.

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PC has a dramatic moment atop Old Snowy

PC has a dramatic moment atop Old Snowy

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Scrambled back down the mountain to get our packs (going down is always so much harder than going up, it feels unnatural to climb backwards). Then we got to do the famous ridge walk along the knifes edge. Such a steep downhill on either side, the trail dropped sharply away on either side and even the path itself plunged down in sharp, steep drops. Knees were feeling very shaky with the downhill effort. Back up steeply, down again, and repeat. The trail was made up of thin flat slabs of rock, it was like trying to walk on dinner plates and we stuck close together to make sure everyone got through okay.

Looking back at Old Snowy. Always nice to see where you’ve been from an even cooler perspective

Looking back at Old Snowy. Always nice to see where you’ve been from an even cooler perspective

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At the junction with Coyote trail, the PCT was closed again for a fire, perhaps the one in the valley below us. Fortunately we had gotten to do most of the knifes edge, I couldn’t imagine having to miss what we did this morning. But it was time to take the side trail down the mountain face, leaving the rock behind and dropping back down into the pine forest. Always nice to get off the PCT, credit to the crews that it’s so well maintained, but also kind of fun to get back to a trail that’s a little rougher. Had to jump lots of fallen logs and do a bit of route finding when the path washed out beside a river.

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Such variation from the rocky tops of Goat Rocks back down into the wet green woods. Stopped at a mossy stream bank, with the smoky sun slanting through the tall trees I was just waiting for a fairy or elf to pop out of the woods and take a seat on one of the toad stools near the water. I only got Bagels squatting nearby to filter water like a dirty and very fluffy-haired gremlin, but close enough to satisfy my fairy tale fantasies.

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I hiked alone for the rest of the evening, following a river for most of the way. We’re off the PCT and therefore my GPS was pretty useless and I wasn’t always sure I was going the right way to get to Packwood Lake, where we planned to camp for the night. The river was clearly more flooded than normal, the tree trunks were in the middle of the rushing water and I was completely off trail, just walking in the vague direction towards the blue spot on my phone map.

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Thankfully when I was starting to get a little worried I had gotten myself lost, the trail reappeared again and it was a quick half mile to get to Packwood Lake, where the rest of the group was setting up for the night. Beautiful campsite, probably our best yet. Cream was already in the water and I rushed to join her, the water is crystal clear and blue, could easily see the bottom even when it was ten feet deep. Dried off, changed into the cozies, made Mac and cheese or dinner and sat around talking late into the night. Made my second round of hot chocolate to make the day’s end as nice as the beginning. Camp chairs are so A+.

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10pm-Coyotes around our site doing a pack call, with replies coming across the lake. Never heard them make noise like this before, the first time I heard it I got the serious spooks. Two on either side of camp for sure, and many more in the trees behind. Every twenty seconds or so, and the exact same call pattern every time, although each has a different pitch. 

They’re coming closer, making very odd noises almost like a parrot mixed with a monkey. Still pretty sure it’s a coyotes but eerie all the same. Glad I’m not camping alone.

DAY 135: PACKWOOD LAKE TO SNOW LAKE (2304.7)

August 22 // 22 miles (ish)

Slept in long past the others at the lake, everyone was gone when I stuck my head out of the tent. No bother though, still had a lengthy breakfast with Bagels, we made hot chocolate and lazed around by the lake watching the sunrise. Looked around for coyote tracks to try and confirm that was what we heard last night, but no sign of any prints. The lingering smoke made everything a soft orange colour and it was hard to get moving when it was so quiet and peaceful.

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It was (supposedly) only about 5 miles to town, before a hitch down a long winding road to Packwood, and we were planning to get in and out of town as fast as possible. I set off first around the lake. A very quiet morning, although I could hear echoey voices from a few weekend warriors ringing across the still water. The trail we were on circled the whole lake, and I waited for Bagels at a hydroelectric station that included a a jeep track that diverging back towards civilization. We made good time on the flat trail and soon arrived at the paved road where our notes suggested get a hitch into Packwood. Since the road dead-ended at Packwood lake, there was literally zero traffic and we realized with a slightly sinking feeling that it was probably going to be a road walk all the way to town, an extra five miles after the five or so we had already done. When we were back into service, Bagels texted the others and they confirmed that they had no luck with rides and were already in town at the pizza place. 

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Settled in for the road walk and drifted back from Bagels to hike alone. The only car that passed was headed in the opposite direction. As far as road walks go though, this one wasn’t too bad, a paved highway and downhill the whole way, so it was easy to zone out. It was getting hot as I reached the edge of Packwood, a few buildings spread along the main highway. It was straight to pizza place, ordered myself a large veg and soda. Eli was also there charging up at an outlet, but left to resupply shortly after I arrived. Our group chat was buzzing as we all tried to find out where the others were, Honeybee and Cream had already made it to White Pass, and PC was MIA, although he wandered in as I finished my pizza. Managed to eat about half and wrapped up the other half for dinner.  

Resupplied at the small grocery store trying to go as fast as possible so I wouldn’t be too far behind the others getting to White Pass. I bought enough food for the next four day section to Snoqualmie but depending how slow we go I might end up a little short, we’ve decided as a group to keep our mileage low for the rest of the trail to enjoy the last few weeks to the max. Out of Packwood just after 2pm with Bagels and PC, and reunited at White Pass with the rest of the group, plus one new addition: Welcome to the trail Keeda! She’s Honeybee’s shepsky mix and is joining us for the rest of the way to Canada. I’m so excited about getting to hike with a dog and she’s so good. Very obedient and down for bely rubs, but gets antsy when Honeybee leaves her alone with us.  

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Tons of hikers at White Pass, which is nothing more than a well-stocked gas station. We sat around on the pavement slowly doing resupply and wondering where all these other people have been on trail, it feels so isolated until we get to town and meet all the others congregated there. A firefighter base camp was set up on the slopes down the road, hundreds of tents left empty while the residents tackled the nearby fire. A ranger stopped by with some pretty unfortunate news-the Northern terminus of trail at the Canadian border is inaccessible due to yet another fire. We had seen this online, but it’s such a downer to have it confirmed-we’re currently researching alternate routes to the border around nearby Ross Lake, but hopefully the trail will open up before we get there. 

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When everyone was resupplied and packed up, we set off down the road back towards the PCT. Easy trail with only a gradual climb. Keeda was let off her leash and bounded happily away down the trail, always returning to check and make sure Honeybee was still on her way behind. Passed the 2300 mile marker, someone had shaped the numbers from the yellow-green moss that hangs off all the trees here and is incidentally also my favourite toilet paper material.

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Around dusk, a particularly well-laden blueberry patch slowed our progress and everyone dropped packs to collect the ripe berries while Bagels threw a stick for Keeda over and over again in a small clearing. Tons of other PCT hikers passed us by and we realized it probably hadn’t been a great idea to break so close to camping time-all the next few campsites were already taken when we got moving again, but I think the berries were worth it.

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Made camp on top of an odd campsite on top of a hill overlooking Snow Lake, it’s a tight spot but we’ve managed to squeeze everyone in somewhow. Nice to get in a little earlier and enjoy dinner while it’s still light out, the group Washington “rules” state no thirty+ mile days and taking more time to enjoy camp and company and the beautiful scenery around us. Keeda was wiped after her first miles on trail and was sleeping soundly through dinner.

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There’s already condensation getting into tents, but oh well, it’s a morning problem. Welcome to Washington, I adore it so far.