Washington. I’m speechless. It is truly difficult for me to put into words the majestic beauty of this state. Only one word really comes to mind. Awe. Defined by the Oxford dictionary as a feeling of reverential respect mixed with fear or wonder.
It all started with crossing the Bridge of the Gods. The expansive Columbia River is the border between Oregon and Washington and a monumental step on the PCT. Crossing the 0.3 mile metal grated bridge with the tramily of whom I had been hiking with for hundreds to thousands of miles was a special moment. Last state. Let’s go.
The mountains instantly become steeper but ever more grand. The trail opens up to more ridge lines providing you with the most stunning views. The rugged, volcanic Cascade Range juts high in the sky. This is juxtaposed with acres of evergreens flowing through the valleys below and the serene, still lakes spotted throughout. The forests floors are carpeted in moss and ferns line the trail. Mushrooms and berries add pops of color amongst the green backdrop. Huckleberries, blueberries, salmonberries, etc. You can never go hungry.
After a few days of hiking amongst this beauty, we entered the first town in Washington, Trout Lake. With a population of 600 people, this community is a tight knit group of the most friendliest people on trail. They served the hordes of hungry hikers ever so patiently and with a smile on their faces. Speaking of berries, I ate a huckleberry pancake with a huckleberry mimosa and topped it off with a huckleberry milkshake. Best breakfast on trail. It was in this town that my friends and I learned about Mt. Adams. At 12,281ft, this is one of five major volcanic peaks known as the Ring of Fire. Because of the low snow year, we realized that we could summit this mountain without snow gear. After a few hours of being in town, we found a trail angels that drove us up to the trail head at the base of Mt. Adams.
It started off easy with a low grade hiking trail. It then quickly became steeper and the dirt became scree. Climbing scree is very difficult. For every foot your gain, you lose 2 feet as your foot slides back down the falling rock. Progress is slow and exhausting. Even though it felt slow, we made good time and scrambled up the mountain by lunch. The view from the summit was stunning. Mt. Hood looms in the south, St. Helens to the west, and Rainier dominating the north. Crazy to think that 3 days and 100 miles ago we were at the base of Hood and in a few days time we will be in Mt. Rainier National Park. After scree running and boot skiing down we made it back down to the PCT that night. That was my first glimpse into mountaineering and now I know what I want to get into post trail.
The next day was one of my favorite days on trail. Knifes Edge in the Goat Rocks Wilderness. The morning brought warm temperatures and blue skies with clouds engulfing the mountain tops. However, as we climbed the mountains, we entered the clouds. It quickly became cold, windy, and misty. We then followed the Knifes Edge ridge line with steep drop offs to the side and clouds engulfing us all around. Even though we missed out on views, the clouds provided eerie, spooky vibes.
The next few days brought more epic views of huge, rugged, craggy mountains in all directions. We passed many day hikers and weekend backpackers that clapped and cheered us on as we are approaching the end of our journey. Their encouragement and the beautiful views made me emotional. I can’t believe it. After 5 months of walking we are nearing the end. I teared up just overwhelmed the the vastness and beauty of everything surrounding me as I reflected back on memories throughout the journey.
After a week of hiking, we took a zero day in Leavenworth, a small German town with more bratwursts and Hefeweizen beers than you can handle. We ate through the town and prepared for our next side excursion, the Enchantments Trail. This 22 mile trail climbs Aasgard Pass with a 1,900 ft elevation gain in one mile. Once over the pass, the trail snakes around multiple glacier lakes with different shades of blue with bright yellow larch trees scattered throughout. Although not on the PCT, this was one of my favorite days. The mountains and the colors were stunning. I understand why they call it the Enchantments.
Now that we are in North Washington in mid September, the leaves are all turning into fall colors. My favorite time of year. The next day on trail was beautiful. I smiled all day as I walked along shades of red, orange, and yellow. I love Washington.
However, the next day took a quick turn for the worst. Rain. Cold rain. All day. I knew my luck would eventually run out. I was warm enough as long as I kept hiking. No snack breaks. That night I have never been so happy to be warm and wrapped up in my sleeping bag in my tent. The next morning we were all cold, wet, and tired. And just when I thought it couldn’t get any worse, I realized that a mouse had chewed through my pack and ate my Doritos. I lost it. Shoutout to the trail family for providing moral support. Thankful to have friends during times like this. We quickly hiked the next couple of days through cold, overcast days to Stahekin, a small town on Lake Chelan that is only accessible by foot or ferry. Thankful for warm food and hot beverages.
Awe: a feeling of reverential respect mixed with fear or wonder. Washington and I have a love/hate relationship. Respect, fear, and wonder. Washington, I love you but I’m ready for Canada.
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