Hiking with Daniel: White Pass to Chinook Pass, WA (August 28-30)
August 28. I woke up around 0630 at my camp site at White Pass and started packing up. I appreciated the luxury of camping at a paid site in a campground- specifically the picnic table at my site. It was really nice to be able to spread everything out on the picnic table at the site, try to dry my tent out.
I knew Daniel had gotten in late and was probably tired, but I also kept thinking about how we only had a few days to visit. Plus I was excited to talk to him. Around 0650 I went over to Daniel sleeping in his rental car and rapped on the window. He woke up and looked at me and laughed, cracked open the door, and said, “Come in here to talk, we can pop the seat up, it’s waaarm.” When I got in, he groaned and said it’d been a cold night, and complained that it wasn’t supposed to be this cold, he’d looked up the weather for Seattle and it was in the 60s. I rolled my eyes and reminded him that we were in the Cascades, and I’d told him to bring lots of cold weather gear because of how cold I’ve been lately. His sleeping bag was rated at 40, whereas I was carrying a 0-degree bag. I wondered how this trip would go.
We chatted a while in the car, then I told him to come over to my tent site, it was sunny over there. I went back over and kept packing, still no Daniel appearance, so I walked back to the car to check on his progress. I had to laugh over the course of this trip. I had forgotten about how calmly Daniel moves, how he’ll often stand somewhere lost in his own thoughts, before moving to do anything.
It was a good feeling to spend time with someone I know so well, like putting on a favorite old coat again. To rest in that slow-paced way of living and being that I remember from home, ah.
He came over to the site and stood awhile, then ate breakfast with me. He had brought me a McDonalds meal, which I passed on for breakfast, but scarfed down later that day. We chatted and ate and stood in the sun at the site, while he looked up at the tall firs around us. We talked about his journey to meet me, and our plans for the day.
I was amazed to hear that his flight was leaving Monday night, instead of Sunday night, as he’d previously told me, and exclaimed about that, and he just said something like, I was surprised too. Hahaha. Truly a Daniel moment, floating along in that laid-back, mildly bemused, calm way. I was really glad that we had more time to work with than I’d originally thought.
We decided that Daniel would drive up to the next pass (Chinook) and hike down towards me, as far as 10 miles, and I would hike northbound 20 miles or further to him. (We wanted to avoid relying on hitchhiking to get him back to his rental car.) I gave him my trail map to carry and went over the list of things he should know, worrying about the many ways that this plan might fail.
I told him about 100 times that he needed to keep his pack in sight by the trail at all times, that if he went off trail for any reason, he needed to keep that pack in sight so that I wouldn’t pass by without seeing him.
I told him to hike a mile in with me, him without a pack, to give me a head start, and also so we could spend more time together. He admired the fir forest, the huge old growth trunks, the peaceful setting.
After a mile, he headed back to his car, and I continued on. I hiked through pretty forest and many ponds and lakes. The day was warmer than the days had been, which I thought was really fortunate for Daniel.
I took a few quick breaks throughout the day, mostly trying to keep moving at a fast pace so that I’d meet him sooner.
I climbed for a while, then could see a beautiful view of Mount Rainier, massive, more snow than any so far, and Mount Hood way back, still very visible, still large and with that distinctive glacial run, even after a few days’ worth of hiking.
I also saw a column of smoke coming up from a mountain in the view, probably the Schneider Springs Fire. Disheartening, though far off enough to not feel personally threatening.
I made it to the planned rendezvous point, and no sign of Daniel. I worried a bit, but kept hiking north, and asked an approaching southbound hiker if she’d seen him. She said she’d seen a hiker reading, then asked if by any chance I was looking for my brother? She said he was a mile further, resting at a good camp spot.
I hiked faster that final mile, as I had in the last mile to the rendezvous point. I felt guilty that Daniel had come out to see me, and we weren’t even hiking together, and I was anxious to see him and catch up more.
I kept studying the trail and any campsites near the trail, and sure enough, I soon walked up to a camp area beside the trail, and happened to catch sight of Daniel’s pack, sitting in the camp area, not intentionally placed by the trail, and he himself reclining, reading, relaxing with his head propped up on a tree. I gave him a lot of grief for that but had to laugh too. I said, everything I told you to do, you didn’t do! What if I had walked by you?! And what are you doing relaxing? I’ve been busting butt all day to make it to you!
I just couldn’t believe it, and at the same time, I could, and had to laugh and laugh. He protested that he had expected to meet me at the rendezvous point at the end of the day, and didn’t expect me to be so fast. He said with bemusement, “Katie, it’s different out here, I’m exhausted, I don’t know if I can make it any further.” We laughed together a long time at his weariness. I lifted his pack for myself and had to admit that he was carrying a heavy load, with a weighty two person tent attached to his pack.
Eventually, we started hiking again and took in some great views of Rainier, so snowy. We hiked a few miles to the next water source, then set up camp at a small site along the trail. Daniel felt a lot better after his rest break and was able to hike that last bit without too much trouble.
As we crawled in our tents, he said, I’ve learned my lesson, I’m putting on every single piece of clothing I have! Within minutes of zipping our doors, I could hear him sleeping.
August 29. I slept in longer than I usually would the next morning, then started feeling antsy. I chatted with thru hikers camped beside us before they hiked away, then went over to Daniel’s tent and unzipped his door. He groan-laughed. He had slept better, after putting on all that clothing (he said four shirts, three pants, five socks haha) so that he wouldn’t be cold like the night before. All day he said that the hiking wasn’t so terribly hard, as before, after getting a good night’s sleep.
We ate breakfast and slowly started hiking, eventually shedding layers as the sun climbed higher. That felt good. We picked many huckleberries and blueberries while hiking. We hiked to Anderson Lake and refilled water, then on to Dewey Lake and took a long break there. I washed out my socks and rinsed off my dusty legs, and Daniel swam. He had made it a goal to swim in a Washington lake on this trip, no matter if the water was cold. We stretched and sat and looked around, and I made one of the dehydrated meals Daniel had brought me. I had gotten rid of my stove earlier in the trip, so just rehydrated with cold water, which Daniel exclaimed over as unappealing.
We hiked up toward Chinook Pass, passing by many weekend hikers on the path. I barely thought about the incline, but Daniel complained and moaned, seeing it ahead, but was a good sport during the slow climb. We started on the descent and sat by a lake for another rest break. Daniel said, “Ah, now I get to rest, ahhhhh, relief,” and laid back in the grass.
A couple pointed out some spots of white that were mountain goats, grazing way up high on one of the many idyllic mountainsides we could see in the vast landscapes before us.
We continued hiking a few miles further, by Sheep Lake and then up to Sourdough Gap, looking down at pretty pieces of trail through bright green-yellow meadow and red berry bushes where we’d just been. It was a beautiful view on both sides of the gap. We took many pictures there and admired Rainier.
We hiked along a bowl then, the trail stretching out visibly ahead of us. We heard the loud whistling of marmots all through the valley below, and elk bugling the next morning. Adding to the wilderness feel.
We hiked to a pretty overlook area with some camp spots. Shortly after setting up, some other thru hikers arrived at the site and camped with us.
Daniel and I ate out on the rocks and looked at the view, then retreated to our tents and warmth. We were amazed by the thru hikers cowboy camping (sleeping on pads and sleeping bags, without a tent). In the morning, Daniel said about one hiker, “Her name is ‘Tender Spot’?!”, and laughed, and said, “That’s ridiculous. More like, ‘Tough as Nails’! This is a subset of super-humans out here. Unbelievable”.
I was chilly in my tent that night, so I agreed, I don’t know how they withstood it.
It was a good, relaxed day with Daniel. It was nice to break often throughout the day, and really take things in.
August 30. I unzipped Daniel’s tent this morning and said, “Are you going to eat breakfast with me?”
He groaned and moved slow, but eventually came over to the rock overlook area to stand and eat some breakfast. It was a cool morning, but warmer in the sun. The scene was pretty, with morning clouds hanging over mountains on other ridges.
We said our goodbyes, and I felt so glad that he’d come out to hike with me, seen great views, for his company over a few days. He kept saying, the wilderness is so different out here, and I just couldn’t tell you how. I suspect he meant in part, the vast and grand scale out here.
We said our goodbyes, and he started the four-mile hike back to his rental car, while I pushed on. I felt both exhilarated to hike at my own pace again, to be out on this wild adventure, as I’d been reminded by Daniel’s presence and a little sad that he wasn’t going to be with me, seeing the things I’d see throughout the day.
Maybe it was for the best though. The day grew cooler and cloudier, eventually turning to cold rain. That night I set my tent up in a cold mist, then slept to the sound of raindrops falling off and on throughout the night. I thought how fortunate Daniel had been, to miss this!
In spite of the rain, I’m glad that I have a few weeks longer out here. I’m so glad to see the trail and trail culture with fresh eyes, because of spending a few days looking at it from Daniel’s view and being reminded what a unique and grand adventure this is.
The journey continues!
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