Of Bears & Magic

Day 105

The morning was full of forest and dreamy lakes with mist rising from the surface. Unfortunately, a couple lakes were iffy water sources. One I collected from had possible norovirus contamination last year, though this year hikers reported drinking without issue. Still, to be safe, I both filtered and added iodine.

Around midday and after a scenic climb, I reached a spot with a great view. I sat down to eat lunch, joined a short time later by Hobble-it, then by Quaking Leaf and Dig Dug. The teenager joined her dad in Oregon. She seemed enthusiastic to be in a new state and to have hiked several 20-mile days back to back. What a great family adventure!

Following lunch, the trail wandered along the Mt. Rainier National Park boundary. In the distance, the mountain appeared many times, the top always covered by clouds. There were more lakes and many SoBo thru-hikers.

The last two climbs felt hard, though I kept a decent pace and I’d done harder recently. Perhaps it was the five to six days of food in my pack? In between, the trail took a cute stone bridge over Highway 410, which enters Mt. Rainier National Park. On the final ascent, I heard an elk bugle. Hobble-it and I camped at Sheep Lake after a 26-mile day.

Day 106

PCT hikers say that Washington’s beauty is second only to the Sierras. It is beautiful, yes… but it doesn’t make my spirit thrum with exhilaration the way it did in Three Sisters. Getting off topic though… I began the day in a gloomy mood that stemmed from the damp chill combined with irritation that Sheep Lake and a couple upcoming water sources may be contaminated because the state’s trail goers don’t know how to bury their waste.

However, I didn’t sink into the swamps of sadness. As I ascended away from the lake, I saw a couple pika. Then I dropped into the next valley and saw a giant yellow-bellied marmot. Another marmot, darker in color, let out a piercing whistle. I hadn’t heard such a noise from one before. A passing day hiker told me a slang term for the animal, “whistle pig”. My spirits soared, fueled by critter sightings and the realization that my earlier train of thought was not a helpful one.

For a time, I got lost in pleasant contemplation. Then I was treated to an unclouded view of Mt. Rainier’s summit. After a snack, I started “The Overstory” and it turned out to be a perfect trail novel, weaving the lives of intricate characters with those of trees. I hiked in a pleasant state, along ridge after ridge, feeling strong.

As the day went on, my spirits dipped slightly due to gut discomfort. My gut was not happy, it was gassy and bloated. Over the course of the day, I dug five cat holes. Still, I ate my meals and did our planned 28 miles. I hope that sleep helps the situation. Poor Hobble-it’s feet were in a lot of pain, which was the reason for hurrying towards Snoqualmie Pass. She is overdue for new shoes and will get them there.

Day 107

Neither Hobble-it or I was in a hurry to get going this morning. We chatted from our dwellings as I ate my breakfast. When we got underway, I discovered that a neat fog hung over portions of the forest. Hobble-it and I hiked and chatted together for the first four hours; it was nice.

I had the most awesome bear encounter!! After hiking 16.4 miles, I stopped at a spring to have lunch. As I sat in the shade and filtered water, I looked up to see a bear looking for berries in bushes on the other side of the spring’s flow. It was teenager sized. I watched it pick it’s way through the bushes, paralleling the flow, maybe 50 ft. away. After a time, it turned away from the bushes and ambled directly toward the spring, and me. I snapped away with my camera. When it got 25-ish feet away, I realized I should ward it off. I stood up, waved my arms, and said “hey”. It slowly ambled off up the hillside and eventually disappeared from sight. Later I felt regret that I hadn’t let it drink from the spring.

In the afternoon, I listened to more of my captivating audio book. Hobble-it and I were in a weird bubble, ahead of and behind everyone else going north. The SoBo hikers passed quickly, unless I stopped to chat, and then I was back in the solitude of nature. I enjoyed it.

My gut gave me no issue; it was a one hole day. Since the day’s 27 miles went faster than the prior two days, I stopped at the last stream south of camp and washed my feet & calves. The cold invigorated my feet and I let them air dry while I contemplated the gurgling water. At our intended site, I erected my tent near the trail so I could watch for Hobble-it’s arrival.

Day 108

Our camp site had one other occupant, a 60 year old man named Jiyu. I ended up hiking with him for several miles. The PCT is his first long trail and next summer he wants to do a coast to coast trail in Scotland. When Jiyu took a snack break, I kept on towards Snoqualmie Pass. The 12 miles passed quickly. As I hiked down the last hill, under ski lifts, I discovered four bar cell reception and gave my parents a call.

For $45 a night, the Washington Alpine Club offered a shower, laundry, dinner, breakfast, and a bunk in their large cabin. Hobble-it and I arrived at noon and immediately started a load of laundry. I had enough time to jump in the shower, then Sonic was there, along with Eden. They’d driven an hour from Seattle to bring new shoes for Hobble-It and yummy snacks for both of us. Sonic spoiled me with GF cookies and two types of GF muffins.

While we ate and chatted with Sonic and Eden, Sky-Hi arrived and joined us. Sonic had Hobble-it and I sign printed copies of our Canada applications, which had been rejected once again. I really appreciated him helping us out. After Sonic and Eden departed, Hobble-it and I helped in the kitchen. She prepped food and I washed dishes. For dinner, I ate a large salad along with a couple black bean and sweet potato enchiladas in corn tortilla shells.

Pluto, Martin, and Luna arrived late in the afternoon so other than Sandbag, our tramily was back together. It turned out she couldn’t get into the cabin and instead got a room at the Snoqualmie Inn. Pluto seemed disgruntled with Sky-Hi for walking a flatter alternate trail into town. It was fun being around 20+ thru-hikers on a trail that offers few group lodging options; I recognized many faces.

Day 109

Even though I slept on a thick foam mattress, I rotated all night in my sleeping bag, like I’d do in the woods. I woke early and drank coffee downstairs with Jiyu and Sky-Hi. Though I was really excited for eggs, it turned out the host had purchased 18 eggs for 20+ hikers. I supplemented my 0.8 egg with GF muffins and helped with the dishes.

By 10:45 a.m., Hobble-it and I were back on the trail. Per usual, it was a big climb out of town, but gently switch-backed so I didn’t mind. It’s funny how 24 hours of not hiking, then only going 15, make a difference. At the top, I found Sky-Hi and the Sky Walk, a 50ish foot section of trail dynamited out of a cliff face.

A couple miles later, I stopped at Ridge Lake to get water. Sky-Hi guarded my pack from a too bold squirrel that circled us. While I snacked on a GF cookie, we were joined by Hobble-it. The two of us laughed as Sky-Hi chased after the squirrel, which was undeterred. The following miles revealed several deep blue lakes backed by picturesque mountains; I conceded that Washington is indeed beautiful.

Our planned rendezvous was a large pond with many tent sites. Hobble-it and I camped in a small tree grove adjacent to Jiyu’s tent. While I ate my dinner, I chatted with the older man. I got in my tent to escape gnats and wet-wipe my feet and calves. Sky-Hi brought his dinner to our tree grove. He and Hobble-it told me Sampson’s bible story so that I could better understand Leonard Cohen’s Hallelujah. Sandbag arrived at the lake and came over to say hello. I gave her a hug, happy to see her once again.

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Comments 4

  • Al K : Aug 4th

    You’re living the dream, Emily! Enjoy your posts!

    • Denis Bousquet : Aug 4th

      Hello, Emily! Glad you fell hard for PCT in WA State!
      Though never attempted Mexico to Canada PCT, it just was not yet “a thing” in early ’80s or even early ’90s. Backpacked much of WA Cascades and Olympics and have a raft of memories and favorite places. When on PCT to reach certain locations, encountered Thru Hikers. Some expressed being deceived by the trail, north bound.
      Now in my 80s, and crippled up, I can enjoy the trials and thrills of writers such as you, trudging onward, ascending and descending trail pitches and passes. Many, I visited numeral times.
      Thus, I enjoy reading of experiences of through travelers and others of the Cascades and portions of the Sierras. Yes, I managed a short bit of that high country and regret never returning. Yosemite is awesome! Backpacked there with a close friend from university years, later joining his many friends to scatter his ashes in to Tenaya Creek beneath the grand hike that ascends Clouds Rest, where one peers down upon Half Dome. Outside the Park we trekked to a beautiful lake with pinnacle peaks of the Ritter Range soaring above, experiencing a quake during the late September night, when slides and Rockwall clattered and rang out under star lit sky!
      There are so many wonders of Nature!
      Yes, I had many bear encounters, one very hair raising! That was on the North Shore Trail of Lake Chelan. Or the night a puma visited and sniffed my feet, then dragged its deer from the rushing creek to munch its meal. Close encounters!
      You will have many tales to share throughout your life!
      Happy trails!

      • Emily Rahn : Aug 9th

        Wow, you had quite the adventures, thanks for sharing some of the highlights!

    • Emily Rahn : Aug 9th

      Thanks for reading!


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