PCT Update—1651 Wolverine Miles Completed: Washington Welcome, Steep Terrain and Gorgeous Views—Unless There is Smoke.

Leaving Cascade Locks on the northern border of Oregon we crossed the Columbia River into Washington over the infamous Bridge of the Gods. And it was raining. 

My husband and I have a home in California and in Washington and each time we drive north we note that as we cross the border into that lush far northern state it often is raining. That part of this hiking trip was status quo, and I remained drippy and soggy for the remainder of the day. 

What we don’t usually get driving on Highway 5 north, but we will get for the remainder of our time hiking in Washington, are very steep climbs and very steep descents. Oregon let us off the hook, in that we typically had to climb up and over the ‘shoulder’ of most mountains. In Washington we seem to climb to the top of everything in front of us, and then down the other side. Repeat. Whew. So in addition to the first day of rain, we were welcomed into Washington with a six hour climb right off the Bridge of the Gods (and we still had more of that hill to do the next day). Holy moly. Washington is rugged, picturesque and challenging. Each climb is many miles long and usually steep, and the biting flies are persistent. 

Over the next several days, we hiked around Mt. Adams and had views of Mt. Adams, Mt Saint Helens and Mt. Rainier—all at the same time. Gorgeous. 

There has been a noticeable quantity of solid bridges over creeks and rivers in Washington, except for one sizable raging glacier fed river coming off the Mt. Adams glacier. After assessing this particular crossing, and with Broken Arrow leading the charge, three of us shuttled packs across precarious, skinny, slippery logs before I scooted across on my butt (I do not like walking across narrow slippery logs over raging rivers). With the plethora of large rocks and log debris, falling in was not an option. After getting across three separate segments within the river, we made it safely across the entire escapade, and a fellow thru-hiker decided it was, therefore, time for a shot of whiskey. Sounded good to me.

A couple of days ago we entered beautiful Goat Rocks Wilderness and I found myself singing songs from The Sound of Music as we hiked through high passes and meadows of wildflowers and waterfalls. When we got to the Knife’s Edge the music in my head stopped. Leading up to this segment we noticed the smoke heading toward us from a fire raging north of our location. Each hour it got closer and thicker until we were ensconced in grey hazy smoke burning our eyes and throats. 

The Knife’s Edge is a several mile section of rocky, sandy, slippery precipitous trail snaking across the top of several exposed peaks. The views from this area are spectacular when it is clear. High exposure has always been something that pushes up fear for me—being on a narrow spot of land thousands of feet up with big drop offs on both sides. Two straight hours of negotiating this terrain while surrounded by peaks and valley floors ensconced in smoke, put my nerves on edge. 

My eyes wanted to wander to the abyss, and I calmly pulled them back to the trail. Look at the trail. Just the trail. All is ok. Intermittently I felt the menacing drop off on either side, particularly on a downslope where the trail narrows to a foot or so wide. Over time, I noticed my nerves getting a bit frayed. Then again; Deep breath, look at the trail. Just the trail. All is ok. Repeat.

Despite the smoke impairing our views of the surrounding peaks, I’m pleased I hiked this section. It is likely that I won’t do it again. 

Fires are currently a steady source of conversation on the trail. Northbounders and Southbounders alike are looking at the fires and smoke situations and having to make decisions regarding their safety and efficiency. We are considering doing a short bypass of a section of trail just north of us due to the heavy smoke we’ve been experiencing on trail the past two days. I’d like to complete as much of the trail as possible but it is in no way worth it to impede my health to do so. The trail will be there to hike, smoke-free, on another day. 

For most of my life I have been a finish-it-all-at-all-cost sort of gal, and that complicated persona has led me through many rich and rewarding experiences. I have loved it all and flourished in this steadfast way of being. But I’m pleased to notice I often don’t feel that way any more. It feels novel to relax this rigid mantra. Oddly, it feels freeing to not be concerned with potentially finishing every bit of what I set out to do. Wisdom and healthy perspective rule over a pre-set fixed goals. It feels lovely to let the agenda evolve in a healthy, wholistic way. For me, this is novel. I am intrigued with the change up.

So, I’m off again. To see how the rest of trail north unfolds for me, how and if my body holds up, and how Mother Nature will play her hand. 

Back at you soon,


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Comments 3

  • BrokenArrow PCT : Sep 13th

    Wolverine tells it like it is! Her mental state is as tough as her body.
    Very few people you can trust to stick with you through challenging, fearful times!
    When (not if) you fall and getting back up means you’ll fall even harder again and again! Remember, we are on vacation!

    • Terri Schneider : Sep 13th

      Broken Arrow knows what tough is for sure. He was the toughest one on the trail! What a pleasure to hike with you, my friend.


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