PCT Week 17: The Alpine Lakes Wilderness

The next 71 miles between Snoqualmie Pass and Stevens Pass offer spectacular views of alpine lakes and lush valley forest of the Alpine Lakes Wilderness. We encounter marmots, a mountain goat, and my first bear on this section. It’s for sure one of the most memorable of the Washington sections.

PCT Day 99: The marmots are back

Snoqualmie Pass (mile 2394.1) to mile 2403.8
15.5km (9.6mi) / 4.5h / elevation gain of 1,098m (3,602ft)

We took a few days off at Squiggles house where we felt very domesticated, going grocery shopping with a car, watching movies, making dinners, and sleeping in a bed. As I have my visa extension interview soon we are not in a rush as I need to go from the next town to Seattle which is just 3.5 days away.

We are starting around noon. There is a long climb ahead of us. The higher we get the forest opens up and gives amazing views of the surrounding mountains. The terrain is challenging as there are a lot of roots and rocks that slow us down. We meet our first marmot since the Sierra here. At the top, we have an insane view of the valley below as well as of the rugged mountains around us. We reach two pretty lakes where we take a break and get water as it will be dry camping tonight. 


From here there is another small climb with more great views of another lake. Clouds are rolling through and it’s simply stunning. Washington delivers. It’s not far to the campsite anymore where we settle for the night. 

Today my right foot started hurting. I’m trying to ignore it and not even talk about it as if it’s not real as long as I don’t mention it. It’s interesting how my body got stronger and stronger in the first months and after like 3 months it reached a peak and went all down from this. As if my body says that it’s enough hiking now, you can’t do this every day anymore. 

PCT Day 100: Our first mountain goat

mile 2403.8 to mile 2419.7
26.2km (16.3mi) / 7.5h / elevation gain of 1,104m (3,622ft)

The first five miles are arduous and slow. There are a lot of rocky ankle breakers. But the view towards Mount Rainier and into the valley below is amazing. They make the long time we take to get through here quite entertaining. Also, both my feet hurt in this kind of terrain which doesn’t make this easier. We reach a lake where we get water for the first time today and take a break. I take some Ibuprofen here and that luckily erases the pain for the rest of the day.

We are going downhill on many switchbacks where we see our first mountain goat chilling at the side of the trail. It’s white and pretty fury. We get back into the forest and reach a pretty waterfall just on the side of the trail. We take a lunch break here. We didn’t make it very far today, only 13km (8mi) by lunch, but now the terrain is much easier. The hardest part is over and we can go much faster than in the morning. 

We descend further and reach a destroyed bridge but a log conveniently leads us to the other side with dry feet. We reach the lowest point and get water for the climb ahead. It’s a 8km (5mi) climb that is quite gentle and has a lot of switchbacks. We are slowly getting back the views of the rugged peaks around us. There is a campsite almost at the top but we are afraid that this is already full, so we stay a little bit before that. We find a great spot with a view of the mountains. It gets cold so quickly in the evening now. Also, there is much less daylight now. The sun goes up an hour later and down one hour earlier than in the height of the summer further south.

PCT 101: More alpine landscapes

mile 2419.7 to mile 2438.7
29.8km (18.6mi) / 7.25h / elevation gain of 1,089m (3,572ft)

The first morning light lets the mountains around us glow. It takes a while until we get going but it’s still quite cold even if it goes uphill. We tackle the rest of the climb and at the top we have a great view of the rugged mountains around us. There are some really nice campsites up here but it’s hard to tell in the evening if there are any spots left. 

We reach a little lake where we get water and then the trail meanders between rocks and meadows. We finally descend again and soon we have a pretty view of the blue shimmering Waptus Lake below us. On the lowest point, we hit the Waptus River which is a real river after we’ve just seen creeks and lakes for a while. We take a lunch break here in the shade which surprisingly gets chilly very soon. But I rather take the colder weather over heat. For the cold, you just put more clothes on or just move but you can’t do anything about being too hot. By the way, I found a really nice cold soaking recipe for lunch. I mix ramen and mashed potatoes for a ramen bomb and then add tajin, mayonnaise, and a pouch of chicken, or even better chicken salad where the mayonnaise is already in. It tastes like a casserole, it’s really good. If you’re a cold soaker, give it a try.

The trail starts a gentle but really long 9-mile climb now and we get water before the real climb starts. There are rocks in the water to hop on over to the other side. And we are not the only ones using these. While we are sitting there we can watch a chipmunk jumping over the rocks to get back and forth. So cute.

We continue our ascent and take another break at the last water source before our campsite at the top of that climb. The climb itself is nice and gradual and it’s not very hot anymore in the sun. At the top, we find a really pretty campsite for ourselves with even some spotty reception. Enough to book a room in Leavenworth, where we will get in 1.5 days. We enjoy the last sun of the day before it gets cold very fast. I always crawl into my sleeping bag when I’m getting cold, looking like a little burrito while cooking my dinner. And yes, getting back to cooking was a good decision especially since it gets cold in the evenings.

PCT Day 102: My first bear on the PCT 

Mile 2438.7 to Mig Lake (mile 3955)
33km (20.6mi) / 8.5h / elevation gain of 1,191m (3,907ft)

It’s a beautiful morning when the sun hits the tent and wakes us up. We start the day with a descent which is a nice and easy way to start the day. There is one tricky river crossing on the way down. The water flows fast but we can find a way to cross it over some rocks a bit upstream. The climb back up is very gentle until we reach Deception Lakes which have an unreal green color. It invites so much to swim that we take our lunch break a bit earlier than planned to take a bath. There are a lot of butterflies around and I feel like a Disney princess. Just a dirty one. When I try to get water out of the lake I step into the water with one foot. I managed to stay dry on the river crossing just to get wet at a lake when getting water. Ridiculous. But my shoe dries out very well during lunch break.

We climb further up to Piper Pass from where we can see Glacier Lake below us. When we descend it starts looking like the shape of a heart, it’s so pretty. There are a lot of rocks on the way down and we can see pikas jumping around them. It’s quite a few ups and downs today. So, another climb waits for us after going down again. There is another lake below us where we descend.

On the way down from this one I finally meet my first bear. He’s peacefully grazing up a grassy hill and doesn’t mind us at all. We just watch him until he disappears into the forest. I’m amazed. It was a young bear, not older than 3 years and he was so cute with his little ears, especially when he looked at us. It’s already getting late but I can’t help and watch this. My dream finally came true. And it’s the perfect distance to watch a bear and still feel comfortable with it.

There are two smaller climbs left until we reach the campsite at Mig Lake. It’s already getting dark when we get there but an almost full moon shines our light upon us. The sky is full of stars. What a great end to a great day.


PCT Day 103: On the way to Bavaria 

Mig Lake (mile 3955) to Stevens Pass (mile 2465.2)
12km (7.5mi) / 3h / elevation gain of 436m (1,430ft)

Today is just a short hike to town. There are two smaller climbs and lots of blueberries on the way. The day is pretty much straightforward. We don’t take long breaks and even forget about drinking. We are just so focused on getting into town. Two lakes appear between a cluster of treed summits.

We reach the top of the ski lift on the second climb where is the first good cell phone service on this stretch of the trail which we use for some phone calls. Then it’s just an easy walk downhill to the Stevens Pass Lodge where I pick up my package with new shoes. New shoes always feel so good. My old ones might have done it a little longer but since my injury, I don’t wanna risk that anymore. 

It takes a while to get a hitch into Leavenworth, a Bavarian-style town with lots of kitsch. But I love it. I get the Schnitzel I’ve been dreaming about for weeks and a good apple strudel. Unfortunately, there is no Kaiserschmarrn in the entire town. It feels a little bit like home here. Maybe I can just stay and say that I thought I wouldn’t need a visa as I thought I’m in Germany the entire time?

In the evening we meet up with Stellar, who I met at the beginning of the trail and who lives here. The next day we are taking the bus to Seattle where I have my visa extension appointment on the next day. We didn’t know by then that we gonna say goodbye to Washington for a while after that.


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