Perks and Pitfalls of the Trail Through Washington

Ah, the beauty of Washington. Turquoise ponds filled with snow melt, blooming flowers, fields of snow, marmots crying out warnings to their friends… and holy hell, the mosquitoes! I don’t think I have ever hiked so quickly, but the swarms are more than enough motivation to pack at the speed of light and boogie out of here.

I love Washington. This may sound a bit traitorous, but I almost prefer it to all of the East Coast. The mountains are huge, there’s still snow out here in July, and the colors are more vibrant than anything I’ve ever seen in my life. However, beautiful blue ponds means many mosquitoes. So many, in fact, that I’m a bit worried we’re going to get picked up and carried off.

Grizzly Mountain was the worst. We’ve been trying to push for bigger days through Washington because we already have our trail legs and we’re a wee bit concerned about getting to the High Sierra before the epic snowstorms hit. So, we pushed, hiking about 22 miles that day, and made it to the top of Grizzly Mountain to camp. We figured it would be less buggy on top of the mountain, plus, maybe we’d get a view. We were so, so wrong.

I think all of the mosquitoes had a town hall meeting and we interrupted it. They swarmed, hard. Somehow they figured out how to get through our rain gear and I couldn’t help but picture thousands of mosquitoes stabbing me with their proboscises and draining me dry. They would start to fly away, but be stuck with my withered husk of a body until the thermals shook me loose and I floated away above the mountains. At least then I’d be ultralight, right? But, seriously. The bugs may be great for my hiking schedule, but they’re starting to affect The Morale.

I know it’s silly. Bugs are all part of the journey, right? You can’t have magical wonderland time all the time. It just makes things rough when you can’t stop hiking or you’ll be drained. Every break has to involve all of your rain gear, a bug net, and then you still eat bugs. But I can’t stay cranky. It’s too pretty out here. Good thing we were headed into town to fatten back up and experience the glory of hot showers.

You know one thing I did not count on out here? Natural sunscreen. Yes, it is extremely sunny and dry out here. It would be so easy to end up as fried as a potato, if it weren’t for all of the dirt. The trail is so dusty and covers me so completely, that I don’t need to wear sunscreen, and I’m a very pale individual. I carry sunscreen, but when I put it on, it just smears the dirt around a bit and makes mud. Thank you, PCT, for keeping my skin safe. On the down side, it means I look like some half-crazed homeless person when I walk into town. Showers take a bit longer because the dirt literally comes off in waves. My feet are black at the end of every day, and, for some reason, my hair smells slightly singed… hmm. But none of that matters. I can rinse that off downstream from the water source.

There is always a slight breeze and I can hear it gusting through the spruces at night, making the dark limbs dance and sway. There are mama grouses leading chicks through the brush and teaching them when they can run or when they need to fly. The little babies follow her exact path through the tall grasses, pecking where she pecked, switchbacking where she switchbacked… and oh, criminy, I just fell off a mountain.

I’m hiking the PCT in a dress, which I love for many reasons: the primary reason being that it has massive pockets and can hold all of my snacks. It’s tough starting a hike with full-blown hiker hunger, but it’s a little easier if you have enough snacks that are easy to access. There’s always a nice breeze and I never overheat. I also have privacy when it’s time to water plants along the trail if you’re picking up what I’m putting down. However, there is nothing between me and the ground if I take a tumble.

I got distracted while crossing a steep snow field on a narrow ledge. I didn’t kick my step in far enough and so, I unintentionally went glissading down a slope that ended in gravel and then a drop. Thankfully, I was able to control the fall with my giant feet and stopped myself before I got into trouble. I now have the equivalent of trail rash all the way up my left thigh and onto me bum. I turned to look at PB with a grin. He looked back with his face locked in a mask of terror from watching me go down and being helpless to stop it. Welp. Better pay closer attention next time.

Fear not, all is well. We made it out to Stevens Pass and down to the Dinsmores for a day of rest. The Dinsmores, by the way, is still open. Sadly, both Andrea and her son passed away this winter, but Jerry is still there and loves to chat with hikers passing through. He put us up for the night, so we helped him around the house and drove him around so he could run a few errands. It was really nice to be able to perform a little trail magic of our own.

We were also able to pick up the new gear we’ve been waiting on and I am so excited to use a tent that’s bug-proof. A porcupine perforated our Big Agnes, which made it a little more susceptible to insect invasions. Now we have a nice, light-weight tarp tent that keeps us safe and dry. Time to test it out as we try to outrun the Stevens Pass fire.

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