Southern Washington: The Beginning of the End
The first half of Washington was a weird place for me. I was expecting grand views right from the start, but it turned out to be mostly in the dreaded green tunnel. I actually don’t mind forest walking; it’s really nice on the feet and I love the forest. But I was expecting those Washington views, and we did not immediately get them.
Another odd occurrence in this section was my degrading mental state. I had horrible blisters on my toes for most of it, and while most day hikers would tell you that you were “almost there!” in reality you still have over 500 miles to go. Does that seem almost there to you?
In the end, I really did enjoy this section. However, as you’ll see through my journals it wasn’t just a walk in the woods.
Day 103: Miles 2,147.6 – 2,172.9
With stomachs full from a wonderful breakfast, we get a ride back to Cascade Locks from Troutdale. It’s time to enter Washington, the beginning of the end.
The walk across the Bridge of the Gods is only slightly scary, as cars seemingly fly by, but only at ten miles per hour (still three times faster than we walk). We pass the welcome to Washington sign, and it begins.
While the day is slightly misty, we are blessed to not be truly rained on. I eat blackberries as we climb up and up out of the Columbia River Gorge, which sits at around 150 feet above sea level.
It’s my first day back with my trail family, and I can tell it will take some getting used to. We break for lunch about a mile from the top, and we’re laughing as we eat. It’s good to be not alone.
The rest of the day goes quickly, and by 8:30 we are at the campsite. A usual dinner of chicken creations and tortillas satiates my hunger, and before long I am asleep.
Day 104: Miles 2,172.9 – 2,208.8
We agree to start hiking by 6, one of the things I have to get used to again. Agreeing on a start time. We do, almost to the minute, and we chat for the first little bit.
And then I have to stop to leave a little bit of matter in the world, and the group moves on. I hike on my own until the first water source, and fill up for the coming 12-mile dry stretch.
We have over 7,000 feet of climbing to do today, but with my new shoes I feel ready. Flying up the first half of the climb, I take the lead for a while. Eventually I get tired and slow down a bit, but before long we hit the agreed-upon lunch spot.
I lay out my gear to dry and lie down in the sun. It feels good to rest, 20 miles into the 36-mile day. We spend an hour at this campsite, and then we are moving.
The occasional view of Mount Adams to the right, and what I assume to be Mount St. Helens to the left, keep my spirits lifted. However, most of the day is spent in the green tunnel, surrounded by trees and moss.
I get to Blue Lake behind Pavlov, our agreed-upon meeting place. But no one is there. I wait for Woody, and we decide she has pushed on to the next lake. A sigh escapes my lips, mostly because I wanted to be done for the day.
I grab a little water and walk the last three miles with Chef. We chat about our lives outside of the trail, and before I know it we are at the campsite.
Mosquitoes swarm around my head as I pitch my tent next to Pavlov, who has already set up shop. We all talk from the safety of our tents, tired from a long day of climbing.
Day 105: Miles 2,208.8 – 2,240.9
I chat with Pavlov for most of the morning. The hiking is easy and mostly downhill. We get the occasional view of Mount Adams, and I think about my attempt at a summit a few years ago.
It was ill-conceived from the start, and with no crampons or Micro-spikes, our crew started the climb. It went well at first, but by the time I hit the snow things went south quickly.
I hadn’t walked more than 200 feet in any sort of snow before this, so my discomfort level was high. We had gone straight from sea level that morning, and altitude sickness was settling in. With maybe a mile to go, I leave the group behind and head back down the mountain.
When I got to the car, I was exhausted. I slept the whole ride home, but I felt more accomplished than I had any right to feel. An adventure was had, even if it was a failure.
Anyways, we get to the road into Trout Lake around 1, where we find trail magic. Sodas and sandwiches fill our stomachs as we hitch into town.
We get food for the next two days, and recharge our electronics. Much too soon we are back on trail, our packs slightly heavier than before. The rest of the afternoon we hike as a group, joking and laughing our way up the 2,000-foot climb.
Day 106: Miles 2,240.9 – 2,273.5
The blisters on my feet burn into my mind as I hike through the morning hours. I’m not used to shoes, and my feet tell the story. But the aches at night are gone, and the girl I passed who broke her toe in sandals is no longer haunting me.
“Trail magic ahead!” someone tells me as I walk. Pavlov and Woody have already heard the news and they are now running ahead. I saunter on at my usual 3 mph, trying not to aggravate the blisters.
Stark Naked is posted at the road crossing, and she is handing out soda, beer, and carrots with hummus. We stop here for a while and chat. It feels so good to sit in a chair, but eventually it is time to move on.
We decide to lunch at a campsite that happens to be by a pond. The mosquitoes are bad there though, so we push on to the end of a climb. We dry out our gear in the sun, and before long I’m hiking again.
I feel tired, but after a brief rest at a creek and a chug of water I’m more energized than I have been all of Washington. I fly past the tramily, and end up at the top of the second-to-last climb 15 minutes before them. I fill up on water and rest, and once they catch up I’m off again.
Soon I’m in the Goat Rocks Wilderness, a place I’ve heard a lot about. It lives up to the hype within the first five minutes, and surpasses it in 20. Dr. Seussian flowers blow in the wind, and the rocks above speak of distant things.
The last mile takes us well over 40 minutes as we stop to take pictures every five steps. I’m filled to the brim with happiness, and we set up camp with some section hikers, and fall asleep soon after a long and wonderful meal.
Day 107: Miles 2,273.5 – 2,301.4
We climb up and are rewarded almost immediately with views back at Adams. The day is already amazing as we climb up the rocky terrain.
And then it turns even better when we make it all the way to the top. We see Rainier in the distance, and the ridge (the Knife’s Edge) we will soon be walking is beautiful.
There are two herds of goats down below, each with about 20 members. I’m so excited to be up here I don’t even worry when we cross the snowfield. I may be on a slippery surface in a new brand of shoe, but I’m overcome with the views.
After such grand views all the way down the Knife’s Edge, the rest of the day pales in comparison. We get a few great looks at Mount Rainier along the way, but town food and soda is on my mind.
We get into White Pass early in the afternoon, and throw our stuff on the charger. Pizza, corn dogs, and plenty of other garbage are quickly purchased and consumed. We then do our surprisingly well-stocked resupply, and generally hang out with other hikers.
After drying our damp gear and drinking various beverages (beer, chocolate milk, and soda), we head back to trail and do a quick six miles. Camp is in a mildly bad mosquito spot, 92 miles away from our next resupply at Snoqualmie.
Day 108: Miles 2,301.4 – 2,334.7
The sound of Woody putting on his rainfly wakes me in the middle of the night. I groan as I feel drops of water hit my face, but fall asleep before I can put my own fly on.
Nothing gets soaked, which is great. We hike through fog for most of the morning, until we eventually break out of it for lunch. We dry our gear as usual and then hike on.
I pass a lot of day and section hikers, who ask strange questions. “Do you know where the loop goes?” “Is this the turnoff to Two Lakes?” “You hiking thru?” I don’t know the answer to most of these questions, and they look confused when I say I don’t know.
If only they knew the five miles they were walking is just a blink of the eye for me. That I’ve seen about five lakes with that same name, and gone past about 20 turnoffs in the past two hours. The adventure these people are doing in a day is just a small part of mine.
I jump in a lake after crossing the highway, and it feels great. I fall behind the group, but catch up quickly. Soon enough I’m filling up water at the last water for the day, and then setting up camp in a cloud.
Oh! And we saw a porcupine, and a young bear eating huckleberries. The bear did not care about the large group of humans watching it, or the cars zooming by.
Day 109: Miles 2,334.7 – 2,368.2
Elk bugle at the bottom of the ridge below us. It’s foggy and cold, but the experience feels surreal and gives me a boost of energy.
I hike on my own after this, through a burned forest that slowly gives way to a living one. I feel at home, more so than I did even in Oregon. This foggy, chilly, and damp forest feels more like home than anywhere else. Probably because the Oregon coast is exactly like this.
I fly over the soft ground, getting to our planned first stop 15 minutes before the others. I munch on my meager food supply and enjoy the forest. When they show up, we decide to go to the road just ahead and see if we can snag any extra food. We all messed up our resupply and did not bring enough.
There is a large group of jeeps there, and people kindly give us the extra food they have. Mostly meat sticks and cheese, but amazing nonetheless. We hike on, stopping to dry our stuff.
Five minutes after that, we come to something beautiful: trail magic. We get hot dogs and soda from the couple from Auburn, and I couldn’t be happier.
This puts an even brighter spin on the day, and we all hike together. We joke and laugh about stupid things, and I couldn’t be happier. I eat huckleberries through the afternoon, and after one last big climb we call it a day.
Day 110: Miles 2,368.2 – 2,393.6
Town day! With 25 miles to go until Snoqualmie, I spend most of the day either running or walking fast.
I don’t feel much like talking, so I break off from the group for most of the morning. There are plenty of day and section hikers as we hike along, and it gets tiresome moving out of their way.
We pass by countless gorgeous lakes, and at the last one before Snoqualmie Pavlov and I jump in. It’s freezing, but that just makes it more fun.
We then push out the last nine miles at blazing speed. I pass a girl and her dog, who offers to buy us beer in town. We say sure, but press on at our hurried pace.
We go straight to the brewery, where a stranger buys us our first pitcher. People around us whisper “PCT hikers” as we walk with our packs. I feel like an uncomfortable celebrity.
We enjoy the free beer and order food, when the girl and her dog show up and she orders us another pitcher. She joins us for a bit, laughing and chatting about trail life. Eventually she moves on, but life is good.
We get a hotel room here, and do laundry and shower and all of the normal town things. We all buy too much food for the coming 2.5-day section, but it’s OK.
The tramily watch Pocahontas well into the night, until I slip into a sleep. The first half of Washington is done, and the adventure is nearing its end.
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