Sunshine, Snowmelt, and Trail Legs: PCT Part 3
Just finishing up my resupply here in Packwood, Washington (Via White Pass), then I’ll be headed back to the trail! Back to the sunshine, back to my amazing trail legs, and back to the beloved mountains. But first, I have some unfinished business from Snoqualmie Pass…
Why did I go back to Bellingham, instead of staying in the Pass? Well, reliably, just when you hit a good stride, something comes up that demands attention. In Steven’s Pass, I discovered that the microphone on my phone was not working. This was not OK, because I couldn’t talk to Mom, and we all know how important that is while thru hiking!! So, my wonderful mother spent the week calling our phone service and stores in Bellingham, and coordinating with my aunt to get me a replacement.
We drove up to Bellingham through heavy traffic, but just barely made it to the store before they closed, and I walked out with a new phone. The next morning, I rushed through a resupply and my aunt drove me the long way back up to the trail. Meanwhile, my mom had sent a few items I needed for gear repair, and of course some delicious sugary treats! Seriously, y’all, my mom is the freaking BOMB. Those treats were so clutch this week.
Snoqualmie Pass to White Pass
It took me forever to actually leave Snoqualmie Pass. I think from the time we parked to the time I actually started hiking was like 2.5 hours. Keep in mind, I’d already finished my resupply. I was looking for a few odds and ends at the market, then went to the Forest Service office to ask about any trail updates. There, the ranger told me that the Aardvark Express has a trail register and gives thru hikers free beer! So, I trucked back up the road and collected my beer and ate a delicious spicy hot dog. Then, finally, at 3:30, I began my 10 mile hike to that night’s campsite. On the way, I met a section hiker who had just started out, and is planning to hike ~400 miles to Santiam Pass.
I got to camp sooner than expected, and felt really good. I hadn’t pushed too hard last week since I was with Uppins, but all of a sudden I realized that my trail legs were ready. “Let’s go!” they started screaming at me. So I planned out my first 20+ day, and got on my way the next morning. I encountered a huge slug early in the morning. What do I mean by huge? Check this out!
Otherwise, the trail was mostly unremarkable, crossing numerous logging roads and timber sales. I ate lunch at an abandoned weather station, which was surprisingly eerie. After a longish break, I got back on trail feeling confident about a 20+ mile day. After about an hour, I saw some HikerTrash sitting off the side of the trail. I stopped and called out to them. It was Nameless, a Belgian hiker who started this year NOBO on March 15th. He skipped from Kennedy Meadows to Truckee, and has been hiking north since. I’m pretty sure that when we crossed paths, the entire length of the PCT has been hiked this year, since I know a few people have made it all the way through the Sierra. Pretty cool! We talked for a long time about what we’d seen, the experience of a thru hike, and what comes next. It was hard to part ways, but I still needed to put in about 10 miles. The last few miles were a bit steeper than I’m used to on the PCT, but I arrived in camp feeling great and excited for bigger miles!
The next day, I had my worst weather of the trail. It was CLOUDY! For a whole HALF of the day!!! Can you believe it!???! The change was pretty nice, as I got to walk through a misty forest in the early morning climbing to Blowout Mountain. However, it was a bit chilly and I kept pushing myself to walk fast so I could stay warm. I crossed the 300 mile point that morning! I pulled into the Mike Urich cabin for lunch, a full 14 miles from where I woke up. The sun came out finally, and I was feeling great. The cabin is named after a former area trail maintainer, and is set overlooking the beautiful Government Meadow. I walked in to check out the inside, and lo and behold, someone had left beer! Enjoyed a beautiful, and rather lengthy, lunch before setting off again.
I had only 10 miles to do after lunch, but I was feeling so good I just walked them as quickly as I could. After filling up at a spring, I climbed to my campsite at Martinson Gap and arrived just after 5. Trail legs are here! Oh wonderful, wonderful joy! I’m going to be in town a whole day earlier than expected! That night my food bag got a whole lot lighter.
I had great views again the next morning. It seemed that at the top of every Pass, Rainier slapped you in the face and yelled “HEY, PAY ATTENTION TO ME!” I gladly obliged, and would stare and stare for long minutes before remembering that I needed to keep hiking. Eventually, I began the final approach to Sourdough Gap just above Chinook Pass. I caught up to Nick, a section hiker who I kept hearing about being just ahead of me. We got to the Gap together, and had to sit down. Oh my god. Not only could we see Mt Rainier (duh), but THREE other famous volcanoes showed their faces. None other than Mt St Helens, Mt Adams, and FUCKING MT HOOD. 200 trail miles away! I was astonished, but overcome with happiness in that moment. The world, spread before me, and the only thing to do is go walk and see it.
I had a nice lunch break in the Chinook Pass trailhead parking lot. It was overrun with tourists, who stared at me curiously as I washed my socks in a stream of snowmelt then hung them out to dry. I gladly dumped my trash in the bins, then chatted with a Forest Service Ranger who rolled through. She had worked earlier this season as the Springer Mountain Ridge Runner on the AT. That must have been quite a hoot! I eventually hiked on, looking to put in my third consecutive 20+ day. There was some snow south of the Pass, which I had been warned about, but it did not cause significant delay or dismay.
My last “full” day in the woods was going to be a short one, just 17.5 miles to a campsite just a few miles from the road. Sure, I could easily make it to the road in a day, but I have lots of town errands to do, so I need a full resupply day. And I just don’t want to zero, not when I’m feeling this good. So I tried to hike as slowly as I could, soaking in as much of the trail as I could. There were early morning undercast-y views of Rainier and meadows with grazing elk:
The last bit of the day would be a long, flat stroll through an area full of lakes. I figured I’d have a long lunch, swim, and generally kill time so I wouldn’t be sitting around camp all afternoon, drooling over thoughts of town food. The mosquitoes, however, had other, sinister plans. I lasted about an hour at Snowy Lake and even got my swim in, but eventually I was covered in bites and starting to lose my mind. I set off for camp, and moving kept the worst of the bugs away. Despite the short distance, my legs were tired when I finally arrived because I couldn’t even bring myself to take a break in the bugs. As soon as I got to camp, I set my tent up and jumped inside. I proceeded to eat my way through the remains of my food bag, including having two full dinners! I did a lot of reading, a bit of napping, and some planning for the next section. Finally, it was past 8 and I went to bed.
Generally, I’ve been going to bed around 8:30, and waking up around 5-5:30. I like being on trail early in the morning; the light is so soft and beautiful, and wildlife is plentiful. Plus, I always get more miles in before lunch, so early starts = big miles. The only annoying thing about this sleep schedule is it makes town stops a bit awkward. I have to sit around, waiting for coffee and breakfast places to open. Rough life!
I practically ran down to White Pass the next morning. I arrived at the store just as it opened, and got a coffee and muffin which I quickly snarfed in the parking lot, true hiker trash style. Then, I spent about 90 minutes on the side of the road, trying to hitch. I tried my PCT 2017 bandana, and I tried my “PCT Hiker to Town” sharpie scrawl on my groundsheet. Finally, I broke down and called Randi, a local angel who shuttles hikers too and from the Pass. As the first hiker of the season, she even cut me a discounted rate!
Packwood has been a great town. I stayed at the Hotel Packwood, a cozy, clean, and affordable place with a kind owner. Laundry started and shower dispensed, I made my resupply then headed to the pizza place and made a scene. I packed up a box to send to Trout Lake, where I’ll stop on Tuesday before the final stretch to Cascade Locks. Fixed my tent stake, patched my sleeping pad, talked to family and friends. It was a much needed productive town stop! After consuming more food and beer, I fell asleep contentedly. This morning, I’ve been mooching the computer at the library so that y’all can have more blog posts! Its past noon now, and I should probably get back to the trail if I want to get 12 miles in…
I’ll be in Cascade Locks on the 22nd, if things go to plan. Wait, Cascade Locks in OREGON!!??!?!? Yes. Oregon. My second state. How is this real? Can the trail really go by so fast? What is happening? But, before then, I get to revel in the long-awaited beauty of the Goat Rocks Wilderness. I can’t wait.
All I want to do is hike. I am so happy.
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