The countdown begins.
We thought we were done with the fires and smoke, and it has only gotten worse. Towns are getting evacuated, the smoke is blackening our lungs, and you can’t see 3000 foot high mountains. But we are going to push on, until rangers physically remove us from the trail. We heard the winds should be changing direction and clearing the smoke soon, so hopefully we won’t be hacking up organs the last sections of trail. I promise it is still fun, 2017 has just become the year of fire and ice. Natural obstacles that are very, very constanst. I guess it’s all part of the trail right?
Washington is 513 miles and we are more than halfway through. I fact, we have less than 200 miles left and no expected cell service or wifi till Canada. It has been beautiful, even if it is clouded in smoke. We had some epic views so far, and heard it only gets better as you move north. If we get to see it without smoke, even better.
Cascade Locks to Trout Lake
Our first day in Washington was a hot, mostly exposed 4000 foot climb. But we got to eat copius amounts of blackberries and huckleberries. The best type of snack because we never have to actually carry it. Essentially free calories. We camped at Rock Creek and I battled with a mouse all night. In end, it won, and I had three holes in my Dollar General food bag.
The elevation in Washington is MUCH greater than Oregon so we were able to drop our mileage, which means getting to camp before 7pm! I cannot tell you how nice that is. The scenery to Trout Lake was meh, more mossy green forest. We did have some hefty climbs, and for some reason those always make it easier for me to hike longer. I usually like to break every six or seven miles but with climbs, I can hike for more than three hours straight, usually about eight or nine miles. So Washington is gonna be a synch. Not.
We swam in Blue Lake; I am now trying to swim in as many lakes as possible. Probably going to go for No was Washington. That requires no laundry and no showers. So I’m just gonna swim as much as I can. We’ll see if I can make it.
Our walk into Trout Lake was chill. I spent WAY too much at the cafe, but they had huckleberry everything: milkshakes, pie, margaritas, so I went ham. Milkshake, pie, burger, fries, salad. And I kid you not, that did not satiate my hunger. Not even after letting it digest a bit. Our appetities are unreal. But so real to us. Almost constant hunger. That we try fix with Top Ramen and Idahoans. Sooo yummy.
We planned on hiking 12 miles out but ended up only going seven because we came across this absolutely breathtaking meadow. Horeshoe Meadow had a stunning view of Mt. Adams, St. Helens, and Hood. We had an amazing sunset and it was a reminder of why I am out here. The views, the people, the freedom of the outdoors. We get to wake up to the Milky Way above us and to the sun rising. We walk around entire mountains and see them from all angles all the while pushing our bodies to new limits. We are so unbelievably lucky, even with all these fires.
Trout Lake to White Pass
Washington officially got gorgeous. Totally, awesomely, gorgeous. I saw trees before us and got nervous, but turned out we walked through meadows and streams murky with lava rock silt. We got to see constant viewd of Rainer, Helens, and Adams, and actually walked around Adams. We got to see it from all sides. It had this sweet avalanche snow on it’s west side; I want to climb it so bad. And Rainer. And Shasta. Of course my buckey list has only grown after this hike. Too many mountains to summit and trails to hike! Who wants to sponser me?
Anyways, it is really cool seeing these massive peaks. The High Sierra are majestic but there is something about these volcanic mountains that just stand alone in an expansive landscape. They are so dominating and completely take over their surroundings. I love looking at them at every vista but I also want to be on top of them. Sigh, gotta conquer this trail first, then do more summits.
We had the most epic, rad, stellar campsite on top of Old Smokey. It was a beautiful hike there and I saw Blu! A bunch of NOBOs had skipped up to the border and were now soboing to avoid the snow in Washington. So we’re passing them now. All these people I hadn’t seen since Bishop. Man I love how this trail works. I caught up with him and then we both moved on in our chosen directions. We got our glimpse of Goat Rocks before Cyprus pass: crazy craggy peaks with snow patches and rock slides below em. They were SO cool. After Cyprus we walked through golden meadows filled with these funny Dr. Seuss dandelions and crossed another waterfall. We still got to see Adams, Rainer, and Hood through all of this.
Our climb up to Old Smokey was a bit of a scree rock scramble but man was it worth it. We all snuggled in little nooks around the peak. We had a 360 degree view of Adams, Rainer, and Hood. We saw the massive plume of smoke causing another 23 mile closure north of us. It looked like a mushroom cloud. But the smoke was not heavy enough to ruin our sunset or stars. We watched the sun sink below the horizon and fell asleep to crazy amounts of stars. I woke up to see the moon setting; it was a vibrant orange as it disappeared, only to let more stars become visible and of course the Milky Way. It was probably my favorite campsite on trail.
We woke up to watch the sunrise with a blazing red sun from the smoke and then descended Old Smokey on the Knife’s Edge. Perfect freaking description. It is a ridge line trail, on shale, with sheer drop on either side. Pretty gnarly. After the Knife’s Edge, we had more ridgeline walks and actually saw goats! The wilderness held up to it’s name. We descended into beautiful meadows as we walked away from Goat Rocks. I ended up swimming in Shoe Lake, this fantastically clear, blue lake. I ran down to it cause it was off trail while the others headed to White Pass. I met them there and did a quick resupply and organized our ride around the closure. Because once again the only reroute provided was a road walk. Ugh. And once again the legendary Ron/Archangel offered to take us around the closure. What we would do without him.
The ladies at the convenience store brought all of us beer-drinking hiker trash the day-olds from their hot food section that they were gonna throw away. It was like vultures on freshly dead meat. We swarmed the pile of food and inhaled it. Free calories are gold out here; they are inpossible to refuse. We camped at the trailhead and I got to sleep in a hammock. It was awesome.
White Pass to Snowqualamie Pass
We had a thirty mile stretch from White Pass to Chinook Pass before the 23 mile closure and I am so glad we got to do this section because it was gorgeous. We had more meadows and rocky hills. Craig from Craig’s PCT planner was doing trail magic and took us to a sweet jumping rock at Crag Lake. Only 10ft but still fun. His dog REALLY liked everyone to be close together, so everytime I went to swim off she would come make sure I was ok. I stopped swimming off cause I thought she was going to get too tired.
We saw a black bear cub eating huckleberries, which was the most adorable thing ever, and at the top of our climb had a stellar view of Rainer. It is amazing how massive these mountains are; you don’t really realize it until you get close and you never realize how fast you get close to these mountains. One day and boom, it is just a hop, skip, jump away, looming 14,000 feet above you.
We camped at Dewey Lake with Josh, S&M’s boyfriend, who brought us soda. I saw flames from the Norse fire off in the distance. They are eery but semi-beautiful when they aren’t close. The next morning, the lake was shrouded in smoke so dense you could barely ser across it. I wore my buff over my face it was so bad. We met Ron, who drove four hours from La Grande, Oregon, at Chinook Pass so he could take us around this hitch. He is a saint. He even brought bagels, cream cheese, apple juice, and orange juice for us.
The road was MUCH smoother than the Breittonbush road and much shorter. Ron walked with us to Ulrich Cabin where we found a football and played with it for a good while. We said our goodbyes and I seriously hope we don’t see Ron again. As in, I hope there are no more fire closures that he offers to drive us around.
This section ended up not being that pretty. Just a lot of burn area and forest and ash falling from the sky because it was so smokey. But we did see full on flames from the Norse fire from our campsite. Half of the ridge was lit up and orange. It was freaky. We couldn’t see any stars or a sunrise cause the smoke was so dense. Another type of experience I guess.
Our walk into Snowqualamie was pure haze making our lungs gunky and hiding all our vistas. Our climb over the ski resort was a trail full of tree roots and rocks to trip over. But I did get to climb another lift tower. And when we got to town, everyone, I mean everyone, was there. They had closed the section we were in after we had entered it so all the hikers two days behind us had to skip from White Pass or Chinook Pass to Snoqualamie. We saw the Naked Suncups, Bender, DG…so many people. The Sierra brought people together for safety reasons and now fire closures are bringing people together. Fire and ice. I definitely prefer ice.
We all went to the brewey and had a mini reunion. It was awesome to see everyone, even if it was a closure that made it happen. My crew ended up zeroing in Snoqualamie cause the smoke was so bad the next day. More brewey, more town food, and a lot a lot of hope that the winds would change and blow the smoke away. AND, guess who else the closure brought to us? Flicker, Ateam, and Chopsticks!!! I cannot tell you how excited I was to see them. It has been so long and they are some of my favorites. So we gotta hang out with them for the rest of the day and catch up. Tramily reunion. Once again at the brewey.
Snoqualamie Pass to Steven’s Pass
People told us Northern Washington was beautiful and boy were they right. Holy shit. Our 2500 foot ups and downs have been easier than expected but having little to no flat trail is hard on the knees for sure. The sights we have been seeing though definitely distract us from the aches and pains. It was smokey headed out of Snoqualamie, but much less than the day before. We entered Alpine Lakes Wilderness and it is true to its name. Lakes, lakes, and more lakes. And they are crystal clear and blue and teal, and tucked in these mountain basins, surrounded by rocks. Spectacularly gorgeous. When there aren’t lakes, there are meadows of ferns changing to their fall colors and tall, craggy peaks with snow. We crossed saddles to see more blue, blue lakes on the other side. Every moment there is something to look at.
The trail itself is often rock, which is tough on the feet. We’re really working our micro muscles in our ankles. The hiking is difficult, but we are more than used to pushing ourselves. Of course, I am sure close family and friends are not surprised by this, I saw a housemate, Bea, from college SOBOing this section. Hadn’t seen her since she graduated! When your world is a foot and a half wide trail, it really is small.
We took breaks at lots of the lakes and at Delate waterfall. I climbed up a log, I know DG got a bunch of photos of me monkeying around. We got to see stars for the first time in a while and the smoke finally went away. More craggy, glaciated peaks loomed above us with misty clouds shrouding their tips.
Took a swim in Deep Lake, which felt soooo good on my dirty, dirty body. Not gonna lie, my hair is getting pretty gnarly. But no showering! Nope. Not till Canada. We did get a small sprinkling, but I pulled my tent over me (cowboy camping for dayssss) and called it good.
We had one river ford, and with our standards we aren’t really afraid if a ford is labeled as difficult, which this one was. Well, it was a synch. Just went straight through, no thoughts or worries. Also, it is not high water season. And then it got misty, real misty. And then it rained. Washington is being itself. It is worth the experience for sure, I would feel guilty if we made it through Washington without any rain, but oy it blows. I was freezing, and wet. Everything was wet. Everything. Sleeping bag, tent, clothes. Luckily we had town the next day and got to yardsale everything and let it dry.
And that is where we are now. Steven’s pass. Two hundred miles to go, and even more elevation gain. Nine to ten days left, which is a scary, scary thought. Gah, life after trail is not a thought I want to think about. Gross nasty non-trail life. I am with great people and I never want them to leave. Ten days. Ten freaking days. Fuck.
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