Smoke On The Water

Crossing into Washington via the bridge of the gods was rather surreal. You can walk into town on foot and then pass the toll booth and move with bridge traffic, having no pedestrian walkway delineated. It feels like you can float or glide through this section without the usual challenges of forests or mountains, and yet you’re technically right on trail. A nearby wildfire broke out as I was there, making for a lesser air quality. As I began the substantial vertical climb thereafter, a 90°F/smoke filled atmosphere humbled me. More inevitable pockets of mosquitoes helped me to not forget that I’m in their house, not mine. Flooded trail was pretty far from ideal, but by now, it’s a familiar way of life.

I made the mistake of expecting Washington to be a utopia, as if crossing the Columbia River would put an end to all my troubles. Luckily there was some relief when a retired logger named Gerry picked us up and shuttled into Trout Lake. Having the usual hiker luxuries plus a well curated general store available felt like home. Post Office Coffee was an exceptional stop to unwind and indulge in several baked goods, my favorite being the earl grey blueberry tea cake. After sunset I set up camp for free at the presbyterian church, and fell asleep to a number of impressive shooting stars. Slowly I was introduced to the undeniable beauty of Washington State. Eventually I reached the famously stunning ridgelines of Goat Rocks Wilderness. I can only inadequately describe the beauty of Goat Rocks, so instead I’ll just leave a few photos below, and you can see for yourself!

Exit Through The Gift Shop

White Pass had a nice gas station available to hikers, and a few 25-30 mile days allowed us to move quickly through the landscape and out to Snoqualmie Pass. The romantic imagery of steep mountain tops crumbling into the blue lakes below was now the norm. It seemed every day had a new series of oil paintings included as the default backdrop. To experience Leavenworth is to experience mostly a gaudy recreation of a small German village, purely for the sake of tourism. I typically refer to it as Bavarian Disney World, but to be honest, it felt charming as a hiker. A hotel room helped me feel clean and rested as I indulged in a bag of salad while learning about Jupiter and its moons on PBS. In the morning, there is no better place to start your day than Argonaut Coffee & Biscuits. Possibly the best coffee I’ve had in a trail town.
Glacier peak wilderness had some of the most overgrown sections, including countless blowdowns, but the alpine lakes offered some of the best swimming opportunities imaginable. Sally Ann and Mica were notably perfect places to do lunch and camp, respectively. As soon as we arrived at the convenient shuttle bus stop to enter Stehekin, our driver Steve began his quirky and informative tour. The town is not accessible by road, but instead entirely by boat or plane. It has, I believe, 85 year round residents. The most highly anticipated stop is Stehekin Pastry Company, and I want to be clear in case there is any debate. The cinnamon roll is the best pastry they sell, and one of the best that can be found anywhere. I will entertain no other false idols, for example: the sticky bun.

Casa de Lion

If the Stehekin debate wasn’t enough, I quickly had to stop a day later in Mazama and decipher how it could possibly be a better bakery. The reality is that they’re apples and oranges. As an upscale market however, Mazama was everything I hoped for and more. The salted baguette and honey lavender goat cheese with local PNW jam is not a meal you’ll likely forget. The wine selection is a miracle too, if you prefer to elevate the afternoon. Across town, The Lion’s Den was an absolutely magical trail angel/hostel. They have thankfully continued some familiar traditions of Southern California hippie daycare. With these things in mind, I have to emphasize that Mazama has been my favorite trail town thus far(with honorable mentions to Bend and Trout Lake). Due to it’s location, you might be tempted to pass on it entirely, which I think would be a terrible mistake.


Perfect weather and an increasingly enjoyable stretch of the Cascades had me unexpectedly deposited near the border of Canada. Even as you descend into less interesting terrain near the border, it has a certain weight to it. The area near the borders is always going to feel like sacred ground to a PCT thru hiker. I rounded the corner and saw the monument I’d been dreaming of. Even though I’m not yet done with the journey, it definitely held a special place in my heart.

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