PCT Update—1947 Wolverine Miles Completed: Washington Section K

On day three of five in Section K, between Stevens Pass and Stehekin, I was brought to my knees literally and emotionally. Emotions were on edge and my legs felt shot. With elevation ascents and then descents each around 2500 to 6500 feet daily on rugged, often overgrown, often soaking wet conditions on steep trails, I knew this section would be tough. But each climb just seemed to weigh on me further while causing my quads to feel like rubber. Finally, if only to blow off some steam, I sat down in the mud on the side of the trail and cried, after sliding down yet another, muddy steep section on the other side of yet another giant blow-down-climb-over. I whined to my hiking partner for a couple minutes, wiped my eyes, got up and started hiking again. When one is in remote Washington, many steep mountains away from civilization, it is prudent just to get on with it. That evening I sent my husband the following text message via my Garmin Inreach:

‘I hate this trail. I hate this weather. I hate my body. So if I die out here on the unmaintained, sometimes dangerous trails, you can tell everyone I died doing something I hated. Novel.’

Anticipated really really bad day on the PCT? Check.

I knew that part of what I was feeling was cumulative fatigue from months of hiking 20+ mile days over rough terrain and my body now starting to feed off my muscle due to lack of adequate calories. I am a huge proponent of heavily using my trekking poles, and at the end of most days my arms are even sore from bearing down on them on the steep climbs.

I also knew I would get to the border. To finish this segment of trail and see all of Washington. But Washington was seriously kicking my ass so I needed an attitude adjustment pronto. 

To compensate I let myself look around more. When it isn’t grey and drippy the views are stunning. Truly magical. Washington wilderness is a raw, rugged sight to behold for sure, inclusive of the marmots, goats, pika, the giant muscular mule deer and jagged peaks and sharply steep valleys. Finally emerging at Stehekin on Lake Chelan made it all worth it. I fell in love with its iconic picturesque setting.

But there is still a border to tag, and for me (and so many others on the trail this year), sorting out if it will be possible given all the fires and smoke, to complete any more of the miles in Nor Cal that I flipped past back in July. Fires and more fires are causing thru hikers, NOBO and SOBO alike, to scatter like the wind to piece together sections of trail as possible. I will regroup to sort out a plan after I hit Canada. 

Since Canada has chosen to not open their customs office in Manning Park this year to PCT hikers, we are all required to tag the border, then hike backwards on the trail 32 miles to Hart Pass to get off trail. So I’m off to complete the final 62 miles to the border then the extra-credit 32 miles back to Hart Pass. 

Send good weather vibes our way!


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Comments 4

  • Charles Grant : Sep 4th

    Thank you for your frank account. I hiked Section K early in August and experienced the same despair one day. Hiking down into and then back up and out of the Milk Creek drainage after a heavy rainstorm just did me in. I was in awe of the through hikers like yourself that were covering twice the milage I was each day. I hope it’s not just a case of “misery loves company”, but it’s reassuring to hear that it was just a hard hike, and other folks struggled too!

    • Terri Schneider : Sep 9th

      Yes that particular section was really tough as the trail was Unmaintained. Washington was tough! Thank you for sharing!


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