Trail Tales #1 – Washington, a Wonderland

Washington immediately felt different from Oregon. No sooner than crossing the Bridge of the Gods did we begin an uphill climb that felt like it was yelling, “Buckle up, kids, this one is going to hurt.” From there we started a journey full of 25-mile days, each with thousands of feet of elevation change.

A time of change

In Washington, the hiker highway opened around 5:30 a.m. and for some, closed around 10:00 p.m., with traffic running both ways.

There was a mix of hikers; bright eyed SOBOs in brand new gear, SnoBos or those who now moved south after hiking north for some period of time, NOBOs who skipped the Sierras with plans to head back down after the northern border, and the few unicorn true NOBOs who were pushing to complete their journey to Canada. Meeting many strangers a day, you never knew who you may run into at camp or could anticipate seeing down the line when heading back to finish California.

Tramilies up here mixed and mashed. Some groups split up and others reconnected after time apart for the final push to Canada. Free agents were in and out of groups. In my case, my tramily of five (Dumb’n’Tough) merged with another group of five (The B Team) and thus created the chaos that we now call “The Dittly Daddies.”

The Dittly Daddies (and special guest, Runway) celebrating our arrival to the Northern Terminus.

How was the hiking?

Great, actually. We came into this state expecting to work and don’t get me wrong, we definitely did, BUT the work was worth the rewards.

Showers and cities were few and far between, but this was expected. We had departed from the days of resort beers by the lakes of Oregon and were fully committed to consistent big miles.

It definitely helped that the weather was kind to us here. Storms were few and far between and the days were cooler. Nights warranted long pants and warm socks once again. Most days were sunny.

Everyone talks about the elevation gain and loss up here, which is definitely fair, but it was absolutely doable. Some days, I felt the pain of Sisyphus as I rolled my metaphorical boulder (i.e., my tired body) up a hill only to have it tumble back down on the other side of the ridge. However, I mostly enjoyed the climbs to the top (a special thanks to the Childz Play Podcast, a podcast dedicated to discussing Kidz Bop) and basked in the glory of the views that the Cascades had to offer.

Things I fell in love with

From sweeping views to quirky towns, it’s hard to summarize what I loved about this state. I’ll do my best to pick the ten things that I will remember the most about these ~512 miles:

1. The day before tagging the Northern Terminus, we enjoyed the views and picked berries for hours.

Coin Flip and Mini P (me) picked blueberries for over two hours with our friend, Watchman.

2. Spending time in Leavenworth, a town built to be a Bavarian replica. It was especially fun spending time here with our German friends. We fit ten people into a hotel room here.

3. Chunky marmots, tiny pikas, and my first trail bear!

4. Fairytale forests that made you feel like you were living in Jurassic Park.

5. Goat Rocks Wilderness was unreal. I can’t even begin to describe the views because they’re otherworldly.

My hiking partner, Puffy, on Knife Edge in Goat Rocks. I struggled to find a picture that fully captured the beauty of this entire area, you just have to go there!

6. The excitement and energy that everyone had when heading to the Northern Terminus. Also, the joy/various emotions we all shared when finally making it there.

7. Trail Angels here really made finding lodging and rides easy. People in this state are kind and welcoming.

8. Minimal snow and the lack of mosquitos made hiking fun again.

9. An unexpected overnight at Snoqualmie pass that led to the best pizza I could have asked for on trail.

10. This state was full of friends, new and old. I’m grateful for the wonderful humans this trail has brought to me and this experience wouldn’t be the same without them. I hiked 2,000 miles with some and 200 with others, but my love for them is all the same.

Thank you, Washington

At the end, we walked in thick smoke to the Washington-Canadian border. As the sky turned red and plumes of smoke appeared on the horizon, we heard about trail closures happening behind us. The night after touching ground in Canada, we wondered if we’d wake up at 3:00 a.m. to the sound of helicopter evacs. Luckily, this wasn’t the case and we made it safely back to Hart’s Pass before heading into Mazama.

From the beginning of the state to the end, everyone was rushing to make it to PCT Trail Days in Cascade Locks. Just in time, my tramily piled into a rental car and drove off into the sunset to see the few who are left after this crazy, choose-your-own-adventure year. But as we made our way back to Oregon and inched closer to the last section of our hike in the Sierra Nevada, I said one last “thank you” to Washington for simply being the best.

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