PCT Journal: Days 116-126 (Washington Pt. II)

Day 116

Leavenworth, WA/Hitch to Stevens Pass/Mile 192.8

Daily Mileage: 4.4

Total PCT Mileage: 942.5 NoBo + 192.8 SoBo

Since it was my birthday today, Steel Toe and I slept in a little and enjoyed our continental breakfast in bed. After lounging for as long as we could, we showered and checked out of the Inn. The front desk was nice enough to hold our packs while we grabbed lunch.

We first made a pit stop at the Starbucks to use their WiFi so I could download Planet Earth II on Netflix. Then Steel Toe let me choose the lunch spot, so I went with Wok About Mongolian Grill, which had great reviews, and we were not disappointed in the least. We filled our bellies with delicious meats, vegetables, and rice, then grabbed our packs before heading toward the West side of town to try and hitch to Stevens Pass where we recently got off trail.

It took us quite a bit of time to find a ride, and we even made a sign out of my groundsheet that read, Hikers to Stevens Pass, Her 29th B-day. It was immediately after we started using the sign that a couple, Monique and Brian, pulled over to offer us a ride. They were headed that way anyway since Brian works at the Pass. They told us all about the hiking in Washington and Oregon, as well as the towns worth checking out.

After we were dropped off, we grabbed an ice cream at the lodge, filled our water bottles, and put on our shoes. Just before heading out, we chatted with Tortoise and Hobo, also now thru-hiking southbound. They, too, began hiking northbound, but decided to flip because of all of the wildfires in Northern California at the moment. Little did they realize that Washington also has the same issue this year.

We got back on the trail right next to the lodge and climbed for a few miles. We passed right by the ski lift at the top of the mountain and then descended into the valley, where we found a spot to camp right next to Lake Susan Jane. It was early, and we only hiked 4.4 miles, but we figured we’d leave the next climb for tomorrow.

Tortoise and Hobo happened to be camping nearby and came over to chat for a bit just before we made dinner. We were still so full from lunch, but we managed to eat some of our allotted food for the day.

Dinner went the same as usual, but it’s always hilarious what comes out of Steel Toe’s mouth. As he was fixing his sit pad, he said in a serious voice, This rock has no cushion. I don’t know what trail he’s been hiking, but unlike him, I don’t recall coming across any luxuriously comfortable rocks. Steel Toe treated me well for my birthday though. He packed out a Dr. Pepper to celebrate with a homemade card from Nepal and we relaxed in the tent while watching an episode of Planet Earth II.

Day 117

Mile 192.8 to Mile 210.6

Daily Mileage: 17.8

Total PCT Mileage: 942.5 NoBo + 210.6 SoBo

It’s always difficult to get back into the swing of waking up super early, even after taking only one day off. By the time we got out of camp, it was 7:50 am, but it looked like it was going to be a cloudy day allowing for more shade while hiking.

We saw a decent amount of people on the trail. We ran into Tortoise and Hobo again, and many day hikers and backpackers as well. August seems to be the best month for hiking in Washington so it doesn’t surprise me that the trail is filled with nature lovers. We played leap frog with a few people today, passing by them every so often before breaking and watching them stroll past soon after.

It felt like a short day because we ended around 4:30, but we completed almost 18 miles, which was the goal we set for ourselves for the next few days. We figure we’ll take it easier than the last stretch since we’ve both been dealing with knee and ankle issues.

Although it’s only our second day out, we used the stream to wash ourselves and a few pieces of clothing. We then enjoyed an early dinner accompanied by Steel Toe’s Spotify playlist. I indulged in some mushroom tortellini while Steel Toe ate his summer sausage with siracha in a tortilla as well as a pot full of Annie’s mac and cheese. No wonder why we’ve both been a tad bit gassy. We spent the rest of the night lounging in the tent and watching an episode of Planet Earth II.

Day 118

Mile 210.6 to Mile 230.1

Daily Mileage: 19.5

Total PCT Mileage: 942.5 NoBo + 230.1 SoBo

I’m slowly becoming less tired with each day now that we’re going to bed earlier, but it seems that the body aches are inevitable. While we were eating breakfast, a Washington section hiker that we met yesterday, who is also heading southbound, passed by and chatted with us for a bit.

We had a significant climb in the morning and the day was definitely warmer than the previous. At the top, Steel Toe used his Peak Finder app to check out the nearby mountains. We were standing right in front of Cathedral Rock, which from what we’ve heard, is a great climbing destination. A little further down the trail we ran into Tortoise and Hobo, where we took a ten minute break.

We had a long descent into the valley and passed a few backpackers that mentioned they encountered a small bear foraging for berries up ahead. We were excited and on the lookout afterward, but had no luck. Around mid-afternoon we crossed Waptus River and took a short break to soak our feet and load up on water for the impending climb as well as camp.

On the way up the climb, we had an awesome view of Waptus Lake and the surrounding mountains. It was later in the day, so we were both hurting, but we made the push to the next tentsite. That way, we had less of a climb in the morning as well. Camp chores and dinner went as usual, and we were also lucky enough indulge in another episode of Planet Earth II.

Day 119

Mile 230.1 to Mile 249

Daily Mileage: 18.9

Total PCT Mileage: 942.5 NoBo + 249 SoBo

I swore I woke up to the smell of barbecue last night. The stars were out and not a sound was heard except for crickets, so I quickly fell back asleep. I tossed and turned quite a bit though throughout the night. It has been warm here, so I’m still trying to master the one leg in, one leg out method with my quilt while sleeping. It’s a ten degree quilt, so I’ve been sleeping warm, but without it, it can get cold.

We finished the climb we began yesterday and it felt like the Sierra once again. Marmots and pika were scattered throughout the rocky parts, and we had a great view of the surrounding mountains. We even caught a small glimpse of Mount Rainier in the distance, which then of course got us talking again about the logistics of that climb.

In the valley, we encountered a creek crossing where the wooden bridge that was once built was destroyed. We could see where effort was put forth to create a makeshift crossing, but one of the wooden panels had drifted downstream. The adventurer in Steel Toe decided to rock hop toward the one stray piece of wood to try and bring it back upstream. I heard a large splash and soon realized he slipped in and was standing with the water at his knees. So much for keeping dry. Since he was already wet, he brought the piece of wood upstream and with some finagling, placed it in a position so that others could cross without getting wet. Who knows how long it will hold, but he was happy to have helped.

Soon after, we began a climb that happened to be in a burn zone, so we had to deal with a decent amount of sun exposure. It felt as if the sun was working extra hard to point its rays in our direction. The fields were beautiful though, with flowers in bloom and butterflies galore. Thankfully we had a reprieve afterward at Delate Waterfall right next to the trail. It was massive and a sight to see so we hung around for a bit and cooled off.

The entire day was dreadfully hot which made me feel more lethargic than I would have liked. At the very top of the peak we had a stunning view of the mountains behind us. We could see Mount Stuart in the distance, which we noticed earlier this morning due to its height amongst the others and its pure ruggedness. We also noticed a plume of smoke, which unfortunately doesn’t come as a surprise anymore. We did pass two women who heard about a wildfire at Stevens Pass, where we most recently came from. If so, that would be the third fire on or near the trail that we just barely missed. Just off in the distance, but Northeast of us, we could see a very snowy mountain that stood above the others as well. Steel Toe’s Peak Finder app couldn’t give us a clue to what it was since it was so far away, but we had a feeling it was Mount Baker.

The last few miles of the day involved a traverse across the rocky terrain of the mountains. We finally came upon a great tentsite with a view. Across from us, we can see the trail where we came from, Alta Mountain, and the majestic Mount Rainier. The sky is a bit hazy tonight, but if we look higher than any other mountains and above the clouds, we can see the peak. When dark eventually came, we were able to spot Mars, Jupiter, and Saturn in the sky.

Day 120

Mile 249 to Snoqualmie Pass

Daily Mileage: 10.5

Total PCT Mileage: 942.5 NoBo + 259.5 SoBo

We unfortunately could not see Mount Rainier due to the smoke in the sky from nearby wildfires, but it was still a great morning view nonetheless. We hiked roughly 10 miles to make it to Snoqualmie Pass. The time flew by as all we could think about was a hot meal and a cozy bed. Steel Toe swore he saw Clint Eastwood down the trail on our way to town. The man’s wife said he gets that reaction all the time.

When we arrived at the Pass, the first thing we did was head to the Summit Inn. There were rumors that the staff were not friendly to hikers, but the woman we dealt with was very polite.

While we waited for our room to be ready, we went to Aardvark Express, a small, mobile looking restaurant near the Inn. The owner greeted us with a free beer and took our order. We decided on the Hurry Curry dish, and were pleasantly surprised by how delicious it was.

After we checked into our room, we did laundry, washed our pot and sporks, and showered. Steel Toe’s friend, Steven, who lives near Seattle, came by shortly after and took us out to dinner at a brewery in Snoqualmie Falls. We ate a filling meal and then headed over to check out the actual falls nearby. Dark came too soon so we went back to the Inn and called it a night.

Day 121

Snoqualmie Pass to Mile 264.3

Daily Mileage: 4.8

Total PCT Mileage: 942.5 NoBo + 264.3 SoBo

We relaxed in the hot tub for a few minutes this morning. It felt good on our muscles but didn’t last too long because of the heat. After asking for a late checkout, we ventured next door to Red Mountain Coffee and indulged in an ice cold beverage each. Our next stop was a restaurant named Commonwealth, where Steel Toe ordered the burger and I had the mac and cheese. We ate way too quickly and were soon full, so I packed out the rest of mine for the trail.

We hung out at the gazebo outside of the Aardvark Express for a little while before heading to Red Mountain Coffee one more time. While charging our phones just a bit more before heading out, we chatted with Toothbrush, a northbound thru-hiker.

It was mid-afternoon by the time we got back on trail. The day was pretty warm, and I started to feel tired and a little dehydrated already so we decided to call it around 5 miles. We found a tentsite near a small stream so we could hydrate and relax for the rest of the night. We were soon joined by an older northbound thru-hiker, with whom we chatted about the culture on trail.

Day 122

Mile 264.3 to Mile 284.9

Daily Mileage: 20.6

Total PCT Mileage: 942.5 NoBo + 284.9 SoBo

It took me a while to fall asleep last night due to the helicopters in the area. I assume there must be another wildfire nearby. In the morning, we were given an elaborate dance by a squirrel. He made a high pitched noise each time he tip toed across the tree.

The sun hid behind the clouds for most of the day, but it was still pretty warm. It seems like this stretch is going to be drier than we’re used to, with slow flowing streams as the majority of water sources. So far, it’s less scenic and remote as well, as we’re crossing dirt roads every few miles. It reminds me of Southern California. Thankfully though, the terrain is somewhat milder than we’ve experienced in the past few stretches. Instead of long, drawn out climbs, we’re dealing with much shorter, steeper ones.

We made great progress throughout the day, even though we took an unexpected break after lunch. We crossed one of the dirt roads and discovered we had cell service. Steel Toe wanted to check his email and good thing he did, because he needed to fill out some online paperwork for the job he‘ll begin later this year.

Just when we stepped foot back on the trail, we noticed two Coca-Cola’s sitting right under a tree! It was obvious this was trail magic. You should’ve seen our faces. It was just yesterday when were talking about how we regretted not packing out a soda. We decided to take one to share and left the other for another lucky hiker.

We made it to camp early, around 5:30 in the evening. We had a decent view of the mountains to the north. With a few more hours until bedtime, we watched an episode of Planet Earth II and The Horn. Just as we were headed to bed, we heard a car pull up on the dirt road that sits just below the mountain ridge that we’re camping on. And then the music began. It’s Friday night, and we’ve experienced this before, in Southern California. It does take away from being out here, but I guess not every night can be so peaceful.

Day 123

Mile 284.9 to Mike Urich Cabin

Daily Mileage: 20.7

Total PCT Mileage: 942.5 NoBo + 305.6 SoBo

I woke up in the early morning to what I thought was condensation on the wall of the tent. I soon realized that it was lightly raining. We knew to expect potential thunderstorms, but figured we would hear the rain in time to shut the doors of the rain fly. Our sleeping bags were only slightly wet, so it wasn’t a disaster.

We fell back asleep for a few hours and then finally willed ourselves to get going, even though there was still a light drizzle. I was in charge of the map today, so I knew we had a few ascents ahead of us, but that the terrain would still be milder than the last stretch. There are fewer switchbacks, but at times it’s nicer to just get the uphill over with.

We hiked through fog and rain for the majority of the day. We should have been able to spot Rainier just 20 miles away, but it was barely possible to see past even the trees on the side of the trail. We were in good spirits though. We’ve been hoping for rain since it’s been so warm lately. Plus, it wouldn’t be the same if we didn’t experience the type of weather Washington is known for. This was officially only our third day on trail where we’ve experienced wet weather.

We called it at almost 21 miles for the day at the Mike Urich Cabin. It’s a cabin right on trail that’s open for public use, so we figured it might be a good place to warm up. As we dropped our packs down near a tentsite a few feet from the cabin, I noticed a familiar figure standing by one of the tents. It was Ironman!

I yelled out and boy, was he surprised to hear his name. Steel Toe and I walked over and hugged him. We caught up and learned he skipped the Sierra and intends to return, but has completed the rest of the trail up to this point, and now he’s so close to finishing and returning home to his wife and pets in Northern Washington. He also recently celebrated his 65th birthday! We sadly learned that our other friend he was hiking with, Weatherman, had to get off trail due to knee issues, but is hoping he can return one day.

After setting up the tent in the rain, we grabbed the stove and our food bags, and headed into the cabin. It was degrees warmer inside with the woodfire stove going. Ironman, Steel Toe and I sat around the table near the fire with a few others while cooking dinner. It was so cozy, the place was dim as the only light was peeking through two windows and the fire was crackling. We met Lazarus, a 65 year old British man who chimed in on the conversation at the funniest moments, and another man, who Ironman pointed out was 72, that came down from the sleeping loft shirtless with his white beard almost touching his stomach.

When we mustered up the courage, we grabbed our rain jackets that were drying by the fire and went back out into the cold. We warmed up again in our sleeping bags as we blogged and exchanged photographs for the day. Unless it’s warm and dry, I predict it might be difficult getting out of my quilt tomorrow.

Day 124

Mike Urich Cabin to Mile 330.6

Daily Mileage: 25

Total PCT Mileage: 942.5 NoBo + 330.6 SoBo

The first thing I heard this morning was Steel Toe’s name from outside of the tent. It was Ironman. He came over to say goodbye and to let us know that he’ll be hiking toward one of the forest service roads for a friend to pick him up. While we were all getting rained on last night, lightning was striking in the forest near his hometown, and now because of the wildfires his wife and him may have to evacuate the area. Thankfully he had a 2-way communicator so that his wife was able to get a hold of him. We exchanged contact information and wished him the best of luck.

When we finally emerged from the tent, it was still wet and foggy outside. We hiked through mud puddles and dripping trees until the sun slowly began shining through the clouds. For the first half of the day, we hiked through a recent burn area. It was pretty eerie as all of the trees were charred, the entire ground was black, and we could still smell the remnants of the fire with the amount of ash everywhere.

It felt as if we were walking through a cemetery of trees. Even with all of the burn though, bright green grass and small plants were poking their way through the ash. It was a beautiful sight.

We were seeing a decent amount of northbound thru-hikers during the day. There was one instance where I stepped aside to let someone by and I quickly realized I recognized the person, even through their sunglasses and long hair. It was Kevin from the very first day on trail! We were picked up together at the airport in San Diego and shuttled to Scout and Frodo’s house. We congratulated him on making it this far and then went our separate ways.

Toward the end of the day, we ate dinner at Sheep Lake and were joined by another southbound thru-hiker, Rosie the Riveter, or Riv for short. After washing up a bit, we continued on and passed a trailhead not too far from Rainier National Park Visitor Center. We decided to push on and found a spot to camp a few miles up the trail. After setting up the tent, I scrambled up to where Steel Toe was bouldering with his new climbing shoes and we were speechless with the view that was in front of us. Mount Rainier was right there, with the sun setting behind it. It looked simply beautiful with all of its snow and glaciers.

After Steel Toe did a few more climbs, we walked back down to the tent and hurried to get inside. The sun was setting and the cold was returning all too quickly.

Day 125

Mile 330.6 to Sand Lake

Daily Mileage: 24.3

Total PCT Mileage: 942.5 NoBo + 354.9 SoBo

We allowed ourselves to sleep in a little, so we didn’t break camp until around 8:15 am. We descended into the valley for a mile and stopped at Dewey Lake to filter water. Our phones as well as Steel Toe’s portable charger were low on battery, so we turned them off for the day. This was the first time we’ve only had one charger. One of the ports on mine stopped working, but thankfully Anker is mailing me a replacement under warranty.

As we were hiking back up into the mountains, we had the best view of Rainier. Even with some smoke in the sky, we could make out the glaciers and features of the mountain. We took a snack break and studied its massiveness for some time. Of course the next hour or so consisted of subjects like mountaineering, ice climbing, and backcountry skiing.

The scenery for the rest of the day didn’t compare. We were hiking away from Rainier and didn’t have much of a view anymore. Now that the sun was shining, the mosquitos and flies were back of course, so we had them to deal with all day. We played leap frog with Abby’s Person and Abby, an older man and his dog, who we hung out at the cabin with the other night.

We decided to push it just over 24 miles to a tentsite right near Sand Lake. The plan is to wake up in the morning and hike roughly 3 miles into White Pass, grab some food, pick up our resupply boxes, and hitch 20 miles West to Packwood. As we were washing up so that we don’t smell too badly for the person who gives us a ride tomorrow, we noticed paw prints in the sand. It was clear this wasn’t a dog, but likely a cat of some sort. We’re keeping an eye out, but haven’t seen any wildlife activity yet.

Day 126

Sand Lake to White Pass/Hitch to Packwood, WA

Daily Mileage: 2.8

Total PCT Mileage: 942.5 NoBo + 357.7 SoBo

So last night was interesting. We both woke up to a weird noise around 11 pm. After having just watched Planet Earth II, it was clear we were listening to a loud cat call. Steel Toe and I looked at each other and unanimously voted to zip up the vestibules. We heard the call several times and quickly realized how close the animal was when we heard footsteps just outside of the tent. It took me some time to fall back asleep, and I was pretty ancy for morning to come.

We obviously survived the night, and now I’m aware that bobcats are very active in the area. We only had to hike about 3 miles to get to White Pass, and it took us about an hour. After we arrived, we went to the Kracker Barrel store to pick up our mail drops and grab a snack. We ran into Abby’s Person and chatted with him for a little before attempting to hitch to Packwood.

It took us roughly 20 minutes before a man driving out of the parking lot offered to give us a ride. He was in the area from Kentucky working for the US Forest Service on the wildfires near White Pass. Driving through the valley, we could tell we’ll be hiking through smoke for the next few days while on the detour. There was initially only one fire East of the PCT, but now another one has begun just West of the trail, so the original detour is closed and we’ve been given another way around.

When we arrived in town, we immediately sat down for breakfast at Cruiser’s Pizza. I indulged in a full meal consisting of eggs, hash browns, corn beef hash, and toast. Our bellies were quite full afterward. We made a pit stop at the local market and then headed to Hotel Packwood, where we booked a room. We sorted through our gear and food, washed our pot and utensils, and handed our laundry in to be washed. I did have a few more things this time to tend to, like sewing up holes in my shirt and a broken piece of my hip belt pocket.

Dinner rolled around quickly and we decided to try Blue Spruce Saloon. Steel Toe and I had fun people watching at the bar while attempting to guess who was a local and who was just passing through town. We met Cookie Monster (different person from the Cookie we know), who was hiking the PCT last year when he decided to stay in Packwood and put down some roots. It’s always interesting to hear stories from different thru-hikers and where they end up.

Just before heading back to our room, we chatted with a local out front on the porch of the Hotel, which looks more like an old western mountain house, and he told us stories of how he used to hike the trails nearby with pack mules. We eventually started yawning and knew we needed to get to bed soon. A few more chores, like ordering two new pairs of shoes, were completed before heading to bed.

2 thoughts on “PCT Journal: Days 116-126 (Washington Pt. II)

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