8/12 Day 8-11 miles
Snoqualmie Pass; WA
Today was a bit of hiking, some good downhill running, then resting, eating and errands in Snoqualmie, WA.
So first thing, I bolt awake at midnight… is it time to wake up I wonder?… no, it’s midnight- then two hours later, then an hour after that… j just couldn’t sleep well- and began to shiver from the cold around 3 am. I managed to keep resting until about 5 am, then after a quick cold coffee was out of my tent to head to town.
Another misty morning- wishing I could see the stars- but still appreciating the colors and lighting- how the reds, yellows, and grays look in the fog.
So, after about 5 miles of more rocky and challenging terrain, I began to descend into Snoqualmie on a soft, downhill, forested trail. This was fun- I let my legs go and ran hard for the first time in a while- since I knew I would get to pancakes, a hotel and most of the day off.
Once in Snoqualmie, I easily booked a room, washed up and bit and feasted on pancakes and endless hot coffee. What a luxury! After breakfast, I did all my town errands- shopping for the next section, laundry and gear repairs- and of course rested in the king size bed quite a bit.
Now, fully numbed by hours of Star Trek and Parks and Recreation, and stuffed from a Greek salad, I am suddenly exhausted. Tomorrow promises to be another beautiful day in paradise.
8/13- 33.5 miles
I feel I have become a berry connoisseur. Sampling the huckleberries, blueberries and almond berries in each new part of Washington. So far, Stevens Pass/ Stehekin berries are the best. But central Washington are alright- especially if you choose a bush with especially fat berries. Mmm
The trail today was a kinder and gentler version of the PCT. Smaller mountains, miles of forested trail, a bit less vert (although today I still did 8.5k worth… easy right?!) But without glaciers, and big mountains, moving into central Washington also means longer waterless sections, as well as a lot of dust and exposure. But I’m painting it too critically- central Washington has epic views of Rainier- and honestly, I can not complain about easier trail!
Besides forest, my trail today brought me past deep blue lakes, fields of wildflowers, scenic ridge lines, and plenty of blueberry and huckleberry bushes.
I’m also running into more northbound thru hikers… certainly a lot less than typical, which is nice for the solitude, but more than in the past days. It’s always fun to hear trail names- today was NTN (no trail name) from Alaska, Wick, and Matchstick.
One comment on power lines, guns and military jets seen and heard on the trail. Not a fan. In one of the most peaceful and remote parts of the wilderness, these displays of human meddling and violence disturb me. I suppose violence exists in the natural world as well of course- in the form of predation or storms. And I will not speak ill of hunters as they can be major proponents of conservation and restoration of our public lands. But truly, there seems something utterly wrong about such manufactured, load and deadly inventions in the middle of the wilderness. My soul is shaken when I come upon them. (And today I swear someone shot at me! I heard a whizz with the load bang of a gun … knowing little about guns, I am assuming I almost died.)
8/14- 37 miles of smiles
Awoke today ready to go! First thing was a gorgeous Pacific Crest Trail sunrise viewed from a ridge line, then Rainier viewed through trees and then along some rocky ridges.
Next was a easy forest ramble towards the Urlich Cabin… one of the very few PCT shelters open to hikers. Each year I feel I have to explore it… finding left behind sunglasses, fuel, alcohol and other little signs of hiker stays.
There was quite a bit of exposure today and my first really hot day on the trail. I hiked through many miles of burned forest- for stretches without water, so being thoughtful and prepared was important- you don’t want to miss an essential water break.
Next, wildflowers began to steal the show as I got within 12 miles or so of Chinook Pass- known for its wildflower bloom in August. After climbing up a rocky pass, then down into Sheep Lake basin, I arrived at Chinook, tired, but excited!
Then, it was bam, boom, bang- blooms like a painting! After taking a million photos, It was already just past 7 and I was ready to crash, so I camped just about a mile to the south of the Pass. Just far enough to not hear the road or be bothered by tourists. Now, I am camped at a sweet little lake- ready for sleep and another day in paradise tomorrow.
8/15- 33 miles today
Awoke at my little lake oasis after what felt like a deep and long sleep. The stars were bright when I arose- with this perfect crescent moon and Venus by her side.
I set out along the wildflower dotted path my eyes hungry for the sights of the colorful blooms. And as the twighlight then sun shone, the flowers and mountains did not disappoint. The lighting was perfect as I trotted along next to meadows, streams, and lakes. I saw my first Elk drinking water from a stream in a meadow, who ran into the bushes upon hearing my footsteps.
I soon entered Mt Rainier National Park, and it was quiet and peaceful there for the first few hours of hiking. Then, soon enough the Saturday day hikers, trail runners and weekend backpackers appeared in droves. Sigh. Really, though, most of the time the trail has felt quiet- with far less PCT thru hikers this year.
Besides the elk in the morning, I saw some adorable little marmot and lots of people on horseback. I passed some genuine cowboys complete with Budweiser in their free hands and reins in the other.
On the final stretch towards White Pass, I passed by numerous lakes- they were pretty, but the trail was buggy and dusty so I didn’t linger. Plus, it got quite hot for the first time this trip and I felt ready for a cold beverage at the store in White Pass.
Soon enough, I was at the road and then the store- eating ice cream and drinking soda to my heart’s content. I caught up a bit with family and bought my food for the next section, and took a blissful shower at the Nordic clubs’ showers. Although the endless cold or hot food, and comforts of WiFi were nice, I didn’t linger because I felt ready to get to Goat Rocks! I hiked about 5 more miles up forested and then exposed trail- busting ass since I was so full of sugar and caffeine. I watched the sunset (nothing like Washington mountains!!) and was ready for sleep the moment my head hit the ‘pillow’.
8/16 36+ miles today (with alternate to climb Old Snowy)
What a fabulous day!! Okay, I ended up a bit banged and bruised, but it was totally worth it! Battle scars, right?
So, I’ll start at the beginning- I awoke early and was on the trail by 4 am so that I could do my climb up knife’s edge and Old Snowy before it got hot. I had dreams of getting to the ridgeline by sunrise, but with 12 miles of ascending to the start of Knifes Edge, I knew this wouldn’t happen.
I did hope I would see some of the sunrise illuminating Goat Rocks…. but the fist 8 miles or so of my journey was in the forest. This felt frustrating- I am a junkie for alpine sunrises- and just couldn’t get a peak through the thick forest… I ran a bunch hoping to escape the tree line, but 6:20- sunrise, came and went and thus no golden hour for me.
Still, the moment I did emerge into the alpine surroundings of Goat Rocks, I was in awe, just like the first time I saw them. The wildflowers and snow fields created a beautiful contrast while the melting snow created cascading streams- perfectly delicious water.
Next was a whole lot of climbing. Yup, up up up and more up- over slippery/ loose rock and scree, with shoes that have now lost their tread and feel 2 sizes too small now that my feet have spread so much. So, I suppose a slip was probably inevitable… but although it was on a tall ridge line, I stopped my slide well and sustained only minor abrasions. Still, enough blood was shed to look badass.
After lots of trudging, lots of breaks to stuff things in my mouth or rest and drink, I made it to the very top of Old Snowy. This is an alternate to a ridgeline and adds likely 1,000 feet of vert and a big challenge! But in all the times I have done the PCT through Washington, this was my first time actually peaking! And it was thrilling and beautiful and absolutely worth the big effort. I saw mountain goat on the way- reminding me to harness my climbing spirit!
After the high of a peak, I scrambled my way down and witnessed epic views of Mt Adams and blankets of wildflowers. The air is absolutely perfumed with floral scents and my soul soars with all the color and beauty.
After some traversing, climbing and crossing over a Pass, my time at 7,000 feet was over and I began the long descent and forest traverse over to Mt Adams (eventually!). Boy, did it get hot! Without the snow fields and glaciated lakes of Goat Rocks, the heat wave this area is experiencing hit me full force. Training for Oregon weather I suppose! Then, around 3 pm, like a fever, the heat suddenly broke- and clouds formed overhead. Unfortunately, this also meant mosquitos came out in full force. Time for slapping myself all over and swatting neurotically as I hike.
Fortunately, the final miles of the day breezed by with hydrating, snacking well, and managing only a dozen or so bites. Now, I am tucked in my tent with a light rain pattering on my rainfly. The weather report said nothing about this, but I am tucked away, so it’s no bother. Nature on nature’s terms. She is a fickle friend.