I was planning to take the bus from El Cajon to Campo ($5) this morning, but ended up getting a ride thus: when I was checking out of the motel, a man approached, asked whether I was a PCT hiker and mentioned that he was driving his brother-in-law to the trailhead. Since I was starting to worry about missing my bus, I asked whether I could come along and received an answer in the affirmative.
When I asked the desk clerk to exchange my remaining dollar coins for paper dollars, HE WAS SUSPICIOUS AND WOULD NOT DO IT (except for one coin; he was willing to lose $1). He said that he had never seen dollar coins before and the cash register ‘had no slot for them’. All cash-handling Americans should read this article. It’s legal tender. It really is.
In the parking lot I met the brother-in-law, nicknamed (not trail named) 5150, and several other family members who had come along to see him off. In their vehicle, 5150 told a story about how when he growing up, he kept having bad reactions to poison oak on his parents’ property until they began feeding him milk from goats that had grazed on the plants. The reactions then stopped. Interesting!
With the help of GOD (typo, I meant GPS) we found the southern terminus and were able to drive right up to the monument. And so it begins, in a terrible wind.
Today’s scenery was different from what I was expecting, but won me over eventually.
I saw one border patrol car lurking on the other side of a road and lots of hikers, many multiple times.
This is definitely PCT south, with hikers doing low miles at normal-person paces. One of those I met stopped for the day at 2:30. Yas queen.
I made camp after eleven miles or so. The site isn’t established but shows evidence of people having visited. The wind has died away but my tent mysteriously shuddered twice just now – I’ve decided to believe the cause was a squirrel.
Pre-concluding thoughts, I’ll note that my phone still works five months after falling into the stream. The external battery started working again too. Don’t give up on your wet electronics!
Northern half of the PCT in general: It’s a beautiful trail. I was impressed by the overall consistency of good scenery, plus the absence of livestock droppings (A++++++++). Being used to long trails with hardly any people, the PCT felt busy, and there was always a strong presence of ‘trail infrastructure’ in the form of shuttles, trail angels/magic, hiker boxes and other town perks. It’s not a crazy adventure, it’s not a trail that you battle with your wits, but it’s gorgeous, honey.
Favourite part: The Three Sisters area in Oregon! The volcanoes were bizarre, the lava was lava, and the view from the Collier Glacier View side trail was my favourite from the entire hike. I met people who skipped Oregon. Don’t skip Oregon.
Favourite rest stops: In my opinion and from order to south to north, the locations with the best hiker facilities were Seiad Valley, Shelter Cove, Trout Lake and Stevens Pass (with the exception of the terrible Wi-Fi at Stevens Pass, but the Mountaineers Lodge is amazing). My favourite town overall was Cascade Locks. Avoid purchasing supplies at Elk Lake or Stevens Pass. Don’t leave food or gear in the main bear box at Mazama Village. Future hikers considering where to resupply should check out the yearly Halfway Anywhere surveys.
Irritants on the PCT:
I overheard a conversation at Crater Lake that went like this:
Boy #1: Come on, let’s go. Boy #2: That way is longer. Boy #1: But there are fewer bugs. Walk strategically! (I want this to be my motto from now on.)
The mosquitoes were really, really bad from Fish Lake to Elk Lake. My bug suit worked fairly well, at least well enough for me to never purchase DEET, and the suit + gloves + pants + rainjacket formed an impenetrable barrier. The season is obviously a huge factor in how many mosquitoes you encounter in various places, but if I had to rate the worst mosquito zones I encountered on a scale of 1 to hell inferno, here are the ratings:
A few areas had thick or evilly concealed poison oak. The nice thing about poison oak is that once you know what it looks like, it’s easy to spot and avoid wherever it’s exposed. Erm, unless it’s been cleared by the hand of God, don’t wear shorts in Grider Canyon.
The worst irritant though was definitely the smoke. In Washington, I had smoke for weeks on end. An N95 mask helped with the smell and my cough, which may or may not have been caused by the smoke but was definitely aggravated by it. They’re easily destroyed via squishing, so I recommend bringing multiple masks if you decide to carry them.
Gear: See the notes on the mosquito suit and particulate mask above. I’ve been using the same backpack, stove, filter, etc. for a long time, so there were no surprises. I’m not going to recommend items other than the #peesak because the Internet already contains more recommendations than anyone could read in a lifetime. I will mention that numerous tiny holes appeared in the roof of my Altaplex, so I would recommend that potential Zpacks buyers consider the thicker cuben fiber.
As for clothes… my clothes selections were new. They were not good. The pockets in my pants were too few and too shallow (ref. phone falling into the water and onto grass and anywhere else it had the opportunity to fall out). I also had a ridiculous problem with my bra, which was the type that comes with a built-in hook for converting it to racerback style. Sometimes when I removed my Exos, the hook would get caught in the shoulder strap through the fabric of my shirt, making me scrabble around with my pack partially off. Luckily, no other hikers ever witnessed this. Note and avoid.
PCT terrain: For people with foot/ankle issues, see the below examples of rocky stretches of trail. These aren’t a representation of the trail on average; they show the rockiest terrain that I encountered.
Navigation: Navigation was usually just a matter of choosing the correct trail at a junction. In Northern California, there were junctions with downed signage or missing signage, so maps or GPS were necessary. I met multiple people who took wrong turns and got off-trail. In Oregon, there weren’t signage problems but the trail was indistinct in some of the burn areas and difficult to follow. I also met people there who got off-trail. Ultimately, it’s hard to get lost if you bring maps/GPS.
Fear of heights: I’m afraid of heights in an average type of way. I was bothered by only two spots: the Packwood Glacier section near the Goat Rocks (crumbly trail on a slope) and the section coming into Hart’s Pass (the footing was fine, but the sheer quantity of sloping ledgey trail eventually got to me).
Feel free to contact me with any questions, and see you in the spring!
I got up early this morning, ready to tackle the Crowsnest Highway. While eating disgusting trail granola, I met an Uber/Lyft driver who offered to drive me to Vancouver for $100. Nope. He then offered to drive me to Hope for free, because he was going there anyway to buy flowers for his girlfriend. They had a cute story: he was an older fellow, recently divorced, who had ended up dating an also recently divorced PCT hiker after driving her to and from trailheads along the PCT. At one point during her hike, the tracking on her InReach had failed to work and he had contacted a ranger, who told him to wait a day or two before panicking since most of the time communication is severed for an innocuous reason. Thankfully that was the case. That’s the #1 reason why I would never allow anyone to track me; my mother would probably have a heart attack if the device failed.
Ultimately he drove me all the way to Chilliwack, where he kindly looked up a bus schedule so I could take public transit the rest of the way instead of hitchhiking. Goodbye for now, PCT!
The northern monument marks the end of the PCT but not the end of hiking; I still had five miles to walk to Manning Park today. Along the way I met curious day hikers and PCT hikers heading to meet friends at the border after abandoning their own hikes. The fourth law of hiking: The likelihood of an object being far away directly increases in proportion to the number of people asking ‘am I almost there?’.
I considered hiking the Mt. Frosty loop trail, but wasn’t enthusiastic in the rainy weather – it has returned – and stayed on the PCT until I reached the highway. There I met a fellow waiting to pick up his son, who was scheduled to finish the PCT today. My mother is a terrible worrier (as frantic as you can imagine, then more frantic) but my father is mellow, so when the man was asking me questions like ‘has it been cold?’ or ‘have you had snow?’ I was all like ‘yes mate, it’s been freezing, it snowed and rained and hailed for a week’ before I realized that he was a worried parent and therefore needed the appropriate responses (lies). My apologies to any sons/daughters whose parents I may have unduly worried during my trip. He offered me a ride the rest of the way to the lodge, but I liked the idea of finishing on my feet, so I declined and walked the rest of the way.
I was surprised by the amount of infrastructure at Manning Park, which has restaurants, a shop, a lodge, cabins, a hostel, a laundry, etc. In the parking lot I was approached by a shuttle driver who asked whether I wanted a ride into Hope, since he was looking to fill more seats in his car. I wanted to do laundry prior to arriving in Vancouver, so I kept with my original plan of staying one night at the hostel in Manning Park.
The employees at the lodge reception desk were lovely. I asked whether I could borrow a recharging cord for my phone, and they did have a spare one that they lent me in exchange for a credit card as collateral. I was also able to use the computer in their lobby, but the Internet was so slow as to be almost useless. With much wanting-to-hit-the-computerness I managed to book a plane ticket home for tomorrow. Vancouver is a great city and I would recommend touring it to anyone who hasn’t been there before, but I’ve spent a lot of time there and prefer the thought of going home. The last remaining challenge will be catching a ride tomorrow.
The hostel is warm and rainless and posh! It has private rooms (with one shared bathroom) for a hostel price, and soap and shampoo are provided. There’s even a Reader’s Digest. Ahhhh, text on paper…
Most of the Holman Fire detour was viewless, but the trail emerged from the trees a few times (sunlight! warmth!) before joining the PCT near beautiful Woody Pass.
On Lakeview Ridge, I encountered a hiker who I had first seen all the way back in the Trinity Alps. Wow, that was months ago. I’m terrible at remembering faces, especially guys with beards (all male thru-hikers look identical to me) but this guy was carrying a whippet, so I was able to recognize him. He recognized me too – the power of the hat. I was surprised by how few hikers were wearing wide-brimmed hats on the PCT, especially considering how cool they are.
The trail descended to Hopkins Lake, which had good camping opportunities. Trees followed, then more trees. I was considering camping near the border and crossing early in the morning, but I didn’t see any good spots, so I ended up reaching the border in the late afternoon. A woman waiting for some friends offered to take a picture. She ended up taking a series of photos and directing poses as well. I’m not from the Instagram generation, I’m from the generation that was told we would be murdered if we posted personal information on the 1n73rn37, so I can’t appreciate photos of myself with the hardcore intensity of someone itching to slather them on the ‘gram, but they’re cute(ly awkward).
Feelings upon reaching the end of the trail: good. I have more appreciation for autumn scenery now, but camping has been fricking cold for awhile and the rain is supposed to return tomorrow. I continued to Castle Creek, where Homebound and Hello Darkness were already camped, and I also met Phoenix and her partner (name unknown). Phoenix had just gotten a job at the PCTA, which is exciting. I had met a PCT hiker on this trip who had applied for the same job and been rejected, so it was nice to be able to congratulate someone. When I told the group about my phone mishap, Hello Darkness lent me her external battery and recharging cord so that I could charge my phone. I gave them a Snickers because GET IT AWAY FROM ME, I’M NEVER EATING CHOCOLATE AGAIN.
I’ve felt colder overnight when camping (Heysen at the cow droppings campsite) but last night was the coldest I’ve felt in my -9.5 degree Celsius/15 degree F sleeping bag. The down is clumped up by now, so there’s a bare spot on the bottom and I could feel the cold seeping up from the ground. I was only warm enough to sleep when wearing both my down jacket and rain jacket, meaning everything except my rain pants and one pair of socks. It’s time to cross the border…
I packed up early in the morning and figured out the actual way to the trailhead, passing a forlorn snowman in the parking lot.
The map showed a shortcut trail up to the beginning of the Holman Fire detour at the Pasayten Wilderness boundary. Heavily torn up by horses, it cut out part of the road walk by angling up to the pass. The scenery was pretty and autumnal with a small amount of lingering snow.
I was low on water, so I stopped at the first stream to collect water, cook potatoes and dry my tent. Three men came down the trail on horses, maybe hunters and a guide, since later I met the leader again heading in the opposite direction without the other men. There’s been confusion about the detour route, with people ending up bushwhacking, but when I arrived at the first detour signs they had been adjusted appropriately. Their text contradicted the wooden signs, so one had to follow the arrows without thinking about the words – always a great idea.
The trail descended into the forest and remained in the forest.
The trail was so torn up by horses that I started wondering whether it was a dedicated horse trail. Nice place names in this area, like ‘Point Defiance’ and ‘Hellrock Pass’. I began running into PCT hikers who had already reached the border but didn’t have permission to/chose not to enter Canada so were heading back to Hart’s Pass. It was nice to congratulate and be congratulated. I corrected the first few people by saying that I was a halfian, then got lazy and didn’t bother.
There were some proper bridges, including one that was under construction and had no railings.
I wasn’t daring enough to use it (look at how high up it is!) and completed an easy rock hop instead.
Well-used yet clean-looking campsites were located at lower points by streams, but I thought that camping at a slightly higher elevation might be warmer, and found a decent site when the sun was setting. The site was almost too small for my tent, but I managed to squeeze in.
I had just gotten into my bag and was fiddling with the doors when a woman came up and asked whether I knew how to get to the creek where her friends were waiting. No, my detour map is small and useless?!?! I asked whether she needed help, but she said no. Hopefully she found the meeting place.
Finally a nice weather day, chilly but without precipitation. The PCT switchbacked up to forested Glacier Pass, then to the more scenic Grasshopper Pass.
I began encountering/passing/being passed by Homebound and Hello Darkness (trail name given in retrospect and without her agreement), who I initially thought were section hikers because I saw them more than once. It turned out that Homebound was a thru-hiker and Hello Darkness had come to join him for the last section of trail.
Beyond Grasshopper Pass, I also began meeting day hikers who had hiked in from Hart’s Pass. The trail became narrow and slanted on exposed slopes, and though the footing wasn’t crumbly or otherwise bad, the narrow slopiness lasted long enough to start unnerving me after awhile.
I was glad when the trail began descending to Hart’s Pass, where I was planning to camp at the small campground with an outhouse, no water and a limit of two tents per site ($8). The small, cold campground with snow patches. Car campers have to pack out their garbage, but PCT hikers can leave it in a bin near the hosts’ hut (see instructions on the campground info sign in case that changes). I claimed an empty site and fired up my stove. Man, it was freezing! Even in all my clothes and standing I was cold.
My tent was in a site right beside the road, and I had two hikers come up and ask me for directions. One wanted to know where the next trailhead is. I haven’t checked yet, sorry for my ignorance. The other wanted to know which way he should hitchhike on the road to get to civilization. I don’t know that either. I’m really sorry.
When I was about to retreat to my tent, two guys showed up and asked whether they could camp near the picnic table. I assumed they had two tents and told them they would have to go to another site. Temporarily they left, but soon returned and pitched a tent without asking again/offering to split the cost. I don’t mind the $4 but I’m irked by the lack of manners.
Making the face hole in my sleeping bag as small as possible…
Today was my ‘zero to avoid the terrible weather’ day. When the sun rose, the sky was blue through the trees. You’re not fooling me, Washington! The weather has been following a pattern where the day starts clear, then rain begins later in the morning or afternoon, so I wasn’t deceived and remained in my tent. I even took a nap, which I never do – I’m not attune to the joy of napping. I mentioned that to my mother the other day and she said that I would understand when I’m older. No, I’ll keep clutching my awake time fiercely.
Due to my phone falling into the stream, I didn’t have the battery life to listen to audiobooks, so after the nap I just lounged around in my tent. Like clockwork, the rain began later in the morning and continued with a period of sleet for most of the afternoon, so I was glad to not be trudging along a windy snowy slope at a higher elevation. The weather for the next three days is supposed to be good, so I can finish the PCT on a high point.
Today’s picture is… I don’t know. It’s the only picture I have from today and I don’t know what it’s meant to be showing, but clearly that thing isn’t scenic merit.
Another mishap today! The forest was sopping in the morning and not long after I started walking, I came to a shallow stream bridged by a log with a flattened but tilted top.
I was almost across when a piece of wet wood broke off beneath my foot and I fell off the bridge. Like a badass I landed on my feet, but the weight of my backpack pulled me backwards and I sat down in 5-6 inches of water. As I flailed around to get out, my phone, external battery and charging cord fell out of my pocket. I didn’t notice until I was on the shore, looked back and saw them beneath the surface of the water. Quickly I grabbed them and dried them off, hoping they had been spared since they weren’t underwater for long. I’ve heard that putting your phone in rice can help with water damage, but I only had flavoured rice, and I figured that getting powder inside the phone wouldn’t make it happy either, so I just turned it off and stashed it somewhere dry. I should have been more upset than I was (why u so expensive, smartphone), but I just kept thinking about the bridge over Muddy Fork and how lucky I was not to have fallen then. If my hiker luck has to fail at some point, sure, fail at a shallow stream!
Just before Highway 20 at Rainy Pass, I found a miniature version of the northern monument sitting beside the trail.
A note indicated that it had been made when the end of the PCT was closed (I don’t think I announced that it’s open again – but it’s open) and of course I had to take a picture, so the phone got turned on again. Then the views from Cutthroat Pass were beautiful, so of course I had to take more pictures, but the water inside the phone (sob) started clouding up the camera, so I have a plethora of foggy pictures.
I tried out the battery and recharging cord too. They worked temporarily but quickly stopped, so I’ll be limited in daily battery usage for the rest of the trail. 10% per day, AZT Mazatzals-style.
Another dump of rain is forecast for tomorrow, so I’m going to take an on-trail rest day to avoid crossing Grasshopper Pass in the snow. I pitched my tent in a well-sheltered spot in the valley. Come at me rain!
My first priority this morning was buying new batteries for my headlamp. The store opens at 8:00 AM and the shuttle bus leaves only fifteen minutes later, so I started hovering at the store doors at 7:45 AM. When they let me in and I asked an employee about batteries, she said they only had one package of two batteries in stock – crushing information since my headlamp requires three. She suggested that I try the hiker box since hikers had been buying four when they only needed three.
I ran down the road to the hiker box. No luck, but Buffalo and her family were at the store when I returned, and when I told them about the batteries, her brother Bryan immediately offered me the three I needed. Such a lovely family!
The shuttle stopped at the bakery on the way to the trailhead. I sat on the bus while everyone else went inside. TAKE THAT, BAKERY. The next sixteen miles of the PCT cut through North Cascades National Park and camping is only allowed at designated campsites that must be booked in advance. North Fork Camp was the most scenic of the campsites, so I would recommend it to anyone wanting to camp inside the park. I was too wary because eTrails says ‘bears and other critters frequent these heavily used camps in the national park’.
As I was hurrying to cross the boundary before nightfall, I glanced to my right and saw a momma bear and two cubs five or six metres down the slope, looking up at me with their identical little cinnamon faces. I should have just kept walking forwards since I was already alongside them, but instead I instinctively retreated a short distance and was stuck. A hiker had told me earlier that he shouts ‘bad dog!’ at bears and I found that easy to shout, so I did so and struck my poles together. Eventually I saw the mother bear cross the trail up ahead, but not the cinnababies, which made me worry that she wanted to keep an eye on me. I retreated a long way off this time and decided to wait half an hour for them to leave.
After ten minutes, a thru-hiker showed up. I requested that he help me scare off the bears and positioned him in the lead (just TRY to run past me on this single-track trail). The bears were gone when we reached the place where they had been grazing, but I heard suspicious rustling in the bushes, so they might not have gone far.
The thru-hiker was much faster of course and sped on ahead. There was rain in the afternoon, but it had stopped by the time I reached the edge of the national park. I checked out what eTrails calls Bridge Creek North Camp, which was overused and gross, then continued on to Prospect Camp, which also had toilet paper strewn around but less. While I was preparing to cook supper, I discovered that I had left my spork in Stehekin.
What did I have as a replacement? A comb. I’ve only used a comb once on the trail, during the licey-feeling incident on the AZT, and I really shouldn’t be carrying one for use solely on zeros, but I guess this makes usage #2. It wasn’t so bad other than an initial shampoo taste and the impossibility of cleaning between the prongs. I ate supper with another hiker who showed up, Woody, and was glad to retreat to my sleeping bag in the dropping temperatures.
I walked the rest of the way to Stehekin Road this morning. The trail was still in good condition, so I have to assume that whoever started the rumours of ill-maintenance skipped Grider Canyon (and can’t be blamed for it).
I didn’t feel like hitchhiking so I started walking to town, but was eventually picked up by the Stehekin Valley Ranch bus and received a free ride to the bakery from the friendly employee/owner.
The Stehekin bakery is a big attraction that hikers look forward to. I ordered a sandwich and a sticky roll from Employee #1 at the counter, paid for a sandwich and a sticky roll at the cash register operated by Employee #2, sat down at a table and eventually received the sandwich but not the sticky roll. When I went to the counter to enquire, Employee #3 told me that they had been out of sticky rolls for some time and treated me like I had lied about the order! Employee #1 was elsewhere. Employee #2 said that she couldn’t remember me paying. I told them that I had paid by credit card and they could check the receipt, but Employee #3 said that the receipts weren’t itemized. Yeah, but you would see that the total was the exact price of a sandwich and an item that I didn’t receive, whether it was a sticky bun or something else the exact price of a sticky bun? Employee #2 eventually gave me two day-old cinnamon buns, which were about the same price as the sticky bun, but I’m still annoyed because I don’t feel like I was believed. Do they have reasons for this suspicion? Is this something that people do? The only other time that I’ve been accused of thievery was when I was also looking like a scruffy hiker and using a self-checkout at an Australian grocery store; an employee was hovering around and became absolutely convinced that I was trying to steal an item until I made her scroll up so that the charge was displayed on the screen. She was really reluctant to scroll up, too. Always so reluctant to seek proof of innocence…
After visiting the bakery that I won’t be returning to, I continued walking down the road. It was a nice walk with interesting features like the old Stehekin schoolhouse and a gumball machine.
I met some friendly people, including an older fellow who had worked in Saskatchewan at the same clinic as my sister’s partner. Therefore, 20% of the people I’ve met who have visited Saskatchewan have an association with my family (see how deceiving statistics with small sample sizes can be, kids?).
The front door of the Stehekin post office opened into a hallway filled with stacks of hiker packages, which led to a small room filled with hiker packages. Basically the employee was living in a state of constant danger of being crushed by hiker packages, and moreover was coming in after hours to label them. I both admire and pity the postal workers along the trail. I picked up my bounce box for the last time here and mailed some unneeded items back to Canada, then pitched my tent in the campground and went to the lodge for supper. The server asked whether I would sit with another hiker, so I ended up sitting with Buffalo, who I enjoyed talking to. She had started out from Holden Village with her brother and father but ditched them to reach the restaurant before closing (a completely valid reason for ditching). The abandoned family joined us later though and we finished the meal together. The food was very expensive, but the hamburger was the best I’ve had along the trail. Also, her dad treated us. Hurray for parents paying restaurant bills!
Today’s breakfast options consisted of toast, hard-boiled eggs and muesli/cereal with various toppings. When I accidentally took a piece of gluten-free bread, a man at the toaster recommended I toast it multiple times so it wouldn’t fall apart. It didn’t fall apart, but it tasted terrible. No amount of jam could save that bread!
After eating and packing I encountered a hiker I knew, Bruce Lee, who told me that he was completely out of food and fuel and waiting for the store to open at 10:00 AM. I had hoped to buy batteries for my headlamp at the store, which was already closed when I arrived yesterday, but didn’t want to wait around until 10:00. Bruce Lee didn’t pass me on the trail today, so I wonder whether the store had only candy and chocolate bars and he had to take the ferry to Stehekin.
I saw no one except a few day hikers in the morning, which was nice. The trail climbed steeply to Hilgard Pass, but wasn’t badly maintained or excessively difficult. In elevation gain and steepness it was similar to this PCT section and the last. Views of the valleys and surrounding mountains were good though autumnal.
The weather behaved until I reached the pass and ate an unfulfilling lunch (the end is too near, I can’t be happy with trail food).
Clouds covered the last vestiges of blue sky as I descended into the valley and I was treated first to rain, then to tiny hail, then to rain again. It didn’t last long enough to be a bother and I dried out somewhat on the pleasant walk through the valley along the creek.
Long downhills tire me out and I stopped to camp early when I saw a site. I don’t know how far I walked or how far it is to the road (the above distance is a guess), but it doesn’t really matter. The total distance from the village to the road is 17 miles so I’ll arrive sometime tomorrow.
One of the chocolate bars that I bought at Stevens Pass has instructions for how to open the wrapper… I’m reminded of the toothpick guy who gave up on humanity in So Long, and Thanks for All the Fish.
My tree spared me from nighttime drizzle. A nice early morning was interrupted by heavy rain as I left the PCT at Suiattle Pass and began the Bannock Lake Fire detour, which started with a devilish ‘hikers shortcut’ that climbed steeply up and down across a scree scope. I was glad to be completing it before the dirt sections had turned to mud.
I reached Cloudy Pass, saw little in the low-hanging clouds and continued onwards. A sign stated that the Upper Lyman bridge was out and hikers should follow the flagged route, stepping on rock or snow as much as possible to minimize impact. I don’t know how long the bridge has been out, but a clearly defined path encircled the beautiful milky lake.
As on all viewless days I felt irritable, and hurried until the sun came out and the clouds thinned. I took a snack/drying off break by Hart Lake before walking past ruins (a former Holden Village?) to Holden Village.
Holden Village is a Lutheran retreat close to Lake Chelan. From the people I’ve spoken to, a fair percentage of PCT hikers are choosing to skip the second half of the fire detour by shuttling by bus to the ferry landing, then taking the ferry to Stehekin. A rumour has been circulating that the trail from Holden Village to Stehekin Road is badly maintained, but the man at the registration desk (who simultaneously informed me about and denounced the rumour) claimed that the trail condition is fine and the views are good. I’m tempted to skip because I would like to ride the ferry down the entire length of the lake, and I would have the time to do that if I skipped, but as of now I plan to hike the trail.
Holden Village amenities: laundry is free, there are overpriced rooms sans bathrooms, supper/breakfast is included in the price of the room or can be purchased separately. There’s no Wi-Fi, but a laptop with Internet is available for use in the library, so I was able to check the weather forecast. If you’re ever tempted to read the collected works of Luther, you could spend thousands of hours doing so here; alternately you could check out the Douglas Adams selection. Supper was a make-your-own quesadilla. Ice cream was offered for purchase afterwards but I wasn’t tempted in the cold weather.
It rained during the night, but the fifty layers of branches overhead fulfilled their duty and my tent remained dry except a few wet spots from the wind. Morale and courage to face the upcoming weather strengthened. Low-hanging clouds created a beautiful scene in the valleys below Dolly Vista.
When I began hiking, the day turned out to be one of much effort and little reward. The highlights were massive old-growth trees and the Suiattle River, a wide silty ribbon.
eTrails states that in the flood of 2003, the Suiattle bridge along with the other major bridges in the area were washed out, so that for more than a decade hikers had to take a long detour or complete a ‘difficult log crossing’. Judging the depth of the silty water was difficult, but no way would I attempt a difficult log crossing on that river. You could definitely die in it.
I tried to find the toilet at the Miner Creek campground, failed and tackled the subsequent climb with where’s-the-toilet rage. I wanted to stealth camp in a spot sheltered from the rain, and spent time searching and clearing and so on, so I was doing camp chores in the dark and fumbling with my phone. I’m eagerly awaiting being able to use my headlamp again.
The sun rose this morning into a beautiful high ceiling, so I climbed up to Fire Creek Pass before eating breakfast. My olive oil had solidified overnight.
The climb down to Mica Lake was pretty, and the lake was pretty too. I would have lingered to dry my tent there if not for the wind, but decided to wait until Mica Creek.
The rest of the morning and the afternoon were spent in a long climb down to Milk Creek and back up again. I completed the ~3000 ft climb without a break and was proud of myself.
By the time I reached the top, the sky was grey and the top of Glacier Peak was hidden in clouds. I saw a mother (presumed) marmot nuzzling a baby (presumed) marmot against an stunning backdrop, since marmots always choose the best backdrops. So cute… if only my phone camera had a decent zoom so I could have taken a better photo. I had to appreciate the scene the old-fashioned way: in the moment.
I had seen no one all day, but a stream of hikers began passing just before I stopped for the night at Dolly Vista, which has a large site with a toilet. I pitched my tent directly beneath a huge tree with many layers of branches, so I’ll be rainproof. But not crushproof. Here’s hoping for lots of raining and no crushing. Six other hikers set up camp in the same site, one beneath the other side of the tree. It’s a great tree!
Nighttime rain. The sunrise filtered through low-hanging clouds.
The only rain during the day was light drizzle, but I regretted missing White Pass and Red Pass and all the other views. I got one glimpse of an impressive glacier, but that’s all.
Everything was wet, especially in the area around Kennedy Creek, where water was flowing down the trail and streams were gushing down the hillside into the creek. One perk of new boots is new Gore-Tex liners inside, and my socks and feet remained dry except for a few damp spots. The bridge over Kennedy Creek was damaged but useable.
A flood in 2003 buried a set of hot springs in this area, and a sign at a trail junction reads ‘Kennedy hot springs. Closed! Area destroyed. Abandoned. Haunted.’ Tempt me, why don’t you.
There were some steep climbs, but I’m getting used to them. The steep and muddy detours around big logs were the problem today, and I fell during one of them and slid on my bottom down to the trail, bloodying my wrist.
Just beyond, I made camp at Fire Creek. The only site not on vegetation was muddy, but it was too late to go elsewhere. A group of three men was not far behind me and I heard them exclaiming at the sketchy log detour.
The sky began clearing around 6:30 PM (TOO LATE). While arranging items in my tent after sunset, I heard a bright, loud ping. I thought it had come from my headlamp, so I took it off to examine it. One of the Rite-Aid batteries had cracked and was leaking. Cruddy thing! Unfortunately I had stopped carrying replacements on this hike due to not predicting my batteries to explode. I still have my phone for light, but having to hold something is a nuisance. I’ll have to try to set up camp before dark in the evenings.
Bigfeet caught up with me early this morning, having changed his mind about taking another rest day at Stevens Pass. He explained that he’s resigned himself to being in pain for the rest of his hike – poor guy. After matching his pace to mine for awhile, he went on ahead when I stopped to rest at Pass Creek.
The scenery kicked it up a notch today, starting with a frustrating period of time during which pieces of Glacier Peak were hazelessly and tantalizingly in view. Finally the whole peak appeared around noon, and I sat down for lunch. The trail continued along ridges, offering views of splendid peaks and deep valleys. I enjoyed the quiet of the trail compared to the hubbub of Labour Day weekend.
When another hiker caught up to me, I was pleased to see that it was Caribou. We took a few breaks together and walked together for awhile. It’s touching when these ultra-strong hikers match my pace.
Speaking of ultra-strong, I had been wondering whether Caribou is an athlete since she’s been doing big miles despite only being on the trail since Crater Lake. Today I found out that she’s a mountaineer – makes sense. She told me some interesting things about Mt. Hood, which has apparently killed more people than Everest. Who knew? People fall into the fumaroles, which also release toxic gases.
Rain was in the forecast today and the clouds began sprinkling in late afternoon. Hoping to make camp before the rain began in earnest, I checked eTrails for campsites and saw a site only 0.1 miles away. It turned out to be a lovely, decently sheltered campsite with a view of Glacier Peak. The next campsites along the trail at White Pass were located on the side of the ridge facing the wind, so I decided to stop. So far the rain hasn’t amounted to much, but it did produce a double rainbow. But what does it mean…?
While packing up my gear this morning, I discovered the shredded remnants of a Snickers wrapper on the ground. I had placed it in a pocket on my pack strap and forgotten about it. Luckily, the backpack was in my vestibule overnight, so the mouse didn’t chew any holes in my tent.
I stopped for breakfast at Janus Lake, where I met Croissant. He mentioned that he had witnessed one of the falls off the Kendall Katwalk this year. He and his friend were taking a break when his friend lost his balance and fell down the mountainside, breaking his ankle before coming to a stop on a small ledge. He said afterwards that in the moment his ankle snapped, he felt sure that he was going to die. Croissant pressed the SOS button on his SPOT and rescuers evacuated the injured man to a hospital in Seattle. He was Australian, so I hope he had travel insurance!
Lots of steep ups and downs today. It feels just like the last leg. My dud ankle began hurting in the afternoon – hopefully it won’t become an issue. As I mentioned previously, my travel insurance runs out on the 20th, so I have a rushed feeling counterproductive to health or enjoyment.
I had been considering camping in an established site near a few seasonal streams, but while eTrails mentions two tent sites, I could only locate one plausible site and it was directly next to the trail and a few metres from the stream. I hiked on and camped at a dry site bordering a meadow.
I tried to use the main lodge’s Wi-Fi this morning to download an audiobook and app, but it was uselessly slow. At least I managed to access the detour maps and a weather report predicting rain every day for a week. There are no easy bailout points in this next section, so hopefully I’ll get decent opportunities for drying off.
I hadn’t included snacks in my resupply box, so I purchased chocolate and chips in the lodge store. The prices were shocking, plus there were no Snickers. Absolutely do not resupply there! Their mango smoothies were delicious though. On my way out of the lodge I met Numbers, who’s working on a PCT app and website that will contain more information about trail towns than other resources. He commented that I look too clean to be a hiker. I’m told that often, but that’s what showers and laundry are for. I’m not a dude, I can’t grow a scruffy beard.
Returning to the Mountaineers Stevens Lodge, I charged my phone, prepared my backpack and ate fruit and odd fettuccine made by Debra before finally crossing the highway and rejoining the PCT.
From a group of hikers heading in the opposite direction, I received a mini-Snickers as trail magic.
Before stopping for the evening, I saw two mice along the trail. All attempts to go to sleep early were foiled by suspicious skittering noises outside.
We were supposed to leave for Seattle around 10:00 AM, but a tire issue delayed Caribou’s brother at a repair shop. When he arrived, Smileyface ended up coming along to pick up her package in Skykomish, where we also ate lunch. Considering the limited time we would have in Seattle, I felt bad about the side trips that Caribou’s brother was making for us: the post office in Skykomish for mine and Smileyface’s packages, and Bigfeet had to visit a running store in Seattle that had his shoes in stock, whereas Caribou and I only had to visit REI. The brother had been planning to visit a museum in Seattle but there was ultimately no time (…). Sorry! We did get drive-by photos of the Space Needle, which must have been a major consolation.
I accompanied Bigfeet into the running store, because why not? It was a cool place that stocked nut butter flavours like dark chocolate + coffee and maple syrup + sea salt. And trail mix, but we already have too much trail mix in our lives.
The employee was a friend of Anish’s, so I’m now going to claim one degree of separation with Anish. That’s probably not how degrees of separation work, but I’m okay with that.
The REI we visited was the flagship store. So huge, so much selection! I had a long wait for service in the footwear section, during which I rambled to a fellow customer about waterproofing – she was looking for the equivalent of a rubber boot comfortable to walk in. Our hiker crew had different understandings of where to meet after making our purchases, and Bigfeet had gone off somewhere else, so those were more delays. In the end, after the shopping, we just headed back to Stevens Pass after a stop at Starbucks. I had fun, anyway.
For supper, one of the volunteers made chili and cornbread. An Australian hiker kept talking about how bizarre the concept of cornbread was and wouldn’t try it. IT’S AUTHENTIC AMERICAN FOOD, EAT IT.