I wake before 6am at Dinsmores. Excited to finish my last blog entry and have some alone time with nowhere to go. I enjoy a lazy morning waiting for Groucho’s folks to stop by with a food drop. A 2014 thru hiker Butters drops by with beers – thru hiker happy hour starts at 9am, and we gratefully accept. There is a rad NOBO section hiker named Kate there too. Why are so many cool ladies named Kate?!
Lynn and George show up with a couple cold sixes and our resupply as well as the best picnic of hummus and fresh fruit. It hits all the right hiker hunger spots. Thank you thank you!!
We bid the folks farewell at Steven’s Pass around 5pm and then say hey to Milestone at the Steven’s Pass bar. What a cool cat. Visit this guy if you are passing thru this season.
At 6:30 we pull ourselves away from the bar and hike up the hill 4 miles to Lake Susan Jane… A little bit happy in that too much trail magic kinda way. The miles fly by and camp is peaceful.
Groucho wakes me at 5:30 urging me to get going so we can beat the heat. With 80 and 90 degree days we are testing out our desert strategy – hike early, nap during the heat of day, wake around 4pm and hike till dark.
Hiking early in the day is a blessing. The mind is quiet, still in dream land. Animals and birds are awake and alert. Miles are cool and sweet. We pass many lakes this morning. We take a break on a ridge over Trap Lake at an awesome camp overlook. We begin to see all the weekenders heading back to their trailhead, cars, homes, families and Mac and cheese.
Around 11 am we begin our ascent up Piper Pass – hoping to take our big break right after. The trail is exposed, cut thru a field of hot white rocks, burning my retinas in the full sun. I am sweating bullets and there is no breeze. The sunbrellas come in handy.
The back side of the mountain is shady and we aim to break at Deception Lake but alas as we reach striking distance, so does the apocalyptic storm of skeets – hundreds surrounding each of us. In the full heat of noon we don our headnets, wind pants and wind jackets. We trot down the trail… Sticky and sweating under our jackets. An hour later we stop to assess and still at least 10 hungry jerks are hanging on, thirsty for blood. A half hour later they abate and we set up our tent in the first site we find. It’s delicious having a break during this heat. We doze and eat and eat and read and eat.
At 4:30 we pack up and hike lovely fast miles in the waning light of day till about 8pm. We camp next to a creek that has little wading pools where we wash off the stickiness. We sleep as another army of skeets gathers to bounce of our net tent all evening. We are safe. 21 miles.
I wake to pattering rain and distant thunder before dawn. We sleep in. Laying around and snacking and reading in the tent until 8am, packing up just as the rain clears. We walk up to the pass by Cathedral Rock – a magnificent towering mountain. Down a few miles to Deep Lake we are overtaken by another battalion of skeets but this time we are prepared and suffer no casualties.
Around 11am we discover abundant huckleberry bushes and the next few miles we slow down to get our fill.
We decide to start a PCT book club. Right now we are reading a Zerzan anthropological article (No Way Out?) about how language and reason created disharmony in human civilization and that pre language hunter gatherer societies were more sharing and less oppressive of women. I share some huckleberries with Groucho.
We take our afternoon break by a creek for 2 hours. These breaks are the bomb you guys.
After 4pm we begin again, and reach the turn off for Goldmyer Hot Springs Alternate Route, which we take. It is a 27 mile detour which bypasses 36 miles of the PCT. This is not to be missed for folks hiking this year.
We hike 17 switchbacks and 3 miles up to pristine Lake Ivanhoe. Navigate a difficult ford over a swollen waterfall and reach the Dutch Miller Gap around 7pm. Then it is all lovely downhill along a river until we find camp around 8pm.
We wake around 7pm. Hot springs day! This one is legit… We’ve had good recommendations. It feels like Christmas. We have an easy 8 mile hike down rolling hills to the springs. We make it before noon. They are usually full this time of year – only taking 20 people a day – but their main access road is closed for repair during the week for now, limiting access to those willing to make the 11 mile hike in from Snoqualmie. We are the only visitors there.
After setting up camp I head to the hot springs. It is absolutely gorgeous. A late 1800’s prospector broke a hole for the spring by accident looking for minerals and ever since people have been bathing in little cascading, man made soaking pools. The water comes out at 118 degrees and the middle pool is about 108 degrees, the lower about 95 degrees. And then there is a pool of creek water which feels like liquid snow. There are ripe salmon berries and gently maintained greenery. It feels like Eden – especially because clothing is optional.
We enjoy the pools much of the day. Taking a break only to eat, nap and finish my Agatha Christie book. This is the best Nero (near zero day) I have ever had. We finally tear ourselves away at 10:30pm to hike down to camp.
I can’t believe it is July. We wake at 3:33 am to do our big climb to Snow Lake before the sun is up. We do 6 miles before 7:30am. I am suddenly ravenous all the time. The lake looks beautiful but we are called by the siren song of town food and don’t stop for a swim.
We make it to Snoqualmie Pass by 10am, hating the 1.5 mile road walk at the end Ugh. Now we sit at red Mountain Coffee enjoying our mochas and waiting for our friend Juice to bring our next resupply.
We hike on later today. Our next stretch is 99 miles to White Pass. Happy early 4th of July and happy early Anniversary to my parents.
Day 7-14 (Stehekin to Stevens Pass)
Miles hiked this section: 106
PCT miles hiked so far: 184
Total miles hiked so far: 224
Day 7 continued
Each gift comes with a price. So it was with our lovely, bittersweet, drunkerly trail angel of Stehekin. The beers, the personal tour, the Internet and phone were all generously offered in exchange for our full attention to the sweet, lonely soul, repeatedly offering “hot dogs, sausages, hot links”, showers and movies. He was also a little too obsessed with my feet… Later learning he had a bit of a foot fetish I felt slightly creeped out but ultimately he was a softie and I was grateful for his generosity. After days of solitude, the interaction exhausted me and I went to bed that night in the free camp ground at Purple Point a tired depleated empath… feet throbbing from blood that had pooled during a day of unexpected sitting around holding emotional space.
I wake with feet still swollen. We catch the bus to the bakery where Llama, a 2011 thru hiker sells us 2 huge sandwiches, 4 salads, 2 Americanos and 2 bags of Fritos for $30. A deal especially when she tells us there are two bikes outside we can borrow to take up to Rainbow Falls and the historic school house. We catch the bus back to the trail by noon and walk 8 miles. Half way we stop and eat an entire bag of salt and vinegar chips. Groucho thinks hiker hunger might be settling in. We fall asleep in a cedar grove with some dead pines hanging on by threads to their neighbors. Hopefully they hang on one more night.
Father’s Day and Solstice. Our intent to walk from dawn to dusk is thwarted when we sleep thru the alarm. The first half of the day is an uphill trek for 12 miles. The trail is brushy and too sunny and seemingly endless. My pack feels heavy and I begin to despair in that special way that only the onset of menstruation can bring. I start to get lonely and teary and then round a corner – coming upon Groucho who has stripped naked by a rocky outcropping in the thru hiker solstice tradition. Laughter thru tears. The rest of the climb to Suittle Pass sucks. I do finally summit with tears streaming and my Achilles acheing and there are too many Mosquitos at the top for a comfortable break.
Operating on a tip from an elder who looks like he has his ish together, we substitute the next 8 miles of the PCT for a 8 mile detour to Image Lake and the fire tower. Totally worth it with views so nice it hurts my eyes. We begin the steep trek back down to the PCT which lasts at least 30 switchbacks. In a rare moment of impropriety I suggest we do 2 switchbacks nude. Which turns into 5 because we feel so free. And then we round a corner running into a dog named Luna from Leavenworth. We throw our clothes on before greeting her humans. We end the day totally beat after 21 or so miles by a new bridge over a roaring river.
My feet ache before I even get up and we have a 9 mile climb right off the bat to Dolly Vista camp in the Glacier Peak Wilderness. It is thru a beautiful forest filled with huge cedars. I listen to Erin Jorgensen’s new “Hella Zen” album for inspiration and the first 5 miles go fast. Then Groucho and I sing songs and we run into our first other SOBOs. Flo from France and Belinda from Australia. We aren’t alone in the world! They began their Journey a couple days after us but skipped the 60 mile round trip from Hart’s to the border.
The climb feels long, hot and waterless, but breath taking. I keep expecting all this snow to crop up as we near 6000 ft but there is very little.
After lunch we begin a 5 mile descent talking of seasonal work and future plans and dreams. The terrain lulls us into false security with it’s easy flowing switchbacks until the last two miles of increasingly overgrown and rocky trail. It feels like a death trap and we wonder if we are even on trail anymore after some confusing signage at an intersection. We turn back after 10 minutes of bushwacking thru thimble berry and thistles and stinging nettles sure that we took the wrong path, but alas, we were right the first time and now we must re-do that horrible section again.
We are hot and miserable with shredded shins and arms. One finger grows numb from a nettle sting and Groucho trips on a rock. This is inhumane. We finally reach the bridge at Milk Creek and there is no rest spot or natural place to go down to get water so we continue the 4 miles up to Mika Lake. Groucho, mad about trail conditions, blazes ahead. I check battery power and splurge on 1.5 hours of shuffled music on my phone. I need it to get up this mountain. Just before the lake Groucho whistles at me from the ridge above the lake outlet. Seven switchbacks later I join him and watch the snow clumps still floating on the clearest lake water. I strip and stand in the shallow part rinsing away the grime and thorns and sting of this day while simultaneously icing my aching Achilles. Groucho finds the courage to do a full on polar bear plunge. He emerges 1 second later looking wide awake. We bed down on a soft grassy slope overlooking the lake and are asleep before dark despite this 20 mile slog of a day.
After yesterday, today was meant to be easy going and low miles. We don’t set an alarm and wake leisurely at 7:30. We do some good yoga and are feeling great. We hear and see a small rock slide on a nearby hill and feel humbled by nature’s power of self transformation. The first mile up to fire creek pass is challenging but by now the snow is melting fast and feels old hat. We descend the other side and take a long break by a creek, writing, chatting, eating and soaking feet. It is a good day.
After 6 miles we see a sign pointing to Kennedy Hot Springs. The map shows a possible loop to catch this detour, only adding maybe an extra mile to our day. It’s our easy day so why not? The terrain is easy but we have to climb over a few blow downs. We tell each other plots of movies to pass time. As Groucho finishes up Total Recall we arrive at the site of the spring in the river valley and it looks like a bomb has gone off. the afternoon sun is blazing down on an open terrain of blown down white trees, stumps, huge rocks and fine white silt. We don’t see a trail anymore so we take out the GPS for the first time. It says we are on the trail and have just crossed the river. Strange cause we haven’t yet crossed any water. We wander the landscape like alien explorers, occasionally finding validation in disassociated Neil Armstrong-style human footprints. We look for other human signs like a cairn or campsite. We find a murky red pool that might give a good foot soak but it is shadeless and too blazing to go in a hot spring. What were we thinking?
We decide to find the loop trail back to the PCT and then cook lunch. We wander in circles with the GPS trying to figure out where the trail actually crosses the river. It’s not clear so we find a log that seems intentionally placed. It makes me nervous though and rather than walk, I squat and scoot across, probably leaving a trail of menses for some bear to track us. As Groucho cooks I bushwhack through the terrain for signs of trail, noticing instead a few nearby landslides… some as tall as 3 stories. In the bush I lose my spoon. I cry. The 9 year old in me thinks it might be lonely out here in this wasteland. Groucho helps me look and I find it back in the huckleberries hanging on a low branch like a Christmas ornament.
Now time to get out of here and find the loop trail back to the PCT. Groucho checks the GPS. The trail is supposed to be 30 yards west. Toward where the river and log jam is. Huh. So we decide to bushwhack that direction, scrambling up steep, mossy banks, clutching roots and young trees for support. Finally victory as Groucho spots a trail. We hoist ourselves up and hi five. Out of curiosity I turn back to see where this trail began. Ten yards away, the “trail” disappears completely – having been obliterated in a landslide at some point and not rebuilt. We cross our fingers and proceed southeasterly on this track encountering a few other places where landslides have wiped away trail leaving us to carefully bush whack around. As we get back to the PCT I feel relieved. The bushwacking and blowdowns of yesterday have less meaning. We see a sign that warns north bounders of the dangerous trail conditions on the loop. Lucky NOBOs get all the good signs.
We set foot on the PCT and I am thankful for an easy graded, well maintained trail. we hike 2 more miles singing songs to arrive at a soft, low elevation site by Pumice Creek. We are at home. Shortly our international friends catch up and we recount our day… Lovely fellow SOBOs.
Beauty all day. We start with an easy jaunt up to a pass through an expansive meadow. It’s easy terrain and super pretty. We use umbrellas for shade. At the top we take bug photos and eat snacks before walking along the crest of the ridge for awhile. We turn the corner and get our first view of the big lady… Mount Rainer. As we take photos a giant marmot grows bold and comes right up to us for his photo shoot. We descend for several miles along crests with mountains in every direction, blue sky, abundant wild flowers and showers of butterflies. Birds call and marmots whistle and shy pikas beep from their perches. This is life. I am Snow White. As the day progresses clouds start to roll in and finally we get an hour or so of gentle rain making everything dewey and fragrant. The rain breaks as we get to a lake and we jump in. Town is in a couple days and we’re trying this new technique called bathing so we won’t smell so bad. We cross paths with a father daughter duo out for their annual camping trip. Now that her kid is growing up they are going to section hike the whole PCT starting with WA. Nice folks. The terrain is easy going and not too up or down, we sing and chat and amazingly are at camp by 5:30. An easy 20 miles. Maybe we’re getting used to this.
The end of a long stretch is always exhausting. Thoughts turn to town and missed connections and the miles seem endless. Today we encountered a lot of up and down, sun and a really long dry stretch from Pear Lake to Lake Janus… 8 miles or so? We swim in both lakes which is pleasant but the mosquitos and biting flies irritate me and I get snippy. The hike up to Grizzly Peak is too sunny and sweat beads on my brow and lip. I listen to arcade fire on my phone and get all nostalgic and weepy.
I run into Groucho and explain I have feelings. Yogis would say I am experiencing my “pain body” more right now, in the middle of my period. I am carrying the weight of all the injustices ever done to my repressed sisters of the universe – past and present. I think about my friends who have made more conventional life choices by now to have babies and husbands and wonder what is wrong with me. Everything seems bleak and I feel sad that I am probably going to end up a pitied spinster and I am weak and not pretty anymore now that I am 37. Groucho talks me down and says right things and my pain body shrivels up and retreats to its hermitage.
We continue on taking very few breaks to avoid the cloud of blood suckers following us. I have given you enough blood, I say. The last few miles I grow slow and more tired. We sing songs. I can’t believe how long this day is. We climb thru a pass and the breeze dries the sweat and blows away the bugs and we get to go downhill. I am flying for the next 2 miles to camp. We are almost to town.
Blessed town day. We hike an easy 3 miles in on a railroad grade trail and arrive to Stevens Pass. The staff open up the restrooms and I see a mirror for the first time in awhile my eyes are bloodshot and I am a bit too tan. We get coffees and check our internet fame. A 2014 thru hiker says to come to the restaurant at 11. We do and enjoy chatting with Milestone working the bar. We have a beer and huge veggie burgers with waffle fries. A great stop. Just as I am dreading hitching to town, a guy called Meander (a 67 year old who just started hiking at 60 and clocked over 2500 miles last year) walks in offering us a hitch to the Dinsmores hiker haven. A trail angel! We accept and land at Andrea and Jerry’s paradise where we can cook, shower, do laundry and ice our feet for a day. (No store here so get your food in Steven’s or Skykomish.) Our SOBO friends show up a few hours later and we chat and watch dumb movies, going to bed at hiker midnight which is like 9pm.
We now set off for a 74 mile trek down to Snoqualmie Pass. Hopefully posts will be more frequent as we have better cell reception. Questions? Please post in the comments.
It feels good digging in the dirt, picking the good food we eat, singing in the kitchen and scratching little drawings in hidden places around the farm. The days are long – 5:30am to 8 or 9pm – but produce a much different impression than spending every day searching for the strongest image and every night at the bar.