Harpo and I decided a couple of days on the Washington coast would clear our minds and hearts as we finish one holiday and prepare for the next. We’ve been coming out to La Push for a few years now, always during the winter, and enjoying the solitude of the stormy beaches. This trip was no different – with incredible breakers driven by unprecedented heavy rain throughout the Northwest. The skies were leaden grey, occasionally sparkling shot thru with distant light, and weeping heavy mist. Perfect weather for vampires or PNW natives… the beaches were almost deserted, often allowing us to lay first tracks.
Day 24 -30 (White Pass to Cascade Locks)
Miles hiked this section: 143 (skipped 5 due to fire closure)
PCT hiked so far: mile 2660 to mile 2155
Total miles hiked so far including blue blazing etc: 525 ish
Day 24 continued
After checking our “internet fame”, drinking coffee and chatting with other hikers at Cracker Barrel, Groucho calls the Ranger Station to learn the scoop on the Mount Adams wildfire. The PCT is closed for 12 miles as a precaution so we will have to figure out a reroute.
We buy a 6 pack and walk next door to visit SOBOs Nigel and Coreen who are zeroing at the lodge there. After an hour of fraternizing on their porch we set out on the trail again. Groucho suggests going up an alternate chairlift trail he took last year when he did this section. It saves road walking but is steep and hot. I always feel a little anxious leaving town and also being off trail. We bicker about whether I should use precious phone batteries to check our gut hook app which can GPS locate us. I realize latent anxiety entices me to check my phone and fall into silence.
We meet up with the Trail 2 miles later and hike 4 more miles to camp on the most beautiful ridge by Hogback Mountain. Along the way we meet a family from Tri Cities who look like they know how to have fun – dehydrating their meals and making some awesome foil hydration pouches. I love seeing kids enjoying hiking.
I brush my teeth watching sunset.
Today’s a day I’ve been hearing about for weeks. Goat Rocks! The morning flies by in a pleasant manner… My body feels rested.
As we begin our long ascent for the day we hear a burst of 4 shrieks up ahead. I stop dead in my tracks. “What is that? It sounds almost human.” We wait, breathless. Nothing. A few steps later it comes again, louder. This time more percussive… Not quite human… but too close for comfort, coming just downhill in the brush. We take our standard wildlife stance, broad and tall, stating in loud, low and calm tones “I AM HUMAN”. The thing shrieks again and then we hear crashing thru the hillside below.
“What the heck is that.”
We continue upward, keeping a watchful ear out. Convinced it is wildlife but discussing what kind could it possibly be. 5 minutes later we pass a campsite full of human garbage – propane tanks, ropes, and a huge tarp. Groucho assures me this was here last year but coupled with the noise we start to feel creeped out.
The shrieking comes again, now we begin to wonder if someone is being murdered – the human garbage is making us anthropomorphise the sound. We call out in loud voices and I blow my emergency whistle. We are met with silence. We backtrack and call louder. Silence. Then finally shrieking again. We call again waiting futilely for response. We decide if it was human it would respond with language or some cry for help. We reluctantly walk on.
We pass a meadow with abundant flowers and streams, then begin our ascent to Knife’s Edge, Goat Rocks near Old Snowy. Crossing along the high ridge we see little shadows of Mountain Goats frolicking in the snow patches below. The trail is narrow, rocky, steep and thrilling. At its climax – 2 hours later – we climb up and up over rocks until reaching the apex of Goat Rocks with Mount Rainier luminous to the NW and Mount Adams beaming from the South.
We descend across some easy snow patches and thru a high, dry meadow. Adams beckons. We see no trace of fire on him. The rest of the day continues easy and gorgeous and we pass scores of hikers out on short trips. The frequent contact begins to soften the creepiness still lingering from our morning mystery.
We wake at Walupt Creek where we camped without water. The creek is dry. It is about 4 miles in our day before we come across any more. We need to start tracking our water resources.
When the terrain is flat and gently rolling, hours pass by quickly and little if note seems to happen. We see a huge toad buddy. We are swarmed by skeets again. We encounter disaffected northbounders too hungry to care, and defeated section hikers caring too much weight. Everyone is chatting about the fire closure thru the PCT communication system (word of mouth). While some folks have ignored the closure and hiked thru it in the dead of night “there is NO fire”, I am skeptical. The air is hazy with smoke all day.
18 miles into our day we break at Lava Spring, a source running straight out of a rock side, cold and clear. People have arranged rocks so you can get good drinking water above and then dip your feet or whole body below. It is gorgeous. Groucho slips his shorts off and wades in. We haven’t passed a good swimming spot in days and we are dusty. A few minutes later 2 hikers come along. The first time Groucho has ever been caught skinny dipping. The mother and son duo don’t care in the least. We enjoy a long leisurely lunch with these guys. The 11 year old son has wanted to thru hike the PCT since he was 7. His mom is compromising by doing sections with him. This summer is all of Washington. Bad ass.
The day is still young so we set of to get another 6 miles in. We camp in the best site yet, by strong Killen Creek that waterfalls down into a meadow under the watchful eye of Mount Adams.
We wake early so we have ample time to navigate the fire closure reroute today. We hike a few miles and just before the closure encounter the milky, thundering, Adams Creek. Our first serious ford. We heard yesterday from a NOBO that there is a spot you can leap across a little ways up.
We begin to walk up and up along the creek side. Nothing looks promising. We continue futilely as the valley steepens and we have to climb over boulders held together only by fine silt and gravity. As rocks start to slip out from under my feet and tumble into the creek, I feel we’ve gone to far. This is more dangerous than the stream crossing. I call to Groucho but the roar of the creek drowns me out. The shouting brings frustration and I cry. Damn it. I was going to try not crying this week.
I finally signal Groucho for a conference. It is not an easy conversation. We decide to continue up a little longer because surely there must be somewhere people cross that is safer up here. But we have no footprints to follow, rocks keep slipping. And there is a stench of smoke in the air adding a level of drama to the situation. It is the worst. After 30 minutes we realize there is no end in sight and very reluctantly turn around. I am constantly teary and blowing snot rockets everywhere. Every few steps I cause a rock to dislodge and start screaming each time this happens. No matter. Groucho can’t even hear me the water is so loud. No one can hear me out here. I am alone. I don’t even have the resource to call my spirit animal. She’ll just think I’m dumb anyway. I see a form on the hill above that looks like a scarecrow mountain man jeering down at me.
Finally, finally we get back down to the first place we tried to cross. We know we must get our feet wet and we look down at the widely spaced rocks with white water gushing thru them and bubbling over them, and wonder if they are wobbly? Are they slippery?
We take the leap from the lions mouth to show our true worth and make it on solid, sound rocks, albeit with a super wet right foot.
It isn’t even 7am and I feel like I’ve borrowed a couple extra lives today.
We encounter the fire closure .2 miles further and then hike 2.5 miles down Divide Trail to a forest road where we walk a mile, then get a hitch two miles to Forest Road 23.
There we walk in sun for 3 miles before coming upon lovely folks who hitch us the additional 8 miles to where the PCT reopens.
It’s 11 am by this point. I feel like we’ve lived thru enough this day but there is 10 hours of light left. We take a long break, then waste some batteries listening to music to get us 5 miles further. It sputters sun dipped rain on us as we eat black beans and Fritos and do some yoga. Note: do head stands *before* you eat beans.
The rest of the day continues gently uphill. We feast on huckleberries, aka power pellets. At the end of the day we run out of steam so we sing. Then make stupid fart jokes (sorry mom) to wind power us uphill.
We take a 1.4 mile alternate “sawtooth” to catch some great views of Adams shrouded in smoke at sunset.
I wake in the middle of the night to rain and strong wind. I’m pretty sure the fir is going to come down on us (it doesn’t).
We sleep in a little. Yesterday was brutal and it’s still raining.
We begin the day nice and easy in Indian Heaven wilderness passing Dear Lake and Elk Lake and Blue Lake. It’s too cold and windy to enjoy any of these.
Afternoon comes and we descend to warmer temps and huckleberries galore. We eat pints and pints. After lunch at Crest Horse Camp we dry our gear in the sun, then start up Big Huckleberry Mountain. It’s our 4th day in a row attempting a 25ish mile day. I’m feeling pretty good. I do some mantra chanting.
I am somewhere in the middle of this long form process of quieting the mind. First I must purge all the wandering thoughts and today’s theme seems to be relationships of days gone by. I reflect on old flames. Flickers of past lives and past crushes. Untapped potentials. It takes so long for the mind to ignite all these seeds and burn them down. I feel simultaneously filled with nostalgia, gratitude, warmth, remorse and what ifs.
The first love. Seventeen year old me under Charlie Brown water tower. What if I’d kept those earnest yet fearful vows.
The college crush. Unfulfilled except a stolen kiss under the full moon by a lake in the mountains. My first cowboy camping experience.
The one who taught me about theory of infinite realities. Who I didn’t know really loved me until I made him so mad it didn’t matter anymore.
And on and on… The death struggle of the ego playing out all these realities. Dwelling on all the possibilities that have been and will be for this little life. The other me’s – living parallel lives – fracturing other paths thru alternate choices they made.
I walk along. Waiting for it to fall away so I can be at peace.
In the company of all this love I feel both wholly myself an infinitely alone. A time traveller, a solo soul, wandering from campfire to campfire seeking a steady flame. As I walk I realize the only steadiness I may ever find is within myself. If I can allow it.
We wake in a sweet stealth spot. Groucho’s shin splints feel better following my attempts at Thai Massage.
I see my parents in 2 days, so today I begin the defunk process by rinsing off in Trout Creek during our lunch break. I consider this a prewash only because after scrubbing my feet for 5 minutes my heels are still black. This is why they invented soap. My last actual shower with soap was 2 weeks ago at the Dinsmores.
After a long awesome break I power up tunes and uphill miles seem easy. I’m stronger and stronger. There are beautiful slugs on the trail and I pick one up letting it nibble on my fingers. I have slug love. Later I accidentally roll my foot on a slug comrade and feel remorse not knowing if it will live. Singing my mantra and feeling sad, visions of my beloved Ingrid Cat come to me and I am teary the rest of the afternoon. My spirit guide made into animal form who died too young. I still miss her 5 years later.
The mind continues to burn these stale thoughts and eventually I’m filled with more love than loss.
To make our goal we need to hike 5 more miles. This week wears on me and it is an uphill slog.
I sing musical review tunes and feel better. By 8:45 we make it to a campsite. Not ideal on an open ridge with dark, heavy clouds jetting by on high winds. More dead trees. But we are exhausted and camp here anyway, feeling lucky the rain holds and the roots of dead trees seem to as well.
I haven’t showered in 2 weeks. Or done laundry in 2 weeks. It’s been 4 weeks since we slept in a proper bed with a proper pillow and 5 weeks since I last ate pizza. Today we aim to change all this.
We wake to fog and dew and vow never to camp under dead trees again. We hike our butts off for the first 10 miles of the day. Then Groucho teaches me his new Top 40 hit “Town Food” and we come upon Gillete Lake where we do our second prewash. We think we smell good enough to go get pizza *before* our town shower. This is the goal.
We are in Cascade Locks after 15 miles by 12:30. Hello Oregon. We head straight to the friendly and delicious Cascade Locks Ale House. The pizza is excellent. I want to order a second one right after we finish the first but get another cider instead. We find lodging at Columbia Gorge Inn for $59 bones (hiker discount). We shower, do laundry, eat snacks. Our first proper town visit. By 5pm we are just watching teevee and eating chips. I am tired of resting. But rest I must, since we’ve got miles to go before we reach Mexico.
Next up: 160-some miles until Bend, OR!