A day on the new & old PCT

  • Day 10, July 24: 16.4 miles, total miles: 311.9 – all on trail
  • Parks, Trails & Places of Significance: Pacific Crest Trail (#2000), pre-1978 Cascade Crest Trail/Dutch Miller Gap Trail 1362/1030, Deep Lake, Waptus River, Lake Ivanhoe, Dutch Miller Gap, Cascade Crest, headwaters of the Middle Fork Snoqualmie

A whole day on the Pacific Crest Trail – we haven’t done that since September 29, 2011. Today, we visited our old footsteps from seven years prior. I recall the last time we were on this stretch of the trail it was a rainy day in September with views of clouds, forest walking was a break from the rain, and we were hurrying northward. Today, started with a glorious July bluebird morning, and we’re taking in the scenery as we meander to the west.

Gabriel and I are not in a rush. By forgoing the scramble of Daniel, we’re ahead of schedule. With amazing weather we aren’t cloaked in rain gear and umbrellas that obscure sight-lines. So today we linger…

  • At breakfast with views down to Deep Lake and up to Jerry Garcia Peak.
  • Stopping to watch a pika with its mouth full of bracken fern bound amid talus.
  • In old-growth forest amid oak ferns, wild ginger, wintergreens, and tiger lilies.
  • To soak our feet in the Waptus River.
  • To explore small narrows and waterfalls.
  • To appreciate carnivorous plants.

We encountered several thru-hikers and lots of section hikers the first half of the day while on the new PCT, trail #2000. Many of these hikers seemed to striding fast, headphones in, blinders on, just looking straight ahead. They’d walk right Gabriel and me without even seeing us when we were just a few feet off the trail taking a break. Observing this several times throughout the morning thoughts rotated through my mind: We’re we that oblivious? Are the thru-hiker beauty receptors burnt out around mile 2,438? Why aren’t they looking around in awe? Darn it, Marmot – stop being so judgey and hike your own hike – there’s all sorts of ways to enjoy the PCT.

I feel grateful that once we got to hike the whole trail in a single go. And I feel grateful now to return to this beloved, familiar trail, and feel no need to pass by something I find marvelous – be it flower, stream, critter, or fine trail work.

In the early afternoon we turned off the new PCT (Trail 2000) and onto the old, pre-1978 Cascade Crest Trail (Trail 1362) and headed up to Lake Ivanhoe and Dutch Miller Gap. A warm afternoon, we appreciated the shade of Douglas-fir and western white pines as we hiked up in elevation. By the time we got to a waterfall outlet of Lake Ivanhoe we were ready for a break and a cold drink. Inspired by last season’s canyon exploring in Utah – we took time to scramble up to a little waterfall and alcove where we admired monkey flowers, rock ferns, saxifrages, and lush groves of moss.

Reaching Ivanhoe – I started to understand why Gabriel likes this area so much! Waterfalls cascade down from the snowfields and hanging gardens into deep blue waters that sparkle and dazzle. The lake is surrounded by steep cliffs of granite plunging off Bears Breast and Summit Chief. While there’s a trail to get here – the area feels remote and rugged. We admired the lake, took a photo break (for Gabriel pictures of the lake and for me, pictures of western mountain ash and beargrass). And then we said good bye to the headwaters of the Waptus River and the greater Yakima and Columbia watersheds – I couldn’t help but pause to think of these waters flowing to the grand home river that runs close to old stomping grounds and further east to streams coming off the Continental Divide.

We hiked on up to Dutch Miller Gap – an alpine garden famous in my mind for all the references to it in old trail guides and noted headwaters of the Middle Fork Snoqualmie River. Another beautiful place! It’s a gorgeous crossing of the Cascade Crest. Views down valley to La Bohn Peak, Iron Cap, and Wild Goat – familiar peaks from our time on the Alpine Lakes High Route. We would have lingered here – save for the mosquitoes which were particularly pesterly in the late afternoon warmth. I switched from shorts to pants for a bug barrier.

From the alpine meadow we descended into fir and mountain hemlock forest. The headwaters of the Middle Fork that we “bestrode” just a mile ago as a meandering stream already a roaring waterfall. Around Pedro Camp we poked around the shores of a wetland and reflecto tarn to admire views of Bears Breast and Summit Chief. We worked our way into a bog with the largest population of butterwort that either of us had ever seen! Butterwort (Pinguicula vulgaris) is a carnivorous plant that captures small insects on its leaves and uses enzymes to dissolve them, they are well-adapted for living in low nitrogen environments. We also saw spotted sandpipers for the first time. What a cool spot! But oh the mosquitoes!

We headed down valley admiring mountain hemlocks and Alaska yellow cedar aglow in the late afternoon light and views of familiar peaks when we entered avalanche-cleared slopes. As dusk darkened the forest – we found a beautiful, established campsite next to a stream. How could we pass such luxury up? For the first time in six days – I washed the dust off my feet.

A peaceful night in deep forest next to waters that flow over Snoqualmie Falls and into Puget Sound. It was a good day to linger along the new and old PCT.

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Blue bird morning and a view of one of Daniel’s five summits.

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Tiger lily along the beloved PCT.

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Gabriel demonstrates excellent technique for crossing mellow streams in mosquito country – wear your bug net!

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Deep Lake meadow looking up to Cathedral Peak – when we hiked through on the PCT in 2011 we had a view mostly of clouds.

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Huckleberry season has started.

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Looking at Waptus Lake and distant Goat and Davis Peaks – yesterday we started our day over there.  Now we’re hoofing it up the Dutch Miller Gap Trail to cross the Cascade Crest.

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Mukmuk, let’s go explore what’s up beyond that chockstone.

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Beargrass!

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Mountain ash and the blue blue waters of Lake Ivanhoe.

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The Cascade Crest at Dutch Miller Gap. Gabriel is standing on a boulder back there somewhere.

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La Bohn Peak and Iron Cap – high points on the Alpine Lakes High Route.

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Old Cascade Crest sign. Photo by Gabriel Deal

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Old Cascade Crest Trail makers are some of my favorite. This one melting into the Douglas-fir has long been one I wanted to meet.

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La Bohn Peak from near Pedro Camp.

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Mosquitoes!

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Columbine gardens.

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Glowing forest in late afternoon light. Photo by Gabriel Deal

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Home for the night – tucked into the forest in the Upper Middle Fork Snoqualmie. Photo by Gabriel Deal

 

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