Would you hike the trail again? People have asked us this question many times.
We both loved our PCT experience and would happily/will happily someday set out to hike the trail again.
Simply put, Gabriel would do it next year if he could.
Me, I’ll defer a few more seasons before another long walk. Next summer already has plans for festivals, bicycle rides, beer tastings, 100 highest peak climbs, platelets to donate, picnics at farmers markets and the Ptarmigan Traverse. I look forward to enjoying these pleasures of summer and perhaps intersecting with a favorite spot on the PCT where and when I can savor it for more than just a few steps.
But my main reason for why I won’t hike the trail next year: 2012 is the year I need to give back to the PCT community. We experienced so much generosity and random acts of kindness over those trail miles. It’s almost overwhelming to think about the people who are drawn to the trail to help others in real need or simply to add a little joy to their miles. Giving of themselves. Giving for the joy of helping others. That goodness, that positive energy that I received is what I want to pay forward. So next season’s hikers feel that special connection to the PCT world that lights up the eyes of thru-hikers recalling trail magic and trail angels.
Come hiking season next year I will dedicate a few weekends to trail angeling; hopefully in coordination with fellow 2011 PCTers. I’ve got the menus for a rainy weekend and sunny weekend in mind. And a few apt spots picked out for where a hiker could appreciate an unexpected gift.
In the meantime, I know that I owe the Washington Trails Association, the PCTA, the Back Country Horsemen and informal trail crews a thru-hike’s worth of hours. A debt that will be difficult to repay over the rest of my lifetime, but I’ll chip away at it. If it wasn’t for such organizations and volunteers that maintain the PCT and other trails every year, many miles would fade away or be too damaged hike.
When a hiker walks from Mexico to Canada it is not a solitary act. There are many people-most never known to the wanderer-who have made the dream and the journey possible.
For me, the most emotionally moving and powerful moments on the trail, came not from the inspiring vistas but from the realization of the accumulative and monumental efforts that created the PCT and the community that sustains it today. From the first trail visionaries, explorers and trail builders, to the natural resource managers and conservationists whose persistence and commitment (segment-by-segment) created and now maintain the PCT. From the generosity of trail angels-be they established legends, kind unknown providers of a cold drink, or the impromptu offer of a place to stay the night. So many acts of kindness, compassion, generosity, and love of others. As another hiker so aptly noted in a trail register, “Hiking the PCT is restoring my faith in humanity.”
And so, Gabriel and I would like to acknowledge, with much gratitude, people who helped us fulfill our dream of being PCT thru-hikers. Their acts of kindness are some of our best memories of life on the trail. We couldn’t have done it without you.
Resupplies: First off, MANY, Many, many thanks to Boni Deal-Gabriel’s mom-for being our resupply person! Our packages were always where they were supposed to be and had delightful surprises to remind us we were loved back home.
Givers of trail magic: Blue Butterfly and One Step for use of their bear canisters, Jan and Sherpa Jim for a pre-PCT embarking feast, Sissors Crossing and Third Gate water suppliers, the Idyllwild spring cleaner, the crew at the Mesa Wind Farm near Palm Springs, Fritz and Ethyl of Team Turtle near Silverwood Lake, Joanna and the TrailRatz cache near the San Andreas Fault, the Sobo Hobos: Barrelroll, Moosie and Mike, Halfstep for the Cokes and ice cream sandwiches, the assisting trail angels at the Saufley’s: John Deere, Uber and Bristlecone, Early Girl and Water Boy for the ice cream at Hiker Town, the Walker Pass extravaganza thanks to Warner Springs Monty, Okie Girl and Canadug, Dr. Sole at Kennedy Meadows for feasts and foot care, Bristlecone and Uber’s Onion Valley TH assistance, the Welcome to Oregon cooler, Ed and Billie of Drakesbad Guest Ranch, to the police officer at Drakesbad who let us borrow his screw driver to fix Gabriel’s pole and gave us fresh fruit, Piper’s Mom’s cooler and fresh fruit near Chester, Nurse Katie’s sodas, salad and grill at Humboldt Summit, the postmaster in Belden who let us raid the hiker box even though the PO had closed and she was running late for a meeting, the Carsons Pass Forest Service volunteers for fresh fruit, Meadow Mary for the Ebbetts Pass treats, Margaret and Red Moose Cafe for patching Gabriel’s pants, Larry and Lucy’s friends at Kennedy Meadows North, Patt (w/two T’s) at the Muir Trail Ranch, Lost ‘n’ Found and Two Fools at Lava Springs Camp, Big Lake Youth Camp, Mom, Mike and Cheryl for a brunch feast at Timberline Lodge, the USFS Mt. Hood recreation specialist for the detour route, Americorps Crew use of facilities at the FS Parkdale Work Center, Trout Lake Abbey for the carrots, Ron the Chinook Pass elk hunter for fruit on a foggy cold morning, NorthBlades 350 for the trail work and cookies, the ultra runner sawing blowdown near Mirror Lake, Thai Kitchen’s delicious Thai feast, Stacy and Kevin’s delicious homemade cookies delivered on a very wet day, Georgie Heitmann’s help at Hiker Haven, Grandma and Grandpa Malone for finding and delivering size 15 shoes to Baring in very short time, Bad Boy Bean-2001 PCT hiker-for the Stehekin Bakery strawberry rhubarb pie and the crew at the Stehekin Lodge for the extra super-sized meals.
Givers of rides: Scout for the ride to the Southern Terminus, Idyllwild local who offered a ride to town when I was oh so sick, Matt of the Idyllwild Inn who offered a ride back up, nursing student from Big Bear, the retired judge driving out of Big Bear, Wrightwood Mountain Hardware employee, the Johnson family, the proprietor of the Mojave Best Western, Bristlecone and Uber for the ride to Independence, golfers for the ride to Mammoth, Kristin and Russ’s neighbor for the ride to Lee Vining Mobile Station, Terry and Sky for the ride to YNP, all the rides around YNP-especially Annie, Barry and Oliver, Will for the ride and stories to the Reno Airport, Bill the miner for getting us down to Etna, Tom and Acorn for the serendipitous ride to Shasta City, friends Li An and Justin for the ride to Dunsmuir brunch and back to the trail, Grandma Lissa for the ride to Kennedy Meadows, Early Girl and Water Boy for the ride to Sonora Pass, Chris the trail runner in Mammoth, Footloose Sports manager for the ride to Davison St. Guest House, Andy for the ride back, Scout and Frodo for the ride to Independence (they took us to our 1st mile of CA and picked us up from our last mile of CA!), OSU fans at Odell Lake, Emily in Bend, Boni and Dave for picking us up at Cascade Locks, Mom for the ride back to Cascade Locks, Chuck for the ride to Baring, Grandma and Grandpa for the ride back to Stevens Pass AND for coming up to Manning Provincial Park to pick us up. NB: In southern California and our Yosemite/Sierra Fest detour we hitched often. But so often after that rides were offered before we ever asked.
Trail work we encountered: PCTA crew just north of Walker Pass, PCTA crew just north of Castle Crags, FS crew in the Goat Rocks Wilderness, FS crew in the William O. Douglas Wilderness, PCTA crew near Snoqualmie Pass and the ultra-runner turned trail clearer near Snoqualmie Pass.
Back home appreciation: Grandma and Grandpa Malone for watching Gracie and taking care of our plants. Liz Johnston and friends at Cascade Land Conservancy who gave us the Seiad Valley Pancake Challenge and more. Rick Dunning for sharing a thought provoking and enlightening book. And for all the well wishes, blessings and good thoughts sent our way and which affirmed our PCT journey.
PCT miles 2651.3 to 2663.5 – Castle Pass to Manning Provincial Park – Total PCT miles 2663.5
This morning Roo, Chilidog, Seahorse and I started out from Castle Pass, just a few miles from the US-Canadian border. We knew this was our last day on the trail. Our conversations and our rhythm of walking matched our anticipation. We felt on the verge of a great accomplishment. Joyful. Excited. Eager.
We walked into a clearing, mid-conversation and stopped in our tracks. Silent. Smiles spreading across our faces. Before us was our first view of the mowed-over 20 or so foot strip that slices the sub-alpine forest to denote the dividing line. The border. The end.
The northern terminus of the Pacific Crest National Scenic Trail was just a few switchbacks away.
We heard whoops ringing up from Monument 78. The cheers of Pepe Lopez, Boots and Bubbles. Friends who’d reached the border the night before and camped out to take pictures in the morning light. Chilidog and Seahorse ran ahead to join our fellow thru-hikers.
I slowed down, wanting to savor the final steps and enjoy the last minutes before the culminating moment. To breath in the cold morning air of this chilly, shaded valley. To admire the delicate pattern of frost crystals on leaves. To fully imprint the feeling of the trail beneath my feet.
And yet, I was so excited I had to fight my need to rush ahead. So I’d pause. Savor. Breath deep. Snap a photo. Run up to Gabriel. He who calmly, steadily kept an even gait-just as he’d done every day of this journey.
A few more steps through the tunnel of Pacific silver fir and we were at the abrupt edge of the mowed strip that bisects Castle Creek valley. The end and the beginning. We crossed hand in hand into Canada.
Then began the ritual of photos, cocoa and celebrations that await PCT hikers when they reach the end of the trail. Our celebration included our last two cinnamon gummy bears.
PCT miles 2574.1 to 2651.3 – Stehekin to Castle Pass – Total PCT miles 2651.3
Mother Nature has told us it’s time for us to finish our hike. This morning we walked in snow, a dusting of fresh powder that made Cutthroat Pass sparkle in autumn sunlight. Trail-side huckleberries are afire with red leaves. The larch are turning gold. Deep blue gentian-harbinger of winter-are in flower. Streams are icy in the frost of morning. A week into autumn, we now have more minutes of darkness than light.
These are our last full days on the trail. They are full with realizations: Last weekday breakfasts with spectacular views or seats of logs in forest floors or golden grassy meadows. Last water from cold springs. Last marmots. Last time that walking 25 miles a day is the biggest objective of said day. Last maps. Last cold dinners. Last nights in our tent. Last sunsets. Last sunrises.
Not that we will never have these experiences again. (The sun and moon will both rise on October 1.) But the living and making of these moments on this PCT journey is ending. I hope these days of walking for hours through sagebrush, wildflowers, nearly 2000 miles of lupine, over granite ridges, and through many a forest will stay vivid in my mind. That they will be memories I can seek for inspiration as we return to the other world-the one that some people call “real”. I’m still uncertain of that reference. Life on the trail has been more vibrant, richer, with moments more clearly distilled then most I experience in that so-called real world.
While it is a life richly lived on the PCT. We are not distraught that our hike will soon be ending. We’ve enjoyed these last 5 months, 151 days of trail life. It’s been a good walk and our turn is about up. I am grateful for every one of these days. For my partner. For the friends that we have made. For the kindness we have received. For the steps we have taken. For the pure joy of being able to look back and see how far we’ve come.
I’m grateful that we are fulfilling our PCT dreams. I’ve kept true to my 11-year old self. Gabriel’s learned what it means to walk for days and days on end.
But there are other goals to attend now that this dream is nearing fulfillment. I still have the majority of Washington’s 100 highest mountains to climb-some of them taunting me from the PCT in these last days (ahh… Tower) and they won’t get climbed if I just keep on walking. There are books to read. A garden to grow. Farmers markets to enjoy. Beach trips with waves to surf. Mountains with powder to ski. Long lost friends to catch up with after 2700 miles. I look forward to these experiences.
But for now, we’ll savor our time amid the larches, views into the Pickets, and walk amid the gentle mountains of the Pasayten Wilderness.
We’d planned to head out on the mid-morning shuttle up to High Bridge and back to the trail. Our packs were ready to go. We were ready to go. I’d eaten an adorable bunny pancake while talking with Nathan about wildlife field work, Alaska, nonprofits and the Oregon Coast. Gabriel had read his book in the lodge and gazed at the reflection of towering rocks in Lake Chelan.
It was a morning to soak up the last minutes of leisure before heading out for the last 90 miles to Canada. Sitting in the resort’s quiet, dry and warm community room, we were holding onto the last dry minutes before we’d inevitably be soaked.
Outside it was down pouring rain. Cats and dogs. Buckets. Drenching. Rain coming down so hard it bounced back up from the puddles to hit you again. Looking up, snow dusted the highest ridges and trees. Clouds engulfed the mountains. It was time for us go back to the trail and get our last dose of classic Washington PCT weather. And then we realized we didn’t have to hike at all today.
We’d arranged with my grandparents to be picked up at Manning Lodge on Friday, September 30. If we got to Manning, as planned, on the 29th we’d be sitting in a hotel room having just finished the PCT and waiting for our ride. So why go out in the rain now, when we could stay in Stehekin for a day and get to Manning on Friday afternoon. Why wait there when we could stay here? Waiting and staying impose two different states of mind.
We checked the forecast again. 100% chance of rain today. Right on. Snow levels around 5000 feet. Gulp, it’ll be cold and wet tonight. Tomorrow: decreasing rain, some sun breaks. That sounds good. Forecast for Wednesday-Friday: dry and sun. SOLD! We were taking a zero day in Stehekin.
We said good bye to TopsyTurvy, DataMuffin, Euro Trash and LaFawnduh. I’d looked forward to finishing off the trail with these four fantastic and hilarious people, whom we hadn’t seen since the Bucks Lakes area 1,300 miles ago. They’d be awesome to finish with. And yet, Gabriel and I didn’t have to dictate our schedule based on that of others. It worked better for us to take a zero day. Who knew who would come into town while we took the day off? Seahorse and Chilidog? Free Range? Pepe Lopez and crew? They’d be good folks to hike with as well. It took us some 2,000 miles, but we’d learned to listen to our own rhythms and not hasten to those of others.
Now we sit in luxury of the community room of the Stehekin Landing Resort. Looking out at the drenching rain and taking comfort in our dry surroundings. Gabriel reads. I write. We’ll feast tonight on another colossal dinner with friends. For Seahorse and Chilidog, Mowgli and Shaker are now here. We’ll savor a day of nothing to do but rest, talk, be thru-hikers with no other care than what’s next on the trail.
Today feels more like the zero days we took back in the desert, when we had all the time in the world to make it to Canada. Stehekin is now one of our favorite trail stops.
PCT miles 2476.3 to 2574.1 – Stevens Pass to Stehekin – Total PCT miles 2574.1
Getting to Stevens Pass meant nearing home on many levels. Trail going by familiar mountains. My grandparents meeting us in Baring for a critical shoe delivery, visit, and ride back to Stevens Pass. (Thank you Grandma and Grandpa!) Most of all, it meant that the next leg of our hike would take us into the Glacier Peak Wilderness.
I’ve been in love with Glacier Peak since I first saw it with a climber’s eyes. The snowy dormant volcano with rugged ridges that plunge into valleys with ragging rivers, hanging meadows of wildflowers, whistling marmots, and deep ancient forests hushed by thick carpets of moss. I love it for its distance from any road-there is no scenic byway that motors up to a lodge at treeline. It is a mountain surrounded by true wilderness. When I can see Glacier Peak from a nearby summit or the hills of Seattle, my mind is calmed, my soul uplifted. Knowing those rivers are coursing down valleys to forests. Knowing that others might be taking delight in moving through the Napeequa Valley or over White Pass. It is the mountain and wilderness that I love most in this world. And it was the destination I most looked forward to walking to on the PCT. Glacier Peak Wilderness, my home in the mountains.
This section was everything I hoped for. Steep climbs (by PCT standards) up and over passes that rewarded the hiker with views of the North Cascades. Lush meadows a-flower with purple lupine, yellowing corn lily. Green slopes full of whistling marmots. High alpine lakes still iced over with last season’s snow. Deep old-growth forests. Rivers gray and brown with glacial silt. Devils club and brushy overgrown trail. The Glacier Peak section was the closest the PCT came to bestowing the challenges and thrill of climbing mountains, embodying the elements of endeavors into the Wild Cascades.
PCT miles 2401.7 to 2476.3 – Snoqualmie Pass to Stevens Pass – Total PCT miles 2476.3
Sunday morning we woke to drenching rains and puddles in the Summit Inn parking lot. Classic Snoqualmie Pass weather. This would be the wet day, but the forecast promised the clouds and rain would abate tomorrow. Umbrellas up. Rain gear on. Time to start hiking.
Gabriel and I had extra motivation this morning to leave the warm confines of our dry motel room: A Friend with Cookies! Our friend Kevin-who we’d last seen the night of his wedding on the eve of our hike-was delivering cookies that his bride, Stacy, had baked for us. Stacy’s cookies are always scrumptious. Delicious. From the recipe cards of her grandmother or a tried and true cookbook.
Mossman-as Kevin is known on the trail-was at the trail head. He had a spread of Noah’s bagels and cream cheese waiting for us. And he kindly shared the magic with hikers Zm and Goodness who were also heading up the trail. We could all use the extra calories and motivation on this wet September Sunday. It was time to hike up to the Kendall Catwalk and into the ups and downs of the Alpine Lakes Wilderness.
PCT miles 2302.8 to 2401.7 – White Pass to Snoqualmie Pass – Total PCT miles 2401.7
It was inevitable to hike in Washington and to get a little rain. And if it’s going to rain, this is the section of trail to have cloud covered views. The trail rolls gently for 100 miles of lower elevation Cascade country: through the William O. Douglas Wilderness up to the eastern edge of Mount Rainier National Park crossing Chinook Pass, down into the Norse Peak Wilderness where it skirts Crystal Mountain Ski Resort and then over Naches Pass, Tacoma Pass, Stampede Pass, Dandy Pass and then Windy Pass before making the final bend to Snoqualmie Pass.
We watched clouds cloak Mount Rainier as we crisscrossed the ridge that separates Yakima and Pierce counties. Bounding from side to side of waters flowing to the Columbia River and to Puget Sound. As we neared Anderson Lake, the clouds lifted ever higher until they hid Rainier and the setting sun. Our world had gone from blue skies and golden light that glowed in the firs, kissed the lupine and blushed the clouds, to subdued muted tones of gray and white. We were in a cloud. Familiar, comforting. But a contrast to most of our hike.
The rain started falling just after we finished dinner and got into our tent. What timing! We could hear the gentle patter of the drops on the roof. Our layer of silnylon guarded us, kept us dry and we slept well. Rain sleep. Harvey Manning described it aptly,
“No sleep is so peaceful as wilderness sleep, rain sleep. City anxieties cannot follow beyond the sound-range of internal combustion machines, and are submerged too deep to clutter and muddle the calm flow of wilderness dreams. And while rain continues there is no pack to carry, altitude to gain, brush to fight, route to find. Possibly the only pure and quiet sleep remaining for civilized man is a rain sleep in the wilderness, an island in time.”
When the rains are only a small part of your journey-as they were for us-it is easy to appreciate the silver drops glistening on pasque flower, patterning lupine leaves, cleansing the air for deeper breaths of fir and hemlock. Cloud and rain let the hiker focus on immediate surroundings, the details underfoot as the horizon vistas are no longer distracting.
Coming down to Chinook Pass we saw a sign that beckoned hikers to stop in for lunch.
It was just after breakfast time for us, but we at least wanted to say thank you to the trail angel who’d camped out at the pass to help hikers. Ron was using his grill to warm up the diesel engine of his camper truck. It had been a cold night. He stopped his project to offer us chairs and fresh fruit. It was too chilly to sit for long, but we gratefully accepted the bananas. Fresh fruit is one of our favorite types of trail magic. Ron had come up to the pass for a few days to feed hikers and hear their stories. He’d taken archery season off this year in exchange for meeting hikers. We told him just the day before we saw the largest elk-with a rack 7-8 feet wide-that we’d ever seen. In the Park. Ron gave us an elk bugle on his horn and we chatted a few minutes more. He need to get his truck running and we needed to keep going if we wanted to hike 30 miles today.
Our distance goal was not for sake of miles, it was our plan to reach Camp Urich and sleep in the dry comforts of a cabin tonight. Allowing all of our gear to dry out. We thought for certain that other hikers would have the same plan. We saw dry footsteps on the trail, sign that a few hikers weren’t too far ahead. The tracks were Brooks Cascadias though. The most popular shoe on the PCT with a distinctive tread and that made them candidates for any number of hikers we knew were close to us on the trail.
When we got to Camp Urich we found a very well maintained cabin thanks to the Puyallup Sno-Jammers. The cabin was dry, warm, clean and empty. No one else had opted to stay here for the night. We read through the trail journal. Friends were two days to a few hours ahead of us. It was comforting to know we were all loving the trail and making our way to Canada. But we wanted the companionship of our friends, not just their register entries. Still, we were grateful for being right where we were: a dry place to sleep.
The next morning we crossed the historic road that goes over Naches Pass. After reading Egan’s The Good Rain and Winthrop’s The Canoe and the Saddle, I’d marveled at this long-time route and the effort it took to travel that distance by foot or by horse. Moving along a path not nearly so well-maintained as the PCT. Now I had greater appreciation for the distance and time it took to travel from the Nisqually River over the shoulder of Rainier and down into the Columbia River Basin. So many feet had traveled this way. Even with the sloppy mud ruts-brought on by the last wet days-the road felt like a poignant historic place.
We hiked on rolling through beautiful hemlock forest, silver fir waiting in the understory for release from the shade, false azalea and mossy carpets littered with lichen. The light brighter ahead at the edge of replanted forests. We’d entered the checkerboard of private timberlands and public forest. It was not the horror scene described in books accounting PCT thru-hikes of the past. But then, those hikers had walked the trail a decade or twenty years before. They saw these lands at a different stage in their use, dramatic in contract? yes, but not permanent. What had been clear cuts with stumps and slash piles were now beautiful young forests, reminiscent of slopes under avalanche tracks. Time and the efforts of conservationists and resource managers have served these lands, and will serve these forests well.
And a trade off for a few years of young forest is one that any hiker can appreciate: HUCKLEBERRIES! The juiciest, biggest abundance of berries we’ve ever been fortunate enough to graze. A kind, good-natured hunter we’d met at Tacoma Pass (he’d offered us water, beer, whatever he had in his nearby truck) told us we were about to hit the motherload. We’d heard some hype from southbound hikers and hadn’t found this fantastic fictional berry patch yet. Well, the hunter and those hikers were right. We had miles of huckleberries! Black huckleberries, oval-leaved blueberries, Alaskan blueberries, and red huckleberries. We stained our hands purple and red with their sweet and tart juices. Gift of the Cascades.
The berries slowed us down on one ridge where we had views of the Snoqualmie Range. I saw the mountains in a new light with that view. They were dramatic, craggy, worth pursuit. They were the most precipitous peaks we’d seen since the Sierras. It gave me new appreciation for this close to home range. How fortunate to live within an hour’s drive of these mountains! To be able to come to them after work on a long summer day and hike to their summits. To touch wilderness-oh so briefly-after a day in the office. I felt grateful for these mountains, where as before I’d turned my nose up at them. Always deferring to the Mountain Loop, Highway 2, the Glacier Peak Wilderness or the North Cascades when it came time to plan a trip for the weekend. Now I have more respect.
Gratitude and appreciation for the trail and the perspective it instills in a hiker kept coming. In the last 15 miles to Snoqualmie Pass there were four opportunities for trail magic! Three of them noted on Facebook-there is wireless and data service in those hills south of Snoqualmie. How were we going to get to Snoqualmie Pass and enjoy an evening of luxury at the motel with all the magic to partake of!?! This is the joy and the angst of a thru-hiker.
Fortunately we missed two of the magic offerings but enjoyed the others. Near Twilight Lake we encountered the PCTA crew repairing the drainage system for a segment of trail that looked more like a mud pit. On the volunteer crew were Bigfoot Jim and his wife Dona, we’d hiked with Jim in southern California and hadn’t seen him since our camp a day north of Mojave. The summer had been good to Bigfoot Jim and Dona, road tripping, exploring National Parks and now giving back to the PCT. They gave us cookies. I felt inspired.
Onward we went along the backside of the now very familiar segment of the PCT that leads to Tinkham, Silver and Abiel. Peaks we’d hiked often for after-hours conditioning or for mellow weekend excursions. It was exhilarating to know we’d walked to these mountains, traveled a long ways back to a familiar part of the PCT.
Around the bend from Mirror Lake we met a guy with his two dogs and chain saw. The rain was back, steadily dripping. But this guy was happily sawing blowdown while his dogs ran through the woods. He’d run an ultra-trail marathon along the PCT a year back and the race had required participants to do trail maintenance as part of their entry. This guy got hooked on maintaining the flow of the trail. We’d be the first hikers to enjoy his latest work, clearing more than 30 blowdown trees from the trail. What would have taken much effort and time to go up and over or down and under was a smooth walk. Easy steps taken in less than a minute. Fresh cut logs and sawdust along the trail were evidence of the significant damage and significant work. Again, I felt inspired to see someone take initiative to give back to the trail.
Onward we went, more rain falling. Passing happy day-hikers. It was a Saturday and this is Washington. People here hike in the rain. I felt proud of my fellow Pacific Northwesterners for being hardy souls who aren’t dissuaded by weather. We were happy hikers too, knowing we were just a few hours from a dry motel room and hot showers.
We hiked passed the trail junction to Silver Peak and kept cruising toward Windy Pass. It was well after lunchtime, but we wanted a semi-sheltered spot to have a snack. I was nearing bonk stage, wanting to just plop down anywhere on the trail for a few minutes to eat. Gabriel was feeling more selective, he always wants to find just the right spot and he is skilled in picking the perfect lounge spots. We kept on walking and were curious to see a tarp lashed to trees up ahead. Maybe the person packing up stuff would let us sit under his tarp for a bit.
We got more than just shelter. (Good job Gabriel to keep us going!) It was Thai Kitchen, friend of other PCTers Red Beard and Saggs. We’d heard about these guys from our friends Little Bug and Squirrel, so we felt like we knew them. Thai Kitchen had camped out for the weekend at Windy Pass and was performing trail magic for hikers. He wasn’t the anticipated stop based on the facebook beta, but his magic was perfectly timed. He cooked us up a feast of noodles, Thai eggplant, basil, tomatoes and cashews. He gave us cookies and sodas. We were warmed inside and out by his kindness and that was the best meal we’d had in weeks. Thank you Thai Kitchen!
Onward we went and the rain started to pelt us as we hiked through Olallie Meadows and round the bend to roaring I-90. Passing Lodge and Beaver Lakes, so close to places we come to frequently, but had never visited before. And then round the bend from Beaver Lake we were back on familiar ground the base of Thunderbird, Wildside and runs down from the Pacific Crest chair. We were walking through Summit West. And though tempted to follow the fall line straight down to the resort and to the Summit Inn, we stayed true to the trail as it gradually descended the green runs into a thick stand of silver fir and around a bend to the western most end of the Summit parking lot/South PCT trail head.
Our reward for sticking to the trail: Gabriel found a new hat.
PCT miles 2281 to 2302.8 – East Fork of the Cispus River to White Pass – Total PCT miles 2302.8
What a glorious day for my 31st birthday. I could not have asked for a better gift than to enjoy a day in the Goat Rocks Wilderness. We meandered through miles of lupine, paint brush and bistwort; enjoy meadow and wildflower overload. We saw the first hoary marmot of the trail! My namesake species of marmot. We had views of Mt. Rainier, the Olympics, Lemah, Chimney, Mt. Stuart, and many other familiar crags and ridges of the Cascades to the north.
The Knife Edge is a lovely, sometimes airy traverse, with views along every step.
Many thanks to Gabriel for making the most of the culinary limitations of White Pass. He prepared an endearing birthday meal. I particularly loved finding the mini fridge in our room stocked with chocolate milk.
I’m grateful to have enjoyed my birthday on trail.
PCT miles 2155.1 to 2281 – Bridge of the Gods to Campsite near East Fork of Cispus River – Total PCT miles 2281
As we entered the high meadows with close up views of the White Salmon and Pinnacle Glaciers we encountered two backpackers at a trail junction. When asked if we were thru-hikers, we said yes. We took their response to heart, “You’re almost there.” Such affirming words, a benediction of sorts for the thru-hiker with 400 miles to go. This was the first time Gabriel and I had someone tell us, we were nearly finished with the trail.
Nothing is guaranteed. Many things could happen that would cut short our plan of reaching Manning (though we don’t dwell on the possibilities). We shall not take the next 400-some miles and weeks for granted. But the words of this backpacker gave us pause to reflect that yes we had walked a long way and that, by comparison, we did not have much farther to go.
On this afternoon we are relaxed and lingering as we walk up into Klickitat Country. For more than a week, we’ve seen the massive bulk of Adams rising in the distance. Now on its western flank we have magnified views of the glaciers; scale is hard to discern. It feels good to be so close to a mountain, to study the features of rock and ice, to walk amid abundant flowering meadows on its shoulders, to cross the icy streams of glacial melt water.