PCT Day 155: Down to Town 

​September 12, 2017 

Mile 2551.39 – Stehekin (2551.39-2569.42)

18.03 miles 

We woke this morning with the excitement of town day spurring us on, and the hope that we would be able to make the second last shuttle rather than the last one of the day, which I thought left at 4pm. The beginning of the hike today was quite beautiful, as we wound around the peaks and ridges as they were illuminated by the rising sun. Soon, we descended down into the forest, where we stayed for the rest of the day, although we did glimpse occasional mountain views through the trees. 

We had to cross a creek several miles into the day where there had once been a bridge but it had been washed out. I tried to hop across on the rocks and keep my feet dry, but my trekking pole collapsed on me halfway across causing me to lose my balance and I ended up just walking the rest of the way through the water. We stopped for breakfast on the other side so I could have a chance to slightly dry out my feet, and then pressed on. Hiker hunger is real now (especially after the sad eats of this last section), and I felt hungry again about 5 minutes after leaving our breakfast spot. Because of this, we ended up stopping for lunch closer to 11 then 12, and it was there that I discovered the second last shuttle of the day left at 3, not 4 as I had originally thought. 

At first, I immediately resigned myself to the fact that we would just have to get the last shuttle at 6, but then we did some quick math and realized that if we were fast we might still be able to reach the bus stop by 3. We finished up our lunch quickly and kept going. Gummies was off like a shot but I maintained a fairly steady pace until the final mile or so, when I realized that getting the 3 o’clock bus was actually possible if I booked it, and I kicked it into high gear. I ended up arriving at the ranger station where the shuttle picks up hikers at exactly 3pm, and climbed onto the bus just as it was ready to pull away. 

 The bus stopped at the famed Stehekin bakery on the way into town, but due to some people that needed to make it to the post office before it closed, the driver only gave us 5 minutes inside. I panicked and just started grabbing everything I could, which ended up being two slices of pizza, a day old sticky bun, and a slice of something called Kuchen. Once we got to town, we were able to buy fuel canisters, and I’m so excited to be able to eat hot meals again. I may even treat myself to some hot coffee and tea in this last section. 

This town day has been a total reunion of hikers we’ve known from all over the trail but haven’t seen in ages. Cougar and Dr. McDirty are here, along with Adam, Stephanie, Monarch, Acorn, John, and lots of others. It’s so exciting that everyone seems to be coming together again right here at the very end, after everyone kind if scattered to the winds around the Sierra. We sat, ate, and drank with Cougar, Dr. McDirty, Wang, and Baton for a while, and we’re all camped together tonight in the free camping area here in town. I ate way too much after this last section of not having enough food, and now I’m lying in bed totally stuffed. But of course I’m still going to buy a ridiculous amount of food again at the bakery tomorrow. 

The bus we rode into town. 

We get to sleep in tomorrow, which I am very excited about. The post office doesn’t open til 10, so we’ll get our boxes then and hopefully catch the 11 o’clock bus back to the trail. The next 16 miles of trail are inside North Cascades National Park, so we can only camp in designated camp areas and we have to get a permit for a specific spot. We’re hoping to get one for a site 11 miles out of town, but we’ll have to do that tomorrow as well. There are only 80 miles to go until the border, which is absolutely insane. Today is Tuesday, and we should be in Canada first thing Sunday morning. It’s really happening. 

PCT Day 154: A Beautiful Day for a Five Month Trailiversary

​September 11, 2017 

Mile 2526.86 – Mile 2551.39

24.55 mile

It got pretty cold last night, but I was able to stay toasty and warm in my quilt, which is definitely my favourite piece of gear. We were out of the tent early enough to catch a bit of the sunrise, which hasn’t happened in a while, and it was beautiful. We spent the first bit of the morning up on the ridge surrounded by the mountain tops being illuminated by the day’s first light, and then began to descend back down into the forest. 

We had a big section of downhill to start the day, so we made really good time. The forest was super beautiful, some of the trees were absolutely massive. We had lunch near a bridge over the Suiattle River, and then it was time for the big climb of the day. It was almost 8 miles long, which was kind of scary because we weren’t sure how difficult it was going to be. Well, it turned out to be super easy, and we were able to crush it up to the top in really good time. 

As we neared the top, the forest began to thin out and we could catch glimpses of the jagged mountains all around us through the trees. When we got to the top, there were some seriously gorgeous views as we descended down into a boulder-filled meadow. There was a sign pointing to a supposed campsite, and although it’s not really an ideal spot to pitch a tent (rocky and not very flat), this is one of the most epic campsites we’ve had. We’re wedged between jagged peaks on both sides of the meadow, which were lit up in a beautiful pink light as the sun sank behind the ridge. 

We ate our cold dinners and then set about making up the rest of camp, and while I was in the tent getting the sleeping bags and pads set up, I kept hearing a rustling noise that seemed to be coming from inside the tent. I dismissed it the first couple of times as either Gummies throwing something into the tent or something shifting as I fiddled with the sleeping pads, but then I saw a flash of grey fur beside me. There was a mouse inside the tent! I obviously squealed and leapt outside, and luckily we were able to get him out the door pretty quickly. I had been dreaming of eating a Twix bar for breakfast tomorrow morning while still in bed, but now it is unfortunately outside in my food bad which is stuck in a tree. On that note, the zipper of the tent door seems to be giving out. We managed to get it closed properly after much finagling, and we only have five nights left after this (!), so hopefully it can hold out until then. 

I can’t believe we have less than a week left on the trail. Today we officially hit the point where we have less than 100 miles to go until the Canadian border, and it’s really starting to sink in that this epic adventure is coming to an end. I still feel like I’m ready to be done, but it’s certainly going to be a bit of a culture shock going back to regular life. Today also marks exactly 5 months since we started the trail, and it’s kind of hard to believe that I’ve been out here that long, in the wilderness, hiking. Tomorrow we have 18 miles into the town of Stehekin, which is our final town stop on trail and I’m super excited. I’ll be dreaming of the bakery in town tonight for sure. 

PCT Day 153: Okay Washington, I See You 

​September 10, 2017 

Mile 2508.82 – Mile 2526.84

18.01 miles 

Well, as it turns out, Washington is really quite beautiful when you can actually see it. We knew this all along, but today we finally got further confirmation. 

It rained pretty steadily through the night, and I had a hard time falling asleep because my mind wouldn’t stop worrying about it. What if it never stopped and we couldn’t dry out our things? Eventually I fell asleep, and luckily in the morning the rain had stopped. I was tired and felt a bit like I had a cold coming on, so I had a hard time getting myself up, and of course everything was soaked. The tent, the sleeping bags, the packs. The good news is the day could only go up from here. 

As we started hiking, I noticed we had a completely clear view of the peaks around us for the first time. It was beautiful. And there was sun shining on the tops of them! My only wish for the day, being able to dry out our sopping wet gear, looked like it would become a reality. The day started out with a rather steep climb, and we stopped pretty early for breakfast because we were both super hungry. Not long after our breakfast break, we crested the top of the hill and came upon a gorgeous view of golden hillsides dotted with green conifers and split by jagged grey peaks. It was so beautiful, as I headed down the ridgeside I thanked the trail over and over for letting us get to see it. I was just so happy to finally be getting these classic Washington views. 

We came to a creek where there was a large open, sunny area. A bunch of other hikers had already exploded their stuff everywhere to dry out, so we followed suit and set everything out in the sun to dry. This made for a long break after we had just stopped for breakfast, but it was worth it to get everything dry. By the time we had finished, it was nearly lunch time, but we decided to hike at least another couple of miles before stopping. We lunched by a creek, and then had another little bit of climbing to finish off before a long downhill section. 

When I came to the top of that climb, I found one of the most amazing views I’ve seen yet on the trail. I could see the trail winding down the ridge for miles, and snow-capped peaks were on all sides. It was incredible. I paused for a moment to take it in, and then began the descent. The views continued as I wrapped around the ridge, and suddenly stumbled upon a gorgeous alpine lake nestled amongst the peaks. The water was so blue, it looked like it could be Kool-Aid. Not long after that, the trail was back into the forest, switchbacking steeply down to Milk Creek, where we stopped for a quick snack break before beginning the next big climb. 

The beginning of the climb was pretty scary. It started off with nice, smooth trail that was ridiculously steep, and then when the grade got better, the trail became super rocky and brushy. But eventually, we reached a point where the trail was mostly smooth and relatively well-graded, and were able to crush it up the hill. We got several glimpses of the large glacier above, lit by the last sun rays reaching into the valley, and then by the bright pink alpenglow. As we neared the top, it started getting dark and pretty cold. 

Once we came out of the forest again, we could see the silhouettes of the mountain range in the distance backlit by the orange glow of sunset, and the peaks ahead still lightly illuminated in the dusk. We finally reached the campsite, and by this time it had gotten down right cold. I think the rain was a cold front coming in, because it hasn’t gotten this chilly in a while. We set up the tent and quickly downed our dinners of cold-soaked pasta, which actually wasn’t as bad as it sounds. As I brushed my teeth, I looked up and saw a beautiful show of stars, which is something we haven’t seen in quite some time. I’m now snuggled up in my quilt, ready for a good night’s sleep in my nice, dry tent, and actually excited to see what tomorrow will bring. 

PCT Day 152: True Colours 

​September 9, 2017 

Pass Creek – Mile 2508.82 (2486.70-2508.82)

22.11 miles 

I awoke in the night to the sound of soft rain hitting the roof of the tent. Our first rain in Washington! It had stopped by the time we were ready to start hiking, but everything was slightly damp as we left camp. The low-lying clouds were still hanging around, which obscured some of the scenery from view, but created these eerie, shifting half-views that were super beautiful. The day was cool and even cold at times, and I wore my rain jacket and warm hat pretty much all day (and my tights, which I haven’t hiked in for quite a while). 

The trail was absolutely beautiful today. Jagged peaks dappled with white patches of snow, hillsides splashed with bright red and golds, lush green forests filled with cascading creeks. It started to rain lightly a bit after lunch, as we began the day’s big climb and headed up into the clouds. As we came to the top of the ridge and crested over the other side, we slowly descended out of the cloud and were able to see our surroundings again. The landscape was mind-bogglingly beautiful, despite the rain and the gloom. 

The weather was a reminder that while we’ve made this wild space our home for a while, it doesn’t belong to us. It doesn’t owe us anything, no matter how hard we worked to get here. We’re all at the mercy of mother nature. I’m so happy and proud to call this place my home, at least for the time being. 

We saw like 10 marmots today! 

As the afternoon wore on, my spirits began to droop a little. The drizzle showed no sign of stopping, and I was tired and hungry. Near the end of the day, wet brush soaked our legs and the trail turned to deep mud that tried to suck our feet into the ground. When we finally arrived at the campsite, we set up the tent, still damp from the morning, and sat on the wet ground to make dinner. This section is not great as far as food goes. Not only did all of our dinners come from the hiker box special menu, the one store in town that stocked fuel was all sold out, so we weren’t able to pick up new canisters for our stoves. I was able to coax one last warm meal out of mine tonight, but I’m officially stoveless for the rest of the section, at possibly the worst time to be stoveless. On top of all this, when the resupply boxes didn’t arrive in time I went into a kind of panic and didn’t buy nearly enough snacks for this somewhat lengthy section. So I’ve been trying to limit myself on those, but I know the last day out is going to be a hungry one. 

I’m now warm inside my quilt, which feels really nice after the cold, damp day. I really hope the rain stops at some point tomorrow so we can have a chance to dry out some of our stuff. 

PCT Day 151: I Can See Clearly Now (Kind Of) 

​September 8, 2017 

Mile 2465.66 – Pass Creek (2465.66-2486.70)

21.04 miles 

We awoke this morning in a cloud of white once more, but this time it wasn’t smoke. A heavy mist had settled on the world overnight, and although we still couldn’t see much, it was a welcome change. The air was moist and easy to breathe and smelled amazing, as opposed to the dry, harsh air we’ve had for the past few days. It was hard to tell in the morning if the smoke was still around or not, but later in the day some of the mist burned off and we got some of the clearest views we’ve had in several days, so I think it’s definitely starting to clear. 

The day was fairly uneventful. It was cool, overcast, and misty for most of the day, making it really start to feel like we’re in the Pacific Northwest. Washington has been abnormally dry and hot so far, so a little mist didn’t bother me at all. At least, I’d much rather have my views obscured by mist than smoke. It made for some amazing views throughout the day as well. 

We had lunch on top of Grizzly Peak, which is supposed to have an amazing view but was totally socked in by clouds. A while later, we stopped at Pear Lake to grab some water, and I was so disappointed that it was so cool and overcast today, because it would have been a gorgeous spot to stop for a swim. We stopped for camp just before 7pm, which was really nice as we were able to get everything done before true darkness set in. 

We only have a little over a week left on the trail now, so the end is getting really real. I really enjoyed today, which I’m glad about because I really wasn’t feeling too enthusiastic about the trail when we left town after the last section. Tomorrow we’re entering Glacier Peak Wilderness, which is supposed to be really incredible, so I’m hoping that it stays clear enough for us to actually get to see it. Fingers crossed! 

PCT Day 150: Reunion in Skykomish 

​September 7, 2017 

Skykomish – Mile 2465.66 (2461.62-2465.66)

4.05 miles 

Slept in this morning in a real bed, then set about doing town things. While Gummies went to put laundry in, I messaged Cougar and Dr. McDirty on a whim to see where they were, and it turned out they were at Steven’s Pass, about to hitch into Skykomish!! We finally caught up! They met us at the Cascadia Inn’s café for breakfast and it was sooo exciting to finally get to see them again. We hadn’t seen them since a few days out of Sierra City. It was so fun to catch up over breakfast and swap stories about what happened on the trail while we had been apart. 

After breakfast, I got to have a long chat with my parents, which was nice, and then we headed over to the post office, which is when things started to go south a bit. At the post office, I was super excited to get to pick up care packages from my parents and my university roommate, but not so excited to find out that my resupply box hadn’t arrived yet. Gummies’ box wasn’t there either, which put us in a bit of a pickle. They would probably be delivered tomorrow, but there was the possibility of having to wait until the end of the day tomorrow if we decided to stay another night, and we were just kind of impatient to get back on the trail and get to Canada. 

Luckily, the hiker box at the inn was totally stacked, and we were able to almost entirely piece together meals for this 5 day section. We supplemented with snacks from the local deli and convenience store, which was staffed by one of the nicest ladies ever. I think this may have been one of the friendliest towns we’ve experienced so far, as far as the locals go. Everyone was just so incredibly kind (which was much needed and appreciated after a frustrating few days on trail). 

As we were walking back to the deli after checking out the gas station across the street, a guy walking to his truck asked if we needed a ride back to the trail. We didn’t have to stick out our thumbs, score! He drove us up to Steven’s Lodge, where we finished packing up our resupply and filled out water bottles before getting back on trail. The trail was mercifully flat for a couple of miles before the uphill started, and we stopped after only 4 miles to set up camp for the night. Cougar and Dr. McDirty are ahead of us again because they left town a bit earlier, but if we don’t see them again on trail we should at least catch them in the next town, Stehekin. We also saw Adam getting back on trail just as we were. The trail actually started to look like Washington today. It was cool and very cloudy. It may actually rain in this section for the first time since we entered this state. It was still a bit smoky this evening, but it seems to have started clearing a bit, so I have all my fingers and toes crossed that we will actually be able to see this section, as it’s supposed to be super beautiful. 

PCT Day 149: This Kind of Sucks 

​September 6, 2017 

Deception Creek – Skykomish (2441.7-2461.6)

19.9 miles 

Despite our late night last night, we had one of the earliest starts this morning that we’ve had in a long while. We only snoozed our 5:30 alarm once before slowly starting to get ready for the day. The allure of town is just that strong. Once again, the day was filled with smoke. It seemed a little less thick at times, allowing us to just glimpse the beauty that we were missing out on. I’m not sure what’s worse, not being able to see anything at all, or just being able to see enough to know what you’re missing. 

The trail today was filled with ups and downs. First thing in the morning, we had to climb up to the top of Piper Pass, which wasn’t all that bad, but throughout the rest of the day we had several short climbs that turned out to be insanely steep. I was able to keep my spirits pretty high for most of the day, despite the brutal hiking with none of the usual reward of beautiful views. 

I was on the final climb of the day when I just couldn’t take it anymore. The lack of sleep caught up to me, and I was just exhausted, and I couldn’t hold back the frustration of the smoke. This section has honestly just been shit. It’s supposed to be beautiful, and you can tell how incredible it must be, but we really haven’t been able to see anything, and the hiking has been incredibly physically difficult. It’s hard not to feel like we’ve all been royally screwed over by choosing to hike this year. But I’m just going to keep pushing on to Canada, and hope that the skies will eventually clear. 

We didn’t end up getting to the highway til around 6pm, which was much later than the we had originally been hoping for. I was anticipating kind of a difficult hitch into town, but maybe the second vehicle that drove by stopped to pick us up. It was a truck that originally blew right past us, but then began reversing rapidly back toward us. He dropped us off right in front of the local pub where we got some food and beer. We had originally planned on hitching on to the local trail angel house, the Dinsmores, but by the time we had finished dinner it was pitch black outside, which doesn’t make great conditions for getting a hitch. Gummies walked over to the Cascadia Inn to see if they had any rooms available, and they were closed, so we called the late night phone number and they told us they were all booked up (they only have 14 rooms) but there was a no-show that they’d contact and get back to us about. 

A while later, they called us back and let us know that the room was available! We hadn’t really been planning to spring for another hotel room but it was just so needed after this last section and we didn’t know where else to go that late into the night. The guy who ran the inn was super friendly, letting us know where all the services were that we might need in town and knowing exactly what we’d need as hikers. We got to shower and go to sleep in a bed and it was glorious. The trail provides. 

PCT Day 148: Long Day in Smokey Skies 

​September 5, 2017 

Mile 2416.26 – Deception Creek (2416.26-2441.7)

25.44 miles 

Much to my dismay, the smoke did not disappear overnight. We awoke to find everything covered in a fine layer of ash, and the world still hidden from view by a white wall. Despite this, spirits were high as we left camp. We quickly finished out the last mile of climbing up to a beautiful alpine lakes area, where we stopped for a breakfast break after just a couple of miles. The autumn colours are really starting to come out in the shrubs up here, painting the hillsides with splashes of red and yellow. It’s beautiful. 

The day was fairly uneventful, as we walked through smoke all day with nary a view in sight. It’s a shame that we’re missing out on the beauty of this section, but I was in a much better mental space about it today than yesterday, and was able to keep my mind occupied for most of the day. 

We passed by a bunch of nice creeks again today, and late in the evening, just as it was starting to get dark, we had to cross a raging stream cascading down a talus slope. This involved scrambling along some rocks and walking across a precariously perched log, which was fun.

Earlier in the day, we had committed ourselves to doing 25 miles today no matter how long it took, since we wanted to give ourselves a fighting chance of getting to town before dark tomorrow. And so we hiked into the night. Of course, as soon as it got dark, my mind immediately filled with thoughts of how there’s supposedly a population of like 10 grizzly bears in northern Washington. Oh, the Nighttime Brain. 

Log crossing at cascading stream 

When we got to our planned camp spot, we had trouble finding the campsite in the dark, which is precisely when I noticed exactly how tired and hungry I was. We eventually found it, quickly set up the tent and ate dinner, and headed right to sleep, looking forward to town the next day. 

PCT Day 147: Smoke and Frustrations 

​September 4, 2017 

Ridge Lake – Mile 2416.26 (2397.84-2416.26)

18.42 miles 

We awoke in a thick cloud of smoke this morning. Something must have shifted overnight, because there was no smoke in this area when we went to sleep last night (although we could see the smoke plumes rising in the distance) and now the world was white and the air smelled strongly of campfire. We spent the day travelling through what was definitely really beautiful scenery, although we couldn’t tell because everything was pretty much completely obscured by the smoke. 

It was thick enough that it made my nose and throat burn a little, so there was a bit of physical difficulty, but the trouble was mostly mental. The fact that this beautiful area was for the most part totally invisible really frustrated me. It feels like all the coolest parts of the trail have been just out of reach due to the conditions this year. We had to skip the Sierras because of the snow (yes, I know lots of people got through and we probably could have too, but it just wouldn’t have been enjoyable and the risk of literally dying was a bit too high for me), we missed some of the most beautiful parts of Oregon because of the fire closures, and now we’re finally here in Washington, touted as one of the most beautiful areas of trail, and we can’t even see the scenery because of the smoke. I know there’s nothing that I can do to change this, but it’s still really frustrating. 

On top of this, the trail was also pretty physically demanding today. In the morning, there were tons of steep ups and downs on really rocky trail, so I was moving pretty slowly, which frustrated me even more. Normally that type of trail would be really enjoyable, because it brings amazing views, but of course we couldn’t see any of those. I get pretty down on myself if I feel like I’m not moving fast enough, so I was kind of melancholy all morning. It’s so easy to get wrapped up in comparing yourself to the other hikers out here, most of whom bust out 30 mile days on the regular, but I just never got into that crazy hiker mode. I’m trying to just do my own thing and enjoy it, but sometimes it’s hard not to feel slow. 

After lunch, things got a bit better. I was able to cover the miles with a bit more ease and get my mind off the smoke for a bit. We crossed over some really pretty streams and even a waterfall, which added a nice touch to the afternoon. Of course, as evening was coming on, we approached the big climb of the day. It didn’t end up being too horribly steep, but the smoke was starting to get to me and I was tired. Tiny bits of ash floated through the air as we climbed, and my throat burned. It was fine for a while, and we were hoping to at least get to the top to camp, but we ended up stopping just shy of the top just before 8pm when we noticed a flat patch of ground in the woods. 

The day ended up being much shorter than I would have liked, but I’m trying not to let it bother me. We will have to try to make some good miles tomorrow though so we can get into town before nightfall the following day. Here’s hoping the smoke clears up soon!