Start mile: 2323.8, 7/9/2018
The day started a minute after midnight when we discovered that long freight trains actively use the track – oh, on the opposite of the road. And at high speed. And with full horns blaring. And every hour so. Finally at 4:00 am I was so much sleep deprived that I started dreading aspects of the hike – just like the last time. When my 6:30 alarm went off, I was ready to go to bed.
My dad and I rendezvoused at the car where we met two PCT thru hikers (southbound) fresh off the trail. I asked them (and later, a third hiker at the deli) how tough was it, and the response was “you want the honest answer?” Then came a whole series of direct day old reports of the trail: feets of snow, 100+ places you’ll need your ice axe for, at least three spots where they honest feared for the lives, fractional speed of progress due to constantly needing to “kick out” your steps. They implored me – independent of my skill (which I never gave them) – to not do it. They said they’d never go back through it. They also mentioned that very significant number of thru hikers heading southbound attempted the crossing by Glacier Peak, but out of their group, only the three of them that they know of managed to get through – the rest exited early and gave up. (I learned later that some made it before them – but not many).
So… yeah, I’d be a fool to not to heed their warnings. Many thinks to Siesta, Hook, and Sky.
“Adapt, and adapt quick!” I told myself.
So I pulled up the exact same contingency list that I made back in Redmond when I was in the same predicament. I was exhausted by the chase for the trail – more so than the trail itself. Finally it dawned on me to take a look at Chinook Pass – the place by Mt. Rainer that I passed on before diverting to Anderson island. With completing Mt. St. Helens and the recoup time on the islands, it should be better now. A quick few checks of trip reports on WTA told me my hopes could be used to bear weight. So we hopped into the truck and headed the ~3 hours south, back to Chinook Pass for a new drop off.
I’d be remiss at this point if I did give a huge note of appreciation to my father for his willingness to go anywhere to help me make this trip a success. Truly, thanks Dad!
We made it to Chinook Pass at noon and it looked wonderful. The snow was nearly gone. Here is a before (from the failed attempt a week ago)
and after (from today)
So I repacked my bags for supplies for the shorter beta section and remove a few things that seemed less likely – goodbye ice axe!
Dad offered to take a snapshot as I hit the trail
And I was off!
It was a mental adjustment to be back on the PCT after Loowit and the redirects. Honestly, the trail seemed like a breeze in comparison to the Loowit – it was well groomed, clearly visible, no obstructions, moderately graded. I was making good head way for late start in no time.
And enjoying new wildflowers in the alpine environment
The views from the trail here next to Mt. Rainer where incredible.
I took snapshot after snapshot.
And the weather was perfect
My trusty friend Mt. Adams came into view soon enough, and she rose above the horizon like the sun as I gained in elevation
I also used peak finder to figure out which mountains I could see
Most of the day hikers stopped at the first point of interest a few miles in – a delicate alpine lake nestled in one of the higher altitude bowls
The trail climbed above the lake, yielding even better views.
I finally reached the crest of the spine radiating out from Mt. Rainer – and allowed my eyes to follow the spine to see that the trail many miles northward to run free.
And yes, still plenty of snow.
The trail reached sourdough gap allowing us a great view and the ability to jump to another ridge line over.
I snuck off trail over the gap to get a view of Rainer.
Onward on the spine now.
Being finally back on the trail after three days down, my thoughts were just in the beauty of the vistas – they were hard to ignore.
And it was nice to be on the trail but with a continuous long view – the primary reason for my being there, figuratively and literally.
The trail held true to its name, sticking to the crest.
I thought of Bruun as I passed by a ski resort all closed down for summer.
My brain was tired from the lack of sleep and thoughts of greater perspective failed to visit me. I laughed as I thought of one of my favorite phrases – “you can only see the mountain when you are not on it”.
Looking backwards, my pride formalized itself concretely by seeing the increases in distance from Rainer.
Soon the late day clouds formed off of Rainer began to block the sun.
It was great fun to see the clouds form…
And then collide with my own mountain:
I reached several burn out areas from last year’s fires as the mist really began to roll in.
It made for an eery environment.
You could smell the creosote like smell, amplified by the vapor mist.
The burnouts receded but the mist doubled down. I was now deeply inside a cloud – and a fast moving one at that.
The mist lost its romanticism as I could feel droplets of water form into rain drops around me. Quite a strange feeling. In the gustier ridgelines, these precipitating drops turned to hail. I raced forward hoping to reach lower altitude.
But by the time I reached a spring – which would be my only water for today since sheep lake and all of tomorrow, I decided to set up tent there:
As I made haste, the wind picked up further and the mist began to further precipitate as the sun went behind the horizon and the temperature plummeted. It was going to be an eventful night. I snapped one last shot from tent before retiring.
And I was really missing my family back home. Sigh.
- Beginning mileage: 2323.8
- Ending mileage: 2334.1
- Trail Miles completed: 10.3
- FitBit Steps: 29,141
- FitBit Miles: 13.74
- FitBit Flights of Stairs: 281
- FitBit Calories Burned: 4,659
- Weather: Cold and wet by the end
- iPhone Battery: 72%
- InReach Battery: 90%
- People Parties Met: 6 (after the throngs in the first 3 miles)
- Confirmed PCT hikers: 3
- Conversations about PCT: 5
- Wakeup: 6:35 am
- Camp Departure: 1:45 pm (after drive)
- Camp Arrival: 7:45 pm
- Sleep Attempted: 9:45
- Camp Co-Inhabitors: 0
- Morning Pack rolls: 4
- Sorest Body Part: hemorrhoids, yuck
- Highlight of the Day: getting on the trail
- What did I shed from civilization: an obsession with set meal times
- Realization of the day: quickly and efficiently adapting to large changes in plans is skill that takes practice, and practice you only get by putting yourself out there in the world
- Trail tidbit I learned today: listen to your body – but also Mother Nature – and always ask fellow hikers about conditions ahead