Start mile: 2434.7, 7/17/2018
Waking under a looming threat makes the day arrive in jolts. I knew a battle would take place, but the timing of my choosing. So I awoke, and then fall back asleep. After a 20 mile day, I craved just another hour or two to recharge my batteries to make for battle.
So let me just go on about this mosquitoes just a little bit more. This is not the backyard barbecue on summer day mosquito issue. No person would ever conceive of putting a house here. This is being in the lions den, as if this was the natural source from which all mosquitoes in the world migrate from. From the sound of the buzzing waiting for me outside my tent, it felt like the source of all the worlds mosquitos flowed from the place just outside that precious mesh and fly shield.
I tried to speak yesterday of the dive bombing technique that these new breed of mosquitoes had mastered. But did I mention that one mosquito used this technique and managed to land on my eyeball?
So I got all of my preparations in place with a fully pack bag minus tent. I donned my layers of weatherproofing and netting to engage the enemy. I jumped up and went to quickly pack up the tent when I was struck with a brilliant idea (so I thought in my frenzy). I left the tent fully unzipped, and then quickly swung it back and forth twice above me capturing the mosquitoes swarming around me into the mesh tent. I zipped it up quickly, and oh, oh, oh so deliciously proceeded to fold and compress the tent with all those mosquitoes still in it. My revenge.
Ha! So I thought. It made no discernible dent in the cloud around me. I thought I had lost in my maneuver. But as a preview to later in the day, this was the scene in the bottom of my tent when unfurled:
Ha, I won at least a battle despite failing at the war.
I moved onto the trail – and immediately came upon another fording with a similar swarming, preventing me from changing socks. So yet again, I had double pairs of wet socks. A minor inconvenience when compared to the death by drilling.
And lest you think I overstate the mosquitoes – just know that I am also sparing you the story of how I dealt with the morning duty in mosquito land.
Soon I was above Deep Lake, returning to the safety of alpine environments.
I enjoyed the views from the new alpine environment as I summitted the next ridge.
To my excitement, I came to my first viewpoint of Glacier Peak – the object of so much discussion from the hikers and the destroyer of my own neat schedule. Around it were a variety of peaks – and a sneak peek at Mount Shuksan located right next to Baker.
I walked on along the crest enjoying the views and listening to Atlas Shrugged:
My next challenge was presented by another sign in near duplication to yesterday:
Another fording, this time on one described as “difficult”. Soon I saw the snow melt swollen river:
For this fording, I would need to do a river split in two that was very fast moving and each split would require getting wet up to your knees. The pictures are very deceiving – it looks like you can hop and skip the rocks – but that is definitely not consistent the the reality of ground truth.
Below is the second half. To understand how hard this was, note that the water on the left is a good 35 feet higher than the water on the right. Yes, it was fording through effectively a waterfall.
After completing the fording, the day became much more calmer.
As for fellow hikers, the flood gates were still pouring out south-bounders at a regular clip:
- Dayglow and buddy – I got their trail names, but can’t remember anything more.
- A petite Chinese gal was doing the trail solo and was also looking for a trail name.
- “Salty” and “Potter” were talkative and helpful of the trail ahead
- “Whip” and “Troubadour” worked on a river fording only to find out from me that that wasn’t the big one everyone was talking about.
- Another Chinese guy… and another guy… and another guy…
- Columbus and Blue Bear from Ireland(?). Blue bear was so named by her partner because she mistook a hanging blue camp towel for a bear. They also mentioned that there were 28 people who showed up for breakfast at Stevens Pass – another sign of all the southbounders coming through.
Eventually I got tired of trying to say hi to them all and just resigned that my ethnography studies had reached sufficient sample size.
But then… I got passed by a thru hiker going my direction! Yes, that means a northbounder. And inquiring as to his start location – I was amazed to here Campo in his response: that’s Mexico!
So yes – the first signs of the top elite thru hikers were now showing up in Washington. I tried to engage him in conversation by pointing out the distant Mt. Adams just barely visible from the spot (really incredible, actually) – but it garnered no pause or response. So on to my third attempt – his trail name.
After responding that his trail name was Pathfinder he seemed to pause, waiting for a reaction. After I just repeated his name out loud back to me, he then add “although there is one guy ahead of me and that’s Legend”. And with that, he was gone.
As I watched his figure disappear around the bend, I saw the deeply tanned leg muscles, taunt and strung. His legs reminded me of the peat bog man (Tollund Man) we saw in Denmark.
It was only a few hours later that I met my second confirmed NOBO thru hiker – and for those who are counting, the holder of “third place” for who can first complete the PCT this year. This hiker’s trail name is Fireproof and he was much nicer – amazingly taking a good minute or two to stop and talk with me. When he mentioned he was #3, I told him that at this point, the differences between #1, 2, and 3 doesn’t really mean much, if anything. Nonetheless he had my best wishes given his demeanor.
I later did some quick research on “Legend” and am fairly certain I remember him also passing me on the trail a ways back. He was less communicative than Fireproof or even Pathfinder – I think I just got a grunt from him. These guys are on a mission, and nothing would stop them.
It turns out that “Legend” is aiming to do the Great Western Loop this year. That means hiking the PCT from Mexico to Canada, then taking the Pacific Northwest Trail from the Cascades to Glacier NP in Montana, and then taking the Continental Divide Trail (CDT) from Glacier down to the New Mexico / Mexico border, and THEN manage to walk along the border back to his start in California at Campo. All in a year. Unbelievable.
Moving on, I glanced at a view point northwards and some ominous signs of what awaits for me:
And Glacier Peak was becoming the more dominant figure in the view points as I continued to get closer:
The day was getting long and I needed to make tent. I found an absolutely perfect spot right below Piper Pass. To explain why it was so incredible, I’ll treat you with not just one tent picture – but rather one tent picture for each cardinal direction.
First, here is the view to the south. Yes, I am camped directly under the cliff peaks of Surprise Mountain. And yes, that’s snow right next to me for the third time in four nights.
Now the view to the east. The sun was setting and was lighting up the edges if Thunder Mountain standing over me. I hardly noticed (well, kindof) the mosquitoes pestering me at the campsite.
Next, the view to the west – where you can see the full extent and size of the boulder field surrounding me:
And last – and save as the best – my tent was perfectly positioned for the beautiful scene to the north – Glacier Peak being framed on the horizon. Wow, this was an incredible spot. And not another soul in sight (or encountered for hours).
So I snuggled up in my new home with an incredible mountain view address and started snapping photos.
It was a dry camp and I had minimum water, but the nearby drifts solved that issue:
As the sun began to set, I indulged myself with a bit of self absorption by taking one of my first selfies (below). Eating dinner on a rock overlooking a lake with glacier peak in sunset behind me – it filled me with energy and a direction in life to seek about and find beauty. We just have to open our eyes – and put ourselves out there – to find it. It is our duty, or obligation to life being granted to us to find it and seek it out.
Meanwhile, Thunder Mountain was really beginning to light up with the melting sun.
And then at last, Glacier Peak joined in on the celebration the end of the day:
Having the mosquitoes present made the analogy complete. I was trying to enjoy the view – and yet these small gnatty nuisances kept distracting me from the beauty before me. Overcoming those pesky little tiny distractions is what I needed to do tonight to keep centered on the tremendous beauty before me – and that seemed to be an apt analogy for my whole life.
How can you let anything get in the way of your appreciate for something like this:
- Beginning mileage: 2434.7
- Ending mileage: 2448.9
- Trail Miles completed: 14.2
- FitBit Steps: 39,389 steps
- FitBit Miles: 18.58 miles
- FitBit Flights of Stairs: 346 floors
- FitBit Calories Burned: 5,733 cals
- Weather: Cold
- iPhone Battery: 20%
- InReach Battery: 10%
- People Parties Met: 18
- Confirmed PCT hikers: 18
- Wakeup: 6:15 am
- Camp Departure: 8:15 am
- Camp Arrival: 7:30 pm
- Sleep Attempted: 10:00 pm
- Camp Co-Inhabitors: 0
- Sorest Body Part: The arches of my feet
- Highlight of the Day: Clearing the way to seeing the beauty of a sunset over Glacier Peak from my tentsite
- What did I shed from civilization: Worries of the day to day
- Realization of the day: Keep small things in their place, keep the big things out in front and center
- Trail tidbit I learned today: There is always someone better, faster, older, etc.