Start mile: 2627.2, 7/20/2018
My-oh-my, I awoke from the chilliest night by far. By morning I was wearing my full parka and had zipped my down sleeping bag into its full mummy configuration. Between the high elevation and the farthest northern longitude on the hike, I’m sure it was the coldest night thus far.
A few pieces of good news greeted me in the morning:
- My pole worked successfully to hold up the tent through the night,
- The wind died down after the first few hours of the night,
- I found my missing crossbar poles under the ground tarp,
- And I awoke to a deer outside my tent (after a few tense moments when my imagination got the best of me with the ground pawing and munching noises unattached to a visible creature until I opened the fly to peer out)
Besides my tent poles, I also found this wicked cricket beneath my tent. I can only presume he came in for warmth but clearly he didn’t make it through the night.
The morning weather was cloudy and even more freezing than yesterday – in stark contrast to the 90 degree days just last week. When the wind blew this morning, it was filled with chill and moistness, laced with the scent of snow.
Heading out on the trail before 8 AM, I was able to skirt around the cloud bank to find some sun breaks. But it it was clear – unlike the battle I witnessed with valley mist creeping up the mountain on the Loowit Trail – this was an all out full army invasion of the mountains by the long line of a front. The winner in this match was determined before the first battle was initiated.
Hiking here, north of the North Cascades, and increasingly deeper in the Pasayten Wilderness, it definitely feels more wild here. Is it because an increase in wildlife on the trail? The first real threat of grizzlies on the trail? Proximity to the border? Lack of people? Regardless – it definitely has the tinge that this is more like Alaska and less like the “National Parks” and “National Forests” that the rest of the trail has had thus far. Granted, the PCT is still pretty remote for the lower 48, but here it feels even more wild, like nature has the upper hand so much so that a mere flick of the wrist will create severe consequences on a man independent of intelligence.
The valleys also emphasize the remoteness. A solid wall of trees go from slope to slope in the U shaped glacier valleys completely unimpeded by road, structure, power line or clear cut. every view from every cardinal direction makes it clear that humans have not touched this place with any lasting effect beyond the trail I was standing on. I could also confidently look down the 15 miles of valley and know – I was the only human in sight.
Also, the “Crest” in Pacific Crest Trail is definitely earned in this section as witnessed by the fact that all the named passes are the low points trail, not high points.
Some hiker porn – here is the anatomy of a perfect rest stop: a seat, a stream, a backpack ledge, some shelves, …
And a view:
Over the course of the day I met only three PCT travelers – all south bounders running way behind schedule to complete the trail this year – and all charactertures. They also all stood in stark contrast to the early southbounders I met now two weeks ago. They were:
- An overweight 40 year old man with a gargantuan pack, slumped over and sweating despite the cold. He was accompanied by his petite wife who gasped at every hint of minor danger that might lie before them in the coming days, fingers hurriedly pressed to her gasping mouth. When I suggested to them that they are running fairly late in the season to make it to Mexico, he said that his wife is only with him until Stevens, and that after that he’ll be able to walk the 30-40 miles a day he is capable of. He even hinted that she was the reason for his delay thus far (1 day in from the border).
- A geeky guy in his 20s with all new gear that was ambling by on a straightaway, eyes passing left and right but with no intensity toward the forward dimension. He had great confidence he was going to make up the time and assured me he knew all there was to know about what was ahead of him on the trail. I happily ended the conversation with that.
- An average joe with a six pack belly (you know, the ones you get from drinking a six pack) that talked on with my endlessly .. and yet I remember no of the conversation now other than my desire to escape so that I could get better mileage in.
It is hard not to judge them, but I knew within seconds that each had the merest fraction of succeeding to make it through the the full trail end that they were all headed to, if not simply the State of Washington. I pushed back on my own judgmental thoughts to find the good – hey, they are at least out here, they are seeing some of the outdoors and they are making the effort. In my own words to the Italian gal at the front of the SOBO train – “it takes more courage to get on the PCT than it does to complete it”
But then Ayn Rand spoke up and helped me clarify – my frustration with them all is their self delusion – the lack of self honesty of their reality. For me to not acknowledge it was to join them in their delusion. A spade is a spade, and it is not judgmental to point it out – just honesty. I shudder even still writing the words for it fights against my core beliefs to strive to not judge – but then, facts are facts. It still feels like honesty and observance of fact that these naive hikers were ill prepared mentally to go the distance.
They actually all fit into a class of people you don’t often meet. They dream big and have enough courage to engage in life, but lack the practicality and thirst for motion to execute. I suspect they will end up owning failing restaurants or boutique shops one day in the future.
What I also found funny was that in each instance, they spent far more time talking to me than I wanted: they lingered – the opposite of my own experience with the pros of the trail. I may be able to use the safety of the rock of honesty to avoid the wind of judgement – but I cannot escape the glare of self honesty that says maybe I am not too different from them in the end.
Despite these three, the feeling of wildness only continued further. The grouses (aka pheasants) on the trail became quite common – and like in other places on the trail, they proved to be quite docile. This mother of three chicks quite grudgingly gave up the trail to me so that I could pass. No comments from the peanut gallery about analogies to my home life!
Geologically, the rocks in this portion of the hike were metamorphic (presumably) renditions of some river bottom conglomerates. The rocks were well worn, and thus most circular. When coalesced into its metamorphic result, it made for quite amazing slabs of granite..
Meanwhile, the mountains of North Cascades NP continued to tantalize the southeast views. The Park’s tallest peak – Goode Mountain – was visible alongside Mount Logan (not the Canada version, sadly) and Buckner Mountain.
With trail life for today captured, my mind picked up from yesterday:
Ok, so again, when does the Director – as if the VP of Operations in a business – does not have the ability to take actions not in accordance with beliefs, morals, or desires?
Or perhaps another way to say it, what impedes The Director from doing a good job? Going back to the business analogy, what makes the VP of Ops for a Fortune 500 company not do a good job? A good job is measured by how well it balances (adds) all of the points (beliefs, desires, needs, memories, moralities) in the Cartesian graph into a vector of action.
Here is a brainstormed short list of what could cause poor action – each with the reason why for the failure listed in parentheses afterwards:
- Fear and Irrationality (disregarding data under the influence of the data)
- Time (forced to act without doing normal process)
- Primal (e.g. lust, hunger, fight or flight response, health emergency)
- Biological (food, body)
- Caprice (acting without regard to data)
- Indecision (not acting)
- The Unknown (acting but without data)
- Skill (what if the Director is just poor at its job?)
- Misguided (data is incorrect or the process is incorrect)
- Shortsightedness or Emotion (incorrect weighting or inclusion of all data points)
Assuming my brainstorming is complete and we continue The Director analogy and that action takes precedence over thought in defining a person, then if I am not acting as I wish to act, being who I wish to be, it must be within one of the reasons above for the breakdown.
Keeping an eye on the purpose of this rooting around – let’s look at which of these reasons may be controllable. Thus, it stands to reason that we can rule out any cause that is external and thus inherently uncontrollable. Similarly, some causes are internal, but are rooted in animalistic tendencies – and thus the reactions are uncontrolled by higher level consciousness.
So let’s go through that brainstormed list and figure out which reasons are due to external influences, and which reasons are internal but basically uncontrollable. Either way, these are influences that we can discount from consideration, because they are not something we can inherently apply adjustments to – and thus not be worth our energies.
- Fear and Irrationality – internal controllable influence
- Time – external uncontrollable influence
- Primal – internal uncontrollable influence
- Biological – internal uncontrollable influence
- Caprice – internal controllable influence
- Indecision – internal controllable influence
- The Unknown – external uncontrollable influence
- Skill – internal controllable influence
- Misguided – internal controllable influence
- Shortsightedness or Emotion – internal controllable influence
This means that the Director really only can be altered when the reason for failing to act as I wish to act is for these reasons:
- Fear and Irrationality
- Shortsighted or Emotion
So now we are getting somewhere – and with that, we can call it good for today.
Back on the trail – the mountains of Canada came into view as I approached my final pass and campsite. Mox Peaks, Mount Spickard, Mount Custer, Welch Peak (BC), and double peaked Hozomeen Mountain filled my view to the north, and would become the playground for the sun for tonight’s sunset performance.
And performance it was – a complete two act play was in store for my seemingly (and believably) sole enjoyment. If not sole, then regardless definitely soul.
But first – I had to set up my tent. I found a spot that had a small windbreak just below Woody Pass where I would watch the sunset. Not a soul in sight.
The First act began as the sun broke through the cloud bank in front of me to shine its rays near horizontally across the range of mountains mentioned above.
Obviously, it was beautiful – and a zoomed out mentally to take in how luck I was to witness the view solely to myself.
The sun then set behind a distant cloud bank where it remained for sometime until suddenly it was able to peak out again with an even flatter trajectory over the rugged terrain – and now steeped deeply into the golden reds of light pushed heavily through the long view of the atmosphere. It bathed everything in alpenglow – including the large snow drift at the top of Woody Pass where I stayed to watch the full show.
This second act was deep with complexity and character development. I found myself enjoying it from all across the area, unable to pull myself away from the view despite the quickly dropping temperatures.
Truly, it was one of the more amazing sunsets in my life.
The spectacular sunsets on my trip each seem to teach me a lesson. This one was clear, just like the others, in the lessons I was here to learn:
- I must seek out and sacrifice to seek out beauty in my life
- I must appreciate beauty in my life
- I must make beauty in and with my life
As I returned to my camp site just below the pass, I could see where I stood at the pass projected in alpenglow on the range beyond. My shadow was lost in the immensity of the terrain, but I was there – at the bottom of the V. This pulling me from the audience and into the play was the final sweetener to close off an immensely powerful and impressionable sunset.
- Beginning mileage: 2627.2
- Ending mileage: 2641.6
- Trail Miles completed: 14.4 miles
- FitBit Steps: 40,699 steps
- FitBit Miles: 19.19 miles
- FitBit Flights of Stairs: 330 floors
- FitBit Calories Burned: 5,486 calories
- Weather: Cold!!
- iPhone Battery: 15%
- InReach Battery: 60%
- People Parties Met: 3
- Confirmed PCT hikers: 3
- Conversations about PCT: 0
- Wakeup: 5:00 am
- Camp Departure: 7:45 am
- Camp Arrival: 4:30 pm
- Sleep Attempted: 9:45 am
- Camp Co-Inhabitors: 0
- Sorest Body Part: Bottoms of Feet
- Highlight of the Day: Two Act Play of a Sunset
- What did I shed from civilization: Preference to be in the city over being in nature
- Realization of the day: I must seek out, appreciate, and make beauty in my life
- Trail tidbit I learned today: Don’t linger when talking to people too long