PCT Day 141-143

Day 141

We got up at 7 as it just got too bright but when I opened the tent door to go to the “toilet” I saw that it was also very smoky outside – I coukd barely distinguish the outlines of Mt Adams. The other five hikers left pretty soon but we took it very slow. I went to get water from the river while Kristians was still snoozing but then I kicked both him and T-Bone up. We packed our tent and started to cook breakfast while T-Bone was packing and Agamemnon also slowly awoke. Kristians played some music on the phone and it was a pretty special morning. We finally hiked out at 8:40.

Soon after starting we had to cross a river – luckily there were some thinner logs to help us but it was sketchy nevertheless. The trail was once again mostly in forests but it’s not like we would’ve been able to see the views anyway. For two hours I hiked alone and listened to podcasts but then I caught up with T-Bone and hiked with him.

We picked a lot of wild strawberries and huckleberries on our way, passed a lot of streams and other hikers and in general had a good time (except for T-Bone’s foot pain). Just before our lunchbreak at 12,5 miles the trail started to gradually go uphill, just to torture us. But soon enough we found Kristians next to a small stream, sitting against a tree and snacking.

Next up was a short 6 mile section of uphill and downhill until the next water source. I listened to a podcast the whole way and it went super fast – there were even some views into the valleys below. Soon enough I got to the stream and sat by Kristians to relax a bit. T-Bone was right behind me and we sat for a while, talking to two southbounders. We also found out that there might already be changes to the forest fire detour ahead – apparently another fire had started to the west of the PCT.

We now had 8 miles left to do until our campsite by Sheep Lake at Nannie Ridge Trail Junction. The first two hours the trail was relatively flat but it was nevertheless hot and humid. For the last part of the day we got to enjoy a long steep uphill. But as I climbed higher I could see down into the valley below where acres of green forest surrounded multiple bright blue lakes. The forest was also strangely quiet – there were no birds, I could only hear my own steps. I hiked these last two hours without any podcasts and simply enjoyed hiking itself.

Before I knew it I reached a small junction and noticed the sign Kristians (whose trail name is Coyote) had left me. I found the guys setting up camp and once they finished we all went down to the lake to get water and wash ourselves. Kristians even went for a little swim! We then sat on the grass and had a nice dinner in the warm evening. The only disturbance was the smoke we could see and smell, signalling us of the fires ahead.

Day 142

We decided to get up at 6 already as we were going to hike into White Pass today. We hiked out at 7:20, T-Bone was a bit ahead of us. The morning started with 200 meters of uphill, then the same amount of downhill and then some more uphill until Cispus Pass. As we reached the top of the first climb we suddenly saw a lot of huge craggy mountains all around us – there was even snow on the peaks. This was one of the first signs of finally really reaching the North Cascades and Goat Rocks Wilderness.

After Cispus Pass the trail went downhill for many miles and all of this area was open – we saw countless streams cascading down the green lush meadows and hillsides and could see the waterfall we’d be passing on the other side of the valley. We passed lots of insane campsites and lots of dayhikers and also heard news of the upcoming fire closure – there was indeed a new alternate for the already existing detour, making our day longer by many miles!

We then slowly started to ascend, crossing meadows and more streams. The rocky and scree-filled trail then took us over some smaller snowfields and as we were going to have a longer dry stretch we decided to fill up by a small pond of snowmelt water. But now it was time for a section that’s notoriously scenic on the whole PCT: the knife’s edge. The ridgewalk itself was pretty cool, undulating steeply up and down for miles. The skies were clear and it was a bit windy but sadly the views into the distance were a bit obstructed by the smoke – we could only see the base of Mt Rainier. We took lots of photo breaks and hiked slowly – by the time we finally met T-Bone at the detour junction he had bern waiting for a while. Apparently he had also seen a bunch of mountain goats, he explained – all the while we could see three helicopters putting out a fire right across the valley from us.

An older lady caught up to us as we were snacking and we shared the information about the new detour. She wasn’t aware of these news and so thanked us. We also shared some water with her as we had taken a lot and knew that it’d be a while before any water on the alternate. We then set off onto the 17.1 mile Coyote Trail, starting first with a steep downhill section of about three miles. Some southbound hikers had said earlier that this whole route would be all downhill for us but that quickly turned out to not be the case.

After the downhill we spent at least an hour pushing pretty much straight uphill, right onto the ridge. Mt Rainier was still hiding but we now had a first row seat to view the two forest fires to the north of us. We saw the helicopters dumping water while we joked around about how “downhill” and “short” this alternate to the alternate was.

Finally the trail then went downhill again but of course very steeply. We then crossed some streams and took some more water and had a quick rest break. The trail then went back into the forest and more downhill on not-so-well-maintained trail led us to Lost Lake, which was very blue, clear & beautiful. We took another 10 minute break during which T-Bone announced that he needed to hike slower and wouldn’t perhaps make it to White Pass tonight. So we said bye once again and set off for the two cruel steep miles up to a trail junction.

About a mile into the climb, on a green lush meadow, T-Bone caught up with us – he had of course taken a strong painkiller. Whatever – we hiked onto a ledge with a great view: finally Mt Rainer was out of the smoke and we could see it in all its glory! A small push more and we got to the top of the ridge – from here on it’d be all downhill until the road (except the last 200 m ascent right before it). We met some other hikers there, took photos and enjoyed the view for a while. But then it was time to move on if we wanted to make it by the evening.

The trail would be going steeply downhill for the next seven miles, zigzagging down green forests and meadows, passing many small alpine lakes. After a short break to fill in our water by a lake we apparently lost the trail and ended up downclimbing a steep, moss-covered rock wall until we finally saw the trail again.

It was definitely pretty to hike but the trail itself was far from well maintained – the millions of tree roots made it like a puzzle to navigate, offering plenty of options to break your ankle. My feet were tired and hurting and my muscles were tired of the hard day so I was just counting miles and minutes to the big river which we had to cross right before the final climb to the road. When we reached the river both T-Bone and Kristians decided to do an acrobatic crossing over a long tree that reached 3/4 across the river and was bouncing up and down; I chose to be more conservative and took my shoes off to cross the river barefoot.

Now all we had to do was hike 0,4 miles of steep uphill – it went fast. Once I reached the road at around 20:30 we debated whether to hitch to White Pass or Packwood but as there were barely any cars going to Packwood we decided for White Pass. We got a ride with a white truck soon, T-Bone and I rode in the back. When we arrived we were surprised to see A LOT of traffic and hundreds of tents and people – we quickly realized that all the cars were from the Forest Service and all the people here were the firefighters. The fire was actually just over the hill from us so this was the ground support for the whole operation.

We tried to hitch to Packwood for a while but all the cars were forest service and were parking right there. In the end we decided to pitch our tents behind the Kracker Barrel gas station where we knew we could get a shower and do laundry in the morning. I was already super tired and decided to go straight to bed whereas Kristians and T-Bone sat by the picnic table, had their dinners and chatted for a while.

Day 143

We got up at 7 and realized that it’s a pretty cloudy day – and the clouds were dark, too. We hadn’t had a cloudy day in ages! The tents were also wet from the condensation but all in all we had all slept very well.

We chilled in our tents for a bit before packing up as the Kracker Barrel was only opening at 8. When it opened we first decided to get our resupply boxes, then get showers and then get laundry going. That’s exactly what we did but it also included a delay when they couldn’t locate T-Bone’s box for a while and when we needed to wait for someone else’s laundry to wash (as there was only one machine). Nevertheless we were not in a hurry and just took it easy – we got some coffee and sandwiches and snacks and had our breakfast while also packing our food bags. We also raided the hikerbox, which was awesome.

One of the ladies working there then mentioned what a mess the hikerbox was so the three of us and one more guy volunteered to organize it – we set to work and got it done in about half an hour. Some of the stuff in there were useless, open or outright nasty. We then just sat around, enjoyed the wifi and chatted with other hikers. At some point a lady gave us a letter to deliver to a southbound hiker that she had met somewhere north of Snoqualmie. So the search for Bernie was on!

We then put the laundry to the drier finally but then got hungry again and decided to order a vegan pizza. The cashier said it’d be free for us as we’d helped with the hikerbox and that if we had more time we could also water the flowers outside. For sure! It was a quick job and afterwards we also mentioned that we could clean up the shower as it had been pretty messy there. She wasn’t even aware of that and was happy that we brought it up – that, too, was an easy job for us.

After all the work it was time for a meal – the pizza was huge and covered in all sorts of veggies! We truly enjoyed it – it had been the first vegan pizza they ever made but it sure was good. It was then about 14:30 and we decided to digest for a bit and head out at 16 o’clock. So we slowly packed, sat around and did the last of the social media errands – but then it was time to head out.

We planned to hike 6 miles to Pipe Lake – it would start with a 0.5 mile roadwalk to the trailhead, then go gradually up, passing some other lakes and ponds and then descend down to the lake. Kristians and I were feeling good and could hike fast but T-Bone had a very painful blister on his left foot. He decided to put on some very angry music and hike on nevertheless. It was still cloudy and even a bit cold – it even rained on and off. It was really like we had imagined Washington – misty, colder and rainy.

But eventually we all made it and found a nice empty tentsite by the lake. It was a bit windy so we decided to have our dinner in the tent and then go straight to bed. T-Bone also discovered that his blister was not a blister but a cyst/abscess instead – he emptied it, disinfectef it and put a small piece of a bandage in there to keep it open and drain it, just as the procedure was when I had my abscess drained at the doctor. But then it started to rain and we all fell asleep fast.

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