Monday, September 24, 2012


After spending two nights camping (for free) in Cascade Locks, Fairway and I joyously crossed the Columbia River via the Bridge of the Gods.  It sounds like a dramatic name for a bridge, but if I recall correctly it's named after a natural bridge that the Native Americans claim to have used in the past to cross the Columbia River.   It seemed like almost instantly when we crossed in WA that everything got wetter.  Laying your tent and sleeping bag out in the sun in the middle of the day became standard practice in Washington.  There was always so much dew!

The first few days into WA were just OK by PCT scenery standards. We started to get distant views of Mt Adams.  When Fairway and I got to Forest Rd 23 (a paved Forest Road, there's that much recreation around Mt Adams), we decided we'd just try to hitch a ride into Trout Lake.  Unfortunately, on the descent to FR 23, I twisted my knee bad enough that I had to nurse an injured knee for the rest of my trip.  Again, I at first thought it could be a trip ender, especially because the pain was more significant than anything else I'd felt on the trail up to that point.  In the end, it was manageable, but it wasn't until the last few days with Gretchen that I could descend without significant knee pain.  Eventually I realized I was going to have knee pain on every descent till the end, and it probably wasn't going to heal without being off of it for a couple of weeks.  Ibuprofen quickly became my friend again, and I was taking the max dose daily.  I was taking it longer than I should have, but I definitely wasn't going to quit with only 350 miles to go unless I couldn't walk at all.  Eventually I got a knee brace which helped some, and that's what you see me wearing at the Canadian border.

So back to Trout Lake.  It's a very small town with a small store and a diner.  Fairway wanted to get some more food so he could pig out more.  I wanted to go get a huckleberry milkshake and a burger.  It took us about 45 minutes to hitch a ride - the longest I had to wait the entire trip!  A van full of college students picked us up for the 13 mile ride.  We got down to town and ran into Andrew, another thru-hiker that had left Cascade Locks the day before us.  After taking care of business, we walked out to the road and within 2 minutes the first car that passed by pulled over to give us a ride.  I always had amazing luck with hitchhiking.

After Trout Lake, the PCT crosses the flanks of Mt Adams and then goes through the Goat Rocks Wilderness.  The views were simply stunning and the wildflowers were still at their peak.  In Goat Rocks, Fairway and I finally got some weather in WA, and we got to walk through some clouds and along the beautiful knife ridge in a cold wind.  Goat Rocks was simply the most beautiful section of the PCT I had seen up to that point.  On our day into White Pass for resupply, we came with 75 yards of a group of about 20 mountain goats and got our first views of Mt Rainier, which I had attempted to summit the previous June. The next section from White Pass has great views of Rainier, but further to the north the trail just goes through some awful terrain primarily composed of old clear cuts.  Fortunately, that section did not last long.

I spent two nights at Snoqualmie Pass to give my knee time to heal, but it just ended up not being enough.  Fairway, Malarkey, and Bladder Pillow eventually decided to zero due to the rainy weather outside and knowing the coming days were supposed to be nice.  So I ended up hiking with them until Stehekin.  The section from Snoqualmie Pass to Stevens Pass is gorgeous, and it was our first taste of the North Cascades. Bladder Pillow was busy logging data for a Pika study he volunteered for, and in doing so he ended up far enough behind us that we didn't end up seeing him till we got the Dinsmore's in Baring, WA.  We hitched from Stevens Pass to the Dinsmores.  They're a couple that takes in hikers and provides hikers with a dormitory of sorts.  There we can relax, watch movies, take a shower, and resupply, and they even do our laundry.  They're beyond generous people, and they and other trail angels (that's actually what they're called in trail lingo) make you feel welcome.  It really makes you appreciate the trail community and realize that there really are still people out there who just want to help others.  In the coming days I plan on writing a blog post simply to log all the established trail angels on the PCT and formally take the time to thank them all.

I was planning on zeroing at the Dinsmores due to me knee again, and originally thought I was going to be hiking alone from Stevens Pass to meet up with Gretchen.  Fairway, Malarkey, and Bladder Pillow surprisingly decided to zero again when they were going to leave.  I think realizing that we were so close to the end made them want to slow down a little and just relax.  Also, it didn't help that after breakfast we all watched Office Space at the Dinsmore's, and they were all reminded of the fact that we would all have to go back to work after the adventure was over.

Following Stevens Pass, the PCT goes through some of the most beautiful mountain scenery around the north and west sides of Glacier Peak.  Glacier peak is a shorter, but no less stunning, Cascade volcano located in the middle of the Cascades so it's difficult or maybe impossible to see from any road or City.  This sections was definitely my favorite if I had to pick a favorite Section (the PCT divided into official Sections that typically start and stop at major passes).  This sections started at Stevens Pass and went to Rainy Pass.  The mountains were simply so rugged and green and Glacier Peak was just amazing.  I've never been to the alps, but it just felt like how I picture the Alps might be.  This was also one of the most vertical stretches of the entire PCT.  I think one of our 30 mile days had about 12,000 ft of total elevation change.  It's no wonder my knee was hating me - I was still pushing it at 3 miles an hour.

When we finally got to Stehekin, we spent the night in the Purple Point overflow campground.  We pigged out at the bakery which is an excellent bakery.  The sticky buns are simply awesome.  Following breakfast the next day, I said bye to my friends and took the boat to Chelan, where Gretchen and I met for the final leg of my adventure.  We ran into a snafu with shipping home some of my gear (1 person tent, 1 person pot, alcohol stove, etc.)  The mail boxes stores wasn't open on Saturday like the website indicated it was.  But I wasn't about to carry 4 pounds of extra gear we weren't going to use, so we had to take a 1 hr bus ride back to Wenatchee just to find a store that was open to ship from (The PO in Chelan isn't open on Saturdays, arrrrh!) and then take the 1 hr bus ride back to get to our hotel.

The next day we got on the boat and started our walk.  I covered the highlights from the last 90 miles in my previous post.  But I don't recall if I mentioned that Gretchen saw her first wild bear.  It was ambling down the trail towards us when I spotted it first.  Gretchen let out a gasp/scream and I hit my trekking poles together to scare the bear.  It quickly ran off as they all had before.  Bears generally aren't anything to worry about or be scared of.

First views of Mt Adams

Mt Adams

Another shot of Mt Adams with its beautiful glaciers
Mt Adams to the south

Beautiful wildflowers near the Cispus River
Goat Rocks Wilderness
Meadow carpeted with lupines in Goat Rocks

Walking through the clouds in Goat Rocks.  Tough to tell where we were going with the fog.

Mountain goats in Goat Rocks
Mt Rainier
Mt Rainier

Mt Rainier to the south from above Snoqualmie Pass

The Bear Breast

Thats a bear running downhill from me.  I disturbed it while it was eating huckleberries I believe. 

 Glacier Peak

Glacier Peak 

Suiattle River 

New bridge over the Suiattle River 

Glacier Peak to the west 

The Lady Express - my ride from Stehekin to Chelan

The huckleberries were turning a beautiful red

 The Golden Horn and Tower Mountain to the right

Just a dusting of snow at camp

Gretchen at my last campsite on the PCT and it was a sweet one.  If it had had water it would have been perfect.

 The Canadian Border was in the valley in the upper left of the photo.

 The clear cut is the border strangely enough.

 Historical marker for the border treaty