Guess who's finally back?! That's right, I'm hoping to get the rest of my trail journal up before I (hopefully) head back to finish the Sierra in July. I might do a few less days for each post just to keep my momentum up, since the week-long ones can be a beast to edit! Thanks everyone for sticking with me - there are some AMAZING views and stories ahead that I can't wait to finally share with you.
Day 136 // 20.6 miles
PCT Mile 2229.4
Total miles: 1708.3
After our lovely lake day yesterday, Cheer and I knew we wanted to make it to Trout Lake today. With a lighter 20ish mile day, we didn't feel in too much of a rush though. After checking Guthooks, we saw that the locals from Trout Lake had a shuttle schedule, so we just had to make it to the road by 6pm.
We left the lake around 7:45am and hiked through a nice wooded area for a while. Since this section didn't really have too many views, we decided to take a short, mile long alternate, the Sawtooth Mountain Trail. It promised some good views of Mt. Saint Helens, Rainier, and Adams from above the treeline, and we figured it would be a nice change of pace.
Once we took the junction, it was definitely steeper than the actual PCT, since we were climbing up above the trees. But I thought it was definitely worth it to mix things up get to see the skyline and some views again.
This is probably the closest that the trail goes to Mt. Saint Helens, and I was glad we didn't miss it in the trees. I considered how the people who walked these trails back in the 70s and earlier saw a totally different, pointy mountain. Kind of crazy to think that over time, even the mountains change.
Shortly after we were back on the PCT, we hit a dirt road trailhead and the best surprise. Trail magic again! Three trail angels (Ice Axe, Shirtless, and Coach) were set up with breakfast cooking over the fire. There was also a charging station, amazing coffee/snacks, and a table full of free goodies including Darn Tough Socks, buffs, and more! It was seriously incredible. They were also starting up hot dogs for lunch.
We sat around the fire, enjoying food with both old and new friends, and it was such a spirit-lifting moment. Besides Cheer and I, some others present included our good friend Fat Rat, new friends like Butterball, Third Eye, Moonfire, and a sweet older lady named Carolyn who was section hiking. And soon we saw a southbounder that we didn't expect - D.O.C.K.(Dictator of Caring & Kindness), who had given us a ride to the trailhead in Tehachapi! He had taken some time off due to injury earlier on in the trail and decided to flip to the border.
Finally, we pulled ourselves away from the magic - we still had to catch that shuttle to Trout Lake, after all! We had some pretty steep ups and downs the rest of the day. Our friend Butterball caught up to us, and after talking with him a bit, I discovered that he is from Elkhart, IN, not far from where I grew up! We talked about classic midwest things a little, like Amish country and how we both got into hiking in such a flat state 😂 He was pretty fast though, and soon pulled ahead of me.
After making it up a tough climb, we had one last downhill back down to the road to catch the Trout Lake Shuttle. I met a nice SOBO hiker named Thriller who told us a bit about the upcoming stretch of trail. We're in for a treat with the Goat Rocks Wilderness!
The shuttle pulled up with some hikers heading back out on the trail, and we met our driver, Dennis. He had his grandson along with him, and was just a local guy with a truck who volunteered to drive that day. It always amazes me to see how so many people have gone out of their way to help us.
Trout Lake is incredibly small, and pretty much consists of a restaurant, coffee shop, gas station, and general store. Once we made it into town, we signed up and paid our $5 to camp behind the general store, then headed over to the restaurant with Thriller and Cheer to get food before they closed.
All the fresh huckleberries in season meant that they had huckleberry flavored pie, ice cream, and shakes. I couldn't pass that up! We each ordered something huckleberry themed, and I got the shake. SO good.
We headed back to the general store and set up our tents out back. Our friend Sleeveless was camping there as well and we said hello before going to pick up our packages at the store. They had an awesome hiker box too. I had my new Altra Timps delivered here, as well as a resupply box and new trekking pole tips.
After enjoying some conversation with the other hikers, I got the water boiling in my pot to replace my trekking pole tips again! It took forever. I would basically boil the plastic tips, which would soften the plastic so I could cut through it with my little swiss army knife and then try to detach the glue and pry up the plastic. Ugh. The newer Cascade Mountain Tech poles also have weird metal nubs that I couldn't remove, but I was able to get the rest of the tips off and the new ones still fit overtop of the old ones.
I was ready to get some much needed rest after that! Cheer and I signed up for the second shuttle back to the trail, hoping we could still get a full day's hike in tomorrow.
Day 137 // 20.6 miles
PCT mile 2250.0
Total miles: 1728.9
I didn't sleep too well last night - there was a surprising amount of traffic on the road near the store. I woke up at 6:30am to ducks quacking loudly and a nearby rooster shouting. Welp, this is how it goes out here sometimes.
Cheer and I started packing up our things, and then decided to track down coffee. Unfortunately, after walking across the street to the coffee shop, I found out that they are closed on Tuesdays! Bummer sauce. That's the one thing that can be a little frustrating about some of these small town businesses - unexpectedly weird hours.
However, the general store had free coffee brewing in the back for us, so we made that work and ate some of our extra trail food for breakfast to save a bit of money. We sat at the picnic table and took a little time to nail down our expected date to arrive in Canada, since we needed to book our flights from Seattle to Reno. We're still hopeful that we can finish this whole thing this season!
After scrambling to get the rest of our stuff packed, we headed out on the shuttle with a nice guy named Norm. He gave us some freshly picked apricots from his fruit trees :) We bumped back up to the trail in the bed of his truck, enjoying the glimpses of Mt. Adams.
Just after Norm dropped us off, we saw a guy sitting at the next little road with trail magic! Southern Washington is on a roll, man - this is our 3rd day in a row! The guy was picking up his sons from a long section hike and decided to put out some magic for the other hikers... so kind. Since we weren't too hungry, we helped ourselves to sodas, chatted for a while, then took off.
I felt like I was moving pretty slow, but after making it up our first climb, we started to see some great views of Adams that would only get better as the day went on.
After lunching in the shade, we passed some milky colored glacial streams and large sections of lava rock.
We also bumped into some really friendly section hiker ladies as they set up camp. They had lots of questions and encouraging words for us.
As we got closer to Mt. Adams, we passed some absolutely picturesque campsites with great views. We were planning to make at least a 20 mile day though, so I kept pressing onward and tried to really take it all in as I walked.
Shortly after, I heard a loud crash that sounded like thunder. It was cloudy, but as I paused to listen, Cheer came up behind me and we realized together that it was a massive rockslide! This is the kind of stuff you don't typically learn about growing up in northern Indiana.
Soon we heard the rushing sound of Adams Creek, a significant river crossing we had seen on Guthooks. I was definitely a bit nervous since it was late in the day, and the water was rushing quickly. Upon evaluation, we found a crossing spot with some skinny logs.
We both crossed the first little fork with thicker logs, and Cheer went for the sketchy part first. She was using her collapsible poles, which unfortunately didn't reach the bottom of the creek, and just near the bank she slipped into the water upstream of the log. Though the water was powerful, thankfully it only came up to her mid-thigh and she quickly scrambled up the bank.
I extended my trekking poles all the way and started across the skinny, slippery logs. I said a silent prayer and inched my way across. The extra length on my poles managed to reach the bottom, so I was able to balance on the logs a lot more easily and made it across dry. Whew!
A bit later, we picked out an evening snack spot near Killen Creek, a spot we had heard had great views of Adams. I happily plopped myself down and ate my Trader Joe's gummies (Scandinavian Swimmers) while enjoying the killer view.
Cheer filtered her water and got going a bit before me. Once I finally pulled myself away from the amazing view, the trail wound into the woods a bit more as the sun began to sink. I said hello to two Germans, a guy and a gal, who had decided to cowboy camp near a trail junction. They asked me about the Adams Creek crossing, since it had taken them a bit by surprise and they both got pretty wet.
There were a few more stream crossings ahead, but thankfully they all had bridges and I didn't have to worry. Bless you, Washington. I made it to Lava Creek just after dark.
There were campsites scattered around the area, but of course, the biggest one was occupied by Unplugged, the sketchy but harmless guy who had weirded us out before. He told me that Cheer had gone a bit up this little hill and found a spot. I noticed her umbrella out on the trail by where she had veered off to camp, so I took that as a signal that I was heading in the right direction.
I headed up the hill and found her setting up in a nice little secluded spot. We were both a little relieved that we didn't have to camp near our sketchy pal again, and we settled in for the night.
Day 138 // 23.6 miles
PCT mile 2273.6
Total miles: 1752.5
I got hiking around 7:30am this morning, a little bit after Cheer. It was a bit overcast, but I was excited to be nearing the Goat Rocks Wilderness. Cheer and I are hoping to camp within striking distance of the famous "Knife's Edge" section for tomorrow.
I hadn't gotten too far at all before I reached a road with an incredible sight - trail magic yet again, our fourth day in a row!
Barbara and Bill were cooking up eggs and had an amazing breakfast spread prepared with freshly made coffee. What a treat!
Some other hikers were there too, including the Germans from yesterday, One Minute and Trash Panda. We also met an older guy named Tilly from Western Australia.
It started to rain a bit as we were talking, and we all huddled under the awning to stay dry. Eventually it let up and we said goodbye.
I pushed on the next seven miles or so to a stream, passing some little lakes and vibrant mushrooms.
After officially entering the Goat Rocks Wilderness, the trail started to ascend, and after somewhat of a large climb, I got to see a pretty cool panorama, although it was getting more foggy and hard to see.
Eventually the views were completely clouded out, and I was kinda bummed.
I reached a tent site with a little stream around lunch time, and saw several other hikers there - Unplugged, Trash Panda, One Minute, and a few southbounders were getting water. It began to sprinkle, but I was ready for some food, so I started on my lunch as Cheer came up behind me. Unfortunately, the rain wasn't stopping, so our break ended up being pretty brief.
I kept on trucking. Much of the trail was a bit overgrown with brush, which meant I got completely soaked walking through. It was almost like a human car wash.
I was really wishing I had rain pants. Thankfully the climb warmed me up despite the soaking.
I continued to climb, and saw some beautiful pines in the fog and some cute puffy "Dr Seuss" flowers. Worship music lifted my spirits, and Praise You in This Storm by Casting Crowns was a fitting jam in the rain.
I reached an open vista area where I really couldn't see much because of the fog. I was sort of disappointed, because I could just tell it would be an epic view. But the music I was listening to reminded me that Jesus is more beautiful than any view out here - He is the very source of all this beauty!
As I made the climb up to Cispus pass, I could tell I was surrounded by beauty, even in the fog. I could just make out the outline of mountain majesty to my right.
It started to rain harder as I crested the pass, and the wind was whipping the drops into my face. It settled a bit as I started descending, but I was still freezing cold. However, the sights before me were incredibly beautiful. Wildflowers and green mountain hills dotted with dark fir trees. Ribbons of white glacial streams that cut through the landscape.
I reached the Cispus River just before camp, and took in the site of the beautiful falls. I took a minute to get some water for camp, and met a nice weekend hiker who was curious about my thru hike.
Once I made it to camp, it started to rain. I whipped up my tent as fast as I could and dove into my tent. Everything was damp, and there was sand everywhere. Ugh. But I got myself warmed and made dinner, which helped raise my spirits. I greeted Cheer from inside my tent as she got her tent up quickly too.
Tomorrow is our highly anticipated day on the "Knife's Edge", and I can only pray that these clouds will clear in time for us to get some great views.
Day 139 // 21.8 miles (plus .6 to Village Inn and some extra from the Old Snowy Alternate)
PCT mile 2295.4
Total miles: 1774.3
I awoke to a mass of cloudy fog outside my tent... NOOOOOOO. I've been dreaming of this day for months, and I really was hoping for clear views on this epic ridgewalk.
The fog appeared to be moving a bit, and I decided to sleep in until around 9:15, give it time to dissipate, and hope for the best.
At last, the sun started to break through, and I headed out around 9:45ish, a bit behind Cheer.
The climb was steep, and it was still pretty foggy. I prayed for it to clear up, and I bumped into a father and son duo coming the opposite way who told me the views were great! I breathed a deep sigh of relief and kept going.
Eventually, the trail climbed high enough that I was actually above the clouds! The views kept getting better and better.
I rounded a bend, and there was the top of Mount Rainier, poking above an ocean of cloud.
And soon, I had the most amazing vista. A beautiful alpine lake to my right, Rainier ahead, and Mount Adams behind me. I felt like I could cry and laugh at the sheer beauty of it all.
After making it across a decent patch of snow, straight ahead, I could see the knife's edge. It took my breath away, and I couldn't wait for more.
Soon after was the junction for the Old Snowy Alternate. I had heard good things, and that the view was unbelievable from the top, so I decided to take it. Basically, instead of traversing below the ridge to get to the Knife's Edge, it involved climbing up to a higher point on the ridge to start the Knife's Edge from way up high. (Notice in the top right corner of the above photo how high the ridge went... yep, way up there.) The climb up was a bit tedious - it took me a lot longer than I thought, and I soon realized that much of the trail was made of loose rock. On the way up, this wasn't too much of an issue, but coming down was pretty bonkers.
Either way, the view was incredible, and I was literally living on the edge in the most literal sense. I could look down and see the spine of the mountains. The west side of the ridge, the rainy side of Washington, was covered in clouds. The eastern side, Washington's dry side, was completely clear. Sweet to see the Cascade Rain Shadow effect in action!
I could see Cheer's tiny form on the trail ahead of me as I started to make my way down. The loose rock was super sketchy, and I really had to take my time and concentrate with sheer dropoffs on either side.
I kept pinching myself. Is this real? Am I really here? I took so many photos and videos.
Finally, after that Sketchy McSketcherson descent, I made it back to where the actual PCT rejoined the knife's edge. It probably would have been much quicker and less sketchy to avoid Old Snowy, but oh well. It was a little scary, but I'm still glad I at least gave it a try.
I took my time and soaked in the beauty of this ridge walk, feeling so alive and thankful to have made it this far. I remember dreaming about what it would be like to reach Goat Rocks when I was in the desert. In a way, hiking this trail feels a bit like growing older - there's so much you look forward to when you're young, and it feels like it'll take forever to get there. But when you do get there, you look back and feel like it all went so fast.
Eventually, I caught up with Cheer on the way down, and we had lunch at a tent site with a lovely view. We talked about our crazy experiences on Old Snowy as we dried out our gear - Cheer was definitely rueing the choice to go up the alternate.
We had both hoped to get into White Pass tonight for some food and a warm bed to sleep in, although our late start and the time-sucking alternate meant we'd probably get in pretty late. But we were mostly okay with that.
The trail descended the eastern, clear side of the mountain, so the views of the Cascades were so pretty. The rock almost looks a bit purpley, and next to the vibrant green of the grass and dark green pines, everything just seems to sing with life.
We made our way down a steep, rocky descent, then braved another climb. It looked like we might not get into White Pass until 10 or 11pm, but I just tried to enjoy the day.
With a few of the seasonal streams dried out, I realized we probably needed to get water at a side trail called Hidden Springs. It was actually pretty hard to find, but eventually we were back up by the junction filtering water when our pal Brad came up behind us. He was one the section hiker who found my lost hat and gave it to Snickers! I let him know I was meeting up with my pal who had it at White Pass and he was happy to hear that.
For the rest of the climb, I listened to Five Little Pigs by Agatha Christie (one of my favorites so far), and pressed on up into a fog. Up towards the top of the climb, I made it above the clouds again, and got the most amazing view of Rainier again, with the sun shooting golden rays against the silhouette.
I passed a lake from above at sunset, then started winding down a ridge to White Pass. What a magical evening. Scratch that, what a magical day!
As it got darker, I busted out my headlamp, and soon was caught by Cheer and Brad. It was nice to have company and conversation for the night hike. My eyelids were getting heavy, but with less than a mile left, we enjoyed talking about random things together and finally reached the road!
This was the end of Brad's section hike, so his wife met him in a parking lot, and Cheer and I headed for the Inn, hoping we'd still be able to get a room despite the late hour. Happily, we checked into our little ski bum studio and cooked up some dinner. Town food would have to wait for tomorrow, but we were just happy to be in some cozy digs for the night!