Hey guys! I'm back with more tales from Washington as we continued to push our way towards Canada. It's strange to reflect on how different it felt to hike pre-Covid just a year ago. Enjoy these tales from the beautiful Evergreen State!
Day 140 // 7.1 miles
PCT mile 2302.5
Total miles: 1781.4
Cheer and I majorly slept in this morning at our cozy little ski bum studio room at the White Pass Village Inn. We awoke to the sound of work projects being completed outside our room - with the ski lodge closed, there aren't too many guests around, and all the off-season repair projects are in full swing! Thankfully, the hotel didn't mind if we checked out a bit late.
We headed over to the Kracker Barrel (unfortunately no connection to the restaurant chain) - it's pretty much the only general store/restaurant in White Pass where we had sent our boxes. And as we walked up, we saw our pal Stevie Wonder! Hooray! He returned my hat to me that our section hiker friend Brad had picked up. We heard that Snickers and TW had headed out the day before, but we were hopeful that we'd catch up to them at some point.
Finally, it was time for some town food. Getting in so late last night meant eating instant mashed potatoes and tuna again for dinner, so I treated myself to a nice latte and a breakfast sandwich.
All in all, this ended up being a really nice near-o day for us! I picked up my box and sorted through my food, looked through the hiker box, and had some time to use the wifi. Steve, Cheer, and I enjoyed some hangout time at the Kracker Barrel and talked with another hiker named Simple.
The Kracker Barrel also had a washer and dryer we could use for a fee, so Cheer and I packed up our stuff at the hotel and then did laundry while we ate lunch. A few hikers decided to hitch down the road to Packwood, WA, a bigger town, but with our flights already booked from Seattle to Reno on the 14th, we're on more of a schedule now. We can only afford a few more zero days. Plus, we were feeling pretty good after a nice night at the hotel.
I got a quick call in to my parents before heading out, and I also got to greet our friend Bass Bone from Michigan who had just finished his section hike! It was fun to see him again.
As Cheer and I prepared to walk to the trailhead, a trail angel (nicknamed the SOBO Hobo) pulled up and let us know they were hosting trail magic by the parking lot!
I had been prepared to eat dinner at camp that night, but the SOBO Hobo and his girlfriend had an amazing spread for us at the trailhead, including delicious homemade chili, fruit, and cookies.
After enjoying the company of the group for a bit longer, we thanked them, crossed the road, and we were back on the trail at around 5:30pm.
Entering the William O. Douglas Wilderness, we had planned to hike just the next 7 miles to a campsite at Pipe Lake that looked promising.
Maybe a mile or so later, we ran into a group of ladies in bright colored t-shirts. They greeted us and as we began talking, I realized they were part of a search party looking for Kris "Sherpa" Fowler, a PCT hiker who was last seen at White Pass on October 12, 2016. I had seen several of their fliers posted at trailheads and a few photos on the PCT Facebook pages of Kris and his gear.
But it was completely different to actually realize I was talking to his mom, Sally. She asked us if we were carrying GPS devices and if we had talked to our parents recently. Cheer and I reassured her that we both were equipped with Inreach devices and were keeping our parents updated.
Since this area is finally melted of snow, the search party planned to spend the next few days scouring the area and looking for any traces of Kris. Before we said goodbye, we both gave Sally a big hug and told her we'd be sure to be on the lookout.
The rest of the evening was pleasant and the miles went pretty fast. We hiked through the pines and past a few pretty little lakes and meadows.
The sun began to set shortly before I got to the lake, a beautiful glowing ombre lighting up the mountains on the horizon. As I hiked along, I was suddenly startled by the loud sound of several hooves galloping away. I caught a glimpse of what looked like an elk moving through the trees, but the noise sounded like it was part of a huge group!
I rounded the corner and saw Stevie Wonder's tent set up at the lake. He poked his head out of the tent.
"Is that Calzone? I think you just scared away a whole herd of elk!"
Apparently he had seen several elk grazing across the lake earlier, and they must have meandered their way towards our camp!
Tomorrow, we'll be hiking right through Mt. Rainier National Park! Hopefully we'll have good views of the mountain.
Day 141 // 23.7 miles
PCT mile 2326.2
Total miles: 1805.1
Today, I got going by 7:15. Steve's still on a pretty early schedule (he and especially Snickers got into an early bird routine). It was kinda overcast this morning, but Pipe Lake was still lovely.
There was a pretty chill downhill stretch for the first several miles. I stopped at a wooded river area and talked with a weekend hiker for a while. This guy had up and hiked 27 miles the day before just to see if he could!
Cheer and I enjoyed a sweet breakfast break by the river. Hot chocolate is always a great treat while backpacking, and I enjoyed mine with a Complete Cookie.
From here, we started climbing toward Rainier NP.
We were making pretty good time, and eventually caught up with Steve at a creek filtering water. We decided to have lunch a little later - I had found a marker on Guthooks that supposedly had a stellar view of Rainier. Yes, please!
As we climbed, the views got better and better. The Cascades filled the horizon, beautiful greyish mountains dotted with pine trees.
Towards the top, I rounded a corner and there she was poking through the clouds - Mt. Rainier.
We kept heading towards our lunch spot, and the mountain views continued to be amazing!
On our way, we heard a helicopter overhead, and we bumped into another hiker part of a search crew for Sherpa. Sally was in the chopper, and we were hoping that they'd find something.
We passed a pretty great blueberry patch and we helped ourselves! There were so many amazing sights today of the mountains that it felt like a dream.
Finally, we made our sweet lunch spot with a view of Rainier. It was so great to be a trio again, and we had a good chat about some of our ideas for after the trail. We're all a bit anxious about it. But it's definitely comforting to know I'm not alone in that.
It feels so strange to think about just picking up where I left off... because how can I just stay the same after this? I do feel like I've changed through this experience. It's hard to pinpoint exactly how, but I can tell I'm braver, and less fearful of the unknown than I used to be. I feel like a new part of me has come alive getting to be so active in the outdoors. Sometimes it's easy to forget that how we treat our bodies does really affect our mental, emotional, and spiritual health too. It's all connected.
As we made our way through the park, we bumped into a few more people that were a part of the search party, and saw mountains that legit looked like they could be paintings.
Headed toward Chinook Pass, we passed beautiful Dewey Lake! It's a bit closer to the road, so there were a lot of weekenders camped out there. We were a bit tempted to stay, but there was another lake (Sheep Lake) past Chinook Pass that looked like a good option.
Cheer and I went over a climb, and from the top, we got some awesome views of Chinook pass. There were meadows of wildflowers at the top, and rolling mountains toward the highway. And at the bottom was the best surprise: TRAIL MAGIC AGAIN!
Seriously, we are feeling so spoiled! Washington trail angels are killin' it with the hospitality.
There were burgers, drinks, cookies and more from Penguin, Snugbug, and a few more of PCT alumni (whose names I forgot to jot down) from Seattle. So thankful for you guys!
It was hard to tear ourselves away from the amazing trail magic and good company, but we only had two miles to Sheep Lake. So after taking some food to go, we made our last push.
Hiking up from the highway during golden hour made it worth it, even though it was tough with full bellies. When we reached Sheep Lake, it was kinda busy, but we managed to still find a decent lakeside spot.
We chuckled a bit at the Guthooks comments - someone wrote a legend about an epic sheep vs humans battle that happened here - and looked at our plans for tomorrow.
There is a pretty sweet looking cabin within striking distance for tomorrow, so I think that will be our goal!
Day 142 // 21.3 miles
PCT mile 2347.5
Total miles: 1826.4
I left our pretty campsite at Sheep Lake this morning a bit after Stevie and Cheer. The climb up from the lake continued and wound up to a beautiful viewpoint down towards the lake and mountains around Chinook Pass. I could tell I was in for some beautiful scenery this morning.
The weather was perfect. As I made my way upward on the ridge, I realized I had a bit of cell service. A text came in from my good friend Rachel asking if I could give her a call when I had service, so I took a little break to catch up with her. To my surprise, I found out that she and my friend David were engaged! I was so glad I had randomly gotten service so I could hear the news.
After I got off the phone with Rach, I continued on up the climb. I was feeling kind of emotional, and realizing that life had continued marching on at home without me. I was feeling a lot of things - really happy for my dear friends, but also sort of sorry for myself.
I started thinking again about whether I'd ever get married and have a family, and kept landing on the fact that there are some things I just can't control in life. I let some tears fall and I listened to the song "Twenty Four" by Jess Ray. The words spoke truth to my heart from God that I needed to hear.
You are not alone
I promise you're not alone
I am closer than the breath that you're breathing in
Your eyes have not seen
Your ears have not heard
What I have in store for you, my dear
What I have in store for you this year
Maybe you're twenty-four and you say you don't know who you are,
But right now you know more than you have ever known before
Today you are loved and that's really all that matters
Yeah, today you are loved and that's really all that matters
And as I reached the top of the climb and meditated on these truths, the beauty of the Cascades reminded me that I was right where I needed to be. I didn't have time to feel sorry for myself anymore. Today I am loved, and the evidence is all around me
The clouds even cleared, giving me a beautiful view of Rainier peeping over the mountains on the horizon.
I greeted a few other groups hiking, and near the top of the climb, I met two awesome older gals. The one with braids quickly introduced herself as Grandma.
"That's my trail name!" she said proudly.
They had just finished a loop trail to a nearby lake, and Grandma shared that she had found her love of hiking later in life, but she wasn't going to let that stop her from trying new things.
I asked her friend if she had a trail name, and she chuckled and responded, "I guess I'm Grandma #2."
Haha. I hope I'm as spunky and active as these gals when I'm their age.
I headed in to what looked like it would be a pretty long burn area, and soon saw Cheer filtering her water at a stream. We talked for a while, and I told her I'd had an interesting morning, processing some of my own insecurities and fears. But the mountain beauty and happiness for my friends helped bring me back to a good place.
The day got pretty warm as we pressed on, weaving through some rough trail and burn area, but the hills were still pretty, and we were excited for the promise of the cabin.
For part of the afternoon, I hike/leap-frogged with The Professor and a few others. I met a few section hikers, including a gal named Pop Rocks.
At last, we made it out of the burn area and back into green piney goodness near the Norse Peak Wilderness. The cabin at Government Meadows was close!
Finally, I saw the trees open up, and there it was! And it looked like there would be a fun crew of us enjoying it. I saw Stevie Wonder, the Professor, and (yay!) T.W. sitting on the porch, enjoying some Rainier beers. Wait, what? There was a cooler left there with TRAIL MAGIC. AGAIN. Our streak was getting comical at this point, but I couldn't ask for a better end to this day than to enjoy a cold beverage with my friends here at this sweet little cabin.
My day had truly come full circle. I couldn't imagine wanting to be anywhere other than right here.
Day 143 // 24.9 miles
PCT mile 2372.4
Total miles: 1851.3
Cheer, TW, Stevie Wonder, and I set up our mats in the loft of the cabin last night - that ended up being a good call due to a midnight mouse attack downstairs that we overheard.
We enjoyed a leisurely morning and fired up our stoves for breakfast on the porch while we watched the mist on the meadow.
It took us until about 8:30 to get rolling, and we hiked as a group for a while, chatting and enjoying the company for the first few miles.
There were some pretty exposed sections, and the sky was a perfectly clear blue, giving us some of our first truly clear views of Rainier. I could see the reddening leaves of the bushes, a signal of the coming fall.
We continued the up and downs, and I took a quick pause at the top of a ridge where I had some LTE. I got a humorous group text from my family - my brother wanted to inform us that he had listened to my dad's favorite old Yanni album on a road trip - and he actually enjoyed it.
I laughed and managed to get the whole "Live from the Acropolis" album downloaded. My sisters and I used to do interpretive dances in our living room to Yanni, and it brought back the best memories. I played a bit of "Santorini" for Steve and Cheer and we mentioned we might have to have an epic 2000 mile dance party to it.
Steve and TW stopped for lunch at a sunny overlook spot with a great view. It was a little hot, but it was fun being together again. TW enjoys hang gliding at home, and Steve kept pretending like he was going to hang glide off the edge of the mountain with his tent fly. TW assured him he'd definitely die if he tried to do that... lol.
After lunch, we hit some long uphill sections. But there were also lots of great huckleberry bushes along the way, so I stopped to snack several times when I couldn't resist.
I listened through the Yanni soundtrack at least two times today... whatever it takes to get there, amirite?
Near the end of the day, there were a few small campsite options, but we weren't totally sure if they'd have enough space for us all. We had wanted to push a few miles further today to leave less miles to get to Snoqualmie Pass tomorrow. Eventually, we made it to a dirt forest service road that looked like it might have some options. A bit down the road were some good flat spots, and we got our stuff set up as the sun set.
Tough day, but fun day. Excited to get to Snoqualmie tomorrow!
Day 144 // 14.9 miles
PCT mile 2387.3
Total miles: 1866.2
Today was absolutely nothing like I expected. I woke up with a splitting headache that turned into a migraine. Ugh, dang it.
I took some Excedrin, and hoped if I slept in, I might start feeling better, but it was a bad one. I napped through the morning, head pounding and stomach churning.
I drank some water, and realized I was getting a little bit low. Even if I was still feeling yucky, I'd have to do some hiking today to at least get myself to a campsite with a stream.
I woke up again around noon feeling like I was going to throw up. I got myself out of my tent and retched behind a pine tree. I could immediately tell that it had helped and I was feeling a bit better. I decided to take more Excedrin and nap for a little longer then see how I was feeling. I sent a message to Cheer on my Inreach to let her know what was going on.
Thankfully, throwing up had apparently done the trick, and when I woke up from my next nap, my headache was almost completely gone.
I slowly got myself packed up, then figured I should probably eat my lunch. I looked at Guthooks. I had 21.3 miles to go to get to Snoqualmie Pass, and it was already almost 2:30. Welp. Nothing I could do about it now. I thought maybe I'd try to night hike into Snoqualmie, or possibly camp just outside of town.
My first objective though was to get myself to water. Being dehydrated is never good when you have a headache, and I had just enough water to get myself to a side trail to a lake.
It was hot, but I slowly got started. I made the next few miles and found the gravel road that led down to Lizard Lake. I realized that this forked off Stampede Pass Rd. leading to Snoqualmie. I briefly considered trying to hitchhike into town. But honestly, my stubborn side kicked in. Now that I was up and going and feeling better (albeit tired), I was gonna do this thing. Screw getting sick. I was going to catch up with my friends, and I was going to do it the old fashioned way without skipping miles.
I wandered down the road to Lizard Lake and filled my water bladder with some lovely brown lake water. Some locals in a pickup truck were blasting music across the way, and I was kind of annoyed, but I just channeled that energy into getting myself going again. I chugged some water, ate another snack, and got going again.
The afternoon was hot and the climbs were hard. I didn't see many people I knew, but I was on a mission to get as close to Snoqualmie as I could.
Around sunset, I made it to the incredibly beautiful Mirror Lake. (Unfortunately all my photos were on my lost camera). I realized I probably wouldn't make it as close to town as I wanted to that night as I filtered water and fired up my stove to eat dinner there.
A huge crew was camping out by the lake, including my kiwi friend Stitch who I hadn't seen since Trail Days. I told some of the group about my rough day, and I seriously considered staying there with them. But I was still 9 miles out, and thoughts of a hot breakfast in town convinced me to push on before calling it quits for the night.
It got dark quickly as I finished the last little bit of uphill, the sun began to set. I pulled out my headlamp and started the downhill, but to my dismay, it was rough, rocky, and rooty. I was nervous about tripping, so I traveled slowly and carefully.
I had planned to camp by a stream just 3 or 4 miles out of town, but my long day of being sick and churning out afternoon miles was catching up to me. I had extra water, so I decided I'd start to look for any flat spot I could find and camp there.
The trail was still steep and narrow, but finally, I noticed a nice flat spot that was just big enough for my tent. I sent a message to Cheer to give her an update on how I was doing. I had made it almost 15 miles after 2:30pm.
It felt so good to snuggle into my sleeping bag after such a long and rough day. I dug through my food bag and realized I was down to my last extra meal - looks like I'll be eating Ramen for energy tomorrow morning. I planned to wake up early and hit the trail by 6am to get into town by 8:30. I was hoping my trail fam would want to take a full zero in Snoqualmie, but I knew that if they wanted to just nearo, I would want to get into town with plenty of time to get my town chores done and potentially join them.
Day 145 // 6.4 miles
PCT mile 2393.7
Total miles: 1872.6
I woke up a little after 5am this morning, my earliest day in a while! But I was so ready to get into town. I ate a few bites of cold soaked ramen (yikes) and then started tearing down.
As I packed up, I was surprised at the sound of some people heading up the trail. I stood up and managed to scare the wits out of two day hikers.
I laughed a little bit and said hello. I told them I was a PCT hiker and that I was just heading into town.
"You camped right here?" they asked incredulously.
I told them the saga of my rough day yesterday, and they had lots of questions for me about the trail. They were also a little worried that they had missed the trail junction they were looking for, and I was able to help them out by looking on Guthooks before saying goodbye.
The downhill was just as rocky as last night, and even in the light it was pretty sucky and difficult. I think I made the right decision by setting up camp. But I enjoyed the pretty morning lighting and the wildflowers along the way.
After about two hours, I made it to the telltale ski lifts with the town of Snoqualmie Pass beneath. The mountains loomed over the road like a perfect ski town backdrop.