Endless P Summer

Sept 13 PCT mile 2576.8

This morning we woke up a mile outside of Holden Village at their designated campsite and walked to their dining hall for breakfast. In another lifetime this place was a copper mining camp but now it’s a Lutheran Retreat Center, and is completely off the grid. They rarely see PCT hikers but this year because of the fire detour they’ve had a huge influx of hikers and treated us really well. Breakfast was buffet style oatmeal sundaes, then they let us do our laundry for free. From the village there’s a 10 mile rd to Lake Chelan(I think this is their only outlet to the outside world) and a daily yellow school bus took us to Lucerne Landing where we got picked up by a ferry that took us to Stehekin. Lake Chelan is a narrow and extremely long and deep lake surrounded by mountains. Someone told me that it’s a fjord but I’m not exactly sure what that means. Stehekin is a tiny town that sits at the top of the lake and is usually the last stop for PCT’ers. It’s a really cool little place, inaccessible by road, it’s a very remote little vacation town for some people. Or I guess people live here year round too.

We did town stuff like showering for the first time in a week and picking up our resupply boxes at the PO, then walked a couple miles to the world famous(or at least trail famous) Stehekin Bakery. Everybody on the PCT starts hearing about this place when you’re still way down in Southern California and it lives up to the hype. From the bakery we took a shuttle bus to the end of the road, 10 miles out of town where we got back on the PCT. Going north the next 17 miles are within North Cascades NP where we need a permit to camp. Sara and I and half a dozen others all got permits at a site 5 miles out and got here just before dark.

Of any trail I’ve hiked Stehekin is the most complicated town stop. Don’t get me wrong I really like it here, I’d like to buy land out here and put a trailer on it, but for getting in and out of town and trying to coordinate shuttle bus schedules, P.O. hours, making sure we got to the bakery, National Park permits, plus a fire detour and a ferry ride, it’s a pain in the ass.

Sept 14 PCT mile 2609.4

The trail was super cruiser pretty much all day. For the first 15 or so miles we were within North Cascades NP until we reached Rainy Pass and our first paved road in 130 miles(National Park trails are usually always well maintained and well graded, in other words it was easy).

At Rainy Pass we got some killer trail magic. Erica and Nick, 2 former hikers, were grilling up hot dogs and cooking chili. While I was busy eating 1 of my 3 chili dogs, another guy, the Madd Baker drove up to do trail magic also. He had a bunch of cookies for us and I think he was about to cook soup but we had moved on by then.

With a belly full of hot dogs and cookies we started a long 5 mile climb up to Cutthroat Pass. On the way up I looked to the left and saw a black bear farting around in the woods. Immediately I thought it was a black dog, as I always do, but it was a bear. Just a little fella doing his thing. I also saw an owl this morning and Sara saw a pine marten so it was a pretty good day for wildlife. As we walked a little further we ran into this lady who was out day hiking and all excited about the bear asking us if we saw it. She told us she pulled out her bear spray and accidentally sprayed herself, then turned around and went back up towards the pass to get away. We encouraged her to go back down as the bear probably won’t bother her and she did, I just really hope she didn’t end up spraying the bear, poor thing doesn’t deserve it.

When we got up to Cutthroat Pass we were treated to spectacular views then it immediately started snowing on us, I didn’t even think it was cold enough. We would be above tree line for the next 5 miles so this wasn’t good. Luckily it stopped after 20 minutes and the rest of the day was just enjoyable and scenic Washington hiking.

Sept 15 Pasayten Wilderness, Fire detour

Immediately this morning we started climbing up towards Glacier Pass. This was a beefy switchbacked climb and although it was chilly the skies were clear and blue and the views of the North Cascades were awesome. By midday we made it to Hart’s Pass, the last trailhead before the Canadian Border and once again there were people cooking lunch for us. I didn’t get all their names but this time it was a family from Republic, WA doing trail magic and it was great; cheeseburgers, orange soda, corn on the cob, hot chocolate, and fresh vegetables. They did it right.

Hart’s Pass is more or less a dead end trailhead on a dirt road about a 20 mile drive from the nearest town, Mazama. From there it’s regularly 30 PCT miles to the border and then another 8 to Manning Park in Canada. This year though, there’s a wildfire and a detour that makes the route 34 miles to the border.

After lunch we walked up to Slate Pass and then the detour took us east into the Pasayten Wilderness. The detour was nice and everything, nothing extraordinary, just deep dark Washington forest. It feels very remote out here. For most of the afternoon it was rather cold and drizzling and we saw a handful of hikers returning to Hart’s after they just completed their hike. Around 6 we saw this guy coming towards us that looked like the crypt keeper(ok maybe not that scary but he was close to it). I usually don’t think I judge a book by its cover but the way this guy presented himself gave me the creeps. He wasn’t friendly and he kept one hand in his pocket as if he was concealing a weapon. As he passed he asked, “How far to Hart’s Pass?” and Sara told him about 14 miles. He didn’t seem to like that answer and had some short gruff response. This guy had rain gear on but only a very small pack and not in the style of a lightweight long distance hiker(I highly doubt he had a tent and sleeping bag). Old boy had a long way to go and it was cold and rainy out without any prospects of warming up. If he acted a little differently I’m sure we would have stopped and tried to help him out, I mean not that we could have since we’re both only carrying the minimum ourselves. As it was though we didn’t even slow down. I hope he gets where he’s going and everything but I was glad to put some distance between us. I don’t know, maybe I’m overreacting here and the guy had a camp already set up nearby or something. But still. We stopped about an hour and a half later and put our tent next to the west fork of the Pasayten River. I don’t think I’ve ever felt so deep in the heart of Texas, I mean Washington.

Sept 16 Abbotsford, BC

Today we reached the Canadian Border. This is really no big deal for me, I’ve been here before so it’s not a culmination of a long journey or anything like that. For Sara though it is exactly that. She started hiking the PCT at the Mexican Border in 2015 with every intention of walking all the way to Canada(we both started the same day actually although we didn’t hike much together that year). Because of a crazy wildfire season she got off trail at the Oregon/Washington Border and went on to hike about 700 miles in New England that summer. Since then she has completed both the AT and the CDT and has twice returned to Washington to try to complete the PCT. In July of ‘16 she hiked 150 miles from the Oregon Border to White Pass and was forced off due to snow. In ‘17 we tried to get on the PCT after we finished the CDT but there were tons of fires closing some of the trail. Even earlier this year when we first came out here parts of the trail were closed so we went up to Canada for a couple weeks to wait it out. It’s been a bit of an odyssey for her but the time has come.

When we got up today it was clear and cool with blue skies overhead. That wouldn’t last though. We climbed for about 7 or 8 more miles of the fire detour until we rejoined the actual PCT at Woody Pass. While we were climbing the clouds moved in and it started to rain. A cold rain too, and windy. As we got closer to the Pass the rain turned to snow and sooner than later the weather completely went to shit. For what seemed like forever we walked along a snowy and slippery ridge with the wind whipping in our faces. Keep in mind walking through a snowstorm is no big deal if you’re dressed for it but I’m only wearing a thin rain jacket over my tank top and wind pants over my shorts. This isn’t exactly ‘rain gear’ it’s more like a ‘rain outfit’ like this is what I wear during inclement weather, not that it does anything. My shoes and socks have been wet for days and everything else I’m wearing is soaked. We were both uncomfortable but eventually we dropped lower. The snow turned back to rain and although it was still cold and wet at least we felt like we were out of harm’s way.

When we were about 3 miles to the Border Sara turned and pointed to a tree right next to the trail. I looked and saw a tiny little black bear cub hugging a branch(for the record she said she saw two cubs but I only saw one). Bear cubs are cool but I don’t want to see them at ten feet and that’s how close we were. We both started yelling out, ‘Hey Bear!’ and thankfully never did see mama. Another hour of walking through wet bushes and rain and then the sun decided to come out. Perfect timing. We rounded a corner and saw the clear cut forest and then Monument 78, the Canadian Border. After a few high fives and pictures and basking in the sun enjoying the moment, it was time to move on, still 8 miles to Manning Park and the road out.

Once we got to Manning Park we checked to see about reasonable lodging and there was none. It was getting late, late for hitching anyway, do we decided to give it a try for a little bit then find a spot to camp if that didn’t work out. After about 10 minutes Jenna pulled over on her way home from visiting her boyfriend across the province and drove us about an hour and a half to Abbotsford, BC where we got a room for the night. What an incredible day, glad to be warm in bed in a Best Western in a little Canadian Border town tonight. Congratulations QB on persevering and finishing this trail. On to the next thing.feel free to follow this blog or follow me on insta @endlesspsummer and Sara(QB) at @sarahikes

Sept 7 PCT mile 2419.9

So the rest of yesterday, after I fired off the last blog post, went really smoothly. Our friend Malibu, who lives in Seattle, drove out to Snoqualmie Pass to have lunch. And he brought us some massive cookies. We chilled out by the Aardvark food truck all afternoon and just did thru hiker town day stuff.

This morning we got back on trail after pummeling some omelettes and pancakes and had quite a day. The hike out of Snoqualmie Pass is a long switchbacked climb above the tree line to a little strip of trail called Kendall’s Catwalk(or Katwalk, but I refuse to write that). Once you get to this narrow piece of trail the views in every direction are spectacular. For the next 15 or so miles we contoured around jagged peaks and looked out at alpine lakes and other huge mountains. The footing was a little more difficult than usual and the miles a bit slower but well worth it. This is my third time up on this section of trail and the first on a clear day, looking to the southwest I could see Rainier and to the north I could see as far as Glacier Peak(I think).In the late afternoon we dropped a few thousand feet to a valley and along the way I took a quick dip in a swimming hole at the bottom of a waterfall. We crossed a river and then climbed big long switchbacks that brought us way up and out of the valley. With about 2 miles to the next campsite a cold rain had moved in with a crack of thunder and a flash of lightning. Luckily that was it for the T&L and the rain just gave me good reason to pick up speed for the rest of the day. We found a sweet campsite up high next to a little alpine lake.

Sept 8 PCT mile 2450.2

I’m pretty sure it rained all night, but I was busy sleeping peacefully so I didn’t notice. It was raining hard on the tent this morning when I woke up though and I thought we’d be walking through it all day. Luckily the rain stopped right around 7am so we packed up the wet tent and got moving. It was cold and wet for awhile and we had lots of clouds all day but it never rained. Good hiking weather, I’ll take that any day over rain.

The trail dropped down from where we were camped and we walked through a valley for awhile then back up again. It seemed to do that all day. There were at least 3 named passes we climbed; Cathedral, Piper, and Deception. None of them seemed particularly difficult, we’d just walk up long switchbacked trails to a pass with views of jagged peaks and turquoise alpine lakes on the way up then do the same thing on the way down and look at new jagged peaks and turquoise alpine lakes. Washington is awesome.

After walking down Piper Pass and through a boulder field we found a tent site next to Glacier Lake. It was a beautiful and productive 30 mile day. And it didn’t rain at all.

Sept 9 PCT mile 2475.2

Woke up next to Glacier Lake to cool air and clear blue sky. Good day for hiking, most of them are. Today we had to cross route 2 and stop at Steven’s Pass Ski Resort to pick up resupply boxes we mailed out a month ago. It was a quick 14 miles up and down a couple passes, through a few valleys, and we were at Steven’s Pass for lunch. I did fall though. I put my foot on this slanted slippery log in the middle of the trail, not thinking anything of it, and it was like I stepped on a patch of ice. My feet went out from under me and I hit the ground hard with my right big toe taking the brunt of it. I’ll be fine and everything but my toe still hurts and I did a fair amount of whining for the next half hour or so.

At Steven’s Pass we picked up our boxes, sorted our food for the next section and got a couple of cheeseburgers while letting our electronics charge up. This looks like a fun place to ski. It’s got a couple of peaks, it’s steep, and there’s lifts servicing the backside of the mountain also.

Back in 2015, Steven’s Pass is where my thru hike abruptly ended when I found out the trail ahead was closed due to wildfires. The following year I came back to Steven’s and got back on trail to finish what I had started. You can go back in time in this blog if you’d like to read about either of those hikes, but I don’t expect you to. No forced trail evacuations today though, we blasted in and out of town and got another 11 miles in this afternoon. We’re on a very serious mission.

Sept 10 PCT mile 2506.7

It rained a good deal overnight and into this morning. When I first woke up, listening to the raindrops, I thought today would be absolutely miserable. But it wasn’t. The rain stopped and although a little bit delayed we packed up our tent and put on our rain gear. It never really rained the rest of the day but it was constantly threatening. It was misty and foggy, every once in awhile it would drizzle, and today was colder than usual. I never took off my rain jacket or pants all day. Being a little cold is still better than rain. The fog and the mist added an interesting change of scenery to an already beautiful Washington. At times it just looked like something out of the movies. It also feels so remote out here, we saw a few other thru hikers but we’re far from any trailhead or any road for that matter and there’s no day hikers or weekenders out here.

The trail itself was up and down all day. Mostly smooth trail through forest and contouring along mountains. The story of the day for me was definitely the weather and the way it made this place look. With a few miles left we dropped through a huge valley with steep granite mountains on the sides with their peaks obscured by clouds. The valley reminded me of a pass in Nepal that led to Tibet. This valley only leads to more of Washington and eventually a campsite next to a river.

When we got to the campsite I was cold, wet, hungry, and a kind of tired that I only feel after walking all day in this type of weather. We cooked in the vestibule and ate inside the tent: Annie’s Mac n Cheese with bacon bits, coconut oil, and a packet of Tapatio. This was one of the most delicious meals I’ve ever had.

Sept 11 PCT mile 2535.3

I can’t sugar coat it, today pretty much sucked. At least the first half of the day. Right off the bat I saw an owl though, and that was cool. It swooped down in front of me and then perched itself up in a branch next to the trail for awhile. Then things went downhill(figuratively). It was cold and wet out right away. It rained overnight and the trail was overgrown so for about an hour I was getting soaked from both sides as the bushes gave the trail a car wash effect. When it actually did start to rain I was already drenched and wicked cold. Then it rained all morning and as we climbed higher it turned to a ‘wintry mix’ and then to snow. As we descended it would go back to a cold, cold rain. We figured we had 2 choices: either set up the tent and get into dry clothes to wait it out, or just keep walking to try to stay warm and eventually it would stop(finding a relatively dry place to just sit and wait it out and warm up wasn’t an option, too cold for that.) We chose the latter and that ended up being the right move. It was miserably cold and uncomfortable but we weren’t quite in danger and I really thought the sun would come out soon and make everything all better. This was one of my hardest days on trail that I can remember and Sara wouldn’t even commiserate with me because she was too busy belting out show tunes.

Her positivity worked though because after 4-5 hours of weather, as we walked over Mica Lake Pass, the sun did come out in all of its glory. Moments earlier it was dark and dreary and we were crunching through snow and now the sun lit the whole world up. A tremendously bright rainbow appeared and the sun shown on the glistening peaks that were freshly snow capped. The steam was rising from the ground, there were waterfalls seemed to sprout from everywhere, and I suddenly felt warm. It was glorious.

Nothing as wild as this happened the rest of the day. We did dry out and walked a huge uphill followed by a huge downhill around Glacier Peak. This evening it felt so good to finally be lying down and dry inside the tent.

Sept 12 Outside Holden Village

What a treat this morning was. If yesterday morning the PCT slapped me in the face, then today the trail welcomed me back with open arms. We walked along smooth soft dirt for a few miles through a forest full of big huge old growth trees until we got to a bridge that crossed the Suiattle River. On the other side of the river the trail was still pretty cruiser and had a gentle incline for the next 10 miles.

We’re aiming for the town of Stehekin, but due to wildfires part of the trail is closed and we’ll have to walk the reroute. The detour isn’t actually all the way into Stehekin and doesn’t connect back to the PCT. So we’ve got 2 options with one of them involving a boat, I’ll try to explain later.

The reroute started 17 miles into our day and brought us up and over Cloudy Pass and down into a valley with beautiful Lyman Lake. This place was really incredible to see and if it wasn’t for this fire detour I probably never would have walked through here. It rained again while we were in the valley but I knew it wouldn’t last and once again the sun came out and produced a beautiful rainbow. From Cloudy Pass we walked 10 miles to this tiny place called Holden Village(It’s not really a town, I guess it used to be a mining camp and now it’s a Lutheran Retread Center?). Tonight We’ll camp outside of Holden Village then tomorrow take a shuttle to Lake Chelan where we’ll catch a ferry to Stehekin. Our other option would be to walk another 17 miles of detour that doesn’t bring us back to the trail anyway and still have to catch a bus to town. North of Stehekin the trail is open again so as long as we get our boxes at the P.O. and a permit to stay in North Cascades NP tomorrow night, we’ll take the shuttle 10 miles out of town to get us back on trail for the final stretch. You followed all that, right? feel free to follow this blog or follow me on insta @endlesspsummer and Sara @sarahikes