Hart’s Pass to Near Rainy Pass, 27.1 Miles
759.9 Total PCT Miles
And, back up to Hart’s Pass we go – this time, with my dad, Abbie, and Emma. Abbie will be joining me until Stehekin, and Emma is here along for the ride this morning. The drive up is foggy and misty, threatening to rain but not actually raining. If you didn’t know any better, you’d think this was Washington in September, views shrouded in clouds and a general sense of dampness. I can say with absolute confidence that in my nearly fifty days on the PCT, I have BY FAR surpassed the number of days I wore my rain jacket at Beyond Malibu in British Columbia over the course of TWO WHOLE SUMMERS. Again, that is roughly 6 months of time in Canada where I wore my rain jacket LESS than I have in the past 50 days.
I’m happy that Abbie will be joining me for this section and happy Emma came into town for a quick weekend. Apparently I took about a billion (rough estimate) pictures of Abbie hiking, too, so enjoy that. Just having the support of my sisters has meant so much on this big adventure, especially now.
The morning feels a little off for me. Because the truth of it is, I don’t feel present at all. My heart and mind are both terribly preoccupied with decisions to make (well, really only one decision) and thoughts on leaving trail. At times the pit in my stomach as I think through all of this makes me feel physically ill. Even now, I imagine this post will take a few days at least to put together because it all still feels too fresh. I’m learning that a decision being “right” doesn’t automatically categorize it as easy, simple, or free from doubts.
Anyways… regardless of feeling off, the miles do go by quickly and soon we are switchbacking down to our eventual lunch spot. The billowing clouds move slowly past, giving occasional bursts of views; the mountains seem to say “surprise!” each time we get a look at them. Another thru hiker goes by and says “Well, I have a feeling I’m missing out on some spectacular views…but at least it’s not raining.” No matter how distant I feel, I can hold on to that – “at least it’s not raining”. I wonder how many times I’ve said that over the course of my time in the outdoors over the years. Probably a lot.
It is fun to be on this section again, though. I did Hart’s Pass to Rainy Pass with my dad a few years ago, and it’s a sweet memory for me. A lot seems to have changed since then for me – everything from what I was doing in life (or thought I was going to be doing) to the miles that we hiked each day (Abbie and I have lunch 13 miles in where my dad and I camped our first night).
After lunch, the trail meanders through the forest for a while, and then begins twisting upward to Methow Pass. We pass a hiker shortly after our break, and it takes me by surprise. I’ve definitely let the bubble, at least for now, and the trail has been wonderfully empty… at least compared to how many people I saw on the way to the monument. The last time I was on this section, there were an absurd amount of downed trees we had to navigate around. It seemed to take forever. Thankfully, all of those have been cleared so it’s mostly smooth sailing up and up and up. Finally at Methow Pass, we get views and a little bit of sun, although it’s not enough heat to be comfortably warm just sitting. Breaks like this are a double edged sword – necessary, yes, and yet unfortunate, as it takes our hurting feet a little while to get going after sitting.
Eventually, we pass the cutoff for Snowy Lakes. It looks like dark clouds are moving in above the mountains to our left, and I’m brought right back to the trip with my dad. We camped up at Snowy Lakes and ~survived~ a massive thunderstorm that was quite literally right over us. I’m hoping to avoid a repeat scenario tonight when we end up stopping at camp. With this in the back of my mind, it feels like we hike quickly up the final ascent for our day before we hit Cutthroat Pass. Thankfully, there are only one or two patches of snow that require a bit of navigating around. Other than that, it is a straightforward evening of hiking. Sometimes we hike in silence, sometimes we have deep moments of conversation, sometimes just in our own worlds listening to music. I appreciate that Abbie has a balance of all three.
At Cutthroat Pass, we see a large, shaggy goat making it’s way towards us. Maybe one from Olympic National Park? Goats are one of those animals that are fun to see, and in theory really interesting, but at the end of the day seem kind of unpredictable to me. I’m glad this one seems content to stay on the rocks above the trail, although I do keep checking over my shoulder to make sure it’s not following us.
Then, 6:30PM. Camp! There’s a stream flowing on the far side of our tent site, which is great considering I didn’t stop to get water for tonight on the way down. I just truthfully couldn’t be bothered, and figured there has been so much stinkin’ water so far in Washington that there’s probably going to be some close by. So, that was a success. Abbie and I cook dinner, eat snacks (animal crackers are a hiker’s hors d’oeuvre), filter water, try to walk as normally as possible, and then call it an early night. I’m tired physically and mentally/emotionally, and ready to curl up in my sleeping bag. Plus, it’s cold – up until I get into my tent, I’m actually wearing every piece of clothing I carry. Nice. “At least it’s not raining.”
Near Rainy Pass to Stehekin, 23 Miles
782.9 Total PCT Miles
Abbie and I are up pretty early, since today we have a shuttle to catch. If you’re heading to Stehekin (which, we are) the PCT puts you out at a place called the High Bridge. The High Bridge is 11 miles outside of Stehekin, and there are only a couple of pick up times from the bridge…so we need to be there before 6:15pm. Should be no problem. It’s a pretty standard morning, and then when I go to dig a cat hole I walk past a surface poop complete with some toilet paper. Heavy sigh. I love that the outdoors is drawing in more people who are excited about nature, but SERIOUSLY PEOPLE LEAVE NO TRACE. If you’re going to be outside in these natural places, you really need to learn how to respect them. It’s a ~serious~ pet peeve of mine. And, it’s disgusting.
The morning is full of more fog and streams and a feeling of strangeness that comes from being on a trail I’ve done so many times before but now I’m on it as part of a much larger hike. Plus, I’m still feeling distracted and it doesn’t help that I didn’t sleep much last night. With that said, the first few miles pass quietly, broken up by conversation with Abbie and the occasional bridge crossing.
As we leave Rainy Pass behind us, the trail slowly becomes a shrub-infested bushwack. With the temperature warming up more than it has been, the plants feel steamy and warm as we walk through them. It seems busy out here, with a few large groups of people and plenty of weekend backpackers heading back towards Rainy Pass. A definite shift from yesterday. Again, water is everywhere and I really do love it. It’s on the trail, we cross it on interesting bridges, it’s a trickle, it’s a raging stream, it’s all of those things.
We take a quick lunch later in the afternoon. Ohhh man, how good it feels to get off my feet even briefly. But, we have a shuttle to be on time for, and we want to be there before all of these groups potentially show up for the shuttle, too. So, onward. We continue on until we come across a couple of rangers at a campsite, about 5 miles away from the High Bridge. Apparently we’ll need a permit to camp in Stehekin, they tell us, or they can give us a permit for camping out here. Neither Abbie or I wants to get up in the morning and hike into town, so they give us one of the last (supposedly) permits for overflow camping. Overflow camping happens to be on the Stehekin Visitor Center lawn, and it’s funny thinking of how I have gotten used to camping on lawns when allowed and not feeling like it’s anything out of the ordinary.
Once set with our permit (they ran out of current ones, so we have a leftover from the 80’s… nice), we cruise the last five miles. We both later agreed we should have stopped for water, since we were going to be at the pickup location pretty early, but at that point it was just weirdly hard to stop, since it would mean having to start again on still-aching feet. Abbie and I get to the High Bridge with plenty of time to spare – upon our arrival there’s only one other hiker there, reading a paperback book. I appreciate the dedication of carrying an actual book out here. As we plop down onto my foamie, backs leaning up against a log, I feel a few drops of rain but thankfully that’s all. At least it’s not raining.
Snacks, wishing I had stopped to get water, and taking a few pictures of the river. Then, I lay on a picnic table bench with my feet up, feeling the relief of not standing or walking. As the time passes, an older man who came down the trail with a group tries to talk to me about the recent World Cup final (yes, I know the United States won) and President Trump. DUDE surely I look like I’m half dead, just a dehydrated, dirty, hungry, hiker body laying flat on my back on a wooden picnic bench?! The last thing I want to do is think or talk about politics.
At last, the shuttle comes and I notice right away it has a giant jug of water to fill up our bottles from. Hallelujah. The whole ride in, this family that got separated for MAYBE 30 minutes from two of their adult children will not stop talking about their ~dramatic~ experience. What would they have eaten if they didn’t get back on the right trail?! How could they have showered?! They hiked 12 miles! Now, I know that miles are different for everyone, but the reality is that a bus full of PCT hikers – most of whom have done the past 50 miles in two days – is maybe not the best place to talk about how tired you feel after hiking 12 miles. Maybe.
After what feels like an eternity of listening to this family recount their hike and call dibs on who would be showering first in their cabin, we pull up to the main part of town. The only part of town, really, unless you’re counting the houses spread out along the main road that we passed coming in (which, for the record, were pretty interesting to see). Abbie and I walk up towards the visitor center, and upon seeing a few tents on a lawn area, do no further investigating and just set up there. The rest of the evening is spent with our drinks (Abbie’s an adult and had wine while I remain true to my La Croix since margaritas don’t exist in Stehekin), marveling at the cost of Oreos, cooking dinner at a picnic table – a simple pleasure out here – and then going to bed. It’s been a beautiful evening. I keep waiting for the rain to fall or the thunderstorm to start, but they don’t. Instead, the peaceful, warm, soft evening fades quietly into the night.
Bonus Day: Morning in Stehekin
The only thing on our agenda today, minus taking the boat to Chelan to get picked up, is to get to the bakery. There’s no way I want to walk the mile to get there, so Abbie and I get on the shuttle at 8am. The Stehekin Bakery was everything I needed it to be: sugar and coffee and something for lunch later. I get a cinnamon roll the size of my face (maybe even the size of my whole head) and happily eat it all.
Shortly after sitting down, we end up moving tables to sit and chat with two hikers we met yesterday, Juicyfruit and Bulletproof. Conversation rolls between the serious, the hilarious, and food. Typical. Eventually, between the laughter and talking, the shuttle bus comes back, heading for Stehekin. Once back in town, Abbie and I take down our tents and spend the rest of the morning/early afternoon sitting in deck chairs, looking out the water. The next step for me is getting on the boat and going home. To rest. After that, I’m not sure – I’m trying to embrace the uncertainty, so we’ll see what new adventure I get up to next. Your guess may be as good as mine.