PCT Journal: Days 127-134 (Washington Pt. III)

Day 127

Packwood, WA/Hitch to White Pass Detour/Clear Lost Lake

Daily Mileage: ~8 Detour

Total PCT Mileage: 942.5 NoBo + 357.7+ SoBo

I slept wonderfully in the comfortable bed at the Hotel. The morning consisted of another shower, packing up our belongings, and leaving a bunch of food and what not in the hiker box. We went back to Cruiser’s Pizza for a big breakfast and ran into Riv before relaxing for a half hour or so at The Mountain Goat Coffee & Bakery.

We were given a ride to the detour trailhead by 2 Taps. He thru-hiked the trail last year and was in the area completing a small section he had to skip. We indulged in a soda before we started walking and also caught up with Jill and Jamie, who we met in the desert a few months ago now. We thanked 2 Taps for the awesome trail magic and told him we might see him again at Trail Days if we make it to Trout Lake in time to hitch.

The trail we started off on seemed to be well maintained, but we knew from other thru-hikers that we would soon find it to be pretty rugged. We reached a small lake and estimated we might have been 7 to 8 miles in, so we took a break and Steel Toe found an area to practice some bouldering. We had a great view of Old Snowy Mountain, even through the smoke.

We soon descended down the other side of the mountain toward Clear Lost Lake. On our way down, we met Heaps and Neo, and got the intel on the upcoming detour. When we finally made it to the lake, we began looking for tentsites when we noticed a familiar looking camouflage tent. Then I heard the woman’s voice, and instantly knew it was Hot Lips and Caveman, who we met in the Sierra.

We set up our tent right next door and chatted with them about what to expect up ahead for both of us. After catching up, we walked a few steps down to the lake to wash up and cook dinner. We enjoyed the lakeside view while discussing the plan for tomorrow before we climbed back up to our tentsite and went to bed.

Day 128

Clear Lost Lake to Sheep Lake

Daily Mileage: ~8 Detour + 9.2 PCT

Total PCT Mileage: 942.5 NoBo + 383.2 SoBo

Just as we were getting ready in the tent this morning, Hot Lips slipped us a note under the rain fly. We just caught them on their way out, and they mentioned they’d be happy to host us when we’re hiking through Northern California near their home. We wished them luck hiking north and told them we’d see them soon.

We finished the detour after what felt like 7 or so miles. It was mostly uphill going southbound, but once we were out of the trees we had a clear view of Old Snowy. The trail could be seen from afar as it wound up the ridge of the mountains and toward Old Snowy.

We took a lunch break on the side of the cliffs just before the junction that led to either the more difficult Knife’s Edge just below Old Snowy, or the stock route that traverses the side of the mountain. There was a decent amount of snow around us, but none on the Knife’s Edge that we were about to embark on. We were told the views from here are typically amazing and Mount Rainier as well as Mount Adams could be seen in the distance. Today however, smoke filled the sky.

The terrain was much less intimidating than rumors made it out to be. The Knife’s Edge was filled with small sheets of rock so it sounded as if we were walking on glass the entire time. Although the rocks were sometimes precariously placed, they were beautiful. We reached the peak of the route and dropped our packs to ascend Old Snowy. We took our trekking poles and good thing, because much of the rock was loose. We scrambled to the very top, which stood at 7,900 ft, and came around the corner to see a small bivy site. We hung out at the top for a bit before heading back down.

As we continued North, we saw a glimpse of Rainier through the smoke. We ran into a decent amount of northbounders and backpackers heading toward the route we just came down. We decided to camp near an upcoming lake and pushed on until we made it there. We passed beautiful scenery along the way in the Goat Rock Wilderness. A family of marmots were congregating on the trail before we incidentally scared them off. We walked through a bunch of crickets that jumped all over us. Shades of green painted the mountains. All was breathtaking even through the smoke.

We found a spot to camp at Sheep Lake, just behind a group of Boy Scouts. Steel Toe went in the water, but I opted to stay dry. We ate dinner by the lifeless fire pit at our site, then laid in the tent until the people around us quieted down.

Day 129

Sheep Lake to Mile 401.6/Hitch to Portland, OR

Daily Mileage: 18.4

Total PCT Mileage: 942.5 NoBo + 424 SoBo

It was quite cold this morning, and a part of me wish I still had my down jacket, but thankfully my rain jacket over my long sleeve shirt was sufficient. We hiked over mild terrain for most of the day, which was nice compared to the ups and downs of yesterday. We caught a great view of Mount Adams on the one ridge that we walked, and just around the corner we saw Rainier as well. We were happy we finally were able to see it without any of it being obscured.

Steel Toe and I discussed the feasibility of making it to Trout Lake in time to be able to hitch to Cascade Locks for the PCT Trail Days festival. We were just about 22 miles away from Trout Lake at 3 pm when we walked onto a forest service road that intersected the trail.

The first thing we saw was a thru-hiker sitting on a folding chair eating a hot dog. Trail magic! We did hear a few miles prior from a some hikers that we were in for something special at the dirt road. Jo and Rich, a couple that lived a few hours away, were providing trail magic after dropping off their son nearby. They thought it would be a decent spot to setup and boy, they were right.

The spread included hot dogs, macorini salad, fruit, chips, sweet treats, soda, and beer. We ate our fair share and while discussing our plans for the next few miles we were offered a ride down the mountain to a nearby town. Steel Toe and I looked at each other and knew this might be our only chance to make it to the festival in time without hurting ourselves. We graciously accepted and were soon on our way toward the interstate.

We were dropped off at a gas station right off of the interstate. We said goodbye and thanked them for the amazing trail magic. After making a sign on the groundsheet that read, Hikers to Portland, we stood near the road and did our best to hitch. An hour later, we attempted to hitch near the highway on-ramp since we weren’t having any luck at the gas station.

By the time it was almost 9 pm, we went back to the gas station to figure out our next plan. We researched trains and buses from nearby towns and figured we would have to take an Uber 20 minutes away to be able to grab a bus tomorrow. Just as we were trying our luck with the sign one last time, a man named Andrew pulled up and said he was headed to Portland and would love the company!

We arrived in Portland around 10 pm. Andrew was nice enough to drop us off at the motel I booked while we were in the car. We ran next door to the gas station to grab food and when we returned, we showered and hand washed a few items of clothing before bed.

Day 130

Zero in Cascade Locks, OR (PCT Trail Days)

Daily Mileage: 0

Total PCT Mileage: 942.5 NoBo + 423.7 SoBo

We woke up, showered, ate breakfast next door, and ran to the bus station all in a few hours. We arrived in Cascade Locks around 11 am and went straight to the Ale House to pick up our packages that were forwarded from Seattle. We organized all of our food and put the leftovers in the hiker box before heading over to Trail Days.

We set up our tent on Thunder Island, among one hundred or so other thru-hikers. Afterward, we walked into the festival area and were reunited with our old trail family! Opa (now Dirty Bird), Duchess, Tank, Parmesan, Crayola, Dingo, and Hitch – almost everyone was here. We all caught up and ran around to the various gear booths throughout the day. Steel Toe was able to procure a new pack from Granite Gear due to the issues he was having with his current one. We ate delicious food, drank local beer, and ran into many friends, including Lost Boy, Storm Trooper, Tailspin, Hot Lips, Caveman, Cribbage, Hobbit, Happy Feet, Pink Panther (who is now wearing a full pink suede onesie), Irish, and Two Taps. Yin (now Gourmet) also made an appearance. We made a few new friends as well, including X-Static.

We lied on the lawn with our friends and listened to the raffle winners. Steel Toe and I ate an absurdly large burrito with chips and guacamole from one of the food trucks. Not too long after, I didn’t feel so well. I think it was the few beers I had combined with large meals. My acid reflux was acting up and so I went back to Thunder Island to lay in the tent.

Day 131

Cascade Locks, OR to NoBo Mile 2158.4

Daily Mileage: 11.3

Total PCT Mileage: 942.5 NoBo + 435 SoBo

I woke up to the sound of everyone packing up in the morning. Steel Toe and I left our tent up, but the rest of the gang were ready to go as they still needed to drive their rental van back to Bend. We all enjoyed the free breakfast that was set up by the American Long Distance Hiking Association- West, and then said our goodbyes. It was sad to see everyone leave, but I’m happy that we had the chance to see them again.

After we took down the tent and organized our gear, Steel Toe and I walked down the road to the Ale House to charge our phones. Even though they weren’t open yet, the staff let us sit out back with the other thru-hikers. Once we were fully charged, we walked over and ordered food at Bridgeside to eat our last meal with a view of the Bridge of the Gods.

Once we were full, we threw on our packs and walked over the bridge to cross the border back into Washington. The walk was odd considering we thought the one and only time we’d be here would be as we were entering Washington for the first time. For this stretch, we decided we would hike northbound to Trout Lake, 22 miles South of where we left off. Getting a hitch back to the forest service road where we came off trail would be difficult, so we’re settling with at least getting to Trout Lake, and maybe coming back one day to finish those miles near Mount Adams.

The trail started off with mild terrain, but was mostly uphill for the rest of the day. We noticed we kept running into the same people at the water sources, but we didn’t mind too much. We eventually had one source that was about 50 feet down a steep hill from a tentsite. Steel Toe and I ventured down there, but almost wished we had just carried more water from the previous source.

We were almost up the big climb when we turned the corner and ran into Choo Choo and a new friend of his! We knew we would run into him, but we weren’t sure on which day. He told us he was happy to finish Washington, but will be heading back to the East coast to soon make the move to New York with his girlfriend. We unfortunately had to keep hiking, but promised to keep in touch.

Once we reached the top of the climb, we decided to pitch the tent since we saw a decent amount of hikers on trail today and weren’t sure if the tentsites up ahead would be full. A few minutes later, Happy Feet strolled in to camp and we were happy to see her. Dinner was enjoyed with a beautiful pink sunset. It’ll be nice sleeping on top of the peak tonight with this breeze.

Day 132

NoBo Mile 2158.4 to Mile 2185

Daily Mileage: 26.6

Total PCT Mileage: 942.5 NoBo + 461.6 SoBo

It was cold and foggy this morning, but that potentially meant a cooler day. We began with a long descent to the water source and passed by a few tents along the way. It felt like we were making good miles, and it turns out we were. By lunch time, we hiked 15 miles for the day. Our goal was 25, so only about 10 more and we could relax.

We kept leap frogging with the same people, including X-Static. Most of the traffic would build up at the water sources and then dissipate. As far as wildlife goes, we did see mutiple green slugs today, probably the largest I’ve ever seen. We were in the trees the entire time, so we didn’t have many views at all, but the surrounding forest felt very lush and rainforest-like with ferns every few feet and moss consuming everything on the forest floor.

After an early dinner at a creek, we made the final push up another climb until we reached a decent spot about 3 miles in. The tent is mostly flat, with the exception that we’re sliding a bit downhill, but much less so than last night when Steel Toe kept sliding toward the side wall of the tent. I had extra snacks to eat tonight before bed since it was hard to get rid of anything from the package my parents put together. I was really happy about the assortment of food.

Day 133

NoBo Mile 2185 to Mile 2214.8

Daily Mileage: 29.8

Total PCT Mileage: 942.5 NoBo + 491.4 SoBo

The morning up until 10 am consisted of a long climb. We passed five or six other hikers, and it made me feel proud of my trail legs, despite them being short. We hiked through an experimental forest, which of course made us curious. We let our imaginations run wild and chatted about the many types of animals that might be lurking out of sight. We saw a pair of winter gloves on the side of the trail, followed by various animal bones, so that led to all sorts of tall tales.

We played leap frog with the same three hikers all day, but when we finally made it 23 miles to Bear Lake for dinner, we didn’t see any other people with the exception of a few backpackers camping nearby. We decided to keep moving so that we would have fewer miles in the morning to get to the road that leads to Trout Lake. My right knee and calf started acting up, but that was to be expected after so many miles. I felt I was able to hike longer today because I made sure to focus on walking in a manner that stabilized my hips and placed less weight on my feet with each step.

Four miles prior to the dirt road we planned on camping near, we heard from another hiker that there was trail magic. We figured by the time we made it there, it would be gone, but still discussed the various possibilties. Just as we hit the trailhead parking lot, we saw Riv sitting in a chair next to a trail angel! We were excited to see her, and surprised at 7 pm that a dad and his son from Portland would still be providing trail magic. We gulped down sodas and indulged in bananas as well as homemade huckleberry cake.

Shortly after, we set up our tent near Riv’s in the dirt parking lot, next to a few fire pits, and ate a second dinner before bed. It’s easy to tell that this area is well frequented due to the unfortunate amount of litter scattered about. I hate seeing it, but without a vehicle or an absurdly large trash bag, I can’t do much about it. Let’s hope that no one decides to party here tonight since we’re literally camped in the middle of the lot.

Day 134

NoBo 2214.8 to Forest Service Rd 23/Hitch to Hood River, WA/Bus to Portland, OR

Daily Mileage: 14.1

Total PCT Mileage: 942.5 NoBo + 505.5 SoBo

It was dark when the alarm went off at 5 am. We wanted to get up early to make good mileage in the cool morning and get to town quicker. I didn’t sleep so well last night though. One minute I was sweating, the next minute I was freezing. There was no in between. Plus, I swore I heard weird noises outside of the tent throughout the night.

It was pretty cold before even before we got out of the tent, so we opted to stay in our sleeping bags and eat with our heads outside of the door to avoid getting crumbs inside. We even boiled hot water for coffee and sipped it inside.

We only had to stop one time to snack and filter water, so we made it to the paved forest service road around 11 am. Twelve other thru-hikers were lounging around by the road trying to get a hitch. Steel Toe and I decided to try walking down the road a bit to get cell service, but before we went too far we saw a large pickup truck with hikers headed toward the trail. Luckily, he had room for us on his way back to town.

The trail angel mentioned he was headed to Hood River, just South of Trout Lake, so we took him up on the offer. Steel Toe and I decided we’re going to flip once more. Now that Washington is complete, we just need to hike from Tuolumne Meadows North through Northern California and Oregon and end in Cascade Locks. We figure we’ll be safer by being in Oregon in October rather than risking snowfall in the Northern part of the Sierra, plus finishing at the Bridge of the Gods would be more monumental than finishing at Tuolumne Meadows.

When we arrived at Trout Lake, we grabbed our packages from the grocery store and one of the famous huckleberry milkshakes from the cafe. I can now report that it was well worth the hype. On our way to Hood River, the trail angel told us about the six hundred fires that were burning in British Columbia and how they’re the cause of all this smoke in Washington.

We hopped on the Columbia Gorge Express in Hood River and rode it into Portland, where we booked a room at the same motel we stayed at last time just outside of the city. We booked a car rental reservation on the fly for the next day as well. We’re certainly becoming experts at finding last minute accommodations.

Our first dinner included Arby’s, and for our second, we picked up takeout from a Mediterranean food truck down the road. The hiker hunger persists, even off the trail. We completed chores in the room, such as hand washing clothes, rinsing cookware, and backflushing water filters. I also iced my knee as we watched Despicable Me. Bedtime was pushed back, as always when taking a zero, so that we could watch The Terminal with Tom Hanks.

One thought on “PCT Journal: Days 127-134 (Washington Pt. III)

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