PCT Mile 2292
“All I have to do is get across the stinking bridge and I’ll be in Washington.” There seems to be another panic in Cascade Locks, OR. People are deciding this is the end of their hike, they’ll save Washington, in its entirety, for another time because of the smoke and fires and trail closures I guess. Having been through the panic at Kennedy Meadows where people skipped the Sierra when they suddenly realized that “low snow year,” did not mean “no snow year,” I surround myself with positive thinkers: the Ravens, GG, Zackley, Velcro, Rainbow, Milkshake, Sticky Buns and others resupplying in Cascade Locks. I think I’ll keep going as far as possible and hike what’s not closed. I won’t be disrespectful of communities who are dealing with fire though. But the conditions and hiker recommendations change daily and I’ve got hundreds of miles of Washington before the big fire complexes up north.
GG and I hiked across the bridge after she asked the toll booth attendant to take our picture. 11 miles of uphill and another 8 to camp and water where we were joined by Zackley, Velcro, Fish Out Of Water (a marine biologist!), and Apache. A tree fell in the night, right next to the lower tent sites, waking up everybody. Spooky.
Hiked the next day through trees and smoky gloom to a beautiful little pitch with a view to the south. Oh, and trail magic during the day just after I bitched that 85% of the trail magic caches were empty when I passed them (beer, soda, sweets, chips, conversation) with 2 guys who hiked the PCT in 2013. Trail Bride and Cope were there, maybe they still are, haven’t seen them since. Feeling the impending weather prediction for 5 days of rain, I pushed as far as I could the following day, camping again by myself next to the trail. It started raining that night and continued off and on through the day. Oh joy.
Zackley, Velcro and I reached Highway 23 mid afternoon, where a 24 mile stretch of trail is closed because of fire. The go-around is 11 miles of a paved highway walk followed by 16 miles of dirt roads. I headed out and within an hour the 4th car heading in the opposite direction stopped, backed up and gave me an orange and an IPA. More trail magic! Made the rain seem less wet and the pavement less hard. A couple miles later, the first vehicle going my way stopped and offered me a ride. I hesitated until passenger Rising Sun leaned over and said, “He’s going all the way to the trailhead.” Done deal. Zackley and Velcro behind me had turned it down. 2 hikers ahead said no. The last 2 spots went to Apache and Fish Out Of Water. It was a really long drive and I was very grateful since I have been eating deep into my food bag and knew I’d be on short rations. Camped after a shortish 21-mile day in the rain.
The next day was a 6 on the miserable scale. Poured rain, the trail was ankle deep water, and uphill. Since all my socks were wet and it hadn’t been dry enough to dry anything, I put ziplock bags over my wet socks, which kept my feet from being completely numb. I met Blazing Star heading back down the trail. She attempted the pass and Knife Edge earlier but she said it was a white-out, couldn’t see the trail, she was completely soaked and that she would need to go to Trout Lake to dry out and get more food. She is an extremely competent and experienced hiker and I trust her judgement. Hmm, Rising Sun’s latest weather update was that it might clear a bit the following day. I would be cautious the next day and retreat if necessary.
I camped at Mile 2272 with Apache and Fish-etc. and headed out the next morning, telling them to call Search and Rescue if they saw my footprints going off the knife edge. I met up with Middle a bit later and together we navigated where the trail vanished into scree and a snowfield. A little sketch. We kept climbing and found the trail in a pretty big wind amongst the clouds. No view, wind chill, felt like hiking at home on top of the Chugach Mountains. I know how to do this. I was glad to get over and back down in the trees. For the first time, I used my inReach satellite text to ask Dan to get me a reservation at the White Pass Village Inn. I just needed to allay my anxiety that I would never be dry or warm again. My tent had been soaking wet for days, my down bag still kept me warm although it was damp. Western Mountaineering sleeping bags are the bomb! One of the toughest days I’ve had, call it a 7 on the miserable scale. That freaking hike down from San Jacinto to Cabazon is still my top miserable day. It’s too cold to stop and eat but you need the calories. You’re not thirsty but you need to hydrate for warmth. I’m pathetically skinny, I have no body fat left to help insulate me or burn for heat. My ankles and feet hurt and I’m out of Advil. It’s so dark under the trees and clouds you need a headlamp. The worst part? I’ve been out of Snickers for 3 days. And then I ate the last of my bacon jerky. Call in the heli’s, this is getting serious. I stumbled in after 6 to a warm welcome, guess I’ll live to hike another day.
I love the White Pass Village Inn. Hikers are everywhere! Saw Unbreakable for the 1st time since Idyllwild, they’ve done the flip flop. Saw the Doobie Brothers for the first time since Chester. Wall-ee and Snow White are here. Milkshake and Sticky Buns are hiking out. Zackley is here waiting for Velcro who had to hitch from Trout Lake to White Pass to pick up his replacement hiking Chacos since his current pair rotted off his feet and then go back and hike the trail. GG came in this morning and we’re eating dinner together.
If we ever get winter in the West again, I’m going to do a snowboard tour of all the snowboard resorts the PCT goes by from Washington way down to So Cal, including this place, White Pass. Hey, USASA Series Directors, watch for me at your contests. Catwater hikes, Catwater rides!