PCT Section/Snoqualmie Pass to Stehekin – Day 12

2570.0 – 2572.9 (2.9 miles)

We woke up extra early today because we were both excited about getting to town. In just three short miles, we arrived to the Stehekin trailhead and the bridge that crosses the big creek. It was 6:30 am when we placed our backpacks on the picnic table and looked around at our surroundings. The resident ranger’s home had a light on in the main room, but he was probaby still asleep. I walked to the outhouse to the right of the ranger’s home, hoping it was okay to use it.

Since the bus wouldn’t arrive until 9:00 am, I suggested to Georgia that we walk to the bakery, which I thought might be halfway between the trailhead and the town of Stehekin. We walked on the road which ran along the very large creek, passing rustic mountain houses and the Stehekin Valley Ranch. Two hours later at 8:30 am, Georgia was tired and didn’t want to walk anymore. We stopped off the roadside at a wide pullout next to the Stehekin River. The water was glassy green like I’ve seen in the Sierra Nevada, and the river was large and rough enough for white water rafting. I collected water while making sure I held onto the bottles so that they wouldn’t get swept away. Georgia made us some hot coffee with her stove, and we waited for the bus.

Just before 9 am, a white Stehekin bus came up the road. We waved the driver down and Georgia walked up to the driver window to ask if he could pick us up on his way back. The bus driver gave her a deadpan look and said, “I’m not the bus”. She looked at him and at the passenger seats in his bus, puzzled and stunned. A second later, the bus driver added, “I’m kidding. I’m the bus.” Ha!

While we sipped our lovely hot coffees, the bus returned and stopped at our pullout. As we road on the bus, I realized how long the road was would have been if we’d kept walking! The bakery turned out to be almost at the town of Stehekin, so if we had walked there, it would have taken until 11am. At the bakery, Georgia bought a yogurt berry parfait and coffee, and I chose a vegetable and cheese sandwich. My sandwich had fresh tomatoes, layers of fresh cucumber, and thinly sliced red onion. It just looked so good that I had to get it. Once we arrived to Stehekin, we walked to the restaurant and plopped ourselves down at a table on the balcony. I paid for WiFi access at the gift shop. I texted Julie in Seattle that I was now a day ahead of schedule and would be in Seattle tomorrow morning, and then checked in with Liz back at home. I also had to move the motel reservation in Wenatchee back to today, and cancel and buy a new Amtrak ticket. The balcony tables turned out to be for the restaurant’s customers, so someone from the restaurant came to let us know that they were happy to have us sit there, but we’d have to move when the restaurant opened. The woman was really nice about letting us stay, but jumped out of the seats anyway and decided to walk to the ferry dock.

Georgia walked me to the ferry dock which was in the direction that we’d just come from on the shuttle. I gave her a quick orientation of town of where the forest service visitor center would be, and pointed out the Post Office, showers, phone booth, and the direction for Purple Point campground. The ferry was scheduled for 10:30am, but when I arrived to the dock, everyone was already boarded and waiting for only me. Once inside, I noticed that hardly anyone was wearing a mask although it was pretty crowded and we were in an enclosed space. I’ve noticed the same with the Amtrak. I was on the fast ferry, and it nearly flew as it sped across the surface of the lake at 45 miles per hour. There were houses that dotted the shoreline of Lake Chelan as we rode along the lake. Sometimes the houses stood at the water’s edge with nothing around for miles but dry grassy hills. In an hour and a half, the ferry arrived in the town of Chelan. I stood at the bus stop for less than a minute before a local resident farm worker offered me a ride to the small town of Wenatchee. I checked in at my motel, took a long overdue shower, and did a sink laundry of all of my clothes. I had a nice meal of Chinese dumplings and noodle soup and talked to the young server who was a Latino kid born and raised in town.

The next morning, I walked to the Amtrak station. At the station, I met one student from Argentina who was working a summer job and traveling. There was also an older man with a tent under his arm who had just camped in Stehekin over the past week. He looked very happy. Once on the train, I sat next to a traveler from the U.K. who had quit his IT job and was traveling the U.S. He told me that he was part of the Great Resignation. I didn’t even know that the Great Resignation affected other countries! Unfortunately, his travel plans were more ambitious than his health could handle, and he was headed home from being physically exhausted, but he had visited a good number of cities in the past few weeks. I was sad to have left Georgia and to have left the trail, but it was reassuring that I’d be coming back next year to hike the missing piece of Oregon with Georgia next summer. I rode to Seattle enjoying talking to my seat neighbor from the U.K. and looking forward to seeing my friend Julie in Seattle.

Stehekin High Bridge

PCT Section/Snoqualmie Pass to Stehekin – Day 11

Mile 2550.2 – 2570.0 (19.8 miles)

We left our campsite at Miner’s Creek before 6:30 am. Our tent and tarp had been wet, but when we woke up, they were now completely dry and lighter to carry. The sky today was blue, we were finally getting good weather.

Anemone occidentalis, Western Pasqueflower

In the afternoon, we had one more creek crossing that required some care. A bridge had washed out at one of the creek crossings and now required crossing through the water. The creek was lower than the last two creeks we had to cross together, but we paired up again for a solid crossing.

Around 7:00 pm, we were walking along a creek and crossed lots of streams. We read that there was a spot just next to the trail with space for one tent. Luckily, when we arrived, the spot was just large enough to squeeze in two of shelters in the space. We were so happy to be so close to reaching Stehekin finding a campsite that wasn’t occupied, being able to camp early, and having the space to ourselves so that we could relax and chat. An hour later, two southbounders came by, hoping to camp at the same spot. They were really disappointed to find it occupied and learning that they would have to keep hiking. Tomorrow will be a short day into Stehekin. It’s exciting, but also melancholy that I’ll be leaving the trail and will be saying goodbye to Georgia.

PCT Section/Snoqualmie Pass to Stehekin – Day 10

Mile 2529.8 to 2550.2 (20.4 miles)

We slept in just a little longer than usual, but were up by 6:30 am. Patricia and Indy left camp just before us.

We had more downed trees today, but after the obstacle course that we had yesterday of creek crossings, snow fields, and endless downed trees, today’s downed trees were not a big deal to us. We took a break near a fallen tree with a huge root system, so Georgia stood in front of it for me to take a photo. These are the size of the trees that we’ve been climbing over and scooting under.

Georgia standing in front of a massive fallen tree

At the end of the day, we reached our intended campsite at Buck Creek Pass Junction, only to find campers already camped in the tiny, crowded space. We decided to keep walking to the next campsite. We arrived at a large flat among trees, just before the crossing for Miners Creek. A family with several kids, just returning from an off trail bathroom trip walked toward the trail with their roll of toilet paper in hand. The father called out for all of the kids to empty their pockets of snacks to place in their bear bag hang. On the other side of the trail, two guys in their twenties or thirties were camped right at the creek. I didn’t want our tents to block their path our of camp, so I walked over to ask whether they would mind if we place our tents that may be in their path. They were laid back and didn’t care where we camped, so we pitched our shelters in the best spots we could find while avoiding a few standing dead trees. It was really nice to be able to camp a little earlier than last night, and to have some space today for ourselves.

PCT Section/Snoqualmie Pass to Stehekin – Day 9

Mile 2512.3 – 2529.8 (17.4 miles)

Today was the toughest day we’ve had on trail. We started out of our campsite in good time and in the first mile, we reached the much anticipated, anxiety inducing Kennedy Creek (2513). Georgia and I were both anxious about this crossing. The water was cloudy with glacier sediment and it wasn’t possible to see how deep the water was. Hikers we met who were headed southbound recommended a log crossing that connected to a rock hop. The rock hop that they talked about was a boulder with a mostly vertical face. There was no way that we could safely jump onto it, not to mention the chance of slipping on wet rock or bouncing off from it because it was so vertical. The log was also wet and looked slick. The jump would be a few feet across and a fall could be into swift waters. Maybe if we were six feet tall guys in our twenties or thirties, but it wouldn’t work for us.

We walked downstream to find the widest part of the creek. Georgia lent me one of her trekking poles. We first linked arms, and then decided on holding hands to give ourselve more space between us take side steps. The middle of the crossing was a little deep and since we were both small, the force of water was tough. We were focused on securing every step. We made it safely across. We had a second short crossing after the first. Then, we climbed up a rocky bank to continue, expecting one more crossing on the other side of the middle bank. To our surprise and relief, there was no other crossing. Once we knew we were safe, we finally felt the cold in our feet. We’d been so focused that we didn’t realize how cold the water was.

The next challenge was snow fields on the descent after Fire Creek Pass (2520). We took a break at the pass and walked along the pass to study the snow fields from a wider angle. We both carried microspikes, but the snow was soft and we both had good traction on our shoes, so we decided that our shoes were good enough. I was grateful for Georgia lending me her trekking pole again. The first field was the trickiest as the lower end was steep and didn’t allow for traction, so we down climbed on rocks. There were intermittent snow fields over the entire descent of switchbacks. After making it through several snow field crossings with a trekking pole and kicksteps, I finally got tired of having to concentrate so much, so I had detoured around a few steep fields. Toward the bottom of the descent, the snow fields were more level and became much easier to cross.

Glacier Peak Wilderness

We reached a beautiful Mica Lake where there were plenty of campsites and several pairs and small groups of hikers.

Mica Lake

Once we passed the snow fields, our third challenge today was a seemingly endless number of downed trees. A southbound hiker we had met in Skykomish told us that he estimated about 250 downed trees. I’m not sure if we went through 250, but Georgia and I thought there were around 80 to 100. Georgia joked that people pay good money for obstacle courses, and that we could have people pay us to hike through this section of the trail.

We sat down for a break and just behind us was a tree that looked like the four-legged walking robots/vehicles from Star Wars.

Star Wars tree

We also had salmonberries today. Georgia had never tried them before, so I tried to look for ripe ones for her to eat. We also had huckleberries, blueberries, thimbleberries, and twisted stalk berries.

Salmonberry

At the end of the day, we crossed Milk Creek and climbed one last set of switchbacks. We would see the entire zigzag of the switchbacks from the other side of the trail, they just seemed to go up and up. Once we started climbing, they were surprisingly easier than they had looked. When we reached the top of the climb, there were hikers already set up at the campsite we had aimed for, so we continued to the next site. We ended the day at the next campsite and met two thru hikers, Patricia from San Jose and a guy named Indy. We ended our day around eight o’clock and had to set up quickly as it was getting dark. We plan to sleep in just a little longer tomorrow.

PCT Section/Snoqualmie Pass to Stehekin – Day 8

Miles 2494.9 – 2512.3 (17.4 miles)

Today we passed White Chuck River, Baekos Creek, and ended at a fairly large campground just before Sitkum Creek. There are so many glacier-fed milky creeks in Washington. It’s been helpful to be hiking in a pair to help each other when we have any bigger creek crossings. Thankfully, the creeks in Washington are nothing like the Sierra Nevada because the snow melt is slow and gradual.

There has been so much water in Washington that it caught us by surprise when we were running low on water and came to two nearly dry seasonal streams. This was the only time that we had to use baggies to scoop water to filter in our bottles. Luckily, there was enough water flow that the tiny pool that we were scooping from would keep filling so that we could have enough to fill two liters each. After that, we were a little more alert about our next water sources.

At the end of the day, I got into “just keep going” mode and kept hiking until I arrived at our planned campsite. Since Georgia hadn’t arrived yet, I also walked ahead and found two additional campsites just past the large campsite among downed logs.

A few minutes later, Georgia arrived to the campsite. She had pushed through without stopping and was shaky and hypoglycemic! I really need to be more aware that I am hiking with someone and make sure to stop and slow down. I have gotten used to the kind of “hiking together” that thru hikers do, which just means you end up at the same camp at the end of the day, but I need to be more considerate so that Georgia has time to take breaks.

The large campground had a sign for a privy, and walking in the general direction that the sign pointed to, I reached a wooden box with a wooden toilet seat, covering a deep hole. Unlike vault toilets, they are somehow able to keep these privies from smelling and attracting flies. When I returned, Georgia had also checked out the two upcoming campsites and suggested that we camp there instead. We picked in a flat area surrounded by boulders with the sound of a creek just over the boulder hill.

There were cirrus clouds at end of day which made me wary about tomorrow’s weather. I also noticed that my throat felt dry like it was almost becoming a sore throat. I ate twice at the diner while in Skykomish, so I really hope I didn’t catch anything.

PCT Section/Snoqualmie Pass to Stehekin – Day 7

Miles 2477.9 – 2494.9 (17 miles)

Finally, a sunny and pleasant day.

Today we passed over Grizzly Peak at 5,560 feet. We were both feeling good and took pictures of each other on this pretty section. Below is a photo of Georgia. She’ll be sending me a photo of me after her hike is over. We also passed Pear Lake and Lake Sally Ann.

Toward the end of the day, I usually end up hiking without stopping just so that I can get to camp. This makes it hard on Georgia, since she is having to keep up and isn’t able to take any breaks. I need to remember to slow down and offer her some break time.

Around 6:30 pm, I reached Cady Ridge Trail Junction. We had both read on Guthook that there were good tent sites 0.1 miles down this trail, so we planned to camp here today. Campsite was downhill and off a side trail among a grove of young pines. The camp sites were large and flat and perfect for pitching a shelter.

PCT Section/Snoqualmie Pass to Stehekin – Day 6

Mile 2465.2 Stevens Pass to 2477.9 (12.72 miles)

In the morning, I had breakfast with Piper, one older southbound section hiker, and Allen. I ordered a full breakfast of hash browns, eggs, ham, toast, and drank four cups of coffee. I was planning to leave an extra bag of Fritos and CheezIts in the hiker box, but Georgia thought I wasn’t carrying enough food, so I added them back to my pack. I think I have more food than I can eat in 7 days. I also added a large bag of beef jerky after Georgia was repeatedly concerned about the lack of protein in my trail food. I don’t mind the weight too much, but my food is so bulky! I would spend the next 6 days stressing over the amount of uneaten food.

After breakfast, Piper drove me, Georgia, and Allen back to our trailhead. We arrived at 10:30am, and before we left, he played us a song on his recorder. It’s too bad that Allen is hiking southbound since it has been fun to have him with us while in Skykomish. We wished him well on his hike and asked him to keep in touch. We hiked 12.72 miles before arriving to camp.

PCT Section/Snoqualmie Pass to Stehekin – Day 5

Mile 2455.5-2465.2 (9.7 miles)

In the morning, we packed up our wet tarp and tent. Thankfully, the sun was out this morning which made us feel so much better than we did last night. We hiked the last 9.7 miles to Steven’s Pass. As we got closer, we passed ski lifts, the ski lift tower, then descended gently to the ski resort. Once we arrived, we sat down at the outdoor tables and took a long needed break. We used the resort bathrooms, washed our hands with the nice resort sinks with soap, and dumped our trash in the large outdoor trash bins. After we felt a little better, recovering from yesterday’s all-day rain, we walked to the parking lot to find a ride to Skykomish. We tried hitching from both the north and south sides of the highway and tried to ask for rides from people leaving the parking lot, but it was too early in the day that no one was headed home. Allen, a southbound hiker also attempting to hitch, recommended that we try calling trail angel Piper. Thankfully, Piper was just dropping off a hiker back to the trailhead and said he would be more than happy to pick us up. Relieved, we hurried across the highway to our agreed meeting spot.

Trail Angel Piper was a retired pilot and instructor, originally from New York. He had been a pilot in the military as well as for commercial airlines. For many years, he was an instructor for commercial airline pilots. He was a really interesting and wonderful person who now enjoyed living near Skykomish and being able to help PCT hikers. When we arrived to Skykomish, Piper, Allen, and I had lunch together at the Cascadian Inn diner while Georgia stayed at the Inn’s common area and planned to do her laundry. Cascadian Inn was wonderfu. The Inn was run by nice, lovely owners who made us feel very welcome, showed us the common room and kitchen, gave us our room key, and explained the door system for the exterior door and rooms.

Once in our room, Georgia and I busied ourselves with town chores which included sorting our resupply, back-flushing our water filters, washing our cook pots and spoons, taking a much needed shower, and doing laundry. I also realized that with the steep climbs in Washington, we would most likely need seven days for the next 108 miles instead of the planned six days. I spent the afternoon attempting to rebook the ferry, cancelling and repurchasing a new Amtrak ticket, rebooking my hotel in Wenatchee, and rebooking my flight from Seattle to Burbank, and texting my friend Julie in Seattle that I would be one day behind schedule to visit her. By the time the chores were done, it was early evening. Georgia, Allen, and I walked to LouSky Deli. I chose to get ice cream for dinner, while Allan bought a proper sandwich. Of course, as he was eating it, I wished I had bought a sandwich, too. We returned to our rooms and at 9 pm, although I was frayed and frazzled, I did my best to quiet my brain and went to bed.

Oddly, the only photos I had from today were a sign pointing to a forest toilet and a photo of tiger lilies. I think I was bent on getting to Stevens Pass as quick as I could!

PCT Section/Snoqualmie Pass to Stehekin – Day 4

Mile 2438.8 – 2455.5 (16.7 miles)

We woke up to a gray sky and felt a few drops fall as we packed. I hoped that it would be a short bout of rainfall would give way to blue skies. Unfortunately, the drizzle began sometime in the morning and continued throughout the day. I wasn’t prepared for a full day of rain and the heavy duty trash bag intended for lining my pack was sitting in a stuff sack inside my pack. I just hoped that my quilt wouldn’t be too soaked by the end of the day.

Today we passed what was labeled Cascading Stream, plus many other streams, Deception Lakes, and then climbed over Piper Pass. But mostly, we were doing our best while miserable in the rain.

The campsite we aimed for turned out to be small and slanted, so I walked further to see what other options we might have. Up trail, I found a stand of old trees. There were a couple of dead trees in the far back, but the ones immediately surrounding the area were alive. Georgia chose to pitch at the lower part of the slope where it was semi-flat. I chose what looked pretty flat, but once I got in my net tent, I was sliding to the corner of my tent. We were both pretty miserable, but tried not to bring each other down. Georgia offered me a nice tea bag for ginger lemon tea. I didn’t get to drink it today, but I plan to enjoy it when I can make a pot of hot water without being attacked by mosquitos.

We are just 9.7 miles from Stevens Pass and Skykomish. We did take some photos of pretty flowers when the rain let up for a bit mid day.

Cold and rainy day

PCT Section/Snoqualmie Pass to Stehekin – Day 3

Miles 2420.8 – 2438.8 (18 miles)

The French Swiss couple left early this morning, I am sure they will complete their thru hike in less than two weeks. Georgia and I started our day around 6:30 am. The weather forecast said that we may be getting rain on Wednesday or Thursday, but so far, the weather has held up.

Today of course, had more climbing, descending, and climbing. We saw young Toni again, who was driving us a little nuts by announcing total elevation gain and the number of upcoming switch backs for an upcoming climb.

At the end of the day, we reached a campsite at the top of a ridge that looked down toward a lake. There were many sites as you walked further along the ridge. Unfortunately, Toni saw only the one campsite visible from the trail and decided to move on. Georgia and I took our time exploring the side trail along the ridge and decided on the best place to camp. We hoped that being high on a ridge would keep the mosquitos away, but they found us anyway.

Unfortunately, with all of the climbing, I forgot to take any photos today. Below is a photo from tomorrow.

Tiger Lily