Day 133: Goat Rocks in white-out conditions

Day 133
August 29
mile 2268.8-2293.1
24.3 miles

It rained all night. This time, I wasn’t able to prevent my sleeping bag from getting wet. Everything was saturated with moisture. I did my best to wipe off as much water as I could, but I had to stuff a very damp sleeping bag into its stuff sack and hope for the sun to come out.
The first several miles took me downhill and then along flat terrain. It continued to drizzle. As I rounded a bend and started the next climb, I looked out into an opening and saw the sky filling with dark clouds. Uh-oh. Today, I would be climbing to the highest point in Washington. A couple of southbound ladies passed by and seemed cheerful. I was not feeling the same way. It was cold, rainy, my possessions were all wet, and the clouds were obscuring the best part of the trail. As I climbed further, a loud boom of thunder pounded the sky. I found a couple of trees to stand under and have a quick snack as rain suddenly came pelting down. The trail quickly turned into a muddy river right before my eyes! I climbed higher and decided to take a break under another small stand of trees. By now, my body was extremely cold and my fingers weren’t functioning. I decided to boil some water for a cup of coffee. Fortunately, I was able to get my stove going, even without my fingers being able to work. I took out a packet of almond butter and a Snickers, but wasn’t able to open the wrapper of either one of them! I tried biting a hole into them, but my teeth weren’t strong enough. This was a big problem! After working and working, I finally got a small hole in the candy bar wrapper. (I also had another problem to deal with which my fingers were too frozen and numb for). I packed everything up and got out my rain mitts, which I was so thankful I had asked to be sent to Trout Lake!
Then, I headed on, trying to get some heat into my body. The coffee didn’t seem to have worked so well. A few miles later, I ran into a father and his young child. He asked, “There isn’t any rain that way, right?”. I had been hoping for the opposite. Unfortunately, it was everywhere!
I later met his wife who stopped to chat. She asked if I was keeping warm. “I’m trying to!”. She said it was good that I had mittens, but so far, they weren’t helping to warm my hands. She asked if I wanted any trail mix, and I said no and then told her about my stomach problems. She offered me some ibruprofen, thinking the inflammation was similar to menstrual cramps, but it was an entirely different problem that ibruprofen could not help with. I told her I wasn’t sure if I should keep hiking higher or stop and wait out the storm (knowing that would mean I probably wouldn’t make my flight). She said she thought the storm would blow over soon.
I continued on, finishing the current climb, and then walking through what felt like a magical landscape, even though I could not see much of it. It was a very lush area with green grass and cascading streams and pretty wildflowers. I passed by a nice waterfall and then saw several places where I could camp if I wanted to stop here. I decided that I would rather keep going, however. I thought I would just get even more cold if I sat around in wetness all day. And I wanted to keep making progress.
I was now at about 6,000 feet and had to climb to just over 7,500 feet. I reached an intersection and saw a few women day hikers and their dog approaching from another trail. One of them thought I was heading the opposite way and told me that I had a good chance of seeing some goats around Cispus Pass. They told me they had met Tumbleweed the day before.
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They let me go on ahead of them. Their dog would race ahead, find something interesting to sniff along the trail, and then run back to them.
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Eventually, I lost sight of them all. When I emerged around one bend, I found a little village of tents set up! No one seemed to be around and it felt a bit eerie.
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The trail split at this junction and I was confused about where to go. Part of me hoped someone would come out and direct me, but no one did. I decided that it turned and took the higher route. I was now surrounded by clouds and fog and could only see a few feet in front of me. If I had seen someone, they probably would have discouraged me from continuing to climb. I reached another part of the trail which also confused me. I could either climb over some rocks or head across the snow field. I started over the snow, but about halfway through, I decided I had been on the snow too long for this to be the trail! I turned around and went back. Then, I couldn’t figure out where the trail would be over the rocks… So I decided the snow field was the trail, after all.
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I finally made it across, and then emerged onto a ridge. There was a sign pointing to the “alternate route” which climbed, or I could continue walking on the path I was on. Since I was in white out conditions and there was no point in climbing higher, I stayed on the path I was on. It dropped off strongly to the left and I realized this is where a previous thru-hiker, who had written to me, had a scary experience of her own! As I made it across this section, I encountered a hiker going south. I was relieved that I wasn’t the only one out here! He had ice in his beard, but seemed to be in a cheerful mood, which also helped me. Then, I discovered that this was the stock route that I had taken. As I continued on, the wind picked up strongly. I had to plunge my poles into the ground (one of which kept collapsing) and crouching down in order not to be blown over. I could not see anything. My nose wouldn’t stop running and I was cold. I kept thinking, “Must get to Checka’s wedding… Must get to Checka’s wedding”.
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A little later on, along this knife’s edge, I met a man and woman who identified herself as Ice Axe. She was hiking the PCT this year in sections and I had seen her a couple of times in the Sierras and before Donner’s Pass. She gave me some information on the upcoming towns and her partner told me not to get blown off the mountain! I thought the wind was going to tear my pack cover right off my pack! Ahead of me was a large group of hikers, which took me some time to get around. The clouds started to lift a tiny bit as I started descending and I was thankful for a little glimpse of a view. I was very disappointed that I was not able to see much of this extremely beautiful part of the trail!
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I continued along, taking more pictures as the trail turned and the clouds lifted a little more. I was happy to be off of the ridge and out of the high wind.
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I saw a few nice places to camp, but I needed to keep moving. As always, I felt more and more tired with each successive mile that I hiked. I walked over tiny streams and saw pretty pink flowers on the trail.
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Eventually, I climbed back into the woods.
The rain started again. I found a little creek to collect and filter more water, walked by a couple who were sitting outside of their tent, and kept walking. I had decided on my goal for the night and kept an eye on my GPS, so I wouldn’t miss the camp site.
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After walking past it, I realized that it was tucked off the trail. As soon as I entered the area, the rain started coming down again! I had to hurry to set up my tent while the rain fell on my pack. I hoped it would cooperate with me, but again I struggled. At last, I was able to throw my damp groundcloth, sleeping pad and bag inside. I figured I could make it through the night and then dry everything out when I got to White Pass tomorrow. I cooked my dinner, zipped myself into my sleeping bag, and tried to get some sleep as the rain continued to fall. So far, I was not liking Washington! I had worked so hard to get here before the bad weather arrived, but as soon as I entered the state, the rain and cold began!


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