mile 2587.9-2610 (Methow Pass)
All remained quiet in the morning. I enjoyed another “thumb print” from the bakery with my morning coffee before packing up and heading out. Today, I would be climbing over 4,300 feet to an elevation of almost 7,000 feet.
Shortly into my hike, I was surprised to see a hiker coming south and even more surprised when she called out my name. “Wendy! You made it!”. It was Skinny D with a big smile on her face. “Can I give you a hug?” she asked. Of course! I asked her what she was still doing hiking! She explained that her brother was picking her up in Stehekin and that she had gotten a ride from Hart’s Pass to Rainy Pass, so the extra hiking wasn’t too bad. I told her I couldn’t wait to give my body a chance to rest so my stomach could have a chance to start healing. I also told her I wanted to do this hike again when I was in a healthier state. This was Skinny D’s second thru-hike of the PCT and she agreed that it was much more enjoyable the second time around. She told me that the wash-outs coming up would slow me down, but they were really no big deal. She was wearing a red and white lei around her neck, and after we parted and I turned around to watch her leave, I saw that she had a little Canadian flag sticking out of her backpack. So festive! I still had several more days of work and many miles ahead of me before I could start celebrating.
I soon reached a sign before the next creek crossing with one arrow pointing in the direction of the ford and one pointing towards the footbridge. I could not figure out how to follow the path to the footbridge, nor could I even see one, so I decided to ford the creek. Rocks were laid out where the water dropped off and I carefully stepped across those ones until my foot no longer had a rock to step on! I wasn’t able to manage to keep my feet dry, but it was of little matter. There was plenty of time for them to dry with all of the climbing I had ahead of me.
I passed by the side paths to two other designated camping areas and then, after several more miles, came to a broken bridge in front of me with pink caution tape wrapped around the end.
It did not look possible to cross, so I made my way along the creek and found a thin tree laid out. I didn’t feel that I had enough balance to attempt that way, either, so I tried rock hopping, and once again, could not manage to keep my feet dry.
Once I reached Rainy Lake Outlet, I decided it was time for my ice coffee break. I collected and filtered water here, looking at the wooden beam I would soon have to cross, hoping it was wide enough so that I wouldn’t lose my balance.
As I snacked, I noticed tiny, cute mushrooms beside me that looked as if they belonged in a dollhouse world.
The bridge turned out to be no problem, fortunately. Ahead, I reached an informational board and found a white paper plate with the words “Trail Magic at Hart’s Pass, Sat-Sun 5-7pm” on it. Seeking had told me that there trail magic there when I saw him after Steven’s Pass, but since I was so far away at that point, I knew I couldn’t expect it to still be there when I arrived. This sign made me think that it actually might be! The trail split and I followed it to the right and emerged onto the highway. I saw a little parking lot and outhouse, but was very confused, as it was too early to be at Rainy Pass.
Eventually, I figured out that I had veered off the PCT and went back to the intersection in the woods and took the left path.
I crossed over another creek and headed up to the real Rainy Pass.
No one else was around! I crossed the highway and followed the paved road to the parking lot, which was full of cars, but no people. At least there was another outhouse here. After a brief break, I started up the 2,000 foot climb to Cutthroat Pass.
Several day hikers were making their way down the mountain. I began to grow tired and sat along the edge of the trail to snack as another group came down. The landscape changed from forest to sub-alpine. The higher I climbed, the more it opened up.
As I made my way up the final weaving switchbacks, a family of three was slowly making their way down. One of the women said, “You’re almost there!”. I smiled. I was almost there in more ways than one. I was now well over 2,600 miles into my hike, with less than 70 remaining. I was almost there…
The trail looped widely in surprising directions and then, I was in an expansive, dry, desert looking landscape at an alpine elevation.
This was where I was happiest- in places in which I could look around me and see mountains from every side. I dropped my pack, took some photos, and tried to take it all in. I could see the trail following the ridge ahead and decided it was time to follow it. After less than a mile, I sat down for another energy boost to get me through the remaining miles of the day. Crows flew overhead. I wanted to save my remaining baked good for breakfast tomorrow, but couldn’t manage to hold off. I figured it would at least help lighten up my pack.
Another group headed past me in the opposite direction. As the trail rounded a corner, I wondered if this was the spot where UB was airlifted out of WA. I looked down below to see if a helicopter would have room to land there. The trail headed downhill and in a dry area, I encountered another couple collecting water. I decided to wait to collect some for myself and moved past them. The trail crumbled underneath me in spots where it had been washed away. Eventually, I found my own little stream to collect ad filter water for my dinner and morning coffee. I walked past a little meadow area where a couple was camping. The woman was sitting on a log reading. When the man noticed me, he called out, “Are you a PCT hiker?”. They congratulated me as I headed up the next climb. I still had a mile to go before I would reach the next campsite. At the top, I saw a man resting. His clothes were hanging from a tree branch beside him. I realized it was Story Time and couldn’t believe it. Although it was only 6:30, I didn’t want to go any further. The next campsite was nearly five miles away, which was much too far for tonight. When I told Story Time that I was going to camp here, too, he said that he was only taking a dinner break, and would be heading on. I felt relieved. He invited me to join him for dinner, but I said I wanted to set up my tent first. I picked a spot and struggled a bit as usual. There were now holes in the cuben fiber material at the top of my tent and I knew a storm was coming in. The wind was already picking up. Since I had used almost all of my duct tape on repairing my broken pole, I had essentially none left. I had to muster up some courage to ask if Story Time had any he could spare. It turned out that he had a lot. He also wanted to follow me back to my tent and help me put the duct tape on, although it was a one person job. He asked me if my legs got cold in my skirt and if I had slowed my pace recently. He seemed to think that I was faster in the Sierras, or that maybe he had gotten faster as he dropped more weight. I really didn’t care. He also wanted to know if I planned on going to the trail magic tomorrow and started complaining about how it was holding him up. He wished it were around 2pm instead of 5. I didn’t think he should be complaining about the timing of free food…
He eventually headed off and I was left to watch the sky change extraordinary colors.
Soon, it was all dark and I cooked my dinner, cleaned up, and drifted off to sleep for the third to last time on the trail. It was a good feeling.