This post was written in my sleeping bag at the end of a long day. Please excuse any errors.
Crossing the Bridge of the Gods is emotional. There are a few places on the trail that you have heard about for so long and this is one of them.
On the other side, we are in Washington. Within a mile, the rain that has plagued us for days is gone, sunbeams shining through the clouds. And we adjust to the Washington landscape- hills that climb more steeply than anything in Oregon. The trail throws us up ridges, before shooting us down to the valley floor. I get stung on the calf on one climb. Music in one ear and the wind in the other muffles the sound of a bee hive and my calf itches for days.
We arrive late in Trout Lake, catching a ride with a guy who has been out picking mushrooms. He shows us a flat of mushrooms in his trunk and tells us about the variety of berries. We make it to the store just before it closes and pick up our box. Bear Bait has been here before us and defaced it. “Please hold for ginger raccoon and grubby hobbit,” the box reads. We cowboy in a city park, unsure if we are really allowed to be there.
We head out in the morning, circling the base of Mt. Adams as clouds move in. Soon the mountain is covered and the wind picks up. We get low, camping by a trail junction.
It’s after midnight and I am dead asleep when a muffled thump and low, animal grunt by Shake’nBake’s tarp wakes me. I sit bolt upright, still half asleep.
“AAH! AAH! AAH!” Shake’nBake yells. Has something got him? Is it a bear? I start yelling too, and then hear a voice: “It’s alright! You’re alright!” The scene comes into focus. It’s a group of bow hunters, packing out a kill. For some reason, out of the miles of empty trail, they have decided to stop for a break by our camp. Even more bizarrely, they try and strike up a conversation, asking if we are hiking the PCT, where we are from etc. Finally, they ask if we are trying to sleep and if they should be quiet. I try and fall back asleep, but I am jumpy after my midnight scare.
We climb up towards Goat Rocks. Adams and St. Helens dominate the skyline and we stop for a lunch with a view. Then we are climbing up towards Old Snowy Mountain and the knife edge ridge beyond.
The trail splits below Old Smokey’s shoulder and here Shake’nBake and I have our first real difference of opinion. The old PCT is longer and climbs higher, but avoids two awful snow fields. I am adamant I will not cross the snow and Shake’nBake refuses to do the extra distance. He reluctantly agrees to wait for me and I set out alone.
I scramble up Old Snowys’s shoulder, squeezing between boulder piles and snow fields. Then I am high on a ridge. A man at the crest tells me there’s no snow on the route and points out the trail. A narrow knife edge ridge of stacked shale runs between a cliff on one side and a steep snow field on the other. I pick my way down carefully, half convinced the shale will slide and send me tobogganing down the mountain.
I meet Shake’nBake at the bottom and we swap adventure stories. Together, we make our way along the knife edge of Goat Rocks, trying to simultaneously admire the view of Rainier and watch our feet on the loose gravel. Then, we drop down to camp back in the quiet forest.
I wake in the morning to a splitting headache and waves of nausea. I get up to find a bush, and on the way back to my sleeping bag, I throw up. An hour later and I have no more time to burn. I start hiking even though I feel like I will puke. I reach White Pass and chug two Gatorades, immediately feeling better.
In White Pass, we get a weather update. Two more nice days and then 100% chance of rain. We try to cover as many miles as possible, soaking up the sun.
Then the rain comes. It starts over night, and we pack up in the rain, walking out into the clouds. By lunch, my rain jacket has soaked through. I shiver while I eat and it takes most a thousand foot climb before I stop worrying about hypothermia. I can’t stop again or I will freeze. I splash through the flooded trail. Then, like a mirage, the smell of smoke and blue tarps. Surely this isn’t real? Trail magic is so rare now, but a wonderful man is out here, stoking a fire. I step under the tarp and am immediately handed a mug of hot chocolate and wrapped in a blanket. It is hard to head out into the rain, but we do. Just a few miles down the trail though, we are stopped again. Cheeseburgers, beef stew and beer are enough to get us to stop for the night. In the morning, there are breakfast burritos and coffee with home made kalua. It’s 18 miles to Snoqualmie Pass, and we manage to dodge the rain showers the whole way.