Up, Down, and Lakes
After checking out of the hotel, Cosmo and I meandered into town. A friend of mine, John Z, happened to be nearby and came to hang out for the afternoon. The last time I saw John we were running 35 miles across Joshua Tree National Park. He's a legend on the PCT and in a lot of ways has helped me prepare for this trip. It was nice to spend time in town and catch up with him.
After spending most of the day in Leavenworth John gave us a ride back to Stevens Pass.
We walked back into the lodge and were pleasantly surprised to see Woodchuck and Rooster! I screamed out of excitement when I saw Woodchuck's face. We went upstairs to the bar to have a beer and some food and were surprised to find more friends, Happy Baby and Phillipides.
We ate food, got caught up, and went on a rainy search for the Mountaineers Lodge, a hiker hostel.
After a desperate scavenger hunt we eventually found the cabin tucked away in the woods. We were immediately greeted by the host and taken on a grand tour. It was incredible! We made it in time for spaghetti dinner (2nd dinner for us), the hosts were generous and accommodating, and made a special tomato sauce for me when they found out I was vegan. We all ate too much food, drank too much beer, and stayed up way too late laughing and playing Cards Against Humanity.
We were all woken up at 7:30am for breakfast and once again the hosts were extremely generous and did their best to make vegan options. I had breakfast potatoes (amongst other things), so I was happy.
It was hard to leave the Mountaineers Lodge, partially because it was so comfortable and cozy, and partially because there is a lot that will be changing on the trail for our group after today.
Rooster and Woodchuck will be flying to the east coast for a wedding, and won't be back until the 17th. Phillipides is getting off trail and starting his journey home. Happy Baby is waiting at the lodge for Soulshine to arrive. Ya Ya and Mellow Yellow are a few days behind, and Utah Aaron is a few days ahead. The fires burning in southern Washington and all over Oregon have become a logistical nightmare. Many people are quitting and will finish these sections next year. There is a strange and surreal energy on the trail these days, with northbounders and southbounders alike wondering confusedly how far they can walk. It feels like an anticlimactic ending to an incredible journey.
I am not ready to be done, and Cosmo isn't either. I'm not sure how much of the trail will stay open, or how we will get around the closures, but we want to try. One way or another we will make our way back to Mt. Shasta.
We headed out of the lodge by late morning, but we didn't get far. The big group reconvened in the lodge parking lot where Rob and John were doing trail magic out of their van. We ate sandwiches, drank beer, and tried to put off saying our goodbyes.
But alas, it was time. We hugged our farewells with hopes to cross paths further along this dusty trail.
Cosmo and I hit the trail around noon, and we were both feeling admittedly uninspired. We walked onward without our friends by our side, without a clear path to follow, and without knowing what lies ahead. However, such is life. With the things you can't control, the challenge is to find an equanimity, a peace of mind with whatever comes your way. It has been tough to keep letting go of the visions I had for this experience. But, at the end of the day, I am still incredibly grateful to be living freely out of my backpack - to set up camp wherever and whenever I choose. It seems quite fitting that we set up camp tonight at Hope Lake.
Right before reaching our lakeside camp spot we ran into old friends from the Sierra section, Trail Brain and Bavarian Blue, aka The Swim Team (named because they notoriously jump in every lake, no matter how cold).
We enjoyed an early evening, setting up camp around 5:00pm, reading, writing, and relaxing in ways we've always wanted to on trail.
I heard on a podcast this morning that if you have a problem you can't do anything about it's a circumstance. Most people's problems are not problems, but circumstances. Once you accept that your problem is a circumstance you free yourself to figure out something you can do.
The complications on trail for the class of 2017 are circumstances. It is what it is. What else is there to do except figure out a way to keep walking? This feels relevant, and validating, to my decision to keep going.
The beauty of this section has also helped brighten qour perspectives.
We had a beautiful blue sky day and the air felt fresh and clean. Our morning started with a climb over Piper Pass where we caught glimpses of Mt. Rainier.
We ate lunch at Deception Lake.
As the day went on we started to see thick smoke creating a haze over the mountains in the distance.
Fingers crossed that the smoke remains distant.
We continued to climb steeply over Cathedral Pass, where we began to see the forest burning from the Jolly Mountain Fire. It looked like a bomb had exploded behind the peaks.
Thankfully we couldn't smell the smoke and the air around us remained clear.
By the time the sun went down we found a nice spot to camp beside Deep Lake outlet.
Less than a mile into my hike this morning I ran into more friends from the beginning sections of trail, Fire Princess, 8 Bottle, and Uber Frog. I hadn't seen them since Walker Pass! This was the start of a day filled with old familiar faces. A big herd of northbound hikers got backed up in Cascade Locks (due to one of the many fires) and now they are entering Washington at Snoqualamie Pass, just 20 miles from where I camped tonight.
Later in the day I was briefly reunited with others who I hadn't seen since the desert - Marble, Pegasus, Timber, and Happy.
The hike itself was as to be expected for Washington - lots of up, lots of down, and barely any flat ground. Most of the day was along exposed ridge lines and mountain sides with Sierra-esque granite peaks all around us.
Once again we were lucky to have clear skies and expansive, breathtaking views.
Throughout the day there were many reminders that there is still a destructive fire burning nearby.
The trail has been much more crowded since we flipped up north, and today was no exception. We searched for a campsite that wasn't full on an evening climb up switchbacks.
Thankfully, around 8:00pm, Large Pizza and his friend John made room for us at a spot tucked away in the trees. Cosmo and I ate dinner while chatting with Large Pizza about his journey, which began March 27th. He went through the Sierra and had a much different, much more snowy experience.
It feels good to lay down. Despite being almost 4 months into this hike, there is always some part of my body aching at the end of the day. Tonight it's my feet.
In my tent, I use my food bag to elevate my legs, as I close my eyes and get ready for another big day tomorrow.
This section was one of the most spectacular. We walked up rocky switchbacks that led to scenic ridge lines with expansive views.
The clouds rolled in over the mountain tops adding to the dramatic scenery.
Within the first mile we encountered a black bear who ran off at the sight of us (and before I could take my camera out).
Later in the day we crossed paths with our old friends Sweetfeet and Chopsticks. I hadn't seen them since Lake Isabella and it was so nice to reconnect.
Before the end of the hike I met Hoot, Brew Hiker, and Manzanita the trail cat.
After 20 miles we made it to Snoqualamie Pass. We contacted a trail angel who has been helping hikers get around the Norse Peak Fire which is affecting about 99 PCT miles.
Tomorrow the trail angel will take us from Snoqualamie Pass to White Pass.
After checking out of the hotel we heading over to Aardvarks, a food truck/hiker oasis in the parking lot across from the Chevron Station. We teamed up with Jedi (aka Maisey) and Link and all caught a ride to White Pass where we can start hiking again.