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Posts Tagged ‘Snoqualmie Pass’

After more awesome trail magic, detailed in “Pass the Beer“, we set off up the hill…it’s always up after town and full stomachs.  Hop-a-long, Scout, and I got going after lunch and planned to make it eight miles to the first campsite at Ridge Lake, a solid climb of around 2,500 ft later.

The mountains changed south of highway 90 at Snoqualmie Pass, and north of the highway.  They became more rugged, remote, and more scenic.  The most difficult sections are always the most beautiful.  They shot straight up to the sky, then dove furiously down into a valley; and let me tell you, there were many valleys in this section.  The PCT tried to contour as usual, but the contours were wrought with rocks and changed elevation quite frequently for contours.

We passed Magellan on the climb who seemed to be moving slower than normal, but ok.  He said he ate too much before leaving.  That food truck next to the gas station was dangerously enticing for thru-hikers.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThe top of the climb ended in a tiny pass where we made a short hop over to the other side of the ridge, looking at the sunset in one direction, and a beautiful array of clouds in the other direction.

Those beautiful, mysterious clouds that we stared at began moving in quicker and quicker until we could barely see more than twenty feet in front of us and we almost missed the tiny ridge lake that we sought.  It lay in a saddle on a rather small ridge.  Scout scouted out the best campsite in no time and no more questions were asked about how he received his trail name and we set up in the mist of the cloud that blocked the sun and sent shivers into our bones.

While we ate dinner, we saw a headlamp moving slowly through the fog, scanning the area, but unable to see much, so we called out and directed it toward our campsite.  It turned out to be Magellan, grateful for flat ground and dinner time.

The morning brought much of the same.  We had camped inside a cloud, with its lack of visibility and all of it’s moisture.  None of us wanted to get out of our nice, cozy sleeping bags.  When we did, we found the trail again through the intense fog and headed onward to Canada.

Amazingly, after we left the saddle and made it a little way up the ridge, the fog went away giving us an amazing view of the valley OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAfilled with clouds while the ridge tops glowed in the morning light.  It really hit us that we had truly been inside a very small micro-climate the night before.

Compared to the long, steady climb that we accomplished the day before, the next eight miles seemed to drag on forever.  The trail shot up and down over ridge passes, shale, trees, wind, calm, all with a chill making it very difficult to keep the right layer system on and not sweat too much.

We took a break looking mostly into fog, but every few minutes, the fog would thin, giving an eerie glimpse of a jagged peak jutting upward from the ridge.  Our breaks did not last long or we would become too cold, so we kept moving.  At the top of the last ridge before a several mile descent, we caught a bit of sun and dried out our rain flies, grabbing a bite to eat.

The downhill seemed glorious, partially because we could hike easily with only one layer on.  A waterfall cascaded down across the trail and we crossed a small bridge and filled up on some delicious tasting fresh water and grabbed more to eat.  Already the afternoon, we kept trucking to the bottom of the valley, only to climb another long slog up to another large ridge.

In about half a mile as the birds fly, the PCT managed to fit six miles of switchbacks to cut the steep grade down.  I could not bring myself to count the switchbacks, because that would just be depressing, but cranked some tunes and enjoyed the increasingly better view the further I climbed.

We all stopped for a snack on top of the ridge and Snow Turtle and Agassi came walking up.  Somewhere we had passed them while they ate lunch off trail.  This particular ridge stayed fairly level for about a mile or so and we meandered along passing many small tarns and very damp ground.  All at odds of how far we wanted to go, we all stopped in different places, ironically, within a mile of each other.

I found a sweet spot with a great view over the next valley that fit my tent perfectly.  It was much easier to get up the next morning to a brightly colored sunrise instead of dense fog.  The four mile descent was still freezing because the sun had not yet hit the valley floor, just the ridge tops.  I leap-frogged Snow Turtle and Agassi all day up and down, up and down.

We passed Cathedral Rock and I pondered the creativity of the early explorers and mountain men who seemed to lack originality in their naming devises.  I understand the whole “wilderness as a church” thing, but not every mountain that has a few spires needs to have some religious crap attached to it.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAAgain, we hiked down off the ridge, passed Deception Lake which reflected a perfect mirror image of the trees surrounding it.  I decided to continue on a little further until I got tired and ended up camping in Deception Pass which was surprisingly thin compared to the last several passes we’ve gone though.  I found a great one-tent spot and set up shop.

In the morning, I ate breakfast with Lush and Man Party who decided to speed up to finish.  Apparently, Challenger was waiting with Only A Test’s car for them at Stevens Pass with their resupply so they could all hike out together.  Snow Turtle and Agassi passed through too and had a “you’re from Mississippi too!” moment and then kept hiking.  They said that Hop-a-long and Scout had gotten to Deception Lake the night before.

The five of us eventually set off, leap frogging through some more very annoying bumps, one of which was incredibly steep, despite obvious attempts at switch backs.  I definitely had to blast the iPod to get up that one.

We all ran into some incredibly nice older people out for a day hike who lounged in the sun.  We wanted to join them but food and beer called our names with only a few more miles to go.  Everyone seemed to have underestimated food through this section and were either running on empty or the scraps of what they had, but really did not want to eat.  The trail difficulty had surged our already large appetites into over drive.

Stevens Pass came after we dove down the ski resort and found Challenger and Only A Test who gave us beer and soda while we waited for Dead Animal who had been there, but got a call from Hop-a-long and Scout who had taken a side trail down skipping several miles of the end due to lack of food and ended up somewhere random on the side of highway 2 between Stevens Pass and Skykomish.

Clown car piling in, all of us made it down to the diner and motel for a large meal.  We went to the Dinsmore’s to grab our resupply packages and say hi to those there, but wanted a bed, so we ended up with rooms instead.  None other than Bounce Box and Major Upchuck seemed to rule to roost inspiring some good old drinking and croquet.

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We woke up in a cloud on top of a ridge.  This particular cloud seemed to create its own weather system that could not exactly be classified as rain nor mist; neither could it be written off as water falling off of trees from the breeze.  Definitely wet and cold enough, I kept my shell on and attempted not to sweat quite so much, but without much of a pack, I found it hard not to fly through miles.

Dead Animal could meet us at around 10 mile increments on various logging roads that he figured out.  Hop-a-long, Scout, and I set off for the first chunk, cold and slightly wet.  Hop took an early lead and her legs got soaked the worst from brushing up against the wet vegetation.  We bounced around the top of the ridge and noticed just how localized the weather situation was since we could see clearness in spurts to the east, while we could see nothing but white to the west.

I almost missed east coast rain for a few moments in that stretch, remembering how I sent my rain gear home somewhere in Pennsylvania on the AT because the rain was so warm it acted more like a free shower.  But then I remembered how frequently it rained and the general wetness and I appreciated the PCT a bit more.

We found Dead Animal just as planned and we all sat on mats eating lunch together and trying not to get cold from lack of movement.  Some fresh vegetables were most welcome from the cooler.  We took only an hour break trying not to lose what little motivation all of us possessed and set off on another 10ish mile chunk.  I threw some tunes on at that point to distract my mind from focusing on the crappy weather when eventually I ran into a sobo section hiker who exclaimed amazingly over the drone of my headphones,

“TRAIL MAGIC FIVE MILES AHEAD!” and scampered south.  Instantly excited and newly motivated I sped up and caught Hop-a-long who laughingly told me he came up on her taking a pee on the side of the trail.  They talked in the process.  Only. On. Trail.

We surged ahead completely missing a supposedly major landmark of a weather station just off trail with an outhouse.  Halfmile even made a GPS marking called “Out House.”

Hitting the road, we saw PCT trail bandanas strung up like Buddhist prayer flags across the trail and a large tarp over a circle of chairs filled with a barbecue, cooler, and entertaining beverages.  Stumbling Norwegian and Honey Bee welcomed us, gave us comfortable chairs, and placed hot food in our hands.  Heaven on a rainy day.  Dead Animal was there brewing up some delicious hot chocolate.

Before I knew it, Hop-a-long had found the best beverage there, something Stumbling Norwegian and Honey Bee only called “Tasty Goodness” and she dumped some in my hot chocolate.

We caught back up to Snow Turtle and Agassi who had a good bit of tasty goodness and spent a good deal of the afternoon enjoying it.  Blood Bank had the longest stay record that day doing a long 0.7 mile from the weather station down to the road and staying there.  Scout got there about fifteen minutes later and came up with the biggest grin on his face that matched every other thru-hiker’s.  Two section hikers also had holed up there who were local-ish Washington boys, one of which was having quite a bit of fun convincing Agassi to drink more.

I totally meant to get further to make a half day in town with my mom and aunts, but the trail magic was way too awesome and the weather was way too shitty.  From there, I would have to make 18 miles before 1pm, our agreed meeting time.  After several hot chocolates with Tasty Goodness and later some root beer vodka, I decided staying was a much better option.

Right before dinner, Knees showed up who Hop-a-long, Dead, and I had not seen since Wrightwood (mile 368).  It was great to catch up with him for a bit.  Tahoe rolled in late as well as Straw, Willie, and Magellan.

The trail magic came at such a perfect time and turned around my whole attitude after the rain.  I didn’t even care if I had to make miles the next morning.

I managed to wake myself up at 5am and leave by 6am with my new-found motivation from the trail magic and motivation of mom-made baked goods at the end.  I shot up hill, saw Snow Turtle and Agassi’s makeshift camp spot, just far enough up that they wouldn’t be tempted to wait and stay around for breakfast.

The miles were not as hard as they had been and I was able to cruise my way around the bumps through the mud.  I went hard for the first 10 miles and then stopped to stuff half of a large bag of chips down my throat thinking that should give me at least 600 calories or so to make it to delicious cookies and brownies.

The route down to Snoqualmie Pass was fine until I was about 4 miles out and all the day hikers were hiking up and I moved against traffic, having to give them the right of way.  A few stopped me and asked me the usual questions which I was really not in the mood to answer since food was so close.

I made it to the ski area and decided that running down the ski slope was much faster than taking the trail all the way to the road and I plunged down it.  I laughed as I walked down it thinking only that Vail’s bunny hill was steeper than that.

I found my mom and two aunts who had found Dead Animal, Pinky, Sticks, and Ahab.  Delicious beer made it into one hand and a large helping of vegan brownie in the other and I was happy.  We decided to hobo it up in the parking lot, all sitting right down over a few parking spots in the back, drinking and eating.  Eventually, the rest of the pack at the other trail magic made it to my mom’s trail magic and we had quite a posse drinking in a parking lot.  Classy.

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