Highlights: The section from Snoqualamie to White Pass was a breeze. The trail was mostly flat, but buggy. The section had many forest service roads and exit points unlike the previous few sections we had been in. We therefore saw many more people. Sunshine turned to rain, and conditions got colder and wetter. From White Pass to Trout Lake we passed through the Goat Rocks on a miserable day after attempting to go through in thunder storms, which was obviously a bad idea. We had to wait out the storms in our tent before attempting to get through again the next day. After passing through the Goat Rocks we entered into Mount Adams Wilderness, and the rain turned again to sunshine for amazing views and fantastic hiking!
Day 17: Snoqualamie Pass to mile 2396, 5 miles
July 18th. We woke up at 5:30am to try go get going, but having gone to bed past midnight the night before doing chores, we were completely exhausted. I did not think I could even hike a single mile I was so tired. We decided to sleep in and take it easier, and our wonderful host Peter found a way to work from home allowing us to leave later in the day. We enjoyed pizza and cake and we were able to get to the Post Office before heading back to the trail and meeting up with Swept Away and her family near the trail head. We had an easy 5 miles and camped.
Day 18: Mile 2396 to mile 2368, 28 miles
July 19th. We decided to try to make up time and do bigger mileage today. I started down the trail and caught up with Swept Away who said “The mosquitoes and I are having breakfast”. It was true, the mosquitoes were swarming around her looking for a blood donation as she casually ate her breakfast. It was hard to care anymore. Dirt Stew’s feet were feeling raw, and I suggested that he changed into new socks. As he took the old ones off, they practically disintegrated in his hand. He had just gotten these socks in Stehekin! We passed by many powerlines and logging roads, and tons and tons of beargrass which was beautiful. It started to rain in the afternoon/early evening.
Day 19: Mile 2368 to 2343, 25 miles
July 20th. We woke up to rain and got going quickly. We passed a young man who asked us what he should do since all his stuff got wet last night, and he felt a lack of confidence to keep going. We tried to boost his morale and told him he would feel better once he got going again. We also told him the fact that he had a synthetic bag over a down bag was good, since down bags are quite useless when wet. Later in the day we passed a quaint log cabin with a fire place and an outhouse, and I hoped that the young man we had passed made it that far to be able to dry his stuff out and spend a dry night there. The trail continued to be mostly flat with many pretty wildflowers. Dirt Stew, Swept Away and I told riddles, and sang songs.
Day 20: Mile 2343 to Snowlake, 30 miles
July 21st. It was very cold in the morning. It was very hard to get out of the sleeping bag, and even harder to put on our wet socks and shoes. Swept Away has a gizmo that tells you the altitude and the temperature so I shouted over to her hammock to ask her how cold it was. 34F and wet. I can’t think of a better condition for hypothermia. Once we got moving, we warmed up a little bit. Dirt Stew stopped to dig a cat hole, and as I kept going ahead without him, I saw a small break in the white clouds/fog and there it was right in front of me, Mount Rainier in all its majesty. 10 seconds later, the fog filled in again, and it was gone. Dirt Stew missed its appearance. Later in the day we met our first northbounder! His trail name is Dainty Fingers, and he seemed in very good spirits. He started his thru-hike on April 7th in Mexico, and he had walked through miles and miles of snow in the Sierras. We misread the map and wound up doing extra miles before we camped. We managed to do 30 miles, the longest any of us had ever hiked in one day.
Day 21: Snow Lake to White Pass to mile 2291, 22miles
July 22nd. We had an easy hike to White Pass in the rain and mosquitoes. In White Pass we met Jess, another southbounder, and another couple who were also southbound, but skipped several of the snowy sections. We did laundry in the little store there, ate fried food, and packed up our mail drop into our packs. We said goodbye to Swept Away, since she had plans to spend a week camping with her family, and headed back into the woods. We hiked another 12 miles out of town through the rain and mosquitos, and hit a little bit of snow as we climbed into the Goat Rock Wilderness. In White Pass we were told that thunderstorms were predicted for tomorrow, so the plan was to get over the knife edge as early the next day as possible, since we figured thunder storms normally materialize in the afternoon.
Day 22: Mile 2291 to mile 2290, 1 mile
July 23. We woke up to the sound of distant rumblings. We packed up our stuff and put on our wet socks and shoes and got going quickly in hopes of getting over the sketchy section before any big storms hit. We started hiking around 6:15am, and make it about 2 or 3 miles before we came up above ridge-line. The thunder started to sound much closer, and Dirt Stew said “what do you think about this..?” I stopped, and saw another bolt of lightning. “I think we should probably turn back” I said. Within seconds the storm was on top of us. BOOM. Lightning, thunder. It started hailing, and the ice balls accumulated on the ground. We started to run back down the mountain to get down from the ridge, above tree-line. We ran back into the trees and found flat ground to set up our tent. We were happy to take a nap to the sound of pattering rain and rumblings. After we had napped to our hearts content, we wondered if we should get going again, but we kept hearing rumblings in the distance. Having retraced our footsteps, we had only managed to make 1 mile of forward progress today. We sat there bored and hungry and wasted the hours away. We fell asleep for the night with hopes of sun, goats, elk and beautiful views for the next day.
Day 23: Mile 2290 to mile 2261.5, 28.5 miles
July 24. We woke up to rain. Although we had hoped for sun, we quickly got our gear together and got going. The only improvement in the weather was the lack of thunder and lightning. We were happy not to waste another day. As we gained elevation, it got colder and colder, windier and windier. The rain was horizontal. Dirt Stew had lost some of his clothing many miles ago when he lost a stuff sac full of clothes, so he was wearing all of his remaining clothes and he was still cold. My rain pants were failing– they were no longer water proof, but thankfully they were windproof. We simply kept going to keep warm. In a gust of wind, I lost my pack cover, which was protecting my gear from the rain. I didn’t even hear it rip off my pack. When I realized it, I gave Dirt Stew my sleeping bag so that he could try to keep it dry in his pack. The snow up on the Goat Rocks was not that bad, but there was some fresh powder that had landed overnight. Only a dusting. We wound up on the stock PCT around the Packwood Glacier, which may have actually been the harder way to go since we had to traverse several steep snow slopes, whereas the knife edge was clear of snow. The wind was tremendous. As we were crossing some of the snow, Jess, the southbounder we met in White Pass came up behind us. We were surprised to see him, but didn’t talk much since we were all cold and trying to keep warm by keeping going. As we made it down off the ridge, we began to see footprints going in all directions. At first I thought it could be Jess, but then I thought better of it. The footprints didn’t match Jess’s. Eventually I saw a ghost in the distance with a large white poncho over him waving to us in the distance. We walked up to him. It was a northbounder who had gotten lost up at the Goat Rocks, and turned around and gone back the way he came in defeat. He wasn’t carrying a GPS, or even a good map, or a compass. Jess also came up behind us again, having came off the ridge in a different direction by accident. Jess gave the northbounder some extra food, and we gave him our map for that section, since we were done with that map. We encouraged him to follow our footprints through the snow back up to try it again so he wouldn’t have to go back dozens of miles in the wrong direction to get a ride out and skip the section. He looked defeated, but we suggested that sun was on its way tomorrow, and he may have better luck if he simply waited out the weather. We hope he did make it over safely. We hiked many miles further that day, chatting with Jess, which really helped the miles melt away.
Day 24: Mile 2261.5 to Trout Lake, 24 miles
July 25. We woke up, and for once it wasn’t raining. It was foggy and a bit wet, but not raining. There were signs of blue sky through the clouds and fog, and we got going early so as to make it to town. As we hiked, the clouds lifted and the sun appeared. The views opened up. It was a fantastic day of hiking. Views of Rainier, Mount Adams, Mount St Helens, and also Mt Hood.
The lupines were blooming all over. I saw a small blue butterfly land on a lupine and thought fondly of San Bruno Mountain. The snow around Mount Adams was very easy to pass over. It was all flat terrain, and we joked about how snow on flat terrain didn’t count as “snow”. We saw many many northbounders. We must have hit the beginning of the northbound wave. We made it to the road crossing at route 23 around 4:30pm. A lovely couple stopped to give us a ride to Trout Lake, and they dropped us off at the store to pick up our package. They then offered to drive us to where we wanted to stay, which was a Buddhist Retreat Center called Trout Lake Abbey offering accommodations for thru-hikers. None of us knew how to get there, but they stopped at a gas station to ask for directions. We were very grateful to make it all the way to this cute Buddhist Retreat, because there was no way we would have been able to find it otherwise. The Abbey was amazing. They have an amazing view of Mount Adams, along with gardens of fresh fruit and vegetables, channels of flowing water into a cute pool, gardens and meditation areas everywhere. We were overjoyed to be allowed to use their kitchen facilities to cook ourselves some spaghetti, and we were offered fresh vegetables to make a salad as well. We took hot showers, did laundry, and fell asleep in an adorable little hut.