Wednesday, September 30, 2015

Ladies and Gentlemen- the homestretch

[This last section was probably the most annoying section. It is the longest section on the PCT (5 full days between towns), full of steep up and downs, bushes encroaching on the trail that you have to constantly force your way through, and plenty of logs across the trail to climb over or even crawl under. Wasn't exactly my idea of "fun"]

9/25: (16.9 miles) I packed up my stuff at the Dinsmore's this morning and Mr. Dinsmore took us to Skykomish to get breakfast. After fully stuffing our faces, I went over to use the library's WiFi because the restaurant's and the Dinsmore's WiFis were atrociously slow (rule of thumb- the library always has good WiFi). I hung around with the other couple hikers at the restaurant until about noon when I decided to finally pull myself out of the vortex. The Skykomish deli has a sign for hitching that reads "PCT HIKER NEEDS RIDE TO STEVEN'S PASS" in nice, big, readable letters. They call it a magical sign and boy, were they right! I hauled out the sign and my pack near the highway and by the time I had set down my pack to get ready to hold up the sign, a car pulled up offering a ride. Easiest hitch ever! I quickly ran back in to return the sign, then hopped in the car. Up at the pass, the fog was as dense as could be (we could hardly see where to turn left for the trailhead). Fortunately it was easy-going for the first bit of hiking. Then Washington's familiar ups and downs. When I was about 12 miles in, I was walking up a switchback when a black bear ran across the trail about 50 feet in front of me! 1st bear in about 1800 miles! By the time I was within 2 miles of my planned camp spot, it had been dark for a while and I had been walking by headlamp. But the headlamp wasn't doing me much good with the dense fog, so I stopped early. Got my cooking water from a rain puddle (desperate times) and set up camp in the drizzling rain.

9/26: (23.7 miles) Today I had to make up that extra 1.3 miles that I missed yesterday. Uphills and downhills were abundant! Today was mostly overcast but at one point the sun came out. It was around 1pm and I started to stop for lunch. About 25min into my lunch, some rain picked up (with a bit of snow mixed in) and I had to quickly pack up everything I had set out to dry and dash out of there. So today wasn't the best. I did make up the extra 1.3 miles but I was still camping at a high elevation and it was quite cold.

9/27: (22 miles) Today I will dub the "Day of Slipping and Falling". As I mentioned above, I was at high elevation and it was very cold. In fact, so cold that even after the sun had been out for at least half an hour, my tent was still covered in stiff sheets of ice. I tried to wait for it to thaw out but eventually I had to get going so I just did my best to roll it up (inevitably rolling some ice up in it). This of course made my hands freezing and every minute or so I had to stop to warm up my hands. At around 9:50am I was finally packed up and ready to hike. So far there has been plenty of mud on the trails due to the rain on the first day and this makes for some creative hiking where I have to walk on the side of the trail, hop across rocks, etc. Today was further complicated with the trail being literally frozen (in places the whole trail was just a big sheet of ice). So I inevitably slipped and fell on that a couple times. Also, a couple times I had to cross logs over creeks or climb over logs that had fallen across the trail. Turns out that wet logs are very slimy and slippery as well (so that accounts for a couple more falls right there). And, at one other point, I was walking along a ridge line and the ground under my left foot gave way and I nearly fell off the trail (but caught myself and instead fell on the trail). Finally, I took a shortcut (0.5 miles cutting off 1.5 miles) on the old PCT where a bridge used to be but got washed out. Crossing the river there was fine but the trail to the old bridge was washed out too and I did somewhat of a "controlled fall" and slid down the dirt embankment. Needless to say, I was not happy that I was hiking the PCT at this point.

9/28: (20.9 miles) So that number reads "20.9" but if you mark my start and end points today, you'd see that I hiked about 27 miles today. Shortcuts are awesome. Today got going slow and within the first half hour of my hiking I wanted to be done. I was able to convince myself to push on and finally got to the downhill section. Today's big mission is basically a TON of downhill and a TON of uphill, then camp on the other side of that hill. But I noticed there was a junction where the old PCT used to go again (and again it was because a bridge got washed out and they built a newer one downstream). But this time, if I took the shortcut, I would spend 1 mile cutting off about 6 miles! Definitely taking it. So I forded a creek (took off my socks and shoes and all that) and had lunch on the other side. Fortunately the old PCT was easy to follow because it was still very worn (and I think some other people have had the same idea as me because some parts looked well-worn recently). I got through to the other side and the river where the bridge used to be actually seemed like a pretty dangerous ford (there weren't any obvious spots to cross and there was lots of water moving fast). But after about 20 minutes of hunting, I finally found a log to walk across (didn't slip and fall this time) and made it across to the PCT! Then from there on out I was able to put in ~3 mph up the hill and down the other side. Camping tonight was freaky. I was with two other tents in this wooded area and at around 9:30pm we heard big sounds right outside. There were at least 3 creatures and they sounded big. They were tromping all around our tents, breaking twigs underfoot, etc. One sounded like a bear trying to get someone's food in a bear canister. My food was in my tent with me and I was entirely freaked out. But in the morning one of the other hikers informed me that they were a group of stupid deer that where just walking around our campsite. < 100 miles to Canada!

9/29: (14.5 miles) I BOOKED IT today. I heard that the shuttle into Stehekin has changed to the Fall schedule so that the last bus runs at 3pm (turns out this was wrong), so I wanted to make it there by then. I hiked about 3.5 mph the whole morning, leaving at 8am and arriving just before 1pm. It averaged out to ~3.1 mph because I had to stop to eat or filter water a couple times. When I got to the ranger station I found out I had just missed the latest bus (the 12:45pm) by minutes. I was frustrated, but not too bad because I had planned on the 3pm anyway. But the nearby Stehekin Ranch picked me up in a shuttle and dropped me off at their place (only 2 miles away) where I could wait for the bus and use their molasses-ly slow WiFi. The bus came a couple hours later and I took it all the way down to Stehekin (it's about a 15min ride, but the bus stops at the famous bakery so that we can get some goodies). I hung around Stehekin for a while (hotel room was $135! so I camped for free), ate at the restaurant (very overpriced: $18 for an "ok" burger), and then set up camp.

9/30: (ZERO) Today the plan is to take the ferry from Stehekin down to Chelan (down the 54 mile-long Chelan lake), enjoy the ferry ride, then get a ride up to Winthrop from Chelan (Winthrop is the last town stop in Washington). I'll stay at the hostel in Winthrop and then get a ride to Hart's Pass (the last road access to the PCT before Canada) tomorrow (which will leave about 2 days of hiking to Manning Park, Canada). I'm skipping ~2 days of hiking between Stehekin and Hart's Pass because at this point I pretty much just want to be done with the PCT. If I was in California right now (and maybe Oregon), I'd probably just quit. But this closer to the border, I gotta finish it off. Here we go!


  1. Love the stories Derek! Noises outside the tent, that feeling terrible!

  2. Sounds like some rough days. I can understand you getting tired of that. But you are so close to being done! You can do it! You have to get pictures of yourself at the end and celebrate!

  3. Unless Stehekin is some sort of touristy place for vacationeers, those prices seem rather exploitive of the PCT-ers.

    Glad you didn't fall off the trail at that one place -- that sounds incredibly dangerous - ground crumbling beneath you.

    Guess our Indian summer weather didn't make it to the nether reaches of the upper Cascades. It's cooled off a bit now so when you get back it will be more like fall.

  4. This was one of your best posts...difficult to experience, but great reading.

    Dad and Felechia