9/17: (25.8 miles) Today I got picked up from the Packwood Inn quite early (7am) by a friend of the guy who picked me up from the trail and dropped me off here the day before. I had originally planned ~20 miles for this day, but it started raining/drizzling/snowing all day and (as I always do when hiking in weather like this)- I didn't want to take breaks. So I ended up hiking without stopping at ~3.2mph. About 12pm I was looking for a place for lunch (I usually have lunch around 1:30pm) and I found a nice big dry spot (it had been raining, but not too bad). I sat down and realized I had gone nearly 14 miles already! Way ahead of schedule! And the sun was peaking through a couple clouds at that point. So with the added Vitamin D (what I'd like to just dub "visible motivation"), I decided to add ~6 miles to today's total so that I can stay at the Mike Urich cabin tomorrow night (this is the only backcountry shelter on the PCT in Washington). I grabbed an extra Snickers bar from my food for lunch and kept hiking- basically only stopping once until Dewey Lake. I had to set up my tent in some light rain, but I made it!
9/18: (26.7 miles) It was a lot nicer today! When I got out of my tent around 8am, the sun was already dissipating some of the clouds. I left just before 9 and hiked up the next hill and 3.2 miles from my camping spot to Chinook Pass and highway 410. This is the entrance to Mt. Rainier park (which we've been skirting in and out of the border of for the last 10 miles or so). Just after the highway there were some pit toilets at a parking lot (which I took full advantage of). Then it was another long hiking of ups and downs (welcome to WA)- this time on lots of loose rock. The key to hiking for a long time while shrugging it off like it was nothing (what some might call "getting in the zone") is podcasts: lots of podcasts. The day was pretty nice and sunny till around 5 or 6pm when it started sprinkling. But by 7pm I had made a new distance record and was indoors! Mice inside the cabin too (that's pretty much a guarantee in a backcountry shelter) but I still slept reasonably well.
9/19: (19.1 miles) You know, I thought it'd be easier to get up earlier this morning because I wouldn't be freezing cold (causing me to spend an extra hour or two just laying in my sleeping bag). But it was still hard. This was definitely a vortex. But I started hiking just before 8:30am (which is probably an "early record" for all of WA). Today was a fairly nice day of overcast with a sprinkle of sunbeams. Water was scarce today so we had to do some larger water carries (2L at one point and 3L at another), but fortunately most of the day was downhill. As in the style of the PNW, it sprinkled on and off all day, but we got to camp at the nice and early time of 5:30pm! I was with 3 other hikers and we built a campfire and chilled till dark. It rained tonight and some water pooled inside my tent because the puddles near my tent splashed from the raindrops- but it was fine.
9/20: (9.1 miles) Had to pack up in the light rain today. That's always annoying. Probably more annoying than setting up camp in the rain because my tent is one of the first things that has to be packed in my backpack- so everything else has to sit outside while I tear down the tent. But I got going around 9:20am and struggled up the first hill. Rain pants and a rain jacket protect you from getting wet via water from the sky, but up big hills they don't prevent you from getting wet via your own sweat (they don't breathe well). But by about 10:30 or 11:30 the rain had mostly stopped. At 11:45 I took a break and was consulting my maps when two things happened: I got 3G and I found a shortcut! The original plan was to hike another 22 miles today, then 5 into town tomorrow morning but this would cut it even shorter! When I got to the dirt road where I was going to break away and head down to I-90, I saw about 5 other hikers that I had been hiking with and a nice trail angel that was cooking taco soup, beer bread, cookies, etc for everyone! Score! And, because of hunting season, the traffic was pretty good on this road! So instead of hiking 4 miles down the dirt road to the I-90 on ramp, I hitched here and got a ride from some more mushroom hunters all the way to Snoqualmie Pass! Stayed in the Summit Inn last night in a hotel room! Dried my gear out all over the room and definitely took advantage of the hot tub! I'm now a day ahead of schedule. Canada, here I come!