This was a very hard but beautiful section with a few days of sunshine!
Day 153 (Continued)
After trying to sort out our lives in Snoqualmie Pass and eating lots, we started walking in the direction of the trail. However, we weren’t entirely sure where we were supposed to go. The trail is often the least obvious when it passes through civilisation. Luckily a car pulled over to offer us a ride, which we declined (we’ve got to keep that continuous footpath), but the driver gave us directions to find the trailhead. Once at the trailhead we found a trail magic cooler with soda and beer, but we were too full to enjoy anything from it. So we put an entry in the log book and started the usual big climb out of town.
For some reason we were a bit sluggish and feeling a bit tired. The town stimuli got us again. It was similar to in our normal lives when we need to go back to work to recover from our weekend activities.
To be fair it was a big climb though and since the sun was back out, it was warm. Luckily the scenery was nice. We had dinner and a swim at Ridge Lake, and fended off some pesky birds trying to steal our food. Not cool birds.
After dinner we walked a few more miles and were treated to amazing views of ridges, lakes, mountains and even the majestic Mt Rainier (you may not be able to see it in the below photos).
As darkness approached we settled into a campsite. Knowing that the weather forecast was good for a few days we decided to cowboy camp. After all it was getting colder and with adverse weather becoming more common, it could be one of our last chances. 🙁
The sky did stay clear overnight providing us with great star gazing, though we did wake up with a bit of dew on the down sleeping bag. We had absolutely gorgeous views all day. This was particularly welcome because the terrain was really hard with lots of climbing and descending. It was the weekend and a lot of section hikers were out. There were at least a few instances of such hikers asking if they were near such-and-such a creek after a big climb only for us to respond that they were still seven or so miles away. Their faces turned from hopeful to despondent.
Luckily our bodies were a bit more prepared for the tough terrain after about 5 months of hiking. While we still got a little tired on the really big persistent climbs, it was not enough to detract from the stunning vistas. We were mesmerised by the cool, cragly peaks, gorgeous lakes and even some cool glaciers.
Even though she was enjoying the scenery, Cashmere was dragging a bit. She had no morning coffee and is typically a little lethargic at the beginning of sections. For whatever reason her and Physio switch energy levels later in each section, usually on the third or fourth day.
In the morning we got some more views of Mt Rainier and then spotted another big snowy cascade volcano north of us (not pictured, it was too far away). Initially we thought it might be Mt Baker, which we had heard was somewhere nearby. We later learned that it was in fact Glacier Peak and we would be passing right next to it in four or so days. Awesome.
There was another big craggly ridge closer, with one extra tall peak. Despite asking a few locals, we never found out for sure what it was, maybe Mt Stewart?
Even though there were lots of weekenders and section hikers about in this section we didn’t see one thru-hiker until that evening. Then oddly a few solo guys passed us while we had dinner by a stream. Turns out we didn’t feel like walking more than 22 miles a day in the tough terrain.
Regardless of our lack of enthusiasm to walk big miles, we still ended up walking in the dark for a little while that evening. It may have had to do with Cashmere’s silly rule that we have to walk until roughly 20 minutes before dark. The problem is, quite often you don’t find a campsite in the 20 minute window with a bit of light when you are “allowed” to stop.
We settled on a campsite practically on the track but next to small rocky bluff with a view. We decided to take advantage of another night with clear skies and cowboy camped once again.
As we laid down we became curious how far we had walked from Snoqualmie Pass ‘as the crow flies’. We had a feeling our trail wasn’t overly direct. Perhaps it was a frustrating mistake to even check. By this stage we had walked 30 miles into the section but were a mere 10 miles north from the trailhead as the crow flies. Oh to be a bird.
The next day began with a really big descent. There were lots of creeks around and by late morning we decided to stop at one for morning tea. The creek had a nice campsite nearby and there was a random tripod sitting next to the trail. We didn’t know where the tripod came from and there weren’t any people around to ask. With no knowledge of where the owners were – we really didn’t want to carry it out, so we let it be.
A few miles later we ran into an older couple sitting on the trail. They asked about the weather forecast. When we expressed scepticism about weather forecasting the man of the couple defended meteorologists. I guess when you’ve been burned, or more accurately frozen, quite frequently by inaccurate forecasts you can’t help but get sceptical. The man then proceeded to ask about our gear and huff that his was better. He was also telling us very unequivocally that we were hiking the most beautiful (and hardest) part of Washington. So far we had been told the Goat Rocks, Mount Rainier National Park, the section from Snoqualmie to Stevens Pass, and the North Cascades were the most beautiful parts of Washington (and some claimed the whole trail). To be honest we were hiking all of it anyway so it didn’t really matter! Physio got a bit sick of the lecture we were receiving and started to not so subtly indicate his desire to leave. Cashmere, who had been more engaged in the lecture, got the hint and said “Sorry, I can tell Physio really wants to keep moving. Enjoy your hike!” A voice in Physio’s head said ” Oh thank God!”
We soon began climbing steadily. During the climb we stopped by a lake outlet to refill our water stocks and attempted to wash some dirty hiking clothes. Yes, we continue to gold onto some hope of cleanliness. The climbing continued until we eventually decided to stop for a lunch of rice and cheese burritos complete with a great view of Deep Lake and the surrounding mountains.
Following lunch we climbed a bit further and enjoyed views of Cathedral Rock as we crossed a pass. Almost all of the miles we had covered were either on ascending or descending trail. So far the section had very little flat or extended straight trail – just endless switchbacks up and down passes.
So it was without surprise that we found ourselves yet again descending. On the other side of the pass we enjoyed views of some snow and glaciers on nearby peaks.
We soon reached one of the campsites we had considered, but it was only 7pm. It was not approaching dark yet, so we decided to walk 2 more miles to Deception Lake. As usual (in Washington) we had to hike with headtorches before finding somewhere to camp – but we were definitely getting used to this. We were a little worried the lake might be crowded so when we saw a track to an empty campsite just before the official campsites we took it without hesitation.
What ensued at that campsite was hiker trash feasting at it’s finest. We started with a feast of Hiker Box Surprise brand “Home Style Ramen”. This was followed by a delicious and large Hiker Box Surprise pasta meal with a dehydrated packet of “Possibly burnt sauce”. Once we had scarfed down all this delicious food we promptly hopped in the tent and fell into deep food comas.
We awoke at 5:30am with the intention of getting to Steven’s Pass in time to hitch to the town of Skykomish. We still had around 18 miles (~29km) to hike, including plenty of climbing and descending.
The morning started with a game of ‘Who ate the Spilled Ramen?’ Physio was pretty sure it was a resident mouse, which he may have felt sniffing his ankle while sitting and eating. Meanwhile Cashmere thought she heard an animal during the night and was convinced it was something far more exciting than a mouse. No one is quite sure why a cougar would be interested in tiny scraps of ramen when it could go seek far more nourishing and deliciously fresh venison.
The day started off cold, cloudy and misty. Brave Cashmere collected water from the lake for drinking water. Even though the lake was relatively warm, once your hands are wet, it’s never long before they feel frozen.
As the day progressed the weather gradually cleared. The hike to Stevens Pass included a section of trail we dubbed the “Death Climb”. We climbed around 1000 feet (330m) over a very short section of trail. Predictably we then descended even more steeply down the other side.
Then, as if that wasn’t enough, we almost immediately started another longer but not so steep climb. During these sections of trail we enjoyed views of lots of pretty lakes and saw/heard lots of Pikas. Pikas have funny little round ears and make cute squeaking noises – presumably to alert other pikas to our presence. They basically resemble fat alpine chipmunks that live among rocks.
Physio was having a particularly rough day. He often struggles on the last days of a section, but to make matters worse he was having persistent stomach problems. It seemed like every hour or so he had to stop to relieve himself. Despite the frequent stops we still made good progress, reaching the top of the Stevens Pass ski resort by the mid-afternoon.
As we descended to the highway at Stevens Pass Physio noticed some mountain biking trails winding their way down the mountain. Luckily it was a Monday and the lifts were not operating. This meant Physio didn’t have a complete meltdown, unlike his emotional time in Mammoth.
While we descended Cashmere booked us a room in Skykomish. We find arriving in town knowing we have somewhere to sleep reduces our anxiety.
Once at the highway we had to do some annoying backtracking to cross a foot bridge and reach a hitching spot. While we waited for a ride we had to layer up. Stevens Pass was getting seriously cold as evening approached. Eventually we got picked up by a hybrid (it’s always either hybrids or pick-up trucks!) The driver had even driven past, fast, felt bad about not picking us up, and then turned around to come back and get us. To be honest, the traffic was whizzing past at high speed, so it wasn’t surprising that he had to turn around.
When we got to the very small town of Skykomish we checked in to our motel and had a quick, huge feast at the motel’s cafe. The cafe boasted some pretty odd hours – 10am-7pm. They certainly weren’t going out if their way to be convenient for breakfast or dinner, even though they definitely served these meals.
We were starving and ordered a lot of food. At first Physio was worried he had gone overboard with a double cheeseburger and fries in addition to everything else we had ordered. However, the burger and fries went down so easily that he quickly realised we weren’t going to have a problem. The large basket of deep fried delicacies such as jalapeño poppers, mozzarella sticks, and prawns didn’t even make us feel ill.
After dinner we did laundry, worked on the blog, and went to bed. Cashmere promptly fell asleep, but Physio found himself lying there awake – his brain was buzzing. After being awake for a while he became hungry again, and started eating large quantities of roasted sunflower seeds left over from hiking. When he was still awake at 2:30am, having spent some of the restless hours working on the blog and trip planning for South America, he took a sleeping pill in desperation.
Cashmere woke early, got a coffee and ate some peach crisp she ordered the night before. When Physio awoke from his sleeping pill induced coma Cashmere had been working on the blog for a couple of hours. With Physio now awake and hungry again Cashmere got breakfast from the neighbouring deli.
After packing up and checking out of our room we collected our resupply packages from the Post Office (thanks Kathy and Barb!). We spent the next few hours hanging around in the motel’s backpacker lounge eating bagels, raiding the hiker box for bonus food, and preparing to leave.
Suddenly it was mid-afternoon…and guess what…we were ready for more food! We split half a fried chicken at the local pub, and sat with some members of the Hiker Box Gang (Thunder Bunny, Wild Man, and Cool K).
With a fresh layer of grease in our stomach and arteries we went in search of a ride to the trail. On the way back to the main road we were excited to see some big fish in the local river. We knew Tyson would be excited so did our best to get a photo, but sadly you can’t see the fish in any of them. Sorry Tyson!
Within moments of getting to our hitching spot a lovely lady at the deli offered us a sign for hitching. We barely had time to use it before a local picked us up and whisked us back to the trail. He told us the fish were different types of salmon and that people are allowed to catch them. Tyson would be excited indeed…
Next up will be our penultimate blog post – Stevens Pass to Stehekin! Keep the comments coming readers 🙂