Day 144 (Continued)
When we had driven up the road back to trail, as soon as we got close, it started to rain. Not a great prospect. For the record, we don’t mind hiking in rain in New Zealand since there are huts everywhere. However, when you have to camp in the rain after being wet all day it can be hard on your soul. It’s also often quite cold.
Despite all of the rain, when we had checked the Pacific Crest Trail Association (PCTA) website before leaving, it had said the first 20 miles of the section we were starting was still closed. This meant that we had to do a road-walking detour, or hitchhike ahead to where the trail was open. You can guess what we did. Luckily we had also already done this section last year on our honeymoon so at least we had already seen the beauty.
So we set off on the road walk to maintain our continuous footpath. Our friend Bearly joined us on and off for the road walk. Despite being paved, the first road actually had negligible traffic, which made the road-walking alright. There were even some nice waterfalls along the way to keep it interesting.
It rained much of the day but every time a sliver of sunshine came out we tried to take advantage of it. This first happened soon after we turned onto a dirt road. We immediately set our packs down and ate some snacks.
After some more rainy road-walking Cashmere had a poorly-timed pee. Cashmere knew she had plenty of time to pee before any hikers would catch up, but could not have predicted a car coming up the road while she was mid-stream. As if to cheer Cashmere up after her embarrassment the sky cleared for a moment again. There before us was the big mammoth of Mt Adams. It had a fresh dumping of snow on it and was glistening beautifully, reminding us of how awesome it was to climb it the previous year.
As the evening settled in we started thinking of making camp. Unlike on the real trail itself, there weren’t random campsites for us to make home. Rather there were a few campgrounds around. With the rain again persisting, we hoped to find one with a big outhouse roof that we could hide under to cook. Bearly was on the same wavelength.
The first campground we stopped by didn’t have good enough toilets for Cashmere. Physio still used the outhouse to put on warm clothes and then we continued on. Then we ended up inadvertantly camping at a horse campground. It wasn’t anything too special but we did take advantage of the registration board shelter to keep our packs dry. We somehow lost Bearly between the first and second campgrounds, even though he also stayed at the horse camp. We decided it wasn’t such a bad thing since we would have kept him awake all night with our diseased coughing.
We woke fairly early to a largely dry tent. We also slept well, which was a real treat for Cashmere who hadn’t slept well in days. We had brekky, packed up, and just as we were about to set about continuing our roadwalk, another hiker named Jugs caught up to us. He said he was glad to see us as he was feeling quite confused about the detour. So we walked with Jugs for a bit and soon rejoined the PCT. Ahhh….it was good to be back. However, we were still a little sad because the area had been overrun with huckleberries the previous year but there were none to be seen this time around.
Much of the day was cloudy though there were more patches of sun than we’d had in…forever, or since Oregon anyway. It felt so nice and warm in the sun. We managed to get some glimpses of Mt Adams but never the whole thing all at once.
We again found ourselves surprised at how much distance we could cover this year compared to last year. I guess that’s what happens when you practice almost every day for the five months prior.
As the day wore on and we started climbing up into the Goat Rocks more and more clouds moved in. The views, while limited, were still a nice reminder of how beautiful the Goat Rocks are. As we climbed further into the Goat Rocks it started to rain. By the time we reached our first high pass in the Goat Rocks the rain became snow. It wasn’t collecting but it sure was pretty. We both noticed how gently the snow was falling, just drifting down in the wind so slowly. Even though Cashmere grew up with snow it was still surprisingly nice after so much rain.
We had hardly seen anyone all day, except for Jugs. However, as we hiked through the light snow we saw Mountain Prana who was filling up water. We had first met him at Carson Pass, way back in central California. Then a mile or so later we saw Bearly, who had also set up camp.
We felt strangely blessed to be hiking through the Goat Rocks in such weather, and on a week day. Last year we hiked through Goat Rocks in perfect weather on a weekend. By contrast it was crowded to the point that almost every available campsite was taken. We even decided to camp at the same spot as last year – a sheltered spot hidden below the trail in some trees. As we set up camp and it started to get dark the snow stopped falling and after a while the stars even came out.
While Cashmere cooked dinner she accidentally spilled boiling water on her foot. She couldn’t decide if it was good or bad, after having almost constantly wet and often cold feet since entering Washington. Physio just heard a loud “ouch” as he was setting up the tent and the beds.
We awoke to good weather and were soon climbing higher up the Goat Rocks. We were delighted to get a full view of Mt Adams – now already quite far south. The fresh snow on Mt Adams was looking majestic, making last year’s feat of summiting its 12,274 foot (~3,360m) peak seem extra badass. We also got a quick glimpse of Mt St Helens which erupted in the 1980s. However, everything soon disappeared into the clouds as often happens with big snowy peaks.
We soon crossed a small glacier and then walked along the Knife’s Edge, a steep ridgeline that can get a little precarious in bad weather. From the Knife’s Edge, we got to see lots of goats in the distance. How the goats know to hang out on the ‘Goat Rocks’ we don’t know. We also got to see two, what looked like alpacas or llamas, one black and one brown. We could see an awesome glacial valley and lake but sadly we couldn’t see Mt Rainier, which we had a clear view of the previous year. Oh well.
Just after coming off the Knife’s Edge we decided to stop for morning tea. It looked like some bad weather was coming and we should get some food in us before it hit. In fact the weather arrived while we were stopped. It was sort of like soft snowy hail. We kept eating our snacks anyway, and even enjoyed eating the little snowballs, pretending they were ice cream.
Then we started descending, and the weather proceeded to deliver a diverse range of precipitation types. There was more weird hail snow, normal snow, and normal hail, which was all heavy enough to accumulate, then lots of rain.
After lots of descending we stopped and realised we still had more than 10 miles (~16km) until we would reach White Pass. At that moment it was not raining and there was even a dry(ish) log to sit on. Physio demanded we stop for lunch, knowing there was no way he could walk another 10 miles without food. Cashmere took some convincing, because she was cold, and was not feeling hungry. After what seemed like a long argument Cashmere eventually gave in. So we had a super quick lunch of cheese filled tortillas.
After lunch, almost immediately after we began hiking again, big snowflakes started coming down fast. At first they were melting on the ground faster than they could collect but that didn’t last long. The snow started collecting and was coming down with fierce persistence. At times it seemed almost like a blizzard.
Luckily for us the snow seemed to ease off once around four inches or so had accumulated. We were soooo cold though especially our hands and wet feet. Originally we had thought we would do a fairly quick, in-and-out resupply in White Pass. Based on last year’s experience we had also imagined a nice wash in a river on a sunny afternoon prior to setting off for Snoqualmie Pass. Somehow the prospect of jumping in a river after hiking through a blizzard now seemed less appealing. Both of us had independently determined that we definitely deserved a motel room at White Pass. Suddenly the price we were willing to pay for a motel room was higher than ever before. They could have charged us almost anything.
We walked the last miles to White Pass like crazy people. We were so freezing. As we dropped down in elevation the snow on the ground turned to slippery slush and mud. At times the trail resembled a muddy creek more than a hiking track. We were getting filthy and having to slide down it lots. “Pretty lake, we don’t care, just get us to White Pass!” Neither of us were using our poles to stabilise our descents either. It was too cold. We just had the poles tucked under our arms so we could keep our hands rolled up in our jackets.
While at times it had felt like we would never reach White Pass, eventually we heard the sweet hum of trucks on the road, it was music to our ears.
Then low and behold, we emerged out of the forest and walked the half a mile or so down the road to the little store at White Pass. When Cashmere took her pack off outside the store she realised it was still covered in snow.
The store was so warm inside it was incredible. Cashmere immediately got a cup of hot chocolate. We found out we needed to go next door to get a room at the lodge. We put a selection of food in our shopping basket and just as we were getting ready to pay and go sort a motel room, something really cool/aweful happened. The ladies working at the shop said: “Okay hikers you’re going to love this. Please take all the leftover food in the warm case for free because otherwise I will have to throw it out.” We jumped and loaded our basket with little burritos, grilled sandwiches, and even a little fried chicken. We even put most of the grocery items back on the shelf. Then after paying and walking out of the shop, a guy we had seen inside offered us a bed in his motel room. He told us the room sleeps upto 6 people and he was on his own. Whoa!
“Sure, we will throw you some money though of course”, we said. And then thought some more, “I don’t know. We are recovering from colds. We might cough a lot during the night, maybe it would be annoying?”
“Well up to you”, the kind fellow replied.
We ended up just following him to his room without really saying anything more. His (trail) name was GQ and he was Scottish. GQ had hiked half of the trail (to Chester) a few years ago but then ran out of time on his visa. He got his trail name ‘GQ’ for looking just a bit too fresh and well-dressed on the trail. He was just back for a little holiday before he started a new job. His holiday was volunteering to do trail maintenance on this section of the PCT. Unfortunately the weather hadn’t been superb (in case you couldn’t tell), so his crew couldn’t get heaps done. What an awesome guy to do that for his holiday and welcome wet and gross hiker trash like us into his warm ‘studio’ motel room. As if that wasn’t enough, we learned that he was about to start a new job for the OECD looking at which countries have been able to reduce greenhouse gas emissions while maintaining economic growth. We were impressed.
It was so wonderful to warm up with a shower. We also ate our free haul of junk-food from the shop. To be honest, it was really terrible, particularly as it had been sitting in a hot case getting dried out all day. We talked to GQ a little longer, spread our stuff out to dry, and went to sleep peacefully, loving the comfort of the fold-down bed.
In the morning we awoke earlier than we’d hoped, did our laundry, blogged and ate. GQ had scored some pancake mix from the hiker box, so Cashmere went and got some butter and maple syrup from the store. GQ cooked us pancakes for breakfast. It was bliss. You know how we currently feel about pancakes.
When Cashmere went to the shop she discovered that the ATM was broken and the clerks weren’t too keen to give her cash back on her debit purchase. She did manage to wrangle $20 though and gave that along with another $20 to GQ. She wanted to give him more but he kept saying that was fine. What a man!
Cashmere had also got the laundry going when she went down to the shop and found out some very exciting news. All of the trail up ahead was now open! We had been so sad and worried about a section of trail that was closed ahead. At one stage the only detour around the 14.8 miles of closed track was a 100 mile road walk! Then even that got closed. But the plus side of all this frigid rain was that the fires had stopped spreading in Washington. Lucky for the people in surrounding towns and lucky for us! We were ecstatic.
As we waited for our laundry we kept blogging and reading, primarily enjoying the horizontal position from the bed. Eventually GQ said he was ready to hit the trail north (he was going out hiking for four or so days) and said he was okay with us checking out of the room and taking our time.
Despite the overwhelming pull of the comfort of the warm bed, we did manage to check out on time. We went down to the shop and ordered some pizza. We actually had a really awkward incident. Physio thought we needed two whole large pizzas. Cashmere didn’t. After confusing the clerks for awhile, we went with one. But we later saw that the cook had put together the second because of the confusion. Cashmere felt bad and paid for the second but of course one was plenty and we had enough food for the next section, plus the pizza was really thick and heavy. So surprisingly, Physio allowed is to give away the second to hungry and thankful hikers. We hoped we were passing on the good karma that GQ had spread our way.
After enough chilling, and seeing a huge motorcycle gang, the “Sober Riders” come and go, we too finally left around 2pm. We will tell you what happened from there in our next blog post.
Thanks again for reading!