White Pass to Snoqualmie Pass

posted in: Pacific Crest Trail | 0

Day 147 (Continued)

We left White Pass around 2pm or so. Almost immediately after we were back on trail it started drizzling again. 

There were lots of dayhikers on the trail exhibiting various levels of weather preparedness. It was Labour Day weekend and we soon observed that there were also lots of section hikers out for the weekend despite the weather. We weren’t really in the mood to walk and within the first five miles we started considering setting up camp early. However, every time we saw a beautiful lake, and there were lots of them, we found that section hikers had filled most of the campsites. To be fair we probably could have found a campsite, but we are big snobs about camping near others and usually prefer to camp on our own.

Beautiful lake number 1

Hut in disrepair

There also weren’t really any random unmapped campsites. For the majority of the PCT we have used unmapped campsites because we almost always have them to ourselves. Unfortunately the marshy landscape wasn’t delivering. We even went on a weird escapade to a lake off the trail in the hope of finding a random campsite, but failed.

Beautiful lake number 2

BL3 - Still no cool campsites

Despite our lack of interest we ended up walking a full 12 miles (~19km) against our will to a popular spot by a creek. Luckily 12 miles is actually a short day for us these days.

As we approached the campsite known as “campsite next to a creek with a bridge” we once again saw tents everywhere. After a fair amount of scouting around we settled on a sheltered but small campsite. A large tree over the site had kept things dry for us so we had a dry log for cooking and even some dry ground to pitch our tent.

Day 148

We awoke around 7am to the sound of rain on the tent and couldn’t find motivation to get out of bed. This has been happening a lot lately. We went back to sleep until 8:15am, which is quite late when your supposed to hike at least 20 miles, oops!

On the plus side by the time we emerged from the tent it had stopped raining which was a nicer way to have breakfast and pack up camp. However, once again it started raining just as soon as we set off from camp.

We climbed continually until the rain eventually faded into a cloud. After all the climbing in our rain gear we were nice and warm so decided to have snacks at the top of the ridge. We met another hiker named Nominal Toast who was also having a break after the long climb. Nominal Toast soon resumed walking and an older section hiker came through. He told us that he has walked over 2,000 PCT miles and we were in one of the most beautiful sections and it was too bad we couldn’t see it. He also said we would soon be hiking into one of the ugliest sections because there are a lot of clear cuts. We’re not sure if he wanted us to feel sorry for ourselves, but it sure seemed like useless information if that wasn’t his intent.

Welcome to Mount Rainier National Park - it's wet, cold, and you can't see anything cool

As the day wore on the clouds cleared periodically, providing us with a taste of the scenery. However, we had entered Mt Rainier National Park but still couldn’t see any parts of the behemoth volcano. We did see some really cute marmots though, a mother with her baby. The mother even stretched out on a rock like Cheeky (our cat) does.

Our marmot fluff head friends
We could almost see something!

We passed a guy with his friendly, gorgeous dog who Cashmere eagerly pet. We miss having furry friends around. Sadly none of the furry fluff-heads we see on the trail want to be our friends. Anyway the owner was pretty nice about letting Cashmere swoon over his dog. We said goodbye to him to go eat our lunch by a freezing cold lake stuck in a cloud. As we parted ways he said, “if you want a warm shower when you reach Interstate 20 get in touch.”

Cashmere hadn’t really researched the section very well, and thought that I20 was about three miles away at Chinook Pass. As a result she responded, “thanks but we showered yesterday, we should be fine.” She later realised that the I20 was actually about three days away still. That guy must have been pretty grossed out.

After our late lunch we passed another few lakes and started climbing. However, Cashmere soon found herself falling face first towards the ground. She had caught her shoe really badly on a semi-detached tree root. As it happened she was using both hands to inspect her poles. This meant she couldn’t use her poles to catch herself or even her hands. When she landed her face was about an inch off the ground, which was covered in horse poop. Ew, it was disgusting. She felt defeated. Her outer thigh, which had landed on the antagonising tree root, hurt badly. What’s worse the top of her shoe had ripped on the root too. Poor Cashmere.

Like usual though Cashmere was soon up and walking again, albeit grumpy. After a few minutes of climbing we ran into a guy and gal who wanted talk to us. It was Labour Day weekend so there were a lot of non-thru hikers around, many of whom found what we were doing very interesting. They would ask us many questions. Sometimes it feels like we are zoo animals that speak English. We tend to find these sorts of interviews okay at first, but once you’ve had a few in a day they start to grow old. Afterall we do need to keep walking.

So this poor guy and gal caught us when we’d already been informally interviewed a few times and Cashmere was grumpy about her fall. We weren’t overly friendly or responsive. The girl got a feel for the issue and said, “do a lot of people want to talk to you?”

“Yeah sort of” Cashmere muttered. Then she admitted, “Sorry I am just little grumpy because I just tripped over a tree root and ripped my shoe.”

“What size are you?” the girl asked.

“Ah I am currently wearing nine and a halves” Cashmere replied. Cashmere normally wears size 8.5 but your feet swell a lot when you through hike.

Then the girl, Brook, said, “Well you are welcome to have these shoes, I was going to throw them out soon. They are size 10’s. Here try them on.”

Cashmere tried on the shoes and walked around a little. The shoes were a little too big, but were in such better shape than her shoes – particularly the one that ripped almost in half. After some contemplation Cashmere decided to accept the shoes. However, Cashmere felt bad making Brook wear her worn out stinky shoes, so offered to wait at Chinook Pass trailhead to make the exchange. Brook was not interested, and couldn’t wait to start wearing a thru-hiker’s shoes. She also wanted to take a series of photos with us to commemorate the shoe exchange. It was weird but awesome.

Brook and Cashmere

Guess which pair have hiked 800 miles...

After some conversation with Brook and her British man friend we set off again towards the outhouses at Chinook Pass. As we hiked we came to realise Brook was so keen to talk to us about the PCT that the shoe exchange was sort of like a bribe. We definitely felt compelled to hang out and talk longer than we otherwise would have. Luckily Brook and her man friend were lovely so we didn’t mind at all. Plus we had our eyes set on camping at a lake that wasn’t too many more miles on and we’d been making good progress.

We took advantage of the outhouses at Chinook Pass and then pushed on a few more miles through light rain to Sheep Lake. On the way we saw a hiking pole strung up on a tree with a note. A hiker had left it in the back of a pick-up truck when hitching out of Trout Lake. The driver of the pick-up truck had driven all the way to Chinook Pass to leave the pole in the knowledge the hiker would soon pass through there. Whoa!

Cool pedestrian bridge at Chinook Pass

At Sheep Lake we struggled to find a campsite, until eventually we stumbled upon a vacant spot next to Nominal Toast. Toast said he didn’t mind us camping near him so we set up for the night.

Day 149

When we set off in the morning the weather finally started to improve. As we climbed up a ridge we started to see a little more, but our views were still obscured by low cloud.

The trail eventually took us along a ridge opposite the Crystal Mountain ski resort. The resort looked amazing, with big steep runs. Yet again we found ourselves wanting to go skiing. From the ridge we even caught some partial glimpses of Mount Rainier. Brook had said she had been a maid of honour at a wedding at Crystal Mountain the night before we saw her. It all made sense now.

Mt Rainier playing hide and seek with us

To celebrate the improving weather and views we stopped for morning tea at a scenic and sunny spot on the ridge. It was lovely to enjoy some sun after so much rain and cold.

Yay! It's not raining for once!

As we hiked into the afternoon we had periods of sun and clouds – but no rain. It was the best day of weather we had had in Washington so far.

Holy crap...we really can see stuff now!

More views...this is amazing!

During the afternoon we passed several southbound hikers, including two young men with huge packs. We later learnt they were intending to hike the whole PCT – but had 70lb (32kg) packs and no sleeping mats. What’s worse they were leaving REALLY late. Most southbound hikers start in early July (if not earlier) not September! The late start would put them on track to hike through the high Sierras in November/December – dramatically increasing their chances of encountering serious storms and bitterly cold weather. Uh-oh.

After an extensive hike through forest in the late afternoon and evening we arrived at Ulrich Cabin.

Nice cabin with loud inhabitants

Yet again we found ourselves camping next to Nominal Toast just outside. We were not game to sleep in the cabin because there were two rather friendly, but loud, weekenders staying in the hut. We’re too used to peace and quiet to want in on that. Not to mention one of them carried a handgun which was a little intimidating.

Day 150

The next morning we discussed how eating the normal amount of food we’d packed for this section just wasn’t hitting the spot. You see we usually pack an excessive amount of food compared to other hikers, but we don’t always eat it all, and it is heavy so we’d been trying to be more normal. We weren’t sure we liked it.

As Cashmere, once again, scouted for berries we discussed a really boring feature film we could make called, ‘A Few Good Huckleberries’. The film would involve Cashmere wandering down the PCT and finding a good berry about every 20 minutes. We are pretty sure Cashmere’s mom, Kathy, would be the only person in the World who would like it. After all it was Kathy who got Cashmere so berry-crazy in the first place.

Soon after such pointless talk Cashmere found ‘a few more good huckleberries’ altogether in a kind of a patch. She eagerly got out her ‘berry bag’ and put some of her desperate, over-ripe haul in for later. By this stage Physio, who was dissatisfied with the quality of the berries, had got a bit bored and kept walking. Cashmere eventually started trying to walk again and as she did, realised that Mt Rainer had come out for the best visit yet, only Physio had the camera. Sorry!

Then Cashmere came around a corner and saw Physio stopped on the trail with Nominal Toast nearby. That’s weird. They had found the huckleberry motherload. Big, juicy, delicious and highly concentrated. It was enough to even stop the boys. You can bet another long break ensued and many berries were eaten. Maybe this would be the ending to the film.

Final scene in 'A Few Good Huckleberries'

After eating our fill of huckleberries we contemplated how strange it was that the best berries we had found were in an area of clear fell. We were having the time of our lives in “the ugliest part of the PCT”. It’s clear the trail is what you make of it.

Eventually we actually did some hiking and had the usual morning tea, more hiking, and then lunch. We were stopped in the woods for lunch when Nominal Toast came by. As he talked to us all of a sudden he was distracted, focussing on his arm. A yellow jacket had somehow got up his sleeve and started stinging him! Argh! Man those jerks are aggressive.

You can bet we basically started running when we saw this sign

As we continued trekking after lunch we were still hungry from our ‘normal’ lunch. Poor us. Luckily we soon came upon some serious magic. Just as we reached a dirt road, Tacoma Pass, we saw the most beautiful sign we’d ever seen.

Magical Magic sign

We walked over and Cashmere literally jumped up and down in excitement. She was buzzing. “A calorie supplement, where do I begin?” She settled for a hot chocolate and a snickers. Physio meanwhile just went into a weird trance eating salsa on tortillas. We sat in comfy chairs with other hungry hiker trash, eating fruit, chips and salsa. Cashmere even made a super weird, peanutbutter, Nutella, jam and Oreo wrap.

Cashmere putting the Trash in Hiker Trash

So who was providing this magic? A lovely man who called himself “Not Phil’s Dad”. We were a little confused…why are you Not Phil’s Dad? So he told us his son hiked the PCT in 2010 and his son’s trail name was “Not Phil”. Apparently his son got the name because he resembled Phil Collins, but didn’t like the name so kept saying “I’m not Phil”. Unfortunately for him all his protests probably only made matters worse and he was named Not Phil.

Not Phil’s Dad had quite the set up. He had huge tents, lots of comfortable chairs, beautiful woodworkings, and apparently a home built toilet set up and bed in a trailer to sleep in! He was staying put to spoil hikers!

We love you Not Phil's Dad!

Eventually we dragged ourselves away from the Trail Magic and began a large climb to end the day. We soon reached an abandoned roadbed on a ridge with a couple of cleared campsites. We set up for the night and were soon joined by Nominal Toast who was also in search of a campsite. We quite like Nominal Toast so this was a bit of a treat.

Shortly after setting up camp a dense cloud settled on the ridge. It soon felt like it might as well be raining. What a bummer.

During the night we awoke for a pee and when we were trying to get back to sleep we heard some really eerie animal noises. It sounded like a really loud whimpering wolf pup right near our tents. At first we thought it was elk as there were lots of their footprints around but it was more dog-like. Maybe it was a juvenile Coyote? We couldn’t tell, but were very happy when the calls gradually faded into the distance. Whatever it was it decided to leave us and our packs alone. Phew!

Day 151

We awoke to the best views (where we had a camera) yet of Mt Rainer in the morning. We were now further north from the beautiful behemoth but were happy to admire it from afar since we didn’t get to in Mt Rainer National Park.

You couldn't hide from us forever Mt Rainier...
You're too damn BIG!

We started our hike, enjoying the sun. Soon enough we passed under lots of high voltage power lines with a glimpse of Rainer on the side. It was great.

Oooh yeah...That's great!

Then we spotted an outhouse off the track a little and got excited to have morning tea there. It wasn’t raining but we thought if things got moving in our body it would be a welcome change from the dig & squat lifestyle. Sadly it was closed forever with a peculiar sign to accompany it. Still we had morning tea in the sun nearby and took the opportunity to take out the tent and dry it.

Crushed outhouse dreams

About five minutes after we resumed walking we came upon two more ladies, Margo and Theresa doing more trail magic on a dirt road. What a great section to be short on food and extra hungry!

Theresa had been doing trail magic since 1991 and brought an amazing array of food. She heated up taco soup for us, made us grilled cheese, had lots of tasty, sweet home grown tomatoes for us to munch, had homemade brownies, chips, candy, and more! Everything was delicious.

More Trail Magic!

With all this trail magic we were not making many miles, but we were loving the bonus food and the amazing people making the effort to spoil hikers. We tried to leave this trail magic, and even put our packs on but soon found ourselves engaged in interesting bear and cougar stories. We learned of a hiker on the PCT called Cat Lady because a cougar sat outside her tent staring at her for 18 hours. During this time she was completely freaking out, writing goodbye emails to her family and such. Some hikers eventually came and scared it away. Somehow we did manage to depart and climbed up a hill.

Believe it or not we soon passed an older couple who said “finally we’ve found you” and handed us an apple and granola bars! The apple was amazing. I love Washington retirees!

After a few more miles we reached Mirror Lake, where we decided to have a swim and have dinner. It was an absolutely incredible spot for a dip, but the water was a bit too cold to enjoy it fully.

The Lady of the Lake

We both ate dinner rapidly and got walking again to warm up. Unfortunately it was quickly getting cold and dark, and the trail was too rough and rocky to be night hiking. With shorter days and colder nights Washington has not allowed us to hike after dinner very often.

After hiking in the dark for a while we eventually found a small flat(ish) patch of ground where we decided to camp. There was barely enough room for our tent and the ground was definitely sloping. However, we were too tired to care and promptly fell asleep.

Day 152

We awoke with a mere six miles to hike to Snoqualmie Pass. Much to Physio’s dismay we only had a small amount of granola left for breakfast. We ate what we had and then quickly set off in search of pancakes (now a complete obsession for Cashmere).

The hike out to Snoqualmie Pass was not overly scenic. The track was overgrown in a lot of places and the overgrowth was WET! So, even though it was not raining we were getting soaked. Poor us.

The trail took us under some high voltage power lines (oh yeah!) and eventually came out at a ski resort. With the thought of food burning a hole in our stomachs we took a short cut down a ski resort access road and headed straight for the pancake parlour.

Calorific food be in them thar buildings!

While waiting for our order we caught up with Bearly who was about to head back out on the trail. He said he really couldn’t wait for the trail to be over and had started walking big miles. Apparently hiking in rain and snow constantly was not his cup of tea, it’s extra tough when you grow up in Arizona I suppose. We weren’t feeling quite the same angst but rather a bit nostalgic about finishing but also knowing the seasons were changing for the colder.

With a more substantial breakfast in our stomachs we went to check into the motel. Sadly we couldn’t get into a room for s couple of hours. We decided to just hang out in the foyer on the comfy couches socialising with other hiker trash to pass the time. Physio also isolated himself to try and catch up a little on the blog (we are trying!)

The rest of the afternoon and evening was spent doing our chores – including a frustratingly long wait to do our laundry.

When we finally had some clean clothes we enjoyed an evening meal of all you can eat tacos and a salmon burger. Then with overfull bellies we went to the local micro brewery (yes even Interstate highway exits in Washington have their own brewery). We could only manage one pint each, which we enjoyed while chatting to a random local, before retiring back to the hotel to be horizontal.

One pint and we get all snoozy

Day 153

After the tacos and beer, Physio had fallen asleep. Cashmere had gotten too excited to have a turn with the phone and had made the mistake of looking at a potential dream job in New Zealand late at night and thus did not sleep well. The job description was perfect and the job was at her first choice employer. Would they really hold the job for her for a few months? Well the applications were closing in a few days and we were going to be on the trail. So she decided she should at least throw in her CV and see what happens.

When you are hiking a really long trail like the PCT, which necessitates walking a whole lot of miles every day, you really want to try and keep your pack light. This means that you don’t carry a laptop. So to apply for a job, Cashmere had the option of using the smartphone or the random guest computer in the lobby. She thought the latter would be the better bet. She may have been wrong.

In fact, the computer was so slow that you would type in text and it would show up on the screen 45 seconds later. It was really annoying when you made a typo. The computer also didn’t have Microsoft Office. Cashmere spent about two frustrating hours applying for the job. During this time she only managed to submit an out-of-date CV and sent her cover letter as an email with the explanation of her strange circumstances. It was weird. Maybe they would be compassionate to the challenges of being a thru-hiker? Man the real world is hard. Being on the trail is so much simpler.

In addition our morning was spent eating lots of Ben & Jerry’s icecream, Cashmere drinking too much coffee, Physio booking our flights from Vancouver to San Diego for the end of the trail, checking out of our motel room, eating more food (pizza and salad!) and hitting the trail….in good weather!

Read more in our next blog post, and get excited because there are going to be some seriously pretty pictures!

Thanks again for reading!