Unlike the beautiful and easy hike of yesterday, today was challenging and slow. This trail has not seen maintenance in many years and it shows. When no one is here to do the work, the brush gets overgrown and hikers start to make new trails where the old trails have begun eroding down the mountainside. We managed 18 miles in 12 hours, well below our normal 2mph average.
Mosquitoes have not been a problem for a while, the new problem is these large black fly, horsefly-looking things. Henceforth, I shall call them Zombie Flies. Why Zombie Flies? A few reasons. Their sole purpose in life is to bite me and turn me into some kind of human-horsefly zombie. The animal is so robust a creature that when you slap the thing, it doesn’t die. The only thing that will truly slay one of the beasts is a double tap to the head with my heel. I have been growing hungrier and hungrier since first bitten… more details to follow.
Kings and Queens of the Mountains
For some reason, I always imagined these lands to be ruled by bears and big cats. The truth of the matter is far more startling. The animal we have encountered the most, by far, has been the marmot. These brown and white striped rock rodents would get along well with our dog, Athena, as all they want to do is lay around in the sun all day. Sometimes, just sometimes, they will produce a loud bear-whistle-like noise when they see us. This happens maybe 10% of the time?
Seeing a lot of marmots does not necessarily mean they rule the land, it’s their lackadaisical behavior that makes me feel this way. If they are laying on the trail and we are looking to pass, they do not run or scurry away, they may not acknowledge our existence at all. An animal with that level of arrogance tells me they don’t have much to worry about, they are the kings and queens of this mountain range.
If the marmot and grouse populations are an indicator of how well big cats are doing, I’d wager they are doing well. Unless the big cats are not here at all, which is why these populations are thriving?
Trail tribulations aside, the hike around Glacier Peak has been absolutely gorgeous. Still melting snow has the rivers raging and random waterfalls spouting down from afar. There certainly is no lack of water on the trail at this time of year during a late snowmelt. Drinking cold mountain fresh water is good for my soul.
Tonight’s campsite is remote and quite possibly the most beautiful we have ever had. Our tent sits in a bowl between mountains on an established patch of dirt just a few feet from the trail. Sunset was amazing and I expect the sunrise will be just as wild.
For every terrible day of hiking spent going uphill in a heat wave with no water, there are also perfectly divine days on the trail; today was one of those days. Overcast skies, cool temperatures, mostly downhill, and beautiful views.
Brianna, Townie, and I stayed up chatting til past hiker midnight last night and woke up for coffee together before hitting the trail. All of us had set alarms, and none of us woke up to them. We talked about life and hiking, and upcoming trail info.
Townie quit her job to come hike the Washington section of the PCT this year, which is a section she did not get to do when she hiked the PCT in 2019, because of a foot fracture. She may come back and hike in California after a friend’s wedding in Sept. I would be stoked if our paths cross again, she is a social butterfly. We go to town with her once and we’d walk away with a dozen stories.
Even with the late start, we knocked out 19.6 miles today. The day was so easy that we could have done more, just chose not to.
Lots of blown-down trees towards the end of the day, but all of them had clear paths over, under, or around. Every NOBO we saw mentioned that 400+ down trees lay ahead of us and how terrible the trail was. If you hate blowdowns, then I guess it is terrible. If you accept blowdowns are just a part of life, it is just a slower version of normal.
Something I have to constantly remind myself when looking at trail maps is that an uphill or downhill is never just an uphill or a downhill. There are always other unknown factors that come into play, like loose rocks, sun exposure, sandy paths, storm exposure, heat waves, water carries, a bad night’s sleep, bugs, snow, ice, heavy packs, water crossings, down trees, and the list goes on. Every thru-hikers is managing 3, 4, or 5 of these things all at once. It’s a fluidly rotating situation of challenges to be underestimated at peril.
I used to think, “oh, a downhill, we should be able to make up time” and now I think, “oh, a downhill, this should be interesting.”
Tonight’s camp is by another creek, tucked away in the corner of many down trees but not near anything dangerous. As in life, things on the trail are more complicated than words could ever convince. We all think we can handle specific situations in a certain way until they happen to us. Afterwards, the veil of misconception lifts and we begin to appreciate what our forebears went through to get us to where we are today.
When I think about all of the hot pans I had to touch before understanding what my mother meant when she said, “don’t touch, it will burn you,” it reminds me how crucial firsthand experience is. “Save the rainforest,” they tell us, “protect the national parks.” But what does land a thousand miles away mean to me today when I have a mortgage payment due tomorrow? There is no bankruptcy program for deforestation, strip mining, or pollution.
What would the United States of America look like if everyone had to enlist in the military for their first 2 years out of high school? What if their 3rd year was spent hiking or doing trail maintenance in remote areas of the country? The idea freedom, wildfires, and drought would become less abstract and more real life. “All gave some and some gave all,” could apply to so much more.
Our small trapper cabin allowed for magnificent sleep last night! When bedtime rolled around, the single room was still warm from the heat of the day and the small windows on the north and south sides of the building were not providing any airflow so I left the front door open all night. There is no screen door, but no bugs or animals came in for a nighttime visit. So much good sleep.
Breakfast was a buffet of breakfast casserole, sausage, bacon, hash browns, and french toast. We ate our fill of the great food and sipped on coffee boiled over open fireplace flames. Sometimes you need to take your time to appreciate great things. This breakfast and coffee were our Mona Lisa.
Bethany, our lovely host and bus driver had us back to the trail by 8:45am, where a horde of hiker trash was waiting. What a difference a day makes! Where there were 5 of us waiting yesterday, there were 20-30 eager and excited faces today. I do not know if any of them were offered rooms at the ranch. I do know that I am exceedingly thankful we arrived yesterday instead of today.
Brianna and I expected the trail to be challenging today, and it was. The first 11 miles were rolling hills of mostly up, paralleling and crisscrossing the South Fork Agnes Creek for a majority of it. We didn’t have to carry more than half a liter of water all day, but our packs were full of 6 days worth of food. It was difficult to know how far we could get on day 1, with full packs and steep inclines after mile 11, so we just kind of took the day as it came. Why push super hard going uphill with full packs on day 1 when we would eventually have lighter packs and be going downhill?
We could and may do this section in less than 6 days if we average more than 17.9 miles per day, but again… what’s the rush? Around this time last year is when Brianna had to jump off the Ice Age Trail because of a back injury. A solid reminder that adventures and life can both end abruptly!
Camp for tonight is a pretty cool spot, with a toilet! The toilet thing is actually not that unique, we are seeing more wooden toilets at more of the campsites in this section. It’s a pretty smart way of controlling the number of poop holes dug randomly throughout the wilderness area; I especially enjoy forest views while playing euchre on my phone.
A new neighbor arrived shortly after we started settling into camp! Meet, Townie, from Alberta, Canada! She received her trail name because she loves visits to trail towns and tends to get stuck in them for days. Most recently, she spend 4 days in Leavenworth, WA, drinking German beer and hanging out with the locals.
For a lot of the days on trail, it feels like people and places are coming to and finding you. We have no idea what home looks like until we arrive. Homewandering is one of my favorite parts of long-distance hiking. It’s exciting to see where you’re living for the night, to see who and what will be living around you.
Our original plan for Wednesday night was to hike 21 miles before 5pm and hop onto the day’s last bus ride into Stehekin. It wasn’t until our lunchtime break that comments in the FarOut app alerted us to the fact that Stehekin showers and laundry close at 6pm. If we couldn’t shower and do laundry before wandering into one of the nearby campgrounds, why make the effort to get on the last bus?
The logic for why not to go into Stehekin on that night was sound, but it was difficult for me to accept. We were 13 miles in and so close to civilization. Even though we were no longer in a rush, my pace intensified to near warp speeds for another 3 miles. Frustration over the change in plans built inside my brain… until I saw the sign – Bridge Creek Campground.
Bridge Creek Camp
Did I find Bridge Creek or did Bridge Creek find me? A perfectly maintained official PCT campground in the Cascades National Park with a cold creek running down the middle and two pristine outhouses on each side of the creek? Yes, please. Every irrational feeling weighing me down had melted away in a sudden irrevocable act of homewandering. Why would I ever want an extra night in civilization when something as cool as this had found me? Not only am I a hiking flipflopper, but it also applies to my emotions.
Getting to camp early and relaxing the evening away can be difficult for me. As at work or wrestling practice, it’s hard to leave available time and effort on the table. To help train my patience on this night, we waded into the cold water of the ankle-deep creek, soaked and rinsed our feet. An early dinner was followed by a short evening thunderstorm. With a Stehekin town day tomorrow and an extra dinner in our bags, the last thing we did before calling it a night was 2nd dinner. Patience.
Stehekin Valley Ranch
We crawled the 4.9-morning miles to the Stehekin bus stop, excited for showers and laundry, tired from the week-long stretch without. There is no road into Stehekin, most people take the boat. However, there is a road in Stehekin with buses that shuttle people around for a fee. It’s mostly a gravel forest road with potholes a plenty, but it works.
There were already 3 other hikers at the bus stop when we arrived, Boogie, Tracks, and a lady section hiker that did not give a name. Brianna pre-purchased us tickets for 9am on the city bus, so we chatted with the other hikers and patiently waited for our ride to arrive when a completely different bus from the Stehekin Valley Ranch arrived. Bethany popped out from behind the wheel of the bus and asked if any of us wanted rooms or needed a ride. Brianna and I looked at each other and smiled. This is not the bus we paid for, definitely the bus we were going to be riding.
Brianna, Boogie, Tracks, and I all jumped on the bus for a ride. The bus stopped at the ranch real quick to pick up other guests and so that we could secure our reservation before heading onto the legendary Stehekin bakery and finally into town. There were other stops along the way as well, but we were too focused on bakery food, like huge cinnamon rolls, to care.
I cannot say enough nice things about the Stehekin Valley Ranch experience, especially as compared to what we saw of the Stehekin. As people who only traveled from the showers to the general store, I’ll not pretend us to be experts, just a couple of hikers.
Showers at the ranch are included with the fee and were amazingly clean with hot water, strong flow, towels, washcloths, and soap. They will even do your laundry, with the catch that all clothes are sun-dried. Dinner was fantastically cooked fresh fish with sides of pasta, green beans, salad, fruit salad, and a huge selection of pies for dessert.
Fun add-on story: Stehekin Valley Ranch has a cat! It actually has a couple cats, but this short story is about the old cat that hangs out by the drinking fountain. There is a bowl of water next to the fountain that nothing drinks from, why? Because this old cat only drinks from the drinking fountain. I don’t like cats. This cat felt different though, like it was living its own life by its own rules. Yes, I watered the cat… several times.
Our cabin for the night is small with a comfortable bed and 4 pillows. Pretty pumped for some cushiony sleep.
It feels like both of these places found us. The point, I guess, is in putting yourself out there and being able to be found. OR if you’ve read the Odd Thomas books and are familiar with the concept of psychic magnatism, then it may not matter where you go or what your intentions are, it will be what it will be.
Fresh horse poop on the trail is always a good sign. If horses have recently passed through the same way we are going, it means that we shouldn’t have to go over, under, or around anything too extreme. The theory proved correct for today, the trail maintenance was pristinely done.
Every living thing in the area pretty much uses the trail. It’s simple survival 101 – why stomp or scramble through the thickets when you can save calories taking the path more traveled? Bears and deer have been actively using the trail to devour huckleberries. We have seen large piles of bear poop riddled with the tasty fruits. Even when there isn’t poop evidence, it’s easy to tell when creatures have been feasting on the berries. It’s not as if they are picking them off one at a time like we are.
What we have not seen a lot in the past couple of days has been northbounders, and I’m not talking about their poop either. Traffic coming towards us has slowed down since leaving the Harts Pass area. Back in southern Oregon, we would pass over two dozen hikers a day. Since leaving Harts Pass, we’re lucky to see a half-dozen. It makes sense, we saw some of the faster hikers here in Washington, many we had already met back in northern Oregon about a month ago.
It’s hard telling where the big bubble of hikers is with all the fire closures. I suspect it will be another couple of weeks before we run into our friends from Shelter Cove again.
I have a new method for measuring how difficult a climb is. If I stop for a break and I can see my pulse in my eyeballs, that means it’s a very difficult climb. For a lot of moderate inclines, I’m able to turtle up the hill slowly and never have to take a breather. Every once in a while the PCT will throw something super steep at us and it has our entire bodies pulsing. One of these happened today. Sometimes you have to earn that view, that water, that break, that dinner.
Our legs and hearts are ready for the challenging climbs Washington has in store for us. Seeing all of the elevation gains that are ahead makes me wonder how long it would have taken us to do these same miles in bodies that were not yet in hiker shape, had we been able to start in northern Washington. Even with the occasional pulse-in-the-eyeballs, I think the better shape we are in now will help us appreciate the experience a little more and hate life a little less.
Tonight’s camp is just up the hill from porcupine creek. Our site is flat with a log bench and we can hear the creek off in the distance.
There is this person in the PCT Facebook groups that makes a lot of unhelpful comments. Though they are not actively hiking, we have seen the person advise against trail magic in certain spots and stir up a lot of fear around things that need not be stirred up. This morning, Brianna and I joked that they would be at Harts Pass with ExLax laced trail magic, to make sure people are pooping in the outhouse before going into the woods. Imagine our surprise when actual trail magic greeted us there instead!
Rocket finished the trail about a week ago and wanted to give a little something back to the hiking community before ending his trip. As a hiker, he knew exactly what to bring: chickpea salad, fresh avocado, Coke, apples, and oranges. I used my coffee cup as a salad bowl and had two solid servings. I didn’t even clean the cup out before pouring a glass of Coke. Coke with avocado chunks never tasted so good.
Thank you, Rocket!!
I’m sure the Facebook person I mentioned earlier isn’t a bad person, they are just a Rick James-style habitual line-stepper. An affliction that many hikers suffer from, myself included, is attempting to help with a question when we are not the best person to be answering. This is why you never ask a hiker how far til the top of a hill or how difficult a certain section is. What we should say is nothing. What we do say is “about 2 miles” or “it’s pretty easy.” This is also why you should take all of my advice here with a grain of salt.
Fastest Known Times
It was during the trail magic that I ran into Red Riding Hood again. I asked if her friend that was on the brink of tears and without food had found her. She explained to me that her friend was Josh, on his way to set the fastest unsupported NOBO time, and he had not found her. She did see him passed out by the monument at 2am when she started her hike. Why would someone start their hike at 2am? Because she is trying to set the fastest known time for hiking Washington. Pretty cool random people to have run into, even if I did not know it at the time. Congratulations to Josh & good luck Red Riding Hood!
In case you’re not able to do the math from home – Red Riding Hood started @ 2am from the border. I met up with her again at trail magic around 10:30am. She covered over 30 intermediately challenging miles in 8.5 hours. That’s an average of 3.5mph. She told us her plan is to hike for 20 hours a day and sleep for 4. I can see her game plan and I think she has a really good shot at making the new record.
It was difficult for us to leave the trail magic, but we still had 13 miles ahead of us and no areas to fill up water for the entire length of it. All of the afternoon climbs were rewarded with breathtaking views. Our worst climb of the day wasn’t even up, it was down 2,500 feet to Glacier Pass. We felt bad for the northbounders that would have to tackle the monstrous 5 miles of 30 switchbacks (yes, we counted).
We left 3 days of food in the bear box at Harts Pass, but the trail magic distracted us into not sorting through it before we left. I’m carrying a bit more food than we needed until we get to Stehekin. Unless I can figure out a way to eat it all… second breakfast, 11s, or supper, anyone?
Mornings in the northern Cascade Mountains have been starting later these days. Late starts are fine, enjoyable even, when you do not have to worry about sweltering midday heat waves. We have not set an alarm for many weeks.
To anyone thinking about hiking from Harts Pass to the border and back, to them I say – do it. Hiking in 30 miles and hiking back out those same 30 miles gave Brianna and I the rare opportunity to know what we would be seeing on the way out. If you do the 60 miles in 2 days like a northbounder might, sure, it’s an expert-rated hike. If you act like a normal person and take your time, over 4 or 5 days, it’s very intermediate. The key is to split the 3 big inclines into a couple of different days.
If you have problems hiking uphill for long periods, here are some pro tips –
1.) Shorten your hiking sticks by a few centimeters. It reduces the amount you have to lift the stick and helps distribute your weight more evenly.
2.) Resist the urge to hunch over while hiking uphill. Sure, lean into the climb a little, but for the love you bare your mama, keep your back straight and let your pack distribute the weight as it was designed to do. You might see folks hunched over and white-knuckling it up a hill at great speeds… if that is your goal, consider carrying a super light pack and getting into 1,000-mile shape before heading out.
Perfectly Strange Encounters
Hiking around so many people has been a wild change for us! We continue to cheer on the northbounders every chance we get. In return, everyone always asks us if we are about to finish or have already finished the trail. We have told our SOBO flip-flop story about a hundred times already. It’s not bothersome though, talking with all of these people is fun, particularly if we are in the middle of a big incline and in need of a breather break anyway :-).
Some of our encounters with people today have been really weird. I watched a day hiker attempt to take a drink from his water bottle while walking on a very rocky mountain ledge. The bottle slipped from his hands and plummeted down the side of the mountain. He was looking down and beginning to remove his pack as if to climb down the mountain for his water bottle. “Don’t do it!” I yelled in both a serious and halfhearted tone. No pair of microspikes would save this piece of equipment. “It might make for a good story, but it would not be good for your health,” I said as I passed behind him on the ledge.
Later in the evening, a delirious man ran up to Brianna and I, asking if we had seen a short red-headed girl on the trail. A pretty vague description, but we had actually met a red-headed girl by the name of Red Riding Hood much earlier that day, maybe 15 miles back. The man was elated when Brianna passed this news along to him. “Yes!” He said nearly crying, “I can eat when I finish! She has my food!” The man ran off before we could offer him any of our food, making us feel both concerned for him and guilty for not helping.
We would later come to find out that the delirious man was just 20 miles away from setting the fastest known time for an unsupported northbound hike of the PCT. Josh was acting crazy because he was in fact crazy from a lack of sleep and general exhaustion. Now that I know who he was, the encounter seems less weird and more cool to have chanced upon him. Just goes to show that not everything on the PCT is what it seems to be.
We learned the above information after meeting up with Red Riding Hood the following day – more on this tomorrow.
Our home for the night is a flat ashy campsite next to a solid flowing creek. Tomorrow is our first day out of harts pass and back to the southbound life!
The thing about spending days off trail is that it has a way of throwing your poop schedule off. I had my normal morning movement today, which was expected. The other two poopings were very unexpected. If you don’t like to read about poop stories, skip to paragraph #5.
Cold temperatures pushed Brianna and I into the tent at 7pm last night and allowed us to sleep until 7am this morning. A refreshing night with a late start of a morning is a great thing when you’re not in a heat wave like we were in Oregon. A rocky 2-mile switchback on the side of a mountain greeted us early into our day, and that’s where poopmergency #1 happened. Brianna said, “I might have to pee.” and I quietly responded with, “I might have something brewing.” With nowhere to dig and nowhere to hide, our only option was to run to the end. I barely made it to tree cover in time and still had a brushy climb up the side of a hill once I got there.
The second poopmergency happened shortly after a conversation I had with Cornelia Marie. I’m not sure if it was the chat that loosened up my bowels, but the crisis hit just as I started to raise Brianna & I’s food bags into the trees and was attempting to tie them off. I’m not sure if you’ve had a poopmergency when trying to finish off a simple task, but everything gets blurry and the only thing you can think about is trying not to shit your pants. I had to call Brianna over to finish the tie-off knot while I ran into the trees.
The poopmergency ran me into the woods, away from the lake, and as far into the trees as I could go without having an accident. The fortunate part was that I did dig a hole and get my shorts down in time. The unfortunate part was when a gentleman wandered into my area looking for a campsite. I pulled my shorts up as quickly as I could and exchanged one of the most awkward, “hello”s ever. Needless to say, but I’ll say it anyway, I had a bit of a mess to clean up afterward. That same gentleman did eventually find a campsite… 10 feet from ours.
Kissing the Northern Terminus
Brianna and I did something today that we have never done before. We arrived at Hopkins Lake around noon, about 10 miles into our day, and decided to set up our tent. The theory was that if we put our tent up, emptied our bags into it, and hung our food in a nearby tree, we could make it to the northern terminus faster and all of our stuff would still be there upon our return. This is a thing that a lot of people do in this area but also felt especially risky for us given all the effort we made to make it back up to Washington. How silly would it be to have made it this far just to have all our stuff trashed by a person or animal?
The hike down and back to the Canadian border / northern terminus was not difficult at all, certainly not as difficult as people make it out to be. We took our time and were able to arrive at the moment by 4pm. No one else was around when we arrived, so most of our time was spent trying to position the camera for good pictures. It took a few tries but we even got one of us kissing over the monument!
This was another Crater Lake moment for us and it too lived up to the hype. It took us 500 miles of hiking, but we finally touched a terminus. You see the pictures and you watch the videos but you never really know if you’ll ever get there. We got there.
We made it back to camp by 6:45pm. It’s always nice to have over an hour of sunlight left at the end of the hiking day. Our tent and food were completely undisturbed, so we spent the time cleaning our bodies and baby wiping our feet. I especially needed extra time to clean up after the poopmergency gone wrong.
Lots of wildlife on the trail, too! No bears, thankfully. Brianna spotted a big white mountain goat, we got chatted at by a grouse with chicks, and we saw a brown and white fisher. My favorite animal sighting happened while I was filling water at our lake home: small fish jumping out of the water to feed on insects. Great days.
Quick gear updates:
(I’m not sponsored by any of these companies, as cool as that would be)
Hoka Speedgoats: Are my new favorite shoes. Sorry, Merrill, these things are like walking on clouds. They also have a convenient tongue on the heel to hold my gators in place. My model is not the wide version, because REI did not have them in stock, but keeping the laces loose gives my swollen feet the room they need to shimmy and shake.
Katadyn Be Free: Is my favorite water filter. It’s fast! It gets slower as it collects dirt, and I did have some trouble cleaning it, but consecutively using both the ‘shake’ and ‘swish’ methods restored the flow. I managed to get a pin-size hole in the bag and couldn’t replace it(out-of-stock at REI); still filtering like a champ.
Patagonia shorts & sun hoodie: Are the perfect clothing combo. Even in colder temperatures, I have zero regrets about ditching my pants. Patagonia knee-high socks + shorts do the trick. If I need extra warmth, my Mountain Hardware puffy keeps my core toasty.
Dirty Girl Gaters: Love these for covering my shoes and preventing some dirt from getting in. I never had much luck attaching them with Velcro. Many trail running shoes like Altras and Hokas come with built-in hooks or tongues to hold them in place.
Glacier Gloves: Are just ok. I use these gloves to protect my hands from the sun while hiking. Stitches on 2 of the fingers ripped pretty early on, but they are still usable – 80% isn’t terrible? I may look for something more rugged in the future.
BDU(Battle Dress Uniform) Hat: Is my most non-standard piece of hiking equipment. What it lacks in breathable holes and odor-resistant material, it makes up for symbolistically. While I did not get this hat from my time in the service, it serves as a reminder that things could always be much worse.
Every step of the previous post went exactly as planned. My cousin Jeremy is a man of his word and of my own heart. He told us we would be out the door a little after 9am and we did not fuck around getting our stuff together and on the road. It turns out that his birthday is this weekend and he used our cry for help as an excuse to go camping in Winthrop for a couple days. Jeremy, Dione, and Payton are great people, cousins, and new best friends.
Friends and family have always been abstract concepts for me. We are raised to believe that family comes first and have inherently more value than friends. This never made much sense to me as an independent child and makes even less sense as an adult. My approach has always been to make friends with a person, whether family, co-worker, or hiker and build from there. If you can accomplish this, family hangouts become more like a party. Relationships built on trust are naturally reciprocal and have a higher ceiling to continue growing.
Day 1 – Planning
Day 2 – Drive to Richland
✅ In and Out Burger
✅ Marty haircut
Day 3 – Drive to Mazama, WA
The next logistical obstacle we will need to figure out is how to get to Cascade Locks or Portland from Trout Lake. If you well remember, Trout Lake is as far north as we could go, because of the snow, before having to flip back south through Oregon.
To Harts Pass
Wes from Methow Motion Shuttle Services picked us up in an olive green Honda Pilot at around 7:10am this morning. We were ride sharing with two ladies from the Seattle area, Hanna & Cali. The ride up the rocky one way forest road was not nearly as bad as people describe it. We even saw a family of white goats climbing up the mountain as we passed. Conversation with Hanna and Cali was great, they are on a 3-day section hike down to Rainy Pass, the 40ish minute drive flew by in no time at all.
(If you are reading this, we had a Pad Thai in your honor last night.)
It would be difficult for northern Washington to be any more different than southern Oregon. Highs here are in the 60s and 70s, lows in the high 20s and 30s. The ground here is moist and soft instead of hard and sandy. Oregon was beautiful and terrible, particularly with the heat waves and fires.
My new Hoka Speedgoat shoes hurt for the first mile or two, but are now feeling free as a child after an exorcism. I didn’t pick these shoes based on research. The Speedgoats were the only trail runner shoes REI had in stock for my 11.5 size, so the decision was that simple. With new shoes, you never know how your feet are going to react. I’m sure I’ll get new blisters in unfamiliar places, but that’s all part of the game. Only time will tell!
A PCT permit is not required to hike most parts of Washington state. Washington allows people to self-permit at trailheads, which is pretty cool. The easy permitting process, and the fact that it’s Friday night, means Brianna and I have met all sorts of hikers on our way to touch the northern terminus: day hikers, section hikers, PNT hikers, northbound finishers, southbound starters, flip-floppers.
Finishing the entire trail is a big deal. As such, we have been making a point to ask people if they have just finished the trail. If they answer, “yes!” then we shower them with applause and fist bumps. Brianna would probably bake every single one of them a cake if she could, but alas, fist bumps and cheers will have to do.
Tonight we camp next to a cold spring, surrounded by many other hikers. The trail in is not difficult at all, though the climb back out will take a little bit longer. We are excited to meet all the new people and start hiking in the same direction as some!
Trying to logistic out the details for how to flip from Ashland, OR to Mazama WA without the assistance of any official trail angels is about as complicated a task as we have ever taken on. Planning requires about a dozen steps that must be reserved in sequence. Reserving a shuttle to Harts Pass doesn’t do a lick of good if you do not have a reliable method to Mazama, Winthrop, Twisp, or another near enough location.
Why no official trail angels?
We reached out through the normal Facebook channels to the known trail angels and weren’t very successful. One trail angel told us the ride season was over, which seems crazy, but I’m sure her response was related to the large number of wildfire-displaced hikers. It would have been possible to try harder for trail angel help, but sometimes you just have to get it done on your own (with a lot of help from your friends). It might be that taking the road less traveled will help other people be more successful through the standard routes. One could say we are taking an alternate…
The first step in getting from the Callahan Lodge in Ashland to Harts Pass in northern Washington is figuring out how to get out of Callahan Lodge. Our original plan included reserving a rental car to be picked up from the airport in Medford, a serendipitous reservation we made well in advance of the time when hundreds of hikers were trying to do the very same thing in a small window of time. There is an airport shuttle we can schedule to pick up the rental car, but they aren’t picking up the phone or returning our calls. Uber may be the only reliable option, but you never know what drivers are available in what areas at what times and the Callahan Lodge isn’t in a well-populated area. Hopefully, this works out.
If we can get to Medford and pick up the car rental, we simply need to make our way to the middle of nowhere in northern Washington. Our original plan was to return the rental car to Seattle and take public transportation to Mazama or Winthrop. Taking a bus is not ideal because of Brianna’s motion sickness and a few other reasons, so I put out a call for help from family.
What do you do when no other options exist? Reach out to a cousin that you just met again for the first time in over 3 decades. My cousin, Jeremy, has no reason to want to help us, nothing to gain, and yet he is. At the drop of a hat, Jeremy has moved his work schedule around and will be driving us the 4 hours from Richland, WA to Mazama, WA. He is not an official trail angel, but he certainly is a trail angel of magnificent proportions for us this week.
To accommodate this latest trail magical assistance from my cousin, the drop-off location for the car rental needs to be changed from Seattle to Richland. The car rental company says it can only be changed AFTER the vehicle has been picked up? Hopefully, this works out.
If we can make it to Medford to pick up the vehicle and change the destination city so that my cousin Jeremy can drive us to Mazama, we are working to schedule the Methow Motion Shuttle up to Harts Pass. The Methow Motion people have been very responsive and I am encouraged into believing they will pick us up as expected. The only thing left to do is secure a place to stay in the Mazama area.
Fortunately, we shipped our Harts Pass resupply box to Callahan Lodge and do not need to go food shopping as a step in this list of to-dos. We will, however, need to make a stop at the REI in Medford for new hiking shoes, fuel canisters, and an assortment of other hiking necessities. If we pick up the rental car at noon and can get our shopping done in an hour, an 8-hour drive should put us into Richland between 9-10pm. Jeremy was kind enough to offer us a bed to sleep in for the night so we can hit the road to Mazama by around 9:30am.
This plan is a house of cards. Remove any one of the cards at the base and the entire house comes down. Hopefully, this works out.