September 5, 2015 (24th Re-Ration – White Pass)
Tentsite before Hidden Spring (2293.1) to Hwy 12 – White Pass (2303.0)
9.9 PCT miles today
2337.6 miles total
Today’s Elevation Gain/Loss: + 1,574 ft, – 2,334 ft
We assumed that when we finally got to camp last night we were out of the worst of it and that the 10 remaining miles that we needed to hike into town today would be on standard downhill dirt trail. Instead, the morning held yet another adventure in snow, ridge-lines, ice and mud. By the time we finally got to White Pass at 11am we were haggard, wet, freezing cold and forming that obnoxious, futile question in our minds and on our lips: “Are we there yet?” We know that we’re supposed to be enjoying every moment of this experience, but sometimes enough is enough, and today we felt more than just a little ready to reach that Canadian border and be done with all the daily discomforts and seemingly endless miles.
Of course along with every miserable day of hiking comes some of the best views and most interesting terrain. The trail this morning climbed us right up into the clouds and we spent a good hour traversing the top of a mountain on a barren, windblown tundra of snow. After passing the dark grey waters of Shoe Lake and hiking up and over a pass, we wove around the other side of the mountain and cheered on the sun as it tried hard to work its way through a thick, impenetrable layer of clouds and mist. The occasional break in clouds would make for excellent, far-away views of forests, mountains, overflowing rivers, and lakes, but it never cleared up enough for us to see Mount Rainier, which we knew to be somewhere in the distance.
In order to speed our descent, and to try re-warming my hands and feet, we trail-ran much of the last few miles down to the highway, dodging deep puddles and occasionally breaking through sheets of ice. We got reception less than a mile out, called Mama Bear to tell her we were on our way, and then accepted her offer to come pick us up at the trailhead even though it was only 1/2 mile to the lodge. When we jogged in 15 minutes later Mama Bear was already there with the car all warmed up and two mugs of hot chocolate in hand. We headed to our room at the lodge in a state of disbelief and relief.
Our little cabin was just what we needed. Mama Bear had already stocked it with some food and she had the fire going when we walked in. After hot showers, a little pigging out, and a good sit by the fire, we made a plan that Mama Bear and I would go into Packwood to check out the famous flea market and Pickles would stay in the cabin, do laundry, and have some down time.
When we first got into Packwood, I got to spend a couple hours wedding planning on the laptop in the town’s coffee shop, one of my very favorite ways to relax. Then, Mama Bear and I spent a couple hours wandering around the stalls at the flea market, actually enjoying ourselves more than we had expected. The market happens annually and brings in thousands of tourists. We ate at a couple food carts, people watched, and even purchased a few items before hopping back in the car and driving the 20 miles back to White Pass.
Our evening has been fun, relaxing, and most importantly, warm and dry. We’ve mostly just sat around stoking the fire, watching TV, eating dinner and occasionally finding something productive to cross off our to-do list. One thing we did get done tonight was the final plan for the remainder of this hike. In a miraculous turn of events, the entire rest of the PCT has officially re-opened after multiple fire closures threatened to force us off trail for hundreds of miles. We now know that we have exactly 365.7 miles left until we reach Manning Park, and we have a very good estimate of when that will be. It’s been a tricky day mentally. We’re trying to stay positive about the trail and grateful for the time we have left, but after a week like we just went through, we do find ourselves feeling a little less enthused about the next couple weeks and a little eager to finish it up. This is a feeling that comes and goes, so we’re hoping it stays away tomorrow at around 2pm when we plan on hiking back into the forest for yet another 100 miles, this time to the Summit Inn at Snoqualamie Pass.