September 7, 2015
Snow Lake (2313.0) to Bear Gap Trail Junction (2337.2)
24.2 PCT miles today
2371.8 miles total
Today’s Elevation Gain/Loss: + 5,276 ft, – 3,932 ft
This morning was a rough one. Pickles and I had had enough of the rain, but clearly Washington had not. We woke up in a cloud, packed up a soaking wet tent, and then silently hiked the first few hours of the day clad in soggy raingear and carrying our umbrellas, a state of being that was becoming far too common. The grey was getting us down and multiple times throughout the morning I caught myself wondering if I’d ever see the sun or blue skies ever again. Amazingly, the weather took an incredible turn for the better around lunchtime, and the second half of the day was spent in much better spirits than the first.
The trouble with the weather was that the only possible way of escaping it was to walk through it, and hopefully out of it if we were lucky. If we stayed put we’d be surrounded by the cold, wet, grey and of course we couldn’t go back. So we trudged on, only able to see the trail beneath our feet despite signs telling us that we were entering in and out of Mount Rainier National Park. A storm in Washington, we are learning, means more than just some clouds in the sky and a quick downpour of rain. The grey that settles in the mountains is oppressive and thick and it makes the sun feel far removed and fully forgotten. The air is so thick with moisture that you can feel it in your lungs when you breathe, and rather than fall on your head, the rain, or rather mist, hangs all around and soaks you without you even noticing. Also, it is frigidly cold and since it is too damp out for anything to dry, even your dry clothes cling to your body and seem to wrap you in a sheet of ice.
Perhaps that explains why, when we glimpsed our first patch of blue sky off in the distance, we rejoiced with shouts of glee and and tears of relief. For the next couple hours we begged the sun to work hard and we celebrated each newly dissipated cloud. When we walked into our first patch of sunlight we stood there, eyes closed and arms sprawled out, like ancient worshippers.
We ate lunch on the edge of a small lake, one of dozens we had passed throughout the day, and then within a couple miles came upon the incredibly beautiful and popular Dewey Lake. By this time the sun was out in full force, and so were the Labor Day tourists. We passed more smiling day hikers during the 5 miles to Hwy 410 and then the 2 miles after that to Sheep Lake than we have on this entire trip, with the exception of Crater Lake. It was actually refreshing to see so many families out enjoying the trail system, and now that we could finally see the scenery around us, we were duly impressed with the views. Even though our feet were tired, the whole rest of the day was a rewarding and joyful experience. We climbed up and over a steep saddle above Sheep Lake before traversing a ridge for a few miles and finally making camp here near a random trail junction. The sky is still clear of clouds, and for that, I am more grateful than I can say. I’ve always appreciated the sentiment that we’re only given as much as we can handle, and whether true or not, that is certainly how this experience has felt so far in Washington. Apparently the weather report is looking much sunnier and warmer for the rest of the coming week, so I suppose Mother Nature has finally decided that we’d had enough and perhaps had earned a little time in the sun.