September 16, 3015
Tentsite before Bench Mark Mountain Junction (2498.2) to Tentsite before White Chuck Trail Junction (2521.6)
23.4 PCT miles today
2556.2 miles total
Today’s Elevation Gain/Loss: + 5,580 ft, – 6,702 ft
The sky today was white, not blue like we’re used to, but we didn’t dare complain because for the second day in a row, it didn’t rain on us. We woke this morning to a bitter cold, our little thermometer said it was about 34 degrees out, and hiked through the first half of the day half frozen and half asleep. As our conversations and thoughts have begun to run out of fresh material, we’ve depended more heavily on our surroundings to help the days go by, and today was not doing it for us. We felt bored and then guilty for being bored, because maybe we were just so jaded after almost 5 months of hiking that an area that others have raved about can barely hold our interest. But then, in the afternoon, everything changed. We had officially entered Glacier Peak Wilderness in the morning, but it took about 10 miles for us to climb above tree line and finally behold the epic and inspiring views that we had been told about.
We hadn’t seen any other thru-hikers all morning, but once again we saw plenty of other backpackers, and even chatted with a few different hunters, only after being spooked by one who was hidden just off trail and seemed ready to shoot the next hiker who passed by. All the locals were friendly and very interested in our hike, and it was nice taking multiple breaks throughout the day without worrying too much about time since we only had to do 22 miles.
As we climbed in elevation we seemed to enter a whole new ecosystem. We were officially back in the mountains, and everything from the hundreds of whistling, scurrying marmots to the low-lying shrubs and vertigo-inducing cliff-side trails replenished our souls and brought us back to life. We suddenly found that we had plenty to talk about, we were inspired to stop every few hundred yards for another photo op, and the pain in my foot even began to subside. As we hiked up toward Red Pass, we gazed out at endless ranges of jagged mountains in the distance and looked forward to each new view of the massive Glacier Peak directly in front of us.
After Red Pass, we knew we had entered the Washington that people had told us about. We hiked into a beautiful wide valley with huge granite walls all around and then followed a crystal clear river back into the trees. These trees, though, were different than the ones we had spent the last week in. Now everything was green and lush and once we got to the valley floor, almost tropical. We found a campsite right along a light-blue glacier-melt creek at the base of another long and steep climb, which we’ve left for the morning.
The terrain out here is not easy, but these next couple days will be worth it if we get more views like we had this afternoon. We did end up passing our Belgian hiker friends Morningstar and Cookie Monster this evening and then after we got settled into camp, were surprised to run into D.O.G. and Julio, whom we hadn’t seen since Cascade Locks. They said the “bubble”, perhaps 15 hikers or so, is only a couple miles behind us, so it sounds like tomorrow we might have company. At this point, the faces and conversations of friends would be a welcome addition to our LAST WEEK of hiking, helping the time to pass quicker and reminding us that we’re not doing this alone, but have a community of strong, energetic people joining us for the ride.