22.2 miles (Miles 2500.3 – 2522.5)
Pass Creek – Sitkum Creek
Today was so much better. We got sprinkled on, snowed on, hiked through snow, and kept hiking at times just so we could stay warm, but we got some short patches of blue sky and on-again-off-again glimpses of sunshine. A wee bit of sun can make such a difference.
Tears and I have loosely joined a large group for this section. It’s been so physically and mentally tough that we thought grouping up a bit would help, and it did. So far six thru-hikers have turned back and hiked south back towards Stehekin. Some said they were going home and some were going to reevaluate and maybe continue. It’s pretty intimidating to see other hikers in your exact position, having already hiked 2,500 miles decide this is it. Are we silly, or stupid, to hike up that pass that we hear is full of snow and in white-out conditions? We don’t have any idea… but as a group we all decided to keep going. We could share our misery with each other if we had to, we could support and encourage one another, and we can laugh our way through if needed. It really was comforting to spend time with everyone in this group, and seeing first hand that we’re not the only ones with a wet tent, or cold toes, or a damp sleeping bag. We’re all PCT thru-hikers, and we’re all in the same position. It was really obvious when the sun poked out for a few minutes – gear flew out of everyone’s packs to dry.
Getting up this morning was great. It was cold, but it was NOT raining! Thank you, God! We all totally needed that. What a morale-booster! Everything was still damp, but at least we didn’t have to scramble getting it all packed up.
Once we started hiking, we climbed. First all the plants and pine needles were wet – beaded with dew. A short while later and a little higher in elevation, and those dew drops were frozen in tiny, solid beads on all the leaves. Pine needles left drops of water frozen in place, as if they were just about to drop before the cold stopped them. A little higher yet and the leaves and pines were dusted with lingering snow.
We came out of some forest to an opening and were completely blown away. The scene before us was absolutely surreal. It looked like a backdrop painting for a movie set or something, except it moved as we moved, it was three-dimensional, and it was purely… real. For a few miles we all took turns gasping, ooohing and aaahing as we hiked along.
We dried out some things at lunchtime, and after that we climbed some more. Then some more. We got to 6,000 feet in elevation and it was snowing flakes big enough to catch on your tongue. The snow on the ground also got deeper and deeper. It probably never really got over a few inches deep, but it was enough that we were sure winter was here in the Washington Cascades.
Hiking in the snow became interesting and honestly, quite sketchy. We were on a pretty steep ridge, and the trail turned slushy. The slush was slippery, and we had to be very careful not to slide down the mountainside. It would not be a fun kind of glissade, or sledding adventure. We all splooshed on up the trail, reached the pass and headed back down the other side. As we dropped in elevation, the snow got lighter and lighter, while the mud got deeper and sloppier. It was still slippery in spots for the rest of the day, so we just had to walk carefully.
We finally wound down into forest again and enjoyed the change to pine-needly trails. The forest floor was draped in a blanket of fuzzy, bright moss everywhere you looked, and I quickly became distracted by all the mushrooms once again.
We are camped near Sitkum creek at a large site. Let’s see if I can list everyone that’s here: me, Tears, Cuddles, Fun Size, Sunshine, Hunny Bunny, Lighthouse, Delightful, Bramble, Sensei, Rotisserie, Pony, St. Alfonzo, Games, Reason, Kudu, Alphabet Soup, Kazu, and Razor. I think that’s everyone. Some of us collected dry tinder when we found it through the day, so we had a nice, small campfire. And I’m glad Razor is here. This morning we ran into him heading south. He was going to hike back to town and be done. He even said he’d recorded his “I’m done” video, but we encouraged him to hike with us and keep going. He did, and it sounds like he’s really happy with that decision.
It sounds like we’ve got another high pass tomorrow that will probably be snowy. I’m not sure everyone will stick together, though. There are a couple of shortcuts that involve sketchy river fords, but I’m pretty sure Tears and I will stick to the PCT, which is longer, but has wonderful bridges. We like bridges.
Tonight I love my mom’s dehydrated venison stroghanoff meal (is that how you spell that?). I had some for dinner tonight and eating ground meat and mushrooms felt like a luxury out here on the trail. Yum!
Thanks for reading and being a part of my journey!