So far we completed 187 miles
and 37,177 ft of elevation gain
in 12 days of hiking. We made it through the hardest section yet (Glacier peak area)...and it was really tough because there is still a lot of snow up there and some raging rivers to negotiate. From all the people we talked to and the different PCT hiker registers we signed, it looks like only a half dozen people made it all the way from Canada like we did. Several have already given up because of the harsh conditions. Here is a day-by-day account of our adventures. Day 6 (7/9/10)
: Town day! We liesurely get up this morning and dream about the cinnamon buns at the Stehekin Bakery. That's 3 miles up the road so we'll have to get some on our way out of town. We go to the Post Office to pick up our food resupply (27 lbs of food for 6 days), do a little laundry in the bathroom sink, and go search for internet access. The woman at the post office was extremely nice and told us to try the Information Office, among other places. At the office, Hannah, a ranger, just loaned us her laptop for a few hours...she handed it over to a couple of strangers just like that! We update the blog, have lunch with Maureen (she drives the shuttle bus) and then start heading out of town. We stop for cinnamon AND sticky buns at the bakery and cover 5 miles to the trailhead with one hitch.
As we start back on the trail, we almost come between a mama bear and her cubs who went up a tree. We back away and give them room to leave. Four miles in and we get to a nice enough spot to camp for the night. Day 7 (7/10/10)
: As Yannick was doing stuff around camp in the morning, he spotted another bear! Shirley got out of the tent and went to get a look -- she thinks it's the same jet black bear as the previous day. As she calls out to the bear, the cub goes straight up a tree again. We let the bear know we were there, then left them alone to do their thing and eventually, the bears mosey off on their way.
We hit the trail and Shirley hears some branches cracking in the forest...and sure enough, more bears! This time is a reddish-brown mama and a cub. That makes 5 bear encounters with at least 7 different bears in less than 5 miles since getting into Stehekin yesterday!
The rest of the day is 3,500 ft of elevation gain, more snow passes and seeing a big rock avalanche fall across the trail ahead of us.
Eighteen miles covered very slowly today with heavy packs...not bad. I guess our reward for battling with hungry mosquitos is finding a fresh egg lying in the middle of the trail, probably from a grouse. Wonder how that got there...hmm. Day 8 (7/11/10)
: We sleep in and get a late start today. It's 10:45 am when we finally hit the trail. We decide to take the Jonathan Ley detour of the PCT -- the original route was damaged by a big storm that tood out 7 bridges and covered the trail with downed trees. On this detour option, we cross through a couple high flowing streams with water up to our knees. We gain some altitude and climb over steep ridges at 7,000 ft. The clouds overhead are racing by and we get winds up to 30 mph at times. It was full on mountaineering...without the proper gear!
Once over High Pass, the angle eases as we descend, making it possible to "shoe-ski" down some of the slopes. We stop for the night, exhausted, and set camp in the snow along the river and are sure to guy out the tent well so it doesn't collapse on us in the wind as we sleep. Day 9 (7/12/10)
: From camp, we hike about a mile and get to the bushwhack section. We crawl through alder bushes as we head downhill towards the river. Shirley hates bushwhacking by the way...cuts, scrapes, and tripping over branches...ugh! We finally make it through and now we have the Napeequa River crossing. Shirley heads in first and only makes it 3 feet from the river bank and the water is already up to her hips. With 20 ft more to cross and not even making it into the current yet, we call it a no-go. She turns back and we head 1/2 mile upstream along the trail where the river is wider and branched... shallower, or so we are hoping!
For this second attempt, Yannick takes off his pants to keep them dry, but Shirley is already soaked. The first few branches of the river are shallow and easy, but now for the main section of the river. We start to cross and the current is still really strong. Yannick is ahead until Shirley begins having trouble battling the current -- she is 5'4" tall and the water is up to her belly button. Yannick moves in front of her to break the current and she grabs ahold of his backpack from behind; walking in his wake is a little easier. Together, we move as one across the rest of the river and onto the brush-covered bank. Almost hypothermic after about 5 minutes in the water (cold glacial runoff), we take off our wet clothing to warm up in the partial sun. Still shivering, we decide to get on the move to warm up with more wonderful bushwhacking back to the trail proper.
We make it into the forest, across the river where we were supposed to cross, but have trouble locating the trail among the fallen trees and snow patches. When we finally do find the faint trail, we've lost over an hour from our little detour.
From here, the trail climbs back up to 7,000 ft and we have to negotiate a steep corniced slope up Boulder Pass. The last 10 ft is particularly sketchy as it is near vertical. Once over this obstacle, we descend toward a valley and get back into a snow-free zone. We set camp where the main detour route and the Jonathan Ley detour reconnect. As we stand around to cook dinner, we are swarmed by hundreds of mostquitos -- the only way to protect ourselves is to wear our fleece sweaters and mosquito headnets. To pass the time, we lovingly smack the blood suckers off one another; Shirley gets the high score of 4 in one swat.
We climb into the tent and calculate that we've covered a little more than 12 miles today and feel a bit discoured after such a miserably challenging day. Glad to finally get some rest. Day 10 (7/13/10)
: As we open the tent door, we find that the mosquitos have brought reinforcement. Deet keeps them away for no more than 4 hours. We hikof the official PCT detour on a good maintained trail. The mosquito net and long sleeves stay on all day and we push hard to gain elevation and lose the blood suckers. Along the way, we collect our daily ration of fiddleheads to supplement our dinner. We manage to keep our feet dry through all the stream crossings and reconnect with the official PCT at 6pm. Finally we are bug gree at 5,000 ft and we call it a day after 15 miles. There are no footprints anywhere to be found. We wonder if we are the first southbounders to get here. So far, the PCT has proven to be very challenging both mentally and physcially. To better days... Day 11 (7/14/10)
: We are 33 miles from our next resupply in Skykomish; we'll try to cover that in 2 days. As we hike up a pass, we get our first glimpse of Rainier -- what a great summit day today would be.
Today is full of ups and downs...elevation gain and loss, that is. A lot of snow that softens as the day progresses. We posthole trhough the mushy snow unexpectedly, sometimes up to our thighs. As we walk over snow bridges formed by the melting snow patches covering the trail, our feet punch through and sends us crashing...sometimes right smack onto our butts, other times flat on our face. Frustrating, yet comical.
The highlight of our day was meeting a family out backpacking together. Jay, Marianne, their daughter and her friend were a treat to talk to out here in the middle of nowhere. As we were about to leave, they offered us some food and we kindly declined. A little later, they offered again, this time mentioning carrots. Yannick's eyes nearly popped out of his head as the thought of something fresh! Jay and Marianne didn't need a verbal response this time and went straight to their food bags; we ended up with trail mis, carrots, apples and chocolate, almost all of which we devoured by the end of the day! Day 12 (7/15/10)
: Another beautifully sunny day...all this snow is melting fast! As we hike through the snow, we are grateful for the tracks we are following...they save us a lot of route-finding through what would have been a very confusing section of trail lost under snow and fallen trees. Along the way, we stop at a creek to rinse our clothes and ourselves. Feeling refreshed, we move at a quick pace over the snow-free portions of the trail. Our zoned0out hiking spurt is only broken by the loud roar of fighter jets flying extremely low overhead as we near a pass.
Hiking a little further, we see the road in the distance...6 miles to go! We get a good pace going and make it to the trailhead by 5:30pm. We rest our feet for a little while, then work on catching a ride to Skykomish. In 20 minutes, we are picked up by Jim in a tow truck. He ends up letting us camp in his back yard. As we are outside playing with his dog and goat, he comes out to give us a bag of fruit and says, "you guys look hungry." Funny because although we are, we had no idea we looked it! Jim was mentioning the Trail Angels in town that help out PCT hikers...we hope he realizes he's been a nice "trail angel" for us. Day 13 (7/16/10)
: Town day (and rest day) in Skykomish, WA. We pick up our food box at the post office and got convinced by the postal woman to give the Dinsmores a call (they are the trail angels here in town). We called Andrea and Jerry picked us up a few minutes later. The Dinsmores are so nice and we end up spending the day and the night in their Hiker Haven. There we meet 3 other PCT hikers (Half-mile, Nymph, Trekker) who are heading Northbound. We also learn from Andrea that nobody takes the detour we took on days 8 and 9 because of the navigation/river fording/bushwaking/pourly maintained trail challenges...but WE made it through.
The good news for us is that it looks like South of here, the conditions will get much better so on to the next section! Action!