PCT days 14-28: Skykomish to Cascade Locks, OR

Trip Start Apr 07, 2010
Trip End Jan 19, 2012

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Flag of United States  , Oregon
Sunday, August 1, 2010

We just crossed into OREGON! We have done a total of 508 miles and 94,901 feet if elevation gain. We hear that the hardest part of the PCT is supposedly behind us now, mosquitos will be less of a problem from now on, and that internet will be easier to find as we head South...we'll see!

Skykomish to White Pass
Day 14 (7/17/10): After a pancake breakfast at the Baring Store, updating the blog in Skykomish, and hitching back to the trailhead, we finally begin hiking around 1pm. It's crazy...crossing Steven's Pass is like walking out of Winter and straight into Summer. Well, it felt that way for the 15 miles covered this afternoon at least; we were on a good trail all day with relatively few snow patches.
    We get to Glacier Lake at 8pm and find that all of the good camp spots have been taken by weekend warriors. Instead of staying on the dirt with bumpy tree roots and lumpy moss, we opt to set up our tent on a nicely leveled patch of snow. Aaaah...sweet dreams!

Day 15: We slept very well last night...until Yannick was startled from his sleep and started yelling. A mouse jumped on his face! We search around the tent and find two little mice running around. We throw them out and realize Yannick didn't completely zip his door shut, which actually turned out to be a good thing because the mice didn't have to chew through the tent floor to make their entry. It's only 4am, so we make sure to move the food away from the tent walls and go back to sleep.
    Up and hiking at 9am. (Yeah, yeah, that's late, but we needed to catch up on sleep from hardly getting any shuteye the night before!) Our goal today is 20 miles. Well maintained trails with little snow again today, but a lot of uphill. At one point, we get to a sign that says "Difficult Ford - 2 miles. Unstable for stock. Detour to Hy(somthing) Lake." We take a look at the map and don't like the detour. The PCT goes to Deep Lake and through the difficult ford, so that's where we head. Besides, we want to have something to compare what "difficult" means in relation to what we faced while crossing the Napeequa River. Eventually, we get to a creek crossing, but it wasn't bad at all; just some rushing whitewater up to the knees. Yannick thinks the "difficult ford" is still ahead, but we get to where our PCT trail and the detour route meet again and don't face another crossing. Hmmph, if that was supposed to be difficult, we wonder what they would have rated the Napeequa!
    We end up hiking 22 miles today just because it took the extra miles to find a good campsite. We realize that we are carrying too much food and it's taking a toll on our legs and shoulders. To lighten our load, we have a feast for dinner :) Camp by Waptus Lake.

Day 16: That was one of the best camps -- running water, flat spot on dry ground, no mosquitos, and great temperature all night...we slept like babies! We decide to take PCT Detour B because the original PCT route is closed due to the 2009 Lemah Fire. 
    We hike up to Ivanhoe Lake, which has two huge cascades pouring into the lake from opposite sides. Next, we get to Dutch Miller Gap and it is so beautiful, we have to stop here for a break and a couple photos. Seven miles later, we connect to an old dirt road and follow it for 5 miles. Next comes decision time: we either bushwhack and ford the river to connect to another trail, or do a 3 additional miles to go around. We choose the bushwhacking...and quickly regret it. No less than 5 river crossings on downed trees and lots of heavy bushwhacking through spikey plants like Devil's Club. We make it across after an hour, a lot of sweat, and the unavoidable bruises and scratches. [sigh] Another "decision time" moment: should we start hiking uphill not knowing how far we'll have to go (PCT detours are described with barely any detail!), or stay at the bottom of the hill where there is a perfectly good campsite. It's 7:30pm and we decide to head up. We run out of water and the narrow, steep, overgrown trail keeps gaining altitude. At 10pm, we finally make it to Snow Lake after 14 hours of effort and 22 miles.

Day 17 (7/20/10): Four miles downhill to Snoqualmie Pass, then to the Chevron station to pick up our resupply box. The hot food inside looks tempting and the Pancake Haus look oh-so inviting, but we have to resist. We have leftover food from the last hiking section plus the food we just received in our box...eating out means more weight on our backs. Instead, we sit in the parking lot and make chili couscous. It was good, but we were so sad...we wanted pancakes! Later, while talking to people passing through, we see a bear rummaging around the building across the street. Before we leave, Yannick refills our fuel cannister at the pump for a whopping 40 cents -- the equivalent amount of iso-butane fuel would have cost $12 at the last town...nice savings.
    The rest of the day is spent putting in some miles. We leave the gas station at 2pm and get in 10 miles despite the extra heavy packs. We are definitely going light as soon as we get to a post office with outgoing mail!

Day 18: We depart our camp at Twilight Lake and hike through fog. It burns off quickly and the day becomes a scorcher.There are parts of the trail where we hike under full sun because this area has been heavily logged. Water becomes precious. We get to the last creek we'll see for the next 14 miles and Yannick loads up on 8 liters of water to last us through tonight and most of tomorrow. We estimate that his backpack now weighs over 60 pounds!
    We get to Tacoma Pass where we stop for the night. Shirley's foot pains don't let us do much more than 20 miles a day. As we cook dinner, a man hikes into camp and we find he's also headed Southbound. Eric started 2 days behind us and has been putting in 30 miles the last few days, hiking from 5am to 9pm. We invite him to have some rice and bean burritos with us and he passes...until we insist and show him the enormous food bags we're lugging around. A bit of chatting, then we all get some well-deserved rest.

Day 19: We wake up around 6am and say good-bye to Eric as he slowly hobbles away -- the 30-mile days definitely look like they're taking a toll on his body. 
    As we depart camp, a fog rolls in and stays with us for the rest of the day. Hiking in these conditions is actually a nice change and we enjoy the contrast in scenery. As we hike over passes, the wind blows harder and makes the trees creak and sway as we walk by. Condensation builds on the pine needles overhead and water droplets come down on us as if it's raining. We get to an area where a fire burned through in 1988 -- the land is still mostly bare except for the skeletal remains of trees. The fog gives this place an eerie atmosphere, almost as if you could expect The Headless Horseman to come charging through at any moment with his flaming jack-o-lantern in-hand. The only creature we see though is a giant elk down a strangely sandy embankment.
    We eventually find a nice spot to sleep near a running creek among moss-covered trees. There are hoof prints all around, but thankfully no horses or horsemen...with or without heads.

Day 20: The sun is back and there is not a cloud in the sky. Rainier makes another glorious appearance today and we are shocked by how close it is. We can clearly make out the notch where Camp Muir is located, the Emmons Glacier, and Liberty Ridge Route. What a stunning mountain. There are treated with lots of beautiful views from hiking along ridgelines today. Our first sighting of Mt. Adams shows us it is still loaded with snow...looks like our snow days aren't over yet!
    We get to a lake and take a nice, long break to let our feet recover. We watch the little kids play in the water and the dogs run around the lake. Two miles later, we cross our 4th road in Washington. Now, it's snowfields most of the way to Dewey Lakes and the spot we intended to camp is either covered in slow or flooded with water; we aren't sure which. Fortunately, we only go about an extra mile before we find a relatively flat, dry place to pitch the tent. Our shoes are wet from hiking through the snow again, but ironincally, walking on snow rather than the trail is much less painful for Shirley's foot. Despite the wet feet, she is glad the snow is back.

Day 21: We are trying a new strategy today. Wake up at 5:30am, hike until 12:30pm, nap during the hottest time of the day until 3pm, then hike again until 9pm. It allows our feet to rest for a couple of hours, then feel as though we're starting a new day. It seems to pay off because we log our longest daily distance since the start of the PCT: 25 miles. Part of it is because the mosquitos are so aggressive; Yannick got bitten hundreds of times despite reapplying deet multiple times. HORRIBLE! The mosquitos force us to keep a brisk pace and take minimal breaks. 
    Also, we wanted to finish up that section of trails, which we accomplished. We are now at White Pass waiting to pick up our resupply box in the morning.

White Pass to Cascade Locks
Day 22 (7/25/10): We get to the Kracker Barrel store and pick up our resupply box at 8:30am. We were worried we might not be able to get it on a Sunday, but fortunately this place doesn't keep regular post office hours. We meet a couple of PCT Northbounders inside and find out Eric had just left 5 minutes before we arrived, along with a couple who have been a day ahead of us since we started in Canada.
    We end up talking to Travis and Kristina, eating, and waiting out the heat of the day until 2:30pm. We finally hit the trail and it's still really hot, so we sweat like pigs. We see a small lake and decide we need a shower, do laundry, and cool off...so we do all 3 simultaneously by jumping fully clothed. And here, the "shaundry" is born! The best thing about not having to get dressed after climbing out of the lake is that we only have to put on our shoes and backpack, limiting the amount of idle time for mosquitos to attack -- quadruple bonus! (If you haven't figured it out by now, Yannick is all about Efficiency :) 
    We cover 13 miles, set camp, and enjoy some of the goodies Shirley's sister shipped to us. As we lay in the tent eating chocolate lacey cookies, Yannick kept saying, "Mmm...this is such a treat..." and "Tina did a good job with this food box."

Day 23: We get to the Goat Rocks area and the views along the ridges are spectacular. Shirley loves traversing ridges. There is only one sketchy snow section along the way that is a bit icy, but that's only because we get to it early in the morning. The rest of the ridge is mostly free of snow. As we continue on, Mt. Adams grows as we approach and Mt. Rainier slow shrinks behind us. We are amazed at the progress we are making. We cover 13 miles before taking an afternoon nap, then cover another 9 miles in the evening. Hiking in the cooler morning and evening hours allows us to limit the amount of time we spend in zoned-out zombie mode.

Day 24: Yannick has to fix a big hole in his shoe using needle, thread, and seamgrip. So, although we woke up at 5:15am, we aren't on the trail until 7:45am. We literally have over a hundred mosquitos buzzing around us. Later in the day, we make it to the West side of Mt. Adams. The views are breath-taking. We spend several hours/miles above the 6,000 ft elevation level and the trail is covered in snow. We also have to negotiate a countless number of downed trees blocking the trail. Our shoulder muscles really hurt and we can't wait to switch to "ultralight" once we get to Bend, Oregon where an REI store is located. Today, 23 miles.

Day 25: As we make our way passed Mt. Adams and closer to Mt. St. Helens, the forest changes. It isn't the very dense coniferous forest anymore -- now the trees are more spread apart and the foilage seems more delicate. With sunlight piercing through the leaves above, it feels like a more inviting forest. 
    At a creek just North of Road 23, we find a root beer carton that looks like trash left along the trailside. Inside there are a few small boxes of white wine and one can of root beer left...one just for Shirley! No nap today, but we log 27 miles -- our longest day ever -- equivalent to 1 % of the PCT covered in one day. Not bad!
    We camp by Deer Lake and the mosquitos want to eat us alive.

Day 26: We start hiking at 8am because we decided we needed our full 8 hors of sleep to recover from yesterday. At noon, we've covered 11 miles. Shirley is sick of the mosquitos, tired from the heat, pained by her foot, and just plain irritable. Definitely time for a nap!
    We get moving again at 2:30pm and start hiking in a post-nap daze. Yannick spots a big white bucket next to the trail that says, "PCT Hiker Stash." We open it to find a TON of cany bars and little bags of chips inside. We've come across "trail magic!" Root beer yesterday and chocolate today -- wonderful pick-me-ups when the going gets rough...trail angels sure earn their name!
    The 2nd half of the day goes amazingly well. The trail is perfectly smooth, the temperature is cooler among the shady trees, there are absolutely NO bugs, and for some reason Shirley's foot doesn't bother her now. We are able to crank it and really enjoy the beautiful forest. We are actually able to enjoy the hike!! We totally believe in trail magic :) 
    Another 1% of the PCT covered today.

Day 27 (7/30/10): We run into a lot of Northbounders today and have to try to keep the conversation short because they are slowing our progress! We run into French woman (Veronique) travelling by herself and Yannick has to make an exception; we end up talking for at least an hour with her. Come on...she's a fellow Frenchie! :P We get on the move, take a quick shower at Rock Creek and make our way uphill. We thought maybe we would do 28 miles today to pass a no-water section, but end up deciding to cut the day short and camp along the ridge at 3,100 feet. No sense in killing ourselves, especially because we have enough water and will only have a half day in the morning to get to town. 30 minutes after starting dinner a thunderstorm rolls in...the first one since we started the PCT. Just in time!

Day 28 (7/31/10): Saturday. 12 miles in the morning in just about 4.5 hours. We arrive in Cascade Locks, OR just in time to hit the post office and collect a package containing Shirley's new pair of shoes. Crossing into Oregon is a mental milestone. One state down, 2 more to go...although mileage-wise, we only completed 19% of the distance (507 miles so far in 28 days). We eat good hearty food, mhhh!, and meet Steve and Kristen, the couple who started Southbound one day before us from the Canadian border. They share with us all their experience in ultralight backpacking and make us realize that we are killing ourselves carrying that much weight.
We have to take a forced rest day tomorrow and wait until Monday morning to mail some of our excess gear. We are going to drastically reduce our weight to pick up the pace. We are hoping that we can hit a 30 mile/day average after that.

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Marianne on

Yannick, t'as une tête de fou!

Marianne on

Shirley, je compte sur toi pour l'amener chez le coiffeur pour se refaire une beauté après votre aventure!

Gianni on

you guys will in in CA in no time!

Frank on

Awesome pics dudes !!!
Hey it was nice getting a phone call from you two !!!
I was doing Eaton Canyon and remembering and now understanding why you guys like that canyon so much !!!
That second to last rap is a hell of a jump !!!
No !! I did not jump !!!!
Take care and thank you for keeping in touch !!
You guys rock !!!

pat monahan on

great photos. I'm sure you'll be meeting a lot of PCT nobos for a while. You might meet the Walking Sisters, Boston & Cubby, Half Ounce and others. Glad you are having a great time.

Lookout on

Hey, welcome to the lightweight backpacking crowd...and it only took you until Day 5 after Manning to wish for lighter packs! Hope your new gear is working out okay!

Johnston on

WOW! Incredible pics! you guys are flying, see you soon!

John on

A friend told me about your blog, what an awesome adventure. Maybe I am missing something here, but you seem to be in a hurry doing 20+ miles a day. Is that the norm?

Old S'Cool on

Hey, I passed you guys on my way into Oregon! You were just hitting California (I had a cowboy hat). Didn't know you were such travelers and I was just waking up otherwise I would have talked longer. Best of luck. Just three weeks until I finish the PCT. YAY!

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