Aug 28: Mica Lake to Miners Creek on the Suiattle River (PCT miles 2521.3 to 2545.0)

I awoke before sunrise and started out. The hiking the last few days has been beautiful and that beauty continued today as well.

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The trail continued to round the aptly named Glacier Peak

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Fall is approaching: gone are most of the flowers, but the Corn Lily plants are turning yellow and the Huckleberry leaves are turning red.UNADJUSTEDNONRAW_thumb_262a

It is just an amazingly pretty trail today!UNADJUSTEDNONRAW_thumb_262b

The PCT crosses the Suiattle River 3 miles downstream from where it used to, thus adding 6 miles to the trail.  The old crossing was taken out by a combination of water, logs and rocks.  Even this late in the season it is a dangerous river.  Here’s the crossing at the new bridge:

and here’s the crossing at the old location – it does not look that bad, but I assure you it is.

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I heard that someone successfully crossed at the old PCT location, but was swept some 30 feet downstream by the strong current.  He crossed alone, which I think is just foolish.

I had heard the campsite I’m at tonight is notorious for aggressive, hungry mice.  I usually hold my food in my tent, but tonight decided to hang my food from a short tree, that turned out to be too short :(.  I awoke to the sound of a mouse sliding down my food bag to secure the peanuts he/she stole in his/her den.  I moved the food bag into my tent and kept it in my sleeping bag.  No more mice problems tonight!

Thanks for reading!

 

Aug 27: Reflection Pond to Mica Lake (PCT miles 2500.7 to 2521.3)

Today is another set of ridge walks, mostly above the tree line.  There’s plenty of water too, yay!

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I hiked past a marmot den right on the trail and the young marmots were very interested in me – I’ve never been able to get this close to a marmot before

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One of the water crossings had a collapsed bridge that looked scarier than it was.  Here we get to watch “Pineapple” cross in front of me.  Note the water: lots of silt and glacial milk from melting glaciers on Glacier Peak.

I passed around the other side of Glacier Peak – which has been hidden from me behind the ridges I hiked.  This is the last high peak on the trail.

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I arrived at Mica Lake, which was my favorite lake in Washington.  The water is super clear, deep and not too cold.  My swim there was fantastic!

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The stars tonight were great: no moon tonight so the Milky Way as bright and there were some nice shooting stars.

Thanks for reading!

Aug 26: Pear Lake to Reflection Pond (PCT miles 2483.0 to 2500.7)

Today’s goal is to hike to a campsite near Reflection Pond, get water there and decide if I want to hike to dry campsite a few miles beyond that.  I caught a nice glimpse of Pear Lake in the morning sunrise as I climbed out of the valley.

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A nice thing I found about hiking in Washington is that the governing agency (National Forest, County, etc) erect and maintain pit toilets.  While many of you may cringe at the thought of using one, they are a much better solution than letting people poop where they will.  There’s a TON of visible, unburied TP and poop on the trail, and this solution helps alleviate that.  Some of them even have really nice views!

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More great views – it is nice to be generally traversing along ridges rather than climbing and descending them.

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I ate lunch at a nice lake.  There were a fair number of trout here.UNADJUSTEDNONRAW_thumb_22b6UNADJUSTEDNONRAW_thumb_260a

I passed the 2,500 mile mark on the PCT!  Only about 150 miles left!

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I saw my last view of Mt.  Rainier today too:UNADJUSTEDNONRAW_thumb_2603.jpg

I started to feel pain in my right shin and worried that my shin splints were returning.  I donned my compression sock to help provide support and hopefully prevent the injury that ended last years PCT hike.  I decided to camp at Reflection Pond, and arrived there around 3pm.  It was early to set up camp, but I did not want to push it and aggravate my shin.

The problem with camping at sites with water is that they tend to be the more popular sites.  By sunset, this site had 5 other campers here, and they were noisy.  I had to sleep with earplugs :(.  It just does not feel right to be 2-days away from the nearest road and have to sleep with earplugs.  Welcome to the PCT.

Thanks for reading!

Aug 25: Stevens Pass to Pear Lake (PCT miles 2464.7 to 2483.0)

After a great breakfast of sausage, bacon and eggs I packed up and hit the trail.  The predicted rain did not materialize and there’s no rain predicted for the next few days.  The section I am starting today is about 125 miles from Stevens Pass to Stehekin, which I planned to take about 8 days (read: my pack is heavy with food).

I talked with others heading out who convinced me that, while the trail has a lot of up and down, it has more switch-back sections and so is less steep than the previous section.  I decided that I could make the trip in 6 days instead of 8 and donated 2 days of food to the hiker box.

On the trail I ran into a legend, “Metric Ton” – a guy known for his hiking the PCT with a 100 lb pack!  Here he is with all his gear.  His food bag alone (black bag under his left elbow) weighs more than my whole pack!  He wants to keep in shape and so continues to carry the weight he carried while serving in the armed forces.  He prides himself as a “hiking trail angel” and often provides food, water and repair service to other hikers in need.  I had heard about him during my 2018 PCT hike and he was a major topic of discussion at the hostel last night.  He’s a really nice guy and I’m glad to have met him.

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Today is a mostly uphill climb to ridges with great lake views

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There were a lot of day and weekend hikers out.  I was worried that I would not find a decent, quiet campsite at Pear Lake, but with a fair bit of scouting I was successful.

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I hiked 20 miles today, even after getting a late start (9am instead of 6am), so I’m feeling a bit more confident in my decision to drop two days of food.

Another great nights sleep!

 

Aug 24: Mig Lake to Stevens Pass (PCT miles 2457.1 to 2464.7)

Today is a near-zero, pronounced “neer-oh”: seven miles to Stevens Pass where I will hitchhike to Skycomish, do laundry, buy resupply food and meet my sister, René, and her husband, Jack.

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There were clouds about today and the weather report predicted a chance of rain.  I passed by a nice lake, then hiked up the ridge above the Stevens Pass ski area.

UNADJUSTEDNONRAW_thumb_25f0UNADJUSTEDNONRAW_thumb_25f1 I passed by a lucky’s hiker’s personalized Trail Magic drop.  I hope “Stuck Feet” finds this!

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The hitch to Skykomish took nearly and hour, but luckily a van stopped and gave me and two others a ride.  Jack and René showed up soon after and laid out a feast of salsa, guacamole chips, sandwiches, cookies and beer!  We invited the hiking couple I hitched with to join us in the meal.  Ethan and his girlfriend [sorry, I forgot your name 😦 ] are from San Diego and thinking of moving to Washington, and so are hiking the WA PCT section (southbound).

Jack returned us all to Stevens Pass to check into a great hostel there: $45/day for a bunk, dinner, breakfast, showers and camaraderie.  We then drove to the site of the 1910 Wellington avalanche, which took out a snow-suck train killing 96 people.  It remains the worst avalanche in US history.

After the disaster, a very long concrete avalanche “snow shed” was erected to provide shelter for trains to retreat to should they become trapped by future storms:IMG_8210.jpg

After second lunch :), Jack and René dropped me off at the hostel.  I met up with Ethan again and learned that he had just graduated with a degree in Physical Therapy.  I mentioned that I suffered from Meralgia Paresthetica in my left leg, a condition where a peripheral nerve to my thigh is pinched between two muscles causing burning, numbness and sharp pain, especially when hiking downhill with my backpack.  I’ve had this problem for over 30 years now.

Ethan offered to take a look, and had me perform all sorts of poses, stretches and maneuvers that pretty much verified my self-diagnosis.  He suggested that my hips are very tight and that I probably walk with my toes pointing slightly out.  I laughed and told him “that’s how I got the trail name ‘Duck’!”.  He suggested that I may be able to slowly gain relief with a set of stretches, and that taking up yoga would help.  In the mean time, I’ll just have to deal with it as I do now: ignore the pain when I can and adjust or loosen the pack belt when it becomes too much.

Dinner was homemade beef pho soup – yum – and fresh-baked brownies for dessert!  I slept great!

Thanks for reading!

Aug 23: near Deep Lake to Mig Lake (PCT miles 2435.2 to 2457.1)

I woke up feeling much stronger than yesterday.  Today’s goal is to get close to Steven’s Pass.  I’ve got three big climbs and descents to get to a campsite at Mig Lake.

I passed a wide stream that had nicely places rocks to provide a dry crossing.  One rock was loose however, so I started the morning with one wet foot.

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All the ridge climbing and descending today provided great views:

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I arrived at a nice lake for lunch

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and was joined by a Pine Sawyer Beetle

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I arrived at Mig Lake and grabbed the last campsite available – it seems this lake, just seven miles from Stevens Pass (Hwy 2) is a popular destination.

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Luckily the crowd at the lake turned quiet at sunset and so I slept very well.

Thanks for reading!

 

Aug 22: Ridge campsite to near Deep Lake (PCT miles 2423.1 to 2435.2)

The rain stopped just before dawn.  I emerged from my soaked tent and started a long decent with great views.

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At the bottom I found a nice campsite that I could lunch at and hang out my tent to dry.

The clouds cleared and turned into a sunny and quite warm day.  It made the steep climb up the next ridge all the more difficult.  At 3:30 I was dragging: feeling out of breath, sweating a lot and stopping often.  I found a nice stream and was surprised that I drank over a liter of water. I deduced that I was dehydrated today.

I looked at the profile to my intended campsite, some 5 miles up trail and saw that it was another steep trail with no water.  I decided to camp near this nice stream where I could rehydrate to my body’s content.

I noticed that my new shoes (the new version of the Merrill Moabs) are starting to fail in a way the old ones never did.  I now have a coin purse at the tip of my left shoe!

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I drank up and slept well.

Thanks for reading!