Day 119: On Knife’s Edge

August 14, 2017

Total daily miles: 26.5 miles

Total PCT miles: 1872.8

Start: mile 2253.3

End: Lutz Lake (mile 2279.7)

Total elevation gain/loss: 5125/5160.1 ft

It was so cold this morning!  It’s been a long time since I put on both my puffy and my rain jacket as I got ready in the morning, but today was one of those days.  Even more unusual for me, I spent a good chunk of my morning wearing my beanie and rain jacket for additional warmth as I hiked through the tree cover.  The morning started with a heavy mist that shrouded the trees before the fog finally lifted.  I crossed my fingers that we’d be in for a beautiful day.

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So this is where Goat Rocks Wilderness is!

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The trail was relatively flat this morning, with a couple sub-thousand foot climbs thrown in for good measure.  The big treat for the morning was the second climb, which finally had breaks in the tree line and good visibility.  What a view!  At first just if the surrounding mountains and ridge lines, bit then Mt. Adams started to gradually appear as I climbed higher.  Finally we got to see it in all its glory!  Just to add to the visual treat, the bushes surrounding the trail were full of berries, so between stopping to soak in the views and stopping to pick the berries there were lots of excuses to stop during the climb!

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Finally a good look at Mt. Adams

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We also ran into a couple of nobos that we’d seen a bunch in Oregon (including Twix), except this time they were heading south due to logistics.  Given that we’ll be heading back to Oregon soon for the eclipse, it might have made sense for us to do the same… but I really wanted to keep up my nobo status so northward we hike!

After lunch, the day continued to get more and more spectacular.  We passed over a knob and BAM!  The views were breathtaking.  So this is the Washington that people talk about.  Everywhere we turned, the views seemed to get better and better.

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This section of the trail was popular with weekend backpackers (deservedly so) and we noticed that prime camping spots were occupied as early as noon!  Unfortunately (or fortunately?), we had to keep moving.  I stopped to chat for a bit with a ranger.  She didn’t check my PCT permit (hasn’t been checked yet!), but did remind us that we still needed to fill out the self-registration permits as we enter each park in Washington since they are used for search and rescue purposes.

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Our big goal for the afternoon was to make it over the Knife’s Edge and to a lower camp site before dark.  I’ve read about the Knife’s Edge in other PCT blogs, but was a little uncertain as to where it was in Washington (for some reason I thought that it was further north).  It was only last night that I realized that we’d be hitting that section today!  Luckily, the skies were clear as we approached the turn off for the alternate section of trail.  But first, some snow!

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I can’t even begin to imagine how much work went into building this retaining wall.

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My understanding is that the alternate trail for the Knife’s Edge is basically the old PCT, but that it’s not equestrian friendly (it’s not).  The funny thing was that by taking the alternate, we actually avoided having to traverse a large section of snow.  The trail initially climbed up on a rocky set of switchbacks, and then we descended along the Knife’s Edge itself — a section of trail set precariously atop the rocky ridge line.  I’m not particularly scared of heights, but the rocky trail and steep drop off definitely slowed me down.  The views were amazing though!

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As we (slowly) descended, the clouds started to move in and we soon found ourselves completely enveloped in the fog.  It was an amazing sight… at first.

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Clouds rolling in.

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Umm… where did my views go?

The spectacular quickly turned to the somewhat scary.  The visibility dropped and the wind picked up.  I was soon cold (even with my rain jacket on) and battling the wind to stay on the steep, rocky trail.  My goal quickly became to get to a lower elevation as soon as possible.  The problem was, that with the steep trail (that kept going up instead of down) and uncertain footing, the descent did not go as quickly as I would have liked.  I’m really glad that we didn’t hit the Knife’s Edge any later in the day (we hit the alternate turnoff at 4:15) because it ended up taking much longer to descend than I had anticipated.  I can’t even imagine how miserable (and potentially dangerous) this section would have been in yesterday’s storm.  The sobos that we spoke with this morning reported having extreme difficultly even finding the trail along this section.  One young woman said that she’d had to set up her tent to wait out to storm because she’d gotten too cold and couldn’t find the trail (I have no idea where this could have been since we saw few places that a tent could have been set up)!

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After crossing a knob and getting to a lower elevation, we found that it was actually a lovely evening if you weren’t stuck in a bunch of clouds.  Nonetheless, even though it was after 6:30 we passed the first potential camping area in favor of getting down even further.  We finally settled on camping near Lake Lutz, which I’d expected to already be full of campers by the time we arrived given that it’s a water source.  However, the first camp spot I found was vacant, so I called it a win and grabbed it.  I can’t tell if anyone else is camped on the other side of the lake, but it’s pretty quiet and bug-free enough to eat dinner outside the tent! 

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Somehow I didn’t manage to get any pictures of the lake (more of a pond…).

Despite a somewhat sketchy and miserable end to the day, I have to say that today was one of my favorite days on the trail.  The scenery was magnificent!  The reputation of Goat Rocks Wilderness and the Knife’s Edge is well deserved!

Current ailments:

Elizabeth: sort left shoulder

Michael: sore left big toe

Day 118: From Hot to Cold

August 13, 2017

Total daily miles: 26.7 miles

Total PCT miles: 1846.4

Start: mile 2226.5

End: mile 2253.3

Total elevation gain/loss: 4163.4/2944.9 ft

We woke up this morning to the sound of a light rain.  I’d been expecting some rain on this section, but I had hoped that the light rain a day ago was going to be it.  Since the rain didn’t sound heavy and we weren’t sure how long it would last, we decided to just suck it up and get hiking.  We were camped underneath a tree last night and it looks like if we’d just camped a few feet over we might have stayed completely dry!  As it was, we were able to get packed up without too much of our stuff getting wet.

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The wet underbrush created a car-wash effect. It wasn’t long before my legs (and therefore my shoes) were wet.

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Day 117: Washington Trail Magic

August 12, 2017

Total daily miles: 28.3 miles

Total PCT miles: 1819.6

Start:  Green Lake (mile 2198.1)

End: mile 2226.5

Total elevation gain/loss: 4021.7/4432.1 ft

Just as I was falling asleep last night, I was woken by the light pitter patter of rain droplets.  Then flashes of light and the rumble of thunder.  I quickly closed my vestibule and went back to sleep.  I was pleasantly surprised to wake up this morning to find that the rain was over and my tent was nice and dry.  Yay for minor miracles!

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Green Lake first thing in the morning.

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Day 116: Green Tunnel

August 11, 2017

Total daily miles: 24 miles

Total PCT miles: 1791.2

Start:  Trout Creek (mile 2174.1)

End: Green Lake (mile 2198.1)

Total elevation gain/loss: 5405.5/2339.6ft

I slept great last night with the sound of the creek in the background and the best part is that we woke up to no condensation!  We set off this morning at the same exact time as Sam and Tam.  It was almost as though we had planned it!  I chatted with them for a bit and then let them pass ahead as I stopped to take some photos.

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Day 115: Sweating My Way Into Washington

August 10, 2017

Total daily miles: 22.5 miles (19.4 PCT + 3.1 logging alternate)

Total PCT miles: 1767.2

Start: mile 2152.7

End: Trout Creek (mile 2174.1)

Total elevation gain/loss: 4577.4/5390.7 ft

My wish did not come true and it stayed warm all night last night.  It was clear that it would be a hot day today before I’d even emerged from my tent.  I was sweating up a storm within five minutes of setting out this morning.  We started out with a big climb, but couldn’t get Guthooks working on my phone to tell me how close I was to the top.

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I think this was supposed to be an old railroad housing, but now it just looks like a lot of old logs in a line.

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Day 114: Our First Taste of Washington

August 9, 2017

Total daily miles: 8.3 miles

Total PCT miles: 1745.8

Start: Cascade Locks (mile 2144.4)

End: mile 2152.7

Total elevation gain/loss: 2536.1/601.7 ft

I woke with a start this morning, afraid that I’d slept in until 11am.  Is if.  It was only 6:45.  What I would give to actually sleep in one of these days.

We spent the morning hunkered down in our motel room — loading blog posts, sorting through our gear in preparation for sending a box of extra gear home, and figuring out our plans for the upcoming eclipse (we’re planning to return to Oregon to meet Michael’s parents).  Basically, we didn’t leave until check out time at noon, and even then we ended up needing some extra time in our room to sort things out.  Where does town time go?

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I married a nerd.

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We’re back for a junior cone!

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Day 113: Cascade Locks!

August 8, 2017

Total daily miles: 14.8 miles

Total PCT miles: 1737.5

Start: mile 2129.6

End: Cascade Locks (mile 2144.4)

Total elevation gain/loss: 1495.4/5537.4 ft

After yesterday’s unexpected long day, we treated ourselves this morning and “slept in” until about 6am.  It’s a town day — only 15 miles to Cascade Locks!  Even better was the prospect that most of it was downhill.  Dreams of a town lunch danced in my head as I packed up camp.

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Most of today’s hike kept us tucked away in the trees, although we did hit a few areas of open ridge line early in the morning.  Unfortunately, the haze is even worse today than it was yesterday so our views were obscured. Continue reading

Day 112: A Forced 30

August 7, 2017

Total daily miles: 30.0 miles

Total PCT miles: 1722.7

Start: mile 2099.6

End: mile 2129.6

Total elevation gain/loss: 5323.2/6481.6 ft

Well, another day that didn’t quite go as planned…  We started out this morning in what felt like a foggy haze.  I’m assuming that it was smoke from the Eagle Creek fire, but with fires both north and south of us now it’s hard to know for certain.

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Our first couple of miles were all downhill.  We had a great view of a large waterfall in the distance, otherwise it felt like we were walking through an area that has seen a lot of erosion/rock slides.  Lots of exposed dirt cliffs!  After a few miles we hit the Sandy River (with a name like that we figured we wouldn’t be grabbing water from this source).  I’d seen some mixed info about how hard of a crossing it was, so I was pleased to see that it wasn’t the fast, thigh-high crossing that was reported.  Just a log crossing!  And by “just,” I mean that the logs were relatively narrow and I was super happy to have my poles, but I made it across with dry feet.  I’ll take it as a win. Continue reading

Day 111: Stuffed on a Timberline Breakfast!

August 6, 2017

Total daily miles: 15.5 miles

Total PCT miles: 1692.7

Start: mile 2084

End: mile 2099.6

Total elevation gain/loss: 3482.9/2044.9 ft

We were up and hiking before the sun was up this morning.  Normally, I wouldn’t be thrilled about the prospect of starting my hiking day with the aid of a headlamp.  But today wasn’t a normal day.  Today, I knew that every minute I hiked in the dark was an extra minute to enjoy the Timberline Lodge buffet breakfast!

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Early morning road crossing

We had just over ten miles until the Timberline Lodge.  But of course, just to make things more challenging, we also had about a 2000 foot elevation gain over the last five miles.  Fun!  As I set off in the dark, I was grateful that the path seemed wide and well-defined.  It was much easier to navigate and walk quickly than some of the night hiking we’ve done along steep hillsides.  We largely stayed in the trees, although since it was dark for the first couple of miles I guess I wouldn’t know if I missed a great view anyway. Continue reading

Day 110: 32 Miles!

August 5, 2017

Total daily miles: 31.9 miles

Total PCT miles: 1677.1

Start: mile 2052.1

End: mile 2084

Total elevation gain/loss: 3613.2/4064 ft

A record day for us!  Almost 32 miles!  I guess the pull of an all-you-can-eat breakfast buffet is a strong one.

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This morning’s hike was relatively quiet, with few hikers crossing our path.  I guess everyone stayed at Olallie Lake last night hoping for trail magic.  It felt like we spent most of the morning in the trees, with a few patches of open grasslands dispersed in between.  It was a great morning for cruising, with only a couple minor climbs that were relatively well graded.  I hiked with determination, knowing that we only had 42 miles to hike before arriving at the Timberline Lodge and its legendary breakfast buffet. Continue reading