Day 121: Mt. Rainier views to Chinook Pass

**We’re making a push to finish recording our memories from our 2017 PCT adventure.  This post is from my collection of fully-written and half-written blog posts that are still waiting to see the light of day (along with a few days with just mileage notations and pictures… and may remain that way).**

August 16, 2017

Total daily miles: 25.8 miles
Total PCT miles: 1918.4
Start: Pipe Lake (mile 2299.5)
End: mile 2325.3
Total elevation gain/loss: 4822.2/3874.3 ft

The strain of hiking 1900 miles at a recent pace of 25 miles a day seems to be catching up with my body. By 9pm last night, I was completely spent and practically asleep. When my alarm went off at 5:15, it seemed way too early to even think about getting up. It’s as though my body is now protesting the daily abuse it gets and demanding more rest in return. I guess the evenings of reading my kindle until 10pm have now passed.

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If only we were at 2300 miles!

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Blueberry pop tart versus blueberries…

It was chilly this morning, and the cold combined with the relatively flat trail our first few miles meant that I actually hiked with my jacket and hat on for a while.  The good news is that we had more blueberries this morning!  They were all along the side of the trail and I had to stop myself from constantly leaning over to pick a few.  I found it particularly amusing because this morning my first breakfast was a blueberry PopTart.  Not quite the real deal and I’m starting to get a little sick of these things, but lots of calories.

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Sounds like a lovely trail.

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Our mid-morning meet-up spot was at Bumping River, at the bottom of our morning descent.  The river was flowing pretty well and it appeared that any bridge that may have existed was long gone.  We could have done a wet crossing at the trial, but there was a nice big log just downstream.  Despite the dry crossing, Michael was not a fan.

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Bumping River

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Someone is terrified.

After Bumping river, the trail climbed over 1500 feet and our views started to open up.  Lots of great views of Mt. Rainier, which continued into the afternoon.  Makes sense since we spent much of the day in Mt. Rainier National Park.

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Unfortunately, one of those views was of the smoke from a fire in the distance.  Not good!

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Smoke!

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As we started to approach Chinook Pass, we saw more and more day hikers out in search of a good view.  Of course, the potential for trail magic (and toilets) was on our minds.  Sure enough, a wonderful woman was at the parking lot with chocolate milk and freshly baked cookies.  We really lucked out, because she had tried to leave earlier and discovered that her car wouldn’t start.  While someone was helping to jump start her car, we helped polish off the chocolate milk.

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Crossing Chinook Pass

Despite the wonderful trail magic, there were a couple downers during our brief stop.  The first is that the women doing trail magic was also passing around a flyer with information about Sherpa, the PCT hiker who went missing in this area during the end of the season last year after a heavy snow storm moved through the area.  I guess a search party will be in the area over the next couple of days trying to figure out what happened to him.  Another reminder of the potential danger of late season hiking.

The second downer is that while we were enjoying our trial magic, the highway patrol was in the process of closing Chinook Pass to further car traffic due to the nearby fire.  The smoke still doesn’t seem too bad, and the trail isn’t closed, but it’s yet another incentive to get through this coming section as quickly as possible.  Here’s to hoping that the fire stays far away from the PCT!  I have no clue how we’d do a reroute in this section and we don’t have any cell signal to figure it out.

After drinking our fill of chocolate milk, and making sure that our trail magic host got her car started, we set off to knock out a few evening miles before setting up camp.  We knew that the first lake after Chinook Pass was likely really busy with weekend backpackers, so our goal was to make it at least 4 more miles so that we could get past Sheep Lake.  The only problem is that we knew that the topo map showed a lot of ridge/traverse walking for the next segment, so there are limited camp sites.

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Sure enough, a bunch of people were already settled in around Sheep Lake when we passed at about 6:15.  The climb up from Sheep Lake was very scenic in the warm light from the setting sun.  At the top of our 1000 foot climb was Sourdough gap… name is only mentioned because I would kill for some sourdough bread right now and sadly there was none.  We dipped out of the sunlight on the other side of the gap and descended a bit along a rocky mountainside.  I could hear the calls of marmots as I descended and it was fun to try to spot them scurrying around.

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View from the Sourdough Gap.  Note the smoke in the distance…

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Can you spot the marmot?

The first campsite after the gap was vacant (true to our no water rule equals available camping rule) and we decided to take it.  It looks like there should be another site in about a mile, but it doesn’t look like there is anything else for a few miles past that since the trial traverses a steep mountainside.  Not worth the risk!  Anyway, the site is nice and there aren’t too many bugs so we got to eat outside.

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Current ailments:

Elizabeth: sore shoulder; ball of my foot hurts (maybe an issue with my insole?)

Michael: [I didn’t ask him at the time, and now he just remembers pain.  The joys of thru-hiking!]

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