Miners Creek – tent site
20.4 miles. 5864ft up. 4772ft down.
I went out like a light and didn’t wake up until 5:45. I dozed until 6:30 and I packed up all my stuff aiming for a 7:30 start. As I unzipped my tent I was greeted by Sprouts face which made me jump. He is very stealthy for a big dog!
We all packed up and left around the same time. Everyone else heading north. I had a nice downhill section to start. I was enjoying the shade, the sky is clear blue again and it feels like it’s going to be another hot one. I cruised the first 6 miles at a nice 3mph pace. I love downhill! I ran into a guy called Bamboo (Mississippi/ Alaskan). He will be a southbounder after he has gone north through Washington. I may well see him again.
I covered 2.5 miles over the next hour as it was a bit up and down and I was starting to get tired. I had a nice relaxing bugless break in the shade next to the Suiattle river. Life is so much better without the bugs. For the first few miles it’s nice to listen to the sounds of the forest. The innocent daytime chirpy sounds. Later I listen to some music and have a sing along, the wilderness is the only thing who appreciates my singing!
Then it was the start of the big climb. Nearly 4000ft over 10 miles. The first couple of miles were gentle and still in the trees so I was still hopeful of making a 28 mile day to Mica lake. I passed Jose from Mexico, who had walked here from Mexico. “How’s the bush?” He says. “Erm…overgrown” I reply. “I hate the bush” he says. Ha! I told him he’s got about 20 miles before the bush gets bad.
I didn’t get water at the Suiattle river because it was raging and I didn’t see a suitable place so I had to go a few miles without water, all the while being able to hear the creek flowing below just out of reach.
I made it to water, a icy cold little waterfall and I filled up and guzzled straight from my filter. Fresh clean cold clear water tastes so good. I doesn’t compare to the water that comes out our taps.
I am struggling. It’s so hot, thankfully I am still in the shade of trees but the trail is starting to dip in and out of the sun. I pass a man who tells me how beautiful Mica lake is and I pass a family of 7 doing a section of the trail who also told me how beautiful Mica lake is. With each mile I crawl it’s looking less and less likely that I will make it there.
I don’t normally sweat that much but today it is pouring out of my face. It’s trickling down the sides of my face and falling off my chin. The outside temperature probably isn’t even that high but my core temperature feels like it’s off the scale. I stink which is pretty unpleasant. Every time I propel my arms forwards to try and drag myself up the hill I get a whiff of fresh and stale sweat. My back is wet and my right sleeve is wet and filthy where I keep wiping my face every couple of minutes.
The higher I go the more exposed and hotter it becomes. I stop for water a lot, I stop just generally a lot. Never mind the lake, I’m having doubts as to whether I’m going to make it up this hill! My body doesn’t feel too bad but my mind is holding it back. I can’t find a rhythm or maintain a pace. I get interrupted by a fallen tree I have to navigate every so often.
I check where I am and I’m only half way. I’m only half way. There are a lot less bugs today so it makes stopping much easier. But it’s not a good thing because I’m tempted to stop all the time. If I just keep putting one foot in front of the other, no matter how slow, I will get there eventually. The bushes slow me down even more. Hot bush is just the worst.
I plod on. I see a couple who tell me I’m almost there. I know I’m not almost there but I appreciate the encouragement. The trees have thinned out significantly and I’m switchbacking through the wildflowers. I start to see views of mountains and I push on to the top. It is spectacular up here. I spend a while taking photos – not that they do it justice. On every other switchback there is a cooling wind which is nice.
I will always hate uphill, normally when you reach the top the pain of the climb is instantly forgotten. Not this time. This pain will stay with me for some time I think. Me feet are pulsing. I look at my options. It’s 4pm and I have 2 miles to a tent site, the next listed site after that is Mica lake which is a further 8 miles. There is absolutely no way I have another 10 miles in me. After the first tent site there is a 4 mile downhill to Milk Creek, then it’s 4 miles up to the lake. I could do the downhill but there is no mention of camping there. I would hate to get there and have nowhere to camp. I decide to do the 2 miles and camp, then get up early and bash out those 4 downhill miles.
I carry on along the trail and I have to cross a series of quite substantial stream crossing and some more minor ones. There is water flowing everywhere on this mountain which still has quite a bit of snow melting fast at the top. I choose my routes across the stones carefully. Falling in and getting wet shoes would just top off my difficult day, but I managed to keep my cool and hop gracefully like an elephant from rock to rock with no problems.
There is no water at my tent site so I fill up and carry 1.5l up my last, and thankfully gentle, climb. I took off my shoes for a moment. My feet feel swollen and they are starting to develop that deep crease on the sole. They are a bit of a mess today!
I plod up the hill with my heavy pack and the sun beating down on me. I look into the distance and I can see big fluffy clouds gathering over the mountains in the distance. I would love some cloud right now. I finally get to the tent site just after 5pm. It’s early and I could still make it 4 more miles but I decide to stop. My feet need a break.
I set up my tent and change into my sleep clothes so I can try and dry my hiking clothes. The sun has already stripped most of the colour out of the shoulders of my top. It’s too hot to sit in the tent so I make my dinner outside. I had thought about dinner, I was going to have spaghetti bolognaise with my extra cheese from the ranch and Cheetos for added crunch. I made the mountain house and left it to ‘cook’. When I opened it it smelt really odd. It tasted odd too. I looked at the expiration date – it says use by 06/14. It’s 2 years out of date!! I thought these freeze dried things would be OK even past their date but they aren’t, they are gross. So I made do with the sweaty cheese and some Cheetos.
By now I was starting to be bitten by the mozzies so I admitted defeat and retreated to my tent. The sun was blazing through and it was boiling but I was also a bit shivery. As soon as the sun went behind a cloud I started to get cold.
I lay down on the floor of my tent and typed this, while my body was hot, shivery and pulsing. I’ve now got time for a hot chocolate.
This really is a beautiful section but in my opinion it’s also one of the hardest sections of the whole pct. The guy I camped with last night said he had to reduce his 40 mile days to 23/24 mile days through Washington. And he’s had 2000 miles to prepare for this! I’ve only had 10 days. Yep, starting out in Washington is tough, there’s no doubt about that.
I thought about where the others might be. If they are doing 15 mile days they are probably camped near the Suiattle river which is just before the big climb. I miss them loads and I wish we were all still hiking together, but I’m also glad I’ve done that climb and got it out the way. But there is another big climb tomorrow.
I’m camping alone tonight but Bears don’t like it up high, right?
I’m walking thousands of miles for Just A Drop because everyone should have access to clean water. Donate here.