Tent site – tent site
23.2 miles 8020ft up 8148ft down. (Ouch)
I was having a dream about my dentist X-raying my mouth and just as he was about to press the button my alarm goes off. It’s weird when that happens. I set the alarm for 5:15am and snoozed it once. I wanted to get an early start to give myself the best chance of making the miles. I was packed up and gone by 6:20.
The blue skies had gone, replaced by a blanket of cloud which was probably why it was so warm last night. At leat it should be a bit cooler today.
I thought I would get the nice easy 4 miles of downhill out the way nice and early. How wrong I was. It was neither nice or easy. First of all there were hundreds of cobwebs across the trail which wrap around your hands, knees and – worst of all – face. Then there are the many many little tiny tiny flies that like to congregate under the peak of my visor. The trail is massively overgrown and all the plants are wet from condensation, so they too slap you in the face. And if that’s not enough the trail is eroding so it’s very easy to fall off the side. Oh and the rocks. So many rocks, all hidden by the overgrown plants.
I did not have a fun time. I was soaked very quickly. My feet were squelching and the water was dripping off my saturated shorts and bag. I fell twice and rolled my ankle three times. Luckily I think my ankles are quite bendy so there was no damage. A lot of the bush was quite scratchy so I added to the lines on my legs. I slipped and tripped and cursed my way slowly down the switchbacks.
I finally made it to Milk creek and I was pleased to see there really wasn’t anywhere to camp. And then began the long ascent. There are plenty of blowdowns in this section, some of them have been there so long they have handy notches cut into them.
These old logs aren’t a problem. The problems are the new blowdowns which are still hanging onto their pine needles and have lots of sticky out branches.
Next there is a washed out bit of trail with a detour up a vertical muddy bank. I slipped and fell and got covered in mud but I made it up eventually with the help of some tree roots used like climbing rope. Yesterday I did 6 miles in 2 hours. Today I’ve done 6 miles in 3 hours. It’s going to be a tough day.
I continued plodding uphill. My aim was to keep going, just putting one foot in front of the other, no matter how slowly. I just wanted to keep going. The cobwebs continued to be a pain in the ass. As the trail got higher there were some views as a reward.
I met 2 guys coming down. I stopped to speak a while. They were happy telling me how they had hiked most of Washington and they were giving me advice on what was coming up and what to expect in Oregon. There comes a point when you can’t tell them that you have hiked the whole trail before so you let them advise you and thank them and move on. Unless people ask me a question which requires me to tell them I have hiked before in my response I generally keep quiet about it. Another of their little group passes by me and I ask him if they have cleared all the cobwebs for me. He tells me I’m nearly there. A lie that can be told only by people on their way down a mountain. Thanks for the encouragement but I know I’m only half way. They mention they have seen Wolf who camped with them at Mica lake. He’s about half a day ahead of me then.
I carry on and have a chat with another guy. He does the same thing, gives me advice about the trail and tells me Oregon is flat (Oregon is NOT flat!). He also told me how wonderful Mica lake is and I haven’t been able to bring that part of the trail to mind. I can’t drag it out from the recesses of my mind. And then I get there and it all comes back. This really is one of the most beautiful parts of the trail.
Last time I saw it on the downhill so I snapped a quick picture and blazed on by. I decided to stay a while at the lake. Thru hiking is so often about rushing from one place to the next, you don’t get time to enjoy these amazing places. It would have been an incredible place to camp last night but there was absolutely no way on earth I would have made it there, not before dark anyway! I reluctantly moved on. Up and up through the small snowfields and over the many streams. I got water from a stream and guzzled straight from the filter. I’m enjoying this new way of drinking, get water, drink and go, no filtering.
The trail winds its way around the mountains and I eventually get to the top. I treat myself to some Cheetos. The problem with Cheetos is cheeto fingers.
I linger a while at the top, taking in the wild beauty of my surroundings. You can only get here by walking here. So many people will never see this which is a shame because it really is something else. I begin the descent, safe with the knowledge that the biggest climb for the day is complete.
I pass a man called Phone Belly (Bill) and I chat to him a while. He told me there are around 50 people ahead of me going south, some only a day ahead. It’s odd to think there are that many people out there because you often feel like you’re completely alone.
The trail descends and I come to a stream crossing where there is no way through. I put my river crossing shoes on and it’s so nice to feel the cold water on my feet. They are super wrinkly from being wet all day. I try the ziplock bags on my feet but they quickly get too sweaty. The trail continues to roll fairly gently up and down. Overgrown in parts OK in others. I pass a few more people. Some stop to speak. Some don’t.
It’s very muggy today and I’m sweating profusely again. I pass a lady coming uphill as I’m going down, she says she is tired. She is also wearing a woolly hat and a jacket! It makes me hot just looking at her. Just when I thought all my snacks were gone I rummage in my snack pocket and I find some chocolate. Oh it made me so happy.
I cross a stream and find myself standing on a log wondering where the trail is. Someone waves at me. Great, it’s over there. I go and chat to the two guys. They are section hiking from Stevens pass to Rainy pass. One likes to tell me that he has been hiking Washington over the last 6 years, and only has one section left to do. They are doing about 15 miles today. They ask me my goal for the day, I say 23. Some raised eyebrows. I didn’t tell them I had already hiked the trail.
I make the long descent to kennedy creek. There are lots of blowdowns and the trail is really steep in places. I come to the broken bridge. The water it rushing through the middle so a little leap is required.
I continue up the other side and I come across two people collecting water. It’s Suds and Double Dip (Dana) from last year. We look at each other a squeal. It wasn’t a total surprise – Suds had messaged me and said they should be on the trail, they headed north out of Stevens Pass the same day I hiked out of Stehekin. I was wondering if I might see them today. Also hiking with them were RADish and Ricky Bobby, who I knew from last year, and Rattles and Nomad who I heard a lot about but never met.
It was so flippin cool to see them. We stopped and had a break and chatted and caught up for about half and hour, but it wasn’t long enough! I spent the most time with Dana last year, hiking most of Oregon together. I could have talked to her for hours but we only had a few minutes. It was 4:30pm and I had another 6.8 miles to go, they wanted to make it another 10 to Mica lake, so we all had to move on. Them as a group, me on my own. They ask me if there are lots of camp spots at Mica lake. Yeah loads I say. After they have gone I remember there are 5 other people I spoke to today ahead of them all aiming for the lake. The lake is going to be crowded!
I walked along for a bit grinning like an idiot, it was so great to see them. But then a sadness kicked in. The life of a southbounder is a fairly lonely one. Most people you meet are going the other way. Hopefully I might be able to catch up to some of these 50 people ahead of me.
Over the next mile or so my judgement and ability completely deserted me. I fell a couple of times. I got some good scratches from some logs and I lost the trail for a bit. There were a lot of blowdowns to negotiate, a boggy section and where there are bogs there are frogs! A couple of wet feet crossings where I took off my shoes. All of this was hindering my progress.
I crossed a creek on a precarious and slippery log. I’m amazed I made it across without any drama. I guzzled some water. I swear it’s getting hotter. A nice bridge crossed over White Chuck river, it was flowing fast and it created a little pocket of cool air which I enjoyed for a while. Only 2 miles to go but 1500ft of up. This is going to be painful and slow.
And it was painful and slow. It took me an hour to do those last 2 miles. The up was steep. My body only moved through sheer willpower of the mind. My feet hurt. My legs hurt. My shoulders hurt. All my body fluids were being lost through my top lip and my chin. My face was sore from wiping it so much. My shoulders hurt from dragging myself up with my poles. I felt like I was crawling up the hill. I stopped every .2 of a mile to check my gps. When I was finally down to my last .3 of a mile I could ‘smell the barn’ and I hurried through the final flat bit. There would have been no hurrying if it had been uphill. I thought about soda and ice cream the whole way up.
I saw the campsite. It was 7:40. I had been on the go for 13 hours and 20 minutes.
I slid down the bank to the stream to get water and scrambled back up again. The mosquitos were so bad, they were in swarms around my head, attracted by the heat and the sweat. I chucked on my headnet – I must have used my headnet more times already than the whole of my northbound hike. I threw my tent up, annoyed with myself for forgetting to dry out my fly. I launched all my stuff and myself inside and I finally sat down.
My feet were zinging, wrinkled from the wet start, but as they dried out they became swollen and very very itchy.
I got out of my wet sweaty hiking clothes as soon as possible. That makes you instantly feel a bit better. I looked at the poor selection of food in my bag. I am out of sweets and with 2 days to go that’s a worry. I am rationing my Cheetos and my chocolate. It was finally time to break out the tuna. I am carrying 3 packets. I eat one with a couple of crackers. It’s ok and I basically inhale it. I was a lot hungrier than I thought I was. I follow it with a granola bar and some chocolate. Washed down with a hot chocolate.
I’m sure I haven’t drunk nearly enough today so hopefully that bit of extra liquid will help.
I set out all my sleeping stuff and I finally lie down. My legs are pulsating so much that I’m not sure how I will be able to sleep. I’m thirsty but I don’t want to drink too much because I don’t want to get up in the night.
My body feels like a lead weight. It’s 10:30pm. Waaaay past hiker midnight.
I wonder if the others made it. I wonder if there is enough room for them all. I wonder where Catwater is. I wonder if Jackie and Dan are still on the trail. I wonder.
I’m walking thousands of miles for Just A Drop because everyone should have access to clean water. Donate here.