Tent site for 1 – Stevens Pass
17 miles. 3779ft up. 3970ft down.
I set my alarm for 4:30am. I wanted to get an early start. Beat some of the heat. That was way too ambitious so I reset it for 5am. And then I snoozed it. And I snoozed it again. This is not going to plan so far!
This is my entire food for the day:
I finally got my act together and I was up and on the trail at 6am. Earliest so far! I was immediately swarmed by mozzies as soon as I got out my tent. I am becoming really good at taking down my tent super fast.
I start with the first climb and the plan to beat the heat was working. What I hadn’t planned on were the bugs being out so early and the wetness of the plants. The bugs were just horrendous. I can’t stand it when they collect under the peak of my visor. I was spending more time swatting the flies than I was hiking. Last year I hiked with my bug net on and it was sweaty and gross, so I was reluctant to put it on. But the bugs were just too much and the net went on. And it was a revelation, it was so good.
I managed to hike for about 3 hours before it got too hot and sweaty to have it on. A little climb up to Grizzly peak. One of the only actual peaks the trail crosses and there are no views!
It was still pretty early and everything was wet. Really wet. I spent a while prancing down the trail trying to avoid getting my feet wet and then I just gave up. After a 15 second walk through some long grass they were soaked and squelching.
The morning was pretty uneventful. I had planned to ration my chocolate throughout the day but I had gobbled it all up by 7:30am. It’s going to be a long, sugarless day. There were some of those big noisy low flying jet planes flying overhead, but this time I knew what they were and I didn’t feel like the world was ending.
The trail carried on being wet, and up and down, and wet, and up and down. But when you’re going into town you don’t mind your feet being wet so much, well I don’t. There weren’t many views, just trees mainly. It was still pretty but it just doesn’t compare to the glacier peak wilderness.
I was making good time. I only needed to do 2mph to get me to Stevens Pass for 2:30pm, which gives me an hour to hitch a ride to Skykomish before the post office closes.
I was feeling a little weird in the stomach and I had a funny taste in my mouth. I tried to ignore it and think of the chicken bacon and avocado sandwich and the endless refills of soda head of me.
It’s about 9am and I’m doing good time, I’m 1.4 miles over my average, so I take a little break and eat the last of my food for the day. An incentive to walk faster to Stevens pass.
At about 11am I meet Jim, a 76 year old local out for a 10 mile hike! We get chatting and it turns out he knows Rattles and Nomad, the hikers I met a couple of days ago. He then says, my car is parked at the pass, if you want I’ll wait for you and give you a ride to Skykomish. Err, ok!!
I have my specially make hitchhiking bandana out ready for its first use. Maybe that’s why I got a ride so easily. If you have a sign…
So I told Jim I had 6miles left and I would probably be there by 1. Which was pushing it a bit. I now needed to go 3mph. I hike as fast as I can. I even start to feel like my old hiker self. Sure footed. Speedy.
Then things started to slow me down. I met Te Ti Toe. He hiked California last year apparently. He was telling me all about what I had up ahead. I love people’s enthusiasm about the trail, I love listening to them describing it and hearing the passion in their voices. I stood and chatted to him for a while and the bandana was put to good use as a fly swat. I could kill the flies without bending at all. Perfect. They say everything you carry should have more than one use – and I later used it to wipe my face. The conversation turned to ‘so what hiking experience have you had?’ So I had to say I hiked last year. And he said ‘now I feel like an idiot’. Which isn’t what I want people to feel. It’s a tricky one.
Then I meet a lovely Canadian girl who was struggling. She thought it was because she was Canadian and not used to the humidity but I think I gave her a bit of hope by assuring her I was really feeling it too. There is a heat haze today and it really is hot.
Just after I met her I needed a poo. And the need was sudden and urgent. I just had time to dump my pack, grab some toilet roll and run for the trees before a nasty accident happened. I barely made it into the trees so anyone walking by the trail would have had a good view of my bum, but luckily no one did.
By now I’m really behind schedule.
I pass by lake valhalla, which was beautiful. The best view on the trail today.
I carry on and I see a man I recognise coming up the trail. It’s Billy Goat! Billy Goat is a bit of a PCT legend, he spends a lot of time on the trail and has hiked its entirety, not necessarily all in one go, but has hiked all the miles 7 times over. Completing this section will make it 8 times. I walked past him last year, and it only registered after I passed that it could have been Billy Goat. When Dana caught up with me and showed me her selfie of herself and Billy Goat I was really kicking myself, so I wasn’t about to let this opportunity pass me by. I told him that story which he though was wonderful. He is such a nice man too. I stopped for a while chatting to him and his friend Chuck. I wish I could have spent longer with him. We got photos and Chuck took part in his first ever selfie!
I’m thirsty but I don’t want to get water so I eat these berries. They are pretty tasteless but they are nice and juicy. Not sure what they are. Salmon berries?
Then I run into Lord Vader heading north. I look at him and I say ‘I think I know you, did you hike last year?’ And his response was ‘you mean there was more than one tall skinny black guy on the trail last year?!’ I did meet him last year. Somewhere in the desert. He is out here finishing up that section.
By now it’s 1:20pm. I seriously need to get a move on. I still have about 2.5 miles to get through.
I turn my phone on to search for a signal. Yes! Signal for the first time in 2 weeks. I hiked the last two miles at basically a run, while looking at my phone, and I didn’t trip once! I didn’t even notice the trail was going up as I skimmed my emails, messages and notifications.
At about 1:50 I got a message from Marvin. “Where are you? We are 36 minutes from Baring. We can come and give you a ride to Skykomish.” No way!!!! I said I was basically at the trail head and I had a ride and I would meet them in Skykomish. Before I knew it I popped out at the trail head. 2pm.
I wondered if Jim would still be waiting so I walked up to the ski lodge (used for mountain biking in the summer) and he came walking out towards me. Thanks for waiting Jim. We hopped in his car and he gave me a ride the 15 miles down to Skykomish and away from the bugs.
I ditched my stuff at the Cascadia Inn in the little hiker room and walked over to the post office. The woman who works at the post office is lovely and there is a register there. On the way back I called my parents to let them know I was alive and I get back just as Marvin and Sue were getting out their car. Perfect timing. They even bravely gave me a hug!! I stink. I’m filthy. I’m sweaty. I stink.
We went to the Cascadia Inn and they naughtily treated me to the lunch I had been dreaming of. It turns out they went out for a little day hike and they ran into Ricky Bobby and Double Dip (Dana) who said they saw me. He worked out my pace and estimated I would be at the pass around noon and they decided they would come and meet me. Super cool!
I sorted out my resupply box and topped up the sugar content with some supplies from the gas station, along with a Mountain Dew and a tube of salty salty Pringles for now. Then Marvin drove me the 8 extra miles to the Dinsmores. 2 rides. No hitching. Yes.
Marvin and Sue are going to camp at the Dinsmores so they can take me back to the trail tomorrow, just so they can take me back to the trail tomorrow! Spoilt much?
The Dinsmores are great. I chatted to Andrea who is recovering from knee replacement surgery. While we were chatting the two dogs were very distracting. There was Daisy, not sure what kind but the same kind of size as a springer spaniel and a tiny tiny sausage dog. Well the sausage dog was trying its very hardest to get to Daisy. Humping every part of her but the right part. It makes it very difficult to have a conversation about knee surgery when that’s right in front of you.
I meet Drake who I crossed paths with on Woody pass on my second day out. And I met Spider and another guy who are heading north. Nathaniel came to stay too. He’s a bikepacker. New York to Seattle. Cool.
Whistler is a hiker from last year who I never met but he is staying at the dinsmores this year to help them out.
We hung out. Chatted about the trail. I inspected all the marks on my legs, I have a horse fly bite on my ankle, a bunch of cuts and bites and some interesting tan lines. Whistlers girlfriend saw me after I had taken off the tape and she though I had skin grafts taken on my legs! Had showers – showering here is great as they have a whole selection of bathroom products and I was able to comb my hair for the first time in 3 weeks. Spider has hair down to his waist, he says after the trail he is shaving his beard off and cutting his hair off so he can get a job. Did laundry. All the usual town stuff.
We walked across the tracks to a little store, it was closed last year but had been taken over by new owners I think. We got ice cream and it was good. Don’t expect quick service in there though! Drake and I had a little dance to Ed Sherran and Jason Derulo. And I discovered a tiny tiny kitten curled up on a pile of clothes in the store. The animal game has been strong so far this year.
I realised what a ridiculous bunch of people we are, and when did I become so tiny?!
Back at the house Whistler made a fire and we had S’mores and chatted with Jerry Dinsmore.
I spoke to Broken Toe a couple of days ago about coming here and he said he didn’t want to because he didn’t want to hang out with a big group of hikers. For me this is one of the best parts of the trail. Meeting these random people. Especially when you don’t meet that many people going south. Plus I now have a couch to surf when I want to go back and see the nice side of Las Vegas one day!
Back to the trail tomorrow.
I’m walking thousands of miles for Just A Drop because everyone should have access to clean water. Donate here.