August 20, 2018
2529.3-2553.1 to Cloudy Pass Trail Junction, then 2 miles to Lyman Lake
This is the second day I’ve woken up to find a little mouse turd on my stuff. Yesterday it was on my shoe, today it was on the snack pouch of my pack. It’s as if they’re saying “piss off, Hiker.” Just as I was drifting off toward much-needed unconsciousness last night, I felt something run past the head of my tent. I felt it because my head usually rests right against the tent wall to make more room for my feet at the bottom. It literally brushed right up against my head. I was wide awake in an instant and it took another hour for me to drift off.
Anyway, not much sleep was gotten. I was terrified of waking suddenly to find a mouse or a pica on my face or in my sleeping bag liner! This is what your mind does when you’re exhausted.
I’m so thankful I pushed through yesterday. Just a mile or two of uphill climb and then 5ish miles down a fairly gentle descent. After that, it’s been relatively flat and easy and I covered 10 miles in 4 hrs. It’s now 1:00pm and I’ve already done over 15 miles. I love this section. I tried to make good time because there’s a brutal climb ahead of me to Cloudy Pass, where I plan to get off and take a shuttle and ferry to Stehekin to meet up with Sparky and Ghosthiker. That will hopefully happen tomorrow. We’ll see how I do on this climb.
I’ve barely seen a soul all day. Passed an older gentleman heading south and a group of three young men breaking camp. I haven’t seen them again so I assume they’re heading south as well. Otherwise, it’s just been me. I took a break at a sweet little creek where I swear I heard singing. Not the first time that’s happened.
Then, lo and behold, who should I run into but Flamingo and Snacks! These were the two hikers that Sparky, Ghosthiker, and I met at the 1000 mile mark! They are hiking SOBO from the border and said that the trail may be closed north of us to Stehekin all the way to the monument itself. For the last hour or so I’ve been hiking in very smoky woods full of ash falling from the sky. Not big chunks, just little wispy things I barely noticed it first. But I did see larger chunks of ash on the ground which makes me pretty nervous. I can taste the smoke in my mouth in addition to seeing it in the air now, and I don’t like that at all. I’m glad I pushed to get into Stehekin by tomorrow.
In other news, I was stalked by a deer earlier which was kind of cool. It followed me for a bit and then headed off into the hills so I guess the fire can’t be that bad if the deer are still hanging around.
I wish now that I’d taken a break with Flamingo and Snacks. My legs are killing me, and they are the only familiar and friendly hikers I’ve encountered since Stevens Pass. I decided to stop about 2 miles from the Cloudy Pass turnoff and sit on the ground with my sit pad. As I looked at the map Flamingo gave me (a real, paper map that was all marked up with tent spots and exit points), tiny bits of ash collected on my clothes and pack. I tried not to be alarmed by how quickly it covered me.
When I finally reached the side trail for Cloudy Pass, there was a huge sign and warning tape spread across the PCT going north. Fire closure, trail closed, and an arrow pointing toward Cloudy Pass. Well, good thing that was my plan anyway, but not shit was getting real. I couldn’t see any signs of where the fires might be, but the air was so thick with smoke that my throat and lungs were starting to get really sore. I was also spitting a lot because I could taste ash in my mouth. Blech!
The hike up to the turnoff was a workout, but the hike up and over the pass was brutal! a mile straight up and over with huge steps up steep rocks. It felt like I was going up Donahue Pass again, only steeper. Much, much steeper. For a while, I put away my trekking poles and used my hands to grab onto things and haul myself up. I was so exhausted, and breathing was so hard, that a few times I felt dizzy and had to just hold onto a boulder for a few moments to catch my breath. If I leaned back, I’d lose my balance and fall off the trail. The chunks of ash were starting to get bigger. I decided that if I started seeing pieces of ash as big as my hands, I was going to hit the SOS button on my Garmin InReach.
Finally, the trail leveled out a little bit at the top, and then it was down, down, down for a mile of steep switchbacks toward Lyman Lake. I soared down those switchbacks, determined to make it to the lake before calling it a day. This was way farther than I’d planned to hike today, but I felt too exposed up high and wanted to be by the safety of water if I got caught in a forest fire. It was all I could think to do.
Shortly before the lake, I met a couple of section hikers, Anne and Jessica. They greeted me warmly and were very friendly. The campsites were a little hard to find in the woods around the lake, but we collaborated with our maps and Guthooks and eventually managed to find them. It’s nice to finally be camping with other people – people I’ve met and talked to and not just fly-by thru-hikers. We set and ate dinner together in the fading light. There were mosquitoes, but not too many, probably because of the smoke. Anne and Jessica marveled at my tiny cooking setup. They’d brought tons of food and even packed in some whiskey, which they kindly shared with me.
After I hung my food bag and crawled into my tent, I looked at Guthooks and realized I hiked 26 miles to get to Lyman Lake. 26 miles! Yeah, baby!