DAY 13: July 28th, 2017
22 Miles to Waptus River at Sobo Mile 224.8
Elevation Change: +4,000 ft/-6,000 ft
Last night brought me another mouse INSIDE my tent, what the heck? So, I hear scratching, it wakes me up, I shift around searching for my headlamp. By the time I shine the light around my head, the scratching is gone. It’s silent again save the creek flowing nearby. I shut off the headlamp, and try to go back to sleep. Soon, the scratching starts up again. I repeat the same routine. Where is this thing? I am loosing sleep over this and that does not fare well. Finally, I am awoken to something running along the side of my body, and I shine my light by my feet to discover the little rodent scrambling around in the mesh netting of my tarp tent, desperate to get out. I feel a little sorry for it, for like a second. Part of me wants to try grabbing it by the tail, but I am too squeamish. I unzip my tent, and shoo the thing swiftly out. Then I zip up my tent as fast as I can. No sooner did I lay back doen then the creature scrambles up on top of my tent over my head and I react so fast by blocking my face with my hands as if I were shadow boxing. Jeez! It’s just a mouse, but it is seriously causing me to loose sleep, and loosing sleep is my Kryptonite.
I started off on the trail late, 8:00am, as a result of needing to make up for some sleep. The trail started out with a gentle climb through the forest, soft padded footing, followed by a rocky climb that gains about 800 feet in a mile, offering great views as I climbed. Eventually I am treated to a view of Glacier Peak to the North, with Glacier Lake just below me, making quite a scenic post card moment.
My legs were starting to feel strong again, thank goodness, and as I hiked that day I eased back into the world of being a thru-hiker again. It was good to be back on the trail, good to be solo, and I was looking forward to this section because I was about to enter uncharted territory. Last year, Crush and I had opted for the Goldmeyer Alternate out of Snoqualmie so we could go to some amazing hot springs. The alternate trail had taken us mostly through woods and rain forest, and was serene. There had been some rocky sections and a short gravel roadwalk, but we thought the hot springs were worth it. What we apparently bypassed was the Kendall Catwalk, a narrow ledge on the trail with amazing views on either side that had been pretty talked up. So, I was looking forward to that. I had no idea how far it was until I would be there however, so the element of surprise was refreshing.
I had started to reflect on places I’d been before on the trail and that had been shaping my view of it now, the nostalgia, and at times the lack of any memory, were intriguing to me. Several places remained mysterious, as I realized I had absolutely no recollection of hiking through them.
I hit mile 224 today and compared that to where that would be on a Nobo hike. Somewhere around Big Bear. Wow, I thought, that is so little progress in the hike. It is so early on in the hike, and I thought about how much happened after that. Well, that gave me some perspective for sure. I had so very much ahead of me, and that gave me comfort. I get to live in this wilderness for another 2,400 miles. Thank God!
There was a warning of a potentially dangerous River ford coming up in the afternoon and I could imagine exactly what creek it was, since I had crossed it last year after re-connecting with the PCT. It was a giant drainage with water falling down a crevice for hundreds of feet and the trail literally traversed over the rocks and boulders that had water pouring over them. I found this stimulating and exciting, a challenge.
When I got there I saw a family on the other side of the water, with a dog and a six year old little boy. I wondered how they got across as the only place I could see was through a sizeable waterfall right over some rocks. It looked precarious, but do-able for me. I removed my socks and shoe inserts and put my shoes back on. I had to hold my treking poles in my left hand and use my right hand to balance on the rock under the waterfall. I ended up getting the right side of my body completely drenched, but it was refreshing. When I reached the spot with the family, I saw them taking a small, steep footpath down to a safer crossing, which I did not even see before. They were actually headed North. We exchanged hellos and I continued on to the second ford further ahead.
I enjoyed a silent walk all day, passing about 12 hikers in total, none of them thru-hikers. I wondered what sort of solo bubble I had gotten myself into and when I might meet up with some more of “my people”? The hours and miles flew by and by the time 5:00 rolled around I decided to push on another 7 miles to the Waptus River. It was an easy, peaceful last push of the day, but I got there just around sunset because of my late start. I recalled the area where I decided to camp, it was very close to the line-up with the Goldmeyer alternate.
There were giant granite cliffs above me and the rushing of crystal clear blue water below me. The wind was picking up and that always makes me feel like “something” is going to happen, I find it just a tad unsettling, but not as unsettling as mice in my tent at night. As I set up camp there, I had a serious internal battle as to whether I should hang my food or sleep with it. The only reason I was going to hand my food was to avoid the rodents, but then hanging my food just made me feel like I was inviting a bear too take my food. A classic thru-hiker dilemma. I hung my food precariously, it was not making me confident.
I ate my dinner in the dark, looking over my shoulder every now and then, feeling like something was there. Probably just the wind. Final decision: sleep with your food. I decided to make better use of the trash compactor bag I’d been carrying, and not using, and I stuffed my “odor proof” food bag into the trash comactor bag, stuffed that inside my backpack, and shoved that under my feet. Problem (hopefully) solved.
DAY 14: July 29th, 2017
21 miles to Mile 245.3 to Stock/Hiker Camp
Elevation Change: +6,000 ft/- 4,000 ft
I had high aspirations for the day, set my alarm for 5:00am with a plan for 25 miles with 8,000 feet of climbing. #nobigdeal. The alarm sounds, it is still pitch dark, it is cold, I roll over and get sucked back into my sleep vortex. By the time I am up and eating my breakfast the morning light is striking the giant granite walls turning them amber. It reminds me of the Sierras and that makes me feel a warm and fuzzy.
When I set off on the trail I soon met up with the familiar intersection of the PCT with the Goldmeyer Alternate . I hugged that tree and it was much like being back at the Monument again, a sense of intense groundedness, and a little flutter of love in my heart.
Then I started to climb, climb, climb. I made 13 miles by lunchtime and had to scramble up a steep loose dirt slope to sit in the shade by a marvelous creek with the coldest freshest water. I sat there in the dirt and rigged up a little seat so I could lean back and relax. I filtered water and made a glorious iced coffee. Coffee is one of the best trail drugs I have found. It not only boosts morale, it gives your feet a little more zip and it actually relieves pain. The bugs were awful at that spot so I couldn’t stay too long, despite needing the rest. At least I got to take my shoes off and air out my feet for a bit. Sometime’s it’s just the simple things that are so wonderful.
Then began the long down, down, down through thicker and heavier forest, taking me about two hours. By the time I made it down to the bottom I started seeing people again. It’s so strange, you think you are deep in the woods, and suddenly a trail runner cruises by. This guy was as dirty as me, and he had a gash on his leg dripping with blood. Where did HE come from?
I started to climb again, the second big climb of the day, which I expected to take me up to the Kendall Catwalk, as I had read the topo map thinking it was coming up. I knew not where I was going to camp, and figured on potentially camping ON the catwalk if need be. I envisioned cowboying right on the trail on a narrow ridge with endless views of vistas and craggy peaks at sunrise, yes, it was going to be epic.
By maybe 7pm the golden hour had begun and I was still climbing. It’s my favorite time to hike, low angles of light all stretched out into long shadows and streaks of glowing air pour through the spaces between the trees. I was out of water and noted on my maps there was a stock camp near some “spring fed pools” in about 2 more miles. Maybe this would be a better place to camp, Im tired, I thought. It was getting to the point that my body just couldnt take much more climbing, and I was hungry, and out if water. Maybe this catwalk can wait till morning…The dpring fed pools were not so impressive, some were dry, and all the nearby tentsites were already taken by ithet hikers. Well, I guess there will be something for me at the horse camp.
I stopped and filled up my water, a whole 2 liters, wow! Thats my max carry right now cuz I refuse to add any more weight to my pack. What will I do when I have to carry 5 liters? I don’t even want to think about that right now, it’s like I have water carry PTSD. I shoulder my now 4 pound heavier pack and continue climbing yet again. In .8 of a mile I will be there, Im ready to be done for the day. When I get there, ugh, people! They were so busy swatting at mosquitoes that I surprised them when I walked up. “Hey there, do you know if there are any other tent sites nearby?” I inquired. “Yea, I think there’s a few down the hill but we didn’t go check them out.” The woman said in between swatting mosquitoes. “Awesome, thanks!” I replied in relief, and headed down a narrow steep side trail, most likely created by stock animals, to what turned out to be a lovely and perfectly epic place to call home for the night. The Catwalk, I suppose will be tomorrow.