After bypassing the Norse Peak fire on the shoulder of Mt Rainier, we rejoined the PCT at Government Meadow – less than 50 miles from Snoqualmie Pass and our next resupply. Little did we know that this entire section would be closed for fire only days after we hiked it. We did 30 miles our first day out, and decided that it would be our last 30 this trail. I feel that I am getting fatigued on these long days like I didn’t before. It is likely a combination of the terrain, the diminishing daylight hours, and the toll on my body from doing this day after day for nearly 5 months now. The next day was a short day – 16 miles into Snoqualmie Pass. It was a tough morning, hot even before the sun was up. We arrived by lunch and had an amazing feed at a place called Commonwealth – I had a gluten-free crispy chicken sandwich and GF beer (now how often does that happen?)!
Feeling lethargic after lunch, we lazily did our resupply and hiked out by 2:30, reluctant to start the 3000 ft climb in the heat of the afternoon. Towards the end of the afternoon, we emerged from the forest and were rewarded with beautiful views of the surrounding mountains. Again, photos just don’t do it justice. We camped early by Ridge Lake and had enough sunlight left to have one of the best swims on trail. We spent a relaxed evening eating and chatting and planned a sleep-in for the next day.
Unfortunately, when we woke we discovered the world was shrouded in smoke. The wind had changed and blown the smoke from the nearby Jolly Mountain fire and Norse Peak fire in our direction. For the next 3 days we would be in smoke. Everett and I had daily headaches and sore throats. We all felt like we had smoked several packs of cigarettes by the end of each day. The time seemed to drag on, and yet, it is all a blur looking back on that section. Though this section of trail supposedly had some amazing scenery to offer, all we could see was the trees around us, perhaps the silhouette of a mountain across the valley, and the sun – a dim orange orb hanging on a flat, grey sky. We walked in the dusky light all day and in the evening we would lie in our tents and listen to the soft pitter-patter of ash falling on our tents. It sounds grim, and at times it felt that way. It was one of the times that we really felt like we needed the encouragement and humour of our hiking buddies to pull us through.
On our final day of the section, we had an 18 mile hike into Stevens Pass and arrived early in the afternoon. We decided to head down to the small town of Skykomish to eat, wash, and resupply for our next section. With only 190 miles to go, we are on the home stretch! We have one last resupply to do in the small resort of Stehekin and then it’ll be the final run to the border in Manning Park. Now that we are close enough to make a plan, we are going to cross the border on September 15th (if all goes well) and finally be back in Canada after 5 months! For now, we are hoping for rain to clear the smoke and help stop the spread of the forest fires running rampant across the west.
Update: we received some recent information that the Diamond Creek fire (burning in the Pasayten Wilderness in Northern Washington and into Canada east of Manning Park) has moved west and may threaten to close the PCT between Hart’s Pass and the border. So, as a group, we decided the 6 of us will get a ride up to Stehekin (skipping 100 miles of trail) and hopefully increase our chances of being able to walk across the border before it may close. Wish us luck!