There’s something wrong with our food. Last year when planning our food drops, I gathered store-bought dinners and just sent them to us out on the trail. While they were plenty caloric, Richard requested something with a little more variety of pallet. So this year I took the store bought dinners and used them as a base to build off of. To them I added textured vegetable protein, garlic powder and dried vegetables. It seems the dried veggies are mainly carrots, sweet corn and onions. The garlic and onions are tasty but doing a number to our digestive tracts. Everything is still functioning, but the problem is the increase in flatulence. Both Richard and I are farting constantly and they are especially odorous. We have three more dinners to go and then I am giving up dried onions for the rest of my life.
Even though we’d had rain and cooler weather the last 36 hours, today was back to classic Washington; dry, sunny and warm.
All this sunshine certainly does show off the mountains.
We passed the 100-miles-to-go mark mid morning, which was exciting. It was near the top of our long climb for the day.
It has occurred to me that people might not understand what I mean when I say long up or long down hills. For the PCT, a long ascent or descent takes hours. For example, this morning our long up was 3,500 feet of elevation gain over nearly nine miles. We walked uphill for over three hours.
The afternoon was spent on an even longer downhill. The trail is not really dirt. It’s mostly an inch or so of dust. My shoes are gaping with holes, so it goes right through them and my socks onto my feet. Each day when I take off my shoes, my feet are brown. Luckily, there’s so much water in Washington, that I’ve been able to clean them in a nearby stream or lake almost every night.
The rain stopped by morning, but everything was still wet and cold. But “not currently raining” is my favorite weather, so it was not a bad way to start the day.
We had a short up, long down, long up, long down for our terrain today. Despite covering 26 miles, as the crow flies we only traveled six miles. So many switchbacks.
My feet still hurt for the second half of every day. But thruhiking is a lot of ignoring the annoying, so once I determine that the pain is just more of the same, I ignore it and keep hiking. I’ve done enough endurance exercise to know when an injury is occurring instead of just discomfort.
The second long down hill was mainly blow downs and overgrown brush. A lot of the PCT is not well maintained. It’s a long trail that goes through some of the most remote parts of the western states. Sometimes it takes trail crews years to find a tree that has fallen across the trail or a section taken out by an avalanche or landslide.
In the meantime, hikers find a way around, over or through whatever is between them and the trail. That usually leads to lots of extra erosion but, at least on the PCT, we’ve come to expect it.
The day started as most have: under clear skies and a sun warm even at 8 a.m.
We stayed high on a ridge most of the morning with spectacular views of mountains on mountains for miles. That’s one thing I love about the PCT versus the AT. On the PCT, when you have a view high on a ridge, it’s of nothing but wilderness; mountains and rivers and trees.
On the AT, these vistas are rare and when you get them, you see mountains and rivers, but also roads and buildings. There’s no wilderness to it. Even the 100-mile wilderness in Maine, hikers share with loggers.
As we got to the top of our big morning climb, it was fun to see the big, glacier-carved bowl beneath us that we got to hike down in to. It was like being back in the Sierras in California. But on a smaller scale.
Even after the glacier bowl, we kept going down following the glacier-feed rivers into the valley.
Then came the afternoon climb. Up the switchbacks we went until we ran out of trees and it was just rock. The final mile or so, the clouds that had been moving in all day finally took over and it rained. We got to camp in the rain. Set up in the rain. Cooked in the rain. Ate in the rain.
It was the coldest, wettest night we’d had in a couple hundred miles.
What a day. It was hot. I was slow. Full sun. Barely any wind. So much sweat.
Not twenty paces after leaving our tentsite this morning, the uppers of my right shoe ripped in half. The part of the upper covering my toes is now completely detached from the part covering my foot. It ripped right where the laces end.
Richard spent 20 minutes stitching them back together. Then, about a mile from tonight’s tentsite, all those stitches ripped out. Now, it’s repaired with paracord, a much thicker string than nylon sutures. We’ll see how tomorrow goes.
I’m really hoping the temperatures cool off. It has been so hot and the extended exercise in this heat is draining. I expected to be tired, but this is excessive.
The scenery was beautiful today. The terrain is less rugged than in the central Washington Cascades. But looking in any direction, all you see is ridges fading from green to purple across the horizon. It feels lovely and remote.
There has also been an abundance of berries. Blueberries, huckleberries, raspberries, thimbleberries, salmonberries.
There are a ton of people at this campsite tonight. They are loud. But they gave us chocolate. Let’s all go to sleep.
Today was cooler, overall, than the last week or so. We had a breeze most of the day and spent three hours at the Granite Peaks ski lodge at Stevens Pass, so that helped.
We got to Stevens Pass around 2 p.m. after 19 miles of up and down and up and down. Nothing long, but constant elevation change. We were whistled at by marmots warning their clans against the smelly hikers. And we watched as the signs of humans (day hikers, electric lines, dirt roads) got more and more frequent as we neared Route 2.
Our box was waiting for us at the lodge, we reorganized for the next (and longest) stretch in Washington, and had a large meal at the restaurant.
My feet have been better since the zero, but not totally conditioned to the strains of hiking. The two 25-mile days meant sore feet after the first 15 miles or so each day. Better than before, but it could still use some improvement.
The break today was great for my feet. Even with a pack heavy with 4 days of food, my feet felt fine for the last 2.4 miles back into the woods.
The bugs have been breeding prolifically with the abundance of water in the valleys and the considerable, unseasonable heat.
It’s hard to say what the weather will be like as we go north. The towns are too small to register on some weather sites. It will either continue to be insanely hot and dry or it will cool off. That’s what I got from comparing three websites. But I probably could have deduced that myself.
They say hikers carry their fears. If you fear storms, you carry heavy rain gear and extra clothes. If you fear running out of water (like Richard) you carry an endless supply of water purification and never have less than a liter of clean water on you at all times.
If you’re like me, you fear running out of food. Without consciously over packing my food, I always seem to carry at least 1,000 calories more than I ever eat.
Last year, that meant my pack going into the sierras was painfully heavy when we tried to pack for 10 days of food.
I think my tendency toward bringing extra food comes from my beginning in endurance exercise. In high school, I started biking long distances, but always with planned stops for food.
Then in college I trained for my first marathon, skipping the parts of the training literature that talk about eating while exercising. The result was a series of annoying bonks, where my energy level hit a wall and I was useless.
It’s something that I still have to work at and probably why I over pack food. Bonking in the backcountry is no good.
For this leg we have 71 miles over nearly three days. I put a lot of thought into how much food I packed because despite the danger of bonking, I am sick of carrying an unnecessarily heavy pack.
I brought only what I honestly think I will eat. Yesterday, I did well. I ate everything I allotted for the day and was quite full after dinner.
Today, I didn’t eat two of the snacks I’d allotted. Still quite full after dinner. We’ll see how tomorrow goes.
Despite the drawing town and showers, I was reluctant to get out of my bed this morning. It was chilly again and I was so sleepy.
The lure eventually took over and we left camp around 7 a.m.
It quickly warmed up and the sweating took over. It didn’t feel much warmer than recent days, but I was certainly sweating more. As we climbed another steep hill, I felt it dripping down my sides. Blech.
We passed the lovely Silver Lake and marveled at how clear the water was.
Then came another climb and a slow descent to Snoqualmie Pass. As is usual for the PCT, the trail brings you out of the woods above your destination so you can see it and start salivating. Then the trail takes you way far away from your target and winds around the woods a bit more before letting you out somewhere down the road from your goal.
The heat and the pain from my feet made this process seem all the more cruel. Regardless, we made it to the food truck (aka salvation).
Set one: eat. Step two: get resupply box. Step three: shower. Step four: laundry. Results: human.
It was another hot day. Even by 8 a.m., the sweating was underway. We we through water quickly but only came upon sources intermittently.
The top of Mt. Rainier was visible multiple times. After every long, steep climb we were able to see it peek over a ridge.
Near midday we found a cooler full of water and juice for hikers. Trail magic!
My feet didn’t start to bother me until after 10 miles or so. And it only got really bad after 20 miles. It’s a slight improvement and I’ll take it!
Richard’s blisters are not any better or worse, he says.
Although it’s very hot, we are both grateful that it’s not raining. Washington is supposed to be very rainy when most PCT hikers are coming through. We have only had a day of rain thus far. We’ll see how long our luck will hold.