White Pass to Stevens Pass
Mile 2292 – Mile 2461
William O Douglas Wilderness
Somewhere just north of White Pass I made the mistake of allowing myself to contemplate ‘what’s left’ versus ‘what’s next’. I had just about 350 miles remaining to reach Canada and considering all the miles that lay behind, the finish line appeared deceptively close. Faced with hundreds of miles through the mountains of Washington however, reality intruded and mental fatigue threatened to undermine my forward progress.
Rain the first night out of White Pass reminded me of where I was and did little to lighten my mood. The next morning I stuffed my sodden tent into my pack and spent the first few miles warming numb fingers. Moist clouds boiled over Chinook Pass as I made my way through wet underbrush that seemed to ensure that I would not dry out any time soon. Lucky for me, the sun made a partial appearance around lunchtime and I hastily decorated a meadow with all my soaked belongings.
Trail crossing at Chinook Pass
Norse Peak Fire walk
Gray overcast reasserted its dominance for the remainder of the day as I walked through the devastation of last year’s Norse Peak Fire. Many downed trees created a gloomy obstacle course through blackened forest and I had to surrender to an ashy slog. “Just do the next thing” I coached myself through the long afternoon until I arrived at the Mike Urich cabin.
Wet clouds and beautiful country
A sylvan oasis
Built and maintained by a snowmobile club, the well appointed cabin is open to public use. When I arrived, two other northbound hikers, BooBooBoy and Indie, informed me that they had met someone down by Chinook Pass asking about me. I could not imagine who that might have been but have since discovered my friend Chris tried to surprise me on trail. We must have missed each other by minutes and he surely walked past my hidden camp. Too stealthy for my own good, I had pitched my tent over a rise less than 25 yards off trail.
An unexpected party- Denise, Jeff, Karen, Gary, Lisa, and Cliff
Keeping my thoughts trained on just the day ahead, I continued my way north toward Snoqualmie Pass. I had told my sister and resupply angel extraordinaire, Lisa, that I expected to be there around noon on Sunday. She ran with that information and instigated a surprise welcome party for me in the trailhead parking lot. Joined by her friend Gary, my sister Karen, her husband Jeff, my cousin Denise and her husband Cliff, I soaked up all the goodness of the unexpected gathering. Fresh cherries, blueberries, doughnuts, beer, burger, fries, and fellowship renewed me.
High Cascade ridge
Always too soon, I said my goodbyes and headed back into the woods though this time I knew what the next 70 miles held in store. If the PCT were a cinnamon roll and I could only recommend one bite, the delicious, perfect center would be Washington Section J between Snoqualmie Pass and Stevens Pass. I hiked this section for the first time last August with my brother Dave and three of his sons. By no means an easy trek, consistent effort reaped the extraordinary rewards of abundant jagged peaks, crystalline lakes, alpine meadows, and sparkling creeks.
Alpine Lakes Wilderness
My swimming hole
I enjoyed returning to the places I discovered last year especially a small unnamed lake that became my favorite swimming hole. After a long arduous climb, this seemingly undiscovered gem hides off the end of a switchback.I suspect most folks just walk on by oblivious of the magical tarn waiting just off the trail. I took full advantage.
Sunrise below Trap Pass
After conquering some of the steepest grades encountered anywhere on the PCT, I coasted down into Stevens Pass ski resort mid morning. I waved to my brother who had been tracking my progress and was watching the resort’s webcam wishing he could share a celebratory pint with me. Here again, my sister Lisa showed up but this time she brought extra special guests!
The best trail angels ever
Easton and Anne, my niece and nephew who formed the core of my resupply crew encouraging me from the outset, ran onto the patio and gave me big hugs despite my grubby appearance. They brought more fresh cherries that disappeared quickly and we drove down the hill together to lunch in Skykomish. It was milkshakes around for Team BearPaw along with other tasty treats. I could not have done the trail without them and promised to come visit them soon in their new Colorado home place.
To go far, go together
In contrast to the outpouring of love and support I have received, only one discouraging word have I heard. All the way back on Day 2, soon after I had proclaimed my intention to again attempt a northbound thru hike, I awoke to a new comment awaiting approval on my blog. Courageous in his anonymity, an aptly named troll offered this: “You will be remembered as the person who failed twice.” I neither responded nor published the comment but have tapped it for motivation on occasion ever since. To that person I now offer this bit of insight gleaned from my trail experience:
Declare yourself in the world and live into the power of your word.
As for me, I am ripe, ready, and clinging tenaciously to the long vine connecting me back to the Mexican border. Hang on little tomato!