Day: Thursday 15th September 2016
Miles: 2226.5 – 2253.2 (26.7)
Trout Lake Access Rd Remote Camp 2226.5 – Remote Camp 2253.2
Unexpectedly, there was much movement and noise last night. The road to Trout Lake was actually quite busy, even late at night with trucks zooming up and down a few hundred feet from my head. Add to that some late hikers walking through and making noise, along with some very early risers, and it was nowhere near the peaceful snooze I had back in my volcanic remote camp! There was a nice background noise of water from the river so I certainly did enjoy that as I lay in my quilt unable to escape into the cold morning air.
Given my late night I did decide to allow myself a late morning, but just like any lie-in, it only makes it harder to escape! It was around 8:30AM when I departed camp, my warm oats with the addition of Mary-Janes fig-bar crumbles being a good starter to kick things off. I was a little achy, and decided to pop one of my Ibuprofen’s, just to grease the wheels.
My early miles were contained inside the forest, and just as the views turn inward, I spent a lot of time focusing inward. I specifically began to focus on my end date and hypothesizing about my mileage required to finish before October 1st. It was not a good story to be honest, and I spent the morning preoccupied with the idea that I needed to crank up my mileage or else push out my target end-date. Perhaps this is the project manager in me, but changing the dates was a distasteful idea, but then the concept of rushing the PCT is a disaster in and of itself. It could only lead to regret. After a few miles, that was when I met Hatchet, an old friend from miles-past. Hatchet now had a knee injury, and was walking *back* to Trout Lake to get off the trail. He was clearly hurting, and explained how he had pushed it and become injured before Mt.Hood, now potentially imperiling his completion. I think that meeting Hatchet at this point was a pretty important moment for me, although I did not realize it at the time. As I crunched the numbers, I started to realize that for the cost of 2-3 days delay in finishing, I could give myself a much more relaxed final few weeks, and most importantly of all, likely less chance of injury:
16 days remaining in September (0 zero days)
2650.1 – 2226.5 = 423.6 miles left
I lamented these ideas for a long long time, and gradually decided the obvious. I have no reason other than weather to attempt an early finish. And with no current viable weather forecast showing anything other than hike-able weather, why should I rush to mitigate a risk that cannot be quantified inside two weeks visibility. Decision made. Its time that I enjoyed this hike and quit worrying about nothing.
After some miles in the trees, and with some incredible bird-song from our winged friends going about their business above, the trail eventually left the deep forest and emerged into an absolutely unique burn area. The flanks of Mt.Adams were just ahead to the northeast, and between burned wooden sentinels, glimpses of snowy glacier clad steeps were just ahead with thick grasses and alpine flowers scattered beneath. It was such a difference to the scorched earth of Southern California.
Eventually rising out of the burn area, the trail followed a northerly route just west of Mt.Adams. Every single direction contained some of the most incredible colors and views of anywhere we’ve seen. Today was truly spectacular and I struggled at balancing the need to make up some miles versus just standing and consuming all there was surrounding me.
Finally the trail swept up over a single ridge with views across to Mt.St.Helens, before sweeping around the outside of the ridge, and there it was. Mt.Rainier in all its glory, cloudless, and pristine against the bluest of skies. This was a really wonderful moment. What an incredible blessing it is to be surrounded with such beauty.
As the trail further closed in on Mt.Adams, the views of its enormous central glacier became more and more dramatic. I had never expected Mt.Adams to have such drama and beauty. It was always that distant peak and in the shadow of Mt.Rainier, but it really came into its own, so beautiful, so dramatic, and so incredible.
As if the distant views were not enough, the trail then wound its way through a huge lava flow, with views back to Mt.St.Helens once again.
Coming to a point where the outflow from the glacier intersects the trail, I finally crossed a large and fast flowing brown-colored creek in a debris flow of enormous magnitude. I wonder what this looks like in Spring!
Eventually stopping for a late lunch, I had my luxury lunch burrito of chunky peanut butter, with ChipsAhoy cookies and strawberry jam. Of course Mt.Rainier was just the cream and cherry on top. This was one of those lunch-spots to remember.
Pushing further and I came across the lava spring, a unique and gushing cold water spring that emerged from inside an enormous pile of laval outflow. The river literally comes from a rockface with the coldest cleanest water you’ve ever seen. I had a cold drink of some of the best water on the entire PCT!
The trail then descended to a level wide trail tread that allowed me to advance a few miles very quickly. I passed a few creeks, some clear and some the color of glacial outflow. This area was so interesting, every half mile offered something new and unique. As the day progressed, I crossed a large forest road, and gazed at my shadow as it creeped-long with the setting sun. Mt.Adams was now a surprising distance behind me, and as I looked to my maps I identified a camp a few miles ahead and close to some small lakes that seemed like a good place to aim for the night.
Ascending the next ridge, and we passed some signs for the Yakima Indian Reservation, another interesting boundary on our long walk north.
The sun set quickly, and as I hiked through an area of high meadows with sparsely positioned high evergreen trees, I eventually came to a camper with a fire burning beside a pretty lake close to my target mileage. The sun had long set by now, and it was time to make camp. Chatting with the other hiker, he was SecondBreakfast from Oregon, incidentally the same hiker who was camped beside me last night. I decided to join him, and cooked dinner sharing stories by the fire. It was a crystal clear night and the moon and stars glinted in the lakes a little distance away.
I was entirely unprepared for the raw and incredible beauty of today. But tomorrow we would hike through the famed Goat Rocks, and with some rumors of weather closing in tomorrow evening, we both looked forward to an early start and getting as close to White Pass tomorrow as we could, whilst enjoying the views along the way.
I wrote a journal entry today that resonates as I rewrite this post: “Feeling very much like I’m walking today with my hands open wide”.