Day: Saturday, 17th September 2016
Miles: 2282.2 – 2292.4 (10)
Remote Camp 2253.2 – White Pass 2292.4
Its a depressing anecdote that ‘all good things must come to an end’, but as I listened to the pitter patter of rain on my tent this morning I couldn’t help but feel that I was paying a worthy price for the beauty and incredible solitary experience I enjoyed on the Goat Rocks yesterday. I was loathe to leave my tent and spent a not inconsiderable amount of time staring at the streams of water that were running beneath my tent into the soggy dry pond-bed that I had camped beside. I heard footsteps passing, just out of view. It was undoubtedly someone I knew based on the hikers I knew that were behind me, yet I was somehow still enjoying the solitude of my morning and was not in a mental position to face the rain or put on a brave face to my fellow kin today. My breakfast was a slowly savored double portion of warm oats and the joy of a Starbucks Via. Eventually the inevitable had to happen. I needed to shift my ass as nobody was going to do it for me. It was a short distance to White Pass and I was already mentally creating far more drama than the morning warranted!
It was an interesting morning, walking amongst the heavily wooded area. It has rained all night and large pools of water existed throughout the needle strewn ground, but it was sheltered and enjoyable for the initial few miles. The terrain was varied and eventually rose to a low pass or shoulder where Guthooks app informed me there was a view of Mt.Rainier, or in my case, a wall of thick clouds! The colors on the landscape were clearly showing the strains of the season in this weather, with dull ambers and burnt oranges throughout.
Eventually rising to one of the highest points of the day, the wind began to rise to an incredible bracing gale, with the rain effectively blowing sideways. One of those moments where I had to remind myself why I was in this endeavor in the first place (read: Im a wimp and have been spoiled by the weather thus far). My new rain jacket was holding up pretty well however, and along with my rain pants, everything was dry for the most part. After passing the high-point, the trail followed an impressive area of scree/broken tallus for an extended period, the howling wind adding some drama to the mornings wander.
The fog and rain was intense, with visibility down to a few hundred feet and a howling gale that would easily send a hiker to a problematic downfall with an errant misstep. It was beautiful in its own way, if only because knowledge of salvation was close. I had not planned to stop in Packwood, WA except for a small resupply stop, but given this waind and rainfall, I was increasingly liking the idea of calling it a night here (on safety grounds of course!).
Descending from the higher points, and the wind thankfully subsided, however the intense rainfall was by now turning the entire trail into a flowing river. It was impossible to find any foot-fall that did not involve a 3 inch pool plunge, but before long that just became part of the fun of it. Splish-splash, splodge-splidge…
I rounded a corner at one point, only to meet two local girls coming against me with a purpose in their stride and a very excited pit bull obviously loving the rainy mornings walk. Obviously these Washingtonians are made of stern stuff, to willing head out on the PCT in this rain for a day-hike!
I finally began to see some trail signs and evidence that I had reached the inbounds of White Pass Ski Resort. I definitely started to walk a bit faster upon hearing the road – shelter is ahead I thought! I finally reached the carpark at the trailhead, only to realize that the gas station at White Pass is still a half mile march up the highway to the west. I hit the road with a steady pace. After a short time I became aware of movement underfoot, and realized that the rain had seemingly provided the signal to the local frog population that it was time to join me and go for a walk. Thousands of tiny frogs covered the roadway crossing from one side of the highway to the other in a steady and cordial interchange of froggy comrades. It seemed like all the frogs north of the highway decided to head south, with the southerners doing the exact opposite and heading north. It was a funny spectacle if not for the busy highway ensuring that at least some of these amorous froggies would not make it home after their day out. The roadway was a thick moving river of water, and to be honest, it was truly miserable.
Arriving to White Pass, and there was a line of backpacks along the sidewall of the gas station. I had caught up to my people! Upon entering the gas station there was a host of familiar faces, from Shrocket and Blue, to Second Breakfast and a bunch of others. Everyone was trying to get a ride to Packwood, a few miles ton the west with little joy, so I sat in to dry off and enjoy a hot cup of coffee. After some wheeler-dealing we managed to corral a ride from a local lady who ran an unofficial taxi. We’d be fetched in 30minutes and would join the rest of the crew at one of the motels in town. Plans were coming together! After a quick ride with the nice local lady (who was paid handsomely for her troubles), I was in the metropolis of Packwood, Washington and checked into a motel only to find even more great faces in the form of Sprinkles, Homegrown, FlyBy and a bunch of others. There was a big possy in town tonight! After a trip to the supermarket for some resupply, we all hunkered down in one motel room with a big pizza order and a lot of ice cream. What better way to celebrate a night in than watching the movie, The Revenant (including the bear scene!). It was a really fun night and so great to catch up with everyone and share our experience of the Goat Rocks!