Day: Friday, 23rd September 2016
Miles: 2408.9 – 2437.3
Delate Creek 2408.9 – Dry Creekbed Remote Site 2437.3
Waking at 7AM after the most glorious nights sleep (on a mattress of pine needles) was certainly a good way to start the day. The realization that it was already raining however did not exactly add to this mornings positive vibes. I was on my own, and I was not quite sure where everyone else was (likely ahead, but potentially behind), and that coupled with the rain certainly put me a few steps backwards in the mental department as I decamped. The nice sheltered spot I camped in was bone-dry however and that eased me into the dribbling attempts at rain outside my camp. As I started walking I just hoped it would stay dribbling and not become a repeat of a few days ago. Literally inside a short distance I entered a large burn zone, something I had not seen in over a week. Theres something about burn zones that really is sad. The withered tree-limbs and incinerated soil, within eyeshot of verdant green slopes was quite jarring.
The dribbling morning rain eventually began something more persistent if not a convincing set of rain showers, and I continued hiking throughout the morning enjoying the blowing mist amongst the hills, as well as the occasional puddle jump. There appeared to be an enormous amount of trails in this area, cross-cutting the PCT in every direction. At one point the trail followed a large river, and included a pretty meaty river crossing over the Waptus River, where a stock alternate was in place for the PCT.
Eventually the rains subsided into a light drizzle, but the rain was replaced with a cold wind which certainly did provide a good chill. A reminder that Im on the wrong side of summer and still heading northwards.
Around noon, the rain started again, and along with the wind provided reasonably uncomfortable conditions for hiking. At one point I really felt the chills (my hands were shivering), and decided to don some extra layers. As simple as rain and a cold breeze may sound, Im not sure I was prepared for exactly how cold and wet I had become during the mornings hike. When I decided to stop and relayer, I realized that I was literally freezing cold right to the core. Not just a winter chill, but something was not right. I began to realize that I was not just freezing cold, but I was damp to the core (perspiration inside my gear) and finding it difficult to coherently open my bag to get more layers. Its a difficult to describe feeling, but I suspect that when the words exposure are used, in describing the physicality’s of a temperature induced emergency, that I likely was not in a good place at that time. I struggled with the simplest of tasks, and spent a considerable amount of time attempting to open my bag. I was shivering and barely able to take off my jacket to relayer, never mind put on more layers. It took me almost 30 minutes of incoherence and barely working hands, to try and take off my wet top layer and redress. I was coherent enough to realize that I needed to do something about the situation, and sat beneath a sheltered tree for a time in a tiny dry spot, boiling some water for tea. Im really still not sure to this day what actually happened at the moment, but from start to finish it likely took around 2 hours from feeling a chill to the core, through to feeling warm and coherent enough to continue. I certainly got a fright, as on a personal level, I have always felt very independent and capable of handling conditions appropriately, yet today I was completely caught out. As I ventured further I was very aware of the conditions and the fact that Im not an expert in dealing with this area of the country, never mind my perceived ability to deal with cold and rain having grown up in Ireland. It was a useful learning experience, i.e. be aware at all times that conditions change, and you need to be appropriately attired.
As the trail dropped into a series of valleys, the fall color was ever more apparent. At one point I met a southbound hiker named Serenity, and we sat together for a break for an enjoyable chat in the dripping rain. She had a little platypus wetbag of tequila, and we shared a sip for the trails sake(!), enjoying a brief moment with a new friend before continuing on our respective north and southbound journeys! Around that time I also finally met the rest of the trail crew, including Outro, Six and Meerkat as well as Budd and Fret. It seems they were the crew back at the waterfall, and I had managed to miss them!
Hiking further into the mountains and occasional glimpses of beautiful snow capped peaks occasionally revealed themselves. The Cascades are magnificent in any weather.
Finally reaching a flat meadow with a large lake, the larger trail crew decided to camp for the night, however I had a schedule to keep to, namely meeting my cousins at lunchtime tomorrow in Stevens Pass, so I elected to continue further, and as the skies finally cleared, I hiked towards a monumental peak (Cathedral Peak I believe) to the north, which the PCT would cut around before dropping to the valley on the far side. My plan was to aim for a dry creekbed camp site on the far side. Morale was high and with my layering correctly (and lessons learned) from earlier, I was enjoying another evenings hiking.
Finally reaching the creek bed after dark, I put down camp under the gaze of a curious field mouse. Eager not to let him get at any of my food, I made sure to stash everything properly tonight. I’ve been lucky to avoid the critters up to now, and would like to continue! After a little adventure trying to find water way up the creek bed, I finally settled into bed quite late, exhausted, but most importantly warm!