Day: Thursday, 29th September 2016
Miles: 2532.7 – 2564.2
Milk Creek Remote Site 2532.7 – Remote Site 2564.2
Hikers are creatures of routine, and this morning was no different. Early starts, oatmeal breakfasts, coffee brewing. Hitting the trail with all of the intent and automated motions of a mundane commute. In fact, this place is anything but mundane, but perhaps with time we’ve taken it a little for granted. The sounds of rushing waters. The cool crisp air. The views stretching to distant peaks on the horizon. Soon, these moments will just be memories. I think a certain sadness has joined my excitement in nearing Canada. The transient moments of life sometimes simply cannot be savored enough. The photographs I take, pale imitations of the moments they try to capture. But then, why be sad. When theres a full day ahead. Adventures, risks, new places, new things. Who knows!
I set off with FlyBy and Breakaway, who instantly set a fast pace as the trail descended towards the major bridge crossing at the Suiattle River. The trail was close to the river for the entire morning, and a booming ambient sound of crashing water was a constant. I slowed as the enormous grove of trees that was promised came into view just before thre crossing. These are some of the biggest trees we’ve seen on the entire trail, somehow protected in this hidden valley. Too remote to log, too beautiful not to stop and admire for a while. The trail was certainly remote, a 35 mile walk to the nearest trailhead, by the remote village of Stehekin which itself is cut off from the world except for seaplanes and a boat that plys Lake Chelan.
After crossing the huge, debris strewn river, the sunnier side of the east bank afforded a pleasant soft and fern-covered area, the filter light streaming in and illuminating vivid greens here and there in the forest floor.
A number of small creeks cut across the trail and in a few cases, some pretty log bridges similar to Kennedy Creek’s ‘broken bridge’, had been erected.
The trail began a long and steady ascent to one last major ridge for today, close to Cloudy Pass. Most of the day was spent in this ascent, the initial sheltered and heavily forested section giving way to a series of more exposed areas with views ahead. Sadly only a few vistas afforded us a direct view across to Glacier Peak to the South. I spent most of the day leap frogging Breakaway and FlyBy, before eventually they jumped ahead of me when I decided to take lunch. By the time I finally reached the high-point for the day, the clouds had moved in, and a series of distant showers looked like they might finally anoint us. Thankfully however we threaded a needle between them, and stayed dry.
The views of distant peaks contained many hints of Autumns advance. Golden trees poked out of the evergreen stands in a magnificent explosion of color.
Later in the evening, and we finally crossed one of our last milestones, with just 100-miles to Canada. It seems like such a long long time since I excitedly took a picture at 100 miles from Mexico!
As we set off down the enormous sweeping valley ahead, all focus turned to Stehekin, our next and last resupply point. We decided on a plan to hike the last few miles tomorrow morning, and not spend too much time pushing to the end tonight. That would put us in the range of a number of potential camps on the far side of a large river crossing.
The clouds continued to swirl with intermittent periods of sun and cloud. Small, delicate and wispy veils of rain full on the far side of the valley, providing a pleasant spectacle for the descent.
Once again, the abundant reds and fall colors added to the lighter hues in the sky as the sun began to set. The valley ahead was almost too perfect to believe – gently sweeping to the north and our destination tomorrow, of the High Bridge bus stop.
Eventually arriving to the river crossing, and it was indeed far larger than I expected. As I took off my shoes and socks, some of the other hikers tried to use a large branch to avoid a dunk, with limited success (and a wet pack). I later found out there was a larger log further downstream that most people had used, oh well.
As the sun set, the trail became deeply immersed in a thick forest stand. This all but obscured what little light was filtering through, and so it was an evening of night hiking in pitch darkness! I hiked onwards until I found Breakaway at a camp spot a few miles short of High Bridge. After some time wasting over where to put my tent, I cooked up some dinner and we spent a while conversing over our plan for tomorrow. Resupply day!
The camp was in close proximity to the large river that resided in this enormous glacial valley, and so we spent the night once again to the sounds of rushing waters. One of those simple pleasures.