Day: Saturday, 1st October 2016
Miles: 2580.6 – 2606.9 (26)
Six Mile Campsite 2580.6 – Brush Creek 2606.9
What can I say. My notes for today are brief. Today was not a day for words. It was a day for views. It started inauspiciously given the damp and wet morning. Thankfully the light rain overnight had passed, and is was mostly a cloudy cold day where you’d probably avoid doing much in the outdoors if you had a choice. Our enthusiasm for the day roughly paralleled the colors in the sky, in terms of liveliness. That is to say it was a slow and long haul up to Rainy Pass, and it seemed like the area would live up to its reputation. The forest was pretty, and a number of clear rushing creeks crossed our paths over the initial haul. We were going to meet Heidi at the pass, a friend of Breakaways, who would accompany us for a day or so northbound. Personally I was also excited to reach Rainy Pass, the last major road crossing on the Pacific Crest Trail, and a route I drove all the way back in 2003 with friends.
The trail was busy in this area, as its a Saturday and relatively accessible in the summer months from Seattle and the populous areas far to the west. I was particularly intrigued by a border collie which I met, clad in a pretty awesome looking pack!
Finally reaching the trail head, and the road was all but empty, with signs directing to the trailhead car park a ways to the north.
Unexpectedly Heidi had laid out a wonderful little buffet of trail magic, with some great Washington cheese, bread and preserves, gathered in her ride over from the Olympic Peninsula.
As we munched on the spoils of this unexpected bounty, a car arrived with our old friend Outro! Outro had been a half day ahead, but agreed with her trail crew to hitch down to the nearest liquor store to buy some celebratory drinks for their arrival into Canada! She was slack-packing to the eye, but had a huge haul of clinking bottles to get up to Cutthroat Pass to the rest of the crew. It was a pretty funny sight, and true to form, Outro left us all behind with her incredible pace, stamina and enthusiasm as always, one of the absolute best people whom I have had the good fortune to meet on the trail.
The ascent to Cutthroat Pass was beautiful The gradual pace gave expansive views to the amazing wilderness around us, and thankfully the clouds by now were dispersing, with patches of blue skies and run helping to match the magnificent colors of the mountains around us. Oddly, in the sunshine we experienced some occasional snow flurries, as the Autumn tried its best to push the sunshine away!
In the ascent we were also treated to some nice creeks and stopped for a break by a pleasant cold and delicious creek that flowed across the trail. I’ll never tire of this great tasting water in Washington, no feed troughs any more!
Reaching the pass, and the tees began to dissipate into a bunch of straggling golden patches, attempting to survive in the harsh changing seasonal climate up here.
Looking back, and the trees radiated with an incredible glow, the red carpet on the valley matching up like the work of a great interior designer had worked their palette on the landscape.
Beyond Cutthroat Pass, and the entire range ahead was visible, with more and more colors that simply drew your eye from the trail. I must have lost my step and tripped along this section more times than when were in the Sierra (thats a LOT)!
The trail from Cutthroat Pass to Methow Pass gives enormous views along a sweeping valley to a series of magnificent peaks ahead. Again, as I love with the Pacific Crest Trail, you could make out the thin line of the trail miles ahead and into the distance. At one point, that also gave a preview that one side of the valley was disappearing into cloud, whilst the other was emblazoned in magnificent sunshine.
The intermittent changing of the clouds from cloud to sun had the effect of swapping entire seasons within the space of minutes. I was dropping layers due to the heat, only to put them back on with a rain layer after a shower and flurries swept in moments later. It was magnificent in its ferocity, giving pause, due to its rapidity. We have all been warned about the weather up here. Its ability to change, its ability to catch you unaware.
As if by some huge victory, in the fight of light versus dark, and the pleasant afternoon chasing the sun all came to an end, with the approach of an enormous cloud from the South. This came with intermittent flurries of snow. A cold wind cut through to my bones and with a final change of clothes, it was as if Winter had arrived. The sun was in retreat, like some army, the blue skies disappeared to the distance.
Passing Methow Pass, and after a series of switchbacks with flurries that became persistent enough to turn the trail white, I hit one of the final major mile markers. I was at 2600 miles, with just 50 miles to go. My sheep was still with me, my favorite hikers were just ahead and just behind. The views, the weather. Everything really felt just right at that moment in time. I was happy, I was sad, but I was feeling accomplishment for the first time. I can do this!
Beyond the 2600 mile marker, and the trail again descended further. It followed a long and continuous level for a considerable distance alongside the obscured Methow River. I met some other hikers I knew along the way, and enjoyed the passing of the flurries. The evening was cool but clear and camp was just ahead by the time I pulled my last water refill from a seep close to the trail.
Our plan for the evening, was to hike as far as Brush Creek. As I approached the camp, a huge fire was roaring in a camp just above the creek crossing. In the darkness I found FlyBy, Heidi and Breakaway, and made a camp in an impossibly tight space beneath some large trees. The night was clear by now. Huge silhouettes of the massive peaks around us framing a bright light to the west. Hopefully the sun can ward off the winter for just another few days!