Thursday, December 12, 2013

Southbound and Down

Week two started out beautifully. To make up for four days of rain, the Hiking Gods granted me six days of record high temperatures: 90+ for all six days. Here's the view as I left Snoqualmie Pass (note the I-90 in the bottom right)- it's wild that this is only a 45-minute drive from Seattle...

After a 25-mile day during which I traversed clearcut forests (yuck), ran into mushroom pickers (apparently pine mushrooms go for $90/lb!), and passed under high-voltage power lines (the second set of many), I plopped down on a tiny patch of flat ground right off the trail and cooked dinner. One of my staples: Couscous and chicken with a lot of olive oil, salt, and pepper- not too bad really.

The next day I got my first "trail magic"- a mythical experience on the trail. Trail magic is normally provided by "Trail Angels"- generous people who deliver home-baked goods, give lifts, provide beds, and any number of other things thru-hikers crave. In this case, I ran into "Not Phil's Dad"- the father of a previous year's thru-hiker name "Not Phil". Not Phil's Dad drove up from Seattle to Tacoma Pass with a trailer full of soda, hot dogs, homemade chili, and camp chairs and had spent the week cooking and caring for thru-hikers. The first, but definitely not the last, act of incredible kindness I received while hiking (unfortunately I was so overwhelmed with gratitude that I forgot to get a photo- doh!). Feeling refreshed, I continued south through a long dry stretch (15 miles!), watching Mt Rainier slowly getting closer and closer...

I hiked an extra long day (27 miles), so that I could make it to Government Meadows and spend the night in the Ulrich Shelter, a winter shelter for a snowmobile club that graciously leaves it open for PCT hikers. The minor fact of not having to put up or tear down a tent made all the difference.

The next day, Mt Rainier pressed closer and closer and I got my first, distant view of Mt Adams, the next volcano to the south in the chain of volcanoes stretching from central Washington to Northern California. From north to south: Mt Rainier, Mt Adams, Mt St. Helens, Mt. Hood, Mt Jefferson, Mt Thielsen, Mt Shasta, and Mt Lassen, which are spaced such that you can pretty much always see one from the trail. Here's Rainier (top- note the Crystal Mountain Ski Resort in the foreground) and Mt Adams (below), which is the very very faint outline towering above the Goat Rocks in the distance:

I had another special time that night at Sheep Lake. As I cooked dinner, Ignacio and Alejandro asked if they could camp next to me since there weren't many campsites left around the lake. After striking up a conversation, Ignacio, an agricultural engineer from nearby Yakima, and his nephew, visiting from Mexico, generously shared their hot dogs, salsa, tea, and tequila with me, and we chatted the evening away. A special shoutout to Alejandro and Ignacio- two more special people that I met on the trail.

The good times (and good weather) continued the next day as I crossed Chinook Pass, and passed as close I would get to Rainier- less than 10 miles!

I also ran into Tony, who was pretty much the first southbound thru-hiker that I met (compared to 175+ northbound hikers by that time), who I would hike with the for the next day and hang out with while I rested in Packwood. Tony was great conversation- an awesome way to break up some of monotony of hiking alone (even though he was an Oregon fan...). After a night at a scenic (but mosquito-infested) lake, 

we found ourselves in White Pass, WA where I picked up a package of food I had mailed to myself, and where we hitch-hiked 20 miles into Packwood, WA to recover (thank you to the rancher who gave us a lift!!!). One of the first things I noticed in Packwood were the clever, clever elk, who, knowing it was hunting season, decided to hang out in town:

I spent two days in Packwood resting my achilles tendon (which was sore from my boots) and eating all the calories I could get my hands on. Special thanks (yet again) to the pilot who bought my breakfast! Next up was one of the most rugged parts of the trail: The Goat Rocks Wilderness.

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