Category Archives: PCT

8/15 Mile 2568-2573

Got up at 5 AM this morning when I heard Endless and QB rustling.   We don’t have much mileage today, so I lounge in my tent for 30 minutes making some coffee and oatmeal.  I get packed up at 6 and we all leave together.  
Last Night’s Campsite
Virtually all PCT hikers use the GutHook app to navigate the trail.  One of the neat features in the app is the ability to put comments in at various waypoints like streams and tent sites.  Useful things like “Nice flat spot to the left of trail” or “seasonal stream is flowing well”.  Well in my boredom over the last 6 weeks I have been rating every tent site a score of 1 to 10 based on the quality of my stay.  I call it the Salty Scale, a scientifically precise methodology encompassing all the important factors in rating your stay.   
While we are walking, QB mentions that there was another of those Washington style pit toilets outside our camp.   I explain the Salty scale to her and she agrees to be a guest rater.  She feels that since the camp was next to a nice creek and the shitter had a nice private view of the water.   After I probe with a few other questions, she assigns the site a Salty 7.   
Couple hours of easy hiking and we hit the so called “High Bridge” over the Agnes.   
Endless and QB

Just over the bridge is the shuttle stop and ranger station.  Stehekin is a weird place.  Look it up on a map sometime.   Stehekin is on the north end of lake Chelan, a 60 mile long natural lake that ends at a small town called Chelan on the southeastern tip.  Stehekin is in the middle of a National Recreational area.   The only way in is either a 4 hour ferry ride or walking in on a trail.   There are a bunch of vacation homes here and the community has a small school. 
There is a host at the Ranger station to answer our questions.   Only problem is, he doesn’t have many answers.   I ask about Stehekin Valley Ranch and their legendary cabins and 3 meals a day.  He’s never eaten there.  Someone else asks about the produce farm, he doesn’t know much about that either.  Seems our host only knows about places that are government owned and operated.  
Anyway, the shuttle shows up on time and drops a stream of fresh smelling day hikers.  We are greeted by a grumpy bus driver and climb aboard with 5 or 6 other PCTers.   We drive over a bumpy dirt road for 10 miles, then get on (the only) paved road and stop at the bakery.   This place is privately run and serves a cornucopia of Danishes, pies, croissants, cinnamon rolls, and the like.   Endless, QB, and I enter a feeding frenzy.  I buy a ham and cheese, croissant, a Danish, OJ, and large latte.  Endless and QB load up as well.  Endless is laughing that he froze up at the counter and couldn’t order.  Too many options. 

We skip the bus ride to town and instead just walk the remaining 2 miles.   Nice to stroll along the lake shore.    
Last Call for Gumballs

About a half-mile before town we see this cool little wooden boat.  Endless is into sailing and bought a wooden one long ago to restore, but never got around to it.   His brother is a sailor and lives on some island off the coast of Maine (I think).   Anyway, Endless is interested and he stops to take a swim.   Me, not interested.   The water is cold.  I carry on to walk into town. 

After a few inquiries, I find the PCT camp site on top of the hill and head there.   Along the way I bask in the glory of a brand new, government issued bathroom at the welcome center.  It is, well, wonderful.  When I finally get to the camp site, Endless and QB are there setting up.   I put my tent up and head back to village to grab second breakfast/lunch.  While I’m there a ferry pulls up and off-loads a 100 visitors.  Seems there are 2 or 3 which are doing runs all day.  
I talk to a few locals and get a flavor for the Stehekin story. 
Living in the West, I know places like this have a colored history.   Usually it starts with homesteaders taking up residence, killing a bunch of Native Americans, and scratching out a living.   It usually ends with the government taking over all the unclaimed land then squeezing out the homesteaders one way or another.   
Stehekin is in the middle of squeezing phase.  When a home comes up for sale, the gov buys it and either turns it into a cabin rental or tears it down.  Of course, being the government, the cabins retain their “historic nature” which means they slowly decay under coats of “Forest Service Brown” paint.  The gov owned store sucks, the gov owned restaurant serves generic  over-priced burgers, and some of the empty ex-commercial buildings are slowly decaying into “historic” structures.   
Anyway, the place is beautiful, I hear the fishing is good, and I’d definitely put it on my list of places to return to some day. 
More hikers come in and begin filling up the PCTer site.  Couple of young gals I crossed on the trail show up and we get to know each other.  Bugeye and Short Stop.  They are doing Washington northbound, so almost done.   Bugeye is a teacher in Seattle, Short Stop is an Alaskan nurse who grew up on fishing boats.   Dog Bite shows up and reminds everyone his birthday is tomorrow.  
In the evening we all sit around and talk about completing the hike.  What does it mean?   What is everyone doing next?  How to rejoin mainstream society.   Interesting stuff, but like hiking, the answers must come from within.   The circle of folks is next to my tent and keeps expanding as darkness falls.  I lay down and keep the doors opened listening to the steady trickle of funny stories, side conversations, jokes, etc.  Today is Sunday.  Tomorrow the Post Office will open, folks will resupply, and take off.   This is the last time I’ll be in a thru-hiker circle like this.  I just want to savor it.  I slowly drift off to the sound of laughter. 

8/12 Mile 2494-2519

Today I rolled out of the tent early, determined not to repeat my late start yesterday.  At least get out by 7.   Strapped up I said a few words to some local backpackers when I saw a guy approaching with his pack on.  Since I’m ready to get on the trail, I need to assess whether to let him pass or take off ahead of him.  
Did my usual thru-hiker assessment of this young man.   Tall, in good shape, color coordinated expensive outdoor clothing.  His pack is an expensive ultra-light brand, grossly over packed.  He smells like a bouquet of flowers.  Conclusion: A daisy…. Me first.
I cut him off on the the trail intersection, say something like “good morning” and never see him again.   I sometimes talk to other thru-hikers about these encounters.   Most of us do the same thing in one way or another.   Usually only takes a glance to identify a thru-hiker.   If you are still not sure then take a sniff. 

A few miles North of Lake Sally I ran into a big trail maintenance crew.   About a dozen kids around 20 years old or less.   They were all hanging out next to the trail clowning around and playing grab-ass.   The funny thing is about 20 minute later I met this gal about my age working on a ledge next to a stream.   She is muscling around a 300 pound rock using a 5 foot metal bar as a lever.   I stop for a few minutes and chat.   I suggest maybe getting a few kids to do this.   “Naw”, she says, “I prefer to work alone.” 
Patches told me last night he was headed to Fire Creek, about 25 miles away.   Sounds good to me.  It is time to ramp up my pace.  

Smoke is back and it is going to be another hot/humid day.   Legs are hiking, miles flowing, bugs are bugging, the earbuds are rocking.   Punk music.   That is the theme for today.  I’m passing a bunch of weekenders in groups going southbound.  This must be a popular section for the fancy Seattle people.
Stopped at 10 and decided to choke down my least favorite Mountain House meal of all time…the dreaded Breakfast Skillet.   

On the surface it seems like a hearty backcountry breakfast.   Hash browns, sausage, eggs, onions, etc.  After rehydrating, the hearty breakfast dream turns into a mash of soupy potato and onion strings with 1/2 inch cubes of partially rehydrated egg product floating on top.   Said another way, imagine having the family over for a big traditional breakfast.   Afterwards, all the plates are scraped into a bowl, add a little dish water, then drop some crunchy scrambled egg cubes on top.   After each bite, I had to pause to suppress a gag reflex. 
The morning was mostly light climbing around 5k altitude.   Lot of meadows and ridge walking here, so the views were pretty good, although truncated by a smoky haze.


Next was a 1k decent into a river valley with 3 sizeable creek crossings.  These are being fed by the glaciers above and have a strong current.   First was a nice bridge, then a busted, but serviceable bridge, and finally…uh…no bridge.    

Log crossing.  No bark, slick, wet from all the water spray.  My kryptonite.   I wish someone was there to video my terror.   First I tried to take a couple steps out to test my balance, then instead of focusing on the log, I look at the churning water and start to lose my balance.   I take a couple steps back to my starting point with my heart racing.   Next I try sitting on the log and sliding, but my feet are dangling too low and will get pulled by the water.   I stand back on up on the rocks and think about it.   Somewhere between, “There must be a better way” and “Get it over with”, I find myself rapidly walking across this log to the other side.  I live to fight another day.
The rest of the day is spent climbing over gigantic fallen trees, crashing through overgrown and washed out trail, stumbling over roots and rocks I cannot see, and several more tricky creek crossings.
That’s a Big’un
Didn’t take many pics in the afternoon, since all you’d see is some plant hitting me in the face.  Made it across Fire Creek around 8:00 with dry feet.   Major was here with his buddy Raccoon.  Raccoon likes to be tidy, washing all his hiking clothes at every stop.  He is busy doing his routine.   We chatted for a bit about how shitty the trail was today and our log crossing terror stories.  The guys tell me that Patches stopped a few miles back, so he’s not showing today. 
View from my Tent
I find out that another tent on the hill contains Dog Bite.  I head up there and have a short chat with him.   He’s pretty happy to see me.   Tells me he is staying a couple days at Stehekin for his 65th birthday.   I figure we will be lapping each other tomorrow.  
Got my 25 miler in today. 

8/11 Mile 2475-2494

The other guys took off early this morning.  I got a late start of 8AM.   With the goal today of ~20 miles there is no need to rush.  Snapped a pic of the site before I left. 
Camp Site at Lake Janus
Although today is a low mileage day, there is going to be a ton of climbs and descents.   5k total.  The sky was clear and there were plenty of open areas to take in the view of nearby mountains. 



This morning I rediscovered why I should get up earlier in the morning.   It was 80+ degrees by 10:00 which normally would not be a problem.  100% humidity is.  I was covered in sweat regardless of how much I dialed back my pace.   Just one of those days.   By mid-day I had a nice outline of salt forming on my shirt that followed the straps of my pack.   The Salty hat was also earning another growth ring.
Spent most of the late morning / early afternoon trying to find a lunch spot that met my criteria: No bugs and shade.   Spent a couple hours finding one.  Finally I crossed some scree and found a hole to crawl into beneath a big bolder.  Got to take what I can get.
Seating for One
Lunch View
Made it to Lake Sally Ann around 6. 
Hello, Sally
There are hikers all around here.  Couple of nice ladies were setup right next to the lake and all spread out for a long stay.     Found Major setup in a nice single spot looking all comfortable.  He just got back from a swim in the lake.   Patches had arrived a few minutes before and setup on the North side.   I found my spot near him and setup.   
It turns out that the good state of Washington has dug a nice pit toilet here and put a wooden box on top with a lid.   I give it a try.   While taking care of my business I had a 180 view of the valley and the trail leading up.   Saw a couple hikers on their way up.   They got a nice view of me on the toilet.   Everybody wins. 
Since I got into camp a little earlier than usual, I decided to do something with my collection of huckleberries stored in an empty Gatorade bottle.  I boiled up half-liter of water, dropped my berries in there, then furiously poked and smashed them all up with a spork.   After a couple more reheats and stirs, poured the mash back into my Gatorade bottle.   Yum.   If I had a sugar packet or two this mix would be over-the-top delicious. 
Got to sleep early.  Sally treats her guests well.  

August 10, Mile 2465-2475

Spent most of the morning uploading my blog updates.   The WiFi at this hotel is not that great.   I hear it only gets worse as I push further North.   Walked down to the highway and caught a hitch without much trouble. 
The gal giving me a ride just graduated from college and will be working for Google in about a month.   She was hiking the Washington PCT section when she got a foot  injury.   She is now doing supply runs for friends while recovering.   When we arrived at Steven’s Pass her car got swarmed by 3 hikers looking for a ride.   One of them was my buddy McGriddle who I last saw at the Washington Alpine hostel.   Somehow 3 stinky hikers + their packs squished into her old Corolla and she drove off.
Back on the Trail
First hour or two on the trail after a town is usually pleasant.   The trail is wide and well maintained.   After walking a bit, my biting fly friends showed up.   Always nice to see old friends. 

Not a whole lot of views.   Just kind of stuck in the forest.  I figured I could get 10 in today and decided to check out the camp sites at Janus Lake.  There were a bunch of sites around the here.   At the first one, I saw a couple tents and went in to say hello.   Turns out one of them contains my buddy Patches !    He and a hiker named Major are camping here tonight.  
Lake Valhalla
Patches is apparently made of tougher stuff than me.   He was a couple days behind me at Stevens Pass.  He hiked through all the rain and kept going through Stevens Pass without taking a town break.   Patches is a little bummed about all the elevation changes.   He says is pace has been much slower.    I totally agree.   Washington is not going to make the last miles easy. 
We catch up on some folks we both know while picking huckleberries..   Patches thinks Dog Bite is eather slightly ahead or slightly behind us.   Niko was in Skykomish the same time I was, but must have been camping and I never saw him.  We agree to aim for Lake Sally Ann tomorrow. 
While we were chatting some lady shows up.   She talks to us from a distance and seems skittish about joining our site.  Patches suggests she head 100ft down a side trail next to us which would give here a huge flat area to herself.  She mumbles something, then sets up her tent in some lumpy grass and surrounded by bushes.   Patches and I are laughing about it later, she is going to wake up to a wet tent and a sore back.  New backpackers are so easy to spot. 
Camp Site my Lake Janus

8/7 2415-2438


Woke up in the morning to this

It is Ugly Out There

And went back to sleep. Slept on/off until 8, really not wanting to go outside. Laying there in my mostly dry warm spot, I was dreading it. The rain was non-stop and seem to be mixed with a little hail. The temp was now 40 degrees and it didn’t look like it was letting up today.

Decided to spend another 30 minutes heating up oatmeal and some spuds. This was going to be my only decent meal today. Got to thinking about my plight. As always, the answer is the same. Get up and start walking.

So I packed everything I could inside the tent, put on everything I had to keep me warm, and slipped on those wonderfully cold and soggy shoes. Jumped out and snapped a pic with my soon to be too-wet-to-use phone.

Bailing Out

By the time my tent was broken down and stowed away, I was freezing my ass off. First thing I did was hike like a madman until I got warmed up. Then things started to look up.

Ran into Workhorse and Chai walking ahead of me. We wound up hiking together for a few hours at a decent pace. Got to learn a bunch of new stuff about them. Wonderful folks. Today they started at 5 AM from the lake and had passed my tent while I was inside feeling sorry for myself.

As the morning wore on, the trail began to turn into a series of little creeks. Some spots were really muddy and full of slick roots. Somewhere along the way Workhorse took a tumble.
We got him up and situated, walked for a bit and he took another tumble. Then another. The tread on his shoes were shot and he was getting no traction. As the day wore on his pace became slower and slower, mixed in with stumbles and occassional falls. I moved to the back and decided to stay there until I felt we were in a safer spot.

I have to give that guy a ton of credit. He was cold and hurting, but just kept plugging away. Eventually the pace got so slow that I felt like I was barely moving. I felt like I might be spooking him a little so I stopped and harvested huckleberries at various intervals. During one of those intervals I ran into my favorite cousins Papa and John. Those guys just crack me up. Always showing up when I’m in a huckleberry bush.


We catch up for a bit and they go ahead of me. I hang with Workhorse and Chai until we get into better weather and within 3 miles of the end. We are now in the ski resort area and the trail just switchbacks down. They decide to take a long, much needed break. I hang for a bit, but I can feel the shivers coming on. They are dressed a little better than me for the weather. They encourage me to take off and I do, practically running up the hill to get warm.

The last miles end without much incident. I’m getting signal on my phone and out of the blue a facetime call from my uncle. We have a nice chat as the phone gets covered in mist and the camera’s picture gets all fuzzy.

Glad this Segment is Almost Over

I see the buildings for the resort and find a shortcut down. Finally out of most of the rain, I head to the parking lot to sort out where to hitch hike. Some ladies in the parking lot feel sorry for me and give me a bag of fritos and a snickers bar. No room in their car for me.

I munched on the offerings while thumbing a ride along the highway. Just as I finish the snickers bar, a weekend hiker pulls up and offers me a ride. So I got a meal and a ride. The hike ends on a positive note.

Checked into the Cascadia Inn at Skykomish. Had some beer, ate a big fired chicken dinner, hung out with the cousins and two of their relatives who came to visit. I’m drying out and feeling much happier.