Day 153 11.08.18 – 20 Miles / 32km
I woke up feeling great on this scenic day. I kept up with group (Pacecar, Groover, Sqeaks and Everest), and even caught up with Four Eyes at the 16km (10mile) mark, which indications just how average she was feeling. Over the last few days she’d had a fever slowly setting in, the early warning signs of a massive flu coming on, similar to the cough that took her off trail for a few days back in Big Bear. We all stopped by a creek to refill water and Four Eyes set up her tent for a nap. We agreed on a camp location and set off, hoping to see her there later. Normally it wouldn’t be an issue, but with the Miriam Fire detour through the Goat Rocks Wilderness the following day we were intentionally staying together. The fire was spreading quickly, we had very basic maps and it was an unmaintained trail. It seemed much safer to stick together.
Squeaks and I stopped for a quick lunch by the lake while the others pushed on. We were making great time and due to get to camp early, stopping as close to the detour as we could since we had no idea about tentsites and water on the upcoming detour trail.
Everyone had spoken about how beautiful the Goat Rocks Wilderness was, though I had no idea what to actually expect. I should have googled it in town, though the surprise was worth it. The terrain around us suddenly shifted to open green meadows, tall exposed rocky peaks and views of distant waterfalls. You could see the next mile or two of trail as it traversed around the mountains and over hills. Thick fog rolled in and neither Squeaks or I were mad about the rain keeping us cool as we climbed while the valley colours popped. Once over Cispus Pass the wind picked up, the rain got heavier and we watched the clouds roll in across the trail. We felt free.
In an unexpected surprise we cross paths with Spiceman and Chatter who I thought were behind me but are now hiking Southbound. Stopping to chat we learn they got a lift up the trail to then walk South back to Cascade Locks for PCT Trail Days. It’s genius, I’m rushing North to catch a lift back to the event with other hikers Glamourpus and Wifey in Duck’s car. It’s exciting to hear who’ll I’ll be seeing at the unofficial trail reunion.
Squeaks and I continue in the rain past waterfalls and to the tentsite we’d agreed to meet Pacecar, Groover and Everest at. On arrival we are greeted by a group of older section hikers who’d set up camp, and even had the foresight to bring a tarp to sit under for the rain. Hearing my accent and asking if I’m River they pass on a message from the others that they are camped half a mile ahead. We chat for a while about the trail experience so far and they listen amazed by our stories and outlook. In the interest of evacuating a sick Four Eyes I ask about their access trails since they clearly didn’t have a big walk in with so much gear. They are parked 3km (2 miles) down a side trail and offer to give Four Eyes a lift back to Seattle to her sister for some rest when she arrives. Squeaks and I continue to camp and hope Four Eyes is close behind. I leave my bandana out by the trail near where we’d set up, taking shelter in a cluster of trees in the otherwise open fields of the Goat Rocks Wilderness. To my joy Four Eyes arrives at 5pm. She was totally run down and will go back to the section hikers in the morning for a lift to Seattle.
In the constant drizzle the three of us freeze in our tents for the afternoon, keeping each other seriously entertained with a case of the giggles that lasted hours. Between unsuccessful attempts of throwing food to each other and discussing in length the risks and benefits of peeing in tent vestibules I think we all came close to wetting ourselves as tears rolled down our cheeks in one of the most entertaining evenings I’d had in a long time.
Day 154 12.08.18 – 18.5 Miles / 30km
Waking up to the sun rise we were amazed to see the fog had lifted giving spectacular views of Mt Adams. I said goodbye to Four Eyes who left to have a break at her sisters place in Seattle, and continued up the trail with Squeaks. It was upsetting having travelled so far together, though we had plans to meet up once I return from a few days off at trail days.
I had officially been on the trail for 5 months now. I spend the morning deep in my head, full of appreciation for this life and experience. The views were amazing, we were well above the clouds with mountains towering over us. We’d just gotten used to the beauty of Mt Adams when we spotted Mt Rainer, which took us totally by surprise since most of our views had been all but ruined by smoke for the last few weeks. We were on top of the world. I think of Seeker who is currently climbing it, and my badass Aunt who has climbed it from both sides in her youth.
Only mildly traumatised from her Sierra experience Squeaks excitedly shrieks as we approach the snowfield ahead “Look! Snow that’s not trying to kill me!” . She then explores off trail and regrets getting stranded on the slippery ice. “I take it back”.
As we slowly inch our way cross the ice Everest catches up to us with his long stride. “Did you get any sleep? I heard you girls laughing all night from up the valley”. Then taking the lead in his new shoes with fresh grip he tries his best to cut steps into the infamous bread knife traverse using his poles as we follow with less grip left on our old shoes. I also use my trek poles to try and stab holes into the ice in attempt to give any traction for my bald shoes to grip to. Everest is again incredibly patient and supportive, ensuring no one rushed to cross the chute and waiting to see everyone across safely.
Just after the traverse we spot Pacecar and Groover who wisely took the high route which looked much safer (dam). We meet at the ridge line and tuck ourselves behind some rocks for a breakfast and coffee break together before taking on the upcoming fire detour. With incredible views, hilarious and caring company and the right balance of challenging but rewarding environments, this has become one of my favourite memories.
Starting on the detour we take the Coyote trial following a ridge line, giving us a unique lookout over the valleys on each side. Spotting the original reroute we can see the new fire that had started the day prior, now glad to have known about it before getting turned around.
Through the steep difficult terrain Pacecar and I hike together, cursing whoever didn’t put in switchbacks, eventually catching up with the others who would wait every hour or so. With no water marked on the map we carried three litres each, and both sighed but felt relief when we crossed a stream and caught sight of a large lake ahead. Stopping for lunch we drink as much as we can and reduce capacity to just a litre. We dry our damp tents in the sun and start talking about the upcoming beer and pizza that afternoon at Whites Pass service station. As an added incentive we find comments on guthooks saying hubdereds firefighters had set up a camp there as well.
Trying to stay optimistic both Pacecar and I grew very tired of the steep uphill and then downhill climbs. We were tired and achy, and not used to being away from the luxury of guthook telling you exactly how far to go for the day. As the day grew later the sad reality sunk in that the service station might be closed when we get there. All we wanted was beer and pizza after such a long challenging day and the disappointment hit us harder than it should have. Part of me considered finding somewhere to just stop for the night, but the others pushed on so I focused on setting myself up for a good morning in town the next day.
We eventually made it to the highway at 7pm, sadly acknowledging that the service station is closing its doors for the day while 6 of us attempt to get a hitch the few miles up the highway. Spreading out we split up in pairs so not to overwhelm passing cars, then after just 10mins in a stroke of luck three different cars all pull over at once and all of us miraculously get taken to town at the same time. Sitting in the back try of a ute with Pacecar and Groover we see the firefighter camp with rows of tents next to the road and the service station come up quickly after.
We hop out, greeted by fellow Aussie hiker Glamourpus who says ‘Quick, drop your packs and go into the servo now, they stay open an extra half an hour for the fire fighters, they close in 10mins.” Amazed we rush in and buy packets of chips, soft drinks and are then given that last of the burritos and hot food left in the hot box for free. Hardly making it out the door we sit down on the cement outside and start eating. A man comes up to us and trail magic’s us some beer, saying how worth it always is just to see our faces. What a turn around in events from a glum miserable last few miles having lost all hope of town food.
Day 155 13.08.18 – 19 Miles / 30km
Waking up early we decide to leave our wet tents up for as long as possible to dry. Without a drop of rain we were surprised to have so much condensation on our tents, and then soon noticed the lake we’d camped next to but missed in the dark.
Getting straight into the day I made use of wifi to upload photos and contact family. Hearing the staff at the cracker barrel don’t allow you to pick up other peoples parcels I was disappointed to be forwarding on Four Eye’s package instead of resupplying my next leg like she’d said I should. Four Eyes cooked and dehydrated all of her own meals so they were much more nutritious and delicious than mash and ramen…as much as I love mash and ramen. Digging through the hiker box I managed to make almost a full resupply mixing mystery powders into oats for breakfasts and grabbing a few spare meals from Pacecar who also cooked and dehydrated their resupplies.
Using my loose coins we all line up for a shower and the others quickly learn the timer was faulty and we actually had unlimited showers. Unfortunately for me the issue had fixed itself by the time I get in, and ended up having to borrow a dollar of Everest to even get started. After my record 4min shower I packed up my tent and bought second breakfast.
Once the ladies had finally served the cue of firefighters (It’d be rude to not wait and watch right?) I went up to forward Four Eye’s box. Through a combination of befriending the owner by cleaning up rubbish outside the night prior, and knowing the address and stickers (always racoons for identification) of Four Eye’s box, they let me pick it up instead. The box was slightly damaged so would have needed some attention before shipping anyway. Just as we were about to leave I then return the contents of my current resupply to the hiker box and horribly pack Four Eyes’s huge amount of food into my bag in a very rushed effort to get back on the trail since it was already 11am.
Annoyed at myself for getting away so late I run multiple distance combinations through my head on how to cover 160km (100miles) in the next 3.5 days to get to Snoqualmie Pass in time for my lift to PCT Days. Glamourpuss and Wifey had organised a lift with Dirty Duck so we could all drive back to Cascade locks for the two days then back to where we left off. PCT Days is essentially a PCT thru-hiking expo, and I’d been invited by Osprey to be part of a panel on the main stage, plus it was looking to be a big reunion with a lot of the hikers I’d met along the way.
After a solid push the group stopped at 6:30pm after covering 27km (17miles). Now slightly stressed about my upcoming deadline I decide to push on, leaving the group to finally hike and camp alone. It took a huge amount of strength for me to pull away from the group. I adore being in these guys company, and being social is definitely when I’m happiest. But I was also excited, and proud of myself to finally be doing this on my own. I covered another 4km (2miles) then decided to stop and camp before it got dark since tentsites were so spread apart. There were others at the site, but we didn’t chat.
Day 156 14.08.18 – 31 Miles / 50km
Waking up at 5am I was focused and ready for my huge day ahead. I was first up and out of the site at 5:45am. I felt great, hiking to my own time with a new sense of freedom that no one was waiting for me at camp, and I could hike till whatever time that night if I needed to. Despite the 3 day deadline and huge mileage goal set for the day, I felt far less pressure than usual to make it.
Early in the day I pass Airborne and Snacks, they had both already reached the Northern Terminus and are now walking back again, “yoyoing”. There are only a handful of people who have done this before, so it’s a pretty big deal and certainly something I couldn’t even consider doing. I had met them both back in the desert, they were amoungst the first through the Sierrras this year when I thought they were fearless, and now I believe they are truely invincible. We kept our joyous encounter short as we all had big days planned then continued hiking.
I stopped for a short morning tea break to eat huckleberries and wash some laundry in a creek. Making great time I start to wonder why I’d never broken away from the group until now.
Hitting a scenic accessible section of trail I start seeing Day hikers and families and realise it’s a Sunday. Mums and dads are lugging huge bags while their kids either energetically skip ahead or whinge and dawdle behind with their day packs. I fist bump them all as I walk past. “Wow did you go camping? What was your favourite part? Would you do it again?”. It was heartwarming to see families getting outside to appreciate the outdoors.
Getting tired I fill up my last water to see me through the night. I was now in a section that burnt last year, was crashing from the huge amounts of caffeine to keep me going all day, and still had 16km (10miles) till I hit my target tentsite at 52km (31miles). I push on for 10km (6miles) and stop for dinner at 7:30pm feeling hungry and discouraged. Ramen King and Dutchie caught up and we started chatting. We’d crossed paths many times on the trail but had never spoken. They were overwhelmingly welcome company and totally changed my outlook on the rest of the evening. “Yeah we often take our time and end up hiking well into the night to get the miles we need. I guess it’s not ideal, but it’s what you do to carry less food, to get to town in less days, to take good breaks and to still cover the distance”. They made it feel normal, and not like the huge dawnting task it was starting to become in my head. And with that, I ate a double serve of Mac n cheese, put my head torch on and walked fearlesssly into the night to cover the easy 8km (5miles) ahead of me.
Aiming to stay at a cabin I decided at 9:45pm it was probably too late and I’d be disrupting sleeping hikers. Having personally whinged on this blog about people doing just that, I decided to not be “that person” and stopped a mile out when I found a clear spot to set up my tent. I considered cowboy camping but after my last up close encounter with a rat last time, I was discouraged, and feeling a tad creeped out on my own, so set up my tent feeling 100% bear and coyote proof behind my canvas walls. Exhausted I fall fast asleep at 10:30pm.
Day 158 15.08.18 31 Miles / 50km
Giving myself what felt like a sleep in I started hiking at 6am. My muscles hurt from the huge day prior, and I planned to somehow cover the same distance again today. Slowly I covered the mile to the cabin where I explored and chatted to the hikers who were staying there. They told me about the massive heard of elk in the paddock the evening before, and how warm it stayed in the cabin on this freezing night.
Pushing on I made it another 10km (6miles) before reaching a spring for a coffee and snack break. I devoured a family size packet of chips and chilled out for an hour before convincing myself to keep walking.
I eventually pass a South bounder and joke in relief “thank god, I’ve cleared all the cobwebs going this way for you, thanks for doing the same”. I managed to stay focused and hike hard all day. I had headphones in, music up and even jogged the downhill sections. I stopped at 1:30pm for lunch after covering 28km (17miles) and was soon joined again by Ramen King and Dutchie who had covered an additional 5miles to me. They are seriously impressive and again get my head back in the game that it’s “just hiking”.
Feeling strong and re-motivated I’m soon distracted when I come into phone service, chatting briefly with friends back home and getting a message from Glamourpuss that he won’t be able to pick me up until the afternoon of the following day (instead of 10am) so the pressure was off for a huge 56km (35mile) day. I continued to push to get as far as I could by 8pm and then stop for an early night. Doing just that I made it 50km (30miles) for my second day running, now looking forward to the upcoming break at PCT days.
Day 159 16.08.18 – 16 Miles / 26km
Up and hiking by 5:30am I was eager to get to Snoqualmie Pass. My left quad was hurting on the immediate down hill with no chance to warm up before the trail got technical. Soon after I had what felt like hours of a steep uphill climb to get over the last peak, across a valley and down the dry summery slopes of Snoqualmie ski fields. During the climb I met two chatty day hikers in their 70s who then talked all about their New Zealand holiday to me and tried speaking in Kiwi accents. This wasn’t quite as relevant to me as I think they thought it was, since they obviously connected New Zealand as being close to Australia, the accents however, are totally different.
The final few kms to town dragged out much longer than I’d planned. The trail turned to shit and was like walking up a dry creek bed. Large rocks littered the trail, along with big washed out tree roots and giant steps. I was exhausted, sore, now stressed about time, and still trying to be fast. Cursing I pushed on until I eventually caught sight of buildings, roads and the chairlift in the distance and sighed in relief. I arrived right on 1pm as arranged, and was picked up by Dirty Duck with Galmourpuss and Ranger in the car. I couldn’t believe I did it. 160km (100miles) in 4 days (Two half days). Holy shit I feel invincible; and incredibly tired.
Arriving at Dirty Ducks I have a shower, put on a load of laundry and then rested as hard as I could on the couch for the second half of the day. It was the longest I’ve rested for in a long time, but I truely didn’t have it in me to move, let alone talk or keep my eyes open.
Wifey lived up to his name and cooked us all a feast of ribs and salads. I somehow lost two seperate socks (a liner and a sock) in the wash, and then fell asleep for the night on the same couch I hadn’t moved from all day.