PCT 2019: Day 56, Tentsite at Mile 2633.5 to Castle Pass

Don't you push me, baby

View of the Northern Cascades from the Pacific Crest Trail

Rain fell overnight and what must have been a gallon of water seeped into my tent. The water didn’t come from one leak, it came from several. I knew the tent ceiling had a few pinholes, but I didn’t realize until now that the floor had become a sieve.

My tent is a Zpacks Duplex, which is made with an ultralight fabric called Dyneema Composite Fabric (formerly called Cuben Fiber). It’s strong but doesn’t hold up well to abrasion and long-term use.

It would seem after more than 3,000 miles, I’ve reached the end of my long-term use of this tent. That’s not a good spot to be in when I still have about 1,900 miles to go on this hike.

DateTuesday, July 2, 2019
WeatherMostly sunny with a high temperature near 70
Trail ConditionsLong climbs and descents of up to 1,500 feet; burned area with many blowdowns
Today's Miles15.9
Trip Miles729.1

I managed to control the drips from the ceiling with bandanas and covered my quilt with my rain jacket for extra protection. Despite the dripping and a large puddle of water that formed at the bottom of my tent, I slept well.

Surprisingly, the water was nearly gone when I woke up. It apparently had drained out the same holes it had entered through.

Ralph and I were on the trail by 6 a.m. This early time was mostly because the sky began to lighten at 4:30 and the sun rose at 5:00.

To help us get an early start, we decided to skip breakfast for now and eat it later on the trail.

Spruce grouse

The first thing we spotted on the trail was a spruce grouse. It didn’t want to share the trail, and only begrudgingly moved to the side as we approached.

Smooth trail

The trail was smooth, which made travel easy in the cool morning.

Entering Holman Fire zone

That ease quickly came to an abrupt end in less than an hour, though. We had come to an area that had been badly burned late last summer. The Holman Fire, as it came to be called because of its location near Holman Peak, was started on August 17.

All of the trail we have walked since yesterday had been closed because of the fire. Hikers trying to reach the Canadian border were redirected just past Hart’s Pass and got back on the PCT at Woody Pass.

Downed trees across the trail

Dozens of dead trees were still lying across the trail. This made travel in the burn section extremely slow and difficult. Thankfully, it wasn’t much more than a mile in distance.

Many of the blowdowns we had to climb over were charred black. This was a challenge as I tried to avoid being covered in black soot.

Out of the burnt area

We stopped for breakfast at the junction of the Holman Creek Trail, then continued on through a lovely forest that was untouched by the fire.

Marmalade and another hiker

Coming out of the wooded area, the trail began a long climb up a ridge. Along the way, Ralph and I stopped to enjoy a view, as we often did in this section.

About that time, Marmalade and another hiker came by. I had run into Marmalade a few times in the desert and we had reached Kennedy Meadows on the same day.

We said hello, then as I was about to take a photo, Marmalade and the other hiker tried to pass us on the narrow trail.

Gravity's feet slipping off the trail

Marmalade accidentally bumped into me and my feet slipped from under me. i was fortunate to not fall forward because the trail made a long drop of at least 100 feet. Instead, my feet slipped forward on loose rock and I fell backward, with my butt landing on the trail.

Because I was in the middle of snapping a photo, I happened to capture the moment of my feet slipping out over the steep drop from the trail.

Hiking with Marmalade

Marmalade was horrified by the sight of me falling and apologized, but I laughed it off.

Then we continued on.

columbine flowers

I had hoped to see columbine flowers blooming in Washington, and finally now on my second day, I began to see them.

Scientific evidence shows columbine have been growing in North American since the Pleistocene Era after coming across the Bering land bridge.

blue stickseed

There were also patches of blue stickseed on the trail, which is also called meadow forget-me-not. They bloom through much of the summer in mountain climates.

Broad mountain meadow

As Ralph and I walked across a broad mountain meadow, we were passed by a hiker named Josh. He was faster than us, despite his awkward gait. He walked with one leg stiff, as if to favor it.

He told us he was having trouble with the IT band in his leg. He said he injured it two weeks ago while running, but didn’t intend to let it stop his thru-hike attempt.

Josh told us his friends called him Scoot, so we did too. As he hobbled down the trail ahead of us, he didn’t look like he was scooting well.

Ralph on sloped trail

Today’s weather was much different than yesterday. The sky was nearly clear and the temperature was pushing close to 70 degrees F.

Drying tents near Woody Pass

When we reached a flat area near Woody Pass, we decided to take a break and spread out our tents to dry in the sun.

Western pasqueflower

Western pasqueflower were blooming here. This wildflower only grows in the western part of the U.S., soon after snow has melted.

The plant is classified as a herb and has been used traditionally for medicinal purposes, though it is also poisonous in large doses.

Signs for Holman Fire detour

Near this spot, some signs had been posted by the Forest Service to instruct hikers about the Holman Fire detour. Fortunately, the detour was no longer needed.

Northern Cascades

We continued up to Woody Pass, which provided spectacular views of the Northern Cascades.

white mountain heather

If it were possible to grow weary of seeing all of these views, there were plenty of wildflowers to look at, like white mountain heather.

Of course, it was not possible to get tired of looking at either mountains or flowers.

Scoot and Ralph

Beyond Woody Pass, we saw many flip-floppers and SOBO hikers who had been to the border and turned around to go south. Among them was a hiker from Australia named American Idol.

We also saw Scoot again. He had only gone a couple more miles before turning around. He was giving up because of his bad knee.

We felt sorry for him, but it was obvious he was in a lot of pain and needed time to heal his leg.

Scoot borrowed my Garmin inReach Mini to send a text message to his mom and ask her to come back to pick him up at Hart’s Pass.

Trail view

The trail continued up and over a knob that provided more outstanding views. Standing at 7,117 feet, this was the highest point for us since getting on the trail yesterday. From here, the trail would make a long descent to the border.

Ralph descends Devil’s Stairway

Part of this descent was down a series of switchbacks called Devil’s Stairway.

view of Hopkins Lake from Lakeview Ridge

The trail then followed Lakeview Ridge, which was true to its name. We had great views of Hopkins Lake.

Descending closer to the border

The lake was a popular place to camp, but with daylight lasting until well past 9 p.m., we had no urgency to stop. We also guessed that the lakeshore would be swarming with mosquitoes.

Nearing Castle Pass

More northbound hikers were coming from the monument, so as they passed by I asked each of them if the monument was still there. They laughed and assured me it was.

Overgrown trail near Castle Pass

The trail continued its easy descent, but it became overgrown in several places. A couple of northbound hikers had warned that the closer we got to the monument, the more overgrown it would be.

We stopped to collect water about a mile before camp, then arrived there at 6:20 p.m. That was earlier than I had expected.

Two other trails intersected the PCT at Castle Pass. One was the Pasayten River Trail, which serves as part of the Pacific Northwest Trail (PNT) going east. Nearby and heading in a westerly direction was the start of the Boundary Trail, which is also part of the PNT.

The PNT is 1,200 miles long, connecting the Continental Divide Trail with the PCT and farther west, the Pacific Ocean.

Other hikers were camped here, but they were all in their tents. The mosquitoes didn’t seem horrible, but bad enough that I presumed they were the reason everyone was already in for the night.

Ralph and I decided we will leave our tents set up here in the morning and make a quick, early hike to the monument at the border. It is just 3.8 miles away.

If I had a gun for every ace that I had drawn
I could arm a town the size of Abilene
Don't you push me, baby, 'cause I'm moaning low
And you know I'm only in it for the gold


"Nothing to tell now. Let the words be yours, I'm done with mine."ref.