PCT 2019: Day 58, Woody Pass to Windy Pass

So won't you smile for the camera?

Leaving Woody Pass

Many of the photos posted in this website were also shared on social media. Through those posts I received many thoughtful, complimentary comments about my photography.

I enjoy taking photos and I feel they do a better job of telling the stories of my hikes, but I don’t consider myself a good photographer.

And while I appreciate the flattery, I must point out that it is nearly impossible to take bad photos on the PCT. I only need to point my camera in any direction and I'm likely to capture an image of something interesting or beautiful or both.

DateThursday, July 4, 2019
WeatherFog at lower elevations in the morning, followed by partly cloudy sky and a high temperature in the upper 50s
Trail ConditionsSome mud caused by last night’s rain, long climbs
Today's Miles14.5
Trip Miles761.9

That thought couldn’t have been more true than it was today. When Ralph and I decided yesterday to camp at Woody Pass, we knew we picked a beautiful location because we had walked through the pass the day before yesterday.

We had no way of knowing, however, that we were setting ourselves up for a morning of spectacular views. I have seen many remarkable and memorable sights on my hikes, but what we woke up to this morning was among the best of all.

To be sure, the morning was a demonstration of how under-achieving my photography skills were for the scenery in front of my camera lens.

Low clouds at Woody Pass

As soon as I stepped out of my tent, I caught a glimpse of the view and immediately reached for my camera. I also called out to Ralph to let him know he needed to take a look at what I was seeing.

The valley below me was filled with a billowing carpet of clouds. To my right, morning sunlight was illuminating the rock wall of Powder Mountain.

Looking north from Woody Pass

After taking a few photos of this view, I followed the trail northbound a short distance to look at a valley on the other side of the pass. It was also filled with low clouds.

Campsite at Woody Pass

Seeing clouds on both sides made it seem as if we had camped on a small island.

Another view from Woody Pass

I continued to wander, looking for more photos to take. Some were similar to what I had already snapped, but I didn’t care. I wanted to capture this time as best as I could.

Leaving Woody Pass

The extra time taking photos meant we were slow to pack our gear. We didn’t leave camp until 7:15 a.m.

Ralph and I followed the trail past where we had stopped two days ago to dry out our tents. Just beyond that spot, the trail began to descend into the thick clouds we had seen from our campsite.

Descending in a cloud

The fog created by the clouds made it difficult to see more than one or two hundred yards ahead.

Shaggy western pasqueflowers

I couldn’t see far ahead, but that didn’t stop me from noticing western pasqueflowers. They were the same type of wildflowers I had seen when we dried our tents two days ago, but these were no longer blooming. They were in fruit form, covered in a shaggy hair that made them look like feather dusters.

Following the trail below the clouds

The trail dropped below the cloud layer. By the time it began to climb again, I could see the clouds were beginning to break up.

Flowers in the fog

That was true until we ascended to the top of a ridge and went over to the other side. There, the clouds were still shielded from the sun by the ridge, so we again walked with limited visibility.

Descending on the trail

Then the trail made another drop underneath the layer of clouds. It was mid-morning before the clouds cleared from the mountain tops and opened better views.

When Ralph and I stopped for water, Rook and Erin caught up to us. They told us they had decided not to camp at Castle Pass and continued on to Hopkins Lake, where they stayed last night.

Then they continued down the trail while we finished filtering water.

Bobby O drying his gear

We caught up to Rook and Erin farther down the trail. They had stopped when they found a patch of sun to dry out their tents.

Bounce Back and Super Glue were there too, but they were preparing to leave as we arrived. Their departure left a patch of sun big enough for Ralph and me, so we decided to also stay and dry our gear.

A short time later, a hiker named Bobby O arrived. There wasn’t a lot of sun on this section of trail, and he agreed it was good to grab a few rays of it when we could.

Return to Holman Fire section

After passing by Holman Creek Trail, the PCT began a long climb. Soon we were crossing the burnt section that gave us trouble two days ago, with many dead trees laying across the trail.

We met a hiker here named Ka-Bar. He was walking slowly, which he said was because he had injured a toe.

Ka-Bar had an unusual way of climbing over a downed tree. He pulled out a huge knife, a Ka-Bar combat knife that is issued to U.S. Marines, and started hacking at the tree to remove branches that were in his way.

Ralph and I later learned Ka-Bar had recently finished his last assignment in the Marine Corps. With that information, the gung-ho way he attacked the tree made more sense.

Ralph stops to look at flowers

We continued to be surprised by how many wildflowers we saw today. Though we had just walked this section two days ago, we both thought we were seeing many more flowers in bloom.

Blue takes a photo of Ralph while K Bar holds a reflector

When we reached the campsite we stayed at two nights ago, we decided to stop for lunch. Ka-Bar arrived a short time later, followed soon after by a hiker named Blue.

Besides his backpack, he was carrying several pounds of camera gear. He asked Ralph and me if he could take our pictures.

When he pulled out his camera and a reflector for bounce-lighting, I knew he was a serious photographer and not just a pretend one like me.

Ka-Bar held the reflector and Blue took outstanding portraits of Ralph and me.

He didn’t want us to be all smiles. As he snapped my photo, he said, “Look as though you are disappointed in your children.” I’m afraid I failed at that. It wasn’t a frame of mind I could put myself into, but at least I didn’t smile too much.

View of a glacial valley

Leaving the campsite, we continued our way up the long climb. It was still early enough that we figured we would hike for at least two more hours.

Mountain stream

Getting water on the trail was easy. Streams flowed across the trail as they spilled snowmelt from higher elevations.

subalpine fleabane

The wildflowers were still popping up all over. The newest variety I noticed was subalpine fleabane, also called glacier fleabane. With a name like “fleabane,” you might think it repels fleas. In fact, many people do believe that, but it’s wishful thinking.

Afternoon on the PCT

The climb this afternoon was much more moderate than the one this morning. For the 8.6 miles from Holman Creek to our destination for tonight, we would need to go up a total of 2,418 feet elevation. We also went down 1,252 feet, which made the climb more tolerable.

The trail makes a curve in a meadow

The trail also crossed a broad meadow, which was enjoyable to walk.

The last climb before Windy Pass

The last climb of any note was near the end of the day, starting from Foggy Pass and going up about 550 feet in about 1.5 miles. From the top, there was only a short drop to Windy Pass.

Tents pitched at Windy Pass

We arrived at the pass at 4:45 p.m. Rook, Erin, Bounce Back, and Super Glue were there when we arrived and had already set up their tents.

I would have liked to camp closer to them, but the best, flattest spaces for tents were about 150 yards away. We decided we should take those spots, thinking that other hikers would soon arrive at this nice campsite. Surprisingly, though, no one else showed up.

Ralph and I ate dinner with the others, so we were able to socialize a little before heading back to our tents.

This was a day of amazing views, and I was glad to have them captured in my camera.

I've seen your picture
Your name in lights above it
This is your big debut
It's like a dream come true
So won't you smile for the camera?
I know they're gonna love it


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