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PCT 2019: Day 60, Methow River to Rainy Pass

Settle back easy, Jim

Hike with Gravity

Yesterday was my longest mileage day since returning to the trail, but with the last quarter of the miles all downhill, it didn’t feel taxing. I also finished earlier than expected, despite taking a long break at Hart’s Pass.

Today was going to be an easy day, too. It would start out with a long climb, but my pack was light because I wasn’t carrying much food. I could tell by looking at the trail profile that after the climb, the rest of the way to Rainy Pass would be especially easy.

Ralph and I planned to meet on the trail, then pick up his truck at Rainy Pass and drive into Winthrop to stay for the night. I had already prepared a resupply box, which was waiting for me in Ralph’s truck, so we didn’t even need to go shopping.

If thru-hiking were always this easy, everyone would want to do it.

Date
Weather Partly cloudy with a high temperature near 60
Trail Conditions Long climb, followed by a nearly flat section across the side of a ridge, then an easy descent
Today's Miles 15.2 miles
Trip Miles 797.7 miles

Once again, Bounce Back and Super Glue rose early and left before I finished packing. Erin and Rook left soon afterward. Allison must have left much earlier because I never saw her.

Sailor and Boogeyman were still in camp when I left shortly after 6:30 a.m.

Oddly, I felt tired and lacked energy when I left camp. I should not have been feeling that way because I didn’t feel tired last night.

Before the climb began to become steeper, the trail followed the path of Methow River. It crossed Golden Creek a little more than a mile from my campsite.

From there, the trail's real ascent began. In all, it would rise 2,200 feet from the river to Methow Pass.

I had initially planned to stop for a break at the pass, but by 8:45 a.m., when I still had about a half-mile to go, I decided I needed the break sooner.

I stopped to revive myself with a cup of coffee and a second breakfast. During my break, a crest runner named Ben came down the trail. We chatted for a short time, and though he asked if I had a trail permit, he didn’t ask to see it.

The weather was slowly improving.

The views from Methow Pass, which included the imposing Tower Mountain, were nice, but I didn’t stay at the pass for long. I knew that Ralph was waiting for me, so I didn’t want to waste time.

Leaving the pass, the trail cut an easy path along the side of a ridge. It dropped 500 feet in elevation in 1.5 miles and then flattened out until it reached Granite Pass.

Jagged mountain peaks and a deep, glacial valley were my main focus of attention, but I also kept an eye out for Ralph. I expected to see him walking my way, and soon he appeared as I neared Granite Pass.

Ralph reversed course and we headed to Cutthroat Pass. The views continued to be spectacular along the ridge we followed.

Meanwhile, the sky seemed to be lightening more. I wondered if it would even become sunny.

When we reached Cutthroat Pass we saw many day hikers. Some had a dog with them.

Ralph and I stopped to eat lunch with a view of jagged Porcupine Mountain. While we were there a family he had camped with last night arrived. They were making a short backpacking trip during the Independence Day holiday weekend.

They had all camped at a site about halfway up the climb to Cutthroat Pass.

What little sun we had soon went away and a few raindrops began to fall, so we decided it was time to get going. Fortunately, the sprinkle didn't last long.

From Cutthroat Pass, we had five miles of descending trail to go to reach Rainy Pass. It was a drop of just under 2,000 feet.

There weren’t as many long-distant views from that point on, but there were a few nice streams along the way.

There were no bridges across the streams, but apparently there used to be one over Porcupine Creek. Still, the creek water level was low, and crossing it wasn’t difficult.

Near the end of the descent, wildflowers began to become more plentiful.

Among them were some rosy spiraea. They are related to roses but don’t have petals like roses.

When we reached the parking lot at Rainy Pass, we met Ricky Bobby. He had also camped with Ralph last night.

Ricky Bobby didn’t want to join us in Winthrop because he didn’t need to resupply.

Before driving into town, we went to the Forest Service office on the edge of town. We needed to get a backcountry camping permit for North Cascades National Park.

About 18 miles of the PCT passes through one section of the park. At this time, hikers were required to obtain a separate permit if they wanted to camp in the park. That policy was changed later and now the permit issued by the Pacific Crest Trail Association is accepted in two campsites.

Before this change, acquiring a park camping permit was difficult for southbound hikers like us. They couldn't be acquired over the phone. The closest office for getting a permit was in Winthrop, but most thru-hikers don't have a friend with a truck.

Because of this difficulty, most thru-hikers plan their miles so they can camp just before or just after the park boundary. Ralph was trying to limit the distance he hiked each day to around 15 miles or less, so that wasn't practical for us.

Only one campsite had space available, but it was a group site. Normally, a group site permit wouldn’t be issued to a couple of thru-hikers, but the ranger agreed to do it because it was after the holiday. She said she didn’t expect any last-minute requests from a group.

The ranger said the permit could be used for up to six people and it would be okay for us to let other hikers camp with us.

Before leaving, we checked with the ranger to see if an ice ax or microspikes were needed for the next section of the trail. She said she didn’t think they would be.

A heavy downpour fell while we were inside the ranger office. It didn't last long, but I felt sorry for all of the hikers on the trail.

Our next stop was North Cascades Mountain Hostel. After some initial confusion and delay, we learned there was room for us and we were able to check in.

The hostel was cleaner than some I’ve been in. There were two separate bunk rooms, with a common area in between, which included a kitchen and laundry facilities.

Ka-Bar and Blue were there. We also met Fluffy Bunny, who was from Holland.

After Ralph and I got cleaned up, we walked with Ka-Bar to an outfitter store. Ka-Bar had finally figured out he needed an intervention with his huge, heavy pack, and wanted to schedule a time tomorrow with an employee for a pack shakedown.

We then walked down the street to Old School Brewery for dinner. Ralph and I already knew it would a good place to eat. We had eaten there with my wife Kim when we stayed in Winthrop last week.

Later, while I was waiting for my laundry to finish at the hostel, I tried to put some ice on my ankle. It was a little swollen after the twisting and tripping I had done while trying to walk yesterday on an overgrown section of trail.

When Ka-Bar saw I was having trouble keeping the ice in place, he pulled out his shemagh (also called a keffiyeh), a scarf from Afghanistan that is popular with U.S. Marines who have served there.

He soon had the ankle wrapped with the ice pack securely positioned.

I hope I don’t become too soft with all of this easy hiking, good food and beer, and people to assist me when needed.

I told Althea I was feeling lost
Lacking in some direction
Althea told me upon scrutiny
That my back might need protection
I told Althea that treachery
Was tearing me limb from limb
Althea told me, now cool down boy
Settle back easy, Jim

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