PCT 2019: Day 65, Fire Creek to Reflection Pond

Been a long time crossing bridge of sighs

The bridge at Kennedy Creek is broken in half

The light rain that began late yesterday continued to fall off and on through the night. It finally quit about the time I awoke this morning.

Somewhat miraculously, my tent didn’t leak as much as it had during the last couple overnight rains.

DateWednesday, July 10, 2019
WeatherCloudy, with occasional light rain and a high temperature in the low 60s
Trail ConditionsMany blowdowns, with muddy and overgrown sections
Today's Miles17.6
Trip Miles888.9

Like yesterday, the trail today had a long descent into a valley, then a long climb out. The difference was that this time, the climb went up about 500 feet higher in elevation.

Hoping the weather would stay clear today so I could make better time, I left camp at 6:45 a.m.

Two trees are lying across the trail

Trouble began almost right away. Two large trees that had fallen together were blocking the trail. There was no easy way to go around them, and because of the way they were stacked, it was impossible to climb over them.

The slope of the mountain provided only one route around the trees, but even on a good day, that would be difficult. Thanks to the overnight rain, the path was a mudslide.

If there had been any bystanders around, I fear they would have laughed at me as I tried to gain enough traction to climb the slick path. To be sure, I wasn’t laughing, especially when my water bottle was knocked loose and slid back down the muddy detour.

The bottle would have continued to slide farther down the mountainside if I hadn't quickly scrambled down to stop it with my foot. After retrieving the bottle, I had to retrace the muddy climb up, then down the other side.

Clouds fill the valley below

While sunny weather would have been preferable, at least it was clear enough to see into a distant valley that was filled to overflowing with low clouds.

On a clear day, I would have been able to see Sloan Peak, a 7,835-foot mountain with a distinctive, jagged summit. Some people have said it looks like the sail of a ship crossing a snowy sea.

Sloan Peak was only 11 miles away, but was completely hidden by the low clouds.

Pumice Creek

Shortly before the day’s big descent began, the trail crossed Pumice Creek. The stream carried water from Kennedy Peak, a sub-peak of Glacier Peak.

Clouds in the valley

I should have also been able to look up to see the summit of Kennedy Peak, but again, I only saw a thick canopy of clouds.

The farther I walked, the clouds in the valley appeared to be breaking up, but I didn't see that as an improvement in the weather.

A broken bridge across Kennedy Creek

The power of snowmelt runoff and flooding was on display when I reached Kennedy Creek. A bridge across the creek looked as if Godzilla had stepped on it during a rampage. It was snapped at the middle into two pieces.

The bridge has been in this condition for years, but it was sound enough for crossing the creek. That wasn’t easy, however. Water poured across the middle break, so I had to take a leap over the stream.

Not far downstream from here, the creek flowed into White Chuck River. A ranger cabin used to be located there, but it was wiped out by a flood a few days after the flood that destroyed the bridge over the Suiattle River.

A muddy section of trail

As the trail continued farther down into the valley, it became more difficult to walk because of mud and more blowdowns. In other spots, the trail was overgrown with weeds and shrubs.

Improved trail

The trail eventually became clear and easy to walk as it neared the bottom of the descent. Ironically, as soon as the trail became easy, I took a bad step and twisted my ankle.

A log lying over Sitkum Creek

The descent to the valley bottom was interrupted by a short climb of about 250 feet. The trail crossed Sitkum Creek, which flowed from Sitkum Glacier on Glacier Peak.

The only way to cross the creek was over a large, dead tree.

Large boulders near Sitkum Creek

The area around this creek also still had scars from flooding in 2003.

No bridge at Chetwot Creek

At 1:30 p.m., I reached Chetwot Creek. My Guthooks trail app said, “Cross the small Chetwot Creek on a footbridge,” but I didn’t see a bridge.

Did I make a wrong turn, I wondered? I retraced my steps to make sure I was still on the trail. There were no trail markers, of course, because that would make things too easy. I've learned that trail markers are usually not posted on the PCT when you need them.

After looking all over for the bridge, I decided to cross the stream at the most logical spot, which looked as though it could be part of the trail. If it wasn’t, I hoped to find the trail on the other side.

A bridge at Chetwot Creek

The other side was littered with rocks and was overgrown with vegetation, but I was able to find something close enough to a path, which led me to the bridge I was trying to find.

I’m not sure how many minutes I lost looking for this bridge, but I was definitely exasperated by the time I finally crossed it.

I stopped on the other side to eat lunch, then continued.

Thick moss along the sides of the trail

The trail at the bottom of the valley was flat and beautiful. Everywhere I looked was a thick carpet of green moss.

I had hoped to find a patch of sun to dry out my tent. Though there was a brief hint of sunlight, the tree canopy blocked any chance of getting enough to make it worth stopping.

That was just as well. After wasting time at the creek crossing and with a long climb ahead of me, I needed to keep moving.

White Chuck River

The climb was easy until the trail crossed White Chuck River. The river wasn’t wide, but plenty of water poured from it, which came from yet another glacier. From there the climb became much steeper.

A sketchy stream crossing

About a third of the way up, another stream crossing posed a challenge. A small log was there but was partially washed to the side. I wasn’t sure if it was stable or slippery.

Using my trekking poles to stay steady and balanced, I somehow lightly stepped across without getting my feet wet.

Rain begins to fall

Staying dry soon became impossible, however. As I neared the top of the climb at White Pass, rain began to fall.

Patches of snow at White Pass

Six Pound passed me at White Pass, then she stopped to have a snack and I passed her.

The trail crossed several small patches of snow. Except for one, they didn’t cause any problems.

Clouds hang low near White Pass

The one difficult patch of snow crossed about 50 yards of the trail on a steep slope. Microspikes would have come in handy here, but I didn’t have mine with me.

After crossing this sketchy patch, I stopped to wait for Six Pound. I then let her pass me because I knew on the downhill she would want to pass me anyway.

A section hiker named Skate

About 40 minutes before I stopped for the day, I saw a northbound hiker heading toward me. He stopped and asked if I was Gravity. He told me he was a section hiker named Skate and he had a message from Ralph.

Ralph wanted me to know he would wait for me at mile 167. I was using northbound mileage for my navigation, but with a little math I figured out I would see him tomorrow at around mile 2,486.

I thanked Skate for the message and got a few details from him about the trail ahead. Then I continued walking to Reflection Pond.

This was another day I didn’t hike 20 miles, but when I arrived at the pond it was already ten minutes after 7 p.m. Because of the time and the rain, I wasn’t interested in going any farther.

As I looked around for a suitable place to camp, I saw that Six Pound was camped nearby. A short time later, a hiker named Bumppo arrived. He told me he had taken his trail name from Natty Bumppo, a character in James Fenimore Cooper’s frontier adventure novels.

The rain quit while we were setting up our tents, but the sky remained dark and dreary.

Later, as I was trying to fall asleep, a couple of owls decided it was time to carry on a conversation. They hooted back and forth until rain began to fall again at 8:45 p.m.

The sun don't shine
The moon don't move the tides
To wash me clean

The sun don't shine
The moon don't move the tides
To wash me clean

Why so unforgiving and why so cold
Been a long time crossing bridge of sighs


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