Ralph and I wanted to get an early start this morning. The drive to the trailhead would take about an hour. We also knew the trail had some big climbs today, so we wanted to give ourselves plenty of hiking time.
This intent was thwarted by breakfast. The only place in Cashmere to get it was, fortunately enough, only a couple blocks from our motel. Not-so-fortunately, Weeds Cafe didn’t open until 7 a.m. Then, though we were the first customers to arrive, the staff was slow to open and take our order.
|Date||Monday, July 15, 2019|
|Weather||Partly cloudy, becoming sunny and warm with a high temperature in the mid 70s|
|Trail Conditions||Big elevation changes, with the last climb especially steep|
After finishing our breakfast and checking out of the motel, we drove back to Stevens Pass. The large parking lot was already full of weekend mountain bikers and day hikers.
We began hiking at 9:45 a.m., much later than we would have preferred.
At any rate, I was ready for the trail with my shiny new shoes. They felt a little stiff, but I was hoping they would wear well.
The trail was filled with day hikers, many hiking with dogs.
There was also a boy on a mountain bike who almost ran me down. I yelled at him because bicycles are not allowed on the PCT.
Within a few minutes, we were climbing well above the ski resort at Stevens Pass. The trail made several switchbacks as it crossed ski runs with names like Wild Katz and Roller Coaster.
When I saw a few dark clouds, I stopped to check the weather forecast while I still had a cellphone signal. I learned that no rain was in the forecast for today and only a slight chance for the next couple of days.
Continuing up the mountain, I heard a voice call from behind.
“Is that Gravity?!” I turned and saw that it was Rook who called to me.
Erin was with her and when they caught up they told me Erin now had a trail name, Trooper. Then they introduced me to Bogwitch, who had been hiking with them lately.
I was glad to see Rook and Trooper again, but I was also surprised to see them. It had been ten days since we last saw them. Because of the nero day in Winthrop and the zero day Ralph and I took yesterday, I had presumed Trooper and Rook would be at least a day ahead. They told me they had taken a zero yesterday, as well.
At the top of the first climb, the trail passed a chair lift for the ski resort, then descended with more switchbacks and crossed a couple more ski runs.
Once the trail left the ski area, it entered Alpine Lakes Wilderness Area, which covers 394,000 acres. The next 67 miles of the trail will traverse through it.
True to its name, the wilderness area passed several lakes for the remainder of the day. Most were formed by glaciers at the bottom of cirques.
The first of these was Josephine Lake, which was located at the southwest end of Jim Hill Mountain. The lake water shimmered with rich hues of dark teal, emerald green, and a deep, rich blue.
From our vantage point we could also see across a broad, "U”-shaped valley carved by a glacier to where two mountains stood about six miles away. They were Big Chiwaukum Peak and Snowgrass Mountain. The summits were roughly 8,000 feet above sea level.
“Chiwaukum” is a word from the Wenatchi or Wenatchee Indians meaning where many little creeks run into one big one.
A short distance from the viewpoint we met up with Bounce Back and Super Glue, or Supes for short.
I laughed when they claimed, “Everybody’s been asking, 'Where’s Gravity?’” While flattering, this didn’t seem to be a recurring chorus spoken up and down the trail.
The trail then dropped steeply toward Mig Lake. The descent caused a sudden, sharp pain in my left knee. This was the first time I felt a pain like that on this hike and I tried to shake it off as a brief symptom after taking a day off yesterday.
Later, a different pain began to develop. This one was in my right heel and I wondered if it was caused by my new shoes. It felt as if it could have been plantar fasciitis.
The descent wasn’t long, and once the trail leveled out the pains weren’t as bothersome, so I continued without stopping.
Late in the afternoon, the trail began a final, steep climb up the side of the glacial valley. It rose 1,400 feet in 3.8 miles, if you don’t count the 200-foot dip in the middle of the climb.
The time was past 5 p.m., and I was glad we had decided to stop at a campsite at the top of the climb. The pain in my knee had subsided by this time, but I was still feeling some soreness in my foot.
When there were openings in the trees, we began to see Trap Lake. Similar to Josephine Lake, it sat at the end of a cirque.
Above the lake, I could see a gap, which is where I expected to find our campsite. Unfortunately, because of the steepness of the climb and the stop we needed to make to filter water, it would be another 40 minutes before we reached the campsite.
A series of switchbacks made the climb a little easier, but extended the distance.
When we reached the top we found a Canadian woman, who had arrived there just ahead of us. She was exhausted and said it had taken her two days to walk the 11.9 miles we had just walked today. Clearly, she was carrying too much weight in her pack.
She didn’t talk to anyone while she was setting up her tent, and once she finished she went straight inside. We didn’t see her again.
A short time later, a hiker from Portugal arrived. His trail name was Juicy Fruit, which seemed like a fitting name when I noticed his hiking shirt. He didn’t stay long, however, because he wanted to add a few more miles before finishing tonight.
Another hiker who came into camp was Tasty Fairy, who was from Holland. She decided to camp with us, as did a NOBO section hiker, and a hiker from Spokane named Sweet Blood.
The last hiker to arrive in camp also contributed to the international flavor of the evening, though at first, I didn’t realize he wasn’t from the U.S. His name was Val and was from France, yet his English was perfect. There wasn’t even a hint of a French accent.
Val explained that he attended high school in Cary, N.C., college in Canada, and received a graduate degree in London.
Our campsite was at 5,777 feet in elevation. Once the sun dipped below the trees, the temperature quickly dropped. Regretfully, the cooler temperature didn’t have any effect on the mosquitoes that pestered us all evening.