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PCT 2019: Day 70, Tentsite Near Trap Lake to Tentsite at Mile 2433.8

Blue light rain, unbroken chain

Hike with Gravity

Rain was falling as I woke up and prepared to leave camp this morning. It only fell for about an hour, but a pattern was set to link together the whole day.

Rain, no rain, repeat.

Weather Cloudy with several brief periods of light rain/mist; high temperature in the mid 50s
Trail Conditions Steep descent, then easy trail until a steep ascent late in the day; a few blowdowns and tricky stream crossings
Today's Miles 18.8 miles
Trip Miles 955.8 miles

Ralph intended to hike back to Stevens Pass today, then drive to Snoqualmie Pass. That was the next available trailhead, from where he could hike north to meet me. I expect to see him in two days.

We said farewell for now at 7 a.m. and I began hiking southbound.

Our campsite was a short distance from Trap Pass. The trail went up and over the pass, then began a 950-foot descent. The first six-tenths of a mile going down was the steepest, but many switchbacks made it easy.

While still on the upper part of the descent, I could see a range of mountains that included Baring Mountain, which was about 16 miles away. Standing at 6,125 feet in elevation, the mountain was modest compared to many in the Cascades but was spectacular nonetheless.

Baring Mountain has a double summit. Its north face is one of the steepest in the state. The sheer face makes it a popular destination for rock climbers. BASE jumpers have also used Baring’s north peak for their extreme sport, but there have been some unfortunate incidents.

After walking an hour, a light rain began to fall again. I stopped to put on my rain jacket and while I was stopped, an energetic hiker named Sunkist came by. We chatted for a short time, then she sped off down the trail.

Sunkist was hiking with a hiker named Bluejay. She also passed me, but we didn’t have a chance to say much more than hello.

The rain stopped soon after I began walking again.

The trail had been following the slope of Thunder Mountain. It then made a turn and crossed a boulder field.

The descent bottomed out at around 4,800 feet near Glacier Lake. Despite this much lower elevation, patches of snow dotted the mountainside. They lingered in pockets shaded by the mountain.

The rain continued an on-and-off pattern for the remainder of the morning. Meanwhile, mosquitoes became a constant for the day.

Glacier Lake sat in a cirque formed by Thunder Mountain and Surprise Mountain. The trail stayed well-above the lake as it curved around the shoreline.

Once the trail reached the south end of the lake, it began a climb up the side of Surprise Mountain.

If the sky had been clear, I should have been able to see across the lake and through the valley, all the way to Glacier Peak, which was about 32 miles away. In better weather, the mountain would be prominent enough to be easily identifiable.

The trail only went part of the way up Surprise Mountain, then veered away in a zig-zag path on the mountain’s west side toward Pieper Pass.

Gloomy weather had prevented me from seeing Glacier Peak, but as I got closer to the top of the pass, it was impossible for me to miss Mt. Daniel. It was an imposing mountain, with five peaks and 3,500 feet of prominence.

On the other side of Pieper Pass, the trail began a steady, 1.7-mile descent to Deception Lakes, losing about 900 feet of elevation in that distance.

I stopped near Deception Lakes to talk to five day hikers who had stopped to eat their lunch. This was a remote spot, so to walk here and then return to their car involved a full day of hiking.

A crew from the U.S. Forest Service was also in the area. I chatted with them briefly, but they didn’t ask to see my PCT permit.

From the lake, the trail’s descent continued, only now less steeply. It dropped another 664 feet in the next 2.2 miles in a glacial valley.

For the next few miles, there were no distant views because of the lower elevation and dismal weather.

Past Deception Lakes, I didn’t see any hikers for the next three hours. The only wildlife to view was a common and harmless garter snake.

Garter snakes can be found throughout most of North America. This one was a Valley Gartersnake (Thamnophis sirtalis fitchi), one of two varieties found in Washington.

Farther down the trail were several stream crossings. Some were simple rock-hop crossings, but a couple were a little more tricky.

One of these small streams was, in fact, the Cle Elum River, which flowed well as it spilled over rocks.

When a view finally opened up, I could see more of the Cle Elum. Farther down the valley, it was much wider than it had been when I crossed it. Just out of view was Hyas Lake, which is formed by the river.

At the bottom of the long descent, the trail crossed a jumble of rocks and a stream where a steep canyon opened to the valley. The stream was split into multiple branches as it poured over and around the rocks.

The stream crossing was challenging. The rocks also made it difficult to pick out where the trail went beyond the stream.

As I tried to find a safe place to cross and figure out where the trail continued on the other side, I saw Tasty Fairy, the hiker from Holland. She was just ahead of me and also trying to find the trail.

We worked together to figure out where the trail went. Then after we got across, Tasty decided to stay there for a snack break, so I went on alone.

The next 3.5 miles were a steep climb of about 1,800 feet, followed by a longer but less steep descent.

As the afternoon waned, clouds began to descend to cover the mountain tops. A fine mist that occasionally fell added to the late-afternoon gloom.

It had been a tiring day, and after I crested the climb I began to think about stopping earlier than I had initially planned.

The trail's path was just below the jagged prominence of Cathedral Rock, but because of the low clouds, I couldn’t see the peak.

When I reached the first potential spot to camp, I seriously thought about stopping. It was well short of where I had planned to camp, but the day had been so damp and dreary I was ready to stop.

Then I discovered the area was filled with mosquitoes. They were enough to convince me to keep going.

Another campsite was 3.2 miles ahead, and when I arrived there I saw another stream crossing. It also had wobbly rocks, so I again focused my attention and stepped carefully as I crossed.

Once I reached the other side I looked around for the campsite, only to realize I had passed it before crossing the stream.

I thought about crossing the steam again to the campsite but then thought better of it. Thinking that might be too much of a test of my luck and concentration, I decided to just filter some water and head for the next campsite, which was a little more than a mile away.

The trail was still descending, but so were the clouds. They were soon hanging so low I felt I could almost reach to touch them. The air was heavy with moisture.

I arrived at the next campsite shortly after 8 p.m. It was where I had originally planned to stop when I started out this morning.

Val was there and had been for a few hours. Sunkist and Bluejay were also camped nearby.

Though it was a little rugged, which required extra time to find a flat spot for my tent, the site turned out to a good one. I pitched my tent on a point near a deep gully. A slight breeze kept most of the mosquitoes away.

This had been a difficult day. A couple stream crossings and a steep climb made it challenging enough.

Then as the clouds became thicker and lower, and the air became wetter, I felt my energy draining from every limb.

After finishing dinner and camp chores, however, I noticed the clouds were beginning to break up and lift. Perhaps tomorrow will be better.

Blue light rain, unbroken chain
Looking for familiar faces in an empty window pane
Listening for the secret, searching for the sound
But I could only hear the preacher and the baying of his hounds

Willow sky, I walk and wonder why
They say love your brother but you will catch it when you try
Roll you down the line boy, drop you for a loss
Ride out on a cold railroad and nail you to a cross


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