PCT 2019: Day 72, Tentsite near Lemah Creek to Gravel Lake

Several times unconsciously I've stumbled on the path

According to what we discussed at our campsite near Trap Pass, Ralph planned to meet me on the trail today. For that reason, I tried to get moving and out of camp a little sooner than normal, and did reasonably well at that.

I left at 6:30 a.m., which was before Val and the father-and-son section hikers woke up.

DateWednesday, July 17, 2019
WeatherCloudy early, then rain throughout the day
Trail ConditionsChallenging stream crossing, muddy trail and several traverses across scree-covered slopes
Today's Miles14.3
Trip Miles988.8

The day started pleasantly. The temperature was comfortable, and though the sky was cloudy, it wasn’t a dark overcast.

I hoped for a speedy hiking day so I wouldn’t keep Ralph waiting too long, but I wasn't especially successful.

The first slowdown happened when I followed a short path from our campsite to the trail. There I met the section hikers I saw yesterday. We chatted a little, and once again they brought up the "you look like Harvey Manning" thing.

A short distance farther I reached where the trail crossed the north fork of Lemah Creek, the same creek we had camped near last night.

A bridge over the creek made crossing easy, but a half mile beyond it there was no bridge over the middle fork of the creek. One used to be here, but now all that remained of it were timber footings.

There weren’t enough large rocks to hop across, except for some upstream that would have been difficult to reach because of a steep embankment. I also didn’t see any fallen logs nearby, so I knew I would need to wade across.

Because of the overcast sky, I didn’t think my shoes and socks would dry quickly, so I decided to take off my socks and insoles, then put my shoes back on to wade across. I figured the shoes would give me better footing on the rocks at the bottom of the creek.

The water was extremely cold, and thankfully, I made it across without slipping on any rocks. Still, I now had soaked shoes, so it didn’t matter much that I had dry socks and insoles. They didn’t stay that way for long.

I didn’t know it at the time, but trying to keep my feet dry would be impossible by the end of the day.

After leaving the creek, the trail began a climb, which was easy and barely noticeable at first. Then after a half mile or so, the climbing could not be ignored. It went up steeply, ascending more than 2,000 feet in 3.6 miles.

There was a section of dead trees, similar to Waptus Burn, but it wasn’t nearly as big.

As the climbing continued, a light rain began to fall. It wasn’t enough to warrant a rain jacket, but I put on my wind shirt to shed some of the dampness.

At around 8 a.m. I found a spot that was a little sheltered from the rain, so I decided to stop for second breakfast and coffee.

While I was there, Val passed me. He must have decided to get an earlier start today.

A couple hours later, the trail crossed a bridge in front of a waterfall on Delate Creek, which flowed steeply down the mountain from Spectacle Lake.

Gradually, the mist became more like real rain. I switched to my rain jacket and also put on my rain kilt, then continued to slog up the mountain.

After snapping another photo on the climb, my camera began to act up. The lens would not retract and the lens cover would not close.

I stopped to fiddle with it for several minutes and was finally able to get the camera to close normally, but I feared it had been damaged by water getting inside. I decided the best thing to do was just keep in stowed in a plastic bag and not use it for the rest of the day.

Hiking in the rain wasn’t bad at first. That changed when the trail crossed a long section of loose scree. I slipped and sprained my ankle.

Trail and weather conditions were already slowing me down, so the pain was even more unwelcome than usual.

Before long, my other ankle also began to hurt, even though I hadn’t sprained it.

The trail curved around Huckleberry Mountain and when I reached the other side I found Ralph waiting for me. He had set up the rain shell portion of his tent so that he wouldn’t have to wait for me in the rain.

From there we walked about three miles over Alaska Mountain then down to the same campsite Ralph had stayed at last night. He told me he had been able to see mountain goats from there on a far-off ridge, but visibility was too poor for us to see any today.

A brief lull in the rain gave us a chance to set up our tents, but wind picked up, making the task much colder to do. As soon as I could get mine set up I climbed inside and changed into dry clothes.

I hadn’t eaten my lunch yet today, so I ate that in the tent instead of cooking.

Much heavier rain began to fall at 7 p.m. Though I had only hiked a little more than 14 miles today, it was a good day to make an early stop.

Tomorrow will be a nero day. We are less than eight miles from Snoqulamie Pass, which is where Ralph left his truck.

Several times unconsciously 
I've stumbled on the path
And seen a mountain in the mist
Rain falls on my shoulders
Sun rises in the east
I'm worn and bruised but I am here at least

From “Mountains in the Mist” by Trey Anastasio and Tom Marshall (Phish)


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