We wouldn’t have far to reach Ralph’s truck today because we had camped last night just 11.1 miles from Chinook Pass, which was where he left it two days ago. I wasn't going to go off trail there to resupply, however, as I had done at other places he had parked.
I will continue for one more day, then Ralph will meet me again when I arrive at White Pass.
|Date||Monday, July 22, 2019|
|Weather||Partly cloudy, with clear skies late in the day; high temperature in the low 70s|
|Trail Conditions||Mostly easy climbs and descents, a few short sections of rocks or scree fields |
Of course, that assumes I can get to White Pass tomorrow. This will require some effort because it is 40 miles away from where we started this morning. While 40 miles isn’t bad for two days, I also want to arrive early enough in the day that we have time to resupply, do laundry, and such.
The day won’t be a nero day, but I would like to complete my in-town chores as if it were one. I looked at the trail profile for the miles to White Pass and it didn’t look horrible. Additionally, the weather was forecast to stay nice, so I was feeling confident I could do it.
Ralph and I left camp at 7 a.m. The morning started with a long, easy climb along the side of a ridge. The trail was heading toward Norse Peak and continued through the area burned in the 2017 fire named after the mountain.
There was one section of green that managed to stay sheltered from the flames of the Norse Peak Fire. It was on the west side of the ridge.
The trail soon crossed back to the other side, where again the trees were mostly charred and dead.
The trail continue around Norse Peak, then crossed back to the west side of the ridge where there was little fire damage.
Before long, we came to a wonderful view of Mt. Rainier, now just 16 miles away. The trail would eventually get closer to Rainier, but I wouldn’t be able to see it again until late in the day because of the terrain.
Below us was a glacier-carved valley. Several ski runs could be seen on the opposite ridge, which was called Crystal Mountain.
The weather was pleasant again today, even though the sky wasn’t as clear as it had been the last few days. Clouds continued to develop for a few hours, then dispersed without any threat of rain.
As we walked along the ridge, Washington’s second highest mountain came into view for the first time. Mt. Adams is also an active volcano, though geologists say it has not erupted in about 1,000 year.
Mt. Rainier’s last eruption was much more recent. Small explosions were observed on the summit in 1894 and 1895.
Ralph and I stopped for second breakfast while enjoying views of both mountains.
As we continued on our way to Chinook Pass, we met a section hiker who just finished a thru-hike of the AT. Apparently, the urge to hike wasn’t yet beaten out of him.
He gave us a tip for when we reached Goat Rocks in a couple days, suggesting we take the Knife Edge alternate instead of the main route.
Another prominent and active volcano soon came into view, though faintly. It was Mt. St. Helens, which erupted in 1980. The mountain was about 60 miles away, yet we could just pick out its silhouette among the peaks in the distance.
If we had been here before the eruption, it might have been easier to see. That’s because the volcano lost 1,300 feet from the summit during the explosive eruption and resulting debris avalanche.
As the trail descended toward Sheep Lake, Ralph and I met a hiker named Flawless. She had been hiking with a hiker named Izzy, but was slowed because of painful blisters.
Despite its name, there were no sheep at Sheep Lake. There were, however, many day hikers in the area.
By happenstance, I talked to a day hiker named Mike, who was resting with his wife under the shade of a tree near the lake.
Somehow in our conversation we discovered we both grew up in the same town in Indiana. We graduated from high school about six years apart, so we didn’t have many people in common. There was one possible connection, however. We guessed his father was likely the veterinarian who cared for my family’s pets.
After leaving my conversation with Mike, I didn’t make fast progress to catch up with Ralph. I continued to be greeted by more day hikers with questions about my hike and the trail.
Eventually, though, I reached a wide, glacial valley. The trail followed one side of the valley to its end, which was Chinook Pass.
By the time I reached the parking lot where Ralph had parked his truck, the time was past 1:30 p.m. This was a little deflating to me because I had hoped to complete at least 20 miles today.
Flawless was there too and Ralph was trying to help her with her badly-blistered feet.
Ralph told me a man named Ron had trail magic for thru-hikers, including a cooler of cold drinks, so I walked over to him. The first thing he said to me was, “Gravity sucks.”
This comment caught me off guard. It took a second for me to realize Ralph had told him about me before I arrived. Ron was apparently trying to be funny with a play on words with my trail name. He wasn’t talking about me, per se, but still, I was a little put off at first by his comment.
Right after that I became annoyed with Ron. He told me I couldn't have any of his trail magic because Ralph was supporting me.
This was mystifying to me, but I chose not to protest, defend my thru-hiker credentials, or even point out a cold drink would be helpful on this warm day. Instead I abruptly said, “Okay,” and returned to Ralph’s truck.
I doubt I was able to hide my irritation with his dismissiveness.
It wasn’t long before Ron came over to the truck and said I could take a drink from his cooler.
“No,” I replied stoically. “You should save it for another thru-hiker,” repeating essentially what he had told me. He tried to insist I take a drink, but I wouldn't give him the satisfaction.
Were my feelings hurt? Did I over-react to his initial slight? Undoubtedly. Should I have been gracious and accept his reconsidered offer? Probably. After all, it was a hot day and the extra calories would have done me some good.
Instead, I stayed about 30 minutes longer, relaxing and eating one of my snacks. Ron and Ralph continued to give foot care advice to Flawless and helped to bandage her blisters.
In all, I stayed a little more than an hour, then said goodbye and resumed my hike.
The time was already much later than I had hoped and I was concerned about getting in the miles I needed today. I didn't want to be forced to make up extra miles tomorrow.
The trail crossed Highway 410 at Chinook Pass, then began a climb of about 400 feet as the trail went around Naches Peak. There were several more day hikers on this side of the pass. For most of them, their destination was a small pond about halfway up the climb.
To make up lost time, I tried to avoid talking to any day hikers. Still, I couldn't help to stop and talk to a hiker who looked like a thru-hiker. His name was Andre, and I learned he had come straight through from the Mexican border without skipping the Sierra or any other snow-covered sections.
Andre was the first NOBO hiker I had met who had done this. He said he thought he was the first to get this far and told me a little a bit of what it was like to cross the Sierra. His stories didn’t make me wish I had done the same. It seemed to me like a miserable experience.
After continuing the climb, the trail dropped steeply about 750 feet to Dewey Lake. I arrived there at about 4 p.m.
By now I had hiked 14.5 miles today, so I knew I needed to push a little extra hard to complete the mileage goal I had set.
From the lake, the trail followed a route of short ups and downs. The climbs were mostly gradual, with only one steep section.
For the next 8.3 miles to where I stopped for the night, the trail ascended and descended in nearly equal amounts. I made good time over this mostly-easy terrain.
There weren’t a lot of long distance views at first, but the trail passed Anderson Lake, which was a pleasant spot.
Starting here and for most of the remainder of the day, the trail crossed into and out of the boundary of Mt. Rainier National Park. There weren’t many miles of the trail in the park, so unlike some national parks, no special permits were needed for thru-hikers.
Farther on, Mt. Rainier began to appear through small gaps between closer mountains. It stood less than 14 miles away.
By now, the clouds from earlier had mostly cleared away, but the sky remained a little hazy.
Mt. Adams and Mt. St. Helens could also be seen again, though Mt. St. Helens was still only a faint silhouette on the horizon.
I continued to make good time, so I didn’t mind stopping to photograph wildflowers I had not seen on the trail before. They were avalanche lilies, delicate-looking flowers that get their name because they appear shortly after the snow melts at higher elevations.
Soon after I took the photos, I met a NOBO section hiker who told me he had only 400 miles to go to finish a hike he started last year. He quit his thru-hike attempt because he wanted to go home when his grandson was born. I told him no one would fault him for that.
I crossed the national park boundary one more time at 7:45 p.m. From here on, the trail would not re-enter the park.
About a half mile later I got one last view of Mt. Adams for the day. I saw it just before turning on a short side trail to my campsite. It stood a little less than 40 miles away.
The sky and the mountain were becoming a palette of golden hues. In front of Mt. Adams, about 18 miles away was Old Snowy, which is part of Goat Rocks Wilderness Area. This was where the Knife’s Edge alternate route was located, which the NOBO hiker told me about earlier today.
I arrived at my campsite a few minutes after 8 p.m. Despite several delays, I reached my mileage goal for the day. This put me in a good position to meet Ralph mid-afternoon tomorrow at White Pass.