PCT 2019: Day 78, Tentsite at Mile 2312.6 to White Pass

Next time you see me, things won't be the same

Morning sun over Crag Lake near the PCT

A number of years ago, back when blogging was first becoming a popular form of expression on the internet, I tried my hand at it. I wrote about hiking, including trips I’d made to summit mountains above 6,000 feet in the southern Appalachians and weekend hikes on the Appalachian Trail.

In one post that was more of a rant than anything informative or interesting, I said I would never take a new device called an iPhone on a backpacking trip. This gives you an idea of how long ago it was when I started blogging.

Before I became too busy to keep up the writing, I hit upon a little stunt to pull during a trip to Washington with my wife.

I discovered our drive home would cross the Pacific Crest Trail in Washington and the Continental Divide Trail in Wyoming. I live relatively close to the AT, so if I stopped to walk on the PCT and CDT, then make a quick trip to the AT in the same week, I could claim I had hiked the Triple Crown in one week.

Admittedly, I could only say I had walked the width of the trails, but that was part of the fun.

DateTuesday, July 23, 2019
WeatherPartly cloudy and warm, with a high temperature near 70
Trail ConditionsEasy, gradual climb and descent, many mosquitoes
Today's Miles17.2
Trip Miles1094.2

This morning as I left camp, I thought of the first part of that trip. The section of the PCT I visited then was near White Pass, which is where I was heading today.

That trip was 13 years ago and I wondered if I would recognize anything I saw then. There’s more to this story, which I’ll explain shortly.

Mountain chickadees

I got an early start today so I wouldn’t keep Ralph waiting too long and also to give myself time to resupply in town.

I was ready to leave camp before 6:30 a.m., but needed a little extra time to watch a couple mountain chickadees forage near my tentsite.

It was not surprising to find these birds here because the eastern slopes of Mt. Rainier are one of their primary habitats. They live in this area year round, though they sometimes move to lower elevations in winter.

Descending trail

My campsite was at 5,291 feet. Once I was back on the trail, I found it was a little rocky but manageable as it took an easy, zig-zagging descent.

For the next 3.7 miles, the trail dropped 1,300 feet, leveling out for a short section in the middle as it curved around Crag Lake.

Flat trail

I stopped and ate a quick second breakfast at the bottom of the descent where the trail crossed Bumping River.

When I continued hiking, the trail began a climb that was so gradual the incline was barely noticeable. Walking along this section was like walking on a flat plane.

The PCT goes through a meadow

There were a surprising number of meadows along the way, as well as many lakes and ponds.

The nearly-flat terrain helped me make better time than I had anticipated I would.

Snow Lake

Some lakes I passed, like Snow Lake, were sizable, though most were small.

An unnamed pond near the PCT

The small ponds seemed to be breeding grounds for mosquitoes, so I passed them as quickly as possible.

Later, I tried to stop to eat lunch, but I felt I was fighting a losing battle against the mosquitoes.

Just as I was giving up on lunch, Izzy caught up to me. Ralph and I had met her briefly a couple days ago. She was having trouble with her feet then, but she told me she was doing well now.

Because Izzy had been hiking with Flawless but had become separated by their foot troubles, I told her about seeing Flawless yesterday at Chinook Pass.

I said Flawless was hurting because of blisters and may have gone into town with Ralph to buy new shoes. I remembered that was what I heard them talking about as I left them yesterday.

As I got closer to White Pass, I decided to let Ralph know when to expect me. Because I had been there before, I knew the trailhead was some distance from the pass, so I wanted to give him an estimated time for meeting me.

I texted him to say I would be there at 3 p.m.

A wooden PCT marker bolted to a tree

With only a mile to go, I was feeling a little run down after skipping most of my lunch. I stopped to take a short break where there were no mosquitoes.

While I was there, I met a SOBO hiker named Dave. I had seen him on the trail before, but this was our first chance to talk. He was friendly and we had a pleasant chat before he continued down the trail.

When I got closer to the trailhead at White Pass, I began looking for confirmation that this was where I had been when I did the first part of my "Triple Crown in one week" stunt.

There was one slight problem with that. When I was here in March 2006, the entire area was under 12 feet of snow. That time, I was only able to wander about and presume I had walked across the trail because all of the markers were buried.

I spent a little time today searching for something that matched my memories of that day on my road trip, then gave up. It was the same spot for sure, but nothing was recognizable.

I arrived at the trailhead 10 minutes earlier than planned, but Ralph was already there waiting for me.

Kermit, Dave and other hikers at Kracker Barrel

We went first to Kracker Barrel, a small convenience store at White Pass. Hikers were everywhere.

We found Ricky Bobby hanging out inside, while Kermit, Dave, and several others were sitting in the shade outside the store.

Hikers sitting outside Kracker Barrel store at White Pass

Many of the hikers had picked up resupply boxes here. The store mostly only carried snacks, so the supply of satisfactory trail food was limited.

Ralph and I could have stayed at White Pass because an open field behind the store was available for pitching our tents. There was also a motel next door. Still, that wouldn’t fix the resupply problem, so we elected to drive to the town of Packwood. We knew the resupply options would be much better there.

The town was about 24 miles away, but that was no problem because Ralph had his truck.

Packwood liquor store and quilt shop

Packwood was near the gateway to Mt. Rainier National Park, giving it a tourist town feel.

A combination liquor store and quilt shop immediately caught my eye as we drove into town. I asked Ralph to stop so I could take a photograph to send to Kim, who is an avid and talented quilter. I sent it with a message, “One stop shopping!”

We found a room at the Packwood Inn, a small motel in the middle of town. The rooms they normally give hikers were in the back, but those were all taken, so we got a "regular customer" room. I felt privileged.

The motel was conveniently located across the highway from a restaurant, and a grocery store was next door. As an added convenience, the motel desk clerk did our laundry for us.

Say what you will about a town with a store selling liquor and quilting supplies, I think we made a good choice to come here. I would have enjoyed hanging out with the other hikers back at the Kracker Barrel, but our stay was refreshing and comfortable.

And if I had to give up Ron’s trail magic yesterday in order to enjoy Ralph’s company and support on this trip, it was totally worth it.

I’m not looking forward to when Ralph leaves the trail in a couple days. It will take some adjustment.

Next time you see me, things won't be the same
Next time you see me, things won't be the same
And if it hurts you my darlin', you only got yourself to blame

Well it's a true true sayin', all that shines is not gold
Well it's a true true sayin', all that shines is not gold
Like the good book says, you got to reap just what you sow

Well you lied, you cheated, oh-oh for so long
Well you lied, you cheated, oh-oh for so long
You're a wrong-doing woman and another queen is on your throne


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