Great Western Loop: Day 129 - 134: Stehekin to Snoqualmie
I left Stehekin with the 8am bus to High Bridge and started a gentle 20mile climb to Suiattle Pass. In 2018 this section had been closed due to a wildfire and so I was excited to see something new.
Most of the climb was on overgrown trail and not very exciting, but when I got to higher ground some nice views came along. With 112°F (44°C) the day was extremely hot, fortunately water was readily available due to many streams and creeks.
Coming down from Suiattle Pass, I mostly hiked through a lush forest, crossed a small footbridge and camped close to where I had camped three years ago.
Day 130: Don't fall! (29miles)
In the early morning I crossed a sturdy and large bridge over the raging Suiattle River.
Shortly after, I started yet another long climb. The terrain here in Washington remains challenging. Over the length of 30-35miles, I easily cover 15,000 - 18,000ft of elevation...and that's not just for one single day, but for several days in a row.
The day provided mixed feelings and was rather slow going. I also talked to several other hikers and lost a lot of time.
Especially the miles around Milk Creek were almost as overgrown as in 2018, which made hiking a bit tricky. Here, the trail is quite steep and narrow and you oftentimes can't see the edge of the trail. Stepping besides the trail here might lead to dangerous falls.
The climb back up from Milk Creek was challenging, but Mica Lake and Fire Creek Pass made up for this. On yet another very hot and clear day, I could also see the Cedar or Cubb Creek fire in the distance.
(Cedar or Cubb Creek fire in the distance)
(Fire Creek Pass)
The last challenge of the day, was crossing Kennedy Creek. The creek was to wide to jump across, quite deep and had a massive flow. I crossed over the log in the picture below and got quite an adrenaline rush. Training on a slackline back at home was certainly a good idea ;-)
Day 131: Smoke again (37miles)
When I woke up on day 131 I immediately smelled smoke again and knew that the wind had turned once again.
This was especially frustrating as I was headed into the Indian Peaks Wilderness, which had been covered in rain clouds in 2018.
(broken, but yet functional bridge)
Once again it was extremely hot and I was constantly filling up my water supply. Due to a rather short day before, I was still far away from Skykomish and running low on food. Fortunately the smell of blue- and huckleberries was irresistible and so I ate a lot of berries throughout the day.
(Nice forest trail)
Day 131: Steven's Pass & Skykomish (29miles)
From my campsite a few miles south of Grizzly Peak it was only 11miles to Steven's Pass and the nearby town of Skykomish. With no food left in my bag, I hiked fast and got a ride from a lovely couple just 30minutes after arriving at the pass. I rested a few hours at Skykomish's local Deli, had a few BBQ Bacon Burger and some Pie, before heading out again.
(That's how the elevation profile in Washington looks on most days. Constant up's and down's...)
(Ski Resort at Steven's Pass covered in smoke)
The sky was yet again filled with smoke and prevented many of the outstanding views that I has enjoyed in 2018. Still, the beauty of Washington remains unmatched and it's probably still my favorite part of the U.S.
(Ascent to Piper Pass, trail climbs to the peak on the right hand side of the picture)
(Smoke and evening sun at Piper Pass)
With limited camping options at Piper Pass I continued down to Deception Lake. Here I was greeted by some ferocious mosquito's of enormous size. I pitched as fast as possible and seeked shelter in my tent.
Day 132: Blue skies! (37miles)
Day 132 was rather uneventful. Early in the morning I crossed Cascading Stream on a weird log and rock bridge on my way to the Waptus River Trail.
I hiked endless gentle switchbacks and covered a lot of ground and elevation in the relentless heat of more than 100°F (~40°C)
(View on Waptus Lake)
My plan was to camp at a nearby waterfall, just before yet another steep climb. Unfortunately the only available campspot was already occupied and so I kept hiking on. Instead of stopping, I covered another 2 miles and 1,000 additional feet of elevation.
Camping on the PCT works a bit differently than on the previous trails.
Here in Washington, most of the trail follows some steep ridges that don't have many camping options. Sometimes you end up in a spot, where you simply have to hike another few miles to find some flat terrain. Luckily the campsite on top of the climb had enough room for 4-5 tents, as 3 other hikers had already pitched their tents here. That's another problem of the PCT. The closer I get to the northbound hiker bubble, the more campsites will be occupied.
Day 133: Snoqualmie (15miles)
Last night's push had the nice side effect of making the hike into Snoqualmie easier.
I was looking forward to this day's hike and got lucky with a somewhat clear sky.
The trail would follow a narrow gravel trail along the mountain side with far ranging views.
(That straight line on the far side, just left of the peak in the middle of the picture is the Kendall Catwalk)
(In the very middle of this picture is Mt. Rainier, you might barely see it's snow covered summit, when you zoom into the picture. Unfortunately some smoke prevented a better view)
(Kendall Catwalk 1/3)
(Kendall Catwalk 2/3)
(Kendall Catwalk 3/3)
From the catwalk it was only another 4-5 miles into Snoqualmie. I decided to spent the afternoon and the following day here. News about several fires in northern California and Oregon had reached me and I wanted to educate myself on the current situation.
(I'm actually using that as an excuse, because I felt lazy today. With the situation developing in Afghanistan I felt more like staying in a motel room, watching TV all day...yepp, that's the reality of a thru-hike.)
Day 134: Zero (0miles)
The current situation in the south is really bad.
Air quality levels range from "unhealthy" to "hazardous" depending on current wind directions. Several parts of the trail are closed, with no detours in place. It looks like I'll have to find a way to hitch around these closures. This is certainly a major bummer and really frustrating.
(Air quality, as of Monday Aug, 16th. Actually looking much better than the day before...)
(Several parts of the PCT in Oregon and California are directly impacted by various wildfires. Most caused by lightning.)
The PCT was supposed to be the easiest part of my great adventure and now turns into a logistical nightmare. Most likely I won't stay close to a continuous footprint, as walking around all these fires doesn't seem to be a valid option. For now, I'll monitor the situation and finish the Washington section. Once I get close to Cascade Locks, I'll make a decision on how to move on.
So...Blog is updated. Let's get back to Chips, Salsa and watching Tucker Carlson on Fox News. There ain't a better comedy show, than watching that moron...