Great Western Loop: Day 135 - 139: Snoqualmie to Trout Lake
It's been about three weeks since I last updated this blog. Some recent events have a dramatic impact on my hike and changed quite frequently in the days and weeks following my arrival at White Pass. I'm currently stuck in Ashland, Oregon with no idea how to continue further south, but let's continue this blog, where we left off...
Day 135: Boooooring (34miles)
I left Snoqualmie after buying a few more essentials and headed for the mountains. As expected from looking at the forecast it was a rainy, wet and rather cold day. There wasn't much too see and so I spent most of the time listening to music and an audiobook ("The subtle art of not giving a fuck"), while pushing miles.
Fortunately the rain kept those nasty yellow jackets away, which had stung me twice in the past few days. After pitching my tent I continued watching the Netflix Series "Bolivar", about the South American independence wars against Spain. This series has a fun side effect. As all episodes are in spanish - with english subtitles - it oftentimes makes me think in spanish throughout the day. This is weird, as my spanish is really bad and leads to some really f*cked up thoughts and sentences that don't make a lot of sense. Well..maybe I'm finally losing my mind...
Day 136: Improvements (35miles)
The day started with some nice sunshine that lightened up my mood. The ridgeline I walked on provided some nice views and I even got to see Mt. Rainier in the far distance.
Around noon I passed the Mike Urich Cabin where I have had trailmagic three years ago. This time, no one was around, but a sign clearly indicated that the Forest Service and the local snowmobile club were pissed off, cleaning up after disrespectful cabin users. After a short break I continued on an easy trail towards Chinook Pass. By now, I have left most of the steep and high mountains behind and the trail gets easier day by day. Interestingly enough, this doesn't seem to make me faster.
In the early afternoon I got too see the wildfire that is currently threatening White Pass. Being just some 6-10miles from the trail, several hikers thought about bypassing this section as yet another trail closure looms. I passed the campsite I had used 3 years ago and met Janet and her son Dominic, who were camped at Sheep Lake and soon "interrogated" me on my adventure. With White Pass being 31miles away I also decided to camp at Sheep Lake and hike into "town" the next day.
(Schneider Creek fire causing a lot of smoke...)
(View on Sheep Lake where I camped)
Day 137: White Pass (31miles)
An early start combined with some clouds provided scenic views on the few remaining views to Chinook Pass. Here at the pass, pictures and leaflets about the missing hiker "Sherpa" are still present. Sherpa vanished in 2016 and is one of the few missing PCT hikers that have never returned home.
The day's hike was easy and contrary to 2018, the weather was good. I remembered exactly the spot near Dewey Lake, where I stopped for my birthday coffee 3 years ago.
Every now and than I could see the smoke columns of the Schneider Creek fire looming in the distance.
I arrived at White Pass just before 5pm and socialized with several hikers, while waiting for an enormous pizza. White Pass is not a town, but basically just a gas station with a few lodging options and a small pizza place. It took more than an hour to actually get the pizza and so I decided to not hike on and camp behind the gas station.
(Quite concerning smoke column just a few miles away...)
Day 138: Worst day ever...for now (35miles)
Day 138 started with devastating news. The US Forest Service had just announced that a few days from now, 10 (!!) National Forests in Northern California would close, due to the wildfires. Over sudden, some 600miles of trail would now become inaccessible, making all previous plans useless. Luckily the area south of South Lake Tahoe - the main gateway to the high Sierra - was still open and accessible.
With major concerns about the continuation of my hike, I left White Pass and headed into the Goat Rocks Wilderness. This section had been my favorite part of the trail in 2018 and I had been looking forward to seeing this section again. Unfortunately the weather had once again changed and clouds covered the sky, not leaving much hope for great views.
The higher I climbed into the mountains the more dense the cloud cover got.
Close to the famous "Knife's Edge", I was able to hear oncoming hikers, before I was able to see them.
(At least you couldn't see how deep you would fall in case of an accident...)
(Water droplets from the fog tell from where the wind came 😀)
Due to limited views, I decided to stay on the lower and shorter official trail, instead of taking the more rugged alternate, which I knew from 2018 already. Just before reaching the highest point of the section, the skies slightly cleared up for just about 3 minutes and allowed a short view on Mt. Rainier.
(Still snow up here...)
(Mt. Rainier "floating on clouds")
I was very disappointed and mentally exhausted. The bad news and the bad weather had definitely impacted my overall mood and made me feel tired and frustrated. I still enjoyed parts of the trail, but in general just tried to push some miles to get into better weather.
Just before the end of the day, I realised another mishap. With my mind occupied by the recent trail closures, I had forgotten to stock up on "white gold", or "shit tickets"...also known as toilet paper, which I now urgently needed. I ended up using what nature provided - big leaves of various plants, and just after finishing my business I saw that some of those leaves had aphids on them...yay!
Day 139: Trout Lake (32miles)
The weather hadn't changed much on day 139. Every now and than the sun came out for a few minutes, but than immediately disappeared again. In fact, I never ever got to see Mt. Adams, which was basically right next to me for several hours. Another huge disappointment.
With every additional mile going south, the trail had become easier over the last few days and so I also made good progress on this particular goal, fueled by the desire of reaching Forest Road 23 for a hitch into the small town of Trout Lake.
Before getting to Trout Lake, i had to cross Adam's Creek. This is where I had reunited with Golden in 2018 after parting in Kennedy Meadows, almost 1,500 miles further south.
In 2018 this creek was a major obstacle and I barely made it through. Golden, who tried to cross right after me, got washed away until I grabbed his backpack and pulled him out of the river. This year however, there was a log bridge and I crossed the creek without getting my feet wet.
I got to the trailhead on Forest Road 23 by 4pm. A group of lovely elderly citizens of Trout Lake runs a shuttle every few hours and so I expected to wait on the road. However, just as I was looking for the actual pickup place, Chris - an immigrant from the Philippines - showed up and offered me a ride to town. He was a rather interesting guy and quite convinced that he had seen several UFO'S in this area.