Day 155: The Gang’s All Here

155. September 12: Mile 2551.39 Campsite to Mile 2569.42 Stehekin, WA 
The final town! The hike into town was pretty short. It wad only a short bit of uphill (less than a mile) before a 18ish mile hike down several thousand feet towards Stehekin. At lunch I figured we could probably make the 3:00 shuttle into town instead of waiting for the 6:15 one (it’s a dirt road with basically no cars on it) so once that became fixated in my head, it became my mission to get there at 3:00. In hindsight I really shouldn’t have done this. We made it; just barely, but for Glowworm I know it was more of a struggle. She was not hiking slow by any means, I was just hiking exceptionally fast. We should have just taken it easy and had a slow chill day to make it for the 6:15 bus, but I for whatever reason decided it was better to push. I should learn from this lesson. 

The bus that picks the hikers up stops at this trail famous bakery outside of town before arriving in Stehekin. But instead of the normal 20 minute stay at the bakery, it was only five minutes due to some hikers really wanting to retrieve their resupply boxes before the post office closed. So we were rushed and I panicked so I wound up buying two slices of cold pizza, two large chocolate chip cookies, a cold cut sandwich, and a pint of milk. In think the total came out to be $25 or something. I didn’t even get proper baked goods! Ugh, hopefully tomorrow we’ll get a chance to look and decode before heading back to the trail. 

In town, which is more of a resort than a town, we immediately headed to the general store to buy fuel out of fear that they would run out. Fortunately they had some and we will be able to happily eat out dinners hot for the remainder of the hike. After purchasing our canisters we joined Dr. McDirty, Cougar, and Adam who had already arrived earlier in the day on the porch for beers and to eat our baked goods. It seems like everyone we have met and become friends with along the trail have descended upon Stehekin at the same time. We saw Acorn, a German girl we last saw in the desert on the hike into town, Stephanie from Italy was in town when we got there too, so was Coco from Brazil, Monarch, John, and others! It’s so crazy. Some of these people we haven’t seen in months and we’re now all together. 

We spent the evening chatting with our friends and then trying to determine our plan for the coming days. The 17th still looks like our best bet for finishing, it’ll just be a matter of when on the 17th. I’m still very much looking forward to being done despite the beauty of the the last several days. 
Hopefully I’ll be able to finally post these blogs for all of Washington which you have sadly not been able to read as I’ve hiked through this section. The wifi in each of these towns has been poor to nonexistent and cell service hasn’t been a whole lot better. I last had contact with the outside world six days ago and it will be another five days until we get to the border and onto Manning Park where I can get internet again. Sorry to everyone who is undoubtedly concerned as to my silence. It was not planned by any means. I’m hoping to maybe call my parents on the one pay phone in town (apparently pay phones are still a thing) and let them know I’m alive and well tomorrow. We shall see. 

Day 154: T-100 Miles

154. September 11: Mile 2586.84 Campsite to Mile 2551.39 Campsite 
Geez, another fantastic day! And today is five months on the trail! After so many totally crap days lately, the past couple have been phenomenal. We began the day at the top of the climb we did yesterday with fantastic views of the sunrise. It’s also worth mentioning that the stars last night were stellar. It’s been weeks since I’ve last had a chance to look into the night sky whilst being clear. 

Anyway, pretty much the entire first half of the day to lunch was spent hiking downhill. At the bottom began and eight mile climb, but as it turned out, was even easier than the climb yesterday and we were able to scamper up it without losing much pace from the morning. 

We’re camped at one of the coolest campsites we’ve stayed at on this whole trail. The tent is at the base of a colossal rock face with fallen scree and debris that has slid into the valley below us. There’s still some patches of snow up there too. 

Tomorrow we should be able to get to the trailhead for Stehekin either late afternoon or early evening and hopefully get to the famous bakery to load up on many items that will surely send me into cardiac arrest. By our best estimates (which should be pretty accurate by this point) we are now just a week away and less than 100 miles away from the northern terminus! Fingers crossed that winter holds off. The weather has been on a downward trend to getting cooler each day, especially at night. We shall see!

Day 153: The Sun Will Come Out…Today¬†

153. September 10: Mile 2508.82 Campsite to Mile 2526.84 Campsite 
Bright and sunny today! This was much needed after last night’s rain. The morning started off slow due to said rain. We had a hard time dragging ourselves of our wet tent which was wet on the outside due to the precipitation, wet on the inside due to condensation, and the outside of our sleeping bags were wet because of the condensation. So as you can imagine we were literally not very happy campers. It is worth noting, however, that our sleeping bags (they’re actually backpacking quilts, but I digress) were still dry and warm on the inside. 

The first segment of the day to breakfast was awful for me. Glowworm had it rough more so than I getting going, but once we got going I really took a nose dive. I was hungry, tired, and hating the immediate climb after leaving camp. But after breakfast and some tunes in my ears, I was able to revive my enthusiasm for life and begin enjoying my day. 

At the first sight of open space with sun we exploded our packs and dried out our tent and quilts (sleeping bags). That chore took a while, but it was much welcomed since it was the first sun and blue sky we had seen in about a week. Plus the view was unreal. 

Afterwards the day just kept getting better. More incredible views of mountains with massive glaciers carving down their slopes, and vast meadows speckled with greens, yellows, and reds. After lunch at a mountain creek we hiked up to the top of a insanely beautiful pass with 360 degree views of snow capped mountain peaks with glacial lakes and grassy meadows. I’m constantly amazed at the world I’m currently living in. 

We descended from the picturesque scene back into the woods before tackling a five mile straight up climb. We could see the infinite switchbacks as we hiked down into the valley from the other side. Other than the first few tenths of a mile, though, the climb turned out to be not that bad. We were actually able to crush the climb with relative ease and able to make it to our campsite, albeit after dark, in much shorter time than we anticipated. 

For dinner we ate cold soaked rice noodles with a sauce powder than was meant for much more water than we had and was basically salt. If someone made me eat this is real life I would have gagged, but since we were unable to buy fuel in Skykomish and I was raging with hunger, it would suffice. 

Day 152: Autumn in Washington 

152. September 9: Mile 2486.70 Pass Creek to Mile 2508.82 Campsite 
Today started off with rain. Actually I’m not really sure if it actually rained or if it was a cloud that left thick dew on the trees which in turn sprinkled the tent, but either way we woke up with a wet tent. Well, the outside was wet, but minus the walls being a bit damp we were dry. 

The hike today was probably one of my favorite single day hikes ever. Until the end at least, but I’ll explain later. Let me set the stage for you. Pour yourself a glass of apple cider, cozy up to a fire, and breathe in fresh, cool, and damp mountain air. It really has begun to feel like fall out here. The berry bushes are turning shades of wine red and yellow along the mountain sides with wispy white clouds constantly circulating over the peaks and through the valleys causing a constant mist. I didn’t even mind the chilly temperatures and dampness. Autumn is by far my favorite season and it certainly felt like such today. 

The terrain was absolutely magnificent as well. Gorgeous ridges and slopes dotted with evergreens, grass, and berry bushes of brilliant colors. We mostly kept our rain jackets on for both warmth and to stay dry, but I rarely sweated. Hopefully I’ll be able to post some pictures here that do the views justice because I’m unable to describe them in words. 

At one point we saw several families of marmots just chilling near the trail. They were completely unfazed by our presence and we were able to get up close and snap some pictures of them. It’s like they were modeling for us!

Unfortunately, though, the day managed to get real shitty (at least for me) at the end. Late in the afternoon on our final climb it began to get rather cold so I put on my new pants that I got in Bend. I didn’t realize at the time, but we were just about to enter into a cloud as we ascended so the mist became much thicker. However, for the most part my pants didn’t really het all that wet so I decided against putting on my rain pants over top of them. But then after we got to the bottom of the descent and back into the forest, the thick shrubs next to the trail now soaked in water absolutely saturated my otherwise mostly dry pants and continued to do so for the next several miles until camp (I kept holding out hope that the shrubs would lift and my body heat would dry the pants). 

So then came camp. Since it was more or less misting all day we never got out our wet tent to let it dry so we set up our soaking wet tent while large droplets of water fell from the trees. Then, we made dinner. I think I may have failed to mention that in Skykomish when we went to buy fuel at the store since we were almost out, they were all out of stock. We figured if we pre-soaked our food we should still be good. The first couple night on the trail, though, we still had enough fuel to boil the necessary water to cook our food and I thought that I’d have just enough to do the same tonight. I didn’t. So after a long day in the rain and now with soaked pants and a wet tent, all I wanted was a hot meal (or anything hot for that matter). But as soon as I lit my stove, it wasn’t long before it went out and he water was no warmer than before. Fortunately I had instant mashed potatoes somI could still rehydrate them with cold water rather quick, but it still sucked. The challenge now will be getting things to dry when the weather in unlikely to be bright and sunny for at least a couple days. 

I promise that today was actually a really good day, though. It was on the very end that sucked. It’s just so much easier to write about negative things that positive ones, especially when the negative just happened. 

Day 151: Non-smoking Section, Please

151. September 8: Mile 2465.66 Campsite to Mile 2486.70 Pass Creek 
I’m speechless right now. We just finished a full day of hiking with the absence of anything going wrong or anyone being miserable at any point. Remarkable! The smoke has finally cleared although clouds and fog have come to take its place, which I’m fine with actually. This is how Imagined Washington to be in the first place and I’m finally getting it. 

Through the bulk of the morning is was cool with low hanging clouds and dense moist air making breathing a sublime experience. This is of course in contrast to the aggressive nature of inhaling air with a tinge of smoke so it was a welcomed change especially on some of the morning’s climbs. As we hiked, we wound our way through the coniferous rain forest and were able to really take it its beauty and splendor. As the day wore on I was able to listen to podcasts without the motivation of blocking out the misery and thoroughly enjoy them. 

Due to the lack of any sort of major drama there really isn’t much to say, although I’m sure Glowworm will have far more interesting insights than I will. I admittedly have been short on inspiration to write anything absurd or funny or otherwise interesting. I do think that’s just indicative of the times, though. We haven’t had the extremes of the desert or dealing with snow or the like. Instead it’s just been frustrating days with a few good ones mixed in resulting in fairly mundane posts. Then again, my best posts have been the results of extraordinarily circumstances that are often not necessarily fun, so I’ll trade in the lack of inspiration for some peace. 

For an update on Dr. McDirty and Cougar, they got a ride back to the trail a few hours before us and are likely just ahead. If we don’t see them before we get to Stehekin, then we’ll certainly see them in our final town. 

Day 150: Family Reunion II

150. September 7: Mile 2461.70 Skykomish, WA to Mile 2465.66 Campsite 
Ah, there’s nothing like waking up in a big comfy bed. Better yet, the hotel is situated near some train tracks and the sound of a train horn in the night always seems to comfort me. I grew up being able to hear the distant sounds of trains as I fell asleep so I guess I’ve always enjoyed being able to hear that as I rest. 
We woke up “late” in the morning. By late I mean a little after 7:00 and I collected our clothes to take to the laundromat. The small town was quiet, cool, and damp as I walked to the laundry facility down the block. Everything opens late hear and there isn’t much in the way of stores and businesses so I was one of the only people up and about. It almost felt more peaceful and serene than hiking through the forest early in the morning like we do on the trail. It’s crazy how my perception has changed now that my everyday life is hiking in the wilderness. Normally a quiet walk in the woods make me feel this way, but now the woods seem busy because of my need to get somewhere and early morning strolls through towns feel nice and calm. 
While I went to do laundry, Glowworm texted Cougar and Dr. McDirty expressing our desire to meet up with them at some point before we all go to our respective homes and as it turns out, they were at Stevens Pass and were about to hitch into Skykomish! We’ve been trailing them by about three days since Chester and finally caught up with them! So once they got into town we had breakfast with them at the Cascadia Inn Cafe downstairs from our room and greeted each other with hugs and smiles as Dr. McDirty and I marveled at the other’s facial hair that is now much more substantial since we last saw each other. 
The drama of the day came in the form of our resupply boxes not yet arriving in town. We would have had to either wait until sometime tomorrow or buy all of our food in town and just forward our boxes home. Fortunately, the hiker box at the Inn was stock full of dinners and we were able to at least get those purchased, but the rest we had to buy at the store. On top of that, the store was out of fuel so for this section we’re going to have to cold soak all of our pasta and mashed potatoes. Ugh. 

The day was salvaged by the fact that everyone we met in this town was so kind to us. The owner of the Inn basically gave us a run down of all of the town’s amenities for us hikers when we checked in, the store owner the checked us out was also so tenderly kind to us when we were frantically trying to resupply after realizing our packages weren’t there. It really means so much to us. 
We were only able to do about four miles after leaving town, but should only have four more days into Stehekin, our final town. Ready to finish this off with a bang!

Day 149: Back to Misery and Stress

149. September 6: Mile 2441.70 Deception Creek to Mile 2461.70 Skykomish, WA
Annnnd the mood plummets. I felt like shit today. No rhyme or reason, but I guess I just simply don’t have the mental capacity to sustain high morale for more than a day at this point in the hike. We got up earlier than normal so we could ensure we’d get to Skykomish before dark. As soon as we started hiking, though, I just couldn’t deal with it. There were several huge climbs today with limited (but better) views due to the continued smoke. You just wind up busting your ass for zero reward and it can be so demoralizing. There was no part of the day that I wanted to be out here. I’m tired of dealing with everything out here. Especially the climbs. Gosh, I cannot wait to see miles of flat Hoosier corn fields when I get home. 
I did finally manage to get my wits about me for the final climb into town when I decided to put on a very political and social injustice-based hardcore record at a volume level that will surely damage my hearing, but that’s what I desperately needed to finish off the day. Unfortunately for Glowworm, who had been having a rather good day prior to the last climb, she finally broke while hiking up and really struggled to complete the day. 
Once we got to Stevens Pass, we were able to hitch to Skykomish at around 6:00 PM which was about an hour and half later than we hoped and planned for. Once in town, we ate at the Whistling Post tavern. This whole town was once a critical stop along one of the key railroads in the Pacific Northwest region with timber as the main cargo. Point is, the Whistling Post is an original circa 1903 fake facade tavern that is really indicative of the other buildings in town. 
By the time we finally finished dinner it was dark. The plan was to hitch just outside of town to the Dinsmore’s, local trail angel, but since it was dark in a small town, hitchhiking was going to be next to impossible. So we called the Cascadia Inn, just a few steps from the tavern knowing full well that their 14 rooms were likely booked. The incredibly kind man on the phone said that they were booked, but one party was a no show so he contacted them and was able to confirm that we could have the room if we wanted. We weren’t planning on spending money on another room before Canada, but it was our only option and honestly we just really needed it after the rough few days we’ve had. 

Day 148: Still Smokey, but a Good Day

148. September 5: Mile 2416.28 Campsite to Mile 2441.70 Deception Creek
A good day! Finally, geez. Some days you feel like the trail is crumbling around you and others you feel unstoppable. We got a bit of a late start at around 8:00 this morning, but we made really good time. I’m not really sure why, but we were able to just crush some miles and busted out a 25 miler (even though we got to camp close to 9:00). The terrain was mild and the conversation fun making the miles fly by. The only downside being that the smoke was once again thick. We couldn’t see anything despite hiking along exposed ridges with undoubtedly excellent views. Oh well, what can you do?

Day 147: We Got Screwed

147. September 4: Mile 2397.84 Ridge Lake to Mile 2416.28 Campsite 
The slog continued today. Glowworm had a bit of a rough morning and late afternoon. I didn’t really feel all that bad today, but that’s not to say that I could have a hard day tomorrow. We’re at the point now where I think we’re just ready to be done. At least on days like today. 

It was smokey all day. I’m sure the views were incredible since it was nothing but climbing up and down steep and exposed ridges, but we couldn’t see shit since the smoke was so thick from nearby forest fires. Not to mention how hard it was to breathe as the smoke hung in our lungs and the occasional flake of ash that would softly fall on our arms and heads. It just seems like every exceptionally cool thing on this trail has been somehow compromised this year by snow or fire or something. It’s hard not to feel like the Class of 2017 got royally screwed over by Mother Nature. Other thru hiking classes might have some issues with long waterless stretches in the desert or a few forest fires in northern California or southern Oregon, but not life threatening conditions in the Sierras due to snow and massive portions of the trail closed due to forest fires. Ugh. Nothing we can do about it; it’s the year we had to do this, but it still sucks. 

We kept on slowly pushing all day, but the constant up and down along with the lack of motivation due to the smoke resulted in a low mileage day. Minimal campsites along the side of the final climb also motivated an earlier than hoped for end of the day. We’re 45 miles from Skykomish so we pretty much have two 22.5 mile days ahead. I have enough snacks and lunches for both of those days, but not dinners. Since that’s two full days it’ll make getting a hitch into Skykomish challenging due to us getting in at probably around 8:00 PM, but we’ll cross that hurdle when we get there I suppose. 

Day 146: Flights, Food Trucks, and Views

146. September 3: Mile 2390.60 Snoqualmie Pass to Mile 2397.84 Ridge Lake 
Cass, the guy who gave us a ride to his cabin, drove us back to Snoqualmie Pass this morning where we started planning out our next moves. I guess this would be a good time to mention for those who don’t know, Glowworm and I have been dating since the end of May and after this trip, I will be joining her to live in Canada. So for the first month or so after we’re done, we’ll be visiting each other’s home towns before I permanently move to Canada with her. 
The time had finally come for us to book our various flights to go back home. We now have a pretty good estimate on when we’ll be done (September 17) and so we plan to spend a week in Vancouver and Seattle before we fly to Toronto so I can visit her family through Canadian Thanksgiving and then she’ll join me in Indy through the end of October. So we were able to book all of those flights in addition to our last couple resupply boxes. 
While we worked, we ordered these amazing rice curries at a food truck nearby and they even gave thru hikers a free beer! Hooray! After buttoning up all of our internet chores, we finally left and resumed our hike. It was all uphill, but the views were gorgeous. Washington is proving to be more and more beautiful the further north we get. Hard to believe we’re only two weeks from being done!