Day 134: mile 2500.7 – mile 2521.8

Elevation gain: 4,962 ft

Elevation loss: 5,297 ft

This morning was all about the beauty, while the rest of the day was, for the most part, a BEAST. From the time we left camp at 6:45, everything was absolutely spectacular. The sky was WAY more clear today than it has been in four days. When I woke up to go to the bathroom in the early morning hours, I could actually see the stars…this was a good sign! Once the sun started to come up (sunrise isn’t until 6:30am now!), we could tell that the winds had shifted, so a lot of the smoke had been blown south. This meant we could see Glacier Peak really clearly right in front of us…gorgeous! The funny thing is that the peak right in front of Glacier Peak is called Disappointment Peak, the poor little mountain. ☹️ Once again, the reds, yellows, and greens all mixed together on the hillside was stunning. Most of the red that can be seen in the photos are all wild blueberries. We definitely had to help ourselves, but have decided most of them are pretty tart even though they’re super ripe and plump!

We’ve been having to use our headlamps every morning in order to see well enough to get ready. It’s so funny to think about when we had to do that all the way back in the desert when the days were shorter in the Spring as well. Back when we were sleeping on snow, melting our frozen shoes so we could jam our feet into them, and then postholing all day. We were having to get up before the sun, then as well, in order to get any miles done at all. We’ve been chatting a lot lately about what we remember, good and bad, from earlier in the trip. It feels like we’ve been out here FOREVER 😜

Once we crested the first ridge, we could see even more snow capped mountains including Sloan Peak. This is also when we were finally able to get a pretty good shot of the Hoary Marmot. All of the marmots we have ever seen before, in the Sierra, are a golden brown, but these guys are gray and black. They definitely blend into the landscape and look more like an old piece of wood or a rock. The only reason we ever notice them is because they alert their friends that we are walking in their neighborhood by screaming. It literally sounds like a high pitched little girl’s scream…not blood curdling, more like on a playground. The marmots in the Sierra make single, quick chirps, but this scream makes me chuckle every time…it’s pretty long and loud!

We had our breakfast by a little stream about 5 miles into the day and then we were walking in the forest for quite some time.

It was during this time that the trail turned into a dreaded beast. There were more downed trees than we have seen this entire time in Washington, there was also a ton of overgrowth, and the trail even became a stream many times as well.

We did get to see a couple new fungi, plus a cool pond frog which always makes me happy.

The Shelf Fungi is so helpful sometimes 😜

We also had a bunch of river crossings today, many of them with bridges which makes life so much easier. What was interesting, though, is that 2 of the bridges had broken in the middle, yet seemed “pretty safe” to cross on. 😳 They looked like they had been broken for a while so I’m thinking the plan is not to fix them…?

While we were walking in the forest, we didn’t have any views, but we could tell there was more smoke in the air. The campfire smell was definitely more potent, plus we could see more smoke through the trees. We were getting conflicting stories from the southbound backpackers coming toward us. Some of them said the smoke wasn’t too bad going north, while others said it was so bad they decided to turn around and end their trip. We were confused and figured we would need to find out more about these fires going on around us. This was about to be possible because we had a huge climb ahead of us which would take us out of the forest and back on the ridge. When I say huge climb, I really mean steep as s#*%, with more downed trees, more overgrowth, more roots/rocks in the trail, and there were actually multiple climbs like this…BEAST! We did find out that, yes, it was MUCH more smoky all around us now, but that the PCT is not in jeopardy of being closed at this time…yet. Fingers crossed it stays that way, please!

The woodpeckers went to town on this poor tree

The beauty came back when we finally got to our destination spot for lunch at about 2:15 and I was starving! This will definitely be the longest we will have gone without a town meal since the Sierra, 8 days by the time we get to Stehekin. What makes it even harder now is that we don’t have as much extra weight on our bones…so we are hungry all the time. I wake up in the middle of the night with my stomach growling, it growls while I’m hiking, and basically whenever I’m not actually eating. I don’t even think we could carry as much as we would need to eat to make that stop. But this is only temporary…the end is near. The stream was super cool with all the moss and the snow capped peaks as the backdrop, even though it was pretty hazy.

Link didn’t mention this yesterday, but some of those annoying rocks on the trail that we keep talking about, slipped under my feet and I fell hard on my left elbow. It’s totally fine, but could’ve been so much worse since I landed on a rock. If I couldn’t use my trekking poles, that would definitely be a problem with all this elevation! So now I have 2 lame elbows because I was bit/stung by something 4 days ago on my right elbow. I was putting on my sleep shirt after we cleaned up in that lake, and felt a really hard pinch. I even said, “OUCH!” out loud, but when I pulled my sleeve up I didn’t see anything. I’m thinking it was a spider since it still hurts to touch and is still really itchy. It kind of freaks me out to think a spider might’ve crawled into the sleeve before I put it on…I try not to think about it. 😩

After lunch, the beastly trail came back with a vengeance. Picture this…overgrown trees and bushes on the uphill side of the trail, while the trail was sloped downhill. The dirt was super soft in areas, so the stiff branches we were trying to walk past wouldn’t budge. Instead, they would try to push us back toward the downhill slope and off the edge. The poles saved me many times for sure! Link did spot a beauty of beasts, though…our 9th bear! The bear was walking up toward the trail in front of us, but Link said he looked like a cub/juvenile and was worried that mom might be close by somewhere. So he backed us up and yelled out to be sure the bear knew we were there. The bear immediately took off back down the hill and I could only get a glimpse. We never saw the mom, but definitely better to be safe than sorry!

Our planned campsite today was Mica Lake, and we actually made it there by about 5:30. The only problem is that there were not many tent sites around the lake, and the ones that were there had all been taken. Such a bummer because it was really a beauty of a lake, plus I was ready to be done walking! We did see Splinter camped at the lake who we haven’t seen since he self arrested on Whitney right behind Link when I was taking a picture of him. Splinter said he had gotten off the trail for a while and just recently skipped up to this section. We needed to push on another .6 to the next tent sites, but that meant we had to descend into the massive amount of smoke in the valley below. We didn’t really have any other options, so we hiked on to the seasonal stream. It was definitely more smoky, but the stream is really pretty and we were able to wash up without anyone else around (no one else in their right mind would want to camp in all this smoke). We even decided to wash both of our pants and Link’s shirt since they usually dry pretty quickly. Hopefully that’s the case tonight so we don’t have to walk in wet clothing tomorrow!

The worst thing this beast of a trail did to me today was take my pee cloth! I had washed it out and had it snapped on the back of my pack…actually snapped on! That explains how crazy this overgrowth was…it was able to pull it off somehow, but who knows where. How will I go this whole last week without my pee cloth?? The funny thing is that Mantis & Pants are about 2 days behind us, so they might actually come upon it later AGAIN! Since we’ve had no cell service whatsoever, I have no way of telling them, plus I wouldn’t be able to get it from them anyway. Unfortunately, they just told us that they won’t make it to Stehekin the same night we will be there after all. They are having a harder time with this elevation than anticipated…I definitely feel that! So that means we won’t see them again on this trip, SADNESS! They said they plan to visit us at home in a month or so, which I really hope happens! Thanks for joining us on this crazy little journey of ours! DoubleDown

It’s getting dark so early now!