Day 136: mile 2549.6 – mile 2572.3

Elevation gain: 3,106 ft

Elevation loss: 6,067 ft

Man, oh man…we sure are missing the blue skies like crazy! Today is the 7th day in a row we have had smoky skies, and the 2nd day in a row we really can’t see anything more than 100 ft in front of us. We miss those blue skies so incredibly much, but we are really hoping all the firefighting personnel are okay! Last night was so cold that I kept my down jacket on all night. I have started with it on a few nights over the last couple months, but I’ve ended up taking it off in the middle of the night. It was really hard to get out of the tent today, not only because we were tired from the 28 mile day yesterday, but also because it was so cold we could see our breath in the tent! Link told me this morning that he woke up to a rodent running over his head in the tent. Link just barely fits, length wise, in the tent so he has to have his head all the way at the top, meaning his head is jammed up against the mesh lining. So when the rodent ran across his head, he could feel the guy’s tail run across his face…nice. It’s almost like the mice are super annoyed at him for hanging the packs every night instead of letting them chow down. 😜

Our morning “pack explosion”

Just as we were about to leave camp, an owl landed in a tree just 50 feet from the campsite. He was absolutely gorgeous, huge, and the first one we have seen this whole trip. Unfortunately, he took off pretty much right after landing…his wing span was massive! I was so glad we did almost 5 miles, of the 8 mile climb, last night. That made this morning much more tolerable…just 3 miles to the top. But, unfortunately, we couldn’t see much besides what was right in front of us. All the views were covered in smoke. I was really hoping we would’ve climbed above all that, but it wasn’t the case this morning.

Right after the climb, we hit the “only 100 miles to go” milestone…Yahoo!!

Our next stop was for breakfast at a little stream that was super mossy and cute. While I was filtering my water, I noticed there was a pretty sizable “floater” in the Platypus water bladder. This happens all the time when collecting from various sources, so we usually just try to trap it in the top of the bladder to assure it doesn’t clog the filter. I was keeping a close eye on this large particle when I noticed it looked like it was moving. Then I noticed it was actually swimming around in the bottle…what the heck?? It almost looked like a super tiny tadpole…gross. 😳 So I dumped that and collected new water. This time it had no floaters. When I was done filtering my water, I attempted to put the cap back on my bottle but it slipped out of my hand and landed right in the stream. This stream was not moving very fast so I assumed it would just get caught between a couple rocks, no biggie. But NOOO…the water started to take it downstream, which meant UNDER the trail (you can see what I mean in the picture below). I leapt up, tried not to eat it on the slippery river rocks, hopped over the trail and down to the lower part of the stream. I was really hoping the cap didn’t get caught in the stream under the trail because then I would have no way of getting it back. As luck would have it, there was my cap, still coming down the stream and I was able to snatch it back. Phew…it would’ve been hard to only use my Gatorade bottle all day today! It was quite the eventful breakfast, not very relaxing, but eventful for sure.

For the next few hours we kept trading off either walking in the forest or in rock piles. Just like the marmot alerting his friends that we are coming, so do the Pika. We will be walking in the forest and I’ll hear their quick, high pitched and loud “MEEP”, and then I know that we are approaching a rock field. This seems to be their favorite place to live and we see them amongst the rocks more than anywhere else. I tried to find some beautiful scenery for pictures today, but with the smoky haze, everything is muted and bland looking.

These last couple days, we have found ourselves just trying to get the miles done. Without much to look at, this really just seems like something we HAVE to do instead of something we WANT to do. We are hoping the smoke will dissipate a little while we go into Stehekin tomorrow…our LAST town stop! We were going to have 5-ish miles to walk before getting to Stehekin tomorrow, but since we needed to do 5 extra miles yesterday to get out of the smoke, now we will have a whole day off instead! Our bodies feel like they really need that, to make our final 80 mile push to CANADA in just 4 days, after we get back on trail! It definitely feels surreal. We did see a couple new molds today, our 3rd bald eagle, had a bunch of river crossings, and found ourselves walking in some overgrown trail again.

Pyncnoporellus alboluteus
A random mold of some sorts
Link is actually on the trail here…

We stopped for lunch at a swiftly moving river that had a bunch of great pools. But with the sun behind the smoke, it definitely didn’t feel warm enough to get into that super chilly water! When we were about to leave, Iceman walked up. We met him during the first couple weeks of this whole trip. Back then, he had flipped from north to south because he didn’t want to deal with all the snow we had in the desert…it was a lot for sure! He camped with us one night and I remember being horrified for 2 reasons. One, he walked into camp and then proceeded to jump into his sleeping bag while wearing his dirty, sweaty hiking clothes. Two, then lit a cigarette. He was the first smoker we had met on the trail and I was so confused how that was possible since I was having a hard time hiking these trails and I don’t smoke! Now we have met so many smokers that it seems pretty “normal”. Soon after lunch we saw a guy walking super fast toward us and I was happy to be able to get info about the smoky air from someone coming south. We hadn’t seen anyone all day, besides Iceman, because all the people who live in the area would never hike in these conditions. As the guy got closer, he said he was doing a “FKT loop”…fastest known time. He said he hadn’t seen any blue skies for at least 30 miles, and that he had done 63 miles yesterday. All I could think of to say was, “why?”…but he was already long gone.

How is this tree standing??

We made it to camp at 5:30, only .2 from where the shuttle will pick us up tomorrow to take us into Stehekin. So we get to sleep in before they pick us up at 8:40…UNHEARD OF! I’m probably most excited about their famous bakery, but a very close second is the shower and laundry. Eight days without a shower, after hiking and sweating 10-12 hours every day on a dusty trail…it’s pretty bad. Then putting the same dirty, smelly clothes on every morning…yikers! Really looking forward to becoming human again. I think the longest we have gone without a shower was 13 days in the desert, but that was when it was really cold. I was wearing multiple layers of clothing to hike in, and definitely not sweating. First, though, this campsite is great. It has a picnic table, pit toilet WITH toilet paper, trash and bear box so Link doesn’t have to hang the bear bags. Iceman, as well as 2 other women, are camped here with us so we will all be on the shuttle together tomorrow. Thanks for joining along with us during our final few days of this adventure! DoubleDown