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No. 33- Snoqualmie Pass to Stevens Pass

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Snoqualmie Pass: 47.392335, -121.400094
Baring, Wa: 47.773161, -121.485382
Stevens Pass: 47.746222, -121.085933

 

**UPDATE (8/30): Somehow I accidentally reverted this post to “draft” & lost most of my text. I’ve had to update and republish it.  Sorry, friends, the extra email!**

August 13- 8 miles, camping at Ridge Lake

It took me longer than I expected to get out of town this morning, but that seems to been the norm. I hiked up the 2,500-foot climb with a hiker named Seven, short for “Seven Summits.” Betwwen 40 and 56 years old, he summitted the highest mountains on all seven continents, and now, at 58 or so, he’s thru-hiking the PCT. I asked him to tell me his story as we knocked out the climb and it kinda got my mountaineering juices going. He’s such a modest man and said he was shy about having his picture taken, so I don’t have one to post here.

This is my foot's LEAST FAVORITE kind of trail.

This is my foot’s LEAST FAVORITE kind of trail.

The climb really took it out of me today. Maybe it was the four days of food I was carrying, maybe it was the smokey air, maybe my town stay has made me a softie, but I am absolutely drained. When I reached Ridge Lake, I went for a swim and filtered some water, with every intention of putting in another eight miles.

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Two southbound hikers said that all the streams for the next twelve miles are dry, though, and since I only have the capacity to carry two liters of water, dry camping in the middle of a twelve mile stretch is out of the question. It’s a dry year, but this is actually the first time I’ve come across usually reliable sources that are now dry. Lucky for me that the hiker community is really good at spreading news via word of mouth.

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I’ve found a really nice campsite near the lake and am bracing for some rain. The weather report said we’d have thunderstorms all tomorrow- I just hope there’s no lightning. : /

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Mac & cheese dinner

 

Camping near Ridge Lake

Camping near Ridge Lake

 

August 14- 15 miles, camping in Lemah Meadow

When I lost my old boots in Cascade Locks, I also lost my gaiters. I loved those gaiters! They had the cutest little pin-up girl print. I ordered new gaiters from Dirty Girl Gaiters and had then shipped to Snoqualmie Pass. This new pair has a sushi print and am posting a picture here before they get covered in mud and dirt.

New sushi-patterned gaiters

New sushi-patterned gaiters

The clouds completely engulfed the trail today; it was like hiking in another world. When there a no views to admire, I end up focusing on the small things, like details in the trail or plants and little animals. It also makes for a much more internal hike because I’ll really get absorbed in my thoughts.

A small thing... a pika

A small thing… a pika

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Delate Creek

Delate Creek

It was a wet and very cold day ALL day long. I hiked for most of the day with a Finnish college students named Bambi Magnet, who was vibrant and fun. His passion for everything on the trail, even getting slammed by super cold rain clouds, is really contagious.

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Lemah Creek and Bambi Magnet

Lemah Creek and Bambi Magnet

By the early afternoon, we were out of the clouds and skirting along the lower elevations of Lemah Meadow. I lingered just below the beginning of the climb up to the next ridge, eyeballing the rain clouds and wind. It looked like pretty unpleasant weather up there and my guide book described only a few, rather exposed campsites. I really didn’t feel like putting up with wind and rain all night, so, even though it was still the afternoon, I set-up camp. With so much time on my hands and stuck inside my tent, I busied myself with sodoku, reading, and snacking on treats. It’s super cold and I’m wearing EVER piece of clothing I have- I really hope it’s not too miserable tonight.

 

August 15- 21 miles, camping at Deep Lake

Overcoat Peak

Overcoat Peak

The rain turned out to be the least of my concerns last night. Washington mice have yet again demonstrated their stealth, cunning and determination to eat my food. With the zipper on my tent broken, I’m practically at their mercy. They walk in like they own the place and poke around for anything tasty to eat- last night, it was my chicken noodle soup. I’m really regretting not having my Ursack anymore because now I have to sleep with my food huddled inside my sleeping bag. I used to go to sleep in fear of large animals that would eat me, now it’s about the little ones that eat my chicken noodle soup. Mice 5, Katie 10.

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Drying out my gear above Waptus Lake

Drying out my gear above Waptus Lake

It turns out I made a good decision climbing the ridge last night. If I had, I would have missed out on the incredible views. These mountain are as rugged, beautiful and dynamic as the Sierras. After climbing out of Lemah Meadow and coming around to the north side of the ridge, I was greeted with views of Waptus Lake in a deep valley and grand, rocky peaks topped with clouds. With views like these, the day went by quickly.

Bears Breast Mountain

Bears Breast Mountain

Other than Bambi Magnet yesterday, I’ve seen almost no thru-hikers in this section. My guess is that most must have stayed in Snoqualmie to avoid storm and now I’m in a little vacuum between groups. The solitude has been nice and given me ample time to reflect on this summer’s journey, but it will be nice to hike with Khalil again once he catches up to me.

Waptus River

Waptus River

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A bunny!

A bunny!

I’ve made it 21 miles today and am camping near the beautiful Deep Lake. The wind has started blowing in the clouds are rolling in over Cathedral Rock. I’ve found a protected little campsite nestled in the trees near the lake, but it’s still so cold that I’m, again, wearing all of my clothing. I’ve tried to barricade my tent and have packed my food tightly under my pillow. Here’s hoping for no mice tonight!

Cathedral Rock above Deep Lake

Cathedral Rock above Deep Lake

 

Camping at Deep Lake

Camping at Deep Lake

 

August 16- 23 miles, camping at Mig Lake

Deep Lake

Deep Lake

It was another beautiful day today. The views were spectacular and the weather was great. Despite the cold and another sleepless night of mice, I was up early and heading over Cathedral Pass. At the top of the climb, I caught a glimpse of what I thought was a distant cloud, but turned out to be a snow-covered Mount Rainier.

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Wildflower

My opinion on trail nudity: It feels wonderful to swim or sunbathe with minimal to no clothing while on the trail. It’s a rare opportunity to be exposed to the elements and comfortable in your skin while NOT in the privacy of your home. As beautiful as the human body is, however, not everyone wants to see it and some decorum is required when in the presence of other people. I am always careful to never expose myself around children, anyone that may be uncomfortable with nudity, and anyone that may make ME uncomfortable. When I do chose to shed my digs, I’ll usually do it away from the trail in a spot where I can easily reclaim some privacy, if called for. If I or anyone else might feel uncomfortable, I’d rather keep my underwear on and maybe my bra, too. I try to remember that wilderness parks are still public parks and common courtesy should always be maintained.

 

By the way, the picture below was taken by member of a women’s hiking group and no one was offended in the process. : )

Lounging by Deception Lake

Lounging by Deception Lake

 

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Cathedral Rock on the far left

Cathedral Rock on the far left

It turned out to be a hot afternoon and the trail climbed up, then down, then up and down again over ridges. Reaching the pass near Surprise Mountain gave me views to the north of the jewel-like Trap Lake and a very smokey sky. The Wolerine and Chelan Complex Wildfires are raging through the areas just north of Stevens Pass and have even closed part of the PCT. I’ll have to get more information in town on the closure and possible detours, but the thought of having skip a section or even end my hike is disappointing. I know the Pacific Northwest Trail (PNT) runs near the PCT in this area, so it’s possible that I could always come back some year to hike the PNT and tag in the remaining sections of the PCT.

Trap Lake and smoke in the distance

Trap Lake and smoke in the distance

 

My feet actually felt rather sore from all the miles tonight, a feeling I haven’t had in some time. It was a good feeling! And definitely better than some of the other pains I’ve been dealing with during this summer. I ended up plugging into my iPod and listening to podcasts to motivate me through the last few miles to Mig Lake. There are two other tents across the lake, but I’ve found a small outcropping on the opposite side that will give me the illusion of solitude. It’s hot enough for another swim, but this lake looks pretty brown and I’d probably come out dirtier than I went it, so I’m going to pass on a bath tonight.

Camping at Mig Lake

Camping at Mig Lake

 

August 17- 7.5 miles, camping at The Dinsmores

The Dinsmores are a couple of PCT enthusiasts who live west of Stevens Pass in Baring, Washington. They’re some SERIOUS trail angels. They’ve built a couple facilities on their property to house, bath, feed, launder, and support thru-hikers and I’m really looking forward to staying there tonight. After hiking about seven miles to the highway, I taped a note for Khalil near the trailhead explaining how to find the Dinsmores, cleaned up in the parking lot bathroom and changed my shirt, then headed out to hitch a ride.

Lake Susan Jane and the Southern Divide Ridge

Lake Susan Jane and the Southern Divide Ridge

Cresting over the Southern Divide Ridge

Cresting over the Southern Divide Ridge

A nice local dropped me off in Skykomish so I could use the library and have lunch at the only restaurant around. Just as I was polishing off my milkshake and burger, in walked Khalil. He was supposed to be at least a day and a half behind me still, so I couldn’t believe he was waltzing into the restaurant. I watched him hobble around the tables and resist the waitress when she tried to get him to put his pack outside. He plopped down in the chair, completely facing me and still didn’t seem to realize I was sitting right in front of him. It was pretty funny, so I really just had to watch him for a couple more minutes and see how long this might go on.

Even after I called his name, he looked at me so dazed and confused. I was really laughing so hard because his expression was hilarious and then there was the absurdity of us arriving at the pass on the same day and finding ourselves in the same restaurant. He said he hiked a thirtyfive-mile day and at least one, maybe two, thirty-mile days to catch up. He’s one crazy Austrian, but I’m glad that I’ve got my friend back.

Stevens Pass

Stevens Pass

 

Links

Installment No. 34- Stehekin to CANADA, 2015

Dirty Girl Gaiters

The Wolverine Fire

Pacific Northwest Trail

Dinsmores Hiker Haven

PCT Section J Toiyabe National Forest Sonora Pass

 

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No. 12- Sonora Pass to Highway 50, 2014

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Sonora Pass, Hwy 108: 38.327691, -119.636839
Echo Summit, Hwy 50: 38.812963, -120.030183
Apex Inn: 38.908128, -120.001110

 

 

June 18th- 6 miles, camping near Carson River

Art and I had a wonderfully relaxing day at Northern Kennedy Meadows, eating and napping. I could’ve napped for a whole week, I was so tired. Since the resort didn’t have working Wi Fi, Art and I drove 30 miles east of the PCT to the little town of Bridgeport on Highway 395. We went to breakfast at the Hays Street Cafe, which was delicious!

Hayes Street Cafe, Bridgeport

Hayes Street Cafe, Bridgeport

 

Next,  we went to a coffee shop that had Wi Fi so I could upload my Vimeo videos and my journals for the last section.

PCT Section J Toiyabe National Forest Sonora Pass Hwy 108

Drop-off from Art & Pepper at Hwy 108

We didn’t get back to the trailhead until 3:30, and I was so tempted to just turn around and stay another night with Art and Pepper in town. It was so hard to say goodbye. We tried to make it quick, but of course we couldn’t.

After making this video on the trail, Art drove the car around the road to catch me one more time where the trail crossed it. That was all I needed to start getting teary eyed.  It’s always so quiet after someone you love drops you off at the trail and you head out into the wilderness. It’s just the void of them not being near you is so apparent.

PCT Section J Toiyabe National Forest Sonora Pass

 

PCT Section J Toiyabe National Forest Sonora Pass

Climbing north out of Sonora Pass

 

PCT Section J Toiyabe National Forest Sonora Pass

The hike was beautiful all afternoon. I had planned on doing eight miles, but after sloshing through more snow then  I expected, I felt like calling it a night early.

PCT Section J Toiyabe National Forest Carson Iceberg Wilderness wildflowers

PCT Section J Toiyabe National Forest Carson Iceberg Wilderness boot

I found Cheryl Strayed’s boot!

I made a little fire while I tried to organize my food. I’m carrying so much, it’s impossible to fit it all in my bear canister.

PCT Section J Toiyabe National Forest Carson Iceberg Wilderness East Carson River camping

Camping near the East Carson River

While back at the resort, I got a look at myself in the mirror at was shocked to see how much weight I’d already lost.  I looked like a starvation victim with bones showing in my chest and back, and my arms and hips thinner than I think they’ve ever been in my life.  I didn’t think I’d loose this much so quickly and it has me a little concerned.  Art and I went through the resort market picking out foods high in protein, fat, and carbs to add to my diet.  I’ve been forcing myself to snack today, even when I’m not hungry, on seeds and dried fruit.  Tonight I had a salami and cheese tortilla wrap as an appetizer before my home-assembled ramen dinner.  I have cookies sitting next to me as I write this, and I really should eat them, but I just can’t get motivated.  I’m having tea instead.

 

June 19th- 24 miles, camping on ridge before Highway 4

PCT Section J Toiyabe National Forest Carson Iceberg WildernessI think Toiyabe might be my new favorite national forest. I never got tired of the red rock mountains or the barren mountain tops or the contrasting colors from green trees and grass to bright little flowers. The mountains here have a southwest look to them. I wish I knew more about geology because I’m sure these rocks have some great story to them.

PCT Section J Toiyabe National Forest Carson Iceberg Wilderness

The trail climbed up and down through forest and meadow. The trees remind me of a Salvador Dali painting because they grow in a bent shape to align with the hillside.

PCT Section J Toiyabe National Forest Carson Iceberg Wilderness bending trees

Dali trees

All day today my body ached, especially my feet and hips. I’ve noticed that as I loose more weight, my backpack becomes more and more uncomfortable. I’ve had to get creative and use my fleece hat and neck gaiter, my gloves, and my wool socks as padding under the straps.I took a longer than usual lunch break rolling out my feet and eating as much as I could stand.

PCT Section J Toiyabe National Forest Carson Iceberg Wilderness

Lunchtime

While looking over my maps and my guidebook last night, I realized that I either have to put in some big miles to reach my next resupply stop before they close for the weekend or take an extra zero day. In order to make it to the post office in Echo Lake by 2 pm on Saturday, I would have to do 26 miles today, 26 miles tomorrow and 18 miles on Saturday, starting at 5am. Since I didn’t make it 26 miles today, I’m debating whether I should just accept another zero day, but possibly take it in South Lake Tahoe instead. At least there I could have amenities and a solid rest in a bed. There’s no guarantee that Echo Lake even has beds available because they’re a summer camp facility for kids.  If they DO have beds, though, it’d be way cheaper and logistically easier! Argh, choices.

PCT Section J Toiyabe National Forest Carson Iceberg Wilderness wildflowersI groaned pretty much the entire last five miles today. I’m just aching so much.  Looking ahead at how many more miles I have until Cascade Locks, I started to get really intimidated. What if my body aches the entire way?  What if I loose interest and would just rather be comfortable at home for the rest of the summer? I’d feel like a quitter, even though I know it’s just a hike. I always have the choice to just do what I want, including go home, and having that option so accessible makes sticking to a tough goal even harder.

PCT Section J Toiyabe National Forest Carson Iceberg Wilderness

 

June 20th- 25 miles, camping above Lost Lakes

PCT Section J Toiyabe National Mokelumne WildernessThis forest continues to enchant me with its colors, forests, open spaces, and dramatic mountains. I slept in again and didn’t start hiking until 8:30. I need to figure out a new hiking plan, I think. Before I began this big hike, I assumed it would be just like when I section hiked. On those shorter hikes, I would wake up early without an alarm and hike at a comfortable speed all day. Now, I’ve got a schedule to stick to if I’m going to reach my goal of Cascade Locks by mid – August. I know I sleep better in the morning, so hiking later and sleeping in makes sense, but I don’t really like hiking until sunset.

PCT Section J Toiyabe National Mokelumne Wilderness

 

PCT Section J Toiyabe National Mokelumne Wilderness wildflowerThe birds all through central California are the most vocal I’ve heard anywhere, and they all have such different bird calls. Some sound like little alarm clocks, others sound like they’re gargling, and I often hear a particular kind of bird asking for a “CHEESEburger.” One kind of bird seems to be having a conversation with itself: “Will you eat this beetle? Yes, I’ll eat that beetle!” I’ve tried so hard to figure out which sounds go with which birds I’ve seen.

PCT Section J Toiyabe National Mokelumne WildernessAs I looked at the map, I had to wonder about a hill I was approaching named “The Nipple.” Rarely are any of these hills named and for one to be named after a body part seemed especially funny; and then I saw it:

PCT Section J Toiyabe National Mokelumne Wilderness The Nipple

The Nipple 😀

The wind is gusting rather fiercely on and off this evening. I’ve battened down the hatches by placing rocks on top of my tent stakes. I hope they stick!

PCT Section J Toiyabe National Mokelumne Wilderness Lost Lakes

Beautiful views near Lost Lakes

 

PCT Section J Toiyabe National Mokelumne Wilderness trail food dinner quinoa

Quinoa noodle soup for dinner & camping near Blue Lakes Road

 

June 21st- 19.5 miles, staying at the Apex Motel in So. Lake Tahoe

After thinking about all the things I could do in South Lake Tahoe, I convinced myself to take my zero there instead of in Echo Lake. I need to buy some gear, like new trekking poles, fuel, repair goo, water treatment, etc. Also, this will be the last major town until Ashland, Oregon.

PCT Section J Toiyabe National Mokelumne Wilderness wildflowers grasshopper

PCT Section J El Dorado National Forest Carson Pass wildflowers I met two new PCT hikers from Israel at Carson Pass this morning, Roy and Sarah. Roy busted out his ukulele and played for us a bit. It made me regret not bringing my own uke on this trip.

PCT Section J El Dorado National Forest Carson Pass hiker trash

Ray & Sarah from Israel

Even though I’ve been excited all day to come into town, I just couldn’t move as fast as I wanted. My feet are so bruised on the bottoms and I’ve had to take way more breaks than usual. I stopped every time I came across a rock or log that looked like a decent seat.

PCT Section J El Dorado National Forest Carson Pass hiker trash

PCT Section J El Dorado National Forest Carson PassAfter Carson Pass, I descended into a huge meadow with the Truckee River winding through it. The mosquitoes were awful, so I almost didn’t take the side trip to see the old Meiss cabin. It was built by Louis Meiss in 1878 after he immigrated from Germany. A historical society has renovated his cabin and put up an informational plaque.

PCT Section J El Dorado National Forest Meiss Cabin

Meiss Cabin

It was slow going all afternoon. I fell in a huge mud puddle while trying to cross a stream. (I didn’t take a picture because all I wanted was to keep moving.) I lost the trail twice and had to look for trail markers nailed to trees. And I had to pick my way through a very steep, two-mile long rocky trail downhill to Highway 50.

PCT Section J El Dorado National Forest

PCT Section J El Dorado National Forest dragonflyLucky for me, I had no trouble getting a lift into town! First, Chaz picked me up and dropped me off at a hot dog stand on the outskirts of town. The dog-seller was so excited about the trail that he upgraded my purchase to a meal and gave me a drink and chips for free! Then, a former PCT hiker named Dave gave me a lift to the town center. Dave drove me around, showing me where all the different shops were and helped me find the most affordable hotel. THANK YOU, CHAZ & DAVE!!

PCT Section J South Lake Tahoe

Dave (top) & Chaz (bottom)

 

June 22nd, Zero Day in Tahoe

Oh, to lounge all morning in a soft, warm hotel bed after cold, windy nights in a tent. Heavenly! I made coffee and chowed down on Honey Nut Cherrios with half and half. Having bought Epsom salts and disposable aluminum pans, I treated myself to a foot soak.

PCT Section J South Lake Tahoe dirty hiker legs

PCT Section J South Lake Tahoe epsom salt foot soak hiker feet

An epsom salt foot soak

After a good deal of pampering, coffee, and watching Contact on SyFy, I finally roused to do chores and errands. On my way to the laundromat, I ran into Lorax and T-Fox. They were loaded down with groceries from the discount store. They’d bought pints of ice cream for 50 cents and other cheap goodies.

PCT Section J South Lake Tahoe hiker trash

T-Fox & Lorax in So. Lake Tahoe

The Lake of the Sky Outfitters offers PCT hikers not only gear, but they hand you a cold drink and take your picture right when you enter their door. They also have a hiker lounge with Wi Fi and snacks and will watch your pack while you run errands around town.

PCT Section J South Lake Tahoe Lake of the Sky OutfittersEverything was within walking distance of my motel, there is even an Italian restaurant next door, which I’d been eyeballing since my arrival yesterday. Tonight, I gave in and it was delicious.

PCT Section J South Lake Tahoe Italian food

 

Links

Installment No. 13- South Lake Tahoe to Sierra City

Hays Street Cafe

Lake of the Sky Outfitters

Apex Inn