Mile reached: 2375.5 (+41.3 + 0.2 bonus)
High: Two helpings of trail magic with lots of Rainier beer
Low: Big miles and big climbs made for an exhausting day. I concluded that it’s probably not worth trying to finish with “Extra Miles”.
The early morning silence was rudely broken by a cacophony of animal grunts and moans. In the meadow just behind the campsite two elk crossed paths and refused to move out of each other’s way. So, they made lots of noises at each other, but didn’t really fight. With this battle going on for an excessively long time there was no hope going back to sleep, so I got up and wasn’t the last one out of camp. But, I only left a minute or so before “Extra Miles”.
The morning was both beautiful and desolate. The Norse Peak fire burned through the area the previous year, and most of the forest was dead, there hadn’t even been enough time for grasses and small plants to emerge. It was fortunate that we were able to hike this section early in the morning, because without the forest canopy it would be unpleasantly hot and dry later in the day. I ran into a few volunteer trail crews heading out to survey the damage, and one older guy saw me and immediately shouted, “Say hello to Canada for us!” By late morning we were out of the burn and arrived at a cabin maintained by a local snowmobile club. We were delighted to discover that there was a cooler with a few beers and a huge bag of tortilla chips with salsa! This quickly became an early lunch break, and there would be no need to cook ramen later.
We waited for a while for “Extra Miles” to catch up, but it took here more than an hour. Due to a wedding that was schedule after she started the trail, she had to keep moving at an aggressive pace to finish in time. So, we were a bit concerned that this might be overwhelming, and that the distances that she’d need to cover daily were just too much, even for her. Shortly after she showed up, “Gandalf” and I were ready to go. The next resupply at Snoqualmie Pass was only about a day and a half away, but I wanted to tag a peak on my way. Since everyone else only wanted to do around 30 miles, I would need to split off and camp further. This meant that I had to keep moving consistently throughout the day.
I took off into the warming day. Despite being in Washington, the were few water sources and 10 mile carries between them. The first water source was a spring flowing right out of the side of the hill with ice cold water. Foolishly, I attempted to camel up and hydrate for the next stretch but quickly developed an ice cream headache. Within minutes, “Gandalf” came cruising down the trail and was similarly stunned by how cold the water was. After nodding goodbye, I continued on and wouldn’t see any of the others for the rest of the day. The trail was hot and was constantly going up and down, all of which was made bearable by distracting myself with an audiobook. In the late afternoon, I reached the last spring, which was supposed to be down from the trail in a meadow. Seeing the meadow I dropped down and only found a weak seep. Frustrated, I climbed back up to the trail and discovered that I went into the wrong meadow 100 feet too early. Gah.
After stopping for a quick dinner just past the spring, my plan was to push on until dark. The scenery began to become more beautiful and this was only augmented by the fading light. I was even able to finally see the peaks of the Enchantments and Alpine Lakes! Just as the sun set, I ran across a road and tent with some guy inside of it. He called out, “Hey, do you want some trail magic?” Since there’s only one answer to that question, he got out of the tent and grabbed a cooler with beer from his SUV. I was a little torn because I still need to go further but also had to have a beer. He even offered to cook me a bratwurst! After enjoying his hospitality for an hour, I thanked him and disappeared into the dark. Using the flashlight on my phone, I hiked another mile or so, before I found an old road that provided mediocre camping. The roadbed was so hard that I wasn’t going to be able to set up my tent, so I opted to cowboy camp and pray that no mosquitoes would find me.