Mile reached: 2612.1 (+35.1)
High: The wind blew out some of the smoke and there were actually some views today.
Low: The “Super Siblings” and “Stay Puft” got all worked up about the fires, and it created some unnecessary conflict.
Ironically, I thought I got up early, but I was the second to last to leave camp at 6:09 am. As soon as I was back on the trail, I was in an unusually good mood, though I couldn’t pinpoint why. It was a bit windier, so there was less smoke lingering! Canada also seemed so close.
From camp the trail continued to climb up along the Stehekin River and one of its tributaries to Rainy Pass. Even though it gained thousands of feet, the grade was gentle and the switchbacks few. Mid-morning, I passed a park service ranger, who wanted to verify that I had the appropriate permit. (Camping in the national park requires a backcountry permit independent of the PCT permit.) At Rainy Pass and the junction of the PCT with highway 20 I found some trail magic! So, I grabbed a beer out of the cooler, crossed the highway, and enjoyed it with “Gandalf”, who was waiting at the nearby trailhead.
After the short break, we finished the climb up to Cutthroat Pass, where we encountered backpackers with a train of alpacas. Somehow we were free of smoke, though clouds of it surrounded us in all directions. As we were just starting to think about moving again, I saw an enormous plume of smoke peek over the ridge to the northwest, which scared me. Could one of the fires have jumped to within a few miles of the trail? So, I took off at a dash, but once I rounded the corner I could see that that plume was quite a ways off. The fire was considerable but not a direct threat to the trail.
The rest of the afternoon was pleasant though a bit dry. Amusingly, we caught up to the “Super Siblings” and taunted them for having very little food before sharing some excess including Mini Oreos found in the hiker box. I also relayed some information that I learned about the fires from a ranger. They were a little concerned and talked us into going further than we had planned. But, it was nice to knock out some of the next morning’s climb. “Gandalf” and I reached camp first and got set up. However, when they arrived they informed us that they had decided to hike all the way to Harts Pass in the night, which was 10 more miles away. They thought that in the small chance that there were a fire closure the following day, they would just make it through by being far enough ahead. The reasoning didn’t really make sense to us, and “Gandalf” was exhausted. So, we ate dinner together and then said our goodbyes not knowing if we would see them again before Canada.