Mile reached: 2334.2 (+36.6)
High: A sunny day with beautiful views of Mount Rainier
Low: Some people are tired and ready to be finished. So, my enthusiasm is not always appreciated.
It was another wet morning. The rain from the previous night and the moisture from the pond left everything sopping wet. Again, “Gandalf” was off well before I was out of my tent. But, once I got going the trail was quite easy. It meandered through miles of ponds of various sizes. A few were lake like and rather pleasant at least this early in the morning when the mosquitoes weren’t so active. All of the vegetation was noticeably wet, but fortunately enough other hikers were in front of me that most of the dew had been already knocked off the plants encroaching the trail. This morning saunter ended when the trail descended rapidly to a small river that normally requires getting wet. However, as luck would have it, this year there was a large log crossing the river just hundred feet downstream to spare me.
Afterwards, the trail consistently climbed two thousand feet up to a ridge and the boundary of Mount Rainier National Park. Just as I reached the top, I found “Gandalf” sitting with “Extra Miles” and “Sub-Zero”, whom I had not met before. However, he and “Gandalf” knew each other from 1,000 miles ago. We shared a few stories from the past few days and lightly teased “Extra Miles” for not being ahead of us despite skipping miles. But, we were also all hungry and decided to hike 5 more miles before lunch.
Until lunch, there were regularly unobstructed views of Mount Rainier and the nearby peaks over which it towers. I was the first to make it to the designated lunch site, but tragically there were no views of Rainier. Even worse, the shade was minimal and there were mosquitoes! On the bright side, I was able to dry out my gear and murder insects while I waited. After everyone arrived, we proceeded to blame “Extra Miles” for choosing this as a lunch spot.
In the afternoon, the trail crossed Chinook Pass, which had dramatic scenery. It also happened to be a major gateway to Mount Rainier, and so there were hordes of day hikers. There were easily hundreds, and the few miles of trail on either side of the highway became a veritable slalom. A few dayhikers were visibly annoyed that we aggressively overtook them, which prompted “Sub-Zero” to express his frustration as “I know everyone is allowed to be out here, but I’m more allowed to be out here.” On the other hand, some dayhikers were excited to meet thru-hikers. One 10 year old boy, fired off a barrage of questions and declared that some day he’d complete the PCT.
The late afternoon became a test of endurance. On the north side of Chinook Pass, the trail skirted around the boundary of Crystal Mountain, Washington’s largest ski resort. However, the trail remained high on a ridge traversing for many miles, so there was no water. Hence, we needed to go all the way to the next water source, which was a small spring. I felt pretty good and had no problem pressing on, but some of the others were hurting and tired. Though, as a consequence everyone was excited to reach camp, where we found “Red Cross” attempting to go sleep. We arrived late, and it was already getting pretty cold. So, I quickly set up my tent and hid inside my quilt as I made dinner. “Extra Miles” wondered where I disappeared to prompting “Gandalf” to explain my puffy predicament followed by some mocking. Whatever, I was warm and readily went to sleep.