Day 113: We Didn’t Start The Fire

Mile reached: 2646.3 (+34.2 + 1.8 bonus)

High: Getting past the forest fire and not seeing anything too close ahead

Low: The helicopter

Wolves sighted: 1

“Gandalf” camped right next to me and kindly set his alarm for 4:45 am. (He claimed that it was a mistake…) So, I woke up early, and despite mild protests got going quickly. In the early morning sun, the trail was phenomenally gorgeous, and the smoke was minimal giving us good views in most directions. The only water for more than 10 miles was a tiny spring littered with drowned insects, but a little engineering increased the flow removing the debris. After that, I was content to not bother filtering the water.

We camped down there below Azurite Peak.
Not quite the Pasayten, but no wonder this is one of the best sections of the PCT.
Strangely, we were free of smoke.
More open country
The spring was just down there in the trees.

By mid-morning, we reached one of the last milestones on the trail, Harts Pass. This marked the last road access to the trail. The “Super Siblings” had marched on the previous night to get here, because any fire closure would start from this area. However, as expected, there was no closure and not even a ranger in the guard station. However, there were plastic chairs, so we enjoyed a morning break on them.

From Harts Pass the trail rolled up and down along a ridge with great views of the peaks to the west. Jack Mountain, in particular, stood out with all of its prominence. A few minutes after “Gandalf” told me that he was wiped, we encountered a SoBo, who informed us of a new fire seven miles to the north. More importantly, it was within a mile of the trail, and plane had been surveilling it earlier in the morning. We looked at each other and knew that we couldn’t stop.

Welcome to the Pasayten
Just across the way was an old mine along with an abandoned town

We pushed hard to get ahead of this fire, and fortunately it was mostly downhill. As I was hiking, I told myself that the plane was ok, but if a helicopter came there could be trouble. A helicopter could drop someone off to close the trail. Of course, an hour later a helicopter arrived on the scene and circled overhead. I could also smell the smoke from the nearby fire. Rather anxiously, I ran the last few miles to Holman Pass, and just a few minutes beyond it I could see it at last. The fire was up on the mountain, which I had just descended, burning toward the trail.

The fire was just starting to grow

Satisfied that I was now north of the fire, I pushed on up toward the top of the next pass until I found a spot to have lunch. Eventually, “Gandalf” arrived, and we mutually exhaled a sigh of relief. After a lengthy and late lunch of Mac and Cheese, I continued on to knock out some of the final climbs on the trail. There was also a P2k just a short distance off to the side of the trail, and being that far back in the middle of nowhere I couldn’t resist tagging it. From the top of Three Fools Peak I had excellent views of the fires surrounding us. The horizon was filled with smoke, but for some reason the trail was in a pocket of clean air.

Rocky Pass up ahead
I went cross country from here up to the highest peak in the area.
So much smoke just north in Canada
An intrepid marmot
Three Fools Peak

From the summit I carefully retraced my steps and returned to the trail. In a few miles, I found an exhausted “Gandalf’ sitting beside the trail near our agreed upon campsite. Apparently, there were so many section hikers that the pickings were slim. But, he spied a decent site just off the trail that we made work. Over more Mac and Cheese we reveled in completing this journey, but we weren’t done quite yet. Canada was still 6 miles away.



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