Mile reached: 2540.6 (+29.3)
High: The huge climbs actually didn’t seem that bad.
Low: The smoke came back and obstructed all of the views.
No one was excited for the day to start. In order to get to Stehekin there would be three 3,000+ foot climbs in addition to the normal rolling ups and downs. To no one’s surprise I was the last out of camp save for “Stay Puft”. After thinking to myself for the first 15 minutes that the trail was pretty good, it all went to hell. It started with substantially overgrown trail and then was immediately followed by lousy tread up the first steep climb. This was only compounded by the thick smoke choking out everything. This was a bit bewildering to me, because I had expected the rain to clear everything out at least for a day or two.
The first climb went quickly, but then anything in the morning feels easy. But, rather than go through a saddle and to the north, the trail made a lengthy serpentine traverse toward the west eventually giving up much of the elevation gain. At the bottom of the backside, I spied “Gandalf” and the “Super Siblings” crossing a tiny creek. A few minutes later, I reached it and slipped on the wet grass dunking my left foot in the glacial meltwater. So, the second climb started off on a good foot. Nevertheless, I powered through it too and waited for the others at the top. There should have been stunningly scenic views, but we mostly got to look at an expanse of smoke.
The descent was uneventful, but “Gandalf” and I sailed down it. Water was plentiful and the tread was excellent until he commented on how great it was. From that point on it immediately turned rocky and was tedious all the way down to the bridge that would serve as our lunch spot. Not eager to get going, we waited a while and soon everyone else collected there as well.
The bridge marked the start of another large climb, but this time it was the afternoon. So, this climb would be much warmer and almost certainly less pleasant. The next marked water source wasn’t until the top, but I had boldly declared that I wouldn’t top up on water from the silty river underneath the bridge. Certainly, there must be water somewhere on the steep hillside ahead. The topo map even indicated there were several seasonal drainages. Wrong. There was no water, and my 0.5 L had to last me all the way to the top through the hot sun. When I finally did reach the meltwater up top, I lapped it up.
It would be another 10 miles to the obvious campsite at the Suiattle River, so I decided to wait for “Gandalf” to confer. Unfortunately, I had just passed a few slower thru-hikers that started in March, but “Gandalf” took so long to arrive that they had a good head start on us. Along with “Birdshit” and “Stay Puft” we marched on to the campsite thinking that we’d overtake them at some point. We didn’t, and consequently they had the first pick of sites. Normally, this wouldn’t be an issue, but one of them set up his tent a foot or so away from the fire ring like a moron. This meant that we wouldn’t be able to have a fire that night without burning all sorts of holes in his rain fly. They also went to sleep ridiculously early, and he was obnoxiously passive aggressive about us staying up to *gasp* 8 pm.
That evening there was extended debate about what the plan should be for the next few days. The official trail into Stehekin was closed due to a fire, and the reroute added 17 miles and a lot of elevation gain. On the bright side though, the detour went through a village called Holden, where there would be an all you can eat buffet. Those of us who didn’t care about maintaining a continuous footpath (*cough* “Gandalf” *cough*) could take the ferry into Stehekin instead. “Stay Puft” was also captivated by the possibility of enjoying three meals at Holden, but since it was 20 miles away we’d really have to push in the morning over a 4,000 foot climb. I insisted that it was possible if we got up at 5 am, but “Gandalf” laughed incredulously that I could even do such a thing. So, he offered to bet me a beer that I couldn’t be on trail before 5:30. On that note I immediately went to sleep, so I’d be able to prove him wrong in the morning.