Day 104: Fear And Trembling

Mile reached: 2414.5 (+21.4)

High: It felt like I had finally come home to my backyard.

Low: Even at 5,000 feet it was unpleasantly hot, and the loose, rocky trail only exacerbated the brutality of the heat.

With “Extra Miles” needing to finish by the 17th, we decided to split up the group. “Gandalf” and I were in no particular rush and felt that 20-something mile days would be most comfortable. On the other hand, “Sub-Zero” was going to hike the last stretch with his brother and would need to slow down even further to make that feasible. So, “Extra Miles” took off early in the morning alone after saying goodbye, while the rest of us lazed around and had breakfast. One conversation that came up was concerning a thru-hiker named Olga, who thought that I was rude and standoffish because I hadn’t said more than “Hi” when I occasionally passed her. “Extra Miles” had tried to convince her otherwise, but Olga was still skeptical. Midmorning, I stepped into the restaurant to let “Sub-Zero” know we were leaving and noticed that he was sitting with someone that I didn’t recognize. But, I didn’t bother to introduce myself. “Gandalf” just about died laughing when he heard this, because “Sub-Zero” was having breakfast with Olga.

The next stretch of trail to Stevens Pass had three 2,000+ foot climbs in store for us. Combined with the unseasonable heat, everyone in Snoqualmie Pass was dreading heading out. However, we figured that the earlier in the morning we tackled the first climb the better it would be, and so we just had to take the plunge. After a minor route finding issue trying to identify the trail on the far side of I-90, we were off and began the aggressive climb up. However, it wasn’t really hot yet, and we quickly crushed the 3,000 foot climb.

The last interstate, I-90!
This bodes well…
Bet you can’t guess what the name of the mountain on the right is.

Once the initial climb was done, we found an alpine lake and took a very long lunch break next to it. The mosquitoes and flies were a minor nuisance, but thus far we had enjoyed only doing a short day. Though, the afternoon would have several thousand more feet of elevation gain, so we did eventually have to get going. Despite being high, it was hot and exposed without any reliable water. The tread of the trail also became terribly rocky and tedious to walk on. Just before the final downhill, there was a spring that I took a break at and waited for “Gandalf”. Twenty minutes later, he arrived and relayed a story about how he ran out of water and had to take an emergency stop at a tiny trickle a couple miles back.

A pleasant spot for a long lunch break
Looking at the lake while walking, I nearly fell down the steep hillside.
150 miles left!
Up high on the ridge gave us scenic views on the surrounding mountains.

With the traverse completed we now had to sacrifice the majority of the elevation we had worked so hard to gain. The descent was easy (though still rocky), but we were already not looking forward to tomorrow’s climb. At a waterfall we took our final break, and I posited the question, “Do you think we will have to ford a river again before Canada?” Of course, an hour later we arrived a significant creek with a washed out bridge. There was too much water to attempt rock hoping, and I took my shoes off to ford it. The final mile or so was flat and easy, but when we arrived at the marked campsites there were section hikers everywhere. With few options to choose from, we ended up encroaching on a family’s campsite. There I ate some delicious Mac and Cheese before quickly going to sleep.

Having a bridge made this crossing fun.
Beautiful views through old burned forest in the evening
Despite hoping otherwise, the bridge wasn’t invisible like in Indiana Jones.

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