Mile 2450.3 to mile 2476.7, Steven’s Pass! 14.4 miles, 1.2 miles off trail for town food:), 15.6 miles total
PCT mileage: 933.4
Running total: 1039.2
I convinced Matt that I would be a more efficient packer in the morning if I woke up later, so he let me sleep until 0615. We DID get out of camp earlier than the day before AND I woke up 45 minutes later, but I definitely think more research is needed. Maybe we would have increased productivity if I slept even later???! 😉 TBD for sure…
We woke up to a beautiful view: blue sky and the sun!
…and mosquitos. Matt went and enjoyed his breakfast outside with a mosquito net, while I opted to eat in the tent. Matt’s tolerance for mosquitos has definitely gone up, while mine has not. In fact, I believe my tolerance is declining… rapidly. I’m losing it out here!! My legs are covered in bites and the itchiness is driving me mad!! I now have bites on my face, too. Blood-sucking bastards!!!! We hear that the end of July is the end of mosquito season, but with all of the rain we have had recently it may prolong the season. I just can’t!
Just as I was tying up my tent doors to change into my hiking clothes I thought, “ah, yes, it would be nice and cozy to take a zero day in the tent instead of hiking in the rain one day” …and not a second later I heard the drops.
I didn’t believe it until I looked outside. What. The. Fuck!! We did our extensive research (aka a Google search…) and found that July is historically the driest month in Washington- so tell me, then- why the hell was it raining again!!!??? Day 9 of rain in Washington. Ugh!!
Matt jumped back into the tent to finish his breakfast feast while I continued to pack up. Thankfully the rain didn’t last long, and we were on trail before 8.
First stop: visiting one of the many toilets in northern Washington
As the sun started to poke through the clouds we took the time to remove our rain covers from our packs.
The day started with a fairly steep but short climb: 1000 feet of elevation gain in 1.4 miles, with 800 of those feet in the last 0.6 miles. When we got to those last 0.6 miles, I put on my game-face and started walking swiftly and robotically. The sooner I got to the peak, the sooner I would be done.
We were .1 miles from the peak when we were stopped dead in our tracks by a loud roll of thunder. Matt and I exchanged looks of, “are you fuckin serious?!”
We were legit less than 3 minutes from the peak- what should we do? Run down the way we came? Stay where we were? Or try to run up and over the peak and get down asap? Ugh. All options were terrible, but we definitely didn’t want to have to do that climb again so we decided to wait where we were.
Out of the corner of my eye I thought I saw a flash, and before I could ask if is was lightening we heard the loudest, most piercing crack of thunder. Fuckkk.
Moments later, three boys came racing down from the peak. In short conversation we learned that the guys, Shaker, Fred, and Joe Dirt (not OUR Joe Dirt!) saw a tree too close for comfort get struck by lightening and start smoking. They weren’t too keen on waiting around at the higher elevation so they pressed on, but first gave us a heads up: terrain on the other side of the peak was rocky and slow-going. Awesome. Glad we didn’t try to summit and run down in the storm!
We heard another small rumble of thunder and watched as the dark clouds appeared to be moving away. We decided to wait a few minutes and continue on.
We reached the peak without incident and were treated to a stunning view!
We started the climb down, which included a traverse across an exposed, rocky slope.
Just as we approached the traverse we heard more thunder- awesome! I don’t even know what’s worse in a lightening storm: being on the peak or on that the completely open hillside. Thankfully it was just one rumble and nothing more.
Eventually the sun came out and we started baking, but within 30 minutes the weather quickly changed again- the temperature noticeably dropped and it became more eerie. We saw a few rain drops and decided to put our packs cover on just as it started pouring rain AND hail!
Seriously?!!?? We had to laugh- as long as we are safe, all of this shit is funny, right?! And as Matt pointed out, it gives us a new appreciation for the little things, like shelter and our couch. Oh how I longed for a movie on the couch! I started wishing that wherever we ended up staying that night had DVDs for the guests- I wanted movies in bed so badly!!!!
We threw on our rain coats and stayed in the shelter of a grove of trees until the storm subsided. We then trudged on through new, slippery swamps and deep puddles- we ALMOST made it through a section of Washington dry but now our feet were soaked. We were SO happy that we were headed to town and could shower, dry off, and escape the wilderness for a few nights.
We walked maybe 20 minutes before stopping to scarf down our lunch while standing in the middle of the trail. Stressful, shitty-weather hiking makes me ravenous and there ain’t no shame in our game!
We walked a little farther before stopping to filter water in preparation for the second short but steep climb of the day. There we ended up chatting with a SoBo hiker named Pat. I have asked EVERY SoBo hiker about the section between Stevens Pass and Stehekin and Pat was no exception. Pat’s response? He sighed deeply and shuttered: the 108 mile section took him 8 grueling days. (We had previously met another man who said it took him 10 days- this man had an ankle injury and hiked 10 hours a day but could only go 10 miles. He had run out of food on day 5 and said he was not doing well, but thankfully a passing hiker had too much food and gifted him some…) Mental prep: I need to know exactly what I’m getting into and if it’s terrible, I want the heads up. I’d rather be pleasantly surprised (fat chance, from what I’ve heard) vs being woefully unprepared. I’m expecting the worst.
Anywaysssss, we knocked out the next climb (700 feet in 1 mile) but this time, instead of cruising, I had to stop, grumble, and curse at the switchbacks- why so steep?!? Ugh.
We had a mile of flat-ish terrain before our last climb. By this time the sun was shining and life was good- we were actually enjoying a day in Washington, even despite the earlier hailstorm!! We had 500 feet of elevation gain in a little over a mile- it felt like nothing!! The trail ran through Stevens Pass Ski Resort- we hiked amongst the ski lifts until finally starting our final descent into the village, where we hoped to catch a hitch into Leavenworth.
Just as we started our descent I realized we had service. I texted my mom a quick update and she called immediately: “possible serial killer in British Columbia, killed two young adults (one looked like She-Wee :(:(), drives a Jeep Cherokee, BE CAREFUL!” Thanks, Mama Bear!
We had 2.2 downhill miles to go! It was 3:15, and if we were fast enough and caught a hitch right away, there was a small chance that we could get to the post office in time to get our box, which meant one less thing that we would have to do the next day.
Minutes into the descent Matthew stopped short and started cursing- his knee, which had been a little sore, was suddenly in excruciating pain. After taking a small break, popping ibuprofen, and wrapping his knee for stability, we carried on. It was a LONGGG hike down, taking us an hour and a half! Poor dude:( While this totally sucks, we were thankful that this happened near a town vs. in the middle of nowhere- a doctor’s visit was placed on our zero-day to-do list.
Once finally down we researched hotels in Leavenworth and booked a room for two nights before heading to the road for a hitch. Not many cars were on the road and I was mentally preparing myself for a Packwood repeat (45 desperate minutes!), but the third car that passed pulled over! We have NEVER gotten a hitch so quickly!! I held my breath, though- the man was overwhelmlingy enthusiastic about giving us a ride AND he drove a Jeep Cherokee. Great, this is how I go: serial killer along the PCT. Sorry, mom! But the alternative at this point? Death by mosquitos. I kept my fingers crossed and said a prayer as we packed in.
As he drove off, our driver gave us full-disclosure: he was drinking a beer (he usually has one or two as he drives?!!) and asked us if we wanted one. Believe it or not this made me feel better: Shotgun had recently told us about his strangest hitch that included he and the driver enjoying a beer on the ride- this HAD to be the same guy & Shotgun was alive and well! (Turns out it wasn’t the same guy…) Our driver was just super nice, apparently beer drinking while driving in the mountains is a thing, and we were grateful for the ride to our hotel.
Upon check-in I noticed a list of over 400 DVDs that we could rent for the duration of our stay- what?!?? I had NEVER seen a hotel offer DVDs and just earlier I was dreaming of movies in bed! The trail provides:)
After checking in we spread out our wet gear to dry (sleeping bags, rain coats, shoes, etc.), showered, and hit the town for some food.
It was after 7 and Matt was so hungry that he wanted two dinners. Our plan of attack: Blewit Brewery for beer and pizza first(recommended by Lisa), then Müchen-Haus for sausage and a big-ass soft pretzel(#1 touristy place to eat at while in Leavenworth.)
We ended up running into Lisa at the brewery and sat with her and her husband Jim- we had such a nice time with them! Lisa will be taking a week off before returning to the trail, so we probably won’t see her again. With our crazy NoBo/SoBo/NoBo/SoBo hike, making solid connections has been hard- we meet cool people like the trail fam, Shotgun, & Lisa and then poof! we or they are gone! But we have enjoyed our limited time with all!
Although I had no intentions of eating pizza, I ended up eating nearly half of Matt’s and donated some leafy greens to Matt in exchange. Matt and I then headed over for our sausages- we shared a pretzel, each enjoyed a soup (mine, a red lentil and veggie puree, Matt’s, a potato, ham, and cheese concoction), and each ate a sausage sandwich- they had Beyond Brats!!! Love the meat-free options 🙂
After dinner #2 Matt was STILL hungry but unfortunately all restaurants were closed. He opted for hot chocolate and jelly beans in bed while I passed out.
Fun fact: Since returning to the trail on July 3, 21 days ago, we have taken four zero days and have hiked 317.1 PCT miles. Looking back at our first 21 days on trail in the desert, we had also taken 4 days off but only had hiked 246.5 miles. It’s cool to see that despite feeling tired we are still crushing miles!