Washington J

July 23, Sat.–14.6 miles–Washington J Skykomish

Sat. July 23      Miles today: 14.6        Total so far: 1,302.6          End of Washington Section J      Skykomish

It was clear and cool this morning, but we could see a lot of clouds off to the west.  When I tried to take a picture of our campsite among the rocks, I discovered that the camera batteries were “done for”, so no more pictures will be possible till I can replace them. 

Our trail this morning took us across a number of talus slopes.  Many of the rocks were old and covered with moss, but some looked unnervingly new.  I definitely would NOT want to be around when a talus slope is forming,  or some of those “new” rocks come tumbling down!  We had a steep climb up to Trap Pass, but with the sky clear, we had great views!  Along the way, we met a tall, shy-but-polite high school boy taking pictures of wildflowers.  He told us he was one of the Alpine Lakes Wilderness unofficial rangers who patrol the trails.  He’d gotten an early start this morning, really eager to be up in the mountains.  I am SO impressed with the high school kids I’ve met up here–all very nice and obviously loving what they’re doing, whether it’s backpacking, trail maintenance, or whatever. 

We arrived at Hope Lake at the same time as two HUGE, furry Husky-type dogs, each with a bulging set of large saddlebags.  The dogs were all alone and acted thrilled to see us–they wanted a lot of petting and ear-scratching, which we did, but asked them, “Puppies, where is your owner?  Are you lost puppies?”  No answer from the dogs except wagging tails!  We looked all around for some sign of a camp or other hikers, but none were in view, and we finally had to get going, leaving the dogs sort of milling around by the lakeshore.  A few minutes up the trail, we met a man carrying a backpack and running.  “Have you…seen two dogs?” he panted.  “Yes–they’re down by the lake,” we assured him.  “Oh no, they have most of our food…hope they haven’t gone for a swim,”  he puffed as he ran on.  A few minutes more up the trail and we met the rest of the “our” from “our food”–a lady with a baby in a frontpack plus a couple more small children.  Wow!  I sure hope those dogs DIDN’T go swimming!  But again, my hat is off to families who take their little ones backpacking.  Our daughter was backpacking with us from the time she was three, and could hike five miles in a day, carrying her own little pack.  We never tried backpacking when we had to carry HER!  But then again, we didn’t have dogs to carry the food!

Since it was Saturday, and we were nearing a trailhead, we met a lot of other hikers, and as we got closer to the highway at Stevens Pass, we went through a ski resort area, where we were amused by a bright red sign on a tree by the trail, which basically said, “This is an avalanche zone.  If the Ski Patrol catches you here, they will take away your lift ticket!!”  Finally we were down to the highway, and headed for the phone to call the official trail angels of Skykomish, Jerry and Andrea Dinsmore, who promise to pick you up and take you to their house. We hadn’t planned originally to go to Skykomish, which is why we’d carried so much food out of Snoqualmie Pass, but the more we thought about the possibility of eating “town food” and taking a break for one night, the more appealing it got.   But we had no luck reaching the Dinsmores on either their house phone or cell phone.  So I started walking around the busy trailhead parking area, trying to hitch a ride down to Skykomish.  Everybody was very kind, but either already had a carful of people, or were getting ready to head out backpacking.  I finally got to a couple with a large RV who had never given hitch-hikers a ride before, but agreed to help us when I explained who we were.  They were on their way home from vacationing in Yellowstone.  What very kind people they were–though they first had to persuade their reluctant dog to ride in the BACK so that Bill, myself, and out two packs could go on the “backseat” which is normally the dog’s own spot.  Poor doggie!  It looked very forlorn at being banished from its favorite seat.  We had a nice chat on the way down to Skykomish, and they insisted on taking us right into town instead of just dropping us at the freeway offramp.

Skykomish is not a big place, so I walked into the hotel/restaurant to ask where the Dinsmores lived.  I figured that this was a place where “everybody knows everybody”, and sure enough, the hotel folks said, “Jerry Dinsmore?  That’s his red pickup out front–he’s across the street working on the caboose.”   Hmmm, “red pickup” I understand, but caboose???  Out front I went, and sure enough, there was an old railroad caboose on a siding and two guys with brooms and a hose, WASHING it.  And yes, it turned out that one of them was Jerry Dinsmore.  Talk about perfect timing–the Lord’s perfect timing, once again.

Jerry apologized for not answering his cell phone–he was too busy caboose washing–and immediately called Andrea and told her “Two more hikers for dinner”.  (Turns out there were other PCT hikers already at the Dinsmore house!)  Jerry said it would be some time before he headed home, and we told him no problem.  We were ready for lunch! Back to the hotel we went to eat.  Bill ate TWO complete meals, while I had one meal with a big piece of marionberry pie!   I love berry pie, and this is the first chance I’ve had this year to eat any!  Then we bought more food supplies at the gas station food mart, ate an ice cream cone each, and then back to the caboose where Jerry’s friend Mike proudly gave us a tour.  He and Jerry are working to completely restore it so it looks like it did in the “olden days”.  Skykomish is a railroad and timber town.  Mike told us that via the “Rails to Trails” program, there’s going to be a multi-use trail all the way across Washington.  “And no steep hills for you guys to climb!” he grinned wickedly.  “Train grades are really eeeeeeeeasy!”

Bill and I piled into Jerry’s red pickup and off we went to the Tye River and Dinsmore’s River Haven.  Three other PCT hikers were already there–Pika, and a couple who’d camped right next to us during ADZPCTKO in April at Lake Morena.  They told us a lot of info about the PCT alternate route which has been substituted for the 45 miles that are now closed because of bridge and trail washouts.  Since they were Sobos, they had just come through there.   For the last couple of weeks, I had been quizzing every Sobo we met about which route they used, and gotten a variety of opinions as to which was best.  There were three choices: 1) Follow the original PCT (very scary river crossings, very rough going)   2) Follow a trail route alternate (a couple of scary river crossings and some steep climbs)  3) Do a road walk (much shorter; you save a whole day at least, and avoid the scary stuff).   I was thinking that the road walk would be the best option, and even the PCT-famous “Billy Goat” went that way.  But every time I tried to discuss the options with Bill so that we could make a decision about which to choose, he would brush me off.  I put it down to the usual “guys hate choosing between options” thing, but now we HAD to decide, since once we were back at the trailhead, we had to either begin the roadwalk or take a trail route.  The trouble was, Bill was now having a blast talking to the the other hikers, and every time I tried to bring up the subject of “we have to decide on a route”, he still would not listen.   (I found out later it was because at that point he thought we could start off on the PCT at the trailhead as usual, then LATER ON, choose either roadwalk or one of the two trail options.  He didn’t realize that we had to choose AT the trailhead, and that’s why he thought I was just being annoying when I kept bugging him about it).

Well, Andrea called us all in for dinner, and it was delicious thick pork chops with all the trimmings.  Fantastic!  We thru-hikers did it justice!  Afterwards, I did laundry, took a shower, studied the guidebook,  and talked to the other hikers till we all realized, “Yikes!  It’s 10:15 pm!”  We never did get to try the Dinsmore’s famous hot tub.  Oh well.  Soon the living room floor was covered with sleeping hikers, including us!

July 22, Fri.–23.7 miles–Washington J

Fri. July 22     Miles today: 23.7          Total so far: 1,288 miles    Washington Section J

It was still warm this morning at 5:00 am, but RAINING!  Very strange. Just before we crawled out of the net tent, the rain stopped, and we could see bits of blue sky. It was as if the weather was trying to decide what to do.  “Should I rain?”  “Should I be hot?”  But it was nice to be able to pack up without getting wet!  After our usual look-around-to-make-sure-we-didn’t-leave-something at the campsite, we strolled over to the Waptus River to get water and admire the trail bridge.  Bill was impressed with the construction–he said it could take some pretty rough treatment from the river if necessary.  We REALLY admire the folks who build trails and trail bridges!

Then it was time to begin the 3,500 foot, eleven mile long climb up to Cathedral Pass.  We stopped for breakfast by a patch of ripe huckleberries, and had some with our granola.  Yum!  Shortly after that, the rain began again, but it was a WARM rain.  I got out my umbrella and on we went, climbing higher and higher.  You can tell that the forest here normally expect lots of rain–it’s very mossy and ferny and pretty, but the rain clouds obscured our view, so we missed seeing the “grand views” promised in the guidebook.  Cathedral Peak, toward which we were climbing, was mostly hidden in mist and rain. 

 We reached the top of the pass by noon, and the rain was slackening.  A small grove of trees gave us a bit of shelter as we cooked and ate our dinner.  I did wish, though, that those trees were Douglas Fir–we’ve noticed that firs really shed rain well and stay dry underneath for a long time.   Suddenly, a bunch of hikers showed up, all headed in different directions.  One group was three young (13-14 year old) teenage boys, very wet but very cheery.  Then came another guy we’ve been “leapfrogging” with all day.  He looked a little grim.  I don’t think he liked hiking in the rain. 

Aftr lunch, it was 3 and a half miles to a very nasty creek crossing, so bad that horses cannot make it and have to use another trail.  It’s a snowmelt creek off Mt. Daniel’s main glacier, AND it had been raining–sometimes raining hard–all morning.  As we came down toward the “crossing zone”, it looked like a mess–big rocks, huge logs flung about like matchsticks, the river foaming and roaring and plunging down the mountainside.  But whew, hooray, the river was divided into several smaller channels, rather than one big nasty one!  I waded the first channel, rockhopped the second, and logwalked (with Bill’s help) the third.  Bill, who does not like to get wet, just logwalked all three.

Now we were headed for Deception Pass, fortunately nowhere as big or as tough a climb as Cathedral Pass this morning.  We had a nice view of the valley before starting up, and another nice thing, too–it finally stopped raining!  The afternoon became simply cloudy and suddenly quite cool, but at least I could put away the umbrella.  Not the raingear, though–I still needed it for pushing through all the plants overhanging the trail, which were dripping wet.  Lots of toadstools were pushing their way up from the dirt and also many weird little saphrophytic plants in a range of bright colors.  We reached Deception Pass, then pretty Deception Lake, where there were a LOT of backpackers camped.  They are brave–the mosquitoes there were TERRIBLE! 

Our last big goal of the day was Pieper Pass, and we reached it by 7:00 pm.  Finding no possible campsite on top, we mushed on down to near Glacier Lake.  The last part of that involved a LONG set of switchbacks down a very tough talus slope, where some of the rocks were as big as a car.  This was really hard for our already very tired feet.  Sigh.  But we found a very nice campsite at the bottom among some of the huge boulders.  It was a chilly evening, but lots of mossies were out ‘n about, so up went the net tent!  Dry “bedsox” and a warm sleeping bag felt very good!