After 5 years- We have finally finished all of the Washington Sections of the PCT!
In the Summer of 2011, I started on my first section of the Pacific Crest Trail: Washington Section J. This section is relatively short and quite easy to arrange travel between the trailheads and home so it was an excellent way to start. I was proud of myself for keeping my pack weight under 50LBs for the 7 day trip that we had planned to travel the 70 miles of trail. Since then- I have hiked with my good friend and have finally completed a full State with him. I never expected to go for another section after section J but we kept on planning the next section to accomplish and would knock out one more section every summer.
We have traveled together through 500 miles of blisters, patella problems, bee stings, snow, rain, random pains, stinky feet, hitchhiking, and some good views as well. After looking back at the images from our first section, I realize how much we have changed during this time. We have both aged to a noticeable degree and have learned how to cope with each others positive and negative qualities to form a good hiking team. We ran into someone this year who couldn’t believe we had hiked together every year and were still friendly/not homicidal towards each other. We are not sure as to why- but I have a feeling that our shared challenges in life were enough to cement the friendship and hiking buddy status.
Now… onto the final section of Washington: Section K:
We only had 4 days to hike the 95 miles between trailheads, so we met up right after work and drove for about 7 hours to place the cars at both ends. We started hiking at 11:30pm and hiked in 5 miles to our first campsite. Along the way we found a porcupine!
I am not sure which one of us was more startled but he definitely smelled worse than we did- talk about needing a bath! I think I can make it at least 3 days before I smell as bad as this guy did!
The trail opened up into a massive valley with the skyline dominated by Glacier Peak
We continued a long march into the valley and admired the beauty. The faint and sweet smell of lupine was quite lovely!
We proceeded down into the valley which was quite nice as the sun exposure had been quite high all day. As we traveled down and bumped into two SOBO hikers- one of which had blood all over her face. After learning it was from a bloody nose and not a bad case of the zombie infection- we offered her some assistance but she refused. She seemed to have stopped bleeding at that point but there was still an impressive quantity around her mouth. After one last check- we kept on going and wished her luck in her southbound travels.
After a few more miles- we ran into another hiker that was doing the full length of Washington from the South. We hiked with her for the rest of the day and joined a large group for the evening. We enjoyed her company- and she enjoyed the jellybeans and iced tea we traded with her.
Bushwhacking and failed bridges were commonplace in this section as it is the most remote section of Washington. We both bled our fair share and got stung by nettles on several occasions. I love nature.
The bonus of Washington is the abundance of Water- after hiking nearly 1kmi last year in the Desert- I appreciate good water a lot more than I have previously.
We were getting excited at this point as we knew that our one lake that we could swim in was nearby- but we couldn’t figure out where it was.
After just a few more feet- Mica Lake came into view and it was amazingly inviting. I set out my tent so it would dry quickly and we jumped in. It was quite chilly but was a welcome addition to our day. We still managed to travel 23 miles with the quick dip.
We had no idea what was in store for us after the lake- the trail totally disappeared for the 3,200ft climb so we had to push through these bushes for several miles in the mid-day heat. There was a fine line between overheating and progress as we continued on. This was my least favorite part of the trek- muggy and hot with a good collection of hidden nettles just for added excitement.
Thankfully the climb ended after a long time and opened up again to fields of flowers and fresh water. I like to think of the PCT as a movie- when you come across a new view, the movie is just progressing at a steady rate. We are always ready for the next scene by the time we reach it. I was concerned about getting stung by bees at this point because they were flying all over the place but they didn’t seem to notice us too much.
Part of this section was going through the lesser known original route- the trail is still there but there are two big river crossings and lots of extra things to kick- like the stick that went right through my sock as I was walking. Guess I needed new socks anyways.
This was one of the river crossings- the log is rotting but didn’t fall in when we crossed so it was a fun adventure. We camped on the other side of the log because the light was fading quite fast and I didn’t want to take a chance of losing my balance when crossing. We did our first cowboy camp in a long time- I was getting eaten quite well by no-see-ums until I coated myself with bugspray.
Huckleberries were abundant and were a very welcome addition to our food supply- fresh fruit out there is a scare item to come by. I ate while keeping an eye out for any bears that wanted to defend their food source.
Huckleberries also provide an excuse to stop walking for a while- at this point we were nearing the end of our 28 mile day and were hurting quite well.
This was July 4th- while most of you were hanging out with family and friends, we had to do something- so I brought apple pie and some tasty beverages. Those of you that know my packing style know that it is hard to justify this much excess weight in my pack but even with this added I was only ay 17.5lbs.
The next day was our final day on the trail and it was incredibly hot out there. We had to keep an eye on water sources as we followed this river all day without very many methods of taking water from it. Combined with a total elevation gain of 6kft and 90F or so and it got to be miserable. We didn’t stop much as the deer flies were eating our skin whenever we stopped.
This wasn’t the smartest decision to make but again- this one didn’t collapse on us either. The USFS created a detour but with the sound of distant motorcycles on the highway, we didn’t want to take any extra steps- refreshing sports beverages were waiting for us just a few more feet away!
After finally reaching Hwy 20- we realized that we were not where we thought we were- the trailhead that we parked at was a road walk away. This wasn’t the greatest news but we had hiked this far already and just knocked out the last remaining mile to the vehicle. I am incredibly happy but also sad to be done with Washington and I look forward to hiking with my trail family down in Oregon as I pass through Portland, Bend, and other places that I know people.