Day 101, august 3rd
Start: mosquito camp, mile 2266
End: best camp ever on ridge overlooking rainier, mile 2297
Miles hiked: 31

I wake up, crispies and I cowboy camping while the rest are safe in their tents. It’s 5:15, and the Mosquitos have awaken from their slumber, and begin buzzing by my ears. I can’t sleep through it, try as I might, so I pack up and walk out. It’s damp in the forest this morning. It is a temperate rain forest, after all. The Mosquitos are relentless. Just awful. I walk quickly to avoid them. The wet undergrowth slaps on my legs and up to my waist, soaking me with morning dew. I really enjoy it; it’s different, and feels refreshing. I pass an older lady sitting and eating breakfast. She greets me using my name, “hey twinkle!” I apologize to her, as I don’t know who she is, until she reminds me her name is topo. I met her down at the saufleys! Nice running into her again, although I don’t talk long, as I’m getting mauled.

Eight miles after camp I start climbing a ridge up, and reach sunlight. Away from the dark, wet forest, the Mosquitos end their assault. I’m a free man! I sit, eat, drink, and do some writing while looking out at a lake and the surrounding mountains. I wait for the rest of the gang to catch up, and soon after they do, I head off. I hike with crispies for the first time, and we have great conversation about traveling, adventures, scuba diving, and what we’re going to do when this trip is over (which will come very soon). It’s really nice getting to know her a bit more, she’s super ambitious for adventure in all kinds, and our conversation sparks some ideas for future exploration.

We soon reach Cispus pass with woody, and I’m blown away! Huge Rocky Mountains surround us. Lush, dark valleys below. Between are thick meadows of green grass and an array of flowers; Yellow, red, blue, purple, and white. It’s a sight to be seen. We soak it all in as we hike, taking many pictures. I haven’t seen flowers like this since late June in Colorado, I think to myself as I smell their scent.

Further into the hike woody is just in front of me and stops abruptly. “Bear! Twinkle, a bear!” He points up the slope, and sure enough, a small black bear is there hanging out, pushing on some stump. It’s not more than 20 yards away! My fourth bear seen on this trip, it’s always exciting to see.

We hike up, and up, and up through these flowery meadows until we reach talus fields and much snow. And then we continue up. The three of us reach a junction with the ‘stock’ pct, and the hiker pct, which head up several hundred feet very steeply, towards old snowy mountain. We head up, and when we get to the crest of the ridge, I talk both of them into climbing old snowy with me. It’s only a few hundred feet from where we’re at. Maybe 400, and the last 100 feet is a fun scramble. We hike next to giant mcall glacier on old snowy’s north side. It’s huge! When we get to the summit, we’re greeted with 360 views of the nearby peaks, glaciers, the pct on a ridge below, mt Adams to the south, and Rainier to the north. It’s quite the view! We see Mac and not a chance pass by below us. A few high fives, lots of smiles and laughing, and a half hour later we’re heading back down back to the trail where we meet Guthrie. From here we hike the ridge of these mountains down to the saddle, then back up to a crest. It’s a bit of a cat walk; I’ve seen it before, on the cover of a Ray Jardine book. But it’s way better in person. We snap many pictures of one another as we traverse along this ridge, giant rainier, at over 14,000 feet, looming in the distance. It’s beautiful out here in goat rocks wilderness. As good as advertised!

As we descend, the clouds begin to build, looking awfully dark. We stop where not a chance and Mac have started cooking dinner next to a glacial steam and hang for a bit, reading the clouds as we talk. Everyone repacks their bags, preparing for what looks like imminent rain, and we all head off together. A few miles later, it starts coming down. A few minutes into it, the thunder and lightning comes. And then, hail. The biggest pieces I have ever seen. So large that it hurts badly when it hits bare skin or even my head through my hat. I run for cover under a tree and wait it out. But it keeps coming down hard for a solid 15 minutes. The ground is completely white in places, and the trail is covered. It’s awesome!

I slosh my way up another 1,200 foot gain through a trail covered in space dot ice cream, working my way through the accumulated hail as the clouds break. It reminds me of an august storm in the mountains of Colorado. Quick, violent, and then the sky opens up. The air is moist after, and it’s considerably cooler, so that’s great.

I find a spot to lay down my ground sheet and camp high on a ridge. The clouds are doing funny things, but the rain is definitely over. Soon they all disappear and crispies appears from the trail and sets up camp as well.

“Ridge camping is my favorite.” She tells me.

And the ridge we camp on is unforgettable. Grand views of the goat rock mountains, and a post card worthy view of Rainier, with the sun setting just beyond it. I watch the colors change as I make some macaroni, and think of just how good this is. This life on the pct. A giant shooting star passes above us, leaving a teal streak across the sky. It’s the largest shooting star I’ve ever seen, just awesome. Today was just one of many unforgettable days that will string together the most wonderful adventure I’ve ever had. The west, I think, is where it’s at.