Day 110, august 12th
Start: camp near seasonal creek, mile 2498
End: Micah lake outlet, mile 2531
Miles hiked: 33
Elevation gain: nearly 10,000 feet!
I wake up at 1am to rain drops hitting my face. Guthrie gets up and puts the faintly on his tent, but I wait it out, cowboy camping. After a few minutes it stops and I fall back asleep. 3:15 am and it starts up again, this time stronger. I could set up my tarp, only to sleep for another 2 hours. Or I could jump in Guthrie’s tent, but that would wake him up and we may both sleep poorly. I decide I’m awake enough, and should just start hiking, so I pack up in the rain and head out if camp around 3:45.
I walk by headlamp through a dark forest as the rain gets heavier and heavier. Luckily for me, it’s still very warm, so I’m not worried about becoming hypothermic. I feel good hiking on my own so early in he morning. I haven’t done this since the day I went into Tehachapi early to snag my resupply from the post office. The mix of walking through the dark and the now steady downpour of rain energizes me, and I walk roughly 6 miles before 6 am. Our group planned to get to Mica lake today, which is 33 miles with nearly 10,000 feet of gain. This will surely be our biggest day on the trail thus far. Getting a bit of a head start due to the rain relaxes me, as I see the miles dwindle so early.
As the sky brightens up, the rain begins to slow, and by 8am it is done. I walk up and down through dense forests filled with spider webs. I can feel each one on my face as I hike, wiping them from my eyes and forehead. Occasionally I get the large spider crawling on me and I quickly brush it off of myself.
Although it stops raining, the whole forest is soaking wet. Luckily I have my frogg toggs rain suit that Marijo forwarded to me when it didn’t make it to cascade locks on time (thank you!!). It helps keep me dry and warm, and keeps my head clear dealing with all the moisture. The trail gets up above tree line and turns into what carrot calls a ‘car wash’. Leafy undergrowth covers the trail, and it’s all soaking wet. I get more wet here than when it rained, but that’s alright, as the rain above looks to be breaking up a bit.
I remember talking to Scott Williamson when we passed a few days back. He mentioned that glacier peak wilderness might be his favorite section of the entire trail, and I can see why as I continue above the trees. For one, it’s a roller lasted trail, going up and down relentlessly. There’s no flat surface, and the ups and downs are steep here. It’s also stunning scenery, with giant forested valleys, high craggy peaks, and bright green slopes in between. It’s green in all shades as far as the eye can see. There are distant peaks covered in snow, including glacier peak, which rises high above the surrounding wrinkles it forms. It’s slopes are bare, covered by glaciers. At red pass I take a good long break to enjoy the view of this mountain, looking at the route brainstorm and I wanted to take up to the summit. It looks clear and doable, however the looking clouds scare me away from any attempt today. It’s not even noon, and Ive already done 21 miles, thanks to the rain that got me up and walking before 4 am. I eat everything I can out of my bag as I soak in the views; jalapeño cheese crackers, nature valley bars, Kellogg’s fruit snacks, sweedish fish, and some tuna with olive oil.
I head down the Rocky gully below the pass and run into two section hikers also heading north. They’re the first people I’ve seen all day, and by now it’s after 1. They tell me that raven and Chinese rock are not more than a half day ahead, but that’s it. I won’t be catching them. I walk slowly, taking many pictures. The forest is green and vibrant, and the streams are swelled with the morning rains, flowing swiftly over mossy green logs and rocks.
Hiking by myself all day, I reflect on the trail and my experiences out here. At times, the trail behind me seems so distant, so far away. Other times, memories from that same time feel so close, as if they just happened yesterday. The desert, the high Sierra, the ridges of Northern California, the forests, Mosquitos, and prominent peaks of Oregon, and the dense green lands of Washington. It all jumbled together in my mind. People have come and gone, yet the core of our group has stayed mostly intact. We’ve experienced this all together, this wild little footpath in the west. I’m surely not the same person as when I started. No longer do I have doubt of what I can accomplish. Big days no longer intimidate me, and the thought of not making it to Canada hasn’t crossed my mind since I was in the desert, looking at the sign at Cajon pass. I remember that memory so vividly. It was hot, and we had done a large day (maybe 25 miles) to get to the McDonald’s at the pass. I got to the sign by myself, and saw that Canada was still 2,296 miles north. I had only done just over 300 miles since the Mexico border, yet it seemed like I had been hiking forever at that time. How would I ever make it to Canada? The distance is unimaginable, so far away that I can’t comprehend walking the entire way, not after how hard 300 miles felt. I didn’t doubt that I was capable, that I could do it, but the number was so high that I couldn’t imagine what it would take to get there. That was a defining moment for me, a time where I actually stopped and thought about the undertaking I had to do to get to Canada. I haven’t let that number intimidate me since, and as I became stronger, the number seemed easier and easier. The days became much less of a physical struggle, and I mentally adapted to all of the discomforts of the trail to the point that I no longer consider them discomforts. Since that day, I’ve known that I would make it to Canada, complete the pct, and become a true thru-hiker, something I’ve dreamed of becoming for nearly a decade.
As I skirt the flanks of glacier peak I run into several SoBo’s. They all say that they are a actually flip-flopping. They started at the Mexico border around the same time as me, and flipped to the Canada border around Sierra city to hike south. This elongates their hiking season and gives more hope that they will finish the whole trail in one year. One couple stops me as I’m charging up a climb.
“I think I recognize you, are you Steven?” The man asks. I haven’t been called that in a long time, especially not by a hiker I do not know. Everyone out here knows me as twinkle. “I’m Katherine’s brother, we talked before the trail!”
Ahhh, it’s Ferd and his wife. We had talked some before the trail as I work with his sister in the Denver office. She got us in contact after she heard I was also doing the trail this year.
The two of them met on the Colorado trail in 2010, the same year I did the trail with my ex girlfriend. How cool is that? Now they live happily married in steamboat, Colorado and experience these adventures together. Fern also is a sewing nerd like myself, having made several backpacks, their shelter, and many many other items. The backpacks they wear look much more well put together than mine did. He’s a pro. We talk for an hour about this and that, and It turns out he hiked for a month with my friend hex from Denver, saying that he tried to talk her into flipping up, but she thought she could still make the border before the snow. Sounded like she’s having a great time on the trail. Before long brainstorm, tiny, and woody catch up and snap a quick picture of the three of us.
We hike up over a Rocky pass, and descend to Mica lake. I find the lake frozen over still. Am I back in the Sierra’s?! This is so awesome. Never did I think I would be back on craggy passes camping above frozen lakes. Not after how hot it was in NorCal and Oregon. It’s absolutely stunning.
Carrot, crispies, Guthrie, colonel, and guacarocka all trickle in as the sun sets behind the Rocky outcropping above the lake. We all set up our tarps tonight. I’ve learned from last night, and I won’t be doing that again when rain looks like a real possibility.
We sit and watch the sun set behind the lake, laughing at this and that, sharing stories of good falls we had today. It’s a great life being out here, sharing this experience with new friends who now feel like old friends given how much we’ve been through together. I love them all, and am so fortunate to be with them from the desert to here. I never expected to have such a tight group. Not like this. I’m so thankful for this. Only a few nights left all together, I think to myself in mid laugh. I need to cherish these moments with them till the end.