[pct-l] Stevens Pass to White Pass SOBO

Herb Stroh HStroh at sjmslaw.com
Sat Aug 18 10:22:31 CDT 2018

Just got back from a southbound hike of Stevens Pass to White Pass in Washington. No surprise, there is plenty of smoke. For me the worst was near Stevens--enough to cause irritated eyes and scratchy throat. Of course long views were all mottled in smoke, but things did get better moving south.

The heat was killing everyone. I was constantly drinking and yet still felt like I was getting dehydrated. The weather broke on 8/11 when I awoke to heavy fog and drizzle. To a person, everyone I met on trail was dancing with delight at the change in weather. We got some rain that evening while I was at Sheep Lake, and then it cleared for the remainder of my trip.

The section of trail north of Chinook that burned last year is enormous. Soutbound it starts 2-3 miles past the Urich cabin and literally takes hours to cross. I felt like it consumed most of my day to get through.  Hit it early if you can, as it is shade less for many, many miles.

I started 8/5 and was surprised to run across roughly 20 thru hikers a day. These are folks that started late March to early April--some had skipped, others went through the Sierra. Talked with one hiker who described the early season run through the Sierra as pretty miserable--wet feet and wet tent for a month, postholeing, scary water crossings, and difficult weather. They got snowed on 3 times. 

There are closures both north and south of Washington Sections I and J. Felt bad for the thrus just trying to finish and having to deal with all the reroutes, but I guess that is the new normal for the PCT.

Enjoyed my brief time in Snoqualmie. Although the Chevron gets bad press for a lack of organization I had no issues collecting my package. Of course it is early season so maybe things get more chaotic later in the year. They maintain a log at the counter that shows the hiker's name and hiker ETA. Its assigned a number. You find your name and number in the book, then go out to a big truck-trailer bin and find your package. All the boxes look alike, so having the numbers on the edge does make it easier to find your baby. Ok, you do have to find your stuff and maybe move some boxes around on your own, but hey, its free--what do you expect? Very friendly folks. There is also a food truck out front with great food and a hiker box. Try the curry. 

If you need to get down to Packwood from White Pass, the hitch is not bad (30 min). Plenty of traffic and the locals seem to know about the trail. Got a hitch from a retired military guy who spent 7 years in the infantry posted all over the world. He told me of the numerous injuries he suffered, including PTSD. I asked him, "do you ever get that stuff out of your head?" He shook his head, "nope not ever." When we got to Packwood I thanked him for the ride and for his service to our country.

One of the highlights for me was waking early at Government Meadows (Urich Cabin site) to see a heard of elk grazing in the meadow. Just me and them in the pure stillness of the morning, no sound but the dew dripping off of the trees. Later as I was heading out on the trail I startled the herd in the forest. Well they may be graceful animals, but when they take off in all that brush it sounds like an avalanche. I will never forget how that moment sounded and felt.

Another remember-it-forever moment came during the hot weather, maybe 5 miles north of Snoqualmie. It was warm, even at night, and I was laying on top of my bag with just the tent bug screen above me. There was not even a wisp of wind in the air. Absolutely nothing moved. The stillness was both unnerving and exhilarating. Close my eyes and it was like being inside of a cave or a sensory deprivation chamber; open my eyes to see brilliant stars in a soundless world. Those are the kinds of things that can't be captured on your phone or adequately described to someone who has not experienced it. You just have to be there.

Happy trails.


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