[pct-l] Stevens Pass to White Pass SOBO

Michael Wade mdwvansd at gmail.com
Sat Aug 18 19:39:46 CDT 2018

Awesome report. Loved your remember-it-forever moments. I hiked the same stretch nobo in early July. The fire you mentioned was last year’s Norse Peak fire. Not the most pleasant scenery. I was surprised to see trees destroyed by fire that only went maybe an eighth of an inch deep, if that.

Not much water either through that burn. Somewhere, I think it was the halfmile app, I read there was water at Martinson Gap. Nope. Should have carried more in that stretch.

Most of you are probably thru-hikers, but as a section hiker (who gleans what he can from here. This email list is a great source), I’ve come to think that the second half of July is the sweet spot. Every year is different, but that seems to thread the needle between snow and fires. Also, much less traffic. I saw two (SOBO) thru hikers the entire hike. 

I enjoyed the many forest groves (countless, all good), and the view of Rainer a few miles north of Chinook Pass. Took my breath away when I turned and suddenly saw it. But I was disappointed by the many views of clear cuts, logging roads and power lines. Section L, from Rainy to the border, spoiled me.

I’ve deleted this paragraph, but I’m going to put it back in. Just thinking out loud okay? Walking thru the Norse Peak burn (really destitute and ugly) and with the onset of the megafires each year, made me wonder if we should allow more logging. There’s a forest ecologist from Oregon State U. giving a Ted Talk on youtube about this, explaining controlled fires are what the Indians used to do. Before white men started their policy of always putting out forest fires, old photos show forests with trees of many different sizes, and more open meadows. Now the forests have trees that are all identical in size. He says allowing a little more logging would help cut down on fires, and money raised could be used to manage our forest better. 

Then I got to the Windy Ridge burn, (1988 I believe), with the sign on the trail explaining the fire was caused by ….loggers!  I don’t have the answers, But walking through last year’s forest fire made me wonder: doesn’t it seem like the agencies fighting fires could do a better job? I live in Washington and the health problems in the cities go up quite a bit as the smoke blankets the state for days and even weeks at a time. I believe they are doing the best they can. The USFS budget, for example, keeps getting cut, no matter which party holds the White House.

Like I said, just thinking out loud. Slash and burn me if you will, but I’m hoping this is a more mature crowd than Facebook. Maybe this upsets some. My apologies if that is the case. Like I said, I didn’t like the views of clear cuts and logging roads either. I would appreciate intelligent responses that help me better understand this. For those who are interested, here is a link to the Ted Talk: Link

On a perhaps a friendlier note, I was setting up my hammock one evening, near the intersection of two logging roads when two elk came crashing off the PCT into the intersection. I had left my scent on the trail leading to my camp. Mama elk was running right towards my camo tarp in the trees, when she froze maybe 25 yards away. I froze too, curious if she would figure it out. She did and took off in another direction. I assumed some hikers coming my way flushed them out, and I kept setting up camp. When no one appeared, I decided to hang my food. That night, I heard footsteps a few feet from my head. Twice I heard my guy lines get hit. I think I’ll hang my food from now on.

Before night fall though, a dune buggy came flying along the road. Good example of why the Wilderness Areas are always my favorites.

My biggest takeaway, personally, is to slow down. I pushed too hard. Reading your report, it would have been great to stop earlier and camp at Ulrich Cabin. It must have been unforgettable. I spent too much time staring at the trail.

Going NOBO those last 7.5 miles to Snoqualmie, after already doing 15 that day was absolutely brutal. All downhill on loose rock, snow, mud, and sometimes even streams. Mostly loose rock, and going downhill on that really did a number on what were already sore knees. Easily the worst stretch of the PCT I have encountered so far (in Washington). 

My best part: suspended in my hammock each night, serenaded three nights in a row by bugling elk.

Those remember-it-forever, had-to-be-there moments, are why we do this. Can’t wait to go again!


On Aug 18, 2018, at 8:22 AM, Herb Stroh <HStroh at sjmslaw.com> wrote:

> 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.
> Herb 
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