As we ascended the well-worn path by a creepy lake named Leech, a lithe man with a small daypack and trekking poles galloped past. "Is this still the PCT?" he asked, and we said we thought so. (Days later we realized we had seen the mythical String Bean, enroute to a new supported record of the entire trail--53 days. Amazing.) At first the mosquito horde attacked with a vengeance, but then...like magic...it thinned. The rumor had been right! Elated, I hiked on through a slight drizzle and some thunder to a lakeside campsite at exactly 16 miles.
We were set to cross many heavenly lakes the next day, and across Chinook Pass, teeming with clean dayhikers. It's true that when you have been in the backcountry your sense of smell changes, becomes sharper. Clouds of shampoo and soap wafted from the people who passed us. We didn't want to think about what they were smelling in return.
|Nice tarn before Chinook Pass|
|Sheep Lake, looking all sweet and innocent.|
We woke at our unlovely spot along a road at Tacoma Pass, knowing that this was our last night on the trail. It had gone so fast! I had braced myself for an ugly day of massive clear-cuts, but it turned out to be a pleasant walk through blueberry laden bushes, past some old roads, and a few powerlines for good measure. We paused when we saw a sign for Stirrup Lake, only a half mile away. Maybe we could camp there! How hard could it be? After pushing through dense vegetation for at least a mile, we indeed came out on the shores of a heavenly lake. Contemplating a night's stay here, we shivered as the cold wind blew. Thoughts of Sheep Lake went through our heads and we retreated, climbing to an anticlimatic "throw-down" site that once was an old road. So much for a last scenic campsite on the PCT! But that's the trail for you. It's never quite what you expect.
It was an easy 11 miles out, and we wandered through more blueberries, encountering another trail legend, Scott Williamson, who has yo-yoed* the trail and once held the unsupported fastest known time. He was going for it again, yet he took a few minutes to tell us that we were on the oldest part of the PCT, which in this state was known as the Cascade Crest Trail.
All too soon we saw the ski lifts of Snoqualmie Pass. Thirteen nights, fourteen days, and we were done. Flash and I had hiked all 507 miles of the Washington PCT. I would be home tonight instead of on the PCT. As much as I wanted to be there, I wanted to keep going, up through the North Cascades to Canada. Or go south, back through the mysterious poison oak, down through Oregon and the Sierras. Just never stop.
*yo-yo: Hike the entire trail and then turn around and hike back, all in one season.
What's next, you ask? I have a plan I am super excited about for next summer! I'll write about it in my gear fails and successes post, coming soon!