9/3 – Today was the day. The rain was predicted to stop after four days of it, but it was still super cloudy when I woke up. Still I was ready to get back on trail, after a few days in town many other thru hikers share this feeling of anxiety to start hiking again. I packed up my things from the hotel room at the summit inn I had stayed in for the past three nights and then realized I had lost something for the first time since my Sunhat on Forester Pass: my trekking poles! It was bound to happen eventually. After searching around “town” which isn’t a very big area they didn’t turn up and so I hiked on without them. Luckily my legs are at the point where I don’t really need the extra support anyways. The trail heads straight up from the road as it normally does, 6000 feet in something like 12 miles. There are many day hikers out taking advantage of the break in the rain but after I get a few miles in they’ve all disappeared and it’s just me in an open rocky area surrounded by the clouds. I imagine how beautiful the views would be but it is beautiful in its own way, this is the essence of Washington. Despite the forecast rain spits from the sky but it’s just sort of a mist so I walk right through it in just shorts and my shirt. It gets cold in up here when it rains, cold and wet is a bad combo but with all the elevation gain it was actually the perfect temperature as long as I just kept hiking. I pass jewels and scrapbook looking pitiful attempting to dry out there things in the non existent sun as they had left the day before and gotten thoroughly soaked throughout the course of the night. There is a short section of glorious sun before it starts raining heavier than before actually soaking through my shirt but I just keep walking and before I know it I’m done with the climb with only 8 miles of downhill left to go! It rains for a while longer before opening up above spectacle lake for an awesome view of it as well as the jagged rocky peaks surrounding it. I sit for a smoke break soon being joined by Scabs when suddenly a rainbow appears right in front of us. I think back to when it rained for many days near Warner Springs at mile 100, and how just before Idyllwild there was a rainbow in the evening which marked the end of the bad weather system. I long for this to be the case again. Just a few more days Washington.. Work with me here! Endless switchbacks await me all the way back down 6000 feet. It is nice to walk in what has now become a blue sky day but unfortunately I was back in the forest so no views, except for the black tree trunks of a burn are before reaching a large stream and campsite where I’ve set up with Scabs and her crew. Apparently Red has passed me somehow! A travesty. I’ll catch up to her and everyone else tomorrow I’m sure. Washington has been great so far even with the past few days weather. I’m so close to the end but instead of being sad about it I’m enjoying these final miles just as much as I did the first. Everything comes to an end, and I’m overjoyed with the experience I had this year.It’s a cold and wet morning made worse by having to pack up a tent soaked in condensation. As if that didn’t make for a slow enough start, the first few miles from my campsite are littered with massive blowdowns without easy ways around them. To top it off I’m climbing for miles with an elevation gain of three thousand feet. The climbing is no big deal anymore, it just takes time but before I know it I’m at the top where I get my first good view of the Northern Cascades. The sky is mainly blue now, it seems the storm has finally passed. Surrounding me are jagged granite peaks jutting far above the green of the tree line. The Alpine Lakes Wilderness lives up to its name as many lakes are scattered below. The sky is not just blue, a variety of clouds blow through providing depth to the air. I cross a pass much like I would in the Sierra, this has become routine for Washington as well just without the snow. As I continue to walk up high along the ridge darker clouds roll in and it begins to hail, just briefly but still! This weather is so unpredictable and rapidly changing. I hike on through it until it eventually stops but the grey clouds will go nowhere until I’m halfway up my next three thousand foot climb and the sun comes completely out at which point I explode my pack to dry out all my wet gear. There’s nothing like clouds to make you appreciate the sun! A mile before where I’ve planned to camp Red and gang catches up to me and we all head down to the site where I’m now camped with Miles, Spreadsheet, Oolong, 13, Butterfly, Shaggy, Red, Jewels, and Scrapbook. Quite the posse for this little four man tent site but we’ve made it work with a little squeezing!
It is cloudy once again when I finally exit my tent this morning. Each day gets a little colder, today being no exception as I rush to pack up and get a move on. The trail is steep today, with many decent sized climbs in not so many miles. My plan is to make it to the Dinsmore’s house, trail angels near the town of Skykomish. It will be a 24 mile hike but there is an alternate route which cuts ten miles that I battle with the decision to take. I reach Piper Pass at the top of my first climb, where I take a break with Sour Rip and Scabs before ambling on down endless switchbacks through a boulder field down into the lush green valley below. I reach the alternate but decide to keep walking on the PCT which again becomes violently steep up to a campsite precariously perched on a cliff edge at the top of the mountain, however the view is incredible and it would be a killer sunrise/sunset spot had I gotten here at a good time to camp. This is often a dilemma for Thru Hikers, wanting to camp in an awesome spot but it just not fitting your schedule. I push on through Washington which continues to be jaw dropping but strenuous. Eventually I make it down to Stevens Pass where CopperTone is set up for his last trail magic of the season! It’s freezing outside but I still enjoy a banana split because how can you turn it down when it’s from CopperTone? Then I head out to the highway to hitch into Skykomish. I get picked up by the first car to pass me, a young kid driving a mustang who is deaf in the ear facing me, forcing me to scream at the top of my lungs for him to slow down as he raced down the highway. I’m used to a constant three mile an hour pace, not a hundred and three! In Skykomish I call Andrea Dinsmore who comes to pick me up along with Oolong, Scrapbook, Jewels, Cheese, Short Shorts, and Tumbleweed. We head to their house where there is a hiker dorm in their large garage full with movies, laundry, showers, wifi, and a microwave. We all place a massive order for pizza and watch National Treasure in the warmth of the garage, happy to be indoors after a short but brutal section. I’m happy to be with my fellow hikers here, with nourishment and entertainment, smiles on each of our faces as we talk and laugh and live just as freely as we have for the past five months.