Wednesday, October 9, 2013

North of Snoqualmie

           Kate and I have sort of gotten into backpacking since moving out here.  We had gone on 2 overnight trips that weren’t too strenuous.  The first trip was to Alder Springs and the second was to Jefferson Park, which is at the base of Mt Jefferson (rated 3rd best view in the U.S. by Backpacker magazine).  With all of our vast knowledge of backpacking and so much experience under our belts, we decided it was time to venture out for a longer trip.  After a few months of prepping to go to Glacier National Park we went to the North Cascades of Washington instead.  FYI: if you want to go backpacking in Glacier then you need to get a permit way sooner than a few months ahead of time.

            No big deal though.  We bought a map as well as the guidebook for the Pacific Crest Trail and off we went.  We parked the Jeep at the trailhead for the PCT at Snoqualmie Pass off I-90 in central Washington.  (about 70 miles east of Seattle)  Kate’s pack weighed about 40 lbs or so and mine weighted close to 50 lbs.  They could have weighed more or less.  I have no idea.  We didn’t actually weigh them.  The first day was tough.  We hiked over 7 miles with an elevation gain of 2200 feet to get to our first campsite.   The first few miles were a bit monotonous and filled with switchback after switchback.  Just when I was about to fall asleep the trees opened up to a huge rock field (where a rock slide had occurred).  We cautiously navigated the football-sized rocks careful not to twist an ankle.  After a couple hundred feet we stopped to check out the scenery and the first amazing vista of the trip awaited.  As we looked back to the south, Mt Rainier stood looming off in the distance.  It was over 40 miles away but still looked gigantic and dwarfed all the other mountains around it.  It looked totally unreal and almost like a huge cloud.  The north side of this giant volcano is covered in snow and glaciers year round even into the late summer.  We stopped here to take in the view and enjoy our first of many dehydrated backpacker’s meals.  I think our first one was lasagna but I don’t remember.
Mount Rainier
            The rest of the day was filled with beautiful scenery and breathtaking vistas as well as some very tough hiking.  It took us over 6 hours to reach our first campsite.  It was totally worth it though.  Our first day included hiking over a portion of the PCT called the Catwalk, which is about 3 feet wide or so.  There is nothing on either side of the Catwalk.  There are straight drop-offs on either side.  But there’s no reason to look down there, because the mountains all around are incredible.  Our first night we set up camp at a gorgeous high alpine turquoise lake with mountains surrounding us on all sides.

            Day 2 of the trip was even more incredible yet the most difficult day of the entire trip.  That morning we weren’t even sure that we would continue hiking.  Kate had developed some pretty bad blisters the day before but she was willing to keep going.  We continued on for 8.4 miles to get to the next destination.  We didn’t have to gain as much elevation but it was pretty warm.  Even up at 4000’ it can get toasty especially when on the side of a mountain and the sun beating down on you.  By the time we reached our second campsite we were both on the brink of delirium.  I was worse off than Kate.  I hadn’t been hydrating enough and I was only eating the same amount she ate which is definitely not enough for me.  It was worth it though.  The day included even more beauty than the day before.  So many incredible views.  So many incredible rugged and rocky mountains.  The highlight of the entire trip happened on day 2.  We had passed many other backpackers that day headed the opposite direction that told us to be on the lookout for mountain goats.  The first report we heard said that there were six of them on the side of a mountain ahead of us.  By the time we got close to where they were supposed to be the number was down to one.  We were worried it would be gone but it wasn’t.  We turned a corner and there it was a few hundred feet in front of us standing right on the trail.  It looked at us like it could have cared less that we were there.  It stared for a moment and then walked right up the side of the mountain like it was nothing.  It was really cool to see that in person.  The second day ended with us camping beside another beautiful lake with our bellies full of some other dehydrated meal and feet throbbing so bad we had to pop some Alleve before going to sleep. 

            On day 3 we did nothing.   By nothing I mean that we did no walking.  Except to the edge of the lake and around camp picking wild huckleberries to snack on.  And I had the brilliant idea of using my sleeping pad as a float so I swam in the lake some.  We had some fellow backpackers stop by and eat lunch at our campsite while we chitchatted with them.  They were hilarious.  Some older guys that had been friends for years and gave each other hell even in front of us.  Our camp was loud for about an hour while they went on and then it fell silent again when they left.  It stayed that way until some other backpackers moved into camp later in the day and set up there tents right about the same time the bottom dropped out of the sky and it rained cats and dogs for about half an hour.  The rest of the evening was pleasant but we awoke during the night to the wind howling like crazy and whipping the tent back and forth.  It was kinda scary yet cool at the same time.  We got the true experience of spending a night thousands of feet up. 
Our Campsite!

The View from Our Tent

Improvising a Way to Keep Mosquitoes Away!

Josh Lounging on his Sleeping Pad
            The last day of the trip wasn’t supposed to be the last day.  We set out that morning intending to hike back to our campsite from the first night where we would camp one more time.  But we made such good timing that we decided to hike on out to the Jeep.  We did 15.5 miles that day and then went to Carl’s Jr. (aka Hardee’s) for a hamburger and some fries.  We would say that our first extended backpacking trip was definitely a success!