The miles have been flying by. Fall hit the Pacific Crest Trail for me in the Three Sisters area. The weather has been much cooler, and the fall colors have been coming on strong. I have been averaging about 25 miles a day for weeks now. The days are getting shorter but I'm packing up as the sky starts getting gray in the morning, and hiking fairly steadily with fairly short breaks until near dark. For me, that means actually starting my walk around 6:30 and stopping to set up my tent sometime before 8 PM.
My old (as in from past years) smokejumper buddies Mike Fitzpatrick and Steve Dickenson met me at Timberline Lodge on the base of Mt. Hood. Mike treated me to a great buffet there while we exchanged a long string of smokejumper stories. The tales kept on coming as we headed to Steve's house, where he made us a great dinner. It was really fun to see those guys.
By chance, I ended up in Cascade Locks for "Hiker Days." It was really fun to see many thru-hikers I know from the trail, many of whom I hadn't seen for hundreds of miles. There was a big raffle. I'd got a pile of tickets as a way to donate to PCTA and ended up winning a backpack, a bear canister, and a wool hat!
Not surprisingly, perhaps, there have been several days of rain here in Washington. Yesterday was a real soaker. A big plus is the fall colors are getting very bright now. The huckleberry bushes are thick and there are all the berries I want it many places. There are also blackberries in places and even raspberries and thimbleberries.
One evening I had a beautiful camp at the base of Mt. Adams. In the evening, the orange alpine glow on my camp and the mountain is something I'll never forget. St. Helens in the distance and the looming Rainier have added to the backdrop of the hike.
The Goat Rocks Wilderness was as beautiful as described, rugged and still snowy in stretches. I hit the "Knife Edge" area early in the morning while the snow was frozen and had to use a rock to chop steps across an especially steep section. Later in the day when the snow was soft it would have been no problem.
Three days ago I ended up Urich Cabin along the trail. I finally caught up with Wyoming, my hiking partner from earlier this summer. It was really fun to see her and catch up on the news. Also there were several more thru-hikers there. Dicentra, author of a backpacker cookbook, and her friend Hoosier Daddy were there with "trail magic." We had some great chili that evening and pancakes in the morning! Magic Man had brought Krispy Creme Donuts, too. What a feast!
I've seen mountain goats in places, deer of course, and many elk recently. One foggy morning a few days ago I heard the first bull elk bugling. And this being Washington in September, it's not surprising that there has been plenty of rain. It rained nearly all day yesterday, and when it wasn't raining it was still soaking wet with the huckleberry bushes crowding the trail and the trees dripping down. Basically, I am often soaked below the waist all day long, damp above the waist, and toasty warm and dry at night, when I sleep soundly about nine hours a night.
My smokejumper bro Rod Dow met me at White Pass and brought me a hot meal and four days of smokejumper food, all of it "his treat." His generosity has continues as he picked me up at Snowqualmie Pass and I'm now at his house here an hour east of the trail. More smokejumper tales, and plenty of belly laughs.
There is some fairly steep and likely wet hiking ahead, but if things go well I'll finish the trail around September 21 or thereabouts. It's been a grand adventure, but at this point most of us are pushing towards Canada to reach our goal and to limit the amount of rain, or snow we are likely to experience. I'll post on my website in the future with more photos and stories and a hike wrap-up.
Enjoy your day!