On our first zero in Snoqualmie, we headed to Tacoma to attend a wedding of two of our college friends (congratulations, Jess and Ryan!). It was great to see old friends all in the same place again, but it was hard to keep up with them – we were pretty exhausted, and our metabolisms are so out of wack these days that it’s difficult for us to drink more than one or two cocktails. The next two zeros were spent attempting to relax, and doing our regular town chores: laundry, blogging, resupply, etc. We also helped Jonathan, Ashleigh’s brother, gear up to hike with us on the next section from Snoqualmie Pass to Stevens Pass.
On Tuesday, we were dropped off by Jonathan’s wife Lindsey and hit the trail. The weather forecast indicated the possibility of rain over the next few days, but we were anxious to get going. It soon began to sprinkle on us lightly, but we paid it little mind and kept on hiking. But the sprinkle soon turned to a drizzle, and then to rain. We stopped about 8 miles in and decided to pitch our tents and hunker down, as the wind was blowing and it was getting very cold. We spent that cold, soggy afternoon side by side in our tents, tucked into our sleeping bags. We cooked dinner under the vestibules of our tents and tried to sleep as the rain pattered on our tent and the temperature dropped into the 30s.
The next morning, there was a break in the rain, and over breakfast, we decided on a plan. It had rained all night, and we were feeling pretty miserable and cold. Unfortunately, Jonathan was forced to turn back and hike home – the sleeping bag he’d brought wasn’t warm enough, and he’d had a a horrible sleepless night. We were extremely tempted to go with him, but it is harder to hike south than it is to face the rain. So we said goodbye and hiked into the drizzle of the Great Northwest.
It was a miserable hike for the first half of the day. My gloves were soaking wet from the day before, so my hands were freezing. It rained on as we hiked through the Alpine Lakes Wilderness, a section that is supposedly one of the most scenic on the trail. We couldn’t see anything; the low clouds obscured everything except the occasional silhouettes of trees in the distance. But after a cold soggy lunch, we started noticing small holes of blue sky, and soon the patches of blue expanded, and then… SUNSHINE! It wasn’t exactly warm, but at least it wasn’t raining.
The rest of the section was mostly sunny, but the nights were freezing, and we shivered as we set up and broke down camp each day. The sun is setting earlier and earlier these days, and rising later and later. In the evening, it’s getting increasingly difficult to cram in the miles before it gets dark, and getting out of our sleeping bag while it’s dark out in the morning is extremely hard as well.
On Friday, we made it to Stevens Pass and hitched a ride into the nearby town of Skykomish. The forecast was calling for rain again that night, so we booked a room at the local motel with Shedder and ate a big, satisfying meal at the cafe. The restaurant was filled with anxious hikers, all talking about the weather. We stared at the forecast on my cell phone and quickly got discouraged. It was calling for rain for the next five days. Further north, the forecast was even more ominous, with snow levels dropping to 5,500 feet (an elevation that the PCT is frequently above). It’s the first storm of the fall, bringing wind, rain, snow, and temperatures in the 20s and 30s. It feels much too soon for this type of weather. We were planning to finish by October 1st or 2nd in order to beat the weather, but it looks like we are going to face it now. Our greatest fear is being snowed out a few dozen miles from the border, and unable to finish the hike. We have just under 200 miles to go – mileage we could typically cover in less than 10 days – but suddenly it seems like an incredible distance.
Our plan is to wait out the storm for a couple of days, and then hike into it, in hopes that it will break partway through the next section (i.e., we’re hoping to be miserable for only two or three days, instead of five). Luckily, Jonathan was able to come fetch us at Stevens Pass and bring us back to Snoqualmie, where we can rest and make a run to REI to pick up some winter gear. Only one resupply point lies between us and Canada (the small town of Stehekin), but it looks like the 104 miles between here and there may be our most difficult yet.
We are way too close to even consider quitting. So wish us luck. And maybe make a sacrifice to the sun gods.