Wednesday, August 22, 2018
P18.15 Snoqualmie Pass to Rainy Pass, 198 PCT miles
Smoke and fire dominated both the views and hiker worries over this section. Even after a day of heavy rain, by the time the morning mist started to clear, smoke already had replaced it making for hazy views for almost the whole hike. As we approached Rainy Pass, my eyes were stinging, and everything smelled and tasted of smoke. My water filter even clogged up from ash, spitting out a stream of charcoal particles when I backflushed it. For safety reasons, the PCTA issued a "no hike" request for the trail north of Rainy Pass, with a legal closure at Hart's Pass due to active fires. While there was technically an alternate to get to Canada, it would still be smoky, and permits for that hike were difficult to arrange. So, along with many other hikers, I opted to stop this section at Rainy Pass, considering the last section as closed trail. Some other hikers pushed on without permits along Ross Lake, and I am sure we will hear how that worked out soon.
Snoqualmie Pass seems to be the dividing line between forests that are well watered, and an almost rain-soaked landscape to the north of the pass. The forests are lush with moss, ferns, fungi, berries, waterfalls and tall beautiful trees. While we were enveloped in smoke, fire had only touched the PCT recently in a few spots. It seemed to be a place where forest fairies might live, and the haze strengthened the sense of being in a magical and primordial landscape.
At Stevens Pass, friends Lori and Bill whisked me off the mountain for a day of rest and their amazing home cooking, including barbecued curry chicken and boysenberry cobbler from freshly picked berries. Lori started the trail with me on April 2nd, but suffered an overuse injury to her heel early on and had to stop her hike to mend.
Once back on trail, along with the forest fairies, I enjoyed hiking with Mike and Z, Lady Bug, Slim, Big Dog, Spice Cat, Heidi, Potable, Mugwort, Fivel, and many others who I had met earlier on the trail.
Without rehashing the technical aspects of the closures, we were rerouted through Holden Village, a Lutheran retreat center with excellent meals, and took a ferry into Stehekin, which was fun. With some quick transitions in town, most of the northbound hikers made it onto the 2 PM bus up to the PCT trailhead, stopping at the Stehekin bakery on the way out, one of the culinary high points of the trail. I had a slice of boysenberry pie, and it was almost as good as Lori's cobbler.
The closure to Canada brought up a lot of emotions for many hikers, including sadness, tears, and a sense of despondency. It wasn't so hard for me because I hiked that final section last year all the way into Manning Park. Also, my hike has never been centered on the idea of a Mexico to Canada hike, instead my hike is about being in nature and overcoming a challenge, with the thru-hike more of a context than a goal. Another hiker had dedicated his hike to the memory of his mother who had recently passed on, so for him the closure seemed like a failing in his effort to honor his mother. All this emotion highlighted for me that the hike doesn't have any inherent meaning, but it can have significant personal meaning to a hiker.
Once at Rainy Pass, six of us got another amazing hitch from the trailhead straight to Marysville, just an airport shuttle ride away from SeaTac Airport. Later today, I will fly down to Medford and get to Crater Lake to continue my hike. I have roughly 320 miles still to hike for 2018 to be considered a thru-hike for me. Currently, the trail is all open, with several earlier fire closures having been lifted.
You can see my pictures for this section at this link:. Photos for Snoqualmie Pass to Rainy Pass