Wednesday 3rd August
Start: Walupt Creek Bushcamp, mile 2266
End: Hidden Spring Bushcamp, off mile 2284
This morning we woke in the clouds. Both of us were wearing nearly all our clothes as we left camp. Last night I fell asleep wearing two pairs of leggings, a hat, a down coat, and Conrad’s gloves (mine were wet). It was sad to put our wet shoes back on.
It had been disorienting yesterday, walking in the mist and rain, without being able to recognise any mountain tops. Luckily today after the first freezing mile, we reached a point along a ridge where we finally broke through the clouds. Out in front of us big fluffy clouds hovered low. I was so happy to see blue sky revealed.
Dan caught us up as we traversed around and up to Cispus Pass. At 6474 feet, and made up of rocky shingle with a steep drop off, we agreed that the right decision had been made last night not to attempt it in the wind and rain! Dan informed us that his thermometer didn’t rise above 50F all day yesterday. I was just amazed that he carries a thermometer! As we climbed the pass we had fabulous views looking down into the valley below, including meadows and a tall waterfall. We were on Yakama Indian land. What a beautiful place.
Over the pass we crossed a number of seasonal streams, and the Cispus River. Here we collected water and carried it to a campsite to cook breakfast. It had been too cold to eat at camp. I threw everything and anything into the oatmeal, and it tasted magic! Probably helps that we didn’t have a hot meal last night too. We ate sitting on a log gazing down at the wildflower-coated valley below as the sun heated up.
Facing the Packwood glacier, and at over 7000 feet, hikers have a choice to continue along the PCT, or take an alternative route up Old Snowy. We choose to stay ‘pure’ and keep going, across the snow fields. I admit this decision was based purely on the lowest elevation approach. This section is known as the ‘highest and most dangerous section in Oregon and Washington’. The snow traverse was not too bad, a little slushy, the worst bit was getting on and off it as the loose dirt just crumbled away.
One of the most photographed images I have seen of the Washington PCT is the infamous ‘Knife’s Edge’. Not an official name, but more a literal one given to a stretch of trail running along the shoulder of a ridge like a roller coaster. Sheer drop-offs on both sides are alarming. The jagged peaks are the remnants of an eroded volcano.
Underfoot the path was very rocky, mostly loose scree, which shifted as we stepped on it. I was concentrating hard. At this opportune time Conrad pointed out to me that his shoe treads were completely worn away!
Deep drainages off the ridge form alpine meadows, dotted with lakes and glacial streams. We enjoyed lunch by one such stream, taking the time to soak our feet in the water as we had not sat down since breakfast. We dried out our shoes and socks in the sun. We saw no one, and relaxed listening to the sounds of the running water. Before leaving we stocked up on electrolytes. So far today the hike had been very exposed (people have died of hypothermia up on the Knife’s Edge), and it was baking.
In the late afternoon we re-entered the forest. The mosquitos were back, but this was the price to pay for some shade. We passed Dan who was hitching his tent trail-side for lack of any nearby alternative. The last 1000 feet ascent nearly finished me off. The blow-downs didn’t help. Feet throbbing, we finally reached the Hidden Spring trail junction and walked 0.3 of a mile off trail in search of a wet camp.
I am disappointed that we have taken a third night of camping to reach White Pass. It has been a long day; 12 hours on the trail, yet only 18 miles to show for it. I guess that is how it goes sometimes! But tonight I will sleep happy in the knowledge that tomorrow we will get a shower and a bed! And real food.