Day 44: Rainy Goat Rocks

Tuesday 2nd August

Start: Lava Spring Bushcamp, mile 2247

End: Walput Creek Bushcamp, mile 2266

Miles: 19.3

Yesterday’s sweat cloth is now my snot rag!  It has rained almost constantly all day.  Lucky for us it came out of nowhere in the morning and not last night as we slept without the rain cover on the tent.

No wonder Washington has so many mushrooms and other fungi growing.  It is obviously a damp place.  I just cannot believe how dramatically the weather changed from yesterday.  It’s not just wet, it’s freezing.  If I had a phone signal I would love to know the temperature right now.  At one point when filtering water at a stream, Conrad pointed out that I was shivering.  I had no idea, I had switched off my brain to conserve energy!

The lava spring covered with mist

The plan for today was to hike a new record of 24 miles to a camp near the Cispus River, setting us up for reaching the next resupply point tomorrow.  We kept hiking through the rain with perseverance, passing through the 400-miles countdown!  Let’s just hope we walk them faster than the first 400.  But 24 miles were not to be.  I blame the weather – hiking with wet feet is not ideal.  By 5pm we decided to call it a day.  We needed to put the tent up and get inside it, and dry off as soon as possible!



Entering the Goat Rocks Wilderness zone we met and spoke with an increasing number of PCT south-bounders. My favourite today was a British guy from Burnley, who now lives in Australia.  His trail name is ‘Decaf’, because he brought a bulk load of his beloved Tetley tea bags online only to discover on the first day of the hike that they were decaffeinated!  Schoolboy error!

The scenery was not as colourful as yesterday, mainly because the sky was white, followed by grey, and the mountains were veiled in fog.  A couple of hikers warned us of a potential storm this evening.  At that point we gave up hope that it would ‘blow over’ and suddenly get sunny.

Entering Goat Rocks Wilderness

Tonight Canada is 384 miles away.  Our ‘extraction’ point (the end of the hike where we find some civilisation), is 8 miles further.  So we go to sleep tonight hoping that the sun returns tomorrow, and that by some minor miracle we make it to White Pass so I don’t have to camp!  Only 26 miles away… Oh and how does one know whether they have trench foot?

Tonight’s dinner. I am so cold.

Day 43: Mount Adams Wilderness

Monday 1st August

Start: Trout Lake, off mile 2226

End: Lava Spring Bushcamp, mile 2247

Miles: 20.6

A difficult decision was made yesterday to continue the hike.  There is now no doubt in my mind – we WILL reach Canada.  No more dwelling in my own misery, I need to toughen up.

I enjoyed the hike today.  It was a good day.  It started positively with two acts of kindness. Firstly a local man I met in church named Doug Anderson gave 5 of us a ride back to the trailhead.  Our usual 3 were joined by another hiking pair who had been staying with us at the General Store – Steve, who owns an espresso business in Halifax Canada, and his friend Mark, who is in his home state.  The second act came from Mark, who has given us one of his car keys so that when we reach White Pass we no longer need to hitch a ride!  He expects to be a day behind us, so we will [hopefully] drive to town and return to collect them the next day.  Oh and I finally got a huckleberry pancake!

At the Gas Station Cafe
Doug, Conrad, Steve, Mark, & Dan at the trailhead

The hike began in last year’s burn zone.  The PCT in 2015 had been closed from this trailhead, forcing thru-hikers to take a boring 24-mile road detour whilst breathing in the smoke.  I was glad to be on the trail, as the dead trees revealed fantastic views of the snow-coated Mount Adams, which we approached from south-west to the northern face.  I am relieved that the PCT doesn’t scale the summit of this behemoth, because at over 12,000 feet I think I might not have made it!

Mount Adams peeping out of the burn

This burn area didn’t feel stark and miserable like others we have crossed.  Instead it was covered with wildflowers and grasses.  So many colours, especially a blue-purple bloom which from a distance made me think of English bluebells.  Butterflies and lots of chipmunks hurried themselves.

We met a handful of other hikers today, many heading south-bound.  A young French guy named ‘No Spoon’ chatted with us about Brexit.  I treaded diplomatically, not wanting to upset international relations, but ended up pretending to need the toilet so that he would go ahead!  We were struggling to climb and talk at his speed anyway.  And more importantly, we were down-wind from him too!  Dan told us later that the guy only had peanut butter to eat for the next 66 miles.  If I had known that I would have given him some of our stash – considering we are trying to complete this section in 3 days, our food bags are just as heavy as ever.

There was just one element today that hampered our experience.  Eating lunch at the pretty Riley Creek, we were hounded by small black flies that bite!  These little cretins were unbelievable.  As Conrad said: “what a beautiful lunch setting, ruined by nature”!

Riley Creek

Departing from the green tunnel, we finally got some breathtaking screen-saver worthy views.  High up on a ridge at one point, a 360-degree panorama showed us Mount Adams, Mount St Helens, and Mount Rainer surrounding us.   Hiking on, the detail of Adams’ frosty-white glacier became clearly visible.  It was most definitely not the kind of views I see on a typical day in London.  These mountains make me feel very small.

The crater of Mount St Helen makes it distinct
Mount Rainer looks a long way off!

The last 5 miles after filtering at Killen Creek were smooth-sailing.  It had started to cool down a bit in the late afternoon, and we were gently rambling downhill into camp.  Awesome.  We passed many small streams, some of them with mini crushing falls.  It was rather tranquil. At around 7pm we reached camp at a lava spring.  The water is crystal clear and flowing.

Tonight will be our 5th night of camping since I set our target goal of 25 nights (or less) at Cascade Locks.  I have my fingers crossed!

Day 42: Still in Trout Lake

Sunday 31st July

Start & End: Trout Lake

Miles: 0

We needed time today to reset and decide what to do.  I feel guilty being here.  After another call back home I was told that I needed to finish the hike.  My Nan needs her next postcard to be from Canada.

I attended the local Sunday service in the tiny white wooden church.  The congregation was very welcoming.  I drew comfort from the group of caring people around me.  I will not forget the experience.  Pastor Scott, in his Hawaiian shirt gave me a red flower.  It was emotional.

Trout Lake Presbyterian Church

Having a cold drink back outside the gas station, one of the men from yesterday’s raffle ticket stall said hello.  We got talking and he and his wife Becky driving us to Wal-Mart at Hood River to buy some more food.

Ed and Becky

Ed and Becky have shown us such gracious hospitality day.  After Wal-Mart – Disney World for hungry hikers – we drove through White Salmon and had a drink in a micro brewery.  Our hosts insisted on paying.  They then took us back to their beautiful home and served us up homemade huckleberry sauce over ice cream.  We loved their home, which they built themselves, and stands with enviable views of Mount Adams from the floor-to-ceiling windows.  I felt so looked after.  It was great to talk to local people and understand the strength of the farming community, and hear stories about volcanic eruptions.

Becky serving up ice cream

Tomorrow we are going to return to the trail.  I want to thank everyone today for their love and prayers.

Day 41: Remote Zero Day

Saturday 30th July

Start & End: Trout Lake

Miles: 0

I will never forget Trout Lake.  For good and bad reasons.  Today I received some very difficult news from back home.  It has been hard to process, and hard to think of what to do being so far away from my family.  For now everything is on hold.

Before I heard the news we were in this unique little place ready to take a zero day and head back out tomorrow.  Sleep didn’t come easy at the local park campground last night.  Dan left there in a huff early complaining about the noise.  Who drives around a campground at 12pm?  It was hot.

We enjoyed breakfast back at the sole place in town – the gas station cafe.  Even though it was far from gourmet, to us eggs and coffee are bliss.  Whilst at the counter Steve wondered in.  He was contemplating quitting.  I think we convinced him (ironically) to push onto White Pass.  It is 66 miles, and runs through the Goat Rocks Wilderness which is supposed to be spectacular.

Return of Steve

Upon finishing breakfast Conrad discovered that his credit card had been cloned.  We have apparently been spending it up in Michigan whilst hiking Oregon.  Following a lengthy phone call back to the UK the card was cancelled.  We now have just two cards between us to help us eat as much as possible.  Since starting Washington I have noticed my hip belt keeps needing tightening.

The gas station cafe

With a reservation for a $25 a night room at the General Store we wasn’t expecting much, but knew it would be a step up from the park.  W

e were pleasantly surprised.  Private shower, clean bed, and a TV!  Across the road in the Community Hall a Saturday local market was open.  We wondered in, to a room of hanging handmade quilts, and baked goods.  We got chatting to two friendly locals selling raffle tickets, so we brought some of those.  Next we brought cookies, peaches, and a huckleberry cinnamon roll.  They are very proud of their huckleberries around here.

Day 40: Get me to Trout Lake

Friday 29th July

Start: Blue Lake Bushcamp, mile 2203

End: Trout Lake campground, off mile 2226

Miles: 23

I would like people to think that we just managed to hike 46 miles in the last two days because we have become so super fit that it was easy.  It was not.  Nothing ever appears to get easier out here.  The reason we pushed so hard despite the pain, elevation, and heat wave was because we just couldn’t bear the idea of camping another night.  We stunk, and with all this extra effort, we just can’t satisfy our hunger!

When we set the alarm at the new super early time of 5am, we both hoped that we could reach the access road for the resupply point at Trout Lake.  But we were not sure of our ability to make the 23 miles.  Another 3000 feet of elevation gain, and a 11-mile water carry were a few obstacles between us.

From the start of the day we both walked with headphones on in silence.  I was aware that I was in a crappy mood.  I think we are just worn out, and I felt a new pain in my hip (together with a strain issue in the same leg) which worried me.  Honestly, if someone had offered me an escape route I probably would have taken it.  I was not able to muster up the energy to see the positive side of anything.

Running away?
Someone pick us up please!

The lack of pictures today is a testament to the repetitive, boring forest scenery we have seen in Washington so far.  One positive point to note was the trail had been freshly maintained, evident by wood chipped cut logs.  If we had been hiking in this heat and climbing over fallen trees that could have finished me off!  As it was twice today out t-shirts got dunked in streams in an effort to cool us down!

Skinny boy

Just when I felt at my lowest point, we finally got some trail magic.  Reaching Forest Road 23 at 6pm in pieces, it was still 13 miles south to Trout Lake.  I got my homemade cardboard hitch-hiking sign out ready.  The road was empty.  For a few minutes I started to feel panicked that we would never get out of there.  One truck passed going the wrong way.  Then a minute later a red Honda Civic came from the same direction as the first, but he pulled up next to me.  Conrad was in the bushes attending to nature’s call.  The old man rolled down his window and asked me if I was waiting for him.  Oh great I thought, I have myself a weirdo!  But it turned out that Bill, a local, had picked up two other hikers today and had driven up here just to make sure there was no one else waiting in the heat!  It was still 90 degrees at 6pm.  What a diamond.  He wouldn’t accept anything in return either, just telling us to ‘pass it on’.

With Bill, our kind trail angel

Trout Lake is not really a town. It is a drive-through place with a post office, general store, and a gas station.  Lucky for us the gas station also doubles as a cafe, and Conrad’s prayers were answered in the form of a burger and fries.  I had a chicken sandwich, fries, onion rings, and a slice of homemade huckleberry pie a la mode, and could have still carried on.
Whilst sitting in the outside yard, Dan finally arrived.  We had been wondering about him.  At the last water spot he had set out to the road 20 minutes ahead of us, yet when we got here there was no sign of him.  It’s not like there were many places that he could be around here!  It turned out in true Dan-style that he had been ‘kidnapped’ by a pair of grannies who had driven through the town and carried on south.  They had no idea where they were going.  He had to get out and call Trout Lake General Store for a ride!  We found it hilarious.

Did someone say burger?!

Unfortunately the issue with arriving in such a small place on a weekend is there was no beds available.  We all headed to the state park campground for another night of camping!  At least we had a [rustic] shower, and will go to bed with full bellies.  We now need some downtime here to try to recuperate, so we can muster up the strength to push on.

Day 39: Halfway to crazy

Thursday 28th July

Start: Panther Creek Bushcamp, mile 2180

End: Blue Lake Bushcamp, mile 2202.8

Miles: 23.2

When the alarm went off at 5:30 today I was ready.  I knew we had a dreaded 6000 foot climb from the very start.  We wanted to beat the heat.  To add to the slog, it was also 11 miles to the first water source, so we were carrying 2 litres each and hoping it would suffice.

Whilst getting some last water at the creek we said goodbye to Steve.  He would be travelling much faster than us, so I doubted we would see him again.  He has just 9 days left until he gets a ride off the trail, so he was motivated to put in some big miles.  I am always sad to say goodbye to people on the trail.  And Steve was very easy to hang around with – such a happy optimist, which is refreshing for the two of us!  At the creek I also managed to slip and plant a whole foot in the water.  Great.  I guess I will be hiking with a soggy foot today!

Climbing up Gobblers Knob, I was concentrating on keeping my oatmeal down.  It was steep, even with endless switchbacks.  To occupy and motivate my mind I started processing some stats.  I knew that at some point today we would reach our personal PCT halfway point (471 miles), so I firstly calculated that.  I then worked out that it has taken us 32 hiking days (a few nero days included) to get this far.  That would not do from here to Canada.  When we left Cascade Locks 2 days ago I made the aim that we would not have to camp for more than 25 more nights.  Success of this target will depend on two things:

  1. How much we can crank up the daily miles
  2. Availability of rooms on town zero days

A fellow hiker had remarked to us yesterday that he was really enjoying Washington so far.  This made me laugh as I thought about it whilst struggling up a massive hill over-heating.  I came to the conclusion that I too would be enjoying it if I was hiking all day in a stoned haze!  Instead I can’t help but focus on my personal pain, and torture myself thinking about all the conveniences that I miss.  Like proper food.  A shower.  A bed.  And family.  Complaining like this makes me ponder – what are we even doing out here?  We are not outdoorsy people!  We could be enjoying our US summer!

Our halfway point selfie – PCT mile 2187.6

Following a climb around Big Huckleberry Mountain, we made it to Crest Horse camp 15 miles in.  It was so hot that we just collapsed onto a picnic table and sat there.  This was a rustic camp with no water.  We clearly didn’t have enough water to not feel awful.  So we sat, hoping it would cool down.  It didn’t.  We had to make the next water source at Green Lake.  We trudged on.

Handwritten off-trail water sign

When we arrived there it was more of a green pond than a lake, and swarming with mosquitos.  We sat in the dirt for lack of a log and filtered questionable water to cook dinner.  Mac ‘n’ cheese is becoming very old.  We were both highly irritable, certainly not at our best.  Tensions were high.  The final  5 miles up Berry Mountain were still very hot.  I came close to revisiting my dinner.

Green Lake [Pond] aka Mosquito Central

When we finally arrived at Blue Lake, the sun was low over the mountains, and my feet were so cramped that it felt like I was walking with stones in my shoes.  We were ready to collapse.  Much to our surprise we spotted Dan’s tent.  Camping is only allowed at designated spots around the lake, and thanks to a very boisterous group of unsupervised Boy Scouts we had no option other than to set up inches away from Dan.

Mount Adams is getting closer

Another record day complete.  23 hard miles.  I’m going to fall asleep high on painkillers, listening to the buzzing of mosquitos hoping that tomorrow would be a better day!

Day 38: Washington Sweat Fest

Wednesday 27th July

Start: Bushcamp, mile 2164

End: Panther Creek Bushcamp, mile 2180

Miles: 16

We set out early today, desperate to avoid the heat of yesterday.  We left Steve asleep on his hammock, and Dan filtering water by the creek.

Similar to yesterday we were climbing up through a moss-coated temperate rainforest.  It didn’t take long for it to feel very humid.  When filtering water at the first stream Dan passed us by, and a comment was made about his sweaty knees!  Everything was rapidly beginning to stick to me.  In those morning hours whilst trying to avoid treading on one of the fat juicy slugs scattered along the path, my mind was fixated on a single thought:  will Washington ease up on us?  I just cannot bring myself to look at the elevation charts through fear of immediately bailing!

A lucky slug that didn’t get trodden on
Huckleberries taste like sour blueberries

We pushed ourselves to reach Trout Creek for lunch, 11 miles in.  Dan met us there, and within just a few minutes I was surprised to see Steve arrive.  Wow, either he hikes like a manic, or we take way too many ‘breathers’!  We had bagels with cream cheese and jam for lunch (another heavy treat I had been carrying), but it tasted so good.  Thanks to Steve, the topic of Big Foot came up.  Apparently we are now in his territory.  If he does indeed exist.  I hope not – I have enough to worry about with bears and cougars!

Following the longest, hottest, 5 miles of my life we reached Panther camp.  This is a state-run campground just off the trail. Although sadly they do not have showers, they do have campsites with picnic tables, drinking water, and porta-loos.  Such luxuries we cannot resist.  We found Dan sat in the dirt cooking his food by the entry stand.  He was sitting out the heat before continuing on.  Steve arrived just after us.  Together the three of us ventured into the campsite, too hot to hike another mile.

Washing in Panther Creek

We decided was that we wouldn’t pay the $18 for a site.  Instead, we took a very brief dip in the frigidly cold Panther Creek, which made our feet burn, but was satisfying.  We cooked our food stealthily on a picnic table, then returned to the PCT a few yards away to camp.  We made good use of the pumped well water though.  It felt like a night off from filtering!  We are camped tonight for the first time without the rain tarp on our tent.  It is warm enough.  And besides, Steve is camped next to us in a hammock, so if Big Foot does appear I figure he will take him!

Making the most of the campsite facilities!
Steve’s hammock looks so comfy

Day 37: Washington Starts Here

Tuesday 26th July

Start: Cascade Locks, mile 2144.2

End: Rock Creek Bushcamp, mile 2164

Miles: 20

Today was momentous for two reasons:  we crossed into a new state, and I got given a trail name.

We left the motel around 7am with ridiculously heavy bags, thanks to all the bread products we had loaded up on.  We would live to regret that later!  To enter Washington state we first had to cross the Bridge of Gods.  This was an experience.  There is no pedestrian sidewalk, so whilst keeping a careful eye on the oncoming traffic, I was simultaneously trying not to look down into the crushing river below.  It was also windy.  Really windy. So a few lucky cars got a flash of my knickers as I held onto my hat, poles, phone, glasses for dear life!

Bridge of The Gods in the wind



Eastward view of the Columbia River from the brige

Today has been one of our most physically demanding, but I am proud of how far we got.  It started with a never-ending ascent up and around Table Mountain, named for it’s flat top appearance.  Overall we would gain nearly 5000 feet, and that first climb felt relentless.  Although mostly under the shade of forest, there was no air circulating and we were pouring with sweat.

Washington PCT trailhead
How many miles?!

The trail name came early in the hike.  I should state that I may not adopt it.  Whilst having a break, I stepped to the side to take a tinkle.  I should have gone further from the path to somewhere more discreet with hindsight, but we hadn’t seen anyone all day.  Mid-flow Conrad shouted over “someone’s coming!”  So I panicked.  I tried to stop but couldn’t, and was so concerned with exposing myself that as they walked past I hiked my knickers up and held my knees together.  They smiled.  It was pretty obvious from the dripping down my leg that I was peeing myself! Mortified, I rinsed off in the nearby stream.  Hence the new trailname: Pissy Pants. I hope it doesn’t stick.


The Dam at Cascade Locks

On the western side of Table Mountain we found ourselves traversing along our old friend, the lava field.  A pair of bald eagles glided above us.  In open areas we caught views of Mount Adams, a domed-shaped peak out east. Later, the other side of the ridge we spotted the distinctive crater-topped St Helens.  Yelping out loud like an idiot, I also saw another snake slivering out of the undergrowth at an alarming speed.  This one was smaller than the first, and had long yellow and black stripes.  Once again due to my lack of snake knowledge I have no idea if it was potentially dangerous.  I spent the rest of the day scanning the floor.

Table Mountain revealing Oregon’s Mount Hood
Mount Adams

Our highlight today was a cold pizza lunch and crisps.  I realise how sad this is.  It came in the middle of an 11-mile draught area.  In the exhaustion spirits were low.  The lunch helped.

Happy lunch
Picking blackberries along the trail

After all that going up I was sad to realise that we had a 2000 foot descent into camp!  All that hard work felt wasted.  After 11 hours on the trail we arrived at a site near Rock Creek.  Shortly after, another hiker named Steve from Reno followed.  He recognised us from Timberline Lodge.  His trailname is worse than mine – Skidmark Steve!  He insists this is because of the state of his beige hiking shirt which has been sweat stained beyond saving.  Dan also showed up a bit later (having taken another forest road ‘alternative’ for part)!  We all sat around camp eating together.  It was an entertaining end to a tough day.