PCT 15: Of Rain, Mushrooms and Goats

Our merry group of three headed out after resupplying in Trout Lake. The trail started out in a large burn and there were dead branches and snagged trees everywhere forcing us to keep an eye on the ground and the things above us. Tragedy had struck days before for a German hiker who had sadly been killed by some dead fall on this section of trail, so we tried to be cautious and mindful of how quickly things can change even in a calm forest.

While working our way up towards the base of Mt Adams we came across a south bounder who was not having a great time. We tried to cheer them up and to get them to look forwards to getting into Trout Lake and receiving some much needed rest and socializing.

When we passed the point where the German hiker had been hit by the dead fall there was already a memorial set up and signs of many people paying their respects.

After a short distance the day was already growing late so we stumbled down to a stream to get water and found a beautiful meadow to set up camp, careful to not set up directly under dead and burned trees. Bird was hammock camping so she had the hardest time in finding good trees to use but there were still green trees in small patches providing secure hamocking.

In the meadow there were two other hikers setting up camp and we made friends while goofily re-enacting a battle from Lord of the Rings while we looked for our tenting spots.

The following day we wound higher up getting better views of Mt Adams as it poked through the thickening clouds. We knew it would begin to rain again soon but hoped to get past the higher elevation points on trail near Goat Rocks before it started again.

Town filtering water from a milky stream

For our next camp we focused a ton of time in finding the perfect spot to set up our tents combined with Birds hammock and tarp set up so we could have a kind of rain repelling fortress. We even had room under the tarp to play cards during the rain and we excitedly dealt out a hand before realizing we had a Pinochle deck of cards, which none of us knew how to play. We laughed over my mistake since I had impulsively grabbed the deck from a hiker box in Trout Lake and didn’t even check to make sure it was a proper 52 card deck.

In the middle of the night I awoke to the squishing sound of water and nylon getting pushed togther in the mud. I turned on my headlamp to find out that I had set up my tent on a very slight low point and the water was seeping into the bottom of my tent. I quickly grabbed all of my items lying on the floor of the tent and layed them out on top of me as I lied there hoping the rain wouldn’t make the water rise above the depth of my pad, soaking me and my electronics together. It made for a miserable and cold night with zero sleep as I tried to not move. Every thirty minutes I would stick my finger into the bottom of my tent floor and use the knuckles of my fingers to estimate the depth and see if the water level was rising. Luckily it never got deeper than an inch and a half and then began to recede with the lessening rain.

The following day I was miserable from a lack of sleep and all of my clothes were soaked. Bird was kind enough to lend me her extra shirt so I could sport a new skin tight fashion that was at least dry.

Along the side of the trail there were mushrooms galore. Not knowing much about identification we didn’t try to eat any but I was loving the variety we were seeing. The cool wet summer had led to a veritable mushroom bonanza and the muddy trail felt like a toad stool path winding through the wet and rainy woods.

The rains came and went constantly and we played the game of trying to keep our base layers dry despite the wet rain on the outside and our sweat from exertion. We felt like in this game there were no winners only losers.

One second the clouds were there
The next second they began to dissapear
Enjoying the view behind me which had just moments before been covered in clouds

Winding up towards the Goat Rocks Wilderness the terrain opened up to beautiful ridge lines coming in and out of the clouds and we tried to be optimistic about our prospects for hiking along the knife edge in the next dozen miles. There was a famous section of trail that was extremely exposed coming up and we knew if the weather was decent we would be treated to some stunning views but if not we would be completely exposed to the elements as we worked our way along it.

At one point the clouds parted and I was able to see a large group of mountain goats as they were roaming around on the hillside. With the clouds and fog it would have been far to easy to completely miss them even if they were only a dozen feet away!

The mountain goats hiding in the clouds

We passed the German hikers once more as they were setting up camp. They hoped for better weather the next day to get proper views but Bird, Town and I pushed onwards expecting conditions to worsen over the next few days.

Town and Bird crossing a stream

The weather continued to deteriorate and when we pushed out along the knife edge we were met with miserably cold wind and rain. No photos were taken and no views were savored. We simply pushed hard to get it over with observing the vertigo inducing drops on either side as the clouds would rush past, revealing briefly, the massive cliffs awaiting those below for anyone that might slip.

A moment of respite before more wind and rain on exposed ridge lines

We set up camp at a lower point in the cold rain and wind. This felt like one of the most miserable moments on the whole PCT for me with the temperature and wet penetrating all my layers. It was barely above freezing with horrible wind chill and a constant rain which made putting up the tent a painful but essential ordeal.

The following day was a slight improvement and we rushed downward working our way towards the road where we would hitch into Packwood and hunker down for a zero day to warm up and recover. We contacted the trail angel Mama G when we got cell reception and headed towards the top of the pass to hitch a ride.

Packwood was an interesting trail town while staying at Mama G’s place. Her house was not close to anything so we spent our time marathoning the Lord of the Rings and refreshing the weather updates looking for a break in the rain.

With the sun poking out we got a ride with a man who was visiting the area to take part in a Spartan relay and we enjoyed sharing trail stories with him and his intense Spartan relay accomplishments. The trail started out from Packwood winding through the woods past small lakes and we noticed tons of hunters about looking for elk. Ironically all the elk we had seen were within the Packwood city limits so we couldn’t give them any helpful tips as to where to find them .

At the top of some big climbs we were rewarded with some great views of Mt Rainier and we soaked in the sun, savoring every moment after the rainy days of the past week.

While we were hiking past the edge of the Mt Rainier wilderness we noticed Bird was feeling really under the weather so we went for some extremely mellow days to let her rest as much as one can while still through hiking. Her shoes were blowing out and were hurting her feet a ton as well and she eventually admitted that she was emotionally having one of the roughest moments on trail between her pained feet and the nasty disease she had.

Bird trying to recover and rest at an early camp at Sheep Lake

The sunny weather was traded once more for more rainy days and we pushed on getting smacked by cold foggy clouds and motivating bird despite her miserable combination of afflictions.

We spent the night at a nice snowmobile shelter that was left open for hikers and met a ton of other through hikers with the same idea.

Town was winding down with his PCT time and had committed to getting off trail at the next trail resupply point of Snoqualmie Pass. He wanted to experience Washington with good weather and to save money for his wish to continue traveling more of the world after the PCT. We spent the last few days on trail with him chatting about all the experiences we had shared and our shared hopes to see more of the world beyond the trail. Our last night on trail with Town was camped out on a dirt road in the rain with Town setting up his sleeping stuff directly below Bird and her Hammock set up. We chatted into the evening sharing our appreciation for each other and contemplated more and more the end of the trail that would inevitably arrive for Bird and I as well.

The weather deteriorated for us once more as we approached the climb and then descent to Snoqualmie Pass. I took off in the rain wanting to finish as quickly as possible in the wet and cold and Bird, who was now hiking in some borrowed crocs was taking her time on the slippery wet rocks. The freeway below me was a loud and obnoxious welcome to resupply point and I walked past the ski lifts as they sat waiting for more wintery months.

Once in Snoqualmie I made my way over to the Washington Alpine Cabin and got myself a bunk bed. It was an amazing historic building with old mountaineering equipment and staffed by some of the most awesome volunteers from the area. I loved chatting with them and sitting in the warmth while listening to the rain outside and awaiting the arrival of Bird and Town.

When they did arrive we went out to grab some pints of beer to celebrate with Town for his last night on the PCT and loved wandering around the strange ski area town at night. It culminated with an improvised jam session with some musicians playing near a closed food truck outside of the gas station before we all wandered back to the alpine club building.

One of the volunteers was extremely gracious in offering Town a ride to the Seattle airport where he was flying out of so we all got together for one last photo with him before we had to say goodbye. He had been my Town adventure buddy for many shenanigans along the trail and it was sad to see him go, but I was glad to still have Birds company for the final part of our PCT journey.

Bird and I sending Town off

Bird and I then wandered back to the Alpine Club cabin and decided to stay an extra day because of the crappy weather and Birds interest in waiting for her trail friend Ultra, who wanted to come out and join us after having gotten off trail for several months. He was going to bring two dogs with him as well and I was excited about the chance to hike with all new trail companions!

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