Expected to do around 18 miles but trail conditions are rock, more rock, followed by even more rock. Some of them the size of a hand, others the size of my feet but most the size of my head. It makes for slow, painful, uncomfortable and miserable hiking. So I’ve only done 14 miles. Pah.
It’s also bloody windy and bloody cold. Word on the trail is my hiking partner plus friends are less than ten miles ahead of me, and possibly as little as three - they had a day’s head start so that tells you how bad conditions are. The chase is on…
Climbed up a stonkingly big hill for six miles - got to the top and watched a fighter jet practice fighting moves, and in between times listened to coyotes barking and howling away. Aside from that it’s been a sedate day as I’ve ground out a disappointing twenty-one miles. It should have been twenty-four but…
The terrain today was steep - uphill and downhill, and latterly very rocky which made the last two miles of my twenty-one mile day an ordeal. That and the mosquitoes. I feel dirty, smelly and am sick of being bitten, burnt and bludgeoning my nose with my own body odour. I’m ready for this to be over. I have just two hundred and three miles to go, plus of course another thirty back to the collection point. It seems like way too many.
It’s amazing what pizza and coffee can do - I’m back in good spirits having hauled my backside up and down three hills and seventeen miles to get to the rendezvous place and pick up my resupply - courtesy of my hiking partner, Jeff, and his life partner, Laurie, who isn’t hiking, and his friend’s wife, Linda, who was supposed to be hiking this year but postponed because of Covid.
Not only did they supply lunch, but Laurie did my shopping for me and boy did she go to town. It weighs a ton but it’s so tasty - like proper Danish pastries. Linda laughed at how everything I eat is white carbs! I laughed too: I’d also planned to eat healthily whilst on the trail, but now I just want as many calories as possible. Healthy, e.g. vegetable pizza is for town days. The rest of the time it’s a case of ‘what is the quickest means of injecting energy into my emaciated body?’ Malnutrition can be dealt with in a couple of weeks!
Thus, I’m back in happy mode.
Nineteen miles more in the pot. Today’s red hot news is my feet feel like they are burning. I can’t work out if they are just hurting more than usual, or because I am getting to the end, I’m ‘allowing’ myself to feel the pain. Either way, they hurt a lot.
Lovely views - and a lovely campsite tonight. Best we’ve had in ages.
Saw a load of guys out hunting - all wearing camouflage gear and carrying guns. Jeff asked me if they bothered me - and I pointed out that two of them didn’t even register my presence so I didn’t really rate their hunting skills. Apparently, they were hunting bear - I haven’t seen any indications of any bears for weeks - no scat, no prints, no giant scratch marks on trees. Good for the bear getting the hell out of dodge.
And in other news: passed the 2,500 mile mark today. No indication of that either, I just know that I did!
Today was all topsy-turvy - bridges where bridges weren’t needed, no bridges where they were. Hence, it was a soggy feet day. Then there were I think, three broken bridges, although they were still passable. The whole trail in this section has a feel of being neglected and ill-maintained. There were huge blow downs that took a helluva lot of climbing to overcome.
We decided to take a risk and push on and do what is our new standard: nineteen miles - even though we’d been told there was nowhere to camp for eight miles around this particular creek. We’ve managed it though - although I do feel like I’m about to sleep in a toboggan.
It’s just started raining - which is all we need given tomorrow we’ve to climb up 4.5 miles in extremely overgrown trail. Pah!
It was supposedly an overgrown, steep uphill 4.5 miler - with the foliage trying to push one off the steep mountain side with each step. “Hell” we’d repeatedly been warned about today’s uphiller.
It was also going to be wet. Very wet. I have no waterproof trousers, just a flimsy anorak, so getting drenched was a given.
It took ten minutes. But after adjusting to that, today’s hike was nothing like I’d expected. Yes, there were endless switchbacks after switchbacks - but they weren’t the leg-burners I’ve experienced elsewhere. Jeff and I climbed it in tandem and chatted amiably throughout - something that would not normally happen.
By two miles up, after two hours of walking, we’d sorted out the American electoral system, all the world’s religions and discussed our favourite books. That ensured we were both hungry so we stopped for second breakfast. Shortly after, the temperature really dropped when we entered the cloud so we stopped again for me to obtain my fleece. Then the next half went quite fast - although my hands were terribly cold - my gloves are disintegrating and they’re fingerless in any case. We summited, walked the crater, then commenced the big long walk down. And I still managed to walk twenty miles today and get into my tent by six pm. Go me!
A funny old day really - started with me paranoid about mice attacks all night so I didn’t really properly sleep once I woke in the middle of the night for my usual ‘midnight pee’. No tent was harmed in the making of the all-nighter, but I was convinced that I was going to get my first mouse-hole.
Then climbed up a hill, nothing new there, but did startle myself by realising it was an eight-miler and not the four-miler that I’d thought. Then there was the eleven miles of continuous, feet-battering downhill, and passing the 100 miles to the border mark.
Now I’m in the loveliest campsite I’ve been to in ages - it even as an en-suite toilet! Okay, it’s a box, but it’s something to sit on and right now that’s a luxury.
However, it also has a very pesky bee that followed me down to it, back from it, down to the river to collect water, back from the river and even tried to join me in my tent. I am fed up of it. It’s now hanging around in my off-side vestibule - thankfully away from my cooking.
The trail, not too arduous today, was largely boring. Jeff and I have taken to hiking together for long stretches - I think we’re both just wanting it over now so concentrate on crushing miles. We have long, inane conversations about books, films, life, hair, whatever helps our numbed brains. He threatened to sing to me today. I declined and marched off.
Later, we staged a ‘race’ - I took a disused road route that ran adjacent to the PCT, and Jeff remained on the PCT. I won by a mile, well, not exactly true - by about ten minutes. The best thing, though, was alongside the dirt road was a campsite complete with a pit toilet. Even better than that though, it had the nicest toilet paper I’ve used in the US since I got here. Even better that that, however, the site had a trash bin - so I removed about a litre of rubbish from my rucksack! Even better still, if such marvels are possible, the toilet had hand sanitiser - so I was able to clean my glasses properly for the first time in a week. The views this afternoon remained largely uninspiring, but oh so much sharper!
As of now there’s 97 miles to the border and back to Hart’s Pass.
We pass our final ‘hundred’ mile marker: 2,600. It’s now just fifty-three miles to the border.
We are in the Cascades. When one pops up out of the tree line, the valleys are glorious. Sharp ridges jut into the air, puncturing the sky. Very spiky. Some with small patches of snow, others with full glaciers on. We’re seeing a lot of Larch trees, and we are told bear activity is high around here so to be extra careful.
Last night, just as he was falling asleep, Jeff said “Let’s hope there’s no bears tonight.” He then promptly started snoring loudly. Put me on bear watch duty all bloody night! If he does the same tonight I’ll bear attack him myself!
Harts Pass - the last road in Washington. It runs out one mile ahead, and then we’re on our own - no way for anyone to get in to us aside from by air. It’s thirty miles to the border, and thirty miles back. We’re shattered but Jeff’s friends have supplied us with so much food in the last two days that I actually could not finish dinner! And this morning, another trail angel also gave me a ton of breakfast stuff too.
It’s been two weeks since my last shower. My body is a hurting mess. It’s hard to imagine this being over - it’s so close, but so far too.
All these days of practice map reading, and the penultimate night’s camping saw me landing us at the wrong tent site - 0.4 behind where we should be. No biggie really - but that 0.4 is multiplied by 2 tomorrow as we go to and fro the Canadian border!
I’ve emptied my rucksack ready - we’ll be leaving our tents in situ and walking with just one day’s rations and water for a twenty-two plus 8/10ths of a mile day. Tally ho!
I suppose the only thing I can say is:
“It’s been a monumental Sadventure!”