Day 7 – Hidden Spring to White Pass – Finishing the WA PCT!

Aug. 20th.  Distance 8.2 miles.  Ascent 1014 ft.  Descent 2064 ft.

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Morning came quickly and here we were, on the final leg of finishing the PCT in Washington State.  After the usual breakfast of oatmeal, an orange and coffee, fitting  everything back into the pack was becoming easier and easier and my pack was several pounds lighter.

We hiked back to the PCT and headed north.  Of course, even on the last day its not supposed to be easy, so we started with a 1000 ft climb, before the long descent to the trail head.   Once again, the weather was spectacular.  We did not witness a raindrop the entire 7 days, and hiked primarily under cloudless blue skies.

The trail took us high above Shoe Lake, peaking out at ~6500ft. Shoe Lake is an area that receives so much hiking traffic that its now closed to camping to allow restoration. From this high point, we began the long descent, transitioning from alpine meadow back into forest. We passed dozens of hikers heading south for day hikes or a weekend out in the wilderness. These folks ranged from families with children to college students to retirees – a full cross section.


Above Shoe Lake

With only ~8 miles to go, we made great time, arriving at the trail head right around noon.  We hardly had time to get someone to take the usual end of the hike photo before Dave pulled up in his Civic, cooler of beer and snacks in tow.  Logistics could not have worked out any better!


Happy hikers at the end of a spectacular section of the PCT!

Having started this endeavor with a trek from Rainy Pass to Manning Park in 2007, its been 6 great section hikes, culminating in what I consider to have been the most epic scenery at Goat Rocks this year. I’m only left with one small question – where do we roam next year….

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Day 6 – Packwood Glacier to Hidden Spring – Razor’s Edge – Greatest Day

Aug. 19th.  Distance 10.2 miles.  Ascent 1895 ft.  Descent 3285 ft.

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The nights howling wind made for poor sleep, so getting up early was not difficult.  We packed up relatively quickly, and with a fill of oatmeal, we started trekking onward, with the goal of reaching the top of the alternate PCT route before the sun crested the slopes.

The alternate route requires an extra 600ft of climbing, retracing the steps we took the previous afternoon en route to the top of Old Snowy.  Once we reached the high point, the Razor’s Edge stretched out towards the north east.  Many through hikers recognize this stretch of trail as one of the highlights of the entire 2650 miles of the PCT, and on this cloudless blue sky day, the reason for this billing was clear. The pictures below just give a glimpse of this amazing place.


Razor’s Edge with Mt. Rainier to the north.




We were also fortunate to spot a few of critters for which the wilderness is named.

We picked our way through the rocks along the ridge, eventually meeting up with the regular PCT coming up from below.  This trek along the edge was truly amazing – Incredible views in all directions, sweeping drop offs down snow fields, meadows with flowers, great rock formations and only a little wind.  Having hiked across the state on the PCT, and experiencing the amazing stretch from Hart’s Pass north and hiking around Glacier Peak, this 2-3 miles of trail has been the greatest experience of them all.   If you have a chance to hike in even for a day or two, I would urge any one to take advantage!


Looking back – Old Snowy at the left edge.


We continued north on the trail, chatting with through hikers going north and weekenders heading south.  After Elk Pass, the trail turned west for a while and we descended around 1000 ft, and crossed a glacier melt creek.  The water was so cool and clear, I just couldn’t bypass the  opportunity…

After a short break, we continued to wind our way down, passing several groups headed up to enjoy the weekend.  Some folks were even carrying up their rods in hopes of doing some fishing in the lakes.

Eventually the trail turned north again and we hiked through to Lutz Lake, where we decided to stop for lunch.  We fired up the stove and made a pot of Miso Soup, a supply I always carry, somewhat in honor of the trek from Rainy Pass to Manning Park, where I maintain that I made it through powered largely by Miso Soup, Oatmeal and Oranges.  Refueled we donned our packs, which were significantly lighter by this time, and continued on.

The rest of the way to the turn off for Hidden Springs was a slow rolling climb, primarily walking through the forest.  We found a great camp just above the springs, which included a well developed kitchen area. Once again we had the benefit of clean running water, and took the opportunity to be able to climb into our sleeping bags clean and refreshed. For our last night on the trail this year, it was a peaceful setting, with the creek quietly burbling in the background. Sleep came easy.


A lasting memory of a spectacular day!

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Day 5 – Sheep Lake to Packwood Glacier / Old Snowy

Aug. 18th.  Distance 7.1 miles.  Ascent 1810 ft.  Descent 466 ft.

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Sheep Lake in the sunlight!

We were treated to another beautiful morning, and what promised to be a blue sky day.  We managed to pack up and break camp before 9:00 am.  For the next couple of days we expected to be hiking into the Goat Rocks, getting above the tree line.

We trekked through some forest, slowly climbing above 6000ft on the west slope, eventually reaching a pass and crossing over to the east slope.  The contrast in vegetation was stark – on the west side it was green, with meadows and vegetation, while on the east side it was dry with scrub bushes.  Its impressive to witness first hand how the mountain ridges affect moisture in the atmosphere.  The trail traversed north along the east facing slope and below us the mountain dropped off steeply to a valley below where waterfalls dropped into creeks that collected into the Klickitat river drainage.


Looking northeast at the pass in the Yakama Reservation

We slowly ascended to Cispus Pass (6473ft), where we once again traversed from east facing to west facing slopes.  Here we met a hiker out for the day, carrying the flag of Palestine – as his way of supporting the cause.



Heading towards Cispus Pass

Looking south from Cispus Pass.

From the pass, we had a small descent heading north, then turning west we stopped to fill our bottles at a waterfall.

IMG_0180.JPG From there we continued west, climbing again, then turned north, heading up towards Snowgrass Flats back to 6400 ft. There we stopped to take the requisite photo at a huge cairn.

P8180187.JPG Photo-shoot done, we continued up towards the Packwood Glacier and the ‘Razor’s Edge’ at a little off 7000ft. We found a spot in the rocks just at the edge of a snow field where we set up camp. As the day progressed, we were able to divert the snow melt sufficiently to create a little bathing hole – a great but chilly luxury up here. Our site was on the slopes below Old Snowy and we looked north west towards Goat Lake. As we set up camp, a chopper came up an over the ridge, circling then going back over the Razor’s Edge. Hikers coming south over the Razor’s Edge told us a hiker had fallen and Search and Rescue was working to extract her. We also heard that our Spokane compatriots had taken the lower ‘PCT’ route across and apparently had a lot of trouble making it up the final slope of the trail.


Camp at 7000



Goat Lake

Having the better part of the afternoon to enjoy (again!) we decided to hike to the top of Old Snowy. We crossed the Snow Field and picked our way another 1000ft up the stony trail, to reach the peak at just around 8000ft. What better way to spend an afternoon after a good trek than with a hike to a mountain peak.


The view from the top.


Desitination – Old Snowy

With that under our belts, we headed down the mountain back to our camp. With a wonderful icy bath, and some hot food and drink, we sat back and watched the sun set and stars fill the sky.



Not long afterward the moon rose, but because of Old Snowy behind our backs, we were treated to swaths of light to the north and south, split by the mountain. Being at the tail end of the Perseids, we were enjoyed a few meteors, a spectacle worth hiking for.
When I turned in, I felt this day would go down as one of the top scenery days in all of my Washington PCT hikes. Once safely in my sleeping bag, all was well until around midnight when the wind picked up. I leave it at the fact that I was fortunate not to be picked up by the wind, which howled all night, compressing my tent and trying to toss me down the slope!


The glow of the setting sun.


Time to say goodnight!

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Day 4 – Stream in the Woods to Sheep Lake

Aug. 17th.  Distance 8.7 miles.  Ascent 1207 ft.  Descent 698 ft.

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Sending the all’s well this morning message!

Another relatively early start, though after our camp compatriots. The morning was sunny but cool, and the first few miles were relatively easy going. After a short break at the Walupt Creek Trail, we started a climb, which provided a good reminder that this was still work.  Around then, one of the Spokane pair came wandering back wondering if we’d seen their package with their maps and trail information – unfortunately we hadn’t, but in reality, the trail here is clearly marked and easy to follow and since there are quite a few other hikers, its hard to imagine getting lost…



Trekking through the forest you do occasionally come across some strange things, including a tree that’s saddled up and ready to ride!  Looking to the west Walupt Lake came into view, and we continued north. Here we met a couple of fellows in their late 60’s or 70’s who had put in at Walupt Lake and were planning to hike through to White Pass.   We turned west and from this traverse, Mt. Adams came into view to the south east…

P8170140.JPG After a short climb to the west, we came to Sheep Lake, and though it was only 1:45, we decided to set up camp and enjoy the afternoon with a little swimming and a little snoozing!  We found a great spot on the north side of the lake and set up camp.  We then spent the rest of the afternoon ‘goofing off like a couple o bums’ as Ken put it.  This seemed to be a popular spot to behave this way, as a number of people had hiked in from Walupt Lake or other trails and were spending their day the same way!

It being the middle day of the trip, we once again followed tradition and prepared a feast of pasta with marina sauce and Lanjaegers, and finished off the evening with a flavored hot chocolate.

Life is good!


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Day 3 – Lava Springs to Stream in the Forest

Aug. 16th.  Distance 11.2 miles.  Ascent 1710 ft.  Descent 1098 ft.

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We started trending to earlier starts, waking around 7:30 this morning.  Of course, the through hikers had long left – with their goals of 25-40 miles, daily distances I wouldn’t even imagine.  I breakfasted on oatmeal, fresh picked huckleberries and an orange, which I washed down with a good strong coffee.  With everything packed and loaded, my pack weight didn’t seem too bad – trail routine was returning.


Typical NW forest.

Leaving Lava Spring, we were headed north, with the wall of lava to the east. We transitioned into forest, leaving the lava fields behind, and though it was bit of climb, we were making good time. As the forest thickened, it was reminiscent of the entire hike of 2015. We played a little hiker hopscotch with the folks from Spokane, eventually catching up with them again as they were relaxing near a small lake around mile 2254. As the sun was shining and we were on a leisurely pace, we made our way through the underbrush to the lakes edge and decided to spend a bit of time enjoying the water and having a little lunch.


Good place for some entomology.


Nothing like a mid-day swim!

After a refreshing swim,we fired up the Whisperlite and made some chicken noodle so


Anticipating getting to the Goat Rocks!

up, which always tastes great on the trail!  Having dried up and gotten a little R&R under the noonday sun, we packed up again and continued north. The trail turned east and even a little south, and looking  north from the ridge we caught our first good view of the mountains in the Goat Rocks wilderness up ahead.

Before long we reached our original camp destination at 2256 and decided to keep on trekking.  Eventually we came to a little stream at 2258, where the Spokane group and an older solo hiker had set up camp.  We found a nice spot below the trail, where we could modify the creek enough to create a bathing pool.  Once again we lucked out -we would be clean and refreshed when we climbed into our sleeping bags.

As we were now fully back in our routine, we had the tents up quickly, and after the usual afternoon break, were ready to prepare some supper.  On tonight’s menu, it was 3 cheese mashed potatoes mixed with tuna.   As we were eating, a couple of women hiked in.  These sisters from Sweden were in their mid 3o’s and were northbound through hikers who had been on the trail since April.  Their husbands provided some logistics support, and were planning to meet them at Manning Park in about a month.  You meet a wide range of people out trekking on these trails! After chatting, and finishing some delicious hot chocolate, it was time to turn in.  Another great day on the trail!




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Day2 – Riley Creek to Lava Springs

Aug 15th – Distance – 10.4 miles.  Ascent 505 ft.  Descent 1739 ft.

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I had a great sleep the first night out – with a cloudless sky, the stars were out though obscured by a bright moon, and though the temperature dropped, I was comfy in my sleeping bag.  On waking up, I spent a little time arguing with myself that staying in bed was the best course of action, but before long, the get up and get moving side prevailed.  The trail routine set in quickly – bag rolled up, pad deflated and packed, clothes on, gear packed up and climb out of the tent.  After some oatmeal with huckleberries and an orange for breakfast (Ken dined on a kiwi), along with a cup of coffee, we hit the trail at 09:10.

Just a mile into the hike we passed out of the forest and crossed the first of a few lava flows.    While the last estimated volcanic activity was more than 1000 years ago, in some areas the lava flows are massive rock piles with little growth or vegetation, though looking closely, lichens cover much of the rock, and some bushes and trees are making inroads. Much like visiting the blast zone at Mt. St. Helens, volcanic power is palpable among these 1000+ year old lava flows.


Lava Flows on the North West Flank of Mt. Adams


Time to ford the river…

After crossing the lava flows, we crossed a number of creeks,  eventually picking our way across the Lewis River.  As you can see from the photo, along with being chilly, the glacial runoff can be pretty silty.  From there it was back into the forest, skirting the miles of lava between us and the mountain.  Along the way we ran into a southbound hiker heading to Ashland OR.  He had finished the PCT and AT a number of times, and decided that long distance hiking was  not for him.  Instead he was only going to do 500 or 1000 mile hikes, so this year it was from the Canadian border down to Ashland.  He was an exceptionally upbeat hiker, and seemed earnest when he suggested that section hiking at a slow pace was the way to go, because then you took the time to really enjoy every step of the way.  I’m not sure if everyone agrees, but I’ll take that as validation for our approach…  Speaking of which, when we reach the junction with the Highline trail we took a little break.


Snoozing at the trail junction.

Throughout the day, we played leap frog with a man and woman in their 50’s who were friends from Spokane, out to do a section hike. Continuing north, we took a short break at meadow site where Killen Creek tumbled down a waterfall  right alongside a campsite.  It would have been a great place to spend the night, though the bugs were quite insistent in their quest for blood.  We spent a little time enjoying the water and sun, but then donned our packs and carried on.


Random waterfall / campsite…

We continued north through the forest,  eventually running into a wall of lava, where we turned west for a short ways until we reached the camp at Lava Springs.

At Lava Springs, water bubbles up from under miles of lava fields – It’s icy cold, as clear and clean as you can imagine, and simply delicious.  We set up camp, had some dinner and chatted with several through hikers.  Three were heading south and  five were heading north.  With dinner done, we washed up in the creek, a little ways downstream from the spring, chatted with the folks from Spokane who were camped above the Springs, then climbed into our tents and drifted off to the sound of the springs.


Pool at Lava Springs.  Some claim its the best water on the entire PCT…

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Day 1 – FSR23 to Riley Creek

Aug. 14th.  Distance 10.2 miles.  Ascent 2293 ft.  Descent 582.

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As usual we were grateful to Clara and Hannah, who got up with us at 4:30am and drove out to the trailhead.  Since we started at 5:00am, traffic was pretty light, and we arrived in Trout Lake around 9:00am.  To start the trek off right, we stopped off at the restaurant and had our fill of pancakes, bacon, eggs and huckleberries.  Having driven 4 hrs already, the last 13 miles to the trailhead passed quickly, with Mt. Adams in full view to the North East.  It was a relief that unlike last year, this was a mild forest fire year, and that there was no smoke in the sky.


Once at the trailhead we finalized our packs and after the requisite pictures we headed up the trail around 10:30 am.  It did take a few miles to get comfortable with the ~45lbs on my back.  Fortunately we were walking through the forest, and the combination of light breeze and shade made the first few miles pretty easy going.

The trail headed north for around three miles, then turned east towards the west flank of Mt. Adams.  Along with a steady climb, we transitioned from shady green forest into a large burn zone where the weathered white skeletons of trees remained standing, with a few strands of live trees intermixed.  This combination illustrates the remarkable situation where among square miles of burn, the fire could bypass these little pockets.  With Mt. Adams making cameo appearances, and regrowth in full swing at the base of the dead stands, this stark scene is easy to conjure, and made a surprisingly positive impression.



Hiking into a burn.


Mt. Adams Cameo

After several miles heading towards Mt. Adams, the trail turned north, along the west flank of the Mountain. As we continued, I was glad we started with full water bottles since there was no water source for most of this leg of the trip.  Continuing north, we were treated to a 4 volcano viewing as Mt. St. Helens appeared in west, Mt. Rainier loomed to the north, looking back we had clear view of Mt. Hood, and to the east we were in the shadow of Mt. Adams. Thinking back to our 2015 trek I already felt confident that this stretch would be considerably more scenic than the the ‘green tunnel’ from Cascade Locks to FSR23!


St. Helens to Rainier!

We continued trekking, bypassing our original 6 mile goal site, and made our way to Riley Creek just below Sheep Lake by around 16:30.  We set up camp in a big meadow right alongside the creek, with a flap view of the glaciers on the north west flank of Mt. Adams.  Though chilly (glacier melt just a mile from the source!) Riley Creek provided a welcome place to wash up.  We fired up the stoves and before long we were dining on hamburgers from our bbq the night before.


Camping below Mt. Adams – Riley Creek


Riley Creek



With the sun setting, the alpenglow was a fitting goodnight to our first day on the trail!


Good night Mt. Adams!

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