Tuesday, January 18, 2011

From White Pass to Mount Rainier

September 5: Just Dave and I took our time leaving our room at White Pass. The clouds outside looked cold and ugly, but at least it wasn't raining. Yet. I ate the rest of the leftover lasagna for breakfast, packed up and left. Just Dave was just behind me but wanted to "linger" in the bathroom but would be following along in a few minutes. I went ahead and checked us out, then headed down the Kracker Barrel convenience store at the gas station to pick up a few snacks for the road. Snacks were generally easy to find in even the smallest of stores, so I hadn't shipped those ahead to myself like I did with cereal or dinners.

Just Dave caught up with me in the store where he told me that the cleaning crew walked in on him in the bathroom. Whoops! I didn't really expect them to be that fast in getting the room cleaned. Sorry about that, Dave! He also told me that they were shocked--shocked!--at how clean the room already was. They thought it would be the worst room of all. Unfortunately, there's an element of truth to the term "hiker trash," and hikers aren't exactly famous for their cleanliness. Just Dave and I kept a clean ship, though, and the cleaners were stunned at the lack of dirt we left behind. Score one for the hikers! =) I do prefer to leave a good impression. I want people to welcome hikers rather than consider us a chore or a hassle. It's in our best interests!

A couple of people fishing in this lake.
Just as Just Dave and I finally started hiking, the rain started. A demoralizing, cold, wet rain. It wasn't a heavy rain, but it was persistent. I continued to pass a surprisingly large number of horses on the trail, and noticed that every single group with horses always had at least one dog with them as well. Not that I had any problem with that, but I thought it interesting that there was always at least one dog with anyone traveling on horseback.

The trail, in areas, was as slick as mud, because that's exactly what it was. Where there were no rocks, branches, leaves, needles, or anything on the trail for traction, it was like being on an ice rink, and I slipped and fell several times despite my best efforts. It was, in a word, annoying. Very annoying. The downhills were the worst.

Late in the morning, I ran into Turbo hiking southbound--another hiker I hadn't seen since Southern California.

"Turbo!" I shouted over the rain. "How are you?!"

The trail was slick as mud--because that's what it was!
He seemed surprised that I remembered him. We hadn't really hiked together or even talked very much when we crossed paths in Southern California. I didn't remind him that he was also the only person I caught, quite literally, with his pants down taking a dump. Something like that tends to leave an impression. ;o)

He jumped up to the Canadian border after arriving at Old Station about three weeks earlier, worried that unless he jumped up and started hiking southbound, he wouldn't be able to complete the PCT before the snows drove him off. Looks like I would start to hit those to decided to flip-flop on a regular basis at this point, and I wondered who else I hadn't seen for months might be hiking southbound in my direction.

I told Turbo about the lodging at White Pass in case he was interested in staying there, and we continued on in our separate ways.

By late afternoon, the rain had finally stopped and even the tree snot finally stopped as well, so I managed to dry out by the end of the day. Well, mostly dried out. Below the knees my pants, socks, and shoes stayed wet since it would rub against the wet brush lining the trail. So the rain finally stopped, but it was replaced with a thick layer of fog cutting visibility dramatically.

Going into Mount Rainier National Park, I saw absolutely no views of Mount Rainier due to the rain then fog, and I apparently entered the park boundaries on three separate occasions based on the signage along the trail, although it was never clear when I left the park. The trail descended a short ways, finally popping me out just under the layer of fog. It wasn't fog now--it turned into clouds! I couldn't see any of the mountain tops above me, the views below stretched out for miles. A short ways ahead, I could see smoke from a campfire rising, coming approximately from a gap where I had hoped to find a place to camp. How perfect would that be--camping out with fellow thru-hikers where they had already started a campfire going!

But when I arrived, I found a homeless-looking guy trying to stay warm by a faltering fire. I know calling him "homeless-looking" is like the pot calling the kettle black, but after you've been on the trail long enough, you can notice little things that distinguish the two. This guy was wearing clothes that looked like they came from Wal-Mart, and he had a tarp erected across the fire that looked far too heavy for a thru-hiker to carry. He looked more like a militia member than a thru-hiker, and I got a bad feeling about him. He didn't say anything or do anything threatening--it just seemed like he was more likely on the trail to evade the law than because of a love for the trail.

I did stop for a minute or two to chat, and he did confirm that he was not a thru-hiker, but that he had been hiking for four months, getting off several times and skipped around. He invited me to share the fire with him, but I declined. The bad vibes were overwhelming, and I told him that I didn't want to stop so early. It was a complete and total lie--I originally intended to stop right there, but I wasn't going to stop with this guy nearby. Nope. I continued hiking.

I only went a couple of more miles before finally setting up camp near Anderson Lake. It had a nice view, and even a couple of small sun breaks started to peek out. I still set up my tarp in case the rain started again or condensation would be a problem. Either seemed like a very real possibility.

Just Dave didn't catch up to me, and I wouldn't see him again for the rest of the trail. I was a little disappointed--it was nice having him around. =) Oh, well, there would be other hikers ahead. There always were! I cooked dinner from inside my sleeping bag--it was getting cold out at night now. The day wasn't particularly warm, but nights were getting downright cold.

These logs were so wet and slippery, I just walked directly through the
water instead. My feet were already wet anyhow, and falling off the log
would have gotten me a LOT more wet than just walking through the water.

A couple of horses at a horse camp along the trail.

Stupid fog....

Late in the afternoon, the sun managed to peek through in a couple of places.

Anderson Lake. Camping along the shore was prohibited, but there was an
officially designated campsite a short ways behind me where I set up for the night.


Okie Dog said...

Outstanding pictures, Ryan! Sure has me dreaming of seeing some of this one day...not likely, tho..thanks for the work you did in hiking this marvelous trail..and providing us with the show and tell....OD

Laughing Orca Ranch said...

I've been reading along for a few hours today. Truly enjoying it. I've read a number of books on the AT Trail an the PT Trail. Reading about other's experiences is the next best thing to being there.

I'm a letterboxer, a hiker and a horse back rider/owner, so it was fun to see all three in one post :)

Thanks for sharing your experiences. You ought to consider writing and publishing a book on your PT hike.

~The Twinville Trekkers

rhos place said...

I would love to be with you for this part of the trip! I have done it by car...but not treking~ I lived in WA for 4 years and you never get tired of the scenery....If you ever get a chance to see the other side of the state, it won't be a disappointment....hardly rains at all, but snow, well that is the beauty to see!
Rho's Place