Thursday, January 20, 2011

Labor Day at Chinook Pass

The weather on Labor Day wasn't looking much
better than the day before. =(
September 6: Happy Labor Day! Just goes to show how out-of-date this blog has become, eh? =) I was glad Labor Day had finally arrived. Perhaps the large quantities of people on the trail would get off the trail and go back to work now. I expected to see plenty of people early in the day, but as time marched on and more and more people had to get back to the civilized world, I hoped the crowds of people would thin out a bit.

It wasn't a joyful Labor Day morning, however. When I woke up, it was raining, and under my tarp, I felt like I was tucked away in a small cave. Not a smidgen of light could be seen anywhere. No moon, no stars--just like being deep in a cave without a flashlight.

By sunrise, things started to light up, but it wasn't much of an improvement--all I could see was rain. Thick, cold, wet, miserable rain. I stayed dry under my tarp, but it didn't motivate me to get up early. I hoped to wait it out, and maybe--if I was lucky--the rain would stop. And it would eventually stop, and I finally broke down camp and started hiking again at about 9:30.

While the rain had stopped, the tree snot had not, and I pulled out my umbrella to protect me from the onslaught.

The trail went down to Chinook Pass, where I started passes masses and masses of day hikers, which slowed me down considerably. It seemed like everyone had a story to tell about something that happened to them somewhere on the PCT, and I didn't want to be rude by cutting them off, but the sheer numbers were staggering, and it seemed like every single one of them wanted to ask me if I was a PCT thru-hiker, how far I had hiked, yadda, yadda, yadda. I couldn't wait for Labor Day to be over.

The fog lifted just high enough, or rather, I descended just far enough, that I could get some decent views down the canyons below me. The mountains above me stayed in a perpetual fog, and Mount Rainer never showed itself.

Late in the afternoon, a bit of sun finally peeked out from the clouds, but only briefly before the clouds and fog returned. I filled up with water from a crappy little of water since it was the last water source on the trail for the next 20 miles. The day was getting depressing.

Late in the day, I passed four men wearing camo and bows and arrows--the first hunters I'd seen since the Goat Rocks. I didn't stop to talk, though, and plowed ahead. I didn't even know what they were hunting, but I started walking a little louder and made sure my brighter colored gear was easily visible. I get nervous around hunters....

There was supposed to be a large lake off on the
right side of the trail, but I could barely even see
the shoreline!
At one junction on the trail, someone had created an arrow in the trail pointing to the left. I wasn't expecting a junction--my map showed nothing--and it looked like a side trail, perhaps to a campsite. The arrow in the trail concerned me, though. I would have continued straight without hesitation.... except for that arrow. It's the kind of thing thru-hikers would do to help direct other thru-hikers behind them from taking a wrong turn. I'd depended on these kind of signs for thousands of miles. But this arrow didn't "feel" right. I couldn't imagine the PCT really turned here. It just didn't feel right, and I thought maybe the hunters had set it up to direct other hunters into camp. I saw four of them dressed out in camo, but they were all hiking alone, separated. They might have created the arrow to help each other get back into camp.

Hmm.... I finally decided to ignore the arrow and plow ahead where my gut was telling me to go, then worried for miles that I was headed in the wrong direction. I should have checked out that arrow. If it was a camp, I would have known it in minutes, backtracked to the trail, and not have to worry about hiking in the wrong direction for the next few miles. I'm such an idiot not to check that it was just a campsite.

Chinook Pass, straight ahead!
But I continued on, and an hour or two later, reached another trail junction that was marked with signage, finally confirming that I did go in the correct direction all along. What a relief!

I finally set up camp at Rods Gap for the night, a little after 7:00 in the evening, managing to pull out a 25 miles of hiking despite my late start. I set up my tarp again, almost certain it would rain overnight. I was getting increasingly annoyed at setting up my tarp every night. I liked to sleep under the stars, but haven't been able to since entering Washington. It had already rained more on me in Washington than it had in all of California and Oregon combined. This, I thought to myself, is not acceptable. September is supposed to be beautiful in the Pacific Northwest!

Some of the many, many day hikers at Chinook Pass

The mountains upward towards Mount Rainier were obscured by clouds,
but the views east down the canyon below the clouds were nice. =)

The hatchet job trail workers did to this tree
kind of amused me.... =)

The trail passed by the Crystal Mountain ski resort.
Not much skiing going on at the moment!

Despite the clouds, I still occasionally got some nice views out of the hike. =)

They say every hat has a story to tell.
But this hat isn't talking.....

The fog was so bad, I couldn't use a flash. When I did,
photos would turn out like this one. =(

The trails, needless to say, did not dry out, and were
slick and slippery as ever!


Jay Dub said...

lol @ ed hardy hat...

Okie Dog said...

Wow! I always wondered when people skied how they knew what was ahead, that picture is interesting how the ski slopes are set up...another thing, I think that fog picture is interesting, too. Artists look for techniques how to's to make a picture look like that, ha. That last picture looks spooky. Bigfoot could come out at any moment....;-)

TrailTroll said...

That last picture, with the lighter fog so clearly defined in the distance, makes me want to shout "Do NOT go into the light, Ryan!" Looks like the doorway to heaven.

My Life Outdoors said...

I love fog...sometimes I think fog makes better pictures then when the sun is shining. It can transform a place.

Muddy Paws said...

Loving all your photos from the North Cascades... You're making us homesick! Brings back many happy hiking memories. We grew up skiing at Crystal so it's fun to see it without snow.

Laughing Orca Ranch said...

Maybe September is supposed to be beautiful in the PNW, but your PCT hike early on Washington is exactly what most people, who are not from the PNW, perceive Washington's weather to be like all year long. Wet!

Maybe that arrow was pointing to a better water source than the crappy one you had found?

Hike On!
~Twinville Trekkers