Date: Friday, 11 August 2017
Start: Camped by the trail at Mile 2272.1, 6148 ft
Finish: Where PCT crosses Highway 12 in White Pass at Mile 2292.4, 4409 ft
Daily Miles: 20.3 PCT
Total PCT Miles: 1752.4
Weather: Warm, humid, hazy and partly cloudy, with thunderstorms in the afternoon.
Accommodation: Room at Packwood Inn Motel in Packwood
Dinner: Cheeseburger & fries, ice-cream and watermelon
Aches: Sore feet, due to rocky nature of trail today. Blister site on heel a little better.
Highlight: After the meadows and streams of the Goat Rocks Wilderness yesterday afternoon, this morning’s early hiking involved steep barren rocky crags and slopes, snow fields, high traverses and knife-edge ridges. Despite the persisting smoke haze, the views were spectacular, though it was only safe to admire the scenery when stopped. It was too risky to look around while walking on the narrow loose-rock trails above precipitous slopes.
Lowlight: My luck as a hitch-hiker ran out after I reached Highway 12 for the hitch into Packwood at 4:45pm. I saw a trio of PCT hikers get picked up further along the road, just after I arrived, but it was 90 minutes before I managed to get a lift for the 20 miles into Packwood, despite there being a lot of traffic on the road (mostly holiday-makers). However, my misfortune didn’t end in Packwood. When I reached the motel office it was locked, with an overweight shirtless young boy (~10-y-o) playing games inside on the office computer. When I shouted through the door that I had a room booked, he rudely told me to go and find the manager (later revealed to be his mother!). While I waited fruitlessly, other motel patrons turned up – one couple had returned from a day’s sightseeing to find their room cleaned and someone else’s baggage in it, and two other couples had checked in earlier and been asked to come back later because their rooms weren’t ready and now couldn’t get in. I went to the small supermarket next door to buy a drink and a snack to eat while I waited sitting on the motel office front step. Eventually the young boy was persuaded to go and find the manager, who then began resolving the problems in a fairly surly fashion. There was no record of my booking, but she gave me a room. The Wi-Fi is broken and there’s no AT&T mobile coverage, but at least I have a room, which looked doubtful for some time.
Pictures: Click here
I was up and hiking at 6:00am on a warm and still morning. My hopes of a quick trip to Highway 12 evaporated in the first three hours during which I covered little more than five miles, but the scenery (see above) more than compensated for the time spent. Care was required on the narrow loose-rock trails and snowy traverses, but it was safe enough if you took your time and concentrated. I did have one fall further down the mountain and took some skin off an elbow and landed heavily on my phone in my hip pocket, but it survived.
After descending 2000 ft from the knife edge ridges it was a bit soul-destroying to have to climb another 2000 ft onto some other ridges in the humid sweaty conditions, but again the views compensated though it was too hazy to see the distant Mt Rainier from an advertised viewpoint. From the top of the second climb it was six miles of steady downhill, mostly through forest, to the highway, during which time the atmosphere cooled, thunder rumbled in the distance, and a few spots of rain fell, the first I have seen in over two months.
I reached the highway a little later than hoped as a result of the difficult hilly trail, but then had to wait a long time before getting a lift into Packwood where I had more problems (see above). Nevertheless it was a very interesting day’s hiking through a spectacular area and my tired body is now looking forward to a day off.