170820 – Running on empty

Day:  119
Date:  Sunday, 20 August 2017
Start:  Camped by the trail at Mile 2436.0, 5312 ft
Finish:  Where the PCT crosses State Hwy 2 in Stevens Pass at Mile 2461.6, 4055 ft
Daily Miles:  25.6 PCT
Total PCT Miles:  1921.3
Weather:  Cool to warm and mostly sunny.
Accommodation:  Room at Cascadia Inn, Skykomish.
     Breakfast:  Muesli
     Lunch:  Gorp
     Dinner:  Bowl of chilli, fish & chips, ice-cream
Aches:  Left heel sore and shooting pain in right groin.  Lost both little toe-nails today.
Highlight:  Reaching State Hwy 2 in daylight and time to hitch a lift into Skykomish.
Lowlight:  Slipping on a wet rock and half falling into a freezing cold raging stream at 6:30am, doing the one thing I did not want to do, getting my left boot (containing the blistered heel) full of water at the start of a long day’s hiking.  Although challenging (and warned about in the trail guide), I had almost made it across unscathed, and was very annoyed with myself.
Pictures:  Click here

Position:  Click here.
Map:  Click here for Google Map

Conscious that I had nearly 26 miles to Stevens Pass and Hwy 2, and needed to get there in daylight so I could hitch-hike to Skykomish where I had a room booked for two nights, I sacrificed sleep for the second night in a row and woke soon after 4:30am, hitting the trail soon after 5:30am, the earliest I could hike without a headlamp.  I really needed everything to go right for the day – relatively easy trail, minimal hills, fewer rocks – so was more than a little frustrated when I slipped on a wet rock (see above) while straddling a log to get across a raging stream and ended up with a boot full of water, some wet clothes and a gash on the inside of my left knee.  I regrouped on the other side, emptied the boot of water and wrung out the socks, and took off the wet clothes (it was getting warm anyway).

On resuming, the trail levelled out a bit, passing through forest and scrub, and I regained some confidence that I would reach my day’s goal.  This was premature, however, as for the rest of the day, the trail crossed one ridge after another, giving continuing fantastic views of the steep rocky mountains, and dropping down to pass one perfect alpine lake after another, often in magic moss-covered old growth forests.  An added feature were the huge awe-inspiring white rock screes down the steep mountainsides in places, with some rocks as big as small houses, all jumbled together.  The trail crossed a number of these, which added to the degree of difficulty.  I could feel the successive steep zig-zagging climbs wearing me down, and at times I was barely making forward progress.  The descents were almost as difficult and required steady concentration to avoid slipping or tripping, and I calculated my average speed overall to be little better than two miles per hour.

My feet, in particular, were suffering and I stopped mid-afternoon to swap socks between feet, a way of giving some temporary relief, and found the last of the blister pads had come loose in the wet boot.  Curses!  A brief distraction at one point was spotting a small snake with a captured frog in its mouth slithering across my path at a small stream crossing in one of fhe many picturesque meadows.

As the afternoon wore on, and one mountain followed another, I realised I was not going to meet my 6:00pm finishing goal, and might be lucky to beat 7:00pm,  It would be too dark to hitch-hike after 8:00pm, so anything after 7:00pm, was going to limit my opportunities.  As the trail left the Alpine Lakes Wilderness area, the local vegetation became more scrubby and began crossing ski fields. After one last big climb, there was a long descent to Stevens Pass which I reached, together with another PCT hiker, at 7:15pm.  After just five minutes, a para-glider stopped on his way home from giving lessons and gave us a lift.  I was dropped in Skykomish where the very friendly and helpful owner of the Cascadia Inn checked me in to my tiny but quaint room.  Skykomish is an old railway town (more like a village) and there’s not much here.  Across the road from my room, is a major freight rail line, and huge trains will be passing all night, but I doubt they will keep me awake.

I had dinner at a nearby pub, and retired to my room to update my journal.  My feet are relishing the thought of a day off tomorrow.

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