Date: Monday, 28 August 2017
Start: High Bridge Ranger Station at Mile 2569.4, 1581 ft
Finish: Camped by the trail at Mile 2592.4, 6155 ft
Daily Miles: 23.0 PCT
Total PCT Miles: 2052.1
Weather: Very warm and humid with hazy sunshine.
Breakfast: Cereal, ham & cheese omelette, sausages, bacon & hash browns
Lunch: Ham & cheese sandwiches and choc chip cookies
Dinner: Rehydrated teriyaki chicken with rice and vegetables.
Aches: Left heel sore all day and some chafing from the heat.
Highlight: Around midafternoon, I met a hiker coming the other way who told me he had seen a bear about a quarter of a mile back. I continued on, sure the bear would have long disappeared, and promptly forgot about it. Ten minutes later, I rounded a curve on the trail, which was passing through thick scrub, and there was a very big bear walking towards me along the trail about fifteen metres away. We both stopped and looked at each other, and then bear continued walking towards me as though he wanted to pass by. I instinctively began backing up while reaching for my camera and uttering soothing words like “take it easy” and “nice bear” repeatedly. I really didn’t want to see if he would just walk past me. It seemed likely he would want a good sniff at best. Then I remembered that you are not supposed to run from bears (I was only backing up), so I stopped and took a few small steps forward. The bear stopped, then continued to advance. I instinctively backed up again, thought better of it, stopped and then moved forward again. The bear stopped, looked around, and then walked into the scrub to my left and detoured around me. I only got one photo and that was as the bear turned to go into the scrub.
Lowlight: The wildfire smoke haze was back and I could smell and taste the smoke all day, while the views of the surrounding mountains were badly obscured.
Pictures: Click here. ALL PREVIOUS PICTURES HAVE NOW BEEN UPLOADED.
After a hearty breakfast and a pleasant stay at the Stehekin Valley Ranch (recommended), I was driven, along with some other day and multi-day hikers, back to the trailhead and resumed my hike northwards on the PCT at 8:20am. It is 90 miles to Manning Park in Canada and I plan to do it in four days. My preference would be to get there midafternoon on the fourth day, so that means some long days for the first three. Usually, I give myself a discount on the first day out of town – the pack is heavy with food, the trail is generally up, and the start time is relatively late – but today I was determined to put a dent in the 90 miles, even though I knew it would be uphill and warm and mean a late stop.
Fortunately, even though I gained 5000 ft in altitude during the day, it was a fairly steady grade and the trail, which was mostly in the North Cascades National Park, was in reasonable condition. For much of the time it followed Bridge Creek valley upstream and it could be heard in the far below and occasionally seen. On the other side of the valley were very steep and high rocky mountains, but the haze was so thick it was hard to make out detail or see further. At one point, I stopped to refill my water bottle from a cascading stream and had just added some purification tablets when I heard some voices above me. Looking up, I could see one naked guy having a wash in the stream (he gave me a wave) with his recently-washed hiking gear spread out nearby to dry and there must have been other people there I couldn’t see for the rocks . I thought about dumping the water, but I have few tablets left and that’s what they are for anyway.
Some of the day’s hiking was through forest where there was some relief from the heat, but mostly it was through scrub and berry vines and it was hot and sweaty work. Eventually the trail left the National Park and crossed Rainy Pass (~5000 ft), which wasn’t rainy at all, and a highway. It was late afternoon by now and happily had cooled a little. I had made reasonable time, but had my eye on a campsite (room for two tents) four miles ahead according to the guide, so continued on. The trail continued to climb towards Cutthroat Pass and as I neared the campsite, I met a hiker coming the other way who said there were many people camped there and he had decided to continue on. Curses! I had no choice and walked on hoping I would be able to squeeze in. When I got there, though there were obviously a number of groups camped in the vicinity, one of them directed me down a short trail where I happily found quite a large space for myself away from the others. It was late – 7:45pm – and I ended up cooking and eating by headlamp, but was satisfied with the day. Hopefully, the smoke haze will clear overnight.