Part I, Day 1 – Blowdowns, Snow Lake, and Gatorade

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Part I

Saturday, August 4, 2018
Day 1. Miles hiked: 13ish. Elevation gain: apx 4000 feet. Elevation loss: apx 1500 ft
Goldmyer Hot Springs to PCT Section J just north of Snoqualmie Pass

(Beautiful pics of trail – click here)

I wake around 5:30am as Jared wakes and packs for his crack-of-dawn departure. I go back to sleep and wake again at 8:30am and eventually get out of my tent. We all rise, enjoy our coffee and mostly-oatmeal-dominated-breakfasts, slowly pack up, and leave camp at 11:50am, just in time for our noon departure. Group selfie. The 6 of us hike to the Dutch Miller Gap/Middle Fork Snoqualmie trail junction and part ways after a small discussion about getting B.O. out of hiking shirts (try Oxyclean and/or Techwash from REI?).

Mark and actually hike back past our campsite, and after only mild confusion, find the old busted up footbridge across which we hobble/scramble with our enormous packs to cross the Middle Fork Snoqualmie River. Somehow we manage to not fall in or get swept away. Success.

The next 3.5 miles is along the somewhat overgrown flat section of the Middle Fork Trail. Over a handful of blowdowns. Up, up, up 3,000 feet and many switchbacks on the Rock Creek Trail. Over 4 miles. After the forest we are met with sunshine and heat. A few snack breaks. We see one woman on the trail. “Good luck at the Zoo” that is Snow Lake, she says. Eventually, through the overgrown brush and blowdowns, we reach the Gem Lake Trail junction and immediately see a half-dozen hikers – several of which are blasting music from their bluetooth speakers. Entering the Zoo. Snow Lake may be crowded, but it is beautiful. Our first of the alpine lakes. We fill our water at a stream where two women take pics and selfies with their dogs. Up to the overlook. Down, down, down the 3+ miles to the Alpental Parking lot. Small trail traffic jam.

Thumbs out. We catch a ride with a nice family – mom, pop, kid, dog – in their truck. They deliver us to the Chevron where we promptly buy gatorade and V8. We eat a burger-filled dinner at the Aardvark Express food truck in front of the Chevron, momentarily overtaken by our fleeting cellphone reception. The friendly assistant manager of the Summit Inn inspires us to get back on the trail to escape his chatter.

A short road walk brings us to the spur to the PCT. We’re on the PCT for a few hundred feet before taking an immediate left – a shortcut down the abandoned-but-well-maintained Commonwealth Basin Trail – to cut off a few switchbacks. Shorter = steeper 😦 We pass a few people including a family set up camp by the river. Back on the PCT. It’s approaching dark and we snag a spot just in time to set up our tents and for me to dig a cathole for my first woods poo. We’re tired and we crash at 9:30pm, just past “hiker midnight”.

Part I, Day 0 – Hot, hot, hot springs

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Part I

Friday, August 3, 2018
Day 0. Miles hiked: 5. Elevation gain: not much. Elevation loss: 0 ft
Trailhead to Goldmyer Hot Springs

(Click here for beautiful pics of the trail)

A lovely day at the Goldmyer Hot Springs.

Last night Mark, Jared, and I spotted a car at Stevens Pass in preparation for our hike from Snoqualmie Pass to Stevens Pass – a trek that will be somewhere between 70 and 80 miles, depending on side trails and whether or not we have to hike from Goldmyer or can get a ride to pass to start. That’s cutting it pretty tight – we’re hoping to finish the section by Wednesday night or Thursday morning which equates to 16ish or more miles per day. We’re going to have to hustle. I’m just recovering from a bout of giardia – my first experience with the lovely bug. Turns out my stomach isn’t made of steel after all and I, too, need to filter my water in the backcountry. Damn.

The three of us make the drive from Stevens to Snoqualmie, via the Sultan Bakery which has the most delicious buttermilk bars and the largest breakfast sandwiches I’ve ever experienced. Along the drive, we formulate our plan: since Jared has to get up at the crack of dawn and drive home for a maker’s space commitment on Vashon and Tyler’s car is full with him, Amy, Megan, and Sam – Mark and I are going to hike the extra 10 miles down the Middle Fork Trail, up the the Rock Creek Trail, and down the Snow Lake Trail to arrive at Snoqualmie Pass and begin our Section J hike in earnest. We’ll add one more alpine lake to the total, making it 24, not 23, lakes we’ll see as we weave across the crest of the Alpine Lakes Wilderness.

We drive down the pothole-filled dirt forestry road and arrive at the trailhead for Goldmyer Hot Springs/Dutch Miller Gap Trail around 1pm. Tyler’s Subaru is already there, which means our four companions are already there and on their way. Mark and I rearrange the 6+ days of food in our heavy packs and the three of us set off down the trail. It’s a dirt road that’s ever-so-slightly uphill and easy, if not boring, walking. We sample the many thimbleberries along the way. Mark forgot the giant Sultan Bakery cookies in the car – damn! Two-thirds of the way there we catch up to Sam, Megan, Tyler, and Megan and all walk and catch up. Jose, Heidi, and Dean sadly could all not join us so it’s just the 7 of us.

We show up at the Goldmyer Hot Springs office and check-in with the friendly caretaker, Eric, whose wide-eyed at-peace look can only be attributed to the month spent at these idyllic hot springs nestled in the dense green Washington forest. Once in our campsite, we eat snacks, set up tents, and visit the river bank to smoke what must be smoked off the Goldmyer grounds. Then to the hot springs! An easy 15 minute walk up the trail to the pools: the hottest and biggest in a cave, a small Goldilocks pool, and a slightly cooler and bigger pool with little foot washing station. And of course, the cold plunge pool for a little contrast hydrotherapy. A handful of other folks are there and/or join us. At dinner time, we head back to camp to cook our assorted trail dinners – mac & cheese, ramen, mountain house meals, etc – and drink some of the Bandit wine (whose trail marketing is really on point because it really is perfect for backpacking). Back to the hot springs around dark for an evening soak. Then to bed, not long after 10, for a restful night of sleep…