WA PCT Section J – Part I, Day 4 – Hikin’ in the heat to get to Popeyes

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Tuesday, August 7, 2018
Part I, Day 4. Miles hiked: 3.5-4. Elevation gain/loss: +665/-700 ft
North end of Lake Kachess to End of the hike

I wake at 6:30. I was sure Bigfoot or some other monster would attack me in the night. Alas! I slept well and nothing got me. I take my time getting ready, wash my feet, make coffee, cook ramen for breakfast, pack up, and head up the hill around 9am to see if Mark is awake and how he’s feeling. He’s awake and feeling well enough to get on the trail and GTFO. We’re on the trail shortly after 9. So many ups and downs along this little ol’ trail. We go at a slowish pace but keep on chugging so we can get outta there before the heat of the day is upon us. The morning is already hot. At a water break we fill and eat a snack. Mark promptly throws up. 😦 Such a bummer to be feeling so crappy. It’s so hot.

We hit the end of the trail at 12:30 amidst several giant campgrounds. Port-a-potty bathroom break. We’re surrounded by sites full of families with their grills, trucks, and water toys. We find the registration hut and inquire hopefully about gatorade for sale. Nope, only water. We fill our bottles at the spigots and relax for a minute. How will we hitch out? Mark has a little service but not much battery life. (I lost his charger/carabiner at the pond. Whoopsies.)

We walk to a good hitchin’ spot and stick out our thumbs. Five or 10 cars pass by, some even peeling out in the process. Dang that’s cold. Mark gives one of them the finger. Eventually a guy with his family show us some humanity and stops. His wife gives him a hard time, but we gratefully accept the ride. We crawl into the covered cab, bounce down the road, and get out at the I-90 junction. One of the young daughters shows us her creepy severed doll head. We awkwardly laugh and thank them for the ride.

Another nice guy with two large dogs in an SUV stops to give us a ride to North Bend. The A/C is blasting. We chat about hikes. Mark naps in the back. I have service and text Jared, who is able to save us from North Bend soon! We get out near the truck stop, intending to shower, but are easily distracted by the allure of icy cold Gatorade (limon-pepino and lemon-lime, please) and Popeyes chicken. We devour a few chicken strips and I pick up several biscuits as a thank-you-for-saving-us gift.

Before we know it, Jared has arrived! It’s 2pm. The three of us drive to Wallingford where we drop of Jared to work from a cafe before meeting up with our other friend Marc. Then Mark and I continue on northward to Stevens Pass to retrieve my car. A stop at the Sultan Bakery in search of the elusive buttermilk bars. We settle for incredibly rich, incredibly large cookies. I feel sugar-high-sick three-quarters of the way into my reese’s cookie but manage to polish it off. Around 5 we’re at the pass. I get my car. Drive back to Seattle. Pick up Jared. Over the ferry and back to Vashon. THE END of Part I.

WA PCT Section J – Part I, Day 3 – A day at the pond, then assaulted by nature


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Monday, August 6, 2018
Part I, Day 3. Miles hiked: 6-8. Elevation gain/loss: +515/-3170 ft
3 miles shy of Spectacle Lake to the north end of Lake Kachess

(Insta pics from the day)

I start stirring around 6 am. Get up around 6:45. Mark is feeling a little bit better. Then he smokes some weed, coughs, and feels like shit again. The plan: we’ll see how Mark is feeling and go from there – bailing off the PCT at one of three spots. Either Deception Creek (35+ more miles of hiking), Pete Lake (11 or so miles of hiking), Mineral Creek (10ish miles), or backtrack to Snoqualmie Pass (13 miles). I drink coffee and eat my oatmeal. Another woods poop. Argh I must be eating too much food. There was a lot of dew last night and I dry my wet rainfly in the sun. We chill in our tents mostly to avoid the hungry mosquitos. Mark naps. We continually shift our tents to the shade of trees and out of the path of the hot sun throughout the day.

I listen to some podcasts, clip my nails, write, take a dip in the pond, enjoy the sun, and scratch my growing number of bug bites. Eat snacks. A hiker comes by looking for a toilet. Sorry dude, you’ll have to dig a cathole. Tape my blisters. Watch bugs. Think about life.

At 4:15, after the heat of the day, I check in on Mark. He’s feeling better! Or well enough for a bit of hiking at least. We decide the best plan of attack is to exit the trail via the Mineral Creek Trail, which intersects the PCT only 20 yards or so from us. No climbing, just downhill. Manageable, we hope. We pack up and are on trail around 4:30pm.

It’s still kind of warm. The trail is steepish, overgrown in patches, has poor footing, and clings to the hillside in places. In the river valley we’re overcome by dense overgrowth – vine maple and slide alder for several miles. It’s clear that this trail has not been maintained in some time. (I later read the most recent WTA trail report from a year ago that describes the experience as such, “I noticed that it’s been over a year since there’s been a trip report for this trail and after hiking it I can see why. Something like 35 years ago I hiked this trail and from what we encountered it looks like it hasn’t seen much  maintenance since then. To say it’s brushy is like saying those ZZ Top guys have a little stubble on their chins. Although in the heavy brush areas you can tell where the trail is, it’s so overgrown that the brush whips you, grabs you and assaults you constantly. I felt like there were hidden hands reaching out and grabbing my pack much of the time, making progress that much more difficult. It’s also very steep, unrelentingly so, and rocky and seeing the uneven footing through the brush is often challenging… I would say if there’s someone you really don’t like suggest that they hike this trail. Otherwise I’d stay away unless you really want to get to Park Lakes and don’t want to make the much longer trek from Snoqualmie Pass. This trail could likely qualify for WTA’s lost trail suggestion list except it’s got so many steep sections that simply brushing it out would only solve part of the problem. On the plus side, you’ll likely have the trail to yourself.” Ha! That pretty much sums it up. It. was. tough. It really makes me appreciate trail crews and well maintained trails that’s for sure.

We run into one other hiker just after the slide alder section who asks if the trail is poorly maintained where we came from too. He’s in for a treat. At least we’re going down. Bushes whip my shins. I am cranky and feel assaulted by nature. We cross mineral creek. I fill my water and eat a snack. Maybe food will help. We enter onto the Little Kachess Trail. The tread gets increasingly a little better minus one washed out section a few hundred feet above the lake which is actually incredibly terrifying. I’m on the verge of tears but somehow manage to cross the 30 foot section with neither plummeting to my death nor breaking into full-on tears. So much for the seemingly easy lakeside trail we were hoping for. The trail goes up and down, up and down over blowdowns and the like. The ups leave Mark feeling like shit. A reroute brings us up a steep hillside and we pop out into a clearing above a large rock overlooking the lake.It’s 8:20. Camp here? Yes.

Take in a few views of the lake at dusk. Oh Little Kachess Trail, your splendid views somehow make up for all these trail hardships. We pitch our tents and go to sleep. Whew.