After a night in Packwood we resupplied at the local grocery store before heading back to trail. To get back to the trail we needed to go back up a steep road to the top of the pass. Our hitch though didn’t know if he was going to make it! We ended up getting a lift from a guy who ran carnivals so had a climbing wall, 5 bouncy castles, an inflatable slide and more being pulled by a caravan. On top of this he also had two hang gliders and a motorcycle that he was carrying. All in all this came to 24,000 pounds of weight he was trying to get up the hill, plus us! We had to pull over several times to let the engine cool but after 15 minutes we were good to try and get a little further up the hill. We got dropped off at the trail ready for what was promised to be a week of rain.
As we got closer to camp the rain did start so we put our tent up in the rain. Unfortunately we picked a bad spot with no runoff and at 2am we were woken with at least a litre of water in our tent. It got progressively worse during the night and by daybreak this puddle had become so big it encompasses most of the floor. Trying to sleep on a wet air pad with a soggy duvet and bed clothes was miserable. We were cold and waited out the hours before sunrise so we could pack up and get warm again hiking. We put this down to poor pitching and the fact we left our bathtub down and chalked it up to a hard lesson learned. It was our worst night on trail so far and in the morning we faced the tricky decision whether to back track 4 miles to town to dry out our stuff or continue forward and hope for a break in the rain to dry things. We decided to be optimistic and cross all our fingers and toes for a break in the clouds to dry our things.
Later that day Joal got stung by a wasp for the 6th time (it was really not our day!) and we passed a lot of hunters cabins. It is now hunting season which means there are lots of guys out with cross bows, arrows and guns. Whilst at first we dismissed the hobby as something quite brutal and primitive we learnt a lot from talking to hunters. It actually feels like a nicer life for the animals rather than being battery farmed and they use almost every scrap of the animal.
It rained most of the morning but luckily at lunchtime we had a 1.5 hour break in the clouds. We took the opportunity and hung out the tent and the sleeping bag. We were very lucky we were able to dry this out otherwise our next night would have been miserable. The rest of the day was super wet and foggy. All night we could hear elks bugling, which sounds very odd, as the bugle is very high pitched to come from such a muscular animal.
The next morning we set off in the cold. By 10 we got to a road where Porsche was very glad to find a pit toilet. For the afternoon we climbed onto a ridge were we got pelted with heavy rain. To keep the morale high(ish) we kept making each other laugh by shouting up into the clouds ‘Is this all you got?!’. This joke then got the better of us as the rain then turned to snow and temperature dropped. Whilst it was nice to see our first snow of trail it also made us nervous that we have over 300 miles to go through progressively harsher conditions. We tried and failed to get to a cabin 29 miles away from our morning camp. This was due to the cold weather coupled with the steep elevation. That night we woke up again to a puddle in our tent, despite making sure that the tent was set up correctly. It was then we started to worry our tent had a leak.
The next morning after not much sleep we headed through the relentless rain to the hut 4 miles up trail. Here a wood burning stove was our saving grace for the 2nd time running. We did an inventory of our food here and realised that for the first time on trail we had misjudged how many dinners we needed to buy. This meant thinking about how we would ration food for the next few days. It ended up that as long as Joal ate mash potato for his last meal and Jen had small portions of soup we would be fine.
We headed back out after 2.5 hours of drying out our stuff. It started to drizzle as we left which was followed by a small patch of sun. As we were on a scenic ridge we stopped and had lunch. Unfortunately 20 minutes later we were pelted with rain and sleet in a very exposed section. It rained for most of the afternoon and seemed to be getting heavier. Then, out of the blue on a very remote section of trail, we stumbled upon a big tarp. Richard, a trail angel from Seattle, had come out due to the wet weather to look after hikers. This is his specialty. He tries to be out during the worst conditions and therefore tends to be out very late in the season. In 2017 he showed us a picture taken October 15th where there was 6 feet of snow on trail. Crazily enough people were still hiking at this time and he was a godsend.
Whilst we wanted to stay here all night we pushed on and made it 4 miles further to a water source. luckily this night the rain wasn’t too bad. This was then followed by a beautifully clear morning, where we walked a ridge for most of the time. It was evident that we were approaching autumn as the leaves in this section showed a lot of red and yellow hues.
After a third night sleeping in a puddle we made it to Snoqualmie Pass. As you enter you walk past ski lifts and down ski slopes. Being one of the closest skiing areas to Seattle the ski resort is pretty built up. When we got into town we were given a ride by Sister, a fellow hiker we hadn’t seen since Idyllwyld (150 miles in).
We headed 35 miles to the nearest gear shop where we bought a new tent. This tent is a three man tent so weighs a bit more than our current one, but we hope it keeps us drier. We were also able to do a resupply at a place called Trader Joe’s which is a sort of whole foods meets Aldi. This meant we could get lots of tasty trail mix and bars for cheap. Jen also decidedly buy a zip lock so she would never get wet again!
In the evening we hit a brewery in town and shared a calzone before heading to our spot for the night. We stayed at the Washington Alpine Club which was an awesome ski lodge that was hosting hikers in the off season. They had dorm rooms but as a couple we were given the loft area. we also were able to get a shower, albeit very cold as it was outside.
At 12 at night Joal was awoken by a horrible feeling and ended up vomiting out the window as he couldn’t make it down the 4 flights of stairs to the restroom. This stayed with Joal the next day and as we headed back to trail he still felt weak when we started climbing. After 4 miles Joal had to stop leaving the rest of the trail family to continue 3 more miles. We set up tent as it was raining, and had a cold dinner of energy bars as we realised our lighter had broken.
We were both pretty tired due to the disruption the night before so hit then hay early. Unfortunately Joal’s stomach was still wobbly and at 2am we were woken again and Joal was sick. After catching our trail family we realised Kaleb wasn’t feeling 100% either. We narrowed it down to food poisoning from the calzone as Kaleb ate Joal’s left overs. Hiking when ill, we found out, is really hard. The climbs take a lot more out of you, and as you are so weak and are not concentrating as much there is more tendency to fall over on the rocky paths. We deliberated going back, but as we believed this was food poisoning we hoped it would be over in a few days time. Had this been something like giardia, which has similar symptoms, this could have lasted a week which wouldn’t have been fun at all. Together we pushed through.
By the early morning we reached mile 2,400 which meant we now only had 250 miles more to go! The scenery from here transformed again and it felt like we were back in the Sierras. We walked a thin ridge for most of the morning and when we turned back we saw that Mount Rainier had a fresh load of snow on it, a sign we are definitely getting closer to autumn/winter. As we caught up to the others we had to do a bigger day, which would have been a challenge even just on Joal’s empty stomach, but the terrain was also very steep. We climbed about 6000 feet in a day over the 24 miles we did. To put that in perspective, that is 1000 feet less than our 52 mile day. We were bruised by this day, which finished on a ledge with a brilliant view.
That night it got really cold and when we woke our tents had frost on them. The cold mornings mean we are getting out of our tents a little later as it is bitterly cold before the sun comes out. The morning consisted of eating frozen berries from the side of the trail till our mouths turned purple.
The scenery here was fantastic and it really felt like we were back walking in the Sierras. It even came with some tough fords across rivers. Everyday it feels like we are going from mountains pass to valley about 3 times, and whilst challenging this does make for some great views.
Two nights later and we were on the approach to Stevens Pass, where we were meeting Joal’s high school friend Tim, and going to Seattle. These were the toughest two sections we’ve done due to the terrain, rain, tent failure, food poisoning and sleep deprivation. We’ve been able to call this incredible trail ‘home’ for almost 5 months and it’s crazy that it’s teaching and testing us in new ways everyday. We are so close to our goal now that we’ve toughed it out knowing we have 2 days of rest in Seattle before our final push. Despite the difficulties we feel incredibly fortunate to experience Mother Nature with all her magic and mayhem.