PCT DAY 50: Monday August 14, 2017
Mile 2592.5 – Mile 2621.5
29 miles (46.5 km)
I was awake and having coffee when I heard something that sounded like a kitten meowing not far from my tent. I sat still and listened for the sound but whatever it was had moved away. I was camped by myself and it was freezing cold. I really needed to move just to stay warm. It feels like the summer is over so suddenly. The night before I didn’t even need a sleeping bag, it was so warm and one day later I can’t keep warm enough. All the more reason to get on with todays hike. I really just want to finish it now.
I was packed and on my way by 5.30am. There was frost on the ground and a really cold wind blowing . Sunrise seemed to be hours away. But by the time I reached the top of Cutthroat Pass and looked back towards Rainy Pass the sunrise was just begining to illuminate the clouds and the tips of the mountains. It looked like the rocks and clouds were on fire. I was so happy to be back in the high mountains with clearing skies. It was quite a spectecular sunrise.
Walking towards Granite Pass was quite daunting, I could see the trail carved into sheer rock walls hugging the side. And the sun hitting the sheer rocks walls and valley below was blinding. Such a contrast in such a short distance.
Slowly I made my way around Granite Pass and then over Methow Pass. Again there was a sharp contrast in landscape. The three passes are close together and are over 6000 feet in elevation with a gentle grade of change between them. I am so overawed by this landscape. I also realise what a hostile environment it could be when the weather turns nasty. Today it was sunny with a sharp cold wind blowing. I definitely would not like to be here in bad weather.
From Methow Pass the trail descends to the Methow River valley through a dense forest. On the way down I met up with a US Forestry worker who was part of the trail maintenance crew. He gave me a trail conditions update including a warning about the long dry section on the way to Harts Pass. I mentioned I was planning to stop for lunch at Box Creek which was the last water source for 10 miles. He said it was not a good idea as he has had an encounter with a bear near the creek a few days ago. He thinks the bear is used to hikers so was not easy to get it move away. That was enough for me. I picked up water at an earlier creek and rushed through Box Creek. There were certainly lots of bear droppings, old and new, on the trail for about two miles before the creek. The trailside vegetation was deep and it did not make for a comfortable hike through there.
From Box Creek there is about 2 miles of switchbacks before the trail turns towards Harts Pass. It was hard work with the sun beating down at the same time as a icy wind was blowing. I felt like a rotisserie chicken – warm on one side cold on the other then switch sides.
Once on top of the ridge, looking into the valley it was easy to see why it was a dry section. The landscape reminded me of the Southern Californian desert – stony and yellow.
For the next 7 miles I wound around numerous bare rocky ridge sides finally arriving at Harts Pass. I had planned on stopping to camp here but I was out of water and there was an 8$ fee for a campsite. I hiked on for another half a mile to a smalk creek, got some water and continued on up to the trailhead road junction where I camped. It is cold but not as freezing cold as last night.