APPROACHING GLACIER PEAK
PCT Day 18. Sunday July 31, 2022
Mile 2494.5 + 21 miles today
Total Distance Hiked: 319.5 miles /511 kilometres
Sally Anne looked even lovelier this morning then she did last night when we arrived. Hardly any mosquitos about which made for a pleasant start to the morning. As we left our camp it was surprising to see how many others had camped nearby. At least a dozen tents were dotted around the lakeside.
We had a couple of very pleasant hours of hiking in the morning. It was cool, there were no mosquitos and as we ascended we had terrific views of rugged mountain tops to the south, including the top of Mt Rainier. The trail hummed to the sound of cascading snowmelt off the surrounding mountains. We stopped for breakfast just near the 2500 trail mile marked by rocks on trail. What a great milestone for those hiking the whole trail.
The rest of the morning was truly spectacular. As we slow rose through an exposed mountainside trail the distant view of the craggy mountain peaks became more prominent . We saw the top of Mt Rainer which became more revealed as we rose to the summit of the climb. The sun was shining but there was a beautiful cool breeze. The hills surrounding us were ablaze with prolific spring blooms. The sweaty toil of yesterday afternoon already feels like a distant memory.
We saw more hikers this morning then on any day so far. It is Sunday and such a magical section of trail. There were so many trails crossing and quite a few hikers seem to take side trails off the mountain.
Coming to the top of the climb we left the mountain range behind and dropped onto the still largely snow covered White Chuck River valley. Whike there was a lot of snow cover still it was all manageable. We stopped for lunch in shady spot off the snow. The shade didn’t last, the heat of the midday sun driving us to move on.
We were descending towards the White Chuck River crossing. I was so happy to see that there was a bridge across. The roar of the water flowing downstream is something else. The sound has so much power.
A pleasant couple of hours hiking followed. We were passing through an almost magical forest landscape where you might expect to see hobbits popping out of trees. The sort of forest that seems to get a fair bit of rain. Thick cover of moss blanketed everything at ground level. The pines were enormous their tops soaring to the sky.
It was all feeling a little bit cruisy. Well that feeling didn’t last. We started to encounter blowdowns which slowed our progress. Some of blowdowns presented particular challenges in getting over them safely. And if that wasn’t enough the trail became quite overgrown and completely soggy and muddy underfoot. It was a really testing couple of hours getting to the Kennedy River crossing.
Getting across the river presented a new kind of challenge. We both remembered this as probably the worst creek crossing in Washington. In the late afternoon, it was full and flowing fast. It is sediment laden glacial melt so its impossible to see how deep the water is where you might cross. We wandered upstream and found a log running almost downstream across the creek. Hammer thought it looked OK, I was not so sure. But there was no other place that looked possible. So he crossed very slow and steady. He dropped his pack on the other side and came back for mine which he carried across. I butt scooted across the log with my heart in my throat and my mouth dry with fear. Where we crossed was below a huge wall of loose glacial scree which was eroding with wind gusts. Every now and then rocks would tumble down towards us. It was very unnerving.
So with adrenalin still pumping we started the long ascent away from the creek towards Kennedy Ridge. It was a struggle late in the afternoon. There were many more blowdowns to navigate which made for an even slower and very frustrating trip up the ridge.
It was such a relief to get to a campsite and not fight with the trail anymore. This morning was so beautiful I felt like I could hike on forever. By late afternoon I was dreaming of the smell of clean, white bed sheets.