30 Jun

PCT -Day 0 (30 Jun 18) – Towards Canada

Miles 32.8 – 19.6 >>> 13.2 (21.2 km)

As people may know, the US does not allow border crossings from Canada to the US on to the PCT. Therefore southbounders have to walk up to the border from the south. There they have to touch off at the border and then turn back to begin their real PCT. There are talks to implement a system similar to the one that allows northbounders to walk into Canada, by prearranging paperwork. Alas, it’s not implemented quite yet.

There are a few different trail options to make it to ‘Monument 78’, the touch-off point at the border. The most often used method is probably to enter the PCT from Hart’s Pass and then hike the 30.6 miles up to the border. This is also what I decided to do.


We got up in the morning and had some rudimentary breakfast. We made our way to the Winthrop ball field along highway 20, where we set up shop to get a ride up to the trail head.

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Looking towards Mazama from the Winthrop ball field.

It took a surprisingly long time for someone to pull over. Eventually a travelling rock climber, who lives in his van, took pity on us and gave us a ride.

He was only able to take us to Mazama, but that gave us a chance to have a last coffee at the Mazama store, before we put our thumbs out again.

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In front of the Mazama Store.

It didn’t take long to get a second ride. And what a ride. An old International Harvester Scout from the 1960s.

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Travelling in style.

The gentlemen was only able to offer us a lift to the end of the sealed road but we didn’t mind. It was such a great drive. He even offered shower and sleeping quarters at his private residence on our way back from the border. Thank you so much.

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A true gentleman with a great vehicle.

Shortly after, a couple of young hunters gave us a ride up the rest of the way, on the back of their pick-up truck. We had rain and sleet all the way up to Hart’s Pass campground and I was freezing cold.

Then – drumroll – the big moment: I put the first, tentative step on to the Pacific Crest Trail … and it was wonderful.

It was 30 July 2018 at 11:30 am.

Oh my, it was so exhilarating to know that I was on my next big adventure.

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First steps.

The scenery was breathtaking, but cold. Me, having lived in tropical Australia for the last ten years, wasn’t really used to snow and ice any more. But I didn’t mind in the slightest. I was supremely happy.

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Just north of the Hart’s Pass campground.

Especially because the scenery was so amazing.

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Cold but happy.

The snow on the ground only added to my excitement and made the landscape look amazing.

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Near Tamarack Peak.

It felt so good to be on trail and the excitement just grew and grew all afternoon. Especially having all those stunning views around me.

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View from Foggy Pass to the north-east.

Eventually we made it to a camp site opposite Pasayten Peak at mile marker 19.6 south of the border. We set up camp around five. John and I were both tired, even though we’d only done 13.2 miles (21.2 km). We had dinner and soon crawled into bed.

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First camp on trail.
01 Jul

PCT – Day 1 (01 Jul 18) – The Border

Miles 19.6 – 0.0 – 3.2 >>> 22.8 (36.7 km)

I woke up very early; before five. It was quite cold and it took me a while to get out of my sleeping bag and pack up. The weather was great though and the clouds seemed a little less leaden than the day before.

Goooood Morning.

At around nine, we were up on our first pass and I was pretty astonished to see that there was still so much snow around.

Proud owner of a brand new snow drift.

The snow wasn’t an issue though and it looked awesome.

Towards Woody Pass.

John and I stopped for a quick lunch break at the Devil’s Stairway near Hopkins Lake. We chose this spot not for its scenic views, but rather for the shelter it provided from the biting cold wind.

Lunch at the Devil’s Staircase.

The icy wind wasn’t a real issue in the end though. We were very much distracted by the gorgeous views around us.

Hopkins Lake.

Towards the afternoon, we reached our camp site at 3.2 miles (5.1 km) south of the border. We set up our tents, dropped our gear inside, and then went for a quick dash up to the monument without the burden of our packs.

1 July 2018 – 4:30 pm.

We hung out for a while and contemplated the way ahead of us. What an exhilarating and daunting thought: 2,652.6 miles (4,268.9 km) to go.

In all the excitement, we completely forgot to put our names into the trail register. Oh well …

We made our way back to the camp site. We gorged ourselves on packaged tuna and tortillas, and then went to bed. We fell asleep in the warm knowledge that we’d done our first real PCT miles. We were finally heading in the right direction.

02 Jul

PCT – Day 2 (02 Jul 18) – Let it Snow

Miles 3.2 – 19.6 >>> 16.4 (26.4 km)

We woke up to some foggy dampness and low hanging clouds. There was a chill in the air that hadn’t been there the day before. Soon we found out why. It started to snow just before nine. The landscape was soon covered with a sprinkling of icing sugar. Somehow it made me greet everyone we met with “Merry Christmas”.

A light dusting of snow.

At first we thought the snow would melt immediately, but it kept falling …

It added to the mood.

… and falling.

Winter Wonderland on Woody Pass.

At around one o’clock though, the clouds opened up and the clouds looked more white than gray. As we made our way further down the mountains, the snow began to disappear as well.

The clouds are lifting …
… and an hour later we had beautiful wild flowers.

The weather remained stable throughout the afternoon and the scenery remained breathtaking.

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South of Shull Mountain.

We kept walking until five in the afternoon. It was slow going though, as John had problems with shin splints and was under considerable pain. Not looking good for him.

03 Jul

PCT – Day 3 (03 Jul 18) – A Busy Day

Miles 19.6 – 43.2 >>> 23.6 (38.0 km)

The morning began with disappointing news. John, my hiking buddy since the Greyhound station in Seattle, urged me to leave him behind. His shin splints hadn’t got any better and he felt that he was holding me up. I didn’t really like to leave a man behind, but John assured me that he’d be fine. Since there were plenty of other hikers around us, I agreed and left without him.

I’ll be honest. Even though I felt sorry for John, it was wonderful to get going by myself. I would’ve been happy to keep going with John for much longer, but it was great to have the wilderness to myself.

The open road ahead.

The scenery was, of course, wonderful.

Valley Views.

However, the weather was rather variable, with fog and occasional rain.

In the clouds.

It was interesting for me to cross the snowy passes as I had no experience with snow hiking at all. It went okay though. The slopes were not too steep and the snow pack was still solid and stable from the cold weather.

Snow crossing just south of Harts Pass.

The weather cleared up in the afternoon and the views into the valleys became even more stunning.

South of Tatie Peak.

The remaining clouds looked amazing among the various peaks around me.

Imposing cloud formations at Grasshopper Pass.

The trail snaked down towards Brush Creek, where there’s an old rock fall that’s been graded and filled in by the volunteer workers. At this rocky path I had a wonderful encounter with a porcupine that came towards me from the other side.  We both noticed the other pretty much at the same time and stopped. I wondered how I could get around him without getting skewered in the leg. Luckily, he just looked me up and down and seemed to think: ‘Oh, he got big. Better turn around then.’

So he turned and waddled back from where he’d come. Porcupines are known for being very unwilling to run. This one was no exception. So, I walked behind him – in slow motion – until he had a chance to escape into some undergrowth to the side of the trail. It was a hilarious encounter.

The slowest race in history. Following Mr Porcupine.

After that, I ended up hiking until seven in the evening. I made it to an old workers camp near where Brush Creek flows into the Methow River. (The th is not actually a digraph. So it’s pronounced Met-how and not Meth-ow).

My feet were very wet and cold and I decided to try and start a fire. Problem was that it had been raining earlier and everything was wet. Somehow I still managed to get a small, but smoky fire going and it was wonderful to get some warmth into my feet. I went to bed at about nine o’clock.

Lighting a fire to find some warmth …
… and to dry out socks and shoes.
04 Jul

PCT – Day 4 (04 Jul 18) – Rainy Pass

Miles 43.2 – 63.8 >>> 20.6 (33.2 km)

I woke up to beautiful sunshine and it was actually a joy to get up and going.

Early morning sunshine.

As I was walking along the Methow River, just south of Azurite Peak, I suddenly heard a small commotion to my left. As I turned to look, I saw this:

Can you see the bear?

A small bear cub was stuck to a tree trunk next to me and stared at me in wonderment. Seconds later a second came up on a neighbouring tree. I grabbed a shot with my camera, but then quickly moved on, singing loudly, to make sure that mama bear, who, I was sure, was close by in the undergrowth below me, could hear me moving along. It was a wonderful encounter and truly made my day.

After that, the path went along the shoulders and saddles of Methow Pass towards Granite Pass where there was still plenty of snow left on the ridges.

At Methow Pass looking into the valley.
Snowy saddle at Granite Pass.

I had lunch at the top of Cutthroat Pass, which turned out to be a little less terrifying than the name implies. Here, I also ran into another hiker in his 50s, called Mando (he carried a Mandolin on his Appalachian Trail hike). He’d followed me up a steep rocky outcrop where I was looking for the trail, which had disappeared under a layer of snow. Although the trail was not to be found up there, we saw it going off somewhere below us. We had to turn around and go back. Mando slipped and broke one of his hiking poles. I walked with him until we’d got down the tricky sections and after that we ended up hiking around each other for a while.

Lazing around for lunch.
Looking towards highway 20 from Cutthroat Pass.

Eventually I made it down to highway 20 and made it just past Rainy Pass, before I set up camp and said good night.

Rainy Pass.
05 Jul

PCT – Day 5 (05 Jul 18) – Stehekin

Miles 63.8 – 80.7 >>> 16.9 (27.2 km)

I got up reasonably early and got going, because I was keen to make it to my first town stop: Stehekin. The weather was fabulous and warm and the trail miles spewed effortlessly from my feet.

Across Bridge Creek.

I came across a modern art exhibition …

Tree art – by Nature.

… and a gorgeous little lake …

Howard Lake.

… before eventually I made it down to the trail head on Stehekin Valley Road, just in time for lunch. There is a regular bus service from here into town, but it only goes four times a day. I’d missed the 12:30 pm bus by a half hour and the next wouldn’t go until 3 pm. Time to do some procrastinating.

Here I also ran into Mando again, who’d been ahead of me and just came back from a quick swim in the ice cold Stehekin River around the corner, and who joined me at the picnic table. Shortly after, a couple from Seattle, who were in Stehekin for a week long holiday, came up on their bicycles and joined us for lunch and a long chat. Thus, time went by quickly and in good company. Stehekin‘s famous red bus came on time, picked us up, and took us into town.

First thing I did was have a wonderfully cool beer on the deck in front of the store at Stehekin Landing.

Priorities.

Later I went up to the ranger station to book into the free Lakeview campground, behind the visitor center and set up for the night.

Not pretty, but clean and quiet.

Mando came along and later we sat together for dinner. He asked if I was interested to team up for the upcoming section, which, some claim, is the hardest section of the PCT. I happily agreed. However, I had decided to take a zero in Stehekin. Not that I actually needed it, but I also didn’t want to overdo it at the beginning. Mando agreed to zero with me.

We both went to bed only after dark.

06 Jul

PCT – Day 6 (06 Jul 18) – Stehekin Zero

Miles 80.7 – 80.7 >>> 0.0 (0.0 km)

The day began pretty lazy. Mando and I both slept in and only made it for breakfast by around ten. It was wonderful.

Breakfast on the veranda at the Lodge.

I’ll be honest. I didn’t do a lot this day. I mostly sat outside on the big deck in front of the lodge and shop, struggling to upload pictures with the slow satellite Internet connection.

Lazy day in front of the Stehekin Lodge.
View from the deck towards the dock and the famous red bus.
Looking in the other direction (North).

However, I wasn’t entirely useless, and managed to pick up my resupply package from the post office and I enjoyed a hot shower that is available to hikers.

I also spent some time in the ranger station/visitor center and had a nice long chat with the local rangers. Later I sat down in the visitor center and chatted with Mando and another hiker, called Nomadic.

Eventually I made it back to camp and a couple beers helped me fall asleep fairly quickly.

07 Jul

PCT – Day 7 (07 Jul 18) – Back on Trail

Miles 80.7 – 100.2 >>> 19.5 (31.4 km)

We got up in time to catch the first bus back to the trail at 8.15 am. We didn’t have any breakfast in Stehekin proper, as the bus stops at the bakery along the way, and we’d been told to gorge ourselves on pastries and other great foods.

Stehekin Pastry Company

It was well worth it and I had a breakfast wrap and a really good, German cheesecake and a biiiig cup of coffee to go.

Cozy innards.

Soon after we were chased back on to the bus and we drove up to the trail. The weather was nice enough, if not exactly sunny.

No, the air’s not foggy. But the camera lens is.

The snow cover was almost continuous and I was glad that I had micro-spikes on my feet.

I did have the problem though that I was much heavier than Mando and I post-holed regularly whenever I stepped into his foot steps.

Mando looking cool.

The remaining day was pretty uneventful, however, and we set up camp close to Suiattle Pass at around 7 pm.

Mando doing the Buddha for dinner.

We did flee into our respective tents fairly quickly though, as the mosquitoes were just insufferable. I didn’t mind though, as the view from my hotel room was quite nice.

Nice view.
08 Jul

PCT – Day 8 (08 Jul 18) – Washday

Miles 100.2 – 117.5 >>> 17.3 (27.8 km)

The morning started beautifully with crystal clear skies and relatively warm temperatures. We were up and running (or rather walking) before seven.

View from Plummer Mountain.

It was a beautiful but uneventful day and we hiked mostly through forested areas.

Forests covered in goatsbeard lichen.

Lunchtime was spent on the other side of the bridge across the Suiattle River.

Bridge across the Suiattle River.

At about three, we decided to call it a day early, because of a nice tent site we’d come across, but also because we’d decided to do some laundry in the Vista Creek flowing alongside our camp. Also, the camp was only at 3,600 feet (1,100 m) and therefore a bit warmer than anything we could’ve reached that day.

Doing laundry.
09 Jul

PCT – Day 9 (09 Jul 18) – Mica Lake

Miles 117.5 – 136.9 >>> 19.4 (31.2 km)

The day began again stunning and it was a joy to get back on trail. The path quickly rose to almost 6,000 feet (1,800 m) and the scenery began to look a lot more alpine.

Near Dolly Vista trail camp.
Stunning alpine views.

At about 9:30 am, we came across an amazing view and decided to have our second cup of coffee early.

Life is good.

After lunch we came up to Mica Lake, a small glacial lake near Fire Creek Pass. It was tough going, as the entire area was still deep under snow.

Amazing turquoise waters.

The problem was that the trail had completely disappeared, and we ended up bashing through the wilderness, trying to find our way back to where we were supposed to go. Some of the climbing was extremely precarious and many times we feared for our lives. One slip of the foot would’ve sent us straight down into the lake and under the ice, never to be seen again. It was dangerous, but exhilarating.

An easy section. No photos from the hard ones.

We did make it through unharmed though and were rewarded by amazing views from Fire Creek Pass.

Fire Creek Pass.
Posing on top of the pass.

The weather deteriorated slightly during the rest of the day and we ended up setting up camp at around seven at a site near Pumice Creek. It ended up raining intermittently and everything was damp and very windy.

Camp site next to Pumice Creek.

Once inside my tent, I realised that my feet had paid a toll for hiking through wet snow all day. They looked like I was 70.

But I felt 20.

A day in wet socks.