It’s not quiet in my site at the end of a gravel road, but it is weird as hell. Around 1am, an elk starts tromping around and yelling near my tent; around 2am, someone goes by with a white headlamp that shines directly into my tent, and around 3am, the elk is at it again. So much for uninterrupted sleep.
At least it’s warm-ish outside when I finally get up. I leave my puffy on because I know the shade of the woods will be cooler, and set off into the morning.
I’ve barely rounded a corner when SMASH CRASH THUD THUD THUD. About 25 feet in front of me, a lady elk has made her way down a nearly vertical slope and is now standing across the trail, staring at me. I stare back. Still staring. Um… hi. What would you like me to do here? I take a step or three backwards before the spell I’ve cast on her is broken, and she gallops off down another nearly vertical slope. Would that I had such agility when trying to find a place to dig a hole.
I was right, it is cooler here in the woods, and my concern for tight muscles makes me do a quick up-and-down scan for how I’m feeling – turns out, much better than yesterday. Plus, I’m only trying to do 26 miles today – and if I can’t make that, there’s a camp at 24, too. There’s no need to rush today – my room is booked at Snoqualmie Pass for tomorrow night, and there are only 45-odd miles between me and town. I’ll make it, unless I injure myself or something crazy happens. So hard to imagine that on such a blue day.
I pass through the burn, through a sign commemorating the burn over a decade ago – the land needs so much time to recover on a human scale! – and onward into the afternoon.
There are a few bumps here and there, and then a nice climb; at the top, I decide to sit for lunch. I can hear people in what I presume is a campsite at the top of Blowout Mountain, and then I hear weekenders coming south down the trail. They stop for a bit, chat, smile, and make their way down the hill. Then it’s my own turn to move on – down, down, down the hill.
The trail is zigging and zagging, upping and downing today – it can’t make up its mind. It does gvie me some company for my trouble – Cookie Scrambler, Boy Pockets, and Tenure are all down at the water, collecting. It’s always nice to see people.
At Tacoma Pass, a couple of hikers are getting dropped off, and I meet Maverick and Sunshine for the first time. Maverick looks familiar – and he says the same thing about me. Turns out, I gave him a pack shakedown at the 2015 Kickoff. Hooooleeee crap. It’s a small hiking world after all. The two of them were in Seattle for Sunshine’s birthday. It’d be badass to have a birthday in the hiking season, and she looks refreshed, ready to get back to it. Rad.
Maverick passes me when I get high up enough for service enough to see what all the smoke to our southeast is about. I assume it’s fire – and the internet suggests, though doesn’t prove, that I’m right – though it looks almost like the smouldering of a volcano. I know there’s very little in terms of activity around here, but I think I just watched Volcano and Dante’s Peak a little too much as a child.
I see the people before I see the water – Cookie Scrambler, Tenure, Boy Pockets, and Maverick are all seated and eating, and since I need water I sit and fill and eat, too. Sunshine rolls in after me, then Katie – and then it’s 5pm. I want to stay, but I also want to make miles, be in camp before 7, and there are four more miles to go. It seems like everyone’s planning on stopping at Stampede pass – yaaaay, I’m not going to be alone tonight! I smile as they pass me, looking forward to company and conversation.
A last bit of up before down, down we go, punctuated by short, hard ups. The forest makes things darker than they should be, but then we pop out into “meadows” created by power line placemeht:
The site at Stampede Pass is pretty terrible; there’s definitely not enough room here for everyone to fit on the not-gravel. I know there’s water about an eighth of a mile away, but I don’t want a bunch of us to be camped up at the shore of a pond/lake – that’s not particularly LNT friendly. I think wistfully of my friend Stumbling Norwegian, who’s doing trail magic here on the weekends – of course I hit it on a weekday. Of course I did. Well, there’s little reason for me to say, particularly since Guthook says there’s another site in six-tenths of a mile. Uphill, but only six-tenths. Sure, why not.
I climb and climb and climb – only to pop out on the next site, which is also an abandoned road made of gravel. Seriously? Everyone has blow-up sleeping pads these days, how is a site like this a good idea? And there’s trash everywhere, too. Which probably means rodents. Which probably means no.
There’s supposed to be water and then a 4-pad site in a mile and a half – well, it’s only 6:40, might as well try for it. I pass the water and the accompanying site, not only because it’s tiny, but also because it’s another out-of-use road. At least it looks a little more cushy here.
Contouring to the land, around and down, into a beautiful-if-impacted meadow with sites both in what was formerly grass and in the trees. Hooray, a nice campsite! And it’s only 7:08!
…Shit, I’ve accidentally outrun everyone!
…Hooray! I’ve done a 28-mile day!
SO MANY FEELINGS.
I munch on a poptart to dull the violent mood swinging, stare into the charred wood of the fire pit where I have no intention of lighting a fire. I check my maps – it looks like there are only 16-ish miles to town. The elevation change looks like hell, but at least there are only 16 miles. I should be able to do that by 3p, which means I’ll be immediately able to check in at the inn, do my business, have time to enjoy the evening. Rad. Hopefully, everything will work out, I think, as I wrap myself in down fluffiness – if not, at the very least, I’ll be sleeping inside tomorrow.
Date: September 14 • Start: 2346.1 • End: 2374.5 • Day: 28.4
Notable Accomplishments: Did more miles than I expected to • 5700+ feet of gain • Outran a bunch of folks accidentally