Destination: White Pass
Miles: 22.5 (plus 2.5 off trail miles)
Cumulative Miles: 1979.5
Some days are hard to put to words, because they are just so breathtakingly beautiful. Today is one of those days, easily making the top ten for the whole trail, except the tail end of the day which falls into the bottom ten.
After rising later than we wished, we began our hike with a nice walk out of the valley we were camped at. We climbed up to the Packwood Glacier. Crossing a couple small snow fields, we arrived at the glacier which sloped dramatically down off of Old Snowy peak. Rather than facing the dangers of following the official PCT across the glacier, we chose to climb up and over Old Snowy as the guidebook suggested.
From the top of a steep rocky climb we were offered views of the entirety of the Goat Rocks Wilderness. We made the descent down the mountain, which was even steeper, and more difficult to hold secure footing on. The clinking rocks sounded like someone putting ceramic dishes away in the cupboard.
We made several steep climbs and descents along a razor-edge ridge, where the rocky slopes dropped off to our sides at 70-80 degrees. One false step could have fatal consequences. The first six miles of our day took just over four hours, because the terrain caused serious slowdown, and the views were so amazing, we were constantly stopping to admire them or take pictures. At times we wished others were here to see what we were seeing, but in the end we were both glad that we had only each other to share it with.
We dropped down into the forest just before lunch, and had a brief forested walk afterwards before climbing 1500 feet back up to open landscape. The day was nearing it's end and we were hurrying to make it to White Pass. We saw the occasional marmot, with their white backed coats and monkey-like demeanor.
As we were running out of daylight, we took a recommended shortcut. This trail would drop us right at the store, and not require us to do the road walk. It also trimmed about 2 miles from the distance. All of that sounded great, as the day was late. We took the "Chairlift Trail" which was simple to follow for a quarter mile. Then it ran into a road and disappeared. Any way we looked at it on the map and GPS, this road would not be shorter than the trail, and would not drop us at the store.
We wandered around, backtracking a couple times, looking for this elusive trail which promised to be better than the PCT, and never found it. Eventually we resigned ourselves to not searching anymore, and followed one of the roads until it was close to the PCT, where we cut cross country back to the official route. Just before we arrived back on the PCT, we heard loud crashes in the forest and Psycho caught the tail end of what appeared to be a couple Elk running off.
Back on the official PCT, the sunlight was gone, the mosquitoes were fierce, and we still had 2.5 miles to go. We put on our head lamps and started cruising, as fast we could while preserving our ankles in the dim light. We talked the whole way down, on the off chance that we might cross paths with a bear. About 100 yards before reaching the trail head, we spooked up some sort of large animal. Given the sound and size of the sound, we figured it was another Elk, but we never saw it. The loud crashes startled us enough to double our heart rates, and give us enough energy to make the final half mile to the tiny community of White Pass.
It was nearly 10pm when we arrived, and everything was closed. The office at the hotel was vacant. We were destined to camp, which made the push to town annoying. At the last moment, we found the door to the assistant manager. We knocked a few times but to no avail. As we walked away, sad and angry, Apricots heard a shuffle behind us. She looked back and saw the manager feeding the office cat. We were able to get a room, and so ended the bad end to our good day with a good treat.
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