PCT Washington – White Pass

White Pass to Cascade Locks Oregon 7th July The next stage in our trek involved a long section of 147 miles to the Oregon border on the Columbia River at a small town called Cascade Locks. This meant carrying 7 days food initially so we braced ourselves for heavy rucksacks! Our mail arrived at 11am and after a bit of sorting and reposting we hiked out past the ski slopes and upwards towards Goat Rocks Wilderness – covering a healthy 15 miles. We settled down high up on the mountainside at a point our guidebook described as a ‘bleak alpine campsites’ at 6,320 feet to, ironically, one of the finest camps we had experienced so far with lovely views to Mt Rainier!

Mt Rainier

We were off hiking at 7am the next morning along the jaggy crest of Goat Rocks amidst magnificent scenery- we felt like we were afloat that day! Martina spotted around 40 mountain goats below us in a snowy coire bowl and we sat and watched them for a while- Martina was ecstatic at having seen these elusive creatures. Continuing onwards we rounded the snow slopes of Old Snowy Mountain into a beautiful alpine cirque before descending green meadows to forest. The Goat Rocks area was fantastic but short lived.

From here it got hotter and the mozzies reappeared so we solved this problem the best way we could- we kept on hiking! We eventually made it to a small creek down at 4,690 feet after 25.5 miles at 19.45pm- a long day.

10th July There was some thunder and rain as we awoke and our tent was still besieged by mozzies so we scrambled our gear together and departed each with our own personal black cloud hanging above our heads. Our next goal was to traverse round the side of volcanic Mt Adams but first we had to travel for a couple of hours through fairly dull new growth forest. On the way we stopped to drink water straight from Lava Springs at the foot of an old lava flow and admired the meadows and flowers at the foot of the glaciers dropping from Mt Adams.

Although we were well into July, the season up here was definitely still spring and we had to negotiate many swollen streams and melting snow patches on our route round the mountain. The PCT descended back into forest after the delightful section past Mt Adams and we were relieved to be able to camp without our friends the mosquitoes that night after making 23.3 miles that day. The forest was our companion for the next two days, however the trees are mostly old growth with ‘gothic like’ hanging mosses and lichens and provide a pleasant backdrop to our hike. The trail is littered with fallen trees from the winter storms and these keep us occupied scrambling over, under, along and through a spaghetti like barrier of branches. 

We put in two more 25 mile days of forest hiking before camping near Wind River next to a lovely golden meadow – with Oregon and the Columbia River gorge only 34 miles away and within our sights. We passed two other PCT hikers Alexis and John who skipped some of the earlier snow sections and have an enjoyable chat with them – other than that there is no one else around. Two stiff climbs near Table Mountain await us before we reached Oregon and we stopped between them to cook some rice for lunch for some extra energy. At our camp 8.5 miles short of Oregon we were quite exhausted 6 days out from town and after averaging 25 miles per day for the last 5 of those days.  We both dreamt of good food, showers and a clean bed tomorrow at Cascade Locks.

Our trail descended easily down to the Columbia River at 200 feet above sea level here, the lowest elevation on our trail. That could only mean one thing- our next hiking would be uphill!!

To cross the river we walked over the road bridge ‘ Bridge of Gods’ with an air of triumph and a skip to our steps. We had traversed Washington, our first complete state and had done so through adverse heavy snow conditions where many others had turned back and we felt justifiably proud of ourselves. A doubt still lingering though was that despite taking medication, Martina still had Giardia symptoms and that wasn’t good at all. Strangely enough, the bridge had a toll booth on the Oregon side and I laughed when the woman attendant asked for a fee for us to walk across the bridge- when I told her we had hiked from Canada to get here she gracefully let us through for free!

Next, Oregon……!

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PCT Washington – Snoqualmie

Snoqualmie to White Pass We  had now reached Snoqualmie Pass in central Washington, 260 hiking miles south of the Canadian border. Martina found out she had Giardia after phoning the Leavenworth doctor’s clinic that and the result was that we had to locate a pharmacy to pick up the prescription medicine flagyl. We achieved this by asking people in the parking lot for a lift to the next town North Bend, about 30 miles down towards Seattle.

After a days rest we headed out south again on 3rd July with 5-6 days food to last us for the 100 mile hike to the next road crossing at the ski resort of White Pass. The hiking was a little less exciting in deep lush forest but at least it was fairly easy going for us with less snow to cross. We reached Camp Ulrich after two days hiking where there was a welcome wooden shelter and a fire place to warm up from the wet mist outside. It was nice to leave in the morning with all our gear dry from last nights fire and our hike continued in and out of the trees over small alpine passes with swirling cloud above.

Camp Ulrich

The damp conditions and frequent wet meadows had introduced us to a new adversary for the season- mosquitoes! Our next campsite at the edge of a meadow was probably ill chosen as the ‘mozzies’ targeted us that evening and made cooking dinner quite a trial.  This somewhat dampened our celebration at reaching the 1,000 miles hiked mark.

In fact the mozzies drove us off early the next morning without breakfast in  mist through a pleasant stagnant atmosphere- it was too dangerous to stop as the mozzies home in on us pretty quickly. The scenery was a pleasant mix of marshy lakes and snow patches nestled in forest with early morning evaporation rising into the air. At our next high pass we could see far south to the changing mountain scenery of southern Washington- here we were to leave the high alpine Cascades and enter mountain terrain dominated by ‘old’ volcanos.

Mt Rainier, Mt Adams and hazily to the south west the distinct cut off cone of Mt St Helens which erupted fairly recently on May 18th 1980. Hiking closer to Mt Rainier took us higher and back into more snow although we were becoming veterans in the art of hiking fast through snow by now! At a high saddle we stopped for lunch and a large troupe of boy scouts passed by- for us seeing other hikers was a sure sign that we were nearing a road. Indeed, a gentle descent and hillside traverse for 5 miles brought us to White Pass road and ski area.

We were expecting to collect six parcels at the grocery/Post Office at the pass and they had four of them only so we slump into a ski lodge room for $50 to wait out for the 11am post the next morning. This is no hardship as the lodge has an outdoor pool, we can have a long lie in and there is a grocery shop next door to meet all our snacking needs!

We had discovered a crack in the internal casing of our water filter which might be the cause of Martina’s Giardia- the raw river water is mixing with the filtered water effectively rendering the filter as useless although we have been using it faithfully throughout our journey and have only just found this out! Pur have agreed to mail us a new filter but our confidence in the device has plummeted  and we considered using iodine tablets instead of the filter.

Next White Pass to Oregon !

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PCT Washington – Stevens Pass

Stevens Pass to Snoqualmie 26th June We arrived at Leavenworth, Washington and checked into a motel to clean up, find Martina a doctors surgery and replace some of our gear. After our last few days in the wet, misty, snowy mountains it felt slightly surreal to back in town, particularly Leavenworth which had adopted a Bavarian theme- even McDonalds! Martina found a dressing for her snow burns and left samples for suspect Giardia condition.

Giardia (Giardia lamblia) is a microscopic parasite which can be picked up from polluted water supplies and has symptoms of diarrhoea, upset stomach and nausea. The parasite lives in the guts of mammals (including humans and beavers- hence the other name ‘beaver fever’) and is passed on through water. To counteract the possibility of picking up Giardia, we carried a water filter device with us which should have filtered it out.


We had a rest day here where we dealt with some post, shopped for the next 75 miles to Snoqualmie, cleaned the stove, I bought new boots, coated the tent seams with waterproof sealant and in between just relaxed. Martina would not hear her results for a week so she decided to just walk onwards anyway.

Brian Sweet’s friend Kathy picked us up the next day and took us with Brian and Marathon Man back up to Stevens Pass to start hiking. It was lovely, warm and sunny which filled us all with optimism for the hike, however we had extra food with us in case we hit more hard snowy going. Away from the road we entered ‘Alpine Lakes Wilderness’ and it was obvious to us that there was much less snow here- maybe about 20% of the trail being covered which was a delight to hike on. Stopping for lunch at a flowery meadow in the hot sun was just what was required with extensive views to snowy peaks in the clear air.

Martina was feeling queasy the next day and Marathon Man and Brian Sweet hiked on ahead of us as we started slowly in the morning. The hiking was still pleasant though and we made 18 miles to Waptus River in this delightful area with no other hikers around. At a junction we spotted a note from 2 other hikers saying that they had been advised by park rangers that the next trail section was impassable and that they had returned to the nearest road. Martina and I had a chat and both agreed we would carry on hiking and make our own mind up!

Our route now entered a glorious alpine region around Spectacle Lake with spiky peaks and a lovely high viewful trail. We dropped to Park Lakes intending to camp at a high pass above but couldn’t find a spot for the tent so proceeded onwards on steep mountainside slopes and hard snow patches. The fact this was our longest mileage yet on the trail at 25.6 miles despite some of the hilliest terrain could probably be attributed to our enjoyment of the high mountain scenery. It was particularly noteworthy for us as Martina seemed to have bounced back from her illness.

For the first time we glimpsed Mt Rainer to the south rising up as a shimmering white cone on the horizon as we stayed high amidst splendid scenery past semi frozen Alaska and Joe lakes. We are both keen outdoor swimmers but the water conditions had been too cold for us high up in the mountains even though it is now 1st July – but we held out hope that our alpine lake swimming time would arrive soon!

South to Mt Rainer

We made our way gradually down in a descent to Snoqualmie Pass where there is a small shop and Post Office. Here there was a gathering of 5 hikers and with their opened mail boxes sitting outside the grocery, the place looked like a hiker bombsite!

Snoqualmie Pass

Next Snoqualmie to White Pass

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PCT Washington – Stehekin

Stehekin to Stevens Pass We met a collection of hikers at the lovely tourist town of Stehekin. Some had come north from California like us whilst others were south bounders and had just started on their long PCT journey. One of whom was William Emerson or Marathon Man who was travelling ultra light and intended to hike the trail in a fast time- we liked his sunshade. We arrived by taking a bus ride in from the PCT trail road crossing a few miles away. The bus dropped us right at the bakery- which was a good start to our stay and great fresh food.

I bought some ‘super gloop’ to repair my boot soles and I would have to make the repair last until our next stop at Stevens Pass in 100 miles. A combination of ‘gloop’ and duck tape didn’t look too pretty but would have to do. Stehekin is a tiny lakeside cluster of houses in a picturesque spot reached by boat from the town of Chelan to the east. We camped at a free site on a patch of grass next to the laundry and showers and went for a buffet $6.95 ‘veggie’ buffet dinner at the quayside lodge. That evening we attended a ranger talk on the stars and we lay on our sleeping mats gazing upwards – great!

Next day we were off early to get the 8.15am bus on 21st June back to the trailhead with six other hikers. We hiked with Brian Sweet and Walter joined us (his wife, Pat(?) had decided to avoid this section and was travelling to Stevens Pass by bus) as we headed up the bubbling Agnes Creek in sunshine. Its not long before we climbed onto snow again though and we stopped for shelter during some heavy hail and thunderstorms which eventually forced us to camp below Suiattle Pass at 7.15pm.

It was a clear night and we were awake at 6am to see the sun hit the snowfields around us. Walter told us he was going back to Stehekin so the remaining 3 of us headed on up the snow slope to Suiattle pass and some grand views of jagged peaks. After a bit of hunting we located the path descending 3000 feet into Miners Creek and the Suiattle River and we stopped here to dry out our gear and warm up. Above us Glacier Peak blocked the way south and we needed to traverse round the mountain anticlockwise over many big ups and downs. We ascended 58 zigzags via Visa Peak upwards in humid drizzly weather, hitting snow at about 5,300 feet and into a huge snow bowl.

Marathon Man was waiting here and we joined up with dramatic bubbling clouds on the horizon. A descent down steep snow on the other side caused some problems- Martina, wearing only shorts, bum slid down the slope after Brian, and succeeded in burning one cheek of her bottom which we tried to patch up later with dressings. Our 20 miles that day included lots of snow and we were glad to camp on dry ground down at Milky Creek.

It rained the next morning on 23rd June as we departed at 7.30am steeply up through snow covered hillside with swirling thick cloud all around. Mica Lake was completely frozen with some lovely turquoise colours and we pumped drinking water in this wintry scene. Our surroundings were now completely white as we climbed up in mist to our next saddle- a good navigation exercise but this was beginning to feel like winter mountaineering! As we descended we had another fright as Brian Sweet tumbled out of control down a snow slope just stopping before some felled trees- he was shaken but unhurt and quite lucky after a 150 feet fall.

Mica Lake

The day continued in the same style- close scrutiny of the maps, compass, examining dimples in the snow for the sign of previous footprints, markings in the trees for evidence of path work – all accompanied with low cloud and rain. We set up a damp tent that night after a long day.

Next day followed in the same vein- a long journey of exhausting trudging through wet snow, losing and finding the path, round sides of hills, aiming for saddles, seeing paths, losing paths, seeing footsteps, not believing them, spreading out to search for the trail… Martina seemed particularly tired that day not helped I think by the dreary weather and conditions. We met Marathon Man again at the end of the day as we must have overtaken him in the mist- it felt good that we were travelling faster than him with his ultra light style and 4.30am starts and that gave us heart that the 3 of us were working well as a team over the difficult terrain. We came to a surprise at Cady Pass where we caught up with a group of 6 hikers- looking similarly tired and wet as ourselves and we hiked on to Pass Creek and camped there.

Meeting Marathon Man

25th June was an epic day. We camped on snow and it rained continually overnight, everything was damp or wet, my inflatable sleeping mat had developed a huge bubble which made it difficult to lie on, the stove was spluttering badly, and a front zip on the tent had failed. Our walk started into the gloomy slushy snow and straight away we were using map and compass contouring round to the left of a pass but rose too quickly to a saddle. Once up there we realised we had reached the wrong feature and retraced our steps before hearing voices. It was the 6 hikers from yesterday plus another- Kevin O’Leary- who we joined up with to descend snow. Later we all teamed up as a loose group of 11 hikers sharing the navigational load. At Wenatchee Pass myself Martina, Brian Sweet and Kevin stopped for lunch and after some cleaning we got the stove going for some welcome hot tea in the rain.

The rest were ahead and we climbed up into snow following their footprints up valley. However after an hour or so we realised that we should rise up right to a ridge and the footsteps were going in the wrong direction. We followed our instincts and thankfully find the correct route after 15 minutes. After reaching a snowy meadow, we lost the way again and only succeed in finding the trail after 1.5 hours searching- eventually locating the trail a mile further on- the key to the door.

That evening we headed on to camp at Lake Janus which was beautifully dry and free of snow- so pleased are we to see it that Martina and I jogged down to it at 8pm after another hard day. It is now only 9.5 miles to Stevens Pass, our next resupply and we were optimistic at a low height of 4,300 feet with little snow that we could make it tomorrow.

Again, the next morning was misty and drizzling- would it ever stop! We had a good dry night anyway but Martina was sick and had had diarrhoea for the last week. Around 12.30 we made Stevens Pass road in the rain and managed to hitch down to the east to the tourist town of Leavenworth….

Next Stevens Pass to Snoqualmie

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PCT Washington – Canadian Border

Heading South, Canadian Border Manning Park

After a hearty breakfast at Manning Park we left at 9.30am on June 16th– our second leg of the walk was about to begin.

As we walked, we revelled in the greenery – hanging moss on the dense conifers and a carpet of green tangled undergrowth around us. For the first time now the path was muddy, presenting a delightful springy surface for our hardened feet. By mid-morning we came across a small clearing in the trees – in fact a linear strip about 10m wide and stretching to the horizon east and west – it was Monument 78, the Canadian/US border (see banner at the top of the screen). After some photos we strode off and climbed gently with occasional views out of the trees to the hills and puffy clouds in a deep blue sky.

Our surroundings changed quickly as we climbed towards the trail’s high point at 7,000 feet. Snow clad mountains appeared with jaggy rock spires punching through to the sky. A wide panorama of endless snowy peaks to the south and west, the Washington cascades were around us. On a snow covered summit ridge we took in this massive scene. It felt as if this was the country I had always hoped to travel in, this was where I belonged. There was much snow around but it was patchy enabling us at least to see the direction of the path. We camped beside the trail at a tremendous rocky notch between two steep mountains in the late evening well satisfied with our 20 mile progress.

First camp in Washington

As we packed up our tent in the morning – a huge surprise- Brian Sweet and another hiker, Mousetrap, appeared ambling down the trail. Brian had continued 80 miles further north than we had into the Sierra Nevada mountains of California with his skis. He made it to Trail Pass then descended to the town of Lone Pine and decided that it was too difficult. From there he had made it to Canada by bus. Mousetrap is from the state of Maine and his name was earned on the Appalachian Trail for carrying a mousetrap to rid the shelters of mice! The four of us headed on south together exchanging tales of of our travels and chatting away.

The trail kept high to the mountain slopes providing good views and we saw our first marmots and quite a few deer in the forest. We made our next camp at Harts Pass where there is a campsite but it had still not opened yet as its deep in snow – oh well , plenty of room for us!

Beards on the Trail There was a definite fashion amongst long distance hikers to grow a beard on their journey. It seemed like a sort of connection and one-ness with the woods and the backcountry. Or perhaps it was just easier not to shave when out on a long hike! Some hikers like Brian Sweet started out fresh of face and just grew a beard as they went. Tim, however looked like his a had been growing for a few years…  Brian never got into the habit and carried a plastic disposable razor or two with him to shave every second day or so- maybe he just didn’t want to face the effort of shaving off a weeks growth! Martina (feeling left out) got caught up with the excitement a bit and grabbed some tree lichen to create a stylish substitute beard! 

Next day, there was much snow around in large patches but the trail could usually be spotted in between. However we did lose the trail completely in a long climb up to Mattow Pass, but it didn’t stop us making a good 23 miles that 3rd day and we were definitely going well despites some aches and pains for both of us. We hit our first main road south of the border at the well named Rainy Pass after 70 miles and sheltered in the toilet booth for a rest!

Our route now followed Bridge Creek for 10 miles- strolling on through Douglas Fir and scrub beside the roaring river. We saw a black bear here and it looked at us in a puzzled way and just stared about 50 meters off the path as we walked by. We finally emerged at our first resupply stop of Stehekin after 90 miles feeling quite pleased with ourselves that we were going fairly strongly…….

Next Stehekin to Stevens Pass

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PCT Washington – Introduction

Prelude After our rest in San Francisco and short tour of Vancouver area we arrived at the Canadian/Washington border eager to start on the trail again.

Our arrival in Canada was somewhat premature- we had intended that it would be the finale of our grande crossing of the USofA walk on the PCT. Instead we touched down at Vancouver airport on Friday 12th June from San Francisco. After being discouraged by the snow depth of the Californian high sierra, our new ‘great idea’ was to fly to Canada and resume the walk southward. Finishing at our trail exit point of Walker Pass, south of the high sierra. To get there, though, we still had 2000+ miles to walk through Washington, Oregon and north/central California.

We settled in quickly to Vancouver. It had less of the out-and-out commercialism of the south and a lusher, more forested look to it. A boat trip out of Vancouver Island to spot Orca killer whales was a wonderful diversion from the walk and made us lust for more of the sea and coast. We both vowed to return for a more extended stay. On the two hour bus trip east from Vancouver we met 2 other hikers (Paul & Holly) who were thru hiker refugees from southern California as we were. They were intent on the same plan as us to complete the walk southward from here. They looked lean, fit but tired due to the 48 hour bus journey from the south the had just completed. We felt our flight and week’s rest was justified.

Our destination was Manning Park, a small resort and campsite tucked away in forest and rolling hills, 8 miles north of the USA border. After a hearty breakfast we left at 9.30am on June 16th– our second leg of the walk was about to begin……….

The PCT in Washington We could expect a great contrast in conditions between Washington and Southern California. The Cascade mountains dominate the centre of north Washington, an alpine range of jumbled snowy peaks cloaked with dense forest of lush mountain-hemlock at lower altitudes. To the south, a range of dormant volcanos take over with Mt Rainier being seen from afar. The trail travels through the forest and over alpine passes and often maintains its height above forest as it contours round the sides of mountains.

Chipmunks and ground squirrels are the most commonly seen mammals whilst deer are abundant and both brown and black bears can be seen.

Next, we start hiking south from Canada……..

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