Walking the Knife’s Edge
Trout Lake, WA to White Pass
We woke up in our oasis at the local church in Trout Lake around 7am. We made our way down to the only cafe in town for breakfast. Unfortunately they were out of their famous huckleberry rolls. I had read so much about these on Guthook that I was literally a dreaming about them. I settled for a large piece of huckleberry coffee cake and it was delicious. After breakfast we packed up our gear and went over to the General Store to use the WiFi and wait for our ride back to the trailhead. We were in the 11am shuttle back to the PCT. Again, the shuttle was a pickup truck. We fit 11 hikers and their backpacks in that truck. Four people including myself rode in the back seat. Kilo and six other people rode in the bed of the truck along with all of the backpacks. When we got to the trailhead Kilo said he was sure he was going to die during the ride (exactly why I opted not to ride back there). We hiked out 12 miles which is good for a coming out of town day. Camping right below Mt. Adams, we could hear the glacier on the mountain calving. We camped amongst Kilo’s favorite rocks, lava rocks.
Today was a beautiful autumn day. We woke up at 5am to the sound of rain drops on the tent. What? No rain was in the forecast for the next week. But this is Washington and we are in the mountains so anything can happen. The rain stopped within five minutes. We hiked out a mile and filtered our water for the day. In another mile we had to cross the Adams Creek. It was raging, but there were two skinny logs we crossed on. I always get a bit apprehensive about water crossings. I really did not feel like going for a swim at 8am in glacier water. We made it across without incident. The morning hike was a beautiful mix of sunshine and fog. We had amazing views of Mt. Adams and to the North, the Cascades were engulfed in mist. In the afternoon we entered the Goat Rocks Wilderness. We met several Trail angels who told us this section is their favorite of all the PCT. I am excited for the views we will have on tomorrow’s hike. We hiked twenty miles for the day and it grew cold as we set up camp and cooked dinner. Every time I feel a cold breeze blow I cannot help but think of the impending winter.
It is hard to get out of our sleeping bags at 5am when it is still dark outside, it is cold and you know you have to walk 24 miles over mountains. However, this morning we were excited for the day ahead as we had heard it would be epic. At about mile 4.5 we met back up with Fishtank! We last saw Fishtank in Dunsmuir when we decided to take a zero day and he went ahead. Fishtank is currently hiking with a friend from home that is a little bit slower, so it was a quick reunion on the mountainside and then Kilo and I carried on. During a second breakfast break we met two section hikers that said, “oh, you two are section hiking, right? Look at those backpacks.” Ha! My response was “We are thru hiking. We are just representing the UH (Ultra Heavy) division going for the SKT (Slowest Known Time).” After some substantial uphill climbing we finally saw the beginning of the Goat Rocks. Once we went over Cispus Pass the scenery was even more amazing - Big rocky mountains with green meadows, water falls and wild flowers. We, however, did not see any mountain goats. Apparently there were so many mountains goats in this area earlier in the year they had to airlift multiple goats out of here because they were becoming aggressive with hikers. So maybe it was a good thing we did not see any. After passing a gorgeous waterfall we came upon a campsite with two women in distress. Their friend had thrown her back out and literally could not move. She could not hike the 6 1/2 miles back down to their car. She was laying on the ground, half inside a tent, with her legs up on a log. There was no cell phone service for the women to call for help, so they asked about my Garmin InReach. I said of course they could use it, but it sends out an SOS and then you can text with authorities, but it was not a Sat-Phone. My concern was that I would ultimately have to take the device with me and it would keep pinging the rangers with my location and not the women’s location. Ultimately they decided not to use the device and that they would hike down and get help. I am not sure of the outcome of this story. I hope they were able to get their friend out. They likely would have to bring in a helicopter and airlift her out. After that excitement we began another big climb that offered epic views of Mt. Adams, Mt. St. Helens and Mt. Rainier. We even had to cross a substantial snow field which I guess at this point I should not be surprised by. We took the PCT alternate up to Old Snowy Mountain and then down to the Knife’s Edge. Most of the time when I see pictures of the Cascade Mountains in Washington they are from Knife’s Edge. For about three miles we walked the edge of the mountains. There were often steep drop offs to one or both sides of us. We were walking on shale and slippery gravel and there were 20-30 mph winds. As we started this portion of the hike, I looked across the range at the trail and I will admit I was a bit nervous. This is definitely not a trail for someone who is afraid of heights. During the hike on Knife’s Edge I often thought about my friends Kym and Debbie and how this Knife’s Edge hike would be their worst nightmare. There were sections where my heart skipped a beat as I my shoe lost its grip and I would slip a bit. As we rounded the last corner and finally started to drop in elevation I breathed a sighed of relief. That was one of the best hikes I have ever done. I would consider this whole section of Goat Rocks Wilderness my favorite on the PCT thus far, but I was glad to come off Knife’s Edge. It was getting cold, and the bottoms of my feet were killing me from walking on shale for hours. It feels as though the balls of my feet have permanent bruises on them. We walked down about a mile and camped. As we got into camp I immediately threw on my puffy jacket and rain pants. It was getting colder and colder. We pitched the tent, ate dinner and got inside the tent as quickly as possible. Today was epic. I am tired and my body hurts, but I will remember today for a long time. On a side note, I ate a ridiculous about of sugar today (pop tarts, black licorice, two snickers bars, chocolate chip cookies, etc.). My dentist would be appalled. I guess he will soon see when he is filling all of my cavities from this trip.
Oh, it was so cold and so hard to get moving. However, there was a promise of pizza at the end of the day. We finally set off around 7:30 after filtering water for the day. We had five miles downhill followed by five miles uphill with a spectacular view of Mt Rainier (Washington’s highest mountain) followed by our final five miles downhill. When we had about five miles to go we ran into Second Chance Hiker! Second Chance started the PCT in Campo in February. At that time he weighed over 400 lbs and wanted to make a change in his life and get healthy. He has since lost 100 lbs. He recently sustained a back injury which ended his thru hike, but after six weeks off trail he is hiking various sections. He hurt his back while on trail and had to be airlifted to a local hospital. He pushed the SOS button on his InReach. It turns out when you push the SOS button you are connected with the local authorities and are able to communicate with them via text. The authorities contact your InReach emergency contacts, so for Second Chance it was actually his ex-wife. THANK GOD we did not hit the SOS button yesterday for the woman who hurt her back. The authorities would have reached out to mine and Kilo’s mom (our emergency contacts) and we would not have known. To make things worse, we had no cell phone service until we hit White Pass, so our mom’s would have had no idea what happened for at least 24 hours.
As we reached the White Pass trailhead parking lot at the end of our hike there was trail magic. SoBo HoBo made homemade chili with rice and it was so good to eat real and healthy food. Post meal they gave us a ride to the Kracker Barrel where we picked up a resupply package. Turns out there is a lodge next door. I walked over to see if there were any vacancy’s. The lodge was empty. I think we are the only ones staying here. We showered and ordered pizza from the Kracker Barrel. For laundry, I hand washed our clothes in the sink with shampoo. So fellow hikers, when we walk by you tomorrow and you smell Treseme Treseme Oh La La...that would be us. Back on trail tomorrow...Canada is only 358 miles away!