Twelve days on the trail. Leaving Stehekin, we could say with a fair amount of certainty that the worst and most dangerous part of the trail was behind us. We’d heard some warnings about the snow ahead – an area where an avalanche had washed out the trail, and the well-known wisdom that the Glacier Peaks Wilderness is generally the last to thaw out, but were pretty sure it was nothing we couldn’t handle. While our beliefs were true that the most dangerous part was behind us, the most challenging and demanding part was still ahead.
Seven days on the trail. The walk up from Harts Pass was comfortable, relaxing and beautiful. The wildflowers were blooming, the trail was a well graded, gradual incline and we had panoramic views of snow capped mountain peaks for miles. Then we began to cross some snow. Not too much. Just enough to keep things interesting.
On day two we left camp for the border feeling confident and hopeful. It was only a few hours before the snow that kept things interesting the day before now made things a bit terrifying. Our task was to traverse Rock pass - a steep, 60 degree, angled slope - covered in snow. Where there wasn't snow, there were loose rocks. We could see the slope descending before us for miles as we had to get across to the next pass. We stepped carefully, ice axes in our uphill hands and micro spokes on our feet. We proceeded like inch worms, one foot ahead of the other, not putting any weight on the front foot until after kicking in the step, being sure it would not slip on the melting snow below it. Between snow patches were washed out sections of trail, where we were left to scramble across a slanted ditch of loose rocks to the other side where the trail resumed.
We made it through alive, safe and unscathed, but decided it was not worth the risk of crossing that section a second time upon returning from the border.
On day three we woke up at 4:30, hit the trail at 5:30 and made it to the border at 6:30. Our return via the alternate trail over Frosty Pass had us hiking until 9 pm. We were at a lower elevation, safe from the snow, which meant a day of crawling over, through and around fallen trees on the trail. At times we could barely see the trail below our feet, as the brush was so thick and overgrown. Mosquitos chased us through puddles of mud and across parts of the trail that had become a stream of warm, melted snow... But at least we knew were weren't at risk of tumbling down a slope of snow and rocks like the day before.
After a quick stop down the mountain to change out of winter shoes and into more comfortable trail running shoes, we proceeded 50 more miles to Stehekin - a less eventful but equally beautiful walk.
In keeping with trail tradition, we now go by our trail names - Mud (Ross) and Bug (Anna). Or team MudBug. We are embracing the trail life, where time is measure by miles, mountain passes and resupply stops.
We are now off to the next 100 miles, a section known for its many steep ascents and descents, and in Anna's memory, one of the hardest parts of Washington. Looking forward to a quick rest at home, off of highway 2, for our next resupply stop.
After months and months of preparation, we are finally ready to get on the trail. With each item checked off my to-do list, I can feel life simplifying. Soon there will be nothing left but to walk, eat and sleep.
Yesterday, we delivered the first of our boxes to the post office and the rest to Sarah’s house. Taping up, addressing and delivering these boxes full of food marked the end of a pretty huge project, in and of itself. I began dehydrating dinners in winter, and Ross diligently took over this spring. We’re proud to have made ourselves one homemade meal each for almost every day on the trail. This process alone is quite time consuming, combined with grocery shopping, preparing date bars and dividing up oats and other food items, it has been a part time job.
I’ve recently reflected on the amount of work Ross and I put into our food, not only for the trail, but our daily lives. I find myself always thinking about food – what to dehydrate next, what to eat next, did I bring enough snacks to my clinic shift, do we have enough dates for another batch of bars, should I have a second smoothie today? As a nutrition student, it’s no surprise that I put 95% of my effort into food.
When I ask myself if it is worth the time, my answer is yes, without a doubt. Food is what we put into our bodies. It becomes us. There are few things more intimate and more important than what you put into your mouth to eat. Along with water, it is the most basic of life sustaining practices and deserves a great deal of thought, time, and energy. I remind myself of this when I begin to feel overwhelmed with the task of preparing food for the next few months. We will be eating well, and that is unequivocally one of the most important factors of this adventure.
Monday morning we will be setting out from Hart’s Pass on the PCT, 30 miles south of Canada. First, we'll hike north to monument 78 marking the border. We will then turn around to begin our hike south to the Mexico border. Due to border patrol and strict US laws, we are not allowed to enter the country on foot from Canada. It has become tradition for South-Bound (SOBO) PCT hikers to start their hike in this “yo-yo” manner at the northern most access point within the US. We are bringing snow gear such as microspikes and ice axes, expecting to be traversing snow at elevations above 5,000 feet. Reports from other hikers have come back indicating that the snow is finally melting its way out, but still warrants caution. We're lucky to have Ross's exceptional navigation skills and my snow experience from Ned's course in February to get us through snowy sections. Joining us on these first few days of hiking is our friend Eric, who is kind enough to tag along and drive us to the trailhead.
As we prepare to set foot on the trail, we owe a huge thank you to those who have already given us so much support. In addition to those mentioned on our Thank You page, we’d like to acknowledge No Meat Athlete, Vegetarians of Washington, Hiking for Her and Sky Island Organics, all of whom have promoted our mission and our blog over the past few months. Thank you to everyone who has made this possible in so many different ways.
And now, we’re off to the mountains.
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