Day 165: (26.12 or 21.32 actual miles)
mile 2544.49 – 2570.61
One would think that after over 2500 miles we would learn by now. Unfortunately the premise of wondering and wandering to “find out” still prevails, hence another shot at a “short-cut”. This “short-cut” is actually the “old” PCT route that in days of yore required a dreaded log crossing…and well, still does for that matter. The current PCT (as of 2011) was re-routed to incorporate a new bridge for a safer and absolutely dry crossing of the Suiattle River, but added an additional 4.8 miles to the trail.
As we make our way to the trail junction, we pass several massive trees, a few of which have fallen.
A meticulous soul has managed to actually count the rings of one of these giants and makes definitive marks at each 100 year mark, making this particular tree 600 years old. We knew based on the girth of these and similar trees we’ve seen that they were “old”, but now we have a scale from which we can better guesstimate their age. To think that these trees began to grow and had essentially reached maturity before the Pilgrims landed at Plymouth Rock is mind boggling. We take note of our insignificance in the timeline of this world’s existence and toddle on. When we reach the trail junction, and find Brock just awakening at a nearby campsite. We greet each other and tell him we plan on taking the “old PCT”. “But the trail is not supposed to be maintained”, he says pointing to a weathered wooden sign, attached to a similarly weathered post. Keeping with the theme of the “Old PCT”, of which we seem to seek or stumble upon…often literally, we acknowledge the sign posted, “Trail not maintained, from this point” and make a definitive right turn at the “old” trail. ‘We hope this works’, we call to Brock. A tangle of dead branches and small logs fill the entrance to the “old” trail, as a warning, like those seeking pirate treasure, that you are about to embark on a treacherous quest. We navigate around the blockade, as have many others, evidenced by the fresh shoe prints in the finely worn dirt. We are immediately faced with a creek crossing and remove our shoes in favor of crossing in our Crocs. The creek, while moving quickly, is wide but shallow, and icy cold. We cross without incident. The tread of the “old PCT” is well worn, and considering the condition of this current section of the PCT having been ravaged by the recent storm, there seems to be little difference, however there seems to be as many, if not fewer, blowdowns strewn across the “old” trail. It takes 2.2 miles, and a bushwack through a root choked web of sapplings due to the wholesale failure of the remaining trail in the form of a landslide, to reach the banks of the Suiattle river.
We search in earnest for the fabled log in which to cross the river. We wander the banks of the river for 40 minutes, following foot prints in the deep sand to no avail. We spy several large logs, but they do not stretch across the fast moving river. We refuse to backtrack and look for a safe place in which to ford the river…probably one of the dumber and riskier things we’ve done, on par with the scramble across the skree fields of Pinchot Pass. We find what we believe to be a relatively “shallow” and “slower” moving place in the cloudy glacial silt choked water to cross. Rather than switch into our Crocs, we reckon it will be safer to just keep our shoes on for the crossing and “walk em dry”. We unlock and loosen our pack straps, pick our route and confirm our exit point.
Paul goes first. At first it is ankle deep, then calf and nearly crotch deep by the time he gets to the center point of our crossing. “Holy Shit, the water is freezing!”, Paul exclaims. Paul makes it to the other side and I begin my crossing. As I get near the center point, Paul calls to me, “Watch your footing. The current is really strong”, as he doffs his pack and intutively readies to help me complete the ford. I am now in the middle and a little stuck. Icy water rushes past me. My traverse is slow and methodical. I don’t mind being wet. I just don’t want to go for a swim with all my gear. Paul wades back into the icy water and helps steady me through the fast current. Both of us now safely across, we quickly remove our shoes and socks in a near futile attempt to warm our now frozen feet. We dump the remaining water from our shoes and put on dry socks. It is now that I look to my left (up river) and see a perfectly good log stretched across the river some 200 yards away. Classic. Now to find the trail and rejoin the PCT. With our Halfmile app, we employ the “back to trail”, pointer function. The app tells us we are 248 ft from the trail…up hill. What the hell, up we scramble up and over fallen rotting trees covered in thick moss. At last we meet up with the trail. But which way do we go? The app is not helpful here. We have a 50/50 chance of picking the correct direction. Having looked at the contour map, we choose a direction and find that we are correct in our assessment. The fact it began to climb was the first clue. Our feet are still chilled to the bone, and for me, at least they are no longer swollen.
We walk in a green tunnel hopping over several creeklets that cross the trail.
The trail opens up to a breathtaking view of where we’ve been and Foam Mountain…again. Is this a cousin of Mt. Shasta? Go away already, we chuckle.
We meet up with Brock, again. He did not take the “old PCT” and laments that he didn’t join us when he had the opportunity. He said the trail was covered with blowdowns, went up for no visible reason, and then transitioned into steep switchbacks down to the bridge and back up to this point. He says his feet and knees are “worked”. We tell him about our experience, and feel validated with our choice. We continue to climb, and then lunch at Cloudy Pass. We assess our food. At this point we could eat everything in our bags, but need to make it last for at least two more meals. We decide to push ourselves a little more and try for Cedar Camp which will get us within 9.8 miles of High Bridge and the bus stop to Stehekin.
After traversing another open face glacial area and a field of boulders the size of delivery trucks, we drop into a forest of obviously “old growth” trees and remains of a fire that swept the area many years prior.
We point out massive trees to each other that most likely are over 1000 years old, and marvel in Mother Nature’s tenacity. We reach Cedar Camp as the sun begins to set, excited for tomorrow’s exit into Stehekin, the BAKERY!…and a shower too.