Walupt Creek - Packwood, WA
A hiker we passed early today said the storm wouldn't burn off til noon, so we bundled up and hiked hard to keep warm. It was wet and foggy as all get up. We passed by a devils postpile like rock formation. I kept thinking, "I bet this is really pretty, but it's so cold that I hardly care right now."
Then we saw the sun working its way through the clouds and within a few minutes the cold morning was an afterthought. Beautiful wildflowers, colorful scenery, large waterfalls. It was a truly epic landscape. The day was shaping up.
As we worked our way up to the "Knife's Edge" the weather turned sour fast! It caught us so offgaurd that we didn't even have all of our layers on. We crossed two large glaciers and the visibility fluctuated from the snow and clouds. My hands had ice on them and all of our noses and cheeks were covered in frost. I cant remember being colder. 27 degrees + 50 mph winds.
We arrived at a junction where a wooden sign was covered in a thick layer of ice. I banged on it with my trekking pole, but it was useless. We weren't sure which way to go, but made a quick decision because we definitely didn't want to stand around in this weather.
The wind knocked down as we climbed on higher and the trail was becoming impossible to follow in the fog. Adhering to our Moto: "Don't be stupid," we turned around and hiked down. We backtracked over 2 miles and found a wind break. I pulled out my sleeping bag and warmed up as we discussed our plan.
Our maps showed some alternative trail options further down. As we descended the weather improved but only due to altitude. We warned others who were heading into the haze to put on all the layers they had, if they were going for it.
On the way down we met Angie, a hiker who gave us a few protein bars and tried to help us with an exit route. We decided that we weren't going to try the pass again today--still cold and a bit shell shocked. But we needed to get off the mountain; we didn't have enough food or time for an extra day up here.
We made it down to the next trail junction, and began to feel normal again. There we met 3 awesome women Leea, and two others whose names I have sadly forgotten.They directed us down shoegrass trail where we could reach a well used trailhead and catch a ride to town. We warmed up with them and they shared vanilla marshmellows and chocolate before continuing down.
On Shoegrass we ran into 2 hikers that we had met once before on the PCT near Sisters, Oregon. What are the odds! They insisted on giving us fresh cherry tomatoes from their garden, which we were happy to have but felt guilty about.
We finally arrived at the trailhead having hiked 6 miles down out of the storm. The parking area was packed with cars but not a single person. We feasted on our tomatoes and waited for someone to show up. No one did.
Feeling defeated we began setting up our tents near the road. Then we heard it. A pickup truck barreling toward us. Before I even knew what had happened Gut Feeling leaped up and planted her feet in the middle of the road and put up all 10 fingers in the formal HAULT position.
The truck skid to a stop as it's dust continued on its path over us. The driver rolled down his window. I assumed he would tell us off for foolishly putting ourselves in his path, but instead Gut Feeling came at him like a police officer commandeering a vehicle, "My friends and I are hiking the Pacific Crest Trail. We were just blown off the mountain. You need to give us a ride to town."
I'm sure the driver was a bit taken aback, (I know I was!) but realizing that this dirty hiker was not going to take "no" for an answer he told us to pile into the cab unless we wanted to ride in the back with his elk.
It was a long drive to town and we slowly convinced Harold that we were not escapees from the insane asylum and by the time we arrived he actually seemed to like us!
We managed to find the last available hotel room in town. All of the hotel's amenities felt surreal juxtaposed to the calamity of the day. Did I really get blown off a mountain today? How is it that I'm now showered, lying in a warm bed, and watching Forest Gump?
Needless to say, I slept well.