Thursday, August 20, 2009

Steven's Pass (Hiker Haven)

I left from Snoqualmie Pass and hiked to Steven's Pass, after taking two nights at the Summit Inn at Snoqualmie Pass and two nights in a Motel 6 in Seattle. By the time I returned to the trail, the weather man was talking like there would be no relief in sight for the record high temperatures. That was what I wanted to hear after all that cold rain and near hypothermia.

While in Seattle I bought new shoes and a new hat at REI. The hat has little curtains that come down to shield my ears and neck from mosquitoes. It really works and it works for sun, too. The shoes are street running shoes and I'm not quite sure about them yet. I can't tell if the ache is caused by them or the result of my feet, having outgrown my old shoes, expanding as if they had been bound and now released. As long as the trail isn't too rocky, my feet feel fine.

The trail from Snoqualmie climbed and dropped a lot. The first day was up, across and then down a million tiny little switchbacks. I slept by a washed out bridge in deep, dark forest. The humidity was high and my sleeping bag and tent were damp by morning.

The second day I climbed 2200 feet only to drop to a river and then climb 2600 feet to a high pass near a craggy rock called Cathedral Rock. I made a big mistake and forgot to get water before climbing up to Cathedral Pass. I was down to my last liter and wanting to camp on the pass but there was no water up there so I was forced to hike two more miles down the other side. The creek I slept next to was cold and clear and had really good water. I had been warned by two guys slapping mosquitoes from their necks (wow, my hat works great!) that the mosquitoes were awful. There were a few by the creek where I slept but they weren't too bad at all.

These climbs of only 2000 feet or so would take me from thick, dark montane forest to sub-alpine conditions. It is like the world is condensed in Washington. I walked by lots of sparkling, dark blue lakes. I think I've seen more lakes now than the average Minnesotan. I don't really care for lakes since I don't like to drink from them. Who knows how many DEET-encrusted, deoderant wearing, dirty people have swum in them? What I really like are creeks. My favorite thing is to stop at a spring-like creek and drink a pint right then and there. Maybe put a little lemonade in it. Refreshing.

In the morning I had to cross a potentially dangerous creek. It was a pussy cat. I could have kept my feet dry all the way across if I hadn't wanted to see how cold the water was. Described as icy cold, it was actually a little warm.

The heat and humidity was nearly unbearable at times. I have been wearing a polyester turtleneck with my desert shirt over it and long pants plus my magic hat. It's too much but I feel shell-shocked from my experience with mosquitoes in Oregon and kept expecting to be swarmed at any moment. Only they never came. The mosquitoes were quite tolerable. Still, I'm used to the heat and kept on all my layers anyway. I don't have anything else to wear.

On my third day of hiking, the trail decided to climb up to a 5000+ crest five times, each time dropping at least 500 feet or so in between. It was exhausting. But I made the 25 miles left to Steven's Pass before 5pm, which was pretty amazing since I had stopped to talk with scores of people all along the way. One guy said I'd never make the 25 miles--I'd have to walk with my headlamp on. It's a mental block to think it can't be done. It can and I did it and have been doing it for months now.

I met Dicentra on the trail. She's very nice. She has a great web site called One Pan Wonders. She has great recipes for backpacking food. I used her site to get ideas for how to eat better on the trail. It's a great resource. I enjoyed meeting her on the trail.

When I arrived at Steven's Pass, where there is nothing but a closed ski resort, I found a cardboard box with ice and sodas. I drank one and then walked out to the highway and stuck out my thumb. My ride was a hiker, too, and a schoolteacher who had been backpacking around the area. It was a wild ride about 20 miles too far west. When I finally said it really seemed we went too far, he stopped and got out a map and sure enough we had. He turned the car around and dropped me off not at Skykomish but at Baring instead. They were serving dinner when I arrived so I sat down and had a Philly cheesesteak sandwich with delicious side dishes. I tried to call the Dinsmores but was having no luck. Then the lady I was seated next to pointed to the other table where the Dinsmores were also having dinner. What a coincidence!

Mr. Zip, who I had met in the rain before arriving at Snoqualmie Pass, had returned to the trail two days before I did. While I was shopping and resting in Seattle, he had been hiking. I caught up to him today with about 5 miles left to the highway. Both of us are staying at the Hiker Haven in Baring, WA. It's basically the garage with rollaway beds and a porta-potti. I washed up with a hose well enough to sleep. Showers will be available tomorrow when we get rides back to Skykomish where their real house is.

I don't know when I will be able to update this journal next. All I have left is to hike from Steven's Pass to Stehekin and from Stehekin to the end of the trail. The next section is supposed to be very difficult with a washed out bridge or two over dangerous rivers. I've been a bit nervous and even considered skipping it completely. But as Mrs. Dinsmore says, a 10 year old girl did it so don't be a wuss. Okey-dokey. The final section is supposed to be the most beautiful. So far Washington underwhelms me. But the last section is supposed to deliver the goods.

Tony plans to hike with me at the end. I'm sure when I see him, and when I see that darn post in the clear cut we're all working so darned hard for, I will fall apart with joy, relief and sadness. It'll be over and I will be able to go home. I can't tell you how often I have thought of our beautiful Santa Barbara backcountry. The sunlight here has taken on an orangey hue and a few times the scenery has been just right to make me think of hiking Lost Valley Trail or White Ledge near the Magician's Cave. We are lucky here in Santa Barbara.

1 comment:

  1. Great going, Diane. Guess, you have another book to write!

    Do you have a name brand for the hat? I'd be interested in the little curtains.