PCT Day 16, Past Waptus Burn to above Joe Lake, 19 miles

Go within every day and find the inner strength so that the world will not blow your candle out – Katherine Dunham

I wake up late having slept surprisingly well in my little space between trees. I need the sleep. Yesterday felt endless in the rain, every step exhausting all the way until I began climbing out of that long forest section.

There’s no water but a swamp, so I pack up – wet, of course – and find a beautiful trickle of water coming down a rock with fluorescent green moss. Even here, it’s a mosquito nightmare and I’m glad for my bug burka at the ready.

I walk to a beautiful riparian area, meadows amidst rocks, and decide to make my coffee with bars – the ‘vegetarian pemmican.’ I am in a much better space today. No rain – so far – and I feel strong and capable.

This whole area is stunningly beautiful even though it was burned in a wildfire. The tall white bark-less trunks stand sentinel in interesting shapes and leave a clearing so I can see the majestic mountains ahead of me – jagged, snowy, waterfalls and rock avalanches.

I can also see the clouds build and the mist pushing in. I ask myself which is worse, mosquitos or rain. Definitely rain which covers the view, chills me to the bone and dampens my spirits.

At the moment, it’s just dramatic cloud shapes with sun ducking in and out. I think of how sad I was yesterday, replaying all the recent awfulness scene by scene. I know it’s not healthy.

As I begin the big zigzags descending, I take up arguing with the air and explaining my case for the millionth time. There is one thing that resonates, a memory of intimate partners of my past with whom I somehow couldn’t entirely click. I would feel I was being reasonable and direct, but they were not so reasonable, withholding key information and thus able to control me. It was very unpleasant and I am happily not married to someone with those traits. But I worked for people not as forthcoming as me. I realize that’s how it is being an employee, but I wish I’d earned more respect.

I meet a guy singing on his way up and I try and join in on an improv line. He is so pleased the rain has stopped and tells me to have fun on the ‘moist boggy bottom.’ It doesn’t appear to be as long an overgrown forest walk as yesterday.

One can hope.

Years ago, a wise woman told me to enjoy the good moments – and the bad? Trust that they won’t last forever. I love this moment now and smile with pride and wonder that my feet got me here. Fluffy Bunny said I am a ‘machine.’ I do tend to keep going, especially uphill, but it has taken me these two weeks to find my pace. Not too fast, and – especially in these monstrous mountains – twenty miles average per day is plenty.

The buggy boggy section is fecund and rich. I dislike rain, but without it, the place could hardly have so many wildflowers in every shade of pink, purple, yellow, orange, white and blue.

I arrive at another burn section with scratchy/clingy ferns to rival those in New Zealand. Rain begins now, and as I ascend, I decide not to wear my rain gear. But the plants are so damp, I get soaked anyway – and it’s not letting up. So I suit up and press up and up on zigzag after zigzag.

I meet a man coming down who asks if I waded through the stream. I nearly forget that yes, where the bridge is out, I simply step in and cross the rocky rapids with water only up to my calf. I am pretty experienced now after New Zealand and I feel chuffed being able to offer advice to an older man.

I meet two more at the very top – one with an axe, the other, two canes – discussing the best scrambles. I run into a thru-hiker I met on day three and also spy a spirea bush. No wonder we had to use a back hoe to remove these bushes from our property, they thrive in the alpine regions of the North Cascades!

Below the spirea is a spectacular vista. A deep lapis lake, surrounded by rock slipping under at its banks, soldier-erect pines and waterfalls tumbling down, a whoosh all the way up here miles away. The pointy spires peak out from swirling mist, layer upon layer into the distance. Glaciers rest in rocky crevices, long shoots reaching down. The air is cold, so I say goodbye and head off to find a campsite.

I pass four women coming up wearing beautiful chunky necklaces. Another couple is blaring their music inconsiderately. I reach a trail across an avalanche path, rocky and uneven. It’s switches back and forth as I slowly ascend and I see pink coming my way. It’s Fluffy!

The strangest part of this trail is that someone can be merely a few miles ahead or behind and you feel absolutely alone on the trail, perhaps seeing no one for hours.

We stop for the last water before the campsites and agree to meet in town tomorrow. I slow down to take pictures of the beautiful rock, water droplets on every blade of grass and this view opening up finally.

In the last two sections, I had an odd panicky feeling about midway through that I would not make it out. I imagine it’s a warning system to ensure I am covering all my safety checks – enough food? check. body feel ok? check. But it grips me for a while, then, as I get closer to a town, it dissipates. I wonder if this is why Fluffy commented that several hikers she saw today are hiking thirty miles to get out.

I happily stop at this incredible tent ‘perch’ with a crystal clear view of the mountains and the chirps, whistles and squeals of wildlife. I wish my former bosses could see me here – could see the person I really am and know her fully.

The mist is returning and it’s getting cold, so I’ll retreat into the alicoop now and dream of clear views for my half day walk into town.

Sweet dreams.

Published by alison young

Alison Young is the Blissful Hiker, a voice artist and sometime saunterer. 📣🐥👣🎒

Reader Comments

  1. There is a reason why Washington is called “The Evergreen State.” Thanks so much for the updates. I look forward to hearing where you are next.

  2. I found the PCT maps so I can follow your progress. You’ll walk through another ski resort – Snoqualmie. That is where I learned to ski.

    Keep up the good work. The beauty of Washington State does much for healing the soul. You might enjoy this Facebook page full of photos from Washington.

      1. Rain does happen a lot there. Just as Minnesota has winter and road construction, Western Washington has warm rain and cold rain seasons. I should have warned you… I’m sorry.

  3. You are getting yourself back! I am sure that these days have been difficult, especially since your New Zealand trek was so recent! But your spirit is wonderful and I marvel at the pictures and the stories of campsites in the rain, make you stronger with each passing day! Your descriptions are like paintings (of course the incredible views as seen from your camera lens) leave us who follow you by your posts, wanting more each posting. Be strong, be careful but have fun with your experiences and the people you meet who have wonderful nick-names!

  4. Your next or interim career should be writing a book on this PCT experience. Your blogs and magnificent photos get you off to a good start. Love this shot of your shoes with an incredible landscape beyond. This could be your book cover photo.

    1. thank you!!! this has been amaaaazing! more posts to come but out of touch for another week of Washington! 🐥👣🎒

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