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PCT Eclipse

PCT Eclipse

Bridge over marshy ground

The night on the porch was rather cold and misty so the next day I awoke without having attained much rest the night before.
The next stretch was about 100 miles. They were filled with lakes, views and trail magic, but all together uneventful.
My mind wasn’t in the game as much as it had been. I wanted to hike with people I fit in with and being with these people made things rather unenjoyable.

The day I got into the next “town” (really a ski resort) I did 23 miles by lunch time. I immediately went to the hiker famous aardvark express, where I hoped to find Lt Dan. This establishment is a food truck located in a gas station parking lot. Don’t let its location fool you, the food truck give huge portions of some of the best thai food I have had. It was there I caught up to lt Dan and his group. Plans were made, and the next morning I started my hike out with them.

I Immediately clicked with them and felt the social connection I had been longing for in the past stretch. They were all early twenties and very fun people. Just a few miles into the walk, Cupid (a girl from CO) realized an injury she thought would heel in town still hurt so her and Curry (A twenty four year old from Switzerland) headed back into town with plans to meet us in the next town.

Instead of leaving on the original PCT, Lt Dan, Bee Keeper, and I decided to take a side trail that led to a hot spring and then reconnected with the pct. The Hot spring was an 11 mile hike in and we arrived on the first night. After paying a rather hefty price to camp we headed up to the spring.
I was amazed to see a cave coming out of the side of the mountain and filling the two pools below it with steaming hot water. The cave was about three feet wide by five feet tall and went 30 feet back, into the mountain. Just a few feet above the first pool, I climbed into the cave and waded back into the darkness. The water was about 2 1/2 feet deep and by the time I reached the end of the cave it was almost pitch black. A small wooden bench had been placed right over the hole in the rocks where the water came from. After airing for a few minutes with by lower half in hot water and my upper half in thick steam I returned to the tubs and spent the night relaxing and talking with friends. Outside of the cave.

Bee Keeper

After our one night stay at the hot spring we continued on. The side trail we hiked on was much less groomed than the pct and involved much more climbing around fallen trees than walking on ground.

The talk of the trail up to this point had been the upcoming eclipse. Being in Washington, we were outside the path of totality but would still be able to witness a 90% eclipse. So after a rather big climb, a small group of hikers formed on top of the pass as the temperature dropped and the land darkened. A few hikers had thought ahead and bright eclipse viewing glasses which made the experience extremely interesting.

Eclipse viewing party

After a long break watching the eclipse we hiked into town and met up with Cupid and Curry at a trail angel’s house. We made such good time that we decided to take a zero. This had been my first day off since Bend Oregon. Reunited, the day after the zero we set off once again into Washington’s wilderness.

Goat Rocks

Goat Rocks

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After a quick goodbye it was back to the trail, having only been in town a few hours. I needed to make up ground and every hour that passed increased my chances of my group getting too far ahead to catch up to. Another reason I was anxious to get back on trail is the next stretch was regarded as one of the best of the whole PCT. The first two days are spent under the shadow of Mt. Adams and the next two are in the Goat Rocks Wilderness. As I rapped around the base of Adams it’s magnificent beauty stopped me at every viewing point. The afternoon I set out I got in 11 miles before dark and set up camp. Stories of one of the famous Washington rain storms coming was circulating on the trail. That night around 11pm the rain begin and as I awoke on the second day, the rain was still going. I tried to pack up as much of my stuff as I could in my tent before getting out but getting wet would be inevitable today. As I hiked, the rain/mist soaked me too the bone and hid the mountain looming close over me. It rained almost the entire day and by the time I got to camp I was still cold and wet. I quickly set up camp and crawled in my sleeping bag. Even though half of my time around Adams wasn’t what I hoped, tomorrow I would enter the Goat Rocks. When I woke on day three, the rainy mist was still there… Preparing for another wet day I started to hike. As the trail climbed I eventually made it above the cloud cover and was given a breathtaking view of Adams with dark clouds at its base. After going over a pass I entered the start of the goat rocks, the land was rich was green grass and alpine streams, all with aggressive rocky mountains looming in the distance. I took a side trail and climbed a close by mountain named Old Snowy. Taking side trips like this are uncommon while thru-hiking but I think it is rather important for the mental aspect to remind yourself that you are out here for fun. Not just to make big miles.
After my side trip I descended back to the pct and to a short section of trail known as “the knifes edge”. Accurately named, this trail walks along a thin mountain edge with massive drops on both sides. Being so high up I was still above the clouds on the knifes edge and the views continued to amaze.
When I reached town the next day I found my group. Sadly Lt Dan was leaving with new people after hiking with the group since the desert. I had to resupply and charge devises so I said goodbye to him and stayed with the others. Unfortunately Lt Dan was the one I was closest with so I felt like an outsider with these people. When I asked to sleep on the floor of their hotel and the said it was too crowded, my suspensions were conformed.
That night I slept on the porch of the hotel and planned to hike with them for only the short foreseeable future.

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The 50 Mile Day

The 50 Mile Day

Sunrise

On the PCT there is a challenge to backpack 50 miles in a single day. When I started the trail I thought this was absolutely insane. That is the distance most backpackers do over 4-5 days. Trying to walking that far in a single day seemed crazy.

To a guy I was hiking with though, it didn’t seem so crazy. Lt. Dan was up for the challenge and because of my competitive spirit, I was sold on the idea fairly quickly.

The most popular place to do this from is Ollolie lake to Timberline Lodge. This might have something to do with the fact that timberline lodge is known for their incredible breakfast buffet. During the evening at Ollolie lake, Lt Dan and I planned out big next day.

At 1:15am our alarms rang and by 1:45am we were on the trail. Through the darkness we hiked for hours, only pausing briefly to look up and marvel at the stars. By the time the sun rose we had been walking for almost five hours and we hardly stopped till lunch. With 30 miles down we decided to take our big break. In the most magical act of trail magic I have seen thus far, a car camper just happened to be offering food to hikers at the exact spot we stopped for lunch. By this point I was already extremely tired and this made all the difference in the world. A hamburger and nap re-energized me and soon we were walking once again.

The hours faded by slowly and every mile seemed to grow longer than the last. By mile 40 I was exhausted.

The day was turning into evening and I stilled walked on. Feeling almost like a zombie, my brain stopped thinking and all I could do was put one step in front of the other.

To top it all off the last three miles of the day were a pretty decent climb.

In the darkness once again Lt Dan and I both kept on moving until finally, 19 1/2 hours of walking later, we reached camp.

This was by far the most difficult physical trial I have ever undergone and after finishing it, my pride in my accomplishment was substantial. My exhaustion was equally so though, so after a fist bump and a little dinner I crashed. Hard. With dreams of the breakfast that awaited me as my reward

Breakfast at Timberline

Noel Nelson (pct mile 2094)