Saturday, September 22, 2012

Day 154-T Minus 100

From the bank of the Suiattle River at mile 2553 to Five Mile Camp at mile 2575

It was still sort of dark when we left camp, Portrait wearing my pack and I wearing his, just before seven. Somewhere in the mist above us the sun was up. It was a cool morning so the three mile gentle uphill was welcomed. It was fun climbing up to the mist. As we got closer we could see the mist blowing between trees.
As we hiked Portrait tried to figure out an alternate mentioned in the guide book. He was pretty sure the other route would save us miles and elevation change. And with so much mist we wouldn't be missing views from the ridge. I was all for the shorter route.

We stopped at a creek for water and a snack. We were surprised Bone Lady and the others hadn't caught up yet. I got cold quick having snack and didn't warm up at all on the half mile of flat. Not until the two mile uphill did I get warm again.
100 miles to Canada!

Just before the top of the uphill we stopped for a celebration. One hundred miles left. Just a few more days, really. We made a marker and talked about where we were at mile 100 which was close to Barrel Springs campsite. We had been playing this game for the last few hundred miles--figuring out where we were with 517 miles left, 476, 309, 210. It's been a fun way to review the hike. At the 100 mile mark we make a sign out of red huckleberry leaves and the green lichen that features heavily in most of our signs. As we try to take a picture of us and the marker the wind picked up and scattered some of the leaves. We put them back, but the marker isn't destined to last long. We reinforce it with some sticks--not our prettiest marker, and move on.

In under a mile we are at the first trail junction of the alternate route. We hang a right and walk for just a few minutes downhill before coming to another junction. There is a sign directing us left towards High Bridge, where we will catch the bus into Stehekin, and just behind that sign another one saying the trail is not maintained. We take it anyways. Right away we see signs of the trail being maintained. It seems in better shape than a lot of the PCT that we hiked on recently.  The down trees were cut sometime earlier this summer and there weren't many spots were brush had grown up. There were a number of small streams in gullies that had bridges that had twisted and broke like an earthquake had hit them. Washington was the state of the bad bridges. We have gone off Portrait's GPS tracks and we don't really know what we will find on our alternate. All we really know is that the guidebook said don't take it. We descend for a while which makes me think about how much climbing we may have to do later, but my tendons are feeling good with a dose of Advil and Portrait's lighter pack on my back.

We stopped for lunch on the bank of Agnes Creek. I filled my bottle with a liter of the very cold and very clear water to go with my lunch of sausage cheese, and candy. We don't rush through lunch today--we seem to be doing well on time now and we will be getting into town the next morning--that's no longer a maybe, which feels good. We leave our lunch spot, but not the creek, behind. The trail hugged the banks of the creek always keeping the clear water in sight. The creek grew as we head down stream. It carved out a canyon for itself and we finally lose sight of the creek in the bottom of the canyon.

Portrait predicted we'd be back on the PCT sometime around three. Around two-thirty he started to check his GPS to find out how far away we were from the trail if we wanted to go cross country to it--which we don't--our creek trail is lovely and fast. At quarter of the trail delivered us into a large rocky run--at some point a river surely ran over the smooth rocks, but there's not even a trickle of water now. I pick my way across carefully. And there, on the other side, was our trail. It felt like we had gone through some kind of worm hole. Before entering the worm hole we had almost twenty miles between us and town and at the other end a mere twelve miles. It felt like magic how quickly those miles had melted away because of a walk along a creek.

We passed some lovely campsites along the banks of the creek--the PCT now followed the creek. One of the campsites had the paths and tenting areas outlined in smooth river rocks. At another we took a snack break, I took more Advil, and we switched our packs back. Mine felt extra heavy after a day of Portrait's light pack.
We had mostly given up on seeing Team All Dead again. We figured they may have worked some magic of their own: gotten out of camp earlier than us, hiked through the night, took up trail running. We weren't sure, but we were just three short miles from camp at a water source having a snack and drinking our fill when Bone Lady and Cheese came into the clearing behind us. They had been behind us all day after leaving camp late. We were all going to the same campsite for the night, and all planning on a before light start for the next day. They took the lead and were quickly out of sight.

By the time we got to camp they had a campfire going to cook their dinners. Portrait went for water for the both of us while I settled onto a log by the fire. It was one of our earliest nights into camp in a while and it felt good to start dinner while it was still light out. The other members of Team All Dead, Buckket and No Amp, trickled into camp and then Highlife, who we hadn't seen since Ashland joined us just as the campfire died down. Nobody lingered. I was tired. We all seemed to have town on our minds. Our foodbags were light and thoughts of the Stehekin bakery were heavy. It wasn't completely dark yet when I crawled into my sleeping bag in the tent.

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