Thursday, September 15, 2016

Day 11- Hardest yet

Day 11- Hardest day yet, Washington PCT Section K
Glacier Creek  (2512) to 2526

The tape on the hammock held last night. One hole repaired, one problem solved for now. But this success is soon forgotten once hiking begins. The rain and cold are the only things that matter on this hardest day yet.
Jan in her poncho cape
 The rain is heavy, soaking, incessant, and bone chilling. At first, there is a possibility it will let up. But it just keeps coming. Hope for a break becomes this far-fetched, ridiculous thing. No sense looking at the sky for signs of blue. The sky is grey-white and dripping. It will always be grey-white and dripping. The sun is just a myth.
Milk Pass rocks, rain, and glaciers above
 Milk Pass is covered in clouds but still incredibly beautiful with striped rocks unlike anything we've ever seen. What is it about this place?! But soon it is down down down to Milk Creek then up up up again.
What causes the milky-white ribbons that stripe the rocks?
 The steep topography provides a slippery 5000 foot elevation gain with a comparable loss.  Concentrating on not falling in the steep, rock, narrow trail demands full concentration. Switchbacks tighten, brush so thick that we cant see down to our feet or the trail in front of us. Blowdown tree obstacle courses have us hanging on to slick tree trunks trying not to tumble down the hillside. A section of trail has completely collapsed down the slope and we mudslide down grasping at roots. If there was energy to think, I might remind myself that this is a wilderness, not a park. A place not to feel at home, but to pass through just long enough to have a lasting impact on me, but not with me having any impact on it. But there is no energy to think outside of the placement of my next step and forcing my body to move forward.

Mica Lake jolts me out of my plodding singleminded focus.  Even cloaked in clouds, the deep blue waters beckons. Jan and I huddle by the shore braced against the rain shoveling food into our mouths fighting the cold clouding our brains for enough energy to soak in the beauty. 
Mica Lake reflections
 Finally we decide to find camp. Jan quickly chooses her tent site. But the site is high and exposed and with the heavy rain, I know I will need to choose my hammock site more carefully. I set up in one pair of sheltered trees only to look up to see a widowmaker above. Another grove has too many lowhanging branches, another the trees are oriented into the wind. Finally, exhausted, I find a grove of dense trees with a sheltered depression that is just the right size. By the time I string up my tarp I have been slogging around for 45 minutes and I am shivering. Cold hands fumbling, somehow my tarp stake slips and slices my finger. Sharp pain and blood everywhere, streaming down and mixing with the rain. A quick check determines its deep but not severe. I try to wrap it and stop the bleeding, but decide the cold is more of a threat than the throbbing pain. Prioritizing getting dry/ warm first, I get blood over everything fumbling with my worthless fingers to get hammock out, wet rain gear separated from dry sleeping gear, food secured against critters, and finally myself into layers of fleece and down. Only then do I attempt flushing the dirt from the wound and patch myself up.

The rain keeps coming all night. I hear the roaring train of wind approaching and brace for gusts to send my stakes flying and drive the soaking rain through into my down quilt. Will the patch in my hammock fail and send me falling to the ground? Will my blood of my finger wound soak through my bandages and soak me with blood?

Please stop raining please please please. Please let me make it through the night. 

After I found my site I went back and told Jan where I set up "down the trail a ways and up the slopes and over a bit into a big grove of trees." There is no way she'd find me. Jan seems so far away. Everyone is far away. I am utterly alone. There is only rain, wind, cold.

I decide I no longer believe it will ever stop raining. But somehow I start to get warm in the shelter I have made. The wind blows over me. I stop the bleeding. I decide the only things that I believe in are the patches I have made with my tenacious tape and leukotape. I have discovered I cannot expect the conditions to ever change or be easy.  But I have to power and ability to patch holes in the universe. That is all that I need, all that is real out here.


  1. Sounds like this is turning into and epic. Keep patching those holes in the universe. We're all rooting for you!

  2. This section only seems hard because it is. :^) Halfmile says it has 31,441 ft of elevation gain and 30,641 feet of elevation loss. The most of any section on the PCT.

    1. Wow. I was surprised it has even more elevation change than the Sierra.

  3. I just read Anish thinks it is the best. Now I understand why. lol

    1. YES! Delightful ups and downs and hard hard hard.

  4. It rained the whole time we were on this section too. Also, we were forced to sleep on the Milk Creek trail bridge. Not a high point, but it was still amazing to be in true wilderness.

    1. It sure is true wilderness and I absolutely loved how that feels. OMG I think we had a break on that bridge! I can only imagine....

  5. I refer to those as Full-Body Workout Blowdowns. I could have used my microspikes on some of the slippery, barkless ones.