I woke up next to a beautiful lake a few miles outside of Rainier National Park. The night before had been the first night I camped alone the entire trail and the first night I stayed up late and looked at the stars. I had been on trail 110 days… It was cold and frosty that morning but I was excited to get to Chinook Pass where I’d be getting picked up to take a night off trail.
The day went by quickly, the miles were steep but in the afternoon they were dominated with views of Mt. Rainier. By 8PM I was laying in a hotel bed happy that I had rushed through 29 miles to get there. I had a belly full of food, cleanish clothes and soft shampooed hair. I thought about how easy it would be to just go to Seattle from there and fly home. How I could just be done. There was still more fun to be had though and I was still having fun with the hike.
I got back on trail late the next day. I debated for awhile if I was gonna go 18 miles or 23. 18 miles would put me on track to get to Snoqualmie by early evening on the 31st for a job interview and to enjoy my last night in a bed during the hike. 23 miles would put me on track, and then some and also let me sleep in a cozy ski cabin for the night. I figured I’d see how fast I covered the miles and play it by ear, something I was happy to be able to do hiking solo. By 8PM I got to the cabin right as the sun was setting. I happily made pancakes for my friends there before dozing off to sleep by a warm fire.
The following day I was already back to dreaming about town. Snoqualmie was only a day and a half away but it felt like ages. I lost the group I was hiking with when I decided to setup camp before then. I was happy though, it started raining right as they walked past me. I sat in my tent that night watching the news on my phone trying to catch-up with the world.
I’d get to Snoqualmie on Tuesday the 31st, it was a wet and rainy day, I couldn’t have been anymore excited that I had booked a room at the Summit Inn for the night. I spent that evening dry; doing job interviews, eating pizza, sipping local beer and watching movies (thank you to everyone who donated to the Dirt Bag Fund a week or two ago, you made this dream a reality). It was exactly what I needed to get me ready for the final 250 miles of trail.
On the 1st I hit trail later in the day but still covered some good miles. The climb out of Snoqualmie was the first BIG climb I’d had in awhile. It would come to be the standard of northern Washington, big climbs and big descents. The trail went straight up and then straight down every valley that it could. The days of simple ridge walks or wandering along a valley floor for a bit were over. To get 25 miles in a day now meant 6,000’ of climbing a day.
The views were beautiful in this section. Each valley was different, some were lush and green, others harsh and rocky. The challenge made sense, you couldn’t get to see this beauty and finish the trail easy. There had to be a final hurdle. I was lucky to spend some of those miles with Fullmoon, Prime Time and Skippy. They were an unsuspecting group that I sort of flung myself into at Snoqualmie but they seemed happy to have me along once I made them pancakes.
Before I knew it I had found my way to Steven’s Pass. That last day in I’d seen 3 bears, it made the miles seem a little longer than they should have. I was lucky to be able to get my package on time and continue quickly back out onto the trail into Glacier Peak Wilderness. I wanted nothing more the past few days then to be in Stehekin, on the precipice of finishing this grand journey and mighty challenge that’s taken me four months to complete. So close and so tired.