One of my favorite parts about playing in the mountains is planning the next trip. I love staring at maps, reading trip reports, drawing lines on Caltopo, and generally geeking out about all the possibilities.
But sometimes a last-minute opportunity presents itself and you just gotta go with it. On Wednesday, Michael Havrda asked if I could help with transport for a backpacking trip he was taking from Rainy Pass to Hart’s Pass the very next day. I knew that section of the Pacific Crest Trail was especially scenic, and that I wanted to see it eventually. So after checking with my fam, I said yes, and Michael and I agreed to do a key/car swap. We only live 5 minutes from each other, so we met up on Wednesday night and traded cars. The next day he drove my car to Rainy Pass, and I drove his car to Hart’s Pass. Then we both started hiking towards our own vehicles.
I ended up working most of Thursday morning, and didn’t get to the trailhead until 4:15 pm, but I figured that was probably for the best. Western Washington was in the middle of a heat advisory with temps in the mid-90s. By the time I hit the trail, the sun and the temps were dropping, which made for a comfortable, lovely evening of hiking.
Hart’s Pass to Rainy Pass is approx 30 miles. I’d thought about doing it in one push, but there were some long sections of trail that I actually wanted to see. Yknow, in the daylight. Plus my legs were carrying some fatigue from previous trips, and I knew they’d be grateful for a little rest part-way through the journey. Therefore I packed a bivy, sleeping quilt, and ground pad, and planned to crash for 4-5 hours during the night.
I ended up timing it perfectly. I didn’t do any hiking in the heat of the day. I had plenty of daylight to appreciate all the views between Harts Pass and Brush Creek. I reached the valley of the West Fork Methow River just as it was starting to get dark, and cruised along the valley floor, enjoying the wooded trail by headlamp.
By 10:45 pm I was ~18 miles in at Methow Pass. The moon was bright white, illuminating the outline of peaks around me, and I could tell I was starting a section of trail that I’d want to see in the daylight. Plus I was getting tired. (It’s an interesting example of the mental component of endurance sport: I’ve run through the night many times. However, this time I’d packed my full sleeping kit and given myself permission to camp – and therefore I felt like I needed to stop and sleep.)
Anyway, I found a flat spot and snuggled into my bivy. Temps were probably in the 40s, which was refreshing after all the hot temps in Seattle lately. The moon was incredibly bright, I could see all the stars above me, and I was a happy camper, asleep by 11:30.
I woke up occasionally throughout the night as the moon made its way across the sky, and finally decided to get up for good at 4:30 am. I took my time making coffee, eating oatmeal, and enjoying the fact that I had Methow Pass all to myself. Finally around 6 am I started hiking again.
Snowy Lakes are a short detour off the PCT right after Methow Pass. I’d heard they were a must-see, plus I was pretty sure Michael’s group was camped up there, so I decided to head up to the lakes as the sun rose.
The detour to Snowy Lakes was indeed worth it. It’s only 1/2 mile to the first lake, and although the spur trail is steeper than the PCT, it’s really not bad. The lakes were gorgeous, and as I was taking photos of Lower Snowy Lake I even saw Michael on a ridge above me taking pics from Upper Snowy Lake! I made my way up to their camp and chatted with Michael and his friends, all of whom were super friendly. It was a nice little “hit” of social time in the middle of a solo trip. After about 30 minutes, I headed back to the PCT and southward.
At this point I’d started getting a blister under a callous on the ball of my foot. It turns out that just because my feet are used to jogging long distances, doesn’t mean they are used to walking long distances. I actually started trotting a bit just to take some pressure off my feet and use different muscles. I also stopped frequently to take photos and generally Oooh and Ahhh at the views. Day 2 ended up at approx 12 miles, including the detour up to Snowy Lakes.
I was back at my car before noon, and home by 3 pm. Thanks to Michael for giving me an excuse to check out this part of the PCT!