In our research leading up to the PCT we had heard that compared to the AT this trail was logistically tougher. At this juncture I am inclined to say that our research proved correct, and that planning is over-rated! (Okay- that might be my motto for life- but this trail does induce spontaneity!)
Washington continued to be beautiful, and while there were more climbs and descents than Oregon we wouldn’t have referred to it as “torturous”. Though we did encounter some cold and rainy weather right outside of Snoqualmie. We took the opportunity to utilize the rain jackets that are often carried but not needed. While cold and mildly miserable for a few hours, it is oddly satisfying to get to use the gear that we have been carrying for months.
An unexpected joy of this section was seeing some more Washington native residents. For a few days I was trying to get a better look at some small critters I could only describe as delightfully round boulder hamsters. Eventually some section hikers were able to enlighten me, they were Pikas! We also lucked out and saw three black bears in under 24 hours. (All bears were a distance away- and we all mutually agreed to give one another space.)
While a lot of the trail is the appeal of the views and wildlife, we also have the opportunity to visit towns we may never have been to. Leavenworth adopted a Bavarian Village theme in order to increase tourism to the area after logging and railroads stopped bringing in the dough. It was charming, and the people watching was top shelf. (Plus it was an excuse to seek out large soft pretzels and Beyond Meat Brats!)
Leaving Leavenworth to tackle the Northern Cascades we had heard about nearby fires but nothing on the PCT itself. We could see smoke rising from nearby valleys, and a day or so in we were hiking in a smokey haze with ashes falling. As always, there was trail scuttlebutt about fires and closures- but without signal to verify we wanted to be certain of conditions before making any decisions.
Sadly some of the campsite gossip proved correct- that a fire had closed the final miles of the PCT for most hikers and the Northern terminus was not accessible. The fire for us was a logistical third strike. We made the call to hike back towards Leavenworth where you could catch a daily bus to Seattle- and come back to finish Washington and the PCT another year.
This meant some travel and more logistics- including an over booked bus ride with hikers standing and sitting in the bus aisle. We successfully returned to our last Oregon drop off point in order to finish Oregon. The Lionshead fire section was now open- so we decided to hike it south bound (SOBO) in order to end up in Bend again. The ongoing Cedar fire added a dramatic smokey haze to most of our days, but we did have some views.
While the burn areas (especially new) can seem like a depressing contrast to the lushness and life we get accustomed to on trail, seeing the new growth is uplifting. It is interesting seeing how long it takes for new trees to grow and what plants take advantage of freshly cleared terrain.
In exciting news- we hiked over 1,000 miles! Plus finished Oregon! And saw Mountain Goats!!! In the final few miles we encountered a hiker (Rocky) who asked where we were headed. We told her the road we planned to get to in order to hitch to Bend and she asked if we would want to take her car? She had left it at the trail head and would be hitching back to Bend, so we could lock her spare keys in the car. She had mentioned she thought it could be a convenient solution for her and some “trustworthy looking SOBO’s”. Since we were hoping to have a package redirected here we let Rocky know we could pick her up after her section to reunite her with her vehicle- and it all worked out. Even though she later mentioned a bit of trepidation once she knew we were Florida residents!
The current plan (open to change, as always) is to keep on trucking, hopefully from Burney CA to Truckee. In the meantime we have taken advantage of being in town to relax, imbibe in town food, and snag some trail treats for when we get back to hiking.