tiffany's pct journal

Washington Section K: Highway 20 (Rainy Pass) to Highway 2 (Stevens Pass) - Part II.

Days: 8 - 14.
Dates: July 11 - 17.
Trail mileage: 80.7 - 188.7.
Distance: 108.0 miles.

This section kicked my ass.

When we were in town, a guy who had hiked the trail before told us that this section to Stevens Pass was one of the hardest on the whole trail. Straight out of Stehekin was a huge 20-mile steep climb. Then after that was a huge 10-mile steep descent. Followed by dozens of non-flat miles.

incredible views from the trail
Views from the trail were truly amazing

That overgrowth from before Stehekin was still here, so on dewy mornings, I could count on my socks getting completely soaked in the first hour of hiking. I got used to the squishy sounds in my shoes. It was an unusually gray summer in Washington. It was actually kind of funny, because whenever I'd speak to people who hadn't spent much time in Washington, they'd talk about how they expected this from Washington, and I'd respond, “No, it's really not like this in the summer usually!”

foggy view
It was an unusually foggy and wet summer in Washington

Some of the overgrowth was so thick, I couldn't see the trail anymore, so I'd trip on rocks all over the place and get stabbed by branches. One time, I wasn't able to see a hole on the edge of the trail, and literally postholed into a hole on the dry trail.

I had more than a couple brief meltdowns on the trail, telling myself there was no way I could ever do this whole thing, not if it was going to be like this.

Looking back, though, some of those views were the most beautiful ones on the entire trail.

snow covered peaks in the distance
Luckily, we didn't have to deal with any snow on the actual trail

And this was the section that I found my trail family. 5 of us: Oli, TL, Yahtzee, Tyce, and myself. I honestly can't really remember how we ended up camping together almost every night past this in Washington, but I started looking forward to spending time with my trail family at the end of the day, and that got me through some of the tougher sections. I was so happy to feel like I belonged, both on the trail and in the community.

One of the few days we spent apart was just a couple days from Stevens Pass. I was feeling absolutely exhausted, and felt the need to stop before the campsite we had agreed to meet at. I decided I would hike longer the next day to reach the group. On my way to camp, I passed by a couple older gentlemen and chatted with them for a while. They confirmed what the previous PCT hiker had told us in Stehekin. Well, they specifically said, "This section is a bitch," and if we could handle this, the rest of the trail should be no problem. That was motivating!

majestic marmot
A very majestic marmot

One of the men had hurt himself by falling on his knee, and I offered to send a message to his wife using my Garmin Inreach satellite communicator to let her know he was heading home and was generally alright. After taking a short break with them, I got up and headed up to camp. I set up in a meadow next to a pit toilet somoene had called the best "poo with a view" on the trail. If it weren't so foggy, I'm sure I would have agreed.

poo with a view
The best poo with a view

After I had set up camp, I looked up the imminent climb, and saw a tiny person waving at me at the top. It was Oli! Turns out the rest of the group was just a little ways ahead, so I felt more confident about how I could reach them the following day. I settled into camp, and then Tyce walked up. He decided to stay with me, since the climb up to where I was was a tough one. It was nice to not have to camp alone.

meadow camp with Tyce
Camping in the meadow on a foggy evening

Later that evening, a helicopter flew very close overhead. I assumed a hiker needed help somewhere nearby, and it was search and rescue.

The next day, I caught up to the rest of the group, having done my first 20-mile day! The views that day were stellar. When I caught up with everyone, I learned that the SAR helicopter had actually stopped where Oli, TL, and Yahtzee had camped the previous night. A man had gotten out and asked if any of them were Tiffany, and apparently because of the message I had sent and the message another hiker named Kevin had sent (we didn't know who Kevin was) to his family back home, they had called Search & Rescue to try and find him. I hope they ended up finding him.

Oli's message to me at camp
Oli left me a message at the campsite we had originally agreed to stop at for the night

One morning, we had all agreed to meet up at a specific campsite, but when I reached that site, I saw that Oli had left behind a very clear message that he decided to keep hiking to the next site. My trail family was a great motivator to push myself harder to walk further than I thought I could.

hikers hanging out at Stevens Pass Lodge
Hanging out with other hikers at the Stevens Pass Lodge

When we got into Stevens Pass, we all headed to the Lodge to hang out for a while. I ran into my friend, Katie, who I ran into the first day on the trail, and it was fun to catch up with her again. I stayed at the lodge for a couple hours before heading back into Seattle for a well-deserved zero.

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