Tomorrow evening, I’m heading to Chinook Pass. I’m hiking to Stampede Pass along the Pacific Crest Trail. I’m excited, but weirdly apprehensive.
The hike is 51 miles, and hiking it northbound means more elevation lost that gained. I prefer hiking SOBO, but this trip going NOBO has a few advantages. First, NOBO loses about 2000′ more in elevation than it gains. Second, Jim will pick me up at Stampede Pass, and if I’m done early enough on Sunday I can treat myself to a big sloppy burger at the Red Arrow Drive-In in Cle Elum. Third, SOBO is particular appealing when the thicket of thru-hikers reach Washington. (I’d rather meet them than have them passing me all day. Meeting them means I can get information about the area they’ve just passed – water, campsites, trail conditions.) It’s unlikely that the teeming hordes have arrived. A man trying to set a new fastest known time is already past Stevens Pass, but I don’t anticipate being passed by more than a few thru-hikers.
51 miles in four days means I have to average 12.5 miles each day. That doesn’t sound like much, but the challenge for me is battling through the cumulative fatigue. When I did Section J in 2019, I took a short day on my fourth day on the trail – just 7.4 miles, and pretty much all downhill. I won’t really have that opportunity on this hike because I need to be back in the office on Monday.
I’m heading up Wednesday after work in the hopes that getting even just a few miles done that evening will make the rest of the trip easier to complete by Sunday afternoon. There’s a lake two miles from Chinook Pass. I may camp there. More importantly, it’s the last water for more than eight miles, so I’ll need to ‘camel up.’ Eight miles and 1730′ of elevation gain. I plan to buy dinner on the road & carry it to my campsite, so I only water I’ll need is for drinking & making Thursday’s breakfast & lunch. I’m interested in seeing how I do estimating how much water I need. (It’s always better to experiment during shorter hikes!)
Because I’m using a hammock, it can be difficult to predict where I’ll camp. The Guthook app lists tent sites, but it’s up to hammock sleepers like me to augment the information in the app. The advantage of the hammock is that I don’t need a clear, flat spot to camp — I just need a couple of trees the appropriate distance apart. That should be no trouble in this section of the trail.
I’m mostly packed; I just need to finish up packing the food for the trip. I will have everything packed tonight so that I can pick up the pack & go tomorrow night. I feel like I’ve already packed too much food but also that I don’t have enough. I’ll go through it tonight and evaluate. I’m basing most of my meals with couscous in an effort to make my food bag smaller. It’s an experiment because I prefer ramen, but cramming a week’s worth of food in my Ursack is a struggle – even when I break up the ramen a bit. I figure olive oil & parmesan cheese will make anything edible, but I want to try this out before next month’s longer hike.
I think my apprehension is coming from not trusting my body to do this. My pack shouldn’t be too heavy — as usual, the food will be the heaviest thing in my pack. I expect this hike to make me weary, but I’m looking forward to that because I need to get my body ready for next month.
I anticipate that once I get on the trail I’ll be much happier and more relaxed. I need this break from the job I don’t like. I’ll miss the pup, but he’s not ready for this kind of hike yet. (Maybe next year!) I hope to come back from this hike refreshed with a better outlook — or maybe a deeper resolve to find another job.