a journey of 2,652 miles
THE PACIFIC CREST TRAIL 2018
starts with a single step.
Miles 2273.1 to 2294.9. Mountain Panorama camp to Packwood.
We get up first, of course. First because we always get up first. Second because we are really excited to see Wizard.
We check every campsite for her tent. Her tent is the same as ours, but for two instead of three persons. It’s also one of the bestselling tents for long distance hiking. It so happens that in every campsite we pass there is an orange Big Agnes tent set up. Which doesn’t make our search for her any easier and less creepy as we crawl close to every tent to find out if she’s sleeping in it.
We see her tent on the last tentsite before Old Snowy. We already assumed that this is the one she would be camping at. Other hikers further down informed us that there are 3 hikers, 2 female and 1 male, camped up there. Wizard, TwoBeers and Nemo! We know all three of them and couldn’t be more excited to finally see them.
But they’re all asleep. We spot Benjamin Button who must have slept here too. We crawl up to Wizard’s tent whispering how we should surprise her. We slowly unzip her tent and there she is! Looking at us in surprise and with so much joy! And also a little tired… It doesn’t feel like it’s been three months since we last saw her. More like three days. But it feels so good! We missed her so much!
How strange is it to run into each other on this mountain in Washington in the end of September when the last time we saw each other was in Bishop, California, in June! We have so much catching up to do!
While she is getting up, we prepare coffee and enjoy the spectacular 360° views unfolding around us. There’s Mt Adams, Mt Saint Helens, Old Snowy. Is there Mt Rainier too? It’s hard to tell which mountain is which. But they sure are very impressive. We sit down and have a looong breakfast together. Talking about everything. She even carried a huge cookie and a bottle of CabSav with her all the way from White Pass to give to Dario as a belated birthday present. Nemo, TwoBeers and Benjamin Button soon join, followed by BigBro and Flat Earth when they eventually hike by.
We sit there from 8am to 12pm. 4 hours of talking, laughing, playing cards, taking pictures. Such good people. Wizard tells us that she will leave the trail in Cascade Locks and hopefully come back to finish the trail next year. This is totally understandable. As great as it is to hike in conditions like today, we all know how quickly it can change and become downright dangerous. The three of them then inform us about the upcoming detour. Right after Goat Rocks we will leave the PCT and get on a detour taking us straight into the town of Packwood. The PCT is once more closed due to fire. We realize that we have to get going eventually, as we still have about 18 miles ahead of us.
Saying goodbye is hard, but we know we will see Wizard again. We will visit her in Australia in February. And off we go. 5 minutes after we leave her we are walking through a snow field. The scenery behind it changes again dramatically. There is a valley we can’t see for there is so much fog in it. And the fog is leaving the valley on all sides, overflowing. It looks incredible. But this is also the valley we will be hiking in later today. Not so much fun…
After the snowfield we start our ascent on Old Snowy mountain. The PCT would take the easier route on the side of the mountain but it’s common for thruhikers to do the Knife’s Edge route following the mountain ridge on the top. It’s a hard, but short climb and when we reach the top we are really on top. On top of the world. The world lies at our feet. It’s all downhill from here. The horizon is endless. The mountains are high. But we are higher.
We take some pictures and movies. They look funny because we are in our shorts and t-shirts. It’s not too cold up here but it looks cold because there is snow all around us. It’s one of the best views we’ve had on this trail, if not the best. It’s a moment we will treasure forever.
The ridge walk turns out to be quite sketchy. There is a lot of wind now, and whenever we get lower we are hiking in fog and it’s really cold. We hike like this for another two hours before we reach the PCT closure and start our hike into Packwood. We have no idea what we’ll do when we get there. We know of a trail angel called Mama G but we have no cell reception to contact her to see if she has room for us. It sounds like the last 2 hours of the trail will be a road walk on a desolate road from where it will be highly unlikely to catch a ride. So we do what we can do at the moment - and hike.
It’s all downhill now, in the fog and so the scenery isn’t as spectacular as before anymore. But we are hiking through dense rain forest now, which is still pretty. We have to climb across a lot of fallen logs and the steepness doesn’t help much.
We reach the bottom after a couple more hours of hiking. There is a beautiful lake there called Packwood Lake. Can’t be far to Packwood now, can it? But we are wrong. After we’ve surrounded the lake we reach a dirt road and follow it for another 2 hours. We then reach a asphalted road which is very deserted. It’s dark by now and we are exhausted. My shoulders really ache and we don’t know what we’re hiking for. We have no place to stay in Packwood. We still have 6 miles of roadwalking to do until we reach it. We’ve just had the most amazing day but now it feels as though it might end up in a fiasco. Why not just set up camp here? Well, we’ve looked, but there is no space anywhere to set up camp. We see the town of Packwood far below but it looks big. How are we supposed to reach Mama G? We still have no reception and according to Guthooks we won’t get any once we’re in town. No AT&T network provided here.
We are really desperate by now, but are still hiking because it’s the only thing to do. Suddenly we hear a car come up. Come up? Why? There’s nothing here! Except for us! The car slows down even before we stretch our hands out to wave frantically. It stops next to us and we see Benjamin Button in the passenger’s seat. What the…? He looks relieved to see us and states that he contacted Mama G (he has a different network provider) and she had someone drive up here to look for him as well as potential other hikers. Benjamin Button of course knew that we must be somewhere behind him and once he was in the car he asked the driver to keep looking for us. Lucky for us they did! I have never been happier to see a car in my entire life!
The rest of the night is a blur because we are both so exhausted. We get in the car, drive over to Mama G’s. She fixes us up with a huge plate of pasta, lets us shower and makes up the bed for us. Benjamin Button is also sleeping here and it seems like BigBro made it to Packwood early enough to find a hotel. After the shower we both fall asleep instantly, not really grasping just how lucky we were tonight.