July 1 (~07:45 – ~19:20)
Bear Gap Trail Junction – next to dirt road before Bear Creek Trail (25.2 mi / Total: 2354.7 mi)
Total PCT miles: 1254.7
Weather: Sunny with some clouds. Warm, but cold in the shade, with wind. Overcast late afternoon, with thunder in the distance. Light rain at night.
The morning is quiet again. The thunder has passed. I can’t see very well what the weather is like – my tent is hidden in the shade and abundance of the close by trees and it’s cold, but some light peeps through and when I go outside I can see it’s clear. It’ll be a good day.
It takes some time to get my things in order and then I’m off again – although unfortunately not down the trail that continues into the sun, but the one on the backside of the mountain, where it’s icy cold in the shade. Soon the path switches sides and I’m in the morning sun, the skies a light blue with some wayward clouds, and it’s so peaceful compared to yesterday.
Walking along this ridge in the morning is like a dream. The layering of mountains in the distance is simple, the matte haze comforting. There’s condensation lingering to the plants, the small flowers, the birds chirp. As I sidle along the high mountain range, suddenly a large, round snowy peak emerges from behind the mountains I came from, like a ball of ice cream, almost a laughable sight, as though hiding something so large was ever possible. It must be Mt Rainier once again.
The morning sidles along, in and out of the mountain range. I pass a glorious lake that sparkles from the distance, small streams with quiet water leading towards it. If I’d made it down here in time and gone off trail, this would’ve been a marvellous place to camp.
Then I enter a burn area and listen to the yell of what, elk? I’m not sure, I can’t see far enough into the valley of hopeless burn. Unfortunately, the mountains that burned are vast, and I spend hours walking in them. It soon gets monotonous, and then all I can think about is my mileage for the day. I want to try and hike around 25 miles, and my boredom has me count down the distance, making the day seem longer, and the hours pass slower. I listen to some music – I used the phone signal along the ridge to download some songs, but soon I’m tired of them already. Instead I take a long break in celebration of having less mosquitoes to harass me. I can’t believe how nice it is to actually have a break again.
The elevation is quite easy today. Small ups and downs across a general downhill, until I descend into a forest once again, but this one is alive. It’s quite a grand one, with big trees and a nice cool wind. But once the ground levels, the forest changes: it’s darker, it’s spooky. There are spiderwebs across the trail everywhere, and one of them practically ends up in my face as I walk through, my cap just about keeping the spider from actually touching me.
The forest leads to a rare hut, Mike Urich Cabin, where I meet two French southbound hikers who only just started their southbound journey at Snoqualmie Pass, and I’m astounded by their lack of general research for undertaking such a long hike – they don’t know most southbound hikers head north from Harts Pass for the border tag, and then backtrack, and that they haven’t even heard of the Guthook app.
I leave them after I quickly filter some water, determined to hike another 10 miles and make my 25 mile goal for the day. When I check the GPS I realise it’s only 7 miles away, and I’m impressed, because usually I’m farther away than I think. As I follow the path it takes me out of the spooky forest, and I cross an empty dirt road, and somehow I’m excited about the change, the idea of being closer to civilisation, or perhaps I enjoy just the spaciousness of it.
I circle around a hill, and move along a mountainside, an old burn area that seems to be recovering and is dotted with large magnolia-coloured flowers everywhere. It allows me big views ahead again, across the valley, the mountains, the thickening sky once again, the inky-grey clouds, the colour blue that hazes over everything. It’s rumbling again, a deep thunder in the far distance. I don’t know if it’s coming closer, but I walk as fast as I can, the final few miles intersecting those dirt roads over and over, through the trees, to a little spot right by an empty road, all for me.