July 11 (~08:20 – ~19:35)
Before Milk Creek – after Suiattle River bridge (20.1 mi / Total: 2543.7 mi)
Total PCT miles: 1443.7
Weather: Low hanging clouds in the morning. A little sun, mostly overcast. Some grey clouds.
I wake up to a pinch of early morning sun, although by the time I’ve packed up all my damp and muddy items, it’s gone overcast again. At least it’s warmer than yesterday and the old forest I’m walking through feels friendlier. The mountains in the distance are adorned with low hanging white clouds and I can see snow covered peaks lurking in the distance. For now it’s a quick way down to the raging river and the bridge at Milk Creek and then I start my one big uphill for the day.
The trail is a narrow path of trampled overgrowth, and the frustration of others before me is quite obvious, the plants carelessly pushed out of the way. I follow the endless switchbacks uphill again, and it takes several hours to get to the top. Here the trail is carved into a meandering path, and leads me across the picturesque heather that grows along this rolling landscape and continues just below the crest’s snow and rock.
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Once I’m on the other side the mountain is covered in all sorts of green plants, but the views are grand, I can see into the valleys far away. I decide to break here, it’s the perfect spot to air some damp items, my quilt, my socks, my puffy, and I lay it all on the heather while I eat my sandwiches.
After my break I follow the switchbacks back down towards Suiattle River. It’s a nice trail. Less rocky than the other side, and as I loose elevation the path turns into the perfect forest path, bouncy and downhill, then mostly level as I walk through an old forest to get to a faraway bridge across the river.
I should be enjoying this. The trees are old and the trunks the size of houses, but all I can think about is the pain in my knee, which is constant on the way down and keeps me from sticking to a decent pace. I can’t believe I did this to myself. More than that, I’m so hungry I can’t focus anymore. I don’t know what I used to eat that kept me going, but it’s as though my hiker hunger has quadrupled, and I’m simply starving. I don’t have enough food to keep me going. It’s frustrating this section is taking so much longer than I’d hoped – I could be in Stehekin by now, eating whatever it is they sell at that bakery everybody talks about. I can’t stop thinking about that bakery.
I push through but it isn’t easy. I walk, stop, rest my leg, continue in pain and think about how hungry I am. I make it to the bridge thanks to the level trail, and see numerous people camped underneath it. I continue a little further on the other side of the river. It’s different here. The trees are smaller but the vegetation is darker, lusher, and there’s something about it I like. It’s dark but romantic, not that overgrown mess I’ve got used to. It also looks like the kind of place bears would like playing around.
I walk for a few more miles to another campsite, one with enough spots for a couple of tents and I hope I’m not the only one there because the forest is a little dark and creepy, but when I get there I don’t see anyone else. I’m alone after all. Just me and another mouse, just like yesterday. Last night I kept my light on to scare it away, but today I put my pack inside the tent with me, and hope there’s nothing left in the vestibule for the mouse to get excited about.