I always like going South; somehow, it feels like going downhill. – Treebeard
That is a happy sigh. A sigh of contentment. We did a lot of that our first day hiking in Washington. I think many of you assumed from my last post that we would be heading up to the Canadian border, but that is not what we ended up doing. We actually took the train to Olympia and then our friend Sarah took us up to Snoqualmie Pass outside of Seattle where we started hiking South. This way we get to come back to up Snoqualmie right around the time our North bound bubble is getting there and then continue up to the Canadian border to finish. Because let’s face it, we still want to finish standing at the monument on the Northern terminus. It did take us a day to travel to Washington and then we took a day off at home in order to reorganize food drops and maps, plan out drops, and eat a ton of my mom’s amazingly good cooking. Then on Monday morning I had a job interview in Seattle (I had sworn I wasn’t going to apply for jobs on trail but then the perfect job came along and we happened to be in Seattle so…) and after it was over we were finally able to drive into the mountains.
So yes, we set off from Snoqualmie, heading South, around 11am on Monday, August 1st. And we couldn’t help but continually take in deep breaths of cool mountain air, and sigh, shit eating grins stretching across our faces. This was home. This was living. This was the trail we had been yearning for. That first day was a long one, twenty two miles starting at eleven is no small fete, but the trail out of Snoqualmie is gorgeous and the views kept us invigorated. As we climbed cold puffs of wind would cut through the sun shine. We walked past Silver Peak, across forest service roads, through clear cuts and alpine lakes. We basked in the mellow sun, and breathed deep the smells of warm pine needles and baking blueberries and Christmas trees. Every once in a while we would remember to look back and gasp at the views of the Cascades to the north. For dinner we ate a whole pot of golden Mac and Cheese. The sun faded and we grinned at eachother as we scared a heard of elk up a hill. We finally made it to our camp on an old road right around nightfall and laughed while we struggled to set up our bear hang, ultimately settling for something less than perfect but climbing into our tent anyway, exhausted and satisfied. We were in Washington and the next day it was supposed to rain but it wasn’t supposed to be 100 degrees and that was what mattered to us. We were Southbounders now. Or I guess not really, we were flipfloppers.
Before we started this hike we hadn’t really seriously considered hiking the PCT Southbound but on that first day out of Snoqualmie we talked a lot about how hiking Southbound might really be the way to go. For us it might have made a lot of sense, we could have worked longer and made more money, we could have gone to my brothers graduation no problem, we could have spent some of the spring and summer climbing in Washington before leaving for our trip, I mean the positives go on and on. And then there are the perks of Southbounding. You could do Washington in late July and early August, which is an assuredly better time to do Washignton than the middle of September when we will be getting back up here. You could enjoy more solitude if that is what you are looking for (we saw almost no one our first day and I have to admit we loved it). You would hit the desert in the fall, which might be kind of rough water wise but I bet it would be cooler. I just think not enough people think about a Southbound thruhiker, I know we didn’t, and so I want to set the record straight, Treebeard knew what he was talking about in Lord of the Rings, walking South really does feel like walking downhill.
I feel like I should have a lot more to say about our first day in Washington but I really don’t. It was beautiful and a huge change from Northern California, an experience you never have if you just continually hike North. It made us unbelievably happy to be home, but we weren’t disillusioned, we knew the next day we could be so cold in the rain and wind we would be wishing for some of that California heat. That is the cruel irony of the trail, but that is also what I love about being out here. On that day we knew, no matter what hit us next, no matter what the trail threw at us, even if just that first day had been perfect, it was worth it.