Welcome to the Northwest 

In the middle of the night Kyle pulled out my earplug to inform me that it was raining. Upon doning my headlamp and peering outside I discovered that it was not raining, instead we were in a cloud that was condensing in the trees around us and whenever the wind blew too hard it would blow water droplets onto our tent. Kyle put down one of his rain flaps and we fell back asleep for a couple of hours before our early morning wake up. We had twenty eight miles to do that day. Between Snoqualmie Pass and the Bridge of the Gods on the Oregon/Washington border we had 240 miles to hike, and we wanted to take a nero in White Pass. That meant that after our twenty two mile day we needed to do some extra miles in order to average everything out correctly. I suited up for the day in full waterproofing. It wasn’t raining yet, but it certainly looked like it was going to. 

It actually didn’t rain for mos to the day. Instead it misted heavily and low clouds hung in the tree tops. When we were down low it was relatively dry, but whenever we proceeded to climb uphill the sodden pine boughs, hidden high above in cloud cover, would shake down cold beads of water onto us, and when we were on top of ridges, above the tree tops, the clouds rolled over us, soaking us in sheets of icy spray. It didn’t matter that it wasn’t “raining”, we were still wet. And if we weren’t wet from the weather we were wet from sweat, because we climbed a lot that day. Up and down some incredibly steep trail we went, making it hard to decide what layers to wear. Ultimately it was too cold to take off our rain jackets, so we wore them, and sweated right through them on the uphill. Neither of us could keep our rain pants on, so we just went cold on the bottom half, feel sloshing around in our trail runners, as if we were walking inside of a frigid sponge. Sometimes the clouds would blow over for a second and it would look like maybe the sun was going to come out, and then they would come right back, rolling on through, swirling around, and overlapping.  When we got up high and were able to see we found patchwork quilt of greys, some hanging lower than others in the sky, hiding the tops of mountains and racing overhead.

As the day went on we were becoming more and more skeptical about our ability to actually hike the twenty eight miles to camp. Mainly, there was a cabin at twenty three miles that was starting to sound really enticing. Also, the longer we were out the colder we got, and the later it got the colder it got. Our current plans had us getting into camp around nine and I was starting to think I would be hypothermic by the time we made it there. Our decision was made for us when, after our last break, a cold chilling wind sprung up, accompanied by rain. A lot of rain, in kind of a constant drizzle, the kind that soaks you to the bone. I couldn’t tell if my rain jacket was working or not, and to my surprise my feet were actually not wet all the way through… But now they were. So when we came around the corner and saw the Ulrich Cabin with wood smoke pouring out of its chimney it was an easy choice. Well at least for me, Kyle took one look inside and declared it filled with spiders, but I was already at the stove, warming my frozen body parts and scoping out the sleeping options. Before Kyle could say “No!” I had the sleeping pad unrolled in the loft where it was suffocatingly hot (aka perfect).

We quickly got out of our cold wet clothes and into warm ones, and laid things around to dry, while aquainting ourselves with our cabin mates. There was a forest service crew who was out for the week doing trail work and two different groups of section hikers heading North. It was a full cabin but everyone was kind and willing to squeeze. One of the girls on the Forest Service crew knew my Cameron (!) and the whole crew knew people I worked with last summer at King County. It is a small world. After a huge dinner of creamy pesto salmon with pasta Kyle laid awake in the loft, terrified of spiders, while I smiled at the rain pounding on the ceiling, so thankful not to be camped outside. A candle burned down stairs, flickering kindly in the dark, keeping me company through the the night as mice scampered over our heads. 

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As Edward Abbey said, "An indoor life is the next best thing to a premature burial."

5 thoughts on “Welcome to the Northwest 

  1. Loved your description of the rain, the clouds, rain gear that doesn’t really keep you dry, but can keep you warm, etc. Reminds me of a similar description I just wrote on my blog a few days ago – ‘… Everyone got under the trees and put on ponchos and rain jackets in an effort to stay dry. However, as everyone knows -hiking in rain gear doesn’t really keep you dry; it just makes you think you’ll stay dry. Its a fiction, you might as well just walk in the rain –unless it’s cold and windy, then the rain gear will help you stay warm.’ Keep on truck’in. Love ur blog!

  2. I’m loving the scenery contrast between this series of blog posts and the California ones; Kyle’s photo’s are stunning. I think you guys made the right decision, flipping. When do you think you’ll be done?

    Oh and Steph announced to me last night, “Next year, I want to do the JMT again!”

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