The next morning we were up early. In order to accomplish the rest of Washington in ten days and take a nero day into Stehekin, we had to keep up a pretty high mileage average, around twenty seven miles a day. Twenty seven didn’t actually seem that bad, but the tough terrain of Washington made the miles harder. So we told ourselves, ten days into too many days to wake up when it is still dark and hike until the light fades from the sky. We can do anything for ten days, right? Our tent had a little condensation on it so we wiped it down in the tiny towel and stowed the damp sleeping pad at the bottom of my pack for drying out later.
To start the day we had a small climb and then a huge descent only to be followed by a steep climb up to Deep Lake. I had been excited to reach Deep Lake, a place I had worked with EarthCorps a couple of summers previously, but unfortunately with our time crunch we were unable to make the very short side trip out to the lake. Luckily, it is a pretty accessible spot using another trail head and so I promised Kyle we would come back. The lake is huge and set in a valley at the bottom of numerous rocky peaks. It’s water is dark clear blue and to get to it you walk through a large open meadow, golden and rippling in the wind, islands of Rock outcroppings and tall green pines dotting the sea of grass. Instead of heading out into the meadow we headed uphill, climbing some thousand feet above the lake and then descending again down the other side. Only to climb right back up again to Desolation Lakes, our final camp spot for the night. Despite the hard terrain and Kyle’s knee, which was till bothering him and looked slightly swollen, we made pretty good time, getting to camp around seven and cooking a delicious curry for dinner. When we arrived it was still light out but there was already a man, cowboy camping and snoring loudly in the middle of a couple of tent sites. We set up next to him, figuring he was an easy target for bears, taking some of the pressure off of us. So I felt pretty bad when he woke up to pee while we were cooking dinner and turned out to be a very kind gentleman doing the section between Snoqualmie and Stevens.
At that point we had seen a handful of thru hikers and a lot of weekend warriors. It makes sense that the section between Snoqualmie and Stevens would be a popular one, it’s about seventy five miles long, gorgeous, and has good access on both ends. The lack of thru hikers surprised us, we had expected to be in a massive bubble, but so far they were sparse. We had seen a couple of people hiking south, probably flip floppers, and we pitied them, knowing how hard it is to walk south past people who have so little trail left to accomplish.
The next morning things were damp again (we vowed to stop camping next to lakes, even though they are picturesque). Neither of us was looking forward to the day, even though it was the day we went into Stevens and had a hot meal. The elevation profile looked vile. It was a mess of extremely steep ups and downs, all of them about seven hundred feet and sharp. Our packs were lighter but Kyle’s knee had not responded yet to the walk it off method of healing and I was worrying about him non-stop.
We suffered though the day and bemoaned every climb, some of them freakishly steep, some not as steep as they looked, and continued to take solace in the beauty that surrounded us, although this day paled in comparison to the two days before it. Eventually we could see the ski lifts of Stevens Pass and passed underneath them on the climb and descent into the pass. At the pass we gave ourselves an hour to eat a panini, pad our resupply, dry out our tent and sleeping bag, and charge our electronics. Our resupply was looking a little slim (I am pretty sure my dad packed it, there were a lot of dinners in it that didn’t make a ton of sense) and the store at Stevens Pass is pretty pathetic, but we made it work with supplemental food from the overflowing hiker boxes. I don’t know if I have mentioned hiker boxes before, we don’t typically need anything out of them, but they are boxes where people jettison unwanted food, fuel and gear, leaving it for the next person. We were short a dinner but up a curry sauce so we picked up some spaghetti noodles to eat with the sauce (we weren’t sure this would taste good, but it was food).
Originally we had only been planning on doing another four miles out of the pass but now that we had done a couple of twenty seven mile days in Washington we weren’t really looking forward to some of the thirty mile days we had coming up. So we decided to do another seven out of Stevens instead, which effectively shortened the rest of our days to twenty eight miles until our sixteen mile nero into Stehekin. We stopped to cook our noodle curry dinner at what would have been our original campsite, and no, the noodle curry wasn’t great but only because we got impatient (and were concerned about the amount of fuel we had which potentially had to get us all the way to the end) and the noodles were basically raw. So that sucked. We couldn’t even finish the pot and ended up saving the rest for lunch the next day, something we never do. The rest of the day was a descent into a camp down by a lake, where we arrived in the pitch dark. Since we had broken our vow about camping at a lake we searched high and low for a campsite that had ample tree cover and found one that required us to squeeze into it, but which had nice low hanging branches thick above us to protect us from condensation. It is amazing how much tree cover changes the temperature of the night air, when we stepped away from our tent to hang the bear hang or pee we were shocked at how cold it was away from the protective cover of our tree. I was giddy with pleasure over our campsite and sure enough, we woke up with zero condensation. Success!