Our day out of Stehekin felt like an extended cloud break. All day clouds swirled around us, hovering above mountains, storming somewhere over there, darkening and lightening and somehow not raining on us. We stayed appropriately pessimistic, never quite trusting that we were in the clear. The day was one extended climb, slowly heading up to Rainy Pass and then continuing up after that for a little while longer. We walked along a river valley, in and out of brush and over rivers and waterfalls.
At Rainy Pass we stopped for a break and were delighted when Oil Can and Cave Man showed up in a car with Cave Man’s mom, who had a variety of treats and trail magic to share with us. Although we were looking okay on food we are always happy to carbo load in the moment! Another five or six miles and we were already at the end of the days very long climb, at a saddle between peaks, staring out at an incredible landscape of mountains and crags in front of us. Behind us clouds were rushing towards us, dumping rain here and there. Every peak seemed to have a fresh dusting of white on its summit, and the sun highlighted different rock faces, only to then fade as a cloud cruised overhead. It was stunning and gorgeous and amazing and took my breath away. We reveled in the beauty for thirty minutes while we cooked our second to last dinner on trail, mac and cheese of course. Right as we were packing up we felt our first snow flakes land on our noses, speeding us along. Speeding us northward.
We practically sprinted to camp. We had a downward descent, rounding the front of a peak that allowed us to see where we were headed. The trail switchbacked down to a saddle and then traversed along a steep slope towards another saddle, which we wouldn’t walk through until the next day. Along the traverse we could see a tiny valley carved out of the hillside. At this point we had gotten pretty good at estimating distance, the valley looked about two miles away which was how many miles we had left to hike. Clouds were approaching the valley over our heads and more clouds were pouring up the valley below it. We picked up our pace even more.
From a quarter mile out we got a glimpse of our camp, which was already filled with other tents. We swore under our breaths. We hadn’t seen another hiker for days leading up to Stehekin but it seems we had found them now. Finger crossed there were still flat spots to set up. Luckily the campsite turned out to be a wide open flat space, and although the ground had some uneven spots there was still room for another five tents if necessary. We got into camp just in time to pick out a flat spot, get our tent set up and throw everything inside it before the drizzle started. In the drizzle we sorted out our tarp, which took longer in the cold and wet than we wanted it too. Kyle wandered off to find a bearhang while I set up the inside of the tent. He got back in the nic of time, leaping into the tent just as it began to rain in earnest. We sat, staring at eachother, both impressed at our timing, and unwilling to think about what the next day could bring. What it would bring. We snuggled down in the tent as rain whipped it walls, both of us saying a silent prayer for the rain to stop in the middle of the night, for it to move on to somewhere else, for it to leave us dry the next day. We should have known better.