Cascade Pass to Stehekin Day Three: Retracing Our Steps

That’s the thing about an out and back – you have to go back. And you have to go back the same way you came. Which can be kind of nice because you know what lies ahead. And also hard because you know what lies ahead. But despite how sore I had been on Saturday I woke up Sunday feeling ready to walk again. After a hearty helping of pancakes topped with yogurt and maple syrup (yogurt on your pancakes?!? A revelation!) Molly and I were ready to start moving. Marieke drove us back up to Dolly Varden and after some hugs we got back on trail. Luckily I get to see Marieke and Wade again for my birthday so it wasn’t a hard goodbye.

And we were off. On the way back we had a very gently sloping trail to look forward to, punctuated by some switchbacks just before the pass and then many many many switchbacks down to finish the hike. And that is just what we got. The wildflowers were still popping, the trail was cruiser and we made great time and my snacks sucked so hard. Note to self: even if it seems like a good idea to just pillage the cupboard for snacks it isn’t. You will never be 100% happy with the random leftovers from all your other adventures, probably because they are just that: leftovers.

There was one variable of the hike that continued to loom over us like a dark cloud throughout the day: the weather. And there were in fact some dark clouds. I had been doomsdaying the weather since Saturday, saying that I thought it was going to snow on us at the pass. Molly completely disagreed – she had seen nothing in the weather forecast that suggested rain or snow! Turns out we read different weather forecasts and neither one was really right. We basically had partly cloudy skies all day, some spats of rain and freezing cold clouds at the pass.

Another interesting part of walking back the way you came is seeing the parts of your route that you couldn’t quite see on the way in. For example, turns out we walked right above this crazy cliff section on the way in before hitting the switchbacks down into the valley but we had no idea. I was acutely aware of it on the way out and had to keep reminding myself, “You walked this on the way in just fine and you weren’t afraid at all, no reason to be scared now!” Oh how impervious my brain is to logic!

Also – how have I gone all three posts without mentioning that the whole point of this adventure was to test out the fastpack that I bought from Ultimate Direction. What is a fastpack you ask? It is basically a hybrid between a running vest and a backpack. It is designed to carry light loads and still be snug enough to run in! Molly had Kyle’s and was giving it a shot as well. Although we didn’t carry a tent we did carry sleeping bags, pads, clothing and the ten essentials! Plus food and water of course. Kyle and I have a couple of other adventures coming up this summer where the fastpack will be useful and this was the first test run of it’s abilities. I was quite pleased although it definitely takes some getting used to having all that weight on your shoulders instead of your hips.

But I digress. One step lead to another and before we knew it we were up over the pass and starting the switchbacks on the other side. And for some reason, even though we were at the end of a 18.5 mile day and still sore and tired from our first one it just felt right to run. We ran almost all the way back to the cars (I forced us to do a cool down walk for the last couple of switchbacks) and it was glorious. The grade of the trail is perfect for running, there are just enough rough sections of trail to make it technical and fun and then there are plenty of smooth sailing sections of pine needles where you can really cruise.

We high-fived back a the cars and took great joy in changing into our car clothes. Then we dreamed of food all the way back to Seattle (I may have purchased a very disappointing corn dog at a gas station but I was still hungry).

One other thing I will say about this trip is how special female friendships are to me and how wonderful it is to have an adventure buddy like Molly. Molly and I seem to be in sync when we are adventuring on every level. We walk the same pace, we run the same pace, we are hungry at the same time and we are both empathetic to the point that I can tell she is paying attention to my needs and I am paying attention to hers. We are able to have really deep, emotionally vulnerable conversations and not just that – we are able to talk for two whole days straight (minus when we were running cause running…). There is just a level of understanding around fears and communication and honestly that I have with Molly and with some of my other lady friends that I find so refreshing and so precious. I am one lucky gal!

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

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