From the ponds to Snowgrass Meadow
We start the day with our faces in blueberry bushes. Although I don’t know if “bush” is the right word – the teeny plants next to the ponds are only a few inches high. That just makes it all the more surprising that they are so prolific. I wonder why some patches are so flush with the little blue gems, but most of the blueberry bushes we pass have no blueberries at all. It makes it difficult to tear myself away from a good patch… who knows how many miles to the next one?
We get stuck in another patch, then in a huckleberry patch. Then the view opens up for a minute, gives us a glimpse through the trees, and – there is Mt Adams again. Still with us.
We stop for lunch at a trail junction, where three other PCT hikers are just finishing up eating themselves. Happy Feet is surprised to see us walking up – she thought she was behind everyone. She wasn’t feeling well yesterday, she explains to us, and only (her words) did fourteen miles. She’s planning on pounding out 28 today to make up time. She takes off down the trail with the other hikers, leaving us with our tuna packets and tortillas, alone in the silence of a forest morning.
I’m munching my stale tortilla/tuna lunch when J suddenly bursts out: “I cannot figure out why all these people are hiking the PCT! It doesn’t seem like they’re here to see the scenery. Or at least not here to talk about it. We’re going to enter the Goat Rocks Wilderness today, one of the most spectacular parts of the PCT, and she’s going to give it the same amount of time as all that bullsh__ forest back there.”
When J’s rant is over, I only shrug. I have no idea why anyone else is doing this, and only vague ideas for myself. It’s true that PCT hikers spend far more time discussing the amount of miles than the qualilty of miles, but it would be a stretch to say we never talked about the cool bits. Even so, Happy Feet’s plan baffles me as well. I’ve been looking forward to Goat Rocks for a long time now. Every single conversation with locals in the town of Trout Lake included a statement about the awesomeness of Goat Rocks. Like the High Sierras, the alpine Cascades are a gift of the PCT. At least, that’s what I’ve heard.
After lunch the trail takes us out and around the Walupt Lake valley, with views to the south. The blueberry bushes catching direct sun are starting to turn orange and red. It’s starting to look like fall. The cool bite in the air reminds us to keep going if we want to get to Canada. We reach the next water source marked on Halfmile’s maps, the one that was supposed to be the first water source in fourteen miles (according to that stupid note yesterday), and by my count we’ve passed six ponds and three creeks. It’s my turn to rant – J shrugs back.
More trees, more blueberries. And then, Goat Rocks. Out of the green forest hallways we emerge to dark volcanic spires, talus slopes, snowfields, and stretching views! Snowmelt cascades down the mountainside. Glorious! There’s even a herd of mountain goats. Way to go, Goat Rocks. Nice job!
About two miles before we planned on stopping, we find ourselves in a quandary. There are beautiful campsites everywhere, with spectacular views. If we continue, will our views be as nice? What if we have to settle for a good view instead of a great one? What if we camp someplace that’s merely lovely, not amazing? Maybe we should just stop here, bask in the beauty. We hesitate at each possible home for the night, but it’s onward for us.
The site on Snowgrass Meadow isn’t quite as amazing as some of the places we passed… but it has a superb view of Mt Adams, which will do. (Strange how attached I feel to the volcanic peak – like a friend. Mountains as people. I wish I knew the old names for the mountain, so I could address it properly.) It also comes with company – a few PCTers and couple from Portland out for the weekend, and we join up for dinner. Heather, one half of the Portland couple, disappears for a few minutes then walks out of the trees holding two giant mushrooms. “Wait a minute,” J says excitedly. “Are you going to eat those?”
“They’re porcinis,” explains Heather. “They’re delicious.” And they are! I know, because they shared. We round up some olive oil and garlic between all of us and we all feast. Bounty of the mountain. J gets the tutorial on what to look for – apparently they are easy to find and identify (correctly). Maybe we’ll find out tomorrow!