From ridge above Spectacle Lake to Waptus River
At each of my three morning alarms I wake up, look outside the tarp at the exquisite morning light across the peaks, then go back to sleep. I’m feeling a bit off. Or possibly just lazy. Hard to say.
The golden dawn is gray and dull already by the time we are up. Downhill from here, I suppose, although only in the metaphorical sense. Plenty of hills to climb.
The clouds thicken above us as we descend into a section of forest, with trees so uniform and straight it makes me dizzy. There is water everywhere, cascading down hillsides, down mountainsides, across the trail. White snakes of it tail out of snowfields, visible only dimly through the low-hanging clouds. “So many waterfalls!” I observe.
“Yeah, that’s why they call this the cascades, you know,” J replies back snarkily.
“Oh, yeah? The cascades? That’s why they call this the cascades? Who woulda thunk!” I laugh back. Can’t really see as many cascades as I like today. Every once in the while the clouds drift high enough to realize that we’re hiking through some spectacular country, then they drift back in.
We’re eating lunch, getting dripped on, under the dripping trees, below the dripping sky, when Kentucky and Pigpen walk past. “Hey!” we greet them enthusiastically. “You guys are the first PCTers we’ve seen on this stretch.”
“Same with you guys,” Pigpen tells us. “Didn’t take the alternate?”
“No, we meant to but forgot to check where the turnoff was, totally missed it.”
“We wanted to hike this section, so here we are. Maybe we’ll see some other people when the trails join back up after today.”
“Yeah, it’s been really quiet out here.”
They walk on into the drizzling rain, and eventually we follow, then pass them about an hour later as they take their turn getting rained on while they eat. Uninspiring weather, this. Funny enough, I think I’ve taken as many photos as on a day when you could see things all day, simply because every single time I have a piece of a view I feel obliged to document it. Lakes below us shimmer in beaten metal hazes, soaking pine trees bracket the dull gray sky. My feet are wet. Old avanlanches down some of the cascades make for treacherous, bouldery walking. Today is like a dream, like the kind you have at night, not the the day-dream sort, with lots of blank gray spaces for my mind to wander, littered with scraps of fantastic things, never seen clearly.
We do a good day, a full twenty miles in soggy shoes, ending at the Waptus River. There is a PCT hiker camped there already, a guy named Blue, who I’ve actually never met before. At this point in the game, it’s a bit surprising to meet hikers I’ve never met before, or even heard of. I think the weather has him down a bit. By a bit, I mean he’s a bit of a crank. We set up next to him though, in a lovely flat campsite with a perfect two-tree pitch for the tarp. We string it high for lots of space to cook and do our evening chores underneath shelter. It’s going to be a wet night.