Total Miles: 2461.6
If we weren’t climbing, we were descending. That sounds obvious enough, but there are many days on the PCT where at least a few miles are reasonably level with little to no elevation gain or loss. Today was not one of them. With nearly 20 miles to make to pick up the next resupply before 5pm, it was another early start that promptly wasted little time heading up the first of several climbs. Once at the top, it was only a few feet over a narrow ridge before an immediate descent. That was the pattern of the day. Just over the crest of the first of these climbs was our first view of Glacier Peak.
It was another perfectly sunny day, one where the shaded side of a mountain was cold enough to merit a winter hat and a warm jacket while the sunny side was perfectly comfortable in only a short sleeve shirt. The palette of colors was stunning in the particularly open slopes high on the side of the mountains we traversed: yellow- and red-leaved low bush blueberries were a dramatic contrast to the evergreens that sparsely dotted large chunks of granite, all beneath an azure blue sky.
Somewhere late in the morning, we dipped below the 200-miles-to-go mark. It went almost unnoticed, lost among the scenery and our focus on making it to Stevens Pass in time to pick up our resupply boxes. When I realized that we’d passed by this point, I thought to myself how quickly this last stretch of trail will zoom by. Only ten days of trail remain, and when the last of those days slowly dissolves I know that I’ll look back and wonder where the time went.
Up and over the last climb of the day, the trail was wending its way back and forth in a pattern of switchbacks first up the backside of Stevens Pass ski area and then down its front side. All along the way, I marveled at how the trail took a course that was completely unknown to me despite Emily and I having skied here for two seasons several years ago. I smiled as I passed by several places in the trees that I’d grown fond of skiing back then, all without ever knowing I was skiing across the PCT.
The day finished with an unexpected surprise: Coppertone’s closing act of trail magic. In the final steps of the descent before reaching the base of the ski area, there was his familiar blue plate one last time pointing in the direction of where he’d setup shop in the parking lot. It was both great to see him one final time and sad to know that it was the last time we’d see this friendly and familiar face who’s been a constant, kind, and generous presence for over 2000 miles.
Tomorrow, it’s on toward the final resupply of the trail five days from now in Stehekin. For tonight, it’s cowboy camping on the patio of the ski area, looking up at a star-filled sky.