PCT Day 16 – the sky is falling

August 8
Miles hiked: 22.5
Total trip miles: 286.4

While we’re drinking coffee this morning, I watch the weather forecast on TV. The heat will be returning later in the week, but for today, there is a chance of showers! The weatherlady in Bend is psyched about this, because it’s been a long, dry spell. I watch the radar loop and see a big, bright blob headed right over the mountains. Oh well. It was inevitable, wasn’t it? Behind the blob things look okay, though. Not to worry.

Jim and Judi drop us at the pass and we say our goodbyes. We shoulder our newly heavy packs and we’re back on the trail. The pass is at PCT mile 1998.5, so pretty soon we see this:

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I imagine what it must feel like to see that after hiking so many miles. Maybe someday!

Again, we hike through a huge burned area. This fire was quite a while ago, and little trees have sprung up and are turning into bigger trees. This is the way of the wilderness. Destruction and renewal. Again I love the forms of the dead bodies left behind.

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As we hike, I watch the clouds build up around us. Maybe, I think, the rain will be further to the north. Or it will wait to fall until it leaves the mountains. We round a bend, over a kind of shoulder, and look back at this colorful mountain rising into the accumulating clouds:

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We stop for a break at lovely Rockpile Lake. There’s supposed to be a view of Mount Jefferson, but it’s shrouded in cloud.

I realize that this is the first day that I’ve been scanning the skies like I did last summer every day on the Colorado Trail. Up to now, it’s been all blue, all day, every day. A huge dark bank ahead of us has me worried. Sure enough, it starts to spit. We’d considered stopping at a campsite with views over to Mt Jefferson, but there’s no point doing that now. We keep walking and the rain intensifies. I pull out my umbrella, deeply satisfied it’s going to get another workout.

There’s no lightning, no wind. Just a steady drizzle. It’s kind of chilly—we’re wearing hats and mittens and rain jackets — but not so cold we need to stop yet. My umbrella works so well I feel like skipping. I’m staying so dry under here!

We see a trio of hikers wearing cuben fiber ponchos that cover their packs, and I make a note to myself: they are going to stay really dry, too. Our Marmot shells are supposedly breathable, and they have pit zips which I love, but their waterproofness has really deteriorated. Poor Marc is pretty soaked.

Finally, after the limited entry area where there were a couple of tempting but verboten lakes —don’t camp here unless you have a permit or want a fine! — we see the big tent site the app had indicated. It’s right smack next to the trail, which we don’t like that much, but it’s relatively dry. No puddles yet. We quickly set up the tent and park our packs against the trunk of a big tree whose branches have kept the dirt bone-dry.

A couple passes by in the other direction asking how far it is to the lake, and if all the campsites up there are full. Do you have a permit? I ask. Fuck the permit, he says, and cheers up when I tell him there’s no one else up there. Any rangers checking permits on a day like this have got to be either crazy or obsessed. Oh, that’s the same thing. Sorry.

We manage to cook dinner in a lull in the storm, squatting under our big tree, staying remarkably dry. During the night I wake up and notice there aren’t any drops falling on the tent. I peek out, but don’t see any stars. Come out, stars! I know the blob is gone! Bring back the blue!

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