Day 130: Rainy Pass

26.2 miles (2574.3 to 2600.5)

Wind picks up over night and drops hemlock needles over my tent. I try to sleep through it, and eventually succeed.

Today I face over 6,000 feet of climbing. My pack is so heavy. I hope to go at least 22 miles, but that may be asking too much.

The climb is long, but I’m pleasantly surprised to find the slope mostly mild. I average 2.3 miles per hour, including a few stops to communicate via the GPS unit. I fantasized about doing 14 miles before lunch, and it looks like I’ll be able to do that. Around 11 miles in, I come upon a Park Service employee. Mike informs me that the road to Harts Pass is closed as of last night.

I knew this would happen! This is a major problem. My cousin is supposed to pick me up at Harts Pass (30 miles from Canada). If I have to walk all the way back to Rainy Pass (60 miles from Canada), I’ll spend an extra one and a half days in the cold storm that’s coming. I don’t want to do that. I don’t know if I can stay warm. I don’t know if I’m carrying enough food for the extra days. I don’t know how much snow to expect. Will the trail become difficult to follow or slippery and dangerous? Should I end my hike today at Rainy Pass? In a way, it would be fitting to end my hike due to both fire and snow. If one of these wasn’t in the picture, I would be ok. The timing and presence of both make a safe finish almost impossible.

I arrive at Rainy Pass to find notices of the closure stapled to bulletin boards. There’s trail magic, too. Sarge, from Norway, hiked part of the trail this year and is here offering food and drink to thru hikers. I appreciate his generosity, but I’m so distracted by the road closure that I don’t talk much. What should I do? Sarge says he spoke with the ranger who posted the fire closure info. She told him they’re shuttling hikers out from Harts Pass. How long that will last, she didn’t say.

Well, I can get at least as far as Harts Pass. There, I may be able to talk to someone, or even get a ride out. If necessary, I have enough time (and enough food) to hike back to Rainy Pass from Harts Pass before the storm hits – but hiking to the border and back seems highly unlikely.

I walk on and make good time. I go over Cutthroat Pass and enjoy the views. The sky to the east is brown with smoke.

View north of Cutthroat Pass.

I keep walking, go down switchbacks, then climb again and go over Methow Pass. The pass was as far as I thought I could get today, but now I think I have a few more miles in me. I pass a marker for mile 2600, the first I’ve seen in a long time. Half a mile later, I find a small campsite near a small stream. I decide to stop even though an hour of daylight remains, and part of me screams that I’m wasting precious hiking time. But I need time to reassess my situation and get information from my family, if I can.

I spend a frustrating hour attempting to text with Greg. Finally he advises me to go forward. Help is likely at Harts Pass. I should find someone there who can at least answer questions. I may find a ride out, which I’ll take if conditions don’t look favorable for getting to the border and back.

Tonight, the temperature plummets. It’s really cold. Feeling this, I’m terrified of trying to survive two days of cold and wet. I don’t want to go through that – the fear or the misery. My hike has not gone as expected or hoped, but this is the hike I’ve been given. If I don’t get to see the monument, I’m going to be ok with that. If I hadn’t already missed so many miles, my reaction would be different. But this year, with my timing, a complete thru hike appears to be impossible.


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