Day 131: Harts Pass

27.1 miles (2600.5 to 2627.6)

Frost twinkles in my headlamp beam. The thermometer on my backpack reads 32. I hike in my rain gear to keep warm. The first four miles are downhill, and I’m not generating much heat. I walk through frosty meadows and cold forest. I haven’t been this cold in a long time. Thankfully, the sun finally rises high enough to touch me. I immediately take off layers until I’m wearing my regular hiking clothes once more.

As I hike, I text Greg. He tells me that someone with USFS is stationed at Harts Pass, and the Forest Service will shuttle hikers out from the pass as long as the road remains closed. That’s great news. I soon pass a SOBO who confirms that there’s someone stationed at Harts Pass. She was offered a ride out, so the hiker shuttle is definitely operational. I have a real chance of reaching Canada.

I arrive at Brush Creek and meet Sky, an Israeli hiker, who advises me that we now face a 13-mile dry stretch. Wow. I hadn’t yet consulted the app. Thirteen miles is a long dry stretch in Washington. I fill up for the long climb and take off after him. The climb is a little more than 3,000 feet, which doesn’t seem so bad. I climb through rock fields and forest. I pass through Glacier Pass and keep climbing. Now the climb get serious. The trail switchbacks steeply up the side of a mountain. I see hikers above me. The mountainside is so steep that the others are directly above me in something that feels like an Escher scene.

In the corner of a steep switchback.

All morning I’ve had sudden, infrequent, and severe stabbing pain in my right abdomen. I worry about appendicitis. What else causes pain like this? Am I going to have to leave the trail at Harts Pass after all?

At last I reach the top of the switchbacks. I stop for a short break, my first of the day, then continue on. Last night, I made myself an ambitious schedule. If I can stick to it, I can reach Canada and return to Harts Pass and only hike in one day of the in-coming storm (Sunday). I’ll need to push hard to achieve this.

Distant peaks fade, then disappear behind smoke from the Diamond Creek Fire. Winds must have shifted. The sky is turning brown.

I reach Harts Pass at 3:30. A group of hikers sits in a cluster on the side of the dirt road. “Eowyn!” comes a shout from the circle. It’s Rooster. The speed demon has already been to the border and back. He encourages me to go for it. I tell him I’m worried about the storm. I’m not fast; I’ll get caught in the storm before I can make it back here. I walk up to the cabin and speak with the ranger. She confirms that someone will give rides out from the pass as long as the road is closed. If it rains as expected, the road may reopen on Monday.

I decide to try for the border. My ambitious schedule calls for eight more miles tonight. I walk as fast as I can.

Smoke from Diamond Creek Fire.

The terrain is relatively easy – no steep ups or downs. I make good time and arrive at my intended campsite at 6:30. I have enough daylight to do a little more, but I decide to stay put. I don’t want to wear myself out today. Tomorrow will be the day to push as hard as I can to reach the border and get as far back to Harts Pass as I can before dark, before Sunday’s storm hits.


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