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PCT day 10: ten up, ten down

We roll out of camp at ten this morning. I’m almost starting to enjoy my lazy mornings, sitting against a tree reading after I’m all packed up, waiting for Backup to be ready to go. We’ve got twenty miles on the docket for today: ten up and ten down, says Backup, who’s been perusing the topo.

The first few are more through than anything; we’re feeling more than seeing our way along the trail as we push through overgrown vegetation. Huckleberries and thimbleberries (sadly without ripe fruit) and what I think of as dinosaur plants, with huge leaves a foot or more across and stems and stalks covered in spikes. My calves are covered in bloody scratches. “What I wouldn’t give for a scree field to cross right about now,” I tell Backup.

Backup looks up at the hills above the valley we’re traveling along and almost comments on the fog before realizing it’s smoke — there’s a small fire up there. We can’t report it (no signal), but we’ll run into a few hikers headed to Stehekin and we’ll hear airplanes all day.

We also have our first real water crossing this morning. Seems like the weather in the winter here is pretty nuts; we’ve crossed some pretty mangled bridges and hiked more than a few sections of rerouted trail to new bridges. Here, the bridge is gone completely, but the water is wide and shallow, not over my knees at its deepest point. I go barefoot, maybe inadvisedly, and nearly slip once, but make it to the other side unscathed and mostly dry. Backup wears his waterproof socks and sandals, and when he gets to the other side he makes me touch the inside of his socks. “Completely dry!” He’s very excited. 

Finally we’re headed up, and up means alpine. We emerge in a bowl full of bear grass and heather, mountains rising up on every side. There’s even a scree field to cross, and in it, an adorable pika with a bundle of seed pods sticking out of its mouth. We hear the pikas’ high-pitched eeeeps until we head back into the woods. 

Later on the trail is smooth duff and the trees are big and tall and everything is covered in moss. Backup points to the stumps and logs with baby trees growing from them and says, “this is the most Pacific Northwest thing I’ve ever seen.”

The last few miles are tough, like they always are. We’re both sore and quiet and cranky, unwilling to stop for the food and water we really probably need. We get to our destination, a bridge over the roaring Suiattle River, and stress out about how to get to the tent site on the shore, then about how to filter the silty river water, then about the mice who keep trying to join our little dinner party. 

But now we’re nestled into our tent and the river is like a white noise machine, drowning out all the breaking twigs and creaking trees that might otherwise keep me up and anxious. Goodnight, dear blog.

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