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PCT day 7: forests and ridges and lakes (oh my)

I wake up at 3:30am and have to pee. I know I’m not going to be able to fall back to sleep until I do, but I procrastinate for an hour anyway, reading Ancillary Sword, and then I face the darkness outside the tent. I fall back asleep around 5, and wake up again at 7.

The mosquitos are already hounding me while I dig my morning cat hole, so when I finish that I grab my bear bag and bring it into the tent with me. I’ll have a bar for breakfast; I don’t want to cook outside. I slowly pack up while I read some more of my book, and then I unexpectedly reach the end. Well, good thing I downloaded this one and the last in the trilogy while I was in Trout Lake.

I finish packing up (tent on top, packed last, ready to flee the mosquitos), spray my arms and legs with bug spray, and take off. I cross Mosquito Creek, then reach a road with a little kiosk and a hiker logbook. I sign it: “Stacia ‘Fledgling’ — sobo section — but maybe you should just call me Itchy. Ahhh!”

More forest. This section would probably be more peaceful and less boring if it weren’t for the mosquitos.

The forest gives way briefly to meadow, and I pass a dirt road (there’s even a single car parked nearby) and a wilderness permit kiosk. Then back to the woods.

I take the Sawtooth Mountain Trail, a little alternate that parallels the PCT for a mile and a half or so, hoping for a break from the endless forest hiking. Mostly it’s still forest, just with climbing, too, but I do get some nice views of Adams, Saint Helens, Rainier, and even Hood peeking over the top of a hill. I also find a breezy spot (fewer mosquitos) and a tiny bit of cell phone signal.

Then — back into the woods. I pass through a short section of new burn, from a small fire last fall. I pass by a few pretty (and buggy) lakes. I climb down a steep access trail to one of them to fill up on water — I’ve actually almost run out. North of Trout Lake, there were streams everywhere, but I think I’ll have to pay a little more attention to water sources in this section.

I walk and walk and walk and walk. I spray my arms with bug spray several times, and worry a little about emptying my small bottle of it before I get to Cascade Locks. This morning I put my earbuds in my fanny pack, and eventually in the afternoon I put one earbud in and listen to some podcasts to pass the time and distract myself from my sore, tired feet while I walk and walk and walk and walk. This is what I came here for. To walk!

The trail follows a ridge for a while, with lovely peekaboo views of Mount Hood and Mount Saint Helens. Then it dips back into the forest. I walk. I exchange nods with determined-looking nobo thru-hikers, and I chat with section hikers.

I fill up my bottles one more time at Sheep Lake (how many Sheep Lakes are there in Washington? There are at least four just on the PCT) and then walk a few more miles to a dirt road and what passes for luxury out here: an established (free) campground with a pit toilet! Two nobo section hikers introduce themselves with their trail names, and I use mine too. They tell me the mosquitos south of here are not a big deal. Honestly, they weren’t so bad today either. Things are looking up. 21 miles today, and I have the butt chafe to prove it. Whew.

I pitch my tent and start to cook dinner. After just a minute, though, my stove sputters and goes out. I let it cool, disconnect it, and shake the gas canister. The store in Trout Lake hadn’t had isobutane, just a butane/propane mix, but I figured it would work okay. Guess not. I try a couple more times, but the stove just sputters and then goes out again.

I ask the nobo section hikers if they have any fuel to spare, and they let me boil some water on their Whisperlite. I eat, then crawl into my tent and poke at my weary body.

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