Day 165: An Unexpected Tent Guest
Saturday, September 1, 2018 5:31 pm
Location: Campsite 2354.2 (2354.2 miles)

It was cold and humid overnight, with a constant wind. Fortunately, I continued to be dry in my tent, and warm in my sleeping bag. Well, not completely dry; the water bladder in my pack leaked again, but at least the water was coming from inside my tent and not outside, and it only got the floor of my tent wet.

Once I made it out of my tent, I discovered that I had forgotten to bring in my tent bag last night: I had set it on a tree yesterday to dry out, and then forgot bring it in when I got in my tent. It blew off the tree, but got caught on the corner of my tent, keeping it from blowing away. (This was quite fortunate, since one of the things I put in my bounce box in Packwood was my extra tent bag, and I don’t want to have my tent loose in my pack.)

Unsurprisingly from the clouds that were starting to blow in last night, it was foggy and cold this morning, though once I finished packing and resumed hiking, it started to warm up a bit, and it wasn’t long before the trail entered the burn area I didn’t want to camp in last night. With the morning fog, it was somewhat spooky. For a short stretch, the trail passed a steep, barren hillside, which showed evidence of large landslides. I couldn’t tell if that was a result of last year’s fire, or something that existed before.

But, as with all burn areas, life eventually returns, and this is most evident along waterways. Bright green swaths of plants flanked a small creek in the middle of the burn.

After about six miles, I took a very short break at a trail junction. By there, unburnt forest resumed, though it was still foggy and soggy out.

Another four miles up the trail, I stopped for a break at the Mike Urich Cabin, a cabin built and maintained by a local snowmobile group and located in the curiously-named Government Meadow. To the left of the door, on the front porch, a two-seat couch sat, its upholstery somewhat faded and worn by the elements. The front entrance was decorated with a hodgepodge of signs; one dedicating “Camp Mike Urich” in his memory; one above the door, admonishing visitors not to carve on or deface the cabin; a map of the nearby snowmobile trails; a sign warning that a sufficient depth of snow is required to use snowmobiles in the meadow; and a sign calling it the “Government Meadows Cabin”, indicating it was built in 1992 by the Snojammers Snowmobile Club. One last sign contained a poem:

The mountain gods from seats on high
rejoiced to see Mike Urich die

And at his death gave this decree
“To all who pass here, know that we
entrust to big Mike Urich’s hands
these camps, these trails, these forest lands
to rule, protect, to love and scan
well as he did while mortal man.
And deal out sentence stern and just
on those who violate his trust”

Stranger, beware, leave not a fire -
foul not Mike’s camp, rouse not his ire!

I got water from the nearby creek, and made myself comfortable as I filtered it in the cabin. The fairly spacious interior of the cabin had a picnic table, a wood stove, and a loft area upstairs that could sleep a fair number of hikers.

Although there was no one else at the cabin when I arrived, that very quickly changed. A few other PCT hikers showed up as I was starting to cook a very early dinner, and a large group of people — I think from the snowmobile club that maintains the cabin — arrived (likely on the nearby road) and talked around the large fire pit in front of the cabin for awhile.

Among the hikers were Good Karma, from Germany, who was one of the two hikers that helped out Quoi when she was being stalked by a mountain lion, and CareFree, also from Germany; she joined me inside the cabin for lunch.

After a roughly two hour break at the cabin, during which time CareFree and I swapped trail stories, it was time to move on, and we decided to hike out together. While it was still cloudy, the sky had started to clear, and over the next few hours, the clouds decreased, pushed away by the breeze that started to pick up. With the sun able to come out, it started to warm up.

Government Meadow
Government Meadow

CareFree and I set out, heading back into the forest. After a few miles, as the forest thinned, we caught up with Good Karma, who had left the cabin earlier than us, but was slowed down collecting blueberries along the side of the trail. After we passed, he followed us, hiking with us for the remainder of the day.

As the trail wound its way along the ridge, curving eastward, we crossed several dirt roads. It was the highest concentration of road crossings in quite some time; I think the last time there were this many roads, it was the tangled network of forest service roads surrounding the California-Oregon border.

Seven miles from the cabin, a little after 4, we stopped for a break at a dirt road crossing near a few campsites. That dirt road intersected with another, more substantial road that the trail briefly paralleled, which had a great viewpoint overlooking a cliff. To the north, rugged mountains filled the landscape as far as the eye could see, with several rugged snow-capped mountains off near the horizon. We’ll be hiking in that general direction, so it’ll be great to see those mountains come closer and closer. A cell tower (or, what we assumed was a cell tower) actually visible on off in the distance provided reception, which we figured would likely assume extend into tomorrow. This would be quite useful, since I’m running later than I had planned as far as getting to Snoqualmie Pass, and it’d be good to give my cousin an updated ETA.

The three of us sat between the road and the cliff for a while, eating snacks and taking in the view. Several vehicles passed by on the road, including one that stopped to give us a can of root beer and two bottles of water. As the afternoon slipped away and the wind picked up, it became cooler, and as a few other hikers passed us, CareFree and I decided that we didn’t really want to keep hiking in the cold that that we’d stop here. Good Karma apparently made a similar decision; he had gone to set up his tent while we were still taking in the view.

CareFree and I had been getting along pretty well so far, and with it getting cold and windy, I half-seriously suggested that we should share a tent, because that would be warmer. She said yes, and so, for the first time ever, I’m putting a second person inside my two-person tent, rather than my pack. (Our packs are outside, under the vestibules, so they’re at least covered.)

After setting up my tent, we returned to the dirt road for dinner, following it uphill slightly so that we could sit in the sun, where it was noticeably warmer than in the shade. Good Karma joined us, though we weren’t there for all that long; with the sun quickly setting, it wasn’t long before we were in the shade again, and we all quickly returned to our tents and sleeping bags so as not to be cold.