Day 174: The Washington Rains Continue
Monday, September 10, 2018 7:18 pm
Location: Dishpan Gap (2495.2 miles)

The weather today was dreary and wet, a soggy trek through the mountains as we made our way north. With just over 21 miles today, we remain on our schedule to reach Stehekin on Friday, making up a tiny bit for the short day yesterday.

It rained intermittently overnight, starting shortly after bedtime, which normally shouldn’t have been a problem. My tent, of course, found a way to make it a problem. A few days ago, I taped up one guyline attachment that was leaking; last night, the other one started a slow leak, with some water oozing in from outside, but more from condensation on the roof running down and dripping off the tension cord and landing on our sleeping bags. With most of the water seeming to come from inside, trying to patch the leak from the outside didn’t seem like an immediate necessity, so I just spread my rain jacket over the foot of our sleeping bags to keep the water off.

That worked for a while, until I realized that the roof was leaking as well. With two people in the tent, there was no way to divert the water like I did the first time it rained a couple of weeks ago. Fortunately, CareFree had an excellent idea: drape her tent’s ground sheet over my tent. With water not being able to get to the leaky tent roof (and as a bonus, the guyline attachments), water stopped entering my tent, and the rest of the night was dry (apart from the humidity in the air).

With the short day yesterday, CareFree and I had our alarm for this morning set for 5 am, and once we got up, managed to get packed up and on the trail in about an hour and a half. The sky was overcast, with occasional fog, as we made our way uphill.

The PCT, almost by definition, does everything it can to avoid summiting mountains. Today, however, the trail came the closest it ever has to a summit. Around 8:50, the trail passed only a few hundred feet away from Grizzly Peak. Naturally, with the very short detour, we visited the summit, though with the clouds, there wasn’t much of a view there.

Grizzly Peak
Grizzly Peak

The sky cleared a bit on the way to Grizzly Peak, but then fogged up again going down into valley on the other side of the mountain, and a light drizzle started to fall. From the peak, it was a few steep miles downhill to a campsite, where we stopped for a break.

From the campsite, the trail headed uphill again, steeply climbing up to, and around, Pear Lake, mostly staying in the forest, except for a roughly half mile exposed section through rocky ground. In the distance, a small patch of forest lit up with sunlight that refused to cut through the clouds and shine on us.

Shortly before noon, we passed a makeshift shelter next to the trail. Constructed of a tangle of tree branches and propped up with a few large pieces of wood, it was large enough to fit one, maybe two people, and while it did offer some shelter, it was very rickety, and probably wouldn’t have kept anyone actually dry in a serious rainstorm.

A rain “shelter” made of fallen debris. CareFree for scale.

About 15 minutes later, we reached a new milestone: 4,000 km. And, in a first for kilometer markers, there were two of them on the trail. With less than 170 miles to go, this will most likely be the last kilometer marker; we’ll pass the 2500 mile marker tomorrow, and the 2600 mile marker next week.

Around 12:30, almost 13 miles in, we reached a campsite near a small creek. Given the rain we’d already gotten, and the clouds in the sky, and the weather forecast, I was a bit concerned about the chances of it continuing to rain throughout the rest of the day. So, with a break in the clouds, we decided to stop there for “dinner”, and for a while, this seemed a good decision.

The clouds stayed away long enough for CareFree to drape her wet tent pieces and her sleeping bag over bushes and tree branches for them to dry out in what little sun there was, and for both of us to collect water from the creek. It wasn’t long before the clouds returned, covering the sun, and a very light rain fell on and off for the two hours we were there. We really wanted to be able to dry out CareFree’s sleeping bag, since wet sleeping bags don’t provide a lot of warmth, and they’re heavy as well, so we were disappointed that the light rain was just nuisance enough to prevent that.

For most of the rest of the day, there was a light rain falling, and the clouds put a damper on the views. Every so often, the clouds would part in the distance and a glimmer of sunshine on the nearby hills brought false hope that maybe, this time, the rain would stop. A rainbow appeared in the distant mist, but did nothing to bring an end to the rain.

A rainbow in the distance shows that the sun isn’t shining on us.

With the exception of a short stop at a campsite with a very rudimentary pit toilet, we hiked the rest of the day without breaks. A two miles past the campsite brought us back out of the forest, and the rest of the day was exposed. The rain, while light, was miserable, and stopping would only make us wetter.

Around 6 pm, we arrived at Lake Sally Ann, a beautiful lake that would have looked even better in the sunlight. Crystal clear, large rocks covered its floor, and a small network of trails led to several campsites, some of which were closed for restoration. With it still raining, and a few more campsite options over the next few miles, we opted to continue on. About half a mile later, we reached a trail junction with a campsite a short distance off-trail. We were thinking of stopping there, but the rain picked up even more, and we kept going.

Lake Sally Ann
Lake Sally Ann

Another three quarters of a mile up the perfect specimen of a switchback brought us to an exposed clearing with space for tents. With it still raining, we didn’t want to tent in the open, so we pushed on, reaching Dishpan Gap a little before 7. While it wasn’t the most optimal campsite, there at least was a tree we could pitch my tent under.

Of course, the rain stopped shortly after we got my tent up, but we weren’t going to take any chances. We draped CareFree’s rain fly over my tent, a large, ridiculously-looking floppy hat that, regardless of how silly it looked, we hoped would keep any further rain out.

The rest of the evening was cold, wet, and humid, and we huddled in our sleeping bags, splitting a cup of hot tea to help warm us up.