PCT Day 144 – Monday September 4
Mile 2152.7 to Mile 2169.9
PCT Miles Hiked Today: 17.2
Total PCT Miles Hiked: 1608.1
Feet Ascended Today: 4394
Feet Descended Today: 3441
Current Elevation: 2972
I hiked fewer miles than planned today. Washington’s terrain has a more difficult elevation profile than Oregon’s, which will take a bit of getting used to. Also, I had just taken a couple of days off. It always takes me a few days to find my mojo on trail after a break.
It was overcast today with clouds and smoke from nearby fires blocking the sun. Despite the overcast skies, the day was hot and a little muggy. The trail wound through mossy green lowland forests, climbing up and down ridges and valleys. The sun was a deep orange-red color for the first couple of hours after sunrise due to the forest fires. Spooky.
I ran into Giggles and Bearcan during my morning break and hung out with them for a while. They hiked through the Sierras with Sunkist and Halfway and, although I didn’t know them very well, I felt like we were friends by proxy. I also knew Giggles from the Sea Biscuit vs Sea Biscuit Foosball Death Match (you can read more about the foosball tournament here).
The rest of the day was relatively uneventful. The sky grew darker and darker from gray clouds that drifted in from the south. I met another hiker named Picante at a creek who was equally wary of the ominous weather. We speculated about the gray skies as we filtered water. Neither of us had cell reception so we had no way to find out more details about our situation, other than what we could see with our eyeballs.
I eventually camped on an unused forest service road. The weather confused me – I couldn’t tell if the haze was from smoke or from rain clouds. So I put up my rainfly just in case. The rainfly blocked any breezes from blowing through my tent and I sweated in the stagnant air.
So much of the trail is closed right now due to wildfire that it’s really discouraging. I’ve already had to exit the PCT multiple times to avoid sections that are actively on fire. And I have two more wildfires ahead of me in Washington state to navigate around. I really want to hike as much of the PCT as possible this year, but I feel like I’m missing out on part of the experience. Smoke from wildfires is decreasing visibility so that I’m not able to fully enjoy the views and also decreasing air quality to the point that I’m worried for my health. I resolved that if one more fire broke out, I was out of here. I haven’t hiked the Sierras yet – I’ve been planning to save the Sierras for another year – but there is no reason why I couldn’t go down and hike them now.
I eventually drifted off to sleep, feeling vaguely uneasy.