PNT Day 8: Ross Lake Resupply

Today’s miles: 8.5

Total miles: 69.8

I have a few false starts in my attempt to sleep, jolted awake by a stray lightning flash or by my own residual nerves, but then around 2am I awaken to a perfectly calm night, just the low rush of Thunder Creek nearby. At 5:30 I’m packing up, and see no evidence that it rained. The air is cool but heavy. It’s my resupply day.

I hike wide, easy trail toward the car campground, wondering what is in store for me this morning. On my original route (well, Plan B, anyway — Plan A was pre-wildfires), I would have been on trail the whole way to Ross Lake. But because I took time off to recover from the heat, I’m now on Plan C. This route spits me out on Highway 20, which is then my connector to the Ross Lake Dam trailhead. I consider how to negotiate these upcoming several miles of road.

Thunder Creek just at dawn

At the car campground, I’m overwhelmed by all the vehicles, buildings, lights, even an old ampitheater. Most people are still asleep in huge towering tents. I make my way through the maze to the main parking lot, where one person is packing up an SUV. “Excuse me, is the main road just ahead up there?” I know very well that the road is there, but I’m hoping my question will indicate to her that I need a ride. She doesn’t take the hint, so I thank her and walk on. The shoulder is not too terribly narrow, but there are some close turns, and the road is a long gradual uphill. Traffic is sparse, but I put out my thumb for each car. Nothing. I approach the vista point for Lake Diablo and decide I’ll stop there to eat and maybe charm myself a ride in the parking area. One more car approaches, passes me, then puts on brake lights. They back up until they reach me. “Hiking the PCT?” asks the driver, who looks vaguely like Anthony Bourdain. “No, the pee-ENN-tee,” I say, as I have said a hundred times since first arriving in Stehekin. He and the passenger are both hikers and climbers, which is lucky for me. With the windows down, I tell them about my trip so far, they give me some weather updates (rain in a few days), and we’re at my trailhead. Only a few minutes by car, but an uncomfortable, twisty, uphill pavement-pounder by foot. I thank them several times.

Lake Diablo

Now it’s downhill about a mile. On the way, I get my first view of Ross Lake and its dam (which created the lake). I feel something big unfold inside of me: this is where I’ll finally step onto the PNT, after so much rerouting and hard work to get here. It is a huge accomplishment to be here at this lake.

I cross the dam and make myself dizzy by looking over the edge. On the other side, more well-groomed trail leads up and along the lakeside. I watch a large owl glide silently through the air and settle on a branch, turning its head to stare down at me. It’s not even 9am when I reach the side trail to the resort. Though I’ve read that the resort is hiker friendly and a good place to take a break, I don’t want to overstay my welcome — I need to be here at 3:30 when Cyn gets off work so we can finally actually text. I find a good sitting rock at the junction and settle in with my novel for a few hours.

Crossing the Ross Lake Dam
View west from the dam

When I finally hike down to the resort, I see that I needn’t have worried — first because the folks here seem fine for hikers to sit outside as long as we want, and second because the wifi is down. I’m incredibly disappointed. I do meet two other PNT hikers here, though: Sketchy and Veg, who are hiking eastbound. They’re super nice and we spend a few hours chatting in the shade. They have a lot of trail info for me, including that the PNT is still open south of that new fire. They noticed the smoke, but didn’t find it to be terrible. I know wind could change the smoke severity for the worse, but rain and lower temps are predicted for Friday, when I’ll be hiking that stretch, so I decide to go for it.

Ross Lake Resort is a tiny collection of cabins on floating docks, clustered on the southwest edge of the lake and accessible only by boat (or hiking). It also holds resupply boxes for PNT hikers, for a small fee. I sort my food, drink the apple juice pouches I put in my box (I am a genius), charge my external battery, and study my maps. I still feel really sad that I can’t text Cyn. Sketchy tells me there’s good service near the Mt Baker ski lodge, so maybe this weekend when I hit that area…

Sketchy and Veg head eastward, leaving me to huddle in the shade alone, pitifully trying the wifi every twenty minutes. When I finally accept that it’s just not gonna happen, it’s time to hike. I’ve got just five miles or so to camp, which is nice since my pack is now loaded down with six days of food. Most of the way is shaded, sometimes under such thick forest that it looks like night is falling even though it’s 4pm in the summer. I have a few nice views of the lake but mostly just wind my way through the woods at a good clip. At Pumpkin Mountain camp, none of the tent sites appeal. The one that’s actually lakeside is tiny and sloped, and the ones under the trees are studded with tree root nubs and sloped. I do what I can with my best option and resign myself to sleeping on a slant tonight. I eat dinner on the beach and watch a large blue crane take flight. I have small new blisters on the tips of some toes, which is annoying. My PNT-specific GPS app stopped working as soon as I left Ross Lake Resort, which is very frustrating, as this is the first day I could have used it! Also because it has notes from past hikers that would’ve been helpful. (Side note: this is the third hiking trip wherein this app has stopped working for no reason. Which is why I always bring paper maps—and on this trip, also have a back-up GPS app.) I sit in my tent reading the trail guide e-book on my phone and poring over my paper maps until bedtime.

Afternoon with the trees

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