PNT Day 25: Welcome to the Olympics

Today’s miles: 18.4

Total miles: 334.4

I am asleep by 7:30pm and sleep soundly except for waking in the wee hours to pull off my sleep hat and fleece gloves because I’m too warm. My watch beeps at 5am and even though I got more than nine hours of sleep, I delay getting up another whole hour. The rain stopped in the night, but I know that I have to put on my cold wet hiking clothes and I really don’t want to.

It’s not quite as terrible as I feared, and I’m back on trail a little before 7am. My belly grumbles: “We hiked 24 miles yesterday and you didn’t feed us a proper dinner!” I eat a bar while walking, and it settles down. I have relatively gentle trail for the first hour this morning, then some uphill as I approach the Silver Creek shelter, about 4.5 miles into my day. The morning feels long — though there are occasional tiny glimpses of blue sky or of the sun trying to burn through the fog, mostly everything is socked in and damp from last night’s rain.

Morning miles in the damp fog.

I finally cross a dirt road to a trailhead parking lot. Today is Saturday, and there are ten cars in the lot, suggesting I will see a number of weekenders along this next section. It’s pretty much eight miles of various steepnesses of uphill from here, so I drop my pack for a quick snack. Four overnighters drive up and we chat a little. They ask me about the PNT and my small pack; I ask them for the weather forecast. Cloudy and overcast today, 40% chance of rain tomorrow. Sigh. Maybe I’ll hike far enough to leave that rain in the east, behind me. I also meet another PNT hiker, Emily. I’d missed her and her boyfriend by half a day at the Happy House, the trail angels told me, and it’s kind of cool to have caught up to them. She’s having knee pain and taking a day off, so I’m unlikely to see them again.

Climbing time. The first 3+ miles are not too bad, and I soon reach Copper Creek, which is ringed by many tents. I filter water and have a real lunch here, then get back to it. Another few miles brings me up to the junction for Buckhorn Lake camp, and the start of the switchbacks to Marmot Pass. Here we go. I’d been kind of dreading this part, and I’m surprised to find that it doesn’t feel too bad. It helps that the sun comes out a bit and I can get a few views here and there. I pass a solo weekender who chats with me for a few minutes. His weather forecast says sun tomorrow. I’m not sure what to expect now. We commiserate about last night’s rain. “Welcome to the Olympics,” he says. I guess so.

Climbing.

The final switchbacks up Marmot Pass feel totally fine. I’m working, but not exhausted. I feel proud of—and a little in awe of—the ways my body has adapted over these past few weeks. At the top I pass a trail crew and thank them, then find a place to sit for a snack. The sun fully beats down on me for a few precious minutes here, and it feels like a miracle. The clouds are breaking up enough to offer some views of the mountains, and I can tell how epic it is here.

Clouds breaking up, view from Marmot Pass.

There’s a quasi-ridgewalk for a while, gently down to the official Marmot Pass marker. I laugh when I check the past hiker notes on my app. The most frequent waypoint comments in the app address water sources: “Good flow,” “just a trickle,” etc. One of the notes for Marmot Pass reads, “Good marmot source, flowing well.” (Sadly I don’t see any marmots here myself.)

I continue downhill to the small stream near Boulder Shelter, where I filter water and put my dinner in to soak. About three miles left. I’m feeling tired and ready to camp. In another mile I officially enter Olympic National Park. The trail turns rocky and slows me down. I see some furry animal ahead, approximately marmot-sized but not a marmot, struggling to get into the undergrowth while carrying a truly giant leafy plant in its mouth. Failing that, it starts up the trail toward me, the leafy vegetation in its jaws blocking its view. “Hey don’t come this way,” I caution, waving my trekking poles a little. It finally sees me, and I can almost see little exclamation marks appear in the air over its head, it seems so surprised. It hurries off-trail into a bush, still hanging onto that big plant. I’m not sure what sort of animal it is — not one I’ve ever seen before.

A waterfall runs through the trail and I get one foot quite wet, which is preferable to falling down a waterfall. I cross a wide boulder field. At the end of it, my last climb of the day: the first mile up Constance Pass. It’s tough. My whole posterior chain is outraged: “but we’ve already climbed so much today! And yesterday!” I’m annoyed that my previously dry-ish clothes are now soaked in sweat, right before reaching camp.

Overcast afternoon.

The fog has completely set in when I crest the hill to Home Lake camp. A few people who are already set up here joke, “Just in time for the views!” It’s so socked in I can’t even see the lake, which is literally right next to us. There’s only one tent site left, and the others tell me that one side of it, a shallow depression, filled up with rainwater last night. Cool, cool. I pitch my tent on a small bump above the depression, hoping first that it won’t rain and second that if it does, the water will run down away from my tent.

It’s cold, and I eat and do my nightly hygiene things quickly, ducking into my tent around 5:20pm. Nothing feels better than getting into my warm dry sleep clothes and tucking my quilt around me. I’m glad to have all evening to rest and warm up, and glad to have only 15 miles ahead of me tomorrow. Here’s hoping for sun.


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