PNT Day 26: Sunshine

Today’s miles: 15.3

Total miles: 349.7

I don’t sleep well at Home Lake. There are too many people, and at least one person snores all night, and I’m fretting about the weather. When my watch beeps at 5am I realize how cold it is, a damp wet cold that comes from having basically camped in a cloud all night. I doze fitfully, then lie awake dreading the cold wet morning, and finally force myself to get going. It’s still very cold. The entire footbox of my quilt is wet and I am dismayed. My hiking clothes are cold and damp and I’m just really not psyched about hiking today. Finally I unzip the tent door and see blue sky. No fog. I can see the sun just beginning to break over the top of the mountain. My mood lifts immediately.

Home Lake in the grey morning light. This shot is taken from my tentsite; the night before, I literally could not see the lake at all from here because of thick fog.

I still have to pack up my cold wet tent, though. After weakly attempting to shake the water off and then rolling it up, my hands are so cold that they hurt. I stand around alternating one in a pocket and the other holding my breakfast bar, stamping my feet to warm up. Finally, time to hike. It’s just before 8am, ridiculously late.

The trail rudely goes straight up right away. I’m finishing my climb over Constance Pass this morning. It’s steep. I wear my rain jacket and some light wind-resistant mittens for warmth until the climb helps my circulation get going. After half a mile or so I reach the sign for Constance Pass, but nearly another full mile of climbing awaits me. I reach the sun and it is glorious. I bask. I love you, sun. I’m warm now, and my clothes are dry, but even better, I have views! I am honestly a bit overwhelmed here: relief that the sun has returned, pride that I made it here, and sheer awe at the scope of these mountains.

Partway up the climb, looking back.
Views from Constance Pass.

The rest of the climb takes me a long time, partly because it’s very steep and partly because I keep stopping to look around me and take it all in. At the top there’s a short ridgewalk (my favorite) before the long sharp descent begins. By the time I’ve finished, I will have lost about 4,300 feet of elevation in just over three miles. There is one slightly confusing section where the trail actually merges with a rocky stream, and then the stream branches into several streams, and I’m not sure which to follow. Otherwise it’s just a whole lot of switchbacks down. In the end, my knees don’t complain as much as I thought they might, but my quads are quite tired.

Ridgewalking time.
Coming down the other side.

I take a hard right turn onto the Dosewallips River Trail, which I’ll follow for the rest of the day. The elevation profile shows it as a rolling, fairly gentle uphill on the way to Hayden Pass (which I’ll climb tomorrow), and I hope it feels as gradual as it looks. I zip along for a few miles, crossing many streams in the forest, and take a lunch break right after Burdick Creek. This must have been an official campsite at one time, as there’s bear wire here and a few tree stumps for chairs.

Waterfall on the Dosewallips Trail.

The sun is still shining, the sky is still blue. I try to hurry along, eager to dry out my tent and quilt at camp. I pass a few more campsites and a pair of hikers headed for Greywolf Pass. At Deception Creek camp, the trail takes me right by the privy, which looks to be newly built. I can’t pass up a brand new privy right next to the trail, and make a brief stop. After this, there are many small muddy streams to navigate (not the first time, I’m grateful for my wet muddy hiking experience at Dolly Sods earlier this summer!) and some rocky overgrown sections, but nothing even close to the overgrown trail I hiked in the North Cascades.

By 4pm I arrive at Dose Meadows, my campsite. I find a tent spot uphill from the river. The big trees I’m camped under should reduce condensation on my tent in the night; I close the door on the river side and leave the other one open for air flow. I’m getting faster at putting my tent up fly first and then attaching the inner, but I dislike having to carry the wet fly on the outside of my pack because it’s heavy (with water) and throws off my pack’s balance. I would rather just keep both pieces of the tent together, so I really hope it will dry out tonight.

I take my quilt over to an open area to dry. Unfortunately the sun is now hidden by big clouds, but the breeze seems to help the quilt anyway. For the first time on this entire trip, I put on my puffy jacket. Until now it has just been an expensive pillow. But it’s chilly tonight! I eat ramen for dinner, do all my camp chores, and am in the tent by 6pm. Big miles ahead tomorrow, but not too many of them are climbing.

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