"Thanks!" We offer, "The footbridge is out at Lemah Creek, but there is an easy crossing on a log just downstream."
And so a typical conversation might go with other hikers we passed, as Max and I made our way for six days down the trail. In the backcountry with no phones or internet, old-fashioned word of mouth was our most valuable communication tool. We had detailed maps, but of course a map cannot tell you that it's been a dry year and a certain creek isn't running right now, or how murky the glacial tarns might be looking, or whether people are already at a certain campsite.
There are several hundred people per year that hike the Pacific Crest Trail in its entirety, through the mountains from Mexico to Canada. They typically leave in April, with the faster ones just now getting into the central and northern Cascades of Washington state. When Max and I decided a couple months ago to backpack the section of the Pacific Crest Trail from Snoqualmie Pass to Steven's Pass, we didn't think of ourselves as "section hikers". We had just heard that it was a beautiful section of trail, and happened to be a distance (74 miles) that we wanted to do. But as the days went on and we met other hikers doing anywhere from dozens to hundreds to thousands of miles, we realized that we too were a small part of that big community.
Since most hikers are coming from the south, they naturally go from Snoqualmie Pass to Steven's Pass, known as Section J of the PCT. However, we decided to start at Steven's instead, partly to go against the grain, and partly to finish closer to Seattle in case anything were to go wrong. This ended up working out great for us. It was fun to pass so many thru-hikers and section-hikers, and get an idea of who was doing the trail.
We met local residents, hikers from around the U.S., Europeans, couples, solo hikers, friends, and parent-child duos. We passed a total of 117 backpackers, or approximately 20 per day. I wouldn't exactly call the trail busy, but it is definitely well-used this time of year as it is late enough that the snow has melted, but early enough that it's still warm and dry. We were lucky to get really nice weather the whole time, a mix of sunny and partial clouds, and only one night of rain.
Okay, pictures! Here's what we did each day...
Day 1: Steven's Pass to Trap Pass
Even though you start the hike walking under the chair lifts of ski resort, it's only a few miles until you feel worlds away.
The trail is in the Alpine Lakes Wilderness, and true to its name, you pass many alpine and sub-alpine lakes of various sizes. Here is Josephine Lake on our first sunny morning.
Day 2: Trap Pass to Daniel's Creek
We started the day with a nice downhill to Surprise and Glacier Lakes.
We kept descending, all the way down to 3,500 feet into the Daniel's Creek river valley. Did I mention that every day the trail gains and loses 3,000 to 4,000 feet of elevation? It's a constant up and down.
Daniel's Creek is also known as "the ford" as it's a bit tricky to cross and impassible for stock. We had been warned of its sketchiness, but luckily it wasn't too hard.
We continued on into the Waptus River valley, which was pretty much the only flat section of the entire trail. We set up camp near the river and made dinner, then drank some bourbon hot chocolates before calling it a night.
Again, we planned nicely to do the big climb of the day in the morning. We got up above Waptus Lake and then over Escondido Pass.
Day 5: Lemah Creek to Ridge Lake
It was uphill again, through another burn, past more lakes, and over waterfalls.
DAY 6: Ridge Lake to Snoqualmie Pass
Since we only had 8 miles to hike and it was all downhill, we had a pretty mellow day. We slept in and drank our coffee slowly at our little campsite. I soaked my feet in the cool water of Ridge Lake. I washed my face and combed my hair and tried to look somewhat presentable since we were no longer passing only thru-hikers, but casual, nice-smelling day hikers.