Around five o’clock last night, the clouds to the west started to thicken and get dark as I descended from the PCT and headed for camp. At some point in the night, it rained, and then again later, but never too hard or for very long. I woke up this morning and my tent was actually dry inside and out, quite a rare occurrence on this trip. I was feeling great about it as I poodled around with my stuff and packed up camp in a leisurely fashion. And then it started to rain, with all my things spread around and the tent still up to catch it, and by the time I finally managed to get it down it was wet. So much for the dry tent.
It rained all morning, the kind of western Washington mountain rain that, once it starts, can go for days at a steady cold drizzle. I had a fair bit of climbing to do on overgrown trails, and I spent the morning struggling with rain clothes, on or off: on and I sweat out the inside on the climbs, off and I get soaked from the brush cloaking the trail. I was tripping on roots, slipping off the steep edge of the absurdly narrow tread, rolling my ankles on rocks, and getting wetter and colder and generally more frustrated until I finally decided I needed a mantra to sing as I hiked or the misery would eat me up inside out. I started to sing: I am at peace with the world, over and over, each time the tune morphing into something a little different. Interestingly, it helped! I calmed down, hiked steady and sure even with all the rain, and by the afternoon the weather cleared and I was losing five thousand feet of elevation, leaving Pasayten Wilderness and heading for Ross Lake in North Cascades National Park.
As I was hiking along the lake shore, the most awesome bit of trail magic on this entire trail happened (trail magic is the general catch-all for those serendipitous or fortunate events that happen to hikers, and while trail magic is common on the PCT, say in the form of a cooler of beer in the middle of the woods, its pretty much nonexistent on this trail). I was looking at the lake, enjoying the beautiful lakeside hike where the trail is practically run along a dike on a rock cliff right next to the water, when I looked at the trail and there was a piece of paper with my name on it! Underneath was another piece of paper with a note, all of it held down on a food bar with a rock. It was left by friends of mine from Seattle who are spending the weekend camping on Ross Lake, and somehow they figured out where and roughly when to leave such a thing in the middle of the trail. It kind of made my day, actually. I’ve been in the wilderness for almost a week, and one of the moving and equally chilling things about a vast, mountainous wilderness is that it doesn’t know you, doesn’t see you, doesn’t care about you. It’s a very different environment than one built for people, with people’s needs in mind. To come from the wilderness, where as a distinct identity I could almost disappear into the rocks and clouds, and find my name in the middle of the trail was as perfect a moment as I could imagine.
I’m camped about 13 miles from Ross Lake Resort, where I will meet Dan tomorrow (oh my god I am so excited) and pick up my resupply for the next section through North Cascades National Park.