Wildfire, blownout bridges, and beauty
Nearing the end of the journey, I can honestly say things have been getting more exciting. This part of the PCT dates back to the 1930s, the trail design resembles another trail built in the 1930s..the Applachain Trail. It’s a lot of up and down, but over some beautiful passes. I can’t help but think that these passes must be a little bit more gnarly for the Southbounders.
Right after Snoqualmie Pass, the trail dipped into a new valley and was incredibly smoky. It was hard to breathe and I put my bandanna over my mouth to do so. A couple of southbounders came through, bug-eyed and totally whigging. “The whole forest is on fire. Going through that was the scariest thing I’ve ever done in my life,” the one guy told us. “There is a ranger down there who will escort you through. But they say you’ll be the last ones.”
We booked it down there and got to a section of trail that was blocked off with yellow tape and a sign saying a ranger will come shortly to guide us through. We waited for 20 minutes near the side of the trail, until a 50 feet burning tree within 30 feet of us came crashing down. The ranger (a woman!) finally came and escorted us to a detour. Apparently, a lightening spark created the fire on the PCT, so the trail got rerouted. But then the fire spread to the reroute! So, now the ranger was re-rerouting us from the re-route. We made it out alive, but what an adventure!
After Skykomish, there is a section of the PCT through the Glacier Peak Wilderness destroyed in a 2003 landslide. There are many fords without bridges. There is an alternate route, but apparently it is long, less scenic, and with lots of elevation change. We opted for the old route and were ready to battle blowdowns. The most exciting part of the this section was where I had to hold onto a branch and swing, Tarzan style, over a section of the trail that had washed away to big fall away cliff. The blowdowns in this section were numerous and striking. These old growth logs which lie across the trail at heights taller than me that required rock climbing on wet bark skills to get over (or going around). It will almost be a shame when this part of the trail is cleaned up, such gentle giants these are.
Liz "Snorkel" Thomas
Liz Thomas is a well-traveled adventure athlete most known for breaking the women’s unsupported speed record on the Appalachian Trail in 2011. She has completed the Triple Crown of Hiking–the Appalachian Trail, the 2,650 mile Pacific Crest Trail, and 3,100 mile Continental Divide Trail–and has backpacked over 15,000 miles across the United States. While not on trail, Liz lives in Denver, Colorado.