When we got into Stevens Pass… and the town of Skykomish, the news from the trail was grim. One story we heard, was that there was a group of 20 or more hikers that were 20-50 miles north of us into the next section of trail (section K is 120 miles long), and all but a few had turned around and hiked back south to Stevens Pass due to heavy snowfall. We heard similar stories from our friends 100 miles south of us, near Goat Rocks, where folks had turned around or just sat in their tent for days, caught and waiting out the snow.
Most hikers had not been carrying the appropriate winter gear (extra clothing, boots, snowshoes, crampons, extra food, etc) to continue traveling northbound and were not checking the weather reports. No one knew when the snow would stop. It was scarey and a shock to say the least. The mix of rain at lower elevations and snow at the higher elevations was a recipe for hypothermia when all your minimal lightweight gear gets soaked. Traveling in snow, your speed goes from 20-25 miles per day, to 10=15 miles per day at best… so the few hikers that did have the right gear to continue were questioning if they could carry enough food to finish the 120 mile section.
So what did we do now? Was this the end?
Many of our peers who turned back from the snow went home. I’d guess some had neither the funds to gear up and wait, nor the want to go back out again… it had been a long trail and you can’t really argue with Mother Nature. Many said “the mountains were closed for the winter”….. but we weren’t ready to accept that.
So we would wait… wait to see if the snow would melt… wait for a weather window… and take the time needed to gear up for a winter expedition…
We spend 4 long days in the Skykomish inn… it was an emotional roller coaster for everyone as more people called it and headed home each day. It was hard to sit still after walking every day for the last 6 months…
We walked SupDog all over the small town of Skykomish and saw the little that there was to see there…
While we were waiting in town, NPR called and interviewed us! check it out:
Some fellow hikers had a cabin nearby so we spent a little time there too…before finally heading to Seattle. We weren’t ready to call it quits yet, but we were burning a lot of cash eating out and staying at the hotel in town.
Our friend Dale came to pick us up and take us to Seattle, and we gladly volunteered to help him on his VW Bus restoration project. It was great to get our minds off wondering if our PCT hike was over…
After a few days in staying with Dale in Seattle, we decided to head back to Portland to pickup our car and some winter gear that we had in storage. We keep checking in with where folks were at on the trail. Every few days we would hear of another group of thru-hikers heading north out of Stevens Pass, and turning back south due to snow, which was not encouraging… and every few days we would hear of folks announcing that they were done waiting and that their thru-hike was over. Our hearts and resolve were slowly breaking down.
Some other hikers made contingency plans. They would walk the road to Canada in costume, making the best of situation. They were handed snow… and made snow cones. Good job y’all!
After a few days in Portland, we headed back to Dale and Stacy’s in Seattle. With their encouragement and guidance, we scoured the countless resources looking at snow levels, avalanche warnings, current weather conditions and forecasts. It had been 10 days since we got off trail… and it seemed our weather window had arrived! So we took off to Skykomish the next morning.
On the 12th day off trail since the snow storm, we had grouped up with 30-Pack, Outburst, Elizabeth, Sweet Tooth and Hot Tub. The only way we would efficiently, safely and successfully break trail was as a Team! Hot Tub proposed that if all else failed we could build our own monument out of snow and have our own celebration. In all of our hearts though, was the dream of completing our hike at the monument at the Canadian border.