We just had 180 miles to go until the border… the first 120 miles was the infamous Section K, which until this point, no one had made it through without turning back since the first early and big snow storm of the winter 12 days ago.
This 120 mile section from Stevens Pass to Rainy Pass included walking through North Cascades National Park. At the time that we hit the trail, the “government shutdown” was still going on and thus the park was closed… but we hoped that the by the time we got to the park in the last 20 miles of section K, the politicians would have gotten their act together. Snow was our first obstacle, then it was closed National Parks and we decided we would cross that bridge when we got there. Odds are mother nature would turn us back, before a park ranger would have the chance.
So we had fun in the SNOW!
We had over 10 days of food, snowshoes, trekking poles, micro spikes(crampons), avi beacons, probes, shovels, GPS, a SPOT device, extra winter cloths and our packs weighed over 60 pounds. This was the heaviest our packs had been on the entire trail, and I could feel my body creak under the crushing weight like a old wooden ship each time i heaved it onto my back. Our lightweight backpacks were not designed to carry this sort of weight, so they were very uncomfortable on the shoulders.
It was slow going in the snow, but magical and beautiful country! Definitely the hardest 10 mile days of the entire trail. Back in the desert we would joke that a 10 by 10 day (10 miles by 10am) was a good day.. that was not happening on snowshoes!
Outburst’s family resupplied our group with more food on day 3: a gigantic pile of ramen noodles and jars of peanut butter. Later that day, it took us 3 hours to snowshoe the 1.8 miles between White and Red Pass… which was probably the most treacherous and epic part of this section, breaking trail across the steep and sweeping ridgeline.
We were blessed with mostly clear skies and sun, for almost all of the 9 days we were out in this snowy, remote and rugged 120 mile section. Even then, while breaking fresh tracks, there were times when the trail was not visible, and we had to do some route finding with our topographic maps, compass, and GPS. We were out there as a team and family… and we supported, collaborated and helped each other out. This trek was great to be apart of!
We camped for the night just down the hill from Mica Lake seen above. This is just after Fire Creek Pass which was another beautiful and epic day on the trail.
We would often snug SupDog up in the sleeping bag, when we first got to camp at night while we cooked dinner. The temp dropped quick at sunset and we all would layer up our cloths to stay warm, and so would SupDog! Only his little nose would snorkel up for air. He seemed to love it!
This was the the most interesting river crossing we’ve had to date… none of us were daring enough to walk across the log which was slick with morning dew, and instead we shimmied across on our butts to be as safe as possible. SupDog just walked right across fearlessly with no problem! Us parents were scared for him, even though we had a safety line on him with spotters downstream to pull him out in case anything when wrong!
When we passed the High Bridge ranger station we intentionally arrived at dusk and looked for any indication of whether the government had opened up yet. No “closed” or “keep out” signs or “do not enter” tape like we heard had been happening at park trailheads. There is a camp up the road from high bridge, so we camped there and got up before sunrise and hiked out early… just in case.
The changing colors in the trees seemed to get brighter and more vibrant right along with our spirits and mood, as we realized we had just about made it through this epic and incredible adventure. Not even a broken and twisted bridge would stop us now!
The group finished Section K the evening of the 9th day, and everyone was in good health and spirits. We hitched with a local couple that Sweet Tooth and Hot Tub met on the trail. The back of a pickup plus mountain roads plus a successful completion equaled elation on the cold ride into Winthrop. We made it through section K, where so many before us had been turned back. We were thankful for friends, winter gear, support, and the luxury of time to wait out the storm… and to Mother Nature for cutting us a break at the end of the hiking season.
We celebrated with margaritas and Mexican food that night, and spent a few days recharging, resupplying and regrouping at the North Cascades Mountain Hostel. Now, we had only 60 miles left to the Northern terminus of the PCT and the Canadian border. And we had heard news from the trail that some of our friends had already broken trail and made it through that section, so there were high hopes of making it ourselves! We were so close we could taste it…
That story next!