Day 114 – July 26, 2022
Mile 2168.3 to 2200.6 (Sheep Lake)
32.3 trail miles | 32.3 tracked miles | 5,649 ft elevation gain | 86 F / 30 °C
My first night in the state of Washington was eventful. A strange noise woke me up around midnight. While I’m used to the sounds of nature after four months on the trail, this was different. I looked around in a state of daze and confusion, then noticed something moving inside my tent. It was a mouse!
The unwelcome guest deserves no credit for finding its way into my humble abode. A few weeks ago, another mouse had chewed a small hole through the mesh of my tent, and I never bothered patching the hole.
I tried to catch the intruder by the tail, but mice are fast and nimble! Eventually, I was able to show him (her?) the door with my towel and tried to fall back asleep. While I keep my food in a thick Dyneema Composite Fabric stuff sack which is relatively critter-proof, mice are attracted to odors, and they’re patient, persistent, and daring.
Despite the night’s adventures, I woke up at the crack of dawn and left my campsite at 6:15 a.m.
The Pacific Crest Trail in Southern Washington feels very much like the Oregon section, just with more elevation gain. There weren’t really any highlights or noteworthy views, just lots of ups and downs and trees as far as the eye can see.
The heat was brutal, with temperatures reaching close to 100°F according to my watch. While the conditions were unpleasant, I ultimately consider myself fortunate: the heatwave is likely to melt the snow that is lingering further north at higher elevations. My chances of completing the trail before the end of my sabbatical are increasing steadily every day.
In the afternoon, shortly after crossing Wind River, I took a brief detour through Panther Creek Campground to take advantage of the first-class facilities (clean pit toilets and trash dumpsters, a thru-hiker’s dream!).
Then, I left the PCT and followed a popular alternate route through Panther Falls to break the monotony and, dare I confess, shave off a few miles in a quest to reach the highlights of Washington as soon as possible.
In hindsight, I’m not sure what to make of this alternate. I wasn’t particularly wowed by Panther Falls (Iceland has really spoiled me!), and the walk along forest roads was easy but awfully mind-numbing and exposed. I saved 5 miles (hiking a total of 27 miles instead of 32) but probably lost a bit of my sanity!
Late in the afternoon, I rejoined the Pacific Crest Trail at mile 1998, at the junction with NF-60, and hiked a couple more miles to Sheep Lake.
Washington has too many lakes, and we ran out of names many decades ago. There are countless Snow Lakes, Lost Lakes, and Sheep Lakes—in fact, there are three Sheep Lakes alone in Southern Washington along the PCT!
In any case, Sheep Lake was a scam. There were no sheep, and the “lake” is really just a muddy, mosquito-infected pond. Still, I had to take a dip; I really couldn’t go to bed without washing off layers of sweat and grime. I’ve stretched my comfort zone to the point that nothing bothers me much anymore, and I’m quite proud of it.
As I was bathing, a swarm of black flies surrounded me. While attempting to chase them away, I hit my glasses, and they fell to the bottom of the lake. Time suspended itself for a moment as I scrambled to locate my spectacles through the mud. Somehow, I forgot all about the pesky flying insects around me, concentrated as I was on my mission.
Fortunately, the water was completely still, and a bit of logic and common sense was all it took to recover my eyesight, but I feel like I dodged a bullet!