Day 119 – July 31, 2022
Mile 2280.5 to 2295.9 (White Pass)
15.4 trail miles | 16.0 tracked miles | 2,270 ft elevation gain | 75.2 F / 24 °C
I awoke this morning to an inspiring sunrise over Mt. Rainier and lingered a while, sipping my (cold) coffee to fully absorb the beauty.
It was pleasantly windy overnight, and I enjoyed some natural air conditioning in my tent, which gave me hope for milder temperatures today. Alas, it was wishful thinking. Today, once again, was scorching hot.
On the bright side, this heat wave means that I no longer need to worry about encountering significant snow accumulation further up north.
The 15-mile stretch to White Pass, WA, while scenic, was perhaps not as exciting as I remembered. Last year, I hiked this section southbound, so the first day had been a tantalizing teaser for what lay ahead. But walking northbound, the true highlights are now behind me—I’ve been spoiled! Also, much of the trail was flooded due to snow melt, and the mosquitoes were once again a constant swarm, to the point where I had to hike with my head net on and skip breaks.
Nonetheless, today’s segment did offer expansive open spaces, picturesque views of Mt. Rainier, and dramatic alpine landscapes.
I beat my own expectations and arrived it at White Pass by noon. While I routinely hike 15 to 16 miles before lunch, this morning somehow gave me a broader perspective on my accomplishments. What used to be a full day’s hike now feels like a mere morning jaunt. Thru-hiking is fascinating.
White Pass, WA, sits in a remote location on State Highway 12. At the trailhead, there’s no sign of civilization, but a few hundred yards down the highway, heading west, are a minor ski resort, a gas station, and a ski condominium community.
The ski resort is closed in the summer, but the gas station serves as a basic general store, offering a range of hiker services, including package storage, showers, laundry, hot food, and decent resupply options.
The staff is lovely, and I quickly retrieved my resupply box and did my laundry. I’m fortunate to be ahead of the “bubble.” During peak times, when hordes of hikers descend on White Pass, the laundry waitlist is longer than the PCT itself!
However, the food selection isn’t for the faint of heart. For lunch, I had pulled pork, pizza, and ice cream. And for dinner, I purchased a frozen meal and some fake French crepes. I can already tell that my stomach isn’t thrilled with the local culinary offerings, but the only alternative would have been hitchhiking to Packwood, 30 miles further.
Then again, I probably could have done without the pizza, but it was free. The cook had overcooked a pizza and handed it out to hikers. And no self-respecting thru-hiker turns down free food.
After lunch, I chatted with fellow hikers and caught up with real life. I learned that the fire season has begun in earnest. Yesterday, 60 hikers were evacuated from Oregon, including a few folks I met on the trail early on. In addition, a fire started today just ahead of me near Chinook Pass. I am hoping for the best.
After gradually emerging from my food coma, I hopped over to the adjacent condominium community, where I had rented an overpriced unit for the night. The lack of air conditioning makes me almost regret not sleeping outside, but I enjoy having a private bathroom, power outlets, and a bit of personal space.
I took a long shower, repacked for the next stretch, and relaxed on the lawn before preparing my modest dinner.
I will resume hiking tomorrow morning at dawn. My next stop is Snoqualmie Pass, which feels incredibly odd. Not only is Snoqualmie Pass less than an hour away from Seattle, but it’s also where I used to own a second home, so it feels like a homecoming of sorts.
Getting so close to home makes me realize that the whole adventure is coming to an end very soon. Canada, here I come!