Day 121 – August 2, 2022
Mile 2321.6 (Dewey Lake) to 2348.0 (Government Meadows/Mike Urich cabin)
26.4 trail miles | 26.1 tracked miles | 4,135 ft elevation gain | 75.2 F / 24 °C
I left my personal lake at dawn, and enjoyed the three easy and beautiful miles to Chinook Pass.
At Chinook Pass (elevation 5,432 feet), the Pacific Crest Trail crosses the Mather Memorial Parkway (SR 410) on a historic 90-foot long stone and log footbridge, dubbed the Chinook Entrance Arch. It was built in 1936 by the Civilian Conservation Corps.
On a more pragmatic note, this remote outpost on the outskirts of Mt. Rainier National Park is famous with thru-hikers for its luxurious amenities: pit toilets and trash service.
I noticed a sign warning hikers and motorists about fire activity, but to my relief the firefighting efforts appeared to be over.
After a pit stop, I climbed toward the scenic Sheep Lake, which is typically overrun by day hikers and their dogs. Fortunately, it was pretty quiet this morning. I passed just a handful of folks on the way, including a day hiker with an attitude who whispered some kind of insult for reasons that still remain unclear to me (and who didn’t dare respond when I raised the stakes), and a friendly couple who aspire to thru-hike the PCT in the future.
From Sheep Lake, the trail quickly gained elevation, revealing pristine alpine scenery and views of Mt. Rainier. For the first time, I spotted smoke in the distance, though fortunately, I understand that the dwindling wildfire is no longer a threat.
Looking west, I noticed scars on the mountain and realized that I was overlooking the Crystal Mountain ski resort. While I enjoy skiing, I have to acknowledge that the impact on the environment is dramatic.
Around Norse Peak, lush and green open meadows stretched out over rolling hills and gentle slopes on a cloudless day.
The afternoon segment was less appealing, but I knew what to expect. Except for the 30 miles between White Pass and Chinook Pass, Section I of the Pacific Crest Trail is widely considered to be the lowlight of the otherwise glorious Washington stretch. The trail meanders through burn zones, logging areas, and private land.
I traversed several long, dry, and exposed burn zones, and was grateful for the return of mild temperatures.
I set up camp at Government Meadows, near the Mike Urich cabin, just like a year ago. The log cabin, one of the rare shelters along the PCT, was built by a snowmobile club and is open to hikers in the summer. It features sleeping platforms, a wood stove, and an outhouse that’s not for the faint of heart.
While shelters are a blessing on wet and stormy days, I prefer to sleep outside on clear days. I pitched my camp under a tree at the edge of the meadow, and freshened up at the nearby stream.
Once again, I am almost alone at this typically popular spot. There are surprisingly few hikers on this section of the trail at this time: I’m slightly ahead of the NoBo bubble, while the SoBos are all over because the lingering snow in northern Washington forced many to change their plans and flip south.