Day 122 – August 3, 2022
Mile 2348.0 (Government Meadows/Mike Urich cabin) to 2377.8
29.8 trail miles | 29.3 tracked miles | 5,419 ft elevation gain | 75.2 F / 24 °C
In light of my experience hiking this section last year, I had low expectations for today’s stretch. The PCT cuts through a burn zone, crosses numerous logging roads, and traverses several large clearings with power lines. Surprisingly, water is scarce for Washington, and the trail ascends and descends without apparent reason. To top it off, the unmistakable sound of shooting disrupts the peace, especially near Stampede Pass.
Shortly after leaving Government Meadows, I entered the Falls Creek Burn zone, marked by a commemorative sign. It’s striking to consider that the devastating fire occurred back in 1988, and the area still hasn’t fully recovered.
On a positive note, the temperature was ideal for hiking, wildflowers were in full bloom, and the trail was well maintained.
There were few notable views, aside from the occasional glimpse of Mt. Rainier. I walked briskly and refrained from taking many photos, so for the purpose of this blog, I’ve included some pictures from my 2021 section hike!
Green rolling hills dominated the landscape, but logging scars were visible everywhere. Logging not only involves felling trees but also requires the construction of roads across vast sections of the mountain.
Amidst numerous dirt road crossings and seemingly random ascents and descents, I passed near Blowout Mountain.
Apart from this minor highlight, the trail was unremarkable, so I decided to hike 30 miles to reach the end of this section as swiftly as possible. Besides, it’s good preparation for the steep climbs and long days that await in northern Washington.
South of Stampede Pass, I crossed several large high-voltage power line clearings.
I grapple with mixed emotions about Stampede Pass. From a PCT hiker’s perspective, it’s largely unremarkable, except for the potential of encountering trail magic, as it’s relatively accessible from I-90. The nearby Lizard Lake is a marginal water source, the nearby campsites are noticeably slanted, and the pass is a popular shooting area that attracts a questionable crowd. Nevertheless, Stampede Pass is a stone’s throw away from Lake Keechelus and the Palouse to Cascades State Park Trail, where I often ride my mountain bike, and thus feels oddly close to home.
Stampede Pass also holds historical significance in terms of railroad history. In the 19th century, the construction of train tracks across the pass, as part of the Northern Pacific Railway, played a pivotal role in opening up rail access across the Cascade Mountains. Today, the tracks are dilapidated and used only to move empty rail cars at speeds of less than 10 miles per hour. The corridor might eventually gain new life should plans to build intercity train service between Seattle and Spokane ever come to fruition.
In any case, Stampede Pass is not a good place to camp. So, I hiked a few miles further to an abandoned dirt road where I pitched my tent for the night. It’s not glamorous, but there is a small stream nearby, and I am alone.
I should reach Snoqualmie Pass around lunchtime tomorrow. Being ahead of schedule, I indulged in two lunches today to reduce the weight of my pack, of course!