Day 128 – August 9, 2022
Mile 2494.5 (Lake Sally Ann) to 2521.8 (Mica Lake)
27.3 trail miles | 26.3 tracked miles | 5,989 ft elevation gain | 78.8 F / 26 °C
I woke up this morning filled with anticipation and excitement for the 27-mile trek to Mica Lake, one of my favorite places in the world.
Shortly after leaving Lake Sally Ann, I passed mile marker 2,500, the last major round milestone on my journey, and an acute reminder that the adventure is about to wrap up.
Gazing at inspiring scenery, it was difficult not to feel nostalgic already. I endeavored to enjoy my last few days to the fullest and take longer breaks to make the most of my time in the wilderness.
Clouds soon rolled in, tempering my excitement. Fortunately, the nascent rain turned out to be a mere drizzle, which ultimately made exposed climbs more enjoyable and added a bit of mystique to the expansive scenery.
I paused briefly to chat with a National Forest Service crew member who was working on the trail. She was thrilled about the light rain and mist, having toiled in the heat for several days in a row.
I couldn’t help but wonder why trail crews would prioritize a flat and seemingly fine segment of the trail while huge sections are dramatically overgrown and seem to receive little attention. Of course, many trail workers are volunteers and are unlikely to be willing to attend to the most remote areas.
The scenery near Portal Peak was awe-inspiring. I took a break against a backdrop of enchanting mountain peaks.
From Portal Peak, the PCT roughly followed the silty White Chuck River, eventually crossing the mighty stream five miles further north. I smiled at the sight of the broken bridge, which was still standing against all odds. A year ago, I camped in the vicinity and tried to dry my rain-soaked gear on the railings.
The descent to Kennedy Creek was a frustrating obstacle course. This section of the trail receives no attention from maintenance crews and is subject to some of the harshest winter conditions in Washington state.
I eventually emerged out of the jungle to the dramatic sight of Kennedy Creek, a furious mountain stream fed by Scimitar Glaciers and Glacier Peak. The silty torrent meandered at the foot of menacing gray cliffs, in a stunning display of the awesome power of erosion. The bridge that once stood across Kennedy Creek washed out years ago, giving hikers no other option than to wade across when possible, or scoot over precarious logs.
Armed with the confidence and balance that I acquired over the last four months, I crossed cautiously and managed to keep my feet dry. I felt victorious, but nature promptly admonished me for the sin of pride. Once safely on the other side, I lost sight of the trail, climbed up the slippery river bed, and aimlessly bushwhacked my way up to seemingly always thicker bush. I eventually had to accept my defeat and turn back. I ultimately found the trail just a dozen yards further upstream.
The long ascent to Fire Creek Pass was smoother than the descent towards Kennedy Creek, though the trail was still overgrown and eroded. A tantalizing sign pointed to hot springs that once graced the area but were obliterated a few years ago.
Patches of snow dotted the final push to Fire Creek Pass. Hiking under radiant skies, it was difficult to comprehend that the area was still impassable without snow gear a few weeks ago.
I took a break at Fire Creek Pass to enjoy the jaw-dropping scenery, in what felt like a fitting reward for enduring some of the roughest stretches of the PCT. Pictures will never to justice to the phenomenal views. I felt grateful to be alive, for my physical abilities, and for the opportunity to, once again, traverse this blessed land.
The short but steep descent to Mica Lake was muddy and treacherous. I slipped and landed on my rear in the mud, fortunately with no consequences besides a bruised ego.
My eyes were fixated on the horizon, eagerly anticipating a glorious turquoise body of water, but it quickly became obvious that Mica Lake was still largely frozen.
I am disappointed that I am missing out on the Caribbean-grade colors and reflections that I fell in love with last summer. Nevertheless, Mica Lake remains a site of incredible unadulterated beauty. The views transported me back to the snowy landscapes of the Sierra Nevada.
I cannot resist sharing photos from last summer, even though the colors don’t transpire through the dirty lens of my cheap phone.
I decided to camp at Mica Lake out of nostalgia, even though the campsites were still buried in snow. I had to pitch my tent on bare rock, leveraging skills that I didn’t possess four months ago. It’s a minor gamble, and hopefully, the weather will be gentle: my spot is extremely exposed, and rain is in the forecast.
Mica Lake, you might be frozen today, but you’re still a beauty and you’ll forever have a place in my heart!