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Day 132 – August 13, 2022

Mile 2577.8 (Bridge Creek Campground) to 2606.9 (Golden Creek)

29.1 trail miles | 28.4 tracked miles | 6,307 ft elevation gain | 77 F / 25 °C

I woke up this morning energized and ready for an all-uphill stretch. After a quick breakfast, I left Bridge Creek Campground, my last stop in North Cascades National Park.

The trail immediately started climbing, but the ascent felt easy and comfortable, thanks to the pleasant temperatures and smooth, well-graded path.

Two miles north of my campground, I crossed the fiery Bridge Creek on a temporary suspension bridge. The Bridge Creek bridge washed out a couple of years ago, but a replacement was built in record time—a noteworthy fact in a country that is systematically unable to deliver infrastructure projects. While the temporary bridge is not suitable for equestrians, it helps hikers avoid a treacherous crossing or a long detour. Plus, bouncy suspension bridges are fun!

Shortly after crossing Bridge Creek, I spotted a bear ahead of me on the trail—my second ever in Washington state. He (she?) was having breakfast and was in no rush to let me through.

I banged my poles against each other and tried talking to him, but it was obvious that he was very habituated to humans and could not care less about me. He eventually moved slightly off the trail, and I passed him without incident. He didn’t even turn around or glance at me.

Bear on trail!

Maple Creek featured another fun suspension bridge. I am positively impressed with the quality of the overall infrastructure in North Cascades National Park, which contrasts sharply with my experience in Yosemite National Park.

Crossing Maple Creek

Around lunchtime, I bid farewell to North Cascades National Park and Chelan County, and entered Skagit County. The Rainy Pass trailhead, located at the border between the two counties, was a bit of a shock to my senses. The PCT crossed a large parking lot and briefly followed a spur forest road up to the Cutthroat Pass trailhead. There were probably a hundred cars parked in every possible nook and cranny. After four months in the wilderness, encountering so many people at once and hiking through this car sewer felt a little disorienting and uncomfortable.

Not pictured: a million cars at the trailhead

I had no idea that the remote Rainy Pass area was so popular, but I can understand why. It’s gorgeous.

The hike up to and beyond Cutthroat Pass was the PCT at its finest: awe-inspiring landscapes, a well-designed route, gentle grades, a smooth and obstacle-free trail, an abundance of water, and appealing campsites. I absolutely loved it.

Climbing towards Cutthroat Pass

I picked up significant speed and soon reached Cutthroat Pass, a scenic area featuring views of the North Cascades mountain range and as far as Glacier Peak. Cutthroat Pass is wildly popular in the fall as the larches turn gold, illuminating the landscape with their warm hues.

The number of day hikers dwindled north of Cutthroat Pass, and I made my way to the equally glorious Granite Pass.

Approaching Granite Pass
Granite Pass

Before reaching Methow Pass, I passed mile 2,600, where crafty hikers had created a mile marker out of tortillas. I paused to take the obligatory pictures and contemplate the fact that Canada is less than 50 miles away. The short distance to the northern border might be the only reason a thru-hiker could willingly part with their food!

I was on a roll and felt great, and decided to hike way beyond my intended campsite. I eventually set up camp on the shores of Golden Creek, where I found a secluded and private spot in the woods. I am completely alone, blessed with solitude and peace.

Today was merely serendipity. I enjoyed awe-inspiring views and a well-maintained trail. I am also quite satisfied with my performance: I hiked close to 30 miles, climbed almost 7,000 feet, and I feel fantastic.

While I walked further than I intended today, it’s unlikely that the extra miles will make a material difference to my schedule. There are only so many campsites with water further up north, and since I have no desire to dry camp, the location of bodies of water will ultimately dictate my daily mileage going forward.

Backcountry camping at Golden Creek

Distance to Canada: 46.7 miles

The Big Picture

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