We set out from Cascade Locks the day after my parents left, headed straight up into what was supposed to be a stormy next few days. But though the clouds hung dark and stormy, there was no sign of rain that day. Right off the bat we started running into friends we hadn’t seen for weeks or more. Before stopping to camp that first night, we also met another large group of thru-hikers that we hadn’t met before. We were to run into most of our buddies – new and old – again and again throughout Washington, giving us the chance to make and strengthen lots of friendships. The people we met along the PCT still stand out as one of the most amazing aspects of the whole trip. Throughout Washington, we were to spend more time hiking and camping with other hikers than we had in either Oregon or California. We were expecting to see people less and less as we got nearer to the end of the trail, so getting the chance to spend so much time in the company of other hikers was an awesome surprise.
We rang in my 30th birthday the day after we left Cascade Locks. Since we were celebrating on trail, we knew we still wanted to get some good miles in but planned to stop and set up camp early so we could enjoy some of the goodies our families had sent for my birthday. Despite a run-in with a wasps’ nest on trail which left Edwin with 6 very painful stings (to which we quickly administered a few antihistamines and a couple shots of whiskey) and our buddy Chris with 3, the miles came easily. The rain began in earnest about a mile from our intended camp that night, so we booked the last mile, threw up our tent in a hurry, and spent the rest of the night drinking whiskey and tequila and munching on delicious snacks while rain poured down on our tent.
We woke the next morning to continuing downpours. We’d spent the night at an actual established campsite (which was rare for us) which meant we had access to a toilet (even more rare!) and we were tempted to just stay put for the day and sit out the bad weather, but we mustered up some motivation, packed up our wet gear, and headed out. The morning included a big climb that was supposed to culminate in amazing views of Mt. Adams, Mt. Rainier, and Mt. St. Helens, but instead afforded only a view of thick gray clouds and more drizzle. Freezing, wet, and miserable, we called it an early day and set up camp – the first time (but not the last) that the weather would actually stop us in our tracks. Washington weather would prove to be a worthy opponent, but fortunately after the first big storm in this state we were to enjoy a week and a half of absolutely amazing weather.
Nowhere was the beautiful weather more appreciated than the Goat Rocks Wilderness which we reached a few days later. We’d been looking forward to Goat Rocks for hundreds of miles because we’d heard so much about it, but we weren’t really prepared for the beauty. We emerged from the tree cover we’d been walking through since we reached Washington straight into steep drop-offs, stunning vistas, and some of the most challenging terrain we’d seen in ages. We’d been hearing that Goat Rocks rivaled the beauty of the Sierras, but had trouble believing that until we saw it for ourselves. My only complaint about Goat Rocks was that the section wasn’t long enough. We were out of it before the sun went down that same day but the next morning brought just a short jaunt into the next resupply “town” (read: gas station) of White Pass where we were looking forward to stuffing our faces and washing the musty, moldy smell of constant moisture out of our clothing.