While in town, I learned of an alternative trail that supposedly had less elevation change, was shorter than the PCT by nearly ten miles, and went right by a cascading hot springs. That sounds like an easy decision, right? Well, I ended up taking it, and I’m not sure it was the right choice.
I woke up at a leisurely 6:30 and packed up and headed for breakfast at the inn. Three eggs, bacon, sausage, hash browns, and French toast later and I was ready to hike. I had a few things to drop in the hiker box on the way out and I was on trail by 8:30.
The PCT left the I-90 corridor immediately, but the alternate started out as a mile and a half of road walk to a trailhead. The parking area was full of cars, and the trail had quite a few hikers on it already this morning. The trail started climbing steps immediately, then leveled off a bit before climbing some serious switchbacks. I’m not sure how many feet the trail climbed, but it was well over 1000 ft.
Once at the top of the ridge, I could see snow lake on the other side which is the picture in the header. It was pretty dramatic. The trail wound around the east side then began climbing another ridge. The trail was pretty rocky and a little overgrown in places. The grade was quite steep in a few spots, too. I kept forgetting that I was not on the PCT and their pack animal grades don’t apply here.
After crossing that small ridge, the trail began a descent that seemed to go on forever. It was endless switchbacks back and forth over the same talus field for over an hour. I was starting to get hungry and the trail and slope was so steep there wasn’t really any place to stop and cook. I ended up going all the way to the bottom of the canyon before finding a suitable place to stop at about 1 PM.
I made some Harmony House soup that I found in a hiker box. I have never had their soups before, so I was anxious to try it. Well, it was not so hot. And I have a few more of them coming in future boxes. This one was beefish soup with mushrooms. The predominant taste was carrot. It was edible, but I won’t eat this one again.
I got rolling again, and the trail started climbing a creek bed. It was probably an hour before coming to the hot springs area. A sign said to check in with the caretaker first. They charge $20 to camp and $15 for day use. And apparently you have to lay $15 to just go and look. Phooey, I just kept on hiking right by it.
The trail was now climbing up the Snoqualmie river. The majority of the rest of the trail is following this river up to the mountains back to the PCT. Some sections were quite steep and seemed to climb way higher than the river, but the river would always catch up. There were a series of campsites coming up just before dark, so I decided to camp at whatever one I hit between 6:30 and 7:00. And apparently that was number three.
Some weekend hikers had just gotten there and started setting up camp. I found a spot for my hammock across the trail from them. Three more PCT hikers came and one asked to put his tent next to theirs. They wanted to cook there and long story short, the weekend hikers packed up and moved along.
I had hiked with two of the three hikers in the past. One near Kennedy Meadows North and the other near Mt Shasta. They had seen my name in the registers get further and further ahead and wondered how we saw each other again, so I had to tell them about being off trail for a week. I saw two more in the hotel that I had not seen since Lake Britton and had the same explanation for them. It seems like about half of the hikers I meet I have met before and passed before getting off trail. It’s neat seeing these people again. They all recognize me even though my clothes are different and my beard is shaved and I have a different hat.
There is about seven miles of this alternate trail left before I rejoin the PCT again. The mile marker in the title is not truly where I am, I just did some math with what I have left on the alternate subtracted from where I rejoin the PCT. I also did not do 28 miles today. It was closer to 19, which seems short for the day but the hiking was a bit tougher than I had expected and I didn’t start until 8:30. I hope I am able to keep relatively close to my schedule since I have purchased a flight home already.