What a fantastic day today.  I got up early and was on trail early, there was hardly a cloud in the sky all day, and most of the day was above treeline with fantastic views.  I only saw two hikers all day, and one of them I had not seen since Sierra City in northern California.  And a day above 25 miles for the first time in a while despite lots of elevation change.

I got ready quickly and was on trail at 6:30 for the first time since Timberline.  It’s just early enough to be before the sunrise, but not so nearly that you need a headlamp, but it’s right on the edge.  A week from now, it might be needed that early.

I thought where I camped last night was the top of the big climb through the boulder field, but I discovered this morning that there was another 500 feet to climb.  It went quickly, and all the vegetation was dry, so I didn’t get soaking wet first thing in the morning for the first time in over a week.

I got a few brief glimpses of Mt Baker as the trail wound around high peaks.  The fall colors of the fruit bushes litter the mountains all over.  I tried a few more blueberries since I was now higher, but they are still overripe like the ones at lower elevations.  The huckleberry bushes don’t have a smell but the blueberry bushes smell like blueberry muffins.  It’s like hiking through a bakery.  Or a Taiwanese muffin sweatshop.

I took my lunch break at the top of a saddle overlooking Mt Baker and other mountain peaks with snow on them.  I let my feet and socks dry while I ate.  The right foot is not very sore today, but I’m not sure how fast it’s healing.  The left one is almost back to normal.  I will let them dry tonight then rebandage and hope they heal soon.  Or at least heal before the next rain.

In the early afternoon I met a weeklong hiker doing Stevens pass to Rainey pass.  He had heard that this was the toughest and prettiest section in Washington.  So far that has turned out to be true.  The climbs are definitely getting bigger and in some areas steeper.  But the scenery just keeps getting better and that takes your mind off the climbing and various other less pleasant aspects of this hike.

I took an afternoon break at another saddle with a great view.  I sat under a sign that read “please camp elsewhere” and just a hundred feet down was a designated campsite.  Good thing I was only resting and not camping.  Just as I was getting up to leave, another hiker came by.  I recognized him immediately as Butterscotch, who I had not seen since the few days after leaving Sierra City in northern California.  That’s a long time ago, lime well over a thousand miles ago.  We had a quick chat, and then I moved on.  He stopped to take a break.

Shortly after leaving Butterscotch, I hit the 2500 mile marker.  YES!  Only 150 miles left to go.  It was just after a trail junction on the side of a mountain gain with red blueberries all over the place.  Someone had kicked some of the rocks used to spell 2500, so I stopped to fix them and take a picture.

The trail continued to climb while still remaining above tree line since about 10 am this morning.  Even at 4:45 the trail was still above treeline but now descended into a large canyon.  It looked exactly like the canyons of the Sierra.

After three miles or so of descending the canyon the trees finally appeared.  Big pines and firs, which make me happy to see, since they mean I will be able to find a place to hang the hammock.  It was after 6:00 PM now and it was time to start thinking about camping.  There was a campground that looked wooded that I would hit just after 7 PM so that would be a perfect stopping place.

I passed many great camping sites on the way to my target site.  When I got there, it was almost dark and the campsites sucked.  There were plenty of trees but most of them were too close or had dense brush or were near dead trees.  Never hang a hammock from a dead tree.  You don’t want to be sitting on the rope tied to a dead tree and have it fall right on top of you.

I finally found a site, set up, took the shoes off to let the feet air out, then cooked dinner.  I took the bandages off and the feet look so so.  The left one is fine, but the right one is still red and tender.  I will have to cover it with something so it won’t be glued to the sock in the morning, so I’ll cover it with a simple bandaid and decide what to put on it in the morning.  Hopefully most of the redness is gone by then.  I don’t have any antibiotic ointment, but the voltaren has alcohol in it, so I’ll use a dab to try to sterilize it a little bit.  I am hoping for another sunny day tomorrow.