PCT Day 146: Blowdown City and the Marmot King

September 11, 2022

Mile 2519.7 to mile 2538.5

18.8 miles

Jumbo is still quiet this morning, which means he’s still hurting just as much as he was last night. I understand the feeling. Even though we’ve been getting really decent nights of sleep recently, our bodies are just simply done. 

We slowly start moving. It’s a hazy, gray day, and I can’t tell whether it’s from clouds or smoke or both. We have about a mile of climbing up to Fire Creek Pass. The nice thing about this climb is that it affords views to the surrounding ranges, but they’re still largely obscured by smoke, so we just get the vague outlines. At the pass, I take in what we can see: pink clouds above the haziest outlines of mountains, Glacier Peak towering to the right above it all. It’s beautiful now. It would be absolutely majestic if it weren’t so smoky.

We start making our way down the other side of the pass, and it begins to rain. It’s gentle at first, then it picks up a little. I think about getting my rain coat out, but from what I’ve seen so far, Washington weather is mercurial; the rain often stops not long after it begins. This one hangs on for a while. It’s actually really pleasant compared to the recent hot, dry weather. 

We pass Mica Lake, which is a deep, beautiful sapphire blue. This is where we’d planned to make it last night, but we were just done. As we’re coming down, Jumbo is receiving fragmented messages on his Garmin from his mom, who is sending any updates about the fire through this way. Jumbo mumbles something about how the fire has spread west, which is not good for us, but how the forest service is trying to save some historic cabin somewhere. 

“There’s been a lot of chat about this bollocks cabin,” he grumbles. “What, a historic cabin from 1980? Don’t care. Let the terminus burn, sure, but oh, we’ve got to save the cabin!”

“You sound a little bitter, James.”

“Damn right I’m bitter!” Then he laughs. “Americans probably lose their shit when they come to Europe and see some actually old things.” 

This is one of his favorite lines of complaint about the United States.

“I can’t control how old my country is,” I point out, laughing.

“I know, I know.”

Our conversation is cut off by a soft clucking sound. We see a couple of small birds run across the path, then notice a beautiful female grouse perched on the rocks just below us. She makes that same low, chicken-like sound again. We stand there entranced for the longest time. There’s something so magical about grouse. We leave the family to its foraging and continue down the trail.

We load up on water at a creek and then find a spot for our Five Mile Coffee. We end up breaking for longer than planned, of course, but I’ve had enough caffeine that when we start again I feel okay.

The hill that comes up next is annoying, but nowhere near as bad as people on FarOut made it seem. There’s some exposed, sweaty bushwhacking through densely green shrubs, then when the trail enters the trees again, it turns into blowdown city. 

It’s slow going, but we eventually reach the top. Jumbo is standing in the middle of the trail gesturing to something to the right. I come up to join him and see the thickest, fattest, most majestic marmot I have ever laid eyes on. It’s sitting there on a rock overlooking the mountains like it owns the place. This is the Marmot King. Behold. 

We take a long, slow lunch at a campsite just before the summit of the climb. Then it’s a bit more climbing, filtering water at a lovely spring, and ogling as we continue moving around the perimeter of Glacier Peak. Finally, the hill starts to go down. 

At first it’s slightly overgrown shrubs, then it turns back into forest. I unfortunately have to dig a cathole on a very dramatic angle. As I’m coming back to the trail, Jumbo rounds the switchback and says, “Same.” What am I going to do with myself when he’s back in England and our poop schedules aren’t lined up? The horror. I shudder to even imagine it.

The downhill is fine at first, but then the blowdowns start back up. It’s incredibly annoying. A downhill like this should be nice and cruisey, drama-free, but this is the worst. There are a few sketchy overs and some crawly unders. I prefer the latter, being of the shorter variety of human. It’s fun to watch Jumbo, who is a jumbo height, try to wriggle his way under logs.

As we walk and scramble and crawl, we return to the subject of this cabin that the forest service is apparently trying to save. 

“I mean, think about that cabin in terms of queens. How many queens has it seen? Two?”

“We don’t think about things like that here.”

“I’m just saying. And it had also better be a bloody good cabin too.”

“Well, what’s your definition of a bloody good cabin?”

“Well,” he starts, thinking. “It had better have a big ass fireplace. I’m talking, this is where Columbus wrote the Declaration of Independence. I’m talking, this is where Tarantino was born.” 

I take a moment to get over my hysteria at this last comment, safely navigate another blowdown, and finally continue hiking. 

We make it to a camp near Vista Creek just before dark. The water is silty, so we run it through J’s buff before filtering it, but I’m not sure if it helps. Also, right next to the best tent site here, someone has taken a massive dump and barely covered it with rocks and sticks. I’m setting up my tent when I realize this and immediately move it over to another spot. 

We’d prefer to cowboy because we’ve gotten high-key used to not having to put our tents up and I have developed low-key separation anxiety, but it kind of seems like rain is in the forecast. So we just both hop in my tent, which is cramped because Jimmy is extremely long, but it’s cozy. I’ve gotten so used to cowboy camping and sleeping next to him that I don’t know what is going to happen when this trail ends in a few days. But that’s not a tonight problem.

2 thoughts on “PCT Day 146: Blowdown City and the Marmot King

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