September 14th, Sunday
2410 to 2424
Perhaps thanks to such a short day yesterday, I woke up early the next morning, feeling very refreshed. Zach was still snoozing, so I gathered water, sat outside the tent, watched out hikers packing up, and read the Bible. At last Zach woke up and we got back on trail by 8:00.
We left Ridge Lake and followed the trail up toward a steep jagged ridge of mountains— the trail itself was a tumble of scree, often very loose, causing us to carefully test every step. I took a video showing why it was so hard to make fast mileage in this section of Washington.
We saw tons of pikas, boinging from rock to rock, often carrying greenery or twigs for building their nests. Whenever they saw us, they squeaked a warning and hopped away like gray round-eared bunnies. They are so cute!
A bowl-shaped valley stretched out to our right, a jagged ridge rose to our left, and in the distance we could still see Mount Rainier. The higher we climbed, the more wind whipped up, and soon we were struggling against it, feet slipping on the scree, eyeing with increasing nervousness the steep cliffs to our right, and soon to our left as well as we neared the top of the ridge before cutting over across a steep slope. Battered by the wind, footsore from the rocks, and nervous about the steep slopes, I told Zach, “I am really sick of hiking in the mountains.”
I sighed melodramatically. “Why did they route the trail up here anyway? We could be walking through a nice forest.” I looked out at the valley and distant mountains, and snorted. “I mean, who wants to see mind-bogglingly gorgeous scenery, anyway?”
“I know, right? All these dumb outdoorsy people.” We chuckled.
We stopped several times in the next few miles, huddling in the windbreak of boulders, to eat snacks. We devoured the jerky and a bunch of Fritos and ate energy bars with wild abandon, since we had picked up so many at Snoqualmie Pass. Eating so much food kept our spirits up, and I reflected at how much more fun the Sierra would’ve been if we’d had this much to eat.
We made horrible time that day, both because of the breaks and because of our slow pace. At last we left the ridge and the wind behind and descended into a pleasant alpine landscape marked with smooth-sided pools carved from the stone, hedges of huckleberries, meadows of thick grass and stands of pine trees.
It was about 5:00 when we entered a dense wood, crossed a log bridge over a stream and paused to gather water and consult our map. We saw that not far ahead the trail did a 3,000-foot climb, and the topographical map didn’t show much hope for camping along the way. After some debate, we decided that, since we were both so tired today, it would make more sense to camp here and tackle the climb first thing in the morning. “That way,” Zach said, “we can have a relaxed evening and make food and read tonight, and maybe we’ll feel stronger in the morning.”
With some time to kill before bedtime, we got some camp chores done: I scrubbed our socks and underwear in the icy water of the stream (without soap, of course), then filtered all our water for tonight and the morning. I felt a bit grumpy crouching on the gravel riverbank trying in vain to get our socks clean, but I was mollified when I returned to camp to see that Zach had made a big pot of mac n’ cheese (one box for each of us, as usual). We wolfed down the cheesy mound of glue.
As we did so, a couple people we knew passed us, and were surprised that we were stopping so early. We assured them that our energy would better be spent in the morning. They argued that it was better to tackle a climb at the end of a day— “You’re going to be tired one way or the other, so why not?” However, I was happy with our decision to have a relaxed evening. We climbed into the tent and read a very long chapter of The Silmarillion. The sun had long disappeared below the mountains by the time Zach closed the Kindle.