Day 28: Goat Rocks Nero

PCT Mile 2274 – 2277

Miles Hiked = 3

I’ve explained this before, so I apologize if you’re familiar with these terms but in hiker terminology, a zero day is when you take the day off and don’t hike any miles. Usually this happens in towns and is a rest day. A nero day is when you hike less then ten miles. Usually a nero day occurs when a hiker is entering or leaving a town. For example, a hiker will often try to time his/her hike so that there is a short hike into town in the morning so that lunch and dinner can be enjoyed, laundry can be done, a shower can be had and a food resupply can be picked up (if mailed) or purchased. Sydney and I did this exact strategy a few days ago when we hiked into Trout Lake – had lunch and dinner – and then got back on the trail the next morning.

Sydney and I were planning on hiking twenty-two miles today and getting to White’s Pass where we would spend the night in a hotel and pick up our next resupply box. We decided this morning, on the spur of the moment, to take a nero on the trail here in the Goat Rocks Wilderness. The scenery is so special here that we wanted to enjoy this special place.

Shortly after getting on the trail this morning we had a hazy view back at Mt. Adams. We had passed by this large volcano two days ago after leaving Trout Lake.

Mt. Adams

We also a saw our first Marmot here in Washington state. These marmots are bigger than the the Sierra Nevada marmots I’ve seen in the past. These marmots are named Hoary Marmot. The word hoary means something that is white, gray or silvery and that obviously is a reference to the coloration on their back. Marmots are herbivores and live at high elevations above the timberline. These marmots are about the size of a 25-30 pound dog. They burrow into the earth to make their dens. In the coming weeks Sydney and I will see a lot of Hoary Marmots.

This morning as we hiked along the trail, we also had our first view of Mt. Rainer – the largest mountain in Washington.

Note the smoke at the lower elevations below the peak.

Mt. Ranier

After hiking three miles this morning we found a nice campsite and decided to take a Nero and enjoy the rest of the day here in the Goat Rocks Wilderness.

In the next few miles, just ahead of where we stopped today, is the Knife’s Edge, a 1.7 mile exposed ridge with awesome views of Mt. Rainer. We’re hoping to hike this section with clear skies and little smoke. The weather was supposed to change tomorrow so we were also hoping that with the predicted change of weather, the wind direction may change and blow away some of the smoke.

So we just took it easy all day. Sydney took a couple naps and listened to podcasts and audiobooks.

I found a place with cell service and called Donna and then made an online hotel reservation for tomorrow night at Whites Pass.

Later in the day, the skies got smokier and eventually we couldn’t even see Mt. Rainer anymore.

When we retired to our tents for the night we weren’t very confident that it would be clearer in the morning – it seemed to be getting worse!


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Day 27: Goat Rocks Wilderness

PCT Mile 2250 – 2274

Miles Hiked = 24

Sydney and I were up early and on the trail by 6am. As we hiked north from the camping area around Lava Spring (where we camped last night) there was a large lava field on our right and the forest on our left.

The trail today would follow a mild but steady incline and pass by pretty lush meadows.

and beautiful small lakes.

After several hours of hiking and while still in the forest we saw this little guy foraging for food along the trail.

This is an American Marten – also known as an American Pine Marten. It is a long slender-bodied weasel that is common in the forests of North America. This is only the second Marten that I’ve ever seen in the wild – the first was seen several years ago while in the Tetons on a day hike.

Soon we entered the Goat Rocks Wilderness. I’ve seen photos of this wilderness area for several years now, and I must admit, I’ve been looking forward to hiking here for quite some time. You’ll see why soon!

A little later, we saw this forest bird along the trail

It’s a female Sooty Grouse which is a common game bird along the wet mountain forests of Washington state. Over the coming weeks, Sydney and I would see these birds on multiple occasions. As you can see, it is a well camouflaged bird. They make a rhythmic hooting call as they communicate with their young.

Flower of the Day

This flower is called an Arrowleaf Ragwort. It is a very common flower along the Washington PCT in and is considered a native weed in North America. It is a perennial plant and blooms these bright yellow flowers every summer. Also, please note, it is toxic to most mammals including humans!

As we continued our hike, we popped out above the tree line. The views were hazy because of the fires in Washington. Some days are hazier than others – the haziness primarily depends on the location of the fire and the wind direction. Since most of the major fires are to the east of the Cascades, when the prevailing winds are dominant, the smoke is pushed to the east and our views along the PCT are much better.

In mid-afternoon, we were getting close to the heart of the Goat Rocks Wilderness.

As we approached Cispus Pass we enjoyed our first view of the Goat Rocks.

Goat Rocks

And then we hiked the last hundred yards to Cispus Pass which is located in the saddle of the photo below.

On the other side of the pass was this amazingly beautiful lush green valley that was drained by the headwaters of Cispus River.

The first campsites we passed were occupied ☹️so we continued on, but Sydney always has a smile on her face😊.

I was tired but it was so beautiful even I had a smile (rarity) and didn’t mind hiking on.

The next campsite we came to was available so we grabbed it – water was nearby and the views were awesome! I even had time to go to the steam and wash the dust off my legs.

Good night – thanks for reading!

Day 26: Mt. Adams

PCT Mile 1230 – 1251

Miles Hiked = 21

Yesterday Sydney and I enjoyed our time in the tiny town of Trout Lake. But this morning it was time to get back on the trail. We were up at 6am and had arranged a ride at 7am with Gerry, one of the local Trail Angels.

Gerry & Me

We were back on the trail by 7:45am.

Soon after starting to hike, we entered the Mt. Adams Wilderness. Mt. Adams is the second highest mountain in Washington state at 12,281 feet. Mt. Ranier is the tallest (14,411’).

Continuing the pattern that started in Oregon, the trail would travel in a clockwise direction around the western side of major Cascade Volcanos. We hiked through the forest for the first few miles and then traveled through a burn zone for another five miles.

Burn zone & Mt. Adams

For the most part, the trail was a smooth dirt trail so we made good progress around the western side of the mountain.

The view of the Mt. Adams slowly changed as we moved from the southwestern to the northern side.

Sydney and I passed by several “silty” streams that originate from one of the many glaciers on Mt. Adams. We never collect water, however, from these silty streams, instead preferring to wait for cold clear streams that originate from snow melt or natural springs.

Silty stream
Sydney & Mt. Adams

In the mid-afternoon we arrived at Adams Creek along with three other hikers. There were several logs strewn across the creek but this was Sydney’s first significant creek crossing so we opted to ford the creek rather than walk across the logs and risk slipping and falling into the rushing water. The other hikers were clearly nervous also, so I led the way and we all crossed safely. At the deepest point, the water was up to my mid-thighs; for Sydney it was probably closer to her hips.

Sydney did great crossing the creek and was clearly relieved that the crossing was now behind her!

A little later we arrived at a pretty stream with clear water and a nice little waterfall as it cascaded down to the meadow below. We took a break and collected some water.

Flower of the Day:

Cep Mushroom

Cep Mushrooms are edible mushrooms that grow in the forest near the roots of forest trees. They are very common in Washington along the PCT and we passed by many of these large mushrooms almost everyday.

Late in the afternoon we arrived at Lava Spring where we would make camp for the night. Because of the proximity to the spring, there were at least twenty other hikers camping in this area. We chatted with two young hikers that camped next to us. They had both just graduated from college and hadn’t started hiking until mid-May (i.e. approximately 2200 miles in less than three months). They were hiking about thirty-five miles per day!

Lava Springs emanates directly out of these lava rocks – it was icy cold and clear.

Lava Spring

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Day 25: Happy Birthday Sydney!

PCT Mile 2222 – 2230

Miles Hiked = 8

Sydney and I were up at our usual time this morning. We only had eight miles to Forest Service Road 23 which has access to the small town of Trout Lake. Our hike this morning was once again through the forest.

Trout Lake is a very hiker friendly town and there is a group of local Trail Angels that operate a shuttle service four times per day to and from the trail and the town (thirteen miles). Sydney and I wanted to catch the 10:30 shuttle so we arrived at the road about 10am. A few minutes later a mini-van was driving by and we were able to hitch a ride into town!

We were enjoying burgers, fries and a beer by 11am!

Today is Sydney’s thirty-first birthday. Happy Birthday Sydney!!! I knew it was her birthday but it had skipped my mind this morning☹️. As we ate our burgers, Sydney reminded me. My bad!

After our meal, we walked fifty yards down the street to the General Store and picked up our resupply boxes and bought a few supplies. As we were checking out we inquired about a ride to our hotel which was about a mile down the road and one of the locals (Chris) offered to give us a ride. What a great town!

General Store

We arrived at the Trout Lake Valley Inn around Noon. I wasn’t expecting our room to be ready but luckily it was! This town just keeps getting better and better! Our room was called The End Room – it was very cute.

The End Room

We did our laundry, took showers, opened our resupply boxes and organized our food for the next segment. There are always a few things that we need to buy at the local store – things like tortillas, snickers, Fritos, etc. The hotel had bikes for the use of their guests, so Sydney and I took a bike ride back to the General Store to pick up a few more items.

Trout Lake is just south of Mt. Adams and we had a great view as we rode back into town.

It was a hot day in Trout Lake and the forecast was for a few more days of hot weather. Sydney and I were returning to the trail tomorrow morning – we would be at a higher elevation but were still expecting it to be quite warm for at least a few days.

Chris, the local who gave us a ride from the General Store to the hotel, had told us about a pizza place just 100 yards down the road from our hotel. At dinner time, Sydney and I walked over and ordered pizza, a salad and a couple beers. As we were waiting for our pizza, Chris walked up to pick up his own order. We bought him a beer and chatted for a few minutes.

Earlier today when we were at the General Store, we had arranged for a 7am ride back to the trail for the next morning. It was great to get off the trail for a few hours and take care of our town chores. It was great that Sydney enjoyed a little town time on her special day!

But, we’re back on the trail tomorrow. If you’re not moving forward, you’re not making progress!

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Day 24: Lakes, Mountains & Flowers

PCT Mile 2201 – 2222

Miles Hiked = 21

Last night we slept well next to Sheep Lakes. We were back on the trail by 6:30am and soon passed into the Indian Heaven Wilderness.

As has been customary here in southern Washington, we primarily hiked through the shaded forest with occasional crossings of lush green meadows.

We passed by ponds

Flower of the Day #1:

This flower is called the Rose Meadowsweet. It is a native shrub in the western mountains of the United States. This flower is related the the Rose Spirea that we highlighted in a previous post. In the summer it blooms these fragrant fuzzy pink flowers.

As Sydney and I hiked along the trail, we suddenly had another view back towards Mt. Hood. It was so clear today that we could also see Mt. Jefferson in the distance to the right of Mt. Hood.

Mt. Hood & Mt. Jefferson

We also had another good view of Mt. Saint Helens.

Mt. Saint Helens

Common Beargrass (previous Flower of the Day) lined the trail as we continued our March to the north.

Mid-morning we stopped at Blue Lake, a beautiful little lake right along the PCT

and made a new friend (Katie)

And then we walked through another burn zone

An hour later we hiked by Junction Lake, another pretty lake right off the trail

We stopped and collected water – here is Sydney filtering her water from her “dirty” bladder into her “clean” Smart Water container. We always collect water in the bladder and consider in not safe to drink until it has been filtered into our drinking container.

Soon we passed another beautiful lake

Flower of the Day #2:

This flower is called Mountain Indian Paintbrush and is native to the western United States. It grows in high mountain habitats from Alaska to California and is most commonly seen above the tree line.

Then we had another view of Mt. Saint Helens.

We camped above Steamboat Lake. We thought there was a campground here with picnic tables and a restroom but learned that there really were only campsites near the lake that was accessible by a dirt road. Weekend car campers had already nabbed all the lakeside campsites.

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Day 23: Up & Up

PCT Mile 2183 – 2201

Miles Hiked = 18

Sydney and I spent last night in a campsite at the Panther Creek Campground. I paid $10 – quite a good deal for a picnic table, water pump, trash bins and vault toilets!

This morning we were awake at 5:30am and walking out of the campground by 6:45. It took about 10 minutes to walk through the campground and get back on the official PCT.

We immediately walked across the Panther Creek Bridge.

The next nine and half miles were uphill. We gained over three thousand feet in altitude.

The trail was in forest and switchbacked up the side of an unnamed mountain in the Gifford Pinchot National Forest.

After about three miles we popped out onto a ridge that had a great view looking back at Mt. Hood in Oregon.

Mt. Hood

The low level fog in the above photo is hanging above the Columbia River which separates Oregon from Washington. Sydney and I had walked across the Bridge of Gods just two days ago.

We passed through the Wind River Experimental Forest.

Apparently the US Forest Service has used this area as an ecological research site since 1908. The site is best known for having a 285 foot freestanding tower crane that allows scientists to view and study the forest from above. Sydney and I, however, didn’t see the crane☹️.

In a little while we enjoyed another view back at Mt. Hood.

After four and one-half hours of uphill climbing we reached the top and had our first view of Mt. Adams to the north!

Mt. Adams

Sydney was quite excited about seeing both Mt. Hood and Mt. Adams. We are heading in the direction of Mt. Adams and will hike around its western flank (left side) in a few days.

This morning we each left camp with about two liters of water. That would be enough to get us to our only water source for the day – a piped spring. At that point we then collected almost three liters of water each – enough to get us through the rest of the day and night and to another water source tomorrow morning.

We had more forest walking in the afternoon.

Nice to have signs to keep us headed in the right direction!

Flower of the Day:

Western Thimbleberry

I passed a number of these red berries today. They are called the Western Thimbleberry and grow in moist shaded forests. The berries are edible and taste like raspberry flavored candy.

Another flower I’ve been seeing is the Rose Spirea

Rose Spirea

The Rose Spirea is native to North America and, as the name implies, is part of the Rose family.

We set up camp next to Sheep Lake and enjoyed a nice sunset.

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Day 22: Sydney’s First Full Day

PCT Mile 2159 – 2183

Miles Hiked =24

Today was my first morning on trail with Sydney. I stirred her awake at 5:30am and we were hiking a little before 7:00. It always takes some time to establish a morning routine. I’m usually hiking 45-60 minutes after I start the process. Sydney was a little slow today but she’ll get faster.

We had a little rain yesterday afternoon and evening so our tents were still wet this morning. There was a bright and brilliant sunrise through the morning fog as we tore down our camp.

Most mornings on the PCT, I’ve started the day’s hike with clear skies and bright sunshine, but not on our first morning in Washington. Could this be a foretelling of things to come?

Foggy morning

An hour later the fog had lifted but we were still hiking under overcast skies.

Most of our hike today was in the green mossy Washington forest

As we hiked along through the wet and damp forest, Sydney noticed slugs along the trail.

Apparently the most common slug in Washington is the Banana Slug which range in color from banana yellow in Northern California to olive green to brownish in Washington. Slugs are like snails without a shell and are essentially decomposers that break down vegetation and turn it into the rich soil in these native forests.

Mid-morning we collected water from the stream under this bridge – it was our first water source since yesterday afternoon – 11+ miles back.

We stopped and had lunch in the afternoon and dried out some of our wet clothes.

Later in the afternoon the trail took a turn and we had a nice views

There was also a short side-trail to an even better viewpoint

There was a vertical drop at the edge of the viewpoint – about a 500 foot vertical drop – straight down!!! – notice I’m leaning back for the photo-op!

About an hour later we crossed over Trout Creek

and then walked through a brown meadow

We continued hiking for another few miles and then camped at Panther Creek Campground – picnic tables, water pump, trash cans, restrooms… life is good!

Sydney hiked 24 miles today! Pretty damn good for her first full day on the trail.

Thanks for reading!

Day 21: Bridge of the Gods

PCT Mile 2148 – 2159

Miles Hiked = 11

Since I finished hiking the Oregon PCT, Donna and I spent two nights with Tom and Karen in the Portland area. We went wine tasting, enjoyed a couple nice dinners at local restaurants, watched some Olympics and generally just had a great time together. Thanks Tom and Karen!

Megan, Tom, Karen & Glenn

Then Donna and I headed to Seattle and spent four days with Sydney. She was busy tying up some loose-ends for her Masters program but we managed to also visit REI a couple times in preparation for our upcoming BIG hike together! We also managed to go out for dinner every night!

Sydney, Donna & myself

We all had a great time in Seattle but it was time to get back on the trail. So Donna and I picked up Sydney early the next morning and drove back to Cascade Locks where I had left the trail last week. After a few photos and some good-bye hugs, Donna was headed back to the Portland airport and Sydney and I started walking.

Me & Sydney

Ever since Sydney expressed an interest in hiking the Washington PCT with me, I’ve been looking forward to hiking this section together. What a great way to finish the trail! It seems fitting that there are four feet back on the trail.

Our first steps together were to walk across the Bridge of the Gods.

The Oregon side

The Bridge of the Gods crosses over the Columbia River and connects the Oregon side with the Washington side.

The Washington side

The Bridge of Gods is only about eighty feet above sea level – the lowest point on the entire PCT! So we only had one way to go … up, up and up! Over the next eleven miles we hiked up to over 4000 feet in elevation.

Within a few minutes after crossing the Bridge of Gods we entered the forest and were hiking on dirt.

Only 500+ miles to go

Soon the excitement of crossing the Bridge and beginning our hike together wore off and the reality of putting one foot in front of the other and logging miles set in.

We passed a pretty pond.

As the afternoon passed by, clouds rolled in and we started to get some light rain.

We hiked primarily in the forest and collected water at a spring.

As we got higher into the hills, we had a view back at the Columbia River.

Late in the afternoon, after gaining those 4000 feet and hiking those first eleven miles into Washington, we made camp. The space was a little tight, but we manage to fit both tents into it.

Here we go!

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Day 20: Tunnel Falls

PCT Mile 2120 – 2148

Miles Hiked = 24

Today would be my final day hiking in Oregon so I was motivated to get up early and get hiking. I was in the forest west of Mt. Hood.

As mentioned in my last post, there was more evidence of recent trail crews clearing the trail of downed trees.

But there were still obstacles that I had to get around.

It was an overcast day and I eventually had a hazy view back at Mt. Hood.

Flower of the Day:

This is a Salmonberry. It is a shrub that is native to the west coast of North America from Alaska to California. I’ve seen very few of these berries along the PCT. Not surprisingly, they are related to Blackberries and Raspberries but are reported to have a more subtle flavor.

After about seven miles, the trail left the forest and traversed through a large rock field.

In another couple miles I arrived at Indian Spring where I collected water via a leaf and trowel to funnel the water into my bladder – sometimes you have to be creative!

Near the spring was a trail junction with the Eagle Creek Trail (blue below), one of the most popular alternate trails on the PCT (red below). The only alternate trail more popular on the entire PCT is likely the Crater Rim Trail that I hiked several weeks ago.

So I decided to take the alternate Eagle Creek Trail which is a little shorter (3.5 miles) than the official PCT. Both trails take you to Cascade Locks which is a little town adjacent to the Columbia River. Keep reading and you’ll see why this trail is so popular.

The first part of the alternate is a steep descent down the mountain to join the official Eagle Creek Trail. The descent goes through a burn area and then crosses a rock field.

After four miles I reached Eagle Creek.

The trail continued next to the creek as it flowed downstream. As I continued along the trail the canyons walls got steeper.

Note the couple sitting on the edge of a steep drop off down to the creek and below a waterfall.

And the trail got more exposed on the creek side.

Yikes! That’s a pretty steep drop off!

And then I turned the corner and I caught my first glimpse of Tunnel Falls.

Tunnel Falls

The trail actually goes through a tunnel behind the water falls.


A fellow hiker took photos of me as I hiked towards the falls.

I recorded this video

After I passed through the tunnel I took a look back

And recorded another video

Tunnel Falls is definitely one of the most amazing sights along the PCT!

As I continued down the Eagle Creek Trail there were more incredible sights even though not quite as amazing as Tunnel Falls.

Not Tunnel Falls
Note the bridge
Swimming pool anyone?

Late in the afternoon I reached the end of the Eagle Creek Trail and took a side trail towards Cascade Locks – only 2.5 miles left and I would be done with Oregon.

Soon I arrived in Cascade Locks. Hikers then walk across the Bridge of Gods as the trail crosses above the Columbia River and enters the state of Washington. But that walk would have to wait a few days for me to make.

Soon I was at Thunder Island Brewery.

As I enjoyed my meal, Donna was on a flight to the Portland International Airport – it’s about forty-five minutes away. I’m looking forward to seeing her in a couple hours. Until then, I guess I’ll just have another beer.

On to Washington! But that will have to wait for a few days. My daughter Sydney will be joining me for the remaining 505 miles. It will be great to finish the trail with four feet. 🥾🥾 🥾🥾

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Day 19: So Long Mt. Hood

PCT Mile 2098 – 2120

Miles Hiked = 22

I enjoyed my zero day yesterday at Timberline Lodge below Mt. Hood. But it’s time to get back on the trail and finish Oregon. I have about 46 miles to Cascade Locks which is a small town along the Columbia River. There the PCT crosses over the Bridge of Gods to enter Washington state. My plan is to reach Cascade Locks in two days.

I left Timberline Lodge at 6am this morning. The PCT crosses above the lodge so it only took five minutes or so to get back on the trail. It was an overcast morning with high clouds.

I soon had a view of Mt. Hood in the glow of the morning light.

The PCT winds it’s way clockwise from the southern face of Mt. Hood where the Timberline Lodge is located to the western and then northwestern sides. There are many glaciers on Mt. Hood and each seems to have its own gully with glacial streams flowing down the mountain. I would cross several today.

I had to cross several of the streams via “log bridges”. Sometimes these are a little hairy-scary. These two were easy.

At one point I had a nice view looking back south at Mt. Jefferson.

After almost ten miles of hiking I passed Ramona Falls. There were a lot of day-hikers visiting the Falls because of a nearby road and trailhead.

Ramona Falls

As I continued my hike I enjoyed several nice views of Mt. Hood as I worked my way around the western side of the mountain.

Mt. Hood

Last Labor Day (2020), there was a historic windstorm on the western side of Mt. Hood that caused extensive damage and blew down tens of thousands of trees. The winds also fueled wildfires across the Cascades. The Timberline Trail that circumnavigates Mt. Hood as well as the PCT were severely damaged with thousands of downed trees blocking these trails. Forest Service crews cleared as many of these downed trees as possible before winter arrived last year and just within the last few weeks cleared the majority of the remaining downed trees. There was evidence as I walked along the trail.

Later that afternoon I reached a natural spring and collected water for the night. And then I set up my tent, cooked my dinner (boiled water) and settled in for the night.

Tomorrow would be my last day hiking in Oregon and I was expecting it to be a good one. Hint: that was a tease.

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