As exciting as it was to walk through all that snow, we were happy to find the section between Stevens Pass and Snoqualmie 90% snow free. Though the terrain was steep, we enjoyed some more relaxing days and what views we could through the clouds. The cloud cover made for some cooler days and eventually culminated in a thunder storm. On our last morning before reaching the pass, we found ourselves waiting under a tree on the trail, not wanting to climb up to the ridge until the storm had passed. Hearing the thunder get more distant, we decided it was safe to proceed. Unfortunately, this was not the case. As we walked over the exposed ridge, the wind picked up, flashes of lightning became more frequent and the thunder was once again loud. We made the decision to leave our packs and head for cover underneath a grove of trees off the trail just seconds before the rain started. We sat in our rain coats, hugged our knees and ducked as marble- sized hail fell relentlessly from the sky. Fortunately, the hail only lasted a few minutes and we were left with simply rain for the next few hours. Soaking wet, cold, and hungry, we flew 9 miles down the mountain, motivated by thoughts of warm coffee and finding joy in splashing through every puddle in our hopelessly soggy shoes.
The nice thing about hiking through Washington, close to home, is the opportunity to see friends and family. We enjoyed a couple rainy days off with Anna's visiting family, soaking in a hot tub and relaxing in a cabin outside Mt Rainier National Park.
Upon our return to the trail, we were happily joined by friends and dogs for the better part of a day.
We still struggle to find the perfect balance between just enough food and too much. Walking into town still carrying three meals, Clif bars and gorp means that our packs were heavier than they should have been, a burden we carried the past 100 miles. On the other hand, not having enough food makes for lighter packs but can be a bit nerve wracking. We had just begun rationing our food, wondering if we had enough to make it, as we approached Chinook Pass at Highway 410. Two women day hikers climbed up as we walked down. We stopped to chat briefly, and before we knew it they were offering us food out of their packs. We had heard of such kindness of strangers occurring on occasion on the trail, but never experienced it first hand. They generously donated us a half loaf of whole grain bread and pieces of raw vegetables - broccoli, cauliflower, tomatoes and carrots. We were elated as we continued our walk down. We ate our surprise meal in the shade of the outhouse at the Chinook Pass parking lot. Never have fresh vegetables ever tasted so good.
The moment we got our surprise meal was also the moment we began to be meals ourselves for mosquitos hundreds of miles to come. On and off for the next several days, we ran into long stretches of trail laden with these tiny, vicious, blood thirsty creatures. They would land on our arms, legs and faces three at a time while we walked and swarm us by the dozen if we tried to stop. Our best defense was to wear long sleeve clothing, even during the hottest parts of the day, and keep our pace as fast as possible. If the mosquitos fly at 3.1 miles per hour, we were sure to walk at 3.2 miles per hour or faster, climbing mountains in record time, covering upwards of fifteen miles without stoping. Nothing like being chased by hundreds of buzzing vampire bugs to get you where you're going.
We had the pleasure of climbing some of the steepest terrain yet, along a rocky ridge called the "knife's edge", in the Goat Rocks Wilderness, to some of the most amazing views on the whole trail (seeing Mt Adams, Rainier and St. Helens all at once).
Finally, despite frequent stops for berry picking (huckleberries, blueberries, blackberries, strawberries!) and a few dips in the river, we made it through the endless forest of southern Washington. Last night, we walked across the Bridge of the Gods to cross the Columbia River into Oregon. We are celebrating 500 miles with a much needed day of rest.
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