Washington PCT Section L: Days 4-5

Day 4: Spring Creek camp to Hart’s Pass-6.2 miles

Knowing we only had 6 miles on our agenda for the day, we embraced a leisurely start in the morning, talking to the pika squeaking from their hiding places in the hills as we packed up camp. We filled up with as much water as we could carry, since we knew there would be no water until our campsite, and then started on our day’s journey.

Sunrise above the spring

We immediately climbed out of our campsite and onto a massive exposed ridge, complete with loose scree and hot direct sunlight.

Loose scree slopes above the valley

Clear evidence of past wildfire activity

Gracie and Nikki enjoying the morning views

Continuing along the ridge

Views opening up to the north, with Hart’s Pass and it’s epic lookout visible in the distance

Looking back toward the pass we crested the previous day

Beautiful pink wildflowers clinging to the side of the slope

Old school PCT sign as we neared Hart’s Pass

Nikki leading our way through

Looking back on the giant valley we walked above all morning

The day was an easy one, planned intentionally since we thought the prior day would be more difficult and we’d need a break. We arrived at camp early again, which allowed for plenty of time to cool off in the creek, reorganize our packs, look at the next day’s itinerary and chat with the substantial number of PCT thru hikers who passed our site on the trail.

A nice blister started developing

Goodnight world

Day 5: Hart’s Pass to Shaw Creek-10 miles

Knowing we had a high mileage day featuring three different passes and guessing that not a cloud would be found in the sky, we filled up our water and headed out early, eager to beat the heat and walk in the cool shadows as long as possible.

Hart’s Pass was once a gateway to mining towns developed in a hurried frenzy during the gold rush of the 1890’s. Abandoned trails to old mines and ghost towns are abundant, featuring names like Barron and Chancellor. A volunteer manning the guard station told us stories of miners in the present day continuing their search for gold, convoys of hermits suiting up in giant waders and essentially vacuuming up the bottoms of the river in search of their prize. Upon further research once back in civilization, I also learned that the lookout at Hart’s Pass was built on the site of a Cold War-era missile detection facility. The government chopped hundreds of feet off of Slate Peak to level it out to make it suitable to build. Sadly, the mission was nixed before it was even used, and the mountain was altered for nothing. I love learning local history and seeing it around us as we explore the wilderness!

Beautiful wildflowers

The abundance of diverse, vibrant flowers was a highlight of the trip for me

Savoring the cool shadows as we walk through picture-perfect meadows

The sun starting to catch us

Pano with stunning views, including Baker

Wildflowers greeting us with the Slate Peak lookout in the background

More mountains as we continue along the ridge

It is always an awe-inspiring feeling to look back and see monstrous mountains

We pushed on for 8.5 miles before we took our lunch break, our legs feeling strong on the relatively easy trail. We sat near the trail and chatted with more thru hikers as they walked by, many seeming like they wanted to be done sooner rather than later.

After lunch, it was a long, hot slog to our campsite. It was very dry in this section, and we filled up with every viable container at Shaw Creek before continuing another mile to our pleasantly-wooded campsite. Although we were the first to arrive, the other sites eventually all filled up with other hikers, leaving us to be more mindful of our noise level since we were so used to being alone!

It was our last night with all 3 of us together, as I would be turning west in the morning to begin my solo loop. It was definitely bittersweet, as I was excited for this next part of the adventure but would definitely miss my adventure buddies. We reminisced on our journey so far and fell asleep as the sun went behind the trees.

Looking north towards (or into) Canada

Mountains and meadows

Walking parallel to Buckskin Ridge, a loop accessible from Hart’s Pass that is also on my list

View from Shaw Creek as we filled up on water

2 Comments

  1. Awesome few days. Love all the wildflowers and the history about the lookout! Glad you has such a wonderful time.

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