Washington PCT Section L: Days 6-7

Day 6: Shaw Creek to Devil’s Ridge Trail over Devil’s Pass to Jackita Ridge Trail-18.7 miles

We woke up with the sun in the early morning, as we all had agendas that were aggressive and would require as much day light as possible! I was planning on hiking the 3ish miles with Gracie & Nikki to Holman Pass, then diverging west on the PNT, while Gracie and Nikki had a ~15 mile day planned to a cool-looking alpine lake.

We breezed through the 3 mile section to the pass, a slight downhill angle giving us an extra spring in our step. The air was cool, even through wildfire sections that felt hot and charred.

Early morning venture into fairly new wildfire remnants

I headed west to Devil’s Pass, Gracie and Nikki continued north

I didn’t take any pictures on the initial section of the PNT. The Pacific Northwest Trail is a 1200 mile stretch from the Washington coast to Glacier Park in Montana. It is much less traveled than the PCT, and with this lack of notoriety comes less visibility, which leads to less volunteerism and less funding.

(Immediately upon reaching civilization, I joined as a member with the PNT, hoping my dollars could make a difference. You can look for yourself at https://www.pnt.org/membership/)

Immediately after the turn off from the PCT, the trail narrowed, disappearing between thick stands of brush, and around giant logs that had fallen and were yet to be removed. I quickly came upon a volunteer work party that was working on clearing this section of trail. While I am immensely grateful for their service, I knew that their location along the trail meant that almost my entire journey for the day would be through uncleared brush and logs.

I moved slowly for the first few miles, mostly out of necessity, but sometimes due to losing the trail or being scared s**tless by a group of grouse. It was demoralizing progress, moving slowly through overgrown forest with no views, mud and dirt accumulating quickly, and a newly-acquired rip in my pants from a tree branch.

On this entire section of trail, I only saw 4 people, so if you’re looking for remote and difficult, this would be your trail! However, it was along this section that I realized, somewhere, my math had gone wrong. I was only planning on around 10-12 miles for the day, but it quickly became apparent that it would be more like an 18 mile day.

Just when it seemed that the forest and brush would never end, the trail finally twisted its way along a ridge, imposing mountains making their presence known across the valley floor, with twinkling alpine lakes dotting the surface. These views were just what I needed to prod me towards Devil’s Pass, where I would link up with the Jackita Ridge Trail, and begin my journey back down south towards Highway 20.

Views finally opening up to alpine lakes and jagged peaks

Trail intersection at the top of Devil’s Pass, where I turned south towards Highway 20

After my rough section of the PNT, the Jackita Ridge Trail was incredible. Stunning views of mountains kept me company as I walked south along the ridge. Although it was dusty and dry in the direct afternoon light, the meadows filled with wildflowers were a welcome distraction. This trail is part of the famed Devil’s Dome Loop, and I would love to do this loop in the future, perhaps earlier in the season with a bit more water and bit less heat!

Big mountains, big views

Although I was stressed and tired at this point, I could still appreciate the stunning beauty of Jackita Ridge Trail

Although the trail was beautiful, it was very difficult. Switchbacks were few and far between, this trail preferring to go straight up and down in what seemed like a vision of efficiency. As I continued further, the trail got brushier, especially on steep ascents up from the valley floor and back down towards trickling streams.

At around 3:30 in the afternoon, I found a wonderful campsite in a meadow by a crystal clear stream. However, after some consideration, I decided not to camp, as it was too early in the day to justify sitting at camp and not making progress towards the highway. This proved to be a mistake.

Continuing south along the trail through its ups and downs

These peaks were imposing and beautiful

Where I should have stopped for the night, but continued on for another several miles and hour and a half with limited water and running out of daylight

I ended up hiking until 6:45, the sun threatening to dip below the horizon. I had only 1 liter of water left, which I was trying to save for dinner, and had been hiking for 12 hours at this point. After reaching a 7,000 foot ridge and coming back down, I finally found a wooded campsite with easy access to a stream. Fresh blueberries on the trail, warmed all day by the sun, infused the air with the scent of fresh blueberry pie. I settled down by the campfire ring, munching on Skittles Gracie graciously gave me, and enjoyed my last dehydrated meal of beef stroganoff.

After such a tough day, I was feeling ready to get to the trailhead!

Day 7: Jackita Ridge Trail to Canyon Creek Trailhead 13.1 miles

I left my campsite at 7am, having planned to meet my mom and Tay at the Canyon Creek Trailhead, 13 miles away, at 1pm.

After climbing out of the campsite up a steep scree slope, I dropped back over the ridge on the other side and came across an otherworldly sight: the fog had dropped down into the valley like a puffy, vaporous glacier, hiding the valley floor completely from view. This was the first time on the entire trip that clouds had provided dense cover from the sun, and after yesterday’s adventure, I was grateful for the change.

Coming around the ridge to a valley floor covered in a layer of fog

Epic panorama featuring Jack Mountain and the Jackita Ridge Trail

After walking along the ridge for some of the morning, the trail began descending gently into the fog. Here, I began traveling through Devil’s Park, a broad alpine meadow that reminded me quite a bit of Spray Park on our Wonderland Trail journey. Certain that bears must love these berry-filled meadows, I turned my cellphone speakers up and listened to my audiobook, while also indulging in a few of those berries myself.

Devil’s Park shelter

With the fog and endless fields of blueberries, I was on bear alert for hours. Good thing I had a book on tape to play nice and loud!

Slightly disappointed in the lack of bears, the trail moved into densely-grown forest, completely with cascading waterfalls, hanging moss and brushy overgrowth due to the trailhead’s closure for most of the summer. This section of trail seemed to go on forever, my feet aching to be done and my stomach growling for something more than beef jerky and dried fruit.

Near the end of my journey, many creeks and streams began converging to join Canyon Creek

This was my view for much of the morning, as I wound my way down thick forest and brush to the trailhead

Finally, I spotted the trailhead sign, which signaled that the parking lot was soon!

Jackita Ridge Trailhead accessed via Canyon Creek Trail. This trail has been closed for most of the summer after a tree took down the bridge, so it was already quite overgrown. I didn’t see a soul for hours.

One last obstacle awaited me: early in the season, a tree had completely wiped out the bridge crossing Canyon Creek. With less consideration than was probably necessary, I jumped on the log and dashed across into the waiting arms of Tay and my mom. Another section of the PCT was complete, and I felt stronger than ever.

My mom snapped this pic as I crossed my final obstacle! The ranger had told me the bridge was impassable, but I was determined to not walk the extra 3 miles to the next road access point.

Thank you for your continued interest in my outdoors adventures! Please stay tuned as I enter the realm of more advanced mountaineering and begin my training for King County Search and Rescue.

2 Comments

  1. Kendall, what an insane adventure. Brett and I have always wanted to do the Pacific Northwest Trail. Beautiful pictures and stories and glad you go to experience it. The dense fog covering the valley floor was just like what we saw at alpine lakes wilderness, something I had never seen before. Thank you for sharing this amazing adventure and glad you got across that last log obstacle.

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