Day 124: Thursday, September 5

At my aunt Anita's house in Yakima with Hitch (left PCT at mi 2299.6), walked 20?? miles today

Had ... issues last night with my tent. The first problem was that it was facing the wrong way--I had set it up with its back to the south, consistent with the cloud movement I'd seen all day and with the general pattern of foul weather in the Northwest, but by the middle of the night wind was gusting into the opening from the complete opposite direction. Then it started to rain, also from that direction. Then hail, then lightning, on kind of an every-hour rotation ... The precipitation was never hard, I personally stayed dry by backing farther away from the opening, but I didn't get much rest. Around 5 there was a calm spell and I stepped outside to do the always misadventurous turn-the-Hexamid-around-when-it's-full-of-stuff-in-the-dark maneuver. This failed when a gust of wind blew up as I was drawing the back line taut and the carbon-fiber pole snapped in half. Hitch woke up at this point and said, "Ah, you're up early!" but that wasn't exactly intentional. Decided, since I no longer had a functioning shelter, to get walking, with no idea what kind of weather I was getting into ... All I knew is the trail went up up up to the very exposed ridge of the Goat Rocks.

It turned out to be brilliant weather up there, above all the clouds and precipitation a few thousand feet below. It was bright and sunny at some points when the hour got late enough (it was just a few miles away from camp, so when I first got up there it was only 7:00 or so). Decided after some light waffling not to take the very highest part of the Knife Edge route because of clouds and wind up there, and instead take the lower equestrian bypass trail, but it's not like the latter was lacking in excitement. Sherpa C, early riser that he is, caught me up after I had just spent about 5 minutes on a little 50-yard snow traverse, yelling, "Fuckin' A, this is fuckin' beauuuutiful!" across the col to get my attention, then he and I walked the rest of the way on the high route together. Called my aunt Anita at one point and made plans to be picked up at White Pass in the afternoon and taken back to her house in Yakima for the night, possibly with Sherpa and Hitch in tow. The trail was crazy exciting and vertiginous and beautiful all the way for almost 5 miles up there; finally when we got down the ensuing 10 miles didn't offer much by comparison.

Hitch also caught up and the three of us stayed nearby one another for most of that stretch. Around 2:30, Sherpa and I reached the turnoff for the Chairlift Trail, a shortcut that takes the enterprising hiker straight down the ski slopes of White Pass rather than gently wending around them for several extra miles as the official PCT route does. People in the Yogi book had done some hand-wringing and bed-wetting about the steepness and treachery of this shortcut, but I found it quite a lot of fun, and besides it was rapidly bringing me that much closer to my ultimate goal of eating a jalapeño-cheese corndog and drinking whole quarts of milk down at the gas station by the highway. When I got to said gas station, I was crushed to find out they were out of all corndogs, but I did get to drink a lot of milk and eat some truly low-brow pizza as I waited for my aunt to get there. When she did, at 6:30, she had my mom with her, recently off the plane from Virginia, and Hitch tagged along on the hourlong drive back to Yakima (Sherpa's plans changed, he met a buddy of his at the pass and spent the night there). We got cleaned up, Paula cooked up some tortellini and salad for dinner, we all watched football ... a very relaxing evening at the Yakima pad. Not having slept much, I was really tired by the end of it all and am going to sleep now with the intent of getting back to the trail tomorrow by noon and pressing on. Getting to Snoqualmie Pass by Monday night puts me within easy reach, even with weather-related delays built in, of a finish on the equinoctal weekend of Sept. 21/22, which has always been my goal.