Sleeping under a big tarp at Hart's Pass Campground (PCT mi 2630.1), walked 26.9 miles today
Alarm went off at 6:15 this morning and when I woke up, rain was POUNDING on the tent, making me wonder just how bad today was going to be. But it subsided completely by the time I had stepped outside to finish packing up, and there actually wasn't any rain for the first several miles as the trail climbed up to Cutthroat Pass, and there was even a view of sorts around the top. The trail was super-high-quality, wide and rocky and not puddly despite the night of rain, and it stayed up high for awhile after the pass and put out views to all directions, which I could kind of see with the clouds. Rain did come back in the middle of the morning, reaching peak intensity right as I ran into two people with their three pack llamas ... They said a) that they expected to see no one out in this weather (but then I explained that I was a thru-hiker and told them they'd be seeing at least 8 more of us in short order), and b) that they had been snowed upon at their camp, which was above 7,000 feet, and the precipitation that was falling on us as we talked was even a little slushy. Got down from high elevation after Methow Pass starting around 11, and suddenly all signs of bad weather disappeared and it was sunny, gloriously sunny for the rest of the afternoon. I had been leapfrogging Blur and Goodall, two Reed alums, all morning and we frequently remarked on our distrust of the windows of blue sky we were starting to see, but by noon we had to concede it was really happening. Dried all my stuff out and walked alone for an hour or so through the valley, then took a break before the big afternoon climb up 2500 feet to a pass that, as far as I can tell from the maps, didn't even have a name ... we'll call it Doodles Pass for reference.
After summiting Doodles, the trail did another spectacular traverse of some very high ridges ... By this time, me, Spark, Instigate, Jackrabbit, Hermes & Lotus and sometimes Blur and Goodall were all within a few minutes of each other and we ended up taking a highly entertaining break at a spring together. Despite the sun, it was starting to get brisk (40-45 degrees) in the late afternoon at such elevation, and we all had trail magic in a few miles at Hart's Pass to look forward to, so no one tarried long. I made it to the pass about two minutes before everyone else did, thereby winning, and told the trail magic providers that there was a crowd on the way. The providers were Serpent Slayer and Slick, both former thru-hikers from Bellingham, WA who had independently decided to do trail magic this weekend at this pass, ran into each other up here and combined forces. Slick had more traditional food offerings (grilled bacon cheeseburgers) and Serpent more new-fangled (rice and lentils with pineapples and raspberry chipotle dressing), but they both had plenty of soda and beer and wine and little extra goodies like stuffed olives and clementines that everyone, myself included, really enjoyed and appreciated. They also had a cracking fire going the whole time, and I pretty much never moved from it. After awhile Slick broke out his guitar, played and sang a few tunes, then asked if anyone else knew any lyrics that he could provide accompaniment for. I made a stab at "El Paso" by Marty Robbins, recalling about 90% of the lyrics and never even coming close to hitting his high notes, then later did Bryan Bowers' "The Scotsman" and Johnny Cash/Shel Silverstein's "A Boy Named Sue" both without instrumental accompaniment but with more lyrical success. Another hiker named Runs With Elk recited all of Robert Service's "The Cremation of Sam McGee," which I still recall most of and had actually had stuck in my head for awhile the other day. Carrot and Robin Hood showed up after dark, as usual, then the crowd thinned out and some people told jokes around the fire and by 10:30 it was just me, Burrito Grande and an old-timer named Let It Be still up. I called it a night, not caring for Let It Be's drunken platitudes about America and the world and the old days and whatnot, and since I didn't feel like dealing with my tent and having it get wet all over again tonight, I took some space under a big tarp they had strung up in the trees and lay down here. Burrito Grande later joined. He was so drunk that he forgot to put his sleeping pad down underneath him and then finally said, "Ach, I knew I was forgetting something!" Tomorrow the plan is to eat a huge hot breakfast here, then strike out into the maelstrom (or the sunshine, they seem equally likely) and get 20 or so miles done, to be within 10 of the border for the final day. It's almost over. I refuse to do any reflecting because I don't believe in that without the benefit of months or years of hindsight, but I will at least say that I'm making a concerted effort to soak in everything--every view, personal interaction, minute around the campfire, etc.--before it's all done.