Harts Pass to Rainy Pass on the Pacific Crest Trail
This is flat out beautiful country!
I received a ride from my buddy Detour who I had the chance to interview for my podcast; Episode 20 HERE. He offers rides to hikers in need, accepting gas money for time and good conversation.
So I met him at Rainy Pass where the Pacific Crest Trail (PCT) crosses Highway 20, just 60 miles from the Canadian Border. We drove into Mazama and up the treacherous, renowned Harts Pass Road. Detour dropped me off at the southbound trailhead and I was off!
The trail starts at about 6,400 feet here and after a short traverse around the first ridge, the trail stays flat, or at times drops in elevation for about six miles. It was totally open with views in all directions at times. Meadowy side slopes drop thousands of feet. This would be a great day hike or short overnight trip.
It was getting late in the evening as I reached the drop off that switchbacks down to Glacier Pass. I chose to call it a night after about eight miles in the hot sun, including the later start with travel time.
I had Glacier Pass all to myself except for some late night wildlife. I was honestly too tired to try and do the pitch dark tent huddle, in which a scared hiker scrolls through a laundry list of animals that "could" be just outside their nylon home.
With an early start and 20 miles from my car, I headed down the trail following Brush Creek as it pooled into large, clear ponds that were tiered below me. I was upset that there was so much brush surrounding the banks, curbing hikers away. I paused and had two thoughts: Brush creek was aptly named and I also wondered what is the specifications for a lake.... These pools at times looked like small lakes with an inlet on one side and an outlet on the other.
The trail crosses Brush Creek, before levying it behind, on a large wooden bridge. There were some huge campsites on the opposite side where I heated up my breakfast. The trail worker in me decided that this would be a great spot to have a base camp for some needed brush work in the vicinity.
The trail slowly climbed from there all the way to Methow Pass. I ran into a couple Forest Service employees who were running chainsaws, having cleared the trail up to the bridge over Methow River. The had logged all but a four and a half to five foot diameter Cedar. The bad part was that they hadn't yet logged out the South side between the river and the pass.
Tired from all of the extra trees, I was not excited to see some trail runners that were out on a jog from Highway 20. They were running and I was on empty. I warned them about all of the blowdowns and continued on. I recorded a short video on trail for my wife because it was her birthday and I was "by myself in the middle of nowhere" according to her.
Reaching Methow Pass gave me a fresh view and a fresh kick of energy. The trail can be seen across the lower valley floor, though it is about the same elevation on the other side. The PCT stays high, not dropping all the way down, but dropping a bit to a huge camp area below the renowned Snowy Lakes.
I should have stayed the night here....
Honestly, I thought long and hard about staying and visiting the lakes, but I couldn't shake the idea that my car was fairly close and I could sleep with my daughters if I gusted pushed on. There was a good sized creek here where I stopped and soaked my feet for about 20 minutes. The runners came by and we had another chat.
I think I saw about 60 people from the Snowy Lakes on! Granite Pass was amazing and so was the traverse over towards Cutthroat Pass. I had a great conversation with a guy that was camped down at Cutthroat Lake and are the trek up to explore. He had been a biologist with North Cascades National Park and talked about mountain tops with no names where he documented plant life.
My car was only five miles downhill from this popular day hike destination, but I had already traveled 15 miles and the day was getting short. I continued on, picking up my pace. The sun started falling behind the huge mountains that surround this part of the North Cascades Highway.
My car never looked so comfortable!