Pacific Crest Trail (Darrington to Stehekin)


Day 1 - August 16, 2003
7 miles; 2,000 feet elevation gain

Today is the first day of our adventure. We originally had plans to hike in Glacier National Park with two nights in the Glacier Park Chalet, but changed our plans due to forest fires. Over 40,000 acres burned so far. The fire came within ¼ mile of the chalet, but now it is open again. The park is just smoky and other areas (like Lake McDonald Lodge) are evacuated. So hiking the PCT to Stehekin is our back-up plan; something we've wanted to do for a while.

We started outside Darrington on the White Chuck River trail. Mom & Dad dropped us off and hiked the first two miles with us, which was a treat.

Followed the White Chuck much of the way. With all of the glacial silt, the river looks more like a running latte!

Today wasn't very steep, but the packs are heavy. Mine is 40 pounds and Jon's is 50 pounds. We're already thinking of ways to cut down our weight for the next time. Not that it will help us now. Jon just needs to eat more trial mix! J

Today we hiked about 7 miles and gained about 2,000 feet. Tomorrow will be a tough day. 9 miles and a lot of up and down. We start at 4,200 feet and the highest point (Fire Creek Pass) is 6,300 feet.

Today's trail was pretty. We were in the forest the whole time. Lots of nice trees and lush underbrush. We've seen quite a few hikers (it's Saturday). Most look like climbers headed to / from Glacier Peak. Met a nice couple from Ohio at our campsite.

The weather was nice… Overcast and in the 70s. It's starting to clear tonight, so we're looking forward to beautiful views tomorrow.

Crossing the White Chuck River at Kennedy Hot Springs

White Chuck River


Day 2 - August 17, 2003

Today was a beautiful day, and although we had a bit of a rough start, we were rewarded with great weather and spectacular views all afternoon.

We left our camp at Sitcum Creek around 9:00 and within 30 minutes had to cross Kennedy Creek. They can't build a bridge across because all of the past ones keep getting washed out by avalanches. There were two small logs across the creek, covered with moss in places. A man crossed just before us and looked to be slipping, so we put on our Tevas and thought we'd wade across further up, but couldn't find a good spot to cross. So we resigned ourselves to crossing via the logs. Jon went first, and since we still had our Tevas on, I just tossed our boots across to Jon. Sounds easy, but balancing on two rocks with my pack on, I couldn't get much momentum, and one of Jon's boots fell into the rushing water! I thought it was a goner for sure and was picturing Jon struggling through the next six days in sandals, but thankfully he scrambled down and was able to rescue it!

We had a steep climb up from Kennedy Creek, but it leveled off. We eventually climbed up to 6,000 feet. It was so beautiful! Gorgeous meadows and valleys and spectacular mountains all around. We took a break at Pumice Creek overlooking the valley which was awe inspiring!

From 6,000 feet we dropped down into another valley near a tributary from Fire Creek. From there it was another 1,000 feet and 1.7 miles up to Fire Creek Pass. That was an amazing site too. The tops of the mountains peaked over the ridge at us as we neared the top, hinting at the beautiful scenery on the other side.

From the pass we hiked down about 800 feet to Mica Lake. It's so amazing here! We took a quick "swim" (i.e. jumped in and scrambled out because it was so cold!) and enjoyed the rest of the afternoon.

I think tomorrow will be a tough day. We can see the zigzagging switchbacks taunting us from the other side of the valley! We're going to try to go 12 miles tomorrow so we can hopefully make it to Image Lake in a couple of days.

Today's Totals:
Distance - about 10 miles
Ascent - 1,800 + 1,00 = 2,800 feet
Descent - 700 + 800 = 1,500 feet

Rehydrated Lasagna with Meat Sauce - OK, but a little greasy and cheese was a mysterious fluorescent orange color.

Rehydrated Blueberry Cheesecake. YUM!

Before crossing Kennedy Creek

Trying to figure out how to cross Kennedy Creek

White Chuck River Valley - This is the valley we hiked from where we were dropped off

Pumice Creek Basin

Glacier Peak

Last water source before Fire Creek Pass

On top of Fire Creek Pass

Fire Creek Pass

Tarn just below Fire Creek Pass

Mica Lake

After a refreshing swim in the ice cold lake

I wore my clothes to clean them

Our campsite

Mica Lake Campsite

Our view

Awesome sunset

The sun drops behind the mountains

Panoramic view from Fire Creek Pass with Suiattle Pass in the distance

Day 3 - August 18, 2003

What a day! I only hope that I can look back on today and say it was the worst day of our trip! Not that it was all bad. We had perfect weather and spectacular views again.

We left Mica Lake and headed toward the ominous switchbacks. Stopped for water at Mica Creek and used the pit toilet there-what a view! Funny how the best views are near the toilets sometimes. WE hiked down about 1,600 feet, then crossed Milk creek and started up the switchbacks.

Two miles, one hour 45 minutes, 1,700 feet, and 39 switchbacks later we hit the top. Wow! What a feat. Though it rivaled Mt. Si in elevation gained per mile, it honestly wasn't as bad as I thought it would be.

We stopped for lunch at the top. Almost sat above what we think may have been a cougar den and quickly moved on.

From there we hiked up a ridge, then around a beautiful basin. This was my favorite part of the hike. It went downhill (literally and figuratively) from there.

I got several blisters today-one so big it resembled Glacier Peak-until it popped! That was 5.5 miles into what ended up being a 12.8-mile day.

We thought we'd stop at one of two campsites not far from there, but the water sources were dried up. So it was down the 50 switchbacks and nearly 2,000 feet to Vista Creek. To top it off, there was only one campsite that was already taken. We found another flat spot with an old fire ring, but had to bushwhack down to it. Then scramble back up to get to water.

It took Jon about 40 minutes to hand the food tonight! He kept breaking branches! Needless to say, I'm hoping tomorrow is full of luck and fun for us.

Unfortunately it looks like we may not make it to Image Lake. It's still 13 miles from here! Oh well… maybe another time. Tomorrow should be easier. Only about 7 miles and 1,000 feet down from here following Vista Creek to the Suiattle River Valley near Miners Creek.

Totals Today:
Elevation gain - 1,700 + 400 = 2,100
Descent - 1,600 + 2,100 = 3,700
Miles - 12.8

Dinner - rehydrated "Spicy Thai Chicken." Very good!

Morning sunrise over Mica Lake

Sign to the Pit Toilet

Best Toilet View in the World

View from the ridge

North Cascades

Break for lunch and to nurse blisters

Vista Creek drainage - only 59 switchbacks down

North Cascades National Park

Dolly Vista area

Day 4 - August 19, 2003

Today was an easy day. Only 5.2 miles and about 500 feet down from where we stayed yesterday.

We have a great campsite right next to the Suiattle River. We're right next to the junction of the PCT and the Suiattle River Trail, and just down from Miner's Creek. The area is really pretty… we pretty much hiked through forest today. It's much more open like forests on the east side, even though we haven't crossed over Suiattle Pass yet.

Since the hike was so easy, we got in around 12:30 and have just been relaxing and letting our feet rest so we can be ready for tomorrow. Tomorrow we will cross Suiattle Pass, so we have a lot of elevation to gain-3,200 feet and about 10.7 miles to the campsite. Tomorrow will be another tough day. I just hope that the rest today will allow my feet to last (not that I have any other options!).
Today's Totals:
Miles - 5.2
Elevation loss - 500 feet

Dinner - Macaroni & Cheese

Dessert - Blackberry Cheesecake (blueberry is MUCH better)

Today my hydration pack somehow ended up with a hole in it. It's near the top, so I can still carry water in it at camp, but it leaks in my pack and I can't get suction to drink from it. Luckily we have a Nalgene bottle with us!

Suiattle River Bridge

Suiattle River bridge - Our campsite is to the left of bridge

Our campsite along the Suiattle River

View of the murky river from our campsite

Day 5 - August 20, 2003

We had another tough day today! Our 10.7-mile day turned into about 13 miles due to a misprint on our destination campsite.

We started out in the forest from Miner's Creek. It was really pretty and we hardly saw any people. It was a pretty steady climb up to Suiattle Pass with great views of Glacier Peak near the top. The pass was interesting. It was green and had plenty of tress-most of the other passes we've seen have been rocky and barren. But there was a sign at the top, which is always a fun photo op.

We followed the PCT around Sitting Bull Mountain. The hike was pretty, but hot. And the flies were out en force! Jon got the brunt of it for some reason… (Maybe he's more smelly? J)

We saw a couple on horses just before Suiattle Pass today. They had a dog and a packhorse too. It reminded me of when we would go trail riding as kids.

We haven't seen anyone on this side of the pass. The terrain is definitely drier over here and hardly any snow on the mountains. We were afraid we were going to run out of water-especially when the campsite near the creek wasn't where it was supposed to be! So we continued on another 3 miles to our current camp. We're up above the valley a bit, so it's a walk to the creek, but it's a beautiful valley.

Miles - 13
Elevation gain - 3,200 feet
Elevation loss - 1,200 feet
Dinner - Bean and tortilla soup with rice and veggies
Dessert - candy bar

Only 15 miles to go!

Suiattle Pass sign

View from our campsite in a side canyon along Agnes Creek

Day 6 - August 21, 2003

9.8 miles - 2,700 feet (down)

Gosh! I can hardly believe this is our last night! The time has flown by, and our trip has been so much fun!

We left camp at about 8:45 this morning and already it was so hot! I'd guess it was close to 80°! Thankfully most of today's hike was in the forest! We followed Agnes Creek most of the day today-what a pretty creek! It's a big creek with lots of spots that looked like great swimming holes (at least from the hot trail they looked quite inviting!).

We stopped for a break about 2 miles into our hike today at Hemlock Camp. It was a huge camp right next to Agnes Creek. We would definitely camp there if given another opportunity.

Then we continued another 4 ½ miles past Mt. Blandkenship to Swamp Creek Camp. This was another large camp that looked to be frequented by horses.

From Swamp Creek Camp it was another 3.1 miles to Fivemile Camp where we're staying tonight. We were both amazed how lush everything was along the trail. We saw the same plants we saw on the other side of the mountains. Lots of Devil's Club, ferns, and salmon berries. Then almost immediately past where we turned away from the creek it turned very dry with lots of pine trees. Much of what we expected for this area.

Just before we turned away from the creek we came upon 4 backpacks on the side of the trail, but didn't see anyone. Upon further inspection as we continued along the trail, we saw that they were skinny dipping in the creek! The first person I thought of to tell was Emma. I can just imagine her getting a good laugh out of it!

Now we're at Fivemile Camp for the night, and it's crowded! Luckily we were the first ones here, so we got a great spot in the shade near pass Creek. There is another man and another couple here as well. On the other side of the creek are several other campsites. We know for sure that there is a party of four (the naked swimmers we think!), two men, and another guy with a dog and a horse named Lucas. This guy seems a little off. He's supposedly been on the trail since June. One would expect, therefore, that he started in Mexico, and is headed for Canada, but in fact he said he started in Canada. At that rate it will be December before he reached Mexico!

We haven't seen a ton of wildlife on the trip… marmots, chipmunks, squirrels, grouse, a mouse, and two lizards. We saw deer tracks and droppings in several places, and bear scat near Vista Creek, but that's pretty much it. (Shortly after writing this, a deer walked through the dried creek bed on the other side of our camp.) The marmots are my favorite. They're so cute, and it's funny to watch and listen to them warn all of their marmot friends when we walk through.

We also saw a couple of military planes. A big one (Jon thinks maybe an A6) flew over us this morning. When we were walking down to Vista Creek a fighter jet flew really low right through the valley. It was a strange site, but cool to see. I'll have to check with Dad, but I think he said there's a low altitude training route heading East over the Glacier Peak Wilderness.

It's hard to believe our trip is almost complete. We hike 5.5 miles tomorrow, then catch the shuttle to Stehekin. We're staying there tomorrow night, and then taking the boat down to Chelan where Jenny will pick us up. I'm looking forward to a real bed, a real shower, and a real toilet (with endless, unrationed toilet paper!), but at the same time am sad to see the trip end. As bad as my feet have hurt, it has been an incredible experience that I'm so glad I'm able to share with Jon!

Crossing Agnes Creek at Hemlock Camp

A tired hiker

Day 7 - August 22, 2003

We made it! We are now at Highbridge waiting for the shuttle. Today was a pretty easy hike-only 5.5 miles and 500 foot drop in elevation. It was mostly in the forest, but the trees are more sparse over here, so we were thankful that we got an early start and missed the heat.

We caught an earlier shuttle, so now are in Stehekin. It's 11:45-check in is at 2:00. Jon's making reservations for dinner at "The Ranch." We rode the shuttle with some people from Oregon who've been here before. They said the food at The Ranch is "100% better" than at the Lodge where we're staying.

The town (if you can call it that) is small, but cute. There's a one-room schoolhouse, and everything has to be brought in by boat. Amazing! The view is great. The lake is beautiful, and is surrounded by mountains.

I'm definitely looking forward to a shower, but all in all a week in the woods wasn't bad. I could definitely handle longer. Okay, maybe my feet couldn't… I think it would be nice to do another trip like this, but hike no more than 7 or 8 miles each day.

What an amazing experience this was! I wish more people could do it, but know this isn't for everyone. It's just so spectacular! I'm so grateful that we are able to do trips like this!

Our trip in summary…
Start - white Chuck Trailhead
End - Highbridge / Stehekin
Days - 7
Miles - 63.3
Elevation Gain - 10,100 feet
Elevation Drop - 10,100 feet
Blisters - 14 (Yes, eve n Jon got one this time!! J )
For the next time:

Leave Behind:
· 1 long sleeve shirt (only bring one)
· 1 T-shirt (only bring 2)
· 1 pair of shorts (only need 1)
· 1 pair of socks (only bring 3)
· Deck of cards (we brought a deck of cards AND Farkel, but only played Farkel once)
· Candle lantern (didn't use-only used headlamps)
· Some of the trail mix-it's SO heavy!
· Fleece jacket - bring fleece vest or thicker long-sleeve shirt instead

Other Notes:
· Make sure the water filter is clean. There was so much silt in the creeks that our filter is pretty much spent.
· Bring iodine in case filter goes.
· Restock 1st Aid Kit with tape, Moleskin, and other blister supplies.
· Bring more TP! Jon only packed enough for about 3 squares per day each!!

Agnes Creek bridge - almost done!

Agnes Creek

At the trailhead

High Bridge Ranger Station in Stehekin - we finished

North Cascades National Park boundary at High Bridge

Lake Chelan and the Stehekin Valley

Lake Chelan

Stehekin Lodge