Racing Washington Weather on the Pacific Crest Trail

Now in Washington, our hiker tries to make miles while the sun shines.

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The Pacific Crest Trail through Washington is generally known for two things: its tempestuous weather, and its spectacular scenery. In terms of the weather, I’ve lucked out. After two days of rain on entering Washington, it’s been nothing but warmth and blue skies, even if the wind is particularly bitter and biting. It’s been a lot of negotiating layers, swapping out puffy for windshirt over and over again, but it’s nice to be dry. In terms of the scenery, though, everyone has had one thing on their mind for the last three days: Goat Rocks, and the Knife’s Edge walk.

Yesterday, entering the Goat Rocks Wilderness pulled me out of the wooded hills up into the rocky crests I’m used to. As I wound around the contours of the mountains, there was water in abundance from the still-melting snow. The trail crossed below some beautiful waterfalls while showing off late evening views back to Mount Adams, which I’d seen up close and personal a few days ago. While it wasn’t exactly a solo wilderness experience—I passed and chatted with a bunch of thru-hikers, in addition to the numerous day hikers whose excited chatter continued late into the night—I loved seeing people out enjoying the wild.

I got up this morning early—though not too early, given the wind and the cold—to find that the clouds were slowly encroaching on my campsite, climbing up the hill to meet me. It was pretty nerve-wracking initially, since I’d hoped to have something of a view on the Knife’s Edge, but I shouldn’t have worried. As I climbed on the PCT, and took the Old Snowy Alternate to climb even higher, the clouds seemed to stop about 500 feet below me, and their dancing as the sun rose higher only made the view more pristine. 

I’d been told the Goat Rocks held a beauty to rival the Sierra, and having seen them, I totally agree. With Adams behind me, Rainier ringed with clouds ahead and to my left, Helen shrouded by cloud, I couldn’t have been happier. It took me three hours to go three miles, mostly because I was busy gawking at everything. Sure, the trail tread was rough, and the exposure was concerning at times, but this wasn’t a walk I wanted to rush.

As the clouds cleared, I eventually descended back into regular, forested views. White Pass was waiting for me, as was my resupply package at the Kracker Barrel Convenience Store. Once they closed, I even managed to make a couple more miles after all of my sorting and charging and chores. I intend to make the most of this sunny, warm weather for as long as I can, and put some miles behind me while the walking’s good.