PCT Musings – 10 signs you’re in Washington

If, one morning you’re hiking in the cold fog along a ridgeline with no view, and/or it’s September, you just might be in Washington. Consult this handy checklist to be sure:

1. Waking up cold and hiking cold

Elevation, latitude and the calendar combine so that you can see your breath in the morning. I’ve been hiking in my down jacket in the morning, at least until the first climb.

2. The SOBO bubble is no more

All the southbounders you saw in Oregon are gone. The trail has emptied out a bit, except for flippers and weekenders. After the relatively crowded and easy trail, it’s nice to get back into some wild stuff.

3. You can count your remaining resupplies on 1 hand

I sent all my food ahead from Hood River, a town on the Oregon border. While you can resupply farther off trail, i wanted to minimize the number and length of hitches.

Trout Lake, White Pass, Snoqualmie Pass, Stevens Pass, Stehekin. I’ll be out of food and hungry when I cross into Canada, but that will be fine.

4. You’re on your final pair of shoes

You bought your last pair of Altras at the summer end closeout sale at REI.

5. Bug gear is swapped for warm gear

Mosquitoes are a thing of the past, so I dumped my headnet and bug dope. I went from Cascade Locks to White Pass with no warm gear, hiking and sleeping in my raingear against the cold. My failed assumption was that the last week of August would still be warm. How cold could it be? Chilly.

6. Logging is a thing

You’re not in hippy Oregon anymore.

7. It’s September

How did this happen? You’ve been hiking since April. APRIL. April!

8. Fog, then blue skies

The nights are cool, and you’re up in the hills. Most mornings you’re walking in the fog. If you stop walking, you get chilled. If you hike too fast, you sweat up your clothes. This tug-of-war continues until the sun burns off the fog, or it just plain rains.

9. Midday drying out again due to rain or dew

It’s the desert and Sierra all over again. There’s for dew at night, and if you don’t pitch right, your own breath can condense on the inside of your tent fly. Sometimes it’s stiff with ice.

10. The Bridge of the Gods

You know you’re in Washington because you walk across the border! The bridge is scary and awesome at the same time. The bridge shakes in the wind, you can see through the steel grid down to the water. and there’s no pedestrian lane. Good Luck.

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