On the seventh day of our backpacking trek, we continued south on the Pacific Crest Trail, hiking from Woody Pass to Holman Pass, and checked out the great views from Rock Pass on the way, with a bonus meadow full of wildflowers.
We woke up late that morning, and didn’t really care. We only had six miles or so to hike, and most of it was downhill. There was one section where we had to climb 600 feet or so, in order to reach Rock Pass, but that wasn’t much of anything to worry about, so we decided to have a proper breakfast before getting started. The sun was already rising, and, as usual, it didn’t strike the tent until we were already packed. Once in a while it would be nice to get a sunbeam that would warm the tent on a chilly morning, but not today.
The first part of the hike was fun. We went downhill on some switchbacks until we got below the scree on the side of Powder Mountain, then proceeded due south. When we hiked here a few days ago it was raining and gray and dismal, but today it was sunny and wonderful. The flowers were blooming and the sky was blue.
When we passed the midpoint of the long traverse, the trail began to climb again. Vicki groaned and plodded on. She used her spray mister to keep cool, until we reached the tiny flow of Rock Creek, where she huddled down near the water and wet her head. She also soaked her shirt in the water, and whooped out loud when she put it back on! But it almost instantly refreshed her, as she knew it would. After that, climbing the long switchbacks up to Rock Pass was far more enjoyable.
When we summited the pass, we stopped for a short break. It was nice to remove the heavy packs. Mine was still heavy, even though two thirds of the food was already eaten. Nine days of food for two people weighs more than you think! After that, we took our final look down into the Rock Creek valley and said goodbye to Woody Pass, then continued onward, leaving the Okanogan National Forest and entering the Mount Baker Snoqualmie National Forest.
We were looking forward to this next section of trail. Not only was it downhill, it also traversed across a wonderful high meadow full of grasses and wildflowers. We hadn’t expected to see a meadow up this high, and it was truly one of the gems of this trek.
The first part was in the higher, drier meadow, but then we began to get into the wetter parts, where new flowers were abundant. Different plants were adapted to specific types of soil and moisture, so that in one spot there would be purple asters, in another lupines, while other spots might have yellow daisies or tall, waving fireweed flowers.
In the middle of the meadow was a large campsite, suitable for many tents. Nobody was there when we arrived, so Vicki and I decided to eat our lunch on a well-used log. We had time, so we ate one of our better lunches there, with single-serve packets of chicken and salmon spread on a soft flour tortilla. Yum!
While we were eating, a fast northbound PCT hiker arrived and told us the latest news: Harts Pass Road was closed! That thunderstorm we saw last night dumped a ton of rain over there and washed out parts of the road. She told us that we’d have to hike an extra twenty miles to get down to Mazama, and that there were a bunch of campers in cars that were stranded. We groaned. We told her that we were one of those cars! Well, this was exciting news, indeed. We also realized that there was absolutely nothing that we could do about it. We wouldn’t be back to Harts Pass for two more days. Maybe they’d get the road fixed by then. Meanwhile, we would stick to our current plan and hope for the best.
After that, we put on our packs and continued down across the meadow. We looked up with renewed appreciation at today’s batch of rapidly growing cumulus clouds. Would one of these wash out the road even worse? We didn’t know. But our immediate hope was that they wouldn’t wash us out today!
The trail dropped down into a forested zone below the meadow, and we hiked along under the soft and quiet trees. Soon enough, we heard the sound of water up ahead. This was Goat Lakes Creek, and it was the last water before Holman Pass. We filled up our two gallon jugs and resigned ourselves to carrying them with us for the next mile into camp. Oh well. At least it was downhill! We kept on moving, as it became obvious that the clouds were getting far too large and dark. We really needed to get our tent set up soon.
We felt a couple of sprinkles on the final switchback that led to the pass, so we hustled as fast as we could. We entered the campsite and met two men who arrived just before us. Naturally, they got first choice of spots. But that was OK as they didn’t pick the good spot we enjoyed last time we were there. We double-checked the slope of the site for proper drainage and got out the tent right away, leaving our backpacks under a sheltering pine tree. We set up the tent and began stuffing our gear inside, and putting our backpacks underneath the vestibules of the tent. I stood outside and blew up the two air mattresses while Vicki waited inside. She was tasked with getting the bed set up. I took one final picture and got inside. Safe and dry!
At this point we were glad we already had our water nearby, in case we got stuck in the tent for a long time. If we had to, we could cold-soak our freeze-dried meal. But maybe it wouldn’t be necessary. Suddenly, the rain started pounding down and thunder began booming! We saw flashes of lightning through the tent fabric, and the crack of the thunder was almost immediate! This storm was right on top of us. And then it began to hail! It was impressive, let me tell you. The air got colder and we got out the goose down quilt. We stuck our legs and feet underneath, and put on our down jackets and gloves. After a quick check for leaks in the four corners of the tent, we got out our books and read for a while. Hunkering down can be fun if you want it to be!
The rain lasted for well over an hour, even though the hail was long since done. Plus, there were pine trees dripping everywhere. We decided that it was better to take a nap in the tent, and cook dinner later on. And that’s what we did. When we finally poked our heads back out, other hikers had arrived and set up camp. They had gotten drenched while hiking, and were now putting on dry clothing. We could see where the flooding occurred in the campsite, and which spots were the bad ones that formed puddles.
Then we cooked our meal and sat around talking with the other hikers. The big news was the Harts Pass Road closure, of course. I wondered if the people trapped up at the pass would raid our car food (stored in the bear box) when they started starving to death. I decided that it would be OK, provided that they at least waited until they were truly starving and not just vaguely hungry. We all figured that they’d begin the repairs right away. I know that Vicki and I sure hoped they did.
The campsite was soggy enough, and crowded enough, that we decided to hit the sack early. We had about two thousand feet of climbing to do tomorrow, and Vicki had every intention of waking up in the dark once again, to get the jump on the sun and its heat. This was OK by me. I set my alarm, and then we snuggled together under the quilt. It was nice to be together in a warm, dry tent. We talked about the day, about how beautiful the flowers had been, and about the hailstorm. And then we fell asleep.
For a topographic map of the hike see my CalTopo Page
For LOTS more photos of the trek see my Flickr Page