Thursday, August 11th, 2022, 0620-1530
Mt Baker Hot Springs to Baker Lake Road, WEBO mm 849.7, Section 7 North Cascades
25.7 miles, Gain 2520′, Loss 2970′, elevation 890′
It was hard not to be too eager about getting into a real town this day. I had a lot of miles to go…a full day. Thinking only about town can ruin the joy of a day of hiking, causing me to rush. But after so many days without real food and a shower, we were all a bit eager. I actually didn’t feel too gross, given all my water baths. I could have probably gone another 10 days. But I also very much wanted my trekking poles back. The clunky aluminum poles that I’d borrowed were weighing heavily. They’d done the trick for the interim, but I missed the rhythm and balance of my sleek carbon poles.
I walked past a forest service campground pretty early in the morning, where I had to wait in line with the car campers to use the privy. Then it was a long and not so enjoyable 6 mile dirt road walk to the east end of Baker lake. There was a higher amount of traffic than I deemed plausible for an early weekday morning, each vehicle kicking up dust. I started to lament not taking a road walk down the west side of the lake, which would have cut off many miles but also skipped the nice 14 mile trail around the lake. Once at the trailhead, the trail was worth it. There was a big bridge across the inlet, then undulating loamy tread through pretty forest. The trees really had a lot of moss and so had that classic PNW feel about them. The trail was also perfectly groomed and very fast.
The highlight of the trail was a view of Mt Baker across the lake. It was pretty cloudy early on but seemed to be burning off. Just in time, the clouds parted to reveal the grand volcano. I read that it’s the most thermally active vent after Mt St Helens. Washington has a few others, including Glacier Peak, Rainier, and Adams. I love volcanoes and especially hiking around them. My first successful backpacking trip was through Volcanoes National Park in Hawaii. This was what got me addicted so many years ago.
Wolverine and I had lunch at a nice shore side campsite. The camps are mostly visited by boaters and felt a little overused. A few boats came by blaring music, to where I felt like I was back in Miami. No thanks! We carried on, still behind Karaoke. I guess we were all in a hurry this day. I left the lunch spot just before Wolverine and then somehow she blazed past me without me even seeing her go by. I also passed Karaoke somehow. It’s so funny how easy it is to get ahead or behind without even knowing it on a skinny trail. I think we get sucked into vortexes or something. The nice trail dumped onto a quiet dirt road, which went over a dam and then turned to pavement. It was only a few miles to the junction where we needed to hitch to town from. Thinking that I was still ahead of Wolverine, I wondered if I should try to wait for her. I stuck out my thumb anyway but had no luck for about 10 minutes. Along came Karaoke, who at first I mistook for Wolverine. We all pondered our hopscotching and then quickly caught a ride from a lady in a Subaru. A 2 person team of women seems to be the magical recipe for getting rides from other women. Power!
On the way to Concrete, I got a text from Wolverine that the PO had just closed at 4 pm but that she was able to convince the postmaster to hand over my package to her. This never happens but I was so glad for it. We planned to go to Sedro-Woolley for the night, and probably take a zero, so I would have needed to come all the way back the next day just to get the package. Our ride dropped us off at the bakery, which had also just closed at 4 pm! She was nice to offer us tentspace in her backyard plus showers, but we were dead-set on a hotel room. We called about the only place for 50 miles along hwy 20, which had only one room left. Sold!
The bus to Sedro-Woolley was coming in 15 minutes, so I dashed down the street to get an ice cream cone. I ran back while also eating the cone and a lady said to me “you’re earning that!” Was I ever. I’d gone 250 miles in 10 days. I could have eaten 10 cones and still been in a calorie deficit just for this day. As the bus rolled up, the driver immediately opened the door and said “no eating on the bus.” It looked like a brand new bus and the rules are the rules. No problem, I shoved the remaining ice cream and cone in my mouth. I wasn’t about to give up those calories. “Impressive!” said the driver, giving me a big grin. She was very nice, asking us where we needed to go and letting us know where to get off. The bus was $1 and took about 45 minutes.
We still had to walk over a mile to get to the motel. Do you think we took an uber? Heck no. I walk everywhere. At least there was a nice rail trail path to follow, which is actually part of an alternate route for the PNT. We set about doing the usual chores, with my first priority being food…as always. I got a teriyaki chicken bowl followed later by a foot long Subway. My appetite had reached level Ridiculous. A hot shower was also great, followed by a soft bed. Wolverine volunteered to sleep on the floor, which I felt bad about. We could have probably fit all 3 of us in the king bed but I guess that would have been awkward for the person in the middle. We would have gotten a room with 2 beds, had there been any left.
Friday, August 12th, 2022: zero in Sedro-Woolley to catch up on business. I probably walked close to 3 additional miles the night before plus this day. The town is a bit spread-out but has lots of good restaurants and stores.
I needed some time off my feet but even more so, to catch up with the blog, so a zero was in order. First thing, I mailed back the borrowed poles. I had to buy a box that they would fit in and then got dinged with a brand new oversized box surcharge that the USPS just added a month ago…$15 in addition to $9 just for shipping them less than a hundred miles down the road. It cost nearly $30 total, which is way more than they were even worth. But I’d promised to return them and I hate to break such promises. I kind of regretted borrowing them, but more so, I regretted bothering with gear testing on this thru-hike. All told, it had probably cost me close to $70 in shipping poles back and forth. Thanks Leki. So glad to have my Black Diamonds back.
The town had a really nice library, which for once was open while I was visiting. I headed over in the mid-morning and didn’t leave until after 5 pm. I even neglected to eat lunch… that’s how dedicated I am to this blog. My zeros are almost never a ‘day off.’ I later resupplied at the grocery in town and then on a whim, walked into a barber shop to see if I could get my undercut shaved. There was one barber, Cody, who was just getting set to close but happily agreed to fit me in. It was past 6 pm, so technically he was already closed. He did a fantastic job and only took $16…all the change I had, even though the sign posted clearly said $19 a cut. Wolverine was with me and we told him about some of our adventures. He couldn’t believe we’d walked so far and that we didn’t carry guns to protect ourselves from bears. We asked him for a recommendation on a good place to eat and he suggested the Mexican restaurant next door.
A sign outside read “$5 Margaritas,” which would have gotten us through the door without a recommendation. We ordered 1 each and our food to go. We planned to meet with Dan, a local Trail Angel that had offered us a ride back to the trail and to crash at his place overnight. We of course jumped at the offer. After the 1st margarita went down so smoothly, we couldn’t resist ordering a 2nd, even though Dan was about to arrive. We downed these way too fast…something I would regret later. When the checks came out, the waitress explained that Cody had called in earlier to pay our bills, so we only owed for the second drinks. I was floored by this, and honestly felt pretty guilty. Cody was young and I’d underpaid him for the cut, even though he insisted it was ok. What a kind and generous thing to do. It really touched me. He did stop by just as we were leaving, so at least I got a chance to thank him in person. If you need a haircut in Sedro-Woolley, go to Hank’s Barber Shop!
We ate our meals at Dan’s place while we chatted with him about the trail. Not only had he been giving rides to PNT hikers for several years, this year he’d been helping southbound PCT hikers derailed by the high snowpack. He’d made numerous trips to Hart’s pass and hosted quite a few on his couch. One guy had stayed for 5 days. Yup, sounds familiar. Dan hoped to hike Te Araroa in a year or so, so I encouraged him to stay in touch and ask lots of questions. All in all, we had some great experiences in town and met many nice folks. The headquarters of the PNTA is located here but sadly both the managers were out for the day, otherwise I would have dropped by to say hi and thank you.