3 Days, 3 Passes, 50 miles
Well what can I say... this was one awesome trip for the books! Jessie and I were originally headed into The Enchantments this weekend, but due to Justin getting injured we were faced with finding a backup plan. Well I love me some distance, and Jessie was really itching to stretch his legs so this trip came into sight.
The goal was to hike all the way from Hannegan Pass to Ross Lake on the Pacific Northwest Trail. Jessie snagged us up a permit Friday morning, and Kim dropped us off at the trail head around 6:30am Saturday morning. This trip was a bit of an experiment for me. I was not only rocking a new stove, but a new Tarptent Notch as well. This was my first trip where I was giving my all into staying fast and light. With a total pack weight of 19.3lbs I was feeling lighter than ever!
We blew through Hannegan Pass with no issues, and really enjoyed the beauty of the pass and the trail running along the Chilliwack River. Ruth mountain was out in all her glory, and the weather couldn't have been any better. We were dialed in that day blowing by other hikers like they were standing still. Sprits were high, and we were feeling great! We even opted to ride the cable car across the river despite the dismal one total foot of flowing water. Hey, nothing makes a couple grown-ass men giggle more than a cable car ride! With about 14mi under our belt our first night was at a site called Graybeal, and we were treated to absolutely stunning views of Whatcom Peak. I mean how often do you get a chance to pitch a tent right on a river bed and watch the sunset down over an amazing peak like that?!
Funny side story... we passed a gentleman coming out of a site around 11am and he mentioned he was headed to Graybeal too. He was quite slow, and was very obviously loaded down. Further down the trail we chuckled to ourselves because he had a long way to go, and we just couldn't understand why someone would want to carry so much weight. Well fast forward to that evening and he finally strolled in fairly late. He set up camp, and meandered over to say hi. Well come to find out he was 71yo and quite consistently does 5-6 day trips. He doesn't do a lot of miles, but he had steak and scotch. In case you missed that I said STEAK AND SCOTCH! At the point I brought my Mountain House meal to my lips it became very apparent how foolish I had been. This man was out in nature, enjoying incredible views, incredible food, incredible scotch, and who the hell was I to judge him? He was living the dream. So to the slow old hiker with the steak and scotch... cheers my friend and hike on.
Day two was a bit more challenging, but the views were even more rewarding. We headed up Whatcom pass and at the top we sat down for our customary Top Ramen lunch. Wow... just wow! Whatcom Peak was stunning, and the view down the valley was like nothing I've seen. Our perfect views were immediately balanced out with a MASSIVE knee pounding descent down Whatcom pass and into the valley. That was a steep-ass trail! We were dripping sweat, knees aching, but still happy as could be!
I also want to take a minute to thank every single person that makes this amazing trail happen. There were plenty of camp markers, signs, and despite a dozen blow downs deeeeep in the middle of the trail overall it was humbling to see how much work goes into it.
Night #2 was spent at a night little campsite on the top of Beaver Pass. We didn't need to cover as many miles on day two, but the elevation sure had the dogs barking by the time we hit camp. The weather was hot, and I have to admit sleeping did not come easy that night.
Now day #3 was a big one planned. We needed to cover over 19mi to reach the Ross Lake overlook on Hwy 20 where we were getting picked up. We were up early and on the trail with a blistering pace. Man-oh-man did we make good time that day. Big Beaver trail was beautiful as it wound around the west edge of Ross Lake. We stopped for lunch where the Beaver Creek meets Ross Lake and were treated with another incredible view. We crossed the damn about 2hrs ahead of schedule for the final ascent to the parking lot. We did it!
50 miles. 3 days. 3 passes. What an incredible journey! Incredible trails shared with a great friend makes for a perfect backpacking recipe. What did I learn? More than a few things. Hiking with sub 20lbs is an absolute treat. I can do far more miles in a day than I thought I could. You can still haul ass and enjoy the views to their fullest. Never, ever, EVER judge someone. It really is all about "hike your own hike". Not to be forgotten is the most important lesson... bring steak and scotch because you only live once!