“There is no such thing as bad weather, only inappropriate clothing.”
— Sir Randolph Fiennes
Another Section of the Pacific Crest Trail (PCT)
As I imagine will be the case with many others as the year concludes, this hike got off to a rainy start. Yes, this is not worthy of mentioning. Hiking in the rain is quintessential to the Pacific Northwest overall and this region’s autumns and winters in particular. Being the outdoorsmen that we are, Larry and I do not see the overcast and precipitation as detractors to enjoying our favorite pastime. With the appropriate rain gear — items I purchased from REI or in a more mindfully articulated manner “an investment I made into maintaining our wellness” — we stayed dry while taking in the wet beauty around us.
When I selected this trail as our Sunday hike, it did not readily occur to me we were going to trek along yet another portion of the PCT. Earlier this year, we found ourselves beginning our weekend hike at the Lodge Lake Trailhead. This restarts the PCT after a short discontinuance the iconic path undergoes once it crosses under I-90 at Exit 52. The hike featured in this blog, Kendall Katwalk Trailhead, is accessible via the same exit. Driving in from Seattle, turning right takes you south of the freeway to the Lodge Lake Trailhead and turning left directs you north of the freeway to the Kendall Katwalk Trailhead.
Totaling 14.1 miles, this portion for the PCT zigzags north where it ends just northeast of Ridge Lake. We hiked only three miles inward, just beyond the PCT’s juncture with the Old Commonwealth Trail. Spotting a nurse log we converted into a bench, Larry the dogs and I copped a squat to have lunch before turning back southward toward the trailhead. Given the days are quickly shortening during this time of year, we did not want to push our luck by hiking farther and running out of daylight. Hiking in the dark along this portion of the PCT would have been treacherous to say the very least, given the rocky path, slippery stones, and nonexistent shoulder.
Starting at the trailhead until about two miles in, the PCT is shaded by towering tree canopies and enclosed by moss covered rocks and brush. This scenery immediately gives way to vast openness – exposing Mount Thomson and Red Mountain. I probably took 50 pictures of each – another 50 of the winding PCT. Littered with stones at this point, the PCT stretched toward them both as any heading-over-the-horizon final scene one’s favorite Disney film would have. Goodness, I love being outdoors.
So Many Waterfalls
Larry recalls seeing nearly a dozen waterfalls, big and small. The miniature waterfalls – some trickled while others poured – escaped the cracks and crevices of gigantic stones doubling as the PCT’s natural guardrails. Four waterfalls looked as one would imagine a waterfall to be, majestic water cascading over a cliff that appears to touch outer space. We crossed a least two creeks – the latter more like a mini river fueled by the grandest waterfall of them all. From what I could ascertain from Alltrails and Google Maps, this waterfall feeds Commonwealth Creek. Where the PCT crosses the waterway is littered with deceptively beautifully glistening rocks – requiring the utmost of care in foot placement due to what I presume to be rock snot. Not to worry, I still managed to get a great video of the soothing gush of water that surrendered to gravity’s pull.
Towering Mountain Peaks
From the PCT, we could see Mount Thomson and Red Mountain. The tops of both peaks were faintly hidden by clouds, yet Larry and I could fully appreciate the Cascade Range’s prominence. As we do while hiking along other trails, this specific spot along the PCT became of family photo shoot location. Closer to our elevation, moss covered rocks made for props and tabletops. I cannot further articulate the serenity and mindfulness arising from simply standing on the PCT and gazing at the landscape. I usually act on the urge to put down everything – Zeke’s leash, my iPhone, my digital camera, the backpack – freeing myself from any encumbrance (I remain dressed of course). This allows me to stand still, focus my breathing, and free my senses of any distractions that could impede their absorbing the entirety of what nature has to offer in that very moment. The soothing rhythm of a nearby creek. The hum of the wind. The scent of various plants or the absence thereof. The beat of my own heart.
Quite unusual this time was a guy – I think he was is Bob – who approached Larry and me at the trailhead. He told us his nephew struck out on his own to backpack for a month or so – quitting his job and acquiring a large amount on hiking gear prior to doing so. I would imagine such an adventure is commonplace in the Pacific Northwest; maybe taking a leave of absence instead of quitting; yet it is problematic for this guy given additional details Bob provided us that I will not share here. Bob asked Larry and me to look for any signs of Gavin – his nephew – while we trekked along the PCT. Larry and I saw nothing unusual, which we relayed to Bob during our encountering him a second time while hiking back to the car.
Bob shared he has hiked along other trails in the Okanogan-Wenatchee National Forest and Mount Baker-Snoqualmie National Forest in search of his nephew as have other relatives. He has also asked other hikers – as he did us – to watch for any signs. No one at the time of our encounter with Bob was able to share any promising news – which does not necessarily point to anything terrible. Larry and I both hope Gavin surfaces unharmed.