Day Nine
White Salmon River springs to Sheep Lake

6.5 miles

Summary: Hiking along the western edge of Mount Adams is thrilling--glaciers up close and personal-and the PCT's grade is forgiving. This is a stretch of trail to linger on if you have the time.

Of this day, I wrote, "The day started wet and ended wet. But in the middle the sun came out and made everything worth the wet and the cold."

Before daybreak, I woke up frequently, wondering if the rain was coming. In the night I heard what I thought was wind in the trees. It sounded like leaves rustling in the breeze, but since we were in a coniferous forest, this didn't make sense. As the sound came closer, I realized what it was-rain. This was no sprinkle. It was raining hard.

In the morning I wondered if we should even bother to get up. Maybe we should wait until the rain had passed, I thought. But Chuck got up and it turned out to just be misting. The drops we heard on our tent fly were residue dripping from the trees.

After breakfast I was walking back from the spring when I bumped into two more through hikers: Kit and Di from Scotland. We had lots to say about the forests of America versus the monoculture of their home country, their trail experiences and the fires in Oregon. But then it was time to move on.

We couldn't dry out our tents so I hoped for the best. Fortunately, I carried the tent and Kevin carried the rain fly in a separate bag. That way we didn't get the tent wetter by wrapping it up with the rain fly when it was packed away.

We got off to a good start in the mist. It seemed to fit the look of the lichen-draped trees. As we walked higher and higher toward Mt. Adams, the sun got stronger and stronger. Along the trail Kevin found a large rock pile that he and Chuck scrambled over. "Well, I think I just got my money's worth," he said after the scramble. I smiled and said, "You ain't seen nothing yet."

By the time we met the junction with the Round the Mountain Trail, the sun was breaking through the cloud cover. We quickly posed for pictures-who knows when the sun might come back and the mountain be visible, we told ourselves.

Kevin, Chuck and Beth at the trail junction with Mt. Adams in view.

While the sun was out, I wanted to get to Sheep Lake quickly to dry out the tent. So I left the others behind and hoofed it to the lake. This Sheep Lake was not very grand, but the water was drinkable and the campsite had a fire ring. Just below the lake was Riley Creek with more campsites north and south of the trail, but we didn't know that.

The sun was coming in and out of the clouds, but that was enough for me to spread out my tent on a log. Some of my damp clothes soon followed. I was already eating lunch when Chuck, Beth and Kevin walked in. "Let's keep going, the day is young," they said. But I looked around at the setting and the weather, and told them I thought we should stay. If we hike too far, we would be leaving this beautiful area by Mt. Adams. Instead we'd be stuck in the woods, I argued. "Let's stay here and go for a dayhike without our packs instead."

It didn't take too much to convince them. The four of us put out gear to dry in the sun, ate a quick lunch, and then were off. We followed Riley Creek up toward the mountain. Chuck's goal was to get above the tree line, and I wanted to do the same. We first came to a scenic waterfall and had to have our pictures taken. Kevin said he wanted to stay for a while and contemplate, so Beth, Chuck and I crossed the creek and start up toward the mountain.

Beth bravely jumps a tributary of Riley Creek. She made it.

After a harrowing creek crossing, Beth asked to say behind so it was just Chuck and me for the final ascent. In about half a mile we finally got past the last set of trees. All that lay between us and the mountain was glacial moraine. The peak itself from this angle was shaped like a pyramid. It kept disappearing into the clouds, putting on its own peak-a-boo show. The whole setting was mystical, a talisman of the power of Nature. Just sitting there watching it-thinking about how far away it was a week ago-this was already a high point of the trip.

Nothing but rock between me and the peak of Mt. Adams.

We rejoined Beth. Chuck waited for Kevin while she and I made it back to the campsite. There we met Navigator, another through hiker, who wished us well but was in a hurry. The tents had dried and we put them up as soon as the others joined us. Kevin made a fire and we finished off the cognac that I had hoped would last longer into the week.

On these kinds of trip you learn little secrets about your hiking partners. Maybe they snore at night, maybe they suffer from constipation or insomnia, maybe they are afraid of spiders. This trip would not be different. I made a chicken curry dinner and it was shocking to find out that Kevin and Chuck wouldn't put raisins in their curry. Kevin hated raisins and didn't even care for them in his gorp. Beth and I made plenty of snide remarks about their culinary tastes. While we were teasing, we saw two more through hikers--David and Brooke, who lived near Winthrop in Washington state and were hiking in what looked like sandals. They appeared to be having a great time in spite of the rain.

As we were cleaning up we heard a booming sound that I hoped was a glacier cracking. When it came again, we realized the awful truth--thunder. We quickly stowed away our gear and scrambled into our tents as the rain came in. We were lucky to be as prepared as we were. It rained hard the rest of the evening. I watched as puddles formed at the edges of the rain fly, but the tent seemed to be doing a good job of keeping us dry. How much longer could this go on?

Day Ten
Day Eleven
Day Twelve
Day Thirteen
Day Fourteen
Day Fifteen
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