Pacific Crest Trail--Section K

Stevens Pass to Stehekin

August 28 - Sept. 6, 2005

Left, the Gang of Four at the trailhead in Stevens Pass(Chuck, Kevin, Tom and Bob). Right, the same gang after 10 days and 100 miles, at the bus stop on the Stehekin River Road near High Bridge.

The PCT Guidebook gives a long warning about this section of the trail. "You will traverse a very rugged section of the North Cascades. This hike ranks only second to the John Muir Trail (in California) in difficulty. ... Not only does the section have rugged typography, but it sometimes has dangerous fords, threatening weather and persistant insects. Why, then, do thousands of backpackers flock to the Glacier Peak Wilderness? Well, perhaps because it is a real wilderness, and not, like so many others, a wilderness in name only. It provides a definite challenge to modern-day people."

But that was written years ago, when the trail was in normal shape. When record rainfall washed out bridges on the Pacific Crest Trail in 2003, (see Pacific Crest Detour Page,) the Forest Service had no alternative but to reroute the National Scenic Trail on other trails. Two years later, the bridges still had not been repaired and those wishing to hike Section K in Washington were supposed to take the detour--a grueling set of up and down trails that would take hikers up 3,800 feet and then down 2,000 feet and then up 2,000 feet and then down 3,000 feet in a roller-coaster-like series of passes, including the notorious Little Giant Pass. A local guidebook warned about the detour, "You really gotta want it. Strong mountaineers turn pale at memories of Little Giant in sunshine and flytime."

The journey would be one of the toughest challenges in my backpacking career. But I was determined to hike another segment of the Pacific Crest Trail in my state, so that I could get closer to my goal of having hiked the whole state in sections. Along for the journey were the same crazy group from last year--fellow magazine editors Chuck and Kevin along with our token lawyer, Bob. The whole stretch between the pass and Stehekin was about 105 miles, which meant that we needed to carry 10 days' worth of food if we averaged 10 miles a day.There would be no rest day like last year. We learned a lot from previous trips, but were we really ready for all the mountains were going to throw at us?

Day One
Day Two
Day Three
Day Four
Day Five
Day Six
Day Seven
Day Eight
Day Nine
Day Ten

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