PCT WA Section J

Sep. 16: Piper Pass and the Cascading Stream

After a beautiful lakeside morning, I began a long gentle 4 mile climb to a pass, where I chatted with a couple with a good dog.

Then it was downhill for 2 miles before beginning the climb up to Piper Pass. Less than a mile into this climb, I passed Glacier Lake, where I had been considering eating lunch, but I did not make the turnoff to go down to its edge. I had eaten on the edge of a lake enough times that I wanted to eat in a spot with a view overlooking a lake. Guthook comments for the tentsite a quarter mile ahead promised views.

The comments were lies. No views from the supposed tentsite. Not even particularly good places to camp. But comments about the next tentsite press than a mile ahead specifically mentioned eating on a rock overlooking the lake. I figured I could put off eating for another 20 minutes.

It was a lot longer mile than I thought it would be. It involved a series of steep switchbacks back and forth across a scree field. The ladies I talked to as I stepped onto the scree promised there were indeed views ahead.

The climb was slow and ended up taking over half an hour. I was starving by the time I found the magical lunch rock. It was worth it though. I could indeed see the entire lake despite the haze.

Lunch finished, I trudged onward and upward, finishing the Piper Pass climb on a series of extremely steep switchbacks.

Near the top, I met The Flash, the last and fastest of the Lost Boys, and the only one who hadn’t skipped ahead at any point. I told him how far ahead the others were (a couple of days) and it seemed like he would catch them in just a few more days given how much more distance he did per day than they did. I also let him know about the root beer, which he was happy to hear. It wouldn’t be as good as the trail magic I had gotten at Stevens Pass the day before but only by a slight amount.

What followed was an easy, breezy descent past Deception Lakes into a sort of valley where a lower ridge connected the trail to the side of the next ridge over, wandering up and down through a dense forest with water constantly running along or across the trail. Somewhere in here, I met someone who warned me about the danger of the Cascading Stream and the unstable logs needed to cross it.

When I finally did reach it, cutting through the middle of the ridge some 3 or 4 miles later, I realized that (1) it was aptly named–cascades all the way down, and (2) it was a giant scree field and not obvious where it connected up with the trail on the other side. I chose my own path across and ended up missing the logs entirely. Then I stopped to collect water from it since it would not be much further to my intended campsite.

Indeed, it was only a one mile climb from there up to the next place it was feasible to camp. It was late in the day and starting to get dim, but there was still plenty of time left to do all the camp things without needing a headlamp. I had already set up when a nobo came by desperate for some water and a campsite. I described the Cascading Stream, the treacherous logs, and the many campsites I had seen just a mile beyond it. He thanked me profusely, indicating I had saved him a lot of walking that day, though it sure seemed like if he hadn’t seen me, he would have continued to the same place anyway.

Total distance: 19 miles

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