I woke up at 4:30am after a somewhat restless night. It rained only a little the night before, and I awoke to partly cloudy skies. I ate, put moleskin on my blistered foot, packed up, and hit the trail at 6:30am.
My body was stiff, but I was amazed at the energy I had that morning, and I didn’t feel any pain from the previous day’s blisters. This is something I love about backpacking; you keep moving onward despite annoyances that in the front country would have me resting on the couch. That wasn’t an option today – I had a long way to push ahead!
I knew it was 3.5 uphill miles to the top of the pass and I anticipated rough terrain the entire way. Instead, the first 2.8 miles were pretty easy walking. They were also beautiful as the trail climbed up into a valley offering views of the glaciers and peaks above and off into the distance.
When I left camp, I thought I might be the first person out, but passed a family of 4 and a single man who had left his son in camp to catch up with him later. When I stopped for water, two people who I later learned were father an son, passed me. I caught up with them at scales, the landmark 2.8 miles from camp where people used to have their gear weighed before heading up the pass (I think because they needed to bring enough supplies for them to be allowed through). This was 8:30am. We chatted and they kindly took some photos of me, before they went on ahead and I stopped and had a snack before tackling the next section. I could see that this is where the trail of legend really started. The father in the group ahead of me is an intensive care doctor – I thought this was a good person to have nearby from the looks of the trail ahead.
I condensed my hiking poles and put them on my pack to have both hands free as the ranger had suggested, and as I would learn was a good idea for me. The next .7 miles took me about 1.5 hours. It is all rocks, so there is no trail per se. Instead, each year, rangers slide plastic red posts in between the rocks in a straight line up to the pass. This serves as a nice guide in good weather, and an essential guide when the pass is in the fog. Fortunately, it was quite nice weather during my climb.
The terrain became steeper and steeper until I was using both hands to help with balance. It felt a little scary to me, but I kept reminding myself that thousands of people, and many dogs, do this every year. It really wasn’t that steep, but I have poor balance and it was definitely an uncomfortable area to be hiking in. The consequences of a fall really could have been very bad. With that said, I hope my words do not intimidate anyone! You can do it too and I hope I will many more times as well.
The top is a little anticlimactic because it isn’t entirely clear when you are there based only on the terrain. Fortunately, the ranger had told us that once you cross into Canada, the posts change to metal with two orange triangles at the top, and when you reach this point it’s about 10 minutes to the shelter at the top. I was thus thrilled when I saw the new sign posts indicating that I had just left the United States.
It was no longer steep at that point, but the terrain was still rough traveling among rocks.
I was happy to see the shelter. The woman from France who has been living in Canada (I mentioned her in notes about Day 1) passed me during the rocky climb up the pass (going uphill does not affect her speed at all). I was thus the 4th person to reach the pass on that day. I didn’t stop for long because I was worried that the way down would also be over very challenging terrain.
It wasn’t as challenging as I thought it might be, but it wasn’t fast hiking either. It was some of the most beautiful country I have hiked through though. About the next 5 miles were above tree line with views of mountains, glaciers, and beautiful lakes and streams.
I arrived at the first and only campsite I would pass through on day 2 at 1:15pm. This was 7.5 miles into my day, with 2.5 remaining. This is Happy Camp, where most people spend the night after the pass. It was a lovely site, though probably cold and windy that night since it is quite exposed.
I hiked to Deep Lake campsite so that I wouldn’t have as far to travel the following day when I had to make it to the train by 3pm.
I was feeling pretty good when I left Happy Camp…but that very quickly changed. There was a long climb after the camp that took what I had left out of me. The 2.5 miles felt like forever and took 1.5 hours.
My feet ached (again) and I had another couple of blisters, but I made it and found a nice camping spot after promptly switching to my flip flops.
There were thick dark clouds all around for most of the day’s hike, but it was sunny where I was for most of the hike after the pass. It remained sunny at camp (though very, very windy). There was only one other person in camp (the French woman) and I knew she was cleaning off at one water hole, so I went to one of the lakes with a nice slab rock entrance, got naked, and bathed. I didn’t swim in the glacier-fed lake…but I did get somewhat cleaner and refreshed. It was lovely, and a rare opportunity on such a crowded trail.
8 others would join us at the Deep Lake camp that evening (for 10 total). Seven of us were going on to the end the following day; the others weren’t but had decided they would rather stay there than at Happy Camp.
I ate very early, and got into bed early to read. I didn’t last long and was possibly more tired than I had been the night before. It started sprinkling off and on at about 7pm, and then started raining heavily a couple of hours later. It continued raining all night long.