This next section, I had been told, was the most difficult section in Washington. It started with a 3000 foot climb from the pass, with lots of views, lots of ups and downs, and lots of loose rocks. I am not a fan of loose rocks, but when you are hiking at 5000-6000 feet, it just comes with the territory, I guess. It was a beautiful day, once the initial fog burned off, and since it was Sunday, there were lots of weekenders and day hikers out and about. Lots of people to talk to and share views with. The climb up also included the famous "cat walk", a section of trail with sheer drop-off on one side and a spectacular view. (Don't worry, the catwalk was very wide, virtually no chance of plunging over the drop off). I stopped for lunch at a lovely lake, and continued over the high ridge and rocks.
I soon learned that this section of trail was, indeed, more challenging than past sections. In addition to the rocks I encountered day one, there were lots of blow-downs, steep sections, and long climbs followed by long descents. It was tiring. It was hard. It was glorious!
Again, I leapfrogged through this section with Digger and Frost, and various other hikers I had been keeping pace with for the last few sections. The atmosphere on the trail became quite AT-like, with the majority of the bubble stopping for lunch at the same spot, and oftentimes stopping for the night at the same spot, as well. We lamented to one another over how much slower we had to go in this section with all its obstacles. We joked about how much more we seemed to be eating.
I ended up camping at Mig Lake, 7 miles out from Stevens Pass the night before. I had originally thought I'd camp three miles further up at Lake Susan Jane, for a really easy morning into Stevens. But, in keeping with the spirit of this section, I was exhausted when I got to Mig, and knew there was no way I could push out another 3 miles. I camped with about 10 other hikers that night who had the same planned day and the same result.
In the morning, we were racing the rain. It was foggy, then misting, then drizzly, then raining. I had put on full rain gear, since it was also a bit cold. And by the time I hit the pass, I was chilly and a little wet, despite my rain gear. It was a cool walk in; I wished it had been clearer so I could've seen the view on our descent. We hiked up to the top of the chair lift, and descended on a side trail that paralleled the ski slopes. I was looking for the ski-run that I almost killed myself on, skiing Stevens Pass 15 years ago, but its kind of hard to pick out those kind of things while hiking in a rainstorm. I just decided to be satisfied with the fact that I stayed upright this time around.
The lodge at Stevens Pass was open and I went inside and warmed up with a hot chocolate and a panini. There were lots of other hikers inside, my trail family for the past few days, also warming up and some picking up packages. So many hikers were doing a quick resupply right at the pass and hitting the trail right away in the afternoon.
I, on the other hand, was going into Skykomish for a proper town rest-and-resupply. I bid farewell to those hikers moving on, and headed out to find a ride to town.