July 30, 2016
Spectacle Lake to Waptus River Crossing
PCT 2407.8 – 2425.3 (18 miles, including a half mile extra from Spectacle Lake)
10:00 PM, Waptus River Crossing, Alpine Lakes Wilderness (Mile 2425.3)
I slept in late today, and woke to a warm tent, then had breakfast at the water’s edge, and spent the better part of the morning wandering around the lake’s serrated southern shore, around its infinite inlets and boulder-filled bays.
The family across the way pushed out around ten—“just one night for us!”—and I followed a little behind.
From the PCT junction, the trail switched back steeply down, through new burn toward Delate Meadows. Blowdown’s been terrible all day, but it’s felt much less threatening with fresh legs, and I made good time to the meadow and north, across several unbridged forks of Lemah Creek.
Then… the climb. It was only a few thousand feet, up a ridge just south of Summit Chief, but for some reason—heat, blowdown, burned out forest, the sore scab on my left leg—things went super slowly, and I unhappily huffed and puffed into the afternoon.
I ran out of water near the top, and was just generally feeling sort of crappy when I ran into a southbounder sitting on a sharp rock, who told me in a thick German accent what a beautiful afternoon it was. “Have you looked across the valley?” I dutifully stared at the glaciated peaks, the waterfalls, the crumbling rock walls. He continued, “It’s a good day.”
Well, it turned into one anyway. Shortly after we said our Pigeon English goodbyes, I ran into a series of small ponds settled into small cracks in the crest, where I refilled my water and sat a while to take in the view.
Then it was just a long, easy, well-graded series of switchbacks down to the Waptus River. As I descended, clouds grew west, behind the Cascade Crest, but they never came to anything, and served only to add drama to Mount Daniel and Bear’s Breast.
I made camp here a few hours ago, on a white granite shelf beside the Waptus River, just up the trail from a kindly young wilderness ranger who’s been eager to talk—about Cle Elum, the unappreciated beauty of the lower Alpine Lakes, the unalloyed cruelty of trail-encroaching shrubs—but excused himself early, on account of having to get up at five (!) tomorrow morning to lead a maintenance crew.
I spent the sunset sitting on a broad bridge above the river, watching clouds pass back and forth across Dutch Miller Gap, then retired to a smooth rock beside my tent, where I’m lying now, watching the sky fill with stars.