I’m awake early even with an eye mask, thanks to Washington State’s bright mid-July mornings. Almost all the other hikers have left camp by the time we’re up, which pokes at my thru-hiker “everyone else is faster than me and I’m failing if I’m slow” anxieties—but, luckily, that is not the hike that I’m hiking this time around.
First up is a wet-feet river crossing: the late-June Pacific Northwest heat wave from a few weeks before sent torrents of snow melt down the mountain, washing out multiple bridges around the park—many of which have to be replaced every year after winter storms, apparently. We pick our way across the South Mowich River through broad, shallow sections and over kinda sketchy logs.
We hike a long uphill topped with stunning views of the volcano from an old burn area full of lollipop-shaped white flower heads (beargrass blooms). The sky is a pure, deep, mountain blue.
Next is a long downhill back into layer upon layer of green—moss growing on rocks, ferns growing out of fallen trees, every surface spongy and alive. The northwest’s temperate rainforest was one of my favorite surprises from walking the PCT in Washington State, a magical fern-filled fairy world I’d never experienced before.
We see lots of clockwise hikers, some trail runners, and Ranger Sam & His ‘Stache, who checks our permit. We also encounter lots of trees down across the trail, which is pretty standard up here and was one of my least-favorite surprises from those PCT Washington miles.
At 4:30PM we are the first arrivals at North Puyallup Camp, which has three sites spread along an old roadbed above the trail. The remains of the road’s stone bridge are at the river crossing.
Sunday, July 18, 2021
10.7 miles: 2,890′ up, 1,940’ down
South Mowich River Camp to North Puyallup Camp