After so many days when we couldn’t see a thing because of all the rain, today we got a real treat: Mount Rainier! At 14,411 feet high, Mount Rainier is within a hundred feet of Mt. Whitney, the highest mountain in the continental U.S. (and which we climbed a few months ago). But Mt. Whitney is surrounded by scads of other mountains in the 13,000–14,000-foot range, while Mount Rainier is surrounded by mountains that might be 7,000 or 8,000 foot high. It utterly dominates the landscape around it, and is completely breathtaking to see. Not only that, but the recent rains left a broad, fresh coat of pure-white snow on top of Mount Rainier, making it even more beautiful. It’s incredible.
The PCT took us through Mount Rainier National Park for a little while today. Mostly, this just meant that we had quite a lot of up-and-down today — not any one huge ascent, but lots and lots of climbing and descending. It’s the kind of hiking that adds up to a very tiring day, and often one that seems surprisingly tiring, because you don’t actually feel like you’ve had any one incredibly difficult swath of trail.
As we continue moving out of the rain (we had no rain today, but did have plenty of cloud cover later in the day), Washington begins to reveal itself to us. It’s beautiful: green forested mountains, golden grasses, and this amazing spectrum of plants from light yellow through deep red. I don’t know if the color is because it’s getting to be fall, but it looks amazing and quite different from the rest of our hike so far. I’m so glad to finally be able to actually see this state!
(On a side note, related to it being autumn now: today marks five full months that we’ve been hiking this trail. Can you believe that? Yesterday we passed the 2,300-mile mark. Neither one of those figures sounds like it can possibly actually be right…and yet they both are.)
This afternoon, we had the most elaborate trail magic we’ve had on the trail yet. We came to Chinook Pass, a place where the PCT crosses a two-lane state highway (at a very impressive bridge gateway to Mount Rainier National Park). Coincidentally, two different people had decided to provide trail magic there, and the result was spectacular. There were easily two dozen hikers there, if not more, surrounded by an RV, tons of camp chairs for us to sit in, coolers full of beer and soda, a grill with hot dogs and veggie burgers, fresh, hot homemade chili, and even hot chocolate. It was amazing, and just what we needed during a difficult day hiking. I’m pretty sure this slowed down not just a few hikers today; some of the folks we’d seen go pretty darn fast down the trail were more than a few beers in, and talking (seriously) about just camping in the parking lot right there that evening. We spent a glorious hour or so eating all kinds of wonderfully hot food, drinking warm and cold drinks, and talking to people before heading on. Thank you, so much, to the wonderful people who spent all that time and money bringing all that food to us — it was incredible!