Last night, it was 35° overnight. Today, it was in the mid–40s all day long. In other words, it’s getting cold out there!
Now, this doesn’t meant it’s already the middle of winter up here in Washington. Some significant proportion of the cold is because we’re at altitude; the elevation where we’re camped tonight is just over 5,000′, and it’s much noticeably colder up here than it was down in the valleys. But the cold is also a sign that, yup, it’s starting to be fall, and the seasons are changing.
I’m glad that we have less than two weeks remaining in our trip. (That’s still very hard for me to believe on a visceral level. I know intellectually we’ll be returning to “normal life” in just a relatively short time, but my mind really hasn’t wrapped itself fully around what that really means.) We just have to have the weather hold — no massive snowstorms, and not dipping below the temperatures we can handle, which probably means in the 20s or above — for a little while longer, and we’ll be all set. The weather reports so far look good, but you never know what’s coming, of course, until it’s here. As it gets colder, too, the snow level — the elevation at which the precipitation falls as snow, not rain — gets lower and lower. Right now, it’s at about 6,000′, which isn’t really a problem for us, since the trail around here very rarely gets that high. But if it dipped down to, say, 4,000′ or 3,000′, that would be a pretty dramatic change in hiking conditions the first time it snowed.
With the cold and elevation out here, though, come one great thing: pika! Pika are small, tail-less rodents, maybe the size of a very large hamster, that live in boulder fields up at elevation, eating grasses all summer long and fattening themselves up for winter hibernation. They’re pretty much the cutest critters ever, and make this characteristic, high-pitched “peep!” sound whenever they detect danger — like humans walking near their rock fields. They’re curious, though, too, which means they’ll often crawl out from in between all the rocks just to look at you. It makes me really happy to be among them. In California and Colorado, you usually only find them at elevations of about 10,000′ and above — seriously high terrain — but I assume the colder climate here makes them happy at much lower elevations here. Any way you slice it, it’s great to have them around.
The hiking itself continues to be really strenuous — pretty much a constant up-and-down. Today, we ascended over 5,600′, but not all at once: first we climbed 2,400′, then we went back down almost 2,000′, then we climbed 2,200′ more…you get the idea. It can be frustrating to almost immediately lose all the elevation you just worked so hard to gain, but I suppose that’s just the way the mountains are around here. It’s going to generally be like this all the way through the end of our trip, so I suppose we better get used to it.
Tomorrow: our second-to-last resupply stop! Can you believe it?