Home Pacific Crest Trail PCT: Down, Up, Down!

PCT: Down, Up, Down!

by Lisa

Mica Lake to Vista Creek Camp – 14.4 miles

Halfway through this section! Waking up at Mica Lake was really pretty. I couldn’t resist taking a few more photos as the sun rose.

Morning at Mica Lake

I was up and out pretty efficiently. I’m definitely getting a hang of the routine. I did have one hiccup though… I put my pack and got moving and then remembered to turn my GPS tracker on. Well the unit wasn’t on my pack in it’s usual spot. I dug around in the pockets and didn’t find it. I pulled everything out of my pack and still didn’t find it. I hoofed back up the trail 100 feet to camp. Nope. Once more through the pockets… Ah-hah! Buried right at the bottom of a pocket tucked pretty well under the pack. I was relieved to find it and resolved to put it in a better spot.

Today was going to be a big elevation day. I’d be descending 2000′, climbing 2500′, and then dropping another 2000′ to camp. Whew!

I took it easy and enjoyed the view for the first mile as the trail dropped to a rushing creek and lovely meadow below.

After that it was 3 miles of easy switchbacks through the forest. Easy on the downhill anyways! Of course the last mile was the worst when I though for sure I’d made it to the crossing and yet the trail kept going downhill. Turns out there used to be a crossing higher up but it got obliterated too many times so it’s now in a more storm-proof spot.

I took a good break at the bottom to rest my feet and knees, refuel, and rehydrate.

A lava cone mountain in front of the ridges.

My last close-up of Glacier Peak.

I finally set my mind to it and started up the switchbacks. As expected they were challenging but not horrendous. Most of the trail held to the usual PCT grade. I also had lots of excuses to stop and take photos as I got better and better views of the valley, the ridge I’d come from and Glacier Peak.

I rounded onto the top of the ridge and stopped for a well-earned break. My break spot was a great pile of rocks that made it seem as if I was hanging off the edge of the ridge (no, I’m definitely not afraid of heights!)

Made it to the top!

From there I continued to climb another few hundred feet through more beautiful meadows before dropping down and around a large rocky bowl.

There hadn’t been any water sources for a while so I was glad to see the creeks coming down through the bowl. I stopped beside one and took a long break to eat and soak my feet. It was definitely a hot day, though not as humid as the day before. The skies were also clearer offering up amazing views at every turn.

Panoramic view north

Looking back at the rocky bowl

Of course I couldn’t stay on the shoulder of the mountain all day. I got myself moving again and climbed a couple hundred feet more to gain a saddle and round a ridge.

The next mile was wildflower heaven. The ridge was all meadows, uninterrupted by trees. Of course there were more amazing views of the mountains to the north.

An incredible carpet of wildflowers

Eventually the trail started to descend and drop into the forest. This was going to be the hard part – the few miles trudging downhill through thick forest and overgrown sections of trail.

The exciting part was when I tripped on a hidden rock and fell face forward on the trail. And then I rolled off the downhill side of trail over my pack! Thankfully I didn’t roll far but there I was pinned between the uphill, my pack, and a tree. After catching my breath I got free of my pack and pushed it back up onto the trail. Then I clambered back up, found a good spot to sit, and bandaged up my skinned knee.

Needless to say I was quite cranky for the last mile and a half into camp. No major damage done, except perhaps to my pride.

When I did get to my camp along Vista Creek there were a couple other groups just rolling in from the north. We sorted out our tent spots and got to know each other.

The best of my camp buddies for the night was a lovely dog named Happy. He was proudly owned by a mom and her 14-year old son. He was a hiking dog and seemed to be enjoying every moment of it! Happy put a smile back on my face and didn’t let me sulk for very long.

I was able to relax and settle in thanks to some kind words from my fellow hikers and some snuggles from Happy. My knee was a bit achey but I wasn’t going to let one fall define my hike.


sheila September 4, 2018 - 2:26 pm

I love your picture of Glacier Nat Park and the meadow with all the wild Lupins/ Do you know what the red flowers are? Are they Indian Paintbrush–they don’t like it to me. Your flowers have too much pink in with the red and the Paintbrush has more orange in the red. Your picture of Happy is wonderful and I am sorry to hear about your knee. I know that would have hurt

sheila September 4, 2018 - 2:30 pm

I also meant to say about your pictures in Yosemite park–the one of Cathedral Mountain is gorgeous. A person could blow that picture up. It intrigues me on the other pictures the bald rocks–like at the summit of the Coquahala pass.


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