White Chuck River to Mica Lake – 13.6 miles
I woke up at my forested campground having slept really well. It’s always so soothing to sleep beside a river or stream. I was now on my fourth day on trail and my morning routine was starting to become more established. I packed up everything in my tent, did some seated yoga stretches, then got myself out to finish packing up and have my breakfast smoothie. I was on trail within an hour of waking up.
The first couple miles were a nice warm-up to the day. The trail cruised gently through some old-growth forest on it’s way northward. There was lots of water flowing in the streams and rivers I crossed, including one section where the trail had become a stream! Thankfully there were some large logs paralleling the trail to help me get through without getting my feet too wet
About an hour into my day I came to a larger river crossing. There was a group of hikers looking for an easy way across. Turned out the easiest way was across a high log right where the trail met the river. They were a bit nervous about it. One of their members waded across higher up stream and then was able to shuttle packs across, making it much easier to cross the log.
I decided to take a short break and let the group get ahead of me a bit. It didn’t take too long for me to catch up but I decided not to pass them and instead we started chatting. They were a group of four and had been on trail for about two weeks already, having started the trail at Snoqualmie Pass. I hadn’t been able to socialize much through my first few days and it was really nice to have someone to talk to. We also got to snack on some berries as we made our way towards another river crossing.
The next river crossing was the last and largest for a while. We had to cross the fast-flowing Kennedy Creek, which originated at Kennedy Glacier, one of the larger glaciers of the mountain. There was a bridge to get us across but it was broken in half, creating a V shape. It was a bit of a balancing act but we managed to get across without getting our shoes too wet. The other hikers decided to take a break and so I said my goodbyes and continued along the trail.
The next few miles were a steady climb to get up on another ridge.I was grateful to be in the forest through that section because it was getting quite warm. As I climbed higher I got some peek-a-boo views of Glacier Peak and also of Kennedy Glacier.
The trail eventually flattened out a bit. I came around the western edge of the ridge and curved back east into a large alpine bowl. There was a lovely stream in the bowl which was a great place to stop for lunch. I took off my boots and socks to dry them out a bit in the sunshine and dug in to my tuna wrap. The hikers I’d met in the morning walked up just as I was pulling on my boots. I didn’t stay to chat too long, though I did find out that they were aiming for the same camp spot as I was.
The trail followed the curves of the ridge. The view to the west had become quite hazy (and even a bit smoky) but the ridges I followed remained clear enough for some great photos. After a couple more miles I came to another nice bowl and my last water source until camp. The afternoon had become hot and humid so I downed an electrolyte drink before making my last climb of the day. I had 1100 ft to climb in the next mile and a half to reach Fire Creek Pass.
I took my time on the climb, focusing on my breathing and getting one foot in front of the other. I was mostly out from under the trees and amongst the greenery of the slope. The trail became rockier as it rounded towards the top of the ridge. One last push took me up to the Pass. All of my efforts of the day were rewarded by a fantastic view. The craziest thing I noticed from the pass was a set of switchbacks on the ridge across from me. I had a good look at my map. Yup, I’d be dropping into the low valley and then climbing up those switchbacks the next day, pretty well reaching the same elevation of the pass I was standing in.
The afternoon was getting on but my camp for the night was only a mile downhill, so I decided to sit and enjoy the view for a while. A hiker joined me from the other direction and we had a nice chat about some of the trails we’d hiked. As the shadows started to lengthen we took our leave and headed in our respective directions.
I was feeling pretty worn out by my day. I took it slow and easy as the trail descended the rocky eastern slope. I knew I was aiming for a lake for the night but hadn’t seen it from the pass. Finally I rounded a corner and there it was – Mica Lake.
I’d been told that the lake was really really cold. What my fellow hiker had failed to mention was that it was still mostly covered in ice! Amazingly I was the first one to the camping area and got to have first dibs. It was still hot out and I was really sweaty from my day so I dared the cold water, splashing some on me to clean up a bit.
Other campers started to roll in and eventually we had a grouping (Cluster? Gaggle?) The other hikers were headed southbound and were working to complete the entire Pacific Crest Trail. Two of them had already hiked north through most of California but had decided to flip up to the northern border and head south in order to avoid some large wildfires.
It ended up being a social evening of sharing snacks, swapping stories, and watching the sunset. Another day in the bag.