Glacier Peak Wilderness - Day 3
In the morning, we were glad our food was still there. Then it was time to really start our hike. At first, the trail was easy to follow and passed through some really old forests with redwood trees and occasional open spots where we could see the mountains surrounding us. All the flora was turning into fall colors. We ended up in a long valley which we would follow all the way to its other end. The trail gradually became more difficult to follow and the forest became thicker. At several sections, we had to bushwhack our way through shrubs and plants. I don't think I have ever talked so much to Diane as that morning, as we were trying to make sure any bears would hear us approaching.
In the afternoon, we saw the first people of the day. There was a group of 5 hikers heading in the same direction as us. A while later we met 3 mountaineers who had spend the weekend climbing Glacier Peak, the large volcano we would circumnavigate during our hike. As the last few miles had involved a lot of bushwhacking and we nearly lost the trail on several occasions, we asked if it would get better soon. Unfortunately, they said the worst was still to come. We passed through a dense forest. Several times, the already hardly visible trail would run up to a huge fallen tree and it wouldn't be clear where it continued. Then the inevitable happened. We reached an area with several fallen trees and weren't able to find the trail leading out of it. After some searching, I backtracked a bit to try to find the trail we had come over, but couldn't find it. Due to the dense forest and surrounding mountains, our GPS also didn't have coverage. Diane suggested backtracking even further until we found the trail again. I felt that even if we eventually found it, it wouldn't help us much in figuring out where it would continue after the fallen trees. Instead, we kept on going hoping we would reach another meadow where we could search for the trail properly.
Unfortunately, that didn't happen. The forest kept getting denser and we reached an area full of large trees interspersed with mangrove like smaller trees that were impossible to get over or around. In addition, the soil was completely covered in high shrubs, fallen logs, and streams. This was also all on a slope. Though is was annoying, we knew roughly where we were and that the trail was at most a couple hundred meters to our left or right, but couldn't see far ahead or travel more than a kilometer an hour at most. After searching for the trail for a long time and getting all bruised up, I decided our best bet would be to just head in the direction we needed to go in. As the trail ran in between a river and mountain ridge we couldn't really get lost, it was just a lot harder to travel without it.
The terrain was by far the most difficult I have ever hiked through and because my backpack was still filled with food, I was getting really tired. Also, Diane was starting to get nervous, as her very first day hiking was such a nightmare. It would get dark soon and although there were occasional open places that might have been just large enough to pitch our tent, we both didn't really want to camp without getting back on the trail. We reached a relatively open patch of blueberries and decided to walk up the slope hoping to find the trail. After walking uphill for a while, I stopped and turned around to tell Diane the trail was nowhere to be found and that we should start searching for a campsite. When I then looked in front of me again, I saw the trail less than 2 meters away. It really was only visible when we were standing right on top of it.
Back on the trail we were moving a lot faster. We were both exhausted but there wasn't a level or bare piece of ground in sight. After another kilometer, the sun was really going down. I found a semi-level area of shrubs we could camp on; it wasn't great but it was the best place we had seen in over an hour. Diane didn't really like the idea of sleeping on a slope, so I offered to walk ahead for 2-3 minutes without my backpack, just in case there was something better in the nearby forest. Directly after entering a forest, there was a dedicated campsite where someone had leveled the ground and cleared all the trees. We had only seen one other of those early in the morning. This was really great timing. Diane was thrilled we could sleep comfortably, but could barely keep going.
As it was almost dark, I pitched the tent as fast as I could, stored our bear canisters away from the camp, and made dinner for us both. Due to the very intense day, Diane's appetite was off and she couldn't eat more than half a granola bar. I had experienced a similar lack of appetite on previous hikes when things got too tough. I hoped the next day would get easier and she would have some opportunity to recover. I also was very tired and still hungry after eating both of our 1000 kcal dinners and the other half of the granola bar. When I lay down in my sleeping bag, my legs felt like they were about to fall off. After running 29 km just two days ago, carrying my backpack from store to store yesterday, and now hiking and bushwhacking all day, I was way more tired than I had hoped to be this early in our trip. I quickly fell asleep, only to be woken up at 23:00 because Diane said she thought she heard something around our tent. I REALLY hoped that wasn't a bear. Fortunately, we didn't hear or see anything and quickly fell asleep again.