Finally! The 15 day forecast is showing me the weather through Monday, September 28th.
Why is that important? Because I have been WAITING to see what the weather was going to be like over the weekend that Gretel and I will be going on our solo backpacking trip. I knew when we were going for sure but I didn’t know where. That was weather dependent.
Our trip will be four days and three nights. If the weather was going to be cold and rainy in Western Washington, we were going to head east of the mountains. I wasn’t super excited about that though. Although I appreciate the desert, I wanted to see trees, moss, mountaintops and maybe some mushrooms. Finding a trail on the east side was also going to be a challenge because a large part of that area has burnt up or is still on fire.
This trip is special. It’s special because I am hiking it solo with Gretel – Girl’s Trip! – and it will be the first time I spend more than one night in the backcountry alone (and that one night was about 7 years ago). It’s special because staying multiple nights in the backcountry by myself has been a dream of mine. It’s also special because if you asked me two years ago, I would have told you that my bad back and knees would keep me from ever fulfilling my dream.
Now, some of you may remember that I declared I was going to hike Section J of the Pacific Crest Trail with Gretel earlier this year. That was going to be a 7-day trip. But then, because an error in information I was given, the distance doubled to 72 miles. I just shrugged my shoulders at first at the idea of hiking alone with Gretel for 12 days but then I had a reality check. While we were on the trail to Gem Lake for an overnighter, I realized that I am in no way prepared to spend 12 days in the woods alone… especially on a trail with no access for a quick escape if something went wrong. I decided it was smart to scale back my plans and tackle the 12-day adventure next year.
Now I was faced with deciding where where to hike since my original plans were derailed. I figured we can cover 7-10 miles in a day so we could cover 28-40 miles on our 4-day trip. I needed to find a trail of that length that was also dog friendly. I also wanted to avoid an out and back hike if at all possible. I was looking for something in the Cascade Mountains and I wanted spectacular views. Given those constraints, I wasn’t coming up with a lot of options when I searched the Washington Trails Association website. It looked like I was going to have to bust out the paper map and make up my own route by connecting established trails.
I thought about hiking a loop on the Olympic Peninsula that I had hiked the entirety of in day trips. Safe but boring. Somewhere in the Eastern Washington desert was going to be our only option if the weather was going to be crappy on the west side of the Cascades. I decided that just because I couldn’t hike all of Section J this time, hiking a section of the Pacific Crest Trail near Snoqualmie Pass was still an option.
I finally settled on a half-loop route that will take us from the Kachess Campground, up to Park Lakes, by Glacier Lake, up to Chikamin Peak, and along the infamous Kendall Katwalk to Snoqualmie Pass. It’s about 35 miles including the side trips.
I didn’t look at a lot of pictures of the area because I didn’t want to spoil it but here is the Kendall Katwalk area to give you an idea of what it looks like.
As I said, the decision was very much dependent on the weather forecast. When I looked last week it was going to be sunny and in the mid 70’s in that area. Things were looking good for us! Then things changed for the worse.
At first, it changed to cooler temperatures and one partly rainy day. Then it changed to one day likely to have heavy rain and one that would be partially rainy. However, there was still going to be more sun than clouds on those days. I looked this morning and there is just under a 50% chance of light rain for two days and the temperature high is predicted to be only in the mid to high 50’s for all 4 days. The night temperatures are predicted to be around freezing.
Honestly, this weather is about at the edge of my comfort zone. It IS Washington and it IS the mountains so the weather doesn’t always follow the predictions. It could very well not rain at all on our trip…. or it could rain more than is predicted. I don’t mind hiking in the rain, and Gretel is pretty good with it too, but if she gets wet I will need to keep an eye on her for hypothermia since it will only be in the 50s.
So, at this point it’s a gamble. It’s a gamble I’m still willing to make. I still feel comfortable and safe with my decision. There are still three full days before our trip though and the weather forecast could continue to change. I’m going to need a plan B in case it gets worse so off to REI I go this morning to look at maps. I have a couple of ideas but I need to check the routes on a topographic map.