F-stop’s SOBO Thru Hiking The PCT – Stevens Pass to Snoqualmie Pass

7/23 – 7/27

Stevens Pass 2461.6 to Snoqualmie Pass 2390.6 – 71 miles

Total miles hiked to date: 268

Shot captured using Sony a6300 and a Sony Vario-Tessar T* E 16-70 mm F4 ZA OSS lens.

Shot captured using Sony a6300 and a Sony Vario-Tessar T* E 16-70 mm F4 ZA OSS lens.

I tend to trust knowledgable people even when I haven’t experienced what they said I will. Yes, this early in the hike it was already starting to happen. I took off from Stevens Pass in yet again, bleak and wet weather, and walked over the ski area and down across the other side into a maze of logging roads and power lines. Until I reached camp on a pass that night I had walked 99% of my time in the woods that day. They told me the trail would be 90% mental and for the first time I was beginning to feel it and ask myself what am I doing here? I love backpacking and being in the wilderness but wasn’t so sure about this long distance trip where making your miles for the day seems to be the top goal. Still, I get up at zero dark thirty, break camp and hit the trail by 7am, sometimes earlier, to hit the trail.

I intended to hike this stretch in 3.5 days. My feet were feeling stronger and I felt I could finally do 20 mile days. Well that didn’t happen. It took 4 days plus a couple of hours because the trail overall was by no means a “cruising” trail. The weather cleared and we went from one extreme condition (wet, cool conditions) to the other (dry, hot conditions). Now I found myself doing long ascents in the blazing hot sun which really slowed me down. Sections of downed trees, especially in an old burn area, were equally slowing.

View of Mt. Ranier from one of the high points in the trail

View of Mt. Ranier from one of the high points in the trail. Shot captured using Sony a6300 and a Sony Vario-Tessar T* E 16-70 mm F4 ZA OSS lens.

On the second day I finally meet up with Liam from Scotland. Earlier on the trail I found a very expensive carbon shaft with titanium head ice axe and hauled it out. I learn that it was Liam’s so when I got to Snoqualmie Pass we meet up again and I was able to return it to him. Mystery solved.

On my third day I stopped up high above the Lemah River Valley with great views above a huge burn area. There was a small pond with no name. I noticed I had only done 13 miles that day and it was only 3pm, but it looked like there was potential for a great sunrise reflection shot of the steep mountains around me. So I reminded myself that it wasn’t always about the miles. I stayed. The mosquitoes around that little snow fed pond were Alaska bad but that was OK. I used my head net for the first time this trip!

View from Pacific Crest Trail - Stevens to Snoqualmie segment. Shot captured using Sony a6300 and a Sony Vario-Tessar T* E 16-70 mm F4 ZA OSS lens.

View from Pacific Crest Trail – Stevens to Snoqualmie segment Shot captured using Sony a6300 and a Sony Vario-Tessar T* E 16-70 mm F4 ZA OSS lens.

Up at 5:15am, the first light hits the high peaks in the Alpine Lakes Wilderness and I made the shots I was after. And, I still hit the trail by 7am. This would turn out to be my second 19 mile day despite going through some bad deadfall many NOBOs (NOrthBOund hikers) warned me about. The best thing is after another nearly 3000 ascent, the trail stayed high most of the day with fabulous views of the best of the Cascades. Spectacle Lake is forever locked in my mind as a must return to spot. It is only a half mile off the PCT. If you are a photographer, there is much potential here for stunning sunrise and early morning shots of this emerald lake below some of the prettiest peaks I have seen in the Cascades.

I get to a camp above Joe Lake near 7pm exhausted. Ridge Lake is only 2 miles more but another 1000’ climb. I decide to push on so I can see Lauri at Snoqualmie Pass that much sooner the next day. With all the things you think about on this hike, I forgot how close I was to Seattle and how easy it is to buzz up I-90 to the pass and access this very popular wilderness. There were close to 50 people camped on Ridge Lake. This wasn’t exactly a wilderness experience but I didn’t care. I was motivated to get through those last 7 miles for the pass. I find a quiet spot and set up camp for the night.

Stevens to Snoqualmie Section hikers Devon and Matt

Stevens to Snoqualmie Section hikers Devon and Matt. Shot captured using Sony a6300 and a Sony Vario-Tessar T* E 16-70 mm F4 ZA OSS lens.

Next morning, Lauri and I ate at the very PCT hiker friendly Aardvark food cart next to the Chevron Station and hung out with a group of SOBOs at the Drubru Pub that night. It was good to finally see the 4 French SOBOs I met in Stehekin as well as Liam. They are doing well and we will all hit the next 98 mile section to White Pass at various start times Thursday morning.

The next stretch of trail supposedly starts of a bit rocky for about 10 miles and then pretty decent trail the rest of the way. Looking at the trail map elevation changes, it looks like there will be a stretch of the trail where I will be above tree line for awhile. I’m looking forward to hiking in the high country again.

6 thoughts on “F-stop’s SOBO Thru Hiking The PCT – Stevens Pass to Snoqualmie Pass

  1. Michael, those are some really amazing pictures you have shot so far. Keep them coming . Be safe and enjoy the PCT for all of us.
    Kathy and Frank Payne ( neighbors of Karen’s ) should you forget.

    • Thank you Kathy. Michael definitely plans on keeping those images coming as he continues his journey down the trail. Just yesterday he told me (via text) that he didn’t make as many miles as he intended (only 21 that day) because he just had to stop to take some pictures of Mt Ranier as well as a trail crew working on the downed trees along the trail.

  2. Love reading your updates Michael! Keep going my mountain goat friend! Wishing you Safe travels with beautiful scenery!

  3. I am really enjoying hearing about your travels Michael, I find your honesty and candidness makes the story of your journey much more intriguing! The photographs are stunning! Are you bonding with the new camera yet? The “Michael DeYoung style” shines through no matter what camera you use.
    Be safe and have fun!

    • Tammy, thank you for your kind comments. I wish I could say I am bonding with my Sony A6300 but I’m not. Yes the camera is light and the optics of the Zeiss lens are excellent. The problem is in performance – especially the focus system. Sony lacks the performance, function and ergonomics of the Canon system. They are light years behind. Trying to transition between a landscape scenario and a semi-action scene with a hiker walking is cumbersome. I think there are bugs in the software because sometimes the wheel that controls focus point selection works and then it doesn’t. Sometimes back button focus works then other times the camera tells me it is not available unless I disable the AF/MF function. The menu layout makes no sense and it is clunky and slow. I miss focus on a lot of shots even when I think I’m getting focus verification from the camera–many good enough for a blog but far short of passing qc for agency representation. I am going without a tripod and I find the Sony stabilization no better than the Canon. With all the weight I have to carry and the distances I’m going (which I will mention in the next blog) make an exta 2 pounds for a tripod impractcal. I just keep trying to make the best imagery that I can with what I have and also mapping out places to return to on shorter trips where I will spend more time on photography.

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