October 11, 2011

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Sep 27-Oct 2, 2011– hiked from Stevens Pass to Suiattle Pass on the PCT (west side of Glacier Peak), then detoured to Cloudy Pass and down to Holden Village. I took the brand-new trail segment to the new Suiattle bridge. The new crossing adds 5.5 miles and some elevation gain… but it is absolutely worth it, because it passes through some of the most magnificent old-growth forest anywhere to be found. Many hikers will be tempted to take the shorter route via the log-crossing. Don’t do it– you’ll be missing out on one of the truly enchanted moments of the entire PCT. This forest is magical. I backtracked and walked through it several times, even though my knee was in pain and my feet were cold and wet. If you’re thinking of skipping it because of the additional mileage, stop and remind yourself why you’re there.

The new bridge is really nice, visually striking and exceptionally well-situated. And the approach means you get to see (and hear) more of the very-wild Suiattle River.

All in all, this entire segment of the PCT (around the west side of Glacier Peak) is clear and easy to follow. There’s lots of brush on both sides of Milk Creek, but that’s to be expected– this is definitely the kingdom of the avalanche. The trail is still easy to follow through the brush, but if it has rained in the past few days you can count on getting thoroughly drenched here.

The damage to this trail segment over the past eight years was apocalyptic. You can see some of the flood-carnage in the White Chuck Valley, and you can see the massive amount of work involved in clearing the way. Restoring this trail was an epic undertaking. I cannot express my gratitude strongly enough to anyone involved.

Something to consider: the new Suiattle crossing means that you now pass the lower junction of the Miner’s Ridge trail. This could make for an exceptionally scenic alternate route via Image Lake, reconnecting with the PCT just before Suiattle Pass. That would only add two miles/800ft elevation gain. I opted to stay on the PCT, because it was raining heavily and I preferred to be in the forest rather than the alpine zone, but in clear weather I would definitely take Miner’s Ridge.