• Tenley Lozano

Pacific Crest Trail, Washington (Day 5, August 2016)

Updated: Mar 27, 2019

Fifth day of an 80 mile section hike from near the Oregon border to White Pass, Washington. Entering Goat Rocks Wilderness, lands of the Yakama people.

I'd planned a longer day of hiking - 16 miles - so we woke at first light as usual and got moving right away. Early in the morning we reached the southern boundary of Goat Rocks Wilderness.

A blond dog wearing a red pack looks out over the edge of the dirt trail to a steep drop off into a pine forest.
Elu smiling in the sunshine as we hike uphill through Goat Rocks Wilderness.

Water was beginning to be a consideration. We filled up whenever we passed a stream, and often didn’t see another water source for a few miles. It was nothing like hiking in SoCal, but still, I was being careful and conscious of never getting below a liter of spare water. We hiked up and up and up, and the landscape changed in front of us. Beautiful blue lakes and mountains logged in strips were seen from the trail. Small streams of snowmelt trickled down rocky areas and across the path. Elu and I stopped in the shade to cool off by a small stream along the steep slope. I filled our water bottles while she wetted her paws and drank straight from the trickling stream. 

Tall thin pine trees reach upward with trunks covered in light green moss.
The furry sentinels of Western Larch, Larix occidentalis, in the Pine family standing tall near the southern end of Goat Rocks Wilderness.

The next day promised a difficult hike along an exposed and rocky section, so we were pushing our mileage so we'd be on track. We hiked faster than before, almost three miles per hour including water and snack breaks, our packs lighter with every day on the trail. We'd eaten the heaviest foods first, and were left with mostly freeze dried packets of food and Elu’s freeze dried dinner biscuits that she loved.

Green forests of pine trees lead down a hill, with a clear blue sky above and dark blue foothills in the distance.
A view of Goat Rocks Wilderness in the morning as mist rises from the forest.

We arrived at Sheep Lake, just a quarter mile off the PCT, at 1:15 in the afternoon. We were the only hikers at the campsite, so we picked a beautiful spot on exposed rocks overlooking the water. Elu and I swam, filled our water bottles and I laid my clothes to dry on a rock in the sun. We set up the tent then wandered around as other campers began to show up. Another woman swam in the lake naked on another side, floating peacefully in the blue water. 

A man and his young daughter showed up in the afternoon and set up their gear at the campsite next to us, careful not to bother us. Later, Elu and I walked over to chat and ended up eating our dinners with them and talking for an hour. The two of them did a father-daughter trip like this every year, and I could tell that she really enjoyed being in the time with her dad. 

A light blue lake is surrounded by gentle grassy hills and pines.
View of Sheep Lake from our campsite, off a side trail from the PCT.

Just an hour before dark, a large group of people (3 men, 3 women, 2 dogs) showed up yelling to each other, looking for a campsite. They clearly had my spot in mind, being locals who assumed they’d get the prime campsite even though they were the last to show up on a beautiful day. I'd later realize that it was also the weekend, and I was even more grateful for Elu's schedule of early hiking. The man in the front of the group asked me, “How long have you been here and how long are you staying?” He wanted my spot, but I wasn't going to offer it. They were grumpy that they couldn’t camp in any of the designated spots because they were all taken (and their dogs growled at Elu, so I wasn't about to suggest they share my campsite, even though there was plenty of room for a group). Later, I could hear them from across the lake: yelling, barking, splashing, and snapping branches for firewood. 

For the first time this trip, I put the rainfly on the tent for privacy. The moon was bright in the late evening, shining even through the rain cover. I enjoyed hanging out with the family in the next campsite at dinner, but the next morning I was glad to be on the move again with just Elu. 

Day 5: hiked 16 miles to camp at Sheep Lake off PCT side trail, Mile 2266.8.

Elevation change: up 2530 ft/ down 1478.

Camp at elevation 5752 ft.