The Pipe Lake Stampede
Beginning Elevation = 4,400
Ending Elevation = 5,200
Elevation Range = 4,400 – 5,600
Weather: Sunny, then overcast, high 75°F
The Kracker Barrel store closed at 6:00pm last night. They were very kind and told us we could finish our pizza, but we packed up to get out of their way. In the process though, I forgot I’d left my phone charging cord inside. I had about 5% battery left, so the rest of the evening was spent off the grid.
I slept good despite there being some road noise. I attempted to sleep in since the store didn’t open until 8:00am and I didn’t have my phone to use anyways. Not sure how long I lasted sleeping, but sometime before they opened up I saw an employee inside who then let me grab my cord.
After that, I was taking care of some phone related tasks and also setting out my tent fly to dry. So much condensation overnight! I felt sorry for the hiker called Costco who cowboy camped and woke up soaked. While perusing around, I noticed a large bird of prey up in a nearby tree!
Looked like a hawk to me, but a big one. At 8:00am when the store opened, I went inside with some other hikers and got a coffee and a breakfast sandwich resembling an Egg McMuffin. It was quite delicious. I mainly chatted with a guy called Simple. I’d met him before Crater Lake and he was getting back on trail after a visit home to Cincinnati, Ohio. Here’s a pic of the store inside. Quite cozy right? I believe we’ve gogt from left to right…Simple, Phantom, Sleepwalker, Costco, View, and Fat Rat.
At some point in the morning, as I was talking on the phone out in the parking lot, a Calzone came walking up! Her and Cheer had gotten in late last night around 10pm and gotten a hotel room next door. It was great to see them and finally be hiking around each other again. We got a table together along with Simple and got caught up on each others stories. And we did some talking about what’s coming up and our plans for conquering Washington and beyond. A like Pinky and the Brain, but instead of plotting to take over the world, we were plotting to finish the trail together. Eventually, we all began doing our regular town stuff…. shower, laundry, downloading podcasts and music, organizing our food resupply, etc…
I finally was ready and got going around 3:20pm. Cheer and Calzone still had some clothes in the dryer and said they’d probably get going around 4:00pm. They’re really good at looking ahead and finding the best tent sites using Guthook’s and told me they planned to stop 7 miles ahead at Pipe Lake. I thought I’d shoot for the same.
Leaving Highway 12 headed north on the PCT, it was uphill for about 4 miles through some lovely Washington forest. Near the top, I passed a hiker who introduced himself as Pops. We ended up hiking a bit and I learned that he hiked most of the way with his son and did a similar skip of the Sierra as me. He’s been going solo since rejoining the trail though. During our walk together we passed by a friendly looking black lab who was leading two gorgeous horses and their riders.
Pops ended up pulling ahead of me. As I walked past Buesch Lake, I saw what I think was a weasel! I’ll have to Google it later, but it was a long skinny cresture, like a big version of a ferret, that was brown and had a black tail maybe. Fast, so I only saw a glance of it. Here’s the lake it was hanging by.
About a mile further on, I reached Pipe Lake, which was a narrow winding lake with clear blue-green water. Very pretty. I found some space where Pops was setting up his tent. He was cool with me joining and we chatted as we set up and eventually while cooked my dinner. He said he’s become more of a snacker throughout the whole day and so doesn’t usually do much of a bigger dinner. We also figured out we’re both from Michigan! He’s lived in Texas for a long while now, but grew up in Detroit in the 1960’s he said.
Here’s the tent site.
So while settling into my sleeping bag and writing my daily events, I started hearing some branches breaking in the woods from what seemed like the opposite side of the lake. It was a narrow lake, so this wasn’t really that far. At first, I thought maybe a hiker was setting up camp over there, but the breaking of branches seemed so silly. Why would anyone need to do that unless they were making a fire maybe?
Anyway, I ignored it until I heard a splash in the lake! This was very strange I thought since it was quickly nearing complete darkness. Thus, I quickly unzipped my tent and saw there was an animal wading across! I hopped right out of my tent, bare feet and all. Who needs shoes. Screw shoes. By the time I got a view it had made it’s way across, a pretty good sized cow elk! And then a smaller one followed. It was pretty dark at this time, but I tried for a photo anyway using my phone’s “night sight” technique. Turned out blurry…
It was funny because Pops had mentioned he’d come across a local yesterday saying how they were out here all over, but neither of us had seen one yet. The story continues though…
I watched until they went into the trees then continued writing on my phone. I kept thinking I was hearing their hooves walking around in the distance, but it was quiet. All of a sudden, it sounded like a stampede off in the dark trees. I unzipped again to look, but the noise had dissipated. They hadn’t been going towards me, but away. And seconds later there was a bright light coming my way. It was a headlamp and a hiker was making his/her way towards me. I figured it was one of the girls, but wasn’t sure. So I waved awkwardly as my head and one arm were peaking out of my tent. Luckily it was Calzone.
Calzone was a bit rattled, but had we had a good laugh when I asked if she’d just nearly gotten trampled! I would’ve been freaked out if that happened to me! She said they seemed far away, but she’d definitely spooked them. She didn’t know what they were though, just that they sounded big, much bigger than deer.
Cheer came soon after and missed all the action. They set their tents up in the dark and we all went to sleep. Hopefully the elk in Washington aren’t as overly friendly as the deer in northern California and come visit overnight!