Mile 2302 to 2323
We wake to the thick smell of smoke. It is now getting significantly worse. Ixnay leaves before us under headlamp. We are not too long behind, but without the lamps. I spot a large elk standing in the trail facing away. It hasn’t seen me. This time I am going to get a picture, just perhaps not the good side. I drop to a knee and reach for my camera. Kevin appears and the elk bolts away. Again I get nothing. Kevin calmly points out that I am not very good at this game of game.
As we hike on a sign says we are entering Mount Rainier National Park, but frankly it should have said the Smokey Mountains National Park. It is so thick now you can feel it in you eyes and lungs. Two woman approach us from the north asking where Laughing Creek side trail goes. They are trying to get out of the smoke as quickly as possible and seem willing to try anything, including a trail that goes, well somewhere.
We press on and try to imagine the views we can’t see. We pass a large and beautiful Dewy Lake. We are now starting to see more and more weekend and day hikers. In fact there are way more than we ever saw on the rim on Crater Lake or any trail in Yosemite. The area seemed like it could be nice without the smoke, but nothing explained the sheer number of people coming our way. I ask one man if there is a fire up ahead, because every man woman and child is coming towards us. He says “No, it’s just a weekend.” Apparently these Washingtonians will hike anywhere as long as the sun is kinda shining.
At Chinook Pass there is a highway and a packed parking lot. We hope for some trail magic from these enthusiastic outdoors types, but no luck. The closest thing to magic is a pit toilet whose door is not locked. We push on another 2 miles through the smoke to Sheep Lake. The name is a mystery as there are no sheep and it is not even shaped like a sheep. It could have been named Loud With Lots Of Kids And Dogs Peeing In It Lake, but then truth in advertising is not always a good idea. Eventually Sunday begins to fade and the weekend and day hikers head back for their cars. We have dinner and fall asleep, hoping the wind shifts and takes the smoke back to Mount Adams.