Day 116

Day 116 – mile 2258 to 2286 – Washington is Awesome Camp to Best Sunset Ever Camp:
Today was cold.  Cold and incredible.  Though the temperature hovered around 40F all day, the majesty of Goat Rocks would not be diminished by mere cold and wind.  In a day-long battle between clouds and sun, light was the victor and I was able to experience the rocks in all their glory.
The day started out overcast and damp.  A cloud ceiling had moved in overnight, perching itself right on top of the surrounding hills and ridges.  With the hope that the haze would soon burn off, I got moving in my normal hiking garb, working furiously to stay warm.  Rather than dissipating, the cloud thickened as I traversed skyward, soaking me indirectly with dampened shrubbery.  Exposed to the wind as well, there was no hope of staying warm if I stopped moving.  So preferring to be warm, I made great time to Cispus Pass where I threw on some layers and took a break.
The clouds were lifting marginally, exposing a beautiful alpine bowl with lush meadows and rushing creeks.  Occasional glimpses of blue sky also gave me hope that there would be views today.  I would be super bummed if my hike through this area was completely obscured by clouds.  Still a couple hours to the good stuff.  Still a couple hours for the sun to do its thing.
My faith was rewarded with an incredible walk through some of the best scenery of the trip.  As I climbed through wide meadows to the jagged ridge below Old Snowy Mountain, clouds continued to occasionally blow across the alpine landscape.  Over the tops of distant clouds I would catch glimpses of the summits of Adams and Rainier, glacier capped peaks gleaming in the midday sun.  I traversed along a treacherous scree slope between smaller glaciers, stopping often to wonder at the ever changing scene.  However, after the breathtaking scramble, I was only now at the beginning of the Knife’s Edge, what this area is best known for.
As implied by the name, the Knife’s Edge is a section of the trail that follows the top of a sharp ridgeline.  What makes it truly incredible is the length and exposure.  Standing at one end, I could see the entire length of the trail, twisting and climbing like a roller coaster for miles.  I took my time on this stretch, in the interest of safety as well as prolonging the enjoyment.  Clouds continued to change the views in interesting ways and I had no qualms with waiting and watching.  Old Snowy Mountain, Rainier, everything else.  Incredible.
By the time I had come off the ridgeline, I was cold and satisfied.  Time to find warmer pastures and make some miles.  I did just that, hiking fast to make up for my well spent time, through warm valleys and forest, protected from the whipping wind.  Then, with the sun low on the horizon, saying its last farewell to today, the trail brought me to the best spot on this planet at that particular moment.  Rainier, more of a silhouette than featured peak, and jagged ridgeline across the valley, were surrounded in orange light as the sun passed behind a cloud.  I had been hoping for something like this, but never expected it to be this perfect.  All I could do was stand and stare (and take pictures).  Another hiker came by, I didn’t say a word.  Too awesome.  Too beautiful.  Too perfect.
Snapping to my senses, I found a small spot to set up camp just a bit further up the ridge.  Not believing my luck, I watched the world fade to black from the comfort of my sleeping bag.  What an incredible day.  Thanks to my hero, the sun, I was treated to some of the clearest and most magnificent views of the whole trip.  Goat Rocks lived up to the hype and exceeded my expectations in dramatic fashion.


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