Jacob Leistra / "Game Boy" / PCT 2019

Day 109: Chinook Pass and Camp Urich

Mile 2316.2 -> Mile 2347.5

The first half of the day was very scenic. I hiked down to Chinook Pass, a popular area for day hikers and tourists as a major entrance to the Mt. Rainier National Forest.

I headed to the parking lot to throw away some garbage when I saw some hikers and a guy doing trail magic. I was invited over and recognized the guy, but couldn’t place him. He quickly offered me a soda, a couple bologna sandwiches, and some snacks. His name was Ron and he said he’d done the PCT four times, the Continental Divide Trail, and the Appalachian Trail. He mentioned he did trail magic in the desert at a ranger station, and that’s where I remembered him from. It was great to kick back and eat some grub. On that note, that was probably the first time I’ve had bologna in over twenty years.

The rest of the hiking was pretty crappy actually. I had to hike through miles of burn area. As I was approaching a ridgeline, I started smelling a burning fire. I thought it was just the burned trees all around nme, but as I got to the ridgeline I could see a layer of haze on the horizon. There was obviously a fire somewhere and the wind was blowing the smoke in and around the mountains. I didn’t have cell service so I couldn’t check the status of anything. All I could is keep hiking and hope the air got better.

About two miles before Camp Urich, the trail went back into lush forest and away from the burn area. I descended into Government Meadow to find the Mike Urich Hut with a group of ten or so people there. I was considering staying at the hut, since it’s a hut maintained by the local ski mobile club and open for public use. It would guarantee a warm night, that’s for sure. The group milling about convinced me it would be a busy area tonight, so I decided to turn around.

Just as I was starting to walk away, a woman came around the corner from the group. “Hey, we’re from [well known company in the outdoor world] and we’re doing trail magic! Come join us!”

Hot damn. So I did. It turns out this group of four we’re doing a company sponsored trail magic event and were doing interviews with thru hikers. I had my photo taken and explained what my favorite piece of gear was in a short video. I was asked to sign a legal release, which included a small non-disclosure part (which is why I won’t specify the company name… for now). In exchange they fed me and the other hikers fresh grilled burgers with veggies and avocado, as well as snacks and drinks. It was the second trail.magic today and it was amazing! And needless to say, I was not leaving the cabin that night.

I ended up staying in the loft of the cabin with two other hikers. We hung out bags and food so mice wouldn’t get at them, because we heard that the cabin had mice problems. Guess we’ll see how it went in the morning.

Main Photo: The highway leading to Chinook Pass and the Mt. Rainier National Forest on August 27.