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120 — The Knife’s Edge

120 — The Knife’s Edge

Strider Sep 3rd, 2022
Strider's 2021 PCT Thru-Hike

Mile 2275.6–2289.6 (14.0 miles)

Rose: beautiful view of the sunset from camp Thorn: the views from the Knife’s Edge being so hazy Bud: beer, washing our hands, maybe Emily with snacks tomorrow? maybe Gibbs tomorrow?

It took us about an hour to cross the rocky alpine to the Knife’s Edge. This is one of those iconic PCT experiences. Unfortunately, my expectations were high, and the reality did not meet them. Last year I hiked in the Goat Rocks hoping for a glimpse of the Edge to come. It had been completely socked in with rain and clouds. I couldn’t see 50 yards in front of me. Today, it was so hazy that I wouldn’t have known St Helens was in the distance if I hadn’t been looking for it. Adams and Rainier were present but more fuzzy silhouettes. Only the vaguest impressions of their glaciers could be determined. The week’s heat wave had done its work. In addition, there was a small plume of smoke from a wildfire not a few miles off the Knife’s Edge, adding smoke to the smog and dust.

We considered climbing up Old Snowy—it had always been in my plan—but decided not to with the lackluster visibility and a moderate wind (probably 15–20 sustained with gusts to 30s). Bummer. Another time…

The walk itself wasn’t bad. To others it might have been scary (there were some southbound weekenders who described it as “sketchy”). There was a time I would have described it that way too, but after the narrow wind whipped gaps on Whitney and making the Headwaters hike in flat ski boots and another whipping wind at Big Sky, the Knife Edge was tolerable. Just don’t trip.

We paused a couple times during the hike to consider the fire. No one had mentioned it at all: no NOBOs, SOBOs, stores, forums, etc. While we were studying it, it found a new fuel source and the smoking column turned from whisky light white to thick gray. I messaged Casey to call the Packwood Ranger Station for an update. We got the “all clear” and moved on.

Because we had loitered on the Edge considering the fire and stuffing our faces with snacks (hiker hunger is a b*tch), we had not travelled far before our stomachs begged for lunch. We chose a pretty little spot in the alpine: in the meadows below the Edge in a copse of trees that provided some shade. The day was growing hot.


The rest of the day was pretty routine. We entered the forest within an hour of leaving lunch where we wound up and down for the rest of the day. The trees are old in this part of the forest, tall, covered in lichen, and generously spaced. It was easy on the eyes and senses.

What was noteworthy was that we saw so few people all day. There seemed to be no NOBOs behind us: no one on the Knife’s Edge despite our loitering. We saw only the one SOBO who left our camp in the morning (without any acknowledgment), a NOBO woman on a horse who passed us in the forest, and the two weekend SOBOs. We know that the big bubble is about a week ahead, but are we really so alone now?

Our campsite tonight makes us for lack of view last night. We’re perched on a north-south ridge. To the east is Shoe Lake which we elected to skip and to the west is a glorious view of Rainier and the fire too. Again, Rainier is only silhouetted in the haze (it’s gotten worse throughout the day), but it’s beautiful in its silhouetting. Beans has the better view of Rainier. I have the better view of the East for the sunrise. We ate dinner while watching the wildfire flare ups; you could see the fire in the twilight.

Previous: Sep 1st, 2022

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