By David Xiao
I snapped awake and immediately felt the crisp, freezing cold. I have forgotten this kind of cold since I first set foot on the Pacific Crest Trail 5 months ago. I began at the Mexican border and now I am close to the end, the Goat Rocks Wilderness of Washington.
After laying in silence for a few minutes, watching the vapour from my breath swirl around, I packed up and started hiking with every layer I brought. In place of the smoky haze from the fire season, the sky was cloudy and misty, blocking out most of the views. I thought this weather would go away by late morning but unfortunately, it persisted.
It was an exciting day. We are about to pass through on to Knife’s Edge, a beautiful section of trail right on top of a ridge, with extensive views on both sides. After a few weeks of haze and forests, the thought of seeing some of the best of Washington got me excited enough to push through the cold.
To my growing disappointment, visibility decreased more and more as I hiked higher. Clouds rolled in to cover everything. By the time I got to the beginning of Knife’s Edge, I was completely in the clouds.
So much for the fantastic views of Knife’s Edge.
Disappointed and tired from the huge elevation gain, I wanted nothing more to get out of the freezing wind and get myself closer to town. As I was just starting to put my head down to push through the cold and disappointment, a day hiker came towards me from other direction. I jokingly asked, “How’s the view up there?” He surprised me with a reply of, “Well, the clouds were below me. If you take the side trail up Old Snowy Mountain, you can get above the clouds.”
I didn’t even hesitate at that point and turned to another PCT hiker I was hiking with and said, “I’m gonna go up there. Wanna come?”
With a nod and an affirmative, we started yet another steep ascent up.
As we struggled and scrambled, I noticed the clouds were… incredibly… below us. All of a sudden, I noticed the warmth of the sun and the colossal volcanos around us.
To the South, Adams stands in its full glory, hidden waist deep in clouds. To the North, Rainier stood proud, like it was the cornerstone of the world. This sight was mystical.
You can imagine my joy when I made it to the top of the peak! Miserable and disappointed 20 minutes before, I found myself surrounded by surreal beauty beyond comprehension! I lounged around, absorbing in the views and the feeling of the sun on my skin for the first time in a few days.
That moment will always remain with me. It taught me that sometimes, the difference between expectations and reality is about taking a single step forward. All we can do is adventure on and push through the suck, and sometimes, nature will show you magic. I learned many times that a bad weather forecast does not mean a bad day. Go find beauty on a rainy day!