There’s a cabin halfway between Snoqualmie Pass and White Pass. On this leg of our journey, that cabin became a kind of holy grail.
We knew it would rain last week, but we walked out of Snoqualmie Pass anyway. Other hikers stayed in hotels and hostels, drying out from the previous section and nursing arches and ankles. But we couldn’t let a couple of days of rain get in our way.
On Tuesday, the rain hit. At first it was only drizzle. Then it became a downpour. The wind picked up.
In a few stretches, we walked under power lines so high in voltage they buzzed. No trees sheltered us, and the rain blew sideways into our faces. Drops battered my jacket, finding my pitzips and soaking my shirt. It was about that moment when I started thinking about the cabin.
The app we use as a trail guide calls it “Mike Urich Cabin & Stream.” From the app we could see the cabin is at mile 305.6 and open for public use. It has a wood stove and a pit toilet or two out back.
The idea of four walls and a roof were intoxicating. A log cabin! It sounded sturdy. It sounded warm.
Then I opened the comments about the Mike Urich Cabin…
The app allows users to comment on places along the trail. This comes in handy as the trail can change from week to week — seasonal streams dry up and campsites become buggy.
The reviews about the Urich place were all over the map.
“Watch out for the mice,” wrote one thruhiker.
Mice? I scoffed. There are mice everywhere! How bad can they be?
I read on.
“Nice spot to dry out and do some axe-throwing,” wrote Bearman’s Girlfriend.
In the middle of the downpour, I really focused on the “dryout” part of the comment. Then my eye caught on “axe-throwing.” Were we going to be dodging axes?
Then I read the thread about the “locals.”
“Some locals are here,” wrote one hiker.
“Be prepared that party people may be having their party until 3 a.m.,” commented another.
That, presumably, was a dig at the locals because hikers tent to pack it in around 8 or 9 p.m.
Someone named h.r. filled in the details: “Got here on a Saturday night. Some locals were partying HARD. A 45-year-old man got so hammered that he cried all night while he puked all over the cabin floor.”
“Hey [full name redacted] – did you read h.r.’s comment below? Was that you??? HAHA! Enjoy man!” wrote reddog.
Not only was it the kind of place someone might have a drunken epiphany and toss around axes, it was also the kind of place they’d get called out by their full name!
The cabin’s amenities were no better. The cabin’s wood stove, and biggest selling point might or might not have been attached to a clogged chimney that was ready to “burn the place down.”
And the toilets were likely very, very dirty. Someone whose sole interest, besides thruhiking, is to review toilets on the trail commented, “I’m writing this review from one week later and my nostrils still haven’t recovered.”
To be fair, some people were more positive.
“Pit toilet smells bad but it still beats pooping in the rain,” wrote a well-known hiker who passed us on our first day and is now states ahead of us.
Other people even suggested there was a cooler full of Mountain Dew awaiting us.
The cabin was either a magical dream or a horrible nightmare. Jake was taking everything in stride. He hiked the Appalachian Trail, which I understand is littered with shelters. He still has PTSD from the East Coast mice. So he suggested we “consider” camping near the cabin at a tentsite. I said I would “consider” it.
We eked out 16.8 miles in that rain and were still more than 20 miles from that cabin.
We shivered as we set up our tent. We shivered through dinner. And we shivered as we brushed our teeth. We only stopped shivering when we finally bundled ourselves into our quilts.
Our tent is brand new but has some serious shortcomings: Any condensation that collects on its rainfly falls on us in the middle of the night. When we called Big Agnes to complain about it, they calmly explained that it is an issue they’ve “noted.” Their solution involved using the guy lines and making sure the rainfly is completely dry when we pitch the tent — a perfectly reasonable suggestion for the ultralight car camper and a perfectly ridiculous one when you’re thruhiking in Washington state. We diligently followed their instructions, and still it misted all night inside the tent. We awoke in the morning with a layer of that mist on our down sleeping bags and everything else inside the tent. Every scrap of Jake’s clothing was soaked.
“This is the worst rain I’ve had on any trail,” he said, looking miserable.
I looked at him as he zipped his wet rain jacket over his wet fleece jacket.
“We’re going to that cabin!” I said. “Locals or no locals. Stove or no stove.”
We continued to shiver as we ate our oatmeal, brushed our teeth, packed up the sipping wet tent, and trudged through those 20 miles. But we made it to the cabin.
The pit toilets were a mess, but at least there was toilet paper, recently replenished by a lovely and totally sober local.
There were only two other people who stayed at the cabin Wednesday night. They went to bed at a reasonable hour.
Mice were maniacal but only woke me up once when they came over to investigate the loft of my down quilt. I squealed. They went away. And they stayed away from our food thanks to an ingenious trick Jake learned on the AT that involved hanging a paper plate between the hooks and our food bags.
And, most importantly, the woodstove worked like a dream. We were able to dry all of our clothes out. And there was no axe-throwing.
***In case you’re wondering, the cabin was built and maintained by a local group of snowmobilers and dedicated to Mike Urich (1888-1957) with this epitaph:
The mountain gods from seats on high
rejoiced to see Mike Urich die
And at his death gave this decree, ‘To all who pass here, know that we
entrust to big Mike Urich’s hands
these camps, these trails, these forest lands
to rule, protect, to love and scan
well as he did while mortal man.
And deal out sentence stern and just
on those who violate his trust.’
Stranger, beware, leave not a fire –
foul not Mike’s camp, rouse not his ire!