We soon climbed out of the forest, passing through a large boulder field. Creeks and streams poured across the trail from underneath snowfields. A pika on a nearby rock eyed me suspiciously, then darted across the trail, its jaws clamped on a mouthful of green leaves. Piia hiked by with Memphis, stopping briefly to share a photograph of a pine marten she had spotted in a tree near the trail.
Time pressure mounted as the day progressed. We wanted to catch the 3:00 p.m. bus to Stehekin, but knew we would have to push hard to reach it in time. But we made good time on the smooth, gently-graded trail, almost jogging downhill.
We reached the final crossing of Agnes Creek at 2:30. A sign welcomed us to North Cascades National Park, our seventh and final national park along the PCT. We crossed the bridge and hurried to the High Bridge Ranger Station and bus stop (1,600 ft), where one other hiker, Paws, was waiting.
The bus stopped at the famous Stehekin bakery and we piled out. I stared in amazement at the glass counter stocked with a delicious array of fresh baked goods. I gazed longingly at a plump loaf of fresh multigrain bread before settling on more packable treats: slices of pizza, muffins, and cookies, along with cold drinks.
Exiting the bus at Stehekin felt like entering a ghost town. Although a large group of hikers had passed through two days earlier (and many more are yet to come) the street was deserted when we arrived. We enjoyed Lake Chelan, a long, narrow lake reputed to be the third deepest in the country. Then, after taking care of a few chores and downing a hasty plate of nachos with Paws, we climbed back onto the bus to return to the trail.
After several successive late nights, we decided an early camp was in order. Rather than hike on, we found camping near the High Bridge Ranger Station and settled in for an early night.