We got on the trail super early (before 7am) after camping near the Suattle river. I wanted to do my 27 miles into Stehekin in good time in order to try to arrive before dark. We had arranged with Cragg Courtney (of the famous Stehekin bakery) to leave some hay for Shyla, as well as some packages of feed that my mother had mailed to him, and I didn't want to have to try to find it all in the dark. In 2014 it had rained for three solid days as I rode through this section, which made it even more miserable, and I was feeling grateful both for the better weather and because we had apparently reached the end of the uncleared trail and were having smooth sailing. Trail crews had definitely been making some continuing attempts to clear the trail, and it was very obvious once we got to the places they had reached. The seond half of yesterday's ride and all of today's was much easier because of the fabulous work they had done.
But just because it always seems to happen that way, when the PCT gives with one hand it takes away with another. I got to the High Bridge campground outside of Stehekin to find a very different situation than in 2014, with all sorts of rules and regulations that made it very unwelcoming for PCT travellers. Which is too bad, as I think that visiting Stehekin is pretty much a highlight for a lot of hikers, primarily for the bakery and all its truly yummy treats. But there are also showers available, and a chance to resupply; there is a bus service (not cheap!) that takes one into town, so picking up a box in Stehekin instead of Mazama, the other last option before the border, means that you can avoid having to hitch. But this time around there was a new requirement--that no one seemed to have been informed of--for a special permit to camp overnight anywhere within an 18 mile radius of Stehekin. And although there was a shelter at High Bridge, we were not allowed to camp under it for the reason that none of us had a prior reservation. The fact that no one else was using it didn't seem to matter; if we hadn't reserved it in advance, we couldn't pitch a tent there. In addition, the ranger on duty was reluctant to let me put Shyla in the corral due to some on-going construction work. Not that the corral is meant to house construction tools, although that's what it was full of; it's supposed to house horses, like the one I had, but she was concerned that the tools made it unsafe. I managed to convince her that I would rope off a section to keep Shyla safe, but it still seemed as if they had things really ass-backward there: no using the shelter and no using the corral, although clearly the shelter was supposed to shelter people and the corral to hold horses. When it started to rain that night I picked up my tent and moved it into the shelter anyway, and the next day when I was in Stehekin (where the permits were available) I got one and allowed the other hikers to camp there with me overnight. We were all more than a little flummoxed about the way things were being handled in what seemed a deliberately unhelpful way.