Started from Cougar Rock at 4:40am and traveled clockwise and solo for 93 miles. Wind, heat, smoke, and lots of blowdowns from storm on Monday night made for some rough and challenging trail conditions. First 36 miles to Mowich Lake were relatively uneventful. Saw a couple bears, dealt with some smoky air, and had a challenging river crossing at Mowich River. Made it up to the campground in 8 hrs 22 min. Ate some food, filtered water, and left Mowich Lake around 8hr 32 min. Next 26 miles were challenging. Very hot and dusty! Rangers were on trail warning people not to hike because of heat. So many blowdowns in this section from storm - some felt impossibly hard to climb around. Streams seemed to be much drier than a couple weeks ago, and there were a couple long stretches without water. Climb up to Mystic Lake was challenging, and I lost a lot of time here. Got lost and took an accidental ~1+ mi detour up at Sunrise, which was a huge bummer! Made it to White River Campground at 8:20pm. Challenging, technical, slow running in the dark from White River to the end (~30 miles). About 3 miles after Box Canyon, I ran into a cougar on the trail. It saw me and leapt into a tree off to the left. It continued to follow me on the trail for over 3 miles, until the trail crossed the road. Lost a lot of time here as I was constantly stopping to check behind me for the cougar's location. I debated bailing at Reflection Lakes because I was so terrified, but ultimately decided to continue on the last 4 miles, where I finished back at Cougar Rock at 4:41am. Despite the conditions, it was a really wonderful day! Didn't see a ton of people out there, and had myself an overall really peaceful experience. Hands down one of the best trails in the world!!
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