Hikers arrive. In mid-June, southbound Pacific Crest Trail (PCT) hikers will begin to filter through the remote mountain towns of central Washington. There, the small businesses whose summer income depends on travelers are gearing up for the season, servicing the hundreds of hikers taking on the 2,650-mile backpacking journey (you know, like Wild).
During the summer months, White Pass transforms from a cozy ski resort into a stripped down hiking haven, located just off the PCT. To be exact, the hamlet along Highway 12 is 2,294.9 miles from the southern terminus of the trail at the US-Mexico border and 355.1 miles from the northern terminus, but who’s counting? (Hikers are.) Though it’s 20 miles from the better-equipped town of Packwood, White Pass is home to a hotel, convenience store, and hybrid gas station, as well as a pizza place.
“Looks like a cement mixer truck came to the top of this pass and then gave up and bled everywhere,” serial hiker and blogger J. Taylor Bell wrote after visiting last season. But he’s just had enough. Janine Abdallah also stopped by this little slice of civilization last summer on her “homecoming” to Southern California for PCT essentials: a wash, a replenishment session and a good night’s rest. off the beaten track.
Although White Pass will see dozens of long hauls during busy August days, the store, Kracker Barrel, is already gearing up for the season. “I thought it was the restaurant. It’s not,” admits Abdallah (she thinks of the Cracker Barrel chain). This White Pass establishment offers parcel pickup, fuel-filled shelves and sandwiches hot for breakfast $5.
Jordan Stark has worked at Kracker Barrel for several years and has met hundreds of hikers who traverse every season, some of whom even return as employees during the winter months. To prepare for this impending influx, the team is clearing space in their back room for hikers’ resupply packages. These boxes are vital for hikers, as they contain pre-packaged essentials like dried food, toiletries, snacks, or even new shoes that hiker friends send to outposts before they arrive to avoid nasties. expensive and time-consuming trips to cities. Stark says they expect to hold 300 to 400 of these backpacker resupply boxes at a time.
Also inside Kracker Barrel are private showers set up to wash dirt off the trail for $5 per half hour hot shower. For $10, hikers get an all-inclusive laundry with washing, drying, and detergent. Stark is also busy in the shoulder season stocking the shelves with backpacker favorites like candy bars, tortillas, fuel canisters, cold drinks and Clif Bars.
When Abdallah arrived at White Pass last August, she certainly wasn’t looking for one of those chocolate chip bars (“I can’t eat a Clif bar to save my life,” she says after consuming the go-to on the trail for weeks at the end), but she was looking for laundry and her supply box. Unfortunately, the latter disappeared for several months. But at Kracker Barrel, she found the typical box of items left behind by other PCT hikers and picked up other essentials from the store.
“They have everything a PCT randonneur would need…they had a damn good selection,” says Abdallah. Among these basic necessities for hikers, she stocked up on tuna, potatoes and gummy bears. She even camped out back on flat, grassy terrain reserved for hikers.
A select few looking for more comfort take Kracker Barrel’s intermittent shuttle to Packwood for full-service restaurants and a great grocery store. Trail angels, or those who support hikers with free rides, meals and essentials, sometimes also organize rides through Facebook in town.
Back on White Pass, old wood-fired pizza #3 across the street will open weekends in June with offerings like Tree Hugger Pie with veggies and mushrooms. Jordan Stark expects to see backpackers all summer long, from all over the world, as well as day trippers and hikers. Kracker Barrel will serve as a pit stop for all.