Wednesday, August 20, 2014, Mile 2144: Cascade Locks

At the Best Western Hotel in Cascade Locks, Mile 2144

Steve and I drove to Cascade Locks, with my excitement building. This is definitely a hiker town, with thru-hikers everywhere, carrying their resupply boxes, and a big advertisement for Shrek’s, in the grocery store. Shrek is a trail angel who hosts any and all hikers coming through. He’s known for his oversize green bandannas. I met Mountain Mamma, who commented on my Philmont t-shirt. She works with Scouts and Venturers in Michigan. And she chided me for saying I “can only” do a section hike. The correct phrase is I *am* doing a section hike. We’re all on the trail. Mountain Mamma, Steve, and I shared milkshakes and had a great time hanging out. Love it!

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The view from our hotel room…tantalizing!
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Bridge of the Gods

After shakes, we hit the grocery store and ended up at the pub, for one last burger. Then we strolled around town, checked out the old locks, and generally had a great time before heading back to the hotel. Tomorrow!

Thursday, August 21, 2014, Mile 2154: Hitting the Trail

At a small campsite, Mile 2154

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Early sunrise, and I can’t wait to hit the trail!

This is it! We got up before dawn, and had breakfast next door to the hotel. Then Steve and I walked up to the bridge. He took a few pictures, and I was on my way, a little teary with excitement, at 7:30. Mile 2144!

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One last picture before crossing the bridge.
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Almost halfway across the bridge, where I enter Washington.
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Across the bridge, and ready to go.
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The beginning of the Washington PCT, at mile 2145.
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Only 507 miles to go…although Halfmile’s GPS survey in 2014 shows it to be 515 miles. Details, details.

So my pack is heavy! I pounded out four miles by 11:00, but as the grade increased, I slowed way down. Wondering if I estimated food consumption correctly.

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Coming out of the trees, just up from the river.
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Looking down at the river and the dam.
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Crossing a small stream, with an appropriately labeled bridge.
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Prickly Lettuce. Even at the end of wildflower season, there were little gems like this.
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Greenleaf Creek

I was counting on loading up with water at Cedar Creek, so I had skipped Greenleaf (2150). Cedar Creek was way down a ravine, on a dirt road, with no proof of its existence. Reluctantly, I pushed on.

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The Bonneville Dam spillway.

Fortunately it’s been wet lately, so a mile after the missing Cedar Creek junction, I crossed the seasonal stream which becomes Cedar, at approximately 2152. Loaded up on 3.5 L because there’s no water until an iffy spring at 2160 (Three Corner), and no guaranteed unto Rock Creek at 2164. That gave me just shy of a liter for every three miles. This is the water ratio I need to work out, given weather, exposure, hiking speed, and elevation gain. And for medical reasons, I need to always have extra water on hand. Running out isn’t an option, and that makes the ratio even harder to compute.

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Stopping at the seasonal upstream portion of Cedar Creek, to fill up on water.

This entire section, Cascade Locks to Panther Creek, consists of two ridges/ravines, and relatively little water. As a new section hiker, it has been hard to judge my water consumption. There’s a balancing act: pack weight vs pace vs water need vs water availability vs food requirements vs estimated food requirements. My pack weight is high, my pace is low, my water need is high, the water availability is low, and I’ve got a full load of food. The lesson here is to try and find a sweet spot, and make that sweet spot an easier and easier place to find.

Met Slacker at the spring. He was really cool, and said he hopes he can do something great for his 50th. This will be awhile 🙂

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Heading NW after getting water
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The Columbia, with just a hint of late-summer color in the foreground.

Called it a day at the campsite at 2154. Nine-plus miles, 3300 feet of elevation gain, with a bitch of a pack. Tomorrow I should start about 4 lbs lighter, and I won’t have a dry spell nearly this long again. Spent an hour or so reading, and then bed before 6:30.

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Setting up camp
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Because every good hike starts with a selfie in the tent.

Friday, August 22, 2014, Mile 2165: Little Birthday Joys

At a campsite near a small stream, Mile 2165

Happy 50th to me!!! Hit the trail at 7:15. It was up in one form or another as I wrapped around Table Mountain at 2157, and then hit Three Corners. The ravines echoed with logging operations. Saw Hood, St. Helens, and Adams. Hood was pretty close, and Adams far. Hard to believe that this will change so radically in a week or so.

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The way opens up to a clearing with power lines.
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The river catches the early morning sun.
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Mt. Adams in the far distance…tantalizing. This is the goal for my section hike.
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Mt. Hood, fading away to the south.
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Mt. Rainier to the far north.
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An old burn.
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Rowanberry, also known as Mountain Ash.

Took the side trail up to Three Corners Spring at 3400 ft., mile 2160. The trail is about a third of a mile. I didn’t go all the way to the viewpoint, but focused on the water instead. It was a welcome sight! There is a hose from the spring to a rusty, decrepit trough. Water is a little brown but fine to drink. To get the water, you need to “pump” the hose, and when it refills, you empty it into your container.

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The end of my first dry stretch, 8.8 miles. The note on top describes the location of the spring, and details for getting water.
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About 1/3 mile up from the junction is this sign on the ground: “Water Trough.”
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The industrial strength hose is connected to a reliable spring. The trough is rusted through, so to obtain water you need to lower the hose until it is full, and then empty it into your water container. The water is brownish but good, and I had a full liter of Nuun (electrolyte replacement).
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Water is full, and we’re heading for Rock Creek.

From Three Corners, it was all downhill to Rock Creek, at 2164. What a delightful place! Perfect spot to soak tired feet, water cool but not too cold. There was even a backrest on the rock…almost as good as a recliner. I filled up everything, because yes indeed, we have another long-ish dry spell tomorrow. Met Slaughterhouse, a girl from Kansas/Colorado. She was great, and happily took the foot soaking perch as soon as I was done.

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Rock Creek is the perfect place to relax: water temp is just right, there’s a comfy rock with a back rest, and the piggies feel like a million bucks when you’re done. Fantastic birthday present!
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And it’s not just for the piggies…the creek is lovely.
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Awesome to see the work of Scouts, even three decades on.

Meeting her put a spring in my step, and I made great time to my campsite at 2165. It’s near a seasonal stream which is still flowing, so I’ll be able to top off in the morning. The campsite has room for two more but so far no one has asked. There’s a giant cedar log across the length, and its girth is more than twice as tall as my pack.

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Where I spent my birthday.
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A fallen old growth cedar is a great place to lean a pack.
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Okay, it’s only cocoa, but I had to drink a toast to the next 50 years.

I miss my guys, but I’ve got to say, this is a heck of a way to turn 50. I have the best family in the world.

Saturday, August 23, 2014, Mile 2179: Trail Magic

At Panther Creek Campground, Mile 2179

Today was all about the walk and the mind game. I decided last night that I would do the last 15 miles to Panther Creek Campground, given that I’d done 9+ and 12+ the last two days. The first 4 were back up over another ridge, with 3 L because there was no reliable water until Trout Creek at 2174, or 9 miles. So a decent 4 mi up, a steeper 3 mi down, and then 6 mi of flattish. I was pretty damned tired, and my legs, hip, and feet were talking to me. Still looking for the sweet spot.

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Looking up Trout Creek, 2174, after another long dry spell. About halfway through a fifteen mile day.

This section of the trail meanders through a variety of land ownership. After Trout Creek, there is a road walk, a meander through a tall grass field, a skirt of private property on both sides, and so forth. My feet and hip were pretty much done, so I was glad that it was pretty flat. Finally, I reached Panther Creek Campground, at 2179.

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The last six miles of trail before Panther Creek Campground. It was mostly flat, and there were a variety of landowners.
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Crossing a grassy field, 2175
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The bridge over Wind River, 2177
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Finally! My best mileage to date, at 15.

First stop was to see the campground host. Rumor had it that Panther Creek had tent spaces reserved for PCT hikers. This was not exactly the case. If it had been midweek, there would have been sites available, but this was Saturday. Larry, the host, said there were none, but he invited me to use the tent pad on his site. Woohoo! Flat astroturf, under a shelter. There are vault toilets, and water is available via hand pump. Almost the Ritz.

Larry shared his bounty with me: pre-pumped water for drinking and a quick bandanna bath, a table for making/ eating my dinner, and boiling dinner water from his trailer. And he gave me my first Trail Magic: an ice cream bar! Good merciful heavens, that tasted great. Easy night after a long day.

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The campground host shared his tent pad, potable water, stove, and ice cream bars!

Sunday, August 24, 2014, Mile 2191: Rest Step Weathers a Storm

At a large campsite, mile 2191

Slept late after the 15 mile day. Pack is too heavy and is causing aches and pains. And my pace sucks. Figuring out the sweet spot, but not yet.

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This is the current emblem used by the Pacific Crest Trail Association. The emblems (blazes) are placed periodically along the trail, especially where there’s a trail junction. There are several variations on the theme.
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A white blaze is also used to mark the trail.
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Are they huckleberries, or M&Ms? You be the judge.

I met a thru named Tim while having a trail side snack, and his hiking buddy Kara (Badass) came along a bit later. We started chatting about trail names, and she said they are either given to you based on something that happened, or are based on a story. She asked me about my backstory, and I talked about how I learned to hike. As an example, I told her how Dad had taught me the rest step, and, as an aside, that this week was the one year anniversary of Dad’s repose. She said that Rest Step would be a great trail name, and bestowed it on me. Henceforth, I am Rest Step!

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Climbing toward the Cedar Creek Trail Junction, 2188
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Trail magic! This is the long distance hiking community’s name for random acts of kindness. This could be food, water, or just about anything. Here, Trail Toad has left water bottles for PCT hikers passing by…especially helpful in a dry patch.
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See that ridge in the distance, with Table Mountain? I was there a couple of days ago.
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Just before cresting the ridge, 2189

In the early afternoon, I passed the Grassy Knoll trail junction at mile 2189, and almost immediately crested a ridge. As I summited, I was hit in the face with black clouds and thunder. My destination was 1.8 miles down hill and I needed to be there to get water; I only had ½ L left, and the next water after that was well over 2 miles away. I made all kinds of speed, but got hit with the worst storm I’ve had on the trail in the last several years. Torrential rain, and hail ranging from ¼ to ½ inch. And it didn’t stop. I tried sheltering from the lightning, but I hit the proverbial lightning vs hypothermia dilemma, and had to continue down the trail. It wasn’t too far to the tentsite (and the necessary water). I couldn’t set up my tent without soaking everything, so I stood next to a large tree (in a heavily forested area, so much less lightning risk) and marched in place for probably another 20 minutes, to stay warm. When the hail had subsided, and the rain had started to slack, maybe 45 min later, I threw the tent up and got my cold soaked self inside. My NeoAir kept me off of the soaking wet tent floor, and I bundled up completely, while pouring calories into my system.

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A rather grainy, out of the tent shot, of the beginning of the storm (courtesy Firestarter).

After the storm subsided, I stuck my head out of the tent. Two women were across the trail and invited me over. The Warden (Terri) and Firestarter (Ginger) are from Oregon, and are section hiking as well. They were getting a fire going, and we stood around steaming our clothes dry. Fun evening with good people.

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Here I am at the campsite of The Warden and Firestarter, steaming my clothes dry. They were also caught in the storm, and we hung out together for the evening.
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My friends on the trail, The Warden, and Firestarter! We were all caught in the same storm, and we’re drying our gear. The three of us hiked together off and on for the rest of the trip.

Tuesday, August 26, 2014, Mile 2216: Friends in Indian Heaven

At Mosquito Creek, Mile 2216

Blue Lake was gorgeous this am. Perfectly flat, with blue sky, and picture-perfect reflection. It was just the morale boost I needed, as I had been pretty down. And a thru-hiker named Leonidas stopped by my camp on his way north. Most excellent trail name.

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I woke to this.

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This style of sign is also used in Indian Heaven, and was just above my campsite.

After washing out my socks and hanging them on my pack, I hit the trail. It was a relatively flat day, finished by a gentle downhill, and that really helped my mood. I need to ditch more weight to find that sweet spot, but it’s in sight.

I did 13 miles to Mosquito Creek, which is miraculously lacking said insect. Along the way:

– Stopped at Deer Lake to backflush my filter, after the gick in Blue Lake. 2 days of silty lake water took its toll, but it’s fine now.

– Met Ronny, a local who loves to fish these lakes. He remains amazed at how few mosquitoes there are in the Indian Heaven Wilderness. It’s notorious for the overwhelming clouds of vicious bloodsucking doom.

– Met a family of four, up for day hikes, and chatted while they had their lunch. I got two baby carrots. My heavens, they tasted good. Lighthouse had just been there and Yogi-ed some celery. To Yogi means to look pitiful while non-backpackers are pulling out their vast quantities of food. I think I’m getting the look down.

– Met two retired men out for a day of berry picking.

– And met Acorn the Elder, a thru of about my age. He’s sporting a decrepit blue Ensolite foam pad, which he found at South Lake Tahoe; just seeing that pad brought back quite a few memories, and sparked a great conversation.

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More spectacular lake scenery, this time from Deer Lake, where I stopped to filter water.
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And again, Deer Lake. The lighting was incredible.
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The old school PCT emblem can occasionally be found.
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Suddenly, Adams.
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Hiking through the northern Indian Heaven area.
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Closer still, with weather on the top.

Once again I’m sharing a campsite with Warden and Firestarter. We’ve hit it off well, and because we’ve got a similar itinerary, we’re doing everything together except the actual hiking.

After dinner we were joined by Roller Girl and Pilgrim. They’re SOBOs and had lots of good info for us. I love this part of being on the trail. RG and Pilgrim were great. They both got out of the army recently. Pilgrim did the AT last year and the PCT this year. He’s doing a yoyo and that’s where he met RG. We had an awesome time, the five of us.

Wednesday, August 27, 2014, Mile 2230: Finding the Sweet Spot

At the Bucket Spring, Mile 2230

Before taking off, I asked RG and Pilgrim what advice they’d give to a noob. RG said just don’t get discouraged. Pilgrim said don’t take advice from people who don’t get what you’re doing. And you’ll always be tweaking your gear and learning new ways of doing things, even when you’ve been at this quite a while. And that’s fine.

I purveyed more Trail Magic, giving all of my leftovers to RG and Pilgrim. I now have only two 3000-calorie per day packs, which will give me enough left over for an extra day, in case I get delayed. Closest yet to my sweet spot. I need to plan for 12-mile days, and take less food. I’m putting together a rough meal plan, which includes a lot more fat, less carbs, more electrolytes, and less pre-fab meals. My pack feels a lot better. Finally.

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Trailhead information kiosk and registration, as the trail enters the Mt. Adams Wilderness.

Yesterday was more or less flat, and that gave my bones a rest. Today began the last series of climbs. Terri (Warden) and Ginger (Firestarter) had two more days scheduled, so they split the difference. They had a ten mile day and ended up at White Salmon River (2226)

I stopped at Trout Lake Creek, 2221, to top off my water before the five miles to White Salmon River. I’m still having difficulty with the water need vs water availability balance. I think this will improve with a more steady pace (based on rough incline).

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Stopped at Terri & Ginger’s camp to look over maps.
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Terri, Ginger, and I, at White Salmon River. I had so much fun hiking with these two!

I stopped with Terri and Ginger, and chatted and discussed routes, and then I headed another three miles uphill. After a mile plus, I climbed into the Cascade Creek Burn.

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Just before entering the burn, you get this sign. The winds that night were fierce, and it was easy to see how trees could collapse. Fortunately, I camped outside of the burn.

Eerie, and desolate. And suddenly there was a lot more light. Many of the trees were barely standing, resting mostly on a shell of empty bark. I wouldn’t want to be here in a windstorm.

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Entering the 2012 burn area, which covers a large portion of the west side of Adams.
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More of the burn.

My tentsite is just past the burn, and next to a spring which requires the use of a bucket. Cool!

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Water sign pointing the way to the bucket spring.
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And then you see this.
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And you carefully lower the bucket down into the small spring outlet. This was my favorite unconventional way to get water.

Miraculously I have signal, so I got to talk with the guys! One more day in the mountains, and I plan to make the most of it.

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The sun sets over my last camp.