Tuesday, August 11, 2015, Mile 2323: Chinook Pass Magic!

At Sheep Lake, Mile 2323

When I left camp this morning, I told the Fakarwiis that Brendan was going to be at the trailhead in a few hours, with some bagels. This was very welcome news, and they headed out not long after I did.

It was only three miles to Chinook Pass, over a lovely ridge and back down.

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Up the ridge…
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…and down. This is where I started seeing day hikers.

The closer I got to the pass, the more day hikers I saw. Some were out for a full day, and some were just taking a stroll out of the parking lot. For the first time, I noticed a phenomenon that other long distance hikers had mentioned. After several days on the trail, you just get used to the way your body naturally smells after a great deal of exercise. But as the day hikers approached, I could identify them strictly based on their smell: perfumes from deodorant, soap, shampoo, etc. It almost made my eyes water.

I got to the pass in good time, and crossed the beautiful log bridge over the highway.

The Chinook Pass bridge over the highway *

…and headed down into the parking lot. It’s fairly large, with a Real Privy and everything. I took some time to spread out my gear to dry. The Fakarwiis trickled in after me, and we hung out waiting for B.

Well, he didn’t just show up with bagels. He showed up with Alex and Selena.  The three of them had stuffed the car with bagels, cream cheese, hiker tacos (tortillas, fresh cut veggies, shredded cheese, and bacon bits), cold soda, bottled water, extra ibuprofen, and hiker repair gear (duct tape, extra tent stakes, camp suds, etc.). They also brought a table, tablecloth, and lots of wipes for filthy hiker hands. Our eyes bugged out.

Chinook Magic Setup
Getting set up. Brendan even remembered the wipes for grubby hiker hands. **
Bagels! Cream cheese! Veggies! Fun Size, Snickers, and Windbreaker start inhaling, while I stare in amazement. **
Cold soda! **
Windbreaker and his taco full of veggie goodness. **
The Fakarwiis dove headfirst into the chow. Pictured: B.L.T., Snickers, Fun Size, Windbreaker, Waypoint, and Brendan.
Snickers ate five bagels. **
Chinook Kids
Brendan, Alex, and Selena: the founders of the feast. **

The Fakarwiis and I jumped on that food like it was going out of style. Another hiker proclaimed it to be one of the two best pieces of trail magic he’d seen on the entire trail, which was a huge compliment. And Beowulf, a veteran of several long distance trails, actually did a happy dance.

Brendan had thought that the hikers would be pleased…such a nice thing for him to do, etc. He absolutely couldn’t believe how grateful the hikers were. They were beside themselves.  Anyway, he wants to do it again sometime. I’m very, very proud of the kiddos!

Rest Step and her awesome son!

Hiker check-in: the Fakarwiis , Beowulf, Bogey, Bambi Magnet (from Finland), and one other.

I got my resupply, and it was very nice to be organizing my pack while sitting in a chair with a cold soda and my feet up. After hugs goodbye, the Fakarwiis headed north while I was resupplying.  They are planning to do higher mileage than me, so unfortunately I doubt I’ll see them again.

Once I was done, the kiddos took off, and I headed to Sheep Lake, just a few miles north.

This evening I’m in a very big campsite, which could probably hold a small Scout troop. I grabbed a corner of it, in case other people needed a place.  Right now the wind is howling, coming through the gap where the trail is; I hope it dies off after sunset.

The lake is delightfully warm, and I took some time to really scrub out my hiking clothes and my socks (no soap, of course). I also got myself thoroughly rinsed off, which felt great.

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Sheep Lake, a pretty little place to spend the night.

The only other party at the lake is a woman and her two elementary-age sons. They are out without her husband, for the first time. I met them as they were paddling across the lake on a log raft. We got to chatting, and it turns out that not only are they from Poulsbo, but her husband owns and operates a forge, where he does artisanal metal work. I’m passing on their names to the Ferrenbergs, as she said he’d love to meet Nicho. Their names are Renee and Elijah Burnett.

It’s about 7:00, and I’ll probably call it a night, as I’m planning to get up earlier and do more miles (finally).  Tomorrow’s goal is 16 miles.

*Photo credit: nordique

**Photo credit: Eric Aalto

Footnote: The Fakarwiis headed north after the magic, and as I thought, we didn’t see each other again.  They finished at Stevens a few days before I arrived. Waypoint messaged me after I got home, and offered to share his pictures…thank you!

Monday, August 10, 2015, Mile 2318: Mount Rainier, Friends, and Thunder

At Dewey Lake, Mile 2318

I’m sitting here doing the dishes as I record my entry.

The day started with a smile. When I met Thermo yesterday, he gave me a hospitality gift of a little packet of Maxim coffee with cream. It was a really thoughtful gesture, and I thoroughly enjoyed it this morning. I’m looking forward to posting the picture of him and me on the Class of 2015 page.

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Thank you, Thermo!

Ten miles today, and 2100 ft gain…better but still incredibly slow. I will be very glad to increase the mileage after Chinook Pass.

This was the day I first crossed into Mt. Rainier National Park! After I hit the trail, I began climbing a ridge toward the boundary.

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Suddenly, there was the sign. It was a great feeling of accomplishment. This was the first of a handful of signs, as the trail weaves in and out of the south and east sides of the park.

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And a few minutes later, this. I saw several of these high quality metal signs in the park.

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I met the Fakarwiis a couple of times today. Snickers, Fun Size, Waypoint, Windbreaker and B.L.T. had stopped for lunch at Two Lakes. It was the only water source, so I also hoofed it ¼ miles of steep downhill on a side trail. And there they were! They invited me over for lunch, and we had a great time. Turns out three of them are former Scoutmasters, so there was an instant camaraderie. And when they were talking about their wives and girlfriends, I quipped, “To wives and sweethearts: may they never meet.” And one of them looked at me with an enormous, knowing grin. Aubrey-Maturin FTW.

Shortly after lunch, I hit another boundary crossing.  I’m not sure where I crossed out of the park, but it’s fairly easy to miss small signs meant for the southbound traffic.

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It gradually clouded up during the day, but I was able to see the Mountain.  I love the ever-larger views.

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Up one more ridge toward Dewey Lake

When I got to Dewey Lake, I met up with the Fakarwiis again. There are quite a few campsites, and I took one nearby but a bit off of the trail.

Within about five minutes of my arrival, the thunderstorm which had been threatening, unloaded. It starting dumping everything, everywhere, right as I was beginning to set up the tent. Fortunately, there was a little grove of trees in one corner of my campsite, so I just set up the tent in there and walked it out. Which was good. Tent is dry, everybody is happy. I climbed in, inflated my pad, and set everything out.  Time to relax.

While I’m thinking about it, I’ll share a bit about the inside of my tent. My pad is a Big Agnes Q-Core SL, which I discovered this year.  It’s the lightest weight insulated inflatable, at 17 oz and with an R value of 4.5.  I retired my NeoAir, and have really appreciated the extra warmth this trip. I also use an Exped air pillow. Once my pack is empty, I put it under the foot of my pad, to elevate my feet and reduce swelling overnight.

After my pad is set up, I attach my quilt.  From there, I take out my current day’s food and my Ursack with the rest, and various ziplocs: first aid, toiletries, repair kit, and map pack, plus my clothes stuff sack.  I also take out the must-stay-dry things, including my stash of unused maps and important papers, and my battery charger.

My food goes outside the tent, of course, and at night it all goes into the Ursack before I secure it to a tree outside of camp. My hydration system also goes outside, except for my drinks bottle, which is filled with clean water and placed by the side of the tent for the night.

I swap out maps at night when I’m planning next day’s route; I also plug in my electronics at night, and put them in the toe area of my quilt.

It’s a lot of juggling, but I’m getting much faster…like many things, it’s just a routine.

Anyway, once my camp was set up, and the rain had paused, I trotted down to the lake, only about a hundred feet away. I found a beautiful flat rock on which to scoop my water. And that water was incredibly clear…none of the silt you often find in a lake.  I filled up absolutely everything, which is a 2L Platypus collapsible bladder, another Platy at 1L, and a 3/4 L Smartwater bottle, with filtered water to use for clean water and drinks. If it weren’t for the storms, I would have taken a dip.

It rained and thundered on and off through the evening. It wasn’t huge, certainly not like mile 2200 in last year’s section, but it did keep rumbling in that vague Northwest fashion.

I headed to bed early, to get up early for the hike into Chinook Pass, and had a dry dinner to save time. Looking forward to seeing B tomorrow!

Footnote: The thunderstorms which were mild near Chinook Pass were stronger near Mt. Adams. Within 24 hours, smoke had reached north to our location, and the next day we learned that lightning had ignited the Cougar Creek Fire on Adams’ south side. This fire would eventually close the PCT in that area, necessitating a 23 mile road walk. The trail was reopened on September 8.

Sunday, August 9, 2015, Mile 2308: The Social Trail

At a tiny, trailside campsite, next to a stream, Mile 2308

I slept in until 7:30, since I only have about nine miles on the agenda.  This pace is really frustrating…3 days for only 30 miles…but it’s the right thing to do, and I need to keep reminding myself of that. And best of all, I had zero pain today. That is a huge deal.

The hike today was easy, and gently downhill. I wove my way through wetlands, creeks, and lakes large and small…too many to count or even name.

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Crossing wetlands in the Fryingpan Lake region

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After five miles I crossed a lovely little stream with a wooden bridge, at 2305. I had my lunch, refilled my water, and did a little no-soap laundry. A side note: it’s pretty hard to de-crustify a pair of hiking socks, but several rinses in flowing water can help a bit. While I was at the bridge, I met a thru doing the same thing, and a sectioner. He was taking a break as well, waiting for the rest of his group. More on him later.

Eventually, I forded the Bumping River. With the water so low, this was basically a matter of hopping across logs and rocks, and I did great. Log and rock hopping have always been problematic for me, but I am getting much better at it. And with trail runners, I’ll often just plow across the water.

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Bumping River

Another side note: trail runners drain and dry over a couple of hours, as opposed to waterproof boots, which dry over a couple of days. That waterproofing not only keeps water out, it keeps water in. So if you get water over the top of your boots, or if your feet sweat, or whatever, you’ll end up with wetter feet in the long run. This is the voice of experience.

I arrived at my campsite at the stunningly early hour of 3:00. It’s literally trailside, with a couple of good logs for seats. I set up camp in no time at all, and decided to have a snack break while reading my book (Master and Commander; I’m going through the Canon again).

An hour or so later, a girl came down the trail (please note that if I use the word “girl,” it’s because they’re under age 25). Her trail name is Dr. Beeker, because she’s a huge Muppets fan. We chatted for a while, and eventually we headed down to the stream to top off.

And then, who should come along but Thermo!

Thermo, aka Thermometer, aka Yun Eun Jung, is a retired gentleman from Korea. He’s had a longtime dream of hiking the PCT. He speaks very, very little English. He flew to San Diego this spring, purchased all of his gear, loaded up his 50 lb. pack (shockingly heavy), and started off at Campo in April. He got his name from Blue Sky, when he kept checking his little keychain thermometer. Anyway, people got to know him, both in person and virtually, and every so often on the PCT Class of 2015 Facebook page, you’ll see a Thermo Sighting. He doesn’t use a computer, but his daughter, Yun Sol, speaks a moderate amount of English, and is on Facebook. So she told us about him, and we tag her whenever we have news of him.

It was one of my great hopes to meet him and take a picture together, and that just happened!  I tried to tell him that I saw his picture on the computer; I’m not sure how much he understood. But he definitely understood when I mentioned his daughter, and I hope she enjoys the picture of her dad.

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Rest Step and Thermo

Another group I met while in this campsite was the Fakarwiis Band (as in, sorry, Where the —). One of them was the sectioner I met at the bridge. They are a group of five gentlemen who do all kinds of outdoor things year round, every weekend, and once a year they have a longer trip. This year, it was White to Stevens Passes. I really enjoyed our conversation. As it turns out, the leader of this hike is a thru named Snickers, who finished at the Northern Terminus, and went south to meet his buddies at White Pass.

This is a great little campsite, because I get to chat with lots of people. I wouldn’t want it every night, but basically I’m a social creature on the trail. And the weather is nice, and Brendan has promised to show up at Chinook Pass on Tuesday, with some bagels and cream cheese. Mmmm!

Time for dinner: beef stroganoff and apple pie!

Footnote: Thermo completed his thru hike in late August! After he got home, his daughter Yun Sol posted an update, and a video thank you from him. Many, many people responded with pictures of him on the trail, and he received many hundreds of likes. The community that gathered around this non-English-speaking gentleman is one of the great stories of the Trail.

Saturday, August 8, 2015, Mile 2299: On the Trail Again

At Pipe Lake, Mile 2299

First thing this morning, Steve and I headed back south, again with Top Pot donuts, for my great return. We distributed the wealth to some very happy hikers. Then I headed back up the highway to the trail junction, while Steve headed to Prosser for some well-deserved wine tasting.

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Back at White Pass!
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Ready to go

The goal for today was just 8 miles, very mellow, with only 1300 feet of gain. I’ve put together a bailout plan for White to Chinook, including side trails every 10 miles (and 20 miles between Chinook and Snoqualmie). My plan is to do low mileage and get plenty of rest.

And today’s hike was pretty flat, full of delightful little lakes.  They’re so small that very few of them have names.

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I spent tonight at Pipe Lake, a pretty little place with water warm and clear enough for swimming. I got to the lake about 4, and quickly set up camp. I was feeling pretty bummed about not going fast, and was missing the family. So I decided to document a standard campsite.

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The kitchen.

In front is my Ursack, a bearproof Spectra bag lined with an odorproof OPSak zip top bag. Together, these hold about five days worth of food. The stove is a 2 oz. MSR Microrocket, and the pot is a Snow Peak 700 ml titanium with a lid. That, plus a long handled spoon, is my entire cook kit, and everything except the spoon fits into the pot.

In the back is my sit pad, a couple of ziplocs containing my day’s food, a bandana for spills and for use as a hot pad, and my clean water/drinks bottle. And behind the log is my collapsible 1L bottle, which I use for collecting water and as a secondary carrier.

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My tent is a Big Agnes Copper Spur one man.  You can’t see much else inside, but the blue blob is my backpacking quilt.  A quilt is much lighter than a sleeping bag; mine is only 19 oz.  The theory behind a quilt is that when you’re in a bag, the insulation under you is squashed, and thus can’t do its job.  My quilt attaches to my sleeping pad via two elastic straps, and I sleep directly on my pad.

In front of the tent are my trail runners and (rather skanky) socks.  Most long distance hikers use trail runners; they are much lighter, and a pound on the feet is equivalent to about five on the back, in terms of energy outlay. I have a history of wobbly ankles, but if anything the trail runners make that less of an issue…I am able to feel what’s going on better than I ever did with boots. Add trekking poles to that mix, and it’s a big win for me.

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And speaking of trekking poles, here they are, Black Diamond Alpine Carbon Cork. I got these just before I left, to replace my much loved but long-in-the-tooth aluminum poles.  The new ones are fantastic.

The poles are doing double duty here, holding my Delorme inReach SE satellite communicator.  It allows me to text with Steve, get updated weather forecasts, and call Search and Rescue.  I love this thing, plain and simple.

After I started making dinner, I got a campsite-mate named Elroy. He’s of retirement age, and is a SOBO, from Austin, TX.  Apparently I was only the second person he’d shared a campsite with, since he left the border.  We had a good chat. His plan is to go to White Pass tomorrow for a resupply, and then head to Trout Lake to pick up some new gear from REI. He’s also hiking on a broken toe, which he claims is more numb than anything else. I wish him all the best.

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Sunset at Pipe Lake

So far my leg is only having the occasional twinge. I am very pleased, needless to say. I’m sleeping in tomorrow, since I’m only going about nine miles.

Saturday, August 1 to Friday, August 7, 2015, Home: Impatience

Home

We were singularly unimpressed with the docs in Yakima, so after breakfast, we headed off to our urgent care. The doc on duty was a former section hiker, so he completely got how upset and worried I was.  I just wanted to know what it would take to get me back out to the mountains. His first thought was a stress fracture, but when he saw the pictures I took on Thursday night, with the very painful swelling and the redness and heat, he changed his diagnosis to cellulitis. I got an enormous shot of heavy duty antibiotics, a full course of more antibiotics, a follow-up appointment in five days, and the possibility of returning to the trail!

I hobbled my way back to the car, and we headed home. I was to keep my leg iced and elevated at all times, take those antibiotics religiously, and keep using the crutches.

Well, that’s what I did. It was too painful to put any weight on it until midday Monday; it was so swollen it felt like my skin was about to explode. I read books, and played a lot of Mahjongg, all the while trying not to think about having to cancel my trip.

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My life for a week

On Wednesday the 5th, Brendan drove me to my appointment.  I was more than a little nervous. But I was able to walk…I had ditched the crutches a couple of days prior.  So I nervously waited for the verdict…

…and got clearance to go!!!!!

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My plan was to keep icing and elevating until we left on Saturday. I also had to do short days between White and Chinook Passes, set bailout routes every ten miles, reevaluate at Chinook, and set bailouts between Chinook and Snoqualmie Pass every twenty miles.

The requirements were met, the bailout plan was in place, the pack was ready to go, and I hit the rack on Friday, August 7, beyond excited for my return.

Friday, July 31, 2015, Home: Wild Goose Chase

Home

Steve showed up first thing this morning, and bless his fuzzy little heart, he brought two enormous boxes of Top Pot donuts for all the hikers to share. Score!

Then we headed off to Yakima, to find an urgent care. The decent looking one refused to see me, because we didn’t have an appointment. The rinky-dink small town one did see me, and told me that I either had tendinitis or a stress fracture. They handed me some crutches and sent me home. No notice at all of the red, hot, swollen nature of my leg. Sigh.

Needless to say, I was rather dismayed by this turn of events, and it was a hard trip home. But I was totally pampered when I arrived, and spent the afternoon and evening on the couch.

Thursday, July 30, 2015, Mile 2292: White Pass Zero

At White Pass, Mile 2292

Got up this morning, and it was pretty clear that my leg wasn’t better. I went down to the store, had a heaping plate of biscuits and gravy, and decided to take a zero. A zero is when you stay two nights in one place, and have zero miles on the middle day. It gave me more time to organize my resupply, and to rest my leg. So after breakfast I went back up the (steep) stairs to the motel, and paid for another night.

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Hanging out in front of the Kracker Barrel, with Caesar, Eastbound, and Fluffy Star. Photo credit: Teri Stalcup (Peanut).

I planned on hanging out at the store, and spending time napping and icing. I met Fluffy Star (aka Kathrin Schulte), a girl from Germany (who likes fluffy things, and stars). And I met Peanut (aka Teri Stalcup), and Goat.

After lunch, I bought another bag of ice and headed back to the motel room. A few hours of reading, napping, and icing later, I gave it up and had another enormous sub sandwich for dinner.

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Relaxing and putting the feet up

While I was down there, a woman named Peter Pan (aka Denise Lane) arrived. There were no more hotel rooms, as there was a large high school cross country camp going on. I offered to share mine, and so we got her situated. A couple of the guys wanted to share as well, but that was not where I needed to go.

I called Steve from the motel room, and said I thought I needed to see a doctor, but that I’d decide in the morning. A bit later, Denise (who is an acupuncturist from Oregon) was looking at my leg, and saying “Oh, that’s not good.” It was getting more red, hot and swollen by the hour, and I finally called Steve and said I needed to go to the doctor first thing on Friday 7/31.

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Nasty medical-type picture. This was the shot we shared with the doc.

So his plan was to arrive by nine, and we’d head into Yakima. I packed up my stuff, carefully so that everything was in its place, and not haphazardly like I didn’t care anymore. Because I do care, and I need to have hope.

Wednesday, July 29, 2015, Mile 2292: Kracker Barrel

At White Pass, Mile 2292

I got up at 5. Today’s goal, of course, was the Kracker Barrel, 13 miles and 2000 feet; my resupply box was there, and they closed in the late afternoon. I had to hit the trail early, as I knew I’d be in pain all the way.  My leg was *really* beginning to hurt. Well, actually, it has been hurting, since the second day. It’s my foot, ankle, and lower leg, getting worse. And worse. And worse. But my only choice has been to hike 40 miles on a bad leg.

It was time to quit my complaining, and head for White Pass. I refilled at the spring, which was maybe a quarter mile off trail, and I was off. It was a long day, but not without its eye candy.

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Mt. Rainier was becoming a much more frequent visitor

The trail went generally up, until the junction with the Shoe Lake Trail. I met the group of retirees there while I was having a snack break. They were going to take the alternate loop down to Shoe Lake. I stuck to the main PCT; there was a large talus slope, but after that the views were amazing.

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Shoe Lake, looking down from the main PCT

We met again at the junction, crested the ridge, and then traversed a stunning basin around Hogback Mountain and Hogback Ridge. Mt. Rainier showed her head above the ridge, and behind us was a beautiful view of the Goat Rocks.

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The trail around the basin, toward Hogback on the right
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One last view of the Goat Rocks, with the top of Mt. Adams just visible behind the ridge

Alas, with my reduced speed, they were soon out of sight. The trail began a long descent to Ginette Lake, where I grabbed a liter, and then switchbacked down to White Pass.

From the pass itself, it’s a half mile road walk west to the Kracker Barrel, home to resupply boxes, convenience store foods, a little bit of a menu, and all kinds of general goodness. I arrived about 4, only a little later than I thought I’d be.

My plan was to grab my resupply box and hit the trail. But I decided the heck with it: I’m going to get a room at the lodge, resupply, sleep late, and regroup in the morning. So I’ve got a nice Motel-6-esque room with kitchenette, which as far as I’m concerned is the Taj Mahal. I exploded my pack (yes, that is a phrase), and headed down to pick up my resupply.

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My first resupply box. Best part? More Snickers.
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And then, FOOD! For the record, that sandwich was huge.

I took the last bit of my dinner, went out, and camped on the bench along the front of the store. It’s the hiker hangout, and I got to chatting with a girl (whose name I can’t remember). Turns out she has shin splints, and was going to skip a SOBO section to head to Trout Lake. She’s getting compression sleeves, and is the second person who is using those for shin splints (Casey Burt being the other one).  We compared symptoms, and at this juncture it looks like it could be a leading candidate for me. It’s certainly not an uncommon injury among long distance hikers. Anyway, Steve will be bringing compression sleeves up with the Chinook Pass resupply (THANK YOU).

I’ve been having a great time at the Kracker Barrel so far; lots of giggles over this, that, and the other thing. Far more so than last year, I feel part of a community. And that’s good, because that’s one of the things I’ve been hoping to find.

Tuesday, July 28, 2015, Mile 2281: The Knife’s Edge

At Tieton Pass, Mile 2281

The wind kicked up quite a bit last night, enough so that I had to get up and snug down the tent. I didn’t know how it was over the ridge, but there’s no way I’d do the Knife’s Edge in that kind of wind. So I slept in a bit, to give the wind time to die down.

The other problem is that, well, there’s no water until after the Knife’s Edge. It’s a constant juggle of where I am, where I want to go, where the water is, and how my foot is doing.

So I got up, headed back down to the last water source, checked to see if there was a hose there that I dropped (yes, I retrieved it), and then headed out. Thank God, the wind died down. I was not about to do the Knife’s Edge with a howling crosswind. In talking with other hikers, it appears that the wind was local to the Cispus Drainage.

Before I left camp, I met a group of four retirees, out having a week’s worth of fun. We hit it off, and were leapfrogging throughout the morning. And I also met a group of three women from Tallahassee, and leapfrogged with them.

After descending into the drainage, it was (predictably) time to climb back up over the ridge, toward Snowgrass Flats. The weather was clear, and suddenly the eye candy began.

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Mt. St. Helens
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Mt. Adams
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I loved this little section of trail. Some wonderful souls spent a great deal of time putting this together.

And all of a sudden, blam! There was Mt. Adams, appearing for the first time, now that the weather had cleared. One of the women from Tallahassee took a very nice picture of me.

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It was time to work our way around the next ridge, which included a lunch stop with all of the aforementioned folks.

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From our lunch spot, we could see all three of the volcanoes: Adams, St. Helens, and Rainier peeking over the trail to the north. Also on the right is the very turquoise Goat Lake.

And then, The Decision. Do I do the traditional route, which traverses Packwood Glacier, or do I do the Old Snowy Alternate, which scrambles steeply up and down Old Snowy, a mountain with year round snow and glaciers, plus lots of steep scree slopes.

I chose to do the traditional route. The only problem with that is that, well, there’s a glacier, with a 30 degree slope and no safe runout. Fortunately, there were footprints kicked in, so with some solid concentration, I safely crossed. And with the exceptionally low snow pack this year, the actual glacier was only about a hundred feet across. But the rest of the traverse was over an enormous talus slope, with refrigerator-sized boulders.  With my unique version of visual perception, and the ongoing pain in my ankle, it was a hell of a time getting across; I had to cross a slope, descend (read butt scoot), cross the glacier, and then re-ascend.

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The north end of the talus slope, after the glacier and boulders

Once I crossed the slope, I headed up a ridge, and there was the Knife’s Edge!

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Almost there
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Mt. Rainier, the Knife’s Edge, and me

It’s really, really pretty, and it’s not as dangerous as some of the slopes I’ve been on over the years. There were a couple of spots which made me stop and think “Oh, how interesting!” but for the most part it wasn’t too big of a deal. I would definitely not want to be up there in the dark, wind, or fog.

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The trail winds along a very steep ridge, and around rocky knobs

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Looking back south. Old Snowy and its glaciers are just right of center.

The trail gradually came off of the ridge, and then turned west at Elk Pass. It became a lovely meadow walk, heading gradually downhill, past the headwaters of several creeks, around Lutz Lake, and eventually to Tieton Pass.

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Standing guard over my trail. I just started talking to him, and eventually he scampered into the brush.

When I finally made it down the series of ridges, to Elk Pass, it became apparent that my lovely forward progress, which probably averaged around ½ mph with the scree, talus, and photo ops, needed some help…if I were to make White Pass by Wednesday. So I dropped it in low and added another four miles before reaching camp around 8PM.

At this point, each and every step was a pain…quite literally. By the time I reached camp at Tieton Pass, I was just DONE. I knew I needed to be up by 5, to make it up the next ridge and then down again, given my slow forward progress, and given the closing time of the store at White Pass, where my resupply was waiting. So I pounded a Snickers bar for dinner, and crawled into bed.

Footnote 1: The talus slope/glacier traverse is notorious. A PCTA (Pacific Crest Trail Association) work crew spent a week in 2013 putting the trail back into place. The pictures give a good sense of what that area looks like. I didn’t use my camera while on the slope. Take a look at the link…it’s pretty incredible.

Footnote 2: I would later learn that during the rather miserable rain/wind/snow/fog the last week of August, some of my fellow hikers ended up crawling the entire length of the Knife’s Edge.

Monday, July 27, 2015, Mile 2270: Entering the Goat Rocks

At a tributary of the Cispus River, Mile 2270

My goal today was to head over Cispus Pass, and around to the other side of the Cispus River drainage. I want to position myself for tomorrow, by camping near the last water supply until after the Knife’s Edge. Backpacking is like that: some days it’s all about positioning yourself for the next day (or the next, or the next).

Once again, I played leapfrog with the Scouts. I think the boys are beginning to warm up to me. I suppose being a woman backpacking solo is something they haven’t seen much. I’d like to make it a little more commonplace.

I was going slow today, as I’ve got something going on with my left ankle. Either that, or it’s my lower shin. I’m praying it will work out. So I’m doing the ice/ibuprofen thing, and elevating at night by putting my pack under the foot of my sleep pad.

I instantly forgot about my pesky ankle midafternoon, when I looked up and got my first eyeful of the Goat Rocks.

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A hint of things to come

I did make it over Cispus Pass, although with the ankle thing I was going pretty slowly. It’s absolutely gorgeous up there. The Goat Rocks area is an extinct volcano, so it’s got a different look than, say, the granite of the North Cascades.  On the runup to Cispus Pass, the right side of the trail is Yakama tribal lands; they request that you stay on trail at all times. The whole area is just mind-numbingly beautiful, and I could have stayed for hours.

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But it was getting late, and I needed to grab some water and set up camp, on the opposite side of the river drainage.

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Cresting the pass, and heading down into the basin
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It’s called the Goat Rocks for a reason
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The Cispus River

On the opposite side were a couple of smaller tributaries; I camped shortly after the second one. Tomorrow, the Knife’s Edge!