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 22, 2015, Mile 2432: Gratitude

At Deep Lake, Mile 2432

Happy birthday to me…I’m 51 today!

I hit the rack last night a bit after 9:30, and I could feel it today. There’s a reason they call 9:00 “Hiker Midnight.”

This morning, I got up, said goodbye to my camp mates, who were fixing their breakfast, and headed down the trail. As I descended the ridge, I met a couple at the next campsite; they were about my age. The wife said to me, “Way to go! We need to show these kids that it doesn’t have to be just 20-somethings out here solo hiking.” And I replied, “No, it doesn’t. I’m 51, and in fact today’s my birthday.”

With an “Oh my gosh!” she rummaged around in her pack, and pulled out a big chunk of homemade peanut brittle! She handed it to me, and I got another delightful round of Happy Birthday, dear Rest Step!

The husband heard my name, and asked if I had been in the Mountaineers.  So I explained the connection. What a great encounter that was!

I descended the ridge, to Waptus River. There’s a lovely wood bridge which crosses the river, although it was so low it would have been an easy ford. I treated myself to a bit of relaxation: washing up (no soap), rinsing out my socks (eww), refilling with clear, cold water (yum), and putting my feet up while I had a mid-morning snack.

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The view from the Waptus River laundromat
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That’s as clean as my socks ever got
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Crossing Waptus River and heading north

My goal today was a campsite at the base of Cathedral Rock. ‘Twas a lofty goal, but not to be. I hiked around Waptus Lake, and up Spinola Creek, and when I got to the Deep Lake side trail, it became very apparent that I was going to stop here. The ascent up the ridge to Cathedral Pass has a southern aspect, the sun was very hot, and I didn’t feel like schlepping water up the ridge to a dry camp. So Deep Lake became the destination of choice.

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Hiking in to Deep Lake, with Cathedral Rock in the background *

After scouting around, I found a large campsite with two tents and room for one more. One of them was unoccupied, but there was a father/son pair (Paul and Matt) in the other.

The ranger came around while I was setting up my camp. She wanted to check my permit, make sure I knew LNT, and make sure I knew there was a backcountry toilet a little ways away. Life’s little pleasures…a loo with a seat!

I went down with Paul, to soak my feet in the lake; Matt was out fishing. We found a lovely rock, where I could soak my burning feet in water that was exactly the right temperature (and clear enough for a very easy fill-up).

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What a place to soak your feet! *

After a long, roundabout conversation, we discovered a connection! He works for the City of Everett, and I made the connection back to Tom, the husband of one of Lynn’s best friends). Tom and Paul have worked together since forever. So I can now say that I shared a campsite with my son’s godmother’s best friend’s husband’s longtime colleague. How about that?

The sun was sinking, so we headed back to the campsite. I fixed dinner, had a bit of dessert, and crawled in bed before 8. Luxury!

Tonight I’m grateful for many things.  A birthday song. A river, a lake, and a mountain view. Friends along the way. And most of all, my family.

*Photo credit: Eric Aalto

Friday, August 21, 2015, Mile 2422: From Podcasts to a Party

At a campsite on the ridge between Escondido Tarns and Waptus River, Mile 2422

Today was 13 miles and 3500 feet net gain. There’s definitely a trend here: up a ridge, down a ridge, up a ridge, and so on. I was to learn that Section J is considered the toughest section of the trail. The raw stats are 72 miles and 19K feet, but like any trail stats it doesn’t take the tread into consideration. I don’t know about “toughest,” as I’ve also heard that Section K is the “second toughest on the entire trail.” But J is certainly a challenge.

A side note: The PCT is broken into sections. These are mostly based on ease of access, e.g. Snoqualmie Pass to Stevens Pass. California, with nearly 1700 miles of trail, has Sections A-R.  Oregon and Washington, with just under 1000 miles, re-start at A and continue to L.  Last year, I hiked the lion’s share of Washington Section H; it is my goal this year to finish H, and continue on through I, J, K, and L.

Anyway, I broke camp, tanked up at the little spring just past the falls, and got a couple of pictures. It’s really a lovely place.

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Delate Falls

The first several miles were a slow ascent, and then in the afternoon I began the real climb up toward the Escondido Tarns. I discovered that listening to podcasts really helps me going up the ridges. They’re engaging, and there’s no competition between the beat of the music and the ever-changing rhythm of my feet as the trail gets more or less steep.

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Climbing the ridge toward the Escondido Tarns

I reached the crest later in the afternoon, and the wind had turned cold. I wasn’t wearing an insulation layer, because I’d been climbing, but crossing the ridge and beginning the slow descent to the tarns proved to be a bit nippy. I should have refilled at the first (much clearer) tarn, but alas, I gave my filter a workout at the second.

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The second of the two tarns *
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Twilight is approaching as I head down the other side of the ridge

With insulation layer in place, end-of-the-day fatigue beginning to set in, and with a long but gentle descent in front of me, I headed down the trail. My goal was a campsite on the ridge, before the descent to Waptus River. I kept the podcasts going, and arrived at my destination a little before 8:00.

There were a small handful of campsites nestled together, and a party of three had claimed the first two spots. They were very welcoming. One of them was busy putting together a Backpacker’s Pantry cheesecake mix, and said I was more than welcome to share when it was finished. I said that would be a great treat, as tomorrow was my birthday, and it’s always good to celebrate early.

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Birthday cheesecake with new friends!

Anyway, after I’d set up camp and eaten my stroganoff, they came over singing Happy Birthday, dear Rest Step! I was grinning all over…how cool was that? And hearing my trail name just plain makes me smile.

*Photo credit: mbtigger