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!
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!
It’s the end of my hike. I’m pretty sad that I didn’t make the border this year. I know I made all the right decisions, but it’s still tough. Two acts of Mother Nature got in the way, and sometimes that’s just the way it happens. The day after I got home, I learned that the storm I experienced was the strongest summer storm on record in our region.
My family and friends have been wonderfully supportive, and they are completely on board for next summer as well.
So, by the numbers: I did 252 miles on-trail this year, from Divide Camp near Mt. Adams (2239) to Lake Sally Ann near the Glacier Peak Wilderness (2491), plus eight more miles of entry/exit.
Last year, I hiked from the Bridge of the Gods (2144) to Divide Camp, 95 miles on-trail. And later that summer, I hiked from Cady Creek to Lake Sally Ann to Red Pass (2503).
Next year, God willing, I will rejoin the trail at the North Fork of the Sauk River Trail, just south of Red Pass, at mile 2500. And then I will hike to the Northern Terminus, at Monument 78, and PCT mile 2650.
But it’s far more than just the miles. I’ve met some incredible people along the way. I’ve pushed myself through pain and fatigue. I’ve seen some stunning parts of God’s creation. And I’m so very grateful for all of it.
So, here’s to the adventures of 2015, and may 2016 bring me to Canada.
In July 2016, I headed out for several sections. Check out my next adventureshere
Late last night, I had to come up with an exit plan. There are several access trails along this stretch of the PCT, going east and west, but ultimately I chose to go back four miles to the eastbound Cady Creek trail; it was familiar from last year, the PCT segment was familiar from yesterday, and it dropped the fastest into less exposed territory. I would end up at a trailhead in the neighborhood of Lake Wenatchee. The only problem with the trail was that it is overgrown. Not as in “push the brush aside,” nor “I need my machete.” This was overgrown as in “Dr. Livingstone, I presume?” And sodden brush of that caliber gets your raingear soaking wet in a hurry. But it was still the best option. What I didn’t realize was that, given the fire danger, the Wenatchee Ranger District had closed every single one of its trails, including the eastbound ones from the PCT. I texted Steve to meet me at the Cady Creek (Little Wenatchee Ford) trailhead, probably mid-afternoon.
In the meantime, I spent the night reheating my bottles. This was yet another reason to bail: I was using a lot more than my budgeted fuel; I always have extra, but at this rate there was a chance my canister could be empty before I hiked down the Suiattle.
Steve didn’t get the bailout message until very early Sunday morning. And I didn’t get his latest until the same time. Apparently they were now predicting wet snow.
Within an hour of getting my message, he was on the road, with (per my request), lots of dry clothes, towels, etc.
I got up early that morning, stuffed all of my Snickers into my rain shell pocket, and began the process of keeping the must-stay-dry stuff into heavy duty plastic, while separating it from the can-get-wet stuff, and then shoving the tent in the outside of the pack. This totally threw off the balance, especially because the tent was much heavier than normal.
As soon as I was done, I turned on my music, and headed south. It was crucial to keep going; even stopping for a couple of minutes made it hard to warm back up. I kept munching the Snickers, and heading down the trail. My plan was that, if Steve hadn’t arrived yet, I would hang out in the trailhead privy, wearing my sleep clothes and my quilt, until he got there.
I did stop for a minute at the Cady Creek junction, to say goodbye to the trail; even though I was doing the right thing, I was still mighty sad.
9.5 miles, lots of heavy brush, a few scrambles, a heavy creek to ford, some rather interesting blowdowns, and 5 hours later, I arrived at the trailhead, and my waiting husband. The first thing I said to Steve was “252 miles…this year.”
He gave me an enormous hug, and after I had changed into my dry clothes, we headed down the road. There were barricades in place, due to the closure, but we just drove around them. The next stop was burgers and shakes at the 59er Diner, and then we headed over Stevens Pass towards home.
I got up at 5:30, to give myself time to hit the trailhead at 10:00. The trail was five miles, traversing a bowl before climbing a ridge to a chairlift at Stevens Pass. I worked my way along the ski slopes, and finally down to the parking lot.
Brendan and Alex weren’t there yet, but I met a guy named Fred, who spends most of the year travelling in his van, just seeing different places. He was waiting for his monthly check to arrive (tomorrow), and was getting low on food. And lo and behold, here comes Brendan and Alex with an ENORMOUS vanload of chow. Perfect timing.
We stopped in Skykomish, at the Sky Deli, and I got my coveted BURGER AND SHAKE MMMM!! And then it was down the hill to Baring, and the Dinsmores.
Jerry greeted me with a big hug, and then the kiddos proceeded to unload the van. Eyes started popping in all directions. Not even thrus could put this much food away. They were incredibly grateful.
Andrea came out and gave me another big hug, and her eyes started bugging out as well. Most of the food will last quite well in the hiker dorm fridge, and Brendan ended up taking a bunch home, but there were some mighty happy hikers.
I was very grateful just to be here; I know this is where I’ll need to make my decision, and there’s no better place to do it than in the midst of the hiking community, with the very latest info.
Anyway, while the kids were feeding people, I started my laundry, grabbed a shower, and began sorting my resupply. Brendan had brought up my bounce bag as well. Many thrus or longer distance sectioners will have a bounce box. This contains things needed periodically, or sometime in the future, and is generally sent a few resupplies up the road. I have a duffel, which the family brings up whenever they meet me; it’s got a couple of sets of street clothes, some extra toiletries, and the like. It was nice to wear a cotton t-shirt while my hiking clothes were in the laundry. But even if I didn’t have the bag, the Dinsmores have a big stash of loaner clothes for laundry time. Last year, the favorite was a purple prom dress, which appeared several times in the annual hiker photo album which Andrea puts together.
Once I was done shuffling things, Brendan and Alex headed down the hill. I wish we’d had more time to hang out; seeing family has been a huge deal for me.
Another cool thing that happened was that I met Soul Sista (aka Ronnie). She’s done a lot of work with packs, and was able to help me get mine adjusted better. We ended up setting the height to halfway between small and xtra small. But ultimately, she couldn’t get it where it needed to be, and she strongly recommends I get a new pack. Maybe it’s time to take a look at the new Mariposa. Anyway, she is up here for a few weeks, camping on the 2 acres of lawn, and generally helping out. There are several people who come up here and pitch in during the summer, cooking, repairing, driving folks, etc. Did I say this community is awesome?
I slept in the hiker dorm last night. Since Jerry and Andrea introduced a No Alcohol policy, there’s no reason to stay up late and party. The lights were out by ten. Of course, maybe that was because we were all excited about having a Real Bed!
I slept in until 9 AM, and woke up more refreshed than I had in days. We lazed around, and then went back to the Pancake House, where I ate another enormous breakfast. This is all very good.
I had a lot of little things to finish up, including taking care of the shoes, which was very frustrating. And I had a last bit of laundry to do, which unfortunately involved a fluky washer. Sigh. Some parts of hiking are just plain dull.
We spent some more time this afternoon over at Aardvark’s. It really is the main gathering place. I met Camel, from Germany, Willow, and a handful of other hikers. They were talking about some of the people that I knew. Fuzzy Star had just finished!
Steve and Patrick had to take off in the late afternoon, and that was much harder than I had anticipated. So I reminded myself that this is the chance to Do This Thing, and I need to seize it with both hands. I should see at least one of them next week at the Dinsmores’.
After they left, I took all my extras from the resupply, and dumped them into the Aardvark’s hiker box. And I watched people’s eyes bug out. I love doing that! Patriot, a young guy from Louisiana, had a positively glazed look in his eyes. There were a few homemade breakfasts, dinners, and desserts. These are extras based on my anticipated 5-6 day hike through Section J, and they disappeared almost instantly.
Dinner was random munchies from the convenience store: unimpressive, but with some treats. Now it’s time to put some finishing touches on my pack before bed, so that I can leave right after breakfast. I am incredibly grateful for my family.
I got up very early this morning, tossed some trail mix down my throat, and headed downhill. The trail was about five miles, and pretty fast, which was a good thing, as I couldn’t wait for breakfast.
Almost immediately, I began hearing the highway. Normally, I hate this on a hike, but this time it was just a sign that I was getting closer to my destination.
I met another hiker, who is recording everyone’s names (the amusing part is that I can’t remember his). I gave him mine, of course. I saw that he had Thermo’s on there, and so I showed him the picture. He shared the joke he tells everyone: “Did you hear the news?” “What news?” “They found bones on the moon!” “What?!” “Yeah, looks like the cow didn’t make it.” Which is really funny, if you haven’t heard news for days, and you’re heading in for a resupply. Trust me, it works.
I arrived at the pass about 10:30, and got our room at the Summit Inn.
As soon as I’d dropped off my gear, it was time for First Breakfast! Double order of Swedish pancakes, side of bacon, and two huge glasses of OJ. Heaven!
Steve and Patrick arrived just as I was finishing, and Patrick practically jumped into my arms. We settled down for Second Breakfast, where I had fruit, more bacon, and nibbled off of everyone else’s plate.
Brendan couldn’t make it, as he had something going on with Alex. But he’s planning on meeting me at the Dinsmores next week, which should be great fun.
I had a wonderful time with Steve and Patrick. It was a little dull for them at times, as I had chores to do: cleaning out the pack, sorting through the new and old food, doing gear repair. Steve did yeoman’s service bringing up last minute supplies that I had requested over the previous week.
Of special note is my brand new pair of Cascadia 10s. The old ones continued to split, almost all the way across the toe. I pre-taped the new ones with precision-cut patches (what a pain); it may or may not help. If and when the rip starts to happen, I’ve got a fresh supply of duct tape. I don’t think it’s unreasonable that they would last the remaining 250 miles of my trip. I saw three other hikers with splits across their 10s.
In the afternoon, we headed over to Aardvark’s. It’s a snack bar in a trailer, and they serve avant-garde sandwiches. Didn’t appeal to me, but there was a large canopy attached to the trailer, with three picnic tables, a handful of hiker boxes, a trail register, and several hikers.
When we walked in, the first thing I heard was “Hey, Rest Step!” How cool is that? Turns out it was Mo’ Betta and her other half, Monte Cristo, whom I had met the night before. I sat down with them, and introduced them to Steve and Patrick. We talked and talked, and had a great time. They were taking off later that afternoon, after finishing their resupply. I really love this community, and it was great to be able to share that with Steve and Patrick.
I spent the latter part of the afternoon doing laundry, cleaning out my hydration system, all the usual suspects. I’m glad I got a heavy-duty cleaning done, but it’s a lot of work.
We weren’t sure where we’d go for dinner, but we ended up going next door, the other way from the Chevron station, to a funky medium-sized coffee house which also made pizza to go.
And once we were done with that adventure, it was time to go hot tubbing! Awesome! We hung out for a while in the hot tub, and then we were joined by four hikers. One of them was from Lynn, MA, not too far from where Mom grew up, and his accent was oh so slightly familiar.
Oh yeah. I’m going to sleep in a bed tonight. That’s a pretty big deal, and I feel very spoiled.
At a campsite at the end of an unused road, Mile 2374
It’s getting late, and I’m in my tent; I’m recording as I’m getting ready for bed.
As I mentioned yesterday, it started raining about noon, and got heavier and heavier, with colder and colder temps, and stronger and stronger winds. I was having a dickens of a time trying to keep the rain from going under the tent. No matter what I did with my Tyvek footprint, it didn’t seem to work. So I just sucked it up, filled my water bottles with very hot water, tucked them in, and hit the rack.
But sleep never really happened. The wind kept howling, and the gusts would get stronger and stronger, until finally all of the water from the trees above would just dump in a staccato rhythm from hell. Over, and over, and over again. And I had to get up again about 3:00, to reheat the water.
Things finally died off around 5:00, so I let myself sleep in, and didn’t get on the trail until 10:30. Dealing with wet gear, and stowing it appropriately with a different weight distribution, takes extra time. Sigh. But I only had eleven miles to go today, so it wasn’t a huge hardship.
Not much to say about the trail today. Section I is rather dull in places, and in the north it goes from dull trail to road crossing, under high power lines, lather, rinse, repeat. The only thing of note was that it was very chilly, with dropping temps and the heavy rain the night before. So there was nothing for it, but to keep plodding along.
There was a great moment in the middle of the day, as I was crossing a ridge: the best trail sign ever.
I took the picture, and resumed plodding. But just before the second set of power lines, just south of a road crossing, was a cooler and two buckets. OH BOY, MAGIC! OMG! I WAS SO EXCITED! (This is not an exaggeration.) I signed the register, and got some juice, an apple, some grapes, some carrots, a container of ranch dip, and a chocolate pudding cup. OMG!
And there was a sign next to the cooler, which said “Hot Soup Ahead.” I positively swooned, and raced down the trail, to where a trail angel named Teresa, from Ellensburg, had set up camp in the back of her SUV; she handed me a cup of hot tortilla soup, AND a piece of fresh beer batter bread. I know she was an angel, because with all the chilly weather, soup was the perfect thing, and I was absolutely in heaven. She was so nice; this is a regular gig for her, and she’s used to tired and hungry hikers. She plopped me down into a camp chair with a fleece blanket, and proceeded to fill me up with cups of hot, tasty goodness.
And then, as I left, she said, “Oh, by the way? You have signal.” Woohoo! I got to talk with Patrick! His observation of the day was that yesterday’s storms came complete with thunder and lightning. A quote: “Mom, there was one clap of thunder so loud it sounded like a rolling broadside.” #fistpump That’s my boy! I think I’ve raised this kid right.
Next, I talked with Steve, and he told me about his new job at the Chateau Rollat tasting room in Woodinville. How cool is that? Can’t wait to hear more, and spend quality time with him and the wine. We also talked about plans for my zero; they’ll be up at Snoqualmie about the time I get off the mountain, late morning on Monday the 17th.
About a mile after Stampede Pass, I called it a day. I’ve got a little campsite; well, actually it’s kind of big, as it’s the turnaround for a long-closed road. I was able to spread out my gear and get it at least a little drier.
For my very early dinner, I had two cups of soup. And for supper, I had all the wonderful nubblies from the cooler. I am a very happy camper, and am thoroughly enjoying eating according to the Hobbit Plan.
Tomorrow’s a short day, only 11 miles, so that I can stage for getting off of the mountain on Monday morning. After I get back on trail, I’ll be working on ways to cut time off of my morning routine, and bring my mileage up.
Footnote: The storms overnight from August 14-15 sparked lightning north of here, which ignited the large Chelan Complex Fire. This fire threatened large portions of the city of Chelan, damaged or destroyed 120 residences, and grew to 133,000 acres.
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.
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.
…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.
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!
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.
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!
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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!!!!!
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.