Wednesday, August 26, 2015, Mile 2461: Decision

At Dinsmores Hiker Haven, Mile 2461

This morning, we all piled in the truck and headed up to the Cascadia for breakfast. I had a huge scramble, hash browns, toast, half of Meander’s biscuits and gravy, and somebody else’s bacon. And somebody’s extra ice cream bar on the way home. Jerry just kind of looked at me, and I said, “No, I don’t normally eat like this.” LOL

Today I had the pleasure of meeting Meander (aka Edward Intven, think “In da Van”). I’ve seen him several places online, and he’s a delightful gentleman with a lovely spirit. He joined us for breakfast, and met up with Flash, who is staying with the Dinsmores, and River, who just dropped by the restaurant. They are all members of the Class of 2013, and it was a complete and wonderful coincidence. I had the pleasure of sharing a table with them at breakfast. Fun times!

Let’s see, who else is here. I met Climbin’ Lineman (aka Carl), who is a gentleman of retirement age, from Salt Lake. He is very devout, and because of that will not travel on Sundays. More power to him.

Patriot is here…we met at Snoqualmie. He’s in his late teens, and from Louisiana. He’s also an Eagle, and so he and Brendan spent some time geeking out over Scouts yesterday.

Other names I remember: Trout (aka Gone Slow), Shady Acres, Heather, Kirby, Weekend, Double Happiness, Penny Lane (aka Jen Marie), Daniel Barrett (a Triple Crowner, trail name unknown). Wish I could remember everyone’s name.

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Climbin’ Lineman, Trout, Patriot, and Shady Acres at the Cascadia
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River, Flash, Rest Step, and Meander.
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Part of my breakfast.

After breakfast, Andrea broke out the camera. She keeps an online album every year, with all of the hikers who come through.

Dinsmores Hiker Log Pic
I made it into Andrea’s 2015 PCT Hiker Album! L-R Kirby, Climbin’ Lineman, Heather, and I.

Yesterday, I just hung out with Andrea, Jerry, and the hikers.  I really needed a quiet day, especially with all the emotions regarding my decision.  Jerry and I went down for coffee yesterday afternoon.  He’s got a large group of friends in the community, and they’re always meeting at the restaurant.  It’s kind of like Dad and the boys down at the marina.

Dinner was easy: we all pooled our money, and Jerry and a few of the hikers went down to Gold Bar to pick up pizza.  Lots of pizza.  Enormous quantities of pizza. Everybody hung out in the hiker dorm, swapping tales, inhaling dinner, etc.  Mellow and very peaceful.

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Pizza for the masses. These were enormous, and there was almost one pizza per hiker.
Dinsmores Pizza Night
Because if you’re gonna have a pizza party, it’d better be good! With Kirby, Rest Step, Patriot, Daniel, Valorie, Sam, Gretchen, TJ, and Kasey. *

So, the decision. I was correct to assume that the Dinsmores have the latest info. Andrea was talking with the powers that be on a regular basis, and posting what she learned in the hiker dorm.

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Blankenship Closure Info
Closure from Suiattle River north to High Bridge, the junction to Stehekin.

It’s clear what I need to do, and it’s not the decision I wanted to make.  I’m going to continue my footpath, north from Stevens (mile 2461) to the trail closure at Suiattle River (mile 2538), and come off of the trail.  The factors in that decision:

  • The PCT is closed from the Suiattle River Trail (mile 2538), north to Stehekin.
  • Highway 20 is closed west of Rainy Pass, at Newhalem, due to a fire and landslide. This effectively shuts off any trail access from the west, north of the Suiattle closure.
  • Highway 20 has been periodically closed east of Rainy Pass, due to the Okanogan Complex fires.
  • The only way to get to Stehekin is to take Highway 2, east over Stevens, to Chelan (via Wenatchee, if you’re on a bus).
  • From Stehekin, it’s possible to hike north to Rainy Pass, and from there to the border. However, Forest Service personnel, volunteers, and knowledgeable residents have warned about smoke and ash, due to the current fires, and due to the smaller fire north of Rainy Pass.
  • I have asthma, and I have a proclivity towards bronchitis.
  • Unlike hikers from out of state, it’s easy for me to get back on the trail next year, at Suiattle.

So for now, it looks like my hike is over at Suiattle River. That will give me roughly 300 miles this year, with another 100 and small change next year. Andrea recommends returning in early to mid July of next year, depending on the snowpack, so as to avoid the most dangerous part of wildfire season. And my guys completely get this, and are totally willing to support me as I return to the trail next summer.

This is NOT how I wanted my hike to end. I wanted to finish at the Northern Terminus. I guess sometimes we don’t get what we want, and it works out for other reasons. I’ll be home with Patrick at the beginning of school.  Not quite the first day, but the first week.  I get to spend time with Steve, learning about wine, which is his passion. But I’ve got to let myself grieve the plan that I had.

So I’ll enjoy my time here with friends, and then after breakfast tomorrow I’ll hitch up to the trail, and head north…to finish out this section of my dream.

*Photo credit: Jen Marie

Sunday, August 23, 2015, Mile 2444: Fires to the North

At Deception Lakes, Mile 2444

What a day.

I got to sleep around 8 last night, and slept like a rock. I used my earplugs, and it made a world of difference. I wasn’t overly concerned, simply because there were decent people nearby.  Man, did that feel good.

I said goodbye to Paul and Matt, and headed back up to the main trail.  I took some time to record, and then started the ascent up the ridge.

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Heading up Cathedral Pass

The ridge climb that I put off yesterday was much cooler today.  I made it up to Cathedral Pass, and the operative word was Gorgeous.  As in the ridge was gorgeous, the pass was gorgeous, Cathedral Rock was gorgeous…are you detecting a trend here? High alpine heather, beautiful path, and O, the MOUNTAINS! I had more fun, just rambling along the top of the ridge and taking pictures.

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Cathedral Pass ridge ramble
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Cathedral Rock

And then I met a girl named Kelly. She’s a SOBO sectioner, and is one of the few sectioners I’ve met who will be travelling farther than I am. She also brought fire news, which matched what Paul had said the night before.  The Okanogan fire is now over 144K acres. Hwy 20 is closed at Newhalem (west of Rainy Pass, which is the PCT junction); that probably affects the Cascade Pass detour (the workaround for the Blankenship closure from Suiattle River to Stehekin). Hwy 20 is also closed the other direction, due to the Okanogan fire.

The long and the short of it is that if all of this info is correct (and it was very current), my trip will be over not long after Stevens.  I sat down in the shadow of Cathedral rock and just cried for a few minutes.  This means so much to me, and I just want to see it completed, hopefully this year.  I need to wait until I get to the Dinsmores’ to get the best info, but I’m really concerned.  I messaged Steve, and he confirmed what she said, but added that the situation is very fluid. I took a deep breath (okay, a very deep breath), and kept walking. This is incredible country, and I don’t want to miss it because I’m focused on what’s happening further north.

A handful of miles wandering along stunning ridges, and I came to a sign warning of a “Dangerous Ford.” There was an alternate route posted, for stock; as I understand it, it’s better to take the stock route early in the season. As it had been very dry lately, I took the main route. The creek is the drainage for the Hyas Glacier, on Mt. Daniel, west of the trail. The creek runs through a fairly narrow slot, and once it opens up above the trail, it splits into several sections. I skipped the log bridge and just plowed through. From there, it was a matter of carefully following cairns, because the trail was practically invisible from one section to the next. And at the end, there was a bit of scrambling and a veggie belay or two. (A veggie belay is when you use branches and such to pull yourself up a slope.)

Hikers crossing the unnamed creek. The last part of the crossing is hidden to the right. *
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The creek looks deceptively small here. For perspective, the diameter of the root ball, on the right of the log bridge, was roughly as tall as I am.

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I gradually ascended a long ridge, heading toward Deception Lakes.

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The first colors of fall, heading toward Deception Lakes

I made camp, and I had the place to myself.  I had been warned about the mice (bring a mousetrap, or a cat), but with my Ursack and my water bottle stowed away from my tent, I ended up having the quietest night I’ve ever had in a campsite, ever, anywhere.  No sound at all.  And that made for some good sleep, which was exactly what I needed.

*Photo credit: Eric Aalto