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, July 25, 2015, Mile 2247: Heading North

At Lava Springs, Mile 2247

2015-07-25 11.33.50Today!!! I couldn’t believe it was finally here! We departed around 8:00, and arrived at the Divide Camp Trailhead at 9:30. After a quick picture, and goodbyes, I was OFF!!!

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The trail reopened south of Divide Camp, only the day before I began my hike

Divide Camp was open, finally. It had been closed for a couple of weeks, due to the Horseshoe/Mt. Adams Complex fire. That was now under control, and I headed up the newly opened trail. The rangers hadn’t been by to remove the tape, but that wasn’t a big deal…I was going north. I took a picture by my sign, and then I hit the trail, at PCT Mile 2239. Awesome!

Once I was on the trail, it started raining in earnest. I didn’t get my rainskirt out in time, so I got damper than I thought. This year, I’m hiking in a Purple Rain Adventure Skirt + compression shorts, and a Lightheart Gear sil nylon rainskirt. So far, through several day hikes, I like this combo better. I’m also using a Sierra Designs Ultralight Trench rain shell. It has a unique ventilation system, where the pack’s hip strap fastens underneath the jacket, by way of two flaps.

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Taken from a distance. The river was much wider than it appears here

The ford across Adams Creek was challenging; it was up to my knees, fast, and opaque with silt. It was hard to see the trail on the opposite bank, but I got some tips from a couple of SOBOs (southbound thru hikers or sectioners). Because of the silt, I extended my poles and used them as probes. Mission accomplished.

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Adams hiding behind the clouds. There’s also a dried up tarn in the foreground; water in general was extremely low

After Adams, the trail was more or less downhill.

I met a very large Scout troop from Yakima. The kids weren’t too sure about me, but the Scoutmasters were nice enough. And I met a group of about five NOBOs (northbounders), as well as a ranger, all at Killen Creek, while I was getting my water. I’m carrying a 2L Platypus bladder with an inline filter, a 1L collapsible bladder, and a 0.75L Smartwater bottle, for clean water and drinks. I usually only fill the 2L bladder, unless I have a dry stretch coming up. I’ve arranged the 2L bladder so that it can also be used as a gravity feed filter in camp.

Several miles on, I found a nice campsite at Lava Springs, which (speaking of water) is known to have some of the best water on the entire trail. I thought the Scouts would be here, as there’s plenty of room, but apparently they stopped at Muddy Fork. Tonight, that was fine with me, as I really wanted some quiet.

Friday, July 24, 2015, Home: Almost there

There is absolutely no way I could attempt this hike without Steve’s love and support. I am forever grateful

I can’t believe it. After months of thought and preparation, I hit the trail this weekend. My resupply boxes are ready, my food has been prepared (with a 1.5 pound per day average), my gear has been researched and purchased, and I’m ready to go.

Easy Cheesy Pasta, my simplest and favorite meal. 800 calories of carbs and fat...what's not to love?
Easy Cheesy Pasta, my simplest and favorite meal. 800 calories of carbs and fat…what’s not to love?
Peanut M&Ms and Snickers. It's what's for dinner. And breakfast. And lunch...
Peanut M&Ms and Snickers. It’s what’s for dinner. And breakfast. And lunch…
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Resupply boxes for White, Chinook, Snoqualmie, and Stevens passes, plus another for Stehekin, near the end of my hike.
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Done!
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The night before I left, the guys took me out to one of my favorite restaurants. They were their usual wacky selves.

And finally, today. After long goodbyes with the boys, Steve and I left for points south, around noon. Today’s destination was a B&B on the way to Mt. Adams.

Predictably, traffic was a nightmare, but we finally at the Shepherd’s Inn in Salkum. We checked in, and relaxed on the patio for a while, watching a couple of young fawns who pranced around like they owned the place.

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We went out for dinner, and then just put our feet up and watched a movie. Tomorrow…