Monday, August 25, 2014, Mile 2203: More Blessed to Give…

At Blue Lake, Mile 2203

I had to reorganize because half my stuff was still wet, so I got another late start. My boots and yesterday’s socks were soaked, so I just put everything on and planned for a day’s worth of squelching.

Got water at the piped spring at 2193; there were six of us hanging out and chatting, including the Warden and Firestarter. Next stop was Crest Horse Camp, 2195.

2014-08-25 (1)
Heading up towards Crest Horse Camp Trailhead.

Along this stretch I decided it was time to purvey a little Trail Magic. I pulled all my leftovers from days 1-4, plus all of the food for days 9-10, set it out with a Magic sign, and a note from Rest Step. Within ten minutes, three thrus descended like vultures. They were very grateful, and my pack was noticeably lighter. As were my spirits. Getting closer to that sweet spot, and Trail Magic is wonderful for both the giver and the receiver.

2014-08-25 (2)
At Crest TH, I purveyed a little trail magic: putting out a sign, and leaving extra food for hungry and happy thru-hikers.
2014-08-25 (2.1)
Just after the Crest Horse Camp TH…seven miles to my destination.

Entered the Indian Heaven Wilderness this afternoon, and passed Sheep Lake at 2197. At Green Lake, there was a family picking blueberries. I chatted with the youngest daughter, and she described the blueberry pancakes her family would be making. I tried not to drool, but those theoretical pancakes rapidly developed into the stuff of legend.

2014-08-25 (3)
Got water at Green Lake, with some creative filtering.
2014-08-25 (4)
One of the main trails through the Indian Heaven Wilderness, mile 2199.
2014-08-25 (5)
Within the Indian Heaven Wilderness, this style of PCT emblem was used.
2014-08-25 (6)
Climbing up the ridge heading toward Blue Lake.
2014-08-25 (7)
More rowanberries, this time in red. You can just see Adams peeking through the trees.
2014-08-25 (8)
Mt. Adams is getting closer and clearer.

Another handful of miles, and I reached Blue Lake (2203), after a thirteen mile day. I was able to spread out my wet gear, and get things dried out. Even my boots were 95% dry after a couple of hours in the sun. And the pair of socks which were rinsed on Day 3 were dry enough to wear tomorrow.

2014-08-25 (9)
From my campsite at Blue Lake.

Sunday, August 24, 2014, Mile 2191: Rest Step Weathers a Storm

At a large campsite, mile 2191

Slept late after the 15 mile day. Pack is too heavy and is causing aches and pains. And my pace sucks. Figuring out the sweet spot, but not yet.

2014-08-24 (1)
This is the current emblem used by the Pacific Crest Trail Association. The emblems (blazes) are placed periodically along the trail, especially where there’s a trail junction. There are several variations on the theme.
2014-08-24 (2)
A white blaze is also used to mark the trail.
2014-08-24 (2.1)
Are they huckleberries, or M&Ms? You be the judge.

I met a thru named Tim while having a trail side snack, and his hiking buddy Kara (Badass) came along a bit later. We started chatting about trail names, and she said they are either given to you based on something that happened, or are based on a story. She asked me about my backstory, and I talked about how I learned to hike. As an example, I told her how Dad had taught me the rest step, and, as an aside, that this week was the one year anniversary of Dad’s repose. She said that Rest Step would be a great trail name, and bestowed it on me. Henceforth, I am Rest Step!

2014-08-24 (3)
Climbing toward the Cedar Creek Trail Junction, 2188
2014-08-24 (4)
Trail magic! This is the long distance hiking community’s name for random acts of kindness. This could be food, water, or just about anything. Here, Trail Toad has left water bottles for PCT hikers passing by…especially helpful in a dry patch.
2014-08-24 (5)
See that ridge in the distance, with Table Mountain? I was there a couple of days ago.
2014-08-24 (5.1)
Just before cresting the ridge, 2189

In the early afternoon, I passed the Grassy Knoll trail junction at mile 2189, and almost immediately crested a ridge. As I summited, I was hit in the face with black clouds and thunder. My destination was 1.8 miles down hill and I needed to be there to get water; I only had ½ L left, and the next water after that was well over 2 miles away. I made all kinds of speed, but got hit with the worst storm I’ve had on the trail in the last several years. Torrential rain, and hail ranging from ¼ to ½ inch. And it didn’t stop. I tried sheltering from the lightning, but I hit the proverbial lightning vs hypothermia dilemma, and had to continue down the trail. It wasn’t too far to the tentsite (and the necessary water). I couldn’t set up my tent without soaking everything, so I stood next to a large tree (in a heavily forested area, so much less lightning risk) and marched in place for probably another 20 minutes, to stay warm. When the hail had subsided, and the rain had started to slack, maybe 45 min later, I threw the tent up and got my cold soaked self inside. My NeoAir kept me off of the soaking wet tent floor, and I bundled up completely, while pouring calories into my system.

2014-08-24 (5.2)
A rather grainy, out of the tent shot, of the beginning of the storm (courtesy Firestarter).

After the storm subsided, I stuck my head out of the tent. Two women were across the trail and invited me over. The Warden (Terri) and Firestarter (Ginger) are from Oregon, and are section hiking as well. They were getting a fire going, and we stood around steaming our clothes dry. Fun evening with good people.

2014-08-24 (6.1)
Here I am at the campsite of The Warden and Firestarter, steaming my clothes dry. They were also caught in the storm, and we hung out together for the evening.
2014-08-24 (7)
My friends on the trail, The Warden, and Firestarter! We were all caught in the same storm, and we’re drying our gear. The three of us hiked together off and on for the rest of the trip.

Tuesday, August 25, 2015, Mile 2461: Magic at the Dinsmores

At Dinsmores Hiker Haven, Mile 2461

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.

Stevens Push 5
Fall Colors above Stevens *
Stevens Chair
Climbing the last ridge, past a chairlift *
Stevens Descent
The descent into Stevens Pass *

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.

2015-08-26 13.48.35
The shower and laundry house. Before washing clothes or taking a shower, hikers need to pre-wash their socks and their feet.
2015-08-26 13.48.38
The garage. A large portion, to the left, contains the hiker dorm.

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!

2015-08-25 16.09.10
The hiker dorm at Dinsmores Hiker Haven. They have bunk beds (with real mattresses), recliners, a basic kitchen w/fridge, microwave, and pantry), a huge hiker box with sorted supplies, a wood stove, and TONS of memorabilia from hikers through the years.

2015-08-25 16.09.18 2015-08-25 16.09.25

Saturday, August 15, 2015, Mile 2374: An Angel Appears

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.

cropped-2015-08-15-11-13-121.jpg

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!

2015-08-15 15.51.26
MAGIC! IT’S MAGIC!

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.

2015-08-15 16.32.25
Teresa, purveyor of tortilla soup and fresh beer bread. Today, she was my angel.

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.

2015-08-15 19.57.55
Supper!

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.

Friday, August 14, 2015, Mile 2363: A Change in the Weather

At a small seasonal spring, Mile 2363

Tonight I’m in my tent, with a lot of wet gear, and the rain is pouring outside. You can probably hear it in the recording.

It was a rather interesting day. It started off sprinkling a bit; a thru passed me and said it was probably just falling off of the trees. And then it started really “falling off of the trees,” and did so the rest of the day.

I did fourteen miles today, which included the bone-dry 11.8 mile stretch. And that was amusing, given all the rain which has been falling today. Given the rain, and the need to adjust my pack and my raingear anytime I need to adjust anything, I was on my feet virtually the entire 11.8 miles.

2015-08-14 11.03.08
In theory, this is a view of Mt. Rainier

There’s a really nice spring, informally named after Bink (aka Scott Williams), who has probably done the trail more times than anybody else. It’s off the beaten path, but there’s a loop trail which leads to the site. Good, fresh water, and easy to collect.

Bink Spring Sign
The sign leading to Bink Spring. *
2015-08-14 15.30.09
The water was delicious and plentiful

I loaded up for the night, as tonight’s destination is a campsite with a “small seasonal spring.” And those are notoriously fickle right now.

The proposed campsite was down to Road 52, and two miles up a reasonably steep ridge on the other side. So I hoisted my pack, put on my hood, and headed towards my campsite.

But when I got to Tacoma Pass on Road 52, I discovered MAGIC! Oh my goodness, I was so excited I couldn’t even believe it! And I still can’t believe how incredibly, happy-dancing excited I was. There was a cooler full of Gatorades and Cokes, and another cooler full of beer, and some bananas and Cheez-Its. There is nothing like a bag of Cheez-Its. I never thought about that before.

2015-08-14 16.14.48
MAGIC!

The really fun thing was that all the Cokes were of the “Share with a” variety, and I pulled “Adventurer.” That made me smile even more. And the purveyors of the magic? Pocahontas and her parents, whom I met above Crystal on the 12th!

2015-08-14 16.22.21
COKE!

Given the rain, Pocahontas and her parents (who had a car) were heading downhill to get a hotel room, before returning to Tacoma Pass the next morning. It was all I could do to keep from pounding on the window and asking to go with them.

After I’d met them, signed the register, and headed north, I reached my (rather damp) campsite. Just after pitching my tent, I met Daybreaker, who is a gentleman in his 70s. He was happily clad in a large green poncho, and waved as he continued up the hill.

So I’m at my camp, tucked into my tent. Let’s just say that for the last 6-7 hours, it’s been pouring like a sumbitch. And it’s pouring harder now. Thank heavens the weather forecast predicts drier weather, as everything except my dry gear (bedding, sleep clothes, paperwork, etc., all double wrapped in a trash compactor bag) is mighty damp.

Time to boil water and fill up my water bottles before I hit the rack.

*Photo credit: Eric Aalto

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.

2015-08-11 08.48.55
Up the ridge…
2015-08-11 08.54.36
…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.

2015-08-11 16.48.00
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!