Thursday, August 28, 2014, Takhlakh Lake: Glorious Adams

At Takhlakh Lake

Last day on the trail, and I definitely have mixed feelings. I topped off my water at the bucket spring. 2.5 L, which was 1 L too much in retrospect, although I didn’t know that so many seasonal streams would be flowing. Right when I finished Terri & Ginger showed up; I headed up the hill as they were topping off.

The burn resumed almost immediately after I left camp, and probably half of the day was in the burn. But that allowed for more views. Before long, I was able to see St. Helens, and then Adams. The views were opening up, and my mood got brighter and brighter.

Terri and Ginger caught up to me, and we hiked together for most of the afternoon. The nice thing about “hiking together” on the PCT is that nobody is making you stay in a group. You hike at your own speed, and catch up eventually. No guilt, no fuss, lots of time for photography. One thing I did was take time to talk with people (when they wanted). I learned a lot, and really felt part of the community.

We hit a point all of a sudden where we could see four volcanoes: Hood, St. Helens, Rainier, and of course Adams. It was incredible. Four at one time is pretty rare, unless you’re on a summit.

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Adams on the left, and Hood on the right.
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Hiking out of the burn.

This was one of those days where you keep stopping to take pictures, and each picture gets better. The pictures through the burn made quite a contrast, and eventually there was no burn…just beautiful trees, wildflowers, and of course the ever present Adams.

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Mt. Adams: The Pinnacle and the White Salmon Glacier.
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Near the junction with the Round the Mountain Trail, which encircles Mt. Adams.
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Mt. St. Helens
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Not much difficulty crossing creeks this time of year.
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Rockfall near the Round the Mountain trail.
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Rest Step!

Terri & Ginger decided to camp at Riley Creek, 2237. We had lunch a few miles before, amidst the wildflowers. They were heading down the following day, so once we hit Riley we parted ways. It’s been great to have such cool hiking buddies!

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Firestarter (Ginger) and the Warden (Terri)!

Shortly after I left Riley Creek, I began to see some of next year’s goals: Rainier and the Goat Rocks.

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Rainier is getting more and more visible.
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Next year, the Goat Rocks Wilderness.
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Crystal clear view.

Finally, the last push. My emotions were running high. I got a few more pictures along the silty creeks, and Lewis River. Just before my exit point, I met a group from my neck of the woods; when they heard my trail name, the instant response was “Mountaineers!” We shared a lot in common, and it was a great sendoff for me.

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The creeks are full of glacial silt.
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A small, silty waterfall.
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The northwest face of Adams, and the Adams Glacier.
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Glacial streams, Adams’ northwest side, and nearing the end of my hike.

Divide Camp Trail. I cried. And took pictures of my return destination, for 2015, God willing.

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This is the turnoff, where I head down and join the gang at Takhlakh. Happy and sad, all jumbled together.

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And this is my return point for 2015, mile 2239.

The trail down was just tedium…rocky and ordinary. It mellowed out to duff at the end, and then I hit the road. Left turn, and a couple of miles up the foot-pounding hardpan. Probably 5 miles altogether.

Finally, the campground. I found the entrance, and the Ferrenbergs’ site. Sue & James were astounded to see me so soon, and I got a hero’s welcome! And fresh food!

And then the fam arrived. This was the best. I am very blessed to have a family, and especially a husband, who are cool with my need to hike.

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I received a very warm welcome from everyone at camp, who plied me with food, drink, and a comfy chair.

And so, it ends with a few days at Takhlakh Lake. Some reminiscing, sharing a picture or two, a plan hatched for trail magic next summer while I’m hiking north. There is no way to adequately capture the experience, except to say that it was the hardest and most incredible hike ever, for me, so far. I’ve done two other long distance hikes, which both hold “best ever” status for a couple of different reasons. But this was about me, and what I could do. And I did it, glory to God.

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Here’s to 2014…and next year’s journey north.

In July 2015, I returned to Mt. Adams, and headed north. You can follow my continuing adventures here.

Tuesday, July 28, 2015, Mile 2281: The Knife’s Edge

At Tieton Pass, Mile 2281

The wind kicked up quite a bit last night, enough so that I had to get up and snug down the tent. I didn’t know how it was over the ridge, but there’s no way I’d do the Knife’s Edge in that kind of wind. So I slept in a bit, to give the wind time to die down.

The other problem is that, well, there’s no water until after the Knife’s Edge. It’s a constant juggle of where I am, where I want to go, where the water is, and how my foot is doing.

So I got up, headed back down to the last water source, checked to see if there was a hose there that I dropped (yes, I retrieved it), and then headed out. Thank God, the wind died down. I was not about to do the Knife’s Edge with a howling crosswind. In talking with other hikers, it appears that the wind was local to the Cispus Drainage.

Before I left camp, I met a group of four retirees, out having a week’s worth of fun. We hit it off, and were leapfrogging throughout the morning. And I also met a group of three women from Tallahassee, and leapfrogged with them.

After descending into the drainage, it was (predictably) time to climb back up over the ridge, toward Snowgrass Flats. The weather was clear, and suddenly the eye candy began.

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Mt. St. Helens
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Mt. Adams
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I loved this little section of trail. Some wonderful souls spent a great deal of time putting this together.

And all of a sudden, blam! There was Mt. Adams, appearing for the first time, now that the weather had cleared. One of the women from Tallahassee took a very nice picture of me.

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It was time to work our way around the next ridge, which included a lunch stop with all of the aforementioned folks.

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From our lunch spot, we could see all three of the volcanoes: Adams, St. Helens, and Rainier peeking over the trail to the north. Also on the right is the very turquoise Goat Lake.

And then, The Decision. Do I do the traditional route, which traverses Packwood Glacier, or do I do the Old Snowy Alternate, which scrambles steeply up and down Old Snowy, a mountain with year round snow and glaciers, plus lots of steep scree slopes.

I chose to do the traditional route. The only problem with that is that, well, there’s a glacier, with a 30 degree slope and no safe runout. Fortunately, there were footprints kicked in, so with some solid concentration, I safely crossed. And with the exceptionally low snow pack this year, the actual glacier was only about a hundred feet across. But the rest of the traverse was over an enormous talus slope, with refrigerator-sized boulders.  With my unique version of visual perception, and the ongoing pain in my ankle, it was a hell of a time getting across; I had to cross a slope, descend (read butt scoot), cross the glacier, and then re-ascend.

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The north end of the talus slope, after the glacier and boulders

Once I crossed the slope, I headed up a ridge, and there was the Knife’s Edge!

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Almost there
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Mt. Rainier, the Knife’s Edge, and me

It’s really, really pretty, and it’s not as dangerous as some of the slopes I’ve been on over the years. There were a couple of spots which made me stop and think “Oh, how interesting!” but for the most part it wasn’t too big of a deal. I would definitely not want to be up there in the dark, wind, or fog.

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The trail winds along a very steep ridge, and around rocky knobs

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Looking back south. Old Snowy and its glaciers are just right of center.

The trail gradually came off of the ridge, and then turned west at Elk Pass. It became a lovely meadow walk, heading gradually downhill, past the headwaters of several creeks, around Lutz Lake, and eventually to Tieton Pass.

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Standing guard over my trail. I just started talking to him, and eventually he scampered into the brush.

When I finally made it down the series of ridges, to Elk Pass, it became apparent that my lovely forward progress, which probably averaged around ½ mph with the scree, talus, and photo ops, needed some help…if I were to make White Pass by Wednesday. So I dropped it in low and added another four miles before reaching camp around 8PM.

At this point, each and every step was a pain…quite literally. By the time I reached camp at Tieton Pass, I was just DONE. I knew I needed to be up by 5, to make it up the next ridge and then down again, given my slow forward progress, and given the closing time of the store at White Pass, where my resupply was waiting. So I pounded a Snickers bar for dinner, and crawled into bed.

Footnote 1: The talus slope/glacier traverse is notorious. A PCTA (Pacific Crest Trail Association) work crew spent a week in 2013 putting the trail back into place. The pictures give a good sense of what that area looks like. I didn’t use my camera while on the slope. Take a look at the link…it’s pretty incredible.

Footnote 2: I would later learn that during the rather miserable rain/wind/snow/fog the last week of August, some of my fellow hikers ended up crawling the entire length of the Knife’s Edge.