Friday, August 21, 2015, Mile 2422: From Podcasts to a Party

At a campsite on the ridge between Escondido Tarns and Waptus River, Mile 2422

Today was 13 miles and 3500 feet net gain. There’s definitely a trend here: up a ridge, down a ridge, up a ridge, and so on. I was to learn that Section J is considered the toughest section of the trail. The raw stats are 72 miles and 19K feet, but like any trail stats it doesn’t take the tread into consideration. I don’t know about “toughest,” as I’ve also heard that Section K is the “second toughest on the entire trail.” But J is certainly a challenge.

A side note: The PCT is broken into sections. These are mostly based on ease of access, e.g. Snoqualmie Pass to Stevens Pass. California, with nearly 1700 miles of trail, has Sections A-R.  Oregon and Washington, with just under 1000 miles, re-start at A and continue to L.  Last year, I hiked the lion’s share of Washington Section H; it is my goal this year to finish H, and continue on through I, J, K, and L.

Anyway, I broke camp, tanked up at the little spring just past the falls, and got a couple of pictures. It’s really a lovely place.

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Delate Falls

The first several miles were a slow ascent, and then in the afternoon I began the real climb up toward the Escondido Tarns. I discovered that listening to podcasts really helps me going up the ridges. They’re engaging, and there’s no competition between the beat of the music and the ever-changing rhythm of my feet as the trail gets more or less steep.

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Climbing the ridge toward the Escondido Tarns

I reached the crest later in the afternoon, and the wind had turned cold. I wasn’t wearing an insulation layer, because I’d been climbing, but crossing the ridge and beginning the slow descent to the tarns proved to be a bit nippy. I should have refilled at the first (much clearer) tarn, but alas, I gave my filter a workout at the second.

Escondido Tarns
The second of the two tarns *
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Twilight is approaching as I head down the other side of the ridge

With insulation layer in place, end-of-the-day fatigue beginning to set in, and with a long but gentle descent in front of me, I headed down the trail. My goal was a campsite on the ridge, before the descent to Waptus River. I kept the podcasts going, and arrived at my destination a little before 8:00.

There were a small handful of campsites nestled together, and a party of three had claimed the first two spots. They were very welcoming. One of them was busy putting together a Backpacker’s Pantry cheesecake mix, and said I was more than welcome to share when it was finished. I said that would be a great treat, as tomorrow was my birthday, and it’s always good to celebrate early.

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Birthday cheesecake with new friends!

Anyway, after I’d set up camp and eaten my stroganoff, they came over singing Happy Birthday, dear Rest Step! I was grinning all over…how cool was that? And hearing my trail name just plain makes me smile.

*Photo credit: mbtigger

Thursday, August 20, 2015, Mile 2409: Traipsing through the Talus

At Delate Creek, Mile 2409

Today was a hell of a day, a lot tougher than I expected. The first eight miles were basically all talus, all the time. Talus is rockfall on the slope of a mountain, and often requires careful foot placement, plus a bit of scrambling when the boulders are large. Scree is the little stuff…pebbles and small rocks.  Talus is the larger stuff, ranging from boot-size to refrigerator-sized boulders. My balance isn’t the best, although it’s definitely improved over the years! But talus has never been my friend, and hence my forward progress was rather slow.

The weather made it much more complex, and much less rewarding.  The ridge northwest to Chikamin Peak, and the entire Chikamin/Four Brothers area, was completely socked in…entirely covered with cloud, which was punctuated by heavy wind and the occasional bit of rain.  It was just one thing after another, and I did not have fun. And I missed quite a bit of gorgeous scenery.

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The advantage of talus slopes: marmots
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What I missed, thanks to the weather on Chikamin Ridge and the Four Brothers **

Fortunately, after I rounded a ridge through Chikamin Pass, it was a whole different ball game. The talus was still there, but I could actually see; the clouds were gone, and the weather was much calmer.

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Park Lakes from Chikamin Pass

One of the other things that were bothering me was the mental inventory I was taking of my food. I calculated the speed at which I was travelling today, and what was in my food supply, and it wasn’t adding up. It definitely didn’t add up if there were more days like today, and I was getting a bit concerned.

Anyway, I rounded that ridge, and suddenly the scenery was a) there, and b) really lovely. I continued the traverse down the ridge, and who did I meet but a retired couple, Unbreakable and No Trace, the kindest and humblest hikers around. They are on their second thru, and are Triple Crowners…a fact that they neglected to mention. We spent probably fifteen minutes talking about the trail, about being older than the average hiker, and all kinds of things. Fifteen minutes is a long time for an impromptu trail conversation.

Unbreakable reminded me that the shuttle bus to Stehekin only takes cash. I said to her, “Don’t worry, I’ve got it covered. I put small bills in my resupply for Stevens.”

She replied, “Wow, you’re organized!” And I replied, “Not always…I forgot to do specific research on this section, especially regarding talus slopes, where I tend to go slow, so I’ll need an extra day, and I’m a little short on food. Grr.”

And without hesitation, they pulled out a couple of Idahoan instant potato packs and a Top Ramen, and handed them to me! Trail magic! And it really made a difference in my attitude. What a privilege it was to meet them!

The scenery along this stretch is incredible. I climbed one last ridge, taking lots of pictures, including one of my beloved Mt. Stuart.

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Three Queens
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Three Queens
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Mt. Stuart with lenticular clouds

Finally, I descended, perhaps 1500 feet, to the beautiful Delate Falls.

There was a campsite just before the falls, so that became home sweet home. There was no convenient place to get water at the falls, unless I crawled under the bridge, but fortunately there was a spring just past the bridge. I topped off and went back to camp.

Go figure, I’m really tired, so I’m not even going to do my evening route planning. That can wait until my brain is awake.

Footnote: Although these pictures were taken in early summer a few years ago, they are well -labeled; they give the feel of today’s hike, and what I would have encountered had there been any visibility along Chikamin and Four Brothers. I saw zero snow. http://www.wta.org/go-hiking/trip-reports/trip_report.2011-07-24.9626619341

*Photo credit: Eric Aalto

**Photo credit: http://www.grandcanyontreks.org

Wednesday, August 19, 2015, Mile 2398: Mighty Hiker Women

At Ridge Lake, Mile 2398

Predictably, this morning started with an enormous breakfast, probably the biggest combo on the menu. While making a dent in it, I met a whole group of hikers, some of which were about to hit the trail, and some of whom were taking a zero or two. Little Brown, about my age, and a local as well. Wormwood, a young guy with an REI shirt, modded to say PCT. Blue Sky, a thru from central Asia; he’s the one who gave Thermometer his name. Country Mouse and her SO Shadow. And Samson, who is celebrating his birthday today.

I was definitely ready to go. After Steve and Patrick left, it just wasn’t the same, so I skedaddled right after breakfast. I stopped at the Chevron to pick up a little cash, and to grab a Powerade, which I drank while walking to the TH.

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The last time I crossed under I-90 was when our Venturing Crew went snowshoeing, in 2012. That was a great day. I remember the ranger saying, “You guys are really fast.” Well, several of us had done Philmont a few short months prior, so that probably explained it.

I’m not feeling very fast these days, with my miles per day maxing out in the mid teens. We were talking about this over breakfast, and Blue Sky just looked at me. He said, “I usually hike 15-17 miles per day, and sometimes I don’t even get out of camp until 10:30.”

I said, “Wow, that sounds exactly like me!”

And Samson said, “Well, my son met me for a section in northern Oregon, and he just couldn’t keep up with me. But like you said, I’ve got a couple of thousand miles of conditioning, and that’s just the way it is.”

That really helped me feel better. Sometimes I feel like a poser because my mileage is relatively low, and because it takes me longer than average to break camp in the morning. But this is my own hike, and I’m incredibly grateful to be out here.

The weather today is gorgeous, with less smoke than there has been lately. I’ve been using my inhaler regularly, because there’s a lot of smoke coming from the Cougar Creek fire to the south. There’s a chance of rain on Friday 8/21, which should help. And the weather will be drying out for my birthday on Saturday.

I get to do the Kendall Katwalk again today! I’ll always remember meeting Acorn the Elder on the far side of the Katwalk, last year. We had met briefly at Mosquito Creek, on my first section.

I’m looking forward to the second half of my hike, even though according to this year’s mileage it’s not even half: I’m starting at roughly mile 150 out of roughly 400. I’m really, really grateful. I’ve felt ups, I’ve felt downs, I know I’m not the only one with “hiker brain,” who can’t spit out her words to save her life. I’ve met so many awesome people. And the best part is being able to introduce my guys to this incredible community.

When I arrived, I took my picture by the TH sign. Just a bit up from the TH, there’s a picnic table, and somebody had put out a cooler of drinks and a trail register. I was one of the first ones to sign.

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Hitting the trail again!

I made a tactical error, and only put a liter of water in my Platy. Turns out it was far hotter, drier, and more exposed than I had remembered. Oops.

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The fall colors were mighty early this year

On the way up, I met a group of women in their 60s-70s. They were out for a day hike, and when they asked me how far I was going, I said, “Well, actually, Canada.” Then I said, “I’m going to be 51 this week, and it’s my mission to show women that they can get out there, hike by themselves, and ain’t nobody gonna stop us.” I got some serious high fives. And one of the women asked if I needed anything, so I said I was a bit short of water. She very graciously gave me half a liter, which was just exactly enough to take me over the Katwalk and across to Ridge Lake. Magic is everywhere.

The Kendall Katwalk itself is a 150 yard section of the trail which was literally blasted out of the mountain, saving 2-3 days of hiking. Very interesting story, and well worth a read.  The trail is wide and safe enough for stock. And the views are stunning.

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Looking back at the south side of the Katwalk
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Northbound across the Katwalk, headed toward Ridge Lake

One of the cool things for me today was seeing Mt. Stuart for the first time. I’ve spent a lot of time hiking in the Teanaway, and seeing Stuart was like old home week. I’m finally back in my neck of the woods! And the whole trail is much more familiar to me. Not that I’ve hiked it all, but it feels like the trails that I know.

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Mt. Stuart is visible in the distance (center). You can also see the smoke from the Chelan Complex fire.
Katwalk
One more view, looking south *

I arrived at Ridge Lake around 4.  I was actually thinking of going farther, but in retrospect it was a good thing I didn’t. I learned that there was no water for nine miles past this point, but I didn’t get this info until well after I’d set up camp. So I’ll grab a good load tomorrow.

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Ridge Lake
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A snug camp, staked out against the wind
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It was good to be back on the trail

When I went to collect water down at a little beach area, I met a Girl Scout troop from my neck of the woods. There were two adults, a junior leader, and about half a dozen girls. They’re doing Section J. I’ve never come across a Girl Scout troop who backpacks like this, and it was wonderful to meet them.

One of the adults invited me down to the beach to join them, and I introduced myself as a Venturing Crew advisor. When they learned what I was doing, they were tickled pink, and all kinds of questions ensued. The leaders in particular were very interested in my gear list, so I talked about most of it, and the rationales behind choosing each piece. I also talked specifically with the young adult leader, Katherine, and it was very clear that she was able to do the whole trail. She was thinking seriously about it, after returning from an extended trip overseas. I love encouraging people to hike the trail, as it’s such a life changing experience.

They offered to let me camp with them, but I said I was looking for something a bit more protected from the wind. So they headed back to their campsite.

And then a woman, Lady Rose, and her dog, came down to the beach. Her trail name is after the Lady Rose, a cargo and passenger vessel which until recently plied the waters of Barkley Sound in BC. Lady Rose and her pup were heading up to Stevens, until morning nausea became debilitating. She decided to return, and see if perhaps she was expecting…and she was pretty excited about that.

I love having all these random conversations! It’s one of the really awesome things about long distance hiking.

As I mentioned, the water tomorrow is further than expected. The Park Lakes are about 9 miles and 2700 gain from Ridge Lake. They’re off the trail, so I’ll take enough to see me through Delate Creek, about 10 miles from here.

I was just mulling/wishing for a zero in my own house. That’s probably mostly because I miss my guys. I always miss my guys. I just wish I could show them what it’s like out here, because it’s part of who I am, and I want them to see it.

*Photo credit: Eric Aalto

Footnote: Jennifer was at the trailhead within the next several days, and she found my name in the register!

Tuesday, August 18, 2015, Mile 2390: Snoqualmie Pass Zero

At Snoqualmie Pass, Mile 2390

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’.

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I love these guys!

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.

Monday, August 17, 2015, Mile 2390: Family!

At Snoqualmie Pass, Mile 2390

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.

PCT Snoqualmie Sign
Breakfast ahead

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.

Snoqualmie Highway
First glimpse of I-90 *

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.

Summit Inn
The lap of luxury

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!

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First Breakfast!

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.

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Poor quality control

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.

*Photo credit: Eric Aalto

Sunday, August 16, 2015, Mile 2385: Ready for the Pass

At a small stream and campsite, Mile 2385

Today my goal was a campsite past Mirror Lake and Cold Creek. This part of Section I is covered with forest roads; there are main roads over the passes, completely abandoned roads going nowhere, and every kind of road in between.

Late in the morning, I entered the Cedar River Watershed. This is the main water source for the City of Seattle. I’m definitely in familiar territory now.

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The left side of the trail was strictly off-limits

Next I crossed Yakima Pass, and began the ascent up to Mirror Lake.

Mirror Lake
Mirror Lake and Tinkham Peak *

The lake was crowded with families, including a lot of small children. People were swimming, splashing, and having a grand time. The Mirror Lake Trail is just over a mile long, and while not totally flat, only gains a few hundred feet, so kiddos do pretty well. It was far more crowded than I was used to, but because it was families, I found it very pleasant. I spent enough time to refill my water and have a snack, and then it was on to points north.

My destination was a campsite with a small stream, about four miles up the trail. I was glad I’d tanked up a bit on the way to the campsite, because the “small stream” wasn’t. Fortunately, next morning was almost entirely downhill, with a reliable stream on the way.

I got to the campsite around 7, and the wind began picking up. I rolled my eyes…BTDT…and moved my tent to a lumpier but more protected grove of trees.

Had some pasta primavera for dinner, but since the sauce mix didn’t play well with the cheese, I skipped it and stuck with just cheese and olive oil. I’m definitely enjoying the pasta/cheese/oil combo. It’s easy, tasty, and full of fat and calories.

While I was finishing dinner, a NOBO couple stopped by. Mo’ Betta and her other half, Monte Cristo, and I chatted for awhile, sharing the latest news. I really enjoyed talking with them. They were heading down the trail just a bit, to Olallie Meadows.

I headed to bed early, so that I could be at Snoqualmie Pass late morning (and in time for my First Breakfast!)

Tomorrow, family!

*Photo credit: Washington Trails Association (www.wta.org)

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.

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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!

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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. *
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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.

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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!

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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

Wednesday, August 12, 2015, Mile 2339: Seventeen

At a small creek near Arch Rock Spring, mile 2339

Seventeen miles today. Not too bad for a person who was only supposed to do eight miles a week ago. I hit the trail at 7:15, and even with a long lunch I was in camp twelve hours later. But man, am I tired. I wasn’t sure I could do it, but I did, and that’s rather satisfying.

The reason for the large increase was that there are only a couple of places for water along this stretch of trail, with the first water at 8.5 miles. So I loaded up at Sheep Lake, and headed out, up toward Sourdough Gap.

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Climbing out of the bowl, in the early sunlight.
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Sheep Lake, from Sourdough Gap

Next I traversed the ridges above Pickhandle Basin and the Silver Creek drainage. Due west of me was Crystal Mountain.

I grew up skiing both at Crystal and the Snoqualmie Mountaineers. Crystal has changed quite a bit, of course, but I was able to pick out several of my favorite runs. And because I was above the resort, I had good signal! I got to talk with Steve and Patrick…a completely unexpected treat.

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Crystal Mountain. The upper left center peak is the top of the gondola; this was Chair 2 where I skied quite a bit. I also skied directly below in the opposite bowl. Lower right center, you can just see the base.

I met more awesome people on the trail today, including a couple who were going to start in Campo in March, but the husband became ill and ended up in the hospital for two months. He made a full recovery, and now they’re out sectioning. I think that’s marvelous.

I also met a couple above Crystal. The dad is an AT (Appalachian Trail) vet, and they were meeting their daughter Pocahontas, who is a thru. They were accompanying her for a supported hike from Crystal to Snoqualmie, and surprised her that day. How great is that?

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The ridge above Crystal

At 8.5 miles is a piped spring; it is unfortunately hidden from the trail itself, and so I went an extra half a mile before realizing my error and turning back. A piped spring is just that: a spring with a pipe sticking out to increase accessibility. This particular spring was flowing slowly, but by moving the pipe around I was able to collect enough water.

I spent about half an hour at the spring, filling up, having my lunch, and chatting with sectioners (including a teacher from Sultan High School). From there, it was off to Arch Rock Spring, a little over seven more miles down the trail.  By the time I got there, I was pretty tired, so I skipped the side trail to the spring. In theory, there were a small spring and campsite just down a steep part of the trail.

The campsite was there, alright, but the creek had recently become a mere mud puddle. So it was time for a dry dinner, and then tomorrow I’ll head back up to the spring, and load up with water.

I always study the map and the trail data before bed, and I’m going to see if I can sleep in a little later tomorrow. I only have ten miles tomorrow, as there’s an 11.8 mile dry stretch that I’d like to take first thing the following morning, when it’s cooler and I have fresh muscles.

Peanut M&Ms for dinner tonight.

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.