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

Thursday, August 13, 2015, Mile 2349: Murphy and Cabin and Smoke, Oh My

At a small creek next to a spring, Mile 2349

Last night, Murphy struck. Pretty much everything that could have gone wrong, did, with the exception of a large falling branch, which didn’t land on me. I didn’t get out of camp until 10:30 this morning.

The plan was only ten miles today, which is where I’m at right now; this is the last spring before an 11.8 mile dry stretch, and it was best that I stage here tonight.

So, Murphy. My shoes are starting to split across the toes, after only 100 miles with a moderate-weight pack. This is completely unacceptable from a trail persective, but Brooks Cascadia 10s are notorious for this kind of problem. Steve is going to bring up a new pair when he meets me at Snoqualmie in a few days. I’m going to try Tenacious Tape, and see if that helps hold them together for the next 50 miles. I don’t want to switch models, since these fit so well, and trying a new model of shoe on a long-distance hike could be problematic.

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And the spring. It was merely dripping, and it took me 45 minutes to get the 2.5 liters I needed for the next dry stretch. Of course, once I went back downhill past my campsite, there were two other streams which were flowing a bit faster, and could have saved me a ton of time. Grrrrrrr…

But the hike down to Mike Urich Cabin was easy, ending in a long run through flats down to Government Meadow…a lovely place.

Govt Meadows Sign
Almost there. *
Urich Meadows
And then, the cabin. *
Urich
It was a lovely place. *

Anyway. Ten miles. Stopped at the cabin, which is owned by a local snowmobile club. It’s a really nice place, excellent for shelter during inclement weather. There was a bit of stale magic inside, but I wasn’t that desperate.

I signed the register, and saw that Fuzzy Star had just been there (she’s the German girl I met at White Pass). Also saw ManBearPig’s entry; I know him from the FB group. There were some complaints in the register about people leaving trash, but the cabin was in fine shape when I got there. Oh, and there’s a Real Privy!

So I sat on the porch, in the shade (sitting on a Real Bench is a delight), and had my lunch. I also met two girls who were going from Chinook to Snoqualmie, on their horses. They would pass me eventually, meet me at Mirror Lake, and then I saw them at the pass.

Urich Closeup
The porch, and a Real Bench. *

After the cabin, it was five and small change miles to my campsite. There was a spot on the trail where you’re supposed to have an excellent view of Mt. Rainier. Or rather, you would. There’s enough smoke from the Cougar Creek fire, on the SSE side of Mt. Adams, that all I could see at the view point was a small bit of Little Tahoma.

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Look very closely, and you can just see the bottom of Mt. Rainier through the smoke.

A little further up the trail is the Falls Creek Burn. It’s really eerie, because it’s this entire bowl full of silvered, burned trees. Then if you look back up the trail, you could see the sun. Except the sun was red, from all the smoke. It was a fascinating composition, so I took a handful of pictures there.

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The Falls Creek Burn
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Red sun through the old burn

Anyway, I got to the campsite, and had camp set up in half an hour, which is a big improvement over earlier in the hike. Dinner was a bomb…nothing sounds good at all. So I’m drowning my sorrows in a cup of cocoa. I think my rather discouraged mood is partly because of lack of food. It’s not that I don’t have it, it’s that nothing is appealing. I messaged Steve and said that I’d like to have a true zero at Snoqualmie. I need to regroup a bit.

Tomorrow, do the dry stretch, and see if I want to go further. Probably will, as it’s only 11.8 miles.

*Photo credit: Eric Aalto

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.