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

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

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.