Saturday, August 8, 2015, Mile 2299: On the Trail Again

At Pipe Lake, Mile 2299

First thing this morning, Steve and I headed back south, again with Top Pot donuts, for my great return. We distributed the wealth to some very happy hikers. Then I headed back up the highway to the trail junction, while Steve headed to Prosser for some well-deserved wine tasting.

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Back at White Pass!
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Ready to go

The goal for today was just 8 miles, very mellow, with only 1300 feet of gain. I’ve put together a bailout plan for White to Chinook, including side trails every 10 miles (and 20 miles between Chinook and Snoqualmie). My plan is to do low mileage and get plenty of rest.

And today’s hike was pretty flat, full of delightful little lakes.  They’re so small that very few of them have names.

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I spent tonight at Pipe Lake, a pretty little place with water warm and clear enough for swimming. I got to the lake about 4, and quickly set up camp. I was feeling pretty bummed about not going fast, and was missing the family. So I decided to document a standard campsite.

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The kitchen.

In front is my Ursack, a bearproof Spectra bag lined with an odorproof OPSak zip top bag. Together, these hold about five days worth of food. The stove is a 2 oz. MSR Microrocket, and the pot is a Snow Peak 700 ml titanium with a lid. That, plus a long handled spoon, is my entire cook kit, and everything except the spoon fits into the pot.

In the back is my sit pad, a couple of ziplocs containing my day’s food, a bandana for spills and for use as a hot pad, and my clean water/drinks bottle. And behind the log is my collapsible 1L bottle, which I use for collecting water and as a secondary carrier.

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My tent is a Big Agnes Copper Spur one man.  You can’t see much else inside, but the blue blob is my backpacking quilt.  A quilt is much lighter than a sleeping bag; mine is only 19 oz.  The theory behind a quilt is that when you’re in a bag, the insulation under you is squashed, and thus can’t do its job.  My quilt attaches to my sleeping pad via two elastic straps, and I sleep directly on my pad.

In front of the tent are my trail runners and (rather skanky) socks.  Most long distance hikers use trail runners; they are much lighter, and a pound on the feet is equivalent to about five on the back, in terms of energy outlay. I have a history of wobbly ankles, but if anything the trail runners make that less of an issue…I am able to feel what’s going on better than I ever did with boots. Add trekking poles to that mix, and it’s a big win for me.

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And speaking of trekking poles, here they are, Black Diamond Alpine Carbon Cork. I got these just before I left, to replace my much loved but long-in-the-tooth aluminum poles.  The new ones are fantastic.

The poles are doing double duty here, holding my Delorme inReach SE satellite communicator.  It allows me to text with Steve, get updated weather forecasts, and call Search and Rescue.  I love this thing, plain and simple.

After I started making dinner, I got a campsite-mate named Elroy. He’s of retirement age, and is a SOBO, from Austin, TX.  Apparently I was only the second person he’d shared a campsite with, since he left the border.  We had a good chat. His plan is to go to White Pass tomorrow for a resupply, and then head to Trout Lake to pick up some new gear from REI. He’s also hiking on a broken toe, which he claims is more numb than anything else. I wish him all the best.

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Sunset at Pipe Lake

So far my leg is only having the occasional twinge. I am very pleased, needless to say. I’m sleeping in tomorrow, since I’m only going about nine miles.

Thursday, July 30, 2015, Mile 2292: White Pass Zero

At White Pass, Mile 2292

Got up this morning, and it was pretty clear that my leg wasn’t better. I went down to the store, had a heaping plate of biscuits and gravy, and decided to take a zero. A zero is when you stay two nights in one place, and have zero miles on the middle day. It gave me more time to organize my resupply, and to rest my leg. So after breakfast I went back up the (steep) stairs to the motel, and paid for another night.

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Hanging out in front of the Kracker Barrel, with Caesar, Eastbound, and Fluffy Star. Photo credit: Teri Stalcup (Peanut).

I planned on hanging out at the store, and spending time napping and icing. I met Fluffy Star (aka Kathrin Schulte), a girl from Germany (who likes fluffy things, and stars). And I met Peanut (aka Teri Stalcup), and Goat.

After lunch, I bought another bag of ice and headed back to the motel room. A few hours of reading, napping, and icing later, I gave it up and had another enormous sub sandwich for dinner.

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Relaxing and putting the feet up

While I was down there, a woman named Peter Pan (aka Denise Lane) arrived. There were no more hotel rooms, as there was a large high school cross country camp going on. I offered to share mine, and so we got her situated. A couple of the guys wanted to share as well, but that was not where I needed to go.

I called Steve from the motel room, and said I thought I needed to see a doctor, but that I’d decide in the morning. A bit later, Denise (who is an acupuncturist from Oregon) was looking at my leg, and saying “Oh, that’s not good.” It was getting more red, hot and swollen by the hour, and I finally called Steve and said I needed to go to the doctor first thing on Friday 7/31.

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Nasty medical-type picture. This was the shot we shared with the doc.

So his plan was to arrive by nine, and we’d head into Yakima. I packed up my stuff, carefully so that everything was in its place, and not haphazardly like I didn’t care anymore. Because I do care, and I need to have hope.

Wednesday, July 29, 2015, Mile 2292: Kracker Barrel

At White Pass, Mile 2292

I got up at 5. Today’s goal, of course, was the Kracker Barrel, 13 miles and 2000 feet; my resupply box was there, and they closed in the late afternoon. I had to hit the trail early, as I knew I’d be in pain all the way.  My leg was *really* beginning to hurt. Well, actually, it has been hurting, since the second day. It’s my foot, ankle, and lower leg, getting worse. And worse. And worse. But my only choice has been to hike 40 miles on a bad leg.

It was time to quit my complaining, and head for White Pass. I refilled at the spring, which was maybe a quarter mile off trail, and I was off. It was a long day, but not without its eye candy.

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Mt. Rainier was becoming a much more frequent visitor

The trail went generally up, until the junction with the Shoe Lake Trail. I met the group of retirees there while I was having a snack break. They were going to take the alternate loop down to Shoe Lake. I stuck to the main PCT; there was a large talus slope, but after that the views were amazing.

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Shoe Lake, looking down from the main PCT

We met again at the junction, crested the ridge, and then traversed a stunning basin around Hogback Mountain and Hogback Ridge. Mt. Rainier showed her head above the ridge, and behind us was a beautiful view of the Goat Rocks.

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The trail around the basin, toward Hogback on the right
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One last view of the Goat Rocks, with the top of Mt. Adams just visible behind the ridge

Alas, with my reduced speed, they were soon out of sight. The trail began a long descent to Ginette Lake, where I grabbed a liter, and then switchbacked down to White Pass.

From the pass itself, it’s a half mile road walk west to the Kracker Barrel, home to resupply boxes, convenience store foods, a little bit of a menu, and all kinds of general goodness. I arrived about 4, only a little later than I thought I’d be.

My plan was to grab my resupply box and hit the trail. But I decided the heck with it: I’m going to get a room at the lodge, resupply, sleep late, and regroup in the morning. So I’ve got a nice Motel-6-esque room with kitchenette, which as far as I’m concerned is the Taj Mahal. I exploded my pack (yes, that is a phrase), and headed down to pick up my resupply.

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My first resupply box. Best part? More Snickers.
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And then, FOOD! For the record, that sandwich was huge.

I took the last bit of my dinner, went out, and camped on the bench along the front of the store. It’s the hiker hangout, and I got to chatting with a girl (whose name I can’t remember). Turns out she has shin splints, and was going to skip a SOBO section to head to Trout Lake. She’s getting compression sleeves, and is the second person who is using those for shin splints (Casey Burt being the other one).  We compared symptoms, and at this juncture it looks like it could be a leading candidate for me. It’s certainly not an uncommon injury among long distance hikers. Anyway, Steve will be bringing compression sleeves up with the Chinook Pass resupply (THANK YOU).

I’ve been having a great time at the Kracker Barrel so far; lots of giggles over this, that, and the other thing. Far more so than last year, I feel part of a community. And that’s good, because that’s one of the things I’ve been hoping to find.