Archive for July, 2005

July 31, Sun.–25.1 miles–Washington Section L

Sun. July 31       Miles today: 25.1             Total so far: 1,451.8         Begin Washington Section L

We had a very warm, cozy campsite last night, and it was even warmer this morning!  I didn’t need my jacket, even at 5:00 am.  Hot day ahead??  It wasn’t far to a creek where we got water for breakfast and filled our platypuses for the 1,900 foot climb ahead, up to Cutthroat Pass. We had great views as we climbed; I stopped several times for a quick picture.  I am getting really fast at “whip out the camera, aim it, press shutter, turn it off, and get it back into my fanny pack.”

A number of people were camped in the prety alpine area just below the top, only they were just getting up!  At the summit, I was a bit disappointed with the “new view” of the “other side”.  The mountains were very brown and barren, though certainly rugged!  But as we continued, we did cross a very pretty alpine area with rockgarden type flowers.  Me, the gardener, I HAD to stop for a second and admire it.  Then we met a guy out running with his dog.  The poor dog was having a hard time–I’ve never seen a dog with its tongue hanging out so far!

Now we wre headed down to Granite Pass, and the trail got a bit scary, with some big dropoffs (only on one side, hurray–no rerun of Goat Rocks!)  All along the way were litle survey stakes with numbes on them–they’re part of an “upgrade the trail” project.  Granite Pass turned out to be quite pretty, and then it was time for many miles of traversing along steep mountainsides that plunged down into the Swamp Creek Valley.  Partway along, the hillside flattened out and there were a number of little creeks, green meadows, and campsites.  We reached Methow Pass and began the long descent into the Methow River Valley, admiring the dramatic cliffs.  At Golden Creek, we stopped for a nice hot dinner.  I had been worried a bit that today would be another 90 plus degree scorcher; not to worry, it turned out to be warm, but not outrageous. 

Now the PCT took us into the “avalanche territory” of the Methow Valley. You can see the avalanche chutes there very clearly–they look like strips of green meadow that start way up high on a mountain, and run straight down into the valley.  When there’s snow, those are the areas to avoid, and the guidebook earnestly advises early season hikers NOT to linger in one of them.  But in July, we could hike across those “chutes”, and look up and see not a roaring avalanche, but a very lovely meadow with lots of green grass and wildflowers. 

We finally reached Brush Creek, and the beginning of a 2,600 foot climb in the hottest part of the afternoon.  Sigh!  This is becoming a tradition for us, doing big climbs at the worst time of day.  But “gotta make miles” keeps us mushing on.  To add to the fun, the PCT at this point was very rocky and overgrown.  We did glimpse a couple of beaver ponds through the trees, which was interesting (no luck spotting beavers, though), and we also met a couple who were llamapacking.  The llamas were quite dignified, and they were carrying ALL the gear.  Nice!  (But slow–we zipped right past them).

Finally we reached Glacier Pass, had a rest, and pushed on.  There were very fine mountain views, even though technically, we still hadn’t reached the TOP of the climb.  Both the hillside (very wildflowered, by the way) and the PCT grew steeper.  We ended up stopping for supper a little below the summit.  Now we were really high–about 7,000 feet (that’s high, for Washington!) and went on a couple more miles before making camp near Tatie Peak, on a very windy saddle, in a “forest” of larch trees.  The larches are very interesting to look at–I have never seen any before.  The ground was so rocky that it was hard to stake the tarp.  Tomorrow we face over 20 miles of no for-sure water.  We were joking a little about how blase we have gotten about “big” multi-thousand foot climbs here in Washington State.  “No big deal, just another 2,000 foot climb” instead of “Yikes, we have a 2,000 foot climb–it will be tough!” as we used to do in say, southern California.  My only regret today is that I sort of wish we’d hit Stehekin a couple of days ago, so we could have gone to church with the folks there.  Oh well.  We continue to see God at work every day on this trail, and we continue to be in awe of His creation, even in its messed-up current state. 

July 29, Fri.–No miles–Stehekin

Fri. July 29       No miles today     Rest in Stehekin

We didn’t get up till the generator started at 7:00 am, and planned to eat, eat, eat as much as we could today.  The Ranch food is truly awesome, and as thru-hikers, we really can eat!  When I went in for breakfast, I saw a lady who was busy writing a big stack of postcards.  Usually in summer, that would be me, writing to all “my” Awana Club kids.  So I started talking to her, and it turned out that she is ALSO an Awana leader, and that most of the kids she works with are from families who never go to any church, but want their kids to “learn about God” so they drop them off at Awana once a week.   Sure enough, the lady’s stack of postcards were going to “her” Awana kids!  Kids LOVE Awana.  They have a blast playing games, memorizing Bible verses, singing, etc.  It turned out that many of the staff here at the Ranch are Christians, too.  I was so blessed and encouraged to be able to hang out with some other Christians!

After breakfast, I went to the Ranch library to work on writing journal stuff, while Bill went to town on the hiker bus.  The library is well-stocked with plenty of Bibles and good Christian books, as well as LOTS of great trail guides and outdoors books. Downstairs, I could hear some teenage boys who work at the Ranch.  They had come in for a snack, and what were they talking about?  Well, first you have to “see” them.  They were tall, suntanned,  well-muscled, wearing cowboy clothes that were obviously well-used.  And their topic?  Last week’s Sunday School lesson on Psalm 23!  “Yeah, dude, that is like all that’s important to me–the Lord is MY shepherd, and He will like show me where to go and take care of the bad stuff.”  I was blessed all over again, just being able to listen to them!  They were big, strong, hardworking boys who handle horses and drive tractors, but they know God in a real way.  Awesome!

Later on, while I was still scribbling furiously, who should walk in but a very dusty, tired, hungry Pika, just off the PCT.  The Ranch cook fixed him up with a huge sandwich, cookies and fruit, and he was happily eating when I came by to say hi.  Pika said he wants to spend some time at the Ranch stables, since he works as a volunteer at Point Reyes National Seashore (a place where Bill and I do LOTS of hiking, back home!) which has a Morgan Horse Ranch.  The Morgans are being raised and trained as trail horses for rangers to ride.  Pika said he has missed being around horses, and was looking forward to getting to know the horses at Stehekin.  The Ranch has Morgans, of course, but they also raise a rare Norwegian horse breed.

Bill returned then from town, full of enthusiasm about beautiful Lake Chelan, so after lunch (yum!) and sorting through the resupply box Bill had brought from the post office, plus getting a few more things from the “backpacker shack” at the Ranch, we BOTH went back to town on the hiker bus, stopping at the famous Stehekin Bakery, where I got a big pecan sticky bun.  It was great!  Two hikers who’d just gotten in off the PCT were also at the Bakery, pigging on pie and ice cream.  They told us they’d done the whole PCT from Skykomish, on the alternate trail, in only 3 days.  Wow.  It took us 5 days.  Turned out they were a father and son, doing the Oregon & Washington PCT as a “celebration” of the son graduating from high school.  I felt sorry for the son.  He was painfully thin,  and limping, obviously in bad shape, while his dad was all gung-ho and charging ahead, everywhere they went.  The dad was bragging on how they’d been doing 30 plus miles per day.  I only hoped the son would make it.  He seemed determined to finish.

Back on the bus, we arrived at “town.”  The bus driver jokingly warned everyone, “Now you’d better be careful down at the docks.  It can be pretty rough there,” so as I got off, I said, “Thanks for the warning.  I’ll be careful of those dock riffraff!”  Well, the docks were right on truly spectacular Lake Chelan.  It’s 55 MILES long and surounded by the precipitous north Cascades. Wow!! We did a bit of resupply shopping, then sat by the lake eating ice cream cones and having a cold beer, while watching the seaplane take off, plus all the boats and windsurfers.  I almost felt as if I were home again on San Francisco Bay!   The lake is a beautiful deep blue, and the Stehekin River which feeds into it is an amazing shade of turquoise studded with sparkling, foaming white rapids.  (A favorite activity here is whitewater rafting, apparently!)  There are no roads to Stehekin.  You have to fly, boat, or hike in.  It’s a spectacular, special place. 

But today, it was also a HOT place.  People waiting for the bus back to the ranch were all huddled in the shade.  I fervently wished I’d brought my “swim suit” from my pack.  (Again, if I knew then what I know now, I would have just taken off my shoes and watch, and jumped right into the lake for a swim, clothes and all!).    The bus was full going back, because Ranch dinners are famous.  Tonight it ws BBQ chicken, ribs, corn on the cob, etc., and more PIE.  We are totally stuffed.  This time we ate IN the cookhouse, which is a really fun place–lofty ceiling, sawdust floor, log tables, fireplace…great ambiance!   Bill and I then went to bed early–we need rest as much as we need food!   And it is wonderful to know that we are “surrounded” by Christian people here who know God in such a real way.