Archive for the ‘Preparations’ Category

September 23 All the way home

Friday, January 21st, 2011

In true hobbit fashion, I got to have TWO breakfasts this morning, and enjoyed both! I had an early breakfast with my sister first before reconnecting with Bill, and then had a second breakfast with Bill and our friend John! So I was thoroughly stuffed when John dropped us off at the rental car place.

I’d been worried about the fact that we weren’t scheduled to pick up the car till 9 am. Usually when we drive back to the San Francisco Bay Area from Portland, we leave at 6 am or even earlier. I thought that we’d end up getting home in the dark, late at night. But it turned out I need not have been concerned. We had a very uneventful drive home and got there at a reasonable hour. Driving between Portland and San Francisco follows sort of a pattern. First you drive through the beautiful Willamette Valley, with the Cascade Mountains (and PCT!) to the east, then Highway 5 climbs up into the mountains and begins to rollercoaster up and down, finally reaching its highest point at Siskiyou Summit (where the PCT crosses!) Then you’re still in mountains all the way into northern California (crossing over the PCT again at Castle Crags) till finally dropping down into the great Central Valley with its rice paddies, fruit trees and olive trees. A couple of hours later, and you’re into the coastal hills, pass the marshes of the north end of San Francisco Bay, and then the final “turn for home”.

It is wonderful to be back, especially since the last few days on the trail were pretty tough. We are amazed and grateful that we made it all the way. Both of us are skin & bones and we’ll have to do some serious eating and resting to get back to normal, and I have to really “hit the ground running” to get the Awana Club started up ASAP.

But it was totally worth it to do the PCT again. Back before Etna, we were sitting around eating supper with Croatian Sensation and Not a Chance. We were talking about how we all were doing the PCT a second time instead of doing some other trail. Croatian commented, “Well, we’re the PCT Retreads, I guess.” I guess we are! We love the PCT, and when we got home, we started talking about “let’s do it again in 2015!” We learned a lot on this hike, and we want to try to apply it, and see if we can do better next time.


“The 3rd Monty” Chipman

Sept. 22 The journey home, part 2–on to Portland

Thursday, January 20th, 2011

We had to get up so early this morning in order to have enough time to walk back down to the Amtrak station, that I had figured we wouldn’t be able to get any breakfast.  But no problema!  Even though technically the kitchen at the Green Tortoise was not yet ready with breakfast stuff,  they didn’t care when I stuck my nose in the door and asked if I could get something.  So we ended up with a nice hot breakfast (it being a hostel, of course, you cook it yourself) and headed happily back down First Street for the train station.

Soon we were aboard one of the Amtrak “commuter” trains that runs between Seattle and Portland, and enjoying the scenery and the beautiful morning.  I still feel so tired, even after a relatively restful day yesterday, that I was looking forward to going to my sister’s house in Portland and just “crashing” till we head home via rental car tomorrow.   Amtrak is certainly a fun way to travel, and on this commuter train run, there’s no problem with schedules–the train is ON TIME!  (Not like the long-run Amtrak trains, which are notoriously many hours late). 

Several business people were in seats nearby, all busy on their laptops and cell phones. One of them was commenting that taking Amtrak to Portland was much more efficient than driving, because you can get work done on the train, whereas if you drive, you can’t do much of anything.

The Portland Amtrak station is old and well-restored. It’s right near the Willamette River and right on the edge of downtown Portland.  We had a short, easy walk over to the Max lightrail line.  Bill decided he wanted to go visit a friend of ours whom he hadn’t seen in some time, but I was so tired that I opted to just go to my sister’s house. So Bill hopped off the Max a few stations before I did.   It’s a nice little walk from the lightrail station to where my sister lives, and soon I was sitting at her kitchen table, eating a nice sandwich and talking in whispers, since my brother-in-law works at night and sleeps in the daytime.

After that, I spent the rest of the afternoon and early evening  just lying down on the couch–I read a few chapters of an excellent book by Dorothy Sayers, then just went to sleep.  At dinnertime, I got to eat my fill of FRESH green beans, just picked from the garden, and lots of fresh tomatoes.  Wonderful!  And since my sister and her husband make their own homebrewed beer, I got to try their latest batch.  It was really good–and it only costs them about 25 cents a bottle to make.   I went back to the couch and had a good night’s sleep.  Bill ended up staying at our other friend’s house, since they got into a lengthy discussion about something or other.   I figured that would probably happen!

It was a wonderful thought to know that tomorrow we will be home!

Sun. Sept. 19 Miles today: 28.9 Actual total: 2,648.6 miles

Sunday, September 19th, 2010

Well, it rained quite heavily all night, but we stayed very comfortable under our tarp, with no problems, thanks to the heathery ground underneath us that soaked up every bit of the rain so that nothing ran along the ground.  It was still raining while we ate breakfast and started our packup, but stopped for a brief while as we climbed back up to the PCT and embarked on our last full hiking day!

The rain continued off and on for the rest of the day, sometimes heavily and sometimes lightly, but what made it bearable was that the clouds had lifted and we could see mountains and views once again.  Yesterday, though it didn’t officially “rain”, we were in clouds and mist all day and couldn’t see anything.  The scenery on this part of the PCT is so gorgeous that  rain or no rain, it was a blessing to be able to see it.   Temperature-wise, it was very cold, and I wore most of my layers all day.   We changed our snack times and meal times a bit–the governing consideration was “Look, it stopped raining for a little while!  Let’s eat now!”   Then we would gobble down a Snickers or whatever before moving on.  But at lunchtime, the rain finally stopped for an hour and oh joy!  We found some rocks to sit on–much better than the very wet and muddy ground.

All the colors of the landscape around us are definitely in “autumn mode”.  Even the grass is turning a golden-yellow.  I didn’t get many pictures of it, though, because of the rain, and I have to admit that my enjoyment of the autumn beauty was lessened by being so cold and having to deal with so much rain.  

As far as actual hiking went,  the first “landmark” of the day was reaching Hart’s Pass with its cute ranger station house.  I signed the register there, and was surprised to see that even though it was still very early in the morning, two hikers had already signed in.   I also noticed a lot of cars parked in the area, but no people walking around.  Did that mean we’d be meeting lots of folks on the trail?  We were very sad to see that pretty Meadow Campground, which lies just below the PCT, was devastated by a forest fire.  In the rain and cold, nobody was camping there, and it looked very forlorn.

From Hart’s Pass, the PCT takes a big climb up and up till it reaches “cruising altitude” at about 6200 feet, contouring along mountainsides for many miles, and occasionally dropping down or going up a bit to various “passes.”  At Windy Pass, we had a huge thrill–the highlight of the whole day!  We were sitting by the trail taking a Snickers break, when a MOOSE came strolling by in the meadow, not far away.  We both whipped out our cameras and started taking pictures!  Mr. Moose soon spotted us, stopped and stared at us for awhile.  He had a nice set of antlers, so we were a little bit concerned (we’d heard several hiker tales of  bad-tempered moose), but he finally “floated” away, obviously not worried about us.  I was amazed that such a big, heavy critter could move so effortlessly. 

With the clouds high in the sky, even though it was mostly raining all day, we still got awesome views of the huge U-shaped, glacier-carved forested valleys.  Everything in the landscape here seems to be on a “giant” scale.  Fall colors are everywhere.  Every mountainside is painted in yellow and orange–even the dark green forests are embroidered with bright colors.  We met a hiker who FINISHED the PCT yesterday (way to go!) and was hiking back south to get a ride out at Hart’s Pass.  He gave us welcome news of the hikers who have finished in the last few days, and among them were Trash Bucket and Happy Camper!  What a relief!  Now we know they are OK!

We were passed by The Graduate, who is on a tear for the border.  He plans to hike nonstop till he gets there.   Next we met a dad and daughter out backpacking.  The dad is very enthusiastic about the PCT–his son thruhiked successfully two years ago!  It was fun to talk to them, but we didn’t linger too long–it was coooold!  The trail took us to the top of a pass.  The “new” route then goes WAY down into a valley,before climbing  up again to the next pass.  The “old” route just contoured evenly over, but it was pretty much demolished by rockslides, so was abandoned.   Grumping a little bit, we headed down and began the climb back up. The rain at that point decided it was time to do a “cats & dogs” downpour.  Oh fun!   Bill has been having more and more trouble with big uphill climbs, and this was no exception.  I was soon well ahead of him, and planned to wait at the top.  When I got there I was surprised to find that somebody had set up camp (two tents, plus food hung from trees)  but no-one was there.  I waited for a long time, and no Bill.  Brrr!   The wind and rain were freezing, so I decided to hike along a bit farther to get out of the wind, and stop and wait again.   Still no Bill.  I began to get worried.   

As it turned out, he had taken his time climbing up to the pass, and once he got there he messed around for awhile taking pictures, and also trying to walk “back” a bit on the old PCT trail that’s been abandoned.  Meanwhile, whom should I see coming southbound on the PCT but “Balls” and his lovely little daughter (9 or 10 years old).  The last time I saw him was in the Sierras, when we were both glissading down a pass, and he zipped right past me.  Turned out that he had left off thruhiking because of a foot injury, and had only completed the California PCT– but his daughter really wanted to see Monument 78 (so did he!), so he took her on a little backpack adventure.  They’d been to the monument and were returning to their “base camp” at the pass.  Aha–so that explained the two tents!   Bill finally showed up as I was talking to them, and he and I headed on north together.  The afternoon was very cold and getting colder.  

Finding a place to eat some supper was very hard.  The wind was strong and there were few protected spots.  We finally huddled behind some trees and ate as fast as we could.  Brrrrr!   Then we mushed on fast, partly to stay warm, and partly just to get to a campable place before dark.  Those miles after supper included climbing up to the highest point of the PCT in Section L (7,000-plus feet) in rain, with wind so strong I could not use my umbrella.  Bummer!  I really missed the umbrella–it keeps my head and shoulders and the top of my pack dry, plus it breaks the wind so I stay warmer.  But this wind was far too wild and strong–I had to stow the umbrella.

The PCT went up and up into what on a nice day would be a lovely “alpine garden” area, but for us it was in the cloud, freezing cold and windswept.  We reached the top at last and began switchbacking down to near Hopkins Lake.  Side trails led to some campsites, hooray!  But it was still raining and everything was soaking wet, muddy and cold.  We disagreed about where to set up the tarp, but finally went with the spot Bill wanted.   I was sort of bummed because this was our last night on the trail, and I was hoping for a really nice campsite like we had in 2005.  No such luck, this time.   We barely got the tarp up in time before it was dark, as the rain continued.

Today was a tough haul–a challenge to be met, which is a good thing–but not at all fun.  The upside is that we actually got to SEE some scenery at least for awhile. The other thing that helps me to keep going is to “sing” in my head (not out loud–I need all my breath for hiking!) and I am very glad I’ve learned so many gospel songs and hymns.  I pick one with a good “hiking  rhythm” to it, and “sing” all the verses to myself, then pick another one.  A lot of the thruhikers listen to recordings as they hike–I would find that very distracting.   As the rain pattered on the tarp tonight, we had our last evening Bible reading.   Only 14.9 miles to go, and we are DONE!   I am looking forward to being warm, dry and clean, plus resting my very tired feet.

Thurs. Sept. 16 Miles today: 9.3 Actual total: 2,574.1 miles

Friday, September 17th, 2010

Last night the rain died down and turned into “tree drip”, but it was a very wet world this morning.  I was so tired from the big day yesterday that I “overslept” till 5:30 am, which meant we had to eat a very hurried breakfast and pack up as fast as we could.  When I reached over to get Bill’s food bag, which contained the breakfast granola, there was a mouse in it!  The mouse whisked away and I looked for damage–only a small hole chewed in the food bag, but no damage to the food, as far as I could tell.

Bill was still very determined to catch the bus to Stehekin, but I had my doubts.  We had 9.3 miles to go, and less than 3 hours to do it in.  Normally, that wouldn’t be a problem, as long as we kept up a good pace,  but the trail had been so rough and overgrown that it made for  slow going, and I remembered from 2005 that there were some tricky parts up ahead, with lots of rocks, roots, creek crossings, etc.   As we started out, Bill kept urging me to go faster ( a strange situation, because for the last several days, it’s been me out in front, and slowing down for him) but I hesitated because lately every time I hike fast, I end up falling.   So I kept up a good pace, but not fast enough for Bill!   He  finally gave up on me and said, “See you at the Ranch–I’m going to Stehekin!”   He was soon out of sight.

What a relief it was to NOT have to be on a tear along the trail!  I deliberately slowed down and began to relax and enjoy myself.   And there was plenty to enjoy! Mushrooms of all sorts almost “lit up” the ground in the forest.  Every day there have been more of them, and this morning, the display was awesome!  I saw great big huge mushrooms and tiny, fragile little ones.  The PCT alternates between forest and open areas as it travels down the South Fork Agnes Creek canyon.  In the forests, the trail was very nice, and the mushrooms were beautiful, but the open areas were another story!  To get through one of those, I was pushing my way through wet bushes.  Sigh. 

At one of the creek crossings,  I was amazed to find Bill waiting for me on the other side.  He had crossed on a log that was rather steep and slippery, and was concerned that I wouldn’t be able to manage it without help.  Actually, crossing on a steep slippery log was not something I would try even with help!  I just forded the creek–but I was very touched that Bill had stopped there.  And I was worried that this would mean he’d never make it to the bus on time.  He took off again, and I followed him.

As you get farther down toward Stehekin, things do start to dry out.  The trail sort of rollercoasters its way, with more down than up, and an occasional sunbeam managed to break through the clouds.  That was encouraging!  And the trail itself became quite nice and smooth, so I decided to start hiking faster.  Not a good idea!  Again, I didn’t see a little loop of root lurking on the edge of the trail–my toe caught in it, and I was instantly flying, right off the trail and down the hill.   And again, due to my pack and the grace and mercy of God, I landed on my back on some nice soft plants, unhurt.  I just lay there a minute to make sure I was all right, and thanked God for His protection.  After a bit of a struggle to get back on my feet, I climbed back up to the trail, and said to myself, “That does it!  I am NOT going to try to hike fast!  I guess I am too worn down to do it safely anymore.”  And it was true.  I felt very tired, and even my brain felt exhausted.  It’s been a long way since Mexico!

So after that I just walked along quickly, but without “pushing for speed” and finally reached the spectacular Agnes Creek gorge and the amazing bridges that take the PCT over the roaring river (not sure why they call it a “creek”!).   Bill was waiting by the road.  He had not been able to make it to the bus in time, so we strolled over to the bus stop and sat down to eat some Snickers and nuts and other odds ‘n ends from our packs before starting down the road to Stehekin Valley Ranch.   Up ahead were thick gray clouds, lying low.  Bill commented that it must be fog from the lake, but the closer we got, the more we realized “That’s not fog–it’s SMOKE!”

And smoke it was–the USFS people were doing a controlled burn in the forests along the road.   We walked right through the whole thing.  There was very little actual flame–mostly it was a lot of smoldering.  The Forest Service people had looooong canvas hoses snaking down to the river, where pumps kept the firefighters supplied with water.   And they were just strolling casually around spraying a bit of water here and there–no rush, no fuss.  ( They had closed one trail, however.)   I loved watching them with their hoses and special tools,  and kept stopping to look and take pictures.  I had never seen such a sight before!  Poor Bill finally said, “Enough is enough!  Let’s go–we need to get to town!”

Just beyond the blackened, smoky forest lay the bright green pastures of Stehekin Valley Ranch.   We lucked out and got the last available cabin for tonight, and the always-wonderful staff said it didn’t matter that it was still well before lunchtime–we were welcome to start eating anytime!   So we tucked in to chili,  huge sandwiches and cookies, all washed down with cowboy coffee.  We unpacked our gear and spread it on chairs to dry, and I got the laundry ready for a trip to town.  Normally I would have just done it at the Ranch, but the weather looked like rain, and at the Ranch, there is no clothes dryer–just a lot of clotheslines.  (Not to mention the air was very smoky, and we would have ended up with “smoked clothes”). 

On the way to town, of course we stopped at the Bakery and I got one of their huge cinnamon rolls, which Bill and I shared.  There were a couple of other thruhikers on the bus, too, and we had fun talking about our adventures.   Once in town, I did the usual town chores of laundry and shopping and picking up our food box.  The shopping part was disappointing–there wasn’t much I could use at the store, not even peanut butter!   I decided to get some of what we needed from the Ranch when we got back.   And at the Post Office, it was fun to talk to the very friendly postmistress.  But while I was there, I also saw something that worried me.  There was a whole pile of PCT hiker boxes waiting to be picked up, and the top one was for Happy Camper and Trash Bucket.   We thought they were ahead of us.   Had we somehow beat them to town?   That seemed very unlikely.   I stopped to pray for them, concerned that something might have happened.  (We found out later that they were just on a tear to finish.  I guess they decided they didn’t need all the stuff they’d mailed to themselves).  I also went through the hiker box and found a bunch of bandaids (hooray–Bill’s leg needed them!) and a bit of useable food.  The PO lady said that her only problem with the hiker box is that the Stehekin kids know about it, and after school some of them come in and go through the box looking for goodies–till she spots them and chases them out!

Once I got the laundry done, we still had 2 hours till the next bus, so we went to the little park by Lake Chelan and I spent the time mending Bill’s badly torn pants, now that they were clean and not still all bloody!  Bill simply lay down on the grass and took a nap.   There was not a breath of wind, and the lake was like a pond–very lovely with the mountains all around.  It was fun to watch the various watercraft and the seaplanes.   Overhead, the sky was very cloudy, but the air temperature was pleasant.   The little store had posted a printout of the weather report for the next several days, and it was not good.  “Rain, rain, rain” was basically what it said.    I thought to myself, “Boy, we are really going to need ‘rain grace’ and patience to finish this hike!”  I am still feeling very tired, and wished I could join Bill in napping on the grass.

Back at the Ranch, we totally pigged out at their fantastic dinner spread.  There was BBQ salmon and lots of side dishes, plus SIX different kinds of pie!  Wow!  We waddled back to our cabin, took showers and I doctored Bill’s gashed leg.  The swelling has completely gone away, and I don’t think it will bleed anymore.  Last night it did, and got blood all over Bill’s silk longjohns that he sleeps in on cold nights.   I bandaged him up, and then we went to bed.  Just after I turned out the lights, it started to POUR rain–oh, what a lovely sound, when heard from INSIDE a cabin, UNDER a roof!  Back to the PCT tomorrow!

Wed. Sept. 15 Miles today: 26.7 Actual total: 2,564.7

Thursday, September 16th, 2010

An “interesting” start for the day today–I misread my watch in the early morning darkness and thought it said 5:30 am when in actual fact it was only 4:30 am!  We sat up, ate our breakfast, and started packing up under the tarp, wondering “Why is it still so dark?”  We could tell that it was cloudy, but that didn’t account for the blackness.   Then I took another look at my watch and said, “Oh no–it’s WAY early!  No wonder it’s dark!”  So we draped our sleeping bags over us and lay down for another 20 minutes, till the light was better.  As a result, we got an early start on our hike today, which was good, because I had labelled today as “Scary Day,” due to the upcoming crossing of the “unfordable Suiattle River.”

The sunrise was gorgeous as we hiked along the PCT–all colors, and beautiful cloud formations.  We were still surrounded by snowy peaks, and the trail continued to climb gently through a very alpine area before it finally launched into another10 kazillion switchbacks down into the valley below.  Partway down is Dolly Vista camp (and yes, the vistas ARE awesome!) where we met another thruhiker just packing up.  He said he was so thrilled with the beauty of the view and the sunrise that he just sat and watched the sky instead of “hitting the trail” as soon as he woke up.  Then he said, “I may be wrong, but I really think the PCT yesterday was at least 2 or 3 miles longer than the guidebook says, with all those long new switchbacks.  What do you guys think?”   Well, we fervently agreed!

Then we continued down the switchbacks.  Marmot holes were everywhere, sometimes located one right above the other in a hillside, and even right next to the PCT–but there were no marmots in sight anywhere.  Were they all still asleep?  Did they start hibernating already?

Once we got down into the forest, the “fun” began.  The trail was constantly being blockaded by blowdowns of HUMUNGEOUS trees.  Their trunk diameters were enormous.  When I stood next to one of these fallen giants, lying on its side, it was taller than I am.And often when one fell, it took a bunch of other trees down with it, so we were being faced by some really complex obstacle courses.  Sometimes we detoured way out around the blowdown mess, fervently hoping we’d be able to relocate the PCT on the other side.  At one point, I really thought we HAD lost the trail and was trying to figure out what to do.  Sometimes we climbed over the huge fallen monsters.  Sometimes we sort of squiggled through them.  On one in particular, Bill was busy looking for a way to climb over, while I wandered off a bit to the side and discovered a way to squeeze UNDER.   Later on, we met another hiker who said he actually used a rope to climb over that tree, only to discover after all his efforts, that he could have squeezed under it farther “up the line.”  His comment was, “GRRRRRR!”   I was also kind of “grrring” because the bottoms of my pant legs are so beat up after 2,500 miles, that they were catching in everything and getting torn up even worse.  My solution finally was to tuck them into my socks. 

But aside from the blowdowns, the forest was lovely.  It looked like sort of rainforest to me.  The trees were huge, the plants were lush and green, and the creeks were pretty.  We had a couple of creek crossings–Bill logwalked, and I forded.   If I tried to logwalk, it would take too long. 

Eventually we reached a much more open, drier forest and the trail headed straight for the notorious Suiattle River.   We’d been told to follow the rock ducks to where a log provided a safe crossing of the “unfordable” river.  Sure enough,  when we got to the bottom of the valley, there was a vast, wide “moonscape” that was the bed of the river when it’s in full raging torrent.  It was all sand and boulders.  Footprints and ducks led off to the right, upstream, but we could see glimpses of the river.  I thought to myself, “That doesn’t look any worse than some of the Sierra rivers we had to ford.”  and thought about suggesting that we just go for it and ford the Suiattle.  But I decided maybe it would be better to use the log, since everyone seemed so emphatic about that being the ONLY safe way across.

We slogged along through the sand and rocks for quite a ways before the “trail” turned toward the river, and there was The Log, which other hikers had described as “substantial.”  My first reaction was, “Substantial, hah!  That’s one skinny log!  I thought it was going to be a big moose of a thing, like those blowdowns we got through earlier.”   And I would agree that the Suiattle AT THAT POINT was definitely unfordable.  It was roaring and obviously deep, because it was in a narrow place (which is why the log fit all the way across). 

Bill crossed first, just walking carefully, and was soon on the other side.  There was no way I was going to walk that log!  So I got down and crawled across,  making sure of each move so that I would not slip.  Fortunately, the log still had its bark on, so that gave a good secure, non-slippery surface to hold on to.   It was still very scary for me.  I just kept moving along, praying as I went that I would choose the right spots to hold on to and that I would be OK.  And the only problem I had (sigh) was that out in the very middle, where the current below is at its worst, there was the root part of another tree that had caught against The Log I was crossing on.  One of the roots caught my trek poles which were lashed to my pack  and I had to sort of sit down and disentangle the root from my poles before moving on.   To say I was glad to reach the other side would be a huge understatement!    This kind of thing scares me tremendously, and I told God I was VERY grateful for His help, courage-wise!  Bill also gave me a hug, and that helped, too!

Then we followed a sometimes confusing “path” of hiker footprints and occasional rock ducks, back downstream to the PCT.  This side of the river wasn’t just sand and rocks–it also included a lot of logs, so that made the going a bit trickier.  The PCT headed uphill for our last big climb–to the top of Suiattle Pass.  Partway up, at the corner of a switchback, we stopped to cook some lunch, and another hiker caught up with us.  Crossing the Suiattle was the topic of conversation, of course!  We all agreed that it would probably have been easier to just ford the river down where the PCT “officially” crosses, since the river is wider there and no worse than the Sierra rivers.

The trail up to the pass was all in forest at first, with no views, but there was very pretty fall foliage along the trail.  Finally we got up high enough to see mountain views–but we also got a good view of the sky, and sighed when we saw that it had really clouded over.  This morning had been a mix of sun and clouds, but now it looked like the clouds had won, and were planning to rain.  At the top of the pass, we cheered, “Stehekin, here we come!” and began charging down the switchbacks.  The trail was very nice dirt, not all rough and rocky.

However, that nice dirt trail at one point had a little loop of root lurking, and I caught my left toe in it.  I was hiking very fast, and before I realized what had happened, I was flying through the air, off the trail, just barely missing a stump.  I landed on my back, and my pack took the brunt of the fall, so I was not hurt at all.  I was lying there thinking, “Thankyou, Lord–I’m OK!” and Bill, back up on the trail, looked down and said, “Wow, you did a great mid-air turn there, to land on your back!”  Well,  it wasn’t me that organized that mid-air turn.  I think it was just physics–my pack was heavy enough to pull me around.  And hey, I also give God some credit, too.  That could have been a really bad fall, especially if I hit the stump.  I agree with Joe Anderson at Casa de Luna–there is no such thing as “luck”–it was at least to some degree, God at work. 

Bill gave me a hand up from where I’d landed, and I looked myself over–all fine, except for mud all over my pant leg.  I now look very disreputable–one pant leg all torn up from climbing over blowdowns and the other all covered with mud.  

But a short time later, it was Bill’s turn to look disreputable, only in a much more serious way.  We had turned off the PCT to follow the  South Fork Agnes Creek Trail down toward Stehekin.  We took this trail in 2005 and liked it then, because it just simply and steadily heads downhill all the way, whereas if you stick with the PCT, you have a goodly climb first, then the downhill.  We’d gone a good distance on the Agnes Creek trail when we reached a very simple, steppingstone crossing of a creek.  I was ahead, and went happily across, then headed on along the trail, when I heard a yelp and cry from Bill.  I screeched to a halt and hurried back to the creek, to find Bill all bloody-legged and sort of tangled up on the rocks.  It turned out that he had slipped on one of the steppingstones and fell–not into the creek, but into more rocks.  He had badly gashed his shin and had blood everywhere, running down his leg and dripping on the rocks.  It looked bad enough that for a moment I was afraid he might have broken his leg.   But he managed to get to his feet and hobble the rest of the way across the creek, where we assessed the damage. Whew!  It was a nasty gash and a lot of scraping, but didn’t look like a hike-ending injury.  But it was pretty messy.  Bill had blood all over his pants, socks and shoe.  I cleaned up the gash and we put a large bandaid on it.   Then to add to the “fun”, as we were working on Bill’s leg, the clouds that had been threatening to rain decided “It’s rain time!” and there we were trying to fix Bill’s leg while the rain came down.  So we had to scramble to put on rain gear and get our packs into “rain mode”.

Finally all was done, and Bill began to cautiously walk again to see how his leg felt.  He said he could manage to hike OK, so we marched on through the rain, pushing through very wet bushes overhanging the trail. At times the bushes were so thick we could hardly see the trail.   Previous to this section, the trail had actually been very well-maintained, including bush-trimming.  Oh well.

We stopped for supper under a tree where the ground was still dry and decided to push on for as long as we dared, in hopes of minimizing the mileage into Stehekin tomorrow.   Bill wanted to make the 9:00 bus; I figured we’d never make that, but could at least walk into Stehekin Valley Ranch by lunchtime.    The rain continued off and on as we hurried along.  We reached Hemlock Camp, where the PCT and Agnes Creek trail rejoin and pushed on till 7 pm, when it was starting to get dark–we did succeed in reaching the next of the camps.  A light rain was falling as we set up the tarp and got ready for bed, which included me carefully cleaning and bandaging Bill’s very nasty cuts and scrapes.  His leg was a mess, but I think it will be OK, aside from probably a bit of scarring.  I am sure I will have a permanent scar on my knee from when I fell, weeks ago.  It still has not really healed, though it doesn’t hurt and shows no sign of infection.

We are at a much lower elevation here than we have been for several days, and it is noticeably warmer.  Agnes Creek is roaring close by.  I was VERY glad to finally crawl into the sleeping bag and listen to the rain pattering on the tarp.  This has been quite a day!