Archive for the ‘Washington – H’ Category

Friday, September 3, 2010 Miles Today: 22.5 Actual Total: 2,300

Friday, September 3rd, 2010

Wowee! Goat Rocks today! (Probably one of the most spectacular parts of the PCT.) We started off early, still in semi-darkness, determined to have breakfast at Cispus River, 3.5 miles away. But the PCT  going over Cispus Pass turned out to be a tough uphill with lots of rocks, so we only made it to the top of the pass before we decided, “Food now!” After enjoying breakfast with a view, we headed on down to the Cispus River, then on through steep green meadows, wildflowers, cascades, and alpine gorgeousness, before beginning the big long uphill to Old Snowy Mountain.

It was slow going for us because of the rough trail. Our 70 and 62-year-old feet don’t have much “fat padding” on them anymore! I soon gave up any hope of reaching Highway 12 today and decided to just enjoy the awesomeness around us.

At our midmorning Snickers break, we saw three very large marmot-looking critters on the hillside across the way from us.  It was fun watching them.  Still no luck spotting any mountain GOATS, though, even though we were getting close to Goat Rocks.  We got to our first snowfields on the trail–no problem getting across, even though they were hard and icy.   When we got to the Packwood Glacier,  it was 10:00 am, and Bill as usual, just zipped across.  I followed a lot more cautiously, and at first it was OK–the snow had softened enough to provide decent footing.  But halfway across, it turned to icy, hard and slippery, on a sidehill with a long runout to rocks at the bottom.  I sent my ice axe and Microspikes home long ago, so all I had were my trek poles.  Ack!  Bill was waiting on the other side and when he saw how slowly I was going, trying to chip out steps with the tip of my trek pole, he found a rock with a sharp edge and started using it to chop some steps for me.  Once I reached him, I was able to zip the rest of the way across.  Thank you, Bill!   And even though it was tough going, wow, the views up there were gloriously glorious.  We could even see Mt. St. Helens on the horizon–the side that was blown out by the eruption.  It was very gray and dour-looking.

Just before the famous “Knife Edge”, we discovered that the quick ‘n easy horse trail was completely impassable due to snow, so we had to take the longer, tougher hiker route.  It’s basically a lot of switchbacks up through rough lava boulders and rocks till you get to the top of the ridge.  At the top, we found a couple resting and talked to them for a little while, while trading  off taking pictures of each other.  Turned out they were just doing a short backpacking trip, “During the week,” they said.  “We hate the crowds here on weekends.”  They had stopped for a break because their feet were blistered and their knees were sore (common problems for folks who only backpack occasionally).

We left the couple still resting and headed down more steep, unbelievably rough ‘n rocky switchbacks to the “start” of the Knife Edge.  Actually, it was a relief to be back on dirt trail, even if it was only a few feet wide, with multi-thousand foot drop-offs on both sides, and to add to the fun, a strong, gusty wind blowing. I stood there facing what in 2005 was 1.5 miles of sheer terror for me, since I am/was afraid of heights. Not this time; last summer I went up Mt. Whitney, where there are also big scary drop-offs right by the trail.  Up on Whitney, at first I forced myself through those spots, scared stiff and miserable, but determined to make it through.  (For those of you who could care less about heights, this probably sounds silly, but if you are like me, you understand!)  Coming back down Whitney, I asked God to help me be braver and wow, what a difference!  I still don’t like big drop-offs right next to me, but I am no longer totally terrified.

So this time, I ENJOYED the Knife Edge trail–the views of steep, spectacular snowy mountains, the blue lakes way down below, the green meadows and forests–all there to enjoy, and the blustery wind adding to the experience.   We had a great time up there, and I almost felt regret when we finally were back down  on flatter ground.  Some stunted trees gave us a bit of a break from the wind as we cooked up a lunch made up of odds ‘n ends from our almost empty food bags.  It was a sort of mishmash of  noodles, salami, bacon bits & cheese, very tasty. The noodle cooking water became hot chocolate.  Then it was back to the trail, (dirt, not rocks, hooray!) till at about 3:15 we got to a junction that had us wrassling with map and compass, trying to figure out “Which way for the PCT?”

Finally got it figured out, and from there till about 6:45, it was uphill, sometimes fairly steep, as we climbed to the top of a long ridge, then contoured along its side.  Supper was “Eat everything we have left”.  Finally we reached the top of Hogback Mountain and stopped to soak up the incredible views of Goat Rocks, Mt. Rainier, and the mountains to the north.  Wow!  We decided to go on till 7:15ish so that we’d only have a few miles to go in the morning to reach the highway.  The views on the trail down continued to be lovely–evening light on alpine lakes below us–can’t get much better than that!

At 7:10, we found a really nice campsite in a nook beside the trail, in a grove of trees.  The wind was blowing hard, but we were protected enough that we said, “Cowboy camp tonight– breakfast at the Kracker Barrel tomorrow!

Walk with Aragorn to Minas Tirith: In coastal lowlands near the Gilrain estuary

Thursday, September 2, 2010 Miles Today: 27.1 Actual Total: 2,277.5

Thursday, September 2nd, 2010

A very cold 38 degree morning, but clear skies! It was “walk through the huckleberry bushes day” all day— tall ones, short ones, green ones, turning-red ones and still NO berries! First thing in the morning, we had a couple of river crossings of glacier melt off Mt. Adams. One was an easy rockhop, but the Adams River was trickier and I got one foot wet in the icy water. Ow! The poor foot (which had already been stuck into cold wet socks and shoes earlier in the morning) was not happy!

But at breakfast we found a big glacier-polished rock in full sun with an awesome view of Mt. Adams, and all of me (including the foot) felt much better! Down from Mt. Adams we went, enjoying views of Mt. Rainier as well (a special privilege–Rainier is so often shrouded in clouds).  But we had to keep moving–it was still cold, and in the shade the ground was frozen, with frost still white on the plants and ice crystals in every puddle.  It was so cold that when we reached the famous Lava Spring, we didn’t stop for a drink as we did in 2005–it was just too cold to be drinking icy spring water.  Brrrr!

We finally got to a road, and I admit to fervently hoping there might be a trail angel food cache there, because we are on short rations right now.  In an effort to save on pack weight for this long stretch, I cut our food to a minimum– but then we didn’t make as many miles as we’d planned on.  Now we are definitely running low!  But bummer–no cache!   Oh well.  We hurried through a “lake district” full of pretty little ponds and lakes, but well-populated with mosquitoes, before beginning a long climb up to the top of a ridge where the PCT then circumnavigates a huge valley. Much of this part of the trail involved pushing through knee and thigh-high huckleberry bushes hanging over the trail.  And some of it was down IN the valley, which was very boggy and mosquitoe-y.  We turned on the afterburners to get out of there as fast as we could.

But we still had nice views of Mt. Adams, and across the valley, we could see the mountains of Goat Rocks!  The afternoon turned out very warm (Ahhh! It sure felt good!) and we made it all the way to Walupt Creek and found a nice campsite on a knoll. The wind was picking up and clouds were rolling in, so we set up the tarp carefully.  Looks like it will be another cold night, but Goat Rocks tomorrow!

Walk with Aragorn to Minas Tirith: In a valley near the Anduin and Gilrain rivers

Wednesday, September 1, 2010 Miles Today: 23.9 Actual Total: 2,250.4

Wednesday, September 1st, 2010

It rained all night, but we were warm and cozy under our faithful tarp. Next morning it was still raining in the morning, but warmer, hooray. We did an unheard of thing— ate breakfast in bed!  (The thought of eating a cold, soggy breakfast on the trail was seriously NOT very appealing!)  Then off we went onto the very muddy, puddle-y PCT, pushing through wet huckleberry bushes along the trail. Still no berries, though. I did enjoy looking at the pretty bracken ferns–they are still green, with no sign of fall color yet.

The rain was slowing down a bit when we stopped at a creek to get some water.  Another hiker was there, washing out his oatmeal pot (I guess he didn’t mind eating a cold, soggy trail breakfast??).  We talked with him a bit, and we all agreed that the clouds & rain could go on indefinitely (after all, this IS Washington!), but we were hopeful for some sun when we got closer to Mt. Adams, since right on the other side of the mountain there is warm, dry, eastern Washington.

As we continued on, we passed another PCT hiker, who asked if we were going in to Trout Lake.  He said he was DONE with hiking in the rain.  We said, “No, we hike rain or shine,” and kept on going through the dripping forest all morning till hooray! A ray of sun!

By noon, two wonderful things happened— 1. The best PCT hiker cache I have seen since southern CA (placed by the folks of Trout Lake Abbey) and 2. The sun came out!

Shortly after the cache, we met another hiker who was cooking lunch. Bill had an interesting conversation with him as to whether the “abbey” was Catholic or Buddhist. “I prefer Catholic,” Bill said, “with Buddhists, you get what you deserve. With Catholics, you get what you don’t deserve, because of Jesus. I don’t want to get what I deserve.” “Neither do I!” said the other hiker.

Note from Alexa: Trout Abbey is a Zen meditation centre.

A half hour or so later, we stopped to cook our own lunch, and hung out our stuff to catch some sun–a bit tricky, because even though the sun was out, the trees were still dripping.  But it was so great to be eating a tasty hot lunch while sitting in SUNSHINE.  Since we knew we had a big climb ahead of us up to Mt. Adams, we were glad of a bit of R & R.

On the long uphill, we met a couple of guys on horseback, leading two other horses–they were returning from dropping off trail crew supplies.  And we met several very discouraged, soggy backpackers who were heading down for the trailhead.  Apparently it really poured up on Mt. Adams–they had it pretty tough yesterday.  We could see evidence on the trail itself that yes, no kidding, it really did rain heavily in the last day or so up there.

By later afternoon, we’d reached Mt. Adams, with wonderful alpine scenery, wildflowers galore, green meadows, and snowy white Mt. Adams towering above it all.  At 6:00 pm, even though we hadn’t finished our 25 mile quota, we decided to call it a day when we found a supernice campsite with a view of Mt. Adams.  What a relief to be setting up camp in the sunshine instead of racing to beat the darkness!  We got into our sleeping bags to eat supper, while watching a beautiful gold-orange sunset.  I could seriously get used to this eating in bed routine!  But we are very tired, especially Bill, since he’s still not running at 100% normal, and that was a lot of uphill today! (Worth it, though–so worth it!  This is one of the most beautiful parts of the PCT!)

Walk with Aragorn to Minas Tirith: In Dor-en-Ernil, the lands of Prince Imrahil

Tuesday, August 31, 2010 Miles Today: 25.7 Actual Total: 2,226.5

Tuesday, August 31st, 2010

When we woke up, we were in a cloud and all our stuff was damp. We were in the dark woods and with the heavy clouds, it was REALLY dark when we started to get up.   While doing everything by headlamp, I managed to drop Bill’s watch (he takes it off at night so I can have it next to me to check on the time) and with all the plants and the dark, I could not find it.  I was very bummed.  I hunted and hunted for it, but no luck.  It was cold too— 48 degrees— so we dared not just stand around for long–we needed to get moving.  So some little ground squirrel may get to have Bill’s watch.

 Soon the PCT reached a very pretty “lava garden” with mossy rocks, “bonzai” plants, and vine maple just barely beginning to show a little color.  I really like this part of the trail!  It’s almost like being in a Japanese garden.  We stopped for a quick, shivering breakfast and got underway again quickly, though we did stop to get some water at a “camp” where the 3 young guys who passed us last night were still snoring in their sleeping bags! 

 But then it began to rain, lightly at first, then rain for real that continued  for the rest of the day, as the temperature slowly dropped till at noon it was 44 degrees.  Blue Lake, right by the trail, was Confederate grey and dimpled with lots of raindrops.  Air temperatures were so cold that the lake was steaming! It was interesting to note, though, that the Douglas Fir trees shed rain beautifully–it was still dry ground under them–but the hemlocks don’t give much rain protection at all.  Unfortunately, the forest here is mostly hemlock, so the trail and ground were getting muddier and muddier.  I was VERY glad that at lunchtime we found a nice big Douglas Fir to sit under and cook a hot stew! 

 We were in Indian Heaven now, and not a huckleberry in sight. Did we miss the picking season, we wondered?  We’d passed some signs saying “NO commercial huckleberry picking.  NO commercial mushroom gathering.”  I looked and looked but saw not one berry nor one mushroom.  Oh well.  We did meet some other “regular” backpackers who commented in amazement, “There are so many of you heading for Canada!  What’s going on?” 

At 4:30pm, we once again caught up with the 3 young guy thruhikers (they passed us when we stopped for lunch).  They had stopped for the day! “We quit!” they said, “Hiking in the rain sucks.” (Heard later that they built a roaring fire and were trying to dry their gear.)   Normally they stop at 8 pm or later, so for them this was highly unusual.

Bill and I usually stop at 5:30 for some supper, then continue hiking for another couple of hours, but today it was so cold that we decided  to also stop early (6pm).  We set up camp and for the first time ate supper under the tarp, warm in our sleeping bags!  Our normal rule is “NEVER EVER eat where you camp!”  but we were so cold that this time we made an exception.   I say we were “warm” in our sleeping bags, but the truth is more like “a bit warmer”.  The poor sleeping bags never got a chance to air and dry today, so they were damp & clammy.  Staying warm tonight will be a challenge.  I’m wearing most of my layers already.

Bill and I both hope the rain will stop tomorrow–we missed seeing some glorious views today.   Well, I’ve been told they’re glorious, anyway–we missed seeing them in 2005 also, because (gasp, choke!) it was raining in Indian Heaven then, too–in July!  I guess the sun shines here some of the time.  Hope it does tomorrow!

Walk with Aragorn to Minas Tirith: Near Mt. Rimmon and the lands of Prince Imrahil

Monday, August 30, 2010 Miles Today: PCT (45.2) Actual (27) Total: 2,200.8

Monday, August 30th, 2010

Bill was still not feeling well, but determined to hike on, so at 5:30am we were out the door and headed for Bridge of the Gods. We were well down the street when Bill suddenly remembered he’d left his hat in the motel room.  Oh no!  We turned back, retrieved the key from the drop box, got the hat, and once again walked out into the very early morning. 

Walking across the Bridge of the Gods along with the cars is “interesting”, to say the least.  Yikes!  Fortunately it was so early that there weren’t very many cars, and they were all going the other way.  Oh man, was I glad to reach the other side!  Then we turned right, away from the PCT, to begin the roadwalk to Stevenson.  The PCT guidebook grumps mightily about the “stupid route” of the PCT after Cascade Locks, and advocates for the alternate, which is what we took. 

Walking along the edge of Hwy. 14 can be a bit scary in places where the shoulder is very narrow and there are BIG trucks that go by on a tear, but there are very nice views of the river and of the trains going by. When we reached Stevenson, we walked the whole length of the town and nothing was open.  Bother!  We’d planned on eating breakfast there.  We decided to turn back to a Subway that had shown a few signs of life, and then I decided to look at a side street near there.  Score!  “Mark’s Cafe” was open for business, and we had a great breakfast before heading out under a cloudy sky that looked like rain, and sure enough, pretty soon the drizzle began. 

On we went, now through drizzly rain, up the Wind River Road, through the cute little town of Carson with its great big huge lumber mill.  I was looking at the forest along the way, searching for any sign of fall colors, but everything was still green.  Some folks along the way in Carson recognized that we were PCT hikers and said, “Headed for Canada?”  “Yup, Canada, here we come!” we cheered.  At noon we stopped along the road for lunch, then only another 15 minutes of hiking took us to Stabler’s Country Store!  Wish I’d known it was so close!  We could have eaten lunch THERE!  Oh, well. 

Stabler’s Store is a fascinating place.  It looks like it’s built of junk and falling down, but looks aren’t everything!  The owners are supernice to PCT hikers, our our resupply box was waiting, and there were plenty of other things to add to our food bags.  Stablers is very well-organized and super-friendly.  So was Charlie Brown, the ancient chocolate Lab who badly wanted to share my ice cream!  (Mean me, I kept all the ice cream for myself!)  According to the hiker register, if you get to Stabler’s on a weekend, there’s biscuits ‘n gravy that are awesome!  But today was Monday, so we missed out.  That’s OK, we ate plenty of other stuff before heading back to the PCT!

 The rain had stopped for awhile, but everything was soaking wet. We cheered when we got back to real PCT TRAIL again, then tackled the “killer climb” out of Panther Creek.  The forest here is very green and the trees are huge. Lots of huge ferns and plants and bushes cover the forest floor.  It’s like walking through a rainforest, and sure enough, it did start to rain again!  So it was back on with the raingear, and “Oh well, welcome to Washington!”  The only bummer about rain here is that there are some places that have awesome views but you can’t see anything in the rain & clouds. 

In Oregon, we constantly pushed ourselves hard, trying to make lots of miles.  Since Bill is not well, and we have no reason to hurry, we enjoyed being able to just walk happily along at a reasonable pace.  As the afternoon progressed, Bill was feeling steadily better.  Very encouraging! 

It was hard to find a place to camp.  We were on a mountainside fully of dripping wet trees & plants.  But I finally spotted a place that would work, and we’d just finished setting up when along came 3 PCT thruhiker guys, walking very fast.  “It’s freeeeezing!” they said.  “Gotta keep moving to stay warm!”  Off they went as the sunset was lighting up the mist around us and darkness was closing in.  “I hope they find a campsite,” I said.  I was a bit worried for them.  But they are young and strong, so I guess they’ll hike amd camp by headlamp if they have to.  Meanwhile, Bill and I were moving, too–into our sleeping bags!

It’s a very cold night–I can see my breath.  I prayed for Bill to be feeling even better tomorrow.  Hope the weather clears up a bit, but I’m not counting on it! 

Walk with Aragorn to Minas Tirith: Near Mt. Halifirien