Archive for August, 2010

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

Sunday, August 29, 2010 Zero Day Total: 2,155

Sunday, August 29th, 2010

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I “slept in” until 6:45am today, but was so hungry that I got up and went to eat at the restaurant, after making coffee and eating yogurt in our room. Bill was still feeling sick and weak, so he did not join me, but stayed in bed. When I got to the restaurant, there were backpacks everywhere and lots of hikers. Fun! I ended up having a lot of different conversations with different folks. Many of them have skipped large portions (all of Oregon, in one case!) of the PCT to be here.

But one of the hiker ladies I talked to who is my age (62) and I were comparing notes on how thin we had become. She knows about “medical stuff” and told me, “You and I aren’t hormone-protected like the younger women. Their bodies fight to hang on to every ounce of fat, but we’re post-menopausal, so we don’t have that anymore. We’re kind of in the same boat as the men now. You notice how thin they are?” And I realized she was right.The guys are all really skinny.  So I guess I’ll just do the best I can. Only 500 miles to go!

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After breakfast, I went back to check on Bill.  He still did not look or feel good, but he still wanted to go to church. I wanted to go, too, and it was only a short walk  to Cascade Locks Community Church. Turns out they have Awana, Good News Club and they are really nice! There was a potluck after the service, which I went to, but Bill did not feel well and went back to bed. He says he is determined to leave tomorrow morning as planned, so once I got back from church, I am loaded up the packs and got everything ready to go.

For dinner I went all by myself (Bill still could not face any food) over to a pizza place that the hikers all seem to like.  The pizza was OK, but I’ve had better ones.  I saved a couple of small pieces for Bill, in case he felt up to eating anything, and when I got back to our room, he did nibble on them.  Poor Bill!  I’ve been running around having fun and eating to my heart’s delight, while he’s been feeling sick and lying in bed.  I am asking God to please help him feel better.  Tomorrow we begin the PCT in Washington!

Walk with Aragorn to Minas Tirith: Following along the River Ciril

Saturday, August 28, 2010 Zero Day Total: 2,155

Saturday, August 28th, 2010

We stayed in our sleeping bags until 6:30 this morning! No hiking today! Bill was very tired, and I was very hungry, so at 7:00am, we headed out for a wonderful  breakfast at the Inn. We left our packs and stuff at Trail Days, so after breakfast we walked down the main street to check out motels, and ended up where we stayed before— the Columbia Gorge Motel— the only one with a vacancy. Then it was showers, laundry, visiting with my family from Portland, and the rest of the day I spent mending Bill’s very torn-up pants.

Bill himself is not doing well. He looks pale and sick again, his stomach hurts and he’s having “plumbing problems.” He spent most of the day lying down, did not eat much at all, and said he felt very weak. He did take one short walk to look at gear from the Trail Days vendors. 

Trail Days is nowhere near like ADZPCTKO.  No food is available (unless you buy it), and there are more non-thruhikers than there are thruhikers.  We decided that it’s not worth killing yourself to get here!  Oh well.  Taking a couple of zeros here means I can work at  eating all kinds of food, trying to get some fat back on me! I feel strong, but one look in the mirror and I know I need food!

We were in bed way early, and boy, did that mattress feel good.

Walk with Aragorn to Minas Tirith: Following along the River Ciril

Friday, August 27, 2010 Cascade Locks Miles Today: 30.6 Total: 2,155

Friday, August 27th, 2010

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Our last day hiking the PCT in Oregon! It was still very dark when we started, so we used our headlamps for a little while.  Clouds were still around us, but slowly cleared back, so we could see pretty well; the deep valleys and steep mountains all around us matched the contours on our maps, so we had a pretty good idea where we were and it was encouraging to chart our progress. The really distant mountains like Adams and St. Helens were hidden in the clouds. Oh well, that’s normal!  We did spot Lost Lake down below.  I have very good memories of going to that lake when I was a kid and we were visiting my aunt & uncle on their dairy farm nearby. 

The PCT really lives up to the “Crest” part of its name throughout this section.  We were way up high pretty much all morning and most of the afternoon.  The result was that we were either IN the clouds or else had clouds just over our heads in the treetops.  At one point this morning, we were hiking in very barren terrain, where the trail junction signs were supported by rock cairns.  The wind was blowing hard, and I can imagine that being up here in a storm would be downright wild.  Many very interesting alpine plants covered the ground.  If I weren’t thruhiking, I’d have sat down to have a good look at them.

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By lunchtime we were at Wasco Lake, since we’d  decided to just follow the PCT into Cascade Locks instead of doing the Eagle Creek alternate. NOT A GOOD IDEA! The Eagle Creek trail is a bit scary if you don’t like heights and big dropoffs, and it is almost a mile longer,  but it has one huge benefit— it is all downhill. The PCT has a lot of uphill, some very steep, and it becomes very rocky and rough.

At Wasco Lake, the lake really is very pretty, but it’s very hard to figure out where the PCT goes, since there are trails wandering everywhere and the signage is minimal.  We beat about hunting for the PCT, and wasted a bunch of time, before I finally said, “Phooey on this!  Let’s just walk along Road 670 for a little bit, then bushwhack downhill back to the PCT!”  So that’s what we did.  Then came the long climb up to the Benson Plateau, which is an interesting little world in itself–Oregon Desert again, but this time with the addition of beargrass.  But we were tired, and the climb up to it was not fun.  Glimpses through the trees gave us some idea of how high up were were–very high indeed! 

Finally, at last!!! the trail began the long downhill to Cascade Locks.  We left the Oregon Desert behind and were back into pretty evergreens.  The lower we got, the more we saw maple trees and broadleafed plants, including poison oak starting to turn red.  We cheered when we reached what I call “The Big Viewpoint”.  Below us lay the blue Columbia River–across the river was Mt. Adams!   Washington State in sight! 

But then the trail got really cantankerous.  There were lots of switchbacks (no problem), but the trail tread was very rough and rocky.  The rocks underfoot ranged from talus fields where you have to pick your way across very carefully, trying not to twist an ankle, to simply pointed rocks sticking up out of the trail everywhere.    Our feet were very tired, and those rocks really hurt.  We had to slow down quite a bit, which was frustrating when we were so close to the “finish line”!

I took heart, though, when we entered what I call the “maple zone” where we were walking through a forest intertwined with maples and evergreens, with maple predominating.  It is so pretty there!  We started to meet backpackers who were heading out for the weekend, carrying their huge, heavy packs and wearing hiking boots.  They were all so clean!  The only bummer was that there’s a lot of UPhill in the last 4 miles before Cascade Locks.  UPhill–oh man, that’s just WRONG!  All we could do was sigh and trudge along some more. 

But you know what?  The good ol’ method of “just keep putting one foot in front of the other” does work, and finally we did reach the final turn into Cascade Locks  at around 6:30pm.  We headed straight for the Cascade Locks Inn restaurant so we could EAT, and eat we did–steak and baked potatoes.  Feeling much better, we walked on over to Trail Days at Thunder Island.  As part of the PCT Class of 2011, we got to camp there for free, and we wasted no time in rolling out the ground cloth and setting up a quick cowboy camp near the river.  Then we totally crashed.  There was an evening program at Trail Days, and there were trains going by, and other campers talking, but we ignored them all and just went to sleep.  We are tiiiiiired!  And I think we look like wrecks.  But we met the challenge, and it’s hard to believe that we made it all the way through Oregon in only 15 days.  Wow!  Thankyou, Lord!

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Walk with Aragorn to Minas Tirith: Following along the River Ciril

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