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Archive for the 'Camp' Category

2007-09-21 The final countdown

Friday, September 21st, 2007

The call came from the Noodleheads’ tent and we all agreed, today was not a day to start early. Everyone’s shoes were frozen solid. Lucky Joe only has one pair of hiking socks with him and they were as stiff as wood too. I packed up slowly allowing time for my damp clothes to thaw a little. The last thing I did before stepping back on to the trail was swap the nice thick socks Anna sent me, for my normal ones and put on my shoes. Instantly my feet were freezing and my toes were almost numb before I could get very far. But the feeling came back and with mostly clear skies we trundled on. During the day the skies became greyer and with a cold bite to the wind it really felt like winter was arriving. The rain held off until the last few miles before camp and then it slowed enough for me to set up this tent for the last time.

PCT

Under grey skies

It’s only 15 miles to Canada from here. It’d have to be pretty strong rain to stop us now but it wouldn’t take much to make it miserable. Tomorrow I’ll complete the Pacific Crest Trail and truly be a thru-hiker, then I’ll get a warm shower and a bed.


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2007-09-20 Let it snow!

Thursday, September 20th, 2007

Last night was the coldest I’d been in a long time, beaten only by today. It was damp at the campsite, frosty up the hill and snowing before the first pass. I wrapped up as best I could and pushed on, holding my hood in place when the cold wind came through. And boy it was cold. Poor Lucky Joe had only thin wool gloves and was numb until lunchtime. On the way down from the very exposed ridge I saw bear prints, big ones. They were at least the size of my hand and very deep in the mud so the beast was heavy. Snow had already settled in so I’m guessing it passed at least a day ago.

We passed two tents in a very exposed spot. If they’re trying to wait out the weather they’re in the worst place for it. We carried on, dropped nearly a thousand feet and the snow became freezing rain, then sleet and slowly stopped. There were a few times when the sun found a way through the clouds, but it was never for long and hardly made a difference. We were cold and wet so we kept moving, all motivated to a place where we could put down our packs and get back into our sleeping bags. It’s almost 6:30 and I’m ready to sleep, even though there’s at least an hour of daylight. I hope to wake to a different world. Down the valley I can see sunny spots so the cloud has an end. Maybe the end will come to us and I’ll get to enjoy the last two days rather than endure them.

Quote of the day: “Kicking us in the arse right up to the end” – Me

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2007-09-19 Stung

Wednesday, September 19th, 2007

We left Stehekin at last and are now firmly on our last stretch to the border. One more muffin from the bakery and I was good to go.

Lucky Joe, Angelhair, Rigatoni and I walked tightly together almost all day. We talked about all manner of stuff and generally passed the time through an unexciting section. The highlight of the day was the wasp nest Lucky Joe spotted. He stepped in to the bushes to get a photo while I waited for my turn on the trail. As he turned to leave he knocked the bush and shook the hive. As I leaned in for a photo he started swearing and jumping around. He’d been stung on the wrist and I turned back to see the swarm coming out to defend their spot. One landed on my right hand. I shook it like crazy while backing away but before I knew it I’d been stung on my left. For a while it was a little stiff and swollen but it had passed by lunch time.

The only road crossing today was a cheery place called Rainy Pass. From there it’s just over 60 miles to the border and in that stretch we’ll cross Glacier Pass, Windy Pass, Foggy Pass, Woody Pass and go below Blizzard Peak and Frosty Pass.

I’m wrapped up in bed already and definitely the coldest I’ve been in a long time. But better cold than wet.

Quote of the day: “La-la-la-Last” – Angelhair excited about starting Section L

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2007-09-18 One last zero

Tuesday, September 18th, 2007

So I’m not quite yet on my way to the border. I stayed in Stehekin all day and I’m glad I did. There’s no need to end my holiday just yet and I know I can reach the border, it’s just a matter of choosing the right days to be out there.

I took the shuttle (one of those typical American yellow school buses) to the bakery and ate my way through three excellent goodies. Lucky Joe came in from the trail. He’d had quite a different experience over the last section. In rain for a lot of it he lost the trail before Kennedy Creek, bush-whacked up a ridge in the wrong place and slid down a steep bank clawing and grabbing at anything to slow him down. He sure was lucky to come through un-harmed and I’m glad he’ll now be finishing with us.

The rest of the day was spent wandering around the boat landing area and watching the sky. For a while it was actually sunny and I lay on a log by the water trying to doze. Most of the time the brooding clouds and gusty wind kept me indoors. The visitors center was nice, I can now tell the difference between black and grizzly bear paw prints. I learned in there that Lake Chelan is dammed at the southern end. It’s 67 miles long and with no road out. The boat ride (or the cool floating plane) is the only way out for non-PCTers. Somehow the mountains here make me feel much smaller than elsewhere. Their texture, the clarity of the air to see each tree and rock on the steep west wall, the way a cloud only covers part of the hill as if they are bigger than the sky itself. There was even a patch of fresh snow on one peak this morning which made me very glad to be finishing soon and not in a few weeks when it’d be much colder and the bakery will be closed.

The atmosphere is a strange one. This is where real writers would excel. They could quantify and dissect that strangeness but all I can do is experience it. We’re so close and so happy to be almost done, but it’d be premature congratulation if we thought it was a done deal. 89 miles is still a fair bit and though we’ll take only four days it’s more than most do on the Appalachian Trail before giving up and going home.

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2007-09-17 Still learning

Monday, September 17th, 2007

I’ve taken five months to walk this far. Something that could be driven in a few days or flown in a few hours and I’m still as impatient as ever. Proof of this comes from the fact that I woke every few minutes from well before dawn, desperate for it to be 6am, the time I judged right to break camp and walk to High Bridge Ranger Station where a bus would take me to Stehekin. It’s the last settlement on the trail and by all accounts the nicest.

On the drive down we stopped at the ranch and picked up hikers who had been there last night including Ricola (last seen leaving the Sierras via Kearsarge Pass), Totally Rachael and A-Train. Together they made a young team and I was very keen to make a quick turn around here and thus finish with them in three days. Rigatoni has been a little sullen for the last few days and it’s been awkward walking with them since he used to be so cheerful. Plus it would give me more time after the hike for socialising in San Francisco.

Monty was in town (another reason to turn and run for the border) and he found a forecast for rain/snow tomorrow night just north of here. But it was Angelhair that tipped the balance. We talked for a while and I began to see I was still rushing everything, even down to the massive pile of fries that made my stomach ache.
“What’s the worst that will happen?” she said. Not much really, I’ll arrive in Auckland later but not too late and I’ll feel a lot stronger taking on the massive climb leaving here. So I’ve stayed, and with bad weather I will probably take a zero tomorrow.

The care packages were amazing. Kathy clearly knows what a thru-hiker needs: dried fruit, candy, little apricot rolls and Blue Sky must have tipped her off about apple sauce. Heavy but the best way to carry apples for 4 days. Anna’s one was wonderful. NZ lollies, a flag and some cool badges (pins) that look like big eyes for freaking out bears/mountain lions that are sneaking up on me.

PCT

Stehekin Dock

Stehekin is really nice. At the lake front there’s a small store, restaurant, post office free shower and campground plus a lodge that doesn’t seem to mind hikers wandering in to use internet or air conditioning. A mile or two up the road (towards the ranch) is a bakery. Strangest place for a bakery I think, out there in the woods. It has incredible food and I’ll spend some time and money there tomorrow. The ranch is pricey, about $95 per person, but with three all-you-can-eat meals you get your money’s worth.

The restaurant in ‘town’ is very nice. I highly recommend the beef medallions with “twice baked” potatoes, and I also recommended to Holly the waitress that they call them “stuffed potatoes” because twice baked doesn’t sound good to me.

And I nearly forgot to mention the minor disaster with my passport. My NZ passport and Canadian entry papers should now be waiting in Manning Park. They almost weren’t because NZ post requires a signature on ‘track and trace’ packages and I’m not there to sign for it so Dad spent a while trying to find out just where it got delivered. It seems to all be fine now though I am definitely glad I carried my UK passport with me this whole time.


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2007-09-16 Blowdowns

Sunday, September 16th, 2007

We’d been warned that the first seven miles of today’s trail were the hardest. There were certainly a lot of blown down trees. Some as wide as 7ft fallen right across our path, or piles of trees making an up-down-around climbing frame that slowed us down considerably. Vista Creek was wide and shallow. A tree had fallen in almost exactly the same spot as the bridge had once been so we hardly even paused there. Suiattle River was another matter. Using Scatman’s guide we angled upstream across the wide wash of grit, boulders and quite sizable trees that must have come down during the storm in ‘03. We found the big log across the river and without it we’d have been stuck. Though not very wide it was very fast and deep enough to swallow a hiker whole.

PCT

Lots of blowdowns

Up the other side we began the day’s climb and were relieved when we saw the first blowdown that had been recently cut away. The trail was clear from then on and thanks to the unseen trail crew we made great progress.
PCT

Suiattle River

As we climbed higher, to just about 6,000ft, we entered the clouds and things started to get wet. Unfortunately we never got above the clouds and soon it was raining. My trousers were soaked through and if I leaned forward on my toes I could squeeze water from my shoes. With my rain hood up and my game face on I knocked out the miles and it wasn’t until I reached Agnes Creek I realized the rain had stopped and I was actually getting drier. The walk from there was exceptionally pleasant. Agnes Creek had cut through a layer of tough black blocky rock and ran across a bed of large smoothed pebbles. The type some people pay good money for at garden centres. When it dropped away from the trail the trees thinned out and I saw just a little blue sky above the mountains. Tomorrow will be a better day, and even if it’s not, I’ll be in Stehekin!

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2007-09-15 The Forbidden Zone

Saturday, September 15th, 2007

Today there were only three of us. Three woke up under the clouds. Three had lunch high above Milk Creek. Three did 59 switchbacks down to Vista Creek and camped here. We saw no-one else at all. Tomorrow we’ll reach the point where the detour and the road-walk rejoin the official PCT and I expect to see more people then. Until then it’s just me, the Noodleheads and the bears.

PCT

A sea of clouds

There were two bears at Pumice Creek this morning. The cub ran away pretty quickly but the mother waited a little bit then casually followed. They were the first that the Noodleheads had seen but my 7th and 8th. The next ridge brought us above the clouds and it was even more spectacular than yesterday. To the west a barren mountain range, still holding pockets of snow, pierced through the thick flowing blanket. Individual peaks became islands in the mist. There was no haze up there so I could see an incredible distance and make out details that would normally be too faint.
PCT

Noodleheads and Heaps on Fire Creek Pass

The ridges were magnificent and truly rivaling the high sierras for my favourite place on the trail. In all we climbed 5,000ft today, and dropped that much too. The border is only 112 miles away and to be honest I don’t know if I’d make it much further. My knees are feeling the strain of all these slopes. When my feet get wet, as they did this morning from the dew on the plants, they show strange patterns as if the skin is beginning to rot away.
PCT

The trail down from Fire Creek Pass

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2007-09-14 Living off the land

Friday, September 14th, 2007

As soon as it began getting light I could see the low cloud above us. We hadn’t walked far when a light shower came through but it stopped before we bothered with rain gear. Not much later we had reached the ridge and were looking down on thick white cloud that stayed in those valleys all day. On the other side of the hill it was totally clear and we criss-crossed the ridge a few times.

Just before White Pass we met a pair of hunters coming the other way. I wanted to ask if rifle season was early this year, but being snarky to some random guys with guns isn’t exactly a good idea.

By lunch time we were at Red Pass looking down a very high-sierra like valley. Unlike yesterday’s rushed affair we took our time. Rigatoni even fell asleep. I lay in the sun, reading another of Bex’s letters and getting ready for the descent. All morning it had felt like afternoon so I needed a proper rest to keep me going.

Down we went and we began the official PCT that had been mostly abandoned since 2003 when a big storm washed away bridges. A detour was set up around the eastern side of Glacier Peak but last winter that was wrecked too so crews have been busy repairing the original trail. It looks like we timed it perfectly because at least three major creeks have been bridged since Scatman came through. Sitkum Creek is still a mess and finding the trail took a while. For me Kennedy Creek was worse. Though we were at water level it was fast, cold and murky and we had to cross on branches not logs.

I counted 84 blowdowns that we had to get over, crawl under or walk around. And we’re not even in the section that Scatman said was tough.

I’ve finally given in and set up Vortex & Blue Sky’s tent. There are clouds in the valley and I’m not confident I’d be dry in the morning.

PCT

Bear’s Head Mushroom

Today I ate a wild mushroom, though it looked more like cauliflower to me. “Bear’s head” the Noodleheads called it and true to their word it did taste a bit like seafood. I thought crab-sticks, they thought lobster. I’m also still eating blueberries and huckleberries though they are smaller and not as sweet as the ones before Steven’s Pass.

Question of the day: If you could have five houses anywhere in the world, where would they be?

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2007-08-20 Cloudy times

Monday, August 20th, 2007

At 5:30 this morning it was still pitch black. Autumn is well underway and it makes me want to get north as soon as possible. Tradja drove us to the Elk Lake trail head and we began ascending into the clouds. The ground was damp which made for good walking but soon it began to drizzle and it hasn’t let up all day. When I stopped to put on my borrowed jacket Lucky Joe, Samurai Joe and Two Dogs caught up and for a while there we were in a convoy of seven hikers. After a little while those three, who have been on trail in the rain for the last few days, went on ahead. Moving fast to keep warm.

PCT

Rumble, Tradja, Rigatoni, Angelhair and Heaps

At Rigatoni’s request I came up with a suitable word to convert WIRD to Weather Induced Extra Rest Day. A WIERD. I also came up with a team name. Heaps of Rumbling Noodles a.k.a. Team Horn.

The rain wasn’t as cold as it could have been. We passed some small snow patches but I didn’t put on my gloves until the afternoon.


We started crossing lava fields and with the constant grey mist, basalt rubble and green lichen it felt very much like the Tongariro Crossing. We spent a while debating one un-signed junction, even to the point of going the right way, going back and trying the wrong way, then setting off on the right way again. Not a great thing to do when poor Angelhair was getting dangerously cold. She only said it once but I could see her shivering and it getting worse. I admire her for not losing it and giving up. Anyone who has come this far has to be a pretty determined sort of person so I wasn’t surprised really.
PCT

Great weather for ducks

Now I’m in my tent again. I haven’t put up the inside this time. Using the cord I prepared back home I set up the poles and dropped the outer cover over the top. It gives me more room to maneuver inside, though still not much and there is no proper floor. It’s a bit colder than the full set up, but I trust my sleeping bag.

We’ve all got our fingers crossed for sun tomorrow.

More photos of this day’s journey can be found at Bend to Little Crater Lake

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2007-07-20 My day

Friday, July 20th, 2007

Though I heard my troupe leaving this morning I stayed in the tent and didn’t wave them off. I’ll see them again in a week or so and today is my birthday so I opted to sleep in. It’s a relative term on the trail though and I was in the kitchen by 8am. Everyone else left this morning except Chigger who has been here nearly a week trying to get over her mystery illness.

Tree House

Overflow accommodation at Old Station

When Girl Scout returned from dropping the gang at the trail he had a little video to show me, check it out :-)


Happy Birthday

Through out the day I mostly ate, watched a bit of TV and repacked my bag. I’ve read a couple of the cards I received here but also kept some for on the trail. Along with the epic Shogun they’ll give me a reason to stop walking and take a rest.

A lot of hikers came in this afternoon. I already knew Mr Parkay and Stretch but the other dozen are almost all strangers and all the proof I need to know the herd is nipping at my heels. I really got to enjoy just having a few good friends around rather than lots of vague people. I think everyone here now is moving on tomorrow. Hopefully it’ll seem more spread out when we’re hiking.

PCT

We’ve had a big social meal and a small musical camp fire. I’m packed and beginning to mentally prepare to continue with the hike. I’ve only one more planned zero day and it’s three weeks away. Even though I’m only halfway it seems so much closer to the end. Just under three weeks to finish California. Three to do Oregon. Three for Washington. It seems so simple in those terms but I still see a lot of effort ahead. The first half took a long time so I’m looking back on it and thinking I have to do that much again. This half is supposed to be easier. This half stays below 8,000ft. But I still have almost 1300 miles to go. Ridiculous.

PCT

More photos of this day’s journey can be found at Belden to Old Station

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