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Archive for the 'Cowboy' Category

2007-09-13 4000 & 2500

Thursday, September 13th, 2007

The Noodleheads and I are alone on the trail for a few days we think. Others set off yesterday and today but most seem to be taking other routes. Today’s trail has been a lot of ups and downs, with about half a mile of really nice ridge-top stuff just before lunch. We commemorated the 4,000km mark by writing it in rocks by the stream and tonight we’re camped at 2,500.2 miles.

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4000 kilometers!

Though we didn’t start until 8am we’ve packed in a good distance. It helped to have people to talk to and the discussion on “Your Money Or Your Life” the book that changed their lives. They did most of the talking and I just absorbed all this great stuff about how to “How to spend money like you hate working” and how to plot out when your non-employment income (investments etc) will over take your expenses and thus you can retire. Unfortunately it would mean I shouldn’t go buying a flash plasma TV or a funky new iPod Nano. But hey, if I can spend five months in the woods I can live without those sorts of gadgets. They’re the most interesting trail characters I’ve met and their lifestyle really appeals to me.

Dave O. Could you turn those numbers into something related to New Zealand for me :-)

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2007-09-11 Four Pass Day

Tuesday, September 11th, 2007

I had trouble sleeping last night. Perhaps it was a fraction colder than it has been for a while or perhaps the ground was lumpy. Whatever it was I got plenty of chances to observe the moonless night and the milky-way sparkling above me. As always I had trouble keeping my eyes open for any amount of time, but I was awake enough to observe the stars rotating throughout the night.

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Ice on my sleeping mat

When I finally came time to move I found my sleeping bag wetter than ever before on the trail. That’s what you get for sleeping out in the open near a lake. The first pass, Cathedral, was remarkably easy. It was still cool out and I hardly paused at all. Deception Pass was very tame. Buried in the woods like that it’s hardly worth mentioning anyway. Down a long way then up to Pieper Pass which was too steep to have lunch on so we trotted down the switchbacks to a more level setting and rested there. Lucky Joe has been filming like crazy throughout the entire trail and here he got us talking about the last 200 miles and how we’re feeling about it. I’m physically feeling ok. A bit worn out and glad for a rest tomorrow, but mentally is where I really need the rest. I’m amazed I’ve come this far feeling ready for the end for so long and I’m very glad to still be on the trail when I know I could have left at any time.

The final pass was a tough one. The switchbacks were tight and steep but at least the ground was soft. For no particular reason at all I stormed up that one very quickly, running in parts, and was very thankful for a well shaped rock on which to sit and get my breath back when I was done.

Quote of the day: “Are you talking to us from waaay over across the lake” – Angelhair
“Yes, I’m talking to you from the other siiide” – Heaps in a spooky voice

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2007-09-10 A faint odour of Waptus

Monday, September 10th, 2007

This morning’s hike was brought to you by the letters U and P, and the number 2,200. After that things got nicer. Great views across the valley and my fingers were coming back to life. The ridge didn’t last nearly long enough and soon we were switchbacking down to Waptus River.

The river was sparkling and clear and after 14 miles of steep up and down it was time for lunch. I was the first of five (The Noodleheads and the two Joes) to arrive and the last to leave. I think I need to do that more often. From there we faced more up hill, to make tomorrow easier. Not far from the bridge I met two section hikers with camp chairs attached to their packs. Scantily clad, we later gave them trail names of Boobalicious and Nut-Hammock. If I get a copy of the photo that Samurai Joe took I’ll send it home asap.

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Four brothers

Onward and upward until reaching Deep Lake. It was just what I’d been hoping for. Deep enough to dive into and rocks to dry on. We all arrived before 5 and didn’t have long before we lost the sun so our dips were swift and chilling. Sitting there afterwards starting to recover from the cold as the water evaporated made for one of the best moments on the trail. Lucky Joe, Samurai Joe and I all sitting on one sunny rock, we could have been at the beach not halfway up a mountain in Washington. The Noodleheads were discretely around the corner, they would have been at a different sort of beach.

I don’t know Samurai Joe very well but he certainly feels like one of our team now.

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Outlet of Deep Lake

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2007-09-09 Effort and Reward

Sunday, September 9th, 2007

Leaving Snoqualmie Pass I knew it was going to be a hard day. A few days ago I had looked north to what Rolling Thunder would call my “destiny horizon” and now I was there, climbing that horizon. Not far up the hill two nice trail runners overtook me and then I knew it was going to be a good day too.

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Alpine flowers

Higher and higher the trail went. At least a dozen section and day hikers came down before I got to The Catwalk where it suddenly bursts from the trees into an alpine wonderland. If I had a whole book of superlatives I couldn’t do the scenery justice. The sky was clear blue, the valleys green and the mountains steep and beautiful.
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The road ahead

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The Catwalk

Most of the day was traversing around ridges, cirques and down to saddles between lakes. The databook does a very poor job of capturing the ups and downs of the day but I really don’t mind this time because it was all worth it. Even the terrible descent. Innumerable switchbacks wound their way down Delate Creek and then a flatter trip over to where the Noodleheads and I have camped. They got here first and marked where they left the trail by writing “Noods” with sticks. I’ve told them that it’s not usually spelled that way but I don’t know if they got my joke.
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Noodleheads this way

Today’s food fantasy: A Memphis Meltdown ice-cream. Smooth vanilla ice-cream, coated in chocolate, dipped in gooey caramel, coated again in premium chocolate. mmmmm
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The road ahead

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2007-09-07 The last cowboy?

Friday, September 7th, 2007

Another Washington night. I didn’t bother with a tent because it was pretty clear when I went to sleep but this morning I woke in a cloud and the mist was condensing on the trees and falling on my sleeping bag. I couldn’t get out so I just went deeper in. Eventually though I had to move. I wore rain-pants this morning. Not because it was actually ever raining but I knew everything I touched would be wet. I walked for many miles without seeing much, imagining the mist in front of me was thinner than that behind. I stood on the north ridge of Blowout Mountain and looked down to the basin that had sunlight. What a different day they were having down there.

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Trail magic!

I passed Lizard and then Easy in the morning but I didn’t catch the Noodleheads and Lucky Joe until they stopped for lunch, about 21 miles from where I camped. The four of us walked together all afternoon. Now the sunshine was out and we just nattered on. Occasionally we caught glimpses of the North Cascades. Those ominous peaks up ahead that look like miniature Sierras with jagged snow tipped peaks and many hidden valleys across which we will trek.
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The last cowboy camp?

We stopped at Mirror Lake and a little while later Easy, Lizard and finally A-Train rolled in. He’d done a 34 yesterday expecting to catch me which is cool.

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2007-09-06 T -300

Thursday, September 6th, 2007

Tonight I sleep within 300 miles of Manning Park, the place you walk to after finishing the PCT at the border.
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A cloudy dawn at Chinook Pass 

My day started when I woke to a light drizzle. It was 4:30am and rather than put up my tent for just a couple of hours I got on the trail in the dark. The drizzle became rain for just a minute or two and then stopped before I reached Chinook Pass. In the 15 minutes or so that I sheltered under trees putting my pack cover on and preparing for a wet day, the world began to appear and I no longer needed my headlamp. Yesterday Squatch had said the next 20 miles were easy and most of them were. The climb up to Sourdough Gap was one notable exception. The clouds were spilling over the ridge at an incredible rate. They dissipated on the east side but unfortunately I was headed to the west. Up there on the hill I wasn’t getting particularly wet, just windswept and a bit cold. So on I went, seeing one southbounder and a fresh set of northbound tracks.
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Crow basin

I paused at the head of Crow Basin and watched as the clouds lifted to reveal a wonderful little spot. True to it’s name several small flocks of crows were swooping majestically across the basin, passing through a copse of trees as if neither really existed. I continued. Driving myself on with a plan to make it as far as I possibly could and maybe catch the Noodleheads. In the end I didn’t find them, though they can’t be far. I passed Tag a few miles back, already inside his REI tent by 5:30. So once again I cook and camp alone. I’m quite happy this way but hope to regroup tomorrow and see how far the lot of us can travel together. It’s a real shame Speedstick is taking it so easy. She’s a bundle and a half of laughs.
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Open to dinosaurs?

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2007-09-05 Back to work

Wednesday, September 5th, 2007

Today has been a mix of feelings. Listening to Timo Mass’ “It’s the first day (of the rest of your life)” I pictured myself waking up at Manning Park in Canada. It wouldn’t be a zero day, it would just be a day, like 1000s more to come where I no longer have to think about water, food, distance, pack weight etc. I’d get on a bus and start going home. I think I felt sad about it. The trail would be over and all those real-life things would start up again. But I’d mostly feel stunned at being there, and try to remember every day I’ve had on the adventure.

Much later in the day, when I’d been powering up towards the ridge to get out of the long green tunnel, I paused, took a sip of water, and carried on. It occurred to me how this is just what I do now. I walk, all day every day. I take it for granted. If I’m awake and not eating I’m probably on the move. We all are. Some like to relax more. I might not ever see Speedstick again because of it. It’s not like a job, it’s just part of me. It’s an automatic reaction to daylight and this morning when I saw the clear sky all I wanted to do was hike.



A-Train and I started together and soon found Samurai Joe then Robo Cop (an actual ex-cop, not to be confused with Rocket Cop who is actually part rocket).

Late this afternoon we came across Squatch, the guy who has made three PCT documentaries. He’s heading south meeting more people and getting footage. Funny guy, and another that I’ll never see again.

The final feeling for the afternoon was a little bit of fear. I found A-Train standing still on the trail. Holding his camera he was looking over the bushes to a rocky slope not 100m distant where moments before he had seen a bear. I’d mostly put them out of my mind since central California, but I shouldn’t forget they are out here too.

Lesson for the day: If you’re going to share a room with an old guy. Don’t. They snore loudly and get up to pee a lot. This is especially bad if he snagged the top bunk and insists on falling down each time rather than using the ladder.

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2007-09-02 The Knife Edge

Sunday, September 2nd, 2007

“We’re going to shake things up a bit” Angelhair announced. Instead of the standard 25 they were going for 29 which meant reaching the other side of ‘The Knife Edge’ in Goat Rocks Wilderness. Every day now involves a lot of climbing and a lot of descending so I figured now was ok to push it a bit. The morning was easy and I stumbled along as normal until I reached the climb when I got a strange rush and charged up to the ridge faster than I expected, passing a group of boy scouts on the way.

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After lunch with the Noodleheads we ran into two southbounders who had a tiny bottle of some strawberry cream liqueur which I am now carrying as my celebratory drink at the border, just three weeks away.
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Onwards and upwards we climbed. Leaving the forest behind we came into a new landscape of soaring jagged peaks and a formation that looked like the basalt columns of Devil’s Postpile and the Giants Causeway. These ones were well above the trail as we approached Cispus Pass and tilted so we could see the tops. I could feel vertigo setting in as I looked up at the tops of the rocks that usually I’d look down to.
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The Cispus basin was gorgeous. Green all around and streams turning to waterfalls as they crossed the trail. Time was ticking on and we didn’t reach the official high point for the day until 6pm. With clouds blowing in and the sun lost behind them we took the precarious path above the Packwood Glacier. The soft gravel was sliding away in places and no-one would ever be able to take their horses over this part.

The Knife Edge is a pretty good name for the crazy ridge that took us north through the evening. Just one mountain goat was grazing up there. On what I don’t know because all I saw was talus and snow (thankfully not on the trail). It was getting darker and I think Angelhair was worried about our location. We all were a bit, but we carried on, no-one complained and we made it to the flat on the other end for a cold but dry camp. A good day to have friends like the Noodleheads.
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More photos of this day’s journey can be found at Cascade Locks to White Pass

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2007-09-01 Mountain Excitement

Saturday, September 1st, 2007

What a gorgeous day! A few clouds to keep the temperature down but mostly we had clear skies all day. The initial climb was tough but a few thousand feet later I was sitting on the slopes of Mt. Adams looking at Mt. Hood and around the corner I could see Mt. St. Helens and Mt. Rainier (Roger K. can you tell David G. that I’ve reached his backyard).

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The glacier hanging off Mt. Adams (or Adamski as the Russians would say) is very impressive. Since it’s all ice I’m amazed it stays in place. The terminal face makes a sharp pale blue wall that looks ready to take off down the mountain at any minute. I guess that is what happened at Adams Creek. Last night Jo warned us about the crossing because it was washed out but we all got across dry and without a fuss.
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The afternoon really dragged on. My feet were sore and I felt so tired. I needed a nap but thought if I lay down I might not get back up again. Plod plod plod I went, losing a lot of the altitude I worked so hard for earlier. Eventually I was coming down Muddy Fork and heard voices. As I rounded the corner I saw a camp just down from the trail and a guy wearing only a pair of very small shorts and banging two sticks together. I decided not to interrupt and carried on to Lava Spring, reportedly the best water on the entire PCT. I think it tastes fine, and is cold enough for me.
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Today’s food fantasy: Home-made wiener schnitzel and kumara fries. Both oozing in oil

More photos of this day’s journey can be found at Cascade Locks to White Pass

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2007-08-31 Logistics

Friday, August 31st, 2007

Damned logistics are still bothering me when I thought I had this all sorted. Sometime this morning I recalled that I’d be reaching Snoqualime on the weekend, so picking up the memory cards I just asked Dad to send me is going to be hard unless I really speed up or slow right down. And now, after doing 31 miles to fit the new aggressive schedule I’ve found out I sent him the wrong zip code anyway. Bugger.

Other than that and running lots of numbers through my head the day has been great. I got a cooked breakfast from a group of horse riders at Crest Campground. Two mums, two kids, a sick dog and Sarah, a very quiet 20-something with square black-rimmed glassed and a Mediterranean look.

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I caught Vlad not much later and we hiked the rest of the day together. Sometimes in silence, sometimes sharing stories and discussing Japanesey things.

I’ve been asking all southbounders for news of the Noodleheads and usually they had passed them an hour or more ago, but this afternoon when someone said “yeah, they’re on the bridge around the corner” I practically ran down the trail to find them. So now the four of us and Jo, who finishes her multi-year section hike of Washington tomorrow, are camped near Trout Lake Creek. Vlad is planning 29 mile days until the end. It’s really tempting to be done in 15 days but I’m pretty sure I’d collapse before Canada at that pace. Yay for catching the Noodleheads. Fingers-crossed I can sort out the postage stuff.

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More photos of this day’s journey can be found at Cascade Locks to White Pass

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