Mexico
Canada
Me 

Archive for the 'Cowboy' Category

2007-08-30 Lost for words

Thursday, August 30th, 2007

An early morning start had me stumbling towards Wind Creek, 13 miles away, before 11am. It was here beside the big bridge I saw a bikini, the first I’ve seen in a loooong time. All I could manage was “morning” to the cute blonde as she looked up from her book. If I wasn’t shy enough before, five months in the woods certainly helped matters. It’s not as if I could hold a decent conversation at that point anyway with my mind on resupply at Stabler Country Store.

My box was there and it weighed a lot. It’s the one I packed in Bend and I must have been hungry at the time. I have far too much food. Especially chocolate, but I’ll give it my best shot.

PCT


A few easy miles later I crossed Panther Creek and began the real work of the day. Laden with all that food I climbed 3,000ft in the shaded (and thus airless) forest. On the way I met Elliot and Tel, two Texans doing Washington, and Oats and Moonshadow, first seen at the Saufley’s three months ago.
PCT


Tonight I stopped near a spring in an area cleared of ground cover with enough room for several tents. Vlad (the Impaler) sat here for a while and we got to talking about his long walks around various continents. He’s even done some big ones in Japan that sound very interesting. He’s expecting to finish before Sept 20th so I doubt I’ll see him again, which is a pity, such worldly knowledge is rare on this American trail.

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

Google Maps

2007-08-29 Another state of mind

Wednesday, August 29th, 2007

I’m in Washington, the final state of the PCT. According to the data book there are only 500.3 miles of trail once you cross The Bridge Of The Gods at Cascade Locks and that’s what I did this morning. Galen, Riddle’s unfeasibly tall brother, dropped me off on his way to Portland. After I crossed the bridge, taking photos and video during gaps in the traffic (there’s no foot path, one has to hope two trucks don’t pass a walker at the same time), I began the mean climb up to Table Mountain.

PCT


Washington certainly wasted no time in teaching me why after 4 months of pretty intensive training I still won’t be able to breeze through the last few sections. It was already warming up in the forest and I sweated my way up the trail alone with my thoughts for quite a way. I briefly entertained the idea that I have done enough and I can go home now, but that didn’t last long. The dreams I’ve had that have me home without completing this are enough to keep me going. So go I did.

I came across a south-bounder who started on August 8th and reported no snow at all which was good. I found it really hard to listen to him though. It was as if he’d just taken one too many Prozac, so slow and dull that holding a conversation with him was dragging me down too. The next two were far more active, but hadn’t seen the Noodleheads. I finally got news of them as I reached Rock Creek and I expect to catch up to them by lunch time.

PCT


I’m very glad they suggested sending my food box to Stabler’s Country Store (12 miles from tonight’s campsite). Carrying 6 days of food over today’s hill would have been really tough.

I saw three snakes today, nearly stepping on two of them. For creatures that are supposed to sense ground vibrations they did a poor job of noticing me stomping down the trail. They were all quite small and had black and white stripes running head to tail giving the illusion of staying still when they were really moving.

At the Ballinger household I saw a quote from Riddle’s journal about PCT hikers being like ants. I especially like the one about how our purpose in life is to follow the trail.

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

Google Maps

2007-08-26 Tourist or Purist?

Sunday, August 26th, 2007

Ah yes, the Pacific Northwest. I’ve heard of thee and now we meet.

At some horrible hour of the morning, when the light drizzle began to get heavier Monty and I both moved into the hanta-virus shelter. Strangely this prompted Monty to make a cup of coffee. I however was quite prepared to go back to sleep for a few hours.

PCT

Home of the viral mice

I was faced with a tough decision today. The trail seems to split in a number of places, the data book tracking one path and the guide book another. Since I’m logging the whole thing I should stick to the official route as much as I can, and I have, but this morning I took the scenic detour to Ramona Falls and right now I am a little way down the Eagle Creek Trail. In both cases the alternate routes are more popular with PCT hikers so hopefully my data will be relevant to others.

Shortly after I’d crossed the ‘hiker bridge’ at the end of the Ramona detour I came face to face with A Train and Monty. Somehow they’d forded the river, rejoined the PCT and headed south on it. For a guy who has done this a few times before Monty makes some dumb mistakes.

I met a scout leader with an interesting pack this afternoon. It looked almost exactly like Dad’s one except all the zips were intact and some stitching was in a slightly different place. Clearly from the same manufacturer it was probably a year or two newer, though having “Peace” in big letters on the back means it must have been around in the 70s.

PCT

A pack very much like Dad’s

Quote of the day: “I’ve had this bottle since the beginning, it’s great” – Rigatoni. About 3 minutes before he tipped fuel onto a still-lit stove, setting his beloved bottle alight and melting the cap beyond repair. D’oh!

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

Google Maps

2007-08-25 The Shining

Saturday, August 25th, 2007

At about 4:45am I woke to see two headlamps coming off the trail and searching for the spring I was camped near. If I had known who it was (and been dressed) I’d have snuck over in the darkness and surprised them. Probably just appearing on the log next to them when they sat down after filling their bottles. Instead I turned on my light and tried asking them if they needed help. I had to ask quietly so I wouldn’t wake Rumble and they couldn’t hear me so I just laid back and went to sleep.

When I woke again I was alone. Up over the ridge the world was very different. A thick fog was down in the valley so downhill to my left I couldn’t see anything and it seemed as if the PCT was the only thing left in this world. The trees in front of me were a damp green colour but as they rose to the canopy they just became grey on grey. Mushrooms continue to line the trail. They’re huge and wonderful in their oddness. Some the size of dinner plates they often have dirt on top and cracked ground around their stalks as if they burst through fully grown.

PCT

Funky fungi
PCT

I’m told this is edible, but has “side effects”

After Barlow Pass the trail went steeply up hill and emerged from the trees with a close-up view of Mt Hood. The soft sand and low shrubbery could have been from beach-front land, so strange to see it in the approach to a ski resort. That last push was made more pleasant by the lupins and other purple-tinted flowers. I’m always happy when something smells good and stronger than me.

PCT

Mount Hood and the field of lupins

At the lodge I found loads of hikers. The Noodleheads had done 42 miles yesterday to make it here for breakfast and it was TeaTree and Nafta that woke me this morning.

I ate a lot of food discarded from people’s resupply boxes and I enjoyed the far reaching views back to Mt Jefferson and Sisters. The lodge was apparently used in The Shining, but I wouldn’t have recognised it.

PCT

Team HORN leaving Mount Hood

Eventually we got going again. Undulating doesn’t begin to cover this afternoon’s hike. Up and down big ravines, even a considerable river to ford (though we found logs to balance across). Now I’m tired and ready to sleep. We came all this way this evening to reach a shelter and found a notice on the door about mice with hanta-virus, and it smells funny. So we’re all sleeping outside.
PCT

Catching a tree with my foot

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

Google Maps

2007-08-24 Fast on the flats

Friday, August 24th, 2007

After yesterday’s stunning alpine-esque scenery today’s pancake walk was pretty dull. But I made good use of it and did my longest day yet at almost 34 miles. The Noodleheads did even more and people coming southbound reported they were last seen 4 miles north, I expect they did at least 40.

The trail was in good condition and very flat but even so I’ve pounded my feet too much and had I continued I’d be blistered into a rest day. There were no views to be had though a couple of nice sights to be seen. Clackamas Lake and Little Crater Lake are both spring fed from below and have that wonderful clear blue colour so you can see the dead trees sitting on the bottom. In Little Crater Lake’s case that’s 45ft down. I really wanted to swim there but a little family was nearby and I didn’t want a fuss.

PCT

Little Crater Lake

Rumble is camped here with me. She did 2,300 miles of the trail in 2003 and started from the beginning this year. I don’t know if I’d have the patience to redo so much of it. A Train just left, putting in a couple more miles to counteract him sleeping later than us tomorrow. Everyone’s talking about the Timberline Lodge’s all-you-can-eat (AYCE) brunch. The lodge was used when filming The Shining, it’ll be cool to see that for real.

Quote of the day: “mmmm, these huckleberries go really well on the instant chocolate pudding” – Me. Just now,.

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

Google Maps

2007-08-23 I can see WA from here

Thursday, August 23rd, 2007

From today’s high point, a tough 2,700ft above last night’s camp, I could see Mount St. Helens in Washington. Also in view were Mount Adams, Mount Hood and behind us was Mount Jefferson.

The first thing we had to do was cross Milk Creek. The water itself was easy to get across but after a major washout last year the tricky bit is getting down to the edge. The bank now consists of a 15ft slope of loose grit and rock but taken slowly it was passable.

PCT

Milk Creek

Before the final push to that viewful crest the trail crossed a plateau that reminded me of the high sierras with the little tarns, paths worn down through soft soil and granite lumps protruding.

At the top I took the time to make a snow-cone. I used a cut-up Gatorade bottle as the scoop and Emergen-C as the flavouring and it was good. So good Rigatoni even made one too, which was fair since he gave me the idea way back at the 1/3 mark.

PCT

The snow cone and friends

The descent to Olallie Lake went pretty quickly as I wondered hard about what was in the mystery resupply box, courtesy of BlueSky’s mum, that awaited me there. I was not disappointed. The big pasta meals, complete with oil in a sealed packet, the bars and dried fruit selections. I’m thinking I might even gain weight on this section :-)

Lucky Joe wasn’t so lucky this time. I asked at the store and his package hadn’t arrived so I’ve left him Blue Sky’s portion of the food and hope that will see him through.
PCT

This used to say PCT but someone thought that was too useful

For the second night running Angelhair has said how much those two enjoy hiking with me, and tonight she said it would be nice to reach the end together. They’re a cool couple and I’d like that but it’s still 600 miles away and all sorts of stuff can change our plans in that time.

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

Google Maps

2007-08-22 Oregon is not flat

Wednesday, August 22nd, 2007

I continue to wake many times during the night, and last night each time brought a different sky. The stars would be there in all their dazzling brilliance on one turn and then next they’d be obscured by rolling fog.

PCT

Into the clouds

I finally decided to get up and packing around 6am when a bunch of cars rolled up with climbers heading for Three Fingered Jack. Though it hadn’t rained my sleeping bag was soaked. I was toasty and dry inside but packing it away meant cold hands. I hate having cold hands.

I thanked Andrew and Ian for their angeling and just as the sun was about to reach our spot the fog came back in and we were enveloped in cold. It got me moving quickly, heading above the clouds, and I was rewarded with incredible views south to Mount Washington poking through towards the sun.

I caught the Noodleheads at the end of their morning break and hiked continuously with them all day. It certainly made the miles go by. We swapped adventures in Europe and I heard about their cycling tour of the US. They’ve effectively been retired since they were 34 and we talked about how that has given them the freedom to really do what fulfills them. Truly a remarkable couple and I hope to stick with them for a while.

PCT

drying out at lunch time

The scenery today was amazing. With a few days rain the flowers seem brighter, the greens stronger and the huckleberries were numerous. Crossing over a saddle to see the north side of Three Fingered Jack was quite a climb but so worth it. The top few hundred feet consists of alternating red and black stripes of volcanic rock making quite a sight. Up there I got a strange feeling of winter. Though I was looking down on burned fir forest it reminded me of the woods from my childhood in Sussex. The grey trees, a cold nip in the air and pale blue skies. The ground would be crunchy underneath the mud frozen solid overnight.
PCT

The Noodleheads on a quest for Mount Hood

After Shale Lake (now a small pool in a mud circle) we passed through a gulch of purple lupins and small fir trees. With Mount Jefferson shrouded in cloud as a back drop it was picture-perfect and should certainly be in the Oregon brochure.

Tonight I am camping below Mount Jefferson, which finally lost its clouds in time to turn pink at sunset. I’m not putting up my tent but I have all my clothes inside my sleeping bag where I hope they’ll be dry and warm in the morning.

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

Google Maps

2007-08-21 I can see clearly now

Tuesday, August 21st, 2007

The rain has gone, for the moment anyway. Under cold blue skies I took down my soaking wet tent and filled my bottles from the freezing spring nearby. I set off quite late from camp to give my stuff a chance to dry. While pacing around I discovered we’d camped right beneath one of the Three Sisters. This section is one of the highlights of Oregon so I’m glad I got to see a bit rather than pass it all in clouds.

I wore only shorts today, with gaiters, because I was fairly confident that with all the volcanic rock we’d be going over I wouldn’t be pushing through damp plants.

The trail was good and mostly down hill until the last mile to Highway 242 where it suddenly crossed a lot of scoria and became an awkward balancing act. It continued on the other side of the road too until a few miles and 1,000ft later at the Belknap saddle where I met the Noodleheads.

PCT

A burned forest recovers

On the slopes of Mount Jefferson we went through yet another burned section. This area seemed fresh, the trees still really black and many of them still standing. I wonder if this is the area that Rolling Thunder had to miss because of fires. That would mean this is where he came back to redo this year and saw all the snow. Nothing here now except way up the mountain.
PCT

Lunch break under Mt Jefferson I think

They went off to Big Lake Youth Camp to get their resupply box and I just trundled on. Until I met Nafta, TeaTree and A Train who reported not one but two chilly bins (“coolers” in american) of trail magic at the road, then I picked up the pace. Home made cookies and a Sierra Mist, mmmm. Then, reunited with the Noodleheads, I crossed the road and found the other magic was staffed by Andrew and Ian. They had all sorts of stuff and as it was quickly getting cold we decided to just stay the night at the trail head. The latest weather report says 20% chance of rain tonight and sunny tomorrow so I’m cowboy camping again.

Two major measurements today. I completed 3/4 before lunch and passed the 2000 mile point after lunch. 2000 miles and I still have 25% to go!

PCT


Deal of the day: Angelhair wanted to save some weight so she gave me a king sized Snickers bar in return for a regular one. mmmm free calories

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

Google Maps

2007-08-16 …and a ladder

Thursday, August 16th, 2007

We found the Maiden Peak hut about a mile from where we camped. It was basic but would have been nice enough for the four of us. Instead we had woken to a mist. I probably noticed it first being the only one not in a tent. It was 4:30am and I figured it wasn’t wet enough to be worth getting up yet.

We walked in various groupings throughout the morning. It was reasonably easy going and though we were mostly in dense forest there were occasional breaks at lakes. Just before lunch we passed through a big section of a forest fire from 1998. It was really erie to walk amongst the still standing dead trees. Blue sky above, small patches of green below and a wall of grey needles all around. I imagine this is what it feels like to be a nit walking on a buzz-cut head.

PCT

We met a party of assorted adults and children who cheerily informed us they’d been playing a game with the kids setting up little obstacles on the trail. We found them pretty soon. Chest high branches, a big log, a few sticks on the ground. We removed every one. As fun as that must be for the children, this is a hiking path and that sort of stuff is not helping at all. Then we came to an unmarked intersection. As is PCT style one path had a bunch of sticks across it, or was that just the kids playing?

The afternoon saw us return to the woods and pass many more lakes. Some are sizeable and clear, good enough to swim in on a warm day, but most are stagnant little things and the mosquitos don’t let you slow down to look.

PCT

At dinner I counted my wrappers for the day. With two bagels (290 each), six bars, a fair chunk of cheese, two tortillias, a pile of chocolate raisins and peanuts, Lipton Pasta and a packet of instant noodles I think I cleared 3,300 calories for the day. And I’m still hungry.

Today’s food fantasy: Cold bananas dipped in warm chocolate

More photos of this day’s journey can be found at Mt Thielsen to Bend

Google Maps

2007-08-15 Heaps?

Wednesday, August 15th, 2007

The wind shifted in the night but any wind on an exposed ridge like that is enough to keep the mosquitos and dew at bay.

I trundled off down the hill by myself as usual, expecting it to stay that way all day since most of the PCTers take the easier more scenic route. Over the undulating path I met nine southbounders some more talkative than others. I found a nice cold creek for lunch, even took the time to read my book, then ambled on and on through the woods until reaching Willamette Pass. I tried going up to the ski area there to use the payphone but the place was closed. A guy came out to meet me and offered fresh water. The lakes seem clean enough but I still prefer running water.

I set up camp next to the very lovely Lower Rosary Lake. I’d eaten dinner and was doing my dishes when the Noodleheads and Rumble came along and convinced me to go just “1.4 miles” to a hut. Normally I’d hate to repack and move on but I like these two and the hut sounded nice so I got moving, and moving, and still moving. It was well over two miles later that I found them without the hut. Rigatoni had run on ahead and came back soon, also without a hut.

So we set up here by the trail and by my estimate this is my longest day yet. 32.5 miles!

It’s been a little while since I camped with people. We’ve been talking for a while and Rigatoni said if he found a kiwi on the trail without a trailname he’d name them “Heaps” because kiwis say that a lot. It works pretty well for me because of my superlarge pack so I’m thinking of adopting that one. SunWalker has always sounded a bit too new-age for me, and I expect people to give me the peace sign and say “right on” to me.

Today’s food fantasy: Roasted vegetables. Kumara (a New Zealand sweet potato), garlic, parsnip, carrots. Slightly marinated in ruby wine, Worchestershire Sauce and a bit of malt vinegar, then slathered in olive oil.

More photos of this day’s journey can be found at Mt Thielsen to Bend

Google Maps