Archive for the 'Washington' Category

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.


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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2007-09-13 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.


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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2007-09-12 Skykomish

Wednesday, September 12th, 2007

Another restless night and another starry sky. I think it was the rustling mice that kept waking me up but when I noticed Orion coming up over the trees on the other side of the lake I didn’t mind so much. Every hour after midnight I woke and peered over the log next to me to check the movement of the sky.

Finally it was light and we all started packing up for the 8 miles to the road. There weren’t any spectacular views or hard bits, just walking up and down, a few switchbacks and then we came to highway 2 and all got easy hitches to Skykomish. We’ve checked in to The Dinsmore’s. They are established trail angels with hiker boxes, spare clothes while yours are washing, a hot tub and computer access.

Most of the talk has been about weather conditions. We’re (the Noodleheads and I) missing our planned zero day in the hope of reaching Stehekin dry, or at least with only one day of rain. I’ve looked at some photos of previous years and seen people finishing in snow. That’s not going to happen to us. It’s too early and too warm but it would suck to come all this way in sunshine and then spend the last 100 miles soaking wet and miserable.

I don’t know what the phone line is like in Stehekin. If you don’t get new reports by Wednesday Sept 19th you can assume I couldn’t contact the world from there and am busy storming towards the border. T-190

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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.


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.


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.


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.


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.

The road ahead


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.

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

The road ahead

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2007-09-08 Snoqualmie Pass

Saturday, September 8th, 2007

I was watching the peak on the west of the lake. When the sun was on it I’d start moving and thus I was the last to leave. It also meant that I was the only one to see the bear at the top of the first hill. There wasn’t anything particularly notable about the walk and soon enough I was down at Snoqualmie Pass, looking at those formidable mountains ahead. It looks like the Sierras again. A miniature version but still soaring mountains, snowy peaks and green valleys. I’m really looking forward to it.

PCT sign

The mountains ahead

Samurai Joe has caught up so we’ve split a room four ways. Thunder, Tag and Robo Cop are each going solo. The service at the Chevron is variable to say the least. I asked the guy behind the counter if I had any packages, he said I didn’t but I could check the store room. None for me but I saw a box for A-Train. The postmistress was just closing up but was going down to town and would bring back anything with my name on it. I heard from A-Train that when he asked for his box the guy denied it existed and he had to insist on checking the room personally to get it. The story goes on but basically it’s a whole mish-mash that could lead to disaster despite their plan to help us hikers.

Ok, back to the hills!

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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.

PCT sign

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.
PCT sign

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.
PCT sign

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.
PCT sign
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.
PCT sign

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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