Wednesday, August 24, 2016

August 15 to August 21 - Stevens Pass to Canada Border / Manning Park

Day 93 - August 15 - end at mile 2477.6. Traffic picked back up around 4am and I got woke up by the sound. I was happy to at least have slept for a few hours in my crummy spot. I packed up and walked down to the road to thumb into Skykomish. Within a minute or two a local who was driving to work picked me up. He had a three hour commute where he stays overnight near his job for half the week and said he was happy to give me a ride to break up the monotony of the drive. We chatted about the trail and then he dropped me off in the cute railroad town. I got breakfast #1 at the gas station which was the only place open at 6:30am. I'm glad it was. I crossed the iron bridge into town and wandered about. The town is small but has a clear downtown consisting of just several buildings, and it reminded me of a New England town. I hung out in one of the park's since the post office was closed till 11:30am. After I while I got hungry and had loitered a long time so I went back to the gas station for breakfast #2, followed at 10am by breakfast #3 at the cafe/hotel which was now open. Trail Angel Jerry Dinsmore and other hikers were at the cafe and we had breakfast together. It was nice to chat with some new folks. I picked up my package afterwards and as I was sorting it a nice woman named Mandy came over to chat. She was heading my way out of town and kindly offered me a ride. By the time I was all packed up, the people she was waiting around for showed up. She gave me a fresh veggie sandwich and then it was time to drive up. Getting in and out of Skykomish was super easy and fun.  I'm glad I made the trip. Half the day was gone at this point though so it was time to hike. The afternoon trail seemed easier than what the past few days presented and I made good time. Had a nice view of Glacier Peak while walking the meadow on top of the non-gnarly, tame Grizzly Peak. I think I ate too much for dinner or maybe it was the potentially rancid olive oil I have plus lots of fritos, but my stomach felt terrible after dinner and still does. I had to take it super slow on the last mile to camp for fear of throwing up. Made it fine but laying here I still have a stomache ache, a very unusual thing for me. Hopefully I'll sleep it off.

Day 94 - August 16 - end at mile 2508.1. Nice hike today. Lots of blueberries in the morning. Swam in an alpine lake at lunch. Big exposed walk up high in mild weather. Views of Glacier Peak and surrounding area. Flat woods in evening with a Black-backed Woodpecker. Sunny but not hot today.

Day 95 - August 17 - end at mile 2540.7. Two ups and two downs. Flat along a river. Huge trees along the river. 10-15ft diameters. Very cool. Tomorrow will be an easy day. Because of the bus schedule into Stehekin, I need to take my time and get in there morning day after tomorrow.

Day 96 - August 18 -  end at mile 2569.4. The terrain for the day was ten miles up and twenty down. The up was wooded and not too steep. Went by quickly. I then realized I could make it to the last bus into Stehekin as long as I kept a 3mph pace on the downhill. I hustled down and arrive about an hour early. I didn't have many snacks and felt bonked by the time I got down. I rode the bus in with four or five other hikers. Stehekin is a small lake town and has a little lodge with a store and restaurant. The lake is almost like a wide river, about 200 meters wide and maybe 40 miles long. Apparently there are no roads to this town so cars must come on ferry. I was glad I made it and had some town food while hanging out with the other hikers. Camped at the Purple Point Campground nearby.

Day 97 - August 19 - end at mile 2590.6
Last night was by far the hottest on trail. I laid with no sleeping bag and just in my underwear and was sweating.. so it took a while to fall a sleep. I got up early. I find it a little hard to sleep in now. I got breakfast at the restaurant and then headed over to the bakery for second breakfast with a hiker named High Mileage (secret meaning there). By then the post office was open. Turns out they don't hold UPS general deliver boxes there and it'd be at the store. Store didn't have my food box either. Tracking number said it was received by the ferry to take it to town but that's the last thing I knew. It was lost. Luckily another hiker abandoned their box at the post office so I was able to take food out of there. Combined with the big hiker box outside and I was able to assemble a sufficient food bag before heading out for the last 90 miles of trail. I had to rush to do this though because the bus was leaving for the trail. With no time to spare, I flagged it down midroute and got on to head up the 11 miles to trail. I was a bit frazzled from the past hectic half hour but it all worked out in the end. Once on trail I walked a fast, unremarkable 19 mile uphill before having dinner at a picnic area. Then a nice evening two mile to this solo campsite. One nice thing about today's hike was a bunch of cool stream crossings and some nice bridge. There was a bazillion cars in the trailhead two miles back so I was happy to find this spot empty. There has been a lot of non-thru hikers on trail in Washington and Oregon. That was a rare occurrence in California. I've got 60 miles left. Probably two days, Saturday and Sunday. I'm hoping my last days aren't swamped with people, but if they are, I'll try to make the best of it.

Day 98 - August 20 - end at mile 2624.7. I got up at 5:30 and it was still pretty dark but just light enough to see. Cold this morning too. By 6, the cool was gone and the sun was up. Today was mostly exposed walking above the trees which was pretty but not always the most exciting hiking. Some spots were nice long walks on the mountain slopes where you could see far ahead where you were going. Others were boring switchbacks on and on up the side of the mountain. The sun was on me all day today but I'm almost out of sunscreen so I didn't use much. Looking forward to being out of the sun once I'm back home in a few days. Tomorrow will be my last day hiking on the PCT. I intend to camp shortly after the border in Manning Park and then take the bus out the next day.

Day 99 - August 21 - end at mile 2650.1. I headed out this morning and decided to go all the way to Manning today. I thought the bus came to pick up in the middle of the night and figured I might as well ride out tonight than weight around. I passed a three section hikers as I ascended to the final pass on the PCT. I had great views of far off mountains and glaciers. Then I just had a 8 mile descent to the border. I ran into Dee, a thru hiker who was heading back to Rainy Pass after reaching the border. We exchanged congratulations and smiles before heading our separate ways. I still had a few miles left. When I got to the border monument I was alone. There was no big mass of people like when I summited Katahdin on the AT. But also there was nothing special about this spot. I was just at some random monument in the woods, the closest paved road in Canada still another 8 miles. On either side of the monument, a thirty foot clearcut ran east and west to serve as a border line. I didn't expect to see that. I quickly signed the log and checked when a few of my friends had been through. But flies were biting me so I didn't stay too long. I walked across the border and into Canada.

Monday, August 15, 2016

August 12 to August 14 - Snoqualmie Pass, WA to Stevens Pass, WA

Day 90 - August 12 - end at mile 2401.1. Left camp early today so that I could get to Snoqualmie Pass sooner. After a few hours, I came to a large pond and swam to wash up my body and clothes. Another warm, sunny day. As I got closer to town I saw a bunch of berries on trail to eat. There are blueberries and raspberry varieties out here. I picked up my box and had lunch in town before heading back out. I crossed I-90 and thought how I could take that 3000 miles east to home. There were lots day hikers on the trail climbing out of town and the sound of traffic below combined for a somewhat annoying first couple of hours. Once I got to the top it was just me though carrying forward. I saw several grey marmots. Not sure if they are a different species or not from the reddish-brown ones I saw further south. At my camp here there are lots of mosquitos buzzing around but they don't seem so interested in my blood. I'm not sure why but I appreciate it.I have a great view of the surrounding mountains and Rainer far in the distance. I have 249 miles left of the PCT and expect to be done in 10 days or less. I'm still enjoying hiking but at the same time looking forward to being back home.

Day 91 - August 13 - end at mile 2430.8. The day started off with pretty purples and oranges lighting up Rainer. It wasn't at all cool this morning. Shortly after starting I saw a reddish-brown fox-like animal with a bushy tail tipped black scurry away. Was it a Pine Martin? I saw more of those grey Marmots and one half grey and half red. I suspect its a different "plumage" related to non-breeding season but don't really know. The day got hot with big rock, switchbacked PUDs so I never got into a good rhythm and was bored and frustrated for a lot of the midday. Once the sun got low again, and the trail got less curvy I started to feel better. 0.4 miles before the campsite I was headed to I saw a sign pointing off trail that read, "Camping". I followed it up an abandoned trail with overgrowth and downed trees. After realizing it wasn't leading me anywhere, I made a short off trail climb to the original campsite I aimed for. This was actually a lot of fun and I had to pull myself up a little cliff face to get here. Now I'm camped alone on a nice overlook of the valley below and ridge walls on either side. It's still quite warm at 9pm so I'm gonna sleep with my rain fly open for the first time in a while. I sorta hope the weather turns colder and cloudier like the three days I had earlier in Washington. While not the most comfortable, this heat isn't either. 99% of the PCT has been hot and sunny like this and those three misty cool days were some of the prettiest and most memorable.

Day 92 - August 14 - end at mile 2461.6. Today's hike had lots of ups and downs. Washington seems a lot harder than most of the trail. Definitely harder than flat Oregon. Lots of ponds today and I swam in one perfectly timed at noon to cool off for the next climb. I took an alternate at Surprise Mountain that went up steeper and through a gap. On the saddle, I could see the last big glacial volcano. I think it's Glacier Peak. In the evening I met a fellow long distance hiker and bike tourist named Dr. John. We hiked together for a couple hours in the evening. I was good to talk and hike with someone like minded. Not many of us around right now... I think I'm ahead of most. After splitting up I climbed up to the ski lifts at Stevens Pass resort and hung out for the evening. Off trail, I found an odd stack of dry books: the Holy Bible, a book on Buddhism, a Colorado state map, a notebook that said "Appalachian Trail" handwritten on front but appeared to be full of school notes, a tourist guide to Seattle. At dusk, I descended down two miles to the road for a hitch first thing in the morning. This turned out to be not the best idea because I ended up camping right next to the busy highway. All night, trucks roared up the pass, tested their brakes, and then dropped down the other side. This made for one of my worst night's sleep on the PCT. Oh well.

Friday, August 12, 2016

August 3 to August 11 - Timberline Lodge, OR to near Snoqualmie Pass, WA

Day 81 - August 3 - end at mile 2113.1. Woke up at 5 and was barely able to see in the pre-dawn hour, but I wanted to make it to Timberline Lodge by 7:30 am. Clouds were overhead and it felt like what I heard the Pacific Northwest was like. I heard Varied Thrush before light. We got great views of Mt Hood as we approached the lodge. The lodge has the best breakfast buffet on trail. After three plates and many smoothies and coffees, Kibs, Sprout and I paid our bills. We hung out in the lodge and drank a beer before heading out around noon. We descended down to the awesome Ramona waterfall. In the evening we heard peeping mice. I think they may be Pikas.

Day 82 - August 4 - end at mile 2144.6
Didn't sleep great the night before. Some roots and lumps underneath. The first 12 or so miles my rightside neck and shoulder started hurting. My pack doesn't have a hip belt and up until now it had been fine but the weight pulling down bothered me today. I stopped for lunch at a junction and Kibs and Sprout passed by. After lunch, there was a steep descent down to Tunnel Falls and Eagle Creek. The pain I felt in the morning was gone now. The Eagle Creek Trail we were on was really cool as it followed a canyon wall with the creek below. After we walked behind Tunnel Falls we saw a bazillion people on our way to the trail head. Soon we were in Cascade Locks. We got pizza, fries, and beer at the Ale House and met the great trail angel there. My first pizza in 1200 miles. Sprout and Kibs headed off for Portland and I stayed behind. I'll miss hanging out with them but I wanted to keep going forward. Roadrunner came in for dinner and sat down. It was good to hang with him, last saw him at the Etna Hostel. I wasn't sure where I'd spend the night but then he offered to let me stay in his hotel room which gladly accepted. Thanks Roadrunner!

Day 83 - August 5 - end at mile 2179.7. I left the motel at 6:30am and headed over the Bridge of the Gods. Only a few cars by as I crossed the Columbia River. I looked down through the grating to the water far below. I entered Washington alone. This is my first day hiking alone since meeting Sprout and Kibs ten days ago. The day's hike was in deep forest with thick canopy.  No sunscreen needed. My pack was heavy with 150 miles of food and my neck and shoulder hurt. I plodded along for a quiet day. As sun was setting I struggled to find a campsite due to the ferns covering the forest floor. I had to use my phone's flashlight to find a spot to pitch my tent. At 9:30pm, I found a nice spot at the junction of two trails by Panther Creek. I was tired and the sound of the creek lulled me to sleep.

Day 84 - August 6 - end at mile 2213.4. Another quiet day. Slept in till 7am. Lux was outside my tent getting water from the creek when I woke up. We chatted as I packed up and leapfrogged all day, as we have been doing since Crater Lake. My neck and shoulder continued hurting today. The up and down felt a little easier today. Mostly in dense forest again today with good shade. A couple of ponds and a few views of what I believe is nearby Mt. Adams. Camping off trail in a flat dark forest. Had to clear out all the fallen branches because I couldn't find any clear spots along the trail.

Day 85 - August 7 - end at mile 2248.5. Walked out of my camp just as Lux was passing by. It was a gray morning and we leapfrogged for the first 15 miles of the day. The sun never came out for more than a few seconds today and it was the chilliest so far. It may have been wise to ship myself my warm clothes back for Washington afterall. I walked around the base of Mt. Adams and looked up at the giant glacier when the clouds weren't covering it. My neck and shoulders hurt off and on. In the evening it started to rain lightly. Because I was chilly and had a break in the rain I pitched camp a little early. The rains been off and on since. My latest forecast calls for rain tomorrow but  clear the rest of the week.

Day 86 - August 8 - end at mile 2284.2. Today was the hardest day on trail so far due to the weather but one of the most rewarding. My tent was wet when I woke up in a cloud. I packed up and headed north wearing all my clothes. It was raining and cold... maybe in the 40's. I was one notch warmer than shivering. My bare legs brushed against wet brush and I wished for rain pants. My shirt was not sufficient under my rain coat to keep me warm. My hands lost fine motor skills as they got colder. I walked as fast as I could to gain body heat but it didn't work. At one point I stopped to put on my spare socks as gloves and my hands were so stiff I could hardly get them on. I kept going as fast as I could and reached the gorgeous Cispus Pass. The clouds move and I got a few seconds of sunlight before they returned. By now it was 1pm and warm enough that I wasn't in pain but my hands were still hard to move. Next I climbed up to the knife's edge which was a very cool traverse of a narrow. On the approach was a ton of snow and the fog made me feel like I was somewhere super remote like Antarctica. On the back side the clouds finally cleared and I took my first brake at 5pm. Two more hours of dry hiking ended in drizzle and I pitched my tent. My hands are sore from the cold. Tomorrow is a store, I hope they sell gloves. If not... plastic bags.

Day 87 - August 9 - end at mile 2314.7. Light rain fell throughout the night. I slept in till 6:30 to avoid the cold, wet outside. Once I got up and moving, I had a nice three hour walk into the store at White Pass.The clouds were thick but occasionally would blow open views to the nearby scenary, otherwise I could see maybe thirty feet only. I took a shortcut down to the store which was essentially going down the White Pass Ski slope. This was steep and mostly off trial. The fog and overgrown plants made for an interesting was down. At the store I was lucky to find gloves, a winter hat, and a space blanket to add to my pack. This will help me stay comfortable through Washington. I ate breakfast and hung out with other hikes. I packed up my resupply and headed out into the partly sunny, partly foggy afternoon. I was in a good mood this afternoon and on two occasions overlooked a field with what I believe are Elk. I saw maybe ten in all and watched them as they grazed and then ran off upon noticing me. It's very quiet here in these misty mountains. Just the occasional plane far overhead or chip of a Junco. When I stop walking, am quiet, and listen, I mostly just hear the own ringing in my head. A grouse or some other bird just flapped for one second nearby. Now its quiet again. It's dark now. Goodnight.

Day 88 - August 10 - end at mile 2344.5 - Slept in a bit again today due to the cold mist outside. I slept cool last night. The space blanket below my legs didn't help much as I conducted through it. Having it on top may have been better. The morning cool cleared quickly and the sun came out. It never did get hot today and the sun was a welcome change of pace after the past few days. I did walk off and on through misty clouds. I caught a few glimpses of Mt. Rainer through the clouds as I walked through its national park. Until today the mountain had been shrouded in thick mist. In the evening I got to Mike Urich cabin. I was hoping to find a thermal top layer inside to take with me. To my delight there was a grey soft-shell jacket in my size inside up for the taking. I've got everything I need now to stay warm in Washington, except maybe rain pants. The trail provides. I spent the evening over dinner with four other hikers. A nice day.

Day 89 - August 11 - end at mile 2374.5. I started off a little late today. The meadow I camped next to was still full of mist but the sky above was blue. After an hour of hiking the sun reminded me of what it was like just three days ago on the PCT: hot and sunny. I crossed paths with at least six sobos this morning, and a bunch of older AT thru hiker gents out doing Washington. In the evening, I leapfrogged with a local who told me a bunch of neat natural history of the upcoming trail. Earlier in the day I saw what looked like a huge skunk cross the trail. I bushwacked a wide arc around it. Got good views of Mt. Rainer through the clear sky today. Otherwise the section of trail was rather dull today. Full of PUDs, forest road crossings, and powerlines. Just walking through conifers, which nice in its own right.