Month: September 2016

PCT mm 2461.6 – Stevens pass

The rain finally let up today as the weatherman promised, and I made it to the lodge on time to get my package and ran into the trail angel Legend again.  I met him in Seiad Valley a month back and never expected to see him again.
I woke up around 5:30 and went through my usual music routine before donning ice cold wet clothes and socks.  The temperature was not actually that cold, but it was damp and the dampness makes everything seem colder.  I got packed up and on trail just before 7:00 and even though it was not raining, everything as soaking wet so from the waist down, it might as well have been raining.

There were four or five thousand foot climbs for the day, and the first came a few hours into the hike.  Another hiker passed me on the way up, and when we got to the pass, the sun was shining, so it was time for a break to dry things out, mainly feet.  It was 11:00 when I stopped.

I found a rock to sit on and took my shoes and socks off to let them dry and put my flip flops on to let my feet dry.  The bandaids on both feet had come off, so I wanted to dry my feet well and put fresh bandaids on and cover the right one with a layer of duct tape to help keep it in place.  I also put dry socks on, knowing they would be wet in less than a minute, but they would help the shoes dry out faster.  There was still a little dew on a few bushes, but my main goal was get my feet as dry as possible as soon as possible.

I ate a mini lunch while drying and was off again around 11:30.  I didn’t want to take too many breaks since I needed to get to the lodge at Stevens pass by 4:30 if possible in order to get my package before the lodge closed.  But I also had to take every opportunity to try and doctor my feet, since they are the most important part of my body to take care of.

Most of the climbs were not too steep, but some of them had some steep sections.  We were basically bouncing across canyons like in the Sierras, but the canyons were smaller and shorter.  There were all of lakes in this area, and the blueberry and huckleberry bushes are still full of fruit here.  I stopped once to pick a handful.  I have decided that I like blueberries better than huckleberries.

I stopped by a lake just before 2 PM to eat official lunch.  I mixed a black bean soup with a ramen noodle without seasoning to try something new and it was OK.  Probably not a future staple.  I also took my shoes off to let them dry and check the duct tape.  It was still painful, but the tape was still in place at least.

From that point on, I pretty much had to do 3 mph to be able to make the lodge by 4:30.  I still had two climbs in there, so that would be hard to do.  I still had some coffee left, so I downed it and that perked me up a little.

I ended either passing or getting passed by several hikers the last few miles into town.  Everyone had town fever at that point and just wanted to get into town as quickly as possible.  I ended up rolling in right at 4:35, and headed straight for the office.  I got my package, took my shoes and socks off, donned my flip flops and headed straight upstairs to the restaurant.  Two good local beers, a cheeseburger with fries and a salad later and I was satisfied.

It was cold outside and the bartender said it was fine to bring packs inside to divvy up the resupply boxes, so I dragged everything upstairs and started loading.  When you look at a box full of food, it seems like so much, but it’s amazing how fast you can actually eat it.   Had a bag of Skittles as well as Peanut M&M’s in this box, which is too much candy, so I immediately started in on the M&M’s.  

I needed to get rid of some things, so I squeezed a big dollop of honey into the coffee water bottle, out a coffee in it, and asked the bartender if he would put some soda water in there.  It fizzed quite a bit, but morning will tell if I have invented something wonderful or horrible.  I also ditched the ghee.  It makes everything taste so fantastic and at the cold temperatures we have had lately, it’s not messy.  but it’s bulky and heavy and I don’t use it every night, so at this point it’s a luxury and did not make the cut.  So I now have six days of food which should take me all the way to Mazama, my last stop.  I was hoping to stop at Stehekin to load up on one day of food exclusively from the bakery, but it looks like I have plenty and won’t need to stop there at all.  Bummer.

As I was almost ready to leave, I ran into Legend, who had fed us spaghetti and pancakes the night before Seiad Valley.  He was camped here in an RV and offered an invitation.  I had planned on hiking out four miles or so and camping, but an RV is almost like camping, right?  I accepted his offer and another couple did as well.

The four of us went to his RV and he made spaghetti and Cocoa and we talked quite a bit about lots of topics.  Legend was commenting that several of the facilities available to hikers were trashed this year and may not be available or next year.  The same thing has happened on the AT over the years.  One of his observations is that the hikers don’t police themselves like they used to, so bad behavior grows faster than it used to.  He could be right.

So at least I have a to sleep tonight.  the forecast for the next week is for very little chance of rain.  I need a few dry days in a row to heal my feet.  I have already heard rain falling on the RV roof three times while blogging, so I’m not sure I trust the Washington weatherman.  But I sure could use some dry weather.

PCT mm 2442.2 – Another all day rain

I was expecting it to rain today, but I would hoping it would break in the afternoon.  No such luck.  It has rained all day long, even while cooking dinner.  But I did get to see a patch about 5 PM while I was getting rained on while filtering water.
I got up just after 5:30 and listened to music for a while before stirring and getting ready.  I was on the trail at 7 am and none of the other hikers had even stirred yet.  I never saw them all day.  When I set off, it was not yet raining, but it was foggy and dewey.  I had my rain jacket on, but not rain pants.  There was plenty of moisture on the plants, so my pants and shoes got wet pretty quick.

Within an hour, it started to actually rain.  I found a thick pine tree that was dry underneath and out my rain pants on.  I made sure my phone was secure and dry and kept on going.  Every time I thought the rain was letting up and I could out my umbrella away, it would start raining again.

There was a.big climb up to a pass before lake Ivanhoe then a steep descent to reconnect with the PCT.  I always feel more comfortable when I’m back on the official trail.  It feels like home.

The rest of the trail in the morning and afternoon were more climbs up to high ridges, then descending to the next valley.  It feels.a little like the Sierra but the grades are much better and there are no giant steps to navigate.  There were quite a few stream crossings, too.  All of them could be traversed on either rocks or logs.

I wanted to get as far as I could today without going past dark.  I want tomorrow to be an easy day into town.  I also wanted to have enough daylight to set up and cook since I was soaked.  I found a campsite that looked like I could get there right at 7 PM, so that would have to do.  I ended up getting there right at 7:05.

When I got there, three other tents were already set up.  I found a suitable hammock site just outside the campsite and immediately went to setting up camp.  Instead of getting the hammock completely ready before cooking dinner, I got only the pad set up, then changed my shirt and got into the down jacket.  I took my shoes off, but left my pants and socks on.  

I sat in the hammock and cooked while sitting comfortably.  I liked this arrangement instead of going to find a log to sit on or sitting on the ground under the hammock.  And it was a good day for testing this out, because the rain came again while I was cooking.  I think I’ll cook this way from now on.

When I my.socks off, I discovered that both blister bandages had come completely off in the wetness.  No wonder my right foot was giving me so much pain.  I think I’ just bandaids tomorrow because I am running low on blister bandages.  I’ll put those on once I can have a dry day and dry feet so they will have time to adhere to my feet well before the next rain soaks them again.  We’re supposed to have a few warm and dry days, but I’m not holding my breath.

PCT mm 2418.5 – Goldmyer hot springs alternate

While in town, I learned of an alternative trail that supposedly had less elevation change, was shorter than the PCT by nearly ten miles, and went right by a cascading hot springs.  That sounds like an easy decision, right?  Well, I ended up taking it, and I’m not sure it was the right choice.
I woke up at a leisurely 6:30 and packed up and headed for breakfast at the inn.  Three eggs, bacon, sausage, hash browns, and French toast later and I was ready to hike.  I had a few things to drop in the hiker box on the way out and I was on trail by 8:30.  

The PCT left the I-90 corridor immediately, but the alternate started out as a mile and a half of road walk to a trailhead.  The parking area was full of cars, and the trail had quite a few hikers on it already this morning.  The trail started climbing steps immediately, then leveled off a bit before climbing some serious switchbacks.  I’m not sure how many feet the trail climbed, but it was well over 1000 ft.

Once at the top of the ridge, I could see snow lake on the other side which is the picture in the header.  It was pretty dramatic.  The trail wound around the east side then began climbing another ridge.  The trail was pretty rocky and a little overgrown in places.  The grade was quite steep in a few spots, too.  I kept forgetting that I was not on the PCT and their pack animal grades don’t apply here.

After crossing that small ridge, the trail began a descent that seemed to go on forever.  It was endless switchbacks back and forth over the same talus field for over an hour.  I was starting to get hungry and the trail and slope was so steep there wasn’t really any place to stop and cook.  I ended up going all the way to the bottom of the canyon before finding a suitable place to stop at about 1 PM.

I made some Harmony House soup that I found in a hiker box.  I have never had their soups before, so I was anxious to try it.  Well, it was not so hot.  And I have a few more of them coming in future boxes.  This one was beefish soup with mushrooms.  The predominant taste was carrot.  It was edible, but I won’t eat this one again.

I got rolling again, and the trail started climbing a creek bed.  It was probably an hour before coming to the hot springs area.  A sign said to check in with the caretaker first.  They charge $20 to camp and $15 for day use.  And apparently you have to lay $15 to just go and look.  Phooey, I just kept on hiking right by it.

The trail was now climbing up the Snoqualmie river.  The majority of the rest of the trail is following this river up to the mountains back to the PCT.  Some sections were quite steep and seemed to climb way higher than the river, but the river would always catch up.  There were a series of campsites coming up just before dark, so I decided to camp at whatever one I hit between 6:30 and 7:00.  And apparently that was number three.

Some weekend hikers had just gotten there and started setting up camp.  I found a spot for my hammock across the trail from them.  Three more PCT hikers came and one asked to put his tent next to theirs.  They wanted to cook there and long story short, the weekend hikers packed up and moved along.

I had hiked with two of the three hikers in the past.  One near Kennedy Meadows North and the other near Mt Shasta.  They had seen my name in the registers get further and further ahead and wondered how we saw each other again, so I had to tell them about being off trail for a week.  I saw two more in the hotel that I had not seen since Lake Britton and had the same explanation for them.  It seems like about half of the hikers I meet I have met before and passed before getting off trail.  It’s neat seeing these people again.  They all recognize me even though my clothes are different and my beard is shaved and I have a different hat.

There is about seven miles of this alternate trail left before I rejoin the PCT again.  The mile marker in the title is not truly where I am, I just did some math with what I have left on the alternate subtracted from where I rejoin the PCT.  I also did not do 28 miles today.  It was closer to 19, which seems short for the day but the hiking was a bit tougher than I had expected and I didn’t start until 8:30.  I hope I am able to keep relatively close to my schedule since I have purchased a flight home already.

PCT mm 2390.6 – Snoqualmie pass

A quick day today into Snoqualmie pass for a half day off doing chores and recharging the batteries… Literally.  Tiny place, but they have what I need – a warm dry bed, good food, a post office, and a brewery.

Just as I was going to bed last night, the wind picked up coming straight off the lake and it got quite cold.  The wind was so strong, I could hear it blowing underneath the hammock, and I was wearing earplugs.  My face was cold, but my body stayed warm.  Sometime around midnight, the wind went away, and it warmed up considerably.  I slept well all night long.

Since I had a short 9 miles to do for the day, I slept in a little and listened to a little more music.  Since it was not terribly cold, I skipped the clothing preheat and got ready and on the trail by 7 am.  The trail circled the far side of the lake and then began to climb.

The trail had some overgrown sections, and sometimes the brush was covered in dew, and sometimes it was covered in frost.  I got a little wet, but nothing terrible.  There were many small ponds and boggy sections of trail.  I managed to drag my foot through the water on one stream crossing, so I had one nearly dry foot and one soggy one.  Both would be dry by the time I got to town.

I saw a few day hikers coming up the trail as I descended into town, but no northbounders.  It seemed to take forever to get to town, even though I arrived almost exactly when I thought I would.  Anticipation, I guess.

About a mile from town, the trail pops out onto a ski slope and you can see the whole town at once.  It’s a one horse town with one hotel, two restaurants, one gas station, and a brewery.  Yes, they have a brewery.  It was a nice walk into town.

I went straight to the Chevron (with a post office inside of it) to get my resupply packages.  They store them in an old walk in cooler, and you have to find your own packages.  Karen writes my name on all four sides, so the main one was easy.  The smaller package took a bit longer.  I had a few last minute equipment changes that she needed to mail separately from the main resupply package.

Next up was food.  There is a food truck in the parking lot, so I hit them up for some chicken tacos.  They were delish.  They also had donuts and mandarin oranges in their hiker box.  Third stop, a room at the hotel.  I reserved one, but it would not be ready for an hour, so I checked out the grocery store.  It was pretty pathetic for a store with the word grocery in it.  The Chevron was far better.

I went back to the hotel to check in, then showered and started laundry before the mass of hikers started theirs.  The clothes weren’t completely dry, so I set them out on the bed to finish drying.  Next up, the brewery.

The brewery was called Dru Bru, and they had been mashing all day.  When I walked in, I was rewarded with a fantastic mash and hop smell and they had just gotten a shipment of fresh wet hops just that morning.  The funny thing is that they did not really smell like hops.  I guess they need to dry to get the smell I am used to.

I ordered a flight as I usually do at a brewery, and they were all outstanding.  Their session IPA was their best brew.  It was probably my favorite brewery of the entire trip.  I’d like to go back again some day.

Next up, back to the food truck for dinner.  I got a teriaki bowl and it was as good as the tacos.  Rice, chicken, cabbage, green apples, and cilantro on top with a pineapple muffin.  Sounds weird, but it was great.

Back to the room to finish chores.  First up, booking a flight home.  I’m half way through Washington now, and feel confident enough that I can keep up 25 miles a day, even if I need to hike into the darkness.  A quick email to Ken to update him on dates, and I can go to sleep (after finishing blogging, of course).  Did I mention I have a nice soft dry bed?

PCT mm 2381.8 – Blue skies and sunshine (mostly)

I awoke to cool temperatures and clear skies.  The last weather report I got said four more days of rain.  I’m glad he was wrong today.  Late in the afternoon I had sprinkles, but I have dry socks and shoes and that’s what’s important.

I woke up at 5:30 and hit the tunes while preheating the clothes again.  It takes about fifteen minutes and that’s perfect for morning music time.  I was on trail by 6:45 and even though the ground and grass wat still soaking wet, I could not see a cloud in the sky.  The picture was taken about a mile from my campsite when the sun finally crested the mountain across the way.  The trail turned East and I almost stopped to get my sunglasses.

The grass continued to be wet until close to 11 am which seems like a long time for everything to stay wet and needless to say my shoes had no chance of drying.  At about noon, I passed two other hikers who had stopped at the spring and had everything laying out drying.  The grass was still putting out alot of moisture, so I was still waiting for it to dry out first.  I had stopped for a mini lunch at 11:00 so I was hoping 2:00 would be a perfect time to stop for main lunch and a drying session.  There were several power lines about that spot in the trail.

There was quite a bit of climbing and descending all day.  At this point hiking is hiking and you just keep moving.  But some of the grades today were pretty steep and hard on the ankles.  

At one point in the morning the trail popped up on a ridge and Mt Baker was staring me in the face.  And it looked far snowier than all the other volcano mountains gains we had passed so I am assuming the rain of the last three days had deposited fresh snow on the mountain.  Yesterday seems the likely day since I had snow flurries where I was, and Baker is at least 4000 ft higher than where I was at the time.

As I began to hit the power lines in the afternoon, I was scouting for one that had rocks and not grass to stop on.  The second one was perfect.  It had three big rocks for sitting about 100 ft uphill from the trail.  I headed straight there, got out my lunch food, then took off the shoes and socks and put the flip flops on.  It felt great, and the blisters from yesterday were slightly worse on one foot and better in the other.  I pulled the bandaids to let them dry.  By the time I had eaten and headed out, both socks were dry and the shoes dry on the upper, but not the insoles.  It still felt much better being dry.  

Within an hour, the shoes were completely dry, and as luck would have it, that’s when it started to rain.  I put the pack cover on, but the jacket was too hot.  The area I was hiking apparently had gotten alot of rain, even though it was barely sprinkling on me.  I was not getting wet, but my shoes were.  I was using the poles to try to take the wetness off the grass and huckleberry bushes, but I was still getting wet.  The tops were wet and I could feel the tops of my socks getting wet, but the sole and heel were staying dry.  The heel was the part I was worried about because of the blisters.

Late in the day, the rain had stopped, but ominous clouds were all around.  I spotted a lake on the map that looked where I would end up about 7 PM and would be about eight miles from Snoqualmie pass, so it seemed like the perfect target for the day.

I had to go up and over one peak before climbing into to the lake.  On the previous downhill, my right foot started bugging me.  Coming down this last descent, it was full on hurting like shin splints.  There has been so much downhill, and I have been altering my step to protect the blisters, but apparently I have torched my right shin muscle doing so.  I manage to get to the bottom, but had to stop twice to massage it.

The last climb to the lake was pretty steep, but only a mile long.  The outlet stream crossed the trail three or four times, and at one point was a fairly large waterfall.  I finally made the lake just before 7:00 and found a spot for the hammock right in front of the lake.  It’s called mirror lake and fits it’s name perfectly.  I got a picture that is a perfect mirror image except you can see one ripple from a fish jumping.  At first I thought it ruined the picture, but the ripple is so perfect, it actually makes the picture better.

See, it’s cool with the ripple.

PCT mm 2357.6 – Happy birthday to me

It’s all about me.  Today was my 50th birthday, and other than the rain, it was a good day.  I stumbled upon a cabin right at noon and stopped for lunch but it was full of hikers who made me a breakfast scramble “cake” complete with a candle to blow out.  And like a fool, I left afterwards to finish hiking in the rain.

It didn’t rain overnight and was quite chilly, but I wore another layer to bed and was warm as toast.  I woke up at 5:30 and started up the music as I slipped my clothes into the sleeping bag with me to preheat them.  Big, were they cold.  It took at least ten minutes just to warm myself back up, much less the clothes.  I finally dressed, and the preheat worked as I was not chilled at all.

I added my down layer and went back South on the trail to get water.  The spring was flowing pretty slowly, and I was collecting water it started to rain.  Great.  I ran back to the campsite to make sure nothing was getting wet and took my down jacket off and tried to sponge it off.  I got packed up quickly and headed out.

I guess today was not the best day to put on dry socks.  I tried to avoid every.piece of vegetation possible, but in under 15 minutes my socks were wet.  Oh well, I still have one last dry pair for hiking that I can save for later.  It rained on and off all morning.  It even snowed for about five minutes.

When I stopped for a snack break I checked the trail ahead and noticed that there was a cabin that I would hit about noon.  That would be a great opportunity to cook a hot lunch and save a cold one for a rainy day.  Well, a rainy day without a cabin.

I hit the cabin just before noon and it was full of people, so I set my gear out in the porch and hung a few things in nails to dry.  Two people left shortly after I arrived so there was more room to scope the place out.  They had a wood stove going full bore, there were three cots, and an upstairs loft for sleeping.  I hung yesterday’s wet socks above the stove to dry.

There were two hikers there who were taking a week off to do trail magic for other hikers, a girlfriend of one of them, and two other hikers who had been there for five days.  Yes, I said five days.  I don’t know who the other two who left were.

I began cooking some black beans and rice just as the two running the show began cooking something.  They had bacon cooking, potatoes cooking over the wood stove, then started making cornmeal flapjacks and gravy.  I had finished my lunch and was packing up to leave at 1:30 when one of them urged me to stay and eat with them.  It looked good and how could I refuse?

They cooked and cooked and at 2:30 it was finally ready.  Somehow they had found out it was my birthday so they out a tea candle on it and sang happy birthday.  It was quite nice.  And it tasted great.  Two of the other hikers had also had birthdays on the trail.  When you think about it, the normal time to hike the PCT is six months, so on average half of the hikers will have a birthday on the trail.

I asked them for one of their ginger ales to lack out for the evening and offered to contribute to the food fund, but they would not take  happy birthday to me, indeed.  I packed up again and finally headed out at 3 PM.  Alot later than I wanted, but the delay was worth it.

Once out in the cold rain, it was evident how warm and inviting the cabin was.  It would have been so easy to spend the evening there and drink whiskey all night long.  But that’s not my style and with Canada so close I don’t want to waste too much time.  Rain is inevitable in hiking and hiding from it just makes the whole trip drag on.  It’s not fun, but there are far worse things.  Things like wildfires.

Later in the afternoon the rain let up and I could see a few mountains and even saw a rainbow.  The sun peeked out at splotches around the mountains, but never shone on me.  I picked out a campsite on the map that I should be able to hit just after dark, so a little night hiking could make up some of the most time in the cabin.  I was getting hot spots on both heels, so I thought I should stop and change into the socks I dried at the cabin.  Sure enough, blisters were forming on both heels.  Three days of hiking in wet shoes will do that.  I was wishing now that I had taken my shoes off at the cabin and let both pairs of socks and feet dry.  I won’t make that mistake again.  I put bandaids on and changed socks and set off again.  It was less than five minutes before these socks were wet again, but they were slightly drier than the pair I just took off.

When I got to the campsite about twenty or thirty minutes after dark, there was already someone camping there.  No worries, I had plenty of energy and a hammock, so I would find one further on.  It took about thirty.minutes to find the ideal site with just the right size trees far enough apart and no vegetation underneath them.

I set up the hammock,.cooked dinner of parmesian noodles, drank my ginger ale, and rolled into bed.  It’s 33 miles to the next resupply point that has one hotel, a few restaurants and a brewery.  I won’t make it tommorow, but I should be able to roll in early enough Wednesday to get all my chores done quickly enough to have time to hit the brewery.  Mmm, beer.

PCT mm 2331.7 – Walking in clouds all day

The weather today was a little better than I expected.  It was supposed to rain most of the morning and clear up in the afternoon, but when I awoke the rain had stopped, but clouds were still making dew drops in the trees and every piece of vegetation was soaking wet until after noon.  It has been pretty cold all day, but no more rain, and I even had a few hours of honest to goodness sun.
I woke up a little late as expected and did not get.on trail until 7:15, the latest start of the entire trip.  It was not as cold as I was expecting, but it was still chilly.  I knew everything would be wet so I went ahead and suited up in the rain gear.  I had some climbs to warm me up and I got into the groove quickly.

Right from the start, the trail was enveloped in clouds and it was breezy, but not windy. By 9 am I could start to see isolated patches of clear sky, but no sun.  I could hear elk bugling at me fairly close by, perhaps 100 yds away.  It’s a very eerie sound that’s hard to imagine it comes from an animal.  By 11 am I was getting large patches of sky and actual sun.

I stopped for lunch at noon when I found a log in sunlight.  I took off my rain pants and pack cover and let them.dry in the sun while I took my shoes off and let my feet and shoes dry out a little while I ate.  Clouds kept rolling in front of the sun, so it was not a good drying session, but I was warmed and that’s what really matters.

After lunch, the trail made its way to a trailhead on the highway that leads into Rainier National Park.  A few miles from the trailhead the number of people skyrocketed.  About one mile from the trailhead I must have seen thirty people at one time on the trail.  Once at the trailhead I could see why.  There was a gigantic parking lot and overlook, and most importantly… pit toilets.  A coke machine would have been nice, but the toilets were welcomed at the moment.

The trail climbed along side the road for about a mile before shooting over the ridge line.  And as it did, it also went back into the clouds and the temperature dropped noticeably.  Late in the day I ran into a hiker coming towards me that I knew.  I had hiked with him a few days in northern California.  We both recognized each other immediately.  He had flipped up to Canada from Crater Lake and was now hiking South towards Crater Lake again.  We chatted a bit, then moved on.

I was hoping to make a campsite that would put me just short of 25 miles for the day before it got too late and too cold.  The trail lately has been quite high and exposed, and this campsite looked lower and protected.  I got there just after 7 PM and found several good places for the hammock.  Clouds were still rolling in and it was breezy, so I may get cold in the night.  I will wear my fleece just as a precaution.  I have two pairs of dry socks, but I was a bit peeved that my shoes never did dry out.  I guess it’s too cold and my feet can’t generate enough heat to warm and dry them.  I will still wear a pair of dry socks tomorrow even though they will probably get wet from the shoes fairly quickly.  Maybe I can get them dry tommorow.

As I was cooking, my pot spilled over and I had just enough water to fill it again with only one or two ounces to spare.  I will have no water for the morning, so I will have to see where the next source is.  I passed one a few tenths before the campsite, so I may have to go back there in the morning.  Theres nothing worse than having to hike backwards.  At least it’s short.

PCT mm 2307.1 – Here is the rain

The weatherman was pretty spot on today.  It started raining just before 6 am and hasn’t stopped yet.  It’s not terribly cold, so it’s not miserable yet, but the rain is supposed to continue through tomorrow afternoon and I doubt the sun will come out to help dry things out.

I woke up just before it started raining, but since the store doesn’t open until 8 am there was no point in getting up before 7 am.  Having the tarp separate from the hammock worked out well.  I was able to get everything packed up under the protection of the tarp, get the rain gear on, then put the tarp up last.  It took longer than normal, though.  About an hour instead of 45 minutes.

I got to the store just after 8:30 and several hikers were already there.  I got the phone charging first, then got my resupply package and breakfast.  They had a pretty good croissant sandwich but the espresso machine was broken so I had to settle for regular coffee which was pretty good anyway.  

One hiker had gotten too much in her resupply box and was sick of tuna so I think I scored eight tuna packs from her.  I needed to buy two days worth of food so her tuna took care of two lunches.  I had sent myself enough dinners and snacks.  All I ended up needing to buy was one breakfast so I bought a cherry pastry.

A few of the hikers headed out in the rain about 10 am.  I was ready to go but my phone needed another hour to fully charge.  I kept snacking while waiting for the phone to charge.  Most of the hikers were taking a zero in Packwood since it was supposed to rain all day, but I wanted to make some miles today and test out the rain gear while the temperatures were not too cold yet.  It was basically like an average rainy day on the Appalachian Trail.  I’ve hiked in days like this dozens of times before.

I did not get out of the store until 11:30 and the hikers trying to hitch to Packwood were still out in the rain with no luck getting a ride.  There were plenty of cars, but no one wants to stop for a pack of wet smelly hikers.  I made my way down the road back to the trailhead and headed up the trail.

The trail had plenty of puddles to dodge and lots of riverlets flowing downhill.  It took all of thirty seconds for my socks to get soaked.  I thought these shoes had goretex in them, but they wet out so fast that I doubt there is any water protection at all.  No worries, most shoes wet out pretty quickly so I’m used to it.  One thing I was impressed with was their traction on slippery mud slopes, rocks, and roots.  I did slide a few times, but far less than with previous shoes.  I’m digging these Salomon’s.

There were a few times when the rain eased up a little bit, but it has rained pretty solidly literally all day since 6 am.  I found a thick tree that provided some protection from the rain at about 1:45 to take a break and eat a tuna packet.  I found another protected area at a campsite at about 5:00 and ate another two packets.  Other than those two stops, I was on the move the whole time without stops.  Rain tends to make you not want to stop and rest or eat.

I wanted to camp low for warmer temperatures overnight, but the last low camp was at about 5:30 so I began the long climb to Rainier National Park.  There were two camping spots up high before hitting the park that I could hit before dark.  But after climbing only about five hundred feet I noticed the clouds were getting thicker.  Great, I don’t want to be basted in cloud dew all night long.  

I kept my eyes open and saw a clearing not far away that looked to have good trees for the hammock.  I went down to the area and found a good pair of trees but one was really big.  I managed to get the tarp up, get everything underneath, then get the hammock up but still wrapped in its snake skin cover to keep it up against the tarp while I cooked dinner.  I ate quickly, then unfurled the hammock and started setting everything up inside the hammock.

Apparently the sleeping pad and bag ended up getting wet despite the pack cover.  The pad was only wet on the bottom side and the bag was only a little wet in the foot box area.  I had to hang my clothes differently than usual since they are soaking wet and I will have to put them back on in the morning and it is supposed to be just above freezing tonight.  I had to leave the rain gear hanging outside the hammock.  Tommorow morning is going to be fun.

I finally got in the hammock, I’m pretty dry, and I’m warm.  The rain is still pelting away but I should be able to sleep well.  I doubt I will rise as early as usual because of the rain and cold, but I need to get going fairly early so I can make at least 25 miles tommorow.  I only packed four days of food and it’s 98 miles from White pass to Snoqualamie.  I was able to do almost 15 today which is what I was expecting, so three 25’s will leave eight miles into town on just breakfast food.  

Maybe I can show up into a town with nothing but fumes in the food bag for a change.  I have been showing up with one or two days of food left which is too much extra weight I don’t need to carry.  Let’s put a little algebra to good use for once.

PCT mm 2292.3 – Big sky time again

This state continues to amaze me.  I was a little worried last night about finding a spot to hang my hammock since I was above treeline, but today above treeline was orders of magnitude better than yesterday.  I felt like I was in the Sierras all over again.  The views and vistas seemed to go on for a hundred miles in every direction.

I got up at the usual 5:45 and we on the trail by 6:45 but it seemed lighter than usual because I was above treeline and there actually was more sun than usual.  The views of Mt St Helens were as good as they have ever been and in the morning sunrise they were extra special.  The views of Rainier were impressive in the sunrise as well.  And the trail keeps getting closer to it.

It was still early in the morning when I hit my first snowfield going up to the knife edge trail.  The new shoes I got for Washington worked fantastically on the snow.  It was still out of the sun and was rock hard.  I jabbed my shoes across the snow and they held like glue.  I was able to walk across the snow as fast as if it was dirt.

Once up to the knife edge trail, I looked at the lower bypass and it looked pretty scary itself.  It was on the side of a very steep slope and had a snow field across it.  I found out later from another hiker that it indeed was pretty scary to walk across.  I had already decided that I wanted to do the extra 600 ft of climbing to go up and over the knife edge.

The climb up went pretty quickly other than stopping to check for cell signal and wish Karen a happy birthday.  I had good data, but could not make calls, so email was my only option.  I was so enthralled with the scenery that I had not noticed that I passed the knife edge trail and was hiking up to the peak of Snowy Mountain.  Yikes, I was high.  But the view was incredible.  I could see all of Ranier and St Helens and could even see Mt Baker off in the distance.

I scrambled off of Snowy and back to the knife edge trail.  Once across knife edge, the descent back down to the bypass trail was steep and slippery.  The talus just gave way under your feet at nearly every step.  It was like a rock glissade.  The trail afterwards was quite sketchy as well.  It was very narrow, very steep on either side, and had small landslides all over the place.  There were road apples all over the place.  I was amazed that people were actually brave enough to bring horses up here.  I never would.  In the picture, you can see the trail snaking up the next ridge heading towards Mt Rainier.

Eventually, the trail turned off the ridges and headed east down to the valley below.  Seeing the snowfields high above was just as impressive as seeing them from above looking down at them.  I filled up with water at the first chance in the valley and hiked until noon to stop for lunch.  At noon I had gone only eight miles instead of the usual twelve to fourteen.  I had taken so much time on knife edge (two hours) and stopping to take pictures that I was way low on mileage but every minute of delay was worth it.

After lunch, the trail was much more familiar trees and woods for most of the afternoon until we had to climb another pass to get to the next valley.  It was above treeline for about an hour and had good views of Rainier.  The last six miles were downhill through forest to get to White pass where my next resupply box is waiting.

I got to the pass trailhead parking at 6:30 and there was a trail angel set up cooking burgers and handing out beers.  Rainier beers.  I had to stop, of course, and discovered that the store closed at 6 PM so there was no use in going any further.  I will have to wait until morning to get my box and it will probably be raining by then.  

The forecast shows rain from tonight until midday two days from now.  Tommorow will be crappy and forty degrees all day long.  I had toyed with the idea of hitching into Packwood and taking a zero tomorrow.  Depending on how miserable tomorrow actually is will determine if I hole up or just head out after resupplying.  One inch of Washington rain in mid September.  How bad could it actually be?

PCT mm 2270.5 – Back above treeline

Perfect weather again today with a brisk morning and afternoon sun warming things up then cooling off again before dark.  The terrain was a mix of up and down, but nothing big and nothing steep.  I should now be within easy striking distance of my next resupply.

I woke up just after 5 am this morning and was about to start up my music when a headlight started shining in on me from the trail.  I’m not sure if it was a hiker or a hunter, but they were obviously intrigued by my hammock because they kept shining on me the whole time.  If it was a hiker, they were southbound and an eager beaver.  I applaud their initiative to get in the miles early.

I listened to music until nearly 6 am and was able to get packed up and out at 6:30.  I drank a little of my coffee and ate a poptart to start the morning.  It was cold enough to need my warm hat but I didn’t need the warm gloves or a jacket.  The first five miles were in thick woods blanketed in huckleberry bushes.

Late in the morning, more meadows and lakes started appearing.  The trail most of the day was on the side slopes and was only level in the meadow and lake areas before it would turn to side slopes again.  Where I stopped for lunch was a campsite where most of the ground was pretty sloped.  I had a good log to sit on and level ground to cook, so that’s all that mattered.

Early in the afternoon I entered the Goat Rocks Wilderness whete you can supposedly see mountain goats most of the time.  I did not see any, and I was keeping an eye out for them.  As the trail exited the wilderness it entered the Yakima reservation and immediately turned to big sky trail again.  It thought I was back in Sonora pass.  It was beautiful, but had me nervous because it was all above treeline and it was getting late enough that I needed to find a campsite, but a hammock above treeline can be problematic.  I had also run out of water and needed at least a liter just to camp.

I got lucky, because after the pass that exited the reservation was still above treeline, but had several snowmelt streams and the guide said two campsites were near by.  All of the streams I passed had no trees so I kept going to the next one hoping it would have at least one tree I could hang the water bag to let the gravity filter do its work without me having to hold it up for fifteen minutes.  The last stream before the campsites had a good sized waterfall and a perfect tree, so I loaded up two liters for camp.

The campsite was less than a quarter mile after the waterfall and I was able to find two perfect trees for the hammock.  There were some weekend hikers already set up there so we chatted a bit.  I set up quickly, ate a good dinner, and bedded down for the night.  

Just in case you were wondering, Starkist light tuna in sunflower oil is the best.  I could eat another one right now.  I never would have imagined I would still be this in love with tuna packets, but I am.  And also, ghee in mashed potatoes rocks the cookpot pretty hard.  I might have to listen to AC/DC tonight.  That’s how hard the ghee rocks.