Sunday, October 9, 2011

back in the cotton club once more

Well, I guess it's about time that I write about how we've been adjusting to life after the PCT.

Most of me wishes October had never come, and that I had unlimited money to hike an unending PCT. I miss most aspects of trail life. I miss waking up in the forest, or in a meadow campsite, or on a ridge. I don't like looking up at the mountains from a car and wondering what road will take me to the trailhead, or what it's like to be in those hills. I remember what it's like to be in the wilderness but so close to society - I remember hearing the cars and wondering if there might, just maybe, be someone there to give us unexpected treats. Now I have those treats - an apple, a cookie, a coke, a chair - so close at hand and they are starting to loose their meaning. Like a friend said when she took a short hiatus from the trail, "I drank a coke and it didn't mean anything!"

I miss the endorphin rush and knowing that my body can do ridiculous amounts of work and only need short breaks and some sleep at night to be able to get up and do it all again. I miss being able to eat anything I want, and feeling obliged to my deprived body to eat as much of it as I can. Not eating too much food hurts.

I miss trail friends. They knew what we were going through. On trail, almost anyone around was a friend. Now, so many faces pass by unrecognized, not knowing me or caring to know me.

Yesterday we hiked Eagle Creek, the alternate route that on a normal year ends Oregon for the average thru-hiker. This year because of the Dollar Fire on Mount Hood, we were rerouted to the other side of the mountains and missed it. Chilidog and I have hiked it before, but we were in the area, so we decided to get some exercise - well, more than forty minutes of road running at least.

A few observations:
1. We were sore at the end. Strange, it was only 13.5 flat miles.
2. There were so many people, and we knew none of them, and most of them passed by without saying hello unless I said hello first. While hiking the PCT, we always said at least hello to every passerby, and most day hikers would ask us what we were doing. I miss that. Yesterday, in truth, we were just day hikers like everyone else. Strange.
3. We still felt like the trail was our home, more than the rest of the day hikers. Partly, when we said hi, we felt a little bit like we were welcoming them to our home, even though we don't live on the PCT anymore. We just felt like we belonged there, more than they did.

Anyway, I am enjoying hot tea every morning, seeing old friends, watching movies and sitting on the couch, going inside when it's raining, and generally not having a care in the world. It's nice to know we don't really have to go back to the other life for another couple of months.

Monday, October 3, 2011

Organizing

Today, at our friends Amanda and Shawn's house in Entiat, WA, I'm doing a little bit of work on the blog to reorganize it. Now there are labels on a lot of the dates, so that readers can find days where we spent time in Tehachapi or crossed Mather Pass, for example. 

I'm also in what I can tell will be a long process to upload a picture or three to every blog post. I'm doing as much as I can handle at a time. 



Surprisingly, I'm feeling some withdrawal from posting a blog post every day. I've gone through every day thinking about what I'm going to put in the blog, and now I still do that, but then I realize I'm not going to post anything. 

Still feels a little like a long zero. 

Saturday, October 1, 2011

September 30 - Canada Border

End: Manning Park, BRITISH COLUMBIA
Daily: 12
Total: 2663


Woke up and walked with Roo and Marmot to the Monument. Seemed like it took forever, mostly because the anticipation was so high. When we got within a tenth of a mile or so, we heard loud voices, which turned out to be Bubs, Boots and Pepe! They had gotten there the night before but the light hadn't been good for pictures. Hooray! We were glad they were there. It felt fitting.

The Canadian border is cold. It's like the sun never shines there. So we took pictures and drank hot chocolate and whiskey and signed the register and then headed to Manning Park. The trail there close to the border seemed like it had given up. There were wooden bridges that had rotted out and holes in the trail. Oh well.

We got to Manning Park and didn't know how we were getting back to the States. We could stay overnight and take a series of buses which would eventually cost us hundreds of dollars... but Eurotrash and Lafawnduh had a ride and they let us stuff into the 8 passenger suburban with Topsy Turvy and Data Muffin. Awesome!

Eventually after happy hour in Seattle we said goodbye and made our way over to Marmot and Roo's apartment in Queen Anne. So that's where we're staying until we figure out what to do next.

Here are some plans: stay with these guys for a couple of days, then our friends in Entiat, then friends in the Gorge, then fly home to Texas because my parents said they'd pay for it - yay - then in the next couple of weeks, fly to Australia and work on an organic farm for a month or so.

In the next few days, I'm going to try to upload pictures and organize the blog by location, so people who want to start at the beginning can, or people who want to read about, say, Mammoth, can. Then, while we're in Australia, I have to keep a daily journal for the program we're doing, so I will probably blog daily again. Hopefully it will be better written since I will have more time! So stay tuned if you want! I'll probably post again about how we're doing with the whole transition experience.

But right now, breakfast is calling.

Friday, September 30, 2011

September 29 - Last Full Day

End: castle pass
Daily: 25
Total: 2650.5


Wow. I never have to walk twenty five miles in a day again if I don't want to. I probably will, but we are less than that from Manning Park. And only 3.5 from the US-Canada border. Tomorrow before we normally take our morning break, we'll have finished walking from Mexico to Canada.

Can you tell I'm having trouble believing all this? I had just assumed the trail would go on forever and now it's ending so quickly. After tomorrow, all our routines and our tricks and our habits mean nothing. Who cares how many miles we walked before 10 am? Who cares if I put my spoon somewhere accessible? Who cares what that ridge is called?

Today was mostly spent thinking about the end and admiring amazing views. Just after our morning break we met Goodness and Zm coming back from the border and heading towards Harts Pass. Canada didn't want Goodness (he didn't have a DUI or anything like that, it was something much less selfish and more admirable that he got arrested for) so they couldn't go through an unmanned border crossing. So we caught up with them and then headed on our way.

Woody Pass was pretty much our last big climb of the trip, but it was really silly because we had to climb up to one pass about 2 miles before, then drop down into a bowl and climb back up to Woody Pass. There was an old trail that cut straight across from pass to pass, but it's been abandoned because it's too hard to maintain and it's on too steep a slope. We were tempted, but read in Yogi's guide that people who tried it turned back because it was too steep and the trail crumbles into nothingness when you step on it. I kept remembering the line from Yogi's that said "unless you want to DIE on your very last day of hiking, suck it up and take the original PCT to Woody Pass." so we did, and it was tiring and a little frustrating, but I guess it was just the PCT's way of saying goodbye.

Anyway, then we camped with Roo and Marmot here at Castle Pass and plan on walking to the monument (at the border) together. I'm a little nervous. In videos of the trail I could never watch people's reaction to the Monument.

Here we go!

September 28

End: hart's pass campground
Daily: 26.7
Total: 2624.5



Snow! Fresh snow! So this is what hiking on the other end of the snow feels like.

We woke to bluebird skies and about a half inch on everything. I made a snow angel and a seahorse in the snow. Chris had fun with tracks which later confused Marmot and Roo. We were the first tracks for a lot of the morning, until we  passed where Boots and Bubs and Pepe camped.

The rest of the day was pretty much just us being in awe of the snow dusted crags and then a big climb up to a ridge where we saw cougar tracks in the snow. Cool!

Then across to this campsite. Tomorrow is our last full day of hiking. That doesn't even make sense.

September 27 - Stehekin

End: campsites surrounded by fresh snow !! south of cutthroat pass
Daily: 23.7
Total: 2597.8
Rainy Pass living up to its name

Today was a weird day, not because it felt weird but because weird things happened.

We took the 8 am shuttle after spending a day in Stehekin, which was unplanned but very much appreciated. Most of it was spent trying to figure things out for afterwards, which is frustrating when all you've got is a satellite wifi connection through your phone and a very finicky sat phone to deal with. But at least we had something!

Stehekin is really cool. I'd like to visit when it's not raining. Buy we spent most of our time in the community room of the Landing, watching the clouds roll in over the lake and the cliffs across the bay. Then we ate a delicious dinner at the restaurant, which gave us portions even thru hikers had to work to finish.

Anyway, then out and into the rain today. The sun came out a few times today but never to stay. Somehow, I stayed dry. I think it's partly because I decided to manage the water a lot better. There are a lot of places in hiking where you can cut corners, but backpacking in the rain takes a little bit of responsibility. You have to know when to take off or put on your rain layers so you don't either get wet from rain or sweat yourself wet. And then you have to actually do it.

Anyway, on to the parts of today that made it an interesting day. First, we saw a moose!!! I've never seen one, even in a zoo, at least not that I remember. It was traveling south on the PCT and got within about 100 feet o us before turning to run up the hill. It was a large bull. So cool!

The weirdest thing was this, and I will try to describe him as best I can because I really don't know what to make of him. In the middle of the afternoon, a man came walking down the trail, with a Jansport school backpack and a black wool town coat and I think pants of the same material. He looked like he had just eaten something that turned his lips blue, was wearing dark blues brothers-type sunglasses (in the rain under trees on a cloudy day), leather hiking boots, and his hair was dark and short and parted on the side like in old movies. He had somewhere between a pencil thin and a  Hitler/Charlie Chaplain mustache, which grew in a line barely above his lip. And he had fake ears. Yup. He didn't say anything but hi, and when he got out of our way he put his leg up in a Captain Morgan stance and made a point to face away from us.

Afterwards, talking to Marmot and Roo about it at the Rainy Pass trailhead (which had really nice pit toilets with trash cans - you could have slept in there) Marmot seemed so relieved. She said she had been worried about us after they passed that guy. Roo asked if she thought he would eat us and she nodded seriously and emphatically. We still haven't seen Mowgli and Shaker, but I'm sure they're okay. But he definitely gave us all the creeps.

Anyway, then we hiked up a hill to notice more and more fresh snow on the ground. Then the rain turned to snow and finally we found one of the only not snow-covered campsites just before Cutthroat Pass.

Time for hot chocolate and whisky! Hopefully no nightmares about Hitler Bluelips.

September 25 - Suiattle Bridge

End: side of the trail flat spot
Poo I forgot to write it down last night.
New Suiattle Bridge


Today was not my favorite day on the trail. But I suppose it could have been worse. The torrential downpour could have happened at the same time as the 8 miles of uphill. Thankfully it waited til about 2:30.

The rest of the new route was okay. We made it to the bridge, which was crazy long and changed direction slightly a quarter of the way in. Must have been really hard to engineer. after that, the trail adopted an old trail, which unfortunately climbed, then descended to the old PCT. All in all, it was probably about 4 miles longer than the old trail. Oh well.

Then we climbed forever, then it got cold, then it rained. Then my fingers stopped moving for me. They're slowly getting better, as I sit in this tent. Freaked me out.

The trail was REALLY brushy after it started raining. Ugh. Wet brush is worse than rain.

We ran into Mowgli again! She took some time off at Stevens Pass, so we caught her. Hooray!

Stehekin tomorrow. Bakery bakery bakery!

September 24 - New trail to Suiattle Bridge

End: little creek on the new part of the PCT!
Daily: ummm about 27.4
Total: we left the old PCT at 2545.5 and then did about a mile and a half here?
Micah Lake


Sorry about all the confusion with the miles lately. Things are weird around here.

The first few miles of the day went reallyfast... But then the real day started. We crossed a glacial creek or two (you can tell cuz they're cloudy) and then started up and up and up to the top of a ridge. I love the ridges around here - you can see jagged peaks on every part of the horizon that's visible. Our Glacier Peak map has a blurb about how some guy came scouting for a place to put the Northern Pacific Railroad and said "no more difficult route has ever fell to man's lot." I can just imagine some dude crawling to the top of some ridge and thinking 'holy crap, there's no way.' The map says they eventually relocated to Stampede Pass, which happens to be where we met the crazy trail magic/thru hiking (?) people with the cookies and giant deli sandwich before Snoqualmie Pass.

Anyway, the second 2000 foot climb of the day kicked my butt. And just when you thought it was done it wasn't. I threw a minor hissy fit when the trail didn't stop climbing when I wanted it to ("Sure taught the trail a lesson, didn't you?" said Chris when I read him this line).

Then we dropped down to Vista Creek and then to the junction between the old PCT and the new route to the brand new bridge! So this last 40 miles or so of the PCT has been closed since 2003, when floods caused major damage to the trail and took out some bridges, the most famous of which was the bridge over the Suiattle River. People have been disregarding the closure and braving the poor trail conditions and lack of bridges for a few years, but as of a few weeks ago, all the new bridges are up and there's a new length of trail that brings you to the new Suiattle Bridge. It's so nice to walk on brand new trail. In some places I could hold my trekking  poles out on either side and not touch anything, not even a shrub. After miles and miles of brushy, cupped tread, it was such a luxury.

A couple of interesting things about being on brand new trail: we have no idea how long this section is, but we know it adds miles, and there aren't any established campsites. So when it started to get dark we found a spot by this stream, the first one we've passed, and cleared a space. I wonder if this will become the established campsite. Probably way more likely if we'd built a fire ring.

Hot chocolate goodnight time!

September 23

End: Baekos Creek
Miles are a mystery.
brr. and windy!



Well, our side trip up Glacier peak was unsuccessful in that we didn't summit the mountain, but successful in that we got higher than we got last year and actually did summit a peak - Disappointment Peak, ironically enough.

The morning was still overcast and the cloud ceiling was low enough to periodically cause white out conditions, so we spent a couple breaks waiting until the ceiling rose. That worked and by the time we got onto the ridge to climb up Disappointment Peak (the peak you have to get over before you can get to Glacier if you're not traveling on a glacier) it was really only the wind we had to worry about. Luckily the sketchiest moves were blocked from the wind.

So when we got to the other side and started down the thinnest ridge ever to start actually climbing Glacier, the wind was so strong I fell to my hands and knees to keep from being lifted off my feet and Chris was blown three inches to the side while he was taking a step. Considering how sketchy some of the moves could be at the top, we decided to play it safe and turn around. Then we still did about 6.5 PCT miles when we got back to the trail!

We decided we'd learn how to travel on glaciers and then try again. It looks easier than scrambling up talus and boulder fields. That will be a while, though... Glacier courses are expensive and we don't know anyone who can teach us.

We were talking about how it was weird to be off the PCT, because on trail we know someone is at most half a day behind us, but way out there we're alone for miles and miles. Then we crossed a ridge this morning and there was a group of twelve out on a NOLS course. Really alone!

Anyway, we met a hunter out with a couple llamas yesterday and he happened to be camped right where the mountaineering route connected with the Foam Creek trail, so we chatted with him for a while. He was really excited about the PCT! He also was really excited about how beautiful everything is around here. And it totally is. Good weather really makes this place shine.

Okay sleep!

September 22

End: haha! Way off trail just south of where the White Chuck Glacier used to fill a valley but is now just a lake.
Daily: 18 PCT miles
Total: 2513
A hunter with llamas on the Foam Creek trail

So we decided since the weather's supposed to be nice tomorrow and we can't leave Stehekin until the Post Office opens on Monday anyway, we would try to climb Glacier Peak. We tried last year about this time, but the approach and then scrambling over ridge after ridge to even get a clear look at the peak wore us out too much to make it to the top and back to the car to get to work the next day.

So we figured since we've been training for almost five months now maybe we'll be able to do it. So we found ourselves a map just in case and left the PCT today to follow the mountaineering route up to where we camped last year... Only to get there way too early an climb up the next ridge. It's definitely easier this year. I think it's definitely the weather that is our main concern. Hopefully it will be mostly sunny like the forecast says.

That map is really only for backup. We both remember the route so well that we really only brought it because it would be irresponsible not to. Also, wow, there is so much more snow up here than last year. Hopefully that doesn't slow us down too much.

September 21 - Stevens Pass/The Dinsmore's

End: pear lake
Daily: 17.9
Total: 2493.9


I didn't write yesterday because we were in town, even though we  put in a full day. But nothing happened that was all that important except that it was a beautiful day, there were a few ridiculously steep climbs (I always say it but these were really insane) and we passed the bluest lake we have ever seen. It was a smallish lake but we were about 500 feet above it and couldn't see the bottom and it was so so so blue it looked like it had been dyed.

Then we hitched into the Dinsmore's in Baring, after saying by to Zm and Goodness for a while, since they didn't spend the night. The Dinsmore's was great! They have a garage space with bunk beds and a ton of comfy chairs, and they called the Baring Store owner, Bear, who opened up and cooked us dinner even though he'd been closed for a while already. We had a very entertaining meal. Bear and Jerry Dinsmore kept us laughing. Oh! Also Georgi Heitman was staying at the Dinsmore's for a while. She's the trail angel in Old Station, who took this year off of angeling, so we didn't get to meet her. Now I'm glad we did - she's one of the coolest people I've ever met. She just ran the Colorado River in January and she's probably in her late 70's.

Today we woke up, had breakfast at the store, and hitched out yto the trail. The rest of the day was spent dragging our feet. Packs too heavy!! Ugh! But we spent most of the day with Roo and Marmot, who shared their spinach with us. Hooray!

The weirdest thing about today was that we saw two day hikers, about ten minutes apart, who had never met before but both had standard poodles. Same haircut, one black one white. I've never seen a poodle out on a trail, much less two in one day!

Sleeeep. Hopefully our packs will feel better in the morning.

Oh, happy autumn, everyone. We have officially hiked an entire season of this year. Crazy.

September 19

End: next to a creek on a flat
Daily: 26.5
Total: 2450.5
Morning

Amazing what a little sun will do for the mood and pace. Yesterday the trail made me cry for the first time, and today I was just bouncing along. I hope it stays like this.

And it is beautiful! Wow! The peaks are so pointy and glaciated, it looks like a wide version of the northern Sierra or like the Enchanted Valley where I went with my dad and sister. Last year. There are really long series of waterfalls falling off the cliffs, fed by glaciers that seem to be hanging from the clouds, or by lakes that are too high for us to see.

It's still really cold, but not raining.

We realized yesterday that we can count the number of days we will be on the trail on two hands. Crazy.

People's attitude about the rain cracks me up - or really the looks on our faces when we wonder how to deal with it. Thru hikers are creatures of habit - we've all got our routines, and all of our stuff has its place. That's how we can keep ourselves moving to make 25-30 miles a day. Even just getting a new piece of gear requires major adjustment, it seems. But throw some rain in and it totally screws up our routine. We're wearing our rain gear, which has been lining the bottom of our packs for five months. We don't know where to put things to keep them dry. An there's little reason to take our morning breaks when we're just going to get colder. But we don't want to get up too early because it's wet and cold. It's just amusing to see people in town standing there looking out at it coming down with a look on their faces like "But, what do we do?" We hike.

September 18

End: lemah meadows
Daily: 22
Total: 2424
Note: Fire Danger - HIGH. Right after this my camera died from being soaked in the rain

Rain. Rain rain rain. Rain rain rain. Rain rain raaaaain.

To the beat of Eye of the Tiger.

That pretty much sums up today. We got a couple patches of not-rain, but mostly it just rained. We saw a rainbow, because it was raining. I got soaked, because my rain gear is not rain proof, apparently. And it rained a lot.

I'm sure this area is very pretty, and we did get a few glimpses of it through the cloud we were walking through all day, but mostly we just saw rain.

We also didnt stop except for two twenty minute breaks, because I was so soaked that I was afraid I would get hypothermic if I stopped moving too long. So we got here around 6, and I got into dry clothes.

Time for socializing, Zm and Goodness and Roo an Marmot just got here!

Friday, September 16, 2011

September 16

End: mirror lake
Daily: 25.9
Total: 2392.2

Oh, today was so much better than yesterday. We even saw the sun! 

Hannes decided he was done with rain and wanted to get to the Howard Johnson's hot tub. So he took off to try to do the 35 miles to Snoqualmie Pass. 

We leapfrogged with Zm and Goodness all day, eating huckleberries and making our way through clear cuts. I was almost sick of huckleberries by the end of the day. Almost.

We took an early lunch at the first big patch of sun and dried out our stuff, which was a huge moral booster, plus it took that water weight off our backs. 

After lunch we got to Stampede Pass, a dirt road pull out where there were three people doing trail magic. They gave us a huge deli sandwich and cookies and chips, which was awesome. The whole situation was so bizarre, though. They were really high and throwing stones at porcelain plates they apparently found in the woods, because "the woods are full of plates, man." One of them was really enthusiastic about telling the story of the drunk nutria hunt he went on in Eugene. Then they told us that they only did 55 miles in four days and they didn't know why it took them so long, "because we got up at you know, 9 or 10 and started hiking, and we were drunk, you know, but we didn't want to look at our maps because we wanted to just go, and we just couldn't figure out why we were going so slow..." I was cracking up so much because I felt like we had somehow gotten sucked into a circus.

Anyway we left and got to mirror lake just as it was getting too dark to see. Maybe a hotel and a nero tomorrow?

Thursday, September 15, 2011

September 15

ugh, I just deleted my whole post and there is no undo on this note app. and my fingers are frozen and I'm tired and it's rained all day.

Basically, we spent lunch at Camp Urich, which was a nice place to get out of the rain. Zm and Goodness and Hannes were there too. Then we left to get to a campsite Eric the Black had listed in his book which didn't exist, so as the rain got steadily worse we climbed back up the hill the book had said to climb down to get to the off trail campsite and set up in a non-puddle. Now it's just pouring and we may do a 34 mile day to get to town.

September 14

End: Big Crow Basin
Daily: 25.7
Total: 2342.6


Today we woke up in a cloud, and then the cloud started raining on us. But then we climbed up and realized that the cloud was only in the basin and that everything above the cloud was beyond beautiful.

We entered Mt. Rainier National Park today, and wow. The flowers are magnificent, too.

We wanted to make it to Chinook Pass for lunch in case there was trail magic there, but we stopped short because there was a pretty tarn with a sandy bottom and a grassy flat spot to lay on. That was one of the prettiest lunch spots we've had in a while.

Then down to Chinook Pass, where there actually was trail magic. Ron was parked there with a couple burners for burgers and fruit and fruit juice. At first we thought we should just have some fruit and chat and then keep going because we just ate, but when Han Solo, Zm and Goodness all wanted burgers we had one too. So glad we did - the meat was from cows raised in Ron's pasture and the burgers were SO good.

Then we left and hiked here without stopping. Now it's freezing and I have to warm up my hands!

September 13 - White Pass

End: camp near bumping river
Daily: 25.6
Total: 2316.9
This view was unexpected and took my breath away. 

We got out of camp at 6:30 this morning, which is amazing for us, and hiked until 10:30 to get to White Pass. On the way, we climbed up a ridge to get an AMAZING view of Rainier. I love those times when I just want to get to the top and don't expect anything other than being able to stop climbing, and then I get an awesome view like this. The sky was so clear, which was a change from yesterday, because there are three large fires burning within a few hundred miles and the sky has been hazy with smoke. There was also an inversion early this morning, so there was a blanket of clouds down low with only the ridges poking through and then the big mountain over it all. Wow.

Then to White Pass, where Han Solo caught up to us! Apparently he's been trying to catch us for a while. So we will probably hike with him for a few days and then he might speed up to catch his flight home to Germany for his mom's 60th birthday. I'm glad he's here. He cracks us up.

He also told us that not only is Timberline to Cascade Locks effectively closed, Ollalie Lake to Timberline is now closed too. Ad that to the fire closure near Mt. Washington and a lot of Oregon is closed... I'm so glad we made it through with only one detour.

So we headed out in the afternoon and did the small climb, stopping to wash in a lake halfway up. It felt like a real shower!

Then on to camp, but not before having to get our feet wet in a ford first. Oh well.

Man, I can't believe we only have three stops left in America. I don't want it to end, but I know we have to keep going or the weather might shut us out. Conundrum!

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

September 12


End: camp near tieton pass.
Daily: 23.5
Total: 2291.3


My favorite flower, the gentian



So tired. Such a pretty day. The Goat Rocks is a beautiful place. I really don't know what else to say or how to describe it, because I am so worn out.

We climbed up above timberline to take lunch today, and made it an extra long lunch since we are ahead of schedule anyway and we knew we loved this place (came here last year with Bubs). Then the climb up to the top of the hiker PCT, and since we were so close, to the top of Old Snowy. A little bit of rock scrambling to get on top and we were there. A nice climb.

Then came the really hard part. After spending almost all morning climbing, the trail traverses the Knife's Edge. This has got to be the thinnest ridge I've ever walked on (except maybe the Hog's Back on Hood, but that was covered in snow). The ridge is no wider than the trail in some places. There must be a few thousand feet of glacier-covered almost vertical slope on either side, flattening out into huge valleys. Then, of course, our first view of Rainier. So beautiful!

But the trail follows the ridge up and down for three miles or so, and the grade is really steep, so going up is hard because it's work and going down is hard because the rocks roll out from under your feet and make you slip and almost fall onto glaciers. Yup. An exciting day!

We had planned to go about 3 miles further today but with our extra long lunch, climbing Old Snowy, and the difficulty of today's hike, we stopped here. So glad to be going to sleep now. I'm excited to look at my pictures of today, because there was so much reason to take pictures.

September 11

End: buggy campsite on a ridge
Daily: 26.7
Total: 2267.8

I can't believe it's been ten years since I heard my freshman biology teacher say we were going to watch the news all class long because two buildings had been blown up in New York and many, many people had died.

Today was tired day. We think it's cuz we had 3 beers yesterday, which is silly. 3 beers shouldn't affect us this much. Oh well. All we know is that we thought today would be a 30, but I was done at 25.

Crossed by Mount Adams today. Neither of us have spent much time looking at it from this side. What a pretty mountain, and the area around it is pretty too. All the wildflowers are in bloom, and the creeks are running full. And Adams is looking down on it all.

We had to get our feet wet to get across Mt. Adams Creek today. First time for like 1000 miles. I had forgotten that the worst part about it is the cold.

What else? Oh, the weather is incredible. I wouldn't mind a little cooler, but we will gladly take the heat over weeks of rain and being socked in. Finally this year the weather is having pity on us.

Saturday, September 10, 2011

September 10 - Trout Lake

End: a giant spring that is the beginning of the white salmon river
Daily: 25.2
Total: 2241.1

Trout Lake G Store

Woke up to bugs bugs bugs. Indian heaven is always full of bugs. Which makes me think it weird that it's called Indian heaven cuz I'm pretty sure Indians don't like being bit by bugs either and they haven't even had DEET for most of the time they've been around here.

Anyway, the trail was a really nice grade for most of today, besides one or two spots where it must have been a preexisting trail, because the PCT does not go straight up a hill with no switchbacks except where it just commandeers another trail.

Around 3 we got down to the road to hitch into Trout Lake, and got a hitch in the fourth car that came by. It was a couple of hunters that seemed wary of picking us up until we told them who we were. It's funny when hunters are nervous about picking us up. There they are, moving aside deadly weapons worry about are we okay. Anyway, they were really nice.

Then we got down to Trout Lake, which is one of my favorite places on earth. We spent the better part of two hours drinking beers on the porch of the General Store, people watching. At one point, after Boots and Pepe and Bubs got there, a guy came up and asked us if we were thru hikers, have we had a huckleberry pie yet, if he bought one for us would we share? What a beautiful and silly question. Also, that pie was $20. What are we going to do in the real world when people don't randomly buy us things for essentially being homeless and unemployed?

Anyway, then a really nice local named Kelly bought us a beer and took us back to the trail (thank you!).

After running into Zm and Goodness (hooray!) we walked up the hill, stopping to talk to a really cool bow hunter named Treb who had a longbow he made. He shot an elk on his first day out with it with an arrow his friend made that literally had elk written all over it.

Now we're, our planned campsite for tonight. It's always nice to make it as far as we wanted to.

September 9

End: Junction Lake
Daily: 27.6
Total: 2215.9

Oh man, Washington wears me out. We had something like a fourteen mile, 3,000 foot climb to start the day, then multiple 500-1000 foot climbs interspersed throughout the day. We still somehow managed to do 16 miles by lunch, which just amazes us. 

And while we were sitting for lunch, Wayne ran up in all new duds. Apparently the running store in Hood River had an electrical fire so the manufacturers said they had to sell everything half price. I'm jealous.

Anyway, he said he had gone up to Trout Lake to say hi to a bunch of people we worked with, and decided to come up to the trail to run because he knew we were here. We chatted for lunch, and we thought he would catch us again but he didn't. It's probably better that way, because I really hate important goodbyes and don't want to do it again. 

After that Chris and I headed up to Indian Heaven Wilderness, which is the first place on the trail we've been to together. We were having an Important Conversation (you know that kind) the last time we were at Blue Lake about something I wasn't happy about. We spent a while today trying to remember what that was and failed. Must have been really important.

Anyway, now we're camped at almost the same campsite as last time, only the we're here a week later, the weather's way hotter and less wet, the mozzies are worse, and there are fewer people here. Weird. 

Early bedtime!

September 8

End: wind river road
Daily: 27.2
Total: 2188.3

Climbing climbing climbing. We just spent the day climbing out of the gorge. We were mostly in trees, too, so there weren't many views. I was happy to have found another interesting album on my iPod, which I listened to twice.

It was really, really, incredibly hot. Like 95 all day. Boots, Pepe, Bubs, Chilidog and I are all really cautious not to complain about the heat because it's September and we're in Washington and it could be so much worse. We would so rather it be hot than rainy and then snowy. So instead of complaining we just jump in every creek we can find.

Chilidog and I rushed a little to get to the Wind River Road to meet our friend Wayne (aka Bloodbath), who is already done with the trail. He was the fourth, but he started later than anyone who beat him to the border. Now he's going to be going to Ethiopia with the Peace Corps for 2 1/2 years. Which is weird, because since Wayne was my trail crew leader/housemate in 2009, I don't think I've done many adventures when he wasn't there. He even went on most of Chilidog and my first dates. :-P 

Anyway, he and Megan picked us up and took us into Stevenson for the evening, where we had pizza and beer at Walking Man brewery. It was so good to see Wayne again. And really sad to see him go after they dropped us back off.

Thursday, September 8, 2011

September 7

End: campsite by a stream
Daily: 6.1
Total: 2161.1
Bridge of the Gods


Today was mostly spent getting things together for our tentative adventure after the trail ends. We want to work on an organic farm in Australia, and Jimbrick happened to have an aunt who has an organic farm that hosts workers in Australia. Her aunt said we were welcome to stay, so we spent the day setting up a deal with a community college to use the volunteering as credit, and therefore use some grant money we have for educational purposes to pay for the plane ticket. After getting the paperwork finished and printed out and sent off, and getting a visa (took literally 5 minutes online) we headed back to Cascade Locks thanks to a nice trailworker, then WALKED OVER THE BRIDGE OF THE GODS. I can't believe they let us do that.  It's a two lane, no sidewalk, metal grate bridge over the Columbia. Holy crap.

Anyway, then through the clear cut poison oak fields to this campsite, where Pepe, Boots and Bubs found us later. I was really tired walking up here. Our packs will be way lighter in the morning.

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

September 5 - Cascade Locks

End: cascade locks, baby! Hell yeah!
Daily: absolutely no clue
Total: PCT mile 2155!
Goodness trying to make friends with the horses 
The fire 
This was it, the whole park. It faced the train tracks

Staying in Hood River at a place I spent a ton of time crashing at last year (Bloodbath's old house). All set up by our good friend Megan Saunders, who picked us up from Cascade Locks and made our lives wonderful.

So, woke up and left the Parkdale work station at 6:18 to try to make it to the end of Oregon today despite the detour. Walked on the Dee Highway for a hike in the early morning smoke/mist until we made it to Dead Point Road, then to FS road 2820, which would take us up to Rainy Lake, then reconnect us to the PCT. FS road 2820 was a slog. Up a hill the whole 10 road miles. We were all exhausted by Rainy Lake. But then we got to jump in, which was so refreshing!

After that we decided to cut an extra four or more miles out of our way on this already lengthened detour. We used the Nick Eaton trail to get down to the Columbia River Gorge, instead of climbing back to the PCT and then headin down to the Gorge. There is absolutely no reason to ever do this trail unless you are in our situation. No views, it's overgrown, and I swear it jumped straight off a cliff for 3.5 miles. Like, "i'm running because I cant slow down" kind of downhill. My legs are so sore now. It was the same elevation loss as from Fuller ridge, but instead of 14 miles it was 3 and a half.

Anyway, then we walked to Cascade Locks from the trailhead, met a ton of people who had hitched from where the detour first hit road, called our friend Megan and she came and got us and Pepe.

Now it's the next night, after we spent almost the entire day either eating or preparing our resupplies for all of Washington. Jeez that's stressful. Leaving Wednesday to start our last state.

Monday, September 5, 2011

September 4 - Timberline Lodge/Beginning of the Dollar Lake Fire Detour

End: parkdale work station. Yup.
Daily: someone figured 29?
Total: who knows?
Timberline 
One of many creek crossings on the detour

lowering ourselves down about 15 feet by rope. not PCT grade.

Nighthiking 35

What a day. I don't even know where to start. Its gotta be short too cuz its late. Okay we woke up, slogged up Mt Hood to Timberline Lodge and found a sign saying the PCT was closed, a detour would be posted on September 4, but no posted detour. Walked down to the lodge where our friends Goodness and Zm, Pepe, and Marmot and Roo were all chowing down on the breakfast buffet. They say a ranger will be there in an hour with more news.

Forest Service rep comes, tells us the detour is on trails around the other side of the mountain to Parkdale, Dee, then back to Rainy Lake to get back on the trail. Adds 15 miles, approximately. Okay. We're not skipping, and we still really want to get to town maƱana, so we set off.

The first part of the detour was the Timberline Trail, the one that circles Hood. Holy crap, this trail has some steep ups and downs, into washed our river canyons and then straight back up the other side. In one, we literally lowered ourselves down a washed out cliff on a rope about 15 feet.

Made it to the end of that, then literally ran down the Elk Meadows trail to Hwy 35.

These trails were all really gorgeous. For having to do a reroute, we were all really happy with the trails they chose, even though they were steep and in some places disappeared over a washed out cliff.

At 35, we met another FS person who helped us out and gave us great maps with mileage and everything. The FS has been do helpful.

So while she's talking all the people I mentioned earlier show up and we all leave together, but not til Pepe grabs some beers from town (he hitched in and out while we cooked dinner). So we did the road walk as a big party and it was tons of fun.

Almost in Parkdale, the Hood River Ranger District Northwest Service Academy Americorps Volunteer (I had the same position one district to the east last year) hops out of his car and says he got permission for us to stay on the work station property. Awesome!

So now we're here, hoping to make it to town tomorrow but with no clue how many miles it will be. We'll see!

Saturday, September 3, 2011

September 3

End: old road next to Hwy 35
Daily: 31.1
Total: 2102.5
Intrepid

We woke up early early because Pepe did, which wasn't a bad thing. We had gotten enough sleep.

Then we just walked. Our days have become so simple. All we do is walk, almost from sunup to sundown. We take a few breaks but they aren't long. It's been nice rolling with Pepe because we always have something to talk about. But yeah, if we're not moving, we're sleeping or eating. It's just life. I don't know what we'll do when we stop. We haven't needed much creativity for so long. There is no "what should I do today?" We just walk. North.

I don't crave food anymore either. It's weird, you'd think we would crave more, but we get a ton of veggies from Chris's mom, and I feel like I get anything I want on a regular enough basis, and my body is so used to this food and I feed it vitamins. That was a really long, poorly written sentence. Oh, and there are huckleberries and strawberries every day for our fresh fruit needs.

We were talking about this at dinner - being in the woods is so normal now.

Anyway, fall is an awesome season. The weather is perfect. I wish this didn't mean the snow was coming though.

So back to today. For lunch we ate at Little Crater Lake, which also happens to be the first part of the PCT I ever saw and also the first part of the PCT I've been to before starting. Crazy. I had gone to the lake for a work project and took a 1/4 mile side trail just to see the PCT. It was a distant dream at the time that I didn't even think would happen.

Anyway, there were tons of people coming up from the campground, and Chilidog and Pepe and I sat on the far side of the lake from the campground trail and put words in people's mouths and just people watched, which is a way fun thing to do at a busy campground.

Then off to camp. Rest of the day was pretty nondescript. Got here, which was also weird, knowing I've driven this road a ton and knowing that people I know probably drove by us while we were setting up and cooking. Weird.

Sleep!

September 2

End: spring after pinhead buttes
Daily: 31.6
Total: 2071.4
Jefferson 
Hood!!

As we were rolling out of camp this morning, Zm and Goodness came up and said they had a surprise for us. Then Pepe Lopez came around then corner! So awesome to see him! We haven't seen him since he left Mammoth to get some miles in before taking off for his sister's wedding. He had tons of great stories about the rest of the time he hiked and tons of info about who was behind us.

Anyway, I found a great song on my iPod to get me through the hard parts of today. Gone in the Morning by Newton Faulkner. So funny and such a great walking beat. So that and the rest of his cd made up the soundtrack for today.

At lunch at the picnic area at Ollalie Lake we ran into some section hikers who had just finished and were getting picked up by relatives, who had brought a crockpot of pot roast!!! So we had some of that for lunch, hung out with Murphy and Dumptruck as well as another couple, Sweep and Trip. Hooray! And thanks for the beer, Trip.

Then came the long slog to camp. We were really tired by the time we got here.

Oh! We passed into the Mt. Hood National Forest this morning, simultaneously getting our first view of Hood, Adams and St. Helens. That was when I got really excited to be here! We're home (at least one of them) - we've climbed all three of those mountains together (Adams was our first date), we spent tons of time at the MAC just south of Adams, I worked at Hood, and Chris worked at Helens. So good to be here again!

September 1

End: an unmarked campsite after russell creek
Daily: 28.8
Total: 2039.8


Started packing up this morning when Zm and Goodness passed us. We bounced around with them all day today, which was great because we hadn't really had the opportunity to get to know them yet.

Spent the day getting closer to Jefferson and then passing by it. Pretty hiking with lots of views of Washington, Three Fingered Jack, the Three Sisters and Broken Top to the south. Can't believe we've already passed them. Tomorrow we'll finally see my mountain, Mt. Hood! I worked on the Forest last year.

Later on in the day I looked up to see a man in soot stained clothes with no pack walking towards us. We said hi and he asked us if we'd passed any trails, that he was looking for a way out. Took a second for it to click that he was a smokejumper (a person who is flown in to a remote fire by plane or helicopter and left to fight the fire and then find their way out).  After I figured that out I was less freaked out, and we showed him on our maps where the trail he was looking for was. He told us we had nothing to worry about, the smoke was barely big enough to see from the aircraft and two others were there putting it out. We smelled it when we passed by.

Just after that we crossed Russell Creek and found this campsite, which according to the map doesn't look like it could be here. Sure glad it was! This is the first time we haven't dry camped in a while.

Wednesday, August 31, 2011

August 31

End: top of a ridge in live trees!
Daily: 21.5
End: 2011

We walked down to the coffee shop with Kevin today and said our goodbyes before getting picked up by Lloyd Gust's nephew in law, also named Lloyd. Lloyd Gust is the premier trail angel in central Oregon. Anyway, Lloyd the younger took us up to the pass, where we started the long slow push to Santiam Pass. 

Today was mostly either on lava or in a burn area. It would suck on a hot day, but I wore my jacket and rain pants all day to stay warm. 

We wanted to camp after Santiam Pass but there was burn that looked like it went on forever. We don't like to camp in burns because those trees usually have burnt or rotting roots and are prone to falling over, especially in windy conditions. And surprise, it's really windy today. 

So we passed up a few flat spots, hoping the ridge would somehow be better. It was! As soon as we got up here the trail dipped slightly to the leeward side and there were live trees instead of ominously creaking dead ones. We even found a real campsite with a fire ring. 

It is so damn cold. I'm glad, since it will kill the mozzies and it's supposed to get better, but man! Haven't had a night this cold since before the Sierra. We really have hiked all summer. 

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

August 29 - Bend

End: McKenzie Pass
Daily: 16.5
Total: 1989.5

We weren't too tired today but we just couldn't move that fast. The morning was beautiful hiking in meadows and near creeks. We walked through an area where all the pebbles and rocks around were black obsidian, then past Obsidian Falls, which was pretty cool. There was a beer cache up there! One Coors Lite for the trail while swatting the mozzies and we were off.

Later in the day we got into some lava. I think Chris's exact word were "But it was so pretty, why did it have to turn into Mordor?" Lava is my favorite. These are the times that I wish there wa a font for sarcasm. No, lava is actually pretty cool looking, it just sucks to walk on.

We were about 3/4 of a mile from the road when we saw Kevin walking up the lava trail in a white shirt and sandals. Hooray! He had his roommate's crazy dog Digby with him. Digby is a 1.5 year old Doberman that is the biggest idiot I've ever met. Everyone agrees he's just dumb, and he's got so much dumb energy that he's really entertaining to watch.

Another friend, Robbie, is also in town! He came down to do some mountain biking and Han out with us. He brought his dog, Zaia, who is the sweetest dog ever. I missed both of them!

Anyway, we hung out at a couple of the breweries before comin home and playing Scattergories. Good times were had by all.

UPDATE: I'm not able to get my card reader to work on Kevin's computer, so unfortunately I think pictures will have to wait til Hood River. Sorry!





August 28

End: lakelet after separation creek
Daily: 31.2
Total: 1873

Over 30 and we don't feel completely dead!

Morning was incredibly buggy. Bugs really help our mileage because I just want to run away from them. They died down a little while after the first really rays of sun hit us.

After Horseshoe Lake came about a million horses. One couple on a pretty paint and a mule who said they might do trail magic at Hwy 26 this weekend, then a few pack trains and families. We tried to hitch to no avail. Then one of the mules saw us and freaked out. I'm sure if he'd had a rider he would have bucked him off. We weren't even doing anything threatening - we were sitting on the ground.

Anyway, then past the Elk Lake junctions we ran into Mowgli! She had taken a zero in Bend with Shaker. We hiles with her up the big climb and then later on in the day. I was nice to catch up since we hadn't seen her since we were still wallowing around in snow.

We also ran into Billy Goat and Amoeba today, at the top of the climb. I guess Oregon's where you go to meet trail celebrity.

The end of the day was so beautiful. Views of South and Middle Sister over meadows, creeks and flowers. This section has a unique beauty. I would recommend a section/day hike in this area. It's hard to explain, but the rough rockiness of the volcanos and thing like the Rock Mesa with obsidian cliffs, along with the trees and meadows and flowers just make this place really interesting.

Camped with Mowgli near a lake. We have a gorgeous view of South Sister. To Bend/Kevin's house tomorrow.









August 27

Happy 4 months on trail!

End: stormy lake, aptly named 
Daily: 28.7
Total: 1941.8

Today was a green blur with some lakes built in. We passed Rosary lakes this morning after a beautiful sunrise over Odell Lake. The first Rosary Lake had tons of people camping and fishing around it, and when Chris asked if the other two lakes were as popular, a guy with a giant tent looked at him like, well I don't know, I've never been all the way up there... Up there being .25 miles away. 

Anyway, then on through a beautiful, healthy looking forest (so nice!) and to Charlton Lake, which was gorgeous.  Spicerack was eating lunch there and said the swimming was great, which was awesome because the day was hot! So we swam and washed socks and got water and enjoyed the place. 

Then on into the Three Sisters Wilderness. I can't believe we're here, so close to Bend. Walking thousands of miles to a place you've spent time in makes it seem like a different place entirely. Plus, soon we will get to spend time with our friend Kevin!

Then on through more beautiful ( some not so beautiful) ponds and lakes. Our destination was Stormy Lake, and I had said earlier in the day that if that lake is stormy, wouldn't the rest of them be stormy too? And then about a quarter mile from Stormy Lake, the sky turned dark and thunder pealed and we got rained on. I have suggested changing my name to Jinx multiple times. Maybe that'll be my middle trail name. Hah.

Anyway, the rain let up enough to let the mozzies have a field day during dinner. Wonder how many we ate. 

Dinner was cous cous and curry lentil soup, with olive oil and dried carrots. Delicious.

Friday, August 26, 2011

August 26

End: awesome overlook campsite above Odell lake
Daily: 25.1
Total: 1913.1

Mosquito hell again. We were able to get a few squirts of bug spray plus some Off wipes (and a cookie!) from a really nice family at Summit Lake in the morning. Their kids, Madeline and Isaiah, had just gone on their first backpacking trip in the Smokies earlier this year. Hearing about kids playing in the woods makes me think maybe there is a little hope for the next generation.

Anyway, then we entered Diamond Peak Wilderness. It was gorgeous! And also a breeding ground for mozzies. Lakes and ponds literally everywhere. And a huge mountain ridge above everything! Tons of snow on it, but it wasn't too bad for walking.

There was a spring halfway through the day, which wasn't on Halfmile's maps. Which almost never happens because his maps are the best. But Scott Williamson mentions it in Yogi's Guide and it sounded great. For those of you who don't know who he is: current record holder of the fastest PCT thru hike in something like 66 days. Just to make it really official he did it with NO hitchhiking, just walking, into town. He's thru hiked 12 times and he's currently hiking southbound again.

We were bouncing around with Spicerack and he kept joking about "oh it's Scott williamson's spring, maybe we'll meet him here." The spring was awesome, and the rest of the day was pretty easy downhill with tons of bugs until the last few miles. Chris went ahead to get our package from shelter cove and meet me back at the trail. I carried the tent and sone extra stuff up to this awesome campsite, passing Spicerack on the way. While I was setting up the tent I noticed he was talking to someone I had assumed was a day hiker because of the size of his pack. They chatted for a while and when they parted Spicerack came up to check out this site, and said "I just met Scott Williamson." !!! I'm pissed I didn't go down. The guy was 155 miles from Canada a week ago!

Anyway, that was the crazy story of the day.

Thursday, August 25, 2011

August 25

End: on a ridge near cowhorn mountain
Daily: 29.5
Total: 1888

Hooray I get to post from the trail again! No pictures til Bend, sorry.

We slept in til 6:30 today and left camp at 7:20, and it seemed like we just couldn't get the miles in at first. Part of the reason is that we spent over Hal an hour chatting with Mike, a retired guy who started as a thru and then got held up by snow, plus his wife and two friends. When we realizes that we'd only done 7.5 miles by 10 am (normally we've done at least 9) we decided to push and not have a morning break. We ended up making it to Maidu Lake for lunch, which was beautiful! Apparently the Umpqua River flows from the lake as well. For non-NW people, that's a relatively major river. 

Anyway, we took the side trail to Maidu so we didn't have to carry too much water (Six Horse Springs was supposed to be gross) and then intended to follow a connector trail back to the PCT. Well, we took the only trail we saw, which followed the lake, realized that wasn't the trail we wanted, then bushwhacked straight up the hill to find the connector. Found that - but it was really outsloped and not maintained. As we walked on we realized it REALLY hadn't been maintained in a while - like 20 years at least. There were good sized trees growing in the middle of the bench and other trees in the later stages of decomposition lying across it. So we continued to bushwhack along the trail until we got home sweet long, skinny home: the PCT. 

Anyway, the rest of the day was easy. We made miles so quick - 4 miles an hour sometimes. We ran into Spicerack at Windigo Pass, who we hadn't seen since Kennedy Meadows south (702). So good to see him. Sounds like we will be for a while - he's going around our pace.

Anyway, then sprinkles while climbing the hill to camp and now a camp with an awesome view of Cowhorn Mountain (Thielsen this morning was also crazy looking). Tons of bugs. We need some repellent.

August 24

End: on the side of Mt. Thielsen
Daily: 28.4
Total: 1858.5

Crater Rim today! Man that was gorgeous! Blue blue when the sun was out. I want to go to Wizard Island so bad. 

We had weird weather all day. It sprinkled for five minutes four or five times. What is this thing called rain? It's been sooo long. 

During one of those sprinklings was thunder and lightning! Awesome! We were walking through a flat field of pretty much identical trees, which is where you want to be in a lightning storm, so we weren't scared, just in awe. I love thunder. Thunder is the sound of the air breaking. How awesome is that?

And then there were the mosquitos. I may jump off a cliff if they are as bad tomorrow. 

I took a Benadryl to help with the bug bites and it's kicking in. Night.

August 23 - Mazama Village

End: Annie creek trail junction
Daily: 27.3
Total: 1830.1

Mosquito hell! We haven't had a problem with them for weeks up til yesterday so we didn't bother to buy more DEET and now we're regretting it.

Gorgeous views in the morning. We woke up early for us (5:30) so we got a sunrise over some giant reservoir in the distance that had islands in it. Then past Lucifer (aptly named, the thing looked crazy!) and Devil's Peak. It was nice to get some views today because it has mostly just been forest walking. Mosquito-y forest walking.

The rest of the day was just easyish, flat whatever. We both felt pretty good all day, despite having to carry enough water for a 21 mile dry stretch.

We got into Mazama Village by 5:00, did laundry, took a shower, picked up both packages (hooray!) and then had the all you can eat buffet (thanks Moms!), which happened to be thanksgiving dinner - real turkey and turkey gravy and mashed potatoes and yam and my favorite, green bean casserole. My mom's green bean casserole is still my favorite, but this was pretty good. Anyway, my favorite part was when the guy tending the buffet told us happy thanksgiving. And eating dinner with Stagg and 12-ounce was nice too.

Time to try to sleep despite the chorus of mozzies outside wanting to suck our blood. Crater Lake Rim tomorrow!

Oh, my mom sent her old iPhone so I'm typing this like in Southern California! Hopefully I'll be able to post from the trail again soon!

August 22

End: snow lakes junction
Daily: 26.4
Total: 1803.8

Most of today was pretty flat, which was nice. There were a couple climbs, but even the climbs seemed flatter. Although Oregon is not a plain as we'd hoped. We're still exhausted by the end of the day. 

We saw our first elk of the trip today. I think there were two cows, a bull and two calves. From the noise I thought it was a bear, then I saw them, and then we SMELLED them! Ugh. Got to be the stankiest animals in the forest besides skunks. Smells like all those bottles of deer pee my dad keeps on the counter at the ranch. 

Anyway, we had some pretty views of Mt. Laughlin today, and tons of mozzies, as the Aussies call them. Bugs!

We also flip flopped with 12 Ounce and Stagg today. First people we've seen consistently in a while. They're fun. 

August 21

End: in an ant pile in a lava field
Daily: 27
Total: 1777.4

Today was pretty boring, scenery-wise. I'm glad I have something to distract me from the monotony of flat forest walking. 

It was eventful in other ways. First, we met a couple of runners  who had already read our blog. Cool! I don't remember if names were exchanged but I hope they're still reading.

Second, after lunch we arrived in the land if ripe huckleberries! Finally! After eating handfuls, we put some in a water bottle for our morning granola.

Last, at about 2:30, two riders on horses appeared on the trail. The first horse hesitated a second after it saw us, then freaked out and bucked it's rider off. The man was pissed off, but not hurt. We were thankful we didn't meet them on a cliff or something. 

Anyway, the day ended on a ton of lava fields, which are hard to walk on because not twisting your ankle on a rock every step takes a lot of concentration. So we found a flattish spot in some trees, but apparently we interrupted a nighttime raid between two ant colonies. Oops. Time to kick some ants out before bed. 

August 20

End: near hyatt lake resort
Daily: 22.2
Total: 1750.4

I got to walk with my new iPod today! There's so much music on here that I love and that I've never heard. Now that my battery is more than a third dead and we've still got three days out I guess I'll have to be more careful with the battery. 

Anyway, today was pretty uneventful except that literally seconds after I put my headphones on for the very first time I saw the biggest rattlesnake I have ever seen slithering slowly into the bushes. Chris didn't hear it rattle so I felt better. But it still freaked me out. We haven't seen a single rattler in over 1000 miles and NOW one shows up. 

I forgot to say how nice it was to get so much stuff from our parents in the mail. Chris's mom sent dried veggies, puppy chow (chocolate chex mixy stuff - we don't eat dog food) and two loaves of bread. My mom sent our maps and more baked goods. They also both sent us money! Thanks, both of you! We really, really appreciate it. With that money, we really had a hard time getting out of town. It was hard to remind ourselves that staying an extra night meant we would have to move faster later. 

There weren't any (cheaper) tickets left for plays so we saw the newish Woody Allen movie, Midnight in Paris. We told the guy at the front desk we had been in the woods for four months so what movie should we see? He laughed like it was a joke, realized we weren't joking, and looked at us like we were unpredictable wild animals that might pounce at any moment or perhaps start doing cartwheels in the lobby.

Anyway, we'd recommend the movie wholeheartedly. 

We'll definitely be coming back to Ashland. I would love to live here. There's even a university!

Friday, August 19, 2011

August 18-19 - Ashland

Ashland, OR is my new favorite town on the PCT.

1. Shop N' Cart: huge natural foods warehouse-type store with rows and rows of cheap bulk food and a ton of sales.
2. All of the gear stores give at least a 10% discount to PCTers.
3. I got new clothes!! No more shirt with holes in it, and now I have shorts!
4. Caldera Brewery. 'Nough said.
5. There are so many plays and shows! I wish we could be here for a month.
6. Downtown like Hood River.
7. Went to breakfast at the Wild Goose next door to the hotel and saw AMAZING art on the walls, asked who the artist was, and it was our server. Asked for a card and she gave me three real greeting cards with her art on them. Then was served tomato mint soup that was amazing.
8. First hotel room in over a month.
9. Hopefully a play today? Maybe? We're trying to leave, but we'll see.

And most importantly:

I got my new iPod. So there was this hole in my heart that I didn't know was there, but it's full now. As I was listening to my iPod, bought by Chris, filled by his brother Greg, and two friends, Niki and Kevin, I was thinking that one of my goals on this trip was to be more conscious of wants versus needs. I was really trying to figure out whether music is a want or a need, because the line wears thin there. I eventually decided, realistically, that music is a want, not a need, but that I will never, ever take it for granted again.

Thank you, thank you, thank you, you four.

August 17 - CA/OR Border

End: campsite surrounded by down trees. hurrah.
Daily: 26.3
Total: 1720.5 <-- sometimes it hits me that THAT IS HOW FAR I'VE WALKED THIS SUMMER.
Donomore Meadows

Hooray!

It took forever to get here, but we're finally in Oregon! Seriously, even this morning I felt like it took forever. That's partially because in Donomore Meadows (good name for the last think you cross before getting out of California), we found an old rundown cabin with a fire still going outside of it and nobody there. So we put out the fire and explored a bit. Just an old hunting cabin with empty bottles of booze and mouse-chewed mattresses.

Anyway, then the Oregon border and a couple of hills before we hit Day Hiker Land. This seems like such a random place for so many day hikers, but I guess there are roads everywhere so we should have expected it.

I'm running really low on snacks, so I was trying to conserve when some day hikers told us there was a cooler of sodas coming up, and gave us a fiber bar. Then another couple of hikers gave us a Clif Bar. All without us asking.

Anyway, now it's like 8:15 and time for sleep. Oh, Chris did end up getting poison oak this time. It's not too bad, and hopefully it doesn't worsen. I'm not surprised. I know I have the oils on my pants and legs. It was unavoidable this time.

August 16

End: near an unmarked spring
Daily: 25.7
Total: 1694.2
Lily Pad Lake


Today was cow patty day. Seriously, almost every water source we came to was contaminated with cow crap. We've gotten so used to our crystal clear springs that we expect good water at every source. But there were cow prints and patties everywhere today, and for the last half of the day we walked to the rhythm of the cowbells all around us. Who needs an Ipod?

We passed up one good spring because we knew there was water everywhere, and then the next 3 water sources were contaminated, so we took water from one of them and treated it twice, but I still didn't drink it. I went 8 miles without drinking anything but a couple of sips from Chris's camelback that he had leftover. By the time we got to this spring (which comes directly out from under a tree and is GUSHING, thank God), we drank and drank and drank.

Waking up on the ridge this morning was a little disorienting, in a kind of awesome way. It's just not every day you wake up to a 3,000 foot drop on one side, roll over and see another 2,000 foot drop on the other side. I'm glad that ridge was not a foot thinner.

We also woke up to Cinnamon Toasters cereal and powdered milk. Oh man! Why haven't we been doing this more? In Washington, we're going to have to buy cereal that goes well with huckleberries.

We didn't see anyone else today, which is awesome. I hope it switches back and forth, but for now I'm happy for the solitude.

We'll be in Oregon tomorrow morning. I think it's all a giant lie and California never ends. How could it? It's so long! I'm reminded of Hotel California.

August 15 - Seiad Valley

End: ridge between Lower and Middle Devil Peaks
Daily: 23.8
Total: 1668.5
View from our campsite

Kalamath River

We would have been in Seiad Valley way sooner if the berries hadn't all been ripe on the way down. If we don't make it to Canada before the snow falls it will probably be because we spent too much time picking berries. Strawberries, thimbleberries and tons of blackberries down on the road.

After following the trail through a poison oak forest, we had to walk 6.4 miles on roads. Apparently people around here don't want to allow the PCT through their land. Which is understandable, just annoying. It added about 3 or 4 miles to our day, all on roads.

This is the State of Jefferson. For those of you who have never heard of it, here's the explanation. Northern California and Southern Oregon believe that they should be their own state, because they aren't represented enough in the state governments, they government officials don't know what's best for this area, and the state government doesn't do enough for the area for the amount of taxes they pay. So almost everyone around here considers this place not California or Oregon, but the State of Jefferson. There are even road signs. I wish they could be their own state.

Anyway, after the road walk, we took a siesta in the tiny town of Seiad Valley. We had delicious milkshakes (best on the trail, and we've had a lot of milkshakes in the last 500 miles), and then washed off/napped by the creek and under the bridge with the Canadians and Hotrod. A wonderful afternoon.

Then up up up. This may be the steepest climb on the trip. We timed it to do part tonight and part tomorrow but we ended up doing most of it tonight. We did it at the perfect time of day, and we'd had a coffee from the cafe, so that really helped.

Now we're camped on the most badass campsite ever. It's on a knife's edge of a ridge with steep drop offs on either side, with a sunset on one side and a moonrise on the other. Barely big enough for cowboy camping.

Sleep and shooting stars time now.

August 14

End: campsites near unpaved road
Daily: 24.7
Total: 1644.7
OMG snow what are we gonna doooo?


We moved so slow today! I don't know why, but the uphills were really draining. There were a lot of them and they were really steep, but they cost more energy than normal for both of us.

I think probably my most used word in this blog is "gorgeous," but that's what today was too. We were in the Marble Mountain wilderness today and everything was so lush and green, with water everywhere and the Marble Mountains above it all.

Marble Mountain itself was crazy looking. It's this giant white rock thousands of feet high. I guess it's just a mountain, but the whiteness of the rock was just really different.

We heard something crazy in the valley. It sounded the first time like a dog getting in a fight way below us, then like a sick coyote howling. I think it actually was a coyote, but it was at like 10:30 am and alone. I kind of wonder if it was rabid.

Marble Mountains and wildflower fields!
Seiad Valley tomorrow, then Oregon soon!