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Posts Tagged ‘Dead Animal’

After more awesome trail magic, detailed in “Pass the Beer“, we set off up the hill…it’s always up after town and full stomachs.  Hop-a-long, Scout, and I got going after lunch and planned to make it eight miles to the first campsite at Ridge Lake, a solid climb of around 2,500 ft later.

The mountains changed south of highway 90 at Snoqualmie Pass, and north of the highway.  They became more rugged, remote, and more scenic.  The most difficult sections are always the most beautiful.  They shot straight up to the sky, then dove furiously down into a valley; and let me tell you, there were many valleys in this section.  The PCT tried to contour as usual, but the contours were wrought with rocks and changed elevation quite frequently for contours.

We passed Magellan on the climb who seemed to be moving slower than normal, but ok.  He said he ate too much before leaving.  That food truck next to the gas station was dangerously enticing for thru-hikers.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThe top of the climb ended in a tiny pass where we made a short hop over to the other side of the ridge, looking at the sunset in one direction, and a beautiful array of clouds in the other direction.

Those beautiful, mysterious clouds that we stared at began moving in quicker and quicker until we could barely see more than twenty feet in front of us and we almost missed the tiny ridge lake that we sought.  It lay in a saddle on a rather small ridge.  Scout scouted out the best campsite in no time and no more questions were asked about how he received his trail name and we set up in the mist of the cloud that blocked the sun and sent shivers into our bones.

While we ate dinner, we saw a headlamp moving slowly through the fog, scanning the area, but unable to see much, so we called out and directed it toward our campsite.  It turned out to be Magellan, grateful for flat ground and dinner time.

The morning brought much of the same.  We had camped inside a cloud, with its lack of visibility and all of it’s moisture.  None of us wanted to get out of our nice, cozy sleeping bags.  When we did, we found the trail again through the intense fog and headed onward to Canada.

Amazingly, after we left the saddle and made it a little way up the ridge, the fog went away giving us an amazing view of the valley OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAfilled with clouds while the ridge tops glowed in the morning light.  It really hit us that we had truly been inside a very small micro-climate the night before.

Compared to the long, steady climb that we accomplished the day before, the next eight miles seemed to drag on forever.  The trail shot up and down over ridge passes, shale, trees, wind, calm, all with a chill making it very difficult to keep the right layer system on and not sweat too much.

We took a break looking mostly into fog, but every few minutes, the fog would thin, giving an eerie glimpse of a jagged peak jutting upward from the ridge.  Our breaks did not last long or we would become too cold, so we kept moving.  At the top of the last ridge before a several mile descent, we caught a bit of sun and dried out our rain flies, grabbing a bite to eat.

The downhill seemed glorious, partially because we could hike easily with only one layer on.  A waterfall cascaded down across the trail and we crossed a small bridge and filled up on some delicious tasting fresh water and grabbed more to eat.  Already the afternoon, we kept trucking to the bottom of the valley, only to climb another long slog up to another large ridge.

In about half a mile as the birds fly, the PCT managed to fit six miles of switchbacks to cut the steep grade down.  I could not bring myself to count the switchbacks, because that would just be depressing, but cranked some tunes and enjoyed the increasingly better view the further I climbed.

We all stopped for a snack on top of the ridge and Snow Turtle and Agassi came walking up.  Somewhere we had passed them while they ate lunch off trail.  This particular ridge stayed fairly level for about a mile or so and we meandered along passing many small tarns and very damp ground.  All at odds of how far we wanted to go, we all stopped in different places, ironically, within a mile of each other.

I found a sweet spot with a great view over the next valley that fit my tent perfectly.  It was much easier to get up the next morning to a brightly colored sunrise instead of dense fog.  The four mile descent was still freezing because the sun had not yet hit the valley floor, just the ridge tops.  I leap-frogged Snow Turtle and Agassi all day up and down, up and down.

We passed Cathedral Rock and I pondered the creativity of the early explorers and mountain men who seemed to lack originality in their naming devises.  I understand the whole “wilderness as a church” thing, but not every mountain that has a few spires needs to have some religious crap attached to it.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAAgain, we hiked down off the ridge, passed Deception Lake which reflected a perfect mirror image of the trees surrounding it.  I decided to continue on a little further until I got tired and ended up camping in Deception Pass which was surprisingly thin compared to the last several passes we’ve gone though.  I found a great one-tent spot and set up shop.

In the morning, I ate breakfast with Lush and Man Party who decided to speed up to finish.  Apparently, Challenger was waiting with Only A Test’s car for them at Stevens Pass with their resupply so they could all hike out together.  Snow Turtle and Agassi passed through too and had a “you’re from Mississippi too!” moment and then kept hiking.  They said that Hop-a-long and Scout had gotten to Deception Lake the night before.

The five of us eventually set off, leap frogging through some more very annoying bumps, one of which was incredibly steep, despite obvious attempts at switch backs.  I definitely had to blast the iPod to get up that one.

We all ran into some incredibly nice older people out for a day hike who lounged in the sun.  We wanted to join them but food and beer called our names with only a few more miles to go.  Everyone seemed to have underestimated food through this section and were either running on empty or the scraps of what they had, but really did not want to eat.  The trail difficulty had surged our already large appetites into over drive.

Stevens Pass came after we dove down the ski resort and found Challenger and Only A Test who gave us beer and soda while we waited for Dead Animal who had been there, but got a call from Hop-a-long and Scout who had taken a side trail down skipping several miles of the end due to lack of food and ended up somewhere random on the side of highway 2 between Stevens Pass and Skykomish.

Clown car piling in, all of us made it down to the diner and motel for a large meal.  We went to the Dinsmore’s to grab our resupply packages and say hi to those there, but wanted a bed, so we ended up with rooms instead.  None other than Bounce Box and Major Upchuck seemed to rule to roost inspiring some good old drinking and croquet.

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We woke up in a cloud on top of a ridge.  This particular cloud seemed to create its own weather system that could not exactly be classified as rain nor mist; neither could it be written off as water falling off of trees from the breeze.  Definitely wet and cold enough, I kept my shell on and attempted not to sweat quite so much, but without much of a pack, I found it hard not to fly through miles.

Dead Animal could meet us at around 10 mile increments on various logging roads that he figured out.  Hop-a-long, Scout, and I set off for the first chunk, cold and slightly wet.  Hop took an early lead and her legs got soaked the worst from brushing up against the wet vegetation.  We bounced around the top of the ridge and noticed just how localized the weather situation was since we could see clearness in spurts to the east, while we could see nothing but white to the west.

I almost missed east coast rain for a few moments in that stretch, remembering how I sent my rain gear home somewhere in Pennsylvania on the AT because the rain was so warm it acted more like a free shower.  But then I remembered how frequently it rained and the general wetness and I appreciated the PCT a bit more.

We found Dead Animal just as planned and we all sat on mats eating lunch together and trying not to get cold from lack of movement.  Some fresh vegetables were most welcome from the cooler.  We took only an hour break trying not to lose what little motivation all of us possessed and set off on another 10ish mile chunk.  I threw some tunes on at that point to distract my mind from focusing on the crappy weather when eventually I ran into a sobo section hiker who exclaimed amazingly over the drone of my headphones,

“TRAIL MAGIC FIVE MILES AHEAD!” and scampered south.  Instantly excited and newly motivated I sped up and caught Hop-a-long who laughingly told me he came up on her taking a pee on the side of the trail.  They talked in the process.  Only. On. Trail.

We surged ahead completely missing a supposedly major landmark of a weather station just off trail with an outhouse.  Halfmile even made a GPS marking called “Out House.”

Hitting the road, we saw PCT trail bandanas strung up like Buddhist prayer flags across the trail and a large tarp over a circle of chairs filled with a barbecue, cooler, and entertaining beverages.  Stumbling Norwegian and Honey Bee welcomed us, gave us comfortable chairs, and placed hot food in our hands.  Heaven on a rainy day.  Dead Animal was there brewing up some delicious hot chocolate.

Before I knew it, Hop-a-long had found the best beverage there, something Stumbling Norwegian and Honey Bee only called “Tasty Goodness” and she dumped some in my hot chocolate.

We caught back up to Snow Turtle and Agassi who had a good bit of tasty goodness and spent a good deal of the afternoon enjoying it.  Blood Bank had the longest stay record that day doing a long 0.7 mile from the weather station down to the road and staying there.  Scout got there about fifteen minutes later and came up with the biggest grin on his face that matched every other thru-hiker’s.  Two section hikers also had holed up there who were local-ish Washington boys, one of which was having quite a bit of fun convincing Agassi to drink more.

I totally meant to get further to make a half day in town with my mom and aunts, but the trail magic was way too awesome and the weather was way too shitty.  From there, I would have to make 18 miles before 1pm, our agreed meeting time.  After several hot chocolates with Tasty Goodness and later some root beer vodka, I decided staying was a much better option.

Right before dinner, Knees showed up who Hop-a-long, Dead, and I had not seen since Wrightwood (mile 368).  It was great to catch up with him for a bit.  Tahoe rolled in late as well as Straw, Willie, and Magellan.

The trail magic came at such a perfect time and turned around my whole attitude after the rain.  I didn’t even care if I had to make miles the next morning.

I managed to wake myself up at 5am and leave by 6am with my new-found motivation from the trail magic and motivation of mom-made baked goods at the end.  I shot up hill, saw Snow Turtle and Agassi’s makeshift camp spot, just far enough up that they wouldn’t be tempted to wait and stay around for breakfast.

The miles were not as hard as they had been and I was able to cruise my way around the bumps through the mud.  I went hard for the first 10 miles and then stopped to stuff half of a large bag of chips down my throat thinking that should give me at least 600 calories or so to make it to delicious cookies and brownies.

The route down to Snoqualmie Pass was fine until I was about 4 miles out and all the day hikers were hiking up and I moved against traffic, having to give them the right of way.  A few stopped me and asked me the usual questions which I was really not in the mood to answer since food was so close.

I made it to the ski area and decided that running down the ski slope was much faster than taking the trail all the way to the road and I plunged down it.  I laughed as I walked down it thinking only that Vail’s bunny hill was steeper than that.

I found my mom and two aunts who had found Dead Animal, Pinky, Sticks, and Ahab.  Delicious beer made it into one hand and a large helping of vegan brownie in the other and I was happy.  We decided to hobo it up in the parking lot, all sitting right down over a few parking spots in the back, drinking and eating.  Eventually, the rest of the pack at the other trail magic made it to my mom’s trail magic and we had quite a posse drinking in a parking lot.  Classy.

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Since we had gone straight day after day of long hauls from Timberline Lodge, we decided to take a half day out of White Pass, partly because Dead Animal cooked us such a huge breakfast that we had to lay back down to digest it.  We lounged about, trying to find more things to pack and repack and more and more things to eat.  A thru-hiker always has room to eat food to avoid carrying it.

Eventually, Dead kicked us out of his campsite on Leech Lake and we set off uphill through an amazing amount of horse shit probably due to the close proximity of a horse campground and Mt. Rainier.  Only half an hour in, we found Caveman and Slosher sitting on their packs.  They told us their sad tale of having to bypass the Mt. Adams fire that had choked our lungs and dried out our noses.  The hitch was not easy on a road seldom used and took them all the way into Portland, then it involved a train and a bus.  They had spent an entire zero day in transit around the fire and had to miss Goat Rocks because they could not get to the dirt road that Dead Animal had found Hop-a-long and me on.

After we caught up, we all plugged on up and over the long slog of a hill.  Hop-a-long had gotten ahead of me and managed to stop exactly when I wanted a break too and there we found none other than Snow Turtle and Agassi! We had not seen them since Ashland and had followed their footprints for just over 500 miles.  Some of that time we knew we were only hours behind them, their footprints so fresh and clear.

We all pressed on after getting some delicious swampy lake water.  Of course, just after we bothered to treat it and headed out, an unmarked stream surged by under a broken bridge.  The trail would mock us for getting crappy water when better water ran not too far down the path.

Eventually, we surged downhill toward the Bumping River Ford.  The name really said it all and when Hop-a-long and I looked at it, we only found a rather difficult rock hop and log shimmy that had a nice sketchy area right in the middle.  At that point, my stomach took over and I waded right through the icy water hoping my sandals would not freeze overnight.  Hop took the route of gyrations and managed to maneuver it well enough to stay dry.

Great campsites laid right off the trail.  We picked our spots and settled in for the night listening to the water soothe us to sleep.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAMy sandals definitely did not dry by the morning, but they did not freeze.  I saw this as a positive start to the day.  I had packed up a little before Hop-a-long and set off to a nice morning climb of 2,000 feet to the top of a beautiful ridge where the trail danced around the boundary of Mt. Rainier National Park.

On the climb, I began hearing the strangest noises which I had never heard before.  Pausing to listen, a great big bull elk with gigantic antlers ran away from me about 40 yards ahead with his harem of female elks.  Then I remembered Agassi and Snow Turtle telling me it was elk mating season and to stay away from the bull elks.

Their mating call had guttural grunt sounds followed immediately by a high-pitched whistle sound.  You could certainly hear it for quite a long way, I will give them that.

Hop-a-long caught me at the top of the climb gazing at Mt. Rainier through more smoke.  We passed two side trails closed for forest fires as we meandered down the other side of the ridge.  The smoke hovered around the base of Rainier giving it the illusion of floating on top of the land.

Dead Animal had said he would meet us at road 471 if it was open around lunch time and we pushed to get there, motivated by our stomachs.  A few miles out, he came hiking toward us with good old PBRs.  They don’t give that blue ribbon to just any beer!  It hit the spot.

The three of us passed Dewey Lake which reflected it’s surroundings like a mirror with its glass-like surface.  Before long, we were at the parking lot and cutting up peppers and onions to saute on the Colman stove Dead had in the car.  We began eating as much as possible again while Snow Turtle and Agassi joined us.

After a long break, we climbed anew.  The higher we went, the less people we saw.  Just how we like it.  Hop-a-long and I took a breather by yet another Sheep Lake and looked at our sleeping options for the night.  Much too early to stop, the next guaranteed campsite was 8.5 miles further and we seemed to contour ridges the whole way there intersecting many other side trails coming up from the valleys below.

We decided to take our chances and try to camp in whatever saddle we hit around dark o’clock.   The trail stayed high and exposed with sheer drops down to the valley.  Maybe only a foot wide, we kept our eyes ahead and followed the lines of the hills where the trail took us.  Hop-a-long stopped in a saddle and we scoped it out.  We found two spots, but nothing ideal.  The sun had set and dark rolled in blanketing the contours.

Cooking and chatting, we watched a forest fire on the ridge directly across from us and the last helicopter dump water on it before night.  When the stars came out, the fire shone brighter and we saw whole trees flare up brightening the area so well we could see the contents of the valley between the flames and our camp spot for the night.

The morning took us up and down contouring and contourin,g finding a path high in the hills.  At the marked campsite that we did not reach the night before, we found Scout, a thru-hiker neither of us had met before and he joined us.  We all hiked together and chatted when the trail did not climb steeply until we hit Urich Camp.

A snowmobile cabin, we went inside and sat on benches which was a nice comfort and change of pace.  It had one of few PCT trail

Plaque outside of the cabin

Plaque outside of the cabin

logs and we all read the whole thing, writing our own notes at the end.  We still took long middle of the day breaks left over from breaking the desert heat at the beginning of the trail.

When we eventually cruised on, we passed many small logging roads, snowmobile trails, and a large burned area.  The dead trees still stood tall, but brilliant, bright green and red underbrush had gotten a solid foot hold.

Then, up in the distance, we saw a bright blue Neon and saw Dead parked on the side of a larger, well-kept logging road.  He gave us giant apples, the size of two fists put together and beer.  He took it as a challenge that Tahoe’s 76 year old friend was going to figure out the logging roads, so he did too.

We decided to have him slackpack us a few more miles to the last logging road he could get to and we’d find a campsite out of something.  When we finally got moving on that plan, we watched the weather start to turn and the smell of rain filled our noses.

As we crossed through the mess the logging companies left, we watched the fog and drizzle come up over the ridge from the west and plunge off the other side into the valley to the east.  It surged with such intensity that I thought the fog would reach all the way down to the stream below, but it disappeared into thin air not long over the ridge.

We found tolerable campsites off the side of the road where we were not getting too wet.  On the plus side of the rain, it cleared the smoke out of the air which sent all of us into coughing fits occasionally.  It gave us a few days respite.  However, my motivation decreases dramatically in the rain.

Small burned area

Small burned area

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Once we managed to make giant poops after eating so much, Hop-a-long and I chased Lush and Man Party down and found them on the top of the climb.  We knew we had to make time in order to get to White Pass on the two days of food we brought with us.  From the top, we could see how the trail swung around in a giant backwards “c” towards  mountains that looked massive and super cool.  Those mountains we had heard about since leaving California: Goat Rocks.  Super psyched for epicness.

Artwork from Team All-Dead

Artwork from Team All-Dead

Plunging into the trees, we kept up a great pace through the backwards “c” toward the climb up to Goat Rocks.  After many miles, we stopped right before dark and conveniently, right before the next climb to grab our headlamps and manage to stomach a bar to up our energy.  I enjoy climbing at night because it seems less strenuous since I can’t see exactly where I’m going other than up the trail.  With a careful eye, it’s quite meditative and peaceful at night.

As we climbed up, we did slow ourselves a little bit to make sure of our footing because we could tell we were contouring narrowly and nothing really seemed like it would catch our fall for at least 50 feet down.  Eventually, we came to a drainage which signaled we neared a “campsite.”  I put campsite in parentheses because many campsites marked in spots such as this on a climbing contour often are a.) not big, and b.) not that great.  We banked on some water there after thoroughly scanning half-mile’s notes, yogi’s notes, and the data book which frustratingly don’t correspond often.

We got a trickle of water just enough to fill water bottles with an ounce of patience and a decently flatish area.  Better than we had hoped!  Crashing out at as soon as we cooked dinner, we knew we had to be up and at it early to make 26 miles over Goat Rocks to White Pass.  Despite eating to capacity and beyond at lunch, we had reached the 17 miles after lunch to match the 10 before lunch to make a whopping 27 mile day.

Pumped for Goat Rocks, we began early with cameras ready.  We ran into many people out doing the same section we planned on doing in a day and a half in four days…oh the luxuries of not thru-hiking.  Most of them we managed to get off with minimal conversation except for Mark Trail who dutifully took our pictures and gave us a head count of all the thru-hikers ahead of us by day for three or four days back.  Talkative dude with a large external frame pack and dirty girl gaiters.

We continued going ever upward toward some of the most amazing views since the High Sierras.  The higher we climbed, the better views we saw.  At a small plateau, a side trail went off and we saw some artwork from Team All-Dead with No Amp and Bone Lady.  It made Hop-a-long and I chuckle, then continue forward.  The PCT actually crosses the very tip of the Packwood Glacier not much further on which just looked like a small snow field.

Mt. Adams and the fire to the south

Mt. Adams and the fire to the south

For a good amount of time we could see Mt. Adams smoking to the south and Mt. Rainer in all it’s majesty to the north.  The last push, we knew we were in for it when the PCT split: a hiker PCT and an equestrian PCT.  Just like in Crater Lake, the hiker PCT went straight up, no questions asked which – the equestrian PCT contoured over to the ridge we would later descend.  We gawked at it for a minute and determined the equestrian PCT more sketchy, especially if more snow covered the area.

We took an hour early lunch break on top, despite having gone only 8 miles to savor the view and what so many people had told us about with such fervor.  Truly amazing are the only words to describe it.  The trail followed a knifes edge down for miles along a ridge cutting in between two deep valleys teeming with snow melt streams and green plants galore.  Rainer framed it to the right climbing twice the height that we found ourselves on top of.

Next step: down, down, down.  The ridge dropped drastically on loose rock and scree and the trail did it’s best to wind ever so slightly to take a wee bit of the edge off, but the trail still lost something like 900 feet in 0.6 or 0.7 of a mile…absurdly steep for the PCT…even for the AT, that’s steep.  Hop-a-long managed to go down faster, but took enough pictures that my knees could moderately keep up.

Once the equestrian bypass joined back up, the trail went along the very edge of the ridge with several hundred foot drops to either side.  I thanked the wind for being mild that day.  We found the super sketchy part that Mark Trail had warned us about and cautioned us to stay together for.  The trail had literally been washed out for about six feet or so.  The trail was already no more than 8-10 inches wide, but in this spot, fine scree just shot hundreds of feet down.  Hop-a-long jumped it after some debate while I fished a foot around in the scree to test it’s stability.  Upon finding a solid rock in amongst the unstable mess, I put my weight on it then fished around with the other foot for something else calmly, but surely.  I found one, weighted it, then got to the other side.  Not something for those timid of heights, that’s for sure!

Looking down to the knifes edge and Mt. Rainer

Looking down to the knifes edge and Mt. Rainer

We dropped off the knife’s edge for a hundred yards or so and made a very tight contour in some dense rock and then we were back on the ridge going up and over several small bumps.  Finally, when the ridge petered out, the trail wrapped around and veered east down into a green valley.  We crossed many snow melt streams that were clear as day, but came from pink snow, so we waited until we found a decent looking one and filled up on water since most of our information said water could be iffy later on until White Pass.

Continuing down for what seemed like eternity, we finally began to go up again to hit the top of another ridge before descending to White Pass where Dead would have dinner.  We both wished we had allotted ourselves more snacks because the demanding terrain had increased our appetites.  The trail found every way to wind around natural features that it could, taking us the ultra scenic route.

Near the top of the last ridge, Hop-a-long came up upon a herd of mountain goats and got some great pictures of them.  I was just about two or three minutes behind and the last one had disappeared into the bush right before I got there, but she was super stoked about seeing the giant giants.  So there really are goats in Goat Rocks!

Getting to the road just after dark, we stumbled around trying to find the campground which looked super obvious on the map.  The map failed to make a horse campground separate from the real campground and we figured it out after half an hour of stumbling around dodging horse shit to find Dead Animal and dinner!  We also found Tahoe’s friend Ed in the adjacent campsite as another surprise.

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The next morning, Hop-a-long and I left before dawn again and began plugging away at the miles feeling the cold sinking into the ground waiting for snow.  Wanting to beat it, we continued slackpacking as long as possible.  Out of the horse camp we flew as it slowly began to get lighter.  Jubel was also on a mission: he had managed to leave before us!

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERALucky for us, the straight up and down several thousand foot climbs had subsided for a bit and we had rolling hills instead which gave our tired legs a wee break.  Noticing a lot of people seemed to be out enjoying the wilderness, I pondered why they were all there until I realized it was Saturday.  Weekenders.  Right.

It still seemed more than the average weekend crowd out to walk around a bit though, so I asked one, “Do you know why so many people are out this weekend?  Is it a holiday that I’ve forgotten about?”

“Oh no.  It’s just probably the last nice weekend of the year,” he replied in a matter-of-fact way.

Great.  400 miles left and this is the last nice weekend?  Well, shit.  Hop-a-long and I caught Jubel leaving a shallow lake at the 10 mile mark for the day.  We waved in and out and sat down for a rest since we had not stopped yet.  That’s the great thing about slackpacking: more miles with less pain.

We had found ourselves in another lake filled area, but so many of the lakes here had lost quite a bit of water.  Sandy stretches between the marshy grass and the water showed exactly where the water level usually reaches but had receded away.

Headphones went on and we kept walking.  One foot in front of the other.  We ran into one dirty looking guy on a wild horse and learned that horses react better if you step down from the trail instead of up since they don’t always understand how big they are.  More horse poop…awesome.

Hitting the first road, we took a short break to see if Dead had made it there and we meandered around.  Finding nothing, we left a short note written in rocks that we had been there in case he found the spot later.  Several miles further, we found him at the next road and we plumped down tired, guzzled a beer, and stuffed our faces with some chips and salsa.

It was still another ten miles to the easiest way to get off into Trout Lake where Hop-a-long had long-awaited shoes mailed to her.  Already being 2:30 pm, we decided that 20 miles was enough for the day and Dead drove us into the very small abode of Trout Lake where we grabbed Hop’s shoes and headed back into Stevenson where we splurged for a room (the absolute last one in town…we called everywhere) and resupplied at a giant Safeway.  Who knew so many people visit Stevenson, Washington on a non-holiday weekend?

No matter, we got everything set and went to Walking Man Brewery where we enjoyed a wee bit of beer and some grub before retiring back to our room and doing some long needed laundry which had not gotten done in over 130 miles.  Oops!

In the morning, we did our usual sleep in, take our time, and leave right at check out time to head back to the trail.  Before hitting the trail, we stopped for some lunch at a podunk little restaurant which turned out to be absolutely delicious!  However, we found ourselves so full that we had to sit and hang out at the trailhead for almost two hours.

To be fair, we actually had to bring our whole packs for a stretch since we weren’t sure if Dead could get to the next road before Goat Rocks.  Also, we found ourselves having to deal with yet another fire on the side of Mt. Adams.  Finding a map, we saw that the fire had stayed at least 1.5 miles to the east of the PCT which was still open to thru-hikers, but no one else.  Hop-a-long, Dead Animal and I amused ourselves at that, not knowing whether to take offense to it or not.  Either they didn’t want to hear thru-hikers complain about the closure until the PCT was actually on fire, or they just don’t care about us.

We plunged into it and found ourselves in thick smoke that gave us headaches quickly.  Coughing and coughing, we scooted up and began to contour Mt. Adams not seeing anything too great due to the smoke cover and our bloodshot eyes.  Finding Lush and Man Party, we chatted for a few moments, then pressed on for another mile or two.  We got as far away from the smoke as we could and camped on lava ash for the night.

Wanting to get away from the smoke more, we got up early and headed onward trying to clear our heads of wildfire smoke.  We did get a few glimpses of Mt. Adams and it’s glaciers through thickets of smoke which was a brilliant sight.  We contoured away from the smoke and down the north face of the mountain toward what some people claimed to be an exceptional lava spring.

It gushed buckets straight out of a large heap of lava rocks to pool in a brilliantly clear divot.  Hop-a-long and I both treated it despite how awesome it looked due to close proximity of clearly used toilet paper, campsite, and a road.  Every time that happens, it saddens me that people couldn’t walk just a little further away to relieve themselves.

We hit the road and found Dead Animal ready to cook us lunch with the trusty Coleman stove.  Hop-a-long and I plopped down, OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAcut vegetables, and helped wherever he needed it.  He regaled us about his entertaining night camping right next to the road while we told him about the smoke.  Lush and Man Party joined in for a little bit but managed to keep on a better schedule than our go for 10 miles, then take a 3 hour break, then another 10 miles etc.

Once again, we stretched our small stomachs to their limits and then had to lazily sit there while we digested a good portion of it.

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After we located Shrek’s house by going to the local bar and asking for his number, we found everyone hanging out on the back porch.  We had caught up again to Tickled Pink and Last on the Bus which was nice to see them; we met the younger Magellan and his girlfriend Pebbles, and then we found none other than Scooter sitting there with a small plastic bottle of good ol’ Canadian Mist – mostly finished.

“Let’s play this game!” Hop-a-long said putting her giant plastic handle of Canadian Mist on the table next to his fifth.

“Oh shiiiiiit!” he said and the shenanigans began from there.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAI somehow managed to wake up at the planned early time in the morning and went and found Hop-a-long who didn’t look so pleased to be awake and we put all our stuff in the car and set off for a 30 mile slackpack to the next road that looked decent enough for Dead to get his car there and meet us.

The slackpack began by crossing the Bridge of the Gods over the Columbia River.  I found myself intensely holding onto my phone and camera while taking pictures because most of the bridge did not have a solid ground — it had a metal grid-like thing and we could see the deep river flowing underneath us.  Really glad that I wasn’t afraid of heights; we took our time crossing it and getting in the way of the traffic since no pedestrian path existed.

After the fun and games, we began the long climb out of the Columbia River Gorge, up, up, up!  And chuck full of poison oak mixed into the blackberries.  Eventually, we extricated ourselves from blackberry thickets, trying not to get poison oak, and continued climbing for what seemed like an eternity.

Hop-a-long and I never saw anyone else that had been at Shrek’s the night before despite our slow pace.  We made it over 3,500 feet up with many, many bumps to the top of the ridge and got a brief respite from climbing.  We could see where we had dropped down into the gorge and the long winding way back out of it.  The ridge bumped along through some burn areas until dropping about 2,000 feet of what we had just climbed into a valley behind it.

Desperate for a snack, I stopped at a water source about 20 miles into our planned 30 mile day.  Washington was officially already kicking our asses and we had just under 500 miles to go!  Luckily, we had brought our headlamps and enough food to go another 10 miles.

Then, as we crossed a stream .3 away from a road, we saw the letters “DA” written in sticks on the bridge with an arrow pointing forward.  YAY!  No more miles!  We found him at the first road and he handed us each a nice, cold beer.  Exactly what we needed after the climb that wouldn’t end.

“I thought you guys had passed here already,” Dead said while we swigged down large gulps of PBR.  “Then I ran into Lush and Man Party and they said they had not gone off trail and had not seen you two or knew who you were.  They seemed reluctant to talk to me until I gave them beer.”  The true language of thru-hikers!

As the sun was already on it’s way over the hills, we decided to stop there and camp in a semi flat spot just up the road.  We set up camp and Dead made his Colman stove specialty of soy chorizo, onion, and pepper burritos.

We went to bed decently early that evening since we planned on doing another 30 miler the next day to make up for only doing 20 miles that day.

2 a.m. WHHHHHHHOOOOEEEERRRRROOOO!

“Guys…….what the hell was that?” Hop-a-long said.

“I don’t know, where’s the headlamp?” Dead said.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAHe shown the slight directly toward the sound and we listened and listened for moving animal noises.  Nothing.  It had all woken us up out of deep sleep and sounded like an old woman screaming as far as we heard from the depths of dreams, which usually means mountain lion.

WHHHHHHHOOOOOEERRRROOOO! It came again.  Then again from a different direction, except it sounded different, almost familiar and I immediately thought of the AT knowing that I’d heard it back east as well but couldn’t place it.

“Ohhhh it’s a damn owl!” Hop-a-long said.  “Listen, it’s the ‘who cooks for you owl,’” she said.  It came again and we all heard it that time.

In the morning, Hop-a-long and I left by headlamp to go climb another 1,000 feet up and then plunge back down.  We saw the road that Dead Animal said he couldn’t get his car up and we could see exactly why.  It appeared as though the road had large culverts in it at some point, but they had been ripped out and only a jeep could get over them as they were now.

We found the next road attached to a pretty cool campsite 10 miles into the day and sat down for a snack.  Hop-a-long noticed that she had some kind of a reaction on one of her shins that looked something like a little poison oak.  Since we didn’t have any bleach, we dumped some aquamira on it to dry it out.  In the meantime, Dead Animal drove up and we cracked a beer.  Slackpacking is hard work!

After some good old PB and Js, tortilla chips, and beer, we walked six miles to the next road and found him again for more snacks and beer.  We allotted ourselves a half an hour break in order to make our destination by dark o’clock.  Almost at the end of our time, Indiana Toad and Chocolate Chipmunk walked up from the road and told us how they found a great blue blaze that skipped the last 35 miles of trail that kicked our asses on the road and it passed three breweries!  We couldn’t complain too much since we slackpacked the whole chunk, but Hop, Dead, and I looked at each other and then began devising ways to get brewery beer later.

From there, we had another gnarly climb that went up another 3,000 feet and hit the 2,200 mile mark on top.  I threw the old iPod on and plugged through it with Hop-a-long right behind me.  Almost at the top, I ran into Lush and Man Party and chatted with them for a bit, and then again at the big 2-2-0-0 mark.  We all joked, “If this was the AT, we’d be done!”

After our legs decided to work again, we finished off the last six miles or so of the slackpack ridge walking over to the Crest Horse Camp where we would meet Dead Animal again.  Right at the tail end, around 8pm, we skirted a bit of lava and out of nowhere I saw a huge lightening bolt.  Then I thought my mind made it up since I did not hear any thunder.

Hop-a-long and I walked up and found Dead Animal who began frying pasta for us as we drank some beer with Jubel and Shadow for the evening.

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Mt. Hood and extending ridges.

I thought Mt. Hood was pretty neat from the south side, but from the Timberline Trail and the north side, I found myself stopping and just staring at the mountain in utter awe.  The gigantic ridges that sprang from the bases of glaciers shot out all around it, making Mt. Hood oddly resemble a spider with a central part of mosquito-eating awesomeness with huge legs extending outward.  To get to the Timberline Trail, we had climbed up on of those leg-like ridges to the Lodge.

Built in the 1930s as a CCC project, the architecture was something so admirable, even someone who knew very little on the subject had to stop and say “wow.”  Huge full, old growth trees made wide pillars supporting the structure surrounded by incredibly intricate carvings on banisters, railings, the ceiling and everywhere.  This is where we hung out while the wind ravaged the trees and the rain obscured our view of the beauty surrounding us.  The weather did clear somewhat in the late afternoon, but the wind refused to die which made the air temperature very uncomfortable.  When we heard about a bunk room deal, a “chalet” that the employee’s all seemed to call formally, we took it and it averaged out to be $15/person with five people sleeping in it.

So, we drank more beer, ate more buffets, hot tubbed, and relaxed at the end of our ten mile day.  We hikers took over the hot tub after dinner and only three other people stayed in, probably because they thought we were all crazy and they found us amusing.  At least the feeling was mutual because two of them, a father-son duo, told us all they had plans to climb Mt. Hood in the morning and found it weird that the company had second thoughts about renting them gear.  We had reservations as well, which we voiced very vocally and making sure they had enough sense to figure out when they were completely over their heads and needed to turn around.  We also tried to hammer into their heads that there was no shame in turning around.  Neither of them had ever done any mountaineering or even handled an ice axe.  They kept asking us where the route went up the mountain since they had not though to pick up a map or even do internet research of the various summit routes.  They worried me.

In the morning, we had a lazy start eating buffet breakfast, sleeping in, packing and repacking.  It helped that we had to vacate the

Into the Tunnel

room by 11am so once again we had to return to vagrant status of bumming space in the open lounge near the bar.  Hop-a-long, Dead Animal and I examined the maps and decided that despite leaving around noon-30, we still had time to slackpack 18 miles and meet Dead at the next road crossing where we hoped to find a small spot to camp for the night.

We set off into a beautiful arena of blue skies and sharp mountain lines and excellent photographic moments.  It seemed as though we never had enough time to take a picture of Mt. Hood from each angle possible.  We realized quickly that we would have to keep moving to make it to Dead’s car and the rest of our stuff at a decent hour.  The terrain did not seem too terribly difficult on the elevation profile but in reality, going down off of one ridge, crossing a large stream, then going up the next ridge and repeating that over and over got tiring.  Some of the ups and downs were 1000+ feet each drop and climb.  The glacial melt water that came down off of Mt. Hood also presented interesting challenges.  Quite a few of them stopped us for a few moments to assess the best way across without a.) getting wet, b.) getting swept down stream over large rocks, and c.) getting to a spot on the other side where we could move toward the trail since some possible ways across would end in a small 10 ft vertical cliff that we couldn’t shimmy up.  The Zigzag river was the worst of those instances.

After several exhausting climbs, we went down, down, down, and took a short alternate that went to Ramona Falls.  It was a 2.1 mile swap for 2.1 miles of PCT with roughly the same elevation gain and loss, so we deemed it a worthwhile adventure.  It most certainly was magical in essence.  The falls themselves covered an entire wall that loomed above us and the water thinly cascaded down, almost vertically making a sheen that glimmered in the light that poked through the trees.  The area was visually water-rich and was completely green save for the water itself.  Moss grew everywhere and in so many varieties that both Hop-a-long and I stopped several times to examine certain strains we hadn’t seen before.  The moisture held in the air and we breathed in the freshness that emanated from the moss.

Getting back to the trail, we had another adventure.  We had to cross the muddy river that stretched wide and full of glacial melt water.  Supposedly, we would hit a horse ford first and had the option of going upstream a quarter-mile to where a bridge might or might not still exist.  We trekked up a bit, but saw no signs of anything promising except for two very large trees spanning the width of the river.  Relatively easily crossing them like balance beams, we got almost to the other side, but we found no fantastic way around the large root system that came up with the larger of the two trees except to scale some of them and pass between two large roots.

Once we escaped the roots, we had a sharp 1000 foot climb and then down to Lolo Pass where Dead waited patiently for us.  The climb had switchbacks, but after climbing over all the ridges, it seemed more difficult than it actually was.  Apparently, people tend to cut the switchbacks there because we saw giant signs saying “PLEASE DO NOT CUT SWITCHBACKS” at their beginning and end.

We found Dead Animal and Tahoe drinking beer at Lolo Pass and Hop-a-long and I immediately jumped on dinner preparations since the climbs had sucked all our energy and fat stores right out.  Drinking some good old PBRs and double stuff Oreos held the hunger off while we sautéed up some onions and peppers with soy chorizo and crammed all in tortillas.  Then ate two a piece.

Tunnel Falls

Looking at the maps, we saw we could do a 30 mile day into Cascade Locks, the last town on the Oregon/Washington border if we took the Eagle Creek Alternate (which we fully intended to do anyway).  We set our alarms for an early 5:00am and set off by 6am.  We grumbled because it was cold and dark, but we moved to stay warm and just kept putting one foot in front of the other.

The first 14 miles blew by, pun intended.  We reached a high point where supposedly, we should have gotten a fantastic view of Mt. Adams, Mt. Rainer, and Mt. St. Helens, but the wind whipped up something fierce there and it was all either Hop-a-long or I could do to walk straight and half-run, half-get-blown down the trail to the trees where we could breathe and walk straight.  So much for that view!

Luckily, that meant we had just about reached the Indian Springs “Campground” where the alternate began.  We finally took a decent sized break…more than five minutes and searched for the trail.  The abandoned campground was blatantly obvious, but the side trail was not obvious in the slightest.  We re-read and re-read Yogi’s characteristic two paragraphs of directions and eventually we stumbled up the stream she mentions and blocked by a considerable amount of foliage was the sign we were looking for.

We crashed down the “trail” which really was a hiker-user trail that was not maintained to link the PCT with the Eagle Creek Trail.  I had to slow down considerably due to the steepness and not wanting my knees to give out on me.  Hop-a-long bombed down and waited for me at the first waterfall.  I was not about to have sore knees at the beginning of a 4,000 foot decent to the Columbia River.  The connector trail took out 2000 feet of it in just under two miles, then the Eagle Creek Trail (heavily used and very popular due to close proximity to Portland) took us down another 2,000 feet over several miles past a large array of waterfalls.

The entire trail was constructed with dynamite and had lines to hold onto since it ran the side of a gorge and the side dropped anywhere from 30-70 feet.  Tunnel Falls was the most neat; it had a hole dynamited out and we walked through it, behind the waterfall.

The best part: Dead Animal came hiking up with two pizzas (right side up in one hand) for Hop-a-long and I.  We were so hungry, we sat and ate it right there.  The three of us then meandered down to his car and then over to Shrek’s where we met some usual characters and some unexpected ones.

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