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Posts Tagged ‘Fire’

We set off downhill with Natty and within five minutes I couldn’t feel my feet because the vegetation soaked my socks and the temperature barely reached above freezing.  I found myself staring at my feet to make sure they went where my brain told them to go because I could not really feel them well.  Scout shot downhill first and Hop and Natty got a few switchbacks ahead of me.

A few of the switchbacks were not only wet and slick, but very steep with some sketchy obstacles to maneuver over.  For several miles, this continued until we popped out on a newly constructed, nice bridge over Milk Creek.  Many creeks coming out of glaciers are named “milk” due to the sediment coming out of the glacier turning the water a white color.  This one, however, seemed pretty clear to us.

We had another long, steep set of switchbacks that went on for over two miles of trail in about a third of a mile as the birds flew.  The grade was just mellow enough that we could plug it out with stopping for breaks, but when we hit the top, we all stopped for a super early lunch.

Not only were we hungry, but we found a sweet rock overlook where we could dry out all of our wet crap and sit in the sun like lizards absorbing the warmth of the sun.  About half an hour into our basking, up pops Knees who seemed surprised to see us.

“You zero’ed at the Dinsmore’s didn’t you?” Natty chided, since Knees had a flight deadline in Seattle.

“Yeeeeeah,” Knees replied as he removed his food bag.  “I have a flight out on the 7th in Seattle, so I have to finish before 11am on the 6th.”

“I knew you would zero when I saw you heading over to play croquet with Major Upchuck and Bounce Box with a 12 pack!” Natty exclaimed.

“Yeah.  I did a 39 mile day yesterday to make up for it.  I’m not stopping in Stehekin, so that should save me time,” Knees replied relatively confident.

“Do you have enough food?” I asked skeptically eying his not huge food bag.

“Yeah,” he said lifting it to test it’s weight.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAEventually, we left our warm rocks for the colder, windy contours which bounced up and down hopping over small streams with sweeping views of the valley running parallel below and a glaciated peak to above.  After walking over two ridges up there, the trail plunged back down to cross the Suiattle River.

This river had caused quite a bit of debate on the PCT Facebook page of whether to take the old PCT which was an unmaintained trail to a giant log crossing the river, or to take the new, maintained PCT to a freshly built bridge.  Seems like an easy answer, right?  Wrong.  The new PCT added five miles.  When you’re low on food and tired from the rugged terrain, five extra miles is a little much.

We got to the junction and veered right onto the old PCT taking our chances since we had multiple confirmations that the log still existed and the old path was indeed faster despite being unmaintained as long as you did not get lost.  Easy enough, right?

Between the four of us, we could find the trail fairly easily as we climbed the obstacle course of blowdowns.  Eight eyes proved

Suiattle Log

Suiattle Log

incredibly more useful than two.  We found our way through the muck at the bottom of the hill and popped out on a gravel bar, hearing a high, raging river.  We followed some cairns and neon green bandana’s from Shrek’s house and found the log no problem.  The water looked cold.  And unfriendly.  We decided butt scooting across was our safest bet.  Scout went first and got over ok.  I went next followed by Natty and Hop-a-long.  It was surprisingly more straining than expected.

At the other end of the log, we had to shimmy up some slippery sand quickly before it gave way under our feet to the trees.  Once across, we had the challenge of finding the trail again because the old PCT was nowhere to be seen.  Mouse had written a note on the Facebook page to not bother trying to find it and just bushwhack up the hill and we’d run into it.  Sounded easy enough.  The map showed that should happen as well.

The hillside went straight up, the ground was soft, and the vegetation was thick, but sure enough, after about 10 or 15 minutes, we came to the trail which was so nicely maintained and obvious.  We rejoiced at our success and began climbing anew.

We all seemed to get a second wind climbing this hill, probably from our exhilaration crossing the log and climbing over all the other giant dead trees.  The climb had two parts to it separated by a half mile or so of flat-ish stuff.  Once we hit the flat stuff, we knew we were close to a marked campsite near a stream.  Of course, it was dark and we found many more streams than were marked on the map and data book.  Once we found it, we saw how obvious it was and found great, large, flat spots to sleep.

Setting up immediately, we wondered if Knees was in front or behind it since he hauled out away from our rock drying spot.  We settled in for a blisteringly cold night, waking up to frost and a deep cold and Natty yelling at us to get up at 5:45am.

At least we had almost three more miles of solid uphill to warm us up slightly since the we seemed to stay in the shade the whole time.  I remembered the desert and how much I missed trees then.  I found it ironic that I missed the desert in that moment.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERANearing the top, we ran into a very encouraging note written in sticks and moss, “-100” it said referring to 100 miles left to Canada.  The climb seemed to drag on that morning due to the cold, but eventually, we crested the top, getting a great views.  Even more exciting, we had basically 20 miles of downhill to High Bridge where we had to catch a shuttle bus to Stehekin at 6pm.  Of course there are always a few bumps.

We took a break right in the middle of the trail at the first solidly sunny spot we could find, ate, and let the sun warm us.  Half way through the break, none other than Knees showed up!  He had taken the new PCT and crashed out not far behind us.  We all walked on for a few more hours, then stopped for lunch.

“So Veggie,” Knees said as I sat down, “I was examining my food bag after you questioned the amount of food in it and was hoping I could give you four $20 toward a town-beer fund to empty the remaining contents of your food bags.  After lunch, all of us did just that and piled up the little extra bits, halves of tortillas, peanut butter scrapings and emergency, super smashed bars.

With that, Knees buzzed off and we set off slower.  Eventually, we came to an overlook about five miles out or so and spotted a wildfire on the adjacent ridge shooting up billowing black smoke with an occasional tree going completely up in flames.  The four of us sat down, leaned against our packs and watched hiker television for at least half an hour.

We then made the final push to High Bridge and sat at the picnic table bus stop waiting desperately for the bus to take us to food. OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA A super retro, awesome looking bus showed up and took us right into town where we immediately ran into the restaurant before it closed and found Snow Turtle and Agassi.

“Agassi has been watching every incoming bus for hikers,” Snow Turtle laughed.  Neither of them had seen Natty in several hundred miles.

Right after we ordered food, we realized that we may have missed our beer window at the store.  We rushed over and inquired about beer and a room and they reopened the store so we could load up (thanks Knees!) and grab a room.  While it was probably the most expensive room we got the whole trail, it was certainly the nicest, largest, and warm since it was supposed to be another freezing night.

We had a lazy morning, sleeping in, getting our resupply packages, bumming the employee wi-fi to send a few emails since there was no cell service what-so-ever, and sitting at the bakery for three hours consuming as much as humanly possible.  That was a damn good bakery.

Catching the 3pm bus back to the trail, we eventually got moving slowly, stuffed to the brim with full stomachs and food bags.

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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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