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Posts Tagged ‘ford’

The Darkness: “I’ll take the Moose Drool please.”Me: “I’ll take the Pigs Ass Porter please.”

Waitress: “That one’s fun to say! Can I get you two frosted mugs for those?”

Both: “Yes, please!”
Backing up, we had an easy ten miles into East Glacier with a well graded 2,000 foot climb. We had to cross through the Blackfeet Indian Reservation for three miles and the “trail” began what Ley referred to as the real CDT. It split off several times, was 4×4 track, went over several blowdowns, and became massive mud pits at points. Sometimes it was hard to tell the nuff apart from the horse shit.
As soon as we got into town, we went straight to the first restaurant and got burgers/veggie burgers and beer.
We checked out the other hostel and decided it was dark and less inviting. The Darkness resupplied at the store while I got my package from the post office and we spent a chunk of time ripping apart and making larger priority mail boxes to fit our ice axes. The post matter laughed and said he’d been doing it all week and had some good ideas.
Heading back to the other hostel, smartly named after food, Brownies, we saw two guys who looked liked overwhelmingly clean thru hikers. We approached. They were indeed thru hikers, one of which flipped up from New Mexico and the other of which was going sobo, but they had hiked together on the PCT. They were Fun Sized and Lighthouse.
Town chores began to take a long time – like showering 8 days of dirt off, doing laundry, packing the food bag, blogging, posting pictures, and chatting with Fun Sized and Lighthouse as well as two other flippers, Ridge Runner and K2. And hiker midnight is at 9!
Our plan *was* to get up, eat, and leave mid morning, but then Scallywag, E.D., and Patch rolled in and The Darkness and I decided to zero. That meant significantly more time for blogging and other chores. Later, another rolled in, Whistle, and it was quite a fun zero day.
The next morning after breakfast, The Darkness and I made our way out of town getting confused in the golf course exit, but did finally find the 4×4 track eventually. It was HOT and we came to several choices in the track over about three miles and had to pull out the guidebook to pick. We reentered the national park again and contoured the bottom of it for quite a ways. It looked as though for a few sections, the park service took a weed whacker and cut a foot wide path, then ran out of battery for a mile, then another chunk.
Treeboo caught up to us and we walked with him for a little bit. We decided to inquire about an interesting individual who we met previously who seemed to want to find himself in the wilderness.
The Darkness: “Did you meet John?”

Treeboo: “hahaha the guy in five fingers heel planting?”

The Darkness: “Did he have food?”

Treeboo: “Yeah, he got some from day hikers…”
Treeboo was a long distance runner too, so once we stopped for lunch, we never saw him again. Our food bags were massive with six days of food in them and we needed to eat them down a bit.
We continued heading toward Marias Pass and stopped at a pay campground for some water and a map break. Up walked a dirty individual who introduced himself as a section hiker going from Helena, MT to the Canadian border. Naturally, we asked for beta. For starters, he said the official CDT contoured a burned ridge for eight miles and was basically a pile of blowdowns for that amount of time. Translated: eight mile obstacle course of downed trees with no shade. An alternate trail followed a creek the whole way lower down. Great, cod creek…hot day…sounds fantastic…for tomorrow.
I was tired, so I packed about three liters of water and headed up the hill away from the pay campsite toward an area that looked flatish on the map. The Darkness wanted to go camp down by the creek on the alternate two miles later, so she did that and I found a nice, wooded flat spot above the pay campground. Why pay for camping???
In the morning, Scallywag, E.D, and Whistle walked up as I finished breakfast and said they camped immediately outside of the pay area, but walked back for the privy in the morning. Classic. They had also talked to the section hiker and wanted to take the wetter alternate. They headed on and I was about 15 minutes behind.
I found where the CDT split off to contour the ridge, but it wasn’t marked at all and the turn was not obvious for sobos. To have taken it, I would have needed to turn more than 90 degrees to my right.
The alternate was a well kept trail, probably because of equestrians. There was quite a lot of fresh horse shit in the trail. The first ford of the creek was a cold, refreshing easy start to day and almost reached my knees. I found The Darkness after the second ford putting her shoes back on in an attempt to keep her feet and growing blisters dry. I just plunged straight in with the winning combination of Teva sandals and Darn Tough socks each time.
We found the other three in some willows around mid morning snack time and by then I had lost track of the number of fords…I stopped counting at 8.
After the break, we continued in toward a forest service cabin that the section hiker told us about thinking it would be a cool place to eat lunch. Before getting there though, a horse startled me from the trees and I looked over to see an older gentleman with a cowboy hat, his daughter, and five horses.
Guy: “Where are you walking from?”

Me: “Today, or in general?”

Guy: “In general…?”

Me: “Canada.”

Guy: *looks pensive?* “Where are you going?”

Me: “Mexico.”

Guy: *Eyes bug out* “uh huh…”
We talk about a few other things and I said we wanted to eat lunch at the cabin and he said they were heading that way too.
Finding the cabin, we noted the brilliant orientation of the porch so that it became shady in the afternoon and the shade increased as the afternoon passed. The cabin was locked, so we enjoyed the porch. Then, the guy in the cowboy hat showed up.
Guy: “So…would y’all like some cold beer?”

Us: *Eyes bug out* “Yes, please!”
Out came cold Miller Lites and on a day when the sun melted us, they never tasted so good. The guy had an entire horse dedicated to coolers in the saddlebags! Now, that is smart traveling. We’ve been doing it wrong the whole time!
We had three route choices from the cabin for the next few miles, so we showed him the map and he instantly told us the middle, red route was the best of the three options which was also what Ley suggested too. Then the guy offered to pack the beer cans out too!!!

 

The well oriented shady porch

 

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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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We hit the trees and had a small obstacle course of blowdowns to navigate when I found a water bottle that I somehow identified as one belonging to one of the three JMTers who went north: Nice, Steady, or Katz.  I threw it onto my pack and we found them at the bottom of the valley to return it.

Once again, we climbed.  This time, the grade was decent for the first few miles and we passed through incredibly still, peaceful meadows filled with deer that knew no humans could hurt them.  They stayed in the middle of the trail or right next to it until we were almost on top of them.  We also found wild onions and picked some to add to dinner.

Finding a campsite was pretty easy; hiding from the mosquitos was another story.  Snax and Zoner passed us who had hiked the PCT in 2010 and 2008 respectively and were out for the JMT going north for a section.

We managed to get up and moving at a good time for once and began our way up Muir Pass, another long, drawn out climb strangely similar to Pinchot, but not as shitty.  There was only one really annoyingly steep section of short, rocky switchbacks next to a waterfall and the rest of the climb consisted of figuring out which lake we were at because there were so many.  Lake Helen right before the top is actually one of the highest on the PCT at 11,617 ft above sea level.

The top of Muir Pass had a rock hut on top made in the 1930s by the Sierra Club in memory of John Muir.  The more I hiked in the Sierras, the crazier I think he was to explore that much then, without trails and with loaves of bread and tea for food.

We took an extended break up there with the hut, enjoying the sweeping views into Evolution Valley on the other side with these things we hadn’t seen in a long time: clouds!  They made our pictures just that much better.

When we finally left, we stopped a few miles later at Lake Wanda where we got cooked in the sun and soaked our feet in the cold water.  I also watched Inspector Gadget cannonball in and then run screaming out of the icy, snow melt lake.

We meandered down Evolution Valley which, in my opinion, was one of the most beautiful that we passed through, despite the mosquitos.  Muir Pass was our last almost 12,000 ft pass we had to do, which was somewhat of a relief, but we still had miles to go before we slept.

Camping down in a meadow, we battled some intense mosquitos that actually were up and biting at 5am.  I actually hiked with the damn mosquito headnet on for quite some time.

Evolution Creek crossing is usually an intense ford that PCT hikers worry about every year, but when we hit it, it was only knee-deep and a breeze to wade across.  Lucky us!  The mosquitos were terrible there though!  Deet time.

The trail followed the creek down where it would change drastically from mellow, meandering through meadows, to raging waterfalls down steep, slick rocks.  It plunged into another creek that we crossed on a bridge and continued down to the Muir Trail Ranch side trail where we found Griffin hiking sobo through that section and he gave us some intel.

“It’s great!  I see all the PCTers because I’m hiking the opposite direction and I see all the JMTers because I out hike them!  They only go like 12 miles a day or something and 50 pound packs are the lightweight ones!” He joked.

After lunch with him, we headed up Selden Pass, supposedly the easiest Sierra Pass.  The hard part was the almost 2,000 feet of switchbacks coming out of the valley, then the rest went in steps: it would go flat around a lake, go up a step to another lake and so on until the top.  We cooked at the top of the switchbacks where Dead Animal used the deep creek to find the hole in his Neoair he got the night before.  We suspect either a small critter or a fight between the Neoair and his bear canister in his pack.  I took the opportunity to wash my shorts, hang them on my pack and hike up in my underwear.

We hit the pass that evening, did the quite naked ritual, then headed down to camp somewhere.  Unfortunately, the spot we found had a lot of moisture and our sleeping bags were all wet.  We waited until the sun came and dried us off, then set out down trail cruising downhill until we had to cross Bear Creek, another ford that usually consists of horror stories of chest high water with packs on shoulders.  It only came up mid-calf.  The next two feeder streams had complicated rock hops, so I plunged straight through those too since my feet were wet anyway.
Once we hit the bottom of the valley, we of course had to climb again.  This time, it was not to a pass, just up and over a large ridge in the way with 1200 ft of steep switchbacks and 2000 ft of steep switchbacks going down, which made my knees sore.  The amount of JMTers coming up astounded me, almost all of their packs went higher than their head and some were hunched over under the weight of them.

We hit the VVR ferry side trail and I had to pull Dead Animal away from its temptations.  A hiker friendly resort, but they start you a tab and the cheapest anyone gets out for is $70 and horror stories have reached over $400, even with the first beer and night tenting free.  We skipped it and began climbing to Silver Pass.  Its main challenge was one rocky jump off 600 ft in half a mile with a waterfall ford in the middle, which for us was a careful rock hop.

Camping a mile and about 500 ft of climbing to go, we spent another moist night where we waited for the sun to dry everything off.  We hit the pass, then descended past large alpine lakes until a few large bumps we had to go up and over.

Once we started descending toward Purple Lake, we began hitting the blowdowns.  The Sierras had 140 something mph sustained northerly winds in November and December knocking down thousands of trees that kept the Reds Meadow Rd closed until June 29th this year.  Luckily, they weren’t too bad because so many trail crews were out and diligently clearing the trail.  There were also a few annoying ones back a few miles around Tully Hole, but completely manageable.

After one more bump, we pretty much descended for 10ish miles down to Reds Meadow where trail crews had done amazing work.  We passed mile 900 and realized we had 3G for the first time in a week, so we sat on our phones for a wee bit and managed to finish the section in 7 days instead of the 8 that we planned.

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