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Posts Tagged ‘Hiker PCT’

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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Delirious from 36 miles and tipsy from the beer, I stumbled down the road to a user trail spawned by Yogi down into the Mazama Village of Crater Lake.  According to the Yogi guidebook, if you walked the road into the Village, you would have to pay at the entry booth and the proper side trail was extra miles.  She claimed that you could bushwhack down when you see a guard rail on the curve of the road straight down to Mazama.

When I got there, I found Scooter in the store buying beer.  He took me over to campsite E17 where Dead Animal had set up camp complete with Coleman stove and grill.  He had just gone to see if I was at the trailhead, but Hop-a-long, Scooter, and Tahoe showed me where everything was.  I barely managed to sit down when a beer maneuvered its way into my hand and Hop-a-long filled a plate with soy chorizo, peppers, and onions.  We sat around a fire talking, cooking, and having a few brews.  Dead Animal filled me another plate of potato product fried and covered in ketchup.  Apparently, I need to eat.  It’s actually true.

Everything went grand until some gun totting park rangers came by with their flashlights up by their heads looking all serious and such rolled up.

“We got a few noise complaints for over here, you guys need to keep it down,” one said in his best cop-like voice.

I looked at my watch…it wasn’t even 10pm yet!  Quite hours were from 10pm-7am.  We had no music playing and we weren’t even talking loudly or drinking outrageously.

“What’s in the bag?!” one said with his flashlight beaming over on the picnic table which was covered with food, stoves, bags of all sorts.

I was closest, so I answered, “which bag?”

“The bag by the phone.”

“What phone?”  There was no phone on the table, probably because there was no cell service to speak of down there.

“The bag by the phone,” the guy started to sound more irritated.

“Oh, the MP3 player?” I asked and picked up the bag that had a garlic clove in it before we used it all.  “It had garlic in it.”  I picked it up and smelled it.  It smelled strongly of fresh garlic.  “Here, you smell it,” and I shoved it in the woman’s face.

Sniff sniff.  “hmm, yeah, garlic.”

Damn rangers.  Get out of here.  Go find some teenagers to bust for underage drinking or maybe the people who couldn’t stand 35 degree nighttime temperatures across from us who sat in their car with the heat on from 4 am on…thats between quite hours and a car engine running is not exactly quite.

Gadget rolled up around 11pm, right as I was going to bed and chilled out.

None of us got up early in the morning, besides Gadget who went to get a long early breakfast at the restaurant near the store.  Eventually, we made some breakfast, got our packages and formulated a plan which turned out to be somewhat of a cluster fuck.  For starters, the PCT split so an equestrian PCT separated from a hiker PCT for about 13 miles.

Scooter and Tahoe decided to slack pack 14 miles to where the trail came back together.  While Dead Animal shuttled them to the trailhead, Hop-a-long, Inspector Gadget, and I bummed the camp showers and walked to the store to do laundry.  In the meantime, Indiana Toad and Chocolate Chipmunk showed up and joined our plan to slack pack a whopping 5 miles up to Crater Lake Rim.  After stuffing our faces full of food from the store, we grabbed some beer and got shuttled by Dead up to the trailhead.

Indiana Toad and Chocolate Chipmunk took off first and stayed ahead of us the whole time.  Inspector Gadget, Hop-a-long, and I started chatting and drinking beer on the first two miles since it was flat.  We knew we were moving slowly since each of us had a beer in hand, but we also knew we were supposed to shoot upward when the trail split.  Almost an hour and a half in, we knew something was wrong because the trail was still flat.  We definitely weren’t going 3mph, but we weren’t going a mile and a half per hour either.  Gadget checked the GPS which showed us on the trail, but upon second glance, we realized that the GPS only had the equestrian trail marked and we had gone about two miles past the junction.

We hurried back moving faster than 3mph until we saw the junction.  Looking at the sign, the top had “Dutton Creek Trail” underlined and only on the third line down said “Crater lake Rim Trail – PCT.”  None of us looked past the top line and dismissed it as a side trail.  Underneath the sign, a piece of paper taped up said, “Horseys <–, Hikers –> Don’t be a Dumbass like Us.”  Great.  Didn’t even manage to see that.

Scurrying as fast as we could, we tried to race to the rim.  The trail, however, had other plans for us.  It shot straight up, pulling an AT number and we soon realized why the equestrians went around and not up.  Eventually, we hit the road that ran around the rim for all the yuppies and we walked to the cafe since the sky threatened rain and Dead Animal had gone to drop off Scooter and Tahoe’s stuff further on.  We warmed up there since the wind was fierce out near the lake until Dead Animal came and we formulated a plan of where to stealth camp so we didn’t have to pay for a pricy campsite again.

Right as we were going to bed, some music came bombing out of the woods, in the form of Magellan.  We gave him some chips, salsa, and beer since the store had already closed and he stealthed there with us.

The cold morning gave us a late start and we slack packed the 9 miles to where the hiker PCT and the equestrian PCT rejoined.  We took our time as the trail shot up and down to every viewpoint imaginable.  We dodged tourists, took pictures, and drank some beer while we hiked.  Dead Animal cooked us a good large meal of epic portions and we drank as much beer as we could fit into our ever shrinking stomachs.  The extra beers we left by the trail with a note to pack a can out for the other thru-hikers who we knew were not more than a day behind.

Hop-a-long and Inspector Gadget got a head start on me and landed about a mile ahead of me that night, but I caught them in the morning.  I would have caught them sooner, but we had one of the coldest nights on trail up until that point and it zapped my motivation to move apart from my sleeping bag.

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