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Posts Tagged ‘Lush’

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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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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