Tuesday, November 8, 2016

Day 151- The One Before The Last One

Sept 30, 2016
Brush Creek(2606.9) to Rock Pass(2635.4) 28.5 miles
Total up/down: +6,755/-4,822 feet

I wasn't sure what to expect today. I have heard that it is supposed to snow this afternoon, but I've also heard that it won't snow until tomorrow. As I expected it was really hard to get out of my sleeping bag. I managed to pack up and eat/drink breakfast from the warmth of my sleeping bag and tent. Eventually I forced myself outside and finished packing up. Oh man, was it cold out. Luckily, I had a nice uphill climb to get my blood pumping. I stopped to process water on my way out of camp and I noticed that Mountain Goat was already gone. I'm not used to having anyone  beat me out of camp in the morning. He must have left really early. As the sun began to rise in earnest it looked like I was in for some rain or possibly snow. I spent the first few miles hiking through a cloud. It was so damp that I stayed chilly even though I was climbing uphill. 
Got to love the Pacific Northwest in September 

Shortly after I took this picture it began to snow. I actually was relieved that it was snowing and not raining. It was a very light snow and the ground was too warm for it to stick. I guess I timed things perfectly, I had climbed to over 6,000 feet, if I was any lower I would have dealt with freezing rain. In the end, it didn't really matter because it only lasted for a few minutes, but for those minutes I enjoyed walking in the peace and quiet that only snow can bring. After the snow quit I was still walking in a cloud. I was a little frustrated because I could tell that I was missing out on epics views all around me. I stopped just before the apex of my climb to drink some water. I just happened to glance to my left and what I saw took my breath away. The clouds had just began to clear and I had an amazing view over to a glacier peak. 
Rising above the clouds

I watched the clouds blow in and around the mountains until I became too chilled to stand still any longer. 
To the far left you can see the trail still enveloped in clouds

I can't believe how quickly the weather changed. One minute I was hiking in snow, then clouds, and finally blue skies were all around. Last night, Mountain Goat and I discussed the power of positive thinking. I joked that if we kept thinking warm, dry thoughts we would make it all the way to Canada with perfect weather. Who knows, maybe it will work. 
Beautiful day

I started out this morning with only 44.2 miles to hike until the Canadian border. In the back of my mind I kept thinking that it might be possible to hike all of those miles today. I would spend the rest of the day playing the "what if game". What if I hike 44.2 miles? I would get to Canada in the middle of the night. What if I hike 20 miles today? I would have to hike 22.2 miles tomorrow. What if I hike 40 miles today? I would only have 4.2 miles tomorrow, but I will only get a few hours of sleep. It was a way to keep my mind occupied and off of the terrible thought that my hike was about to end. Even though I am ready to be done a small part of my mind realizes that once I accomplish my goal I will have to reenter society, which is never fun. If only the weather would stay warm forever, I could flip southbound and hike to Mexico, thus never having to go back to civilization. Alas, the end of summer is here and it is time to start thinking about LATT( Life After The Trail). At least this year I have a job and a life to go back to. After the Appalachian Trail last year I had zero plans and zero aspirations. I felt truly lost. This year I have everything planned out ahead of time. I will spend a month recovering and battling post trail depression at my parents house in Arkansas. Then I will head to Telluride to resume working at Allreds. I love working and living in the mountains and Telluride might be the closest thing to heaven on earth. 

Shortly after the weather cleared I caught up with MAGA. He had camped a few miles ahead of me last night. We hiked together briefly, but eventually I began to pull ahead. Since today was my last full day on the trail I was looking forward to hiking alone. I had a lot of things to process before reaching the end. Before I broke away MAGA asked if I could spare some water. He had misplanned the distance in between water sources. I didn't have much to spare, but I have found myself in his position a few times over the course of 2,620 miles and other hikers graciously helped me. I gave him half of what I had and we made plans to meet up later in the day at Harts Pass, the last trailhead before Canada. 

I didn't do a whole lot of research into Washington. I wanted to be surprised by my surroundings. Even without doing research I have heard that these last miles into Canada are spectacular. I am so thankful that I had great weather today. At some point during the hike I decided to hike until dark and to take my time. There was no since in rushing to the end. It would either snow or it wouldn't and I didn't want the weather to dictate my miles. I wanted to take in as much as I could before returning to the hustle and bustle of civilized living. I took frequent breaks and stopped plotting my miles per hour, which is a huge challenge for me. I like to constantly know how many miles I've hiked. 
Larches reign supreme 
Life above the clouds

Days like today are my favorite days on the Pacific Crest Trail. I only had a few big uphill climbs and I spent most of the day hiking along a ridgeline well above treeline. I had views clear into Canada. Every view was worthy of a travel magazine picture. Shortly after leaving MAGA it became apparent that I gave him too much of my water. I had a long eight miles to hike before I would drop down enough to find a water source. I fought my nature inclination to speed up and rush towards a water source. Part of me knew that I had enough to make it, but the irrational side of my brain likes to be over prepared and was screaming, "You'll die of dehydration soon". That part of my brain usually ends up making me crazy. Today my rational brain persevered and I was able to slowly make my way to Harts Pass and enjoy the sights along the way. 
Views for days
Golden Larches
Eek, only 35 miles to go!!!! 

Harts Pass is significant due to its remote location. It marks the last bale out point before reaching the Canadian border. This becomes important for hikers who find themselves in truly bad weather. There is a campground and ranger station at the pass, but is only accessible by a very rough dirt road. Many people are forced to end their thru-hike here due to weather. From here to the border(actually five miles before the border) the trail is continuously above six thousand feet of elevation. In this part of the country six thousand feet of elevation seems to mark the difference between rain and snow. The risk of avalanches are extremely high. I hoped to find water at Harts Pass, but that did not happen. Instead I was greeted by a sign for trail magic. I hurried in the direction the sign indicated, but there was nothing there. Instead I found a very nice ranger. He said that the people gave up doing trail magic because of the impending storm. I can't fault them for not wanting to deal with camping in the snow. I chatted with the ranger for ten minutes before his ride showed up. He asked if I needed any food. I explained that I probably had too much and thanked him for his kindness. He offered to pack out my trash for me. I was totally stoked to unload the few ounces of trash I was carrying. As I dug the trash out of my pack he said he had heard Stehekin was out of canister fuel to sell. I told him that was true and I was almost out. I was pretty sure I didn't have enough to cook dinner tonight. I was stunned when he offered me an almost full canister. His season of patrolling was coming to an end and he assured me that he wouldn't need it. This small act of kindness made all the difference in the world to me. I would have a hot meal tonight! 
30 miles to go

As I ate a snack, MAGA came rushing out of the woods. It is amazing how the prospect of trail magic can put a spring in anyones step. He was understandably disappointed to find out that there would be no trail magic and no water. Luckily, for both of us, there was a reliable water source .3 miles up the trail. MAGA took off in search of water and I took the time to sign the trail register. I'm pretty sure this is the last one before Canada! 

I was planning on finishing up my audiobook today, but I had so much going on inside my mind that I didn't need a distraction. I contemplated all that I have seen along the way. I thought about all of the extraordinary people I have met, the cool towns I have visited, the national parks I have hiked through, the highs and lows of thru hiking, and the amazing support I have received from family, friends, and strangers. This experience has been completely different than the Appalachian Trail, but it has also been very similar. The remainder of my day went by very quickly. I expected to catch up to MAGA at some point, but unfortunately I would never see him again. I did run into Moses, which was very unexpected. I thought he would be finishing today. He stopped to process water and I continued onward, I knew that we would see each other at some point later in the day. 
Typical view of the day, magical

The temperature began to drop steadily. By five o'clock I was putting layers on. I really wanted to get as close as possible to the border today so I could have an easier day tomorrow. With the high probability of rain/snow beginning tomorrow, I wanted to make it to the border before it started. I really didn't want to finish in the rain. I still haven't figured out how to take pictures when it is raining. Once my hands are wet I can't get my iPhone touch screen to cooperate. By six o'clock I was really cold and thinking about calling it for the day. I really wanted to hike another three miles, but I came across Helen Keller, his parents, and Make Shift. They had a roaring fire going and were celebrating the end of the trail. I decided to take a break and use my Delorme InReach to check the weather forcast. As I warmed myself by the fire,waiting for the weather report to come in, Moses hiked past me. He was going to go another 7-10 miles before stopping. He is a huge fan of night hiking. Finally the weather report came in and it looked like it would begin to snow or rain starting at 11 or 12 tomorrow. I decided to get as many miles in as I could before it got dark. I said my goodbyes to Hellen Keller and Make Shift. I had a really good uphill climb ahead of me. By this point I had already hiked twenty five miles, but I figured the more I hiked today the less I have to hike tomorrow. 
Make Shift, Hellen Keller, and his parents

I ended up hiking until just after seven o'clock. The sun had already set and I had to battle the fading light to get setup.  Mountain Goat had made it to camp minutes before me. He had gotten up at 4:30 this morning so he could to a big mileage day. We chatted about our day while setting up camp. It is going to be extremely cold tonight. I cooked and ate dinner as quickly as possible. Mountain Goat and I made plans to get up at 4:30 and start hiking around 5. We were both extremely motivated to finish before the bad weather rolled in. I'm looking forward to finishing tomorrow and I'm equally excited about the prospect of starting my final day before the sun rises. I'm hoping for an epic sunrise on my last day. 
Such a great day
Grateful for excellent weather today
I'm going to miss this

“Happiness is a myth we seek,
If manifested surely irks;
Like river speeding to the plain,
On its arrival slows and murks.
For man is happy only in
His aspiration to the heights;
When he attains his goal, he cools
And longs for other distant flights.”
- Kahlil Gibran

Monday, October 24, 2016

Day 150- 2,600 Miles And A Little Companionship

Sept 29, 2016
Hideaway Camp(2582.8) to Brush Creek(2606.9) 24.1 miles 
Total up/down: +5,063/-4,270 feet

Every morning seems to be a little colder than the last. I was a little slow getting out of camp this morning, mostly because I had to go retrieve my food bag from where I had hung it. Luckily the bears and mice left it alone. I was really looking forward to the hike today. Last week I meet a weekend warrior who told me to be on the lookout for the larches around Rainy Pass. I wasn't exactly sure what a larch was, but I was told that I would know it when I saw it. I was also looking forward to reaching Rainy Pass, the last paved road of the trail, and Cutthroat Pass. Today was shaping up to be a beautiful and exciting day. 

I started off climbing uphill and I would spend the majority of the day continuing to go uphill. Even though it was a sunny day it felt very brisk out. I was able to take most of my layers off early on in the hike. I never did manage to shed my pants though. After only 2.4 miles I exited the northern boundary of North Cascades National Park. I crossed through seven national parks during this trek; Sequoia, Kings Canyon, Yosemite, Lassen Volcanic, Crater Lake, Mt. Rainier, and North Cascades National Parks. The PCT has been very diverse! Either there wasn't a sign marking the border or I just didn't see it. 

I did have to do a strange work-around to find away past a bridge that was out. There was no way I was going to attempt walking over this bridge. I'm not even sure how it was still being held up. 
Nope, not going to try that 

I found a safe and easy way across just upstream from the bridge. I had a few more stream crossings before I made my way to Rainy Pass. They were all very easy to navigate. This section of trail appears to be very loved by whoever is in charge of maintaining it. The crossings were all easy due to well placed logs. The logs were more like rudimentary bridges. The tops were all cut flat making them easy to get across even when they are wet. I really appreciated the attention to detail the trail maintainers showed throughout this section. I did have a scary moment when I took a very normal step and had my knee buckle under me. I was momentarily horrified that I had torn something in my bad knee, but after a few tenative steps everything seemed to be ok. 
My kind of log

I made great time to the trailhead at Rainy Pass. Over six miles I only gained 1,700 feet of elevation. For a good portion of those miles I couldn't even tell that I was hiking uphill. The trailhead parking area had a pit toilet and a low wall that was perfect to sit on. I removed a few more layers and ate my last treat from the bakery in Stehekin. I chatted with a few day hikers while I was eating. They informed me that the weather forcast has improved. It looks like the snow will hold off until late tomorrow or early saturday. I really hope that is the case. As they headed towards Cutthroat Pass a National Forest service employee showed up to clean the bathrooms. He offered to take my trash. I love it when I can unexpectedly offload a few ounces of garbage along the trail! 
Last paved road for 70 miles

I was only five miles and 2,000 feet of elevation gain away from Cutthroat Pass. The hike up to the pass was fantastic. The larches were breathtaking. The weekend warrior at Mica Lake was spot on, I hit this section at the perfect time to see the larches. Larches are deciduous conifer trees. There are only two species of trees in Northern America that are both coniferous and deciduous, the larch is one off them. The western larch is unique. Instead of maintaining their needles throughout the winter as other conifers do, larches are deciduous and drop their foliage and grow new needles every year. When used as firewood larches are also called, tamarack. What all of this scientific babble means is that larches turn a brilliant gold color as winter approaches. When added to the yellow and red colors of maples and huckleberry bushes, I was in for quite a treat. I was surrounded by so many shades of red and yellow, that I felt like I was engulfed in flames. I have never seen anything like it. The mountains in the distance were a lush green interspersed with splashes of brilliant gold. 
The Western Larch
 I am absolutely enthralled by these trees
Splashes of gold across the way

The remainder of the miles up to Cutthroat Pass went by quickly. The sight of something new, completely foreign, and mesmerizing was better than a can of redbull. I was absolutely vibrating with renewed energy. The view from Cutthroat Pass was spectacular as well. I shook off my pack and sat down for a nice long break. The day hikers I met in the parking lot of Rainy Pass had waited for me at the top. They wanted to hear all about my hike. As we chatted I told them that my batteries for my headlamp had just died on me. The husband opened his pack and handed me three brand new batteries. Hikers are the nicest folks around. We are always looking out for one another. As we said our goodbyes I was greeted from behind by, MAGA. I haven't seen him since Oregon. He joined me for the remainder of my break and we would end up hiking together for the rest of the day. This was unfamiliar territory for me. I haven't actually hiked with anyone else for a very long time and I was glad to have the company. He is a very well spoken guy and always has something interesting to say. We hike around the same pace and the remainder of the miles just flew by. 
Almost to Cutthroat Pass
Cutthroat Pass

I took a much longer break than I usually allow myself. From where I am standing I only have 57 miles left until the border. I'm not sure what the weather will be like for the next two days and I'm not sure what the terrain will be like. For all I know this will be my last chance to take in these epic views and not have to worry about the possibility of snow. MAGA and I hiked the next six miles along a ridgeline. We could see the entire valley spread out before us. The mountainside was alive the change of seasons. 
I'm so lucky to get to see stuff like this everyday 
Canada is somewhere in that direction 

MAGA and I where so deep in conversation that we almost missed the last trail mile marker. I barely saw it out of the corner of my eye as we were hiking through a section of switchbacks. 
2,600 miles!!! Only 50.1 to the border

As the sun began to dip behind the mountaintops the temperature began to drop rapidly. I still had another six miles to hike before stopping to set up camp and I don't like it when I have to put on more clothing before the end of the day. No matter how careful I am, I always end up getting into camp with my back wet from sweat. I had to choose the lesser of two evils, stay in my short sleeve shirt, but get to camp chilled, or put on my fleece and get to camp wet. I chose to get to camp wet. I have more dry clothes I can put on under my fleece. I struggle with this every night, but I always come to the same conclusion and it always works out. I guess I just need something to fret over. 

MAGA and I parted ways just before the end of the day. He needed to stop for a break and I wanted to hurry up and get to camp before the sun set and it got any colder out. He was going to hike another four or five miles past me anyway. He sleeps later than I do so I'll probably catch up to him in the morning. 
View from camp

As I was cooking dinner MAGA walked past and I bid him goodnight. Shortly after he left, Mountain Goat stopped to say hello. I haven't seen him for a few days and I thought he was ahead of me. He decided to camp in the same area as me and we chatted while doing our camp chores. It seems like we are on the same time schedule for finishing the trail. I am glad to finally have some familiar faces around as the trail comes to an end. I was beginning to think that I wouldn't know anybody around me when I got to the monument. 

It is going to be really cold tonight. It wasn't even completely dark yet, but it was already colder than any other recent night. I ate dinner quickly and jumped into my sleeping bag as fast as I could. I'm not looking forward to getting up and out of my sleeping bag in the morning. 

"To be nobody but yourself in a world that's doing its best to make you somebody else, is to fight the hardest battle you are ever going to fight. Never stop fighting."     

- E. E. Cummings

Sunday, October 16, 2016

Day 149- Pastries, Bears, and Mice

Sept 28, 2016
Stehekin(2569.4) to Hideaway Camp(2582.8) 13.4 Miles 
Total up/down: +3,549/-1,647 feet

No rest for the weary! I had a lot of things that I needed to accomplish this morning and due to the shuttle schedule I didn't have a lot of time waste. Most of the people camped around me were hoping to sleep in and catch the 9:30 shuttle back to the trailhead. Unfortunately for them I had to be up early. Due to the operating hours of the post office, it didn't open until 10:00, I couldn't take the early shuttle. I was forced to wait for the 11:30 bus. I needed to do laundry, clean and repair some gear, write a blog post, eat breakfast, figure out a way to call my parents(there was no wifi or cell reception), pick up my last resupply box, and repackage the food into my pack. It was definitely going to be a busy morning. I packed up and was out of camp around seven thirty. I wasn't exactly loud, but I wasn't sneaky quiet either. 

Stehekin is a tiny town with a population of seventy people. Surprisingly for such a small town there were more businesses than I expected. There is a post office, two restaurants, one small lodge, a lot of cabins for rent, a small camp store with limited options, bike rentals, a place to rent fishing gear, a ferry to take you into the town of Chenal, a dock for sea plane rides, a visitor center for North Cascades National Park, and the famous Stehekin Pastry Company(the bakery all thru-hikers have been looking forward to for 2,570 miles). 

The town has a building with coin operated laundry and a shower. I was worried that other hikers would be doing laundry and since there was only one washer and dryer I wanted to be the first person there. I guess I could have slept in a little longer because nobody else was there when I was. The building also had a pay phone so I was able to talk to my parents. I had gone a long time without talking to them and it was nice to check in. I use my Delorme InReach to send out a message every night so they know that I am still alive, but I needed to talk to them to make my final arrangements. I didn't have service to buy my plane ticket home so I needed to check that my executive assistant(dad) had taken care of that for me. While we chatted about my final few days my laundry had finished. After I got off of the phone I sorted my clothes and cleaned out my pack. I have accumulated a lot of unnecessary things over the last few hundred miles. Most of it was sauce packets from convenience stores. I had almost half a pound of mustard, mayo, and hot sauce packets. With only a few days left on the trail it was time to throw away the excess. I still had an hour before the PO opened so I went for breakfast. I had pancakes, sausage, and coffee. This will be my last restaurant meal until I finish the trail! 

I was still waiting on the post office to open when I saw a few of my friends being dropped off. It was nice to see Hellen Keller and Makeshift again. Just as they were arriving a seaplane was taking off. I just love watching that. It isn't something that I get to watch very often. 
Hellen Keller, Makeshift, and I watch a seaplane take off

Finally the post office had opened. It was very surreal picking up my last resupply package. I was surprised at how heavy it felt. My mom had said she put a few surprises in for me. I was a little weary when she told me this because I don't like carrying extra weight, but they were welcome surprises. She had included a small bottle of Crown Royal whiskey, two Burger King crowns(because this will be my double crown hike), and a new shirt for me to wear at the end. The shirt was an awesome surprise. They had it specially made for me. It was purple(my trail color), had my trail name on it, and included both of my long distance trails with the years that I finished hiking them. Thanks mom and dad. It was perfect. 
A great surprise 

I finished packing all of my food into my pack and was ready to get out of town. Unfortunately, I still had to wait for the shuttle back to the trailhead. As I was waiting I found out that I needed a permit to camp in North Cascades National Park. I only had 15 miles of the park to hike in, but with such a late start I wasn't sure I could clear the border before setting up camp. I went to the visitors center to get my free permit. I picked a the farthest campsite away, hoping I could make it there before dark. The only benefit of camping inside the borders of the park is there would be a cable strung up to make hanging my food from bears much easier. I finished getting my permit just in time to catch the shuttle back to the trailhead. The shuttle made a stop at the Stehekin Pasty Company. I was beyond excited for this. The stores in town were sold out of canister fuel and I was almost out. I estimated that I only had enough fuel for one or two boils. That would not cut it to get me to the end. I hiker boxed one of my dinners(so I wouldn't need fuel) and picked up extra food at the bakery. I would dine on muffins, tarts, and fresh baked pizza for dinner tonight. The bakery exceeded all expectations. I was so excited that I forgot to take a picture of all of the delicious food. 
Stehekin Pastry Company

The shuttle made one more stop before returning me to the trailhead. We stopped to checkout Rainbow Falls. It is hard not to be jaded. I have seen a lot of spectacular water falls along my journey. My reaction to this one was, meh. I took a quick look and returned to the bus. I just wanted to get back on the trail. The visitor center had a weather report posted and the news was not good. The weather would be nice for the remainder of today and tomorrow. After that I was to expect snow showers and freezing rain. Ugh, that is not what I wanted to hear. I was slightly frustrated to waste what sounded like one of my last clear days poking around in town. As happy as I was to hit up the bakery I wished that I could have been on the trail much earlier. Oh well, it was out of my control and I just had to make due with what I was given. 
Beautiful lake in Stehekin 
Rainbow Falls

I finally started the last leg of this journey around one o'clock. I only have 80.4 miles left to the Monument/Canadian border! The North Cascades are beautiful and I'm really looking forward to my time here. It will be a delicate balancing act between taking my time to really take in the sights and making good miles to finish before the weather turns bad. I had only hiked a few miles when I came across an awesome pond. Usually ponds are murky and not very impressive. This pond was more like the lakes I have been seeing recently. 
First glimpse of the larches(more to come on this later) 

North Cascades National Park is supposed to have a good amount of bears within its borders. I had only hiked five or six miles before I had my first sighting. This was the first bear I have seen in Washington. It was pretty good sized one. He checked me out for a few seconds before running away. I am always so thrilled when I have a bear experience. 
Looking right at me

I was really hoping to make it out of the park today, but with limited daylight hours it did not look like a reality. After a late night and early morning I was feeling pretty sluggish. I'm sure the obscene amount of pastries that I consumed did not help. My body seems to know that the end is near. My energy level has been down the last few days,yesterday's sprint to Stehekin probably didn't help either, and I have had more aches and pains than normal. I made a deal with my body that it only has to go 80.4 miles farther. Hopefully it will listen and get on board. 

The sun was rapidly disappearing so I hustled along as fast as I could. I passed by a fast moving creek and barely paused to take a look. Out of the corner of my eye I saw a fish leap into the air, that caught my full attention. Upon further inspection I could see several big fish moving up stream. I got to see a salmon run! I have always wanted to see this, but I was unaware that you could witness this in Washington. I really thought this was something I would have to visit Alaska to witness. So cool! 
Not the greatest picture, sorry

I couldn't make it to the campsite that I had registered for before dark. I was worried that this one would be full and I would be forced to keep hiking another few miles. Once again I didn't have anything to worry about. This campsite was empty. I should have been more worried about bears. I saw saw/heard another one about a quarter of a mile before the campsite. I had to hike .1 miles down a side trail to get to the site. On my way in I kept my eyes peeled for the bear hang cable, but I couldn't see it. By this time it was almost fully dark. I set up my tent while I could still see a little bit. After I had everything setup I went looking for the bear cable. I was pretty serious about hanging my food since I had seen a couple of bears today. I was disappointed to discover the bear cable was broken. I found one end anchored into a tree, but the other end was on the ground nearby. I couldn't find any appropriate tree limbs to create my own bear hang. It looked like I would be sleeping with my food. I really wasn't too bothered by this proposition. I have a healthy respect for bears, but I'm not too terribly bothered by the thought of them coming into my camp in the middle of the night. I found a log to sit on and began to eat my dinner of pastries and pizza. As I was eating I felt something brush up against my leg. I thought that I had brushed up against my food bag and didn't think to much of it, when all of a sudden I felt something trying to climb up my leg. I screamed like a child when I saw that it was a mouse. Bears I can handle, but mice are a different story. Those suckers will bite through my tent to get to my found. I doubled my efforts to find a tree to hang my food from. After much searching I finally found an acceptable tree close to the trail. With frozen fingers and zero moonlight to aid me, it took forever to get my food hung. In the end I persevered and headed back to camp laughing at myself. The thought of a giant bear attacking me in the middle of the night for my food doesn't bother me, but when faced by mice I finally decide to hang my food, lol. 

67.3 miles to go before I reach the border! Here's hoping that the weather cooperates with me. I'm reaching out with the force on this one. 

"I do the very best I know how, the very best I can, and I mean to keep on doing so until the end."     

- Abraham Lincoln

Tuesday, October 11, 2016

Day 148- Playing The, Can I Make It Game

Sept 27, 2016 
Campsite(2540.7) to Stehekin(2569.4) 28.7 miles 
Total up/down: +5,739/-6,939 feet 

I wish I could always camp at this elevation. I was so warm last night that I slept in a tshirt and shorts. That hasn't happened for a very long time. I was hoping to get an earlier start this morning. I had a lot of miles to cover and not a whole lot of time to do it in. The last shuttle into Stehekin leaves at 6:15 pm. That means I have to hike 29 miles in around eleven hours. I will have to average 2.6 mph for the entire day. That is almost out of range for me. I had hoped to start hiking around 6:40, but when I woke up it was raining. I didn't exactly fall back to sleep, but I didn't get up either. I stayed in my tent until 6:30. I couldn't wait it out any longer. I had to get moving. As I began to pack up camp the rain had almost stopped. There was just a very light drizzle that I have come to associate with the Pacific Northwest

The hike today was a little bit easier than the last few days. I had one really big climb, but it was spread out over several miles. I actually prefer to start the day off with a big climb. It helps wake me up and get my blood pumping. I started off the day listening to music, which I don't normally do. It was nice to have new tunes to listen to as I worked my way up the climb. 
Crazy alien looking slug that I almost stepped on

After a wet start to my day the weather cleared up nicely. It was an absolutely beautiful day. There weren't many clouds in the sky and it was pleasant hiking temperature. I was enjoying myself so much during the climb that I forgot to pay attention to my water. I didn't have very much left and I still had several miles to hike before the next source. Luckily water has not been an issue at all lately. I can't remember the last time I actually looked at the water report. I haven't come across a source that wasn't flowing in a very long time. I guess that is one benefit to all of the rain lately. 
Looks like another great day

Towards the very top of the climb I had my pick of water sources. They were all crystal clear and ice cold snow melt fed streams. I was sorely tempted to drink straight from the source, but I never do that. I can't believe how pretty this section has been. Today was filled with wondrous views once again. I took a very long break next to a stream. I ate half of my food for the day. Due to the squirrel or chipmunk from last night, that wasn't very much food. I had a poptart and a snickers bar. 
View from the top

I really didn't think that I was going to make it to Stehekin before the shuttle left. Every time I looked at my watch and ran the numbers it didn't look possible. It was never out of the realm of possibilities, just a long shot, so I kept hustling along. I cut out my normal breaks and I carried extra water so I didn't have to stop and process more. The thought of going hungry tonight was a great motivator to keep pushing. The first part of the hike was the hardest to keep up a quick pace. I was surrounded by incredible sights and I kept pausing to take pictures and to take in the views. Eventually I dropped back below treeline and I didn't have as many distractions. 
Breaking my stride 
Couldn't help stopping to take pictures like this 

Once I was back down in the trees I had a big water crossing to contend with. It took me forever to find a dry way across. I ended up having to go downstream a quarter of a mile to cross on a giant downed tree. This really slowed me down. I really didn't think that I could make it into town with the amount of time I had remaining. Once again it was just within the realm of possibility so I kept moving along. 
Cool rock outcropping. I bet lots of people have been taking shelter here lately 

I had a few more stream crossings to contend with, but they all had log bridges  built to make crossing a breeze. I passed by another area with giant trees. I never did get to see the giant sequoias of Sequoia National Park, but the huge trees of the Northern Cascades have more than made up for that. I wish that someone had been around me when I hiked past these trees. It is hard to show the scale of them without having a frame of reference. Trust me, they were big. I think this one was twenty feet in diameter. 
Giant tree

The last eight miles into Stehekin were all downhill. I was right on the edge of making it in time to catch the shuttle. What makes Stehekin such a unique town is that you can not drive to it. There are only three ways to get there, by seaplane, ferry, or to hike in. The town offers a shuttle four times per day from the trailhead into town. If I missed the shuttle I would have to wait until the morning or walk nine miles. I ended up running and walking for the last five miles. I covered four and a half miles in the last hour. Just before making it to the trailhead I crossed into my last National Park of the trip, North Cascades National Park. I took a quick picture and scoured the ground to find the perfect rock. I have collected a rock in every National Park I've entered along the trail. I have sent most of the rocks home along the way. There was no way I was going to carry those rocks the entire trail. I have been privileged to hike in Sequoia, Kings Canyon, Yosemite, Lassen Volcanic, Crater Lake, Rainier, and North Cascades National Parks. 
 North Cascades National Park 

Shortly after crossing the bridge pictured above I made it to the trailhead parking lot. I had cut it really close, it was 6:08 pm. I was worried that the shuttle was running early and had left without me, but within one minute of getting there the shuttle arrived. Whew, I still couldn't believe that I made it. I almost gave up several times throughout the day. Thankfully it was just always within reach. I could never fully rule out that I could make it in time. 

The shuttle dropped me off in Stehekin around seven o'clock. The first thing I did was get some dinner. The only restaurant in town was very expensive, but I didn't care. I spent $35 for a hot chocolate and a giant portion of bacon wrapped meatloaf with mashed potatoes and fresh veggies. I'm not sure if it was because I was starving, but it was absolutely amazing. I made it disappear within minutes. Then I went to the camp store and bought a bag of chips, cookies, and an Arizona Iced Tea. Life was good! I setup camp in the free PCT hikers area and tried to get some sleep. Unfortunately, a group of boisterous hikers had other ideas. They decided to play music and drinking games ten feet away from my tent. I was not pleased, but I held my tongue. After an hour of this I was pretty irritated. It was well after eleven o'clock, which is like three a.m by hiker standards. When they decided to play capture the flag without headlamps is when I decided enough was enough. Imagine ten drunk hikers running around your tent in the dark. I kindly asked them to take it somewhere else. Instead of being gracious about it, they mocked me. Luckily the game was short lived. The ringleader tripped over the rocky ground and hurt his leg. Everyone went to bed shortly after. I don't plan on being very quiet when I get up in the morning. 

“Happiness is when what you think, what you say, and what you do are in harmony.”
- Mahatma Gandhi

Friday, October 7, 2016

Day 147- Sunny And Pleasant Part II

Sept 26, 2016
Fire Creek(2515.3) to Campsite(2540.7) 25.4 miles 
Total up/down: +6,917/-9,395 feet

Today was actually sunny and pleasant. In fact it was a glorious day! The weather couldn't have been more perfect and the scenery was amazing. After a couple of crummy days in a row, I really appreciated today. I camped with Surge, Sleepy Andy, and Zippy last night. Everyone was up by the time I was ready to leave so I chatted for a little while before heading out. It has been really nice having other people in camp with me. I was beginning to get a little lonely. I like hiking by myself during the day, but sometimes it is nice to have companionship at night. It has been so cold in the morning that I have numerous layers when I leave camp. I usually have to stop in the first twenty minutes to take clothes off. Today just felt warmer so I started off in just my fleece, a long sleeve shirt, and my hiking pants. I could tell right away that is was going to be a beautiful day. 

Right off the mark I had a short, but really steep uphill climb. Within minutes I was sweating through my fleece. I don't like stopping when I'm hiking uphill. It breaks up my momentum. I waited until I started going downhill before stripping off my fleece. I don't mind stopping when I'm going downhill. My knees appreciate any kind of break. After three miles I came across a beautiful lake. I stopped to take pictures and to change into my short sleeve shirt and shorts. I can't remember the last time I hiked in my tshirt. It was probably before Snoqualmie Pass. I chatted with a few weekend warriors. I am at the part of the hike where everyone I run across congratulates me on finishing the thruhike. I appreciate the sentiment, but I'm not done yet. The weekend warriors were all locals and gave me great trail information on what to expect ahead of me. I can't wait to hit Rainy Pass. It sounds like a great section. I just hope it isn't raining when I get there. 
Mica Lake 

Once I left the lake I had a short and slightly steep downhill. I was amazed by how quickly the muddy sections of trail were drying out. There were some parts that were still pretty bad, but overall it was very dry. 
The worst of the mud

I can't emphasize enough how great today was. I spent a good portion of the day out in the open with grand sweeping views. This is how I pictured Washington. I realize now how naive and arrogant this expectation was. I'm in the Pacific Northwest. This part of the country is known for the amount of precipitation it receives. 
More glaciers
Entire ridge of glaciers

I recently learned that this section of Washington has the most glaciers in the lower 48. I believe it. I saw so many today. I wasn't sure how to tell if it was a glacier or just a mountain that still had snow. Apparently anything that still has snow on it this time of year is a glacier. Washington is extremely diverse. I don't even have the vocabulary to describe exactly what I'm seeing. I wish I knew more of the names of the trees and plants around me. I also wish that I liked mushrooms. There are four or five edible and easily identifiable types on the trail. The other hikers have been so excited to add the mushrooms to their dinners. Unfortunately, I hate mushrooms. 

After walking downhill for awhile the trail went right back up. It was a typical Appalachian Trail type day. I had lost about three thousand feet of elevation over five miles. Then I gained three thousand feet over about five miles. The climb was pretty gentle and I enjoyed the workout. The last little bit was above treeline and I was rewarded with more spectacular views. 
Such a nice day
Varying landscapes
Idyllic waterslide 
Very confusing sign (the trail had been rerouted and it was cheaper to turn the sign upside down than to make a new one) 

I ended the day with a long and very gentle downhill. I expected to be disappointed with the last few miles of the day, but I was terribly mistaken. I thought I would be disappointed after having such great views above treeline only to drop back into the forest. Below treeline was like something from a fairy tale. The trail was really flat and beautifully maintained. This section of trail is only a few seasons old. It had to be rerouted because a bridge over the river was washed away. The new bridge was built several miles downstream. The new section of trail went through an old growth forest. There were trees with diameters of 10-15 feet. I couldn't identify the trees for you, but my trail guide listed them as Douglas Fir, Sitka Spruce, Western Hemlock, and Western Red Cedar. It is hard to get the scale of these trees from my picture, but believe me they were big. 
Old growth 
Trying to provide some scale 

After noticing all of the changing color of the leaves around me, today was the first real signs of fall. Just before reaching my campsite I turned a corner and saw leaves scattered all over the ground. The leaves in this area have finished turning colors and have begun to die and fall to the ground. 
Now it is truly fall

Today was another long day. I barely got my tent setup before dark. I had to cook and eat dinner with only the light of my headlamp to guide me. I made a stupid mistake just before going to bed. I left my snack bag outside of my tent while I went to go dig a hole. When I finished my business I came back to discover that a squirrel or chipmunk had devoured all of my food for tomorrow except for three bars. That leaves me pretty screwed for tomorrow. I'm now in a situation where I have to hike 29 miles before 6:15 to get to the road to catch the last shuttle into Stehekin. I'm not sure that is an achievable goal. Worst case scenario I'm looking at a hungry night tomorrow. Stupid rodent :-(

“Do more than is required. What is the distance between someone who achieves their goals consistently and those who spend their lives and careers merely following? The extra mile."     
- Gary Ryan Blair