Wednesday, August 31, 2016

Day 123 : Rain! Huckleberries And Christmas Trees

26 miles today
280 miles to go

I awake as it starts to get bright. Breakfast routine in the wee morning light. I love heating my water for coffee. The heat from the stove warms the air in my tent. It's cozy and comfortable as I eat my morning’s granola. I pack quickly, the fog and clouds of last night have dissipated and the sky looks clear and blue. Northwest weather is a mysterious thing. I hike north, the trail has lots of straight line trail where I really feel like I am making progress. My shoes are wet from the dew on the bushes and grasses lining the trail. I think this is the first time this trip that this has happened. I stop at a spring to get water. I meet Scabs who's hiking with Candyman, Terminator, Two Pack, and someone else. They all stayed in the shelter last night. I camped close to the shelter but didn't want to be too close. She said there were mice running around on the inside. I know how that is, that's why I didn't camp close to it. The next water is in twelve miles that should be easy in this weather. I drink a liter and leave the half liter in my pack at a half liter. I doubt I'll drink all of it before the next water. 

I am hiking under a clear blue sky. It looks like it did a few days ago except it's a lot cooler now. I keep taking my smartwool top off and putting it back on again. It's too hot to wear climbing hills but feels warm and comfortable going down. I cross over to a west facing slope and see the weather I didn't see earlier. The western horizon is stacked high with dark gray clouds. They are brushing up against Mt Rainier to the south and the look like they have moved quite a ways further inland to the north. Since I'm heading north it doesn't take much imagination to see that at some point today I'll be in the clouds. Will it rain? I don't know, maybe. 

I reach the next water with The General and Flora. Candyman sits at the trail junction. He tells me the water is cold and great. I walk down to the water with my pack even though most people leave their pack at the PCT and just take their water bottles. I sit by the rushing water and eat my lunch. I love this sound. I get another liter of water which I drink with my lunch. I still have almost half a liter in my pack. I won't add any to it, what I have should be enough. I climb back up to the PCT. I find the Terminator, Candyman, Two Pack and a couple of others. Flora and the General sit a little further off. Lots of people up here. I chat for a few minutes then head off north. Only seven more miles to camp. At least where I hope to camp. At an abandoned road past the next water source. 

The sky has changed. I no longer see my shadow. The sky has gone from a slight bluish tint to a gray color. I climb higher and higher I climb right into the clouds. It starts to rain. I moved my poncho to an outer pocket on my pack this morning because the forecast said rain today. I put my poncho on for the first time all trip. It's warm and cozy inside and it covers my pack too, so my pack doesn't get wet. At a spring I get a liter and three quarters more water, enough to camp. I do this without taking off my poncho or pack. It's still raining so my plan is to carry the water to my campsite and filter it there. I climb a couple hundred yards to the campsite on the abandoned road. It looks really hard. I try poking it with my trekking pole. Hard as a rock. It would be hard to put stakes into this soil. I decide to keep hiking. I have enough water to camp wherever I want. I hike on and on through a Christmas tree sized forest. Lots of short trees on a slope. No places to camp. On and on in the drizzly rain. The trail is slickery mud. The trail is steep. First up, then down. Huckleberries, giant huckleberries line the trail. So many I could fill a gallon bag and make seventy bucks in Trout Lake. “Come on, what happened to the forest?” I pout. I want to camp in a real forest with big trees over my head. Not these miniature trees. I want a clear flat spot, not huckleberry bushes which among other things are probably attractive to bears right now. Down, down, down, the trees get bigger the lower I go. I finally make it to the next campsites down in a saddle. I find a really nice site off the trail. I set up and put my stuff inside. I'm wet but warm. I packed my stuff in my trash compactor bag that I've been carrying since Cajon Pass. If I can stay warm, my clothes should dry pretty fast. I sit in my tent and cook dinner. I am comfortable and warm. It's a little surprising to me how good I feel. After dinner I transition to sleep mode and climb into my dry warm sleeping bag. I listen to the sound of the rain on my tent as I lay inside warm and dry. I try to imagine how I'll exit my tent without getting wet in the morning. Oh well, that's tomorrow's problem. I drift off to sleep listening to the pitter-patter on rain on my tent.

Tuesday, August 30, 2016

Day 122 : Chinook Pass

27 miles today
305 miles to go

I wake to silence. This is the quietest place I've camped. It's cold this morning. I wear my smartwool shirt under my hiking shirt. I hike less than a quarter mile and I'm too warm. I have to stop and take it off. It's still cool but the climbing I'm doing has made me warm enough without the base layer. I climb up higher and higher. The lake is a tiny dot in the trees below. I climb high enough to see Mt Rainier to the west. Such a big mountain. It seems like I will never walk far enough to finally be north of it. I walk and walk and walk and then pop up on a ridge and it's still there next to me. The sky is less blue today, more icy thin clouds, invisible clouds, like lacy white curtains. They wash out the colors of the sky and the surrounding mountains on the horizon. It's a pastel day. Like everything is painted in watercolors. Dreamy, almost fake looking. Completely different colors than yesterday. It's also much cooler. I climb up and over a saddle and down and around a bowl to Chinook Pass. A cool name, it sounds like it's remote and hard to reach, like there's fish to be caught there. Perhaps, there is for someone. I'm hiking to Canada I don't have the time or the skills to find out. Today feels like fall. Everything seems tired and subdued. Soon it'll be frosty here. The ridges are impossibly steep and rugged. The road over Chinook Pass ascends from some distant point to the east. A long steady ascent along a steep slope. The trail crosses the road on a bridge which doubles as the sign for Mt Rainier National Park. It looks so Northwesty. Like Paul Bunyan made it out of logs. Big giant logs than span the entire two lanes of the highway. The trail goes right across the top. I see mountain goats or are they mountain sheep in a far off bowl. They're basically white specks on the green mountain side. The musical, ‘Sound of Music’ comes to mind. It's steep like the alps in all directions. The sun finally gives up. It is covered by clouds. Clouds that I didn't even notice before. It's darker and grayer now. A cold breeze blows from the west. I hike on and on through trees. Up and down ridges and valleys. I lose track of directions in the gray mist. I hike to Urich shelter. I get water from the creek and set up camp as far from the shelter as I can. Shelters seem to be mice magnets. The Urich shelter is on the western edge of government meadows. As I prepare dinner a cloud envelopes the meadow and the surrounding trees. My camp is now in the fog.

I practice cooking dinner in my tent. If it does rain I'll be doing a lot of if it. There are other Thru-hikers here. I think they are opting to camp in the shelter. Good for them, it's not my thing. I'd much rather be out I my tent than in a shelter. The clouds drift ominously across the meadows. I wonder if it'll rain tomorrow, or even tonight. 

Monday, August 29, 2016

Day 121 : Perfect Day For Hiking

26 miles today
332 miles to go

I wake later than normal in my darkened room. The sound of the air conditioner fan blowing is the only sound I hear. It has a strange rattle that ticks out a beat and may mean failure soon. I pack my gear with mixed feelings. I am looking forward to meeting my friend Jon but I feel the pull of an end date to this hike. An end date that is only as good as the miles and hours needed to reach the border on that date. On the other hand I haven't seen Jon for a long time and will enjoy spending time with him. 

I'm done packing early, there's nothing more for me here and I drop my key in the key dropbox. I am back on the trail, well, road at this point, it's twenty miles of road between here and the trail. Twenty miles that Jon and I will spend talking. I head down to the Mountain Goat Coffee shop. This is our planned meeting spot. I sit out in front reading the news, something I haven't done in a long time. I'm about thirty minutes early and Jon is a prompt person. Sure enough, to the minute, he arrives. I walk out to his car. He's brought his new daughter, whom I haven't met yet. Only months old, Jon’s loving his new daddy role. We grab all the stuff we need to care for a baby and go inside the coffee shop. 

I get a mocha, Jon gets a coffee. I get a blueberry muffin for each of us. Freshly baked on the premises and still warm. We sit at a table and we chat while Jon preps the food for his daughter. I watch as he spackles her face with food, every so often getting some into her mouth. I remember those days, sliding the spoon around my kid’s face trying to scrape off the food I just deposited there off and into their mouth. Jon’s doing great. I drink my coffee while he decides to give her a handful of Cheerio-like star snacks. Not sure if the table’s clean so he spreads out a napkin and puts the handful of stars on it. She reaches up and grabs the napkin sending shooting stars flying down to the ground sucked into the earth’s gravitational pull. They don't fall far enough to burn or sparkle. They just bounce along the ground and lie where they stop. “I shoulda seen that coming,” Jon says. It's amazing how much a new baby teaches a young parent. Jon is in full learning mode.

We arrive at the Kracker Barrel. What a contrast from yesterday. There aren't any packs lined up outside and maybe one or two hikers inside. The wave has passed on to the north. I have felt the pull of the wave as the hikers feed off each other's energy and move like a wave moves towards a beach. They increase their pace and begin leapfrogging, tumbling past each of like the water does down the face of a wave. They all speed up and no one wants to be left behind. So they're gone. The trail’s probably clear of hikers for miles. I'm in the lull, the flat spot between waves.

If there was an ideal day for hiking this would be it. It's cool but not cold. The sun is warm. There are enough trees to keep me out of the sun. The azure sky can be seen between the trees, brilliant and clear without clouds. Mt Rainier took off her hat and stands uncovered beneath the summer sun. The trail meanders through an open forest. Every once in awhile I pass an aquamarine lake. I can see it sparkling in the sun between the trees. Some have day hikers perched around them with fishing poles but most are vacant. Beautiful lakes for camping with flat empty campsites next to them. I decide that I am no longer going to worry or think about miles or time and just enjoy hiking these last couple of weeks.

The day remains spectacular. It's warm with a slight breeze to keep things cool. The trail intermittently passes through blueberry bushes. These are not huckleberries, the bushes are too short and the berries are a dull blue color. They taste the same, just like blueberries. On and on the trail goes. My resolution to not think about time and miles ends in the middle of the afternoon. I realize that I have a four mile climb. After the climb is another eight miles of ridge walking to get to where I want to camp. The day is slipping away and I want to be at camp before dark. I eat some of my snacks including a Gu energy gel and then start the climb. I try walking as fast as I can. Sometimes, like today, I get into a rhythm that is really quite fast. Up and up I go, nonstop. I feel strong and untiring, thousands of miles of exercise will do that. I climb through the forest up switchbacks. Back and forth across the slope I go. I step carefully, watching the trail is my number one priority. My steps are sure and on solid ground. I avoid stepping on rocks or logs if I can avoid them or step over them. Higher and higher I climb. Out of the trees into up into the alpine zone with rocks, small trees, and wildflowers. I climb up and around a spur of the mountain and there right in front of me is Mt Rainier. No hat right now but it looks really windy. Billowing white clouds pour from the summit looking like smoke.

I zip across the ridge. “Eight miles is not that far,” I keep telling myself. On I go, as I do the sun continues to descend in the western sky. Later and later it gets. The ridge is breezy until I turn and drop below the top. Down I go, I pass a small lake and traverse through an unlikely forest. So many times the forest looks like there's no room for a lake, this is one of those times. Then suddenly I'm there. A spring gushes water down the hill and across the trail. I get my camping water and head further down towards the lake. Empty camps, I choose a flat one as far from the trail as I can. It's late, the sun has already set behind the ridge. It's deathly quiet. No breeze, no sound of water flowing. Silence. It's eerie to camp by myself sometimes. I could really start to freak myself out. All I need to do is start imagining things moving through the woods. “Did I just see something?” And then it gets scary. So I do ask, I don't look. I focus on my tasks. Set up tent, check. 

I sit on a soft rotting log and prop my food bags against it next to my legs. In front of me is my pot sitting on my stove. Alcohol stoves burn silently so there is no sound until the water starts to simmer. A crow flies overhead between the trees. It's wings making a fwhip, fwhip, fwhip sound as it passes overhead. Then it says, “ha, ha, ha.” As if it knows something that I don't know. Maybe it does. Why is it so quiet here? The wind from the ridge doesn't reach these trees, it's utterly still. I could hear a twig snap at a hundred yards. I hear nothing. My water simmers and boils. I cook my food a few minutes, boiling the bag with my rehydrating food in the water. I at some tuna and mayonnaise. I drink a some electrolytes. Finally I eat my dinner after it has had time to fully rehydrate. It tastes so much better to wait. It's getting dark by the time I'm getting in my tent. I hear a couple of hikers speed by on the trail. There are a lot of hikers that hike until dark. That's not my thing. I like a few hours of daylight to set up camp and cook. Today's cutting it really close, but it was worth it to see Jon again. I lay in my tent thinking of the beautiful day and wonder if the forecast of rain is wrong. 

Sunday, August 28, 2016

Day 120 : Packwood

2 miles today
358 miles to go

I awake in my tent by the lake. The wind died down overnight. It's cool and peaceful here. I lay in my cozy warm sleeping bag wondering when I should get up. The Kracker Barrel store doesn't open until eight. It's about forty minutes from here. I decide now is a good time and Pfffssssssssssss, my day begins. The granola is good today, like always. It's lighter than its been the last few days. I slept longer, giving the sun more time to figure out that it's time to get up. Mosquitos buzz around outside my bug-free zone. Out where I'm boiling water for my coffee. My tent door is unzipped enough for me to reach through and handle the pot and stove. Mosquitos don't seem to see the reasonably large opening in my door and instead bounce themselves fruitlessly against the netting. I'm glad it makes it easier the constantly zipping and unzipping my door. The fix I made to my zipper slides first at Deb and Dave’s then to the other slide at Cascade Locks is working. The slides had pulled apart slightly and squeezing them with a pair of pliers has got them working properly again. Now I'm much more careful to be sure I'm pulling on them straight and not wrenching them sideways or accidentally pulling them wider. 

I pack a light pack my food is mostly gone. I love it when my pack is this light. Soon it'll be full again, and heavy. Maybe if I stopped eating… Not! Three or four days of food is great. I head out before the southbounders emerge from their tent. Good luck southbounders! I take the trail down the hill. I check for mobile service, three bars! Wow, my phone is a phone again. I walk my pace unconcerned with the time, the miles, schedules, milestones. I speculate on whether I can hike the rest of the trail like this. Probably not. For some reason I feel the need to set goals and timelines, something that I have been unable to shake loose from myself. Oh well, perhaps I find comfort in planning ahead. Before I realize it I'm at the trailhead on Highway twelve. If only all my hikes were this easy. I hike down the road for half a mile and find the Kracker Barrel sitting in the side of the road right where Yogi said it would be. I'm early, I could have slept in. No I couldn't. I had to get up, I'm glad I'm early. I chat with Batman sitting in a chair outside. I haven't seen him since Mazamas. He hiked a forty mile day yesterday. He hiked past my camp last night and stealth camped in the bushes by the road. Good for him. I don't think I have the determination or willpower to hike forty miles in a single day. My max was thirty eight miles way back at Spanish Needle Creek. I learned I don't want to hike that far in a day ever again. 

I walk over to the entrance and the cashier waves me in. “Come on in,” she says when I open the door. It's a few minutes before their published opening time. I walk into the warm store filled with the dreams of countless Thru-hikers. They even have foo-foo espresso drinks here. I ask about hiker boxes. She points to a back room and says, “I'll have to go search for it.” “It's got purple tape and happy fruit stickers,” I say. “You're welcome to go and look for it yourself. I'll have to look up the number first,” she says as I hand her my ID. I head through the door to a room piled high with hiker resupply boxes. I look closely for purple tape, then happy fruit stickers. Bingo! I find it just as she says, “It should have the number six thirty on it.” It does. It also has my name, my old pre-hiker name. I carry the box out and ask about the espresso drinks. “The box fee is five dollars,” she says. “I'd like to get a mocha too.” She thinks for a moment, “do you like wheeling and dealing?” “Sure,” I have no idea what she's talking about. “I'll make you a mocha and give you a breakfast sandwich if you load fifteen bags with ice.” “Sure,” I respond. I think it's be fun to help her out. I need to figure out how to get to Packwood and maybe she'll be helpful if I help her. Besides it's free coffee and a sandwich. She leads me to a giant ice machine in the back room a special bag holder and a scoop. “How many scoops to a bag?” “Four.” This will be fun. And it is, I scoop ice pour it through a spout into the bags. She brings me my coffee as I work and I drink as I go. Pour ice, fill bag, tie off with twist-tie. Fifteen bags. Easy Peasy. I fill a cart with bags and push it out to the store. “Can I put these in the freezer for you?” “I won't charge you for your box either,” she says, “thank you.” I navigate through the narrow aisles looking for the ice freezer, just about knocking over end caps filled with merchandise. Fortunately I catch them
and straighten them before disaster befalls me. I finally find the freezer and fill it with ice. Then I navigate back through different aisles almost knocking more stuff on the floor. Fortunately a Thru-hiker was there the save the day. Thank God for Thru-hikers, they are such a helpful lot. I wheel the cart into the back room and pick up my box. I walk by the sandwich heater and get my breakfast sandwich. The store has filled with Thru-hikers. ‘The Village’ next door is a
place to stay without having to go to Packwood. It's filled with Thru-hikers, or was a lot of them are now here milling about looking for food, buying it, and consuming it. I see Bey, Clinic, Swag, Sour Rip, Butterfly, and the list goes on. Everyone seems to be moving on today. Which is bittersweet since I'm neroing in Packwood to see my good friend. I'll miss them and I'll be behind the bubble again. I’ll overlap with some of them, catching them. Others will zero when I don't. These are my trail kin. We've all done the same miles at relatively the same time. We share a common history, enough to be able to say, “remember when…”

Butterfly’s wife and Turbo’s mom came and brought Turbo’s siblings. They all visited each other here at White Pass. She's offered to drive me to Packwood on her way home. Yay! Problem solved. I realize yet again how much time I waste worrying about things I need not worry about. I get to hang out with my kin while she's takes care of a few tasks before she leaves. I buy a cup of donut holes and pass them out to the Thru-hikers assembled in the dining area. I eat the few remaining ones as I study a map of Mt Saint Helens on the wall. Before I know it I'm riding down from the pass with Butterfly’s family. We have a fun conversation and I can hear the same notes of support and ‘I'm ready for this to be over’ in her voice that I here in Kelli, my wife’s voice. I'm sure they'd have a lot of fun sharing their experiences were they ever to meet. 

Packwood, WA. I am dropped off in front of the Blandon’s market. Perfect, right next door is the Packwood Inn. I leave my stuff in the front office since check in isn't until three and go down the street to the Cruisers pizza restaurant, where oddly they serve breakfast. I guess Italians eat breakfast but this isn't Italian food this is American breakfast served American style. I ask about pancakes. “I want pancakes, coffee, and bacon,” I say. The waitress says, “The pancakes are big, the size of a large pizza.” “Okay, I want one pancake.” Figuring the large is a relatively small large and worst case I can always order more. I sit across from The General and Flora who came in last night and are leaving this morning. Really how big can a pancake really be? I wonder. I watch the news without sound on the TV as I chat with my fellow Thru-hikers. We all talk about end dates, now that the end is actually within reach we lose our superstitions about talking about actually finishing. Earlier in the hike we all would say we “plan to finish…” Now we are saying we will finish. Three weeks to go. It seems we all have the same estimated date, September fifteenth. I wonder if that's true. I wonder whether we are going to finish the same day, it seems unlikely. The news repeats the same stories again and again. For some reason there is a story about Oregon preparing for a total solar eclipse of the sun in two thousand seventeen. They are showing images of a guy standing in stadium seating in a ballpark. I have no idea what Oregon is doing to prepare or how a ballpark works into that preparation. We talk about the weather and the fact that Mt Rainier is ‘wearing a hat’ which means that it's top is covered with a lenticular cloud. That is a clear sign to northwesterners that it's going to rain in the near future. Up until this hike my response would have been, “it's always going to rain in the near future in Washington.” Now I know that's not true. It hasn't rained on me but fifteen total minutes since I crossed the California Oregon border. I look forward to the change of weather with an anxious mixed feeling of dread and relief. So many more things to worry about. So many new experiences and problems to solve and overcome. 

My pancake finally arrives. One of the longest waits for food I've had to endure on the entire trip. It comes on a fifteen inch large pizza pan and it totally covers the entire pan. It is insanely huge. I know already that I will not be finishing it. It tastes great, it's texture and doneness are excellent. It's just too big. It's enough for two Thru-hikers. Well maybe. Two thru-hikers of my appetite anyway. I dig into it and the General and Flora head out to complete their resupply and head back to the trail. I eat half my pancake and donate the rest to charity. 

I head back to my room and collect my laundry. They will wash it and dry it for a nominal fee. Then I sort through my food and pare it down to the exact amount I'll need to reach Snoqualmie Pass. I'm done with carrying an extra day of food ‘just in case.’ I can live a few days without food in a ‘just in case’ scenario and I don't want to carry the extra weight any more. I make a fairly generous donation to the hiker box. Then I take a nap while my laundry is completed. I wake around dinner time and decide to try out the Blue Spruce Saloon and Grill. I order the Buffalo Wings as an appetizer and a bacon cheeseburger with beer batter fries. It was all excellent. As I sat there locals came in and filled the place.  Sure sign of an excellent restaurant. Would go there again for breakfast tomorrow but they won't be serving breakfast then. I eat my entire dinner then go to Blandon's and by a pint of ice cream for
dessert and a few snickers bars to supplement my lunches. With that I head back to my room and try to sleep in a comfy bed indoors. Thinking about rain and the adjustments I'll need to make to my routine. I should be sleeping but instead I toss and turn. Not enough miles today? Too warm? Too quiet? Noisy? Not normal? Do I need the sound of the breeze in the trees or water moving? Maybe rain falling on my tent? Maybe my afternoon nap… Huh!

Saturday, August 27, 2016

Day 119 : The Knife Edge And Beyond

24 miles today
360 miles to go

I wake with the sun. I am alone on my rocky ridge. I slept soundly and feel refreshed as the cool breeze sweeps under the flap of my tent and brushes across my face. It's quiet, no one else chose to camp here at my non-camp campsite. I have breakfast and pack. I pass the water source and see the section hikers Bob and QB at the small campsite. They tell me that Bey, Shifu, and Clinic all pushed on to the campsite four miles further. I assume Poppy probably passed by before they got here. That means I'm about two hours behind the group I was hiking with. That's ok, I suppose, because I don't plan on hiking into White Pass today like they are. I hike on to Cispus pass and on to a cold stream rushing down from the snow melt above. I get water here. I drink a liter and pack a liter. This will be my last water till I get across the ‘knife edge’, a hyped up section that crosses a ridge with steep sides. It sounds dramatic but I don't know how dramatic it'll be. The trail begins climbing. Up and up and up. I'm sort getting used to this reality. When you climb you really climb. Miles and miles of uphill. I pass a group of day hikers hiking south for the weekend. They ask a lot of questions about my hike as I'm leaving they tell me that Nicola is behind them and to greet him like I've heard all about him. I hike on and sure enough there's this tall guy coming toward me. I greet him like I've heard all about him. The woman traveling behind him surprises me. She says, “You're No Skip.” I look at her, I met her at Cascade Locks, she's Leprechaun, a friend of Rockbiter and Batdance. I ask about Cooper, Rockbiter and Batdance’s dog. They are all over Elks pass ahead of me. I guess most people I know are ahead of me because I don't see the point of a headlong rush to finish. I want to finish strong and finish based on my plan, not on a false sense of urgency based on what others are doing.

I pass more day hikers as I continue the climb to the south end of the Knife Edge. The scenery grows more and more alpine. Higher and more exposed. The wind picks up and the views to Mt Adams, Mt Saint Helens, and Mt Rainier are all spectacular. I look across deep valleys to see Mt Rainier. The Knife Edge comes into view and demolishes my expectations. It's way more exposed and daunting then I had expected. I choose to take the Old Snowy alternate. It's basically an extra seven hundred feet of vertical climbing that gives you better views of Mt Adams. On this day however, the climb is less fun than others. The wind keeps increasing and increasing. By the time I reach the top it's hard to stand up it's blowing so hard. The wind is cold. I stand behind a boulder with an ultra marathon runner and look around. The Knife Edge stretches out beneath us like a suspension bridge hanging above the valley of doom. It's seems so thin and precarious. The snow and glaciers fall away from the sides like sheets of siding. The rocks look too thin and narrow to maintain the steepness and look like they'll collapse into a shorter squatter pile with reasonably pitched sides. The trail down to the Knife Edge is steeper and more exposed than the Knife Edge itself. The wind blows and buffets me as I descend the loose scree. It seems possible that I'd be blow off the edge, if not me than the socks I have drying on my pack. They must be gone. The wind whips me with my windbreaker’s hood. I have it on but it beats my head that the sound is so loud it's all I hear. I meet Cheesepuff and Ufta on the way down. They also did the Old Snowy alternate. I haven't seen either one of them since my first night in San Diego at Scout and Frodo’s and now here they are over twenty two hundred miles away hiking the same trail I'm hiking and we haven't seen each other the whole time. We don't spend much time chit-chatting as the wind is too cold and blowing too hard to carry on a conversation. I push on across the whole ridge without stopping except to take pictures. 

I descend down and around the end of the ridge down to the land of sanity and warmth, down to trees and streams. Bees buzzing birds singing. The wind dies down to normal gusts and speeds. The terrain is less steep, green plants dot the landscape. I follow the trail back into the forest. I know others are ahead of me and behind but I am alone, embraced by the forest, absorbed into its green foliage. The trail climbs passes and descends into valleys, staying high and following along beneath the top. On and on it goes. I stop briefly at a lake and Ghost floats by moving seemingly effortlessly along the trail. I imagine what it must be like to move effortlessly. All my movement requires lots of effort, lots of willpower to overcome the inertia that his built up in my limbs. Every step is accompanied by a reminder that stopping feels better than continuing. I ignore the temptation to stop knowing that stopping means no progress towards finishing. I watch as the clouds begins to lower across the ridges I have passes over. The Knife Edge is surely in the clouds now, without a view and even colder than it was. Will it rain? All indications in my experience says yes, but this is the northwest. I'm not familiar enough with the weather. People that live here say, “perhaps, or perhaps not.” The weather here is so unpredictable. I climb and cross another pass in clouds blowing forty miles per hour. I get to the other side and the wind suddenly shifts. Starts blowing gently from the other direction and the clouds break. The sun comes out intermittently. It day turns calm and friendly. The wind continues to gust in the treetops but the ceiling rises and the clouds thin. I hike on until I'm about two miles from White Pass. There are lots of hikers ahead of me and the last thing I want is to be in the bubble of hikers again. They consume resources like camp spots and motel rooms. I like my space and I enjoy camping in my tent. I camp at a lake. Closer to the trail than I like but otherwise okay. The wind gusts ever so often blowing dust around while I try to cook dinner without dust in it. I believe the wind will die down after the sun sets. It's pure speculation for me to make that guess but I hope so. I finish dinner and my chores and I'm so glad to climb into my sleeping bag in my tent. It's warm, dry, and comfortable. I estimate I have another three weeks to go. Three weeks seem so long as I look forward and so short as I look back. Time is such a strange thing. Although we are confined by it and live in it it's so hard for us humans to grasp onto its rhythms. At least it is for me. Sometimes a minute seems to last a lifetime and other times hours pass by in an instant. I think that's one of the things I've become more aware of on this hike, how fickle and non linear time appears to be. I relax in my tent under the trees by the lake wondering how my friends are faring in the busy bubble of Thru-hikers at White Pass. Sleep comes quickly but not so quickly as a couple of southbounders who set up their tent close by. I greet them through my tent wall as I drift off to sleep surrounded by soft feathery down thinking timeless thoughts and dreaming of lands without time.

Friday, August 26, 2016

Day 118 : Exhaustion And A Bear

28 miles today
384 miles to go

I wake in the dark. The others are shuffling around, stuffing things into sacks, heating water for breakfast. I really don't feel like getting up. I am so comfortable lying here. I dilly-dally a bit before finally deflating my mattress. I am just not motivated like the others to do thirty two miles. It weighs on me, tiring me out before I even start. I eat breakfast by red headlamp again. Two days in a row, when I don't really need to get moving this early. Such is the pull of being part of the group. 

I am taking my tent down when Clinic, the last one in camp besides me, says, “see you down the trail.” I am alone. I finish packing and head off behind the others. I try to get moving but it feels like weights are attached to my ankles. Every step is an act of will. I'm used to feeling like this at the end of the day, but at the beginning? I decide that I am not doing thirty two miles. That I'm doing whatever I do and that's good enough. I stop thinking about the miles and just enjoy the walk. This is some of the most beautiful hiking country I have walked in. Mt Adams, directly to the south dominates the view. I catch up to the others and we stand in a field talking politics. It's an absurd moment, what does politics have to do with this hike? It's funny it's so ridiculous. It's interesting how passionate people are about things so far removed from their actual lives. Poppy says, “it's Skip’s turn to go first.” So I go, at my pace, enjoying the views. The shade of the trees is welcome and cool. The sun feels warm. I hope it doesn't get hot. I head lower and lower as the trail leads away from Mt Adams and toward Goat Rocks. Everything is so far away when I walk there. I stop for water and the others buzz past, except Clinic who stops to hydrate some food. We hike together for a while and I enjoy listening to his life experiences and perspectives on the trail and how it has affected him personally. Clinic is one of the most compassionate and generous thru-hikers I have met. He says he didn't start that way, the trail changed him. He continues on as I slow down to a pace more comfortable to my legs and feet.

Alone on the trail I traipse through the dusty tread. The day has warmed more than I had hoped. I had a picture of the Northwest being cool and wet. So far it has failed to meet that picture as everyday seems to find me getting hot and sweaty. Well I guess sweaty is we but not the wet I imagined. I'm tramping in thick dust that wraps over the top of my shoes and fill in the spaces between my toes. My socks are black from the dust. I have been trying to rinse them when I come to water sources that have enough water to allow to bag-rinse them at least three times. That doesn't make them clean, it simply gets the loose dust off. Then I hang them on my pack to dry.

The trail begins to climb at some point and I catch up to the others sitting in the shade in various states of repose. They are each lunching in they're own way. I make my traditional peanut butter tortilla. I eat the rest of my Fritos, I finish my cheese. “Is that it?” I wonder. That’s it. Lunches have become too small and short. I am tiring of tortillas. I am tiring of peanut butter. I'm am tiring, period! I finish before the others and try stretching. “Ow, ow, ow,” I say. Bey chuckles. I think about taking a yoga class when this hike is over. It would feel so good to get my feet and legs stretched out. Although it sure hurts trying to get to that point. I give up and put on my pack. “See ya down the trail,” I say as I start back up the hill. 

I hike past a lake when a large crashing noise to my right catches my attention. A bear is romping through the berry bushes trying to get away from me. I stop and stand perfectly still. It's not long before he forgets me and comes back out and begins slurping huckleberries off the branches by wrapping his tongue around the branch and pulling. Seems very efficient if you can do it and don't mind an occasional leaf in your berries. I stand stock still and watch as Clinic comes around the corner. I put my finger to my lips and he slows down and stands next to me. The bear is only about seventy feet from us and completely ignores us. I rustle the food wrappers in my pocket and watch his ears turn and face is. He stops munching and stares in our direction. Neither of us moves. I don't think he can see us. Bey and Poppy show up and he heads off into the trees, briefly. Then he comes out and head slowly and nonchalantly away. 

I have lost all enthusiasm for hiking. I am stopping at twenty four miles I decide. I look at the map. There aren't any camps indicated at twenty four miles. Twenty one miles is too short, but that's the last camp. I continue on, I'll make my own camp, I think. The afternoon drags on as I pull myself through the heat. I want to stop, I want to lay down and never get up. At twenty four miles I find the forest is filled with trees too short and bushes and undergrowth so thick it's impossible to camp without setting up on the trail. It's already late in the day and because of my slow speed I am miles behind. I am left with the unpleasant realization that I am going to have to keep hiking. The trail goes up steeply from here on a southwestern facing slope. I am exposed to the hot late afternoon sun as I plod up the slope. It's way past when I wanted to stop. Way past what's comfortable or pleasant. I will stop at the first camp I see. I see no camps for miles. On and on I go. The clock ticks, the later it gets. I finally reach a rocky flat area above the water source at twenty eight miles. I'm done, stick a fork in me. I don't need water, I've been carrying enough to camp for the last nine miles. I set up my tent. I make my dinner and fall into my tent. I lie there and relax. All my pains leave my body and are absorbed into the ground below. I am floating on my mattress above the rocks, above the sand and dirt. Wrapped in a cloud of goose down and nylon I sleep.

Thursday, August 25, 2016

Day 117 : Shortest Town Visit Ever

17 miles today
412 miles to go

I am up before the sun eating my granola by red headlamp. I hear rustling in the tents around me. Someone's alarm goes off, sounding strangely foreign in the middle of a forest. Everyone is moving , bags are rustling, stoves fire off sounding like mini jet engines. A flurry of activity where there once was foresty silence. We pack and move out, Poppy and I move first. The trail climbs for a few miles before descending. Trail notes indicate that phone service can happen about two miles from the road. That's what we are looking for. We hope to phone a trail angel and have them come pick us up. Trout Lake is thirteen miles from the trailhead. We are hoping that the ride is easier to negotiate because there are four of us. We climb quickly in the cool morning air. We stop every so often to see if we have coverage. By the time we get coverage, Clinic and Bey have caught up with us. We agree that a trail angel would rather wake up to a female voice asking for a ride rather than a male voice so we hand the phone to Bey. She tries several numbers to no avail. People out of town or unable to come in the morning. Poppy give it a shot. He has an English accent so perhaps he’ll have some luck. He reaches Diane and she agrees to come. Yay! Now all we need to do is get to the road. We all take off at our various top speeds. It's all down hill so I am just cruising, my feet always feel great in the morning so I move pretty fast. 

I see a blue plate by the side of the trail, what??? Coppertone is here! Woo hoo. We pull into the trailhead and Coppertone has cinnamon rolls for us! Someone asks about floats, Coppertone makes us floats! I have a cream soda float. I sit in one of his camp chairs and revel in the experience of eating cinnamon rolls and washing them down with a cream soda float. It's all so delicious! Thank you Coppertone! You are amazing! 

Diane pulls up just as I finish. Poppy, Clinic, Bey and I all pile into her Prius and we are off. Down the hill moving faster than any of us have moved in the last three or four days, maybe longer. The ride is exhilarating and fun. The views of Mt Adams from the road are just stunning. She drops us off at the store using her friend’s driveway and carport as a shortcut because there is construction closing the main road through town.

I walk into the store and ask about my box. The cashier points to the door in the back I enter the dark room and another store employee turns on the light. A large shelf of hiker boxes. I slowly look through them searching for purple tape and happy fruit stickers. Here it is, in the back behind the others. I bring it out and stack it on my pack around and to the side of the store. I plug in my charger and charge my phone and external battery. The outlet is in the front of the door above the bench on the porch. Then I follow Poppy over to the cafe. The cafe is in the same building as the garage, gas station, and espresso bar. We sit at the counter. The grill is right there with a young lady working away cooking all kinds of breakfast goodness. Huckleberries are in season. I learn that huckleberries sell for seventy dollars a gallon. I order sweet cream pancakes and coffee. Clinic and Bey show up and we sit and the counter enjoying our breakfasts. We laugh and joke with the cook and the other people working there. I order a huckleberry milkshake. One of the coolest things about Thru-hiking is the ability to eat milkshakes and floats in the morning and not have to worry about getting fat. I enjoy my shake while Clinic reads trail angel's phone numbers off the list on the wall and Poppy calls them. Ray agrees to drive us back to the trailhead in an hour. I rush back to the store to get my food sorted and packed.

I check my phone, mostly charged. I buy a couple of snickers to add to my food. I sort everything out of my food box and give the remaining tortillas and peanut butter I bought at Cascade Locks to another Thru-hiker. With my phone charged and my pack packed I head back over to the gas station with Poppy. Ray’s waiting for us and he agrees to wait a little longer while we get some coffee at the espresso bar. I get an iced vanilla latte. It's been so hot down here in Trout Lake and I've been so busy an iced drink is just the thing. We pile into Ray’s vehicle for the ride back to the trailhead arriving there before noon. This is the fastest turnaround of my entire trip. Into town, resupply, eat breakfast, drink coffee, charge my phone, and back to the trail in less than three hours.

There are stacks of Thru-hikers stopped at the trail magic. Forward motion ceases when trail magic is present. However, we don't sit down, we're ready to hike. Shifu meets us. He's been sitting there waiting for us to hike. We all set out north on the PCT. Back on trail already. The trail begins to climb. Steep up through the forest. We are all moving at a brisk pace. The trail heads out into a burn. No shade, hot, dusty. It's hard to walk in the dust of other hikers, I slow down. I stop and put on my shade hat and sunglasses. I wait until the dust cloud over the trail clears then I start climbing way behind the others. Up and up it goes. Back and forth across the burn. There are burned snags as far as I can see in every direction. I climb for hours. I pass a PCT trail crew on horses. They are heading back after completing the trail work for the week. Still up, up until the trees begin to thin, till I can see Mt Adams above. Finally the trail turns and starts heading clockwise around the peak. We all stop for a snack in the shade. We have views to the north, Mt Rainier ahead. This is such a different experience, to be hiking in a group, stopping together, planning our mileage and where we'll stop to camp.

Clinic’s ideal campspot is a spot with water and a view. We find that and it's big enough for all of us. I'm glad because I am worn out. I feel like I need a break. My feet are so sore by the end of the day that I just want to get off them and sit. I groan and sigh as I set up my tent. I guess I always do this but I notice it this time because Bey is laughing. This is a cool spot with views up to Mt Adams. We look up at a massive glacier that is slowly scouring the northwest side of the mountain. It's so broken and crevasses that it looks impossible to cross. Fortunately we don't have to cross, we are hiking the PCT not climbing mountains. We sit in various places cooking our food, in my case boiling water. I notice that my dinners take way more work and have more steps than everyone else. It didn't seem that complicated when I thought of it way back before I started but now I see it is while I still sit and stir my food in its bag while others are eating or waiting for their food to rehydrate. We laugh and joke about our company we'll start when the hike is over. An international private investigative company. There are positions for each of us. My job is to head up the hacker division. Not that I know anything about hacking. Perhaps a B-grade movie of our cases would work. After dinner Poppy and Shifu light a campfire and for the first time this trip I sit around a fire with other hikers. I watch the sunset turn Mt Adams pink and orange as the sparks and cinders from the fire create mini fireworks in the cool night air. So many thoughts of what a Thru-hike is like include this, yet this is the first time in over twenty two hundred miles that this has happened. It's funny how our thoughts about things are so different than the reality of them. I climb into my tent way later than normal, way past hiker midnight. We all agree to be up early again tomorrow so as to hike thirty two miles to allow us to get to the Kracker Barrel Saturday night. I don't really want to get there Saturday night so my enthusiasm is somewhat less. I don't need or want to hike thirty two miles again. I fall asleep thinking about sleeping in while everyone else heads off without me, I have mixed feeling about that, I'm not sure I want to be by myself again.

Wednesday, August 24, 2016

Day 116 : Indian Heaven Trail Magic

26 miles today
429 miles to go

I wake up with the sun and get moving in the daylight. I pass Funhog’s trail magic table and see Clinic and Bey eating breakfast. After a quick chat I head off north toward Indian Heaven Wilderness. I'm not sure why it's named that but the trail and the forest has changed. This is a mountain forest. Higher in elevation and more beautiful to me. The blue sky is visible through the trees. There is more airy space and room to see further. I get glimpses of the mountains outside of my immediate vicinity and it makes my heart light and my hike fun. Some amazing views of Mt Adams. I seem to be getting closer to it everyday. I come out of the trees at the top of a ridge and cross a dirt road. There is a signing pointing left. “Thru hikers come enjoy trail magic.” Well okay! I head over and meet Trail Angels Andi and Carolyne. I am the only Thru-hiker here. I get a Coke and then sit on the cooler. Andi hands me a sandwich and we sit and chat. They are a lot of fun to talk with. Andi slices some watermelon, then I have a bag of chips, a homemade blueberry muffin, and a giant homemade cookie. I spend a good amount of my afternoon there. I expect other thru-hikers to arrive but no one does. I finally stand up and thank them for their generosity and head off down the trail. Before I go Andi has me grab an apple for the ‘road.’ I eat it and finish it before reaching the trees. 

I hike on through the afternoon feeling good. Good food really helps. I hike and eat some snacks. I hike till my snacks are gone. I arrive at my planned camp and meet a few friendly section hikers. I set up my tent and prepare to cook dinner when Bey and Poppy show up. Then Clinic arrives and finally Shifu (pronounced see-foo). He's the first PCT Thru-hiker from Hong Kong. We all sit around cooking our various meals and chatting. I find that Poppy, Bey, and Clinic all want to go into Trout Lake to resupply and then immediately get back out. That's what I want to do too. So we all plan to get up and get moving by six thirty to get to the trailhead early enough to get a ride into town. We talk and laugh late into the night. Past hiker midnight. I finally crawl into my tent in the dark and fall to sleep quickly thinking about the fact that I've had trail magic two days in a row, how cool is that!

Tuesday, August 23, 2016

Day 115 : Real Forest and Funhog's Trail Magic

26 miles today 
455 miles to go

I wake up and it's starting to get light. I don't want to get up. This feels so warm and comfortable. If I get up it means more walking today. If I just stay here… Pfffssssssssssss… I can't stay here, I want to go home, after I finish the whole trail. Breakfast in the semi-darkness, again. Same breakfast, again. I actually like my granola, so I'm not complaining, just stating the obvious. I put on my dirty socks and gaiters. Yep, that's normal. I only get clean socks every week or so. This isn't clean sock week. I get out of my tent and eat another peach. One left, I'll eat it for lunch. I pack my stuff and make a few changes. My peanut butter goes in the pocket where my water bottle usually goes. I put my water bottle and microfilter in the upper pocket where my electronic stuff usually goes. I put the electronic stuff inside my pack. Why, hey let's change it up and make it an exciting day, besides, peanut butter is heavy. 

More of the same type of trail. Woodlands trail. Lower elevations too dense to see anything except my immediate surroundings. I tire of this hiking. It seems to be the same view hour after hour. I want to see mountains. I want to see stuff out to the horizon. Nope, more trees, rocks, plants. This hike is harder mentally than I thought it would be. I have elected not to listen to music, audiobooks, or anything that would distract me from the hike itself. This has been true since the beginning. It's been easy up to now. Now it's so much of the same thing that a story or some music would make the time pass more quickly. Very tempting. I want to experience the full hike and for me that means, no audio distractions. This seems like a questionable idea right now.

I come to Panther Creek after ten miles or so. It seems that others that once were ahead of me are popping out of the trail to get water too. I refill my water and cross the bridge. I immediately notice a change. The trail no longer seems to be aimlessly wandering through the woods. We are now climbing with purpose. Switchbacks like California, back and forth, up I climb. The determination of the trail is exciting. I can tell that I am going somewhere, no longer aimlessly meandering. We are going up! I climb back and forth up the hill. The switchbacks trace from one side to the other. Always up at the same pitch. Climbing higher and higher. I can't see anything except the trees around me and I can tell they are changing. I climb and climb, for hours I climb. I climb up and over and it's done. I stop climbing, just like that the climb is over. I land on a little open knoll. There in front of me is Mt Adams. Perfectly framed by the opening in the trees. A perfect spot for a picture, which I take. Then it's back into the trees, not down! I am on some sort of higher plane, plateau, covered in trees. Real forest, open and airy, blue sky visible. The trail passes through this forest seems to be aiming somewhat close to Mt Adams. I follow the trail on and on. I'm getting tired and my feet are starting to hurt. I am ready to camp. I stop at a spring where I find a bunch of Thru-hikers eating. Digger, Frost, Morning Glory, Windy, Dingo, and a couple of others. I go down to the spring and get a liter of water. I drink it all. There's a piped spring in a few miles where I can get more, enough to camp. I head there. The trail is following what seems to be an ancient lava flow. It's rocky and jagged. No places to camp. I get water for camping at the piped spring. Cold clear water. Now all I need is a camp. The horse camp is only a few more miles, worst case I have to walk there. I'll camp at a horse camp. I doubt there are any horses there mid week.
On and on the lava goes, I'm wondering what this camp is going to be like. I come around a corner out of the lava and there's a picnic table. I made it to the camp. There's an outhouse too. No sign of horses just some really nice camping spots. Then I notice a couple of hiker sitting with an ice chest. Trail Magic? Yes, trail magic! Funhog is here and brought all kinds of goodies. I sit down with Dingo as the southbounder takes her leave. Wow, grapes, chicken, carrots and dip, Oreo cookies, cans of frosting. I put frosting on an Oreo, wow, I'll have another, and another. Chicken too! More grapes, I eat haphazardly as we sit and chat with Funhog. More thru-hikers show up. Windy, Morning Glory, then more. I stand up and move to make room for others. We’re like ants when it comes to trail magic. We gather round and seem unable to pull ourselves away. I force myself to go to my camp and set up my tent. Then I sit at my table and make my dinner. As I do another hiker walk by and stops at Funhog’s trail magic. Some eventually move on, others camp close by. I finish my dinner and climb into my tent. Funhog really made this a special ending to a physically difficult day. Thanks Funhog. I fall asleep quickly, I am worn out and tired.

Monday, August 22, 2016

Day 114 : Mr Bee Buzzes Not

24 miles today
481 miles to go

I wake up early, fiveish. It's still dark outside. I get up and take a hot shower. Oh the luxury of living a civilized life. I get dressed and finish packing. It's time to leave this comfortable room. I checkout and walk down to the coffee kiosk. It opens at five thirty. There is no line and I get a twenty four ounce hot mocha. I walk up to the Bridgeside Cafe and sit on the bench in front. They're not open yet. I sit and wait enjoying my mocha. When they open I go in and get my breakfast that comes with my room. 

I climb the hill to the toll booth of the bridge. They wave me through and I'm Walking across the ‘Bridge of the gods’ into Washington. I don't know why but a wave of emotion hits me and makes me teary eyed. Maybe it that I only have one more state until I'm done. The bridge has a metal grating for decking. I can look straight down to the river flowing beneath my feet. It's a little unnerving, especially when an eighteen wheeler rolls by shaking the entire bridge with its passing. I follow the signs into the trees of Washington. The bridge’s elevation is about one hundred twenty feet above sea level. I climb up through the trees. Up and up and up, for hours and hours. I reach the ridge top sometime around lunch. I stop and eat a peanut butter tortilla and one of my peaches. Two more to go. 

My pack feels so heavy. Resupply with extra tortillas, peaches, and my pound of peanut butter causes it to feel heavier than I have felt in a long time. By mid afternoon I am exhausted and all I want to do is camp. Set up my tent and sleep. No luck. I have to put in enough miles to set me up for tomorrow. If I don't, I'll fall behind. I force myself to keep moving.

This isn't forest, this is woodlands. The elevation is too low. Sure it's green, yes there are trees, but it's not the same. Greens and browns, I'm surrounded by them. The trees are so thick I can barely see the sky. The trail goes on and on. It feels like forever. I feel hemmed in, trapped, stuck in a never ending green tunnel. Like I'm in a green tinted hamster ball. Which ever direction I go I seem to see the same thing, the same trees. I climb up to the top of a ridge. Blue sky! On one side are large trees, on the other, the sunny side, a dense forest of Christmas trees. Everyone about seven feet tall, too tall to see anything that way, the other side a dense wall of tall trees. The sun blazes down, baking me like a foil-wrapped potato, except instead of foil it's dirty smelly hiking clothes. A little bit further and I'm back in the green hamster ball. Down switchbacks. I hear a Walmart air horn blowing signals. Like I heard coming into Castella. Signals of some kind meaning something to someone. Meaning nothing to me. Down the hill I pop out of the trees into a clear cut. Everything has been cut down. The branches and debris makes it impossible to walk anywhere except on the trail. The trail walks me right through the middle of the devastation. It's hot, no shade. There's a big green machine stacking logs. Or moving them, or something. I keep moving, back into the woods. 

I stop at a creek and get enough water to camp. I am now set as soon as I can find a suitable place to camp close to my goal. The maps shows an abandoned road at the top of the next ridge. I climb with the thought of camping there when I reach it. I'm so tired that my legs feel heavy. Each step is difficult and I want so badly to stop. Up and up, switchbacks lead me one way and then the other. There isn't any decent place to pitch a tent. So I climb. Higher and higher. Hours pass and it's getting late. About three quarters of a mile to go to reach the abandoned road. I see a trail heading off and up towards the ridge top above. Do I take this? Perhaps there's a campsite up there. There's been nothing along the trail. I decide to climb up and check. After a short hike I reach the abandoned road at a different place than where it meets the trail. There is a nice flat spot about fifty feet up the road. I decide to camp here. It's quiet, no one else takes the side trail. I'm on the top of the ridge. I really can't see very much because of all the trees. It's cooler, a breezes wafts over the ridge. I sit in my tent and make dinner. A bee buzzes by. Not once, over and over again. It flies into my tent flies back out, buzzes around my legs, back in, then out. It's annoying and driving me batty. Every time it flies in I try swatting it. It laughs and does another lap. I try to ignore it. Finally it lands on my tent right above my head. I can see it sitting there on the other side of the translucent fabric of my tent. I flick my finger as hard as I can at its shadow. “Surprise surprise Mr. Bee, enjoy your E ticket ride,” I'm not sure where it went, but it sailed away from my tent, and it wasn't buzzing either. I wasn't bothered again. That certainly was satisfying, meting out just desserts to the offending bug, weird justice.

I enjoy my Backpacker's Bistro Meat Lover’s Beans. It’s like the beans someone brings to a backyard burger party. With real bacon! Fabulous dinner after hiking all day. I actually feel full after dinner. I complete my chores and am laying down in my tent as the sun slowly sets. I don't see it, I fall asleep within minutes of laying down.

Sunday, August 21, 2016

Day 113 : Zero In Cascade Locks

0 miles today
506 miles to go

Ah zero day. My feet appreciate the break. Especially after the pounding they took coming down the Eagle Creek Trail. I get up around six and walk next door to the Bridgeside Diner for breakfast. I have a plateful of pancakes and bacon. I sit next to the window and watch the Columbia River flow past. The restaurant has an awesome location and window seating for those interested in watching moving water. The Bridge of the gods is right outside, spanning the Columbia River. It's an automobile bridge yet PCT hikers are allowed to walk across. I hear it can be somewhat scary since the decking is steel mesh and you can see through it down to the water below. 

After breakfast I go back to my room and inspect my backpack. I find a frayed cord that I salvage by tying a knot over the frayed section. It takes me a while to untie the offending cord. Then I think about how I could tie it differently but to the same effect. Essentially using a shorter piece of cord to do the same thing. I use my repair tape on sections of my backpack that are wearing through. Cuben fiber that is well worn loses its cohesion and fibers start to break and dangle loosely. These loose fibers get pulled on when I'm loading and unloading my pack making more fibers break. Soon there are parts of my pack that appear to be growing hair. These hairy parts become points of failure. They also are places where my pack is no longer water resistant. All this is happening here near the end, near Washington, where it's most likely to rain. I just hope it holds together for another five hundred miles.

I walk down to the Columbia Market and buy some resupply food. I think I bought too much but it's hard to buy for just three days. I have things I haven't had in awhile like Fritos and Salami. I got a couple of energy bars that I haven't tried before so that will provide some excitement to my snack times. I buy a pound of peanut butter. The backbone of any thru-hikers diet, one of the most calorie dense foods I can carry. Ten tortillas is a lot for three days. I imagine eating three a day. Some with salami and others with peanut butter. 

I go over to the farmer’s market and buy peaches. Five of them. The least number I could buy. I eat one immediately. I figure I'll carry the rest and eat them over the next few days. Wow, my pack’s going to be heavier than it's been in a while with all this food. Hiking twenty five miles a day will be more challenging.

I’m at the drive-in for lunch. It's the busiest place in town. It's a locally owned mom and pop place, not a chain. They know how to do fast food the old-school way. Excellent customer service and fast delivery of great food. I get a burger, fries, and a Coke. Well, no Coke, a Pepsi. I sit at a table containing a Thru-hiker and all of his gear. We have matching shirts, we're part of the Olympic Thru-hiking team I joke. His name is REM. He injured his foot at Crater Lake and is off trail until it heals. It's sobering to think that could happen. He had to walk out on his injured ankle only making it worse. I can completely identify with that.

After lunch it's back to my room to take a nap. It's my zero day, naps are what zero days are for. I wake later in the afternoon. I think it's time for dinner I go to the local hotdog place and get a chili dog. So much chili! I can't pick it up. I end up eating it with a knife and fork. I bring my extra food to the hiker box at the Ale House. I stop by the market for more ice cream, which I bring back to my room to eat. I drift off to sleep in a comfy bed. The last one I'm going to see for a while.

Saturday, August 20, 2016

Day 112 : Eagle Creek

24 miles today
506 miles to go

I awake as it begins to lighten up. This is getting later and later everyday as the summer begins to wane and the daylight hours grow less and less. Fall is coming, fall when I intend to be home, fall when the snow comes to Washington and Canada. I'll be long gone from here, from this trail, from this minimalist lifestyle. Back to eating normal sized meals in normal ways. No longer boiling water over an alcohol fueled stove. No longer living in a tent. All these thoughts run through my mind as I sit in the semi-darkness slowly munching my granola. I slow down and savor the moment. I'm healthy, I'm in awesome shape. I have the metabolism of a teenager and can eat without getting that grown-up bloated feeling. I can walk twenty five miles in a day without difficulty. I am really grateful that I've had this opportunity to pursue this goal. At this point I don't see myself ever doing this again. This is a young person’s dream, to me it's a goal, once reached, it's time to move on. I drink my coffee and sort my snacks. Today's the day I have the opportunity to gain a day on my schedule by reaching Cascade Locks today instead of tomorrow. I'll talk to the motel and see if I can change my reservation to today rather than tomorrow. Then I'll visit PCT Days and see what that's all about. I pack quickly and precisely everything goes in the exact spot it always goes. I pack everything in the same order every time too. Methodical and consistent, it allows me to know I have everything without having to inventory everything. Out of the tent and off to the trail. I pass the other tents that were here when I got here. No one's up yet. I turn north on to the PCT and begin hiking. 

The trail follows the tops of the ridges here. I'm in the sun then I cross over to the shady side, staying really close to the top. Part of the ridge are ten feet wide at the top with steep slopes down each side, way down, way way down. Perhaps thirty five hundred feet. I look north and see Mt Rainer floating on the haze to the north. It floats between Mt Adams to the east and Mt Saint Helens to the west. Three massive, impressive volcanoes. Mt Saint Helens has a jagged top. I remember when it blew it's top. When it smoked and fumed and spread a cloud of ash for thousands of miles. Now it once again sits there dormant, quiet, just another quiet mountain for weekenders to climb. Somewhere buried deep beneath the mud and rocks that blew that day are the remains of the hermit guy who refused to leave Spirit Lake. The Lake is also buried under hundreds of feet of rock and mud. I think about all the lava and flows I've crossed and wonder what else lies buried beneath the trail I've been walking on. 

The ridges continue at pretty much the same elevation for miles and miles. Hours later I arrive at Indian Springs. This is where I leave the PCT to take the Eagle Creek Alternate. I stop at a lone picnic table where Tobias a section hiker from Germany is making a massive salami, cheese, peanut butter tortilla. I leave my pack and get some water from the spring. Returning, I plop down at the table. Cowboy Jim and another hiker are sitting there too. We sit and munch our various snacks. I'm having a simple peanut butter tortilla with an apple smoked bacon jerky side. The sun is warm here at four thousand feet of elevation. I wonder how much warmer it'll be down below. 

I leave the others and head down the alternate. I notice immediately that this is not the same trail as the PCT. It's steeper, narrower, sideways, and rocky. The switchbacks are sharp and short. It winds seemingly randomly across the nose of a ridge. Down steeply the whole way. This is the Indian Springs trail connector to the Eagle Creek trail. I don't think any time has been spent engineering or maintaining it. On it goes, lower and lower, over logs, under low hanging branches. Then it suddenly tees into the Eagle Creek trail. I stand there in the intersection not fully sure of which way to go. It seems to be going downhill to the left, that must be the way. I consult the map. Feeling more confident I head left down the hill. This trail is more PCT like. Wider and flatter. Consistently downhill, graded the same. I pass hikers heading up. The trail hugs the side of the slope, almost cliff. Very steep and very long way to the bottom. I come up on a guy holding his hat in such a way to block his view down. His friend in front stops and tell him I'm behind him. He faces the uphill slope and lays against it looking intently at the various plants. “I have an issue with heights,” he explains. “This is good for you,” I said. Like I know whether it's good or not. I meant to say something to the effect of “its good to see your confronting your fear.” But it came out wrong. Again I don't know if it's good or not. All I know is that he has miles and miles of this to hike down. At the speed he's going he's going to be hiking for days. How good is that? I think ‘good’ might be the wrong word. I have lots of time to think about this as I head down. The trail continues on and on. Always down. Winding around the edge of the ridge. The trees are thick and dense. I don't see much but the trunks of trees that are growing from the somewhere down below and whose tops disappear into the branches above. No sound of water, no sound at all except the occasional squawks of birds. Sometimes I see through the trees to the other side of the canyon it looks like how I imagine this side looks from there. Thick with trees. The difference is that it's in the sun while this side is shady and relatively cooler. 

I eventually travel low enough to see the first cascades of a creek coming down the hill from the left, crossing the trail and continuing down to the right. It's got a happy clear note in its bouncing flight downhill. Multiple little falls are interspersed with a happy little creek flowing through ferns and other water friendly plants. It's like a moving postcard. It's so long it's impossible to take a photo of it. I would only be able to capture a part of it. I can't see the part that would capture the essence of the whole. I give up, taking no picture. Just soaking in the beauty of the location. It's park like. This is what landscape designers strive to capture in their creations. This place just is, here it sits miles and miles from anywhere. No easy way to get here. My entire hike down the alternate has been reimbursed in this single view. I could stand here for hours soaking it all in. In reality I stand there for less than fifteen seconds. I hike on disappointed in my inability to capture the view in pictures. 

It isn't long before more amazing sights greet my eyes as the trail becomes a series of fantastic and surreal waterfalls and water features. The trail however decides there is a price to pay for beauty. It turns rocky and hard. Pointy edges of rocks embedded in the trail make it impossible to walk without my feet hurting. The trail is brutal inflicting as much punishment on my feet as possible. I stop often. The views are so wonderful and surprising that I want to laugh and cheer out loud. I want to clap and congratulate the designer. Which I do. If I were an artist this would be my inspiration. There is enough inspiration in this place to last several lifetimes. The trail is hacked out of solid rock. It's the antithesis of the views. The further down I travel the more people I see. It's the weekend. It's a warm sunny weekend. This is Oregon. Most people here live without air conditioning. It's somewhat understandable that they'd come. But it's at least six miles from their vehicles parked at the trailhead. The trail is difficult. It's a walk of hours in the heat. Then they have to walk back out. By now it's late in the day and they are still walking in. I am amazed at their dedication. I don't know if I would do it for a day hike. At least now that I know what it takes. Maybe they start without fully grasping the difficulty. Maybe they get halfway and decide they've come this far it must be close now. It's not, you're barely halfway. On and on they come, with their children. Holding towels and picnic baskets. There are bridges to cross. The trail is blasted into the sides of cliffs. There are views down into blue pools beneath white falls. The trail passes through a tunnel behind a rushing wall of water. It's amazing. The river is deep down below me passing through a vertical rock walled canyon. Other falls drop off the edges down to meet the river below. I am so overwhelmed with the views I forget the pain in my feet. This is worth the pain. I continue past more and more people until finally late in the afternoon I arrive at the trailhead. It's only about three miles from here to Cascade Locks. I refill my water bottle from a drinking fountain. What a great invention, water comes out when you turn the handle and you don't have to filter or purify it. Just drink!

I am able to change my reservation at the motel. I have a room tonight. I have a shower too! I drop off some stuff in my room and head down to PCT Days. It's on Mariner’s Island. I wander through the vendors booths and I am able to get some repair tape and advice for repairing my pack and tent zipper from the ZPacks booth. I also meet Melissa the proprietor and chief chef of Backpacker’s Bistro. She's got samples! I try a few and she gives me a Thru-hiker multi-meal discount. I now have my dinners from here to Trout Lake. It's hot out and I've hiked a long way to get here. I am done and need a break. I head back to my room and explode my pack then take a shower. I sit in the cool sixty seven degree air of my room and literally chill out. 

Dinner time and I'm heading back down Wa Na Pa Street. Wa Na Pa is short for something like Walk Natural Pace, or not. Maybe it's a Native American phrase that means, “Good place for a bridge.” I don't really know, it's easy to say and spell in English though. I head to the Columbia Market to scope out my resupply options. As I pass the Cascade Locks Ale House I notice a banner that says, ‘PCT Hiker Pizza Party and Beer Tasting 5-8 PM’. I check my phone, the time is five thirty. Pizza sounds good for dinner. I stop in at the market and check their ice cream selection. Yay, pints of Dreyer's Butterfinger ice cream. Now I know what's for dessert. I run into Brunching Bill and tell him about the pizza party and beer tasting. I leave the market and head over to the party. They are making pizzas as fast as they can as a local micro brewery is providing tastes of four of their brews. I settle for the lightest ale, the Serendipity I think it's called. I grab a couple of slices of pizza and see Batdance and Rockbiter. I go sit with them and meet Cooper their dog who'll be accompanying them for the Washington section. I also meet their friends from home who've already been bequeathed with trail names, No Cheese, Leprechaun, and Well Done. Brunching Bill shows up and sits with us too. I look around and see a whole host of hikers I recognize from the trail and others who I haven't met yet. I finish my two slices of pizza and realize I'm going to need a lot more than that to fill me up. I go and order a whole pizza for myself. Then I go back and sit with my friends. Meeting and greeting others as they pass by. My pizza comes and I inhale it, the whole thing, no left overs. I still find it amazing that I can eat this much and not be stuffed. I hang out for another hour or so, until mosquitos show up and damper my enthusiasm for sitting outside. I say my goodbyes which is, “see you on the trail.” Probably true in most cases. Then I head over to the market and buy two pints of Butterfinger ice cream. I head back to my room and enjoy eating both of them before bed. It's been a long day and I fall asleep listening to the comforting sound of the air conditioning churning out volumes of cool air that wafts across my face better than the super heated air the forest has been producing for the last few days.

Friday, August 19, 2016

Day 111 : Leaving Mt Hood

22 miles today
534 miles to go

I wake up early enough to pack my stuff before breakfast. In fact I have everything packed and ready by six thirty. I head down to the lobby to get a free cup of coffee and see how many thru-hikers show up today. In the lobby I see no Thru-hikers. Odd, yesterday when I arrived around seven there were scads of them. I don't see any tents out where there were so many yesterday. I sit in the lobby surrounded by wood. I love things made of wood. This whole place is made of massive timbers. It is a work of art. I enjoy looking at the construction details and the massive scale of it. It's so over the top. Something could never be built of wood to the scale of this huge place today. 

As I walk around I see Proton and Dreamcatcher sitting. They stayed here last night too. I sit with them and we speculate on how many thru-hikers we'll see today. Virtually none when the doors to the buffet open. Maybe five of us. Yesterday there were so many the line for the buffet wrapped around the corner and up the ramp. Today there is no line. We are seated at a table for six, the four of us. We anticipate the arrival of other thru-hikers and they do arrive. A few, a handful maybe. Two or three tables worth but nothing like yesterday. We speculate that a majority of yesterday's hikers are headed to PCT Days at Cascade Locks, The event creating a bubble of Thru-hikers that I have been experiencing the last few days.

I start my breakfast with the healthy choice. I eat a protein plate: cheesy eggs, home fried potatoes, and about six sausage links, well sort of healthy. Then I have a blueberry strawberry waffle with sugared whipped cream on top. A follow that with a fruit plate, watermelon, honeydew, and cantaloupe, more healthful goodness. I finish with another waffle, more blueberries, strawberries, and whipped cream. It's amazing to me that after eating a breakfast like this I can walk anywhere much less hike, but I can and do.

I checkout of my room in this cool historical landmark and climb back up to the PCT. Above the trees, above the lodge, I have sweeping panoramic vistas to the south and west. South to Mt Jefferson in the hazy distance, trees and more trees. Green in multiple shades. I turn left, back on to the PCT where all the tents were yesterday. No tents today, not a single one. North I hike, across the rocky exposed flank of Mt Hood. It's actually west but north on the PCT. The peak sits there like a massive stone giant watching my progress. In and out of gullies and ravines created by the tremendous amount of snow melt that is generated by its lofty presence. I hike down, then up, then down, up across, back down. The trail follows a roughly circular pattern around Mt Hood all the way to the north western side. Roughly, because it's not a circle at all, running in and out of all of the creek channels. I climb and descend multiple ridges. I take the Ramona Falls trail and find that the falls are a situated in a cool shady glade. The continuous presence of all the falling water creating a microclimate significantly cooler than the surrounding dry terrain. I hike down from the falls and back to the PCT. I arrive at Muddy Fork where I had planned to camp. Fifteen miles, a reasonable goal for someone who stuffed himself with so much waffle calories. It's way too early to camp, way too warm. I'll just keep hiking. I cross over the creek in two logs, one above the other. I stand on the lower one and hold the frayed and tattered rope tied to the upper one. I cross slowly over the churning and roiling creek. It's the color of chocolate milk but probably doesn't taste like it looks. 

The trail changes its character. Almost like a different trail engineer has taken over. Perhaps the same one who engineered parts of California‘s PCT. I find myself climbing steep switchbacks. The kind I haven't seen since leaving California. Back and forth across the mountain side I climb. Higher and higher. There’s a sign posted to a tree, “Please don't shortcut the switchbacks.” The sign is slowly being folded in half by the tree. A significant improvement in these switchbacks is that they are under the trees. Perhaps the California ones were too, but the trees are all burned. It's a warm day but in the shade I find it comfortable enough to keep climbing without generating a significant amount of sweat. The liter of water I'm carrying is sufficient and I don't suck it all down. At the top of the switchbacks the trail turns sharply and heads down a ridge away from Mt Hood. I'm finally walking away from the mountain instead of just walking around it. Valley Girl and Chris are doing trail magic at Lolo Pass. I walk into the trailhead just as they were arriving. The give me an ice cold Coke and a Snickers bar. Wow! This is so good I down the bar and sip the Coke while chatting. Proton and Dreamcatcher show up and we all visit in the shade. Gunner, Valley Girl’s German Shepherd, chews sticks in his massive jaws, I can't helping thinking about how easily bones would snap should he choose to chew my arm rather than a stick. She assures me that the harness he’s wearing that says, “Do not pet.” Is only for small kids. I keep my hands to myself anyway. Chris and Valley Girl are headed to PCT Days so perhaps I'll see them again there. Thanks for the magic.

I head out on the trail which now passes through the Bull Run Watershed. Signs say “No Trespassing.” They tell me to stay on the trail and that the only people authorized to enter this area are PCT hikers. This makes me feel privileged and special. I get to walk in the Bull Run Watershed because I'm a PCT Hiker! I hike to Salvation springs situated between Preachers Peak and the Devils Pulpit. I'd love to know the story behind the naming of this place. I picture some kind of turn of the century revival tent meeting or something. I am sadly disappointed with the water source. The report said “good flow” which apparently in this case means a small trickle through the mud. At least it's cold and there are pools to fill from. There's about five or six people already camped here but I find a spot further out and back away from the springs that's perfect. It's the spot I'd have picked if no one was here. I set up my tent quickly and make my dinner, Hearty Texas Style Stew. Perhaps it's the fact that I've been eating breakfast buffets and pizza, but I'm underwhelmed. I find it unappealing but I eat it all anyway. Choking down the calories whether they taste good or not. I find I'm  doing that more and more and this Thru-hiker diet is getting really old. 

The sun has been behind the hill since before I arrived, now it begins to set and the darkness begins to wrap it's cloak around Salvation Spring and my tent. I finish my chores and climb into it's comforting space. My tent is my refuge from the outdoor life I've been living for over one hundred days. I try to zip out the outdoors and my zipper slides but no longer zips. It doesn't join the two sides of the zipper together. This happened with the other zipper slide and I fixed it by squeezing the zipper slide with a pair of pliers. That happened before Deb and Dave’s and Deb had a pair of pliers. I don't have a pair of pliers now. Hmmm. I try different combinations of pulling and holding to see if I could get it to work. After several tries it finally joined the two pieces and I'm safely zipped into my bug free zone.

The wind blows high in the tree tops. Almost nonstop. Lots of wind. Down here at the base of the trees it's calm. It's warm. I wrap my sleeping bag around my feet. I fall asleep as the moon rises and shines it's cool white-blue flow against my tent walls.

Thursday, August 18, 2016

Day 110 : Timberline Lodge

2 miles today
556 miles to go

Woke before dawn. Flickering light against the walls of my otherwise dark tent. What is this, an alien abduction? My tent is only a few feet off the PCT. An early morning, way early morning Thru-hiker bobs by his/her headlamp bouncing and weaving from side to side in the pitch darkness. I watch it dance by through the semi-translucent tent wall. More steps, more thru-hikers. Oh yeah, Lodge day! I'm only two miles from Timberline Lodge, right smack dab on the trail, well almost. Herds of Thru-hikers migrating to the breakfast buffet. A buffet we've been hearing rumors and stories about at least since Ashland. Maybe longer. Legendary, mythic, epic, gigantic, unreal are all adjectives that I've heard describe this veritable cornucopia of breakfast goodness all found under a single roof for a single price. Stay as long as you wish eat as much as you want as long as you're done eating by ten am. So they come, some rising in the wee hours of the morning to arrive at the Lodge at the published opening time of seven thirty am. There are more Thru-hikers heading to the Lodge this morning than were summiting Mt Whitney way back when summiting Mt Whitney was the daily agenda item. Sleep is done for me. Too much traffic, like living next to a wildebeest freeway. I get up and forego breakfast, it's Lodge day. They have waffles! I pack quickly and join the herd. Not before being passed by a Korean film crew documenting the strange habits of PCTus Americanus. I wave at the camera, “Hi mom!” I don't know that she'll ever see the Korean Documentary but I've seen NFL players say that and I've always wanted to do that. So they have at least one purchaser of their film, my mom.

I tramp the remaining two miles up the hill. Out of the trees and into the stiffly blowing east wind. Stiffly, as in dust storm intensity wind. It's hitting the slope below me and creating a cloud, almost like fog, for us thru-hikers to climb through. And we do, nothing will keep us from realizing the visions of breakfast foods piled high. We all are coated with a fine layer of dust and grit as we enter this historic and fantastic building on the mountain. It's called Timberline but technically it's a little above timberline. Above the trees, right on the southwest flank of Mt Hood. Incredible views of forests, forests we've hiked through, greet us as we descend from the PCT like so many pilgrims to our goal. I see skiers, yes, snow skiers, in full multi-colored skier regalia climbing from the parking lot up to the lodge. They are all shiny and clean, no dust coating, just the fresh scent of recently laundered clothes and washed bodies. From a different world than the unwashed raggedy band descending from above. We Thru-hikers enter through the door closest to the dining room. We all hiked faster than we anticipated and fill the lounge with dirty stinky thru-hikerness. The skiers enter someplace else and somehow are magically transported to the white slopes above. The two groups don't mix, don't even see each other once they enter the massive Lodge edifice. We sit around and congratulate each other on our good fortune to arrive here today, the day of the buffet, (Which is everyday), but for us today is the day. 

Seven-thirty and the gates to the dining room open. Like a herd of cows heading to the hay the farmer just threw off his tractor. We all herd up around the entrance. Grouping together into foursomes, sixsomes, eightsomes for tables so as to get through the entrance that much sooner. Our negotiations and invitations like so much lowing and mooing We all know each other. Well we don't necessarily recognize each other without our Thru-hiker costumes, but as we greet each other there's many a variation of, “oh yeah, Ashland, good to see you again,” as we get acquainted with people in a context we've never been in together before. The buffet lives up to its reputation. At least from a Thru-hiker whose best food has opportunistic gathering of huckleberries in the last couple of hundred miles. My personal single favorite item was the self made waffle with blueberries, maple syrup, and whipped cream garnished with sugar crystals. Absolutely fabulous and at least fourteen hundred calories per serving. The cheddar  cheesy scrambled eggs coming in a close second. Oh, then there's the fruit sliced and perfectly sweet and ripe, watermelon, cantaloupe, pineapple. I can't forget to mention the blackberry pancakes… And the sausage links, and patties, grilled slice ham. Well, you get the idea. We gorge ourselves like we have another five hundred miles to hike. Which in this case we do. Then comes lounging and battery charging time. My time is abbreviated when I receive a call from the front desk telling me my room is ready. I enjoy my Thru-hiker buddies and comrades on this sojourn but my own shower trumps any feelings of loyalty or solidarity, “see you all on the trail,” and it's off to my own private paradise. Being a guest of the Timberline puts me in a class above the common riff-raff thru-hikers. Sorry but it's true. It's not a distinction I make, it's the discriminatory practices of the hotel. Paying guests get additional amenities. Like ‘free’ laundry, access to the pool, whirlpool spa, and sauna. I could even work out on the treadmill… That certainly makes no sense to me, even with all the calories I ate. Oh, and my room includes free breakfast tomorrow with a whole new group of Thru-hikers. The ratio of breakfast eaters thru-hikers to hotel guests is about nine to one in favor of Thru-hikers.

I take a long luxurious shower in my own private shower, open the window and turn on my vintage fan to blow cool mountain air around my rustic luxury room. This is by far the nicest most luxurious place I've stayed on the entire trip. For example, I get a complimentary bottle of water. It's free to drink the water within but if I choose to bring the collector quality glass bottle with me I can do so for a mere twelve dollars. I pile my hideously out-of-place hiker trash clothes into a fetid pile, like so many burn-heap ready rags and stuff them carefully into a stuff sack trying not to re-soil my hands. I'm unsuccessful and have to wash my hands once the sack is safely sealed and the funk and scum safely locked away. Down to the secret, guest only laundry with my dipping sauce container full of complimentary laundry soap. Oops, I put the chuck-e-cheese like token into the dryer slot instead of the washer. Good thing they gave me two. One token, one laundry, it's a beautiful thing. Once my laundry finishes I toss it in the already prepped dryer. The laundry’s done!

I spend the afternoon sorting, packing, planning, map reading. All the stuff I need to do to get through Washington. Next stop after here is Cascade Locks. The last Oregon trail town before crossing the ‘Bridge of the gods’ into Washington. It's been a beautiful day on Mt Hood. The weather has been warmer than is typical for this elevation but I believe tomorrow starts a cooling trend. I was looking at some of my earlier videos where I remember thinking, “it's finally going to be cooler.” It hasn't turned out that way. It's still quite warm. I wonder if it'll stay warm and dry all the way to Canada. I guess I'll have to start walking there to find out. Tonight though I'm sleeping in a comfy bed at the Timberline Lodge. I toss and turn a long time before finally drifting off to sleep. Not enough exercise today? Too warm? Noisy creaky building? Asking too many questions?

Wednesday, August 17, 2016

Day 109 : Little Crater Lake

30 miles today
558 miles to go

I wake up early, before it's very light. I hear rustling. The Thru-hikers around me are packing to move out. I want to get moving too. I choose to stay in my tent and have breakfast, I hear others walking away. “It's okay,” I tell myself. Why do I feel the need to jump on the bandwagon and hurry out with everyone else. Is it the herd instinct? I feel like I'm being left behind. Well I am being left behind, but only temporarily. My rational mind knows that, but emotionally I feel I should get moving faster. I force myself to eat slow. Don't rush. I get going when I get going which is about an hour earlier then I have been. Before the sun too. I head up the trail away from the river. When I say up, it's up! A steep climb for a little bit before it levels off to a consistent ‘PCT’ rate of climb. Up through the forest as I climb so does the sun. Eventually it reaches horizontally through the forest providing dramatic and interesting lighting for my climb. I appear to be climbing a ridge I can see blue sky through the trees to the right and left. Straight ahead it's just dense trees. Up and up and I to the sunshine. Then the trail turns and heads towards Timothy Lake. Timothy Lake is a big lake, a reservoir, a recreation lake. On the way the trail leads me out of the Warm Springs Indian Reservation and into the Mt Hood National Forest. It looks identical. Then the trail drops. Down through different ecosystems to an old growth dense forest of large trees. It stays this way for a long time. Timothy Lake is to the west. A large body of water. I can here the waves lapping the shore through the trees. 

As I am hiking along the side of the lake, I see Puff Puff heading toward me. I followed her PCT hike last year. She's heading southbound just like Fancy Pants said. I introduce myself and we chat for a few minutes. I look forward to reading her blog about her southbound trip when I finish and get home.

Tomorrow I have a reservation at Timberline Lodge. I hope to get as close as I can today. This means I'm trying for thirty miles. I feel really comfortable with twenty five miles. It seems every time I do thirty or more miles I have to pay for it in recovery time. Oh well, so be it. There really isn't any good camping at twenty five miles and I want to maximize my time at the lodge. That means arriving early in the morning. Perhaps in time for their legendary buffet breakfast. So I left early and I'm hiking as fast as I can.

I visit Little Crater Lake when I come to the access trail. It's only a quarter mile off trail. It's a fascinating artesian spring. Blue in color. Really eerie looking into it and seeing whole tree trunks resting on the bottom, perhaps fifty feet down. As I leave Little Crater Lake I feel wiped out, tired, exhausted, ready for a nap. I've only gone fourteen miles and I'm done, stick a fork in me. I sit at the trail junction and eat a peanut butter tortilla and some cheese. I watch as others pass me by, Stitches, Trigger, Yodeler, Still Smiling, Hangman. I get tired of watching them pass one at a time. I finish my lunch, hoist on my pack and step back on to the Canada express. It's so weird how while I'm hiking it's just me and the forest, no one else in sight in front or back. When I stop, that's when I see I'm just another hiker in a long, long, hundreds of miles long line of hikers heading north on the PCT. I power on, convincing myself that I'm only going to the next water source. A spring, cold water. I chug chug up the hill, four miles and there it is. There's everybody else too. Sitting, laying, napping. I collect water enough to dry camp anywhere from here to the Lodge. I don't feel like napping anymore. So after drinking a liter of water I start hiking. I push my lazy body along the trail through force of will. I tell myself that the closer I get to the lodge the less walking I have to do tomorrow. 

At highway twenty six I have only eight more miles to the camp I was hoping to reach. Eight miles all uphill. I am getting thirsty but hesitant to drink my water because the water report says the creek at the camp is dry. I cross the road and find that an anonymous trail angel has left ice cold cans of red bull and bottles of water. I take one of each and drink them both right on the spot. Exactly the kind of trail magic I need! I down my trail mix and my Gu Energy Gel. I take off up the hill. Even though I've already put in twenty two miles I feel rejuvenated. I power along faster than I've ever hiked. All uphill. Eight miles fly by as I climb at a quick pace. I reach the camp thirty minutes sooner than I expected. I find the trail is lined with blueberries, or are they huckleberries. I don't know the difference they look the same and taste the same to me. Eat handfuls of them as I walk into camp. I find a place for my tent and set it up. Then I sit down and have my dinner. Tomorrow Timberline!