Archive for September 19th, 2006

Life raft

Destination: Fire Creek
Starting Location: Pass Creek
Today’s Miles: 28.90
Trip Miles: 2466.40
Pass Creek (2500.2, 4200) to Fire Creek (2529.1, 5370) ascent (7520) descent (6644)

Miserable! My thermarest was functioning more as a life raft than a mattress as I woke up to a flooded tent. Not sure where the water came from exactly but my down sleeping bag is wet enough to be a potential safety concern.
Given we have not been challenged enough already, right, we decided to take the original PCT instead of the recommended detour. In 2003 the Glacier Peak Wilderness got hammered with a flood that took out all the bridge crossings. In normal years these rivers are not wadeable but Washington had a low water summer & we heard that it was doable provided it did not rain too much. We made it across several rivers, streams actually, thus far that had missing bridges & total carnage to the stream bed & surrounding landscape. Tomorrow afternoon we have the big one. And it has been raining steady all day. If we can not cross we will have to go back almost 50 miles & we will be out of food. I think it will be fine & Scott Williamson reports a good log down stream.
Walking in the clouds all day & it does not just rain below clouds. It rains in them as well. And the vegetation is real thick as the route has not been maintained in 3 years. This means you put up your arms in front of you like a boxer and you push through alder thickets as they pour ice water all over you. Then you cross dozens of blow downs that require creative navigation to get around in a forest that is 100% saturated with water.
I had to walk faster to keep warm but after climbing over 7,000 feet I was not able to go fast enough to keep the heater working at a high enough temperature. So when we finally found a crappy camp spot I was shivering as I pitched my already soaked tent. I was extra careful in the setup & hopefully I will not repeat my boating class of last evening. When I got inside I started mopping up ice water with my pack towel. When things were not dripping wet, I took my sleeping bag out & crawled in. If my plan works the 2000 calories I ate will get the furnace going & my body heat will dry my bag. If not, I am in for a long ass night.
The North Cascades feel very remote. This is amplified because we are on the old route. The forests are moss gardens with trees growing out of old tree logs & stumps. Ferns are prolific & amphibians abound. Saw the biggest mushrooms I have ever seen. They measure 18” across & likely weigh 4 lbs. This is a different environment for sure. Tree line is somewhere just above 5,000 feet & the vegetation above reminds me of parts of Alaska.
Seeing a lot of ptarmigan or at least we think that is what they are. They look like dark chickens & I know they would be good to eat.
Today really did suck but that is okay. I am sure I will remember this day & smile at it in the future. One thing for sure – I knew I was alive today.


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