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Archive for September, 2006

Destination: Pass Creek
Starting Location: Stevens Pass (Skykomish)
Today’s Miles: 23.90
Trip Miles: 2437.50
Skykomish (2476.3, 4060) to Pass Creek (2500.2, 4200) ascent (5358) descent (5217)

Had a leisurely morning and drove 8 miles west for breakfast. In the fast pace world people would have likely walked out of this cafe where the cook, server & cashier were all the same person. Not us – we loved it & given that it was pouring down rain a two hour breakfast was great.
Got to talk a bit with Yogi, who wrote a hiker’s handbook for the PCT, and really enjoyed getting to know her a bit. We had met before but given her notoriety it is difficult to have a regular conversation. I see this happens a lot with Lucky Liz as well. You can never just hang out & be yourself if you are a handbook author or the director of the PCTA.
We hiked and it rained.

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Must have hurt

Destination: Stevens Pass
Starting Location: Past Mig Lake
Today’s Miles: 7.80
Trip Miles: 2413.60
Past Mig Lake (2469.5, 4850) to Stevens Pass (2476.3, 4060) ascent (880) descent (1890)

Joe never complained but that must have hurt. What a great section with a great friend.
Met the boys at the Dinsmores & had a nice group dinner.
Liz came up – and we had a nice afternoon with just the two of us. I am not ready to be done – but I am ready to be home with my wife

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Going deep

Destination: Past Mig Lake
Starting Location: Deep Lake
Today’s Miles: 23.70
Trip Miles: 2405.80
Deep Lake (2445.8, 4420) to Past Mig Lake (2469.5, 4850) ascent (6115) descent (5873)

Too cold & wet to write. Saw 2 grouse, 2 elk, 3 horses (2 alive, 1 dead – apparently fell off the trail – stunk like rotting death and the air temperature was only 34 degrees), 0 people.
Going deep into bag to warm up & eat dinner.

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Destination: Deep Lake
Starting Location: Lemah Creek
Today’s Miles: 22.30
Trip Miles: 2382.10
Lemah Creek (2423.5, 3200) to Deep Lake (2445.8, 4420) ascent (4636) descent (3406)

It was not raining when we took down our tents. It was not raining when we put up our tents. It rained at all other times. And unbelievable after 2400 miles with no rain my tent develops a 2” x 2” hole in the floor on the first day of steady rain. Fortunately, I had a repair kit & thus I patched it.
Moss is amazing stuff. I have been seeing it for weeks now & it looked plenty green & moist. But no. Yesterday & today it got wet & it went wild. Now it is bright green and so saturated with water you can ring it out like a sponge. And it put up thousands of shoots that grow before your eyes

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Destination: Lemah Creek
Starting Location: Snoqualmie Pass Today’s Miles: 21.70
Trip Miles: 2359.80
Snoqualmie Pass (2401.8, 3000) to Lemah Creek (2423.5, 3200) ascent (5384) descent (5144)

Well I finally needed my rain, or rather snow, jacket. We certainly did not expect to be walking in a snow storm as inches of snow accumulated on the trail. Fortunately there was very little wind because it was darn cold enough without it.
Joe & I had a great time getting caught up & strategizing about conservation issues associated with the trail. We also discussed our choices regarding priorities & Joe quoted his favorite historic person, Abraham Lincoln: “In the end it is not the years in your life but the life in your years that really matters”. I love that. Joe & I also talked about things guys don’t talk about & he shared how cool it was to read my journal & hear me talk about the emotions brought forth as a result of hiking. He shared that while thru hiking both the Appalachian Trail & the Pacific Crest Trail he experienced overwhelming emotion & always felt a bit weird about it. We laughed as I told him I have on occasion been a blithering emotional basket case out here. And we agreed that we have both been blessed to have the opportunity to hike this trail . . . the life in your years.
Joe really showed his experience as he showed up with shoes that had racing slicks for soles. I guess he was trying to save weight by not having tread. The program did not work very well on the fresh snow.
We are now officially in the North Cascades so I guess it is appropriate that it snowed on us most of the day. I think we are in for some tough days as the relief looks like we are going to be on a roller coaster. Today was the first ride with a mile climb followed by a mile descent.
Liz asked me to do a few presentations when I get home and as a way of giving back I readily agreed. So I am speaking at REI Roseville on October 24, REI Sacramento on October 25 and a PCTA Open House on October 27. The focus will be on my hike of the PCT while promoting the organization that makes it possible – the Pacific Crest Trail Association

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Destination: Snoqualmie Pass
Starting Location: Snoqualmie Pass
Today’s Miles: 0.00
Trip Miles: 2338.1
Snoqualmie Pass – Zero

A long soak in the Jacuzzi (minus the naked Belgian) was great for the aching feet. They even came relatively clean.
Called my buddy Joe Sobinovsky (former PCTA Trail Coordinator, & now State of Washington Trail Manager) & he pointed out, again, that I am hiking the 2006 official PCT. And that his experience has been that part of the trail is closed practically, if not every, year. Hearing this from him & reflecting more on the inappropriateness of crossing closed sections, makes my hike continue to become complete in my head again.
Joe is coming up tonight & heading to Stevens Pass with us. I am super excited. The last time Joe & I hiked together was before his twin girls were born. Sonora to Carson Pass – slow pace, good conversation & sleeping out a rain storm for 20 hours. I bet 75 miles in 3 days is going to kick his bureaucratic ass – oh well, he can go back to his desk to recover next week.
Thunder & Dr Jones went to Seattle & Andy & I are bumming big time.
Joe, Chris & the three girls got up around 7:00 pm & we had a great evening – oh my those twins are too cute and what a handful. They baked us cookies, banana bread & zucchini bread. Apparently there was flour everywhere. Our goodies came in containers & were presented beautifully. I am sure I saw Chris squirm as we dumped them all into a large paper bag. Joe told her not to worry and that we were only one small step above bears.
The monkeys came by for cookies and we all sat around talking about the reroute and other trail news.

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Destination: Snoqualmie Pass
Starting Location: Weather Station
Today’s Miles: 19.60
Trip Miles: 2338.10
Weather Station (2382.2, 3950) to Snoqualmie Pass (2401.8, 3000) ascent (3307) descent (4150)

Walk 10 feet, eat 10 huckleberries – my life as a gatherer is full. The berries are amazing & prolific. There are multiple varieties and the best ones look much closer to a cranberry than a cultivar blueberry. Our hands are stained from the juices of these remarkable berries. Unfortunately, when we are really grazing them we have an eerie concern that we will have a hole the “size of a Frisbee” after a hunter mistakes us for a bear.
Got to the Summit Inn early & am very excited about 36 hours of rest & food. I did however jinx us & mentioned that maybe we would luck out and see our Belgian friend. As soon as we arrived we began to hear stories about how the management had to ask him (twice) to put his clothes on in the Jacuzzi. I am sorry but I finally have to say it – Herman is basically a nice guy but his exclusive self interest actions have created ill feelings with many businesses as well as many hikers. He is completely unaware or uncaring about how his actions taint the overall great reputations of current & future hikers. And yes; many of us have talked to him and the response is now a cliché on the trail: “Yea but it is good for me”. Disappointing for sure, but that is part of the trail experience.
The Summit Inn is great & totally hiker friendly; extra towels – no problem, 4 people in the room – no problem, PCT hiker rate – no problem . . . really nice people & a nice place to crash.
We had a perfect up hill conversation the other day & boy did I get trashed. I was even accused of reverting to my “uncaring Republican ways”. I suggested that when many people quit the trail they write an explanation that makes them look good rather than saying something like “it was tougher than I expected, therefore not worth it, so I quit”. I personally believe this happens a lot, & that is totally cool & understandable. In fact it nearly happened to me. That said, I do understand why but am amazed at some of the explanations regarding the “why”. Thunder & Andy suggested that the “whys” were the actual reason & that they were not stories designed to make the person look better. I pushed back & certainly lost the debate. Certainly the stories are true, but I still contend they are often not the underlying reason. Everyone out here has reasons to quit that are absolutely valid. Some quit, some do not. But if you do quit you communicate the most flattering reason. Not always – but that is what I see.
Getting off the trail is a tough decision and it has a lot of scrutiny associated with it – some from the outside but most internal. And so I still believe often times explanations make the process more palatable because no one, particularly in the west, wants to label themselves or be labeled by others as a quitter. Or maybe I should say – I certainly do not want that, particularly if I am labeling myself.
I just read this to Andy to see if I captured this correctly. He reminded me that we also discussed how priorities shift & “the hike” may become less important or that it may not be meeting expectations. These changes are also, I would suggest, difficult to fully express and “own”. And why do people not quit – often the same phenomenon at work. For example, I have been needing to modify expectations based on reality – had I not done this I would have been off long ago. Okay, we are really complicated creatures & why we do & do not do things can not be captured in a few words or many hours of dialog – but it is damn sure interesting. Of course I stirred the pot a bit when I stated emphatically that some people are just plain quitters. That got ‘em riled up.

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Destination: Weather Station
Starting Location: Cougar Creek Trail
Today’s Miles: 33.40
Trip Miles: 2318.50
Cougar Creek Trail (2348.8, 5780) to Weather Station (2382.2, 3950) ascent (5597) descent (7500)

Given that we needed long miles to prevent another dry camp I left early as I am the slowest. A very light dew had set in and when that happens the trail dust picks up micro droplets of water. It’s not wet & the moisture is very light but it is there & if you look closely you can tell if tracks have broken through & thus how old they are. So as I am walking I see an elk track and it is post dew. I follow it a bit and somehow just know it is really fresh. I slow my pace to a crawl and notice a slight breeze on my face. Good, the wind is blowing my scent the opposite direction. And there she was – 400-500 lbs of elk about 50 feet in front of me. She turned, saw me, paused and bolted. When she did the whole forest exploded and I counted 9 elk crashing all around me. I will never forget this feeling. Seeing habituated elk in our national parks like Glacier & Yellowstone is really neat, but seeing them in the true wild where they are super spooky & fear man is a totally different experience. Later in the day I heard another elk running. They sound like a horse they are so big. I so wanted to see an elk – thank you.
Now Washington knows how to fragment habitat & denude mountainsides. The clear cuts in this section are massive & the road network comprehensive. Unfortunately this isolates the good habitats from each other & furthers the problem by creating easy access to us humanoids. The clear cuts then create vacuums & nature abhors a vacuum & so it fills it with dozens of trees per square meter thus setting up a weak over crowded forest. But the return on investment for the share holders likely exceeded expectation. I hope they sell versus gift their share to the grand kids because the future returns are going to suck. We are so focused on immediate gratification in this country. It will be our demise

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Reflective feel

Destination: Cougar Creek
Starting Location: Bumping River Ford
Today’s Miles: 31.40
Trip Miles: 2285.10
Bumping River (2317.4, 4100) to Cougar Creek (2348.8, 578) ascent (6673) descent (4698)

It’s 9:00 so this is going to be really short. Our plans to go to the shelter did not materialize as it was too far. But we did push all day with a goal of Morgan Spring. Well, 4 good navigators could not find that damn thing at 8:00 pm & so we are dry camping & conserving water on Cougar Ridge. It seems we are right in the flight path of SEATAC airport as well. The planes are losing altitude fast & making quite a racket.
The weather today was likely the most perfect of any day on the trip. It was chilly in the morning & gloves were nice. Then it warmed to a glorious 74 degrees with clear skies. We saw that Mt St Helens was blowing off some steam & Mt Rainer was our constant companion as we skirted the boundary & crossed into the national park.
What a people contrast from yesterday. Yesterday was camouflage & denim & today was tourist in white blouses & golf shorts. The parking lot at Chinook pass was filled with folks out for a beautiful Sunday drive. Some even ventured up the PCT a ways. Most were friendly, a few were neutral, & a couple were simply rude. I actually said good morning to one couple & commented on the beautiful day, and they both instantly looked at the ground, said absolutely nothing & kept walking. I could not help myself and so in my cheeriest voice I said “it was very nice talking to each of you, have a wonderful hike”. Funny thing is, I actually did hope they had a wonderful hike. They clearly needed it.
I wonder what it will be like not to hurt all the time. Right now my dogs are really tired and they simply hurt . . . They always hurt and it is only a matter of how much they hurt. I was looking at my feet at White Pass & it is obvious that my index toe has flattened and is now close to the end of my big toe. This is particularly true on the left foot.
The hike, while a long way from being over, is taking on a bit of a reflective tone. I have been thinking a lot about where I have been, what I have seen, what I have felt, how I have changed. Really neat stuff & a fun phase of the hike.
Must sleep now!

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Destination: Bumping River Ford
Starting Location: White Pass
Today’s Miles: 14.60
Trip Miles: 2253.70
White Pass (2302.8, 4405) to Bumping River Ford (2317.4, 4100) ascent (1608) descent (1949)

Our timing for a night with a room was perfect as we woke up to a low pressure system with light rain & cold temperatures. We goofed off most of the morning & finally got on the trail at 1:00 pm. “On the trail” took on new meaning today as elk & deer bow season opened yesterday. The PCTA needs these guys as members. Most have horses, huge 12 x 12 tents, & cool camo clothing & even face paint. Some of the hunters were really interesting, knowledgeable about their sport, and conservationists by nature. Others were beer drinking bubbas complete with all the behavior.
Trail life is odd. We leave White Pass, see hunters, enjoy the scenery, & discuss the current geo politics of Russia. Dr. Jones, a young man with hair reminiscent of the mod squad, recently returned from the Ukraine where he worked for the English newspaper. I doubt people actually believe the conversations had on the trail. There are some really smart people out here and hiking with Dr. Jones has been very interesting. I am particularly impressed with some of the younger people on the trail – I certainly did not have my act together at age 23.
Lucky Liz was at Gottago & Ray’s when I reached her last evening. They had some information on a potential reroute into Canada. Sounds promising.
Rolling Thunder & I have been exploring the question of why “most men lead lives of quiet desperation”. It is interesting. Thunder made lifestyle a priority long ago & as a result he has a career he enjoys & a life worth living. I recently made a change & the dividends are paying off in so many non-monetary, but more important, ways. So why don’t more people do it? Fear is certainly one possibility. Security, which does not actually exist & is actually fear, is another thought. Complacency – maybe. Regardless, we agreed today that the trail has certainly strengthened our belief that life is really short & by god you had better live it today.
A guest book entry asked about trail logistics. Well, it is ridiculously easy. You only have to plan a few weeks in advance, and you have plenty of time to work out details as you go. For example we know that when we get to Highway 90 we will need to buy enough food for 75 miles. We also know we will need to send 100 miles of food to Stehekin because we can not buy it readily there. The guide books tell us where the stores are, who has good burgers, where a laundry & shower can be had, etc and all other information is readily passed up & down the trail by other hikers. Now as an over planner, I did not believe any of this before the hike. I fretted over things that were months away. But you learn that things work out out here. I would recommend that if you are thinking about a PCT hike, & I really hope you are, that you plan little and let a lot happen. I have bought almost all my food along the way & unless you have very specific dietary needs this works great, is more spontaneous & allows for the most food diversity. I have not once had a room reservation but have always found lodging . . . another example – a few minutes ago we (Andy, RT, Dr Jones & I) kicked around the idea of going 33 miles tomorrow so we could check out & potentially stay at one of the handful of structures along the PCT. Then someone offered that if we did that & then did 2 – 27 mile days we could get to Snoqualmie an evening earlier than planned. “Hey let’s push it, take a full zero, & check out the pancake house we have been hearing about”. It’s now a 3 day plan & it may change at any time but damn it is a fun way to hike this trail.

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