Friday, August 8, 2014

Day Something

Good news on the Mom front. At least it seems to all be moving in the right direction. The surgery went well and she said she felt better right away. It's been tough for her over these last many months to lose her ability to get around but finally she got a Doc who paid attention to her concerns. Mom always says,"They look at my birthdate then brush me off." So it seems her heart has been stopping, which could make a person kinda tired. Anyway, so far so good. 

In that light in gonna skip the trail section between highways 12 and 90 and start back up in a week. I want to stay close to the phone for a bit so I'll have more confidence all is well before I go back out into the wilds. 

All is looking up!

The upside is that I get to spend more time with my close friends, go to art openings, shower every day and sleep in a bed. Life is good!

Wednesday, August 6, 2014

Day 14 - R & R

I started the day picking up needed items, like TWO spoons and insect shield. I've got my clothes washed and was planning to re-treat them with the spray so the mosquitos will continue to be confused when they land on my clothing. I still haven't gotten bitten through my shirt or pants! 

I rested through the heat of the day until I got a call from my sister informing me that my Mom is in the hospital. It's a long story going back quite some time but Mom will be having surgery tomorrow to have a pacemaker implanted. She's 92 and has been living alone, with my sister and bro-inlaw a couple blocks away, but it's possible this event will precipitate a move into an assisted living facility. 

I'm writing this here because I really don't know, at the moment, if I'll be going back into the wilderness or if I'll be driving to So Cal to help with my Mom in this transition. I'm in a wait and see place and will be for a few days at least. 

I can't really say too much more than this right now. When I have more information I'll post an update. 

Tuesday, August 5, 2014

Day 13 - Highway 12

I got my first 12 by 12 today. What this means is that I hiked 12 miles by noon. A big deal for me and it got me to The Kracker Barrel at White Pass just in time to eat two hotdogs and a soda for lunch. Not what I was hoping for but it beats tuna in a packet and Fritos. 

I was hoping to be able to get to J&G's place early in the day but for some reason my phone won't work. Everyone else that has Verizon had service but it seems my phone isn't receiving a signal. It says No Service - no ambiguity there. 

I borrowed someone's phone and left messages with the gals letting them know I'm here early. I don't know if I'll see them before 5 pm,  which was our pre-arranged time, but I hope I do. Mostly I'm just anxious to see if everyone is ok at home and I had hoped to use this time to update my blog and answer emails. It also looks like it's possible my phone might be on the fritz. Best laid plans...

Today I met someone on the trail, named Mr Pillow...
...who is hiking southbound, and he had met a couple of northbound folks who were hiking with another and that other person had fallen at Packwood Glacier. A 200' drop and he had to be helicoptered out. With injuries. I'm sure glad I hadn't heard this before I crossed yesterday. Yikes! 

In that vein I had a hard time getting to sleep last night. I kept having intrusive thoughts of my hike and it was disturbing, to put it lightly. When I woke at 2:30 am that's the first thing I thought of. I guess it scared me more than even I thought. In fact I had to cross another spooky place today and I had to talk to myself to make myself go there. 
This is going to be tricky if I have to talk myself through this kind of thing every time I come across a dicy spot. There're too many dicy spots for this. 

On a positive front, there is a guy who I briefly met two days ago when he blew by me, named String Bean I might add, who is chasing the supported PCT speed record. He is on schedule to break the record of 59 days set last year by 7 days. That's right! Fifty-two days to hike 2,650 miles. Holy frijole!

A word about supported vs self supported, since folks don't necessarily get the difference. A supported hike is one where the hiker is met with supplies, food, massages or whatever they might need at road crossings or other points where support could be provided. Self supported or, PCT style, is where the hiker is responsible for carrying all food, gear and water needed for any one section. No support is prescheduled and no rides are accepted. If a hiker needs food the hiker has to walk out to get the food (or water, gear, etc). The two different approaches are apples and oranges, both fruit but they don't taste anything alike. I am happy to say the self supported record is held by Anish the Ghost. 60 days and change. Anish is my shero!

PS. There's a good article about Anish in last months Backpacker magazine. Check it out. 

Day 12 - Tieton Pass campsite

Today was the hardest 10 miles I've ever hiked in my life. It started out slowly as I got on the trail at 6:45 am, hoping the later start would help me on the glacier. The approach was beautiful with wonderful trail work and stone walls. 

Really beautiful dry stacking up here. The views got even more breathtaking as I got higher and the sun crested the big mountain, I think Big Snowy. 
In only a couple of miles I came to the first of many snow fields. Is this the glacier?
Nope. More to come. So I kept going and things got steeper and rockier, in between the snow fields. Finally I climbed to a junction that said Old Snowy Mountain one way and PCT the other. Had I not been so anxious I might have read the sign more clearly but I was giving myself a pep talk and wasn't leaving any room for waffling. I mean really, what else could I do? I couldn't go back because my food would run out in one day so forward was my only choice. Or so I thought. 

I scrambled down some rocks and watched as two hikers came across the glacier, seemingly with ease. When they got to my side I asked them how it was and they said, "That? Oh that's easy with well established foot prints." "Ok", says I and off I went. 

The first thing I noticed was that the description of the trail didn't match what I was experiencing. It was supposed to be flat across the expanse but I was angling downward.  Oh, and it was a bit icy since it was still in shadow. Now downward sloping crossings aren't too terribly scary, unless you have many hundreds of feet to slide should you take a misstep. So I was super scared and tried not to look down as I feared that would be my undoing.

I got to some big rocks that were unstable at best and I kept walking.
It was only when I came to another section that I pulled out my Halfmile's app on my phone and low and behold I was not on the hikers traverse but on the stock route. Fooey (which is not what I said). Nothing for it but to keep going as I wasn't going to cross that thing again. The next section was slightly up, which I felt better about but still, the runout was certain death. Concentrate, breathe, one small step at a time, plant your poles and step.

I got across, I'm still not sure how but I susceeded. And I didn't wet my pants, or something worse. The images I took looking back don't do it justice but it'll give you the idea. 

I was shaky from adrenaline when I sat down and I tried to force myself to eat something. No go. 

Phew, I thought. That's done. Now I only have the knife edge to do. For those of you who don't know there is an iconic place that is often photographed and is the quintessential image of the PCT in Washington. I had this wistful idea of the place, until I got there and had to walk it. 
No longer. The knife edge is a mile and a half of knee crunching, death defying, slippery marble sized rocks, guaranteed to send one off of the sometimes 24" wide trail. I mean there is 24" from cliffs on either side, with steep run outs to certain death. Just typing here is making my hands sweat again. How 'bout some images?
Can you see the little line snaking along?

When I finally got to the Coyote Trail junction I was off of the worst exposed portion but I still had a long way to walk on large and small marbles before I got back to terra firma dirta. I did slip twice on the way down but fortunately I landed on my pack and didn't try to fly off a cliff. 

When I finally got back to my friends, the trees, I could begin to breathe easier and I was able to walk along with more ease. I will say that the event took quite a bit out of me but I now have a firm understanding of my tolerance level for risk and exposure - it is very low. In fact I hate it. I never, ever want to do something that scary again. Just sayin...

I guess I'd better find out if the trail in Washington includes more of the same. If so I might have to rethink my hiking plan because really, it's a no-go for me if there are more glaciers ahead. At least that's how I feel today. I mean I'm pleased I was successful but I can think of other things I'd like to practice getting good at. 

Day 11 - Mile 2281

The mossies were out in force this morning, even when I was packing up at 5:30 am. Geeze Louise. But I just walked as fast as my short little legs would go and by 11am I'd walked myself out of the forest and climbed a couple of thousand feet, so I decided to eat my lunch by Walupt Creek. I'd just about finished eating when up came the Boy Scouts. Remember them? Aparently they've been taking it easy and it seems I caught up (then passed them) sometime this morning. They don't get started early. 

They took off before me and I plodded along looking at increasingly open territory. Green grass, wild flowers, gentle slopes, creeks meandering in the low areas and bear...what? Yup a big ole one, but fortunately running the other way. Seems like these wild bears don't really like people all that much. I like that about them.  

I crossed Cispus Pass at 6,473 feet and began the descent into the bowl below the jaggity teeth of Goat Rocks. Passing hikers told me they'd seen goats frolicking on the upper hillsides but I didn't see them. I sure could smell them though. Billy goats have a stink that can't be described but it travels a long way on slopes. At least that is what I think I smelled. I guess it could have been me...

It sure is nice to be out in the open. This bowl is surrounded by gigantic and sharp rock formations. I'm camped in an area that is fairly open to the view and I've been watching the clouds rolling and boiling over the mountains peaks. Occasional thunder off a ways and sprinkles on the tent are rounding out a very nice 14 mile hiking day. 

Tomorrow is another thing. The trail traverses Packwood Glacier and it's been described as both very doable and scary, depending on the person doing the describing. I'm nervous about it and one of the reasons I stayed here at this campsite is that it is farther away from the glacier and will give the snow/ice more time to soften. In fact I think I'll start later than usual in the morning. Seven sounds good. 

One last thing. I met a young woman on the trail this morning with the name of Carrot Quinn. She is thru hiking and has written journals of her past travels that I have read and was amazed by her skill. If you want to see good writing do a google search for her name. She is very talented. 

Day 10 - Mile 2267 Dry Camp

I watered up at Midway Creek at 11 am today because I'm looking at a potential 15 to 20 mile chunk of trail with no guarentee of water. I'm gonna guess there will be useable water out there but the desert put the fear into me and I can't seem to stop carrying extra water. 

Especially when I come across a natural spring like Lava Spring. Early this morning I encountered a wonderful sight. There was a pool of water and filling the pool was the most beautiful water coming right out of the side of a hill of lava rock. Reportedly the best water on the whole PCT. 

Around noon today I was rounding a bend in the trail (I was whistling as usual) when I looked up and saw the side, then rear end of a black bear. As soon as it caught sight of me it hightailed it down the trail. Wow. My first bear sighting of the trip. My guess is I'll see more since the huckleberries are coming in now. Better keep whistling...

For some reason I was mentally and physically sluggish today. It didn't help that the bugs were unrelenting and I had to cover myself up, all but my hands. It's too hot to wear a bug netting on top of everything else but it's either that or apply mosquito repellent. I do wear bug juice on my hands but so far have avoided putting it anywhere else. 

Probably another reason I'm sluggish is that I don't really sleep enough at night to get that good quality rest I need. Like last night I laid down at 7:30 pm but didn't go to sleep till 9:30 or 10. Then I woke up at 2 am (because of the stiffness and pain in my shoulders and legs from being still for so long) then I doze till my alarm goes off at 4:30 am. So while I rest for a long time I don't sleep as much as needed. But that's the way it is out here for me. It could change as time goes on. 

This afternoon the trail itself was tough as there were at least, really no exaggeration, 30 downed trees, or piles of trees, blocking the trail which required climbing over them or climbing above or below to get around and back to the trail. It's gonna take a lot of work to get this cleared up! For example ...
What a mess!

So when I got to this funky campsite, even though it was only 3:30, I decided to park it for the evening. I even ate dinner early and am now inside the tent, resting and keeping the bugs at bay. I only walked a bit over 14 miles today but that was as much gas as I had in the tank. 

The good news is I'm now in
Goat Rocks Wilderness. Tomorrow will take me out of these hot, buggy, no-view woods and into open, craggy lands. Can't wait to see it. 

Day 9 - Killen Creek

7:55 am - Bucket Spring. This isn't the name of this spring, I'm just calling it that.
 See the bucket?
The water is gushing out of rocks below so the bucket needs to be lowered into the water and pulled back up. Great water!

7:00 pm now and I am nestled inside my tent with hungry hords of blood sucking skeeters right outside my door. I decided to hang my food tonight for the first time. Mostly because there are good branches to hang from and I don't want to worry about bears trying to get my food from inside my tent, with me in it! I haven't seen any recent sign of the tree claw marks, scat or foot prints, still and all. Time to hang. 
The first day out from a layover is always hard for me. I'm slow, sluggish and can't seem to make good time. Even though I made my 15 miles I was a snail about it. I kept getting out my maps to see how far I'd come, looking at my watch, etc. then I realized part of the reason is that I'm carrying more weight. Five days of food and 2+ liters of water to start with because I wasn't exactly clear which water sources were going to be running. In a word, all of them were.  Early in the season I guess. 

I did have one experience today that scared the bejesus out of me. I had to ford Lewis River and let me say it was scary. Did I say scary? Super scary is more like it. It took me 45 minutes to decide where I wanted to ford then I retreated to try again another place. It is actually braided so there were two branches to cross. Holy frijole I was scared. On the last section I was in the water up to mid thigh and it was fast. Really fast. But the thing is you just have to move slow and keep three points of contact at all times, only moving one foot or pole at a time. I was a tad shaky after that one. And just to add to the excitement, when I was midway across the second part I heard thunder and it started to sprinkle. There I was, thigh deep in water with aluminum poles. The potential situation I was in didn't escape me. 
It doesn't look so bad in this image. Take my word for legs and feet were numb when I got across. 

I met this gentleman in Trout Lake - the town, and he is hiking the PCT. He lives in Japan and come to the US to hike every year. He was to finish the PCT this summer but I saw him this morning and he was heading back to town. Something seriously wrong with his knee. Who would guess he is 75! Amazing. 
His name is Toyo, but "not Toyo-ta" he says. He worked for Misubishi for 40 years :-)

I got my first look at you-know-who this morning.