Saturday, August 23, 2014

Riding The Dog

Yesterday was my last day on the trail, probably for the season. L and I hiked nine miles by noon and the hiking was stunning, as usual. Some fog, sun, wild flowers, blueberries, huckleberries and salmon berries rounded out the hike. As we approached Stevens Pass we saw a sign telling us the bar and grill was open at the lodge, which was very exciting! We had been talking about food all morning, what each of us wanted to eat and drink, and in what order, etc. It doesn't take too long to get food focused on a backpacking trip!

L's friend Sue was there to pick us up and deliver us to her house where we would both go our separate ways, but first there were burgers to eat. 

Very exciting...

The next stop was in Baring where we went to the Dinsmores. They are a couple of kind and generous folks who take in hikers and pamper them before they head off into the last 200 miles of trail north. Or help out those southbounders who are just getting started. 

I had sent a resupply box to them which they had picked up at the PO and taken to their home. My passport and Canada permit were inside - guess I won't be needing them this year... :-(  I left a donation as a thank you for all they do for hikers. And I bought a t-shirt! Andrea told me the trail won't be going anywhere and I should come back next year and stay a couple of days before taking off to hike these two Washington sections. BTW, L really wants to go back and do the next 200 mile section with me next summer. I'd love that and I hope it happens. 

When we got to S's place in Gold Bar I got on the phone to speak with my Mom and it seems like she is very serious about selling her condo and moving into a retirement place. At 92 the details of living alone, grocery shopping etc, are getting too hard for her. She hasn't been driving since her heart troubles started so she hasn't been as social as in the past. The place she looked at seems wonderful, the people friendly, all meals prepared, lots of activities for her to attend there and transportation to other events off site. The major downside is moving from a large two bedroom condo into a much smaller one bedroom place. 

If I had been on the fence about leaving the trail this would have cinched it for me. So now my plan is to drive back to Santa Cruz and stay for a couple of days, then drive to So Cal and help Mom with the process of moving. There is someone in my place till October 1st so I can provide a lot of help in that time. 

After my phone call extravaganza I joined everyone in a pizza, salad and beer event. There is a new little dog here that I fell in love with
and there was the most amazing rainbow to photograph.
L had a showing of her water colors from the trip while we stood around and admired her work. Just like a real art opening...
L and J drove back to Bellingham (sad to say goodbye to L) and off I went to bed. This morning my wonderful hosts drove me all the way to Seattle where I waited with all the other people needing to get somewhere.
Thanks so much for the hospitality!

So here I am. On the Greyhound bus from Seattle to Yakima where my friends will once again pick me up and haul me back to Tieton, just in time for Tieton Days! There will be lots of activities over the weekend then I'll hit the road again and drive. At some point I'll be able to reflect on what this seasons hiking has meant to me and when I get some clarity I'll pass it along. I won't be calling it wisdom. 

One last picture of L. She has the air of the Beverly Hillbillys about her...

Friday, August 22, 2014

Day 20 - In Town

I'll write more tomorrow but for tonight I'll just say I'm sleeping in a bed! With clean clothes and clean body. I won't do a spot tonight because I'm at a private residence and, well they might not want everyone in the world to know their address. Tomorrow then. Over and out. 

Day 19 - Hope Lake

It was hard to get up this morning. It was cold and damp right along the lake but we wanted to get on the trail early, to take advantage of the cool hiking temps. We actually started walking at 6:15 which was a first for us. High fives all around on that one. 

The initial climb to Piper Pass was 1,500' and along the way we were rewarded by amazing views. Clear up high where we were with low clouds in the valleys. At one point L said she thought we were looking at the Olympics. I don't know but it was stunning. 

Amazing sight. In fact It looks like I could just bounce on the clouds like a trampoline. Very cool and a great distraction from the UP. 

Once at the pass we sat and watched some Gray Jays try and tempt us into giving them food. We didn't give in to their antics but it would have been fun. I have an app on my phone where I can look up birds and also listen to their song. These jays didn't like my app sounds and flew away. Probably sounded like an intruder in their territory. 

Down we went into the valley that held Glacier Lake and the engineering feat to make a trail down into the valley was just short of miraculous. See if you can see the trail...
Nope? Me neither and I walked down it. Wow. 

As far as obstacles went, today was pretty easy going. We had only one big obstruction to climb over and it was like trying to walk on a pile of giant toothpicks. These are some big trees. 
As I said, a pretty easy day. Ten miles and we got into camp around 3 pm. Mig Lake is a shallow lake, sort of warm but not warm enough for me to get into. L did take a dip. Burrr. 
Last night on the trail. I've had a splendid time hiking with L. She is so easy going, positive and fun. Our hiking paces match, mostly because she likes to stop and take pictures which gives me a chance to catch my breath or rest my legs. We've taken to calling each other Pollyanna the Elder and Pollyanna the Younger. I don't guess it would be hard to figure out who is who.

Injury update. After yesterday's river crossing my bruised shoulder has taken a turn for the worse. This morning I couldn't raise my arm to the side or front any higher than my waist without a great deal of pain. Even after hiking and somewhat using it all day it still isn't much better. I've had a frozen shoulder before and it wasn't pretty - this feels very much the same. If it continues I can't imagine risking going solo into what is reported to be a very rugged section of the trail. If I can't reach above me with one arm...well, I don't know. I'll have to see what happens in the next couple of days. It's possible I might be done for the season. 
Tonight's watercolor of our campsite. 

Day 18 - Deception Lakes

We are camped at a beautiful site with the Loud Family just across the way. The men have been at the rum and the volume of their voices is telling. I know all about one guys new dishwasher and remodeling project. I hope they decide to quiet down at dark. 
This morning was cloudy and it looked like it could rain. We took our leave of Deep Lake and immediately climbed up to the backside of Cathedrial Peak. Misty, moisty and breezy, but beautiful.
It never did rain but the mist was so dense that it felt like raindrops. 

Six miles in we had a big creek crossing. We've been hearing about it for a day now and it sounded scary. In fact there is a much longer alternate trail mapped if one doesn't want to attempt this crossing. Anyway we heard there were two logs across which most 
people were walking across. They looked flimsy to me and I thought it might be better to wade across. L decided to crawl across and, against my better judgement, I decided to do the same. 
She did fine and got across with only some bumps and scrapes from the logs on her bare skin. I had a more difficult time because of my shoulder and about halfway across it decided to cramp up - I was afraid it would give way. But, I made it and got to the other side, though I was in a great deal of pain and could barely move my arm.  

We still had another part of the creek to cross and L decided to go around the water and climb over some rocks to get to the trail. It looked dicy to me but I stood there watching and taking pictures. See what you think...
After this event we were both drained but we still had hiking to do so after a snack break we shouldered our packs and off we went. 

I couldn't use my left pole because of my shoulder but a bunch of Advil took the edge off and by the time we got to camp the pain had diminished. In the meantime we still had trail difficulties to deal with. Such as these fallen trees we had to crawl under. That was tricky with one working arm...
Seems like I always get L's backside...

Towards the end of the day we saw this note on the side of the trail
I guess a PCT hiker named Ice turned 21 and his friends left him a sampler of booze. Kinda sweet of them. I hope no one takes it before Ice gets there. 

Two more images for the day. The last of the sun peaking through the clouds. 
Today's watercolor. 

Day 17 - Deep Lake

My alarm went off at 5 am with the intension of us leaving camp at 6 am. Trying to leave in an efficient manner is tough, especially since L doesn't have a routine down yet. Actually it takes quite a while to develop systems and she hasn't enough experience to make that happen for herself. No matter because we had planned a 13 mile day and had all day to make it happen. 

The first 5.5 miles was the tail end of the alternate trail and was it tough. Switchbacks were lacking or when they did exist they were way steeper than I'm used to negotiating. An 800' climb in 8/10 of a mile - yup, that's steep. From Dutch Miller Gap the views were stunning with swirling clouds and wind. 

Through the gap we saw Lake Ivanhoe which we passed along the right hand side, open the the view and exposed. 
We traversed the slope coming to the campsite shown on the map and saw the poor, poor bridge we had to cross. It was scary looking but more stable than it seemed.

Down, down, down we went, via switchbacks when lucky, and steep, slippery, mucky trail when not. 

We finally reached the PCT at 11 am, having taken 4 hours to hike 5.5 miles. I was beat already because of the constant focus and attention to the trail which was required to keep myself upright. But we took a long break, set up tents and dried sleeping bags from the dampness that covered everything this morning. By noon we were ready to tackle the 7.5 miles required to get us to Deep Lake. 

What a difference! Good trail, well graded and maintained is such a joy to walk along... I'd almost forgotten. In fact, a couple of hours in I found myself singing and whistling and realized I hadn't done so for 2.5 days. I could finally relax and look around me at the scenery as well. Which is not to say it wasn't hard getting here because we were beat by the time we arrived. Climbing is climbing after all. Still, I am happy to be back on the PCT. 
It's hard for me to imagine but L has been hiking with a headache for the past three days. She says sticking her head in cold water helps...
Another watercolor, this time of Deep Lake where we are camped for the night. The water really is that color. 

Day 16 - Campsite 4 on the Dutch Miller Gap trail

If I could wish for anything I'd wish for a hot water spring at the beginning and end of each day. This morning was a dream, hot water at 6 am, lolling about for an hour. A leisurely breakfast and we didn't leave camp till nearly 9 am. Unfortunately we paid for it later in the day when it got hot and humid. 

You know yesterday, when we went down, down, down? Well today we reversed the path and climbed up, up, up. Sometimes gently but often just up. Stepping over logs, roots, rocks, anything the trail threw at us. At one point early in the afternoon the humidity was so high, combined with the heat, that my visor was dripping copious amounts of sweat, wicked away from my head.  Crazy humid. We decided the humidity had to near 90%...the rocks had sweat glistening! As we finally gained altitude it got cooler and an occasional breeze dried up some of the sweat. Shesh. 

The plan was to hike 12 or so miles and get to Lake Ivanhoe tonight but around 4:30 I finally had to fess up and say I couldn't go any farther today. The last likely camp site was a couple of miles from our planned stop and 800' lower than Dutch Miller Gap at 4,970'. Too much for the end of the day. 

The good news is we are in the most beautiful spot we've seen all day. A green meadow with towering mountains surrounding the meadows. Most of them are not named on the map - the only named is Iron Cap Mountain. Big. So even if we are a couple miles shy of the hoped for goal we still walked a goodly amount. And I feel each and every stair master step. 
Setting up
River crossing, the civilized way. 
L using her tiny, tiny water color set. Wow. She is not afraid of color. 

Thursday, August 21, 2014

Day 15 - Goldmyer Hot Springs

Early this morning I mentioned there was an alternate route we could take for the first couple of days which included a hot springs at the end of the day today. I had forgotten about it and only remembered when looking at maps this morning. It sounded like a wonderful way to end the day and Lorna concurred. Decision made. 

So we checked out of the motel at 7:30 this morning and walked under the highway, picking up a backcountry permit for Lorna at the PCT trail head. Our route actually started about a mile and change down the road so we wandered along till we saw the trail head for Snow Lake and turned right. 

My, my, my. There were an amazing amount of people going to Snow Lake on this fine Sunday morning. How many is a lot? After concurring with L I'd say we passed, or were passed, by no fewer than 50 people and probably many more. Snow Lake is beautiful and all but sheesh. 
Once we broke loose from the streaming masses and turned right instead of left at the junction to Gem Lake we were mostly on our own. What a relief! Little did I know we had a challenging trail ahead of us this afternoon. 

For the next 4-5 miles we walked on poor trail - rocky, slippery, slanted and steep. Really steep. What to do? We didn't want to go back but at various  times of the day one or another of us would say "at least it's not raining" or "I sure hope they have room for us at the hot springs."

Because there was so much moss and other green stuff on everything, including the rocks, I slipped and fell three times today, mostly landing on my pack which doesn't hurt anything but my pride. On number three I wasn't quite so lucky and landed on one of my oh-so-sore shoulders, making it guaranteed to be much more sore than usual. Oh well...

We finally came down to a flattish spot and turned right, heading towards Thunder Creek and Goldmyer Hot Springs, two miles away. Finally after fording Thunder Creek by water (L walked on a big log)
and Burnboot Creek  by logs (no other choice)
we arrived at the junction to the hot springs. 

A quick right turn and we arrived at the cabin where the caretakers live
where we paid our $5 to camp and $15 to soak. Off we went off to set up camp 
and have dinner. Once the chores of the day were completed we took off for the hot springs, 3/4 of a mile upstream. I wasn't sure about the whole idea til we arrived, hot, sweaty and tired. OMG!
The lower pool you see to the right is about 100 degrees, the pool above is closer to 103 and the one above, which is coming out of a cave, is at least 106 or so. THE BEST EVER! We soaked, stretched and grinned for an hour before we had to leave as it was getting twilightish and the trail up to the spring was steep. 
Bathing beauty

Power massage. 
I usually like to start my hiking day super early but tomorrow? No way. We'll be in the hot springs till we are so limber we won't be able to walk. YES.