Thursday, September 13, 2018

Hiking Section H of the PCT: Days 11 & 12

Final entry! At this point, we are less than 20 mile from the Oregon border. 

Day 11: Rough!
  • Rough start to the morning: Woke up w/ an upset stomach, sore knee, shin splints and an all-you-can eat buffet of blisters. 
  • In addition, during the night, a thru-hiker arrived in camp, long after "hiker midnight" (aka 8pm) and proceeded to make what seemed to be a multi-course meal - later, the hiker is dubbed "Chicken Cordon Bleu."
  • To make things rougher, day starts w/ 4 mile anonymous uphill, where I feel like I've got 0% energy left. 
  • Thankfully, we eventually reach the top, things level out a bit, and we are treated to some views, including Mt. Adams (now distant) - "Can you believe we hiked from there?!"

  • Lunch in a campsite among tiny alpine trees.
  • After lunch we begin to gradually shift downhill.
  • Get our first views of the Columbia!! Also, amazing bluff-like hillsides.

  • Make our way through first real clear cut on hike. 
  • As we near powerlines that we'd planned to be next rest stop, trail becomes a switchback of sharp rocks. Sarah becomes frustrated, I still feel sick, so we throw our bags down in the middle of a dirt road for an impromptu -pleasant- break. 

  • After break, the forest starts to feel more like a large, lush park. 

  • We become worried we missed to planned campsite, but right after we resign ourselves to hiking another two miles... we find it. 
  • "Toad water!" (My nickname for the muddy stream we end up filtering our water from. Because there was a toad in it.)
  • Still feeling ill, I go to bed early w/o dinner.
Day 12: ...And Out (The Bridge of Gods)
  • Wake up feeling thankfully better. 
  • Eat breakfast and take down the campsite for last time. 
  • Morning hiking similar to previous evening, almost park-like.
  • Ow!! Get stung by rando yellowjacket. 
  • Cross a few small bridges and at one point Sarah spots two different types of snakes within a few feet of each other.

  • Go around a couple of small lakes, and begin seeing more signs we are entering civilization -"private property" signs, the sounds of trains & machines, the distant power station/dam on the Columbia. 
  • Pass a couple of hours, and PCT beings to run parallel to highway for about a mile. 
  • Get first peaks of the bridge. 
  • Then we are there!!

  • Take a few pictures under a PCT sign, then set out across Bridge of Gods. Ambika, not a fan of the heights, races out ahead again.
  • No pedestrian lane, so you walk on the road, facing oncoming traffic. But speed limit is only 15 mph.
  • "Entering Oregon"
  • Exchange a "Enjoy Washington/Enjoy Oregon!" with hikers going other direction.
  • Say "goodbye" to the PCT on the other side, feeling momentarily sad looking at it continue on. (Of the end of hike events, this one -surprisingly- caused me to feel the most emotional.)
  • Then make our way to Thunder Island Brewing for some well-earned beers in the sun.
  • After Russ arrives, we have lunch at an amazing fish market... then being the long drive home. 

Wednesday, September 12, 2018

Hiking Section H of the PCT: Days 9 & 10

Day 9: Drying Off & Regrouping
  • Last night was wet. Soaking wet. Rain started falling in earnest shortly after we crawled into our tents, and continued through the night. 
  • This morning we cleaned up the sopping mess and made pleasant conversation with another hiker who had arrived during the "night" - probably 7ish. 
  • Dripping wet, we set out, but were happy to see that the rain seemed to have passed and the sun was beating back the clouds. 

  • At a view point, we stripped off much of our wet clothes, basked in the sun, and looked out over the view of mist rising from the surrounding forest. 
  • After that it was down, down and more down, descending to the Panther river. 
  • We ate lunch on the rivers edge, near the bridge we'd just crossed, and planned our last couple of days. (We'd started hiking more miles a day than we originally planned, so we were beginning to realize that we'd probably be ending about a half day early.)
  • Feeling we needed a rest, we decided to splurge on a camp site at the nearly empty Panther Creek campground. This allowed us access to fresh water, pit toilets and gave up half a day to rest and -more importantly- dry out all our gear.

  • Tomorrow, we set off on our final push: 15 miles. Then 10 and 10 again to get to the border!
Day 10: A Tale of Two Hikes
  • Woke up in the morning feeling more human, owing to the campsites pump water, picnic table and pit toilets. 
  • Set out with guy in a car following us to trail start, because he was curious where the PCT was.
  • Sunny, and initial hiking is across farmland. Across fields, over bridges, rolling hills, country roads. Easy and bucolic. 

  • Take lunch on the Wind River, with bridge nearby, nice views and fish swimming. 
  • Though Sarah and Ambika angry/grossed out by TP situation in forest nearby. 
  • After lunch, path begins uphill.... loooong uphill. Hot and hard work. 
  • Take our break on abandoned road. 
  • Then it is down... down... down. Fortunately, the terrain turns lush and scenic, as we wind along cliff edges, Mossy trees, deep ravines and lot of green.
  • Almost stop on North Fork Rock Creek, but decided to push on to Rock Creek, where we eventually find a campsite wedged between path and river. 
  • And Sarah makes tasty pad thai.

Tuesday, September 11, 2018

Hiking Secton H of the PCT: Days 7 & 8

Day 7: Trail Magic!
  • Woke up to a busy campsite w/ 4 other campers, plus us, but by the time we'd had out decadent breakfast of omelets & potatoes (thanks Sarah!) they'd all cleared out.

  • The trail for the first half of the day was uneventful, maybe even underwhelming, and I was sore from all our hiking. 
  • starting the previous day, we'd begun hearing that there was "trail magic" on the road ahead of us, and this morning we'd learned it was a group of people who had set up camp and were giving out taco, watermelon and other goodies. 
  • We were very excited when we finally came across them.
  • Tacos! And watermelon. 
  • "And we also have pot here, if you're interested."
  • Sat in lawn chairs eating and listing to an Australian woman talk about her misadventures: "So, in one weekend, I rode with a woman who dresses as sasquatch and got invited to a UFO sighting. Welcome to America!"

  • Tummy's full, we set off again. We'd covered a remarkable 9.5 miles in the morning and only had 5 or so for the afternoon. 
  • Entered Indian Heaven Wilderness.
  • Go to watch NoBo (Northbound) hikers' faces light up when we told them about the trail magic ahead. 
  • Like previous day, my left knee started giving me issues, but soon enough we'd reached the turn off to the lake we would camp at. Ended up camping at side lake. Small & weirdly warm. 

  • Super cold and misty / a little rain, but Sarah made an amazing, warm curry dish, which helped us through the evening.

Day 8: Soggy!!
  • Woke up to a misty, cold morning. My knee still bothered me, so I wasn't excited about start.
  • As we set off mist switched to actual rain at times, but dampness encouraged us to make good time. 
  • Trail set up so the we rarely saw anything of interest. Instead just junctures with signs pointing off announcing a lake or hike.

  • Reach a point where we were on the edge of a ridge, which one side was dry-ish and the other was blasting rain. 
  • Had quick lunch on the dry portion of the ridge.
  • Began descent to a horse camp. Ambika, eager to be done, rushed ahead. Long flat section after switchbacks, ending at parking lot.
  • Across the street was the camp, including pit toilets. But, decide to move on because there is no water. 
  • At camp encounter older SoBo couple. She's friendly but he is... odd? Prickly?
  • Continue on over lava fields, with rain increasing. Keep leap frogging with SoBo couple. 

  • Reach first place we "think" there is a camp, but it's just a pipe w/ well water. 
  • We decided to try for a second camp an additional 2.3 miles away (brining us to mearly 5 miles more than planned).
  • We make it to the camp site, which seems surprisingly dry, with a small spring. And, after a good pasta dinner, things feel positive again.

Monday, September 10, 2018

Hiking Section H of the PCT: Days 5 & 6

Day 5: Mt. Adams

  • Woke feeling well rested after sleeping next to the white noise of the river. 
  • Begin gentle upward hike towards Adams, getting our first good views!
  • Views continue to improve including... Looking back to the Northwest we can finally see Mt. Rainier!
  • Scenery is wonderful, idyllic sub-alpine terrain, w/ rolling hills, babbling streams and stumpy trees. 
  • Always Adams towering above. 
  • Take our first break on boulders, with view of field and Adams. Below a trio of hikers does yoga.
  • Further walking takes us to a "difficult water crossing." A rough-shod bridge made of a dozen branches, over a roiling, grey river.
  • Further on, we reach a lava field which is a sea of black boulders. See our first horses. 
  • Take our lunch next to a nice, little stream, which we cross to move on.

  • Afternoon break is at Sheep Lake (another Sheep Lake) where we talk at length with a mysterious, mournful man. Beyond that is a death march through a lovely but sad tree graveyard. The result of a forest fire. ("Death march" in only that it was hot, we were getting tired and it seemed to go on forever.)
  • Rainier fades from view, but we can now see St. Helens and even (Mt.) Hood. 
  • Hoping for water, we diverge from the PCT a few hundred yards, onto Horseshoe Meadows, and set up camp next to a silty creek. Next to Adam and Margie, a talkative couple we met earlier and who are hiking around Adams. (This campsite highlighted something about thru hikers. They are all using an app called Gut Hook to get their information about the trail. But, it only provides info about things on the trail itself, so we found that, if you located a camp site or water source that was even a few hundred yards off the trail, the thru hikers would be completely unaware of it. Like trail tunnel vision. Trail Vision.)
Day 6: Halfway There! Restocking Food & Supplies

  • Woke up this morning sooooo cold. "The ice planet of Hoth!"
  • Then stove broke, so no hot breakfast. 
  • We all cheer when the sun crests Mt. Adams. (Heat!)

  • Quickly make our way down, down, down. Through more old forest fire damage. Snacking on berries. 

  • Make good time, barely breaking and arrive at the road we were planning on meeting Joe. 
  • Hang out, talking to the man who is parked there, giving out fruit and snacks to the hikers. Waiting for his son & friend to come along... which the eventually, heartwarmingly do. 
  • Joe arrives! Photos of the kids are shared. Then we ask him to give us a ride down to Trout Creek to get supplies & a new stove. 
  • First stop a small general store where we sort through our food (in the stores parking lot). We are sending a lot back. with him.
  • Then head on to a Hardware store, where -even to the owners surprise- Sarah finds a tiny camp stove. We are back in business!
  • Joe gives us a ride back to the trail, we split a beer, say goodbye and start hiking up the trail.
  • Lots of ups and downs. 
  • Late lunch in a sunny field, making awkward conversation with a hiker.
  • My right knee starts acting up. 
  • Find our camping spot, wedged between to streams. 
  • Sadly! Sarah gets stung by a yellow jacket. 

Sunday, September 9, 2018

Hiking Section H of the PCT: Days 3 & 4

Day 3: Cispus River
  • Bad night of sleep. Very windy. 
  • Still windy in the morning but... the smoke has been blown away!
  • After a cold and windy breakfast, we set off, feeling optimistic because of the blue sky. 
  • After a couple of #blessed campsites, we see the Cispus River Tributary, a giant bowl fed by the Cispus River and several smaller rivers - and we can see it because of no smoke! (The "#blessed" comment is a joke we made regularly on the trail to describe campsites that might have amazing views, which you'd want to photograph for Instagram... but you'd never actually want to camp at because they were small and/or perched on a cliff.)
  • Stumble across surprised waterfall. 
  • Cross Cispus River and begin climb out of tributary (a basin, really, I think the map referred to it as a "tributary" so I kept using the word).
  • Another climb leads to another amazing valley, this one on the Yakima Reservation. 
  • Signs that read "No trespassing. Stay on trail."
  • Crazy hexagonal rocks push out of the earth, their broken off chunks looking like columns. 

  • Leaving the Reservation leads to a long, straight path which dominates the middle of the day. Hot!
  • Lunch at Sheep Lake. Lunch & wading. Dead salamanders. (We would hike pass enough Sheep Lakes on this hike that it became a bit of a joke. "Is there just some sort of itinerate sheep that travels between all the Sheep Lakes?)
  • After long straight march, break at Walpus Lake trail turn off. Old man with torn white hat finds a campsite and asks us to deliver a message to the "Czech & Polish girls behind me." (We had presumed they were friends, but when we later ran into the girls, who were significantly younger and quite attractive, they seemed perplexed. "We just met him this morning.")
  • Rest of the day is easy, flat walk through large trees. Ambika and Sarah talk the whole way. I'm exhausted from all the hiking and bad sleep. 
  • Camp at curve in trail, next to small stream. (There ended up being a bees nest in the site, but they seemed docile.)
Day 4: March to the Lava Field
  • Woke up after decent nights sleep and weird dreams.
  • Made breakfast of hashbrowns with spam and peppers. (Sarah, Ambika and I had divided meals up, so that we took turns with breakfasts and dinners. But, Sarah ended up planning mine and cooking over half of them. Because I'm spoiled rotten.)
  • First half of the day, made great time, doing 5 miles before noon, through flat forests with lots of lakes and mushrooms.
  • First lunch at lake side campsite. 
  • Second lunch at small idyllic stream w/ frogs. (Which we named.)

  • Left Goat Rock Wilderness, crossed a small dirt parking lot and entered a hot, dry forest where the path stretched straight as an arrow, seemingly forever. Only thing breaking it up was a gravel road that also stretched straight in both directions. 

  • Finally, through the trees, we began to see the lava field, which looked like a wall of boulders stacked 50ft high and running in each direction like a wall built by giants. 
  • Beyond that, hazy in the distance, we could make out the white peak of Mt. Adams.
  • Shortly, we arrived at Lava Springs, a section of the wall where spring water emerged from beneath it, and a stone bridge over the resultant stream. 
  • Talked with friendly Northbound section hikers who told us about a "short cut." Also, a crazy yerba matte drinking guy w/ a dog. 
  • A half mile hike uphill took us to our campsite next to the raging, brown, silt-filled Mudfork River.