Wednesday, August 20, 2008


It's official: I'm a wimp. The rain was just pouring this morning, so I decided to take another zero and relax under a free roof. Besides, I don't think I'll have this opportunity again for the rest of the trip along the Pacific Northwest Trail, so I should make the best of it. Plus, the fact that all of my friends were staying, friends who I perhaps won't ever see again, made me want to stay even more.

Gear notes:

I've done some gear swapping to prepare for the onslaught of WA rain that should creep in at some point.

-Umbrella: I'm really excited to have my umbrealla back for the rains out on Olympic National Park.
-Rain Jacket: No more windshirt which was ok in a drizzle, but invited hypothermia when worn alone. After an insanely creepy storm on Sonora Pass in California, I realized that my poncho-tarp wasn't really any good on exposed, windy ridges. Now I've got a cheapo 5 oz cyclist jacket made by O2 that the legendary Disco swears by. I've already noticed that it's horrible at cutting the winds we experience when hanging out by the river here, but I'll have to deal now.
-Warmer quilt: The 45 degree quilt that EVERYONE made fun of out here finally had to be swapped out for the 20 degree Nunatak one which I love fondly. Since I got the warm quilt, I made the sketchy decision to get rid of my insulated Montbell jacket and smartwool bottoms. We'll see if I can stay warm enough at night with this setup in an attempt to shave some packweight that was gained by adding the umbrella.

We're all getting a ride back to the trail tomorrow at 6 am since the rain should be stopping sometime tomorrow afternoon. In a day or so, we enter what is said to be one of the 3 most scenic parts of the trail: the Glacier Peak Wilderness. This area has been rocked hard by floods and landlides in the past few years, and promises to have some tricky navigation as well as lots of blowdowns to contend with. At this point, we're all up for the challenge and not too intimidated by it.

Can't wait to make the next post at beautiful Glacier, WA.

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Real Weather

Notice: I finally got around to erasing that god-aweful header of 'Enlightened Ultra-Adventurer' off of this page. It was an inside joke that made 4 of us laugh in Bend, but no one outside of our silly circle. There was a nice mix of Andrew Skurka and Backpacker insults hidden within.

Welcome to WA

Entering WA was a bit depressing. There were lots of clouds. No views. Lots of climbing. Disco and I were in some sort of funk, and he blamed the cloudy us Seasonal Affective Disorder like people get who live up here. I don't buy it, but I had no energy for those first 2 days out. We have started to find lots of wild fruite out here: huckleberries and strawberries. Fantastic and those boosted our mood.

It took a while for WA to grow on us, but it really blew our minds in the Goat Rocks Wilderness. The views grew massive, the wildflowers were out in full force, and we got our first dose of threatening weather for a while. We were up on a ridgewalk which Disco described as being similar to the interior of Glacier NP....deep, deep valleys with waterfalls everywhere. During this ridgewalk, clouds starting rolling in. Not happy cumulous...but dark, grey, and tall cumulonimbus. We were a bit nervous about the weather, me especially since my rain system was minimal at best: a wind-shirt and poncho-tarp. Luckily we made it down from the ridge, views unobscured by low-lying clouds, and camped for the night.

After 6 days without a town stop, we stopped into the 'town' of Steven's Pass...really just a gas station and ski resort. After a fantastic sandwich, it was off into mosquito territory. I left Disco and POD behind after another fantastic day being dazzled by so many wildflowers. Sad sad times since they were some of my best friends out here, and I don't think I'll ever see them again. I camped beside a tarn with a great view, to setup for my longest day yet: 70 miles of hiking. 70 MILES.

Hiking 70

To successfully hike 70 miles, I decided I needed to make use of every second of daylight. It was tough to sleep due to nervous anticipation, and I was out of camp at 4:55 am. I got to see the sun rise above the wilderness valley and I was off with great speed. There were a few large climbs up to passes providing spectacular views. There were downhills from these climbs where I was moving at 4.5 mph. Lots of hills were around to slow me down. At the 24 mile point, around noon, I was exhausted, and the day was barely 1/3 of the way done. I took a 30 minute break and felt completely refreshed. After about 40 miles, at 4:00, I met up with friend Gopher. He let me lead because he knew what I was doing, but he kept up with me for a good 30 minutes, giving me some conversation that I needed on the long day. After darkness came, and I hit the 50 mile mark, things started to get blurry. I had a decent amount of energy, but after mile 56, I had to take the caffeine pill and ibuprofin that POD had given to me. This gave me the boost I needed at took me to mile 65. At mile 65 or so, I started to run out of energy and begin yawning. Sitting for a 5 minute snack break, I decided to try to make the 70 miles within 24 hrs. This required a constant 3mph pace...usually doable without a problem, but 22 hrs into the hike, became a bit tough. Sadly, the terrain became much much harder than I've seen since the High Sierra. My tired muscles could barely handle the downhills, which felt way way steeper than I know they were. At points I had to jog down them because I felt like it was too difficult to control my muscles enough to hike normally. There were tons of rocks on the trail like the AT, causing me to wince at every painful step onto them, and jumping from rock to rock...avoiding mud...walking on icy snow. With 15 minutes to go, I didn't t hink I'd really make it. I started to walk as fast as I possibly could....very hard to do at this point. With 7 minutes to spare, I made it to the road...70 miles later. I found a space to sleep behind the ski lift, and drifted off.

After the 70 mile day, I had some long, tiring days until I caught up on sleep. The hiking was spectacular through the Alpine Lakes Wilderness. The last day before town, a storm rolled in, showering us with sprinkles all day long. I was hiking alone for that 31 mile day into town, and loved finally seeing clouds and watching the fog drift in to the mountains. It's very moody out here, and when the sun finally breaks through it feels like it has meaning...none of those boring blue skies like California always had.

No more updates until I'm westbound on the PNT I think.

Thursday, August 7, 2008

Bridge of the Gods

These past couple of weeks have been some of the best of my hike, due to two reasons: the Three Sisters Wilderness and the Eagle Creek Trail.

After firing a Glock 9mm and an AK-47 at the firing range in the high desert outside of Bend, we found our way back onto the trail on a beautiful day. The weather was superb, and the mosquitos were no more. The southern half of the Three Sisters Wilderness was full of typical forest far, but the northern half was so much more. Soon we were hiking out on the Wickiup Plain...huge open space full of rolling hills with the large peak of South Sister looming above. South Sister was probably the oddest mtn I'd seen at that point...the rock making up the mtn was a pretty and deep red color, and the glaciers up on the mtn and from the past had put odd scars into the sides. Instead of having a sharp peak like most other Cascade peaks seem to have, this was much more rounded. Hiking throuhg that plain was extremely fun, and each of the other sisters (Middle and North) were fun, but not that fun. Each of the sisters was it's own unique entity though, with glaciers doing a different number on each of them.

Once we got near Mt Jefferson, there was more snow than we've seen in months. There was quite a bit of fantastic ridgewalking, with creepy clouds rolling in. The clouds were dark, but didnt' look like they were towering enough to throw lightning at us. We got to the top of the ridge, and then a huge snowfield appeared. This field of snow wasn't too tough to navigate through, we've been hiking long enough to spot where a trail SHOULD be seen through the trees due to how far the trees are spaced apart, or maybe just through plain intuition. After coming down from this, we hit a wide open meadow that still had multiple of feet everywhere. I came down by myself and started to wander around looking for the trail, and soon San Gabriel, Forrest, POD, and Disco showed up to help. We wandered around for nearly 2 hrs, unable to find the trail. The problem wasn't just the snow, it was the fact that a pretty dense fog had crept in making it impossible to tell where the ridges were around us, and certainly impossible to see the 3 lakes we should have been able to use to navigate from which were below us somewhere. About 20 minutes before dark we decided to wait until morning, when hopefully the fog would burn off once the sun rose. That night the clouds finally broke giving us rain. The next morning there was still fog, but Forrest magically found the trail not that far below where we had camped.

Sometime after noon, the clouds all broke, and the day turned beautiful. There was quite a bit of dry ground, until we hit Jefferson Park. Again...bit open field....lots of snow, but no fog this time. We found our way to the ridge north of us...and climbed up to another snow-filled north slope. Descending from this turned into the high point of the day....we all just RAN and slid, and boot-skied down the mtn in record time.

With the snow behind us, it was time to fly toward Mt Hood on dry land. For some insane reason I started hiking the next day at a CONSTANT 4 mph pace...and did a 51 mile day to have a fantastic all you can eat breakfast at the swanky Timberline Lodge. Such good food.

Now I'm getting forced off the library computer at Cascade Locks...tomorrow I cross the Bridge of Gods that spans the Columbia River, and start a 3000 ft climb up into the state of Washington, where I will spend the next month and a half.