Monday, September 29, 2008

Into the fjords

Well, finally I have achieved another recent dream of mine: making it to Alaska via the state ferry system.

After 5 different bus connections in WA, I found myself at the Bellingham ferry terminal and shelling out $358 to take the ferry through the fjords of British Columbia and Southeastern Alaska to wind up in Haines. As soon as I boarded, set up my gear on the heated upper deck, and met everyone up there, I knew it was going to be a memorable experience. There were 25-30 yr old fisherman returning to Kethican to start a new fishin season, expecting to round up a few grand per week, then take a few months off of work and living on that cash. A few other people were just traveling through Alaska like myself. Tom, a Brit, is heading up to Anchorage to train dogs for mushing. Kim is just taking the ferry to Skagway, and returning on the ferry, without stepping into Skagway, just to spend a week out on these mystical waters. Within an hour we were into great conversation and the ferry was leaving the dock in Bellingham.

Vancouver Island on the Port side of the boat emitted lights at night that drowned out stars that we should have seen. When I awoke, there was what may have been the best sunrise I've seen on this entire trip. Next to the boat's wake, i couldn't believe that there were Dall Porpoises leaping through the sun-tinted red water. 30 minutes later after the sun finally reared its head over the mountains to the East, an enormous pod of at least 30 dolphins was swimming right next to the ferry. They were close enough that I could even hear them making their high pitched sounds. Very very cool. A few hours later there was an announcement on the PA telling us that whales were spotted at the front of the boat. Sure enough, we saw 2 whales, and throughout the day saw a few more. The wildlife out here is dense.

Bethany and Tom wound up turning into really good friends, and we spent time together walking into the first port town, Ketchican. The weather was typical Southeast Alaska fare: cold, cloudy, windy, rainy. We made it toward Creek Street, which was a fantastic boardwalk perched upon pilings to keep the 'street' out of the creek below. There were business and a boardwalk for pedestrians all elevated above a large creek. In the creek we couldn't believe that we saw hundreds, no THOUSANDS of salmon. The air reeked of death, and we later found out that many fish were now dying since they finished their runs for spawning. There were a few fish floating on the top of the water, hundreds and hundreds below swimming, and soon a seal came into view and snagged a fish! We'd see this seal later in the day swimming around the creek, not seeking fish, but seemingly having a good time. What a scene! After wandering around the 'street' checking out toursity shops and native art, we walked the boardwalk over some rapids in the creek. There were salmon flying through the air, trying to fight their way upstream, but we didn't see any of the make it.

I glanced at my watch and realized that we only had 40 minutes to get back to the ferry before it left again, and the ferry was 2.5 miles away. We walked casually, then had to run the last mile to make it back just in the knick of time. The further we headed north from this point, the thicker the fog would become, and the less we could see.

Nearly all of the rest of yesterday was spent inside of the ferry. Conversations. Book reading. Naps. Nothing exciting. Today, it was a bit sad to tell Bethany and Tom goodbye when they got off the boat in Juneau. 2 hours later the scenery got fantastic. I happened to spot a waterfall coming out downhill from a glacier so I stepped out into the intense wind and rain to check it out. Hidden in a calm doorway, I was amazed that finally we have entered the signs of autumn in Alaska. Half of the hillsides were covered in yellow trees, growing on what appeared to be sheer cliffs that dropped into the ocean. No beach. Finally this was the Coast Range of alaska, and these mountains were huge and impressive. Lots of snow on peaks. More glaciers. More waterfalls. And many more photographs taken.

I stepped off the boat finally in Haines, got a quick lift from a local who claimed the security onboard had torn his van apart, and was surprised that the town is even smaller than I expected. Great setting and I can't wait to explore it even more.

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Details of a Dead Whale

I'm going to try to do more justice to the end of my journey now.

Leaving Forks I had to do a 9 milish roadwalk to get out to the scam that was and is Oil City. I got a lift from an Indian man out of town and began walking on the busiest section of active logging that I've seen yet. At least 50 dumptrucks and logging trucks flew by me as I walked along, but it didn't bother me since I knew the ocean was drawing closer with each step. When I was nearly to the end of this roadwalk, I was blown away with an unexpected advantage of all of these trucks flying by: odd natural sepia tones. The road was primarily dirt and gravel, and when the trucks flew by creating clouds of dust of this material, it would settle on the surrounding foliage. This made for fantastic photography as I tried to get the odd brown look of all of the plants that should have been green, and oftentimes a bright yellow flower would be transposed over top to give a truly surreal appearance to the scene.

Finally I got to the ocean. I've already written about what an experience seeing the ocean was for the first time. What I forgot to include was how odd the sound of the ocean was. The sea was at low tide, which I was unaware of at the time, and emmited a constant low rumble. I couldn't really make out the sound of each individual wave, but instead there was just the steady sound of brown noise that the sea churned out. Very odd when coupled with the monotone visuals of the area and unreal amount of driftwood brought out by the river. Later I found out that this area gets psychotic storms in December, oftentimes with winds over 100 mph! That knocks down absurd amnts of old trees, evidenced by the washouts I saw in many valleys, the rivers bring them out to sea, and the sea brings them back to the beach. It was also fun to hear about how much the beach changes each year near the river areas as the sand is always shifting. This environment is truly alive.

The first 3 days were very fun while getting used to the seastacks out at sea. Sometimes the walking would be on sand freshly packed by a retreated high-tide, the other times would be on very very slippery rocks that covered the beach. A few days into the trip, I had to do a 3 mile roadwalk into the town of La Push to pick up care packages that a few friend sent to me. On the way into town I met two guys finishing a cycling trip from Seattle to La Push, and it was really inspiring to see them doing it 'outlaw style' with mountain bikes and huge army backpacks, obviously doing it on a shoestring budget. They were also having a great time.

Although I had planned to try to offer someone $20 at the marina for a ride across the unfordable river, I instead took the .75 bus and then a 5 mile roadwalk to get to the coast on the other side. This is when high tide was in full form and I saw how massive the waves could get out here, which isn't something I had seen before. I was actually a bit scared by how large the waves were, and could finally understand how surfers were able to surf out here on these dangerous seas littered with underwater seastacks. The tide was high enough to force me onto driftwood to stay out of the water. After doing this painfully slow hiking on driftwood, balancing above a few creeks draining into the sea, I decided to hike on the ocean side of the driftwood. This meant hiking when the waves would receed into the ocean, hopping up onto a log as a waved crashed in to stay dry, and repeat. This took me to a large cliff where water was lapping right up to the side of the cliff, a few feet deep. I could have waited and stared at the seastacks, rare blue sky, and waves, or I could try to dash around the cliff when the water was right. Naturally I chose the latter. It was fun getting around that headland without slipping on the descent from the partial climb of the cliff, and not getting soaked by the waves. A trip highlight for sure.

Next I got to a headland that was impossible to get around until the tide dropped another 2 feet, an hour later. I waited with 4 guys from Seattle and 3 others from Vancouver. Fun times. Finally the water was shallow enough to wade through a foot of water around the cliff and made it to camp with an hour of daylight. Keep in mind that i was hiking 10 to 12 mile days, so things were relaxed nearly all day.

The next 2 days were all cloudy, with not much social interaction. The next to last day I camped in the woods since pitching a tarp was very very tricky in the loose sand. I drank my 22 oz budweiser, slept under a slight drizzle, and hiked my last day to the little island. There was the dead whale on the island and the sea lions at sea as I described before. A couple of deer stalking campsites for food, and my photo taken by two guys returning from Shi Shi Beach.

Yesterday I spent the day primarily bouncing from bus to bus to get a package shipped from my parents of normal clothing to wear on the AK ferry, in AK, and any future travels before returning to ATL. I met a woman who just finished a cycling trip on the peninsula, again more inspiration for a cycling trip! Sleeping in the bunker was surprisingly warm last night, and I know that I've found a great spot to sleep in for the next 3 nights. It was a really nice 40 minute walk during surnise through sleepy P.T. streets to grab some coffee at the record store slash espresso joint and pick up a couple of used books to read while I'm here. I'm really starting to feel at home in this small town.

Monday, September 22, 2008

Land's End

Well, yesterday around noon I finally finished my hiking. It put a cap on about 5 days of spectacular hiking along the Washington coast. All of those days were grey except for one full of blue skies. That day was also probably the most fun since there were 2 headland sections that saw me waiting for waves to recede before rushing around the cliff, all instead of waiting for high tide to go back.

I'm a bit lazy right now to do a proper write-up, but it's easy to say that the coast was more amazing than I had expected. The moment I walked out onto the beach at Oil City, I was completely mesmerized by the odd black and white of the coast. The sky was blanketed with white clouds, the ocean had no real color since the sky had none, and there was nothing but thousands of driftwood logs around as well as seagulls bathing in the water where river met sea. That first hour was completely perplexing, but soon the feeling faded (sadly) and I got used to the way that the WA coast is. I met well over 20 incredible people. Camped with quite a few. Had a great stew with a group of retired guys from Orcas Island who had caught Black Bass, Mussels, and seaweed (not a tough catch) that morning and treated me to some. So delish. Other highlights were having a cup of chai tea with a couple from Seattle, and having a conversation with a Russian woman about their situation with Georgia and the way the US media is misrepresenting what is going on over there.

Somehow I managed to get not a drop of rain in my 10 days of Olympic National Park hiking. I got to what I assumed was Cape Alava, which really is just a stretch of beach with no definable characterististics other than maps show it as the furthest point west on land in the lower 48. At lowtide, turns out there is an island that the locals call 'cannonball island' that has an exposed sandbar which allows you to hike further west on it. I hiked out onto this island, but not before nearly tripping over a beached sea lion! What a massive creature, and its laziness somehow made me sad. Out on that island, I had the place to myself, took some pictures, and ate a celebratory apple since my celebratory beer had been drank the night before. Of course it was cloudy and I could hear waves crashing, but there was also the cacophony of hundreds of sea lions moaning out on another island a mile or so out to sea.

Walked 3 miles back inland, and within an hour had a lift back to Port Townsend with a fascinating man who actually has a house in the park on the beach, hidden behind trees, that he refused to sell to the govt when they tried to take all of this land to build the coastal addition to the park. Great conversation with a cool man to end the trip.

Last night I actually took a real shower, did real laundry, and slept on a real bed, all things I hadn't done since Skykomish. Even had a towel! Tonight and the next few nights I plan on sleeping in the WWII bunkers in a state park just outside of town. It's right next to the beach, so I can wake up and stare at the waves as I munch on a bagel. Come Friday at 6:00 pm, I'll be loading onto a ferry headed for Haines, which is some 3 days away at sea. Getting excited.

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Autumn in the Olympics

For the first time in my life I considered the following: Maybe I should turn back, there are more important things than hiking straight to the ocean like family, friends, and future adventures. Here I was, doing the most intense bushwack of my life up what was surely the steepest slope I've hiked along in my life, with no trail other than what I assumed was ROUGH mountain goat trail to follow.

Everything was going so well before this. I had even begun to think about how I couldn't believe that I was going to make it. All trail would be ahead of me, no nonsense logging roads or 'scratch trails' made by the PNT. The ranger on the phone talked me into a reroute through the Buckhorn Wilderness by roadwalking an unplanned 15 miles down to the town of Quilcene. I had to hike FAST...had 3.5 hrs to hike 14 miles. I didn't think I'd make it, but I made it with time to spare, and felt like I could easily justify my pizza, fries, and strawberry shake. I hiked east a bit and entered the fantastic Buckhorn Wilderness. I followed the Quilcene river upstream until I hit Marmot Pass. Quite a few others had the same idea, and at the top one girl gave me her yogurt pretzls after we exchanged stories. Hers was of travels in South America and how I needed to go, and I told her stories of hiking from Mexico to Canada and now here.

One thing I did not anticipate about this hike is that I would see the seasons changing again. I got to experience beautiful cacti flowering in SoCal, and now at the top of the passes east of the Olympic rainshadow, I was seeing ginormous patches of red and oranges in meadows. I'd hike right next to this low-lying red brush, and when seen across a valley, the sides of each mountain were splashed with red and orange and yellow. Beautiful.

The eastern side of the Olympics were quite dry, which I'm discovering is how I tend to prefer my mountains these days. Very rocky above treeline. Not much undergrowth when actually under trees. The next pass, Constance, was even better. This pass I had entirely to myself to nap on. The view was even better than Marmot Pass, with deep deep valleys below me, and of courses more flourishes of autumn color. The descent was a different story. I had to drop 4,000 feet in about 4 miles. This was definitely the steepest trail I've hiked since the descent to Ross Lake. I ran at least half of it since it was such a pain to hike such a steep slope. That night after getting to the bottom at the Dosewallips River, I camped at a beautiful spot at Lillian Camp.

The next day was the day of Appleton Pass. Things began innocently enough with a gorgeous rainforest walk through the Elwah River Valley. Then I started the approach to Appleton. I was warned by two guys going downhill that there was some avalanche damage, and to look for the trail uphill. Finally I got to the avalanche area, which consisted of TONS of flattened trees all over the mountain. People had mashed down tree branches and such from this mess to walk upon, forming somewhat of a trail. I got to the 'cairn' the guys told me about, and saw this 'path' heading uphill, to the left as they said. So I followed. For the first 1/4 of a mile, I had to scootch along a log, rested a foot on a snow bridge (in september!) that broke under my foot, and then that trail disappeared. There were a few tiny trails in all directions where I assumed that people had branched their own way. I decided to make my own way as well. I had to pull myself up using the bottom of trees uphill, constantly scrambling and climbing with my hands, utilizing them as often as my foot. I slid a couple of times downhill 10 feet or so before managing to stop the fall by latching onto a root or tree. If I would have slid further, it would have resulted in me toppling over a 15 foot cliff that was carved out by the creek I was paralleling. At this point I though maybe I should turn around, but just couldn't make myself do it, especially since I was only a mile or so away. I kept following the creek uphill which the crappy map seemed to indicate the trail did. Finally after over an hour spent climbing 1 mile, I reached a meadow area, no trail. I wandered all around for at least an hour above treeline hoping to cross the trail. Never did. I decided to give up for the night, and go back downhill for the night.

After sleeping in the middle of what I was told was bear country (scat EVERYWHERE) and in the middle of a mountain goat trail, I was awoken by the trotting of mountain goats. I made sure to make lots of noise so they wouldn't trample me since I was hidden by tall grass. After a scary descent back down that same steep drainage area, I found a trail! It was down at the bottom by the cairn, but in a totally different direction from where I came. I probably would have discovered this a bit earlier, but I lost my map 1/4 way up the climb when it got caught in a tree unbeknownst to me. I was so so so so so so so happy to find that trail, and not give up the section or do some goofy reroute via roads.

I climbed the Pass, walked the High Divide...beautiful valleys everywhere. View of the massive glacier on Mt Olympus. Great convo and view on Bogachiel Peak of the ocean with a couple from Seattle. Then walked thru idyllic Hoh Rainforest, complete with some of the biggest trees I've seen on the hike, and lots of really impressive nursing trees.

18 roadwalking miles later, I got to the intensely hot Hwy 101. 15 minutes later I was inside an SUV getting a ride from Jessica, an 07 PCT thruhiker. Next year she plans to kayak the Yukon River all the way to the Arctic Ocean with her boyfriend! As soon as I got to town I gorged on tacos like she told me, got a great pizza and ice cream, then stealthed in a spot on the south side of town. Since I didn't pay for lodging in this town, that makes me successful at not paying for lodging since South Lake Tahoe, about 2,000 miles ago! Sweetness.

I'm about to head out of town for about 11 miles of roadwalking along Oil City Rd to get out to the ocean where I'll camp next to the mouth of an unfordable river. This will set me up nicely for a headland that can only be rounded at a 2 ft tide, perfect for the morning. Next update I should be finished, hopefully celebrating in that town I loved so much, Port Townsend. Then the blog will turn into v2: the ferry and hitch to Anchorage.

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

The Sea & The Rhythm

Not much time to update with the evil public internet countdown telling me I have 7 minutes remaining in my session. so..

Roadwalked out of Anacortes sans Shinsplint...definitely a good day already. I climbed Mt Erie, which didn't have the great view that the guidebook suggested. Oh well. Lots of roadwalking until I got to the beautiful Deception Pass State Park at the head of a new island...Whidbey Island. Did a bit of beach walking which was very relaxing with waves on this island! More roadwalking took me near an Air Force Base which was the most annoying part of the hike yet. Planes were CONSTANTLY circling overhead, and LOUD. I came very close to taking the FREE! bus into town into a library or coffeeshop just to get a break from the madness. I was actually at a bus stop looking at a map to see, but decided to keep walking.

About 2 hrs before nightfall, I was out of range of that damn base, and finally back on the beach. Joseph Whidbey S.P. didn't allow camping, but I found a sweet spot regardless. Great sleeping next to the waves.

Today saw me do half beach walking, quarter high up on bluffs, and a quarter on roads. The bluffs were quite beautiful, and the highlight of the past few days was walking on the side of one of these bluffs around a Lagoon. Great great views of the glistening ocean below...200 ft or so below. Caught the ferry just in the knick of time, and found some surprise care packages at the PO...good times.

Port Townsend is a fantastic town I can tell. Great old buildings, cool town layout, and more beautiful women than I can recall seeing in a trail town in MONTHS. The weather is gorgeous out as well: blue skies and 70 degrees. Tomorrow I'll knock out 15 miles or so on road, and thats about all the road walking I'll do (crossing fingers) until getting to the Hoh Rainforest.

Till Forks....

Monday, September 8, 2008

A day of rest

Well, I decided to take a zero day today.

Last night turned into an interesting night since I wound up selecting a stealth camping spot near a bum hangout! It was really just one homeless man, a guy who claimed to have been educated in nuclear engineering. I may be gullible, but he surely seemed to have the proper jargon. Anyway, he told me I had chosen a good spot because the police had kicked him out of the fancy shmancy park in town a few days ago, but directed him to the spot that we were sharing. He also managed to tell me many cool details about the area that made me happy to have met him. Sure there was some mumbling, sure he asked me for change this morning at McDonalds because he didn't recognize me, yes he offered me some Port, Champagne, and Whiskey, and yes, he even confessed that he had a warrant out for his arrest for Petty Theft in the next county over. I still slept in the same spot, just made sure I slept with my camera inside my bivy with me! Good times in Anacortes!

Shin split still acting up today, but getting better. The upside to staying in town for another day to heal is that I discovered one of my favorite bands, Earth, is playing in Anacortes on the 20th. I went to the record store to investigate, and it turns out that the venue they are playing is an old Department of Safety building that was converted into an art space and all ages venue. The dude at the record store told me to go check out the art studio, so I knocked on the door and they let me in. Some cool photography and sound installation by an artist from Australia.

Tonight I will not sleep by the homeless chap who has also been to the Maritime provinces of Canada, but instead I've scoped a sweeter spot near some yachts by the bay. Probably won't bother updating in 2 days in the town of Port Townsend since I'll just leave early the next day to make up for my time off here. I'm hoping to get to Forks in about a week, get online there to appease all of my hungry fans, then make it to La Push a few days later for a possible hitch/bus/ferry back to this island for that Earth concert if it all times out right. It'll be time for another day off by then anyway. Then will come the final push up the coast, which I"m way excited about. The other day on the horrendous roadwalk, a cyclist came over, offered me a peach, and told me his favorite spot in WA is Ozette, which is right next to Cape Alava, which is a Cape I'll pass just before finishing. He waxed poetic about the petroglyphs on the rocks. I"m even more excited than I was before that maybe I'll wax poetic about them as well once I finish.

Until that waxing....

Sunday, September 7, 2008

Saltwater at last!

Yesterday was a beautiful day. A day that finally saw me dipping my hands into salty salty water to wash my face in the blinding sun. Man it's bright down here out of the woods. Let me retrace my steps:

The roadwalk out of Glacier was pretty nice. Let me go back a bit more: I never actually stayed the night in Bellingham. Lucas and his sis decided to go to Orcas Island to hit up the skatepark, which left me without a place to crash. Way too many homeless folk in Bellingham, way too much traffic...all contributing to my desire to go back to quiet, home-ish Glacier. Those guys gave me a ride to the bus stop where the determined I could get back to within 15 miles of Glacier for only $.75. Well, on any day but Labor Day. That left me hitching back...which took about 5 short rides, an IPA, and a Hawaiian Pizza with salmon on it later.

9 Miles hiking on the shoulder of scenic HWY 542 went by pretty quickly with no traffic on a Tue afternoon, and massive massive glacier-robed Baker Mtn on my side. I made it to the swampy Swift Creek trail just as darkness was descending, and camped next to my first blaze on the PNT. The Swift Creek trail was an easy trail to follow, completely unlike the rangers told me it would be. Had a fun time getting back to the trail in TOTALLY overgrown woods on the otherside of the Swift Creek ford. MOre following of colored ribbons...some of which lead to nowhere, some of which lead me to a new trail.

Next up was the logging road section. This had turned out to be much more beautiful, and much more difficult than I had imagined. Envision this: I started hiking the 542, went over the shoulder of Baker Mtn, down a few thousand in elevation, and then into Logging Land that took me along the nothern ridges of the Skagit Valley. This valley is BEAUTIFULLY rich farming valley that trends east-west, my ridge was the northern one. I followed logging roads (losing them often) while heading west and toward the ocean, all the while this valley was to the south of me. Somewhere near Goat Mtn, I saw the saltwater for the first time to the west. What a phenomenal sight. Finally the rain had stopped a day or so ago. There were no clouds. The weather was the best I'd had in a week. And there was the ocean. Having a concrete destination that I could see made me really start hiking hard to get out to the sea. Problem 7 yr old maps dont have all of the forks of these roads on them. Lots of the logging roads aren't numbered or signed. Lots of frustration resulting from walking down the wrong road. Lots of elation from using a map and compass correctly and giving me such a good feeling.

Next day saw me going over Anderson Mtn on more logging roads. The view from the top gave me the best sunset of the trail, something that has become a trend as I'm looking west all the time, and there are always marine clouds in the sky these days. The sea was getting closer and closer. On the west side of Anderson Mountain, I began seeing white blazes on trees for the first time. This made it so I didn't have to look at my map every 5 minutes to verify where I was. It's nice, but also lazy...but a nice change of pace.

I made it to the tiny tiny town of it national news that this town had a random shooting of 5-6 people on the street? There was a candlelight vigil going on as I walked into down at dusk. The bar delivered a fantastic burger and some great beer....exactly what I had been dreaming of for the past 3 days. Exactly what had kept me going through some of the harder times on those damn loggging roads. When I was leaving, an awesome guy named River walked up and asked if I needed a place to crash. Of course I did. He led me back to his table where I met his 2 other friends, then we went back to their place. They lived at an old rock quarry .5 miles out of town. Totally off the grid. They have solar panels hooked up..and they lived out of individual tour busses, a van, and I got MY OWN YURT~!~!!! to sleep in. Great guys...fed me good oatmeal with fresh, locally made applesauce the next morning before taking off.

Yesterday I finally made it down to Samish Bay after a fantastic overlook, complete with Para-sailers taking off from it of Vancouver Island, the Olympic Mountains, the San Juan Islands, and lots of deep blue ocean. Gorgeous. There was pavement to be pounded, and pound it I did. Down here near Samish and Padilla Bays there are many many farms. It's been superb hiking in such flat land. Not because it's easy, but because there is such a contrast in this minimalistic ground/sky relationship that I"m not used to in the dynamic folds up high in the mountains. Some goats followed me. Dogs keep barking at me. Lots of stares toward the funny man in the skirt by passers-by in their cars.

Today the roadwalking finally got to me and I"m developing a shin splint and an achilles problem. I plan a short day tomorrow after picking up mail at the PO to set up a total beach walk the next day at low tide along the legendary Strait of Juan de Fuca...which I"m very excited about. Lots of hundred foot high bluffs that can't be hiked in front of during high tide. More bald eagles I"m sure. Anacortes is a decent town, but it's no Glacier. Maybe I'll post some pics tomorrow...I'd really like to, before heading out of town, climbing Mt Eerie, then sleeping on the coast. Tonight I"ll try to stealth downtown in the beautiful public park.

Monday, September 1, 2008


Alpine country is constantly hidden in the fog. The clouds condense onto the vegetation on the mountains. This vegetation is always draped over the trail. I'm always walking through these plants. My legs get soaked, which then drip into my shoes. My feet are soaked. This is the tune that keeps playing that I'm growing used to in the Pacific Northwest.

Although the past week or so haven't been very rewarding in terms of views when I'm up high, when I'm down low under the canopy of trees, the constant moisture has proven to be absolutely beautiful. Trees growing on dead nursing trees. Moss on everything. Ferns everywhere. Massive trees. Green slugs.


Leaving Skykomish toward the end of the thunderstorm was a good thing. Just out of town, we all got wet and cold though, and hiked a really really fast 29 miles so we could hide in our tents from the moisture inside our warm down bags. The next day turned into a really rewarding one, a day that started with snow! On the climb up, it started to snow, and this gave everything up high a really pretty look that the marmots were whistling to. Views opened up, and I was surprised at how unique the mountains were. They looked similar to southern california, but very very high up. Large mountains, bigger valleys, and fun hiking under clouds that were starting to break up.

We hiked a bit faster than planned, and wound up in a bus headed into the town of Stehekin just as the rain was coming down. This town turned into one of the best towns I've ever seen. No roads enter this town other than a 10 mile dead end road that runs from the mountains to the town. Huge mountains dump into a beautiful lake that the town is based around. The bakery had some fantastic day-old pastries for 2.25. Naturally I took advantage of the free intown camping as well as the showers for $.50 to offset my FANTASTIC $17 italian dinner.

Once we left Stehekin the weather got bad again, and never really improved. A group of 7 of us made it past the trail magic of beer to camp together at Rainy Pass. The next day we all got split up. A 30 mile day had us camping at Hart's Pass, and the next morning we stumbled upon a yurt in the mist. We had heard rumors of a yurt that we could use, but couldn't believe it when we found this yurt down in the valley full of fog. Truant, Sweetfish, and I were all soaking wet and cold, and the yurt was a dream come true. It was complete with mountaineering magazines, futons, beds, and even a pair of kitchen gloves for Sweetfish to keep his hands dry. We stayed for an hour, and then finally forced ourselves back into the fog.

That final day on the PCT we all had fun together knowing that it would be the final day we would be hiking with each other. We took a long break sitting on a huge log at Holman Pass where I would turn west the next day. I figured the border was about 20 minutes away when I rounded a turn and suddenly saw a huge gap in the forest, the border. There is a huge line of missing trees which defines the border between the US and Canadia. The ending of this trail was the complete opposite of the AT, where we had been staring at Katahdin for days, and then were looking at the peak for miles as we were climbing up. I was so shocked to be done with the PCT that I'm still stunned. That night the 3 of us had a great time camping .2 miles into Canada while our other friends went down 7 miles ahead of us into the resort because they were wet and cold.


The next morning was sad leaving Truant and Sweetfish, but once I got moving I was inspired to be alone. Still, I spent the entire day thinking back to good memories of the PCT and missing their company. Of course the views were still in the fog and I was soaked, but around 1:00, the sun started to break through and I could see into some distant valleys in the Pasaytan

I took a long break at Holman Pass, the point 17 mi south of the border where I would be leaving the PCT for the PNT. Once I turned onto the PNT I was stunned to find a ziploc with a piece of paper labeled 'Eric J Payne'. Once I opened it, I found an encouraging note and a pack of M&Ms from my friend Lost. A great surprise that really put me into a good mood to start the climb up to Sky Pilot Pass. Immediately I could tell that the trail was tougher than the PCT. This hasn't changed much to this day.

I'd say that the PNT reminds me of the climbs of the AT, except with switchbacks to show exactly how steep the mtns really are, the moisture and undergrowth of the Eagle Creek Trail, and the views and valleys of the Glacier Peak Wilderness. A lot of the junctions aren't labeled, keeping me on my toes with map and digital compass. There have been some really fun stream crossings on fallen logs. Following blue ribbons in the trees. Not many people out there.

I made it into the town of Glacier last night after an IMMEDIATE pick up when hitching in a VW van with a dude listening to Rage Against the Machine. There was a spot on top of moss begging for me to set up my tarp on it hidden behind the Forest Service office. The italian joint supplied me with handmade spinach ravioli in a creamy walnut sauce and the general store hooked up a 6.99 22 oz of Stone Bitter Chocolate Oatmeal Stout which I enjoyed while writing in my journal sitting on a picnic bench near my camp. This morning I got a few baked books from the 'Wake n Bakery' with some great organic coffee. Boredom took over and I decided to hitch into the next town over, Maple Falls, which promised not much more than a gas station/coffee shop with hopefully a better newspaper selection than the Bellingham Gazette. I got picked up by a couple who offered me a place to stay in Bellingham, a city I had planned on visiting. Now I've got internet and relaxation before taking a $.75 bus to Kendall, which will put me 15 miles west of Glacier to pick up my mail drop tomorrow when the PO FINALLY opens at 2:15. whew.

Huge glaciers. Waterfalls on par with the High Sierra. Green, green, green. Fog. And now Ive got a mediocre camera to capture it all, and maybe I'll keep uploading photos for all of my 'fans'. Haha. Next update will probably be in Anacortes where I'll take a half day off.