Adventures on the Pacific Crest Trail

I'm Dana Law. I've been hiking the Pacific Crest Trail for the last 10 years in sections. I've hiked a total of 2188 miles and I'm 470 miles from the terminus at the Canadian Border. Please enjoy this journal, pictures and video from the last ten years adventures. If you have any questions about hiking the trail please contact me at mindreader@gmail.com

Name:
Location: El Cajon, California, United States

Monday, December 01, 2014

I'll arrive at the Canadian border next year!

Next August 17th I'll start my 30th and last section on the Pacific Crest Trail. I'll leave Stevens Pass where I stopped last August and walk 193 miles to the Terminus, about 10 days of hiking.  My family will meet me at Manning Park on the Canadian side. It's been a wonderful adventure. It's bittersweet to think it will end. I'll keep you posted in the run up to the last section and alert you to my upcoming talks about the trail.

Monday, September 29, 2014

Pacific Crest Trail section 29 in Washington State! 288 miles from Wind River Road to Stevens Pass.

Day 1; August 13


I hit the trail at Wind River Road at about noon after being dropped off by Sheryl Ferris and her cousin Norma Fite.  It was deja vu to see where I left off last year; I remember looking wistfully across the road to the trail ahead and being glad I was done for the year.  I was light on water when I set out but benefited from a trail angel cache along the way.


I ran into PCT royalty Scott Williamson and took a selfie.  He couldn't have been nicer. "Some people call me Dink," he said.   




It was a dry camp on a "Volcano Cap" that night.  I was glad to finish for the day, since the pack is heavy.  


Day 2-5; August 14-17


There was a big rain in the morning before I hit the trail, so at least the trail dust was nil, a big difference from previous trips.  I met Sister Sue at the road to Trout Lake.  I'm at the front bubble of through-hikers for this year and women comprise about 20% overall.  Most are with boyfriends, about half of whom have successfully proposed marriage.  


When I got to Road 60 I received a banana and kindness from a Trail Angel.  Minutes before I arrived, a through hiker had been picked up by EMT's.  He threw up during the previous night, left his tent, got lost, and wandered about suffering from mild hypothermia before being found.  You have to be careful out there.  


When you start the trail and are asked where you started, most people will know where that's at.  When you get in 60 miles, though, most people don't recognize the name or the place where you started.  We all have a familiar geographical sphere we're familiar with.


I slept well for a few days but then it was hit and miss.  I always spent about 9 hours horizontal, but spent half of them awake and thinking about everything.  Why is it that after an exhausting day you don't just pass out?


I wear a meeting badge holder around my neck when I hike to carry my smartphone.  It's my GPS, memo recorder, camera and audiobook holder.  I listened to 5 audio books during the less interesting parts of the trail and while in camp.  I listened to Stephen King's Mr. Mercedes, a good whodunit in his inimitable voice.  Nothing supernatural. The ending put a lump in my throat, plus took a twist that raised the hair on my neck.  One of his characters calls Chiropractors "Back Breakers".


I carry my PCT business cards and gave out a dozen of them to hikers who might need my help when they do the southern section.  I'm also wearing a Fitbit - it works fitfully. One day that it did work it claimed I did 58,000 steps, but it was probably closer to 50,000.  A 10,000 step day is considered the basic minimum for some kind of fitness.  I lost almost 10 pounds on this trip even though I ate a lot of food.    


For the first three days on the trail, it was like walking through a green tunnel with an overcast sky, cool and viewless.  After four days in, the skies are clearing making for easier days with some views.


The Mount Adams Glacier has been described as a frozen waterfall.  It’s an apt description.  






I had a tough ford at the roaring Adams creek.  It was really three separate running creeks side by side, with tricky rock-hopping and log-balancing to get across.  Of course my feet got wet.  I got expert assistance on both sides through semaphore signals on where to cross, the roar from the creek making conversation nearly impossible.  


Later I passed several horseman with very skittish animals.  I leaned against the slope of a narrow and steep traverse to allow them to pass.  I worried for the riders.  The perfectly named Muddy River appeared to be flowing with milk chocolate.  I arrived at Lava Springs for "the purest water on the PCT" according to the handbook.  I didn't filter.  It was delicious.


I passed two of three Sheep Lakes on the trail.  All along the trail you find duplicate and triplicate names.  There are three Rattlesnake Mountains in Southern California.  I camped near a mother, son and daughter having a wonderful time.  They say you should always eat as a family, but taking a trip outdoors together is even better.  I set up my tent in a slight depression which could have turned into a tub in a downpour.  It’s always hard to find a flat spot to camp.  I ran across a huge exhausted man that day, with a giant overstuffed pack, big tummy overlapping his waist belt, florid of face.  He was "slowly" hiking to Goat Rocks with the bracelet of his son who loved to hike but who had tragically died two years earlier.  "I'm going to toss his bracelet as far as I can at the Goat Rocks as a testament to his memory," he said.  It was very moving.


I caught my first glimpse of Mount Saint Helens. They should call this the Volcano Section!  




There was a water gap of 15 miles today.  Nothing is more important than having enough water, and I knew I would have a 23 mile gap further ahead.  


The Goat Rocks (video) is one of the most beautiful and dramatic parts of the PCT, but the trail is steep, rugged, perilous, and exhausting.  I met a German hiker up there on his second through hike.  He’s called "Refill" because he always loves a refill, I suppose of soda at a break from the trail when you can't get enough to eat or drink.  He asked if I wanted a photo up there and it was an important reminder to help fellow hikers get a memory of the trail with your camera.  I've learned that taking time to visually concentrate on important or dramatic parts of the trail is a practical memory device.  I'm able call up visual memories of the trail if I've seriously focused on them.  I have many photos but I feel my visual memories are just as clear.


I passed through 300 yards of snow on the way up, carefully putting my feet into previous hikers’ impressions and firmly placing my hiking sticks in the snow.  I have no desire to glissade down to the rocks below.  


Later on I ran into Mr. President, who said, "Later I want to take my time through the Goat Rocks to experience it better."  I don't agree.  


Day 6; August 18


Reaching White Pass was a relief.  A half mile west off the trail are the Kracker Barrel and the White Pass Village Inn.  I ate a big lunch, washed my clothes, got my resupply, and communed with through-hikers.  The inn and the store are part of the same outfit that has ski slopes across the highway.  If you blink you'll miss the whole thing.  For dinner I ordered a salad "as big as my head", a Salmagundi of everything fresh and edible in the store, which is not on the menu.  It fed three hikers; including myself, Mr. President, and Arctic Fox.  


Day 7; August 19


Last night I slept in a perfectly decent Murphy bed, but slept poorly and felt enervated in the morning.  I felt like giving up.  Character is trudging on when you don't feel like it.  I was truly exhausted all day.  


Today I met Timberline and Knockout.  There are so many interesting trail names.  I'm Magician only because I've never been named on the trail so I’m going with the eponymous moniker.  I think I met or passed 75 or 80 people during my 15 days on the trail, less than half of them through-hikers.  Most are people on a day-hike or a several day journey between mountain passes.  I also saw a dozen or so equestrians.  If you want to be mostly alone, go for a hike.  


I've read John Muir and Henry David Thoreau.  Nature's OK but I don't have a strong connection with the plants and the trees like they did.  I don't go into reveries in the wilderness.  True, there are high points along the way.  A dramatic view (video), a high mountain pass, a tough river crossing, an azure lake and a beautiful stand of trees.  But I'm drawn to the trail for the challenge and adventure.  I've realized that I have enough discipline, concentration, and drive to accomplish this very difficult task.  That is very rewarding.  The effort necessary to keep walking uphill with your house on your back is astounding; strenuous does not come close to describing it.  Meeting the challenge is incredibly satisfying.  


Today I met "Grandfather", age 56, with his twin granddaughters, maybe 8 years old.  "We walked 7 miles today!", one of them said.  I met Clarence and Sterling at camp that night.  We broke bread together.  Clarence is a self-described "Cradle Catholic", and Sterling is a retired Marine Sergeant from South El Monte, my home town!  They were just two older guys out for a few days on the trail.  Clarence said, "I don't like sports and gave up pork like the Orthodox and it cleared up my health problems.  It's Biblical."  Yet they were eating MRE's and bacon wrapped hot dogs.  Great characters.


Day 8; August 20


Fording Bumping river was a bit tricky, but luckily I only got a wet toe.  A later hiker sunk to his knees.  River crossings are spooky.  I crossed Chinook Pass.  It’s a big pass, but there is no town, only a large turnoff with a toilet and parking.  I finally saw a big group of mountain goats and wondered out loud if they're native to Washington. (They are.) A through hiker I was walking with said, "Hell, we're not even native!"    


I met Ali and Greg at camp with their dog BB on a five-day hike.  He'd proposed a few days before.  I gave them my PCT business card and asked for a "save the date" card.  The dog carried his own food in a backpack.  


Took a spill today.  My right pole slipped off the trail with such force it spun around 180 degrees and bopped me in the head as I fell to the ground. I'm fine but it was hilarious.  


Arctic Fox and The Duchess, a guy, are walking together. We refilled our water at a spring before a long dry section.  


I had a very uncomfortable night.  I wound up in a poor campsite and slept only about 3 hours of 9 in the tent, rolling around in a depression with my head below my feet. Mr. President and Just Bill slept near me.


Met Pooh Bear, a hiker in her 50's who had her act together.  She had already finished the AT and was now doing the PCT in sections like me.


I finally found some huge sweet huckleberries at a high knife ridge. I’d been told that this was a late season but these were very tasty and giant-sized.


Wonderful trail magic was provided by “Tent Monster" at Tacoma Pass.   He'd set up a large camp grill and was serving french toast, bacon, and plenty of orange juice. What a wonderful young man.  Turns out he'd hiked the first 1000 miles of the trail this year, with Mr. President, who was there, too, but suffered an ankle injury and had to stop  He returned to the trail to do a solid for the hikers.  He kept pushing bacon on me and it was wonderful.  


A runners group showed up for a hundred mile Cascade Crest endurance run.  Over the next 40 miles of the PCT they treated hikers like royalty at several aid stations with food, drinks, snacks, and beer!  I love beer but it turns my legs into rubber on the trail, so I stayed "dry” in Washington.  I got to one large station ahead of the runners and they made a big fuss with applause and attention as if I were the leader of the pack!  It was very sweet.  They told a story (which was verified later) that last year some through-hikers stopped, took off their packs, joined the race, and were in the record books for 2013.  Then they put their packs back on and continued down the trail.


I Met Dang It and Ferdinand lunching at a minor pass.  Dang It said, "We've made a big mess here. Sorry about that."  Whenever we unload our packs it looks like a trash can has exploded on the ground.  I'm a little sheepish about that, too.  No reason to apologize but we're keeping up appearances. They are flip-flopping all over the trail because of snow and other weather.  I gave them my card and let them know I could help them here in San Diego.


Day 9-10; August 21-22


I slept great last night!  I heard the remnants of the 100 mile endurance race go by in the dark.  There must have been a clean-up crew behind them, since there were no marker ribbons or trash left on the trail when I woke up.  They are good stewards of the outdoors.  One more big climb today before Snoqualmie.


I checked into the Snoqualmie Inn after a descent over vast open ski area.  I washed my clothes, cleaned up, and ate a terrific meal at the Aardvark Food Truck.  There were lots of through-hikers around, many taking the Goldberg Hot Springs alternate for a complete soak, some being picked up.  I’ve been listening to the Maltese Falcon audio book, and when I got into the hotel room it was on TCM at about the same place as I left it.  Great movie.   


Day 11-12; August 23-24


Had a pancake breakfast with Just Daniel at the Pancake house.  I needed those carbs because walking out of Snoqualmie was hard. Lots of up and then an endless traverse of a talus-covered trail up to a major ridge.  I don't know where I got the energy to trudge on.  This last section is beautiful but has the most gain and loss of altitude of any part of this trip; one up and down after another, thousands of feet daily, with over 16,000 feet of gain and loss in elevation to Stevens Pass. There are lots of section-hikers here, all of them apparently enjoying themselves more than I am today.  I’m ready to be done.


I'm not afraid of heights, but I do have a profound respect for them.  I'm very careful on narrow, steep traverses, sharp drops and ridges.  I know if you trip or fall on a hike, and you will, you could tumble down to injury or death.  I fell or tripped 5 times on this trip, but luckily I wasn't hurt.  I skinned a shin but otherwise was fine.  You have to be vigilant.  


I've said if you want to feel good about humanity go for a hike.  Some of the best people are in the wilderness.  The worst I can say is that there a few people who are weird; not dangerous, but odd.  (Of course this means I'm sane.)  I met a guy at a stream I wanted to filter at.  Dressed like a garden gnome with a backpack wearing bicycle shorts, he said, "I never filter more than a liter of water."  Well, I'd used nearly 3 liters getting to that point and the day wasn't over!  He didn't know what he was talking about.  He was probably single.  A man needs a good woman to remind him when he's gone off the rails.  What a character.  I had met Old Timer earlier on the trail  He just wanted to talk and talk and talk.  He shared his life story without being asked.  He said "I'll pay for some oatmeal,"  so I just gave him some tortellini. Always carry an extra day of food in your pack.  I wonder if his family knows where he is on the trail.


I forded a couple of creeks today, one with an intact bridge, the other washed out with a log crossing.  I felt like a tightrope walker without a net. There were two flyovers today by fighter jets, one loud and close, only a couple of hundred feet above me.  I imagine this must be one of the perks of being a hotshot pilot, zooming through mountain passes at top speed.  It happened once before to Bill Redman and me in the Sierras.  


I topped the highest pass since Snoqualmie and met Sarah and Nathan picking blueberries and huckleberries.  Blueberries are much rarer on the trail and Sarah sweetly gave me a dozen she'd picked.  I ran into them later in camp at Waptus River.  What a delightful couple.


Jay and Liz from Canada were there, too.  Jay was in a fright because he'd had an allergic reaction to a fly bite, broken out in hives all over, and was nervous as hell.  Liz, an RN, had given him Benedryl and it was starting to work. I donated some triple antibiotic for his rash and bite.  We talked him down and shared a meal. They ate a packet of my Seabear King Salmon and loved it. "It tastes like Lox," they agreed.  He'd proposed on the trail and she'd accepted.  Bruce, a hiker my age, talked my ear off.  "I have to hit the sack for an early start.  I'd love to talk, but....."


Day 13-14; August 25-26


I had a tough double river crossing (video) the next morning.  I walked like a Wallenda over logs several feet above the rushing water below, and then found that there was another tough one right around the corner.  It was the same creek with a deep dip into rocks and a near vertical climb out. The trail had been washed away for several yards.  It was more like rock climbing than hiking.  


I ran into 3 stylish middle-aged ladies hiking south called Sappy, Cedar and Owl and gave them a heads-up about the difficult river crossing ahead.  I worry about novice hikers.  I see them on a giant climb, over-packed, no water for miles and no camping nearby, occasionally part of a small group with the experienced hiker walking ahead, which is a crime.  Stay with your group, especially when there are new hikers, or don't go out there.


Day 15- August 27


My last camp tonight is at Deception Lake, a peaceful and pretty place belying its name.  




Joining me were Sean and Nikki, a delightful couple who were experienced climbers spending a few days hiking between Stevens and Snoqualmie Pass.  He'd started a new business after years with Microsoft.  We dined on a big rock overlooking the lake and I did some magic for them.  Storm clouds formed to the east and Sean said, "Probably rain."  "Being from Seattle you probably know," I said.  There was a 50% chance of rain in the forecast for the night, but none the next day.  

Day 16 - August 28


I suited up in the morning for the final miles thinking, “I don't care if I'm dry or wet, I'm finishing today!”


I fell in with Feast, a 27 year old bartender from San Francisco, with a degree in Civil Engineering.  He'd walked the last 80 miles with his golden retriever, Bailey.  I'd met him briefly a few times in past miles and at the last campsite, and although he was a faster walker than I, he was kind enough to wait for me to catch up when he took a break, lunched, or in one case took a bath in a lake.  Feast is a nice, intelligent and voluble young man.  We hiked over the last ups and downs of the trail.  I wondered out loud about getting a ride at Stevens Pass, and he offered a ride with his mom who was delivering a resupply box.  She never made it to the pass, but we hitched down to Skykomish for a night in the Cascade Inn.  Mom met us there and I bought us all lunch and his favorite trail treat - a chocolate shake.  Feast complained a bit to his mom that she'd forgotten his rolling papers for his trail Ganja.  I never had that conversation with my parents nor needed it, but that was a long time ago.


Day 17-18 - August 29-30


Luke Reinsma of Seattle picked me up at the Cascade Inn.  I'd met him and his son, Nathan, on the trail about 5 years ago.  He's finished the trail in sections, the last being the dreaded Southern California section.  He shuttled me back to his home, put me up, and showed me the town.  He is a deep reader and a semi-retired Professor Emeritus of English at Seattle Pacific University.  His home is lined with thousands of volumes of compelling literature.  We had wonderful conversations about our mutual vice: Books!  I felt like a  dilettante in a wonderful Salon.  He and his lovely wife, Barbara, took me out to dinner and then to Seattle's best ice cream parlor - Molly Moon’s.  The next morning he took me to Pike Place, which is a wonder, then later off to the airport for my trip home.

Notes:


All told, I walked 288 miles in the PCT Washington State Wilderness in 15 days, from a low of 1072 feet to a high of 7600.  I passed in full view of Mount Saint. Helens, Mount Adams and Mount Rainier, with daily climbs of 2000 to 5000 feet.  I crossed dozens of creeks and forded several rivers, passed gorgeous lakes in pastoral settings, miles and miles of dense forest and the near equivalent of exposed rock faces with narrow trails and 1000 foot drops.  At the perilous and astounding Goat Rocks I crossed long snow fields to see unparalleled views of western Washington, unspoiled wilderness and logged private lands dotted with Christmas tree farms of replanted clear cuts.  I've never done anything more heart pounding and physically demanding.


I met dozens of hikers, some going all the way and some out for a few days, but all of them nice and interesting, most of them young, idealistic, and full of life.  Don't hang around anyone who doesn’t have a dream.


I encountered heartwarming trail magic:  French Toast and bacon at a forest road; Ginger ale and the applause of a running group as I exited the forest.  If you want to feel good about humanity go for a hike.


Next year I'll finish my grand adventure at the Canadian border.


  "To live only for some future goal is shallow.
   It's the sides of the mountain that sustain life, not the top.
   Here's where things grow."
  • Robert M. Pirsig


Monday, August 11, 2014

I'm on the trail this Wednesday!

Hikers and friends,

I'll be hiking by Wednesday afternoon for a 288 mile section. Wind River Road where I left off last year to Stevens Pass.  You can check my progress here. I'll be updating it daily. I attached a
street map overview. The section in highlighted in pink. 

I'll have my delicious Wild Salmon on the trail and this year I'll be eating baby food! An instant sweet potato breakfast as well. I don't know why they've never sold this healthy food to backpackers.  I'm Paleo on the trail except for a Tortellini dinner but I do sprinkle Kale chips on it :) 

I'm giving my PCT talk at the Santee Library October 4th after I return.  I'll have new stories, pictures and video.

Please have an adventure while I'm gone.

See you on the trail,

Dana Law


Monday, July 14, 2014

My next section starts August 13th!

I'll be doing the longest section ever come August 13th.  288 miles. Leaving Wind River Road in Washington State, where I left off last year, I'll be passing Whites Pass and Snoqualamie Pass. Ending at Stevens Pass.

I have a hiking partner.  An experienced hiker from Lake Tahoe.  She's on the JMT right now and will join me for this section.

I follow fairly closely a Paleo Diet on and off the trail. It's no sugar and no grains. Real food. Harder on the trail but I've refined it over the years. I'm pleased to say I'm being sponsored by SeaBear for my foil packs of Salmon this year.  This is the very best wild caught fish available and great trail food.  Please check them out. My trail mix is Macadamia nuts grown right here in San Diego from Russell Family farms. Very tasty and more calories per ounce than any tree nuts.

See you on the trail,
Dana Law
619-444-2002

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

Pacific Crest Trail trip 2013

Pacific Crest Trail Section 28 – 2013
Elk Lake, Oregon to Wind River Road, Washington – 231 miles
August 17th to August 29th.
Flying and driving out to the end of your last section takes a lot of time and energy. Fortunately I had the help of Judson Brown, fellow hiker and resident of Bend Oregon, who picked me up at the airport and shuttled me to the trail.
I left the trail-head at 2:30pm, and I put in a sluggish 10 miles that afternoon, and met my first south-bounder of the trip, “Grapenut”. I camped near a trickle of water that just had to be filtered. It was the start of another grand adventure. As Helen Keller said, “Life is either a daring adventure or nothing at all.”
Three Fingered Jack
Sadly, my hiking partner of several years, John Hart, had become ill shortly before the trip. He’s on the mend, but didn’t have the energy to go this time. I missed him terribly; he’s an incredible companion. I’ve never hiked alone. I consider hiking to be a social activity. Unlike Thoreau, the flora and fauna are not enough for my soul. 
The next day I ran into Maple (Emily Gilbert) and her boyfriend Greg. I first met Maple last year when she through hiked and I was available to pick her up at the airport. They were doing the Sisters Loop trail. It was wonderful serendipity. It’s a big world, but it can feel small.

I saw 3 dogs on the trail with backpacks. One dog had dog shoes duct-taped on. I saw a hiker with 3 alpacas and a horse. I saw 5 pack trains in the first half of this trip. I guess the Sisters area has a fair amount of horsemen. Passing all the volcanoes, the trail became pure volcanic rocks. Glad it didn’t last too long as it is hard on the feet.
I've come a long way. 
Coming up to a view before Lava Lake Camp, I saw a fire starting to the west. I had a minor panic that the trip would be over soon, but the next morning the fire was out. Coming into Lava I met a modern hippie girl in a flowery dress, carrying a book and a mug of what turned out to be Tequila-spiked beer. She offered me a drink and it was very good - a flashback to 1970.
I questioned all the South-bounders (Reach was the first) about water sources and crossings on my segment. I was in another mild panic about Russell Creek north of Timberline Lodge. It turned out that Muddy Fork was the freakiest, with two downed trees as a bridge (had to crawl over the roots), and Russell Creek and Sandy Creek the trickiest. It was as dangerous rock-hopping at Russell Creek as crossing it. I got my feet wet in almost all of them. Fortunately for the “Trail Drums”, I was prepared for the crossings. I thought wet feet wouldn’t be an issue, but by the end of the walk they were wrinkly and it turns you into a tenderfoot, more vulnerable to hot spots, cracks and blisters. I did well but a through-hiker would be in tougher shape.
Met VP, Hooligan (who didn’t carry a water bottle, simply tanking up at each water source!), Rabbit Stick (who had previously built his own boat an rowed across the Atlantic!), and gave away an extra tent stake to an unusual guy named “Boomer” (he passed me cleaning up in a creek he asked, “Are you washing away your sins?”). 
My first resupply was Big Lake Youth Camp. It’s a Seventh Day Adventist camp that is a large and well run. It was almost burned out in 2010 - barely saved with a torched forest on the east and a gorgeous lake on the west. They are nearly closed at this time of the year but welcome hikers to a shower, laundry, resupply and meal. I donated to them in thanks and in honor of my daughter who is a resident at Loma Linda Children's Hospital, an SDA-run medical center. I saw a bounding deer buck with a full set of horns on the way in, and a yellow striped garter snake.
The highest points still have snow. 
Saw Brown Bag, Hiker Box Special, Sailor Moon, Trout, Bandaid and Moose. The latter two were carrying Mandolins. Really! I tried to keep up with Cookie. We leapfrogged for a few days and she was a literate and interesting hiker. She was listening to audio books for company, as I was. Swiss Army was on the trail for the 2nd time in two years. Last year while he was hiking alone, his wife passed at home. We’re about the same age and his loss hit me especially hard. Don’t know how I’d go on, as if there’s a choice.
All these years I've only seen two things to eat on the trail: Coffee Berry in the Angeles Crest Mountains north of LA, and blackberries in northern California atSeiad Valley. But, halfway into this section I got to eat huckleberries, right along the side of the trail! I ran into an older couple harvesting them near the Hunt's Creek Trail. They showed me a Tupperware container full of them, and, much to my surprise, another one of wild blueberries. They tasted great. For the next several days and miles and I ate huckleberries, laboriously plucking them off one by one but worth it.
Mt. Hood
Ollalie Lake Resort was a gem, a store, campground and cabins surrounding named lake, and well-run by Sam. As I arrived, a camper and her son gave me a nectarine. Delightful. It started to rain and I sprinted for the store. I wound up under a tent next to it, where there was free coffee and hot chocolate for the hikers! I did my first magic show on the trail for Sam, employees and guests. A lot of fun! Trout’s parents set up food, drinks and supplies across the parking lot for the hikers. Much love to them. By the way, the resort is for sale for $250,000 - amazingly cheap for all those structures, pier, boats and facilities. It's a sobering reminder of how hard it is to make a go of it in the wilderness. I’ve seen the sad story many times along the trail. Two hours later I was on the trail again, rain free.
Before Timothy Lake (which is huge) we had Trail Magic from Fun Hog and her crew: hard boiled eggs, cheese, water and variety of snacks. I did a magic show right on the trail. What lovely people.
Trail Angels
I leapfrogged for a while with Malpais and Borrego, a young couple doing all of Oregon, creative, friendly and on an adventure in their VW bus when not on the trail. I enjoyed breakfast at Timberline Lodge with them, and hooked up with their uplifting and artistic blog.
I camped the night near North Pinhead Butte (hilarious name) in the first real thunderstorm of my hiking life. I was securely in my tent before it started. I was anxious with the rain and lightning, and didn't get much sleep that night. I kept thinking it would be a sad way to go, fried to a crisp on a mountain top. I can worry about anything. Walking the next morning made for wet shoes and pants. I’m thinking of getting a waterproof shoe for future trips.
At Barlow Pass, Don and Loren made a lovely repast for us. Their daughter was on the trail and they made it easier for all the hikers with snacks, gear and rides. On the way to the pass I spoke to an elk hunter out with an axe. He was chopping up wood for his redoubt in the winter. He heads up there to hunt for days in the snow with food and a fire. With a high powered rifle, a scope and a laser beam, he shoots an elk or deer and then tracks it down the kill and drags it out of the forest. He earns his family’s food.
I ran into PCT legend Scott Williamson and a friend. I almost didn’t recognize him. He's a sweet, humble guy who’s broken the record many times. I got a magnificent picture of Mt. Hood the next morning. Ramona Falls alternate trail is a short dogleg. The falls are in a deep forested area. The walk out is a green tunnel next to a picturesque stream. It’s The Lord of the Rings in Oregon.
Timberline Lodge
The hike up to Timberline Lodge was tough, a big climb with a giant beach of sand when the trees petered out. I conjured up the perfect ad for Oregon travel: A pair of sunbathers on an obvious beach. The camera pans up to see Mt. Hood in all its glory. “From the beach to the mountains. Visit Oregon.” When I started up, a horseman came by and said, “I’ll be coming back down in about an hour.” He wasn’t kidding. We chatted for a few moments near the top. I saw a lot of horsemen on this trip. After I got my resupply box at Timberline and found no room in the inn, I hitched a ride with the Lodge's pastry chef to Government Camp down the hill. Government Camp is a sweet burg. I felt poorly, so washed my body and clothes, had an early dinner, and passed out. Got up the next morning to hitch back to Timberline. It had just started to rain when I caught a ride with a father-son ski trip group. I had planned to move on but it continued to rain all day. I took another night at Timberline Lodge and I’m glad I did. It’s an architectural gem, a remarkable hotel. Every nook and cranny is sculpted, painted, crafted by the WPA workers who labored over it during The Great Depression. It has been restored and run lovingly by the family who’s owned it for almost 60 years. I did pay $25 for a burger, but it was a great burger. Put Timberline Lodge on your bucket list.
I launched off the next morning. It was overcast but dry. The trail skirts the west side of Mt. Hood clockwise. It includes the river crossings Zigzag, Russell Creek, Sandy River and Muddy Fork, all of them different and scary to me. However, I did survive. Cookie gave me semaphore signals on how to cross Russell from the other side. It was also one of the muggiest days ever. Who needs rain when it’s muggy?
I ran into a section hiker, Minstral. We talked about the amazing fact that with the addition of an app our cellphones have become a GPS with explicit directions, maps and pictures for hiking the trail, all of this on airplane mode so one battery lasts a couple of days. He then said, “Well, you know why they put GPS on our phones? So the government can track us.” Too much of a conspiracy theory for me, even with the recent revelations.
I decided to take the recommended Eagle Creek alternate on the way down to the Columbia River. The Salvation Creek connector is a bone jarring descent to the Eagle Creek trail. It’s more a jagged gash in the forest. The Eagle Creek Trail is more of a highway. It’s also a beautiful canyon with several astonishing features. First, in many places the trail has been dynamited out of the rock walls. Several areas have steel cable handholds to keep you from plunging a hundred feet into the chasm. You place both hiking poles in your left hand and hang on with the right. Tunnel Falls has the eponymous name for the trail behind it,a fall from a creek entering Eagle Creek in a cul-de-sac. I’d heard about this place for years and it was everything I’d imagined. There are many pools and falls in Eagle on the way down. Borrego e-mailed me that he went for a swim. There were lots of perfumed day hikers coming up the canyon. Something other hikers have noticed, they're All dressed up for a day hike with a splash of Eau de Something.
I got to Cascade Locks mid-afternoon. Another motel, Cascade Locks Motel and RV Park, provided a shower and a rest. The Columbia isn’t a river as much as a waterway, a shipping route. Sitting at the Char Burger for dinner and breakfast the next morning, I saw numerous barges pushed down the river by tug boats, one of them piled high with wood pulp for the Weyerhaeuser plant downriver. The Columbia Gorge is stunning. The Bridge of the Gods is a bridge from a dream. It’s just as I expected: A span from another time.
Bridge of the Gods
The next morning I crossed the bridge. The toll-taker said, “No charge for PCT hikers, and walk against the traffic,” which is necessary because there is no place for pedestrians. Making my way to the other side I found the narrow trail that was the last big climb of the trip. I was in Washington! The last state on the trail. It felt good. I walked for hours up, and up and up, not particularly steep but endless. I camped at Rock Creek and shared dinner time with Osprey and Someday. I’d run into them the day before, while they were arguing at a creek. “We’re siblings. We always argue.” Left alone, I carefully planted my tent in a hollow above the creek. 
The next morning, my last on the trail, it started to rain about 9am. I put on my rain pants, jacket and pack cover for the first time in ten years on the trail. My pack stayed dry but raingear turns you into a sauntering sauna. I was soaked through and through. I’m not sure of their value except when you’re not moving. I found a warning about a bee hive right on the trail, and a sign recommended I bushwhack for a hundred yards. I don’t what’s worse, bushwhacking or getting stung. I also found frogs hopping about, and slugs the size of a banana (which may be their name).

Columbia Gorge
Making my way to Wind River Road, my end point, was a relief. I was another amazing journey, but I was ready to stop. I covered a lot of miles in record time; not the most important thing but it felt like an achievement. The section was absolutely stunning; some of the best views and experiences since the Sierras, not terribly hard but tough enough.
470 miles to go to Canada. I hope I’m not alone next year. I did have a wonderful time socializing on the trail, but a hiking partner is the best.

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Monday, October 01, 2012

Pacific Crest Hike - Section 27 2012


We walked 231 miles through Oregon!  

PCT trip 27-2012
August 18 to September 1.

For this trip, I flew from San Diego to Seattle, where I met up with John Hart, and then continued together to Medford. Bill Henie, a friend of Bill Redman, picked us up and gave us a ride to the trail.

When we hit the trail at about 2:30pm, it was hot and muggy. Per John's plan, we did nine miles the first day. We passed south-bounders Caspar, Switzerland, Shoelaces and “John”, and we saw a buck and doe scampering through the woods. We camped next to a piped spring, which is a gift. I came up with a mnemonic for southbound report questions, “Name Camping Fire Water” , which covered all the pertinent information I wanted to get about the south-bounders and the trail ahead. Fire had closed two sections already, but more about that later.

The next day “Gadget” and “Minor” (because he’s 18) leapfrogged us. The weather cooled and “unmugged” for the rest of the trip. We met Gut Feeling, a lady through-hiker. Guess she gives good advice. Little Dipper also passed us. Southern Oregon is much drier than you’d imagine because volcanism has driven the water underground. The drier areas aren’t that attractive, but good forest cover keeps things cool. Overall, the climbs were easier in most places than we experienced in California. Oregon is flatter but not flat by any measure.

We walked into the Hyatt Lake Resort which has a PCT hikers camp and showers! It’s such a joy getting clean even after a few days on the trail. I figured I’d get very little cell coverage on this trip but I got calls and data out almost every day. I spoke with my wife often, which was nice. Eating dinner I was surrounded by Yellow Jackets and Bees; no stings, only annoying. The wife would have run away screaming. Insects have become banal. Ran into “Mataguay Connector” the next day. He’s Robb Langsdorf from San Diego, a walking encyclopedia about the trail. It was a great pleasure to see him.

We saw some focused south bounders early the next morning. They’re too far north for this time of year. The look on their faces mirrored our worries that they don’t have enough time to get through the Sierras.
We took the alternate path through Lake of the Woods. The road walk was annoying but the resort and surrounding forest were lovely. We had a great meal and were able to resupply odds and ends at the store. Lake of the Woods is a beautiful place for a family trip. We met Turtle and Willililli from Holland. Pitstop, Mary and Steve passed us southbound. We camped at Four Mile Lake and got water from an enormous hand pump. Not having to filter water is a gift. I felt like a pioneer.


We’ve heard a lot of woodpeckers over the years, and I've always wondered how their brain survived the pounding. I heard one and then thought, “Something’s different.” It was a tree slowly cracking and headed for a fall, a very similar sound: a rat-a-tat-tat and I noticed a swaying tree, wanting, hoping to fall over, but not yet. Spooky. It's something you worry about when you pick a camping spot.
The trail takes a wide berth around Mt. Theilsen, which has a sharp pointed peak, stark and beautiful. The handbook recommends a “scramble” to the peak without your pack. It looked very dangerous; not our cup of tea. Some braver ladies walked by us to the top. Theilsen Creek was running well and was a welcome lunch and water spot.

I mentioned to John that I was going to need some red tape to mark some items in my pack, and make it easier to find them, mark the front end of the tent for easier setup, etc. “I have that,” he said. I mentioned later I needed a sharpie to mark what’s left in my gas canister to pass it on to another hiker. “I have that,” he said. Later, as I was cooking my dinner, he offered, “Do you need salsa for your pasta? I have a few extra packets.” That man has just about everything! Someone in the Sierra’ recommended he use the trail name “Full Inventory.” Good choice, but he has finally picked “John for now”.

We met Firefighters three times on this trip. At the Butte Fire a phalanx of them came up the ridge we were walking on, tamping and digging as they went to put out every last bit of fire and smolder. They were impressive in heavy clothes and gear. Young women were in the group, too. It's a dirty, hard and I’m sure at times dangerous job. We got through by the skin of our teeth. Thanks to them I haven’t broken my contiguous hike of the PCT.

After a meal at Lake of the Woods I had stomach problems for three days. I ate some of John’s Ramen, which I don’t consider nutrition, hoping it would go down. It didn’t. I decided to go to sleep and clean it up in the morning, but magically the big black ants made it disappear. It was as magical as if Elves shined your shoes while you slept.
We met a group of very young trail workers, a modern WPA, doing a great job. Later, we ran into Mismatch, Little Brown, Challenger, Spatula, Molasses, Kayla, Nightwatch and Jawbone. We eve saw a Corgi with a backpack. A Corgi’s too low for a backpack, and though bottoming out had a good attitude. We met a family with two teen boys with enormous backpacks. Dad referred to them as Sherpas.
We shared the trail with horses four times this section. I get dirty hiking, but a horseman gets filthy. If you’re unlucky and not the lead horse it’s even worse. One horse was a bit nervous passing us and the rider said, “Say hi to the horse. It calms them down.” I said hello to about 10 horses this trip. A dusty trail is an unsociable trail. You need to spread out to breathe. Our lowest morning temperature was 34 degrees. Brisk. I told John I was getting big condensation in my tent. He said “it’s from you. The colder it is the more moisture inside.” You wind up packing away your tent while it's still wet. We saw Magic Bag , Wiggy. Chimney Sweep and Lightweight, almost all of them passing us north.

Along the way we stopped at two places where a private company had “won the government contract” to run a campground, store or restaurant. Xantera is a big outfit in this business of “Concessionaires”. At Mazama below Crater Lake, and at the rim of the lake, they run several places. The system is faulty. They’ve got good and bad staff, sweet old ladies and evil-acting ones, creepy guy employees I’d fire in a flash. A standout though was James, who created a sorely needed water cache north of the rim. We had a delightful waitress with screaming red hair. A young man who must have somehow passed the drug testis the cashier at the gas station. They have a foreign exchange program with earnest but unintelligible workers. Private enterprise can be great, but there’s something rotten here.
Molasses was lovely hiker we met at Mazama. She carried a “little red summer dress” to wear when she needed a ride. “I have a problem,” she said as she showed me her closely cropped hair. “With this outfit I once got 17 rides.” I believe it. I hope she stays safe.

Crater Lake was almost invisible because of the fires. Thick smoke obscured the view of this phenomenon. The trail follows the rim in a roller coaster of exertion. I have to come back with my wife to appreciate it. An amazing lodge on the southwest rim would be worth a few days stay. A brother and sister team leapfrogged us for a day and a half. Chuckles, Lawnmower and Grasshopper passed us. For the first time, I saw a sign “No Mushroom Hunting”. There must be some kind of special mushroom up threre!

Passing Highway 58, the forest got lusher and the lakes got better and more common. I’ve never seen more lakes in my life. The map is blue pock marks. Lower Rosary Lake was one of the beauties, clear and picturesque. The warmest night north of there was at Desane Lake. I pumped water for both of us at Bobby Lake. It was quite spectacular to be the only one present at a giant lake. We saw a fire crew, exhausted from the recent mop up. We passed and surveyed Charlton Lake, the final camp of Bill “AsABat” Jeffery. I walked around, half expecting to see some evidence of his last day alive. He will be sorely missed. Charlton Lake may be the best lakeside camping on the whole section, even with afew mosquitoes. Afterward, we passed through another 3 miles of burn.
I’m very fortunate to have John Hart for a partner. He’s interesting to talk to, he is a wise man, he’s humble, he has an encyclopedic knowledge of the trail. He knows his caloric needs and calories per ounce of our snacks. He can give a thumb-nail sketch of the day’s difficulties, trail and challenges and total elevation gain. He knows what our water availability is. He knows the basics of next years section and plans for it. And much, much more. I’m a lucky guy and try to do whatever I can to be of help: tell some jokes, read the hiking prose from the handbook. John takes care of the hard data.

The end of our section was above Elk Lake Resort on a burned-out promontory. I always look in all directions to remind myself where we’ll be starting next year. We saw fewer than 50 people in 231 miles. Never has so much money, effort and planning gone into fewer people enjoying the outdoors. Only 710 miles left to the Canadian border! I'll probably make it by 2015. This trip went fast, as usual. - 15 days on the trail in a snap. It was a good trip and adventure. I lost 7 pounds. A “Thank You” to Bunny Slayer (Judson Brown), who gave us a ride to town.