31 Jul

PCT – Day 30 (30 Jul 18) – Running Out of Fuel

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Miles 470.6 – 497.4 >>> 26.8 (43.1 km)

We started the day quite leisurely and we really enjoyed the mosquito fee zone. Eventually we had to get up though and we hit the trail around 7:30 am.

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Morning sun peeking through the foliage.

We crossed a highway soon after and felt a bit weird to see and hear cars again.

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Crossing Wind River Highway.

We got compensation for our brief suffering in civilisation, when we came across a beautiful bridge over the Wind River, just a few yards later.

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Bridge across the Wind River.

We kept going and it was amazing how quickly the scenery changed, from moss covered trees, to leafy forest, to sun dried meadows – all in the space of five miles.

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South of Bunker Hill.

At around two, we came across Snag Creek where we ran into a couple other hikers we’d already met earlier that day: Twist and Patch and my old hiking buddy John (now Army). We hung out for a while together and enjoyed company and a cool creek for drinking and the cooling of other body parts.

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Twist, Trouble, and Patch.
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My sock-tan feet soaking in the creek.

After that, we had a 4.5 miles (7.2 km) up in front of us, covering 1850 feet (560 m) of elevation. That’s about 410 feet per mile. Nothing too steep, nothing too dramatic. And yet, I only made it to about a mile before the top, when I suddenly felt weary and had to slow down. A few steps further and I felt weak and started shaking and let myself sink to the ground. I had absolutely no energy left in me. A curious sensation.

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Breaking down at the switch backs before coming to Three Corner Rock Junction.

Thankfully, my food bag was still well stocked and we were only a day from Cascade Locks away and started to gobble up my power bars. Soon after, Trouble caught up to me and realised quickly that I wasn’t doing too well and sat down next to me and watched me eat. Twist came up behind us soon after let herself slide down to the ground and didn’t want us to make room for her to get past us. So we sat there for a while, the two women talking, while I was munching on yet another power bar. A few pop tarts followed in quick succession, and I finished off by devouring a few cookies for good measure. After that I felt better and normal again and we could go on.

This is the day my hiker hunger kicked in. All my bodily reserves had been depleted and now I lived on the stuff that went into my mouth that very day.

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Enjoying a view again.

Trouble and I briefly discussed how long we’d want to hike today and we both agreed that it would be advantages to get as close to town as possible, so that we could make it to proper town food early in the morning.

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The Columbia River. The other side’s already Oregon.

So we kept on hiking – and hiked deep into the evening. It was wonderful to hike this long. To see how the light faded on the trail and how dark it was already in the forest sections. At one point we heard a bear crashing through the undergrowth below us and it was magical.

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Just before reaching camp.

We made it to our campsite just before nine. Instead of setting up in the remaining twilight straight away however, we sat down for a while and were happy to have hiked this far.

In the end we set up in the dark. Me on slopy and rocky ground and Trouble hanging her hammock from less than ideal trees, but it didn’t matter, we were home.

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A bit slopy, but mine.

The next morning, Trouble told me that a bear had approached our campsite. Since she hadn’t been sure whether she’d need backup to chase it away, she called out my name to wake me up. I just didn’t wake up though. Guess, I was really out of it. Sorry for letting you down, Trouble.

Thankfully the bear scarpered just because of her calling me and everything was well.

29 Jul

PCT – Day 29 (29 Jul 18) – Panther Creek Campground

Miles 444.3 – 470.6 >>> 26.3 (42.3 km)

The day started with the buzzing of mosquitoes and we packed up quickly to get back on the trail. The morning was gorgeous and we hiked through some nice meadows and along a few more lakes.

Not our tent, but not a bad location either.

It was also mostly down for the first thirteen miles, which made for an easy stride.

Washington views.

Further on, the vegetation got a little sparser and the trail dustier.

South of Berry Mountain.

It also got hotter, and soon temperatures were in the high nineties to low hundreds (36 – 39°C). No problem for me, since I’m from Australia’s tropical North, but Trouble was suffering like a true Canadian.

Sweat and dust etched into Trouble’s feet (she wears sandals for hiking).

Later that evening, the vegetation changed again and we began to see more and more trees covered in thick blankets of moss.

South of Gobblers Knob.

At around six, we made it down to Panther Creek campground. We looked around for a while, but were hesitant to fork out the $18 camp fee, when we ran into the hosts, who’d just come back from a trip to town. It was Brian and Lisa, and the two were exceedingly friendly and keen to hear our adventures. They forced a couple of Gatorades and a popsicle down our parched throats, which was true trail magic for the both of us, but especially for the suffering Trouble.

A mossy tree next to Panther Creek.

Eventually we said goodbye and decided to set up camp at the free camp area, which is right next to the pay-for campground. It was the right decision, because we had a fantastic little site, enclosed with fallen trees on three sides, very few bugs, and it was peaceful and quiet. We sat on a tree for a little while, enjoying dinner out in the open, but eventually crawled into our respective tent and hammock and were fast asleep in no time.

Camp at Panther Creek.
29 Jul

PCT – Day 28 (28 Jul 18) – Bear Lake

Miles 423.7 – 444.3 >>> 20.6 (33.2 km)

The day began with coffee and breakfast at the Bear Creek Café.

We caught up with Moonshine who got forced off trail by a sore foot and her calendar (she’d planned to only hike to Cascade Locks anyway) and who we expected to not see again.

Eventually we made it back to the grocery store where we sat down in the yard for a moment. I went to the store to see what the best way back to the trail might be, and Moonshine took the opportunity to go to the restroom.

The store was full with people, but most seemed to be there for social purposes rather than as customers. When I asked the lady behind the counter if she knew anyone who might be able to give us a ride up to the trail, she just turned to an older gentleman to the side, who was blowing into a hot cup of coffee, and said: “him.” He looked at me and asked whether I was ready to go now. I said: “of course, just got to grab my hiking partner.”

Off we went in a whirlwind. We didn’t even have to time to say goodbye to Moonshine who hadn’t returned from her restroom stop. We felt bad about it, but there was nothing we could do.

Our trail angel was a retired forest service worker who’d also been fighting wildfires for many years. It was very interesting to listen to his stories and the time back to the trail went by very quickly.

Once there, we thanked him and said our goodbyes and then we were back in the woods – and it felt wonderful. How strange it is that, even though we enjoy the hell out of all the town amenities, every time it is blissful to be back in the wilderness.

Back on trail.

It was eleven when we got back on trail and we hiked for hours without even noticing. The zero day had been good and we got another 20 miles in.

Clouds or mountains?

We stopped at Bear Lake and decided that we’d hiked more than enough today. We set up and, the lake being a popular destination for local hikers, attempted to hang my food bag for a change. It took quite some swearing and a bruised ego, but eventually I managed. Trouble was already in her hammock and I also quickly disappeared into my tent. The mosquitoes were still out in force and after my blood. It was nice falling asleep in the forest again. The group of campers next to us were thankfully quiet and we had a good night.

28 Jul

PCT – Day 27 (27 Jul 18) – Trout Lake Zero

Miles 423.7 – 423.7 >>> 0.0 (0.0 km)

Zero day. Oh bliss, nothing to do but nothing to do.

I was up by eight o’clock and I and Trouble made our way back to the Bear Creek Café for coffee and breakfast. It was wonderful. The sun was shining, it was warm, the little creek next to the café was gurgling lazily and the coffee was going down well.

The coffee shop (which is separate from the café).

We hung out for a little while and then made our way back to the grocery store.

The Bear Creek Café.

Here we sat down in the yard and soon after had company from other hikers. We both got handed a beer and I settled down for a fabulously lazy day.

It was nice to suddenly see a familiar face arrive at the store: John, who I’d hiked the first few days with had made it and caught up with me. It was good to see him still on trail.

Towards lunch time, we migrated back to the café in preparation for another round of food intake.

Café on the left, gas station on the right.

In the end, we just hung out in the outside area for the rest of the day, ate, talked, and were companionable.

Moonshine, Toothbrush, and Trouble.

We ate burgers, and drank beer and huckleberry lemonade.

Trouble, Toothbrush, and Moonshine.

I have no idea how long we were there or at what time I got to bed. Not because I was drunk, but because it really didn’t matter. I took the last photo around 5.30 pm, but were there a while longer.

Thanks to the guys from the café for letting us hang out. You are awesome.

27 Jul

PCT – Day 26 (26 Jul 18) – Trout Lake

Miles 410.0 – 423.7 >>> 13.7 (22.0 km)

We got up before seven, since we were both keen on making it to Trout Lake early.

The day began with a quick little water crossing across Adams Creek. It was very easy and we didn’t even get wet feet.

Crossing Adams Creek.

The remainder of the morning was yet again glorious. Even though we hiked through some old burn areas, the views were stunning and the terrain easy.

Looking back at Mount Rainier.

In between we always had to jump over little creeks that transported Mount Adams‘s melting water into the valley.

A small creek near Lewis River.

But the old burn area stayed with us for a while longer.

Tim Burton trees.

Eventually though we made it back into proper forest and things were lush and verdant.

Wildflowers on a section west of The Hump.

At around 12:30 pm, we finally made it to the road that leads down to Trout Lake. Traffic was sparse, mostly in the wrong direction, and predominantly tourists – who are, as a general rule, unwilling to pick up hitch-hikers.

Waiting.

Only a curious butterfly seemed willing to keep us company.

Being a bit nosy.

A little while later another group of hikers emerged from the forest. A group of three female university students hiking together (Pokerface, Jack the Ripper, and Full Moon). After a quick chat with us they wandered around a little and found the big drum with trail magic provided by the local Trout Lake Abbey. We scored apple juice and mandarins. Thank you so much!

Eventually the band of girls retreated into the shade, not wanting to minimise our chances of a hitch, by appearing to be too large a group.

An hour after we’d made it to the road, a pick-up truck stopped and a young man offered us a ride into town. As we were jumping into the bed at the rear, we asked the man (his name is Carl), if he had room for three more. He looked puzzled for a moment and we pointed at the girls waiting patiently under a tree. He agreed smilingly and we beckoned the others over. Just as we were about to close the rear gate, another hiker came out of the forest from the north. Toothbrush. Carl jokingly asked how many more hikers we’d hidden in the woods, but he was very willing to take us all.

Six hikers going to town.

We got dropped off at Bear Creek Café and had a beer and burger (yes, food is more important than anything else). Only after we’d gorged ourselves on excellent food and I had had a nice Huckleberry lemonade, we walked over to the grocery store. We’d tried to find a room in town but apparently nothing was available anywhere, but the grocery store, we’d heard, offered cheap rooms, and free camp sites on their front lawn.

The best grocery store on trail.

Trouble and I got lucky and managed to get the only double room for a truly stunning $20 a night, but only after another hiker called that he’d cancel his booking, while we were talking to the owner.

It’s got to be said that the owners and staff at the store are absolutely fantastic. So kind and friendly and helpful.

Click bait.

After dropping off our belongings, I got comfortable in the back yard, enjoying a beer and getting friendly with the local wildlife, while trouble was having a shower. We’d also started a load of washing and the anticipation for freshly washed clothing was palpable.

View from the backyard to the main road.

There were quite a few hikers that stayed here, most of them setting up camp in the owner’s personal front yard, for free. All they ask is that you won’t set up your tent until after the store is closed. Easy.

We all hung out there, drinking a few beers and talking about the trail and the universe. It was wonderful.

Things did end on a slightly sour note though, as one hiker had taken drugs and got drunk, and had started wandering into the owner’s private residence and had started arguing with him when he was asked to leave. He got thrown off the property and none of us were sad to see him leave. If you can’t behave yourself – especially towards people who show so much kindness – you do not belong on the trail.

26 Jul

PCT – Day 25 (25 Jul 18) – Mount Adams

Miles 388.0 – 410.0 >>> 22.0 (35.4 km)

The day started leisurely and we got on to trail a little later than usual. Not that we needed it, because the terrain was gentle with us and the going easy.

Beautiful forest trails.

What was a little harder to bear were the mosquitoes and flies that buzzed relentlessly around and into our faces.

Mount Adams peaking over a mound of volcanic rock.

We did come across more and more signs that we were in volcanic country.

Walking up to Mount Adams.

The rest of the day was dominated by the imposing silhouette of Mount Adams as a constant backdrop – which was beautiful.

We set up camp quite early because we came across a gorgeous meadow with a fabulous view of Mount Adams.

Setting up camp early.

The weather was still beautiful and it was nice to hang out a little and to enjoy the setting.

Beautiful views.

In the end we talked till dusk and, after we lay down to sleep, listened to the deep and frightening crackling and grumbling of the glacial ice sheets on the near mountain.

Shortly after sun set.
25 Jul

PCT – Day 24 (24 Jul 18) – On the Knife’s Edge

Miles 367.9 – 388.0 >>> 20.1 (32.3 km)

Before we dive into today’s epicness, I have to apologize in advance that I will quickly run out of superlatives – it was that kind of a day. I will therefore keep this mostly a photo post, since a picture speaks a thousand words, right?


We got up a bit late and left camp after eight. The trail immediately started to rise up to over 7,000 feet, towards Egg Butte and Old Snowy Mountain.

Looking towards Old Snowy Mountain.

At around nine, we stopped for coffees at a little creek, just east of Egg Butte and enjoyed caffeine with a view.

Coffee to get us over the mountains.

Once we got going again, it simply went from gorgeous to amazing to fabulous to awesome.

East of Egg Butte.
Enjoying the green meadows.
Mount Rainier.

The higher we got the sparser the vegetation became, but the views more than made up for the lack of greenery.

Just another day at the office.
Rocky trails.

Some of the sections were a bit tricky, because the surface was covered in slippery and loose rocks with sharp edges. Occasionally the foot would slip and there was a steep drop off to the side and your heart skipped a beat.

Small snow drifts were pleasing to the eye and foot alike.
Staring over there …
Mount Rainier … again.
… and again.

Truth be told, we’d been a bit apprehensive about the Knife’s Edge, because we’d read so many reports that this section was so scary. In the end, it was just the loose rocks that were a bit funny. The trail itself was perfectly navigable.

Always nice to see where you’re going to go.
Still a bit of snow left up here.
Truly awe inspiring views.
Trouble looking really small in all this landscape.

After the Knife’s Edge, there’s a junction up the alternate trail to Old Snowy Mountain. We didn’t take it, although later we learnt that we probably should have – but you can’t see everything.

At first, the snow fields just after the junction looked really sketchy and we were a bit worried walking up to them, but once we put our foot on to the white stuff, it turned out to be easy.

Looks sketchy …
… but isn’t.

We stopped for lunch at an amazing spot and I even cooked for a change and gorged myself on mashed potatoes.

Enjoying lunch with a view.

A little further on was an even better spot where you can turn 360 degrees and see all three major volcanoes of the area from that one spot: Mount Rainier, Mount Adams, and Mount Saint Helens.

Mount Adams beckoning in the distance.

Here we also ran into a NOBO who amazed us. He had his head down, didn’t look left, didn’t look right, and when we asked how he was doing, all he could say was: “can’t wait to reach Canada.”

Amazingly he wasn’t alone. Over the next few days we came across a whole bubble of fast hiking NOBOs that were miserable and unhappy. I don’t understand why they didn’t slow down and enjoy themselves a bit more. I guess there’s a difference between hikers who’re on the trail for a badge and those who’re there for the trail itself.

A few last snow drifts before descending lower.
Back in the alpine green.
Entering tribal lands. Thanks for letting us pass.
Mount Adams.

In the end we reached our camp site by about 7.30 pm. We were both exhausted, set up, and went straight to bed. What an amazing day.

24 Jul

PCT – Day 23 (23 Jul 18) – Goat Rocks Wilderness

Miles 357.7 – 367.9 >>> 10.2 (16.4 km)

“Coffee!” was the first thing I said when I woke up and Trouble agreed wholeheartedly. So we got up in a hurry and went for coffee and blueberry pinwheel pastries at the Mountain Goat Coffee Roaster and Bakery.

The lovely Mountain Goat.

The coffee shop was excellent, friendly, cozy, and clean.

Shortly after we went for seconds (ie. a real breakfast) to Cruisers Pizza just down the road. This place looked a bit spartan and cold, but the people were friendly enough and the food okay. Another group of backpackers (some of the guys we’d hiked with a couple days earlier) came in and joined us at our table. We spent some time eating and chatting. For some bizarre reason, Tom complimented me on my great tan, my full set of hair, and my sun bleached leg hairs – with a completely straight face. He actually meant it, so nobody laughed. However these things (especially my golden leg hairs) ended up being a running gag between Trouble and I for the rest of our trail. It was hilarious.

In the end we only had minutes left to check out of our hotel, but made it in time. We made it back to the coffee shop, had another coffee, and eventually set up shop in front of the store.

Even though there was a constant stream of cars, trucks, and RVs coming through, nobody stopped for us. An hour later, we decided to have another coffee before putting out our thumbs again. Tge moment we turned away from the road, a car stopped next to us and asked whether we needed a ride. She was nice enough, but was clearly under the influence (of drugs, not alcohol), and explained to us that she was quite distressed, because she was on her way to see her daughter who’d just been put into jail. Trouble, who had the front seat, listened to a lot more stories about her (miserable?) life, but I ended up not understanding a word, since the windows were down. We made it to the trail without drama though and wished the lady all the best. Trouble was kind enough to give her some money, because she felt sorry for her.

We were back on the trail by three o’clock and were very glad to be back where we belong.

Back home.

We got very excited when, an hour later, we passed the sign saying we’d just entered Goat Rocks Wilderness.

Goat Rocks Wilderness.

At around five, we came across a ski lift and stopped there for a bite to eat, and reflected on the weirdness of sitting on a ski slope in summer.

Ski lift control hut.

The rest of the day was beautiful and we hiked through some stunning scenery that boded well for the upcoming Knife’s Edge section tomorrow.

Posing in front of Hogback Mountain.
Between Hogback Mountain and Shoe Lake.
Mount Rainier looking a bit blue.
Just west of Shoe Lake.

We’d also came across a lot of these gorgeous flower pods all the way through Washington. We compared notes and realized with some hilarity that we both have the mental age of twelve. Not knowing what they were actually called, we’d both christened them “Boob Flowers”.

Yep, it’s bear grass.

I later found out that it’s actually bear grass (Xerophyllum tenax) – but that’s so boring.

Anyway, from Shoe Lake we hiked another four miles down the mountain and set up camp around eight.

All in all, it’s been an absolutely fantastic day.

23 Jul

PCT – Day 22 (22 Jul 18) – White Pass & Packwood

Miles 340.6 – 357.7 >>> 17.1 (27.5 km)

We got up real early, eager to get to White Pass for some real food.

Pretty wild flowers.

The morning was spent following the trail through some pretty awesome scenery. Meadows, lakes, forest, and little creeks and streams were sprinkled generously and made the trail anything but boring.

Gorgeous streams to cross.

At about nine, we stopped at a nice little camp site next to a stream for coffee. We spent some extra time chatting to each other, because it was so nice, but eventually we had to keep going.

Trouble getting ready to get back on the horse.

It was almost another four hours until we hit the road to the Kracker Barrel Store at White Pass (which is a bit over half a mile away from the trail), where we both had sent our resupplies to.

The Kracker Barrel in all its glory.

The store is not just a gas station and convenience store, but also has a decent deli section and some fast food. We were very surprised to find the place packed with hikers (SOBOs and some early NOBOs), all hanging out, eating, talking, drinking.

Trouble and I picked up our resupply packages from the super nice staff there, grabbed some food and beer, sat down, and sorted out our trail food. After all trail gossip had been dutifully exchanged, we said goodbye to the other guys and packed up. We were both desperate for some good town food and, after having realized that there was none to be had at White Pass, decided to hitch into the town of Packwood, about 20 miles west of the Kracker Barrel. We got a hitch with no problem (thanks Elizabeth) and made it into town by about 4 pm.

The busy city center of Packwood.

Initially we had wanted to stay at the beautiful and rustic Packwood Hotel, but they were booked out and didn’t have a room for us. Maybe we should’ve made that phone call the day before.

As we walked away, the landlady asked: “is that a tan, or dirt?” and pointed at our legs. We laughed and explained her that it was probably both.

We did get a nice room at the Packwood Inn on the main road and ended up being quite happy there. All we did was throw our packs into our room and went for a really great burger at the Blue Spruce Saloon.

The Blue Spruce Saloon.

The nice waitress had an easy time trying to convince me to try an Oreo pie for desert and and it was even better than the already fabulous burger.

Once we were back at the hotel, they offered to do our laundry for us in the hotel washing machine, so we had ample time to relax, and wash off that dirt we’d been completed on before. Later we went back to the Blue Spruce a second time in the evening and finally made it to bed by about 10 pm.

22 Jul

PCT – Day 21 (21 Jul 18) – Chinook Pass

Miles 315.6 – 340.6 >>> 25.0 (40.2 km)

We woke up, made breakfast, and then decided to hike together for a while. Initially we walked through yet another burn area, getting our feet and legs plenty dirty again, until we stopped for coffee near Norse Peak.

Coffee break.

Here, we ran into a whole bunch of other hikers (Ms McGuiver, Moonshine, Tom (no trail name), and Sancho, plus one other gentleman, whose name, I’m ashamed to admit, I cannot recall). We had a nice break together, and eventually also got going again together. We did spread out quickly though.

All in a line.

However, we did keep running into each other multiple times that day.

Since some people wanted to get to Packwood the next day, there was a wild frenzy of rummaging for mobile phones, when somebody announced that there was reception as we were coming over the crest, just south of Norse Peak.

Reception? Did somebody say reception?

The view of Mount Rainier was mostly ignored. Well … I guess … when town food beckons …

Mount Rainier.

Eventually, some were lucky and booked hotel rooms and/or contacted loved ones. Trouble and I weren’t interested in staying in Packwood so we just hiked on, without organizing accommodations. It was still a few miles and the views were just spectacular.

Michelin star restaurant … or this view? You decide.

When we made it down to Sheep Lake, Trouble and I went splashing about in the cold water for a little while, trying to wash our filthy legs clean.

Looking down at Sheep Lake.

We wanted to look our best, since there were rumours amongst the hikers that there might be trail magic down at Chinook Pass. Apparently Broken Toe, who’d been trail angeling at Harts Pass, was following us SOBOs down the trail and there was hope that he might’ve set up shop at the parking area. Alas, there was absolutely nothing and nobody there.

Chinook Pass, sans trail magic.

At Chinook Pass we also ran into Jon “Airborne” Schwarze for the first time, who was doing a yoyo this year. It was interesting and cool to run into people who were already close to the end. It was even more impressive to run into someone who’d do the whole trail twice.

Just west of Cougar Lake.

The rest of the day was just amazing and the trail weaved through the country side, up and down the hills, and around lakes and hillocks. Eventually we got tired and wanted to set up camp, but the other hikers who’d been around all day, had already taken the good spots. Eventually we told ourselves to set up at the next camp site no matter what. Sancho was already there, but he’d set up right next to a small group of local campers, who were just getting comfortable in their drinking pants. Well, we decided to hike on a little further after all. How lucky that was. Not only did we hear later that Sancho had had a terrible night with his noisy neighbors, but we a found a cute little camp site, a little off the trail, amongst a grove of trees, next to a small lake (it’s the little spur down the hill, a little west of Crag Lake and Buck Lake).

Crag Lake on the left. Our night spot lake on the right.

As we were lying in our tent (and hammock respectively), doing some late evening reading and writing, we suddenly heard a big splash and commotion down by the pond. When we cambered out of our night shelters to look, we saw a whole herd of elk disappearing amongst the trees. What a great end to a great day.