26 Jun

PCT – Day [-4] (26 Jun 18) – Flight

Well, who would’ve thought … the adventure begins.

This morning I woke up early, around 4am. I caught a cab to the airport at around 4.30am and made it into the terminal. My flight would be at 5.55 am, the first leaving Townsville airport today. The terminal was nice and quiet and I was actually the first who made it through the baggage check. I had been worried that they might not allow me to take my pack as carry-on, because of the stays in my pack, but it went through without a problem.

Townsville Airport in the morning.

My thinking in regards to the carry-on was that, on this occasion, a lost bag wouldn’t just be an inconvenience but a full blown catastrophe. So I had decided to leave all sharps and potential weapons at home and buy them anew in Seattle, as my personal insurance against loss.

Anyway, I ended up waiting for a while, with only a cup of coffee to keep me company until it was time to board.

Just before push-back at TSV.

The flight was quick and painless, with some beautiful cloud cover, illuminated in the early morning light.

Early morning over Queensland.

Brisbane was overcast and cool in the morning. I stepped out of the terminal to transfer over to the international terminal. I had to wait only two minutes for the bus, which was great.

BNE transfer bus stop.

The international terminal isn’t too bad, as these things go. However, the choice of food, especially for breakfast, was rather tragic. I consoled myself with a wonderfully expensive chicken and leek pie (yes, for breakfast, why?) and a spinach roll. After that, I spent a couple of hours waiting in the marvelously mundane splendor that is BNE.

Brisbane international terminal.

At least I had some time to check out the 777 that would take me across the Pacific.

777-300ER – The “Noosa Heads Beach”.

The flight itself wasn’t too exciting – as long haul flights rarely are (or probably shouldn’t be anyway). I spent the time watching reasonably uninteresting movies (has there actually been anything interesting at the movies in 2017/2018?). At least I was able to stretch my legs, as I had paid extra for the emergency exit isle seat (26C) in Virgin’s “Economy X” class. It also came with a premium noise cancelling pair of headphones that worked great. I’ve got to say though, they seem to have been designed for children … or maybe I’ve got a badly swollen head.

Anyway, after 13 hours, I finally made it into LAX. A crazy airport that has pretty terrible signage (I daren’t think what it must be like for non-English speakers) and looks old, tired, and a bit run down. At least I had a chance to freshen up my caffeine balance.

Wakey-wakey juice in a tired place

The flight to Seattle was horrible. I really hope that this wasn’t representative of most American domestic flights. Some people (of course not all) were fat, loud, slow, and inconsiderate. So it was two and a half hours of quiet suffering for me (I was quiet, not the flight) until I finally made it into SEA – Seattle Tacoma International Airport.

Brown but clean SEA

From there I took the shuttle bus to the rental car facility next to the airport, where I picked up my white Dodge Malibu and made my way into downtown Seattle. It was no problem at all driving on the wrong side of the road again. The only thing that took me a little longer to get, was to train my eyes to recognise the speed signs at the side of the road, as they are amazingly indistinct and inconspicuous.

Good ride

My first stop was the Post Office at 301 Union Street to pick up the two parcels with goodies I’d shipped to myself as general delivery (or “poste restante” anywhere else). Alas, the hole in the wall had closed at 12.30pm already, so I moved on and drove out to the REI flagship store on 222 Yale street. It’s a nice shop. Slightly maddening that they have all the small items I struggled to get together in Australia, just there on the shelf. Anyway, I picked up my pre-ordered items (ice axe, crampons, trekking poles, tent pegs, etc.), plus a few minor ones I’d picked out during my walk through the store. I met a nice young Dutch lady behind the counter, who was very friendly and helpful. She ran my things through and relieved me of my funds.

After that, I spent a little bit more time, driving around town, but eventually got back to the CBD, and checked into the Green Tortoise Hostel at 105 Pike street. I fell into my bed at about 8:15 pm and slept for 12 hours straight.

Due to the magic of crossing the date line in reverse, my day had been over 33 hours long (Seattle is 17 hours behind Townsville).

27 Jun

PCT – Day [-3] (27 Jun 18) – Tiger Mountains

The day started well, at around 8:30 am, with a shower and some darn good coffee from the specialty roaster next door to my hostel, the “Seattle Coffee Works“. I did a little wander around town, while sipping my latte, but quickly decided that it would be better to hit the road and get exploring. So I had a quick glance at the map and without a lot of thinking decided to head for the biggest green blob I could find. Turned out to be an area east of Seattle: the Tiger Mountain State Forest.

It was a nice drive along Interstate 90, after I’d cleared the major traffic, and eventually I arrived at the “East Tiger Summit” trail head. I even had a chance to talk to my mum on the phone.

As I stepped out of the car, the beautiful fragrance of a coniferous forest welcomed me and I happily stepped on to the trail. It’s a shared path for mountain bikes and hikers but thankfully it was quiet and bikes are only allowed one way: uphill.

The smell of the North.

I also sampled the local food.

Despite the rich colour, it would’ve been better with a few more weeks of sunshine.

I kept walking for a couple of hours, but eventually had to turn around, because I was running out of time. I still had to finish up some shopping.

A good place to turn around.

After finishing my chores, I ended my day by driving out to a random parking lot in the Cougar Mountain Regional Wildland Park and packed my bag for the first time with all my gear.

Seven days of food and three litres of water and still comfy. Thank you ZPacks.

I went to the hostel at around 9:00 pm, had a shower, and went to bed.

Unnecessary, random web browsing kept me awake until 12:30 am, which should help keep that jetlag alive and well. Idiot.

28 Jun

PCT – Day [-2] (28 Jun 18) – Olympic National Park

I got up early today (6 am-ish) and started off with an espresso and a latte, before jumping in my car to drive out to the Olympic National Park. Once on the road, I made the brave yet foolish decision to drive via Tacoma, rather than to use the ferry, and got stuck in some traffic. Onboard coffee helped me through it though, and the happy thought that I’d probably not have any other traffic problems over the next few months, kept me cheerful.

Anyway, I made it out to the peninsula and, not really knowing where to go, flipped a coin and went up to the Hurricane Ridge visitor centre, er … center.

Only half way up the mountain, I got my first taste of the tame wildlife.

Bambi getting ready to overtake.

A little further on, the first decent view of some snow capped mountains made me realise in what splendid surroundings I would be over the coming weeks.

It’s white and cold.

Once at the top, I parked next to the visitor center and followed one of the short loop trails around the mountain top and encountered my first close-up snow in years.

More snow.
The visitor centre

The local wildlife was less impressed by my enthusiasm though.

Snow? Puh, seen that before.

Despite it being overcast, the views were rather nice too.

Some gorgeous views.

What I really enjoyed though, were the beautiful little wild flowers on the meadows.

In blue …
… and white.
Different shapes …
… and sizes.
Even some yellow ones …
… and reds.

One thing Australia is lacking, is a decent abundance of wildflowers.

Anyway, a little further on I came across even more wildlife. An Olympic marmot was peacefully munching on the dirt in the ground (not sure about the nutritional value, but hey, I’m not one to judge).

Punxsutawney Phil’s weird cousin.

On my way back, I stumbled upon another deer, who seemed more than used to humans shoving cameras up its nostrils.

So I thought I’d be a good little tourist too and took a pic.

What are you looking at?

Alas, all good things must end and I had to go back. I drove back down the mountain and headed back towards Seattle. Did take the ferry this time around.

Waiting to board the ferry.

It was a very nice trip back to the hustle and bustle of town.

Seattle is actually quite nice.

I finished the day by doing some last minute shopping (yes, again) and then some rather frantic searching for somewhere to discard all my rubbish I’d accumulated over the last few days (gear packaging and food wrappings). The almost complete lack of public rubbish bins everywhere was rather astounding. In the end I split things into smaller bundles and distributed them among a collection of public bins I finally found at Discovery Park. Phew.

I’ve also been trying my hands (or should I say lips) at the American accent. Sometimes it works surprisingly well (especially with short and simple phrases), whereas at other times my Aussie twang shines through rather brightly. I’ll have to practice a lot more or people will think I’m Canadian. 😜

The hardest part is not to call everybody “mate”.

29 Jun

PCT – Day [-1] (29 Jun 18) – Bus to Winthrop

I got up early today, probably just around 6:00 am, checked out of the hostel, and drove the car back to the airport. Drop off was no problem and soon I made it to the nearby train station that got me to the Greyhound station in town. I ended up there well over an hour early and had to wait.

It was rather boring, but eventually another hiker turned up, ice axe at the ready, and I thought he might be out for some weekend hiking. But he turned to me and asked: “PCT?”

Naturally he (his name’s John) and I had plenty to talk until the bus left, and even on the bus we chatted about our upcoming adventure.

Leaving Seattle’s Greyhound station.

The Greyhound bus took us all the way to Pateros, where we ran into a couple more PCT hikers. We hung out together and relaxed a little on the lawn of the city park by the river, until eventually we could jump on to a small regional bus that took us up to Winthrop. Here I had booked a site on the local KOA campground, since I didn’t want to count on getting a ride up to the trail in the late afternoon. I invited John along, but the other two were keen to make it up to the trail and ventured out to catch a ride (I later found out that they actually made it).

John and I just set up our tents, grabbed a six-pack, and spent a rather splendid evening chatting and getting more and more excited.

Darkness falling on our tents at the “Winthrop / North Cascades National Park KOA”.