Cascade Locks to Bend, OR

Highlights: While the last blog post was rather whinny (sorry, but not every mile of the PCT is going to be fun), the hike out of Cascade Locks was again amazing for us.  We took the Eagle Creek Alternate, which follows a set of amazing waterfalls.  We soon climbed high into the mountains again and reached Mount Hood where we stopped at Timberline Lodge to resupply.  We then took the Ramona Falls alternate, which ended in a gorgeous waterfall, with beautiful rocks.  We then hit our first wildfire closure, and had to walk an arduous 30 miles on road to detour it, and were met with horse flies, no shade and no water for 30 miles.  After regaining the PCT around Jefferson, we hit some patches of snow, and walked through burnt out sections for quite some ways before hitting Santiam Pass and meeting White Jeep, who gave us a ride to Bend, and introduced us to our custom GPS unit to hike the rest of the trail with.

Day 29: Cascade Locks to mile 2132, 23 miles

July 30th:  After running a few more errands, and satisfying our need for town food, we headed out of Cascade Locks, taking the Eagle Creek Alternate.  The trail followed steep walls with beautiful waterfalls and pools, and the trail even went right behind one of the larger water falls.

Eagle Creek, Tunnel Falls

Eagle Creek, Tunnel Falls

To regain the PCT, we took Indian Springs Trail, which was very steep and reminded us of what a non-stock graded trail was like.  I was proud to get up it still going 2 miles an hour, as we climbed about 1000 ft per mile.  Indian Creek Trail regains the PCT near the top of the ridge, and Dirt Stew and I checked the map to make sure we were walking the right direction.  The trail was amazingly flat, and covered in pine needles.  “Too good to be true”, Dirt Stew joked.  He took out his GPS just to check our progress.  “SHIT!” He shouted.  We’re going the wrong way!  How was this possible?  We both had checked the map.  We had hiked an hour or longer going northbound on the PCT, going an amazing speed on this well groomed trail.  We cursed at not using a compass when we had looked at the map, and kept wondering how we made the wrong turn.  We never did find out, but we probably went 4-6 miles out of our way.  We still managed to do 23 trail miles, so in all we probably hiked 28 miles that day.  Once we were headed in the right direction, we met a very helpful NOBO who gave us accurate information about water sources up ahead.  We decided that not all NOBOs are liars. 🙂

Day 30: Mile 2132 to Timberline Lodge, 25 miles

July 31st: Today we decided to take the Ramona Falls alternate- another scenic trail with waterfalls.  These alternates are almost the same mileage as the PCT, but more scenic.  The falls reminded me of a pyramid of champagne glasses with water pouring over them.
Romona Falls

Romona Falls

We hiked a difficult 25 miles up to Timberline Lodge, gaining quite a bit of elevation.  We got beautiful views of Mount Hood, and got our resupply box at the Lodge in the evening.
Mount Hood

Mount Hood

We had been told the the breakfast buffet at the Lodge was $25 per person (an earlier lying NOBO).  We decided to camp not too far from the lodge and save the time and the money by not going to the breakfast buffet in the morning (biggest mistake ever).  We later found out the buffet would have only been $15 per person.

Day 31: Timberline Lodge to Summit Lake Rd (on alternate), 31 miles

August 1st: We got an early start and met a few NOBOs who told us about an upcoming fire closure.  Most NOBOs had hitchhiked around the closure, avoiding a 30 mile road walk.  We met one NOBO who had walked the road, and he told us there was no water along the route.  We were determined to walk it, as we did not want to give up our continuous footpath from Canada to Mexico.  Later we found Little Crater Lake, just .1 off the trail.  It was a deep mesmerizing blue, and I wanted so badly to jump into it and go for a swim.
Little Crater Lake

Little Crater Lake

It was hot an humid out.  I took my shoes off and stepped in.  My feet almost immediately went numb.  A helpful sign told us about the lake and how it was formed, and explained that the temperature of the lake was always 34 degrees F.  Ok, I wasn’t that desperate for a swim.  We continued, and started walking next to another lake, so we stopped and jumped in with our grubby clothes on.  Much warmer than Little Crater.  It was nice to cool of and wash off some of the grime.  We got to the wild fire closure, and filled up every water bottle and container we had with water to prepare at a nearby camp ground.  A nice family offered us a fresh mango and bananas, and we were happy to have fresh fruit.  We started walking the road, and decided to hike late to avoid having to hike too long in the heat of the day tomorrow.  The heat gave way to a thunder storm, and we were glad to have our umbrellas, as the rain turned to hail.

Day 32: Summit Lake Rd to mile 2045, 31 miles

August 2nd: We woke up to the sound of rumbling, and having remembered the horrible storm that was in the morning at Goat Rocks, we decided to close our eyes and sleep through it.  The storm dissipated quite quickly, and we decided to get going.  The road walk was tedious.  There were lots and lots of horse flies attacking us all day.  The sun climbed, and it got hot, and humid.  Our feet hurt, and we grew very tired from chasing away the horse flies and trying to stay cool under our umbrellas.  Cars passed us, and the road went from paved to gravel, and each car that passed kicked up a bunch of dust into our faces.  People stared at us from inside their air-conditioned cars, and we cursed them under our breath.  Only one nice man stopped his car and asked if we needed any water.  We were so happy to reach the end of the detour, and find a small shack next to a lake which was renting out boats and had some cold soda to sell.  We jumped in the lake, drank our soda and carried on.  I was feeling exhausted, and it didn’t help that my stomach had been bothering me almost every day, making it difficult to eat enough.  As we hiked on, two young men in heavy work clothing with hard hats, walkies-talkies, and axes in hand came down the trail.  They smelled of smoke.  We knew immediately that they were smoke jumpers, and we questioned them about the conditions.  They told us there was a new fire just over the next ridge, but it was away from the PCT, and was almost out.  We were glad to hear that.  The air was thick with smoke and the sun shined almost red through the haze.  Just a mile before we decided to camp, I got a nose bleed.  I figured it was due to the dry smoky air combined with walking through the heat and not eating enough.  I got into the tent and felt like I wasn’t having fun anymore.  The road walk had taken its toll on me, and I was beat.

Day 33: Mile 2045 to Rock Pile Lake, 23 miles

August 3rd:  We slept in past 7am to get some rest and decided to take it easier today.  We passed some small snow patches, and of course with snow and snow melt come the mosquitoes.

Some small snow patches

Some small snow patches

They hadn’t been bad recently, but gaining elevation we entered back into their territory.  The air was still smokey, but the terrain was nice and easy.  I was still having big stomach issues, and had a very hard time eating anything.  We decided that we would go into Bend at the next road crossing and get a proper meal, and some stomach medicine.  As the day progressed we started walking through miles of burned forest.  We met some nice NOBOs who told us all about the trail up ahead and where they stopped in towns, and which restaurants had good food, etc.  We are passing many NOBOs each day, and it seems to me like they are getting nicer and nicer as we go.  We camped by a very nice lake, which surprisingly had no mosquitoes.  I was once again happy to be on the trail.

Day 34: Rock Pile Lake to Santiam Pass, 15 miles
August 4th:  We had an easy  15 miles to get to Santiam Pass where Route 20 would take us to Bend, OR.  We walked through many more miles of burned area with very little water, but the terrain was easy, and the miles went by quickly.

Miles of burnt forest

Miles of burnt forest

Cool rocks

Cool rocks

We passed by a NOBO who told us that a man named White Jeep and his wife Seminole were waiting for us at the Pass.  What a surprise!  We weren’t expecting to be intercepted by them until Shelter Cove.  Perfect timing, as we needed a ride to Bend, and some good food and rest before heading on.  White Jeep has been working on mapping the PCT, and wrote the Half Mile App to make it easier for hikers with smart phones to navigate.  We had agreed to carry a custom GPS unit which would map the PCT as we hiked, and take notes about water sources and camping spots as we went.  I was very excited to start doing this, as the information we were hiking with was obviously lacking in data.  White Jeep and Seminole handed us cookies, chips, and bottled water, and drove us directly to an all you an eat buffet.  As we stuffed our faces with plates of fried food and fresh vegetables, we discussed the ins and outs of using the GPS unit to log the trail for the next 2000 miles.

Checking out the GPS unit

Checking out the GPS unit

After doing some chores, we were happy to go to sleep early in a little motel run by an Indian family.  As I put my head on the pillow I smelled Indian curry.  I let my mind wander towards Indian buffets as I fell asleep.

Trout Lake to Cascade Locks

Highlights:

This section was much shorter than previous sections, and less scenic.  We were mostly in wooded forest with some lakes/swampy areas, and towards the Washington/Oregon border, there gradually got to be less water, and therefore less bugs. The sections ended with crossing the Columbia River on the hair-raising Bridge of the Gods.  We encounter ever increasing North Bound Thru-Hikers (NOBOs).  Black flies and poison oak rear their ugly heads for the first time.  Gear is failing left and right.  Finally, as we descended to the lowest elevation of the Pacific Crest Trail, the Pacific Northwest is hit with a heat-wave.

Day 25: Trout Lake to Mile 2216, 21.5 miles

After a restful night in our tiny hut (the whole hut is about the size of a king sized bed), we ate a great breakfast at the Buddhist Bed and Breakfast with the other guests trading stories about each others adventures.  We got a ride from fellow guests to the Trout Lake Grocery where we found our lost maps!  We were very thankful to get a ride out since hitchhiking was almost out of the question since we had gone on so many different roads to end up at this awesome spot.   We were also incredibly lucky to find the maps that we misplaced in the hiker box at the Trout Lake Grocery Store.  While we were there we had some ice cream.  We started the day late but hiked late because we ended up in a long stretch without water.

Last view in Washington: Mt St Helens

Last view in Washington: Mt St Helen’s

We camped near a meadow.  When setting up camp we discovered that my umbrella had broken again and our tent bug net had a large hole in it probably due to rodents.  To top it off my air mattress had a hole in it from my ice axe puncturing it through my backpack.  I spent about an hour attempting to repair all of these items.  The sleeping pad would not hold air, and we were determined to make it to an outfitter once we got to Cascade Locks.  In the end  I slept on Dirt Stew’s sleeping pad while he used the blue Walmart pad sections we had made for extra insulation on the snow.  It was a good thing we kept them that long.  We fell asleep to the sound of whining mosquitoes.

Day 26: 2216 to Wind River, 28 miles

I woke up exhausted.  We slept on a slope and my sleeping pad was sliding all night, and I kept winding up basically on top of Dirt Stew.  After breaking down camp we found ourselves engulfed in mosquitoes and black flies.  It turns out that the meadow we camped near had a large pond for breeding biting insects.  I decided to call it Black Fly Pond.  It turns out the black fly season and mosquito season overlap.  You learn something new every day.

I will call this "Black Fly Pond"

I will call this “Black Fly Pond”

This day we found ourselves passing through increasing amounts of NOBOs.  We stopped to take a break and found ourselves in a group of arrogant NOBOs also taking a break.  Their inflated egos reminded us of how we felt after finishing the Appalachian Trail.  Not even one month after completing that trail, we decided to go on an ambitious hike on the Isle of Skye in Scotland, and found ourselves completely unprepared because we were over-confident and had done little to no research.  Just because we walked a lot thru-hiking, didn’t mean we were prepared for anything.  At the end of the day we started our decent into the lower elevations near Cascade Locks.  As we descended, the temperatures climbed, as well as the humidity.

Day 27: Wind River to Mile 2159, 29 miles

This day we had two 2,000 ft climbs, which we found difficult in particular because of the hotter and even more humid conditions.  According to our guidebook, there was a stretch of the trail ahead without water.  NOBOs confirmed that there was no water on the trail for 11 miles. In preparation for this long stretch without water we took a long break at Snag Creek making sure to have our meals that required water, and drank lots of water with them.  This was our last water source for 11 miles during the heat of the day.  We loaded up our packs full of water.  Then, as we climbed, we passed water source after water source up the slope.  Essentially these NOBOs had retold us the information we had already had in our guide books and did not add the fact that there was plenty of water going up the mountain.  They had made us needlessly carry another 4 lbs each of water up 1,000 ft of elevation.

Half way up the second climb, we thought there was a chance of making it into Cascade Locks.  We were dying for a shower.  We were swimming in sweat and sticky all over.  We could see the Columbia River down in the distance, and asked more NOBOs about the decent into Cascade Locks.  A number of times they stated that we could easily do it and they had taken X hours.  X hours was always the right amount of time for us to get into town with time to spare before sunset.  After crossing foot tenderizing scree (rock) fields and searing clear cuts, we started to wonder how long we had and what the rest of trail down looked like.  I asked another NOBO what the trail was going to be like into town.  He said, “it looks like this the rest of the way”, pointing to the trail below his feet which was covered in pine needles beneath a shady canopy.

Not so fun descent into Cascade Locks

We then managed to lose the trail having headed down a fire road, and had to decide using the GPS, whether we would go back quite a ways, or bush-wack a shorter distance to regain the trail.  We pretty much knew at this point that we wouldn’t make it to town.  To add insult to misery, we suddenly realized that most of what we were hiking through was poison oak.  We hadn’t noticed since we were pushing hard to make it to town, and now we were probably covered in it. We continued to walk through clear cuts and poison oak as we searched for a place to camp.  I cursed the NOBO who told us the trail would be easy, and decided never to trust them again.  I knew that we would now have to protect our sleeping bags from the poison oak on our skin.  For me this meant sleeping in my long underwear, but for Dirt Stew, it meant sleeping in his rain pants since he lost his long underwear bottoms many miles ago.  We were miserable, and 4 miles away from town, setting up camp just as it got dark.

Day 28: Mile 2159 to Cascade Lock

We woke up and walked into town dodging poison oak here and there.

We've done more than 500 miles!

We’ve done more than 500 miles!

We walked across the Bridge of the Gods to Oregon experiencing extreme vertigo from walking on grated roadway 200ft above the Columbia River.  We were so thankful that we had not tried to go over this bridge in the dark the night before since there is no pedestrian walkway, and we were thrown in with all the cars zooming past.  No shoulder either.  No pictures were taken because Dirt Stew was afraid he would drop his camera through the road into the river below.  We were happy to eat breakfast followed by a foot of ice cream soft serve an hour afterwards.  We’re so happy to be showered and our laundry done.  A few more chores, and we’ll be off tomorrow morning.

Snoqualamie Pass to Trout Lake

Highlights:  The section from Snoqualamie to White Pass was a breeze.  The trail was mostly flat, but buggy.  The section had many forest service roads and exit points unlike the previous few sections we had been in.  We therefore saw many more people.  Sunshine turned to rain, and conditions got colder and wetter.  From White Pass to Trout Lake we passed through the Goat Rocks on a miserable day after attempting to go through in thunder storms, which was obviously a bad idea.  We had to wait out the storms in our tent before attempting to get through again the next day.  After passing through the Goat Rocks we entered into Mount Adams Wilderness, and the rain turned again to sunshine for amazing views and fantastic hiking!

Day 17: Snoqualamie Pass to mile 2396, 5 miles

July 18th.  We woke up at 5:30am to try go get going, but having gone to bed past midnight the night before doing chores, we were completely exhausted.  I did not think I could even hike a single mile I was so tired.  We decided to sleep in and take it easier, and our wonderful host Peter found a way to work from home allowing us to leave later in the day.  We enjoyed pizza and cake and we were able to get to the Post Office before heading back to the trail and meeting up with Swept Away and her family near the trail head.  We had an easy 5 miles and camped.

Day 18: Mile 2396 to mile 2368, 28 miles

July 19th.  We decided to try to make up time and do bigger mileage today.  I started down the trail and caught up with Swept Away who said “The mosquitoes and I are having breakfast”.  It was true, the mosquitoes were swarming around her looking for a blood donation as she casually ate her breakfast.  It was hard to care anymore.  Dirt Stew’s feet were feeling raw, and I suggested that he changed into new socks.  As he took the old ones off, they practically disintegrated in his hand.  He had just gotten these socks in Stehekin!  We passed by many powerlines and logging roads, and tons and tons of beargrass which was beautiful.  It started to rain in the afternoon/early evening.

Beargrass everywhere

Beargrass everywhere

Day 19: Mile 2368 to 2343, 25 miles

July 20th.  We woke up to rain and got going quickly.  We passed a young man who asked us what he should do since all his stuff got wet last night, and he felt a lack of confidence to keep going.  We tried to boost his morale and told him he would feel better once he got going again.  We also told him the fact that he had a synthetic bag over a down bag was good, since down bags are quite useless when wet.  Later in the day we passed a quaint log cabin with a fire place and an outhouse, and I hoped that the young man we had passed made it that far to be able to dry his stuff out and spend a dry night there.  The trail continued to be mostly flat with many pretty wildflowers.  Dirt Stew, Swept Away and I told riddles, and sang songs.

Day 20: Mile 2343 to Snowlake, 30 miles

July 21st.  It was very cold in the morning.  It was very hard to get out of the sleeping bag, and even harder to put on our wet socks and shoes.  Swept Away has a gizmo that tells you the altitude and the temperature so I shouted over to her hammock to ask her how cold it was.  34F and wet.  I can’t think of a better condition for hypothermia.  Once we got moving, we warmed up a little bit.  Dirt Stew stopped to dig a cat hole, and as I kept going ahead without him, I saw a small break in the white clouds/fog and there it was right in front of me, Mount Rainier in all its majesty.  10 seconds later, the fog filled in again, and it was gone.  Dirt Stew missed its appearance.  Later in the day we met our first northbounder!  His trail name is Dainty Fingers, and he seemed in very good spirits.  He started his thru-hike on April 7th in Mexico, and he had walked through miles and miles of snow in the Sierras.  We misread the map and wound up doing extra miles before we camped.  We managed to do 30 miles, the longest any of us had ever hiked in one day.

Day 21: Snow Lake to White Pass to mile 2291, 22miles

July 22nd.  We had an easy hike to White Pass in the rain and mosquitoes.  In White Pass we met Jess, another southbounder, and another couple who were also southbound, but skipped several of the snowy sections.  We did laundry in the little store there, ate fried food, and packed up our mail drop into our packs.  We said goodbye to Swept Away, since she had plans to spend a week camping with her family, and headed back into the woods.  We hiked another 12 miles out of town through the rain and mosquitos, and hit a little bit of snow as we climbed into the Goat Rock Wilderness.  In White Pass we were told that thunderstorms were predicted for tomorrow, so the plan was to get over the knife edge as early the next day as possible, since we figured thunder storms normally materialize in the afternoon.

Day 22: Mile 2291 to mile 2290, 1 mile

July 23.  We woke up to the sound of distant rumblings.  We packed up our stuff and put on our wet socks and shoes and got going quickly in hopes of getting over the sketchy section before any big storms hit.  We started hiking around 6:15am, and make it about 2 or 3 miles before we came up above ridge-line.  The thunder started to sound much closer, and Dirt Stew said “what do you think about this..?”  I stopped, and saw another bolt of lightning.  “I think we should probably turn back”  I said.  Within seconds the storm was on top of us.  BOOM.  Lightning, thunder.  It started hailing, and the ice balls accumulated on the ground.  We started to run back down the mountain to get down from the ridge, above tree-line.  We ran back into the trees and found flat ground to set up our tent.  We were happy to take a nap to the sound of pattering rain and rumblings.  After we had napped to our hearts content, we wondered if we should get going again, but we kept hearing rumblings in the distance.  Having retraced our footsteps, we had only managed to make 1 mile of forward progress today.  We sat there bored and hungry and wasted the hours away.  We fell asleep for the night with hopes of sun, goats, elk and beautiful views for the next day.

Day 23: Mile 2290 to mile 2261.5, 28.5 miles

July 24. We woke up to rain.  Although we had hoped for sun, we quickly got our gear together and got going.  The only improvement in the weather was the lack of thunder and lightning.  We were happy not to waste another day.  As we gained elevation, it got colder and colder, windier and windier.  The rain was horizontal.  Dirt Stew had lost some of his clothing many miles ago when he lost a stuff sac full of clothes, so he was wearing all of his remaining clothes and he was still cold.  My rain pants were failing– they were no longer water proof, but thankfully they were windproof.  We simply kept going to keep warm.  In a gust of wind, I lost my pack cover, which was protecting my gear from the rain.  I didn’t even hear it rip off my pack.  When I realized it, I gave Dirt Stew my sleeping bag so that he could try to keep it dry in his pack.  The snow up on the Goat Rocks was not that bad, but there was some fresh powder that had landed overnight.  Only a dusting.  We wound up on the stock PCT around the Packwood Glacier, which may have actually been the harder way to go since we had to traverse several steep snow slopes, whereas the knife edge was clear of snow.  The wind was tremendous.  As we were crossing some of the snow, Jess, the southbounder we met in White Pass came up behind us.  We were surprised to see him, but didn’t talk much since we were all cold and trying to keep warm by keeping going.  As we made it down off the ridge, we began to see footprints going in all directions.  At first I thought it could be Jess, but then I thought better of it.  The footprints didn’t match Jess’s.  Eventually I saw a ghost in the distance with a large white poncho over him waving to us in the distance.  We walked up to him.  It was a northbounder who had gotten lost up at the Goat Rocks, and turned around and gone back the way he came in defeat.  He wasn’t carrying a GPS, or even a good map, or a compass.  Jess also came up behind us again, having came off the ridge in a different direction by accident.  Jess gave the northbounder some extra food, and we gave him our map for that section, since we were done with that map.  We encouraged him to follow our footprints through the snow back up to try it again so he wouldn’t have to go back dozens of miles in the wrong direction to get a ride out and skip the section.  He looked defeated, but we suggested that sun was on its way tomorrow, and he may have better luck if he simply waited out the weather.  We hope he did make it over safely.  We hiked many miles further that day, chatting with Jess, which really helped the miles melt away.

Northbounder "ghost" trying to make it over Goat Rocks

Northbounder “ghost” trying to make it over Goat Rocks

Jess, another southbounder

Jess, another southbounder

Day 24: Mile 2261.5 to Trout Lake, 24 miles

July 25.  We woke up, and for once it wasn’t raining.  It was foggy and a bit wet, but not raining.  There were signs of blue sky through the clouds and fog, and we got going early so as to make it to town.  As we hiked, the clouds lifted and the sun appeared.  The views opened up.  It was a fantastic day of hiking.  Views of Rainier, Mount Adams, Mount St Helens, and also Mt Hood.

Amazing views

Amazing views

Amazing views

More amazing views

The lupines were blooming all over.  I saw a small blue butterfly land on a lupine and thought fondly of San Bruno Mountain.  The snow around Mount Adams was very easy to pass over.  It was all flat terrain, and we joked about how snow on flat terrain didn’t count as “snow”.  We saw many many northbounders.  We must have hit the beginning of the northbound wave.  We made it to the road crossing at route 23 around 4:30pm.  A lovely couple stopped to give us a ride to Trout Lake, and they dropped us off at the store to pick up our package.  They then offered to drive us to where we wanted to stay, which was a Buddhist Retreat Center called Trout Lake Abbey offering accommodations for thru-hikers.  None of us knew how to get there, but they stopped at a gas station to ask for directions.  We were very grateful to make it all the way to this cute Buddhist Retreat, because there was no way we would have been able to find it otherwise.  The Abbey was amazing.  They have an amazing view of Mount Adams, along with gardens of fresh fruit and vegetables, channels of flowing water into a cute pool, gardens and meditation areas everywhere.  We were overjoyed to be allowed to use their kitchen facilities to cook ourselves some spaghetti, and we were offered fresh vegetables to make a salad as well.  We took hot showers, did laundry, and fell asleep in an adorable little hut.

Trout Lake Abbey.  An amazing place to stay.

Trout Lake Abbey. An amazing place to stay.

Stevens Pass to Snoqualmie Pass

I now have better internet connection, so I will go back and add details and pictures to my previous posts, so be sure to check back…

Highlights:  Compared to the last section around Glacier Peak, conditions were much better for this section.  There was not nearly as much snow for starters.  We were nervous about a dangerous creek that we would have to ford, but it turned out there was a snow bridge caused my avalanche snow which meant we could walk over it, but the bushwhacking up a steep slope back to the trail was a bit of a challenge.  The “Katwalk” was snow-free, however the section right before that, where the trail is more narrow and covered in loose rocks was much scarier for someone with a fear of heights.  There were a few fingers of snow left in the ridge which had to be traversed.  These traverses for the most part were short, and some could even be scrambled around.  The section took 4 days.

Day 13: Stevens Pass to near Surprise Lake, 12 miles

July 15: After spending the night at the Dinsmores, we were able to track down our packages which had been bouncing back and forth from Kent, WA to Skykomish.  We had breakfast at the “cafe” across the street from the Dinsmores, and then got a ride back to the trail.  At the trailhead was the Lodge for the ski resort, and we were tempted into getting a soda and ice cream before leaving up the trail.  We didn’t get hiking until about 1pm.  Sadie had managed to get her package the day before and got going early in the morning.  Swept Away’s package was lost with ours, and she hiked out with us.  Almost every day we have been hearing fighter jets practicing in the mountains.  They are extremely loud.  Today we were hiking through patches of snow, and a couple of jets swept through the valley not 500 ft away from us.  In an effort to cover his ears before they were pierced, Dirt Stew slipped on the snow right onto his butt.

Day 14: Surprise Lake to Waptas Creek, 24 miles

July 15: We hiked up to Piper Pass, which was still covered in snow, but was much less steep compared to the passes which we went over in the previous section.

Piper Pass

Piper Pass

We made it to Deception Creek, which was supposed to be a difficult ford, but it had a snow bridge which we could cross on.  Once safely on the other side, we had to scramble up a very steep slope for quite some distance in order to regain the trail.  A mile or two before we got to the creek, we saw helicopters coming low into the valley.  We wondered about Sadie who we knew was about half a day ahead of us.  On the other side of the steam we passed a note left under a rock that said something like “I will go back north up to mile 2450 to look for you”.  We later found out that two boys ahead of us got separated and lost, and one was worried that the other got swept away at the stream crossing.  A search and rescue was launched, but everyone turned out to be fine.  Later in the day, Dirt Stew post holed and injured his knee slightly by over extending it.  We camped near a stream and were surprised to meet another hiker, Tom, who was hiking slowly northbound taking his time.

Day 15: Waptas Creek to mile 2014: 24 miles

July 16: Today we hit a very steep part right before the Katwalk, which had some small sections of snow left over.  This was the only time during this section that I became a bit nervous during snow traversing.

A few short snow traverses

A few short snow traverses

Even walking along this section without snow was intimidating due to the elevation and the loose rock.  It was a long way to look down into the valley.  We also saw a huge forest fire in the distance.  If Swept Away was not there to tell us otherwise (she is studying geology), Dirt Stew and I would have seriously thought it was a volcano erupting.

Wild Fire!

Wild Fire!

Day 16: Mile 2014 to Snoqualmie Pass: 12 miles

July 17: We got across the “Katwalk” with no difficulties.  It was extremely scenic.  Very rugged mountains and jagged rocks in all directions.  Fantastic views of Rainier in the morning.

Mt Rainier

Mt Rainier

Fantastic Views...

Fantastic Views…

More fantastic views

More fantastic views

Never ending fantastic views

Never ending fantastic views

We got down to Snoqualmie Pass by 1pm, but had to wait until after 6pm for our friend Peter to come pick us up so we could spend the night in Redmond.  In the meantime, we walked to the Chevron Station, and checked out the food truck called Aardvark, which had fantastic food, and great company.  We ate about 3 meals there and chatted with locals over wine at the picnic tables, enjoying some downtime.  After Peter picked us up, we did a few chores before devouring pizza and cake.  We are clean and stuffed full of good food!

Aardvark Food Truck

Aardvark Food Truck

Escape from Shangri-La: Stehekin to Stevens Pass

I am writing this post with my thumbs, so it may be brief.

Highlights:

We headed south from Sehekin, and camped with Sadie for the first night out. The first 10 to 20 miles were easy, although we were going through overgrown trail. On our second day out, we start going up Suiattle Pass, and hit snow and started following footprints and eventually got lost. We heard a voice shouting down to us “hello!! Where are you headed?!”  It turns out that the footprints we were following belonged to Katie, another lost southbound hiker. The four of us joined forces and tackled the snow together. With the help of a GPS, map and compass, crampons and ice axes, we made our way. Dirt Stew and I had all the equipment, but Sadie lacked an ice axe and Katie lacked any traction devices. For the next several days we were mostly in snow. The terrain got more and more difficult as we made our way around Glacier Peak. We had to cross many very steep traverses buried in snow, and we slowly learned to trust our ice axes, our crampons, our poles and our feet. The scenery around us was stunning. Huge rugged mountains covered in snow stretched as far as the eye could see.  One particular day the terrain and the snow was so treacherous that it took us 14 or 15 hours to cover 11 miles. We began to worry about running out of food if progress didn’t speed up. We woke up at 4:30am to try to make better progress the next day. Despite using tons of sun screen, we all became very sun burnt. The snow burnt under our chins and our lips.  Katie suffered the most with blistering lips and nose. We proceeded to cover up every bit of bare skin with all the clothing we had, including our faces. We all had moments where we slipped and were able to self arrest. Dirt Stew had a few impressive saves with the ice axe. Our hands became sore from gripping our ice axes so much. On some of the less steep sections we were able to slide down on our butts which was a lots of fun. On the last night we camped on top of Grizzly Peak, which was a mosquito hell hole. The whole section was do beautiful yet very demanding, we felt like we were attempting to escape from one of the most beautiful places on Earth.  I would describe this section as a stunningly beautiful “hike” punctuated by moments of terror. Finally after 6 or 7  very long days we made it to Steven’s Pass and got a ride to Hiker Haven, which is where I am writing from now.

Day 6: Stehekin to Cedar Camp, 10 miles

July 7: After camping at Purple Camp in Stehekin, we got our mail drop, talked to the rangers at the ranger station, and took the bus back to the trail head.  We of course stopped at the bakery to pick up some delicious treats on the way.  We met Sadie another SOBO thru-hiker while we were at the Post Office.  She had done the whole section north of Harts Pass, but told us it was very treacherous and we were probably smart for having avoided it.  It felt good to meet our first other thru-hiker.  We weren’t sure if we would ever meet another southbounder.  We didn’t start hiking until about 3 or 3:30pm, but go in 10 miles of easy hiking.

Day 7: Cedar Camp to the new bridge over the Suiattle River, 20.9 miles

July 8: We got quite lost following foot prints in the snow on our way up to Suiattle Pass, and as we were pouring over our maps and GPS units, we heard a voice calling down to us “Hello!! Where are you headed?!”  It turns out that the footprints we were following belonged to Katie, another lost southbound hiker.  Katie started hiking a couple days ago from Rainy Pass.  All four of us joined forces to tackle the snow together.  We learned that Katie had gotten swept away at the last creek crossing and narrowly avoided drowning under some logs by planting her trekking pole with all the force she could muster into the rocky bottom.  In the process, she lost her other trekking pole, and some other gear.  We decided to name her Swept Away.  We were very proud to have made it over 20 miles over Suiattle Pass.

Day 8: new bridge over Suiattle River to mile 2533.5, 16.5 miles

We hiked uphill until we hit snow, and then spent most of the day in the snow.  Some steep sections were scary.  We used our ice axes and crampons, and they were very helpful.  The scenery was beautiful, and took our breath away each time we stopped to pause.

Where are we?  I don't know, somewhere beautiful though!

Where are we? I don’t know, somewhere beautiful though!

The sun was very intense and it was very hot out.  We often would lay in the snow to cool off.  Once out of the snow again we went through very dense “jungle” up to where we decided to camp, right before we hit snow again.

Day 9: mile 2533.5 to mile 2522.5, 11 miles

We spent the whole day in snow.  There were sections that were very scary, especially for someone who was afraid of heights.  I could barely look at anything besides my feet and the steps I had to take without freezing up at some points.  We went over Fire Creek Pass, which was intense enough, but the bowls that proceeded it were each very difficult to traverse.  Trail finding was difficult, and we spent a lot of time searching for the trail, or bushwhacking through steep trees or rocks to find it.   It was a long, long day, maybe 15 hours of hiking for only 11 miles, and we were all exhausted by the end.  We didn’t get to bed until 10PM or later.  The scenery continued to be absolutely gorgeous and we were very lucky to have perfect weather.  Only trouble was that it was so sunny that we all got completely fried by the sun.  Even with applying and reapplying SPF 50 sunscreen, we still wound up cooked lobsters, especially our faces.  All of our lips were swollen, since the snow reflects sun back at you while you hike on it, and we spent a good deal of time with our faces pointed towards our feet.  After only having gone 11miles, and noting that the next 30 miles or more would be above snow level, we went through our food to see how long we could last with what we had, and made plans to get up very early the next day to push as many miles as possible.  We spent all day on one map, Section K page 8, and we vowed to burn it after we finished the section.

IMG_1135 IMG_1131 IMG_1106

Day 10: mile 2522.5 to 2506, 16.5 miles

We spent another day totally in the snow, but today was much less scary than yesterday.  We got up at 4:30AM in order to make more miles today.  Since we were all sunburnt, we decided to cover every inch of our bodies to avoid more burning.

Ninja Hikers (sun protection)

Ninja Hikers (sun protection)

I was so exhausted all day from too little sleep that I became irritated and unmotivated at times, but I was so happy that the terrain was less crazy that yesterday.  Dirt Stew made an impressive self arrest at Red Pass right at the very top where there was a cornice, and only a few more feet to go to the top.  He caught himself with his ice axe, but was unable to stand back up on the snow due to the incline, but was able to drag his body up, then make some foot holds and plant the ice axe further up to pull himself up further.  We decide to name Sadie “Frog” since her feet do not seem to mind the wet, and she also has a lot of self confidence on the snow (doesn’t look before she leaps).

Dirt Stew's feet.  Our feet didn't like being wet all day, unlike "Frog's"

Dirt Stew’s feet. Our feet didn’t like being wet all day, unlike “Frog’s”

Day 11: mile 2506 to Grizzly Peak, 16 miles

I woke up with swollen lips due to the sunburn, but felt a lot better having gotten some sleep.  In and out of snow all day, and gaining confidence in my abilities to walk on snow and trust my ice axe and crampons.  Swept Away’s face looks really bad.  Blistering from the sunburn.  We divided our remaining food amongst us since some of us were low on food.  Powered uphill to Grizzly Peak where we were accosted by mosquitoes.  There were thousands.  I have never seen mosquitoes so bad.

Day 12: Grizzly Peak to Skykomish, 14 miles

We hiked into town, and the snow petered out.  Sadie ran ahead to meet her dad, and we got a ride from him up to the Dinsmores where we got showers, did laundry, and had went out for dinner.

At the Dinsmores

At the Dinsmores