Archive for the ‘Backpacking’ Category

Every year, we go to the Tacoma area to visit my in-laws. Most years, I take the opportunity to go on a guilt free backpacking trip, knowing that Grandma, Grandpa, my wife, and my kids are perfectly happy sharing each other’s company without me. I’ve gone to the North Cascades and The Olympics (two different trips)…but when you go to Washington, there is one singular feature that draws you, like a moth to flame: Rainier. I backpacked for 3 nights there a couple of years ago, completing about a third of the Wonderland Trail. At the time, I didn’t really feel the need to complete the entire 93 mile trail that circumnavigates “The Mountain.” But as I was out there, I learned that Wonderland is a different than my typical trips. First, there are hundreds of backpackers out there. Most are trying to do the full loop. They take anywhere from 7 to 14 days to do it. When I was there, I ran into a couple with a 11 month old baby, a family of 7 with the youngest at age 3, and a wide array of others. Though it was a solo hike, it was the most social hike I’d ever been on – lots of “where you coming from, where you going, are you doing the whole loop,” and I’ll tell you, it kind of stung to tell these people, nope, just a couple nights. I decided that I needed to do the full loop.

The problem is that 93 miles is a long trip to fit into a family vacation. While I was out there last time, I met a thru hiker, who had previously completed the Appalachian Trail as well as putting in long trips on the PCT and others. He was doing the trail in 7 days, 6 nights. He was crushing it – the people I ran into on the trail after I passed him spoke of him in hushed tones like he was some kind of superhuman (though he was really very mild to talk to).

Anyway, as you might have guessed, I’m going to do it in 7 days and 6 nights. Partly because I want to be in that top-2% who take it by force, but mostly because that’s the time that I have to do it.

I’m going right to left, starting and stopping at Mowich

Day 1: Arrive Mowich Lake, 15.1 miles to North Puyallup: Start at 4900 ft down to 2600 ft back up to 5200 ft down to 3700 ft. And this is the trick to walking around a huge, glacier capped, semi-dormant volcano. Every half dozen miles, some minor river gouges a valley into the flank of the mountain. You constantly descend and ascend, descend and ascend, 1000, 2000, or more feet at a time. The rule of thumb is 30 minutes a mile, 30 minutes a thousand feet. I’ve always found that this works for me on the long haul – I walk faster than this, but if you factor in 15 minute breaks every so often, it averages out. Keep in mind you’ve got 44 lbs on my back for this (if you’re me at least – smarter, dirtier, less comfortable, people can get away with 20 lbs less).
Day 2: North Puyallup 13.7 miles to Devil’s Dream: 3700-5600-4200-5600-4300-5300-5200. Up and down, up and down.
Day 3: Devil’s Dream 16.2 miles to Maple Creek: 5200-2800-4500-2800
Day 4: Maple Creek 14.4 miles to Summerland: 2800-2600-6800-5900. Yes, that’s 30 miles in two days with a FOUR THOUSAND foot climb at the end of the 2nd day. Gruesome. If I survive to Summerland, I’m golden.
Day 5: Summerland 9.8 miles to Sunrise via White River (food cache): 5900-3900-4300-6300
Day 6: Sunrise 12.2 miles to Dick Creek: 6300-6700-6400-6700-4600-6000-4300
Day 7: Dick Creek 9.9 miles to Mowich: 4300-3200-6400-4900 and out.

Last trip, I did the White River to Mowich segment.

I’ve got to say. I’m a bit daunted. Steve and I used to bang out huge days, but more recently we and, later, I by myself, have found that 10 miles, hiking from 8 AM to 3 PM, is a nice leisurely approach. The two hardest days are going to be 10-12 hour days on the trail. Break camp by 7, set camp by 7. Further, I sleep poorly on the trail, and over time that catches up with you. This is, by any definition, the longest trip that I’ve done.

Fortunately, I’m healthy. I’m running. I’m reasonably fit and active otherwise (though, I’ll be 38, which, you know, is old). I’m not yet where I’d need to be to thrive on a march like this one, but if I can stay healthy, I can get there. I’m planning on documenting the planning leading up to the trip, and then spending some time on the trail writing my thoughts (as I always do). I don’t know if this will be the last time I try to convince myself to do something crazy like this…but, for the time being at least, I’m too young to slowly taper my way to a placid death. And I <i>need</i> goals to function. So, here I stand.


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We met a man who splits his life between the backcountry and a van. I go on few night trips to the backcountry. It is the right length. I like being warm, comfortable, and clean. I like being connected – to what, I couldn’t tell you. I don’t want to live in the woods. A second trip per year, a few more nights on each trip, that would be perfect, but I don’t want to retire from society.

Yet, whenever I leave the woods, I’m overwhelmed with a sense of existential dread. There is something very wrong with normative existence. There is something smothering, stifling, attached to life writ large. Having not touched my beleaguered fingers for days, I start idling gnawing on them once more. I feel my blood pressure rising, I feel the need to gird myself against a coming gale.

Every morning, I give myself a silent pep talk getting out of my car and walking into work. Something simple, “you can do this, you have this.” I take a deep breath and press against the weight of the world. A grown man, rarely flappable, repeating meaningless aphorisms to face standard existence.

I’ve mulled this, once more, these last few days. This likely isn’t the first time I’ve written about it. Having not written in some months, with months before that and years of limited output, I am writing to no one but webcrawlers and people who learned how to set up RSS feeds a decade ago but don’t know how to turn them off.

It comes down to a balancing of the humors. Competing personas. There’s the me who lives in the backcountry. Who runs to exhaustion (that limb is nearly severed). Who lifts weights and glowers ominously under the spell of the associated hormones. Who digs in dirt and grows flowers; listening to birds, encouraging the bees, drifting in the breeze, sweating in the sun. This is all one version, with the backcountry being the most extreme variant. This persona takes center stage only briefly during normal life, but in the woods wins out completely. It is physical, with little mental and social exertion required. Primal. Simple. But temporary.

Then there’s work, which I also tend to enjoy. It’s more aggressive, social but in a strategic manner. Mental. Humility as a tool to covert weaknesses into relatability. Eccentricity to hide awkwardness under a veneer of socially acceptable middling genius. It’s a tight-wire act, but one that I’m good at, and it’s the enabler of all other aspects of life. Sure, my profession itself is somewhere near morally bankrupt, but the day-to-day challenges are interesting and unique.

Domestic; there’s the rub. Socially exhausting, littered with failed expectations, constant responsibilities, and misplaced hopes and dreams.

Toward the middle of our trip, we took a wrong turn. We followed a gradually sloping rockface, toward points unknown. Eventually, we would come to a place where travel became difficult. We’d need to make a decision: confront our mistake and backtrack or embrace our mistake and push through. It is perhaps possible to get to the other side from where we are, but not easy. It is possible that this will waste even more time, or lead to an increasingly perilous situation, making matters worse for all parties. But one thing is certain: with each step down a path, one gets further from where he was supposed to be. And at some point, one finds himself on a different trail altogether. Maybe parts of the trail are good, but where does it go?

I’ve been cliffed out for years. I’m pressing forward. I have to. Too much is at stake. There is no way back. And one doesn’t walk alone through the domestic realms. Where would the victims of this meandering climb end up, and whose conscience would bear their own plights?

For completeness, add in a spiritual self. On good days, it connects all of these together with a sense of meaning; a larger world that makes suffering worthwhile and transforms minor things into eternal things. On the bad days, it’s a tin veneer, a delusion, a spit shine of a rusty hubcap, a wary bludgeon waiting to punish missteps or retreats.

In any case, given time, the humors balance. Potential alternate paths disappear into the mists that they came from. Purpose and clarity shine through the mire, not because something is fixed, but because something is. Being supersedes all other considerations. Existing requires effort, and this existence comes with its own worries and challenges. I’ve always made plans and followed them. One, followed by the next, followed by the next. The trail, whatever trail it might be, has this climb, then that turn, then I’ll be there, next I’ll be there, eventually, I’ll be elsewhere. Each stage, follow that stage’s plan. Sometimes it’s so godawful sad that it shakes the foundations of existence. Most of the time it just is. There’s some meaning in simply existing. Isn’t there?

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Mount Rainier

I tend to jot some down notes during my backpacking trips. I didn’t really feel like thinking too hard this time. Last trip was my first solo trip, and that led to all kinds of self-reflection, coupled with loneliness and repressed fear. This time, not too lonely, not particularly scared. Mostly just walked. Chatted with folks when able. Read some books. Walked around. Took some pictures. Nothing really earth shattering. But I did still write a few things down.

7/24/17: Came in at the White River around 0820. 12.3 miles and a few thousand feet to Mystic Lake at 1330. This trail is a highway – encountered on the order of two dozen people on my trip here, very different than last year in the Olympics.
My most interesting encounter was a family with 5 kids ranging from 3.5 to maybe 12 [actually 13]. They are doing the entire Wonderland Loop. Today’s chunk is no joke. It’s very impressive that they are even trying. Sounds like I’ll see them again tomorrow.

7/25/17: Left Mystic Lake at 0800 and arrived in Eagles Roost at 1400, 11.7 miles traveled. Climbed 500 ft, dropped 2500 ft, climbed 3000 ft, then dropped another 1500 ft. Going a bit slower than yesterday. I think I need new rules of thumb. I can do 2.5 mph over all terrain on day 1. 2.0 mph on day 2. 1.8 mph thereafter. Includes breaks. To me, I still think this implies that Wonderland – 93 miles – is a 6 night, 7 day thing. I thought be fine with 12-15 mpd.
Out here, doing the circuit is THE thing. Most folks that I run into are trying it. Some, like the experienced through hiker, are going to do it as fast as 6 nights without resupply. He’s got several long hikes under his belt, including the Long Trail and AT. Others, like some girls I met, are doing it over 13 nights. Some seem doomed to fail, most will make it work. All are very pleasant.
It has been a much more social hike. I have chatted with a half dozen or so folks. I saw the family with 5 kids again – Scott and Clarissa [or something like that] the parents. They were struggling. I did the hike from Mystic through Cataract Valley – about 7 miles – this morning. They left Mystic at 2-3 PM yesterday…got there [to Cataract Valley] at 9:30, in the dark. It was a no-joke hike for anyone, let alone 5 kids. I secretly hope they pop out at Mowich tomorrow (they stay here [at Eagles Roost] tonight); I fear their plan is too ambitious.
[They would, indeed, end their hike at Mowich. An epic journey nonetheless. But 93 miles was going to be too much.]
Meanwhile, I also met Eric and Therera and their 9 month old Zoe (or something). They too were doing the whole loop. Probably easier than the 5 kid family.
I’ve begun to encounter day hikers going from Mowich to Seattle [and Spray] Park. They are slow but more than that, they seem out of place here.
7/25/17 1943: My social skills are marginal in the best of times. Put me in a room with people I know, or in situations where idle chit chat is the norm, I typically do fine. But I can go from normal to awkward in a blink. I may be deftly leading a meeting one minute and mumbling a confused response to a co-worker in the hallway the next.
Add to that physical exertion [such as backpacking], a mixture of introverts and extroverts, and miles between people, and things get worse. I had several pleasant conversations on the trail today. I had just as many awkward encounters. Some people are happy to chat. Others, not so much. You can’t tell the difference. My social intuition declines in proportion to the space between human encounters. On the trail, you might have hours, or, as last year, days between conversations. End of story. Mosquitoes are eating me through my clothes.
7/26/17: At Mowich, waiting for my ride, about an hour and 15 minutes early. This might have been too easy. Only one day “out”, waking and sleeping on the trail. Plus everyone, experts and novices alike are doing the Wonderland. But…the family of 7 is cutting the trip short at Mowich. I’m relieved. That was going to be too much. So, some Wonderland thoughts:
I can do it in 6 nights, which would make me in the top few percent of fastest. I should:
1) Not bring camera – that’s like 4 lbs right there.
2) Not bring [bear keg]
3) Resupply – don’t do 7 days in one bag. Resupply has food, first aid (in case I need it), fresh clothes)
4) Need new, lighter, tent
I should have two tech [fast drying, odor resistant] t-shirts, 3 tech underwear, 2 tech shorts. Everything else pretty good. It would be nice to have clean clothes for bed, but that might be a bridge too far. Crocs are perfect. Bear spray is optional. Fresh fuel in resupply.
One trip would be:
In Mowich, resupply White River.
16.4 to North Puyallup
14 to Devil’s Dream
15.7 to Maple Creek
14.2 to Summerland
Resupply White River
10.3 to Sunrise
12.5 to Dick Creek
8.5 to Mowich and out.
I’d say 7/24 or later to avoid any possible snow.

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Over the years, I’ve kept a journal while backpacking. I did it again this time, only I was more bored, so it is longer.  I don’t really proofread these, nor do they go through the same editing process that I go through when I type.  I don’t find the right words.  I don’t down select for relevance.  I just slowly scribble on a tiny notebook.

Some previous versions…


8/26/16 1415
At Deception Creek camp, having covered 13.3 miles and 2500 ft of elevation gain in less than 6 hours. A few miles ago, I was complimenting myself on my pace. Now, I’m tired. I should have broken that up more. I’ve set camp and am on my way for the first of many pumps [water filtering]. On the western horizon, which is maybe 4 miles away because it’s a ridgeline, there is an ominous haze of smoke [from the wildfire in the park]. Other than a very smokey few minutes in the car, however, the air has been clean. I think that will be changing by the morning [it did not].

So, a solo hike. So far, not that eventful. I had no particularly profound thoughts. I didn’t solve any problems or reform my life. I mostly just walked. Thought about walking. And what I would do if the volcano blew or the Cascadia fault line slipped…but mostly just walked.

I did come to the realization of how alone I was. Not lonesome, but spatially separate. I do not believe that it is an exaggeration to say that you could have drawn a 2 mile radius circle about me and, for a couple of hours at least, I would have been the only one in said circle. It doesn’t seem like much, but think about that for a minute. 7 billion people on the planet and I have 12 square miles [or 7680 acres] all to myself. Alone. Not so anymore, there are two other tents here already. But for a while, I was a solitary red dot walking my way through the woods in an area that would include 5 million people around Manhattan.

8/26 1834
I’ve been reading and doing camp activities all afternoon and evening – peaceful. My two neighbors are still nowhere to be seen. I got here before 2 and have not seen them since. My best guess is that they know each other and are on some common adventure – bushwhacking to the top of a nearby mountain or down at the Dosewallips River proper (we’re a few hundred meters up a tributary). since they haven’t returned and since they seem to be on the same schedule, I’m wondering if they will return together and find that someone (me) has set camp in the common area between the sites. I’m going to keep reading out there to see if they return. Note: there are too many hours in the day here. I should have gone longer. Optimal solo hike distance? 15-17 miles [not so on subsequent days!]. I’ll have to do another activity, less I get too bored.

8/26 2000
Still no sign of one of them. The tarp guy is a massive [not very] guy with long white hair. OK, not that massive, gold guy. Still no one for the Big Agnes site.

Deception Creek
First night video [Intro was chopped off. I am showing my sites to the girls.]
Near Lost Pass, between first and second night
Upper Cameron Basin outflow

8/27/16 1430
5360 ft. Stephen is not here. Normally I go with him. When Steve is here, when we get to camp at 2 PM and there is a 7200 ft mountain a mile away, you can be sure that a summit will be attempted. I always go too, out of a faternal obligation to keep one’s little brother from an early grave [or at least see where the body ends up]. I am getting old. I don’t think I’ve ever felt it as acutely as I did while gaining 2000 ft of elevation between Dose Meadows and Cameron Pass. I had to stop to catch my breath every ten minutes. I was majorly sucking wind. Steve would have left me in the dust.
But Steve isn’t here. So, rather than clumb the extra mountain, I’m going to lay down and ready a book. He can keep himself alive without my help.

I did take some time to drop my pack and scout for sites here at Upper Cameron Basin. Walking around the glacier fed meadow, with nothing but a hat brought me back to my time at Belly River at Glacier NP, many years ago. There’s something extra wild about being packless, away from everything. There is no one else yet at the basin. I may be in my 2 mile bubble all night this time [it was probably a 3 mile bubble, and I was].

There’s something familiar about this place. Imposing ridgeline shelters glaciers. Relatively flat meadow, sometimes with a lake, criss-crossed by frigid snowmelt. Rocks as large as schoolbuses where you cook. Water smells chalky, some distinct mineral, magnesium perhaps? Basin drains through cascading waterfall, you pump the water right near where it drains.
I first saw this place at Stoney Indian in Glacier and was overawed by the gradeur. Then again on our second night in the North Cascades. Then again at Heart Lake the first time I was in the Olympics. Here in the Upper Cameron Basin, I have the entire basin – who knows how much more with the nearest campsite 3 miles away as the crow files. But it’s still basically the same. Maybe that is why I enjoyed Big Bend so much last year – it was distinctive. Peaceful as it is here, I’m a bit bored and definitely dreading the 10 hours of waiting for dawn as I alternatively deprive my arms of oxygen trying to fitfully sleep while shivering in my tent.
And I miss my girls, all of them. Absence makes the heart grow fonder, as they say, and maybe I need that every so often.
BTW: today was 9 miles and 3000 feet. It took all of 6 hours –> 30 minutes per miles, 30 minutes per 1000 ft. Includes rest and lunch.

The meadow at Upper Cameron Basin [sideways]
My camp at Upper Cameron Basin
Grand Pass between night two and three

8/28/16 1422
Arrived at Grand Lake a little while ago and scramble to set camp in the rain. I say scrambled, but I’m not actually moving quickly. Nothing out here does. Even the flies are lazy.
I’ve been talking to myself more today, though I actually felt stronger on the trail today. That might be because I made two walking sticks to serve as trekking poles. It made a big difference climbing to Grand Pass. So, it’s raining and I’m basically killing time until 6 AM tomorrow when I can break camp and hoof it out of here. One downside of being stuck in one’s tent? One is confronted with one’s overwhelming stench. I haven’t really felt complelled to jump into the 53 degree lake or 45 degree river – to wouldn’t make much of a difference anyway without soap. I’ve been rinsing my shift, shorts, and briefs in bodies of water, and that helps some. But they don’t call it swamp ass for nothing and no amount of lipstick is making that pig smell pretty. Or something.

One noteworthy event! I had human interaction! So, 25 or so miles into my adventure, and I finally saw another soul on the trail. And wouldn’t you know it, it was a lost young couple in need of assistance, having only meager navigation skills and subpar maps!

No, no, I swear, I haven’t spent 3 hours starring at this map in the last three days! It was nice to help. I miss people, it turns out. You see, I’m a extrovert in a narrow range of social scenarios. First, I can’t compete for attention. I’m an introvert around dominant personalities. But when I’m the dominant personality, bam, let’s all talk and acknowledge my cleverness and wit. Want to hear about the time I lugged 50 lbs on my back for 4 days? I was all by myself! Picture a 2 mile circle!

Vanity, vanity. I should have a blog! I can control the discussion, framing it in ways to make my views unassailable. Or talk radio? Or maybe I’ll just dominate meetings at work!
All this self-reflecting, you know? But I already knew all these things, enlightened and self-aware as I am. I’m just bored and trapped in a tent with nothing to think about but how much I stink.
(Full circle! Get it? OK, I’ll stop.)

8/28 1556
I think it’s important to do things like go backpacking. It forces you to confront things that you take for granted in your daily life.

The acquisition of water. While I have two hundred viable water sources on this particular route, that wasn’t the case in Big Bend. In fact, we ran out of water on our first hiking trip in New Hampshire. I dreamt of faucets that night. Then there’s the provision of food. Calories and protein, but also fiber. Then you have to force yourselve to eat it. I, for instance, currently have a profound lack of “give a shit”. I mostly just want to sit and sate. But, I suspect this is due to too few calories and too many miles on too few hours of sleep. Low blood sugar. Low something. Whatever the case, this apathy is something I only get under this specific set of conditions. Then there’s shelter. You have to BYO shelter.
And warmth. Last night, I wore 4 shirts (aka, all of them), pants, two pairs of socks, a winter hat, gloves, a silk liner and a sleeping back largely because I neglected to bring my own bag and am borrowing my mother-in-laws’ and she’s not 6′ tall. Sleep. Hard to do on the ground. Hygiene? A losing battle. And there are 7000 ft mountains (they were 11000 feet in King’s Canyon and the Uintas). Maybe hoardes of mosquitoes. And wild animals! Everyone knows about mountain lions and bears (I have no idea why I have yet to see any!), but also goats and deer that will chew on your clothes for salt if you leave them out.

Goats don’t chew your clothes in normal life. Water comes from faucets. Beds have blankets and pillows. Houses have bathrooms and in them you can wash off your filth and dispose of your excrement.

Trust me, it’s good to do without every so often. You should totally try it sometime.
Grand Lake

Badger Valley
Badger Valley again [BTW, it’s possible to get to this place with a strenuous 7 mile day hike. Worth it.]
Deer Path to Obstruction Point, nearer to Obstruction Point
Maiden Peak

8/29/16 12:34
Today’s walk was a celebration. Broke camp early, on the trail by 7:25. Finished 10 miles and about 2000 feet in just under 5 hrs. Felt strong and cheerful. Badger Valley and the ridge were both beautiful. Waiting for extraction, eager to see the girls.

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Devil’s Path, NY

This Saturday, Stephen and I did the 24.8 mile, 18,000 vertical foot (9,000 up, 9,000 down) Devil’s Path in the Catskills. My quads continue to scream two days later. The hike climbs 6 mountains (summiting 5 of them), dipping at least 1200 feet down between each peak. It’s a constant up and down, up and down, all of it on loose, steep, rocky and occasionally slick terrain. I’ve got the High Sierra, Glacier, North Cascades, the Uintas, and a few other spare day hikes to compare it to – it’s the most difficult terrain and probably the most difficult hike that I’ve done.

We started at 0700 at the Prediger Trailhead and finished around 1815 on Spruceton Rd, stopping for an hour or so total in between. The 25 mile day hike is a challenge that is not to be taken lightly. By our lunch date with my family at Devil’s Tombstone Campground off 214 (around 1230 and 14 miles in), my quads were already quivering under the eccentric loading. I was having a hard time visualizing how I’d possibly handle that pounding under a 40 lb pack (a nice example of the terrain). You do not, of course, do it all in one day in that case.

The views were pretty sweet for what they were, though they don’t stack up against the views out west. The hike was perfectly pleasant until it transitioned from “oh, how nice, nature!” to the long, painful slog toward the finishing goal. That was the point of it, so it remains pleasant as I struggle up and down stairs even today. The terrain was definitely interesting, and I enjoyed the uphills. These were on the very edge of what you need switchbacks for – most parks out west would take hills as steep as these tangentially and with switches. Here, probably due to the denseness of vegetation and desire to avoid having to maintain a longer route than minimally necessary, the trail plowed straight up the hill. Down was, unfortunately, just as steep, with loose rocks and crevasses requiring full concentration for huge stretches at a time.

Other than very nearly smashing my camera when I slipped on a wet rock a few miles in (I’m very impressed that it wasn’t destroyed, I really smashed that thing), there weren’t too many noteworthy occurrences. We saw a few small snakes in a tree. We saw a guy with no shirt in a transparent poncho, despite the beautiful weather. Actually, there were TONS of hikers out – we probably saw 50+ folks on the trail, though most doing shorter loops. Apparently a girl that started before us also finished the full trip before us (we never saw her). I can’t visualize covering the distance much faster than we did. We ran sporadically in the very occasional flat portions (maybe 2-3 total miles, and probably no faster than 9:00 mile pace because the terrain was still treacherous), we made very good time up the hills…I was a liability going down the hills, which was never my strength, even in running cross country.

No backpacking this year, given the baby. This was good enough to evoke sufficient physical misery to sustain me for a bit. That’s really all I need.

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In previous years, I have kept a journal on Stephen and I’s backpacking trips. I’ve been better about posting these in a timely fashion in the past – except for Algonquin, which I never posted at all (but which I plan to type up soon). Anyway, previous entries are here:
The High Uintas, 2010
Algonquin Provincial Park, 2009
Glacier National Park, 2008
King’s Canyon National Park, 2007

There was no trip in 2011, as Steve was living in Germany. Jen and I visited him there instead.

Each time we do this, it’s a little less stressful, less exciting, less noteworthy. That’s not to say it’s not wonderful, it is. Now, I see the mountains, and I say, wow, these are epic, sort of like …, and name a previous range I’ve backpacked in. The first time you see the mountains (from IN the mountains because it’s VERY different), it changes your world. World was changed a while ago now, and recollection is less intense an experience than discovery.

Anyway, here’s the log from this last trip.

8/20/12 1750 PST
About 8 miles in at McAlester Lake, around 5500 ft elevation. We got out of the Monin house around 6:15 this morning. We stopped for Steve’s run at the North Cascades station and got to the Bridge Creek trailhead around 1215. After giving three damsels in distress a jump and opening the door in the bathroom on a naked dude, (“YO! Don’t you knock?” “Yo, don’t you lock?” I inadvertently rhymed back) we left for the woods before he got out.

It was a comedy of errors in the first mile, as we interpreted a trail sign for Stiletto Spur to be for the spur itself and not the trail TO the spur (which we wanted). Instead we took this marginal trail which became progressively more primitive until it basically evaporated at an unsanctioned stream crossing. We persevered and eventually intersected the PCT, getting on our way.

Once in the right place, it was uneventful. It’s nice country, but the hike was not noteworthy for anything in particular.

Since we’ve arrived, Steve has caught a small cutthroat trout, not big enough to eat. We saw a bird dive bomb into the lake for a fish. It was fat and black with a white head and looked more like a duck than a bird of prey. Have since heard his huge kersplash another time. Mosquitoes, by the way, have necessitated full body protection. It’s about 68, so not a big deal. I doubt the water is colder than 55 – fairly pleasant. We jumped in to bathe for a few minutes. There’s a middle aged couple nearby, but otherwise it’s pretty peaceful out here.

8/21/12 1650 PST
I got my typical poor night’s sleep, with about 3 good hours from 1-4 and another 2 hrs sprinkled here and there. Not awful, and had the opportunity to see the stars at 4. So many, I couldn’t figure out what I was looking at.

After some oatmeal and crasins, we broke camp around 7:30, to do the 10 miles to Rainbow Lake. After a long descent, we had just as long of an ascent, for no net elevation gain, but down and back up more than 2500 ft. The highlight of the day was Steve’s yearly foray into danger. This year, scaling the mountain to the south side of Rainbow Lake was quite good. We had excellent views of Chelan, the western mountains in the Cascade range, and most all of the park. The weather was once again perfect, though the western range looked to be getting some rain.

I’m now sitting in an west facing meadow, absorbing sum after my daily bathing. The water is surprisingly warm, maybe even 60 degrees. It’s tough getting into it, but you can stand it for a few minutes once you’re in.

By the way, really fresh black bear skat in the camp. Full of berries. I think we may be seeing him later…

8/22/12 1825 PST
The walk from Rainbow Lake to South Fork was uneventful. We got up around 7 – I slept reasonably well; despite waking up a dozen or so times. I got a few decent chunks. On the trail before 9, we covered the 7 miles by ~12:30.

With lots of time to kill, we started following the river downstream. The river was fast enough and deep enough to require some skill, and the density of the vegetation forced us to cover most ground in the river itself. The water here is still amazingly warm – probably near to 60 degrees.

Along the way, Steve dropped his line in whenever we hit a spot deeper than 4 ft, catching several dozen fish (I even caught 2). Of those, we ate 6 for dinner. Good to add some calories.

Meanwhile, the sun is setting straight down the river valley – perfect for pictures. This site is underrated. It’s a great place with enormous cyprus and [unk] trees and a lovely river. We’re the only ones here, making it better. Good stuff.

8/23/12 1030 PST
After the 6.3 miles from South Fork to the Bridge Creek Trailhead in 2.5 hrs, we were done by 1030. Last night I took some pictures before sitting on Steve’s fishing log for a bit, watching the fish as the sun set behind the mountains. Eventually, dozens of bats patrolled above our heads – very few mosquitoes here by the way.

It dropped to 35 degrees last night – cold in the bags. Steve’s going to freeze in Yellowstone. Broke camp in just over an hour – a quick turn around when you include the hot meal. Decent enough sleep too – 10 hrs of the very fragment sort.

Once again, the trip was sustainable. The perfect weather helped, but we easily could have gone longer – with more food. Good stuff, all of it.

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