2007-08-31 Logistics

Damned logistics are still bothering me when I thought I had this all sorted. Sometime this morning I recalled that I’d be reaching Snoqualime on the weekend, so picking up the memory cards I just asked Dad to send me is going to be hard unless I really speed up or slow right down. And now, after doing 31 miles to fit the new aggressive schedule I’ve found out I sent him the wrong zip code anyway. Bugger.

Other than that and running lots of numbers through my head the day has been great. I got a cooked breakfast from a group of horse riders at Crest Campground. Two mums, two kids, a sick dog and Sarah, a very quiet 20-something with square black-rimmed glassed and a Mediterranean look.

I caught Vlad not much later and we hiked the rest of the day together. Sometimes in silence, sometimes sharing stories and discussing Japanesey things.

I’ve been asking all southbounders for news of the Noodleheads and usually they had passed them an hour or more ago, but this afternoon when someone said “yeah, they’re on the bridge around the corner” I practically ran down the trail to find them. So now the four of us and Jo, who finishes her multi-year section hike of Washington tomorrow, are camped near Trout Lake Creek. Vlad is planning 29 mile days until the end. It’s really tempting to be done in 15 days but I’m pretty sure I’d collapse before Canada at that pace. Yay for catching the Noodleheads. Fingers-crossed I can sort out the postage stuff.

More photos of this day’s journey can be found at Cascade Locks to White Pass


2007-08-30 Lost for words

An early morning start had me stumbling towards Wind Creek, 13 miles away, before 11am. It was here beside the big bridge I saw a bikini, the first I’ve seen in a loooong time. All I could manage was “morning” to the cute blonde as she looked up from her book. If I wasn’t shy enough before, five months in the woods certainly helped matters. It’s not as if I could hold a decent conversation at that point anyway with my mind on resupply at Stabler Country Store.

My box was there and it weighed a lot. It’s the one I packed in Bend and I must have been hungry at the time. I have far too much food. Especially chocolate, but I’ll give it my best shot.

A few easy miles later I crossed Panther Creek and began the real work of the day. Laden with all that food I climbed 3,000ft in the shaded (and thus airless) forest. On the way I met Elliot and Tel, two Texans doing Washington, and Oats and Moonshadow, first seen at the Saufley’s three months ago.

Tonight I stopped near a spring in an area cleared of ground cover with enough room for several tents. Vlad (the Impaler) sat here for a while and we got to talking about his long walks around various continents. He’s even done some big ones in Japan that sound very interesting. He’s expecting to finish before Sept 20th so I doubt I’ll see him again, which is a pity, such worldly knowledge is rare on this American trail.

More photos of this day’s journey can be found at Cascade Locks to White Pass

2007-08-29 Another state of mind

I’m in Washington, the final state of the PCT. According to the data book there are only 500.3 miles of trail once you cross The Bridge Of The Gods at Cascade Locks and that’s what I did this morning. Galen, Riddle’s unfeasibly tall brother, dropped me off on his way to Portland. After I crossed the bridge, taking photos and video during gaps in the traffic (there’s no foot path, one has to hope two trucks don’t pass a walker at the same time), I began the mean climb up to Table Mountain.

Washington certainly wasted no time in teaching me why after 4 months of pretty intensive training I still won’t be able to breeze through the last few sections. It was already warming up in the forest and I sweated my way up the trail alone with my thoughts for quite a way. I briefly entertained the idea that I have done enough and I can go home now, but that didn’t last long. The dreams I’ve had that have me home without completing this are enough to keep me going. So go I did.

I came across a south-bounder who started on August 8th and reported no snow at all which was good. I found it really hard to listen to him though. It was as if he’d just taken one too many Prozac, so slow and dull that holding a conversation with him was dragging me down too. The next two were far more active, but hadn’t seen the Noodleheads. I finally got news of them as I reached Rock Creek and I expect to catch up to them by lunch time.

I’m very glad they suggested sending my food box to Stabler’s Country Store (12 miles from tonight’s campsite). Carrying 6 days of food over today’s hill would have been really tough.

I saw three snakes today, nearly stepping on two of them. For creatures that are supposed to sense ground vibrations they did a poor job of noticing me stomping down the trail. They were all quite small and had black and white stripes running head to tail giving the illusion of staying still when they were really moving.

At the Ballinger household I saw a quote from Riddle’s journal about PCT hikers being like ants. I especially like the one about how our purpose in life is to follow the trail.

More photos of this day’s journey can be found at Cascade Locks to White Pass

2007-08-28 The Dalles

The Ballingers of Oregon, parents to Riddle and uncle/aunt to Stretch, have given me the run of their house today and I’ve used the rest day well I think. I posted off my tent after first checking I was indeed able to erect the one Blue Sky has lent me. Also gone is my bounce box and it’s probably a pound lighter than it was now that I am carrying my cold weather gear.

Along with a new tent I have new shoes and socks, even new (ish) trousers and shirts.

After sorting all that I took a leisurely stroll around town and came home via the historic district of Trevitt. Here I passed The Bennet House. An impressive building from a bygone era when turrets, wrought iron stuff and fish-scale pattern shingles were de regueur. I thought it was rather impressive and so does some US historic society.

I’m definitely ready to get back to what I am quickly considering to be the real world. On the trail I know what I’m doing. I’ve organised all my food, I have the maps and if there is any doubt I’ll just go further north. I have been counting the miles and hoping for the end, but right now I just want to disappear back into the woods for a while. This outside world is becoming more and more alien to me. It’s too much like my dream, I want to get back on the trail. I want to sleep on the ground under the stars. I want to get to Canada but I don’t want this to end.

More photos of this day’s journey can be found at Little Crater Lake to Cascade Locks

2007-08-27 Ori-gone

How quickly things can go wrong and ruin a day. One false move and it’s all shot. I made three bad moves this morning.
The precarious trail down Eagle Creek
The Noodleheads and I walked most of the way down to Cascade Locks together. The Eagle Creek trail is through dense forest but has the interesting creek as scenery. The general setting reminded me of the Waitakere ranges west of Auckland, the creek bed especially. Casually flowing over mossy rocks and downed trees one moment, then plunging down deep chasms and waterfalls the next. At such times the trail was hewn straight into the cliff face. A metal rope was attached to the side for the agrophobic amongst us. The highlight of the this trail, and the reason I was prepared to divert form the official PCT was Tunnel Falls where the path goes into the cliff wall behind the waterfall. It was definitely worth the trip.
Tunnel Falls
I went on ahead when the others needed a break and that’s when things went awry. I was supposed to find Gorge Trail 400 at the “far end of the parking lot”, but all I could see was a paved road going up hill (which was the right way apparently) so I carried on down towards the highway and found the start of the cycle path that intersects with GT400 later and went that way.

I rushed along there, still eager to reach town and get an ice-cream, until I saw the side trail to return to the PCT. Though Yogi’s book said the bike path was easier I thought I should approach town the official way so took the side trail. Mistake #2. It was up hill. A lot of it, and by the cobwebs I now know not many take this path. I raced along this stretch too, dreaming of milkshakes and cookies. A good 20 mins later I came to an intersection. Dirt road running perpendicular to the trail. On the opposite corner a sign pointed to the sky to “PCT South” and pointed left to “PCT North” From the angle of the sign I thought skyward meant up the dirt road so I took the path straight ahead of me. Mistake #3. I charged along it, now longing for just for a place to sit. I’m very glad I talked with the first day hikers I saw because they questioned my route and managed to convince me I was now south-bound. Grrrr. I ran back to the sign, nearly a mile I’d say, and stomped down the dirt road into Cascade Locks thus ending Oregon.

In town I picked up boxes and mail. One letter had been diverted from Echo Lake two months ago, so I can see what Bex was thinking waaaaay back then. The boxes brought me new shoes and socks. My current Montrail Continental Divides have done 1,000 miles. I’m quite impressed that they lasted so long and hope this new pair do too. I also got a new tent (and homemade chocolate brownies!) to borrow from Blue Sky. I got through Oregon only using mine once, but Washington is only going to be wetter.
1000 miles of wear and tear
Now I’m at Riddle’s house though she isn’t. Stretch is her cousin and the Noodleheads passed on her phone number so I’m warm and comfortable and resting well for the final push. Just 500 miles and suddenly I’ll be going home for real. I dreamt of home last night. I was there and happy but then realised I hadn’t finished the trail. I panicked. How could I go home unfinished? I had to get back there, I needed to reach Canada. I do and I will. Just four weeks.

Quote of the day: “You look like you’ve been hiking for days” – a day hiker heading up to Tunnel Falls. If only she knew.

More photos of this day’s journey can be found at Little Crater Lake to Cascade Locks

2007-08-26 Tourist or Purist?

Ah yes, the Pacific Northwest. I’ve heard of thee and now we meet.

At some horrible hour of the morning, when the light drizzle began to get heavier Monty and I both moved into the hanta-virus shelter. Strangely this prompted Monty to make a cup of coffee. I however was quite prepared to go back to sleep for a few hours.
Home of the viral mice
I was faced with a tough decision today. The trail seems to split in a number of places, the data book tracking one path and the guide book another. Since I’m logging the whole thing I should stick to the official route as much as I can, and I have, but this morning I took the scenic detour to Ramona Falls and right now I am a little way down the Eagle Creek Trail. In both cases the alternate routes are more popular with PCT hikers so hopefully my data will be relevant to others.

Shortly after I’d crossed the ‘hiker bridge’ at the end of the Ramona detour I came face to face with A Train and Monty. Somehow they’d forded the river, rejoined the PCT and headed south on it. For a guy who has done this a few times before Monty makes some dumb mistakes.

I met a scout leader with an interesting pack this afternoon. It looked almost exactly like Dad’s one except all the zips were intact and some stitching was in a slightly different place. Clearly from the same manufacturer it was probably a year or two newer, though having “Peace” in big letters on the back means it must have been around in the 70s.
A pack very much like Dad’s
Quote of the day: “I’ve had this bottle since the beginning, it’s great” – Rigatoni. About 3 minutes before he tipped fuel onto a still-lit stove, setting his beloved bottle alight and melting the cap beyond repair. D’oh!

More photos of this day’s journey can be found at Little Crater Lake to Cascade Locks

2007-08-25 The Shining

At about 4:45am I woke to see two headlamps coming off the trail and searching for the spring I was camped near. If I had known who it was (and been dressed) I’d have snuck over in the darkness and surprised them. Probably just appearing on the log next to them when they sat down after filling their bottles. Instead I turned on my light and tried asking them if they needed help. I had to ask quietly so I wouldn’t wake Rumble and they couldn’t hear me so I just laid back and went to sleep.

When I woke again I was alone. Up over the ridge the world was very different. A thick fog was down in the valley so downhill to my left I couldn’t see anything and it seemed as if the PCT was the only thing left in this world. The trees in front of me were a damp green colour but as they rose to the canopy they just became grey on grey. Mushrooms continue to line the trail. They’re huge and wonderful in their oddness. Some the size of dinner plates they often have dirt on top and cracked ground around their stalks as if they burst through fully grown.

Funky fungi
I’m told this is edible, but has “side effects”

After Barlow Pass the trail went steeply up hill and emerged from the trees with a close-up view of Mt Hood. The soft sand and low shrubbery could have been from beach-front land, so strange to see it in the approach to a ski resort. That last push was made more pleasant by the lupins and other purple-tinted flowers. I’m always happy when something smells good and stronger than me.
Mount Hood and the field of lupins
At the lodge I found loads of hikers. The Noodleheads had done 42 miles yesterday to make it here for breakfast and it was TeaTree and Nafta that woke me this morning.

I ate a lot of food discarded from people’s resupply boxes and I enjoyed the far reaching views back to Mt Jefferson and Sisters. The lodge was apparently used in The Shining, but I wouldn’t have recognised it.
Team HORN leaving Mount Hood
Eventually we got going again. Undulating doesn’t begin to cover this afternoon’s hike. Up and down big ravines, even a considerable river to ford (though we found logs to balance across). Now I’m tired and ready to sleep. We came all this way this evening to reach a shelter and found a notice on the door about mice with hanta-virus, and it smells funny. So we’re all sleeping outside.
Catching a tree with my foot

More photos of this day’s journey can be found at Little Crater Lake to Cascade Locks

2007-08-24 Fast on the flats

After yesterday’s stunning alpine-esque scenery today’s pancake walk was pretty dull. But I made good use of it and did my longest day yet at almost 34 miles. The Noodleheads did even more and people coming southbound reported they were last seen 4 miles north, I expect they did at least 40.

The trail was in good condition and very flat but even so I’ve pounded my feet too much and had I continued I’d be blistered into a rest day. There were no views to be had though a couple of nice sights to be seen. Clackamas Lake and Little Crater Lake are both spring fed from below and have that wonderful clear blue colour so you can see the dead trees sitting on the bottom. In Little Crater Lake’s case that’s 45ft down. I really wanted to swim there but a little family was nearby and I didn’t want a fuss.
Little Crater Lake
Rumble is camped here with me. She did 2,300 miles of the trail in 2003 and started from the beginning this year. I don’t know if I’d have the patience to redo so much of it. A Train just left, putting in a couple more miles to counteract him sleeping later than us tomorrow. Everyone’s talking about the Timberline Lodge’s all-you-can-eat (AYCE) brunch. The lodge was used when filming The Shining, it’ll be cool to see that for real.

Quote of the day: “mmmm, these huckleberries go really well on the instant chocolate pudding” – Me. Just now,.

More photos of this day’s journey can be found at Bend to Little Crater Lake

2007-08-23 I can see WA from here

From today’s high point, a tough 2,700ft above last night’s camp, I could see Mount St. Helens in Washington. Also in view were Mount Adams, Mount Hood and behind us was Mount Jefferson.

The first thing we had to do was cross Milk Creek. The water itself was easy to get across but after a major washout last year the tricky bit is getting down to the edge. The bank now consists of a 15ft slope of loose grit and rock but taken slowly it was passable.
Milk Creek
Before the final push to that viewful crest the trail crossed a plateau that reminded me of the high sierras with the little tarns, paths worn down through soft soil and granite lumps protruding.

At the top I took the time to make a snow-cone. I used a cut-up Gatorade bottle as the scoop and Emergen-C as the flavouring and it was good. So good Rigatoni even made one too, which was fair since he gave me the idea way back at the 1/3 mark.
The snow cone and friends
The descent to Olallie Lake went pretty quickly as I wondered hard about what was in the mystery resupply box, courtesy of BlueSky’s mum, that awaited me there. I was not disappointed. The big pasta meals, complete with oil in a sealed packet, the bars and dried fruit selections. I’m thinking I might even gain weight on this section 🙂

Lucky Joe wasn’t so lucky this time. I asked at the store and his package hadn’t arrived so I’ve left him Blue Sky’s portion of the food and hope that will see him through.
This used to say PCT but someone thought that was too useful
For the second night running Angelhair has said how much those two enjoy hiking with me, and tonight she said it would be nice to reach the end together. They’re a cool couple and I’d like that but it’s still 600 miles away and all sorts of stuff can change our plans in that time.

More photos of this day’s journey can be found at Bend to Little Crater Lake

2007-08-22 Oregon is not flat

I continue to wake many times during the night, and last night each time brought a different sky. The stars would be there in all their dazzling brilliance on one turn and then next they’d be obscured by rolling fog.
Into the clouds
I finally decided to get up and packing around 6am when a bunch of cars rolled up with climbers heading for Three Fingered Jack. Though it hadn’t rained my sleeping bag was soaked. I was toasty and dry inside but packing it away meant cold hands. I hate having cold hands.

I thanked Andrew and Ian for their angeling and just as the sun was about to reach our spot the fog came back in and we were enveloped in cold. It got me moving quickly, heading above the clouds, and I was rewarded with incredible views south to Mount Washington poking through towards the sun.

I caught the Noodleheads at the end of their morning break and hiked continuously with them all day. It certainly made the miles go by. We swapped adventures in Europe and I heard about their cycling tour of the US. They’ve effectively been retired since they were 34 and we talked about how that has given them the freedom to really do what fulfills them. Truly a remarkable couple and I hope to stick with them for a while.
drying out at lunch time
The scenery today was amazing. With a few days rain the flowers seem brighter, the greens stronger and the huckleberries were numerous. Crossing over a saddle to see the north side of Three Fingered Jack was quite a climb but so worth it. The top few hundred feet consists of alternating red and black stripes of volcanic rock making quite a sight. Up there I got a strange feeling of winter. Though I was looking down on burned fir forest it reminded me of the woods from my childhood in Sussex. The grey trees, a cold nip in the air and pale blue skies. The ground would be crunchy underneath the mud frozen solid overnight.
The Noodleheads on a quest for Mount Hood
After Shale Lake (now a small pool in a mud circle) we passed through a gulch of purple lupins and small fir trees. With Mount Jefferson shrouded in cloud as a back drop it was picture-perfect and should certainly be in the Oregon brochure.

Tonight I am camping below Mount Jefferson, which finally lost its clouds in time to turn pink at sunset. I’m not putting up my tent but I have all my clothes inside my sleeping bag where I hope they’ll be dry and warm in the morning.

More photos of this day’s journey can be found at Bend to Little Crater Lake