I went to the woods because I wished to live deliberately, to front only the essential facts of life, and see if I could not learn what it had to teach
~Henry David Thoreau, Walden
Monday, August 28, 2017
PCT 17 - Smoke and Poetry - Snoqualmie Pass to Stevens Pass - 71 PCT miles
This short section introduces northbound hikers to the ups and downs of the northern Cascades. We climbed and decended over 17,000 feet, which made for long strenuous days.
The scenery was classic mountain ridges and beautiful lakes, although many of the longer views were obscured by the active forest fires. All of the trails east of the PCT were closed due to the fire and the smoke was thick enough to make my eyes smart at times. On the plus side, this usually-busy section didn't have crowds, even though I hiked through on the weekend.
An unexpected highlight of this section for me was running into Mr. Whiskers, who was hiking southbound. Something possessed me to ask if he was a poet and he proceeded to recite with great expression "If" by Rudyard Kipling, as well as Invictus and Ozymandias. It was a remarkable treat.
Also in this section, I ran into Lori and her husband Bill. Lori and I had hiked together for a few days in April near Tehachapi. They were section hiking southbound and I stayed with them two nights after reaching Stevens Pass, enjoying their hospitality, which included fresh blackberry cobbler.
For two and a half days I hiked with Greg, aka Half Squat, which was a nice variation on my usual solo hiking. Half Squat had balanced being a commercial airline pilot and single dad, resulting in an unperturbable attitude.
For those of you following my foot challenges, I did get some relief using moleskin foam, and will try that again in the next section.
The upcoming section feels a little outside of my comfort zone. 107 miles with more than 25,000 feet of climbing. I'm giving myself 5.5 days, which is my longest stretch so far.
Here is a link to the photo album for this section: https://goo.gl/photos/NFNzyUK453VLNnj78
Thursday, August 24, 2017
PCT 16 - Knife and Goat - Trout Lake to Snoqualmie Pass - 164 PCT miles
Hiking the "knife's edge" and surrounding trail was one of the few times on this trip that I have felt the absolute necessity of taking care with each foot placement. The long drop off, steep trail, and loose gravel kept my full attention. At the same time, whenever there was a flat spot, I had to marvel at the view of Mount Rainier and the closer mountains. The Goat Rocks Wilderness between Trout Lake and White Pass was dramatic and satisfying.
Coming out of Trout Lake, the PCT skirts one side of Mount Adams, which is a popular destination both for the surrounding wilderness and as a summit challenge. As the trail progresses there are some distant views of Mount St. Helens. Eventually the trail transitions over to views of Mount Rainier and the rugged Goat Rocks Wilderness. While the most dramatic section is only about 14 miles, it was so stunning that I can easily see why so many people make a special trip to hike it. In this section I also met Gary Pegg who is attempting an equestrian thru hike - see www.garypegg.com
After White Pass the trail mostly kept to the forests, with occasional vistas. On August 21st I ran into some day hikers who had a spare set of eclipse glasses, so I took an hour out to enjoy the 90 percent eclipse that we had. The highlight of the next day was having dinner at a PCTA trail camp, and chatting with the volunteers. Also during this section the trail ran just outside the closure line for several active forest fires. I could both see and smell the smoke, but the fire wasn't too close.
As the miles tick by, I am looking forward both to attacking the most remote section of the PCT, and to reaching Canada, now less than 300 miles away. Foot pain continues to be my major difficulty, and I will be trying some moleskin foam to see if that helps. For the time being, I'm still hiking!
Here is a link to the photo album for this section: https://goo.gl/photos/6pVYuuaDMFMCGCyB8
Tuesday, August 15, 2017
PCT 15 - Soaked Forest - Bridge of the Gods to Trout Lake - 82 PCT miles
The name "Bridge of the Gods" evokes an extravagant grandeur unearned by the simple truss bridge over the Columbia River that takes hikers and other traffic from Oregon to Washington, but the river gorge itself is majestic and breathtaking.
Climbing from the low point of the PCT at Cascade Locks, the trail quickly climbs into a mixed evergreen forest with a tangled understory including ferns and matted moss covering both trees and rocks. Only frequent mists and rain produce this kind of vegetation, so it was little surprise when the second evening brought a soaking mist and intermittent light rain that lasted about 36 hours.
Having refreshed my gear in Portland, where I stayed four days with friends, I was hoping to charge up into the mountains with fresh enthusiasm. In all honesty this section found me struggling to get excited about being back on trail. Knee and foot pain, combined with simple fatigue and missing my family have been taking a toll. I know this happens to a lot of hikers at some point, so I am taking a day off at Trout Lake to rest before going on. The next section will take me through the Goat Rocks, which are famous for their beauty, so I am looking forward to hiking that section.
The trail continues to be calm and beautiful as you can see in the small photo set here:
Tuesday, August 8, 2017
PCT 14 - From Green to Black - Callahan's to Santiam Pass - 283 PCT miles
Finally I could upload my photos, so this is a catch-up post for over two weeks of hiking.
Southern Oregon is aptly called the Green Tunnel, as the trail winds through mile after mile of forest. The scenery changes little from one mile to the next and even from one day to the next. Thank goodness for audiobooks! As I walked through the forest, I also worked my way through the last few books of the Harry Potter series, which was a fantastic treat. Although the scenery changed little inside the Green Tunnel, the forests and lakes have a calming beauty, and walking that trail is meditative and certainly worth every step of the journey.
As I worked my way north, the trail goes through a large area of volcanic activity, including Crater Lake, the Three Sisters Wilderness, and the Obsidian Limited Entry area. As you will see from the photos, the trail passes through beautiful mountain valleys, past small mirror-smooth lakes, and also through unbelievably desolate lava fields. A forest fire nearby Crater Lake threw up a smoke plume and made everything hazy in that section. A few days after I passed through that area, the trail near Crater Lake was closed due to the fire.
My hiking pace continues at 20 to 24 miles on an average day, with a penalty of 6 to 10 miles when I make a town stop to resupply. At this point in the trail, probably 80+% of the hikers are in their 20's and 30's, with hikers over 50 representing only about 10%. The younger hikers are mostly hiking longer miles each day, but also taking longer town stops, so I've still been meeting a lot of the same hikers day by day.
My knees continue to bother me from time to time, and I've felt that a few days off would help. On August 7th one of my friends picked me up at Santiam Pass, and I am currently spending a few days in Portland before getting back on the trail. While most of my gear is holding up, my clothes, boots, and backpack need to be replaced while I'm in town.
The trail north of Santiam Pass is closed due to a forest fire, so I have to skip ahead to continue my hike. I'll let you know where I got back on trail in my next post.
Here is a link to the photos for this section: https://goo.gl/photos/oXS4fC7GxUsCsTir9
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