Tuesday, September 9, 2014
To the grand finale of this adventure! And it was a grand finale. Personal opinion: southbound saved the best for last on this section of trail. Each day was better than the day before and it's a fine way to live life.
We went thru our normal evening routine. Greg grabbed the food bags and started dinner while I set up camp and changed into my warm clothes. There were still sun rays beaming down so we set out the hiking clothes and shoes to continue drying. Blisters were taped up and a good branch to hang the bear bag was spotted.
A back country casserole with stuffing and salmon and craisins and gravy was consumed. The original plan was to pair the stuffing with chicken but Greg missed that memo and used the last pouch of chicken with the couscous the night before. Still tasty and no complaints.
The bear bag went up without too many swear words and we nestled into our own rock perches and watched the sky change.
I miss it so much right now.
The next morning was our slowest. I felt like we were at the climax of our trip and everything following would be centered on finishing and "just getting home". And I wasn't ready! I had to enjoy our paradise home while it lasted.
We had a deer buddy.
And an amazing breakfast perch.
We sat here people-watching the campers at the lake below and marveling at the predatory birds catching fish.
Finally packing up...
Then the hiking began.
I love Greg and his solitary trekking pole tackling the rocks.
We hiked up and over the saddle of one mountain to start traversing along a rocky ridge line for the rest of the day, though we didn't know it at the time. Around we wandered and when we set up camp I could still see where we had started, as well as our final destination, Snoqualmie Pass.
The ridge line involved a lot of rocks. But I saw a mountain goat!! And also heard a rock slide above us. That quickened our pace a little...
We just snacked on a brownie!
Cell service? Cell Service! I wasn't that excited about intermittent service towards the trip end but we did need to let our families know that we were alive and would be staying an extra night. It took some searching but we got a couple texts thru. I accidentally let one work text slip in but I shut my phone off as quickly as I could...
Lalalalala I can' hear you! Ignorance is bliss!
Most of the day passed and we hadn't come across any water. This was unexpected as we had crossed a stream at least every 5 minutes in days prior. We filled up our reserves here just in case but the taste was awful so it became emergency use only.
Afternoon thunderstorms rolling in. More lightning in the distance. Greg's right quad was really giving him problems and our pace was all but a crawl. We made the decision to set up camp not long after.
According to my map calculations we'd gone 6 miles with 1900 feet of up and 2100 feet of down and over a million small boulders.
BUT IT FELT LIKE MORE.
That seems so weak sauce now. I had to have miscalculated where we actually set up camp the night before...
Our last evening consisted of...DRUM ROLL....dinner and sleeping pad inflation and sitting around on rocks watching the sun set.
This is so exciting.
BUT IT WAS.
And if I didn't have a dog then I would quit my job and go back and stay forever. But, you know, the dog's got to eat sooooooooo I'm back.
There was a baby marmot crawling around that had Greg suspicious. "They can attack!"
We actually set our alarm and got up by 6 the next morning to begin our trek out. Eight miles left with only 800 feet of climbing and 3,100 feet of descending. I was so sad to see it all go but the rising sun cast the most golden of light across the landscape and we had a breathtaking view of those rocky ridges for a solid hour before we hit the shady treeline again.
Plus I found snow!
Greg was IN PAIN and popped a couple Excedrin. They were his best friend the last few hiking days.
And MOUNT RAINIER in the distance. It was all so bittersweet.
The last few miles were just trees and it was really depressing when we crossed over the final saddle and heard what sounded like a distant waterfall but was actually a distant I-90. It grew louder and louder and we kept thinking we were close but then we were still hiking 40 minutes later so it was all very deceiving.
But we finally made it!
As we were walking along the highway looking for the gas station where Greg's brother was waiting to pick us up, I kept imagining we were thru-hikers looking for a place to resupply before finding the next trail head.
It'd be pretty rad if Greg and I can make that happen together someday. Even if we're OLD.
And then I was gluttonous. Meet my post-hike burger. I went a little overboard...it had a huge slice of ham and two slices of bacon on it. Ordered from XXX Rootbeer Drive-In. Greg's brother did not disappoint when he said he knew where to go for a burger.
I would probably be down 15 pounds from the trip without it, but alas I am only down 5 pounds.
So that's that. That's where I'll be in my daydreams until my adventurous soul can wrangle more time off. OR RETIRE EARLY. Retiring early would be a lot easier if someone would just accidentally deposit 2 million dollars into my account and not notice it's missing.
Don't roll your eyes. Accidents happen.
Have a great day :-)
Friday, September 5, 2014
After Deep Lake we spent a morning meandering thru the woods. Woods hiking isn't my favorite hiking but I do enjoy how the sunlight dances between the thick trees and the distant sounds of roaring waterfalls and rushing creeks.
Plus it's way easier to find a "toilet" in the woods than on top of a mountain.
More foot soaking. Still no blisters for me. Greg had a couple small ones so his toes got taped.
After lunch next to the Waptus (I think!) River, we started a climb. Actually more of a CLIMB. We ran into a couple parties right as we started hiking up and they were all "ARE WE AT THE BOTTOM YET??". I got to inform them that they indeed were and that we were about to spend the next 7 miles ascending 2600 feet.
Our ascent quickly turned into a race though as rain clouds started moving in from the north. The storm looked really bad miles away...lightning and everything. Yet we pushed upward like idiots. Hard, too. We were booking it.
It eventually started raining. And then my shoes got wet from the thick undergrowth we were traipsing thru. I have yet to invest in quality WATERPROOF hiking shoes. My luck was wearing out fast on blister-less feet.
About three quarters from the top, we stopped for a snack and to decide if we really should continue trekking to the top in the storm. It wasn't bad where we were and I could even see patches of blue sky thru the rain, but I know how quickly weather can change in the mountains. Ultimately we went for it and I'm so glad we did. Right as we reached the top the storm clouds cleared and the evening was gorgeous.
AND OUR CAMPSITE. The campsite we found was killer.
Surrounded almost 360 degrees by craggy granite peaks in a soft alpine meadow. I was pinching myself. It's hard to believe that places like this exist when living in the armpit of Texas. I've seen them before BUT STILL.
Best meal of the trip: chicken and couscous. Greg = trail cook forever. I plan the meals and he executes.
Bug attack mid-picture.
All in all for day 4 we were at 15.5 miles with 3200 feet of up and 2000 feet of down. Half of that in wet shoes. Blister nurturing occurred that night.
I should write a children's book that promotes teeth brushing and outdoor adventure/travel. "Would you brush your teeth here?" And then it'd have pictures of toothbrushes and people brushing their teeth all over the globe. And outer space! So really I just need to go everywhere and take fantastic teeth brushing pictures because the story is already written. "Would you brush your teeth here?" Uluru in Australia. "Would you brush your teeth here?" Sail boat in the Mediterranean.
Don't steal my idea.
Ok, it's probably already been done. But if it hasn't...!
The bear bag took more than one attempt and slightly less than 20 attempts. It was not Greg's happiest bear bag night. But I was like, "Greg, this is the coolest place to be failing at hanging a bear bag. Look at this view!"
And then Greg was like, "You throw the rock."
He eventually got it.
I will GLADLY hike up all day to settle in to this evening view. Camping is so cool. This was our home for a night! For (mostly) free!
Horribly grainy but hello Big Dipper!
It was hard to fall asleep that night because I was so excited to be where we were. I wanted to stay out all night and watch the sky and listen to the distant waterfall and get eaten alive by mosquitoes. But more importantly, I was cold and that kept me up more than anything.
I have decided to give sleeping bags my own rating. You take the label rating, +15 for women, and an additional +50 for Teagan. Basically I'm looking at this Feathered Friends -60 degree bag for my 3-season needs. Too bad it's over a thousand dollars! Until then I'll get by with my $15 emergency heat-reflective bivy.
Look what survived the night!
Souped-up oatmeal for breakfast.
As we began our hike down the mountain, we ran into an older man hiking up by himself. He had a huge white pack and was carrying a camera. We chatted for a bit and found out that he was actually hiking the trail to work on a project. He asked to record my answer to why I love backpacking and had come all the way from Texas to hike the PCT.
It's so hard to answer those questions on the spot without just saying "Everything and because it's awesome." But I just poured out a bit of what was in my heart (JOY) and we started to move on.
That was when he handed me his business card: RON STRICKLAND.
His name was vaguely familiar and I later researched more about him. Basically a trail celebrity. He's working on promoting long-distance trails and hiking in the US (including the 7,700 mile sea to sea route!), helped establish the Pacific Northwest NST, authored booooooks, and so much more.
Totally unexpected and cool. Also, PhD in Scenic Trails Research?!
I know what I'm doing with my retirement.
Finally! Greg getting owned by a log! It's always hard to decide if it will be easier to go over or under. Under usually requires getting muddy and having to stand back up. Over is just awkward and often involves scratches.
Oh yes, shortly after this we ran into 3 trail runners trying to finish all 74-miles in one day. And then 10 minutes later we ran into 3 more.
It killed me. TO HAVE ACCESS TO THAT FOR A WEEKEND RUN. Also to be in shape for that. But whatever. I thought of them as I was settling into my sleeping bag later that night. Kind of weird that they saw everything I'd been experiencing for the past several days in just several hours.
The waterfall I listened to all night.
Moments before Greg accidentally dropped his trekking pole and had it quickly washed away with the current.
THERE ARE HAND STRAPS FOR A REASON!
I stared in disbelief from the other side before cussing and jumping on a huge log that led downstream in an attempt to catch it. The pole disappeared as I was navigating around a tree but we kept looking.
It had to get stuck in this log jam, right?
Wrong. We followed the creek searching for a while but it was gone. Silly Greg. Every time we passed a lake after that point I would joke, "Maybe we'll find your trekking pole!"
So Greg was down a trekking pole but that was the only real tragedy of the trip. Not too bad.
Result of a 2009 forest fire. Kind of pretty with the new growth.
We had another longer afternoon hike UP and were getting super tired towards the end. There were stops probably every switchback. I was even ready to camp at the first flat piece of ground. But when that piece came up, we both decided to go just a little further...and were rewarded.
Another pristine campsite surrounded by peaks. It was even better than the night before because we had access to water. Not another soul was in sight. I was pumped!
Another 13.5 miles behind us, as well as 3,000 feet of gain and 3,600 feet of loss. Speaking of feet, they were definitely hurting. We were ready for a big dinner and relaxing sunset.
Have a great day :-)