Mar 05
Daniel, Francis, Donna, and David Foucachon, then Cooper White, Cooper Salmon

Thirty more days until I start hiking the PCT. The anxiety is building. Thoughts are raging about my preparedness and plans. There are several things that are most important now.

Betsy

I will be leaving Betsy for 5-6 months. She is my top priority in life and the person that I have learned to love more than any other human in the world. My thoughts are ever toward her and her welfare while I am gone. She will be babysitting our granddaughter Rachel during the months of May, June, and July and so will be busy. But she is worried about my welfare, and I need to assure her that I will always play it safe. It is possible that I may drop in at home once or twice in the middle of my hike, but that remains something that I can’t speak about at this time. We’ve gone over many details of the economics of the household since I’ve managed our finances and other concerns entirely up to this time. I think that she is feeling comfortable with matters.

Heavy snow year

I’ve followed online discussions (mostly on Facebook) about how to deal with the heavy snow year. It is quite possible that I will be doing what is called a flip-flop, where one jumps ahead on the trail, and then comes back later to complete that section. If I flip-flopped, I would probably jump from Walker Pass to Donner Pass, complete the hike, and then return to Walker Pass to complete the high Sierra.

Finishing other projects

There are garden and yard projects that need to be completed, friends and family to touch base with, and completion of my autobiography. I have published on this blog site the 1st version of my autobiography. I’ve heard back from several friends that I perhaps might have over-stated some things, such as my criticism of the south without discussing that in general, Betsy and I had a very nice time in Biloxi, all other things being considered. I will probably add in a brief description of my PCT hike, and submit the autobiography to the printers just after our 40th wedding anniversary on 20OCT2019. I await other critical comments on the book but just haven’t heard back from anybody regarding corrections that they would like me to make regarding their own personal details. There will be time for that if you e-mail me before September.

Huguenot Heritage

The photo above is that of Francis and Donna Foucachon, whose ministry is that of Huguenot Heritage, partnered with 3 Millennium Ministries in providing theological educational materials to the French-speaking peoples of the world. My heart goes out to those in Africa and elsewhere who speak the French language, yet have almost no instructional materials in solid Christian theological doctrine and truths. This last Sunday and yesterday I spent back in Moscow, Idaho filming promotional materials for Huguenot Heritage. Several of the Foucachon children run a video/publishing concern in Moscow, Idaho called Roman Roads Media, and they were able to do filming with me outside (in the snow) as well as inside. We intend to do a hike-a-thon style fund-raiser for my PCT hike, asking people to commit to so many cents or dollars per mile to the Huguenot Heritage effort. 100% of all funds will be used carefully to fund the translation of educational materials used by 3rd Millennium. I beg all readers to consider making a donation. Since the trail is at a maximum of 2650 miles and if you donate a penny a mile, the most you will be out will be $26.50. I sincerely hope that you could do 10¢ or even a dollar or more per mile. It will be tax deductible, and serves greatly in promoting God’s kingdom among the French. There will be more information forthcoming regarding this effort on this web site, on the Huguenot Heritage webpage, and on my Facebook page.

It was a total delight to spend time with the Foucachon family and their friends from Roman Roads Media. They are the most wonderful hospitable people. Francis grew up in France, and was trained as a chef. He then went into the ministry, being ordained in the PCA church (I think). He lives in Moscow, Idaho, and used to run a totally first class French restaurant in town, until his Huguenot Heritage ministry needed his full-time attention. I am generally indifferent to French cooking, but I’ve now had a number of meals cooked by Francis, and without hesitation note that they among the best meals I’ve ever had in my life. He is a phenomenal cook. Sunday evening, he cooked a tenderloin steak that is probably the best steak I have ever had ever, bar none. On Monday, he cooked up some lobster bisque and vegetable soup for lunch that was to die for. I really didn’t grasp that food could taste so good. Sunday evening, we were able to share a superb bottle of cognac, fine cigars (that I brought), and fellowship. In so many ways, Francis and I are identical in our theology. We love the Reformed faith, we love the old paths, we love vanTil, we love a worship service that is deeply formal and reverent, etc. It was like discovering a truly kindred spirit. I will definitely be visiting him (and hopefully, some day, his church, Christ Church in Moscow, Idaho) again.

vegetable soup and lobster bisque

A very hospitable table that can be expanded much further. This was lunch! with a wonderful wine, salad, a melted cheese item, and the soups above.

There was about 6 inches of snow in the Moscow, Idaho area. The drive was snowy all the way from Tiger Mountain (in Western Washington) to Moscow, Idaho. The roads were excellent. Nearing their home in Moscow, Idaho, I was using Google Maps, which took me down a side road that ended up unplowed and impassable. After a little difficulty turning around, I make their home in just over 5 hours.

I will be using the Huguenot Heritage and Roman Roads Media people to do my hiking updates. I’ll send them the photos and text, and they will place them into a blog page that will illustrate my hike. Thus, it will be important that you connect with the Huguenot Heritage website.

Preparation for the Hike

I still need to continue exercises to get me in shape. I’d like to do one overnight backpack trip, even if it is only a few miles in distance, just to get used to packing and unpacking the tent, sleeping bag, and camping stuff. I will continue my day hikes, now always with my ULA backpack containing in it everything that I will be needing for my hike. Other days, I’ll go with Betsy to the YMCA and work out on the stair stepper and weights. I feel ready at this time, but wish to continue training exercises up to the time of my departure.

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Feb 18

18FEB2019

Only 45 days to go to start the trail, and 42 days to depart Puyallup. Am I getting the heebie-jeebies? Yup! Will I still do it? Yup! Am I totally physically and psychologically prepared? Nope!

Snow

My greatest concern at this time is the snow levels in the mountains. Though there is a large snowpack, the water content is low, so I might be okay with a straight thru-hike. If I get close to Kennedy Meadows (the start of the high Sierra) and I hear that the snowpack is still formidable, I might do a flip-flop and jump ahead to Soda Springs, finish the hike, and then come back to complete the high Sierra after everything else has been hiked. This is not unusual to be done, though I’d prefer to not have to do this. For Betsy’s peace of mind, I wish to exercise the greatest prudence and safety possible for the hike.

Exercise

The heavy snow in early February has prevented comfortable outside exercising. My training walks have been put on hold. In order to maintain some sense of bodily activity, I’ve been going with Betsy to the YMCA and pumping iron as well as using the elliptical machine, which seems to best simulate walking with pack. Hopefully, I can get back out on the trails soon.

Preparation

I have all of my resupply boxes taken care of, and extra supplies at home organized. My pack is packed, and is still a little heavy, but am not going to fuss too much about it. The weight will come down during the first few weeks of the hike. I’ll only keep several days worth of food on me during the first few weeks, but may need 5-6 liters of water at a time on the trail. I’ve also thought about the things that I would need to keep my mind okay while hiking. I don’t like hiking with earphones, but will have adequate music and stuff to listen to on my iPhone. To keep weight down, I will not be carrying any books, including a Bible, but will have books and Bible on my iPhone. That is also true of maps, which will all be on my iPhone. I also like to go over hymns, and so I’ve compiled my top list of hymns and hiking songs, put them in pdf format, and these can be found at the bottom of this page.

Fund Raising

I wish to raise funds for Huguenot Heritage. This ministry translates Reformed theology materials into the French language. My friend Francis Foucachon runs that ministry, and lives in Moscow, Idaho. We will be instituting a campaign that suggests donations per mile per Halfmile Maps. Since the maximum mileage is 2650 miles, a penny a mile will put you out a grand total of $26.50, and 10¢/mile will put you out $265.00. Please think seriously about supporting this effort. I will be going back to Moscow, ID next week to work out a campaign plan with Francis.

Transportation to the Trailhead

I’ve now purchased my train tickets and will be heading out on 01APR. As mentioned above, I’ll stay overnight at a hostel in San Luis Obispo and arrive in Oceanside, CA in the early afternoon of 03APR. On Thursday AM at the crack of dawn, my friend Tom Braithwaite will be dumping me off at the trailhead. After that, I’m on my own.

Other Tasks

Since Betsy will be without me for a while, I’m trying to get the house completely in order. Besides yard work, I’ve had a petty nightmare trying to get my stereo system working again. We have a Synology server with 30TB that takes holds all of our movies, music, and other information, as well as our security system and this blog site. It connects to a Mac Mini which in turn connects to a Denon receiver which connects to a large LG display. The Mac Mini was over 8 years old, and I could no longer upgrade the OS, so decided to upgrade the Mac Mini. The system will no longer connect properly. Many other people have had this problem, and I’ve tried a multiplicity of solutions to remedy it. I have a few other ideas in mind but ultimately may have to call in a “professional” to resolve the matter. Also, I am very near to the completion of my Memoirs. I am trying hard to be sensitive when I need to speak honestly and frankly about others. I am working on tailoring it to read easily and smoothly, while being grammatically correct. The easy part was writing the book as it took me about a week. The hard part is in doing all of the corrections and editing and putting it into a format which could be submitted to a printer.

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Jan 25
Resupply boxes

T -70 and counting.

The PCT (Pacific Crest Trail) is a 2650 mile trail that runs from the Mexican border to Canada. Over the distance, multiple deserts and dry spots are crossed, mountains are climbed, and even a pass of 13,100 feet altitude must be negotiated. Specifically, the route runs as follows…

Some of the trail in Oregon and Washington I’ve already hiked, or I am quite familiar with the trail. Other parts, like in California will be totally new to me. Although the trail starts in Southern California, and I will be starting my hike on 04APR, I will almost certainly be hitting snow within the first 100 miles, and challenging snow outside of Idyllwild/Palm Springs. So, I await eagerly the snow reports that will be forthcoming in March.

Training: I am trying to prepare my body for this feat. Already I’ve been hiking up trails and stiff peaks, holding about a 3 mph pace on average. This includes carrying a 30 lb pack, which I’ll be increasing to 40 lb soon. I don’t anticipate typically needing a 40 lb pack, but it still helps to improve the conditioning. The first day on the trail, I’ll try to get a 20 miler in, going from the border to Lake Morena. Why? There is a campground with water at Lake Morena and no guarantee of water before then. Also, there is a restaurant that serves hamburgers! I don’t want to be late for the restaurant. I also don’t want a situation where I burn myself out the first day. Most hikers will typically take most of their zeros (days where they do no hiking at all, like when in town to buy groceries and wash clothes) in the first 700 miles, which is just before the High Sierra.

Resupply: There are a lot of ways to resupply. Many will send most of their resupply packages, and depend minimally on needing stores and other resupply sources. Many will hit a town, and their purchase their resupply for the next two stops. Some will hitchhike into town at every road. I am doing a moderate higher resupply schedule than average, preparing between 20-22 boxes for the trail. I just need to go over them all one more time.

There are things that one cannot anticipate. That is how often one will need a change of clothes, or when certain equipment will break. For this, I am preparing contingency items for Betsy so that I could ask for some gizmo and she’ll know exactly what I’m talking about. Other things, like shoes, I just plan on replacing every 500 or so miles. And yes, I already have 5 more pair of shoes boxed and ready to go.

The resupply boxes are all left open, so that if Betsy needs to slip in something or another before mailing the package, she may do that. They are all labeled. Since my trail name is Pilgrim, I printed many circular labels that include images of Pilgrim from Pilgrim’s Progress, that will help identify my packages. All she’ll need to do is to tape the box shut, put on an ETA (for me) at the post office, and send it off.

Sponsorship: I don’t need sponsorship. In fact, by doing this hike, my personal cost of living drops. You live simple when on the trail. Rather, I am trying to raise money for a mission project deeply of interest to me, which is the Huguenot Heritage. It is run by a good friend Francis Foucachon, who was a distinguished French chef who found Christ. As an ordained pastor, he now translates Reformed literature into the French language. It is a vital ministry, and God is working strong in French-speaking peoples of this world. I beg of you to support this ministry. I will be working with Francis to determine how you could support them on my backpack-a-thon. If you donate just 1¢/mile, you will only be out $26.50, or 10¢/mile, only $265.00, at most. That assumes that I am successful for the entire hike. I give myself about a 10% chance of making it all the way through. Please pray about this, and consider it seriously. Besides, not only does it further motivate me, it’s a great tax write-off.

Final Packing: I have my base weight down to 19 lb. In the old days, that would have been considered impossible. Now, it is still considered a touch on the heavy side. I will be vigorously scratching my head, packing, repacking and weighing everything that goes into my pack. Even fractions of an oz. matter. There are people that cut off their tooth brush handles to reduce weight. Many will not carry a stove. I’m not that valiant. Still, there are subtle ways to reduce weight, like omitting stuff sacs, re-thinking how much food you really need to carry, and picking here and there to lose weight. There are some interesting simple things. I will not be carrying paper maps. Guthooks Guides has the trail totally mapped out, with virtually every point of interest to the hiker, like campsites, water sources, obstacles on the trail, etc. This Guthook Guide goes on your cell phone. And, the map on your cell phone ties into your gps unit, so that you always know exactly where you are… so long as your cell phone doesn’t get damaged, or you accidentally burn out all of your battery supply.

Transportation to California: I’ll be taking the train down to California. A friend, Tom Braithwaite, who lives in the San Diego area will pick me up, let me stay at his house the night, and then dump me off at the trailhead. I’ll have to be purchasing train tickets soon for that.

Permits: Permits are now needed to do the trail, especially when going through the High Sierra. I have my PCT permit and California Fire Permit. All I need and am waiting for is the Canada Entry Permit. I don’t anticipate that they’ll turn me down, and if they do, I’ll reach Canada and then exit in the USA at Hart’s Pass.

Betsy and Home Arrangements: Betsy will be babysitting our 12th grandchild, starting the end of January. This will tie her up 5 days a week, up to summer, when Sarah gets off as a teacher for the school year. She will be going back in early September. This means most of my hike will be with her stuck at home. I’ll stay in touch day by day whenever I have cell phone coverage. Betsy needs to know which resupply package gets sent when, where all my camping stuff is, so that if I need something, she’ll have a clue where to find it.

Technology: I used to be on top of technology, until Technopoly took over (See Neil Postman’s book of that title). Determining how to do simple things, like posting a blog page from an iPhone will be challenging to me. Ultimately, I will figure some things out while on the trail. But, I’m making sure my camera can communicate with the iPhone, and that WordPress on the iPhone works well, as well as having FaceBook access.

Getting Psyched: I confess, I frequently look in the mirror, and wonder if I’m not blooming crazy. Yet, 10-20% of all thru-hikers (hikers that hike the whole tamale in one season) are over age 60. And, of all hikers, 30-40% are successful. Many of the unsuccessful are very unsuccessful for a reason, like not being prepared, or not thinking realistically about the endeavor ahead. So, I will do my best to be mentally prepared for this. After all, I’ve dreamed about hiking the PCT for many years, and I estimate that there are not many more years that I will be physically able to attempt such a feat. So, this will be my year, and I’ll give it my darnedest.

So, stay in touch. Pray for me, root me on, support my backpack-a-thon, and stay in touch. Pilgrim

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Oct 04
View from Pinnacle Saddle Trail showing lower tongue of the Nisqually Glacier, as well as the buildings at Paradise.

Today I completed a major milestone. I’ve lived in the vicinity of Mount Rainier National Park for the last 27 years, but finally completed a major goal of hiking (essentially) all 50 hikes in the book 50 hikes in Mount Rainier National Park. By essentially, I mean that I haven’t hiked every last bit of every trail in the park, but have completed most if not all of each of the trails, with some trails like the Wonderland Trail (93 miles around the mountain) I’ve done twice now. 

The hike that I completed today was a short hike with a lot of elevation gain, going up to Pinnacle saddle. It was a chilly fall day and overcast with frost and ice over much of the upper aspect of the trail. The huckleberries were yellow to red, adding a beautiful spread of color throughout the hillside. The hike was 1.5 miles with 1150 ft of elevation gain, taking me 45 minutes to get in, and 30 minutes to descend out, not rushing it. 

Pinnacle Peak hike starts at Reflection Lake
Huckleberries provide an array of color in the fall setting.
Approaching the upper end of the trail.
A view from the saddle
Other views from the trail
Across the saddle, a view of the Tatoosh Wilderness, and Packwood way off in the distance. Mt. Adams could typically be seen but was engulfed in clouds
Snow patches along the trail. The trails had frequent ice.

I then decided to hike back up the Carter Falls trail to inspect a turnpike that I helped to create earlier this spring. We did not finish the task, leaving the lower end of the turnpike about 18 inches above a drainage gulley. I mentioned that the best solution was to add a culvert (drain) and bridge over matters, but was shot down. It was interesting to note that the final result followed by advice precisely. 

The hike to Carter Falls crosses the Nisqually River on a log
A culvert added below the turnpike, as I advised

With the weather turning, it is unlikely that I will be doing many more hikes in Rainier. I’ll have to do some sort of hiking to prepare for the PCT next spring. When I return to Mt. Rainier, I’d like to return as a volunteer, maybe walking the trails, and providing advice to the mass swarms of visitors that are loving my park to death.

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Sep 23
Holden Lake

Holden Washington Trails Association Volunteer Vacation 15-22SEPT2018

I try to include 7-10 days/year as a volunteer for the WTA working on trails. I love to backpack, and certainly have not done it as much as I’d like over my lifetime, yet I still feel that a few days “pay-back” for all the hard work that goes into building and maintaining a trail is worth it. Even on national lands, much of the trail maintenance is performed by volunteers, and it is hard work, so I feel that I can afford to do some trail work each year. I had already spent time with the PCTA on a Goat Rocks work project, and a long weekend on Mt. Rainier with the WTA. This trip was originally full, but when an opening came up, I quickly signed up, in that I had never been into this area, save for climbing Glacier Peak 40 years ago with Hannes Zuercher. 

Holden Village is not reachable by vehicle. Either one must backpack in, or take the boat ⅔ the way up Lake Chelan to Lucerne, and then be shuttled in 9 miles to the village. It was started as a mining camp in the 1930’s, the principle focus being copper from a mountain in the vicinity. The village was abandoned in the late 1950’s and then purchased by the Lutheran church as a retreat center. Later, it was discovered that iron leachings from the tailings were leading to a 2 mile section of Railroad creek not having any fish. $600 million later, and much further destruction of the area has led to a possible recovery of the Cutthroat trout in the short creek segment, but uncertainty remains about long-term viability of the entire project. We were not at the village to help with mine remediation, but to fix and clear the trails that run into and out of the village.  Our focus was to brush the MonkeyBear trail and the Holden Lake, Hart Lake trails, while building a culvert/turnpike on the Hart Lake trail. The work was a success, though much was still left to be done. Our leader was Jackson Lee, who was incredibly delightful to work with, probably one of the better leaders that I’ve had to work under, and very motivated at the task at hand. 

In mid-week, I did a 16+ mile hike to Holden Lake and then to Hart Lake, a stupendously beautiful venture of breath-taking quality. Holden Lake sits right under Bonanza Peak, the tallest non-volcanic peak in Washington. Hart Lake was on the trail up to Cloudy Pass and the PCT, and currently used as a bypass for PCT thru-hikers owing to an Agnes Creek fire just north of Suiattle Pass. The other Ken and Carol were close behind me. On my way back from Hart Lake, I got to walk out with 3 thru-hikers who have stayed together since departing Campo. 

Holden Village is run by the Lutheran church. They have Vespers every evening for 30 minutes, starting at 19:00. I usually attended. The services were quite different from traditional Lutheran liturgical worship that I was familiar with, having a focus on personal therapy as religion and worship of  the “happy feel-good eco-artsy-pacifist-inclusive-of-everything-god”. The staff were all very nice, and it was a joy to get to know them. Most of the workers were also volunteers. The closest thing I could think of to describe Holden Village was “The Village” portrayed in the tv series The Prisoner starting Patrick McGoohan, best known as the secret agent man. 

The first work day had heavy rain, and then we had sunny weather until Thursday, when it was cloudy but without rain. Departure on Saturday had more rain. The boat ride out was late in the afternoon, and I was able to make it home by 21:15 that evening.  Photos of the trip follow…

Tam on the trip in
The boat docked in Lucerne, headed up to Stehekin
Our crew gets a shuttle bus ride up to the Village
My bed in the Village
Our cabin in the village
Mountains surround the village
More of the village
The mine remediation project
Mine remediation structures
Ditto
Iron rich crud from the runoff collected downstream and then dumped upstream in this giant basin.
Drain runoff Woman hole (gender inclusive)
Attempt to reforest tailings
Eager beaver workers waiting to play in the dirt.
The turnpike crew, with a thru-hiker included on the far right, and forest service person in yellow.
View from the village
Our day packs are dropped, tools properly placed by the trail, and work commences
MonkeyBear Falls, site of Tuesday’s lunch stop 
The beginning of the turnpike/culvert
Rod, playing in the mud, digging drainage for the culvert
The turnpike filled in with rock followed by dirt using burrito-roll technique
Day hike up to Holden Lake
Higher up to Holden Lake, Bonanza Peak in the center
Holden Lake beside Bonanza Peak
Holden Lake, glaciers hovering above the lake
The other Ken at Holden Lake
Carol and Donald arriving at Holden Lake
Wild Ken in Wild-erness 
Hart Lake from above
The completed turnpike

Culvert running under the turnpike
Drainage beside the turnpike
Completely exhausted trail workers, barely making it.
Departure at Lucerne Landing, the boat arriving in the distance
Very happy trail workers, including Jackson, Elaine, and Pat
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Sep 07
Mount Olympus as seen from the trail to Grand Lake

04-07SEPT I had planned for a 3-4 day hike in the rain shadow region of the Olympic National Park. The Olympics tends to be challenging hiking, with the trails often showing no regard for real humans, heading straight up the hills without mercy. The land is rugged and not for the faint-of-heart, yet offers some of the most spectacular beauty to be seen. Every corner of the the trail, every vista, every pass, every step offers an ever unfolding realm of majesty; new snow-clad peaks, new valleys, new lakes and meadows, all discovered by the sweat of one’s brow and the toil of aching muscles and limbs… but, it was all very much worth it. Sometimes it could be a challenge to get permits into the Grand Valley basin. Fortunately, it was after Labor Day, and permits were quite easy to obtain. Even though the weather was spectacularly beautiful without a cloud in the sky, the campgrounds were quite empty. On the 8 miles or so of trail from the Grand Pass junction to Three Forks Campground, and the next day back up to Deer Park, I never saw a single other person of the trail. One needs not go to Alaska for solitude!

Day zero started by me leaving from home about noon, and reaching the Port Angeles ranger station where I was able to obtain my permit to hike, and camp at Moose Lake. I decided to start at Deer Park, which I didn’t realize was somewhat of a crazy drive up a VERY narrow gravel road 8 miles to the campground. I spent the night there.

One day one, the hike went from Deer Park to Moose Lake via Obstruction Point, roughly 11.5 miles and 3500 ft of climbing. Much of the trail to Obstruction Point was on a crest overlooking Port Angeles and the Puget Sound on one side, and a broad panoply of mountains on the other. The trail to the Grand Basin also followed a ridge overlooking Mount Olympus (see above) before steeply dropping down into the basin. A short further hike put me at Moose Lake, where I set up camp. There I met a retired chemical engineer named Ray, my same age, and we spoke of our joy for the mountains. I was just getting over a week-long bout of gastroenteritis, so a bit worried about eating. I tried some Loma Linda spaghetti bolognese, which tasted absolutely awful. The meal was remedied with pecan sandy cookies and Snicker bars.

Day two went further up the Grand Valley, beyond where most people do not go, up over Grand Pass. While the lower Grand Valley is V-shaped, the upper valley has a distinct glacial appearance as a large U-shaped cirque. The valley curves to the left, not seen from below, so the top of the valley as seen from Moose Lake was much lower than where Grand Pass actually was, a climb of about 3500 feet. The trail did not seem too difficult, until I had to descend on the other side. On the maps, the trail becomes a dotted line, suggesting not quite a trail. It was not terribly challenging to follow the route down, now with mountains on all sides of me. The hard part was that the trail condition was poor and not maintained. I was unable to hike any faster descending than when ascending the north side of the pass. I encountered three people on the trail, including middle aged lady, a younger man carrying a large tripod on his pack, and an old geezer slowly working his way up the pass… all were solo, like me. Once I reached the Cameron Creek trail, I decided to make this a three (rather than 4-5) day adventure and go down Cameron Creek. Everybody suggested that the trail was okay, and quite beautiful. It was a beautiful trail, though one was now in dense forest without views. The trail here was both poorly designed as well as poorly maintained. It was about 7 miles to Three Forks campground, which took me about 4.5 hours to achieve, much slower than my usual hiking speed on manicured trail. I am not sure why this trail is so neglected. It needs to be re-routed over many segments, and desperately needs a modicum of maintenance, after which I’m sure it would become a very popular trail. For dinner, I had my own specialty, where I combine freeze dried hamburger and vegetables into Top Ramen. It tasted great. The day was roughly about 12 miles, and 4500 ft of climbing.

The last day was a return to Deer Park on a trail that went straight from Three Forks Campground to Deer Park, about 4.4 miles with about 3500 ft of elevation gain. It was a persistent climb, but the trail was in stellar shape, making it not a terrible challenge. There was no available water on the trail, and knew that Deer Park had no water, so my CamelBak was filled with 3 liters, and I went through most of it. Toward the top, the vistas again opened up in their glorious beauty. Though this has been one of my more challenging hikes, I did not feel overwhelmingly spent or exhausted on ending it. I reached Deer Park by 10:30 in the morning, almost 3 hours of climbing. 

On the trail to Obstruction Point
Looking south toward the mountains
Grand Lake
My tent with the Bear Vault at Moose Lake
Moose Lake in the Grand Valley
The view from the summit of the Grand Valley
Grand Pass
Looking down the Cameron Creek Valley
A view in the upper Cameron Valley
My tent at Three Forks
The structure at Three Forks

A few more notes need to be added here. Equipment-wise, I tried out a new pack, the Exos 58, most of which I loved. It was a very comfortable pack, even though I didn’t take sufficient time to fit it to me. There are a few things I didn’t like about it. First, I liked the pockets in the brain, but didn’t like that they competed with an additional optional flap. I would have liked to be able to remove the flap. The long cord on each side that was to help compress the pack seemed more troublesome than good. There were no hip pockets to place little things. Yet, it held everything nicely, including the mandatory bear canister, which one must have when camping in the Olympics. I liked the two very large side stretch pockets and large back pocket. This will probably be my go-to pack, though I might eliminate the “brain” and find a pocket to hold all my loose-ends in in the pack. 

I also tried out two other things, including Dirty-girl gaiters and OP hiking gloves, both of which I loved. My feet were so comfortable in the Altas that I didn’t even bother taking them off at the completion of the hike… they just felt great, without blisters or soreness. The gaiters worked perfect at keeping out dust and rocks and sand from the shoe. I wore my pants over the gaiters, providing a secondary round of protection. The OP hiking gloves also were perfect, as my hands had no soreness while holding onto the hiking poles, didn’t become hot, yet allowed me access to my cell phone for gps purposes. 

I also tried out the MSR pocket rocket mini-stove. Before this, I was very happy with my JetBoil stove, but many reviews and recommendations suggested trying this out. I did, and didn’t like it. It takes at least twice as long to boil up 0.5 liter of water, and requires a lighter to get the flame started. It offers no weight advantage.  I’ll probably go back to my JetBoil Flash Lite system, and use the above stove as a back-up when I’m camping with a group.

Dirty Girl gaiters on my Altas
OR ActiveIce Spectrum Sun Gloves
Final View on leaving the trail
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Aug 24
Camp with my tent

PCTA Work Party Sasquatch Volunteer Vacation-Goat Rocks 16-23AUG

I had signed up for this trip early in the year, having hiked the area we would be working on in the recent past.  I enjoy doing trail work, and it is quite educational to experience how much work it really takes to maintain a trail in the wilderness. Though I had expressed a desire to hike the PCT in 2019, this had little influence on me wanting to actually contribute to the maintenance of this trail. 

I arrived to the starting trailhead at Waptus Lake the evening before on 16AUG, and some of the fellow participants were already there. I had a great night’s sleep, and the next morning, was able to meet the entire crew for our endeavor. The leaders, Justin and Dave, explained the rules of engagement, we did some stretching exercises, and off we went to a campsite (as seen above), 4.5 miles up the Waptus Lake trail. It was an easy hike, even with our packs loaded heavier than usual, and with a short steep uphill climb. The food, tools, and other provisions were being brought in by horse and mule through the agency of horse riding volunteers. The horse team passed us on the way into camp. 

We helped set up the community cooking tent, then hiked about ½ to 1 mile further to assess the trail segment on which we would be working. On return to camp, we set up our personal tents, and then had dinner, cooked compliments of Justin and Dave. Each night, two of the crew were assigned to do the cooking and kitchen clean-up. Even with our help, Justin and Dave had to do the lion’s share of coordinating the food efforts, and putting out the food for each day’s breakfast and lunch. 

On day 2, we commenced operations. I was involved in a team that did brushing on the trail below (south of) the Waptus Lake trail junction. The remainder of the crew went north on the PCT and started cutting down cedar trees, debarking the trunks, and installing check steps along the trail. Various portions of the trail would form large “ruts” from rain run-off, but drainage channels and check steps helped to slow the process of erosion of the trail. In the following days, I performed a combination of more brushing, installing check steps, de-berming (removing the outside edge of the trail in order to allow water run-off), and de-sloughing (removing the build-up of slough from the inside edge of the trail acquired my material coming downhill onto the trail). Perhaps Justin and Dave grew a little weary of my constant inquiry as to what and why we were doing things, but little did they know that I had a nickname as a kid of “twenty questions”. 

The very last day, we worked on the trail for only a few hours, adding polish to our work. We had installed 21 Steps (sounds like a Hitchcock film!!!), and did a massive amount of brushing, and de-berming/de-sloughing/drainage structures of the trail. It was a satisfying experience.

I really enjoy all the people that I get to meet in the work party. I felt like the  old goat (Alter Knacker) or (Blöde Ziege) of the group, though I believe there were 1-2 people older than me. There was Jacob, a sixteen year old kid, hoping to thru-hike the PCT next year. Beverly was a wonderful resource and a joy to work with, who had done many work parties in the Olympics. Joan was a very pleasant spirit, who shared a common occupation in the medical field. Julian, of whom I accidentally called “Marcel”. (Unfortunately???), the name seemed to stick, had hiked the PCT four years ago as “Back-scratcher”, and was most helpful in offering pointers in strategies of doing the PCT. Evan was delightful, a person I wish I could have spent more time with. Then there was Sterling, a gregarious personality who hails from North Carolina, who had an affection for finding the Sasquatch, and with whom I had many delightful interchanges. Sadly, his knee began acting up during our week of work. I hope that the knee is an easy to fix. Lastly (but not least), I mention Anne. She hails from Ingolstadt (in Bavaria, Germany), and was a true delight to get to know. I admire her willingness to come to America to get dirty working on our trails. It really touched my heart. She also was a doctor, and I felt a strong kindred spirit with her. I truly hope that we might meet again. . . vielleicht in mein Heimatland, Deutschland. Ich ehrlich liebe Deutschland!!!!! 

I left our fearless leaders last, but only because they deserve special mention. They made an awesome team, and set a tone within the work party that helped everybody on the team have a great time.  Justin was our fearless leader. He walked with a sprightly stride, and radiated the joie de vivre. Particularly, Justin was able to maintain qualities of a leader, such as not forming favorites within the group, and spent time interacting with each and every of the work party members. He behaved like he truly enjoyed what he was doing, which was infectious among the worker bees. Dave was a thru-hiker veteran, trail named Spatula, a bit more quiet personality, but also manifesting excellent leader skills. I loved interacting with Dave.

Several items need to be mentioned. The weather was perfect, but forest fires in the Northwest caused much haziness in the atmosphere, and leading to blood-red moons every night. The dew was quite heavy each morning. Besides my trips with a gourmet chef (John Pribyl), I have never eaten so well on a backpack trip. Superb planning by Dave and the assistance of the horse team allowed that to happen. Finally, my shoes died. I was personally attached to those shoes! They were the first shoes I had ever hiked in with which I had not gotten a blister after a multi-day hike. They took me around Rainier twice on the Wonderland Trail, and many, many other places. I had quit using them for hiking in the last few years, going to Alta shoes (light-weight hiking shoes), but needed them for WTA work parties. Thankfully, I had already purchased an exact second pair, fearing that they would some day die. They died. I noticed that the soles were coming off of both shoes the first day in. Several days later, I took precautionary measures by duct-taping the soles in a circumferential fashion to the boots. That partially helped, but by the time of the hike out, the soles were barely attached to the upper portion of the shoe. The padding of the shoe entirely decomposed, offering no cushion to the terra firma. I acquired my first (but small, non-painful) blister in many years. The shoes were in such pitiful condition, that I threw them away at the tail-head.

In the drive home, I had to make a stop at Scale Burgers in Elbe. Cora, the owner, was my cancer patient many moons ago, and over 25 years later, remained free of cancer. She came out to have a long chat with me. It’s hard to believe that Cora is in her mid-eighties and still kicking strong. The hamburger was also quite awesome. 

As I finish writing this post, I finish the last of five “Tristan und Isolde”s that I have serially listened to. The opera ends with the Liebestod, an extremely demanding soprano solo forced on poor Isolde at the end of five hours of intense singing. I mention this, in that the opera ends sadly, but the trail work also has a sad ending, in that good-bye’s need to be said, and a new set of circumstances need to be engaged. Many are returning back to work. Justin and Dave, after a week of rest, must prepare for yet another work party in the Mt. Adams area, and I must seriously make a decision about whether I should thru-hike the PCT next year. My leaning is in the strong affirmative, though I hate the thought of leaving my wife for 5-6 months, and staying dirty for that length of time. I’m used to sterile operating suites that had no hint of dust. I fear river crossings. But, I love God’s great earth, and share with Bilbo and Frodo the reluctant joy of an epic adventure. 

The cooking tent
A hazy sky from forest fires
Geriatric boots, ready to die
Some of the 21 Check steps that we installed
God’s beautiful world, created for our delight
Looking down from the PCT on the lake by which we were camped
The camp. Sterling rests his knee.
Beverly and Jacob take pride in a proto-typical check step
Joan shows off a step check in creation
Horses and mules saved our backs
We are most grateful to the horsemen that ferried our supplies to and from camp
Adios, my beloved boots

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Aug 09


Dewey Lake with Sam
I had planned on hiking into Snow Lake MORA (Mount Rainier) with Sam, purchased the reservations, and then at the last minute realized that I had the dates wrong. Panic and planning led to a longer hike (3.1 miles rather than 1.4 miles), but I’m glad we did it. Sam had an awesome time. He led the hike both ways, and kept a reasonable rate without any complaining. At the lake, I set up camp, did some swimming, loafed (I brought along an ultra-light camp chair), and did the cooking. Sam’s appetite was voracious. Here are some photos…

At the start, Sam is quite fresh


Sam at an overlook to Dewey Lake, half way in. It is about 800 feet down.


An eager backpacker


Sam had a voracious appetite, and ate almost all the food I brought in.


Sam, chilling out at the lake.


The amount of bugs were moderate, and Sam counted 14 bug bites. I had about the same. Our only mishap was that Sam realized at camp that he forgot to pack the sleeping bag. Ooops! We made do by opening my sleeping bag and using it as a quilt. We did not use the fly to our tent, and the stars were most beautiful. With the hike out, Sam did a wonderful pace, even though the climb made him a bit tired. He didn’t feel like he could do another mile. Because the hike was entirely on the PCT, several thru-hikers piqued Sam’s interest, though Sam adamantly remarked that he would not take off five months to do the PCT if that meant skipping school. Oh well… we’ll see!
 

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Jul 27

Northern Loop of Mount Rainier 23-25JUL 2018
I had signed up for the Northern Loop on Mount Rainier in April, as it was one of the few hikes remaining on my list to do in Mount Rainier NP in order to complete all of the major hikes in the park. Besides, I was quite curious about the northern aspect of the park, which is somewhat less accessible than most other areas of the park. The year was mostly spent bicycling, and so to get my hiking legs in shape, I focused on some peaks in the Snoqualmie/North Bend area, doing Mailbox Peak, Mt. Si, and Rattlesnake Ridge. Mailbox Peak was definitely the hardest and Rattlesnake the easiest, but all are demanding climbs.

Russ A. with me on the summit of Mailbox Peak. Guess why it is called “Mailbox” Peak?


I have never done the summit scramble on Mt. Si, but always stop at the overlook several 100 feet below the true summit.


The summit of Rattlesnake Ridge does not afford any views


I had planned to do the hike with Russ A., but various circumstances prevented that from happening, so, not being able to find another hiking partner on short notice, I set out solo. Because the Carbon River Road inside the park is washed out with no intention of the NP service to repair it, an extra 5 miles is added to the hike, which is not challenging, since it is basically flat, with easy gravel road conditions. I camped at the Ipsut Creek campground that night.

Ipsut Creek Camp


Views of the mountains from the Carbon River Road


Waking up the next morning, I headed out, knowing that this would be the hardest day, entailing over 4000 ft of climbing in the space of about 4 miles. The weather could not be more perfect, and I headed across the Carbon River, then working up Chenuis Mountain to the Yellowstone Cliffs. It actually went easier than I thought, though it was a steady climb all of the way through, without relief. Fortunately, it was in dense forest, which kept the hike cool. The Yellowstone Cliffs were most spectacular, and the beauty even intensifying as one reached the Windy Gap, where several alpine lakes, still with some surrounding snow and snow-clad mountains, contributed to the scenic ambience.

Yellowstone Cliffs


Yellowstone Cliffs


Windy Gap View


Windy Gap flowered meadows


Top of Windy Gap looking eastward


Natural Bridge. Below, Lake James is to the right and Lake Ethyl to the left.


Yes, I also did the side trip to see Natural Bridge, which was cool, but a bit of a grunt to get to. Descending about 1300 ft, I arrived at Lake James camp. After setting the tent up and having my celebratory brandy and cigar, I realized that the flies and mosquitos were to intense to enjoy a cooked meal, so settled for a Snicker bar and granola bars. It worked.

Lake James camp


Lake James


The next morning was more descent, about 1400 ft more, to the west fork of the White River. The trail passed by a small burn area before reaching the river.

Burn area, down from Lake James


Upon reaching the White River, I saw rock cairns where the park service suggested doing a crossing of the river. It appeared very unsafe to pass and so I spent about an hour going up and down stream, looking for more safe areas to cross. The particularly warm weather tended to fill the stream and the water was both deep and very rapid moving. I know that others had been able to cross, but being alone and unsure about the crossing decided not to take my chances. On returning from the hike, I checked out other WTA trip reports, and noted that the crossing in the past week was described as perilously risky, or the “most frightening experience”, which to me means it should not have been crossed by those people. I won’t be surprised if I hear of an accident or death of somebody attempting to cross the river there. The park service really needs to offer a substantive warning to those attempting the Northern Loop. I decided to head back. It was a 2.2 mile descent from Lake James to the West Fork of the White River, so I calculated about 18 miles to hike out. I had completed about half of the loop, and except for a couple miles, had hiked the rest of the loop at various times before, so considered my trip a success. I was a bit tired and sore on reaching the car, and my 27 lb pack felt like it had just doubled its weight, causing me to re-weigh it when I got home to confirm that the boogie man did not sneak some stones in my pack on the hike out.

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Jun 04


Bike Travel Weekend 2018
The first weekend in June is bike travel weekend, and I had signed up many moons ago to do this. Originally, I thought that I’d still be on the TransAm, but my TransAm sorrows are already well documented in other blog pages on this site. I won’t resurrect a sad episode(s) in my life journeys on a bike. This current ride is one I’ve thought about many times, but not being completely informed as to the nature of the road, figured that an adventure would best reveal what was up. Originally, I wanted to do a ride out of Eugene, OR, traversing the Aufderheide Drive, but I discovered that a portion of the road was closed due a landslide, so a potential disappointment was avoided. For this ride, I was quite sure that three days would be necessary to complete the ride, having a fear that I had lost some of my mojo, and wishing to go lazy. Well, I did go lazy, but other factors were a problem. The weather was beautiful, and the natives were out in droves. Every campsite, or even, possible campsite, were occupied. It would have been easiest to do this during the week, but then I would have missed the “official” bike travel weekend.
I started my journey from Lew and Carol’s house in Happy Valley, OR. Lew is my brother a year older than me. I wished to bypass Estacada by going on backroads from Carver past McIver Park on Springwater Road. Interestingly, I had ridden this as a cycle tour in the early 1970’s with a friend, Ron Hansen. We had no clue what we were doing, and on discovering (at that time) that no overnight camping was allowed in McIver Park, stealth camped in some dude’s front yard a bit down the road from the Park. The next day, we got up to the dam on the Clackamas River, and realized that we were too exhausted to go on. After all, we were overpacked, and not knowing about panniers, were wearing traditional 1970’s framed backpacks. It was not too cool. Contrariwise, this current adventure had all the amenities of current technology, and travel was a joy. Already I could see the mountain (Mt. Hood) in the background.

Leaving Lew and Carol’s


Mt. Hood from Springwater Road.


I continued to ride up the Clackamas River road, discovering what a joy it was, with wide shoulders, courteous drivers, and tons of cyclists, most being road bikers, out for a beautiful day. As a kid, we used to frequently go rafting down the Clackamas, and I didn’t recall any of the rapids, but noted that many expedition guides were out conducting this clients down the river. It was a bit different in the 1970’s, when we would use smaller rafts, expecting to be flipped in the most challenging rapids, yet never wearing life vests. It’s surprising that we survived.

Very nice road shoulders on a beautiful river.


Rapids on the Clackamas River.


Ripplebrook Store and Ranger station


I arrived at Ripplebrook at noon, wasn’t tired, and wasn’t ready to give up for the day, so opted to start up the road to Timothy Lake. It was a beautiful forest road. Nearing Timothy Lake, I discovered that some of the road was NOT paved. There were 7 miles of gravel road, minus ½ mile several miles in that were paved. Regardless of that, there wasn’t a lot of loose gravel, which made travel fairly easy, even though it was steadily a 3-6% uphill grade. Sixteen miles out of Ripplebrook, I finally arrived at Timothy Lake, an artificial lake created by Portland General Electric.

The dam is currently being rebuilt


My tent and bike at Gone Creek campground


Timothy Lake, with Mount Hood rising up in the background. Lots of boats were out on the lake.


I arrived at Timothy Lake at about 4 pm. There are 4 campgrounds circling the south portion of the lake, and like the last time I tried camping at Timothy Lake, the campgrounds were totally full. Like last time, I needed to beg somebody to let me mooch off of their campsite and take a small portion to set up my tent. You can see the tent of my gracious host behind my tent. I could have gone 2 miles further to a horse camp frequently utilized by PCT hikers, but it still ruffled my dander that these campsites do not provide hiker/biker sites. The horse camp did not have a supply of water, which I desperately needed. Oddly, the “drinking water” of the campground had a cloudy white appearance, and so I still used my water filter to clean up the drinking water.

I slept well, and woke up at 5:20 the next morning with nearly cloudless skies. I was on the road to a very chilly morning by 6:20, knowing that I had some serious climbing ahead of me, and thinking that I might make it to Zigzag with some effort. Highway 26 out of Timothy Lake has a pass to go over, that is actually slightly higher in altitude than Government Camp. There is a significant drop, before you start climbing again up to Government Camp. After Government Camp, it is mostly downhill, with just one climb of about 2 miles of 6% grade as one nears Sandy, OR. I arrived in Zigzag by 9:30 in the morning, much earlier than I anticipated, and then Sandy, OR at 11 am. Stopping in Sandy for lunch, I then arrived at Lew and Carol’s house before 1 pm, passing through Boring and Damascus.

Blue Box Pass


Government Camp


The road out of Government Camp, with wide, ample shoulders for bikes.



So, what have I learned on this trip.

  1. Go light!!!! Reconsider everything that is packed for necessity.
  2. You haven’t lost your mojo… but, be real when you plan your adventures.
  3. I’d love to return to this area. It is VERY favorable for cyclists.
  4. I need to discover better ways to combine hiking and biking. This will possibly include day trips on foot, so need to bring actual hiking shoes. On thishis trip, I brought my Walmart special sandals for camp, but which are horrid to walk with around the camp.
  5. I’m ready for another adventure!!!!! I haven’t had soreness or discomfort as was so typical in the past after long ventures.
  6. I’m always ready for others to join me. It just is more fun with somebody else. Sign up!
  7. I really, really, really love the Northwest. The only other places that tempt me is western Canada/Alaska, and Idaho, Montana, Colorado. I might also be tempted with Cafilornia, like riding the Pacific Coast/Sierra Cascades loop.
  8. I still love backpacking. I have a number of backpack trips on the works this year, a few with either Jon (son) or Russ (friend) or…. YOU!!!!!

ps, remember, you can click on the photos for a full view.

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