Jan 28

It’s been over 2 years since I last did cross country skiing. The John Wayne Trail (Cascade to Palouse Trail) at Hyak is a simple trail with minimal elevation gain and groomed, that allows one to get back into shape. The drive from Puyallup is about 1.5 hours. The weather was overcast with a few breaks, but not too cold. Since it was a Thursday, there were not too many skiers on the trail, and that, mostly skate skiers. My course was as follows…

I didn’t expect to get in quite as much distance as I did. My goal to ski to the lower end of Keechelus Lake was not met, meaning I will need to return another day for that. Sore muscles resulted from today’s endeavor, but not too bad. I will return perhaps next week, and then begin to venture into serious X-country country. My ski poles are 45 years old, my skis 30 years old, and they are definitely NOT the style currently being used, though they worked just fine for me. I was a tad bit clumsy, falling 3 times, which one remembers, because it’s not the easiest to get back up onto the skis.  I probably won’t post further ski adventures, unless they entail something memorable.

Keechelus Lake, looking north toward Hyak.

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Jan 27

I’m just announcing that I will be continuing my hike up the PCT this year. As many of you may have recalled, I commenced an attempt of a thru-hike of the PCT (Pacific Crest Trail) in 2019. The PCT is a 2652+ mile long trail that runs from Mexico to Canada. I was doing this in part because it was a life-long dream of mine, and in part to raise funds for the Huguenot Heritage Foundation as a Walk-A-Thon. What I didn’t realize was that the year 2019 was a horrific snow year, and much of the trail remained under snow well into late summer. After that, family issues, higher than normal mosquito counts, and a few orthopedic ailments led to me bailing and playing trail angel at Hart’s Pass for a week with EZ, and then with a wonderful church group from Grand Coulee. I accomplished 1000 miles of the trail and a thirst to return. I now intend to commence where I first bailed, at Walker Pass, and go north from there. In 2020, I had a permit, but the Chinese virus struck. I used the summer to spend extra time practicing my trumpet, but also in having the opportunity of taking my grandkids out on their first or second, or third backpack trips, teaching them the new style of ultra-light packing, and getting in a few bucket list hikes.
It’s now another year. Thinking a bit more realistic, I am placing several restraints on my endeavors. I don’t want to waste the entire summer on the trail alone. (The surest way to create mortal enemies is to invite your best friends to hike the PCT with you!). Hopefully, I might trail angel a bit, if I can connect with EZ or the Grand Coulee folk. I’d also like to spend some time in a cabin in the woods or at the beach with Betsy (my dear wife) and with friends.
Here is my plan. On 28JUN I hop Amtrak down to Bakersfield, CA from Tacoma, WA. Using Kern County Transit, this will put me on the trail at roughly 6:15 am on 30JUN2021. I will resupply (mail myself packages) at Kennedy Meadows South, enter the high Sierra, resupply at Muir Trail Ranch, Reds Meadow (Devil’s Posthole, Mammoth Mountain CA area), Tuolomne Meadows, Kennedy Meadows North, hitchhike into South Lake Tahoe to resupply, resupply at Sierra City, Belden, and then end at Old Station just pass Mt. Lassen (where I started hiking a section 2 years ago), hitch or Uber a ride to Redding, CA, take Amtrak up to Dunsmuir, CA, and then hike the trail from Castella/I-5 to I-5/Callahans (Ashland, OR) before taking the bus to Klamath Falls, and Amtrak back home to Tacoma. It sounds complicated, but it’s not. This will leave me with only the segment from Crater Lake to White Pass, WA and the segment from Snoqualmie, WA to the border to complete, which will be done in a future year.
This particular segment of the trail will have its own difficulties. The high Sierra from Kennedy Meadows South to Muir Trail Ranch is a 158-mile stretch that goes over 5 mountain passes, one 13,100 feet high, and takes about 9-10 days to do. That means carrying 10-11 days’ worth of food. One also needs to carry crampons (spikes for the shoes) and an ice ax in this segment, as well as a heavy bear-proof container. It is also one of the most spectacular segments of the trail, made famous by John Muir.
Just as in 2019, I will be leaving updates and photos on this blogsite. Remember that these posts are written late at night when I am tired, and not totally coherent, in my sleeping bag in my tent, and won’t be corrected until the end of the season. These posts will come a bit more infrequent than in 2019, in that I will not have a means of connecting to the internet for long periods of time.  I no longer use Facebook, so you won’t find me there. I will be carrying a PLB (personal locator beacon), and that will send out satellite notifications every 1/2 hour of my walk as to my location, should you wish to follow my progress. If you wish to have daily notifications of my satellite signals, drop me an e-mail requesting the same, and I’ll try to accommodate you.
The initial challenge of doing this hike is in obtaining a permit with a start time that is personally desirable. About 14,000 people sought permits, and I was able to get into the queue at #1273, leaving me my choice as I wished. The permit is below.
Please feel free to contact me. I will be updating my plans as time goes on. Many of you I have not heard from in years, so please get back to me! I’d love to hear from you again. My trail name is “Pilgrim” or “Puyallup Pilgrim”, just in case you wondered. That is what I go by on the trail and do not use my birth name.
Pilgrim
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Jan 06

Jazz: A film by Ken Burns ★★★

Betsy and I have just finished watching the Ken Burns series on Jazz. I had listened to a Teaching Company series on the history of Jazz, but that was a few years ago. I have only recently developed an affection for the Jazz genre. I remember my first exposure to jazz was in 1st grade Clinton School in South Elgin, Illinois. Our class was moved to the school gymnasium, along with other classes, for a special event. They were introducing the school to jazz, and had some jazz music playing over loud speakers. As a six year old kid, it seemed like rather unstructured, chaotic music to me. I wasn’t used to it. I never heard anything like it before. Then, many of the students were jumping and wiggling around in a very unusual manner; which didn’t make sense to me. Growing up in an Amish-Mennonite community, dancing was unheard of to me. In high school, I listened to easy-to-grasp classical music and the newly emerging rock and roll. The Beatles were ok, but the Rolling Stones really seemed to say more to the soul. Louis Armstrong always stood out to me as music that I had a strong attraction to; I remember well playing many times over his St. James Infirmary, and being spell-bound by his trumpet playing. Since then, my main interest drifted to more serious classical music, and Bach stood as first and foremost. Beethoven, Wagner, Mahler, Shostakovich, and many other 19th & 20th century composers left me spell-bound. I decided to take up trumpet lessons early this last Spring, and ended up with a teacher whose trumpet career oriented around jazz performance. Though I dearly love to listen to music, and enjoy performing it, I do not possess an intrinsic talent for music. Why my instructor is so patient with me is a total mystery. I am sure he gets a good laugh with his family and friends whenever my pitiful lesson performance is brought up. Still, I find working on lessons to be something of great value and joy to me, even though I may never perform in public. Jim, my teacher, is totally awesome. He is slowly introducing me to jazz, and I am loving every minute of it. Assignments include listening to great trumpet players, and my listening has expanded from Maurice Andre and other classical trumpet players to the jazz genre. I looked on Amazon and YouTube for anything that included trumpet, and I was most pleased with what I found and heard. Jazz, like more complex classical music, takes time to appreciate. This film on jazz finally helped bring things together.

The series on jazz starts with New Orleans musicians like King Oliver, quickly shifts to Louis Armstrong, and then marches through the history of jazz up to the present day. Focus was placed on Armstrong’s career, the evolution of jazz in Chicago and then New York, and later Hollywood. Early New Orleans and blues gave way to big bands and swing, to music of WWII, to later Louis Armstrong and new evolutions of jazz; be bop, then Avant Garde, then fusion jazz. Note was placed on periods of time when it seemed as though jazz would go extinct. Special emphasis in this series was placed on Louis Armstrong. It seemed as though they were claiming that jazz was born with Satchmo and died with Satchmo. Other emphasis was placed on Duke Ellington, and Billie Holliday. Mentioned just in briefest passing were the host of other great bands of the pre-war era: Stan Kenton, Harry James, Tommy Dorsey, and Glenn Miller. What was disappointing was two things. First was the total absence of a real jazz history. One cannot talk of jazz history without mentioning ragtime, tin-pan alley, minstrel singers, and other precursors to New Orleans jazz. In this series, Wynton Marsalis and his associates become the last dying hope of jazz. Contrary to the series, I don’t believe that jazz is on its dying breath. It is not as “experimental” as 20-40 years ago. It is more colorblind, including not only black performers, but white, hispanic and other races. There is virtually no mention of Mexicans, such as Raphael Mendez, or Cuban, such as Arturio Sandoval, or the Canadian Maynard Ferguson or the Oregonian Doc Severinson. Or Al Hirt. Or Allen Vizzutti. Or Bobby Shew. If one takes a serious look at the jazz scene today, it is more acceptable to the general public than ever, it is technically masterful, and it has been able to draw in many other influences, such as classical, to the jazz genre. I am surprised that Wynton Marsalis, “the last great hope to jazz”, was never mentioned in this film as having spent a number of years of his life playing mostly in the classical genre before migrating solely to jazz. Surely he has also brought a classical influence with him? Is it that jazz by necessity must come from the NY night club scene with primarily African-American performers?

Deficits aside, I learned much through the series, and would hope that others watch this series. It is hard to dislike any of the Ken Burns series. This is no exception to that rule.

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Nov 25

Pilgrimage, with Simon Reeve ★

I had discussed doing the Camino de Santiago with Betsy in the next few years and identified a doctor that I knew well who had done the Camino several times with and without his wife, who has strongly encouraged me to watch this video to help in deciding and planning our pilgrimage. Reeve does not discuss just the pilgrimage to Santiago de Compostela across northern Spain, but also discusses various pilgrimages in England, especially to Canterbury, as well as the pilgrimage across St. Bernard Pass in Switzerland to Rome, and the pilgrimage to Jerusalem and the Holy Land.

Reeve emphasizes most emphatically that though he grew up a Methodist, he was no longer a person of faith. Yet, while on these pilgrim trails and meeting up with various real pilgrims on the trail, he seemed to have some sort of transcendental experience, whatever that might have been. Pilgrims on the trail were quite split between those doing the walk as a true “religious” experience, and those who were doing it simply to be doing it, or, for the love of getting away and alone with one’s self. All seemed to attest to a transcendental experience. Though Reeve did a modest amount of walking on these pilgrim routes, at no point in time did he seem to seriously attempt a full pilgrim walk of any of these routes, and actually walked only small fractions of the pilgrim treks.

In all, Simon Reeve seemed disingenuous. He was terribly unpersuasive about actually performing a pilgrimage. In pilgrim outposts along the way, the “pilgrims” seemed to be more in tune with a social type pilgrim experience. The final destinations were treated as idols. I have spoken previously about idols of place, and those being locations such as where so-called saints died or labored, the Vatican where St. Peter died, Santiago de Compostela where some of the bones (allegedly) of St. James were housed, and Jerusalem, where Christ was crucified and buried. All of these sites are treated like idols to many worshipers, which is why I presume God made the actual locations of many Christian events, as well as the remains of those events, remain forever lost. It is shameful to treat any location or object as a thing worthy of veneration; pilgrimage to this end would contribute to that idolatry.

Reeve has persuaded me inadvertently to NOT do the Camino de Santiago. I am sure he tried otherwise to glorify the experience of walking where so many others have walked in the past, seeking a blessing or divine religious experience. I would find such an undertaking as being counter to the plain gospel, and nowhere in Scripture is the act of Pilgrimage given as a deed warranting special merit. True, my trail name is Pilgrim. Yet, any and all true Christians are pilgrims. Our journey through life will be as varied as any other. There is no single path in life though there is a single rule to guide us all in that walk. I will do more long walks in life, but will definitely abstain from the pretense of a Pilgrimage to gain merit with the Almighty.

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Nov 04

Slaying Leviathan: Limited Government and Resistance in the Christian Tradition, by Glenn S. Sunshine ★★★★

This recently published book provides a survey of political philosophy throughout the modern era in reference to the Christian church. This book is a very brief survey of what could have been volumes of material, succinctly stated in a manner to allow for reading the entirety of the book within 1-2 evenings. It was a delightful read, and I gained some new insights and perspectives from the thinking of Glenn.

Each chapter encompasses a time period. The early patristic period entails Christians as the enemy of the state until the time of Constantine becoming a Christian and allowing tolerance to Christians within the Roman Empire. The Augustinian era was influenced heavily by the writings of St. Augustine, who allowed the state to impose discipline on the church, notably during the episode of the Donatist controversy. Subsequent chapters delineate how the thinking of Augustine, amalgamated with the writings of Aristotle, provided a basis for interaction of church and state. The Magna Carta in England drafted limits to the power of the King within his kingdom, and defined him as a not-so-powerful ruler, subject to the will of the princes. I find this period in history to be the most fascinating and one of my favorites, in that the interaction of Kings with the church (pope) details some fascinating tales, with the Holy Roman Empire and France attempting to define the limits of the church, which in turn pushed for maximal authority over the state. Sadly, this episode in history was skimmed through but is most instructive when examined in detail.

Sunshine then begins a discussion of the intrinsic philosophy of politics, grappling with definitions of justice and liberty. Inside the church, the Franciscans brought new concepts as to property rights, while the scholastics countermanded with a further definition of how property rights fit into the schema of natural law. Interestingly, in the settlement of America, taking away (?) land from the Indians would have been a delightful discussion at this point. The Reformation forced further definition of how a Christian should interact with government. The Reformers continued the concept of the Augustinian two cities, that of God and that of man, but redefined the church itself within the city of man, and the invisible church of true believers within the city of God. Calvin pictured the relationship between the church and the state as a covenantal relationship, both being separate, but both interacting for each other’s good. The Anabaptists were somewhat disparagingly mentioned without a good development of Anabaptist thinking regarding interaction with the state. Further development of Luther’s reaction to the Knight’s revolt and Peasant’s revolt resulting in clarity on Luther’s part as to keeping the church and the state separate and independent. It took the French Huguenots to clarify the occasional need to stand up to the state. I felt that Glenn was a bit unkind, or perhaps engaged too extreme of brevity to build the Huguenot case for resistance to the state. A separate chapter details church resistance to the state in Great Britain. The attacks on the Protestant church by the two Marys, and then the two Charles, were responded to by various Puritans, as well as Samuel Rutherford in his book, Lex Rex. Rather than viewing the Kings as there by divine right, Rutherford suggested that when kings act contrary to the law of God, the subjects have the right (and responsibility?) to remove them. In this general period is found the writings of Thomas Hobbes, who suggested the relationship of the rulers and the subjects was a social contract, entirely secular, which did not need or use a god. Hobbes was not well accepted for his political propositions.

It is in the aftermath of this setting that gave rise to the thinking of John Locke. The religious wars in France had come to an end through the Edict of Nantes, with its erosion leading to Huguenots fleeing France during the reign of the Sun King. In England, the Glorious Revolution of William and Mary led to peace among Protestants. Reason is used to develop the “natural” rights of man, and religion only provides a gloss to the enlightenment thinking of the Lockean propositions. Utilizing Rutherford’s ideas from a secular frame of thinking, Locke defines rights, property rights, and the right to rebel when those rights are infringed upon. Locke is given much attention because it is to Locke that the framers of our US constitution relied heavily upon. The founding fathers in the USA were divided, the northern states having a Puritan heritage, while the southern states having a greater affinity to the enlightenment principles. Sunshine suggests that the constitution was written as a “Christian” document, though that simply is not true. The main writer of the constitution was James Madison, a thoroughly enlightened thinker with deep admiration (along with Thomas Jefferson) for the soon to be French revolution. I agree that the US constitution does not exclude God as strongly as the ensuing French constitution but still was drawn from mostly entirely secular sources, such as John Locke and Classical thinkers like Aristotle and various Romans. True, writers such as Os Guinness suggest the difference between the French revolution and the American revolution is best stated in terms of how they regard the church and the state, yet that difference is simply a matter of degree.

Sunshine’s final chapter offers a summary as well as reflections on current events in the USA today, with its degeneration of morals, and loss of meaning to the constitution through the courts reading the constitution as a “living” document. Though he speaks highly of the US constitution when applied within the context of a “moral” public, he does not develop a Scriptural approach to government. In fact, no Scripture is even quoted by him. In VanTil’s thinking, the enlightenment influence on the US constitution, even with its Christian gloss, should be greeted with horror. I have read Christian attempts to honestly define what a Christian government should look like. They range from the reconstructionist/theonomist Mark Ludwig’s True Christian Government to the Anabaptist John Howard Yoder’s The Politics of Jesus. Both books are excellent (essential) reads for the curious Christian engaging in politics. What I have been persuaded of is that nobody has yet gotten it totally right, including Augustine, the Scholastics, Luther or Calvin, Hobbes, Locke, the founding fathers of the US constitution, or current thinkers. I include myself, though I tend to favor Augustine as the best thought out writer on church and state. Sunshine should have mentioned the likes of Martin Luther King, or Mother Theresa, Lech Wałęsa, and many others who have stood true to the faith in resistance to the state. Earlier history of the world includes so many others, from Gottschalk to Savaranola, Huss, Tyndale, and others that will be greatly remembered in eternity but forgotten in the current moment, brave men that stood tall in resistance against the faith. Psalm 2 remains persistently true, even in the face of a “Christian” nation…

Psalms 2:1-6 (ESV) Why do the nations rage
and the peoples plot in vain?
The kings of the earth set themselves,
and the rulers take counsel together,
against the LORD and against his Anointed, saying,
“Let us burst their bonds apart
and cast away their cords from us.”
He who sits in the heavens laughs;
the Lord holds them in derision.
Then he will speak to them in his wrath,
and terrify them in his fury, saying,
“As for me, I have set my King
on Zion, my holy hill.”

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Aug 29
Melakwa Lake

I generally don’t publish my day hikes, but this will be an exception. Yesterday 28AUG2020 I took a hike up to Melakwa Lake, a total walk of about 9 miles and 2700 ft of elevation gain. The trail started at the Denny Creek Campground, which is situated between the west and eastbound segments of I-90, deep in the valley and unseen in either direction on I-90. The campground is fairly noisy from the I-90 traffic, which leaves me uncertain as to why it is so popular.

I had attempted to reach Melakwa Lake much earlier this year. The trail was then not well cleared out, and I had some challenging scrambles around windfall and a weak bridge across Denny Creek. This was all corrected on yesterday’s hike. Also, I then made it only half way, arriving at a necessary ford of Denny Creek. Knowing that I would be hitting snow soon after the ford, and that there was no bridge and thus no way to keep my feet dry, I deemed it most prudent to turn back. On this venture yesterday, I creek was low enough to hop rocks, and somebody actually had a log across the creek, though I opted to hop the rocks, and managed to stay dry. Several beautiful waterfalls were passed on the way up to Hemlock Pass.

crossing under westbound I-90
Looking down the Denny Creek Canyon
Looking up to Hemlock Pass
A very uninspiring Hemlock Pass, though a great relief after an arduous climb

The climb to the top of Hemlock Pass was persistent, with the crossing of several talus fields. Even outside of the talus fields, the trail surface was commonly either very rocky, or irregular with upraised tangled roots. After the pass summit, the trail had little elevation loss, traversing eastward to the lake. Before reaching the lake, there was a trail headed off to Lower Tuscohatchie Lake, mentioned in a recent post describing a hike to Olallie and Pratt Lake. The lake was most beautiful, and my greatest regret was that I didn’t spend more time exploring the lake. It is a lake that I would love to return to in order to camp at. I had lunch at the lake and headed back down. It took me 3 hours total to reach the lake, and 2.3 hours to get down.

Another look at Melakwa Lake. The camp sites are located in the trees on the other side of the lake.
One of the two waterfalls passed on the trail up to Melakwa Lake

For a Friday hike, the trail was still very crowded. About 95% of the people hiking manifested VIS (virus insanity syndrome). There was a WTA work crew on the trail doing rock work, and Leanne J., a leader that I really enjoyed working with, was directing the project. If she does the Pratt River Trail again next year, it will be one that I will be quite interested in joining. So, I will make a plug for volunteering with the WTA. Many of my friends enjoy hiking the trails of Washington, yet have NO clue as to the amount of work that goes into building and maintaining the trails. Much of this work is volunteer work. If you hike the trails and enjoy it, then shame on you if you are not spending at least a little of your time volunteering with the WTA. It is not hard work, but VERY rewarding. You learn a lot about the nature of trails, about good and poor trail design, and about the various “structures” that make up a good trail. Please consider it!

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Aug 20
Nothing like a Bitburger beer and Montecristo Cigar at Rampart Lakes to celebrate your birthday!

I had wished to do one more backpack trip with the grandkids this year, and finally was able to negotiate getting Patrick and Sammy away on a trip up to the Ramparts above Rachel Lake. The weather was supposed to deteriorate during our visit but that wasn’t going to bother us. We had planned for two nights.

I had backpacked into the Rachel Lake area a number of times over the years. I had all of the children up to the lake or above (up to the Rampart Lakes) on a number of occasions. I’ve taken my friends up to Rachel Lake. The last time I was up to Rachel Lake was about 3-4 years ago, when I had a close doctor friend and his wife up to the lake. I didn’t realize that Patrick and Sam had never been to Rachel Lake, and realized that a return appointment was due.

We left the Flanagan residence at 6 am on Wednesday 19AUG, and arrived at the trailhead at 8 am. It took us 4 hours to get to our campsite at the Ramparts. This was the site where my first trip up to the Ramparts with Diane and (?) was picked to place the tent. The kids explored the area, went swimming, and I soaked up the beauty of the place.

Fresh appearance on the start of the trip
Mandatory photo on arrival to Rachel Lake
Climbing high above the lake. The canyon in the left background is Highbox canyon which we hiked up.
The kids swimming in the lake
My tent beside the lake
More of the lake

We all slept well that night, with just a gentle wind keeping things cool. There was a small amount of rain though it was forecast that heavier rains would be coming the next day. Today was actually my birthday, though Pat and Sam did not know that. I left the agenda entirely up to them, whether they wished to swim, explore, etc. The first choice was to go up the pass. This is quite a scramble. I had climbed the Rampart Ridge pass in the past, and it just seemed a bit different, though I’m not sure what it was. After returning to camp, we talked about what else to do, and the kids decided that since rain was coming our way, we could hike back tonight rather than tomorrow. I took a pause for a beer and cigar that I had brought up to celebrate my birthday, packed up, and headed back down the trail. It took a little more than 2.5 hours to get back to the car, even with stopping for lunch.

Morning hike up to the Rampart Ridge pass. Note the heavy cloud cover today, which broke slightly on the way out.
Highbox Peak is in the distance to the far right, followed by Alta Mountain. Rachel Lake cannot be seen but is down in the valley surrounded by the visible peaks.
On the climb up Rampart Ridge Pass, we even encountered some snow late in August!
More views on top of the Pass
Pat and Sam on the Pass
Back down at the Ramparts looking down on Rachel Lake
Lunch stop at the waterfall at the start of the climb out of Highbox canyon.
Photo op at the Hornet’s Nest Falls. We had first hiked to Rachel Lake to take Rachel to her lake. On coming down, we had stopped here for a snack and Rachel received a hornet sting, thus the name of the falls. Poor Rachel!
Not quite so fresh at the end of the hike.

So, the strongest lesson for me is how much I enjoy taking the grandkids out hiking, and seeing how much they enjoy it. Yet, I am now realizing that they have matured to the point that Pat and Sam could/should start heading out on their own. Perhaps they will find friends that they could start hiking with.

I also realized that Rachel Lake is not a terribly easy hike. I was thinking about taking up several granddaughters next year, and still may do that, though I would hate to have the difficulty of the hike control their judgement about how fun it is to go backpacking. That is one I’ll have to sort out next year.

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Aug 12
The Northwest face of Mt. Hood. Illumination Rock sticks out on the right skyline, and McNeil Point dominates the left side. You are facing the Sandy Headwall. This photo was about 1 mile from my first campsite.

Timberline Trail around Mt Hood 10AUG2020-13AUG

The Timberline Trail encircles Mt. Hood, and is one of my favorite trails, especially since it is a loop, and you end up right back where you started. The trail has a number of variants as well as recent modifications, so it is a bit challenging to identify the exact length. I did not bring a Garmin unit (except for the inReach mini) and so could not chronicle my own progress. The trail is at least 40 miles long and entails at least 10,000 feet of climbing. People have run the trail in a single day. That was not my cup of tee. I first did this trail somewhere between 1974 and 1975 with Jack Frane, and then in the late 1990s with Kent Dawson. I attempted it recently with Jon (my son) which needed to be aborted, and with Russ Andersen two years ago, which also needed to be aborted early on. This time, I decided to do it entirely solo. I thought long and hard about bringing my real camera along but ultimately opted for simply using my iPhone as I had done on the PCT. I kept my base weight in the pack to about 16 lb., and anticipated 2 nights on the trail, similar to what I’ve done previously, but had enough food for 3 nights, knowing that I wasn’t a spring chicken any longer.

09 August- day 0 – Today I drove down to Vancouver to spend a little time with my brother Gaylon. We went out to eat some Mexican food along the Columbia River and then crashed at Gaylon’s apartment. 

Mt. Hood in the distance with the Columbia River in the foreground
The I-5 Bridge across the Columbia, viewed from our restaurant
Brother Gaylon keeping me in line

10August –  I was up at 6am and after a little coffee, headed out to the mountain. I was able to start the trail at Timberline Lodge at 8:30am and had spectacular weather with not a cloud in the sky. I did the Paradise loop variant, which was totally awesome and stunningly beautiful as compared to the now current standard course of the trail, though it involves a bit more climbing. I’m not sure why this isn’t still the standard course of the trail (followed by both the PCT and Timberline Trail), as it used to be when I hiked the trail in the 1970s. The descent down to the Sandy River was tedious as usual. This time, I had no problems crossing the Sandy River dryly. I arrived at Ramona Falls at 1:30pm, had lunch, and then started up the trail to camp on the Northeast side of the mountain. This was a long tedious climb for the remainder of the day. The Muddy Fork needed to be forded (i.e., needed to get my feet wet) and was a touch precarious. I took the cutoff to the trail; by this, I mean that the trail loops back on itself as it wraps around Bald Mountain, and the trail coming and going are within several hundred feet of each other and a small easy hill climb and descent. Most people will use the cutoff. The reason this loop occurred is that the Muddy Fork variant used to be the standard course for the PCT until the PCT was rerouted. For a number of years, the Muddy Fork trail was closed because of dangers on the trail, so that, when I hiked the trail in the 1990s, it was advised to follow the new PCT route and rejoin the Timberline Trail on the other side of Bald Mountain. For a significant distance, the Timberline Trail past the cutoff was all uphill and no water sources. This is a little bit atypical for the Timberline Trail since water seems to be everywhere around the mountain. My great concern was being able to find a campsite since there were many people on the trail. I have never seen so many people on the trail, as the other times I hiked the trail, you were mostly alone. I found a small tent site about a half mile before the Cairn Basin shelter, next to a couple of guys doing the trail counterclockwise; the campsite was also close to a stream. So had dinner, talked a bit with the guys, and then crashed.

Looking down on Timberline Lodge at the start of the hike
The view of Mt Hood from Timberline Lodge
Huge fields of flowers on the Paradise loop
Looking south to Mt. Jefferson
Mt. Hood on the Paradise Loop
Beginning descent into the Sandy River canyon
Ramona Falls. Not the best lighting for this beautiful falls.
Yes, the Cutoff trail IS official!
Near sunset, looking north
My tent

11August- I slept well, woke up at 5:30, and was on the trail by 6:45. Unlike my time on the PCT, I heated up breakfast, which consisted of oatmeal, hot chocolate, coffee, and a granola bar. The morning hike was greeted by multiple stream crossings, often demanding fording since rock hopping wasn’t possible. There were huge flower meadows around nearly every corner, and views of the mountain were nearly constant. I could see the Sandy headwall (a climb I wish I would have done) and the Sunshine route (a climb that I did), both up the north face of Mt. Hood. For a few years, the Timberline Trail was closed owing to a washout of the trail around Eliot Creek. The diversion that was created was miserable, and in my estimation, still rather dangerous. After a long slog up the Eliot, I finally arrived at Cloud Cap on the northeast side of the mountain. There was a campground here with a road, and I was able to have lunch on picnic tables. By 1 pm, I was off again. The trail now covered the east side of the mountain, ascending high up above the timberline, to form the highest point on the trail. The descent was along Gnarl Ridge and wrapped around Lamberson Butte. Newton Creek ended up being another challenging river crossing, but a side branch of non-silty water formed the site where I had camped twice before.

Mt Hood north side in the morning sun
Flowers everywhere!
In the distance one can see Mt. St. Helens, Mt. Rainier, and Mt. Adams. Nearby, the effects of recent forest fire are seen.
One of many river fords that I needed to do.
It’s still Mt. Hood!
Log to assist in the Eliott River crossing. Descending the loose rock was most challenging. Chris and I loosely hiked much of the day together
Cloud Cap campground
Mt. Adams in the distance. The trail ascends well above the Timberline, and several places, I needed to walk through snow
Highest point on the Timberline Trail
Gnarly trees on Gnarl Ridge, looking down to Lamberson Butte (far left ridgeline)
More Gnarl Ridge. In the distance, I am again seeing Mt. Jefferson as well as the Three Sisters
The immense nature of this scene is best seen in person. It is a steep-walled canyon that was carved by the Newton and Clark creeks.

12August-Today was another 6:45 start. It was overcast today with a little bit of mist, making for perfect hiking conditions. I had only 6-7 miles more to go, but knew that there was substantial climbing, and the White River was often the most challenging river to cross. The route was less hilly for a distance when crossing the ski slopes of Mt. Hood Meadows. In summertime, these slopes are massive fields of flowers, punctuated by many small streams cascading down the mountain. There is a substantial drop down to the White River. The challenge was not so much the river crossing, as the need to descend and the reascend the steep cliffs of loose rock cut away by the river. I apparently chose a far less advantageous spot to cross than a couple that I was walking with, who seemed to cross effortlessly. From there, it was 1000 feet of climbing back to Timberline Lodge. The ride home went without problems, with a most happy Wanderer.

Today was cloudy, and less perfect views of the mountain
Lots of small streams lined with flowers. Water wasn’t an issue on this hike.
The beauty remained intense. This is within the Mt. Hood Meadows ski area, a scene that goes unnoticed by skiers
Fields of flowers on a ski slope
Flowers and Mt. Jefferson as well as the Three Sisters are seen in the distance
The challenge of crossing the White River. The loose gravel banks were the greatest problem
Mt. Hood as seen from where I stopped for a brunch – tuna fish sandwich and candy bar
A welcome view of finally seeing the Timberline Lodge, with a large canyon between. The trail went around the top of these canyons.
Last peak at Mt. Hood.

Final thoughts-Of the two round-the-mountain trails that I know of, the Timberline Trail around Mt. Hood, and the Wonderland Trail around Mt. Rainier, the most common characteristic is the nearly constant rise and fall of the trail. The Wonderland Trail has been more effective at avoiding most of the dangerous stream crossings by placing bridges across the major rivers. When I hiked the Timberline Trail in years past, I don’t recall the challenges of a number of difficult stream crossings, which consisted of very rapidly flowing streams and no means of hopping rocks or walking logs to get across. The Timberline Trail is much more challenging than the Wonderland Trail in that regard. Also, more challenging is the many areas of the Timberline Trail, where the bed of the trail was nothing but loose rock or sand. Between fording streams and then walking a sandy trail, my feet became quite frightfully dirty. A positive distinction of the Timberline Trail is its profusion of large fields and patches of flowers. The flower count on the Timberline Trail seems to excel that of nearly every other trail that I’ve hiked. I also noted that the variety of the type of flower was more extensive than other hikes in my memory. If you are into flowers, this is the “must-hike” hike for you. Between the flowers and the constant beauty of the mountain, one cannot fail to reflect on the loving care and the creation God offers for his children. Possibly the least positive aspect of this trail is the number of people doing the trail. There were people everywhere, and I didn’t go for more than ½ mile without seeing at least one group of people on the trail. Interestingly, nearly 100% of those I saw suffered from the Virus Insanity Syndrome. There were also masks littering the trail from poor wanderers who will now surely be stricken by the dreaded Wuhan virus. Is this unique for Oregon? I don’t know.

This will probably be the last time I hike this trail unless somebody eagerly requests that I hike it with them. I doubt that that will happen. I will be content with hiking trails closer to home. Maybe the Wonderland Trail needs to be hiked one last time by me. I’ll decide that in a year or two.

On last observation. You might have noticed that you never see me in any of the photos. That’s what you get when you solo hike. I also don’t like to take selfies.

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Aug 03
View south from the low Divide

The Olympic National Park is huge, rugged, and nearly impenetrable, the interior of which has only recently been greeted by the foot of man. O’Neil took a military troop up Hurricane Hill in 1885, forming what is essentially the road that we now use to get to that location. Washington State became a state 1889, and the desire to have a deeper look into the interior of the Olympics prompted the Seattle Press, a local newspaper, to sponsor an expedition across the Olympic Mountains. A group of 5 people signed up, and with a mule, 4 dogs, and lots of supplies, headed off into the mountains, intending to take a route up the Elwha River, and then down the north fork of the Quinault River. They were successful, though the expedition took them 6 months and many trials. This expedition is nicely chronicled in a number of books and online. We essentially repeated the fundamental track of the expedition, though going in a reverse direction (south to north) and having the pleasure of trails, bridges, and precise routes nicely laid out for us. What we still had to contend with was the fiercely rugged nature of the Olympic Mountains, along with the need to ford both the upper Quinault and upper Elwha Rivers. The Seattle Press expedition could not have picked a worse time of year to do their expedition, which probably could have been done in far less time during the spring/summer season. In the trail books, we hiked a total of two trails, the north fork of the Quinault to the Low Divide, and the Elwha River trail from the Low Divide to the trailhead at Whiskey Bend.

Day #1 – 6.6 miles, North Fork Quinault Trailhead to Elip Creek. The day started with me meeting Russ at his house, and together with his wife, we drove two cars to the completion trailhead on the Elwha River. The road was washed out, and so the completion trailhead lay about 7+ additional miles (which we would have to walk) to the car. I then got into Russ’ car, and we drove around the Olympic Peninsula to the starting trailhead on the north fork of the Quinault River. Wishing Kim goodbye, we started our trek about 2 pm, leaving us only a few hours of hiking. The trail started out somewhat flat but quickly changed into progressively more and more climbing. After passing a group of kids close to the trailhead, we ceased to see anybody on the trail. Once settled into camp, a group of two guys descended the Elip Creek Trail from the Skyline Trail to settle into camp with us.

Rather fresh and clean in appearance
Trailhead sign
the lower north fork of the Quinault River, suggesting hills in the distance
Russ, chilling out for our first night at camp, the Elip Creek flowing in the background

Day #2, Elip Creek Camp to Low Divide Camp, 10 miles. The climbing progressively got steeper, but was characterized by multiple ups and downs. The Quinault River could be seen frequently to our right, until we reached 16 mile camp. Here, we had to ford the Quinault River (i.e., no bridge across the river), had lunch at 16 mile camp, and then proceeded to much more vigorous climbing to ascend to the top of the Divide. All the while, the mountains could be more and more clearly seen. At 16 mile camp, we saw a man and his son who were doing a prolonged ramble through the Olympics, and eventually was greeted by a hiker who was just behind us on the trail, and then camped on the Low Divide. In essence, there was almost nobody on the trail.

Mountains appearing to the south as we climb out of the Quinault River valley
A blessing that the Press Expedition did not share. Without bridges, the trip would have been immensely more difficult, since many of the streams cut deep canyons into the mountains
The thinning of vegetation as we near the low Divide
Waterfall cascading off of the face of Mt Seattle
Another view of Mt. Seattle
Large meadows on the Low Divide
Russ settling in on the Low Divide. The mosquitos were not too bad.
My tent settled in on the Low Divide
A bear sauntered just 20 feet from our camp. I saw one other bear the next day down along the Elwha

Day #3, 18 miles; Low Divide camp to Elkhorn Camp. Coming off of the low Divide in the northerly direction proved a little more challenging than expected. We were on the trail by 7 am, and was soon greeted by a sign announcing the actual low Divide, representing the watershed between the Quinault and Elwha systems. There were two beautiful lakes that we passed high up on the Low Divide. We were warned that the trail was not too good on the other side of the Divide, and our experience proved that to be completely correct. The trail definitely needed serious brushing as it descended very rapidly off of the Divide, and there was much windfall across the trail, forcing us to crawl under, crawl over, or hike around the fallen trees. Toward Chicago Camp (at the base of the descent) there was windfall that was so extensive that a trail could not be found without extensive searching and crawling around the dense forest bed. Ultimately we reached the Elwha River, where a fallen tree permitted us to walk dryly across the upper Elwha, which is usually a river ford. We reached the Chicago Camp at about 9:30, taking 2.5 hours to descend 4 miles. We then needed to make up time to arrive at Elkhorn Camp before nightfall. There was still extensive brush obscuring the trail, as well as river fords, and obstructions from windfall. We arrived at Elkhorn Camp at about 5:30 pm quite exhausted. Elkhorn Camp was a ranger station with other buildings but otherwise was not the nicest camp to stay at.

Yup, the actual Low Divide
Lake Margaret high on the Low Divide
The other side of Lake Margaret, looking back at Mt. Seattle
Russ, carefully fording the Elwha
A beautiful bridge across the Hayes River, with a steep rock canyon
A cabin at Elkhorn Ranger Station
The Elwha from my tent site

Day #4, 18 miles, including 11 miles from Elkhorn Ranger Station to the trailhead at Whiskey Bend, and then 7 miles of road and detour trail walking. I expected the remaining 18 miles to be a flat river walk, somewhat akin to the Hoh or the Quinault Rivers. It was everything but that, attesting to the wild rugged nature of the Olympics. The only thing common to the Olympics is that everything is green, and everything grows well within the peninsula—after all, it IS a rain forest. We were up at 5:30, and after a relaxed breakfast of oatmeal, a granola bar, hot chocolate, coffee, and medications, we were off and running. We passed a number of different campsites, many of which looked quite appealing for camping, but some were run down with downfall owing to the challenge of park access with the road being washed out. We stopped several times for meal breaks, which included either peanut butter and jam, or tuna fish, rolled up in a tortilla shell. Bread will squash, and so tortillas make the perfect alternative that will last a long time and still taste well. Of course, vitamin S (Snicker bars) or a similar treat continues to fuel the walk and enjoyed while resting beside a creek or river, delighting in God’s handiwork. We passed an old homestead along the river, and then reached Whiskey Bend, the end of the trail, at about 11:30. Russ and I took a long break here. Everything was eerily quiet. Since leaving the Low Divide campground, we had seen only one person. We were in our own little wilderness thanks to the road washout. After walking five miles of gravel road (which was actually quite beautiful), we arrived at the now flatter pavement and continued the road walk another 2 miles to the detour. It was here that we now started to encounter many tourists. To our dismay, the detour forced us to do much more climbing, and in 0.8 miles eventually arrived back to the pavement a short distance from our cars. It was a quick trip back home, and to a sweet wife and warm welcoming shower.

Very dense rain forest. Everything was intensely green
Humes Ranch building
At Whiskey Bend trailhead, but with 7 more miles to go to reach our car
Remnant of the upper Elwha Dam
Looking down the narrow canyon which housed the upper Elwha Dam. Both the upper and lower Elwha dams were removed in order to allow the salmon to again run upriver. both the lower dam, built in 1910 and this dam, built in 1927 have since been removed.
Russ and I have now reached our vehicle along the lower Elwha. Motivated by a careful diet of spoons over forks, we have been able to nutritionally power our bodies to perform such super-human acts like walking across the Olympic Mountains and still come out smiling! For only $37.99 Russ and I will gladly impart our knowledge of this simple but special diet for avoiding disease and maintaining health and vigor well into old age.

Was the backpack worth it? Of course. I felt a little bit like I was back on the PCT, with all its daily routines and planning contingencies. I had dreamed for years of doing this hike. There is great joy when exploring an unknown area of the world, and on this hike, the sights and terrain were completely different than what I anticipated.

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Jul 25
Talapus Lake

Talapus, Olallie, Pratt, and Lower Tuscohatchie Lakes, 23-25JUL2020 with Patrick and Ethan

I was itching to discover more of the lakes in the Snoqualmie Pass region of the Alpine Lakes Wilderness and decided to do this hike with several of the grandkids. We took off on Thursday, and when we arrived at the Talapus Lake Trailhead at 7:45, it was already filling up. The total hike to Olallie Lake was a little more than 3 miles, but we first passed Talapus Lake. The trail was not terribly steep with a lot of flat spots and a highly manicured trail surface. It took us a leisurely pace of about 1.5 hours to get to camp. We camped on the far side of the lake, where there was nobody else our first night. On Friday night, we were surrounded by 4 more tents filling the campsite. The kids went swimming, while I loafed. We did a several mile exploratory hike around the lake.

Highly manicured creek crossing on the way to the lakes. The surrounding was dense forest.
Olallie Lake

The next day, after breakfast, we did a 6-7 mile day hike to Pratt Lake and lower Tuscohatchie Lake. This trail had a bit more demanding elevation loss and gain. On approaching Pratt Lake, we had a lengthy segment of traversing talus slopes. The rock in this area was predominantly granite. We did lunch at lower Tuscohatchie Lake, and headed back to camp.

Talus slopes of granite surrounding Pratt Lake
Pratt Lake
Another view of Pratt Lake
Looking down the Pratt River valley toward the middle fork of the Snoqualmie River
The kids at lower Tuscohatchie Lake where we had lunch
Ethan back at camp, in a most hungered state

The kids again did more swimming, we made supper, and went to bed early. By morning, our campsite was plumb full. It took less than 1.5 hours to get back to the car, even with stops and photographic moments.

Patrick and Ethan back at the trailhead, eager for more adventures.

The drive home was uneventful. I had several objectives for this trip, the first being the desire to explore more of this portion of the Alpine Lakes Wilderness, which is within an hour of home, but usually flooded by Seattleites. Secondly, I wished for the kids to become more independent of Opa. Patrick shows strong promise, and he is ready to head out on his own into the woods for an overnighter. Hopefully, his parents will let this happen. I gave Patrick more responsibility, essentially not telling him much. Ethan will need a few more years to be set free in the woods, as he needs to realize that the woods must be taken seriously. Fortunately, he seems to enjoy being in the woods more than any of the kids, and thus my delight with taking him along.

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