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.

Tagged with:
No Comments »
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.

Tagged with:
No Comments »
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

Tagged with:
2 Comments »
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
Tagged with:
No Comments »
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!
 

Tagged with:
No Comments »
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.

Tagged with:
No Comments »
Sep 06


Timberline Trail, 17-18AUG2017
I had backpacked the Timberline Trail twice already, once about 40 years ago with Jack Frane, and the other about 20 years ago with Kent Dawson. The trail had been closed for a number of years because a wash-out on the northeast side of the mountain, but this year, the trail was reopened completely. I decided to do the trail in two nights with Russ Anderson. The trail is roughly 40 miles length, so we anticipated camping on the NW and SE sides of the mountain, leaving a long but not challenging second day.
We arrived at Timberline Lodge at about 11 am, and after signing in and making necessary preparations, we took off. I remembered most of the trail, though it had a changing face to it. What was most peculiar was that there was more difficulty crossing some of the streams than I remember in times past. The Sandy River was particularly challenging to get across, and only a small log over a very active rushing stream was noted. We started going clockwise, and the west side of the mountain is noted for a series of deep canyons, the first being Zigzag canyon and the second the Sandy River canyon. The trail did an excellent job of following elevation contours so that there was no extreme ups and downs.

Russ ready to go hiking


Mt. Jefferson off in the horizon


 

Mt Hood from Zigzag Canyon


 

More views of Mt. Hood from Zigzag Canyon


 

The intrepid Russ Anderson in excellent style


 

View from the Sandy River area

 

Ramona Falls


We arrived at Ramona Falls, making quite good time, as it was about 16:30 and we had already hiked 10.5 miles. I had some left knee pain from prior hikes, so was wearing a support brace for the hike. The knee started to hurt more, not when walking, but when stopped. Since the campsites for Ramona Falls were quite full, we went a little over a mile further to other campsites on the trail. At that time, my left knee started to become truly painful. After dinner, Russ and I both hit the sack, and slept soundly. The left knee was now quite swollen, and exceedingly painful. After much painful deliberation, we decided to bail out. Rather than retrace our tracks, we decided to take an access trail to Lolo Pass, and then hitch back to the car. It was about 5-7 miles out, which went smoothly. After arriving at the parking lot to the access trail, we were able to hitchhike back to Zigzag, where Russ further rode back to Timberline Lodge to get his truck.
I saw a sports orthopedist a week later, who identified a small stress avulsion fracture of the lateral knee, which requires me to take it easy for about 6 weeks. I find that bicycling gives me a small amount of pain, but can at least let me get some exercise in. Sadly, a combination of the knee injury and forest fires is keeping me off of the trail. It will probably have to wait for next year to formally complete the Timberline Trail.
 

Tagged with:
No Comments »
Jul 23


Washington Trails Association Pratt River Trail Work Party 20-22(23)JULY
I do a modest amount of backpacking, and have occasionally encountered trails that were not in the best of shape. I had no idea who cared for the trails, thinking that the forest service did everything. Slowly, I realized how much trail care is actually performed by volunteers. In 2009 in Oregon, I took a 3 day trail design, construction and maintenance course (see http://feuchtblog.net/2009/06/08/4-7jun-trail-skills-college-dee/).  I don’t remember who put it on, but it was a blast. Now that I’m into semi-retirement, I decided to actually do some trail work, and the Washington Trails Association (WTA) provided the perfect opportunity. The Pratt River Trail is within the newly expanded Alpine Lakes Wilderness, one of my favorite places in the whole wide world. There was considerable blow-down of trees from the past few winters and so the forest service requested the WTA to help clean out the timber fallen across the trail. Even though I took the trails skills “college”, I was totally clueless as to what this would actually represent. I e-mailed the WTA about issues, such as if we were going to get really dirty, and they suggested not. Actually, trail work means getting down in the dirt, which means that you will quickly become quite filthy. I wasn’t quite as prepared as I should have been for personal hygiene. True, I had my tooth brush, but then, I wasn’t getting my teeth (literally) into the action. My anxiety led me to arrival at the trailhead meeting point early, and was the first person there besides LeeAnn. The entire party ended up being eight people, with two no-shows. I was the only novice in the group, and truly clueless about what we were about to do.
The party was small enough that it was easy to get to know everybody, but several people stood out. The first was Jim. He was the old geezer of the group, but a true gentleman, and the most knowledgeable of the bunch. Whenever there was a question about a complex or dangerous log clearance issue, Jim was the go-to person, and had actually trained a few of the folk in the party. The work was split up into two sawing groups of 3 people, and two others that assisted and cleared brush. I worked with Rich and Jim, and what a treat it was. Jim was an incredible teacher and a real trooper, while Rich was most patient with me being clueless about running the saws or moving logs.

Jim


Rich and LeeAnne. During a break from work, we walked up to a side trail, leading to a giant Douglas Fir tree just off the trail (sort of)


As you can see, we all had to wear hard hats and gloves. The hard hats didn’t make sense to me, because there was no means of securing the hat to your head, and it was constantly falling off, sometimes when you most wished that it would stay on. LeeAnne was the group leader, and she was a real trooper, really fun to have with. Don was another fairly experienced trail worker in the group, who I enjoyed interacting with. Actually, I really enjoyed everybody, including Monty, Dave, and Emily, though I didn’t get the best photos of them.

Don, loaded to take off


The time transpired as follows. We all met at 8:30, and had an introductory safety session at 9:00. About 9:30, we took off on the trail, walking about 3 miles to a campsite at the point where the Pratt River drains into the middle fork of the Snoqualmie River. We set up our tents, prepared a lunch and water for our day sacks, and then took off to start clearing trail. I didn’t count, but with Jim and Rich, our first day involved clearing about 5-8 trees. Some demanded a moderate strategy and multiple cuts in order to safely remove the tree from the trail. Unlike standing trees, the fallen timber may be under considerable tension with bending, shearing and forces of torsion, which could lead to highly dangerous situations if one were not adequately prepared. Jim taught me much about the safest way to attack a log. After cutting a large log, one still had to move it from the trail. Somehow, we were able to move even enormous logs off the trail by sitting on our butts and pushing the logs with our legs out of the way. Some logs were quite complex to remove, and one situation was a cluster of three logs piled on top of each other, all 2-3 feet in diameter, and all under considerable tension. When fallen logs are under tension, one cannot just saw through the log, because as soon as the saw achieves some depth into the wood, the timber starts to close in on the saw, causing it to jamb. In such a situation, three to five cuts need to be made through the timber, with the space between hacked out with an axe. This means that a large log could take ½ a day just to make a single cut entirely through the log. Here is an example of that occurring on the complex log cluster, with one log already cleared.

Jim supervising, with Don and Rich working the 6 foot crosscut saw. Monty stands off in the distance.


The first day was a bit drizzly, and we were very wet walking through intense underbrush covering the trail. It dried out by afternoon, and the next few days were sunny. We were under a dense forest canopy, and so I didn’t need sunglasses or suntan lotion. The work was intense enough that by afternoon, we would be through several liters of water, and the first order of business on returning to camp was to purify more water from the river.
On the third day, Jim was not feeling well at the end of the day, and after some deliberation, decided that he needed to return home a day early. LeeAnne needed to accompany him out for his safety, but was worried enough about Jim, that she asked me to go with, being that I was a doctor and would have a clue if Jim took a turn for the worse. Carrying some of Jim’s belongings, we got him out safely, and I followed him to North Bend, stopping at a McDonalds to get him some root beer, which seemed to pink up his color considerably.  I felt bad leaving the work crew a ½ day early, and hope that the remainder of the crew all got out safely.

Thoughts on the adventure

  1. My opinion of the WTA skyrocketed. They are not just a lame tree-hugging society, but they really care about people, about trails, and about nature.  I had no clue as to how hard it was to clear a trail, as to how much was performed by volunteers, and as to how dedicated many of these volunteers were, some doing 10 or more work projects per year. It makes my adventure look rather trite.
  2. I know that I need to do more of these, and will try to encourage others to get involved at least one a year on a work party. Anybody that enjoys trails should at least once in a while get out and help with the WTA mission, or with Oregon Trailkeepers and other groups that do this sort of work.
  3. I will be MUCH more prepared next time. I don’t need to bring my ultra-light equipment, but instead have my more durable backpack equipment. Three to seven miles is not too far to walk with a 40-50 lb pack, and a few creature comforts would have helped. My ultralight air mattress had a seam tear out, which meant that there ended being a large bulge in my air mattress making it very uncomfortable to sleep the second night. I will bring a more durable air mattress next time. I will also try to develop a little better first aid kit for the types of problems that might happen on a trail. That might add a pound of weight, but should be tolerable. I’ll possibly also take a refresher course in advanced wilderness life support, offered by the Wilderness Medical Society.
  4. I continue to develop thoughts on the concept of “wilderness”. Perhaps certain rules are a touch crazy, like forbidding trail workers to use mechanized machinery (chain saws, etc.) to maintain existing trails. I wonder how many tree huggers are secretly appreciate the dynamite used to create the Kendall Katwalk, or the Eagle Creek Trail in the Columbia River gorge. I will probably write more on this later, devoting a single blog to my random thoughts on this issue.
  5. I will NEVER again hike a trail without realizing the blood, sweat, and tears that it took to build and maintain that trail. To that I end with my blog with a word of appreciation to all the trail societies (like the WTA, PTCA, Rainier volunteers) that keep up our parks and mountain playgrounds. To the WTA, I might add, sicherlich auf wiedersehen, certainement à bientôt, surely I’ll be seeing you again on a work party.

 
 

Tagged with:
No Comments »
Aug 24

IMG_0846
White Pass to Crystal Mountain on the PCT, 21-23AUG2016
The last trip report had Pete, Russ and I going from Waptus Lake to White Pass. This is now a continuation with just Russ and I from White Pass to Crystal Mountain Ski Resort. It was also two nights, and along the Pacific Crest Trail (PCT). Both Russ and I are now packing a bit lighter, and a bit wiser. To coordinate matters, I dropped my car off at Crystal Mountain, and then Kim Andersen drove us to White Pass and left us to our own devices. The start of the trail was a touch obscure, but we were soon on our way. The first day had beautiful weather with a few scattered clouds, but cool, and no bugs. There was much up and down along the trail, but with lighter packs, we seemed to handle it quite well. We passed multiple lakes, and what I thought would be somewhat monotonous scenery (the long green tunnel) was everything but that. We finally set up camp at Snow Lake.

Day 2, we traversed from Snow Lake to Dewey Lake. It was cloudy the entire day, and most the time, we were hiking in the clouds. We would have had views of Mt. Rainier, which were clouded out today. The scenery persisted in being totally spectacular, and much of the trail actually went through Mt. Rainier National Park. During this hike, I am still experimenting with my Garmin eTrex 30t, and was informed at the end of the day that the battery ran out. Thus, I do not have a complete record. We hiked between 16-17 miles, and climbed about 3000 feet.

Wolkenbergwanderung

Wolkenbergwanderung


Russ waking up at Snow Lake and disorganizing his stuff.

Russ waking up at Snow Lake and disorganizing his stuff.


A hike in the clouds

A hike in the clouds


Russ chilling out at Dewey Lake

Russ chilling out at Dewey Lake


Day 3, we got a little later start of 7:30, and started immediately with a climb up to highway 410 (Chinook Pass). On the way, we encountered Smiles, and then two girls, Old School and Mama Goose, all thru-hikers from Campo. All were putting in 25-30 mile days, carrying packs under 25 lb, and looking as fresh as the first day on the trail. I’m deeply jealous. Maybe 2018? Past Hwy 410, we had another 1800 ft of climbing, reaching Sheep Lake and then Sourdough gap. At Sourdough gap, Russ took off like a jack rabbit chasing the bunnies, and then took a trail off of the PCT, perhaps thinking it was a short cut to Crystal. Fortunately, I caught him quickly enough to correct our course. We continued on the Bear Gap, where there were several trails that took us back to our car. The Crystal Mountain portion of the hike was a little less enjoyable. We stopped at Wallys on the way home, where Russ was able to experience the Waltimate Burger.

Looking down on Dewey Lake

Looking down on Dewey Lake


Heading toward Hwy 410

Heading toward Hwy 410


The never-ending trail

The never-ending trail


From Sourdough Gap, looking back on Sheep Lake with Mt. Adams in the distance.

From Sourdough Gap, looking back on Sheep Lake with Mt. Adams and Goat Rocks in the distance.


From these two hikes, Russ and I both learned the value of going lighter. We were able to talk to many of the thru-hikers and glean knowledge from them as to the methods of their journeys. The common theme was to go lighter, from the pack, to the food you carry, your tent and sleeping accommodations, to your clothes and food. I remain puzzled how many thru-hikers carried cell phones, and yet kept them charged. I saw only a few carrying solar chargers on their packs.
I’ve used the Halfmile maps, and they were extremely helpful in planning the route, and finding your way once on the journey. I was using two year old maps, and the mile markers for this years maps are slightly different by 10 miles. I never needed the Garmin to determine my location, though I’m sure it might help in the Sierras where the route isn’t as clear.
The first hike this year was into Rachel Lake with Peter Tate, and I forgot to bring my trekking poles. It was a totally miserable hike, and I was unstable, falling a lot, and unsure in any sort of tricking footing, like stream crossing. These last two hikes were now with my hiking poles, and what a difference they make. You can hike faster because you can easily catch yourself when you become unsteady. You can lessen the impact when descending. Stream crossing is still slow, but far less unsure. I will never forget my hiking poles again!

Tagged with:
2 Comments »
Aug 13

IMG_0807Goat Rocks 10-12AUG 2016

Russ and Pete gearing up for the hike

Russ and Pete gearing up for the hike


We initially planned for a hike from the Suiattle River to Holden, but were informed that the town of Holden was shut down from prior forest fires. After much adjusting we opted for the Goat Rocks Hike. I had apportioned 5 days so that we would not feel stressed about getting back home. We ended up needing only three days. Using two cars with one parked at White Pass and the other at our starting point at Walupt Lake, we were able to start and end our hike by our own conveyance. We left home at 7:30 am on 10AUG and arrived finally at the trailhead in time to start our hike about 11:30. We went up the Nanny Ridge Trail, which was about 2000 ft of immediate climbing until we got to Sheep Lake. We then were on the PCT, and had a little easier elevation profile. Though the trail was designed for horses, it still was a considerable amount of scrambling. The first pass was Cispus Pass, where we were able to meet some through hikers, which included Georgia Boy, who was on the last leg of completing the Triple Crown (Appalachian Trail, Continental Divide Trail, and Pacific Crest Trail). We dumped a bunch of our food on him, and he graciously got a photograph of all of us together.
The Three Musketeers on Cispus Pass

The Three Musketeers on Cispus Pass


Russ, Georgia Boy, and Pete on Cispus Pass

Russ, Georgia Boy, and Pete on Cispus Pass


Georgia Boy took off at almost twice the speed we were going, with less than ½ the weight on his back. It was a sudden realization that we were WAY overloaded with stuff, and started looking at that time for any and every thru-hiker who was starving and needed food. Over the Pass, we found ourselves in a verdant meadow with clean mountain streams and sore bones. It was then that we decided to set up camp, about a mile from our original destination of Snowgrass Flats.
My tent on our first night, with Pete and Russ's tent off in the distance

My tent on our first night, with Pete and Russ’s tent off in the distance


Looking up from our tents

Looking up from our tents


Waking up is hard to do for Russ and Pete

Waking up is hard to do for Russ and Pete



There were a few clouds in the sky which cleared overnight, and we had perfect weather for our walk the next day. The sunrise left a bright glow on Mt. St. Helens, which unfortunately could not be picked up well with my camera. We were at Snowgrass Flats in about an hour, and then slowly wound our way up the side of Old Snowy toward the knife-edge. Looking down, we could see herds of mountain goats, and also a herd of elk. They were a touch too far away to photograph, so left them in our memory. The knife-edge is a 5 mile or more walk along a ridge radiating out from Old Snowy. There was a sheer cliff on each side, which wasn’t terribly dangerous, but demanded your constant attention. One could not be a Hans-Guck-in-die-Luft character. We finally dropped down into McCall Basin, and were greeted by huge fields of alpine flowers in full bloom. What a glorious site.
A view of Mt Adams from Snowgrass Flats

A view of Mt Adams from Snowgrass Flats


A view of Mt. Rainier from above Snowgrass Flats

A view of Mt. Rainier from above Snowgrass Flats


Goat Rocks with Old Snowy on the right. Our went to near the summit of Old Snowy, and then down the knife-edge.

Goat Rocks with Old Snowy on the right. Our went to near the summit of Old Snowy, and then down the knife-edge.


Looking down the valley to Packwood Lake from high on Old Snowy

Looking down the valley to Packwood Lake from high on Old Snowy


Pete ready to start the knife-edge

Pete ready to start the knife-edge


Looking back from the knife-edge on Old Snowy

Looking back from the knife-edge on Old Snowy


A well needed break by a mountain stream in McCall Basin

A well needed break by a mountain stream in McCall Basin


Lupine and Indian Paintbrush were quite prolific

Lupine and Indian Paintbrush were quite prolific



Our resting place that evening was at Tieton Pass, which really didn’t seem like a pass, though it was. At this point, we were greeted by multiple hikers, including a couple going from southern Oregon to Canada, another Mike and Teresa who was doing almost the same hike as us, and who will be later encountered. Our most cherished encounter was with the Brit Family Robinson III, a family from Northern England with a 12 yo daughter and 10 yo son, who had survived the entire journey from Campo (Mexican Border) to here. We gave them a bunch of food which they were quite eager to take, making our packs lighter. The family chronicles might be found here.  https://reallylongwalk.wordpress.com  with Josie and Jack, the Brit Family Robinson III. I dearly hope we might meet them again once they finish their journey. They left us a nice note on our car which we found at the end of our trip.
Scan
We also met Catwater and Sliderule, an elderly couple who hiked the PCT NoBo last year, and now doing it SoBo this year.
Friday am, we were up at 5:15 and on the trail by 7 am. We had no major passes to cross, but needed to cross a ridge which led us to above Shoe Lake. We could have gone to Shoe Lake, but I was concerned about adding elevation and mileage to our hike, which we learned later would not have happened. Dommage! Past Shoe Lake, the trail was nearly uniformly downhill though quite gradual in its descent. It still was hard on the feet, and it seemed like it was easier to go up than to go down. Also, I had run out of water, and there were no good water sources along the trail from Tieton Pass until we were near the end of our hike. I was totally dehydrated once reaching White Pass. Our friends Mike and Teresa had arrived before me, and we had arranged to give them a lift back to their car at Walupt Lake.

On top of our last major ridge climb

On top of our last major ridge climb


Looking down on Shoe Lake

Looking down on Shoe Lake


Looking back at the Goat Rocks

Looking back at the Goat Rocks


A forward look from high up

A forward look from high up


The very well known to PCT thru-hikers Kracker Barrel store - also our destiny.

The very well known to PCT thru-hikers Kracker Barrel store – also our destiny.


Russ arrives at White Pass

Russ arrives at White Pass


Pete arrives at White Pass

Pete arrives at White Pass


 
Lessons that we learned from the hike…

  1. We must go MUCH lighter. That even goes for me, who had the lightest pack.
  2. The Garmin was phenomenal at recording our tracks, and showed very little sign of battery usage, with lithium ion batteries.  I’ll use it again. It incorrectly calculated caloric output, but was a little too truthful about our snail pace on the trail. Plus, we now know exactly where we were.
  3. My shoes wore out. On inspecting the shoes after the hike, there were cracks where I had gotten blisters. I had hoped that they would last forever. I must now explore other hiking shoes.
  4. We need to all be individually prepared. Organizing for three old farts just doesn’t work, as we all want something different for breakfast, lunch and dinner, and have different ideas on how backpacking should take place.
  5. We MUST hike on. The more you do, the more comfortable it is. It is now time to take a year off and do the PCT. I’m not sure I’ll persuade Russ, Pete, or my wife, but it’s worth a try. I still like bicycling, and wish to do some epic rides in the next few years.

To all the wonderful people we met on the trail, may your journeys continue on in safety and comfort.
 
 

Tagged with:
No Comments »
preload preload preload