Jul 03

Echo Lake with Sam Flanagan: 01-02JULY2021

Echo Lake is located within the Norse Peak Wilderness, just north of Mount Rainier, and in proximity of the Crystal Mountain ski resort. It is pristine wilderness with wonderful streams and beautiful lakes, marred only by the unfortunate occurrence in 2017 of a major forest fire that raged through this area. The fire was started by lightning strike, and though it was fairly comprehensive, it is seen extensively when one is hiking in proximity to our current trail while on the Pacific Crest Trail. The fire was rather selective, leaving large patches of unburnt trees, and occasionally a small island of viable trees in a field of charred and dead trees. Some of this hike traversed burnt sections, though there were still mostly viable trees.

We started out on July 01 at about 10 am, and the parking lot was essentially empty. This is an extremely popular hike so that was quite strange. On the way in, we greeted the owner of the one other car in the lot who was hiking out. She also had a Gossamer Gear backpack, which is not the most common backpack in this part of the universe.

Crossing a stream on a precarious “bridge”, aided by a rope strung across the creek by the forest service.
Sam entering the Norse Peak wilderness
Hiking up the Greenwater River system, past the lower and upper Greenwater Lakes.
Sam at the horse camp of Echo Lake. Across the lake, one can observe the devastation of the 2017 fire.

I originally intended to do this hike as a loop, going from Echo Lake up to Corral Pass, spending the night at Corral Pass, and then descending by way of the Lost Lake trail and back to the trail head. Echo Lake was 7 miles from the trailhead, and a lot of climbing. As we went past the Greenwater Lakes, we encountered more and more mosquitos. Sam applied mosquito juice, but still got eaten up. I was using a mosquito head net, but they were not attacking me as viciously as Sam, so loaned the net to him. Even still, by the time we reached Echo Lake, Sam had had enough of the mosquitos, and we decided to call it quits. We ate lunch and then dinner, set up our tent, and had a restful night. The day was warm but mostly cloudy, with blue sky for an hour or two while we were at the lake. On the way out the next day, we then encountered swarms of weekend warriors coming up the trail. We got to the parking lot about 11 am, which was nearly full of cars. I gave Sam an obligatory stop at Wally’s for his Wallyburger, a treat not to be missed.

On arriving home, Betsy had a list of chores to get done. Meanwhile, I conspired as to my next hike. Sometime after the 4th JULY, I will be taking the train down to Vancouver, WA and meet Gaylon. The next AM, he will drop me off at the Bridge of the Gods, but this time, I will start hiking north. I’ll probably not resupply until White Pass, a total of 150 miles, and then terminate the hike at Chinook Pass, and hitch hike back to civilization.

The multiple obstacles that I continually am confronting have left me with the question as to whether I’m crazy, or whether God is blocking every attempt of mine to complete the trail. At this point, I’ve lost all interest in completing the entire PCT. I would like to hike most of the Washington and Oregon parts of the trail, and hopefully also hike the trail from Castella to Ashland. I don’t have any extreme hopes or expectations. I’ve learned the importance of enjoying the hike. Many will push on in the face of miserable conditions, simply to claim that they’ve done the entire trail. That’s not my cup of tea. I’ll do what I can, but I’ll enjoy it while I do it.

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Jun 25

Next Monday (28JUN2021) I board an Amtrak train to Bakersfield, CA. This is an overnight train with several transfers, after which I board a bus to Lake Isabella. I’ll spend a night in Lake Isabella and then board another bus to Walker Pass. If the weather happens to be unusually hot, I will then continue on to the town of Ridgecrest, and hop a ride from there to Kennedy Meadows to begin my hike for the year. So, I couldn’t tell if I will begin hiking on 30JUN or a day or two later. In any event, I will be hitting the grandeur of the high Sierra in this episode of the PCT. I do not plan on summiting Mt. Whitney, a common side trip for PCT hikers, but will maintain my objective of hiking straight through. I also do not plan on stopping for resupply mid-way through the high Sierras but will head straight to Muir Trail Ranch, a segment that will take roughly 10 days to complete without a resupply. I will do a limited resupply at Reds Meadow (Mammoth, CA, Devils Postpile area) and mailed resupply packages at Tuolomne Meadows and Kennedy Meadows North (Sonora Pass). Rather than hitchhike down to South Lake Tahoe for resupply, I’m hoping that I can do a limited resupply at the Echo Lake grocery store before arriving at Donner Pass. At Donner Pass, I will hitchhike to Truckee, CA where I can catch the Amtrak train back home. I’ve considered plans for a much more extensive hiking season and then opted against that for a number of reasons, including my desire to spend as much of the summer with Betsy as possible, and taking the extremely hot weather under advisement. Besides the challenge of hiking in hot weather, there remains a much greater possibility of forest fires. Later in the summer (September) I hope that I can complete some more of the Washington PCT, perhaps with Russ A.

Preparations have been somewhat haphazard. I’ve been doing long hard day hikes, and last week did a very easy overnighter with Sam and Liam Flanagan. Physically, I feel ready. I’ve mailed my resupply packages to Kennedy Meadows (South) and to Muir Trail Ranch. Today, I mailed resupply boxes to Tuolomne Meadows and to Kennedy Meadows (North).

I will be using a Garmin InReach mini which will allow you to follow my progress. The device leaves a satellite “breadcrumb” every 30 minutes as to my location so that you can observe my progress from home. The link for this is share.garmin.com/PuyallupPilgrim . You may see mileage posted from the InReach mini, but it is highly inaccurate. Because it only takes a location every 30 minutes, it would be accurate only if I were walking a perfectly straight line without ups and downs. I could take my Garmin Explorer, which registers every few seconds and thus get a highly accurate reading on my hike, but that is much extra weight and totally unnecessary. My mileages will be reasonably accurately estimated from the trail mileage data of Guthooks, which is the iPhone GPS map system I use to stay on track on the trail.

Here is what I will be taking with me in my pack…

  • Backpack-Gossamer Gear 60Mariposa with rain cover
  • Tent – ZPacks Duplex
  • Hiking poles – ZPacks
  • Ground Pad – Thermarest NeoAir XLite – female
  • Sleeping quilt – Feathered Friends 20 Flicker
  • Pillow – down
  • Hiking gloves – Outdoor Research sun gloves
  • Buff & Handkerchief
  • Feathered Friends EOS down coat
  • Shorts, t-shirt (synthetic), socks, underpants, long underwear, fleece mittens/hat
  • Stove – Pocket rocket MSR kit with pot
  • Fuel canister
  • Camp towel
  • Long-handled titanium spoon
  • Bearikade bear canister (will change to UrSack at Kennedy Meadows) – an extra quarter to open and close the Bearikade
  • Personal paraphernalia – sunglasses, chapstick, wallet, pen, notepad, swiss army knife
  • Hydration bottle and tube
  • Rain jacket OR Helium II
  • Sawyer Squeeze water purification
  • 1 & 2-liter water bags
  • Suntan and Insect repellent, bug net
  • headlamp with extra batteries
  • Toilet paper, trowel, sanitizing gel
  • Pee bottle
  • First aid kit
  • Repair kit
  • Backup 10,000 MaH battery with charge cables
  • Medications: regular plus emergency meds
  • inReach Mini
  • iPhone

This is it. This will be my only “stuff” for 5-6 weeks. I have arranged for 4 resupplies, one at Kennedy Meadows South, one at Muir Trail Ranch, one at Tuolomne Meadows, and one at Kennedy Meadows North. I will also do a limited resupply at Reds Meadow and at Echo Lake resort. Here’s the contents of my pack…

Here is my resupply list for contents that I will have in the resupply boxes and food that will be on me…

PCT Resupply Box Contents July 2021

I will be leaving home anything that will not be used, save for hopefully a few emergency first aid supplies. Everything in the pack as well as the pack and on the pack have been weighed and re-weighed many times. Alternate items have also been weighed and the choice of alternates depended largely on the comparative weight of the item. I am doing a few things much differently. These include a) not using a fanny pack, but instead will be using a shoulder strap pocket on my backpack to hold my iPhone and sunglasses as well as permits and notepad. I will be using a Gossamer Gear pack. I’ve rigged up some straps to hold the bear canister to the outside of the pack. I may be trying out a hoodie rather than a button-down shirt. I will be using the right hip belt pocket for quick energy food—I used to keep quick energy food in my fanny pack until some chocolate melted and got all over my iPhone; not cool. I’ll be using a large zip lock bag for my daily lunch meal supplies since I am using the Bearikade bear canister which is a little hard to quickly access. I anticipate that I will be continuously modifying my style to best suit my changing needs.

The high Sierra and Washington are the two top-rated areas of the trail. I know the Washington section of the PCT reasonably well but have never been to the high Sierra. So, I’m looking eagerly for this phase of my adventure. This segment is also the part in which you MUST have a permit. Everywhere else on the PCT, you can hike the trail and camp the trail without a permit. If you camp in the high Sierra without a permit or without a bear canister, you WILL receive a hefty fine and curtly escorted out of the park.

I am finishing my pre-hike training with a few more hikes. On 24JUN I ran up to Thompson Lake, a 4000 ft climb and 14 miles of trail. Saturday I will be doing hiking around Mt. Si and Mt. Tenerife (the twin peaks of tv series fame). The weather has been hot, and I’ve been holding up, so I am feeling about as ready as I could be for this upcoming challenge.

I’ll be sending blog pages as often as possible, but in the high Sierra and all the way up to Donner Pass, there will be very few locations where I’ll be in cell phone range to download my blog pages. Thus, the only way you’ll be able to follow me is on the Garmin site. My PLB will receive messages, but I beg of you, PLEASE do not send me a satellite message unless it is most urgent. Rather, e-mail me ([email protected]), or comment on this web page, but do NOT text me or satellite message me. The reason is quite simple. I won’t have cell phone coverage to receive text messages. A satellite message eats up a massive amount of electricity for my PLB, and my contract plan does NOT allow for unlimited messages, which I’d like to reserve for Betsy.

 

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Jun 03

Top of Mount Si looking at North Bend

It is now 25 days before I take off on my grand adventure, Act II. Act I was accomplished in 2019, though my intention at that time was to finish the entire PCT, circumstances of weather and snow levels prevented me from accomplishing my intentions. I had hiked 1000 miles of the trail and completed the most challenging portion, making it through the desert of Southern California. My plan at this time is to go from Walker Pass to Old Station, and then perhaps finish off California by also hiking from Castella, CA to Ashland, OR. If there is more time in the hiking season and the weather is favorable, I’ll also try to finish up some of Washington. If successful, this should get me in another 800-1000 miles of trail. I’m hoping that by next year, the Eagle Creek Trail opens up and that I might do the Eagle Creek as a completion of the Oregon segment of the trail. This would repeat about 50 miles of the trail, but then it is a beautiful trail that I won’t mind repeating.

There are several things that I have already taken care of. First is the purchase of my train ticket from here to Bakersfield, CA. I will hop a county bus (Kern Transit) to Lake Isabella, and then early the next morning, take Kern Transit up to the trailhead at Walker Pass, which will drop me off at about 06:30. The first 50 miles will be desert-like conditions, and so plenty of water will need to be carried. At 50 miles, I will reach Kennedy Meadows South, where I will pick up my resupply package, and then head off for the longest stretch without a resupply, 158 miles to Muir Trail Ranch. There, I will have another resupply package mailed to me. Which is another item that I have to attend to.

Resupply packages

The orange buckets and boxes are resupply packages that I will be mailing to myself. They are still open since I will not seal them up until the day I need to mail them. Most of them will be mailed before I leave town, giving them about 3 weeks to arrive at their destination. The blue box contains a scale—everything gets weighed. The ice ax will go with me on the train, though I won’t need it until I reach Kennedy Meadows; it is difficult to mail, but fairly lightweight, so not objectionable to carry. Behind the blue box and ice ax is my pack. I’ll have further details as to exactly what I’m carrying in a later post. Buckets and plastic boxes are used for many locations, since they are remote locations, and numerous critters can easily get into them and ruin the contents if they are in standard cardboard boxes. I keep a record of exactly what I have in each box and need to thoroughly think out what I will need for the section of the hike associated with that resupply. In South Lake Tahoe, I will also need a new pair of shoes. I use Altra Lone Peaks, which wear out at about 500 miles. I use them since they are super lightweight, and that I have yet to get a blister with those shoes. They are probably the most popular shoe on the trail, for a good reason.

Personal conditioning is also important, and I have been doing a number of day hikes with a full pack on my back, using the loaded pack that I will be doing the PCT with. I currently have adopted the Gossamer Gear Mariposa 60, a pack that weighs (empty) about 2 lbs but is very comfortable and well designed. It is currently my favorite pack for this sort of activity. Day hikes have mostly been in the Snoqualmie Valley and Issaquah Alps area since they are relatively free of snow. I have also included some of the grandkids in my hikes, though they do not carry anything but a raincoat and water for themselves. Here is a few photos of my adventures…

Patrick and Liam on top of Tiger Mountain #1. Mount Rainier is in the distance.

The summit of Mailbox Peak. Yes, that is this year’s mailbox on the summit.

Near the top of Squak Mountain Central. The original owners had a fireplace, which I assume was connected to a house.

I also hope to do one or two overnight trips, perhaps taking a grandchild or two. This will be within the next two weeks. I feel ready at this time to go, though with the usual pre-hike anxieties. To follow will be a detailed list of my pack contents, resupply strategy, and further training hikes of interest.

 

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May 09

09MAY2021  The PCT trail awaits me. I leave in 50 days.

I plan to return to my mission of eventually hiking through the entire Pacific Crest Trail, section hiking it over several years’ time. I would have preferred to have thru-hiked the trail in a single season, which I attempted in 2019. That ended up in an aborted mission for a number of reasons, the greatest being that it was a very high year for snow, and most of the people that I hiked with were either flip-flopping or dropping out. I ended up skipping around a bit, and yet the snow still seemed to be a deterrent issue, either from failure to melt creating dangerous conditions or from recent melting causing the number of mosquitos (misery) to be intense.

This year, I hope to do several sections. I plan on starting from Walker Pass and working my way up to Donner Pass. I am not totally decided on whether to go from Donner Pass to Old Station this year, being that resupply may be slightly problematic. If I skip Donner Pass to Old Station, I will jump up to Castle Crags (Castella, I-5) and proceed up to Callahans (I-5 in Oregon/Ashland). After coming home, I would like to complete further sections of Washington State. I have changed my plans a number of times in the past few months. Should I resupply over Kearsarge Pass/Independence, or push on? Should I stop at Muir Trail Ranch (MTR) or go another day and resupply at Vermilion Valley Resort (VVR)? VVR is much more friendly to thru-hikers, but is slightly more off of the trail, and demands yet another mountain pass and 20 more miles of hiking, which is added on the 156 miles you’ve already gone from Kennedy Meadows South without a resupply. Should I stop at South Lake Tahoe, which demands a hitch-hike to and from the trail, or should I do a limited resupply at the Echo Lake Resort? Other decisions will probably be best made while on the trail.

Many further decisions await me in the weeks ahead. Exact equipment remains a question. I’ve tried out several other packs and love the Gossamer Gear Mariposa. I’ve strongly considered switching stoves but ultimately decided on sticking with the JetBoil stove that I’ve used before. It heats water faster, uses less fuel, handles wind better, and only weighs a few ounces more than the more popular trail stoves. It is not as good of a cooking stove since you cannot simmer the heat, but then I generally do minimal cooking on the trail outside of heating up water or cooking Ramen noodles. How should I carry my bear canister? Inside or outside of my pack? What foods am I going to prefer to eat, knowing that one’s appetite seriously changes while on the trail? Questions, questions, questions.

Because I am going to be hitting a more challenging portion of the trail immediately after starting, I realize the importance of getting into trail shape. I plan on doing an overnighter or two. I will continue to run (more like… 1-2 mph crawl) up trails in the area at least 2-3 times a week. Hopefully, that will also get my excess weight down, and it seems to be working. This activity has also been fun and has allowed me to explore a lot of new trails in Western Washington.

Assembly of resupply boxes has occupied some of my time. It is hard to predict exactly what is going to be needed for each new segment of the trail. So, you over-plan a little bit, knowing that some of your goodies will be left in a hiker box. Too much of anything can become nauseating on the trail, and balance is most important. A person’s physiology changes drastically while on the trail. In 2019, I discovered that I was getting profoundly hypotensive, which ended when I stopped my anti-hypertensives and stayed only on aspirin and a few general vitamins. Like many hikers out there, aches and pains force one to consume mass quantities of vitamin i, ibuprofen.

I will not be doing hike-a-thon activities this year.  In 2019, I was participating in a hike-a-thon for Huguenot Heritage, an organization that is dear to my heart and worth hiking for. We did not coordinate well enough the development of a support structure, were late at setting up the structure for raising support, and then struggled with a terrible year to actually hike the trail (because of snow). Because this year is going to be piecemeal, it will add to the complexity of raising support. So, I am not going to engage this as a possibility for Huguenot Heritage or any other worthy organization.

Betsy has been my greatest support through all of this and has put up graciously with my adventure. She does not share my passion for the trail, preferring to engage in gardening and home pursuits. I am able to reassure her of my personal safety through the use of new technology, the personal locator beacon (plb). I have my Garmin InReach mini set to send a satellite signal every 30 minutes while I am on the trail, identifying my location. Thus, she is able to see my progress as I move further and further north. I am also able to send her messages via satellite, and she is able to send messages in return. As an aside, a few people will be receiving my daily plb notifications. PLEASE DO NOT respond unless it is vitally important or an emergency: each response takes up electrons on my device and I don’t have a wall socket at night to recharge anything. I will be up to 11 days away from the ability to recharge my devices. Back to Betsy. Part of the rationale for me section hiking rather than doing a pure thru-hike is that I will still have a moderate amount of time this summer with Betsy. She just happens to be my most favorite person in life, and life on the trail is always thinking of her.  She also contributes to my hiking by mailing resupply packages at the appropriate times, and for dropping me off and picking me up from the train station. Bless her soul for helping me.

I will be departing to Walker Pass with much less anxiety than in the year 2019. By now, I am most familiar with the routine of thru-hiking, waking up before dawn, sometimes heating up a cup of coffee, taking down the tent and packing your pack, taking off on the trail, singing the doxology, gloria patri and Constantinopolitan creed, walking for 2-3 hours at a time before stopping to rest, eating food that would normally be completely unacceptable off the trail, constantly watching your Guthooks app to make sure that you are on track, going occasionally to the point of exhaustion before stopping, setting up camp, cooking supper, settling in the sleeping bag, killing all the mosquitos that happened to stray into the tent, writing the day’s trail blog, and then quickly drifting off to sleep. Each day repeats itself with new segments of the trail, new challenges, new discoveries, new horizons, new vistas, new photographs. Someday (soon?) I will have reached an age that will no longer permit me to go long distances on the trail. It’s hard to know when that day will come. Until then, I keep my head held high and walk with a thankful spirit that God has granted me the ability to do what I am doing. Cum deo ambulo. Deus mecum et vobiscum!

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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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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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