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 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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Apr 27

VISE — In defense of Frische Luft

I have written previously about VISE (Virus Insanity Syndrome Extremis) in previous posts, mostly related to hiking and backpacking. Outside and on the trail, I find it interesting how many hikers find the need to wear face masks when passing another person, and often when hiking alone. What are they accomplishing with their face mask? Is it not doing more harm than good? Why do they feel compelled to have something over their mouth and nose which is probably doing a very poor job of restricting the passage of viruses? Why is it that the closer the trail is to Seattle, the more people are noted to be wearing their face masks? Does urban society really have that great an influence on our behavior?

Benjamin Franklin has written on the spread of viruses that is worth paying attention to since it is so fitting to our current “epidemic”. Franklin first suggested that the common cold did not happen because people became cold. Rather, he felt that it was a communicable disease or at least something that is transmitted by air in a stagnant environment. Franklin would frequently take air-baths, seeking fresh air,  Frische Luft. His advice would have been for well-ventilated areas (he slept with his window open, even on cold nights), and for not compacting people together in a confined space without adequate airflow.

The current approach to airborne viruses is to make everybody wear a face mask. Is this a good idea? A recent study on face masks from Stanford concludes, “The existing scientific evidence[s] challenge the safety and efficacy of wearing facemask as preventive intervention for COVID-19. The data suggest that both medical and non-medical facemasks are ineffective to block human-to-human transmission of viral and infectious disease such SARS-CoV-2 and COVID-19, supporting against the usage of facemasks. Wearing facemasks has been demonstrated to have substantial adverse physiological and psychological effects. These include hypoxia, hypercapnia, shortness of breath, increased acidity and toxicity, activation of fear and stress response, rise in stress hormones, immunosuppression, fatigue, headaches, decline in cognitive performance, predisposition for viral and infectious illnesses, chronic stress, anxiety and depression. Long-term consequences of wearing facemask can cause health deterioration, developing and progression of chronic diseases and premature death. Governments, policy makers and health organizations should utilize [a] proper and scientific evidence-based approach with respect to wearing facemasks, when the latter is considered as preventive intervention for public health.”

Benjamin Franklin might have suggested yet another reason why face masks are not a good idea, and probably increase one’s chances of acquiring the Wuhan virus. Face masks create one’s own personal stagnant air environment, the air that one will be breathing. I go outside for Frische Luft. Why bring my stagnant air environment with me? How long must we endure this insanity? There are many places that we go where face masks are mandatory, such as in government buildings and in stores. These buildings are well ventilated, and generally rarely ever sufficiently crowded to cause a health risk. I thank God that at least the church we are now going to does not require face masks. Isn’t it a pity that so many churches still demand serious social distancing as well as face masks? There is nothing so dehumanizing as a face cover. The next thing you know, we will all be wearing full burkas!

Until this “epidemic” hit, the response to communicable diseases was to quarantine the sick. Now, we are quarantining the healthy. When a rise in the incidence of the disease is noted, the conditions of the quarantine are enhanced. Is it perhaps possible that our responses to the Wuhan virus are actually making matters worse, rather than better? Is our response prolonging the “epidemic” and spreading it out over more months, and perhaps years?

How often have you heard the phrase “We can send men to the moon, but we still can’t cure the common cold!”? The Wuhan virus is a form of the common cold. How is it that we have searched for many years for a vaccination for the cold to no avail, and yet, suddenly three or more “vaccines” appear? The vaccines available do not prevent catching the virus, nor transmitting it, so that precautions such as face masks are still advised. Really? The vaccine supposedly does nothing except to decrease the severity of the illness if one acquires a bout of the Wuhan virus. Really now? Our government must think that the common man is dumber than blue mud. Why is it that if you’ve had a case of COVID-19, you are still asked to take the vaccine? Does that make any sense at all?

What are the dynamics behind the transmission of a virus from one person to another? Several issues need to be looked at. 1. Viral Load. If you received just one viral particle, would you contract the virus? The answer is, overwhelmingly not. 10? 100? Generally, it takes a substantial viral load to contract the disease. 2. Timing. If you encountered one viral particle an hour, over time that would be a substantial load, though insufficient to give you the viral illness. The rate at which you are exposed to a virus is most important. 3. Distance. Viral particles decay very quickly in air. Close proximity is absolutely necessary to transmit the virus from one person to another. Air temperature, humidity, etc. also have an effect on the duration of viability of a virus, though those factors are not controllable. Using this knowledge, imagine two people passing each other on the trail. The average walking speed is at approximately 2.5 miles/hour, for a combined speed of 5 miles/hour, or, a little more than 7 feet/second. The infected person would need to be exhaling and healthy person inhaling at the moment, which would be at most a two-second time period.  Considering the viral load and timing demands, mere dynamics explain why it would be near impossible to communicate the virus while hiking on the trail. If anything, a face mask would allow a portion of the exhaled air of the passerby to be trapped, and the risk increased for acquiring the virus.

Tucker Carlson addresses the face mask issue head-on and could not have said it better. This video used to be on YouTube but was quickly taken down. If you do a YouTube search you come up with a CNN talking head playing a short segment of Tucker and then offering a totally nonsensical explanation as to why he is wrong. Please watch this…   https://rumble.com/vg5tfh-tucker-carlson-drops-nuke-on-outdoor-mask-wearers-liberals-lose-their-minds.html?mref=64ogp&mc=8vvr9. The attitude needs to be that the face mask wearers are the crazy ones, which is true. So, take off your masks outside, and insult anybody that demands you put your mask back on! More and more studies are coming out demonstrating that face mask wearers actually are much more unhealthy than those that do not wear a mask at all. Don’t be stupid. Get rid of your mask!

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Feb 23

Blood, Sweat & Jesus, by Kerry Stillman ★★★★★

In the year 2009, my wife Betsy and I did several medical mission trips, one to Bangladesh, and the other to Cameroon. While both trips were to remote villages that were of Muslim orientation, there were great differences that we noted in how the hospitals operated as well as the style of the missionaries. The Cameroon experience was in the Sahal, or Extrem Nord of Cameroon, in a small town called Meskine just outside of Maroua. It was a hot, semi-desert environment, and many of the patients lived a nomadic lifestyle. While many languages were spoken, including French, Fulani, Arabic, German, and Hausa, one of the languages was not English. Thus, my communication was mostly in French to patients, and German to the surgeon from Leipzig that I was working with. It was in this setting that we met Kerry Stillman, who was a physiotherapist from England who was working at the hospital. The hospital in Meskine was built in the early 1990s by a trio of families that came out from Baton Rouge, Louisiana. They were able to construct a mission hospital that has had a tremendous influence on the surrounding villages, and many Muslims came under the influence of hearing the gospel. The most peculiar aspect of this hospital mission that Betsy and I appreciated was that everybody seemed to get along quite well with each other. I say this because it is unusual to see the friendly spirit among co-workers as was seen at Meskine. Scott and Lee Pyles, as well as Danny and Frances Kennison, ran an enjoyable operation that kept peace with the hospital workers as well as patients. Dave and Patsy Alfors (from deepest darkest Africa!), the Kretschmar family from Leipzig, Kerry Stillman, Dr. Jacqueline from the Netherlands, and many others were all a great joy to be around. It was truly a great honor to have worked with them.

Kerry chronicles the events that led up to the founding of the MCWA hospital in Cameroon, based on the inspiration of a surgeon named Bert Oubre. Kerry details the original vision, the Pyles’, Kennison’s, and Oubre’s first trip to Meskine, and how the hospital slowly took shape, including how she was eventually recruited from England. Much of the book that follows are multiple anecdotes on how the hospital touched the lives of so many people in northern Cameroon as well as Chad and Nigeria. Each story was a moving experience of how the faithfulness of a few missionaries was able to bring the gospel and salvation to many people lost to the darkness of Islam. The challenges of becoming a Christian in a Muslim country were emphasized. Finally, events of terrorism from Boko Haram affected the hospital community, ultimately leading to the foreign missionaries pulling out of the hospital, though leaving it operational with native doctors and nurses. Kerry included descriptions of the challenges of life during Ramadan. She describes the process of a Muslim held funeral, and how it differs from a Christian funeral. She also had a chapter that described the many ways in which the hospital had positively affected the village of Meskine. Kerry is a master story-teller, and it was difficult to put the book down. She was artful at painting the lives of so many people whose lives she and the hospital community affected and led to Christ.

I enjoyed this book tremendously since Betsy and I were there in Meskine, worked in the hospital, and saw much of what Kerry wrote about. It brought back precious memories. For those who have never been to Cameroon or this mission, the book is still worth reading. It is a wonderful story of how many lives have been affected and blessed by the gospel and a few missionaries faithful to God’s call in their life. Perhaps someone will be motivated to even spend some time on the mission field?

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Feb 09

I don’t like to get political on this blog site. Politics are of low interest to me, even though the politicians of all parties are constantly in your face. I find this to be truly annoying. I tend to vote conservatively, and thus lean Republican, even though I have many deep misgivings with the Republican Party. I received a recent request for funds from the Washington State Republican Party, and something just triggered me something fierce. I wrote the state Party a letter of complaint pointing out their hypocrisy, which I’m sure they’ll ignore, or promptly trash. Here it is…

RepublicanPartyLetter

Here is the letter to Ronna McDaniel of the National Republican Party, similar, but with some content adjustment…

RNCLetter09FEB21

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Jan 06

Mortal wound

Today I suffered a horrible accident that nearly left me dead. Not really, but I’m trying to sound dramatic. I was on my virtual reality trainer, riding through Gascony. I had traveled over an hour, had gone 16+ miles, and was a seething mass of sweat, drenched from head to toe. I had traveled only half the distance needed to complete this journey, when I suddenly found my body flying in reverse, hitting my head on the structures behind me, and then observing blood all over the floor.

Let me explain. I use the Tacx Neo2T trainer. I have my first bicycle that I purchased from REI 13 years ago mounted on the trainer. This gives me a close representation of actually riding in the outside world. The bicycle was an REI built bike, that I’ve had apart many times over. On the road, I now use a very fancy Trek Madone, the bike that Lance Armstrong used to win the Tour de France 7 times over. Instead of throwing away the REI Novara Trionfo, I repurposed it as my trainer bike, and have it set up during wintertime in my office. It’s there in the office, since I need a good internet connection to run the Tacx program, and was able to hard wire it to my home intranet which is based in the office closet.

Pressure was quickly applied to the wound. Moments later, my dear loving wife came running into the room thinking that I had a heart attack. After retrieving an ice pack and maintaining wound pressure for about 20 minutes, I hopped into the shower to clean the wound (and myself), then had Betsy superglue the wound back together. ER? Absolutely NOT! I detest hospitals. I’m a surgeon. I’ve removed massive sections of scalp from my dear patients, and actually had them survive me. I don’t need no stinking bloody ER doc to tell me that it’s just a flesh wound. I KNOW that it’s just a flesh wound.

Glued back together. Still messy, but it’s just a flesh wound.

On examining why this happened, I realized that the bolt that holds the saddle to the seat post broke in two. Since I perform all of my own bicycle repairs, I know that this was not a fault of an over-tightened bolt. It was simply a bolt that broke due to use fatigue. I suppose other things will break with time on the bike. I had the bottom bracket decompose on a training ride a few years ago, and this threw me off the bike, but no harm was experienced. Much of that bike has been rebuilt or replaced, the bottom bracket and gears/derailleurs being of no exception. Hopefully, I can get a replacement seat bolt at a local bike shop and be riding again in a few days. Here’s a photo of the bike and the broken bolt…

Bicycle mounted on trainer. You can see the seat post without a seat, which is lying on the ground.
The above bolt is fractured, causing the seat to fall off the bike. The lower two brackets sit on top and on bottom of the rails on the seat, and are secured to the seat post by the above bolt.

I now sit here about 1.5 hours after the incident. I still have a pulse, beating at my usual of about 55/minute. There have been no mental status changes. I do not have blown pupils. I imagine that if something like this would have happened on the road, tragic circumstances could have occurred. I never thought of an indoor trainer being a source of trauma, but it is. Unless you do nothing in life, you run a risk.

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Dec 21

It is hard to believe that this year is already over. I remember the anticipation and anxiety at the beginning of this year, looking forward to a possibly complete hike of the PCT. I had my reservation and had spent several years researching the project and planning out all of the details. Much effort was applied to the assembly of 22 resupply boxes that I would need. My equipment was reviewed multiple times in hopes of making my pack lighter, and the equipment to be carried was to be as efficient as possible. The trail maps were reviewed, and my imagination formed the basis of my conception of what the trail might be like (my conception was wrong). Even in late 2018, I was running up hills with a fully loaded pack, and wondering how it would actually be when I was on the trail. I had contacted Huguenot Heritage for possibly turning the hike into a hike-a-thon. I took a very wintery trip out to Moscow, Idaho where Huguenot Heritage is based to discuss plans and accomplish filming.

Even with all the training hikes and planning for the PCT, I also sought to write an autobiography. Over Christmas 2018 I had composed most of the autobiography in my head, and simply needed to write it down and include photographs. There were a few mysteries from my past that I needed to resolve, and was able to successfully accomplish that over the ensuing months before my hike began.

Betsy and I also were busy entertaining our dear friend Phil Mueller who passed away in July. Betsy and I had a heart for him, as he was a highly atypical person. Phil spent time in prison for entrepreneurship in the recreational pharmaceutical market. Prison helped him get over the drug habit and to start taking seriously his Christian faith. He became a very outspoken Christian, but still had some highly unusual quirks, the most important was him being completely oblivious to any form of social correctness when speaking on racial issues or political issues. We look forward to reconnecting with Phil in heaven and still have an empty spot in our hearts for him. One of my favorite physicians, Dr. Werner Peters, an anesthesiologist that I had worked with many times, had a major stroke a year ago, leaving him with profound right hemiplegia. After two years, he is slowly recovering and able to walk, but Betsy and I both have a desire to give him attention and provide help and assistance for him as needed. We’ve been able to do many meals together, and with him being a Thai food addict, it’s been easy to enjoy many meals with him. At Thanksgiving, we’ve finally been able to get him over to our house for a good meal and the entire family enjoyed his presence.

I ultimately accomplished a little more than 1000 miles of the PCT. This venture is chronicled nicely on my blog page and so I will not repeat it. I started at the Mexican border and was able to hike the entire desert section of the trail up to Walker Pass, and then hiked sections in northern California, Southern and northern Oregon, and central Washington. I was ultimately rejected from the trail by a number of factors, the most important being record levels of snow, mosquitos, personal injury (anterior tibial stress syndrome and neck issues), as well as personal issues. I started and stopped 5 times, which led to moderate discouragement. In the end, Betsy and I went to Hart’s Pass (30 miles from the Canadian border) in early September to play trail angels. This was a total hoot and we might do it again next year with a trail angel we met at Hart’s Pass, E.Z. The first break in the PCT hike was at Tehachapi, where I came home to recover from a severe case of anterior tibial stress syndrome (extreme pain in the muscles of the anterior right leg), but also to attend the graduation of our daughter Diane, who achieved a Ph.D. as a nurse practitioner.

In February, I started receiving social security checks, and in August was started on MediCare. I don’t feel old enough, even though the parts (of the body) seem to be giving out slowly. Betsy and I were able to host three people that I met on the trail and needed a place to stay before returning to the trail or to home. These were Alicia (Sailor), Intrepid, and the Flying Dutchman (Michael). All were wonderful people and a total delight to help them in their journey.

In mid-August, while driving home from a training hike on Mt. Peak, my car was rear-ended. It totaled our 10 yo Toyota Tacoma. This meant purchasing a new car, and Betsy and I decided on another Toyota Tacoma, but this time a 4 wheel drive off-road vehicle. We put a canopy on the back and immediately fell in love with it.

In late September, I did my last hike of the season. It was on the Appalachian Trail as a medical conference. This is also detailed in a separate blog post. I flew back to rendezvous with my dear friend Dr. Tate, and we did the conference/trail together, a 35-mile segment in central Virginia, passing by McAfee Gap as well as the Dragon’s Tooth. It was a delight being with Peter.

October and November went quickly. I was quite sore yet from the trail, mostly with neck pain. I went on a diet, avoiding most simple sugars, but the trail leaves you with an unavoidable raging hunger, and I quickly regained all the weight I lost hiking. It’s taken about 2 months to get over most of the soreness of the trail. I thought I was exceptional for having so much post-hike pain but realized in social media discussions that a prolonged recovery from the trail was quite typical. During the Appalachian Trail conference experience, I connected with Dr. Gehner with the intention of possibly engaging in a survey study of long-distance hikers to research what medical problems they might have experienced. I hope we can make this happen.

In December, Betsy and I mostly laid low. Betsy had a Collis-Nissen fundoplication (surgery) for severe reflux disease. It was completely successful, as Betsy has been able to go off of all of her medications and antacids. The surgery was intended to be a short 1.5-hour operation but ended up being much more difficult for the surgeon, taking about 4.5 hours. Fortunately, there were no complications and she was able to return home 2 days after surgery. Two weeks later, Betsy is returning to almost normal activity, though she is going very slow on her diet since a Collis modification of the procedure needed to be performed to lengthen her esophagus. Since I needed to stay home with Betsy, we spent much time watching the impeachment charade. At Christmas, we still don’t have a functioning oven (it gave out on Thanksgiving day) but will still be having family over both Christmas eve and Christmas day. We will be departing to Phoenix soon after Christmas to spend time with Rachel VanVoorst (daughter) and her family.

What about next year? 2020 will be problematic in that I don’t have any major projects to accomplish. There are several things that will keep me active. 1) I will be joining a community college band, playing the trumpet. 2) Betsy and I are going to start learning basic Spanish. We hope to walk the Camino de Santiago together either next fall or late spring 2021. We’ll be taking a conversational Spanish class at the local community college to facilitate that end. In conjunction, I am also reading through the Bible in Spanish, using the RVR 1960 version. 3a) I would like to do more of the PCT. Depending on snow conditions, I am thinking of going from Walker Pass to Old Station, which will connect several portions of this year’s hike as well as take me through the high Sierra. I have a reservation for the PCT in 2020, so need to just do it now. 3b) If I don’t hike much of the PCT, I’ll probably volunteer at Mt. Rainier National Park as a Trail Rover and provide assistance for folk while keeping them on the trails and off of the fragile environment. 4) I’d like to take several more grandchildren on overnight backpack trips. 5) Betsy and I are interested in some car camping trips in the Northwest, 6) possibly play trail angel with E.Z. at Hart’s Pass in early September. 7) Consideration for further bicycle tours? I’m not sure at this time, though doing the Pacific Coast route to San Diego would be fun. Perhaps a loop in Washington State would also provide entertainment as well as a challenge. I’m hoping that Jon and I could do a short trip together. 8) There is a possibility of our son Jon making a major lifestyle change. Betsy and I wait with hopeful anticipation. If it occurs, we will be taking a week or two trip to Thailand for that. 9) My reading habit has dropped off a bit. I still have stacks of books to read. Most of the books are either historical or theological that cannot be read quickly. 10) Time with Betsy. Betsy remains as charming as ever and exploring ways that we can stay active together remain top of my list. She is no longer keen on backpacking, and long-distance cycling is equally out. Hiking the Camino de Santiago makes sense as there is no pressure for distance, there are many places to stop for breakfast, lunch, and dinner, the culture is awesome and food is great, we can sleep in a bed every night, and don’t need to carry much on our back. Plus, we get a certificate of completion at the end which grants us a special blessing from la Papá (for this pope, the article “la” is correct!!!!) and a reduction of our time in purgatory, which already is zero since purgatory is a fiction, though it makes for awesome novels.

January will be a re-starter for me. I will need to get back into strict exercise. Since coming home, I’ve gone to the gym, or ridden my bicycle on a virtual reality trainer in the garage, twice a week. That isn’t enough. I’ll need to visit Moscow, Idaho to bring the hike-a-thon adventure to a closure. I’d like to re-edit my autobiography, add to it and complete it, and then possibly get it printed. Betsy and I always enjoying things together, but much will be determined by how quickly she bounces back from surgery and feels like going on adventures. Only God knows what our year-end story in 2020 will be.

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Oct 02
Me on McAfee Knob, Appalachian Trail

This was the year I was committed to hiking the Pacific Crest Trail. So, what in tarnation am I doing on the other coast, hiking the Appalachian Trail (AT)? Well, in late August, I discovered that the Wilderness Medical Society was doing a 4-day trip on the AT with lectures in wilderness medicine. I figured that I could use an update on wilderness medicine, and so called up my best friend Dr. Peter Tate to see if he wished to also do it. For him, it meant CME credits, for me it meant having some time with an old friend and getting a sample of one best portion of the AT, a 30 mile segment around Roanoke, VA. Peter bit. So, we were both signed up. I was to fly into Lexington, KY, stay one night in Lexington, and then ride with Peter down to the farm in Stanford, KY, stay two nights there, and head out from there to the conference. I arrived safe and sound in Lexington on 19SEPT and reconnoitered with Peter. The next day, we were off to the farm. Peter was in the early stages of building a new house the last time I was at the farm a year and a half ago. It was now in the nearly complete stages. It truly was a masterpiece, especially considering that Peter did most of the construction himself. He even included a swimming pool which the house wraps around. On the interior, he made certain walls at an angle off of 90 degrees, creating a wonderful character to the house, with the swimming pool sitting at that oblique angle from the house.

The house that Peter built, nearing completion. It appeared to be complete inside.
The inside kitchen area
Hiking the farm

Our full day at the farm included an about 7 mile hike through the pastures and woods on Peter’s land. We carried our backpacks fully loaded just to condition our bodies to the upcoming adventure. The next day, we headed out to our group meeting point at a camp outside of Roanoke, VA, called Wilderness Adventure at Eagle Landing (WAEL). The first and last night of the adventure were spent at WAEL, with the first night in a cabin, and the last night in our tents. Peter drove the Tesla, which seemed to have some software problems on the trip. I also realized that long distances in remote territories are NOT Tesla’s forte. After an uneventful night, we headed out for the trail. We were going to hike the trail southbound, with a starting point at Daleville, and ending at Dragon’s Tooth, then hiking out the Dragon’s Tooth access trail. The first three days all entailed about 9.5 miles of hiking, and the last was much shorter.

WAEL main meeting hall

Our first night was at Lambert’s Meadow. It wasn’t really a meadow, and there was confusion as to where we were to camp, the instructions suggesting that it was at the cabin, rather than a ¼ mile before that, where most people stopped. I couldn’t help but think of Lander’s Meadow in the middle of section f (California) and a truly beautiful meadow lined by majestic Ponderosa pines. Peter and I and Jay camped in the correct spot, and met Smoking Joe, a NOBO, and in desperate need for food. I had way too much food, so Joe pumped me some water in exchange for a bunch of food. I missed the lecture that evening since it didn’t really start until about 8:30 or later, and I was sound asleep by then.

A view of Carvin Cove Reservoir below, which the trail wraps around.

The second hiking day, Peter and I took off at a leisurely pace, encountering two of the three sites of note in Virginia, the Tinker Cliffs, and McAfee Knob, the third being the Dragon’s Tooth, which we would see our last day. McAfee Knob seems to be iconic of the AT, so both Peter and I were photographed on the knob. Our second night was at John’s Spring. Though named after a spring, this was a dry campsite, and the last real water was at Lambert’s Meadow. We had to watch our water consumption. The site was a little small for the group of 23 of us, there was a shelter there where a few of our group slept, and we all managed ok. The lecture was on bears.

Valleys were on both sides of us, and always civilized with farms filling the valley. The trail usually followed the ridge line.
Peter on Tinker Cliffs
Lots of nice sandstone rock in the area

The hike the third day proceeded to have an interest in reaching the next water source, which was about 6 miles out of camp. Since the weather in the mornings was cool, there was not too much water loss, though I was down to my last half liter. We were to camp at Lost Spectacles Gap, a more roomy spot, though also a dry camp. The trail went through some nice meadows, and crossed a road where a short walk led to a restaurant/grocery store/gas station, where Peter and I decided to diverge and seek libations not found on the trail. We brought some beer back to camp to enjoy, and had a great time. Unfortunately, I ordered a hamburger for lunch which was larger than I anticipated, and when Peter and I stopped at a particularly majestic lookout point, I proceeded to throw up half my meal. Oh well. We arrived at camp fairly early, enjoyed a couple cigars, and laid low. There were no lectures, but instead, there was a mock bear attack session, where we had to make decisions regarding the traumatic injuries and administer initial care to the victims. It was a fun venture.

Meadow hiking
Peter relaxing at the viewpoint having a beer while I was throwing up
A very relaxed Peter contacts Karma his wife

The last day was short, which us waking up a bit later than usual, ascending a rather treacherous portion of the trail to arrive at the Dragon’s Tooth. Arriving back at camp, we picked up our backpacks, and hiked out. We again were able to easily reach the store that we were at a day ago, and picked up a case of beer for the other hikers. We had yet another lecture on orthopedic injuries. The shuttles picked us up, hauled us back to WAEL, and we settled in for the evening. At this time, Peter discovered that his car, which was plugged in to be charged while we were hiking, had now totally drained of charge. After a few desperate measures, he had a tow truck haul him and the car to Richmond, VA. It was decided that with the uncertainty of repair of the vehicle, I would ride back to Lexington with Jimmy, a medical student at U of Kentucky in Lexington. I stayed for dinner, and enjoyed two more lectures, one on water filtration, and the other on Jessie’s thru-hike of the AT. Eventually, Peter arrived back to Lexington (quite late at night), and took me to the airport then next morning, on 28SEPT. I made it home intact!

Some of the trail was a class 3 climb! The white markers indicate the trail.
Peter in front of Dragon’s Tooth
Riff riff back at camp, waiting to hike out.
Ending the last hike of the season

Thoughts

First, about the WMS adventure. It was enjoyable, and provided me a chance to appreciate the AT for the first time. the WMS always does a first class act in their meetings. The nature of this meeting in the form of a backpack trip was a touch more chaotic. My only wish was that it would have been a touch more organized, with a stronger communication channel from the leaders about what was up, what was going on, and deciding on giving the trail lectures before it got pitch dark. Perhaps a 6 pm lecture time would have been most appropriate. At the time of the evening lecture, “map” sessions reminding us of the plan for the subsequent day would have been in best order. In spite of the problems, the infectious enthusiasm of the leaders for wilderness medicine was most notable. In all, I would call it a most wonderful adventure.

What about the AT? Having just hiked a 1000 miles of the PCT, could I make comparisons? Actually, the two trails are totally different. The strategy for doing them are different, the environments that you go through are different, and the personality of the trail is different. Most of the time, it is easy to get 15-25 miles a day on the PCT. Because the AT is less manicured, you would be doing well to get in 12-18 miles a day. The AT keeps you for the ;most part much closer to civilization, and in the section of the trail that we did, you never seemed to have ever left civilization. The AT is described as a long green tunnel. It is mostly deciduous trees, as compared to conifers for the PCT. The AT has many shelters (about every 8-12 miles) where the PCT has practically none. It seems that one must have a much different mentality when approaching the AT as compared to the PCT. In all, I did not acquire a bubbling enthusiasm to return and do the entire AT. After all, I still have large incomplete segments of the PCT to get done, if I even decide to do them! I will sign up to hike the PCT next year, but may spend most of my time camping with Betsy, and giving Betsy a summer of my life. I may get some cycling in, but plan to not leave home for more than a few weeks at a time. Betsy and I have depleted our Wanderlust, and wish for slightly more simple adventures from here on out. But then, who knows what the future will bring?

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Sep 11
Looking east from our campsite at Hart’s Pass

Betsy and I had two main reasons to go to Hart’s Pass. First, we needed to pick up Intrepid. Secondly, we needed to bring Jacob back home. Betsy and I decided to add a third reason, and that was to play trail angel. Hart’s Pass is the last portion of the PCT to cross by a road, at the Hart’s Pass campground, 30 miles from the Canadian border. At this campground, thru-hikers were getting their last “hurrah” before pushing on into Canada. If they did not have a Canada entry permit, they would turn around at the border and hike back to Hart’s Pass where they would hope that they could find a ride to Mazama and thus hitch-hike home. The gravel road from Mazama to Hart’s Pass is the highest maintained road in Washington, and often designated the most dangerous road in Washington.

We had our truck totally loaded with hiker food and camping equipment. When we got to the Hart’s Pass campground, Intrepid was already there and able to find us a wonderful campsite with a great view. To our brief dismay, there was already a trail angel established there, a guy from Indiana named EZ, and was being helped by Tyler. After speaking with EZ, we quickly established how we would work together to maintain the trail angel spot. I brought my food up, as well as a 10 x 10 canopy. This came in very useful, as we arrived on a Tuesday, and it started to rain on Tuesday afternoon, the canopy providing much needed protection for our food and our hikers. Together, we actually had way too much food, so the next day, EZ went to town to get more ice and to drop off a large portion of our food at a trail angel in town, Ravensong. Several days later, EZ took off for three days to hike up to the border monument and back, leaving Betsy and I to take care of everything. We had a great time. At first, we felt that this was not an ideal site to be trail angel-ing, but quickly learned that hiker trash really appreciated our setup, and the non-hiker food, beer, and an encouraging word before their last push to Canada. What was most delightful was encountering hikers that I had met on the first few days of the trail out of Mexico finally arriving at the end. Some hikers had skipped the high Sierra, but all were eager to wrap up and move along, either returning home or returning to the high Sierra to complete that phase of their journey. Friday afternoon, a group from the Grand Coulee 7th Day Adventist Church showed up to trail angel. They apparently do this every year. They were a very kind group, and we were able to work out a transition for them to move in and us out. We had hoped that somebody would show up, since I knew that EZ would not be back from the trail until late Saturday or Sunday. Thus, the replacement group were most welcome to maintain continuity of the trail angel site at Hart’s Pass.

EZ and I have met afterwards in Tacoma to discuss the future. We think that we will again play trail angel next year for 4-5 days, a week or two after Labor Day. Perhaps next year we will improve on our mistakes and make it an even better experience for thru-hikers in the last phase of their hike.

Our tent, a six man REI Kingdom, on space #5
Our camp kitchen table
Betsy in a very relaxed mode
EZ on the left and Tyler on the right
Denise with Betsy
Umbrella Man on the left, who I met south of Snoqualmie Pass
The Three Horsemen of the Apocalypse, from Lynden, WA. They were quite familiar with the VanVoorst clan. They were doing the PCT by horseback, but made sure to come and enjoy a beer from us.
Betsy offering some slightly aged apples to the horses and mules, which were eagerly devoured.
The Mule. The Mule was from France, and most delightful and friendly character. I first met the Mule several days out from Mexico in the desert. I was in a long stretch of the desert trail when I saw a short happy person from France doing pushups just off the trail (as though the trail wasn’t exercise enough!). I saw the Mule a few more times in the next few days before losing him. I often wondered whatever happened to him. Apparently, his hike was totally successful!
A great Dane, I don’t remember his trail name. He got extremely excited when I informed him that I had some Carlsberg beer (from Denmark), which he was going to pack in and drink at the monument. This guy was really funny! Apparently, he was going to be on Good Morning Denmark when he got back home.
The replacement trail angels, with some hiker trash (Intrepid and Jacob) as well as Betsy.
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