Thursday, October 10, 2013

A bike down the Pacific Coast

While job searching, I decided to take a small bike tour down the Pacific Coast route through Oregon.  It was raining crazy hard on the Washington coast, so I caught the train to Eugene and took two days hooking up some Forest Service Roads to Newport Beach and headed southward on 101.
Sun Shining through the trees and speckling the Forest Service road riding.

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

A Month on the Pacific Crest Trail - The Second Half

Snoqualmie to Stevens

After soaking our feet and licking our wounds for a day, we caught a ride up to Snoqualmie Pass with a new member of the hiking team - Elissa (Andrew's sister) was out to join us for her first-ever backpacking trip.  We figured a 7 day trip would be a good introduction (following the trial-by-fire McDavid rule).

We headed up from Snoqualmie in the warm late morning, caught views from the Kendall Katwalk (a part of the trail blasted into the side of granite with dynamite), enjoyed a beautiful sunset, read some poetry, and fell to sleep at our campsite under clear skies at Ridge lake.

Heading up from Snoqualmie Pass on a hot, clear day.
Family Lunch.
Taking in the views from Kendall Catwalk.

Views near Ridge Lake.

Family photo shoot at sunset, Ridge Lake.
We woke up in the dark early morning hours to a spectacular light show, followed shortly by booming thunder and a dumping of water from the sky.  Soon we had a river running through the bottomless tarp. We quickly arranged shoes to keep our plastic groundsheet edges raised so that the stream would flow underneath us instead of over us. The deluge stopped 15 minutes later and we fell back to sleep, just a little wetter for the wear.  In the morning, we saw that many others didn't fare well during the storm - most of the tents that had been pitched on flat ground had been moved to less comfortable spaces where there was less likely to be standing water.  We made a mental note to make sure we didn't camp in the middle of a waterway next time.

The storm had brought in some beautiful low-lying clouds.  We enjoyed watching them in the valleys as they gained ground on us and attempted to catch us over every pass as we walked northward on the second day.
they finally catch us.

Clouds spilling over three craggy peaks (Three Queens?).

Hurriedly swimming before the rain starts.

The clouds finally overtook us as we stopped to make camp and swim at Spectacle lake.  We huddled in the tent, reading and cooking through the afternoon and evening as the rains came once again.

We quickly became pros at this as we waited out thunderstorms and hail under our tarp over the next several days.

Walking through burned forests
Marble-sized hail.  A Washington state first for me.

Getting rained on day-in and day-out is a major bummer if you don't have enough sun to dry out your gear.  We were glad for the fleeting morning sunlight that we were able to experience and took advantage of every opportunity to get dry.

These days of rain made me consider more closely the upsides to storms:  crazy clouds, beautiful sunsets (as long as some of the sun can penetrate the cloud cover), lower temperatures (less swollen feet), and time to rest.
Light shooting over the ridge.

One of my favorite days came the morning after we had been huddling in the tent through a hailstorm for most of the previous afternoon and evening.  We awoke early and tackled the climb up Escondido ridge full-force, Elissa setting a blistering pace.  At first I was slightly bummed with the thick fog and viewless climb.  Then, about halfway up the 3000-foot ascent, the clouds started to fade.  As we climbed out of the clouds the amazing peaks of Escondido ridge were suddenly filling up our eyeholes.  Who knew these amazing peaks were even there?  The view was even more spectacular above a sea of white clouds.  I'm sure "climbing out of the clouds" could be some type of metaphor for overcoming difficulties in life if I was a sentimental person and adequate writer, but I am just going to call it what it was - a good day walking.
Escondido Ridge through the clouds.
Views from Escondido Ridge in all of it's cloudless glory.

When I think about this favorite day, I tend to forget the second half - the long trudge through overgrown rocky trail down to Waptus Lake.  This section of trail takes the "Most Unneeded Switchbacks" superlative, hands-down.  You lose close to 0.05 feet per switchback (and I am only halfway exaggerating - it is a 7 mile, 2300 foot descent).

Once down to Waptus creek we spent time by the river - bathing, washing, listening to it rush past our campsite bringing good dreams.

The rest of this section was spent passing many beautiful alpine lakes - all different shades of blue. Most notably Deep Lake - dark and full of tree trunks, and Glacier Lake - bright turquoise from glacial silt.
A plane makes it's way across the sky above Deep Lake and (the non-cathedral-like side of) Cathedral Peak
Another darn lake, also beautiful

Along with lakes, there were stream crossings...

...forests consisting mainly of snapped-in-half...

...and sign-eating trees...

...beautiful views back toward Mt Daniels...

...rocky descents...

...trail washouts...

...and birthday candles.

Melting a candle to a Snickers bar counts as a birthday celebration, right?
We made our way towards Stevens pass through ever-increasing signs of humans:  large amounts of trash on the side of the trail, ski lifts, roads.  On the other hand, with civilization you also get the good things:  pizza, showers, a bed for a night....and, for Elissa, college!!

waiting in the rain, ready for a shower

Stevens Pass to Rainy Pass

Section K.  One of the most beautiful and rugged sections of the PCT.  I know I might be hasty making this claim, having not walked the whole trail, but I have a feeling that I am right about this one.

We had a bit'o'weather at the beginning of this section, and didn't get many pictures or views of the far-away stuff the first few days, but for those you can look here or here or here.  I did keep noticing the smaller plants, fungi, mosses, and lichens filling up every space near the trail.

Ferns growing from cracks in the rock

Trail 2000
I love the concentric rings on this one
and the purple color of this one (more vivid in real life)
blankets of moss

When the clouds lifted the second day the vistas were spectacular.  We camped at Lake Sally Anne, mostly because there are views like this from camp:

We curved through familiar territory - Cady Ridge, Meander Meadows, Indian Pass, Dishpan Gap, Kodak Peak - all subtly different than previous trips.  

You big, beautiful thing, you (the mountain...of course)
One of my favorite Wildernesses

We climbed up to White Pass, then Red Pass, taking in the vast basin views.
at Red Pass
Down through the Basin beyond Red Pass

It is always amazing what a difference weather and time of year make on a place.
What a difference a year makes:

My favorite tree, 2012
My favorite tree, 2013

As we neared the climb up to Kennedy Ridge, I began to dread the upcoming overgrown sections that had us tripping and cursing when we section hiked this portion of trail in 2012.  A few miles up the trail we ran into some forest service employees that had been out for the last month doing some trail maintenance near Milk Creek.  I sang for joy.  While we still had downfall to dodge, they had just made our day a lot easier without the extra hindrance of our feet getting tangled in vines.  While still a big climb, the Milk Creek valley was much better off this year for walking.  This was real trail magic!

dancing for joy (or drying out my pits)
Views of Glacier from Kennedy Ridge.
Old Cascade Crest sign at Fire Creek Pass
Camp at Grassy Knoll
descending from Dolly Vista
Racing Logs on the Suiattle Bridge - Andrew won this one
We pushed hard to make it to Stehekin and ended up completing Section K two days faster than we walked it last year.  We took a rest day in Stehekin, whose slogan should be "best place to take a rest day".  Andrew ran into old college friends and we met up with some trail pals and spent a sunny day eating baked goods from the bakery and fruit from the farm, reading, lazing by Lake Chelan, swimming, drinking PBR, and slowly doing our laundry and bathing chores.
North Cascades National Park Boundary
Stehekin sunset
We took the first bus back out to the trailhead the next morning and made our way ever-northward.  We made the decision to get of the trail at Rainy Pass, 50-ish miles short of the Canadian border.  We will be back to finish the short walk to Canada soon...maybe when the larches are turning colors this fall.  

We stuck our thumbs out at Rainy Pass and got a ride with the first person that pulled in the parking lot.  He drove us to Seattle and dropped us off a few miles from our apartment - this might take the prize for best hitchhike ever.