Saturday, July 27, 2013

Trout Lake to Cascade Locks

Transcribed July 25-27, 2013

From the Journal: July 17, 2013
What an amazing day! The feet put up quite a protest this morning but we only had to walk an hour before Mom, Mike and Cooper were there to greet us. We went in to Trout Lake for breakfast - coffee, huckleberry french toast, eggs, sausage and hash browns. We went to the store to get a few snacks and re-organize our gear. We ran into Billy Goat and got to chat with him for a few minutes which was cool, like meeting a PCT celebrity. He hiked the trail for the first time in 1989 and hikes at least part of it every year.

At about noon, Mike dropped us off and we started walking with the third member of the wolf pack. Today we were mostly in the forest. My body is exhausted from Adams and appreciated the gentler terrain. Mom is a wealth of knowledge of our surroundings and such positive energy. It is so nice to have hours to talk instead of feeling rushed and playing catch-up. We saw so many frogs today, they seemed to be hopping across the trail around every corner. Right about sunset, we popped out of the woods into a meadow filled with beargrass. The light was fading behind Mt. St. Helens, which is the peak filling our skyline this evening. We made camp, watched the stars and ate huckleberry pie that we packed out. My soul is very content. 16 miles with Mom today and 2 miles this morning.

July 18, 2013
We are having so much fun today! We woke up in a very dewy meadow with very wet tents and sleeping bags. We had our first hot breakfast on the trail with REAL coffee! We continue to be in the forest with occasional views. Mom is a weath of knowledge about the flora that we pass by and is so excited about the naturalist class that she is taking. It is easy conversation between the three of us, which makes the miles pass fast. We had a very scenic lunch at Blue Lake and did our laundry. The sunlight glistening on the rippling teal water was beautiful. I'm a little regretful we didn't go swimming, buy my feet seem too fragile to walk while wet. They are still healing from the half step back of climbing Adams. After lunch we climbed high enough to have beautiful views of Hood, Jefferson, St. Helens and Adams. We dropped down to lower elevation (about 3000 feet) this evening and walked until about 8:30. Our mileage was about 19 for the day. It is awesome to see how naturally Mom adjusts to the pace of the trail. We might just have to keep her until Mexico!

July 19, 2013
We are camped by Trout Creek and I am exhausted. I felt very fatigued and a bit let down the last six miles this evening. I have two new blisters and I'm frustrated that my feet don't seem to want to toughen up yet. The walking today was relatively easy and we went 18 miles. Mostly lowland forest with plenty of wildflowers and plants to identify. We walked past some old growth trees whose bark was scarred with remnants of a distant burn. We had lunch at the Panther Creek Campground, Ben has family who are camp hosts there. They showed us wonderful hospitality. We visited and had chicken salad sandwiches, chicken noodle soup and root beer. They even sent us off with leftovers for dinner! Thank you Gary and Sally!

As of this evening we have hiked over 500 miles, which I am very proud of. Mom is being the best "on trail" trail angel and giving me a foot rub so really, life is pretty darn good right now.

July 20, 2013
Tonight is the last night I will spend in Washington for a while. In a way it makes me sad to leave my home state and I am also excited for the next chapters of this journey. It was another pleasant day of walking, in lush green forests. We climbed up on a ridgeline this afternoon to views of St. Helens, Rainier, Adams and Hood. It is amazing how far away the Washington Cascades look, proof that I have walked a pretty long way so far. We planned a longer day to make it to the next water source and ended up going 23 miles. Blue Heron was a rockstar! Walking downhill my blisters were speaking up as the evening wore on. We found a great campsite just when I felt like I couldn't take another step. We had wonderful quesadillas and soup for dinner and then laid back and watched the moon and stars through the trees. Seven miles to Cascade Locks tomorrow.

July 22, 2013
Yesterday was such a whirlwind I never had time to write, so I thought I would catch up this morning as I wake in a comfy bed and have a cup of coffee. We walked out of the forest yesterday with the Columbia River right in front of us with Oregon on the other side! It felt very surreal. Somehow I had imagined it as a pedestrian bridge, which it definitely is not. Cars were going by, which made everything seem fast, as it often does in town. The bridge is grated, so you can see the waters of the Columbia far below your feet as the wind whips you around. I found this to be very exhilarating! We paused to take photographs at the "Welcome to Oregon" sign and ceremoniously threw BJ's ashes to the wind right at the state line. Over on the Oregon side of the river we relaxed, ate breakfast and ran into Nat and Jane! Ben's Dad arrived in town shortly thereafter so we ran a few town errands and then went to the beautiful Skamania Lodge for a drink. It it the strangest feeling, after days on the trail, to be sitting on a veranda overlooking the Columbia River Gorge, having a glass of wine. It makes you feel very lucky. We had amazing Mexican food for dinner (steak fajitas and smoked pork chili verde) and finished the whole thing off with ice cream cones before heading back to the hotel. Mike (my stepdad) showed up with all of the gear, and so began the frenzy of reorganizing and resupplying. We soaked our aching feet in Epsom salts, which felt amazing. I wish it was possible to soak them everyday, they feel better this morning than they have in weeks. I am off to breakfast, to visit Herman the Sturgeon and then get back on trail this afternoon. Thank you to Jon, Mom and Mike for visiting and making our welcome to Oregon so special and to Mom for walking this unforgettable leg of our journey with us!

Morning in the Meadow

Moving Away (South) from Mount Adams

Continual Foot Care

Blue Lake - A Perfect Ledge for Diving and Filling Water Bottles
Mount Hood

Coming Out of the Forest

Bridge of the Gods

Wednesday, July 24, 2013

PCT Plus

July 24, 2013 (transcribed)

From the Journal:  July 13, 2013
We are camped at Lutz Lake, about 13 miles south of White Pass.  The morning was gloriously relaxing.  We sat at the Kracker Barrel and had lattes and danishes and deli sandwiches and pizza.  We hung out with Nat and Jane, two southbounders we met a few days ago.  There were several section hikers that came through as well and we had a little impromptu hiker trash gathering.  It was so fun to talk with people and hear about their journeys.  We walked out with Nat and Jane at about 12:30.  They are a super awesome couple from Alaska.  We walked up and over the ski area and eventually climbed into the Goat Rocks wilderness.  It is stunning - views of Adams and Rainier, dramatic craggy ridgelines, the daunting knife edge in the distance which we will cross tomorrow.  It is fun to have new company and have a bit of a group to hike with.  We had dinner together and swapped stories.  Today was a very good day, and a wonderful start to out last Washington leg.

July 14, 2013
The moon guided us into camp tonight after a truly stunning day of hiking.  We climbed up to nearly 7000 feet with spectacular views of Mount Rainier.  Wildflowers of all colors dotted the hillsides.  The trail follows a narrow ridgeline, which was luckily free of snow.  We took a break to revel in the sights and left BJ on top of the world with a view of one of his favorite mountains.  At times it feels as if the trail is ready to crumble under your feet so it is imperative to step carefully.  The trail comes to a junction where you can traverse the slope or go up and over Old Snowy Mountain.  Ben and I chose the traverse, Nat and Jane opted to go up.  It sounds like they chose the more enjoyable route.  Our snow crossings weren't bad but climbing across the loose talus was like walking on pieces of broken ceramic, like the earth is breaking away under you.  We rejoined our friends on the other side and crossed the Packwood Glacier.  I was sad to leave the views of Rainier but they were traded for the silhouettes of Adams and St. Helens.  We dropped lower for a few miles before entering a lush green valley crowned with breathtaking cliffs.  We passed above and below rushing waterfalls and climbed over Cispus Pass.  There were a few snow traverses, which are rumored to be our last.  I took a short slide on the backside of the pass but was able to arrest quickly.  We had dinner at one of the many Sheep Lakes and then Ben and I walked another four miles.  The light was beautiful shining through the trees.  We caught glimpses of Adams, illuminated pink in the alpenglow with a crescent moon rising behind.  The beauty would literally stop me in my tracks.  Today was 17 miles of reveling in the beauty of this country.

July 15, 2013
As of today, we have been on the trail for a month.  It feels more like home each day.  I felt overjoyed all day, walking with our friends, listening to music, taking breaks, soaking in the views.  Most of the day was easy forest walking with occasional views of Rainier and the Goat Rocks behind.  We stopped at Lava Spring, a water source with a spring flowing under the lava rocks flanking Mount Adams.  We had dinner next to a cascading waterfall at Killen Creek right at the base of Adams.  I'm laughing as I write this, thinking it sounds too good to be true.  I will say there are mosquitoes and my feet still hurt.  After dinner we climbed up the High Camp Trail.  Ben and I decided to transition to snow, while Nat and Jane stayed on rock.  The slope was a lot steeper than it looked and too steep to safely traverse as we had intended.  We headed up.  Ben believes it was at least a 50 degree slope.  It was very hard for me to stay calm and control the climbing mind space, but I managed.  We made it safely to the top of the slope to admire the sun burning red and illuminating the skyline with Rainier and St. Helens dominating the horizon.  There is layer after layer of mountains.  Adams was lit up a rusty red in the alpenglow.  Yesterday we admired her from a distance, tonight we sit at 7000 feet ready to carry over from Northwest Ridge to the South Spur in the morning. 

July 16, 2013
I am so exhausted but it was such an incredible day that I have to get it down on paper before I go to bed.  First of all, we had our longest day in hours today - 17, from 5 am to 10 pm.  I have no idea how many miles, but we were able to carryover Mount Adams, which was amazing!  Our net elevation change was nearly 14,000 feet, which explains my throbbing feet.  When I woke up at 4 light was just starting to touch the edge of the eastern sky.  We gained elevation, Rainier and St. Helen's glowed in the first rays of sun.  The flanks of Adams shone a rosy pink.  It was an exquisiste morning, the first sunrise I have seen on the trip.  I love my snooze button, what can I say?  We slowly and steadily climbed up the ridge.  A lot of the climbing was on loose volcanic rock and soil, so that you take a step forward and slide half a step back.  The route was less complicated than it appeared from below, it kind of revealed itself to us as we went up.  I got noticeably lethargic from the altitude between 10,000 and 11,000 feet but was able to drink, eat and push on.  At about 11,500 feet we transitioned back to snow and topped out at 12,281 feet.  The views were incredible!  We had Rainier and the Goat Rocks to the north, St. Helens to the west, and Hood and Jefferson to the south.  I truly felt like I was in the heart of the Cascades.  Ben and I dispersed BJ's ashes - he is now on every major peak he climbed except was coming in, it was cold, windy and snowing, so we quickly headed down.  We made good time, walking and doing some epic glissades until we got to a protected spot for lunch.  Toward the end of our break rain clouds and distant thunder and lightening rolled in.  Just a reminder that we're still in Washington.  There were some steep snow slopes on the descent that I honestly didn't have the mental reserves for.  I am so excited to get rid of my ice axe tomorrow.  We finally made our way down to the trail that circumnavigates Adams, walked 6 miles back to the PCT, then made it another 4 miles before setting up camp on the trail yet again.  The last part of the day was spent walking through a more recent looking burn.  The moon shining through the dark and skeletal trees casts a ghostly beauty over these woods.  Nat and Jane camped about a mile back.  It was sad to say goodbye, we have had an amazing time with them through the Goat Rocks and Adams.  It is amazing how the trail can bond you.  I'm sure we will see them down the trail in Oregon.  Tomorrow morning we only have to walk 2.5 miles before meeting Mom and Mike for a hot breakfast and real coffee!! And then Blue Heron will get to walk with us for five days.  I am so excited!!

Note: I do not have any access to pictures from this stretch, a small limitation.  I do have pictures that Rach sent me that include photos from Hart's Pass up to Snoqualmie Pass.  I will include some of those which are a testament to the amount of snow and beautiful (though exhausting) terrain they've crossed.

Rach on one of the many snow traverses - trail up ahead!
This may be one of the "death" traverses
Campsite with solitude and a view.....priceless!
Approaching the knife edge
Day Journaling on June 29, 2013

Tuesday, July 23, 2013

Snoqualmie Pass to White Pass

July 23, 2013 (transcribed)

From the Journal: July 8, 2013
We left from Snoqualmie Pass this morning.  Mom walked out with us 3-4 miles which seemed to make saying good-bye easier, more of a gradual transition.  It's strange because I thought it would be most difficult to leave Snoqualmie.  We continued on after Mom left.  I feel quiet today and thoughtful.  Mostly in a happy way, though leaving loved ones is always a challenge.  Only a few patches of snow today.  We are walking through newer forests that have been logged in recent decades.  It is still beautiful in it's own way.  I call it a forest of new beginnings.  Lupine and paintbrush and bear grass are sprawled out underneath the trees.  We are camped on a forest road with a view of Mount Rainier.  She's a lot closer since the last time I saw her.  20 miles today.  My feet started hurting near the end of the day but less than I expected.  The zero day yesterday was good for my body, heart and soul.

Walking from Snoqualmie Pass
Walking from Snoqualmie Pass - Beaver Lake
Final goodies to add to pack as Mom heads back to TH - popcorn and cherries!

July 9, 2013
Today was uneventful in most ways, which is certainly not a bad thing.  It is nice to have a mental break and let the miles float by.  We did have to start paying attention to water sources, we had a 15 mile stretch without water today.  I guess this is the downside to traveling with no snow.  Both Ben and I are having a really hard time with our feet, maybe the aftermath of very wet conditions and traveling off trail in steep terrain.  We were noticeably limping by the evening and ended up setting up camp on the trail.  It is tempting to push for more miles but I feel like we will be worse off the next day.  We met three northbound section hikers today, they made it sound as if there is less snow ahead.  Despite blisters, my spirits ae high!  We had mac and cheese burritos and chocolate for dinner and I'm headed to bed early.  19 miles today.

July 10, 2013
When we woke up this morning our feet were still in horrible shape.  It took over an hour to drain and bandage blisters.  We hobbled 4 miles to a much needed water source and another 5 to Urich Camp.  My feet are bad but Benny's are worse.  We both have blisters under the balls of our heels.  At Urich Camp there is a log cabin built by a snowmobiler's club.  I turned the corner and felt like I was Laura Ingalls Wilder in "Little House on the Prairie".  So we have been sitting on the porch since 2 pm, resting our and feet and watching the world go by.  Two groups of people four wheeling came by, one of which gave us grilled hot dogs and fresh water.  Nat and Jane, two southbound hikers came through and we were able to swap stories about our experiences so far.  They seem really awesome, it would be great if we caught up with them soon.

July 11, 2013
I woke up in our log cabin to a cool and misty morning.  I looked out the window and saw two bull elk grazing in the meadow.  They let us take a few pictures before gracefully running off.  It was sprinkling on and off for a few hours before the clouds lifted to reveal another beautiful sunny day.  We met two northbound hikers who had left the Mexican border in early April and skipped a few sections, including the Goat Rocks.  We are getting very mixed reviews of the snow conditions in the Goat Rocks, which is two days south of us.  We got a little off track and ended up walking up a wrong pass, but when we got to the top Mount Rainier was right in front of us, dazzling white in the sunlight.  It's nearly impossible to fret about a detour when you're rewarded with such a view!  Dad walked up from Crystal Mountain and walked with us for a few hours.  It was very exciting to turn a corner and have family there!  Dad turned around about 6:30, we made soup and then walked down to Chinook Pass.  Feet are painful, but tolerable to walk on.  We made 23 miles today.

Meeting up with Dad on the Trail
With Benny on the Trail

July 12, 2013
Today was our longest day yet - we walked 30 miles into White Pass!  Surprisingly, my feet appear to have been mostly cooperative.  It was cold and grey this morning, it never really warmed up but it didn't rain.  We had a really unique view of the southeast side of Mount Rainier with Little Tahoma in the foreground and much of Rainier shrouded in clouds.  We dropped lower for the latter part of the day, into a marshy wetland dotted with lakes (and filled with mosquitoes).  We are now stealth camped behind the motel and will pick up our resupply packages in the morning.  Since we're already here, we will even get to sleep in a little bit!

Sunday, July 7, 2013

Stevens Pass to Snoqualmie Pass

July 3, 2013

I didn't have a chance to write yesterday, so I will sum it up briefly. There was less snow and the trail was easier to keep. We had lunch at Lake Valhalla, which was a deep sapphire blue with pieces of snow floating amongst it. Mom and Dad walked out to meet us and it made my heart leap with joy to see them coming up the trail. We had burgers and milkshakes at the 59 Diner and ran errands in Leavenworth. The dropped us back off at dusk. It was hard to say goodbye. I cry every time I get back on the trail. I wonder if it will get easier as I get further from home.

Today we entered the land of lakes. We are in the Alpine Lakes Wilderness. We walked up and over Stevens Pass, underneath the chair lifts. I always think ski resorts look so desolate without snow. And there is noticeably less snow today.  There has been a shift in the landscape, you can tell we have left the North Cascades. The mountains are greener and less rugged. We had lunch beside Mig Lake. It makes one feel so rich to have an abundance of food again. We climbed up Trap Pass with stunning views of teal Trap Lake below. We continued on past surprise Lake and took an alternate route up Surprise Gap. it was a bit of a climb up steep snow, but we both agree we've gotten a bit desensitized to the snow. Looking north behind us, Glacier Peak was illuminated in the fading daylight with Glacier Lake just below us. We descended to Deception Lakes, where we are camped on a little piece of land surrounded on three sides by water. This is probably my favorite campsite so far. I saw the lake and had an overwhelming urge to get in, even though it was nearly dark and not getting any warmer. It was freezing, and also exhilarating. I finally feel clean after not showering for 12 days. I got really cold afterwards, but Ben made me tea and hot tortellini that Blue Heron (Mom) brought us. We turned off our headlamps and took in the stars. There literally take your breath away. I feel very lucky. 18.5 miles today.

July 4, 2013

I am sitting at Peggy's Pond tucked between Cathedral Rock and Mount Daniel. It is so serene here, like I am hidden away in this little pocket of the mountains. The day was productive and the miles gentler. We walked 12 miles by about 230. The main obstacle of note was crossing the Mount Daniel runoff. We went across as a team with me holding onto Ben's pack. The water was thigh deep and very powerful. It was so scary feeling like you might get swept away. This evening we are planning to walk partway up Daniel to see the fireworks. It is so nice to have this afternoon to soak in the beauty. I have been meditating on the difference between simple and easy today. The trail is far from easy but I revel in the simplicity.

So our firework viewing was thwarted by high winds. We walked up and watched clouds roll over the summit like illuminated golden smoke. I leaned into the gusts and stood transfixed. Nature puts on a pretty good show herself. If things always worked out the way we planned, we wouldn't have seen a lot of the things we've seen.

July 5, 2013

The unofficial first day of Seattle summer dawned gray and cold and windy. We carefully made our way back down the climber's trail leading from Peggy's Pond back to the PCT. The weather quickly improved and we were able to stay suited down (no ice axe and microspikes) for the rest of the day. The miles went by quickly for much of the day. We descended to Deep Lake and then skirted around Waptus Lake. It was easy to get lost in my thoughts as I walked through warm green meadows filled with wildflowers. We gradually climbed back up to about 5,700 feet. We had a delicious dinner of tortellini with pesto and snap peas (thanks Karen!) before continuing on our way. The mountains were especially stunning. I look across the valley at ominous looking black summit blocks with flanks of white snow stretched out below. A layer of clouds sat just above the peaks, and with the sun just behind the clouds, it gave the appearance of a halo. The trees in the foreground had been the victim of a forest fire, casting a dark beauty over the scene. We descended again, which wrecked havoc on my feet. We are literally camped on the trail, which is good because I was about to just lie down. 25 miles today.

July 6, 2013

The first few miles today were very painful. I have huge blisters underneath the balls of my feet, which makes it feel like my skin is ripping off every step I take. We took a break at Spectacle Lakes and took care of my feet. We ran into snow near Park Lakes. Looking over at Chikamin ridge, there were steep scree slopes covered with snow in areas. We crossed some of them, but the route ahead looking treacherous. We ended up dropping into the Gold Creek Basin, which was a frustrating three hours of descending steep snow, scree, and bushwacking. We finally hooked up with a real trail and walked the last miles out to Snoqualmie Pass. It was a beautiful area of the section to miss, but definitely worth it to take the safer route. We are staying at Hyak tonight, and will spend tomorrow with family and friends. I am so excited to have a day to spend with family and friends!!!

Thursday, July 4, 2013

The Geographical, Physical, Mental and Emotional Ups and Downs of the PCT

July 4, 2013 (transcribed)

From the Journal:  June 28, 2013
I am exhausted.  It seems like so much happened today that it couldn't have possibly fit into a single day.  I woke up today and the sun was out!  It was glorious!  The moon was also rising (or setting) above the rock band that hugs the little lake we camped next to.  The first few hours of the day were spent climbing snow up to Fire Creek Pass.  There were two hummingbirds flying around us on the way up, which I believe to be Aunt Cathy saying "hello".  This is the second time I've seen hummingbirds in an unlikely snow-covered landscape, the other being on Ruth Icy with Mom last summer.  We also saw two fighter jets soaring and doing tricks amongst the mountains.  Looks like a fun job.  The mountains today are unbelievable, by the way.  I'm afraid I might trip over my own feet because I can't stop staring.  We are right next to Glacier Peak.  We haven't gotten an unobstructed summit shot, she kept shooting off lenticular (halo) clouds.  On the other side of the pass, we descended in the snow for awhile, did a few death traverses and scrambled up some steep brush before it became evident that we had miles of snow covered traverses ahead.  Also, very important, we got to walk up this incredible narrow snow ridge to the top of the pass.  It was scary at times and very exposed but also exhilarating.  There was even a little rock scramble/climb near the top.  Anyway, instead of miles of death traverses, Ben worked out a route that took us down to the valley and eventually met up with the Kennedy Ridge Trail.  Basically this entailed hours of bushwacking up and down very steep terrain.  For example, you know you're on a steep slope when you get to your creek crossing and it's a waterfall instead!  Eventually we made it back to the trail.  I literally felt tempted to hug the tree bearing the PCT sign.  At this point it took 12 hours to walk 8 miles.  And then another 1.5 hours to do 3.5 - 4 more miles.  We hiked until 9:40 and are camped by another creek.  Now my feet are dry and my belly is fuller so I'm a happy camper.  44 miles to Stevens Pass.

June 29, 2013
Day journaling for once.  We are sitting on a ridge waiting for a party of backpackers to bring us some extra food.  They even offered to bring it up for us so we could take a break.  It is warm and sunny, it feels so good to sit and take in this landscape. 

Glacier Peak is off to my right and the other 360 degrees is filled with countless unknown and beautiful peaks.  There are layers of blue and white mountains, sitting below the blue and white cloud filled sky.  It is like two worlds sitting on top of each other, or maybe the same world reflected back on itself.  I sit here and feel my whole being fill with peace.  We left some of BJ in the neighborhood, it is an appropriate place for him to live on. 

Travel continues to be slow going.  We were on the trail an hour this morning before hitting snow.  It was relatively flat before we began the climb up to Red Pass.  We were able to go straight up the snow without difficulty.  At the top there was trail for a few glorious feet before we turned a corner to view yet another death traverse.  We did one traverse, then opted to go up and over the ridege, which offered breathtaking views.

As I type, Dwight, Rachel's cat is on my lap....couldn't resist adding the photo!
June 30, 2013
It seems like each day is more exhausting than the last.  There is so much snow that any view of the trail is obscured for miles at a time.  We walked 14 grueling hours today to go 12 miles.  Thank God for the extra food we got yesterday, we have been rationing as is.  We just had a PB cup and four gummy worms.  It was actually hot today, with hardly a cloud in the sky.  It feels so good to be warm.  We caught our first glimpse of Rainier today.  One of our breaks we sat on a rock outcropping and looked south at the mountains we could identify - Daniel, Stuart, Colchuck, Dragontail, Prusik, Chair, Guye, Snoqualmie - we are headed their way!  The trail is testing me, but I feel strong.  It feels right to be here.
July 1, 2013
Today has been a whirlwind, another kind of day that seems like two or three.  It was another gorgeous blue bird day, which makes it hard to complain about anything else.  There was a beautiful red hummingbird flying around camp last night.  I woke up to brilliant stars and again early this morning to the first rays of light touching the sky.  We walked mostly on snow, and had some Ramen, down climbed some steep willows, lost and found the trail repeatedly, had a PayDay dipped in PB and Nutella, climbed up a steep snow slope only to get cliffed out and find a way down through more steep brush.  I think it is a combination of the heat, exhaustion and limiting calories that I feel a little delirious today.  I notice at 4 or 5 pm I feel completely drained but I do seem to get a second wind that carries me until dark which is when we've been hiking until.  These days if you're looking for the PCT, you will likely find a river.  There is a ton of run off with the heat the last few days.  These are the moments when things get very frustrating, we have trouble keeping the trail and when we do find it we can't even walk on it without getting soaking wet.  And, then this evening we made our way to the top of Grizzly Peak and found ourselves in a meadow of glacier lilies with the most picturesque mountain views surrounding us on all sides and I feel on top of the world.  That is the funny thing about this trail - even when you are hot, cold, wet, scared, bleeding, hungry, thirsty, tired or lost, it is still hard to imagine a place I would rather be.  It is certainly a lesson in perseverance.  We have a little over 10 miles into Stevens Pass and the miles have started moving a bit quicker over the last two or three.  It felt good to hike this evening, to watch the sky change color, the sunset casting a rosy glow over the snow slopes.  We walked near Heather Lake, one of my childhood favorites with Mom and Beej.  It's the first lake we've seen that wasn't snow covered.  I get to give Mom a hug tomorrow.  I am having a wonderful time and Ben and I have really been working well as a team and making each other laugh, but it is hard to be away from my loved ones.
The Two Man Wolf Pack Emerges at Stevens Pass - get to hug Mom

Snowy Bowls and River Crossings...

July 4, 2013 (transcribed)

From the Journal: June 25, 2013
Return to the high country today!  After a few miles in the woods this am we climbed up Suiattle Pass at 6000'.  For some reason it was especially exhausting.  The snow was very hard, which made it difficult to get a decent belay in.  We reached the top of the Pass, laid down and ate a bunch of chocolate.  Things started to improve from here.  We walked about three miles down to camp.  There were some amazing views of the surrounding peaks, which is the great part of being in the higher country.  We even had some patches of blue sky between rain showers.  Only 10 miles, but we worked 10 hours for them.  We are having bean and rice soup, then hope to get to bed early and get an early start.

June 26, 2013
We are camped on Dolly Vista at about 6000'.  The day started off low elevation with lush forests reminiscent of an Ewok village.  After 5 miles we reached the banks of the Suiattle River.  The path of the old PCT was still intact, so we were able to cross on the old log bridge and save ourselves three miles.  After another water crossing, we started climbing again.  Luckily, the snow was softer and the angle gentler.  We got to see some breathtaking views of Glacier Peak and the surrounding Cascades.  It started raining again as soon as we set up camp, but it has stopped for now.  This would be a great setting for a beautiful sunsent.  We just felt a really strange tremor, like an avalanche or an earthquake.  We're camped on an island and are safe, but it was just unnerving.

Last night we woke to an owl hooting near our camp.  I love living out here. 

June 27, 2013
Snuggled up in the quilt after a good dinner, life is peaceful.  We got a really late start this morning, it was raining and raining which made it sound like staying in the tent was a much better idea.  Several marmots popped their heads out of the their dens to send us off.  We climbed up the pass to see another snowy bowl to traverse.  We opted to drop down and hike back up.  The sun showed up for a bit and warmed our bodies and spirits.  From the pass, we dropped down to the valley at Milk Creek.  Again, we took the old route to shave a mile off.  The bridge has been washed out but we found a safe place to cross with me walking behind Benny and holding onto his pack.  The water is powerful, you can see the evidence is severed trees and displaced boulders along the banks.  After the river, we climbed back to the snow.  Hard, hard snow in the trees.  We alternated between snow slopes and scrambling up brush and loose earth covered slopes.  We are now above the tree line and camped on the snow near snow covered Mica Lake.  It's a colder night than it's been in the last several.  We are conserving fuel so it was tortillas with refried beans.  Cold food, but we made up for it with cheese, fritos and a Ritter bar for dessert.  We both have alarms set and hope to feel more motivated in the am. 
P.S. The sunset was exquisite last night, there were at least 20 kinds of clouds, above and below us and the sky was lit up with blues and golds fading to pinks and dusky purples before saying goodnight.

Wednesday, July 3, 2013

The magical place called Stehekin

July 3, 2013 (transcribed)

From the Journal:  June 23, 2013
Today was a wonderful day.  We walked 16 miles into Stehekin, all dry trail, not a drop of snow.  We walked through lush green valleys filled with wildflowers.  There was lupine, paintbrush and avalanche lilies. And, butterflies everywhere.  Jen would've loved it.  We saw this huge, old growth Cedar that I could not conceive of wrapping my arms around.  It is humbling to think of how much has happened in that tree's lifetime.  Ben was able to get amazing wildlife shots of a beautiful yellow and red bird, a butterfly drinking the nectar of a lily and a very slow-moving rattlesnake.  We were able to get a ride to the bakery from a very gracious couple instead of waiting two hours for the bus.  We had pastries and lattes before walking the two miles into town.  Stehekin is strange and beautiful, like going back in time.  There are exquisite wood homes.  We walked past a designated meditation site on the lakeshore with a wood sign that reads: "Be still and know that I am God."  The quiet raindrops falling on the lake where the mountains meet the water brought tears to my eyes.  We had a couple of beers and dinner and sat on the dock and watched the world be still.  This day feels like how the trail should be, like I am connecting to it, it is seeping into me - I feel calm.  Ben and I talked a lot about the day - life is good!  A good quote from Ben today about why he is glad we are on the trail - "Happiness is only real when shared".

June 24, 2013
This morning we left Stehekin with another good stretch of trail in front of us, about 100 miles.  We tried to go to the PO first thing in the morning, but they don't open until 10 am.  A woman wearing an auspicious blue heron shirt gave us a ride to the bakery.  We had egg sandwiches and lattes for breakfast and packed out all kinds of stuffed croissants, cinnamon rolls, cupcakes and danishes for the trip ahead.  Life is way too luxurious the last several days.  We walked the two miles back to the PO and got our first package, plus a letter from my Mom!  We sorted out food, said goodbye to lovely Stehekin and took the bus back to High Bridge TH.  We had a peaceful, wooded walk today with intermittent showers.  We are surrounded by old growth Cedars and Douglas Firs.  We walked through patches of purple trillium, I have never seen more than one at any given spot - they are usually few and far between, usually they are white.  We ate ham and swiss and pesto and veggie croissants overlooking a beautiful waterfall.  We have been following Agnes Creek all day and are currently camped on her banks.  We saw a muddy bear print today and have been hanging our food in these lowland areas.  Even though my feet ache and my pack is heavy with food for the stretch ahead, my heart and my steps feel light.

The Journal Entry for Today

The First Leg.....Done!

July 3, 2013 (transcribed)

From the Journal:  June 22, 2013
We got back on the trail this evening about 6 and hiked from Rainey Pass to Fireweed Campground about 4 miles away.  It is wonderful to be on dry ground with dry clothes and eat dinner outside of the tent.  Mom sent us off with homemade chili for dinner, which was delicious.  Yesterday we woke up at Granite Pass and quickly found ourselves in steep snow terrain.  Looking at a 60 degree traverse with minimal visibility was daunting so we decided to travel up and over the ridge to Cuttthroat Pass.  It was a very exposed 4th/5th Class scramble, which was terrifying at times but also really fun.  I miss climbing.  We were lucky the route went through, it would have been defeating and scary to climb down the way we went up.  We overshot the descent route down Cutthroat by a bit, but Ben was able to get us back on track.  Soon we started descending into forest and were able to walk on trail the last few miles to Rainey Pass.  We hitched a ride from a very kind Canadian couple who gave us soda, apples and cheese.  We got a room in Winthrop and went out for pizza and beer.  Jon flew in to deliver a replacement GPS and Jen brought out new shoes and a few other pieces of gear.  It was priceless to spend the day with family.  I feel very lucky to have the support system we have. 

Packing up at Rainey Pass
Ben, consulting the map for the next section
The North Cascades!  Where we regained the trail at Rainey Pass
Setting Out from Rainey Pass

The First Leg of the Journey Continues

July 3, 2013 (transcribed)

From the Journal:  June 19, 2013
Today is ending better than it started.  We were exhausted this morning and ended up deciding to sleep in and make it a half day.  I woke up on and off listening to rain fall on the tent, which was peacful and also made me want to stay in the tent indefinitely.  When we did crawl outside, we discovered it was snowing and we were in a whiteout.  There was about a mile of terrain to cover before reaching the road that parallels the trail between Slate Peak and Hart's Pass.  After waiting for an hour for visibililty to improve (it didn't) we got on our way.  We made it to Hart's Pass and 6 miles beyond for a total of 9 miles today.  Not bad considering we didn't start hiking until 1 pm.  We had two sections with steep snow traversess that are mentally and physically exhausting.  Normally the trail would be nicely carved into the hillside, but, when it's covered in snow you walk very carefully over a 45-55 degree slope at times.  Ben says we did "thru-mountaineering".  On the bright side, my feet are magically feeling better.

 These are the tiny ones - didn't get a photo of the heel - ouch!

June 20, 2013
Day 6 - 18 miles.  Another epic.  We woke up with six inches of new snow on the tent and more coming down.  We were on the move by 7:30.  Right off the get go we had to descend more steep snow.  We ran into two SoBo (South Bound) hikers - Kate and Lisa who started yesterday from Hart's Pass.  Finally we got down to low ground (4000-5000 ') where the trail was clear of snow for 10 glorious miles.  Mind you it was still pouring down rain, we are in our rain gear, soaked through and freezing any time we stop moving.  It was too miserable to take breaks, we just huddled under some trees and had bites of PB and cheese.  Eventually, we had to climb back up to Methow Pass.  Luckily, the descent was south facing and relatively snow free except for two short crossings.  We did this section with our new hiker buddies.  Safety in numbers.  We are now camped at Granite Pass, about 6 miles from Rainey Pass, where we will go into town and hopefully have my shoes brought out.  I had some really miserable moments today where I wanted to go home, but somehow the trail has turned itself back around for me.

(I'm taking the liberty of adding this quote:  "A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step."  Lao Tzu)

Getting the Trail Down on Paper

July 3, 2013 (transcribed)

From the Journal:  June 16, 2013
We are huddled in the tent in the rain.  There was dry trail for the first part of the day and then we had to drop into this snow covered bowl approaching Woody Pass.  It was a lot of traversing on steep snow slopes, which is mentally and physically exhausting.  We stopped for dinner just before the pass and then continued on our way.  The trail showed up intermittenly, but much of our travel has been on snow, which definitely slows the pace.  Today we made it 15 miles.  We stopped just short of another bowl, which we will navigate through tomorrow.

Highlights of the day:  We crossed paths with our first fellow thru-hikers, a couple heading south from Manning Park.  The wildflowers are just popping out and it is beautiful to see life arriving in these snow covered landscapes.  The glacier lilies are especially beautiful. 

Sometimes it's really defeating like when you're walking off trail, uphill, with thunder and pouring rain.  The best and worst moments are transient.

"In the presence of eternity, mountains are as transcient as the clouds."

Note from Mom - there will not be as many photos until we set up a system for Rachel to send me the pictures she takes.  But, as "luck" would have it I snapped a photo of glacier lilies which were brilliant at the trail head.

June 17, 2013
Today was an incredible day!  We woke up in a white out and had to make a steep snow descent right off the bat.  Luckily, by the time we gained the next ridge line the cloud layer was rising and the sun was starting to come out.  We had to descend a snow arm to reach Hopkins Lake basin below us.  I took a sweet fall and crashed into a grove of trees, but I wasn't hurt AND I was wearing the GoPro at the time!  We did finally get to actually walk on trail for the last 4-5 miles to the border.  It was surreal to be at the Northern Terminus.  I have seen it in so many pictures and videos it is weird to actually be there.  According to the trail register, there is another twosome heading south that flip-flopped from Walker Pass.  We missed them somehow.  Actually, today is the first day that Ben is the only other person I've seen.  So, we are officially heading south!

We saw a porcupine near the Canadian border.  He let us take good video and camera footage, but refused to vacate the trail, so we had to move around one of the few easy parts of the trail.

We walked until 10 tonight and the sunset was unbelievable!  The moon was rising just as we made camp.  Today was a long day - 15.5 hours, 19 miles.  I think it is definitely a job well done in these conditions.  My feet are killing me.  I have four blisters that Benny just bandaged for me.  We shared a Flexeril and are headed to bed.  The plan is 19 miles to Hart's Pass tomorrow.

June 18, 2013
"Pain is inevitable, suffering is optional."

I have been in pain all day, and I've been trying to figure out - am I suffering?  The honest answer is probably - at least a little.  The bottoms of both of my feet are wrinkled and blistered beyond recognition.  It literally feels like my skin is being ripped off everytime I start walking.  In spite of that we managed to hike (or hobble in my case) 16 miles - so we are three miles from Hart's Pass.  I had to throw the towel in, I think if I had to cross one more steep snow covered traverse I would just catapault myself down the mountain.

I'm very discouraged today.  We did make it past Woody Pass safely, which was a bit of a terrifying experience.  1,100 vertical feet of steep snow, definitely a "no fall" zone. It felt a hell of a lot more like climbing than hiking.  Ben made a deal with God that if we got up safely it could rain all day.  It rained much of the day but definitely worth it for safe passage. 

Both times we were in that area we heard a raptor calling.  And there was a large bird of prey circling over us.  It would appear that BJ is watching over us as well.  We will be in new territory tomorrow continuing south.

Heading Out of Hart's Pass

July 3, 2013 (typed up)

From the journal: June 15, 2013
Day one on the trail we did pretty well considering we only slept about an hour last night.  We walked 7 miles, it's only about 6 pm, so we will eat a hot meal and catch up on sleep. 

My first steps on the trail were very emotional.  It was hard to say goodbye to Mom and all of a sudden it is just Ben and me walking out into the wilderness.  I had a sense of disbelief, like this was happening to someone else.  It is beautiful country, we are surrounded by the snow capped peaks of the North Cascades.  It is peaceful, feeling so alone out here.

Most of the trail is snow covered, but it is warm today.  The snow is soft, we have ice axes and microspikes.

We got so delirious due to sleep deprivation that we took a nap in the sun.  It felt amazing just to stop when you're so tired.  I'm reveling in the simplicity of it.  It might take some time to get used to, that the trail is my home now.

           At Mazama putting everything into the packs for drive to Hart's Pass

                                  Our starting point, Hart's Pass Guard Station

Saying "goodbye" at the trail head to Ben's Dad, Jon
The first steps are taken

Turning the typing over to Mom

July 3, 2013
Ok - I think I have figured out how to transcribe Rachel's journal into her blog!  This is her Mom and I've been at this for over an hour.  Before we all get too excited, let's see if this works.  Deep breath.....