Saturday, September 28, 2013

Carson Pass

Transcribed:  September 28, 2013

I never cease to be amazed at how the internet has opened up communication!  Shortly after Rachel and Ben left South Lake Tahoe I received an email from Denny Price!  September 20 Rachel and Ben arrived at Carson Pass (elevation 8573 feet) and spent some time resting and visiting.  It was wonderful that Denny took the time to take a couple of pictures and send them my way - although I do try to "wonder" (not worry) it was a pleasant surprise and an update of their progress on the trail!

"Hello from The Carson Pass Information Station on Highway 88 a day's hike south of Lake Tahoe. This afternoon Rachel and Ben rested at our station before continuing south a few more miles. They were a fun, engaging and interesting couple."


What a comfortable place to take a rest - Ben really liked Moke!
 
Thank you to the friendly staff at Carson Pass Information Center for providing fresh food, a warm environment and hospitality to Rachel and Ben!


Saturday, September 21, 2013

Sierra City to South Lake Tahoe

Transcribed:  September 20, 2013
From the Journal:  September 13, 2013
This morning was awesome because we got to sleep in.  We had to; the store doesn’t open until 9:30 and the Post Office at 10:00.  We did our resupply, got our packages and had amazing breakfast burritos and real coffee.  We rolled out of town about 12:30.  Life seemed very hard and walking all day seemed very daunting.  I think we were both pretty low on energy today.  Maybe it was the Jager shots.  We almost set up camp after five miles, because it seemed like it might rain.  We did carry on, met some awesome section hikers from southern California and it did not rain a substantial amount.  We set up camp at about 7, hoping to get a good night’s sleep and reset ourselves to be up and hiking early.  The sky continues to be a little ominous, forcing us to set up our tent and ending a couple week long streak of cowboy camping.

September 14, 2013
We were mostly successful at getting an early start this morning (walking by 6:20).  It was sunny this morning and hot very early in the day.  We climbed above 8,000 feet for the first time on the official trail.  We had incredible 360 degree views, the clouds were gorgeous and you can tell we are nearing the Sierra by the rocky features that surround us.  We ran into a three or four generation family section hiking.  As the day wore on the clouds that were making for such lovely pictures continued to build and then rained and hailed all over us.  This was a little miserable but mercifully short-lived.  I suspect there will be more inclement weather in our future.  There is a chill in the air at night, and you can feel summer dwindling.  All day long we rolled up and down between 7,000 and 8,500 feet, which was pretty spectacular.  We made 24.5 miles by shortly after 6 pm, ending at the Peter Grubb Hut.  The hut is maintained by the Sierra Club and used in the winter for ski and snowshoeing groups.  We checked it out but opted to camp outside where the light is bright and the stars are above us.  Since the sky cleared, we are back to cowboy camping!

 September 15, 2013
Today marks three months on trail and a year that Ben and I first hiked on the PCT together, a 24 mile stretch north of Snoqualmie Pass.  It was a special day and also a very hard day.  We hiked to Donner Pass and then somehow missed a PCT trail junction and ended up on another trail near Donner Peak.  After a few lost hour and a few extra miles, we found our way back to the PCT.  A very helpful pair of women gave us directions and yummy freeze-dried vegetables.  Lunch also included a celebratory Dr. Pepper.  Once we started walking again, the trail got really beautiful, which slowly ebbed away the frustration of being lost and wasting a bunch of time.  The trail follows a narrow ridgeline and it was pretty windy, but more in an invigorating than in a blow you off the ridge kind of way.  I was listening to Mumford and Sons, which is excellent ridge top music, although the lyrics are truly heart wrenching.  We walked right through Squaw Valley Ski Resort right at sunset, which brought back fond memories of skiing there with Dad and BJ as a kid.  And we saw a coyote only 20 feet away.  We met our goal of walking 25 PCT miles (and maybe 28 for the day) although it took until 9:45 pm and was pretty painful as the evening wore on.  I certainly have some new blisters.  One reason we are both frustrated is that we have less than an abundance of food.  With more climbing, colder nights and higher altitudes, Ben and I are both hungrier.

September 16, 2103
Due to our exhaustion, we slept in this morning and watched light fill the sky from the comfort of the quilt.  We were walking by 8, bound and determined to do a 30 mile day.  In the morning we walked along a narrow ridgeline with stunning views of Oceanic Lake Tahoe.  This section of the PCT overlaps with the Tahoe Rim Trail.  In the afternoon we walked into the Desolation Wilderness, a section I have been super excited about!  Darkness fell as we moved out of forest into open country.  It was a little disappointing to walk past all of these lakes along the trail and not see them, but the reality is that we are getting short on hours of daylight to do the miles we need to do.  The nearly full moon illuminated Fontanellis Lake as we walked by, the moonlight catching the waves on the water.  The stars were brilliant and you could make out the outline of the granite cliffs rising above the lake.  We climbed out of the lake basin up to Dicks Pass, as it got windier and windier.  We topped out at about 9,400 feet.  It was 10:30, we’d walked over 30 miles, and I was exhausted.  We set up camp in the most sheltered area we could find and will try to sleep as best we can in this windstorm.




 

September 17, 2013
With the wind still howling this morning, we woke up early as town is beckoning.  All in all, the trail has been good to us lately, and I am feeling like I am going to need to get some thicker skin.  I can only imagine that the weather will get harsher as we walk on.

Once I begrudgingly left the tent, I was blown away by the beauty of the day.  Clouds were flying over the pass, turning from lemon-yellow to pale orange to a dusty pink.  Seeing the sun’s first rays illuminate the granite peaks surrounding us, I can understand why John Muir calls the Sierra the Range of Light.  I hobbled my way down the rocky trail with sore feet.  We walked past all of these granite peaks and beautiful alpine lakes.  It is breathtaking country.  They don’t make mountains like this at home.  One of the lakes we walked past was called Lake Aloha, and it was a brilliant blue interspersed with rocky islands.  I had to go swimming even though it was still very windy and not necessarily what would be considered warm.  I didn’t stay in long, and it was certainly invigorating.  I feel like I need to soak up the dwindling summer.  We made our way down to Echo Lake and got a ride to South Lake Tahoe from a couple who was backpacking.  Once in town a whole bunch of wonderful things happened, like flip flops, baby back ribs, ice cream, eggplant parmesan, red wind and sleeping in a bed.  We will take another much needed rest day tomorrow.
New Shoes......Old Shoes


New Shoes or flip flops?! (I can't help but notice how LONG Rachel's hair is - love it!!)
South Lake Tahoe

Getting Sun and Rest in South Lake Tahoe
 

Chester to Sierra City


Transcribed:  September 21, 2013
From the Journal:  September 7, 2013
We got all of our things together and had an awesome breakfast in Chester this morning.  The people sitting next to us anonymously took care of our meal.  I am continuously blown away by the kindness and generosity of the people I have met along this journey.  A very nice man named Shaun took us back to the trail after a brief hitch, and we were on our way.

After meeting up to go across the Hat Creek Rim, Ben and I have decided to walk this journey together.  I am very happy, our time apart made me miss him and our ability to work as a team.  This opportunity seems too long in the making to not take advantage of.  We reached the signpost for the PCT about nine miles into our day.  It is surreal and exciting to be more than half way done as I write this.  There is much to reflect back on and more to look forward to.  I think the best thing is how much connected and present I feel in this lifestyle.  It took awhile and I finally feel like I have settled into the trail or the trail has settled into me.

September 8, 2013
As a reward for doing 28.5 miles by 7 pm, Ben and I are sitting in Belden, drinking a cold beer and waiting for our burgers to arrive.  Despite snoozing this morning and getting the day started an hour later than planned we have been very productive.  We even made it through Myrtle Flats alive, the area where there has been a cougar stalking solo female hikers.  My body feels stronger than it has after our other long days, which is encouraging.  I hope the trend continues tomorrow.  Usually after walking close to 30 miles, I am collapsing in a heap on my sleeping pad after dark.  Really, the only bad part about today is that as we dropped elevation into town, the evil, evil gnats started relentlessly flying into my eyes.  Sitting inside now, about to eat an awesome dinner, life could be far worse.

September 9, 2013
This morning we climbed up out of Belden, from about 2,000 feet to 7,000.  This allowed me to escape the bugs and get back up on the surrounding ridgelines with some very lovely views of alpine lakes and what appeared to be granite rock formations.  It is very hot today; it would have been a great day for the lakes to be on the trail instead of inaccessible below.  This evening I took a detour to road walk and pick up a pizza, and I will loop back to meet up with Ben about five miles south on the trail.  This is two miles longer but well worth it for pizza.  Chester to Sierra City is nearly 140 miles (one of our longest stretches) and we have had town food everyday so far.  I am feeling like a very spoiled thru-hiker.  My body feels tired today and I am definitely moving a little slower after the long day yesterday and the climb this morning.  I will still do 27 miles for the day, which I am very happy with.

September 10, 2013
My side trip of last night was going great until it started getting dark and the junction from the road was super confusing.  I was misplaced for about 10 minutes but I knew I was in the very near vicinity of where the trail crossed the road.  I was having all kinds of catastrophic thoughts of never finding Ben when I spotted a blaze on the north side of the road and I was back on the PCT!  Now I felt at home and only slightly worried about being in the dark.  After a few minutes I saw a light.  Before I could even think “oh, thank God, it’s Ben!” I realized it was a pair of glowing eyes staring at me.  My heart leapt in my chest, but it was just a deer.  A terrifying cougar-deer.  This happened five or six times before the light was actually Ben and we had pizza and pop and all was right with the world again.

Today bugs tried to fly in my eyes much of the day, which made me intermittently pretty grumpy.  The highlight of the day was lunch at the Middle Fork of the Feather River, which had fantastic swimming holes.  We were able to escape the heat and the bugs for a couple hours, splashing around and floating downstream.  It was very, very tempting to spend the rest of the day here.  We were very responsible and hiked on, 23.5 miles for the day.  Today was the first day since northern Washington that we didn’t see another person all day.  I love it, and I hope the trend continues.

September 11, 2013
Today moved really slowly for some reason.  We only walked 13 or 14 miles by 3 pm.  Then for some reason, we started talking about walking all night and doing a 40 mile day to get close to town.  The walking in the evening was beautiful, high on ridgelines with phenomenal views.  The moon was illuminated in the sky as daylight faded.  We took a dinner break at 25 miles, I was spacing out and exhausted and just wanted to lay down.  I did feel better when we started walking again, and rapidly became convinced that walking all night was probably a terrible idea for my body.  We camped at Summit Lake, calling it a day at a little over 29 miles.  As this leg from Chester to Sierra City goes on, I can feel my body protesting.  I feel worn down.  It is the first time we have walked mid to upper 29’s for several days in a row.  We have walked 109 miles in four days, averaging over 27 miles a day. 

September 12, 2013
This morning I woke up with horrifically painful feet.  I felt like they were swollen and getting shoved into my shoes.  We walked a very slow and painful 15 miles downhill.  Going down is so much harder on the body, especially when the trail is rocky.  I am sounding quite the complainer today.  On the bright side, we walked around these beautiful rock formations called the Sierra Buttes.  I actually spotted them on the horizon several days ago, their craggy outline calling to the climber in me.  Little did I know we would be walking right beside them.  After descending we walked the highway into Sierra City to discover that the Post Office closed at 2 pm instead of 4:30 as listed in the guide book.  Maybe it is a blessing that we are stuck in town for the night.  We had pizza and root beer floats, did laundry and then went across the street to the Old Sierra Hotel for a burger and a beer that turned into a couple beers and couple shots of Jager.  We had the pleasure of visiting with locals and other travelers passing through.  While we were eating a storm passed over, complete with thunder, a downpour and a double rainbow.  It felt so peaceful to sit on the patio and watch the rain fall, warm and dry and content with nowhere to go and nothing you need to do.  After the rain passed we set up camp on the backyard of the church and shared a pint of Ben and Jerry’s Peach Cobbler ice cream.  We have been craving it the whole trip and it has taken us nearly 1,500 miles to find it!
Double Rainbow - Sierra City PO

Saturday, September 14, 2013

Burney to Chester


Transcribed:  September 14, 2013
From the Journal:  August 31, 2013
Mom and I got up super early (maybe I am finally used to trail schedule) and got town chores done.  This included finding coconut soy lattes and having blueberry pie for breakfast.  I got to spend time with Mom and Mike before we headed back up to the state park.  Ben and I have decided to hike the very hot and dry Hat Creek Rim together so we met up in the afternoon to nearo out of town.  We walked 12 miles to the Crystal Lake Hatchery.  We walked past Baum Lake right at dusk, and saw several herons take flight into the pastel sky.  We also saw an owl and many deer.  It was a magical evening for wildlife.  Huff and Bomber picked us up and we got to have a lovely dinner with friends.

September 2, 2013
Yesterday we took an impromptu zero to hang with Huff and Puff and Cherry Bomb before they headed back to San Francisco.  We had an awesome breakfast at JJ’s CafĂ© before heading back to the trail.  We fed some albino rainbow trout and gazed at these huge white birds (herons or egrets) before saying farewell to our trail buddies.  And so Smooth and I headed out to the heat.  At noon.  Not our best planning but there was some cloud cover at least.  We walked 14 miles to the water cache at Road 22.  Sunset was beautiful with all the clouds and Shasta on one side and Lassen on the other.  I have heard a lot of complaints about Hat Creek Rim, but everyone has failed to mention the beautiful views.  It’s good to be back at home. 

 Breakfast at Old Station

September 3, 2013
I am sitting at camp, eating chocolate and sipping on wine that Smooth and Huff cached at Old Station.  It has been a great day.  Hat Creek Rim was nowhere near “unbearably hot” and there was plenty of water.  We stopped at the store in Old Station for Squirt and ice cream bars before heading on our way.  We are now camped beside Hat Creek, about to walk into Lassen National Park.  24 miles today.

September 4, 2013
The area surrounding Lassen was made stark by the burn that went through last year.  We followed a chain of lakes through the blackened area and had a relaxing lunch on the shores of Lower Twin Lake.  We saw the very strange Boiling Springs Lake and the boiling mud pots that surrounded it.  As dusk was approaching we got back on the PCT and took a detour northbound.  We conveniently realized this mistake after making camp and so will have a few more miles into town tomorrow.

September 6, 2013
Yesterday we walked 17 miles into Chester by 12:45.  Going to town can inspire some efficient walking.  One of our first stops was “The Dentist”.  Dr. Webb and his office manager, Karen, do awesome trail magic giving dental hygiene supplies and meal vouchers to a local Mexican restaurant for hikers.    Karen, (aka, The Tooth Fairy), was absolutely wonderful to talk to.  Naturally , our next stop was the Mexican restaurant for margaritas and fajitas.  We have been intermittently eating, resting, catching up with family and friends, and taking care of town chores.  We were going to leave town but ended up taking a rest day.  I am so glad, both because we have a lot of prep over the next few weeks before going into the Sierra (switching gear, new map sets) and because Benny’s foot is bothering him and needed a day of resting and ice.  Chester has been super friendly, and we are on to Sierra City in the morning.
Fajitas and margaritas in Chester
 
Trying on hats - getting ready for the Sierras
 
 

Carter Meadows to Burney Falls State Park


Transcribed:  September 14, 2013
From the Journal:  August 23, 2013
Ben took off early this morning.  Mom and I got on trail after outfitting me with new clothes and shoes.  I feel pretty snazzy and maybe almost clean.  Mike headed to the ocean, he will meet Mom and I in Burney in eight days.  Today we walked through the Trinity Alps, which was absolutely gorgeous.  Craggy peaks, beautiful clouds in the sky, Mount Shasta in the distance, picturesque lakes in the basins below.  Most of the walking today is between 6,000 and 7,000 feet and the expansive views are stunning.  There seems to be much less smoke and I have my mama here and we get to chatter away and catch up about everything under the sun.  We walked about 20 miles by 5:30 and called it a day.  This is a lovely time to be done hiking for the day.  We are cowboy camped near the Scott Mountain Trailhead.  Hopefully I will get a good night of sleep and we will have an amazing day of walking tomorrow.  I didn’t expect to catch Ben, but I’m still sad that I didn’t.  I am also overwhelmingly glad to have my Mom around to share a part of this journey.

August 24, 2013
What an awesome day of hiking with Mom.  It was awesome to sleep 9+ hours, I needed the rest.  We were walking at 6:00 and were able to greet the beautiful day.  We were chasing some cows up the trail for a while, but they did not try to charge us, which was good.  The views continue to be expansive.  I’m pretty impressed with Northern California so far.  There were awesome views of Shasta and great cloud formations.  When we were getting water from a spring, we came across a patch of pitcher plants, which is a carnivorous plant, perhaps similar to a Venus Fly Trap.  They were very strange looking.  Mom and I have fun with the flora and fauna identification.  We saw a good handful of North bounders today (maybe five) but definitely less than we have been seeing.  We are camped at this lava surrounded lake called Lower Deadfall Lake.  It is a lovely place to call home for the night.  Mom did her longest day at 24 miles and we made it to camp by 6:30 pm, which is super early for thru-hiking standards.  We had tortellini with pesto and I am about to eat some chocolate and go to bed.
 

Darlingtonia californica - Cobra Lily
 
 
August 25, 2013
Mom and I woke up by the lake and were walking by 6.  Before very long, it was pouring rain.  This was somewhat discouraging.  We made a short detour to Porcupine Lake for water and had a short break from the rain.  I guess the silver lining of rain is that it’s good for miles – it is less desirable to take breaks when you are cold on top of wet as soon as you stop walking.  The rain stopped around midday and we had an awesome lunch up on this ridge with blue sky ahead and very grey sky behind.  In the afternoon we entered the Castle Crag Wilderness.  The rock formations are unbelievable.  From a distance the silver-grey spires and towers really looked like an enchanted castle.  We stood in awe and took a pretty ridiculous amount of pictures as we drew closer.  I want to climb these mystery peaks so badly.  Very ominous thunder and lightning was chasing us, but luckily stayed a good distance away on the other side of the ridge.  I will say the crazy weather made for some magnificent clouds.  This evening we dropped down into the forest and are about 10 miles from Castella.  Mom rocked out 26 miles today.  We are falling asleep to a symphony of crickets.
 

Entering Castle Crags Wilderness
Castle Crags
 
 

August 28, 2013
I have been a much better hiker than journalist for the last few days so I will have to play catch up.  The 26th was a very important day with Mom.  It is the anniversary of the day BJ died and I could not have asked for a better way to spend it then a day walking with my Mom.  We got into town and had coffee and good food and later beer and ice cream.  We ran into Ben waiting for a package until the Post Office opened the next morning.  We camped at the State Park, had awesome sandwiches and homemade guacamole and a campfire.  It was most relaxing.
The next day we got back on trail and walked about 20 miles.  It was very hot; luckily the trail was mostly forested.  There were very nice views of Mount Shasta (finally out of the clouds) and the other side of Castle Crags.  There are very evil gnats that constantly try to fly into my eyes when we are below 4,000 feet.  I instantly regret sending home my bug net to save one ounce.  Perhaps the most exciting part of the day is that I finally saw a bear!  He was just ambling around in the woods when I was scouting for a campsite.  Neither of us seemed particularly upset about the encounter and he did not eat Mom or I while we slept. 

Today was also an excellent day.  We were walking by 7 (I was in complete snooze mode this morning).  We took breaks by a couple of nice creeks and walked along the raging McCloud River.  We climbed high enough to escape the bugs and broke out of the trees to walk along the flanks of Grinley Peak.  I believe we walked 24 miles today; Mom and I are ready for bed, but otherwise feeling good!
 

Mt. Shasta and Shastina (far left)

 

 

August 29, 2013
I am so tired this evening.  Mom and I did another 24 mile day, which is awesome!  The morning was beautiful and cool, with expansive views of green hillsides that look like they are moss-covered and would be awesome to roll down but in reality are shrub covered and would probably be quite painful to roll down.  Mount Shasta was rising out of the clouds this morning; we are quite close to her still.  A lot of the day was hot, water sources were sparse and off-trail and much of the trail wound through active logging sites.  This part was honestly pretty depressing and not at all what you would want or expect from a wilderness experience.  We also found a rattlesnake, which moved away but then coiled up very aggressively.  We gave him a very wide berth.  Then we found this awesome campsite with a gorgeous view of Shasta and the sunset.  The stillness that set in as the sun sunk below the clouds seems to fill up the whole world.  We released some of BJ’s ashes to the wind at sunset.  It was a perfect way to end my last night with Mom on the trail.  The time has been wonderful and rich, and went way too fast!
Our last night together - Rachel journaling before bed, Shasta in the background
 

August 30, 2013
Mom and I were up before sunrise in our beautiful campsite.  The silhouette of Shasta was barely visible on the still dark horizon.  Actually, I think Mom was up most of the night watching shooting stars.  We made good time into Burney, taking one relaxing break to soak our feet in ice cold Rock Creek.  We ran into Smooth at the camp store, he had not yet been successful hitching out.  We had hot dogs, and a root beer float, and then the three of us pretty quickly got a hitch into town.  Soon after, Mike, (Road Warrior), Huff and Puff and Cherry Bomb showed up.  Ben left to hang out with visiting friends and I had an awesome steak dinner with my parents.  Mom and I were up late talking, wishing she could continue on and that we were sleeping under the stars.

Soaking feet in icy cold water

Only 1418 miles to Mexico!

Burney Falls State Park

 

Seiad Valley to Carter Meadows

Transcribed:  September 14, 2013
From the Journal:  August 19, 2013
This morning we watched the sunrise before descending to Seiad Valley.  We got an early start, but the day got hotter and hotter.  The final mile on the road into town was boiling.  I was chugging all of the very hot water I carried. Luckily the town has an awesome diner with AC and burgers and Dr. Pepper and root beer floats for dessert.  This made everything pretty immediately better.  It was 102 in the shade so we got our packages and went to the store and rested in the shade for a few hours before it was bearable to move again.  We got back on the road about 6 pm and walked 6.4 miles back to the trail before setting up camp for the evening.

August 20, 2013
Ben and I went our separate ways this morning.  He left camp before me and the world became very sad and quiet.  I hiked up this beautiful valley that Grider Creek runs through.  It is a stark contrast from yesterday’s dry heat to be in this cool shade.  It was a very gradual climb and I have too much food coming out of town, per usual.  I notice it is much less fun to take breaks so I am making good time.  This afternoon I came around a corner and saw my friend Ben writing me a note about a Mama bear and cub he had just seen.  We were glad to see each other; it was quite strange to be alone after spending nearly all of the last months together.   We ended up walking the last ten miles to camp together.   Marble Mountain Wilderness and the peaks around us are stunning.  This has also been the worse day as far as smoke in the air.  The moon is full and bright orange. 
August 21, 2013
Ben and I walked out of camp together.  The walking was beautiful, up high on ridgelines.  I passed this gorgeous teal lake below sheer cliff sides called Maneater Lake.  It was an inviting swim but pretty far off trail.  I made the mistake of mentioning that a little rain would be refreshing, and the next thing you know we are in a hail and thunder storm.  It was thankfully short lived.  Ben helped me set up camp a few miles North of Etna Summit before continuing on.
August 22, 2013
I slept alone in the woods for the first time ever last night and I did not die.  I woke up sad but also a bit proud of myself.  I started walking and am meeting Mom and Mike this evening.  It is warm today, and the sky to the south is full of foreboding, gunmetal grey clouds.  It looked like weather again and it wasn’t long before hail and lightening and pouring rain fell from the sky.  In between storm intervals, I was loving walking on this traverse up a very vast and quiet valley.  It made me feel very small and alone, in a way that might feel good when I get used to it.  The storm raged on and water was pouring down the trail in rivers.  Walking on seemed to be the only thing to do, I would freeze if I stopped.  I was getting progressively more miserable when I turned a corner to see Ben setting up his tent.  He had been worried and wanted to wait for me.  It was so nice to have a dry place to take shelter, to put more layers on and actually eat lunch.  The storm blew itself out pretty quickly and we walked the last six miles down to Carter Summit.
It was so awesome to see Great Blue Heron and Road Warrior (Mom and Mike).  I hadn’t seen my mama in a month, which I think may be the longest ever.  We all set up camp and had cold beer, pulled pork sandwiches and fresh fruit.  It is amazing to have family around.  I feel so lucky! 

We made it to California!!


Transcribed: September 14, 2013

August 13, 2013 (continued)
The last few days I have been running into lots of solo female hikers.  They seem to be very happy and doing well on their own.  It is encouraging and empowering to see, as Ben and I have decided to continue on in our individual journeys when we reach Seiad Valley, the first town in California.  I am excited and I am afraid.  I’ve never spent a night out by myself.  I’m quiet and reflective today, trying to wrap my mind around it.  Today I walked 24 miles, we are camped near Fish Lake.  Ben walked down to the resort for burgers and soda and brought it back to the trail.  I do have the company of a wonderful hiking partner for a few more days.

August 14, 2013
I am feeling content.  A good day’s walk and lots of yummy food.  There is smoke in the air limiting visibility but it doesn’t seem to be affecting the air quality.  We are seeing a ton of north bounders, I think we have hit the herd.  The forest is beautiful, lots of old growth trees and huge pine cones along the trail.  This morning we had several miles of lava, which thankfully was easier on the feet than northern Oregon.  The feet seem to be toughening up, they felt well enough to have a walking dance party before hitting camp this evening.  And we found awesome trail magic in the form of ice cold root beer and microbrews alongside a gravel road.  Now, time for a good night’s rest before I do it all again.

August 15, 2013
I have been on the trail for two months today.  I can feel myself adjusting to it, the routines are getting easier, and it is feeling more like a way of life.  I still find myself worrying a lot, about being late for Mexico I guess.  My feet are falling apart again; I think my shoes may be too narrow.  I will try to remedy that problem when we get to Callahan’s Lodge near Ashland tomorrow.
Today was the first day it was significantly hotter.  More of the terrain was exposed today as well.  I will have to try to get up earlier to utilize the cooler morning hours.  Probably the best thing about today was going off trail to Green Springs Inn for lunch where we enjoyed a free beer for hikers, amazing burgers and salad, with marionberry pie a la mode for dessert.  In my delirious state in the midday heat, I was dreaming of ice cream.  We packed out three kinds of pie for the trail, which I am about to dig into.  Finally, the smoke in the air makes for some brilliant red sunsets.  Pie time!

August 17, 2013
I am back on the trail after a relaxing nearo at Callahan’s Lodge near Ashland yesterday.  We walked 12 miles in and spent the rest of the day eating great food and relaxing.  It was a beautiful wooden lodge with this huge flower covered patio that had humming birds flitting all around.  The lodge is awesome to hikers – they offer a free beer, bottom-less spaghetti dinner and awesome breakfasts.  They even gave us a ride back to the trail!  We started hiking around 11:30 this morning and put in 18 to 19 miles.  The feet are holding up so far, cutting a hole for my little toes to have more room seems to have been a genius move.  I have new shoes coming to Etna (thank God).  The walking today started off really hot, but it cooled down nicely as evening wore on.  There were beautiful alpine meadows around Mount Ashland, with wildflowers on their last legs.  The corn lilies that I’ve been seeing the whole trip are finally in bloom, they have lots of light green flowers coming out of the stalk in vines.  I will be in California in the morning; the border is nine miles away!

August 18, 2013
It has been a pretty epic day.  I have officially walked over 1,000 miles.  I walked into California.  And, we did our longest day so far (somewhere around 31 miles).  For once we actually got a really early start.  We were walking by 5:30 and got to watch the sunrise as I was walking.  Also, I finally did a 10 by 10 (10 miles by 10 am), which is always Ben’s goal and perpetually seems to be thwarted by a love of the snooze button.
It was hot today but not awful.  It does seem like I will need to be vigilant of water sources from here on out, which was a non-issue earlier in the trip.  The Oregon/California border was pretty awesome, this day feels like it had a lot of milestones especially having a chance to reflect after finishing the walking portion of the day.

Today is also very sad.  It is the last full day Benny and I will walk together.  We will go our own ways when we get back on trail after Seiad Valley.  All I can say is that today is a wonderful day.

(I don't have any pictures from Rachel for this section so will include some of the flowers we have seen when I've been able to hike with her)

 Bunchberry Dogwood

Lupine and Paintbrush

Pinedrops

Jeffrey's Shooting Star

Avalanche Lily
 

Sunday, September 8, 2013

Thielsen to Devil's Peak

Transcribed September 8, 2013

From the Journal:  August 9, 2013
I'm sitting on the dock at Diamond Lake, feeling the wind in my hair and the waves rocking underneath me.  It is a peaceful afternoon, I know the mental and physical rest is much needed.  Thielsen this morning was awesome!  We left camp at seven and followed a scrambler's trail up the ridgeline.  Higher on the ridge the trail turned to talus slopes, which were a bit slippery but manageable.  The last 50 feet was exposed low 5th class climbing, which was fine going up but I had some lurking fears about down climbing some reachy moves.  We could see south to Mount Shasta and to the mountains surrounding Crater Lake.  You could just barely see the lake itself down in the caldera.  The Sisters could barely be made out in the coulds.  The skies have been full of the most amazing energy. We have had scattered thunder storms the last several afternoons.  It was good to climb Thielsen in the morning, since it is known as the "lightening rod of the Cascades".  The summit blocks have what looks like ribbons of fulgurite in the rock, which occurs when a lightening strike melts the silica in the rock.  It was a beautiful clilmb and a worthwhile side trip for Oregon.


 
Diamond Lake




Mount Shasta
 

August 10, 2013
Today has been an amazing day!  We were road walking out of Diamond Lake when a Jeep pulled up and out jumped Ryan (Gigantor/Beef)!  We have been waiting to cross paths for weeks.  We walked about five miles with him back to the PCT.  He is so genuinely happy, it is inspiring.  He just glows.  He was talking about the silence of hiking, how much he enjoys being lost in his thoughts - thinking about loved ones, moments of glory and dreams.  It's a good mindspace for me to think about, as one who is struggling to embrace silence.  But, we traded good trail stories, we headed south and he continued north, straw hat and fishing pole and all.  It rained on and off today, luckily the weather cleared as we approached Crater Lake.  The lake is vast and majestic and so beautiful it made me cry.  We took a side trail up to the Watchman, a fire lookout above 8,000 feet.  Now we are camped on the rim of the caldera, overlooking Wizard Island and the lake far below. 

August 12, 2013
I got too distracted to journal yesterday so I will play catch up today.  I woke up on the edge of Crater Lake for the sunrise, which was beautiful beyond words.  It was like a new day beginning with the freshest of breaths.  Eventually we moved on, walked a bit further along the rim before descending back to the forest.  It has been one of the most majestic places I've seen on the trail so far, and it was sad to walk past.  One of my favorite parts of the lake was called Phantom Ship, a small craggy island tucked right against the cliffs.  I think it is the oldest part of the volcano.  We stopped in Mazama Village for important town chores like ice cream sandwiches and a hot shower.  It took awhile to amble out of town.  There is a meteor shower going on, and we cowboy camped to try to catch it.  I woke and saw one meteor, I think Ben saw three or four.  It continues tonight so hopefully we can find a campsite with a view of the open sky.

Today the walking was pleasant and forested.  We were working on improving my navigation and having a sing-a-long with the iPod speaker.  Tonight we are camped near 7,000 feet just past Devil's Peak.  After sunset smoke blankets the landscape like gauze.  It has tinted the moon a brilliant orange color.

August 13, 2013
First of all, the meteor shower last night was out of this world!  There were some that looked like shooting stars and then five or six really bright meteors that glowed orange and left comet tails across the sky like a jet stream.  They crossed vast portions of the sky and lasted much longer than a shooting star, maybe up to three seconds.  Everytime I saw one my heart would start racing.  It was like a silent firework show.



Saturday, September 7, 2013

The Elevation Profile of the Trail and the Mind

Transcribed September 7, 2103

 
 
Pictures from Washington....high and low



From the Journal: August 1, 2013
Last night our attempt at coyboy camping was thrarted by rain showers.  I was hoping it would pass and resisted leaving my warm bed, but we all had to retreat to the lower level of the fortress.  We woke up in a cloud.  The mountains to the north were intermittently visible but The Sisters were completely obscured.  We walked on lava to start, and the feet seemed to be holding up.  We did catch a few views of North and Middle Sister and it seemed like the clouds might lift, but as the day wore on, we got a bit of rain.  It is disappointing to not have good visibility in this section, but it's not something we can control.  On the bright side, the mist covered fields of lupine were beautiful, and it was amazing to walk through the obsidian area.  Sharp and shiny black rocks lined the trail, encouraging one to stop and find the perfect piece.  This afternoon we ran into Vogue, a fellow Southie!  We hiked together for the rest of the evening and are camped near Sisters Mirror Lake.  Dad was awesome, we rocked out 24 miles today!


 
Beautiful landscapes in Oregon.....tough on the feet


August 2, 2013
Today we got to sleep in, since we were meeting Karen (my lovely Step-Mom) around midday.  We were still in a cloud this morning, and the mist on the lake was really beautiful.  The weather seemed like it was improving, and we hiked 7 or 8 miles into Elk Lake.  We somehow ended up on an alternate trail leaving camp and barely intersected Karen before she headed north on the PCT.  Elk Lake had great burgers and beer, and we got there just in time to sit out pouring rain and thunder storms.  With the deteriorating weather, it was tempting to go into Bend, but we sucked it up and headed back out.  Between Karen and our friends from Zydeco (Jamie, Caitlin and Steph) we left with packs full of awesome food.  Dad, Karen and Travis walked us out a few miles before we had to part ways.  It is so special to hike sections with our loved ones, and so hard to say goodbye.  Now that we are south of Bend, our hike will be less supported.  I think I have gotten very spoiled.  Benny and I hiked a few more miles before setting up camp at Dumbell Lake.  I jumped in for a swim before the sun dipped below the trees, which was very refreshing and much less hypothermic than my last polar plunge.  We sat by the lake and had awesome pretzel sandwiches, smoked cheddar, fresh blueberries and a classy box of wine.  It doesn't get much better.

August 5, 2013
I have been slacking on the journaling.  On the 3rd of August we walked about 14 miles before stopping for lunch and a swim at Brahma Lake.  We had every intention to keep walking, but it was a pretty lake and the feet still suck so we ended up calling it a nearo.  We spent the afternoon reading and relaxing.  Yesterday we were cruising in the morning and planned to make it to Shelter Cove, but at lunch I had a new blister.  When I started walking I was in sudden and excruciating pain.  With a lot of bandaging and a half Vicodin, I was able to make nine more miles to Rosary Lakes.  Ben ran ahead another 3+ miles to try to grab food at the Willamette Ski Area, but they had closed early.  He did return with soda, licorice and beef jerky that another hiker generously gave him.  Thank you Doug Fir!  This morning we walked about five miles to Shelter Cove.  We sat for several hours on the porch with other hikers, chatting and eating.  Ice cream and soy lattes can do wonders.  We packed out a pretty ridiculous amount of food and soda and set up camp five miles out at Diamond View Lake.  Tomorrow we are taking a zero on the trail.  I am feeling discouraged about taking time off, but the truth is, our feet need the rest.  They simply won't heal.  So I am going to try to enjoy tomorrow - to relax and try and quiet my ever present worries about making forward progress.  I hope I can find the simplicity and peace I so desperately sought when embarking on this journey.





August 7, 2013
I am sitting by a lake getting ready to start walking again.  I did almost nothing yesterday besides read, write, swim and rest.  Hopefully it was good for the body and mind.  I feel more settled, more present and will make it a daily intention to not worry.  I'm going to try walking without my watch in hopes it will make me less frenetic.  Today was an uneventful walk in the woods.  The feet are maybe better, though I'm not sure we walked far enough to tell.  It started raining so we pulled up camp two miles early.  My mood goes up and down like the hills I walk on.  It feels right to be walking through this, whatever "it" is. 

August 8, 2013
I am sitting at the base of Mount Thielsen watching one of the very best sunsets of the trail and doing sun salutations and giving out the very best intentions to the universe.  It is with pure and absolute joy that I emerge from the trees this evening, just in time to watch the red orb of the sun dip below the horizon.  We walked over 25 miles today, the feet are sore but not awful, and we plan to try and climb Thielsen in the morning.




Getting it all down....whatever "it" is today

Wednesday, September 4, 2013

Finishing up July

Transcribed September 4, 2013

From the Journal:  July 25, 2013
Back to the trail, after a relaxing morning at Timberlilne.  We explored the nooks and crannies of the lodge, picked up our resupply package, and gorged at the breakfast buffet again before meeting Dad and Uncle Jerry.  Between both sets of my parents, we were spoiled with all kinds of treats - Almond Roca, cookie bars, banana bread, tortellini, corn fritters.  We walked out with enough food to feed an army.  Dad and Uncle Jerry walked about 10 miles with us to the junction at Highway 26.  It was very special to have the time with family.  I haven't seen Uncle Jerry in over a year, so going for a hike was a great way to catch up.  Dad is so happy to share in the journey, it was wonderful to see him.  In a few days he will join us from McKenzie Pass to Elk Lake, which I am really looking forward to.  We parted ways and walked another 4-ish miles.  We have said goodbye to Hood and dropped into the forest.  I'm always sad to leave another mountain behind, I almost trip looking back to catch glimpses.  There is also a lot that lies ahead.  The next four days will have to be about 26 miles each to arrive at McKenzie Pass on time.  I sincerely hope my feet can hang in there.

July 26, 2013
Today we took an on-trail nearo.  It was so hard to wake up, we started walking at 11.  We walked four miles to Little Crater Lake and relaxed and enjoyed a sunny afternoon by the clear teal water.  We walked from 5 to shortly after 11 pm and covered 16 more miles for the day.  It felt like a very relaxing 20 mile day.

July 27, 2013
We got an early start this morning, as we had 20 miles to cover to meet Ben's friend, Travis, at Ollalie Lake by early afternoon.  It was good walking, but my feet are giving me trouble.  Being in the trees offered less distraction to the pain, but we talked and listened to classical music and made our way through the miles.  Travis walked north to meet us and we all walked down to the lake.  We took a much needed long break, had cold pop, washed our socks and I soaked my feet in the lake.  Mount Jefferson sits right behind the lake.  A bald eagle flew right over our lunch spot.  We all continued south 10 more miles and are back in the high country just north of Jefferson Park.  We had a beautiful sunset, had dinner and socialized and are camped out under the stars.  They take your breath away with no ambient light to dim them.  Travis is wonderful company - knowledgable and engaging.  It is so great he was able to join Ben and I for a few days.  I'm going back to my star gazing!  Good night!

July 28, 2013
After I stopped journaling last night, the stars were amazing.  I saw three or four shooting stars.  It was hard to fall asleep when I was staring excitedly at the sky.  Our campsite was slanted a bit downhill, which I think was making blood return from my feet difficult.  I kept waking up with my feet throbbing in pain.  I don't think I slept very much, and when I woke up, walking 25+ miles seemed like an impossible task.  I did get moving, slowly as it was, and we climbed up to a ridgeline to Jefferson Park.  There were beautiful views of Hood nearby, with just shadows of the Washington Cascades behind.  To the west there was fog settling in the Willamette Valley.  We continue to see a lot more people, and it is fun to hear about other adventures as we cross paths.  Today we met a Dad and his two sons who are walking from Tahoe to the Oregon-Washington border.  The boys were 14 and 16 and looked like they were having the time of their lives.

My pain level and mood ebbed and flowed as the day went on.  Sometimes I could block it out and other times it seemed all-consuming.  Still, the hours and miles passed.  In the evening we put on music and played sing-a-long to silly, feel-good music (thank you Flight of the Conchords).  Eventually we made it to Koko Lake, logging 27 miles for the day.

July 29, 2013
It was so hard to get up this morning.  We had originally intended to walk 27 miles to McKenzie Pass, but, we quickly decided that our bodies needed a break.  Santiam Pass was 10 miles away and we could access Sisters and Bend from there.  Time for our first zero (no hiking miles) day.  We walked right beside Three Fingered Jack, a volcanic peak with beautiful layers of red and black rock.  Broken Top and the Three Sisters beckon from the south.  All of the Oregon mountains look so different from the west, and have a lot less snow since the last time I was here.  Travis, rockstar that he is, had left camp early, gone to the pass and come back with snacks and his car.  He walked up trail to meet us with water that was not from a swampy lake AND carried my pack the last bit to the Trailhead, where there was cold soda and chocolate ice cream!  Life got so much better so suddenly.  The three of us drove down to Sisters and met Dad for lunch.  We were able to work out a new plan for him to join us with our amended schedule.  I may be learning to eat like a thru-hiker - I had a burger, pork sliders, hummus, onion rings, fries, deep fried avocado, marionberry pie and a couple of beers.  We rested for the afternoon before meeting Dad for a late dinner.  I am just trying to stay off my feet and hope they heal quickly.

July 31, 2013
Back to the trail this afternoon.  My feet feel so much better.  I had almost forgotten it feels good to walk all day.  We walked 18 miles from Santiam Pass to McKenzie Pass.  We have great company along with Dad and Travis.  The first section continued through the burned area from Monday, and there was good cloud cover so it wasn't too hot.  There were isolated rain and thunder showers, but they dissipated quickly and the weather cleared up.  We walked several miles through lava fields, which was a bit hard on the feet and ankles, but they are so much stronger after a full day off.  There are beautiful views of Mount Washington, which we walked past and the Three Sisters, which lie ahead.  We are cowboy camped on the top of the Dee Wright Observatory, this awesome lava fortress in the mountains.  We had ridden our bikes up here in the spring and it is an awesome place to camp.  It feels good to be back on the trail.
 

 
Ben, Travis, Rachel

 

 

 
Walking Through the Burn Area
 


Trekking to Timberline

Transcribed September 4, 2013

From the Journal:  July 23, 2013
We left Cascade Locks yesterday and walked 14 miles up the Eagle Creek alternate route to Indian Springs Campground.  The terrain was beautiful, a lush green valley with water running down the center.  The highlight was definitely Tunnel Falls, a narrow ribbon of water cascading from the cliffs above.  The trail is carved out behind the falls, so you walk through a tunnel of chiseled black rock which is dripping water from the falls above.  The surrounding rock walls are covered with bright green moss and ferns.  The mist from the falls drenched me as I walked past, which just made me laugh with joy.  The whole scene was mystifying, like something out of a fairy tale. The last two miles were steep, and evening wore on to night as we reached camp.  As the days get hotter, evening hiking is very comfortable.  The late afternoon sun is beautiful, as the golden rays hit the greenery below.  I was so tired last night that I fell asleep before even finishing the pizza we packed out from town.

July 24, 2013
I am relaxing in the Timberline Lodge after a day of much more sitting and eating than walking.  We woke up to the sunrise at Paradise Park early this morning.  The nearly full moon was still in the sky and the first rays of sun were rising behind Mount Hood.  All of the surrounding mountains were lit up in soft pastels.  I am rarely motivated to be up for sunrise, so it was very special.  We walked six miles into the Lodge, which was painful as my blisters are flaring up again.  We got to the Lodge shortly past 10 to discover that the breakfast buffet was open until 10:30!  We went from walking to having delicious Bloody Mary's and amazing food in less than five minutes!  I love it!  The rest of the day we swam, napped, caught up with loved ones, and had dinner looking out at Mount Hood.  It has been a peacful and rejuvinating day.

Yesterday ended up being too chaotic to write about before bed so I will try to catch up now.  Most of the morning was uneventful.  We were planning on a 26 mile day because we had a specific campsite in mind near Mount Hood.  We took the alternate to Ramon Falls, which was beautiful.  The water cascaded down the rocks in so many different streams and rivulets.  When we got back to the junction with the PCT, we somehow headed the wrong way.  We dropped about 1,000 feet and then saw cairns to cross the Sandy River, which we did need to cross.  Once we got to the other side and found ourselves on a trail overgrown with Devil's Club, we realized our mistake.  After a very discouraging few moments we picked ourselves up, crossed the river on a precarious twig of a tree and made our way back up the trail.  At this point, our stubborness kicked in and we decided that since it wasn't getting any darker, we might as well hike to the camp we had been looking forward to.  We crossed Sandy a third time (now in the dark) and started climbing ever closer to Hood.  As we got higher, the moon rose above a ridgeline, bringing the silhouette of the mountain into view.  You could hear and hardly see roaring waterfalls below us and the stars starting popping out.  At this point it became difficult to be upset about much of anything.  We turned our anger and frustration into determination.  The evening really reinforced how well Ben and I work as a team.  So we made it to camp at nearly midnight and cooked dinner and ate chocolate and watched the moonrise.  We cowboy camped (slept without a tent) for the first time.  Drifting off under the night sky was a beautiful end to the day.

"Empty yourself and let the universe fill you."
"Wherever you go, go with all your heart." (Confucius)




A River Crossing Earlier on the PCT

 
"Tree Pose" finding peace within

 
The feet that are doing the walking