Category Archives: PCT

Image Lake via Suiattle River Trail

Glacier Peak Pan

I finally made it to Image Lake and boy was it worth it. On my Spider Gap Loop trip in 2015 we tried to get to Image Lake but had to turn back. After climbing the last 1400 ft from Miner’s Ridge on this trip I would say we made the right decision to backoff back in 2015. But I needed to get to Image Lake partly for fulfillment and partly to push the body into backpacking shape since this was my last weekend in the North Cascades before retirement the following friday. The trip is 32 miles with 4800 vertical with most of the vertical, 3300 ft, from the river trail. I planned on 3 days but I was not sure how it would play out.

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The hike into the Canyon Creek campground was a possible first night destination, however, all campsites were taken thanks to a fairly large PCTA work crew. So I hit the PCT going North and saw that there would be a few campsites before the Image Lake Trail.

Shortly after Canyon Creek Brook and I were attacked by “Max” a combination Shepherd and Wolf. All I heard was “No Max” and around the bend comes Max in full charge. Brook got between my legs and held her ground but Max was only about attack. A serious fight broke out at my feet and I believe Brook realized she was not going to win. I heard a dog cry and then Brook took off running for her life with Max in pursuit. I think Brook chomped on some part of Max’s body which freed her for the get-away. Well Max’s owner chased after Max and I followed calling for Brook. Running with a full pack at my age is not what I should have been doing, but my dog was in trouble. After about a quarter mile Max was contained and I headed up the trail looking for Brook. I found her to be safe and injury free. Wow, I did not really say anything to Max’s owner because he knew how bad this was. He said that it was good that Max was tired. I was thinking it was good Brook is so fast. Overall, this was probably a good learning experience for Brook, to know that anything can happen and it is best to stay close to the Human you want to protect. Brook’s trail etiquette is almost perfect, but people don’t always understand how Aussies want to check them out.

Back to the trail with the temperatures rising to about 80 which was taking a toll on my body. CampsiteI would have loved to have been able to climb to Image Lake for the overnight view, but I was beat. Luckily there was a sweet campsite just before the trail to Image Lake. I decided to camp there and go to Image Lake the next day with my new lightweight day pack that I just bought at REI. This was the first time in a while that I have camped in a forest setting with lodgepole type trees with not a lot of distracting sound such as you would get from a rushing stream. SelfieInSunThe evening turned out to be wonderful listening to the wildlife and watching Brook try to stalk all of the local chipmunks. The sun setting between the trees was a whole different kind of beautiful sunset. I even took a selfie.

But I was tired and thanks to splurging by bringing my Therm-a-rest air mattress, I slept like a log. I did not use my fly which did offer some star gazing. Brook started out in the tent but she knew she needed to be outside to properly protect us. I did not try to influence her otherwise even though it was pitch black out.

Sunday morning and it is time to climb to Image Lake.

FirstGlimpseGlacier

First Glimpse of Glacier Peak

I knocked off about 2000 ft to Miner’s Ridge as the temperature was again pushing 80.

SecondGlimpseGlacier

Second Glimpse of Glacier Peak

The last 1300 ft nearly did me in, but I saved enough energy to properly explore not only Image Lake but the Miner’s Ridge Lookout Tower at 6210 ft. I was the only human up there and it was an amazingly beautiful day. This is why we backpack. The view of Glacier Peak is the highlight, the pan at the top gives you the full perspective.

SuiattleRiverDrainage

The Suiattle River Drainage was also breathtaking

There was only snow at the top and Brook was loving it. Here Brook wants to go after a marmot on the other side of the lake.

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The rest of the photos will speak for themselves.

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Descending back to my campsite nearly did me in, thank goodness it was downhill. But on this second night I was really beat, no appetite either, but a serious thirst that I needed to quench. I put the fly on earlier and decided to leave it which allowed me to just sleep on top of my bag all night. Brook woke me at 5:00 am and I felt good so we hit the trail by 6:30 am. The hike back was uneventful but I continued to realize that my body was benefitting from this extreme exercise. I am writing this post because I am too tired to do anything else. I am going to sleep good tonight. I think I am ready for retirement.

What Retirement Means to Me

I retire on June 30th, but the term “retire” doesn’t really fit. I’ve tried to label this end of my one year contract to serve as the Interim CIO at Western Washington University as my official retirement. But what is retirement? I think I’m OK with just transitioning into my next job which happens to be the more serious pursuit of or the return to nature. And backpacking is my enabler for doing that.

The common question of what will I be doing next is answered with “I’m going backpacking”, but few have any clue what that really means. And of course going backpacking could be equated to varying definitions. Many ask if that means I will backpack the PCT or the Appalachian Trails. So I try to explain that I just want to be more serious and deliberate about backpacking to wherever opportunities takes me. If the conversation progresses it typically ends with some dismay that I actually will be doing this alone with my dog. And I have to admit that I’m not sure how to explain why I want to do this. However, I just read a blog post by Cam Honan, author of “The Hiking Life” entitledA Natural Progression which is the best description I have ever read about why I am drawn to the wilderness. He breaks it down to “From Stanger to Guest to Family Member”. This paragraph from his post sums up why retirement will allow me to return to my “Family”.

From an intangible perspective, feelings of separation have disappeared, replaced instead by a sense of union with your surroundings. You have come home, and in so doing realised that your spirit never really left. Our connection with the natural world is innate, so while it may seem like Mother Nature is teaching, I’ve long suspected she is simply reminding. Providing the key so that we ourselves can unlock a part of us that has always been there. And I can’t think of too many gifts that are greater than that. 

I thank Cam for putting into to words what I feel. The opportunity to be a part of this wilderness family is as good as it gets. Tomorrow I will reclimb Goat Mountain to get my own gauge on the snowpack in the North Cascades. The Adventure Continues

 

Of Men and Mountains

I came across a reference to William O Douglas’s book “Of Men and Mountains” in the “Hi Alpine” blog. The reference related to how William Douglas was at peace on his sick-bed thanks to the memories he had of his extensive exploration of the mountains around his hometown of Yakima, WA. I’m not much of a reader and don’t think I have ever read a book published outside of my lifetime, but this book published in 1950, turned out to be far more relevant to me today than I would have ever imagined.

I thought the book was going to be autobiographical with significant focus on William O Douglas as a Supreme Court Justice, but no, it was really just about his adventures in the wilderness. I immediately found myself fascinated by the challenges of a young man losing his father at an early age growing up in Yakima, WA, in the early 1900’s. I was able to gleam from the few professional references that William Douglas was a true man of integrity and must have been a tremendous Justice, but again the book was about his beloved Pacific Northwest Wilderness.

There were a few references to his wilderness adventures in New England and I loved his recollection of his trip to New York to attend Columbia Law School. He only had a few dollars so he hitched rides on trains across the country. Otherwise his story centered around Yakima in the Cascades and Wallowas. I have backpacked enough in this area to know of his references, but to share in them from a few generations prior was unique. What gear did an early backpacker use: a Nelson, Norwegian or Horseshoe packs. What did they eat: beans, bread, berries and fish. How did they stay dry: sometimes a tent but mostly they relied on the natural coverage of trees or caves. How did they stay warm: many times they didn’t but wool was their main resource. Horses for riding and packing were a part of their experiences. Interactions with Indians, trappers and herders were intriguing. But what I loved most were the recollections of his early backpacking experiences where his youthful enthusian would call into question the wisdom of some of his adventures. I get that, I think back to some of the stupid things I have done in the wilderness and I am thankful to be alive. In fact, I have always shared the kinship of my early adventures with my friend John back in NW Colorado in the 1980’s. We used to joke that we were the last of the true Mountain Men. ofmenandmountainsbook

Not long after I started reading the book I shared my interest in it with John. I knew he would relate to it as I have, especially the fishing secrets throughout the book. Yes, for us this book is an easy reading escape back to our own wilderness adventures. And when a first edition copy of the book was delivered to my home, it could have only come from my wilderness brother, John. True friendship is as valuable as anything we have and William Douglas shared many of his friendships in this book. I hope you all have friendships built upon wilderness adventures.

A Night in Paradise Park

It had been 3 weeks since I last escaped to the wilderness so I just had to take advantage of the two day good weather forecast.

Timberline Ready for Winter

Timberline Ready for Winter

I initially tried to select another outing in the Tillamook State Forest since my last trip to Elk Mountain had been so rewarding, but something drew me to higher elevation. What about Mt. Hood, even if it may have gotten some fresh snow. Perfect, I had wanted to check out Paradise Park ever since my PCT segment that took me past the trail loop back in July. From Timberline Lodge it is about 5 miles to where I would want to camp. The Timberline webcams showed melting snow. The forecast called for a clear but cold night so let’s do it.

Cold Start

Cold Start

I packed my warmer bag and my perma-rest air mattress along with adequate warm cloths which turned out to provide sufficient comfort as the temperature may have hit a cold of 30 degrees. After a lunch buffet and IPA at Timberline I was off.

The typical day hike distance to the Zig Zag Canyon overlook and below offered a before and after shot showing just how much the weather changed from the trek in and next day return.

The trail takes you down to the bottom of the canyon and then you get to climb back up, but it went very well with a fresh body.

Autumn Color

Autumn Color

I was a little slower on the return trip as I was feeling some tired muscles. Hiking in late October does not provide the lush foliage but it was just as interesting seeing the mountain prepare for its winter blanket. I arrived at Paradise Park around 4:30 pm.

Setting Up Camp

Setting Up Camp

I scouted the terrain quickly selecting a campsite with a view and accepting the consequences of a cold wind. The October evening was playing out way to fast. I had to enjoy the view but I also needed to setup camp.

Deer Family Visitors

Deer Family Visitors

Then a family of deer, 4 doe and a young buck strolled by. They stood near looking at me as if to say, “what are you doing here”.

Back to the view, which was highlighted by the clouds opening to a valley exploding with sun rays. I had no idea what lay behind me as Mt. Hood was engulfed in a cloud. However, the hopes for a glorious sunset were high, but the temperature was dropping rapidly. The sunset did turn out to be unique but it was not photogenic due to the light sky above. The cold drove me into the tent where it seemed like I might be in for an uncomfortable evening.

It turned out to be just fine after I closed my air vents and put on a second pair of socks. It seemed like it was coldest at about 10 pm and then the wind shifted from the east. I wanted to enjoy the almost super moon rising over Mt. Hood but it was just too cold.

Mt Hood in Moonlight

Mt Hood in Moonlight

When I got up around 3 am it was awesome, a bit warmer and the moonlight exposing a clear Mt. Hood was gorgeous.

Good Morning

Good Morning

Morning brought a reluctance to leave the warmth of the sleeping bag even though the sunrise potential with a clear Mt. Hood was high. I quickly took it in and then slept in until 8ish. The sun was quickly providing welcome warmth allowing for a pleasant coffee and hot chocolate wakeup.

Joys of JetBoil

Joys of JetBoil

I hung around most of the morning enjoying the view from Paradise.

The hike back offered numerous views of Mt. Hood and Jefferson which I cherished via my many stops for rest.

Mt Hood's Glory

Mt Hood’s Glory

The impulse backpacking escape turned out to be perfect.

Mt. Jefferson

Mt. Jefferson

Return to Timberline Lodge

Return to Timberline Lodge

I am so grateful to be able to take advantage of God’s gift to us.

Stevens Pass to Snoqualmie Pass

Stevens Pass Ski Area

Stevens Pass Ski Area

I backpacked the Stevens Pass to Snoqualmie Pass, PCT Washington Segment J from Aug. 8-16, 2015. It is 71 miles and over 18,000 vertical. This trip on the heals of my Spider Gap Buck Creek loop was challenging in many ways, most of which was related to heat, lack of water, lots of vertical and smokey conditions. Overall though it is a very dramatic PCT segment complete with very rugged and beautiful terrain.

Campsite in Berries

Campsite in Berries

Starting off at the Stevens Pass Ski area was kind of cool thinking about how I might ski those runs that I was hiking. I was also treated to an abundance of huckleberry and blueberries for the first couple of days.

Mig Lake

Mig Lake

My second day I had my sights set for a campsite on top of a mountain but along the way I passed many lakes of which I think the most beautiful was Mig Lake.

Trap Lake

Trap Lake

At my mountain top campsite at PCT 2450 which was after a typical 3000 ft vertical climb day I had Trap Lake behind me and a beautiful sunset waiting ahead of me. One of the best campsites I have chosen.

Sunset from Campsite

Sunset from Mountain Top Campsite

The following day I planned on camping at Deception Lake, however,

Jets over the Wilderness

Jets over the Wilderness

I was not that impressed with the options and I knew it would end up being crowed with the many through hikers now hitting this part of Washington. I pressed on and found a great campsite just south of Deception Creek at PCT 2442. The photo showing the jet exhaust trail represents the many jets that you hear flying over this area out of Seattle. You never see the military jets which fly lower and louder.

Cathedral Rock

Cathedral Rock

The next day I climbed past the Cathedral Rock area but overall I took it easy and ended up at Deep Lake which offered a great site for a swim. Deep Lake still had water flow but it was low and the lake was warming up.

Deep Lake

Deep Lake

I knew that I had a tough high vertical day coming up so I also took it a bit easy the following day in preparation to climb over Escondido Pass. I knew that water was going to be an issue and when I realized that my Camelbak bladder had leaked I was a bit concerned.

Smoke Over Lake Waptus

Smoke Over Lake Waptus

I did find a trickle of a stream where I filled up a Nalgene liter but I would need more. This was a long and exposed segment that turned out to be on one of the hottest days along with a lot of smoke sneaking into the area from the Washington forest fires.

Escondido Pass

Escondido Pass

There are a couple of dead lakes on top but who wants to drink warm water. It turned out that I did not have enough water or energy which made for a very difficult day. Boy was I happy when I finally got to a cool stream over near Lemah Meadows. I setup camp as it was getting dark and I collapsed for a night’s sleep to recharge. I did experience an interesting event that night as I believe a large buck must have been startled by my tent which was fairly near the trail. This was at 1:30 am and this buck sounded like he raised up and pounded his hooves 3 times right next to my tent. Nothing I could do but just lay there. Or maybe it was just a very real dream.

I took it easy the next day in preparation for more climbing.

Weather Changing

Weather Changing

My plan was to camp near the Park Lakes area which turned out to be as far as I could get before the rain set in.

Campsite during Storm

Campsite during Storm

In all of my backpacking I have been extremely fortunate with respect to weather, rarely have I endured a serious rain. Well that all changed with a night of wind and rain which was sorely needed by the draught stricken mountains. I did choose a good campsite next to a lake on top of ground shrubs which made for good drainage for the night long rain. The video gives you an idea of how pleasant the night long rain was.

Park Lakes Area

Park Lakes Area

The following day turned out to be a lot tougher then I expected, lots of up and downs, but the misty weather made for excellent hiking conditions.

Above Alaska Lake

Above Alaska Lake

This is very scenic terrain and doing it in the clouds made for a unique day. Again my day stretched to the end of my energy just in time to make camp at Ridge Lake, just before it started raining again.

Hiking in the Clouds

Hiking in the Clouds

Not so bad, just persistent. But this was my last night on the PCT since Snoqualmie Pass was over the next pass. Of course the sun came out just as I got on the trail. It would have been nice to have had the sun to dry some things out before heading out.

After the Storms

After the Storms

However, the rain brought crystal clear air for some of the most beautiful terrain left on the segment. This is a very popular day hike segment for the Seattle folks so I passed hundreds of them as I headed down to Snoqualmie Pass.

Then you see Mt. Rainier and you can get cell service. This all translated into a wonderful finish to this PCT segment. After getting my resupply at the Chevron Station and showering I enjoyed a few craft beers from the Dru Bru Brewery.

Spider Gap Buck Creek Loop

I am sorry for being a bit late on posting about our Spider Gap Buck Creek Loop trip, Aug 1-6. As expected this loop was amazing and lived up to our high expectations.

Spider Gap from Spider Meadow

Spider Gap from Spider Meadow

Every year I do a loop like this with friends and when we have asked other backpackers what they believe to be the best loop, Spider Gap Buck Creek tends to be the winner. And it is truly an awesome loop complete with incredible vistas, challenging climbs and unique topography.

We decided to take the counter clockwise route beginning with the Spider Meadow Phelps Creek trail. The meadow was beautiful but it was obvious that we had missed the high flower point by a few weeks.

Spider Gap Snow Field

Spider Gap Snow Field

Taking it easy the first day we planned for the Spider Gap climb which is broken into an initial 1000 ft climb on a fairly rugged rock trail and then another 1000 ft climb on up the snow field. The reward at the top was worth the climb.

Coming over Spider Gap

Coming over Spider Gap

The view into the Lyman Lakes Valley and Glacier was highlighted by rugged terrain which turned out to offer up a bit of a scare to us. We made the mistake of assuming the trail to the east would eventually wind down to the valley. Wrong, so I advised that we backtrack and go down the snow field. Unfortunately, Bob, who hates to backtrack decided to take the short cut down the mountain slope. This was not communicated well and we ended up getting separated from Bob.

Camp site at Lyman Lakes

Camp site at Lyman Lakes

The outcome of this turned into a nervous search for Bob who did eventually turn up to relieve our fears after he had a bit of a hair raising decent down the side of the mountain ending up further down the valley. Our concern stemmed from the dangerous loose rock navigation that could easily result in a slid or a fall. But all was well and we settled in between the Lyman Lakes.

Old Backpackers

Old Backpackers

The following day took us over Cloudy Pass which lived up to its name. This is also about the time we began enjoying an over abundance of blueberries and huckleberries. Again we kept losing Bob because he couldn’t resist stopping and eating the berries.

First View of PCT Fire Aug. 3

First View of PCT Fire Aug. 3

This is when we first saw the fires which have wreaked havoc with the PCT Trail closure. At this time the big fires over at Lake Chelan had not blown up yet. As we climbed over the pass we got to speak with many of the local Whistle Pig population.

Spider Gap and Lyman Lakes

Spider Gap and Lyman Lakes

This was also when we discovered that the detour to Stehekin was no longer an option for the PCT’ers. We went about half way to Image Lake and turned around figuring that the weather was not going to present us with enough reward. After talking to others who went over I think it was the right decision.

Fortrace Mountain

Fortrace Mountain

We camped across from Fortress Mountain. This was the Suiattle Pass Junction area where the PCT closure was spelled out.

PCT Closure Aug. 4th

PCT Closure Aug. 4th

We continued on with our loop up to Buck Creek Pass knowing that we would have time for a side hike. We setup camp at the top of the pass while the weather still looked good and we decided to do the Liberty Cap trail.

Will Clouds Lift off Glacier Peak

Will Clouds Lift off Glacier Peak

Looking back to Suiattle Pass

Looking back to Suiattle Pass

I highly recommend this route which offers fabulous views of Glacier Peak.

Liberty Cap

Liberty Cap

Well the weather started to change once we got up on Liberty Cap which caused us some concern but also offered beauty in the cloud formations.

Storm Approaching Glacier Peak

Storm Approaching Glacier Peak

We got back to camp just in time to avoid the rain.

Buck Ridge

Buck Ridge

The next morning it was still miserable on the pass but we could see that there was sun in the valley on our route back to the Trinity Trailhead. The annual backpacking loop trip with friends was again a great success, however, this year I was set to continue on for a few more weeks.

End of the Trail

End of the Trail

My original plan was to get my resupply and go from Stevens Pass to Canada, however, the fires forced a change to that strategy. So I decided to go from Stevens Pass to Snoqualmie Pass for my next segment.

Oregon Central Coast

Proposal Rock

Proposal Rock in Neskowin, OR

I have been off the trail for 2 weeks and it seems like an eternity. I’m not sure if I just miss the wilderness or I am just overly pumped for the upcoming longer commitment. It was insightful to go through the planning steps for coordinating a month on the trail and sending off resupply boxes. I have an even greater respect for the PCT through hikers who figure this out for many months. But I am ready to go. The Spider Gap Buck Creek Loop with friends will be fabulous and then on to Canada on the PCT. Thankfully it appears the forest fires are under control.

North Neskowin Beach

North Neskowin Beach

In preparation for this next backpacking commitment I have been fortunate to spend about a week down at our townhouse in Neskowin. We have a 1/12 fractional share which is priceless (there may be a share for sale) The weather has been fabulous and the hiking opportunities around Neskowin are as good as it gets for the Oregon Coast. Let me give you a glimpse of my hiking preparation over the last 3 or 4 days.

View South from Cascade Head

View South from Cascade Head

Hiking the beach is always great exercise by way of distance and solitude. Rarely are there any other humans once you get a mile or so north of Neskowin. Hiking on Cascade Head should always be done either from above or below.

View from Cape Foulweather

View from Cape Foulweather

My daughter motivated me to go for a longer hike so we opted for the trails behind Cape Pepetua scenic coastline. On the drive down we needed to stop at Cape Foulweather because the view is awesome. The Cape Perpetua coastline is considered the most beautiful in America and the hiking trails in the Siuslaw National Forest offer exposure to impressive old growth forests.

The Thumb

The Thumb

The unexpected hiking delight turned out to be the Thumb Trail which is a little known trail that starts at the end of Roads End in Lincoln City. A short hike with some serious technical climb to the Thumb but the view is second to none on the coast.

Cascade Head from Thumb

Cascade Head from Thumb

This discovery was extra special since it gave me a view of Cascade Head from the South.

Lincoln City from Thumb

Lincoln City from Thumb

This area is not really setup for serious traffic so please take care of this gem. The top of the Thumb is a bit dangerous especially with strong winds, it drops off on 3 sides.

Is this too good to be true?

August Backpacking Schedule

My backpacking schedule for August has been confirmed. August 1-7 I am doing Spider Gap Buck Creek Loop near Glacier Peak just Southeast of the PCT providing a great 44 mile loop rated difficult. I will do the loop with friends; Bob and Jeff. Backpacker GregThen I will get a ride over to Bellingham, WA, to visit friend John to resupply and prepare for my final solo PCT segment.

August 8th or 9th I will be dropped off at the PCT on Stevens Pass where I will head north to Manning Park Canada, about 200 miles. I will resupply in Stehekin, WA, which is a resort lodge at the North end of Lake Chelan. There are no communications (Phone, Internet) in Stehekin, so I believe I will be off the grid until I get to Canada. I’ll send a post card from Stehekin to let folks know my progress.

Dusk Proposal Rock

Dusk Proposal Rock

I should get back home by the end of August so that I can begin work with Willamette View. So what a great August it should be, about 250 miles of the most beautiful wilderness in America. Can’t wait to be on the trail again.

I will be mentally preparing for this adventure next week on the coast in Neskowin.

Timberline to Cascade Locks

My second Oregon PCT segment was excellent, the weather was what you would expect and the scenery was as good as it gets.

Abby

Abby

Unfortunately when it ended and I returned to the cellular world at the Eagle Creek Trailhead I found out that my beloved old backpacking canine companion, Abby, had died the night before. It was good that I had another 2.5 miles before I got to Cascade Locks, I needed the time to shed tears and reflect on our years together. I am so glad that we got to travel back to Oregon together. Australian Shepherds are incredible dogs and Abby was one of the best.

Leaving TimberlineBack to the Hood to Gorge review. My wife and I spent the night before I departed at Timberline Lodge. Weather was perfect as were the IPAs we consumed in the adirondack chairs observing Mt. Hood. We could see Mt. Jefferson to the South initially but the view faded away into a smoky haze from the fires in southern Oregon.

Early Views of Hood

Early Views of Hood

I departed on July 9th in beautiful weather with no deadlines, just a destination. The PCT from Timberline takes you into the Paradise Park area which is all about majestic views of Mt. Hood. You feel very small underneath the mountain. An afternoon thunder storm brought needed moisture but also motivated me to seek a campsite. A heavy fog moved in which essentially equated to rain all night long. Paradise ParkThe following day offered more amazing Paradise Park views. This is fairly rugged trail that skirts the many snow melt streams from Hood. The main goal was to have a relaxing lunch at Ramona Falls, however, crossing the headwaters of the Sandy river to get there always presents a challenge.

Sandy Crossing

Sandy Crossing

So when I came out of the forest to greet the Sandy it was obvious that I was not crossing that high volume stream at this PCT designated trail point. When looking for a crossing you head upstream and look for perfectly positioned rocks or hopefully a log assisted crossing.

Mt. Hood from Sandy

Mt. Hood from Sandy

I found the log/stick crossing that had been thrown together, and although it was a bit scary it turned out to be more then adequate. The reward for the challenging stream crossing is a glorious view of Mt. Hood.

Ramona Falls

Ramona Falls

Then on to the ultimate reward of Ramona Falls and I was not disappointed. The sunlight through the trees creates unique highlights of this cascading waterfall.

I needed to put in a few more miles so taking the PCT Ramona Falls alternate trail to the Muddy Fork Junction was a perfect climax to my second day. Endurance CrossingHowever, crossing fast flowing stream on a couple of logs was interesting. But more interesting to watch were a couple of endurance runners cross the stream on foot.

The next day, Saturday, was a bit dreary weather wise, but that was OK since it kept down the day hiker population. It was a tough day for distance and vertical, 10 miles of 3000 ft up and about 1500 down. When I passed Lolo Pass I was thinking about putting a long sleeve shirt on which made me wonder about the 4 teenagers who were heading up to Bald Mtn. in shorts and tank tops.

Throne to Hood

Mt. Hood and Lost Lake from Buck Peak

Sunday ushered in a lifting fog which made for an eerie beautiful trail. The body felt good as I was knocking off more vertical before the inevitable drop. I had passed Devil’s Pulpit and Preachers Peak so I was in the mood for a wilderness church setting. About 10:00 am I noticed a side trail which lead to Buck Peak. The trail was OK but narrow and overgrown enough to mean that condensation from the vegetation was going to be soaking. But I sensed its call and a half mile up I was rewarded with His majestic throne’s view of Mt. Hood and Lost Lake. The church service was excellent.

Ripe Huckelberries

Ripe Huckelberries

The trail began the inevitable elevation decline to the gorge and with it came an abundance of ripe berries. I had a wonderful afternoon taking my time enjoying the spectacular view of the Eagle Creek canyon and eating plenty of ripe Huckleberries. After arriving at the Indian Springs abandoned campground I opted to continue on another 3 miles to Wahtum Lake. Definitely the right call as the lake campsite was beautiful and the trail there and then on to rejoin the Eagle Creek alternate PCT trail was a more gradual vertical decline complete with beautiful lush waterfall strewn scenery. Oh yes, and plenty of Thimbleberries, a tasty relative of the raspberry.

Tunnel Falls

Tunnel Falls

I knew I was in for a treat from the Eagle Creek canyon trail but little did I know how amazing it would be. My daughter and I hiked up this trail about 10 years ago but stopped short of the really great landmarks.  Tunnel CloseSo the ultimate goal is Tunnel Falls, which totally lives up to the hype. Actually the entire Eagle Creek Trail is awesome with many serious waterfalls, good swimming holes, precarious cliff carved trail and great campsites. But Tunnel Falls, Wow.

I knew that my trip would end the next day so I kept looking for the ultimate campsite, but I was getting tired.

Last Night Campsite

Last Night Campsite

Thankfully I kept seeking a better site and ended up with a primo campsite just below 4-Mile Bridge next to this 30+ foot waterfall, Skoonichuk Falls. But it made for a perfect last night on the trail where I was spared the heartbreak of knowing what was happening at the time with my dog, Abby.

Bridge of The Gods

Bridge of The Gods

The final day took me past High Bridge and Punchbowl Falls, plus greeting about a hundred, mostly day hikers, many with the goal to make it the 6 miles to Tunnel Falls. After receiving the news about Abby I hiked the Columbia River Highway State Trail up to Cascade Locks which provides a very nice view of Bridge of The Gods over to Washington. My wife and daughter were at the PCT Trailhead park by the bridge waiting for me. It was a gorgeous day for a burger and beer as we mourned the loss of our family dog.

Backpacking Lessons Learned

My first segment on the PCT taught me a lot, but the most important was that you cannot beat the heat. My goal was Willamette Pass to McKenzie Pass, about 80 miles in 9 days. I aborted after 6 days and about 50 miles after 2 days of 90+ degree heat with thunderstorm humidity did me in. The other lesson taken away was to keep your destination schedule open, since you never know what will affect that schedule.

OK, now for a quick update on what I did accomplish. Remember, I am 61 years old, healthy, but not really in great shape and I have been living at low altitude.

First Campsite Overlooking Rosary Lakes

First Campsite Overlooking Rosary Lakes

I started off in the afternoon figuring I just needed to get a few miles under my belt to loosen up. I ended up going 5 miles and climbing 1200 vertical to end up at a fabulous overlook campsite. I felt great and was so pumped to be transitioning into this new wilderness mindset.

Willamette Pass Ski Cabin

Winter Ski Cabin

The second day I enjoyed the comfort of a really nice winter ski cabin to escape the mosquitos and reorganize a bit. I determined that I would camp at the top of the next climb which meant I had to pack more water which I secured at Bobby Lake. I put in 9 miles and more good vertical and the body was responding well. Also to my surprise I had cellular service (maybe from Waldo Lake), although sporadic, but it did allow me to let the world know I was doing OK.

Carlton Lake

Carlton Lake

Mosquito Survival Net

Mosquito Survival Net

The third day felt good, I get up early to take advantage of early morning coolness which allows you to wear longs sleeves to combat the mosquitos, but that is nothing new, just inconvenient.

Trail Maintenance Team

Trail Maintenance Team

I knocked off a number of miles and stopped at Carlton Lake to filter water and cleanup a bit. The mosquitos were getting worse and the breeze off the lake was a a welcome relief.

I was feeling good so a set a goal of another 9 mile day to get to Taylor Lake. Along the way I thanked a trail maintenance team for the work they do and travelled through maybe a 10 year old fire area.

Fire Burn Area

Fire Burn Area

Peaceful Taylor Lake

Peaceful Taylor Lake

I got to my campsite early afternoon and took advantage of relaxing by Taylor Lake enjoying the mosquito less breeze. This was the first time I realized I had pushed my body to about max, but I could tell that I was able to refresh it with rest.

Around dinner time I was joined by a couple of PCT through hikers, trail names: Ranger and Bubba Gump, which made for good conversation as I compared my PCT adventure to theirs. They may have been one of the first through hikers to reach this far north, however, they skipped the Sierras to avoid the late winter storm.

PCT Through Hikers

Ranger and Bubba Gump

They did plan to return to do the JMT.

Next day I watched the young buck through hikers leave me in the dust I again felt strong and very satisfied with how my body was responding. However, the temperature was rising and all was about to change. I pushed myself this day for 10 miles and ended up at a campsite totally depleted of energy as the heat was taking a toll on me that I still believed I could plow through. That night we had a thunderstorm which did little to reduce the temperature but it did raise the humidity. The overcast morning made for a warmer and more intense mosquito start to the day. After my initial few miles of enthusiastic trekking my body started rebelling. I was sweating a lot which I think I was replenishing with liquids, but the heat toll was greater then that. I had hoped to put in 12 miles and make it to Elk Lake Resort. However, as my body began to fail, symptoms of heat exhaustion setting in, I made the decision to stop at Dumbbell lake only half way but my only good camp option.

Therma Rest Float

Therma Rest Float

Anyways, wisdom was setting in and I knew I had to back off due to the heat and this lake looked ideal for the swimming potential. So I made camp before noon and focused the afternoon on body recovery. Floating around the lake on my Therma Rest Pad provided a wonderful way to cool down and great relaxation. However, I was now challenged to make my designated destination pickup at Lava Lake Trailhead. Unfortunately, it was still hot and more storm clouds added to the humidity.

The only remaining option which would allow me to complete the planned segment would be to put in 10 miles and summit Koosah Mountain with a difficult 1200 vertical or bailout with a 6 mile mostly downhill trail to Elk Lake Resort.

End of my Trail

End of my Trail

Well about 4 miles into the effort it was obvious that heat exhaustion was not going to allow me to accomplish the needed goal so Elk Lake it was.

Actually aborting in this way made for a fairly interesting adventure in figuring out how to get home. I hitchhiked from Elk Lake, something I have not done for 40 years. The couple that gave me a ride dropped me off at the Cascade Lake Brewery in Bend, OR. I was able to connect with an old GEOAID colleague who gave me a bed for the night. Then I took a bus shuttle to Gresham, OR, where I caught the MAX light rail train to Hillsboro. All in all, it was a wonderful first phase of the adventure. Backpacking is tough, but the rewards of experiencing God’s earthly beauty justify the effort. I’m ready to hit the trail again in a week after this heat wave subsides.

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