Monday, December 1, 2014

24 PCT - Snowqualmie to Dinsmores - WA

When we arrived in Snowqualmie, our bags had arrived as promised. I handed the Stumbling Norwegian $20, gave him a huge hug and thanked him again. Snowqualmie is a small ski resort outside of Seattle. There was only 1 hotel here and they knew it. The service was unfriendly,  rude and expensive. Our only option was a hard hitch 30 miles away, so I shrugged it off and enjoyed the downtime. 

Doc ordered a new ukulele and it hadn't arrived yet, so we decided to check out the neighboring town. Karaoke's dad, Buffalo Pete, came down with her resupply and gave us a ride to North Bend (not to be confused with Bend, OR). In addition to great character, this town had a library, grocery store and other proper town amenities. We were concerned with hitching a ride back to Snowqualmie, because hitching off a freeway is difficult. However, as soon as we arrived at the gas station, we stuck out our thumbs and a man in his late 20's pulled up in a beat up white flatbed truck. "You look like PCT hikers... Most of you don't come all the way to North Bend." He called his boss and asked if he could be late to work and take some hikers back to trail. The boss was happy to help. Riding in a truck bed is illegal, so Doc, Karaoke and I laid down in the back; our friend En Fuego sat up front. We were extremely grateful and offered the driver $10. He loved what we were doing and insisted on zero payment! The trail truly brought out the best in people. It was a chilly ride, but at least no rain! 

By the time we left Snowqualmie, it was raining. There were 2 options hiking north, stay on the PCT or take the Goldmyer hotsprings alternate. There were only 20 visitors per day allowed into the hotsprings, so we called and made a reservation. Despite arriving in pouring rain, the campsites were almost full... good thing we called ahead!

  We had a long, steep climb then we were rewarded with this beautiful view

I was blown away by the amount of color and waterfalls. All 4 of us immediately noticed how spoiled we were hiking the Pacific Crest Trail System. The trail is maticulously maintained. For the most part it is free of debris and grated at 15°, enabling a smooth, quick pace. The trail to the Goldmyer hotsprings was rocky and steep. Every step had to be carefully placed. Plus it was wet and getting wetter. I fell a few times then slowed way down. It was difficult, but worth it!

This is the morning after we arrived, grey and wet, but the rain had stopped. When we hiked in the previous night it was cold, dark and raining. Plus there were mice and spiders everywhere! I set up camp, made dinner then walked the half mile uphill to the hotsprings... Worth it!!

In the morning, we all broke camp and brought our packs up to the dry shelter for a pre hike soak. It was difficult to leave once we had the place to ourselves. Plus it was wonderful being naked for that long. After 4 hours, breakfast and lunch, we hit the trail.

En Fuego above

There were 4 small pools of varying temperatures. The spring with the people above (Karma and Shepard) was around 85°. I enjoyed soothing, long soaks here. The waterfall from the tub above offered a hot massage, as well. That pool could only fit 2 people and was about 95°. Above that, was a cave that extended 30 feet back. It acted as both a steam room and a hotspring. I couldn't be in there for more than 10 minutes. Nearby was a cold pond, fed from a natural icy spring. I enjoyed going back and forth between the hottest and coldest of the springs. Soaking in the cold one for a few minutes was the most relaxing and stimulating experience... I miss it! We stayed here until 2pm when we were asked nicely to leave. We left happy and full. Little did I know it would be the warmth I would hold onto over the next 4 days of straight rain.

This is the creek that ran alongside the hot spring.

I have never seen ferns change color like this before. Though a lot of the rain was difficult at times, it truly produced some amazing colors and texture!

We passed by a few campsites, but most were full of mud, puddles or people, so we hiked on. I had set up in the dark and rain last night and wasn't excited about doing it again. As the sun began to set, we saw a break in the clouds. The colors made me feel like I was in an instagram photo. It stopped raining and I separated from the group to find a good tarp site.

I found good coverage, off trail, in the trees. It wasn't a designated campsite,  but most of the good ones rarely are. An hour later, I saw En Fuego's headlamp and showed her a possible spot. She found some good coverage in the trees, as well. 

After I had eaten and set up camp, I collected water from a nearby stream and went looking for Doc and Karaoke. I found them eating under Doc's tarp. I called out, "What time should we hit the trail tomorrow?" Silence.... "You two doing alright?" Very dramatically, Doc responded, "We're just trying to survive!!" I chuckled to myself and responded, "I hope you figure that out for when it actually gets cold." We decided on 7:30am and I returned to camp. Later, after talking with Doc about that day, we were able to laugh about it. Doc's tarp was in the worst possible location. Doc and Karaoke sat in a puddle of icy water as they ate dinner, freezing and wet, as water droplets ran off the tarp and splashed them in the face from below. I approached them when this was going on...Bad timing!

In the morning, I awoke to more rain. I found it extremely difficult to rise early, move quick and break camp. Even though, I had agreed to be on trail by 7:30, En Fuego and I weren't on trail till 10. Later, Doc and I agreed to a rain delay departure time of 9am.

En Fuego and I hiked together for the majority of the day. I wasn't sure if we would catch up to Doc and Karaoke. I assumed that they were at least 2 hours ahead and on a mission for the perfect dry site. Then high on an exposed face, we saw a beautiful yard sale! The sun had been coming out periodically, but nothing was trustworthy. So this cave provided good coverage in case the rain came back

Just another epic river crossing! Thank you En Fuego for making this picture even more beautiful 

We all agreed on a large campsite, but the map showed it as dry. Dry camping means you are not near water. We packed water into the site, but found it well saturated because of the rain. For a first timer to the area, it would be risky to assume there was seasonal water. It had stopped raining by the time I set up camp, but it was dark. The sky was clear and stars were visible for the first time in 3 nights. I hoped that meant tomorrow's forecast would be sunny. 

As I made dinner, I had a little friend that kept wandering into my space. The spider moved slow, but looked vicious. I kept turning it around with rocks and sticks. It would walk a few inches,  then realize its' mistake and come back towards my dry shelter. After I finished cooking and eating, I relocated the little killer for peace of mind

What would you know, I woke up to more rain in the morning! I had prepared for today being difficult and was on trail by 8am. It was 25 miles, over mountainous, wet terrain with many river fords to Stevens Pass. From Stevens Pass it was a 24 mile hitch to the Dinsmore's Trail Haven. Trying to get that hitch along the highway at night would be nearly impossible


I hiked the 25 miles in just under 9 hours... I was cruising!!! I got a ride from a young man who went by the name Spare Rib. He worked for ski patrol in the winter and downhill mountain biking in the summer. He stopped at the general store so I could pick up a few things and even offered me some legal medicine! He drove me directly to the Dinsmore's and would accept zero gratuity. I look forward to paying forward all the amazing karma I have received on and off trail!

The Dinsmore's Hiker Haven is located 8 miles west of Skykomish in the town of Baring. Jerry and Andrea are retired and have been helping out hikers since 2003. Jerry was in the hospital while I was there, but there was a ton of love and support from all the new and returning hikers. I was able to dry out my gear and stay warm in the "hiker clubhouse." There were 3 bunk beds, a handful of recliners, kitchen table and chairs, a wood burning stove and a TV with both DVDs and VHS. It was truly a cozy warm environment. In a separate building was a washer/dryer and shower. With no real comforts this far in the northwest, the Dinsmore's offer a haven of warm hospitality. Below is Doc seam sealing and repairing holes on his bag liner. There was more rain in the forecast! 

Saturday, October 25, 2014

22 PCT - Cascade Locks / Trail Days - OR

Since I had missed the annual Kick Off of the PCT back near Mexico, I thought it appropriate to attend Trail Days. It just so happened to coincide with Doc heading back to the Bay area for a wedding. Trail Days was a great meeting place for hikers, enthusiasts, trail angels, retailers and you name its, to hang out on an island in the middle of the Columbia River for a few days. I played a lot of frisbee and catch up with people I hadn't seen in months. I got there a little early, so some friends and I stayed at this motel for a night. You can see 'Merica, as sexy as always, hanging out in the doorway. I had only hiked with him for 4 days, but I had seen him along the trail since the desert.

Dimples and Pippin joining the pose

The island on the right belongs to Oregon on the left. The Bridge of the Gods in the distance with Washington (unseen) to the right of the Columbia River.

We are commonly referred to as "Hiker Trash," but we always Leave No Trace

After a fun filled weekend at Trail Days, it was time to head into Washington. There is an initiative to put a foot bridge along the Bridge of the Gods, but so far I got to walk on this.... Pretty awesome!

Above is the Island that I camped on for 3 nights

21 PCT - Mt. Hood to Eagle Creek - OR

Leaving Mt Hood proved harder than I thought. A giant storm blew through and we kept finding people to share a room with so we stayed for a while. Plus there was ping pong and my buddy Doc. One day we didn't go outside for a full 24 hours... it was awesome! I took the advice of some fellow hikers and took an alternate trail (not the PCT) so we could walk by this magnificent waterfall.

After 16 miles and at the base of a very steep climb, I found this structure. There was fresh water nearby, a fire pit and natural benches. We had some more hiking in us, but based on the terrain and amenities, we decided to stay. I couldn't see any sign of an inhabitant, so I traded setting up my tarp for this one. There were bugs though, so I set up my bug bivy.

Karaoke crossing the large glacial creek, assisted by ropes secured onto the fallen trees

A popular alternate to the PCT is the Eagle Creek Trail. This was a no brainer. Nearly everyone took this trail. For Doc and I, being Arizona boys, it was the most lush I had seen and we were in heaven. It reminded us a bit of Hawaii.

I was surprised to find camping for 5 in such a dense forest. This night I camped with Doc, Karaoke, Dimples and Dust Bunny. Below is Karaoke putting out some snacks to share, while Doc jams the Ukulele. No frisbee today :(

Just to the left of Dimples below is Eagle Creek. Fresh water and beautiful music all night!

Doc and I wanted to explore the cave above, but didn't know how to get down to it.

Twister Falls

No guard rails made every step count

Tunnel Falls

Waterfalls were everywhere!!!!

The gentleman below, in the green jacket, showed an exemplary act of kindness towards us. I struck up a random conversation with him on the Eagle Creek Trail. Turns out he had just retired and had acquired 2 jobs to keep him busy. At a nearby aquarium he cleaned large tanks in his Scuba gear. He also helped to maintain the Eagle Creek section of the trail. What a deal! He gave us a ride into Cascade Locks from the trailhead, then bought us lunch, dessert and drinks. He had a quick lunch and left. We were blown away by this random act of kindness from a total stranger.

Then he returned and gave us a gift certificate to the gift shop!!!! We were all able to buy postcards and cappuccinos. Full, happy and stunned, we went to explore the Oregon/Washington border of Cascade Locks