Mt St Helens, Mt Rainier, and Mt Adams all in the distance
I mentioned in my last post that I would resume my hike but now hiking in a southerly direction in order to delay hitting areas of excessive snowfall. Because I am using Guthook’s app to determine my mileage, I have Guthook’s set for a SOBO (south-bound) hike, which then gives mileage as calculated from the Canadian border. It will be confusing, but don’t worry: worse things could happen. You’ll still get my total mileage easily calculated, and if I’m at a distinct site, I’ll try to mention that when mentioning the S-mileage to help you know where I’m at. Cascade Locks is 2157 miles from the Mexican border, but 495 miles from the Canadian border. Guthook is actually calling Cascade Locks 406 miles from the Canadian border, perhaps including the 8 miles from the Canadian border to the road. In any event, I’ll use the Guthook mileage with an “S” before to indicate the difference in mileage accounting. Once I reach Castella, it will all be a moot point.
I am making a few minor changes. I’ll be carrying a small sheet of Tyvek to sit or lay on at rest stops.I’ll be using an Ursack, effective for bears, but most importantly for squirrels, chipmunks and mice that would love to eat your food. I will no longer carry micro-spikes, but go for a little heavier shoes should I need to kick steps in the snow.
I’m no longer using an internal hydration unit for many reasons, and have gone with an external system that always allows me to know what my water supply is doing.
So, I am constantly changing but always keeping my weight down. If I add weight, something else has to go. That’s the wisdom of the trail.
Yesterday, I took the train down to Vancouver and Gaylon picked me up. I was able to see his new abode, which looked quite nice. For some reason, I felt really gorked out and we crashed early. I didn’t sleep too well; somehow, getting back on the trail is becoming harder with every break. This time I knew that I would be away between 4-6 weeks-not cool.
30 JUN- S505-523 (2148-2130) I started on the Washington side of the Bridge of the Gods, Gaylon having dropped me off, wanting to get photos of me walking the bridge. Today was a true grunt day, climbing nearly 6000 feet. The weather could not have been better. Most of the thru-hikers have flip-flopped and were heading north. I passed about 5 pair/couples who have done that. They all mentioned some issues with snow, but suggested that by the time I reach those places (like Mt. Jefferson) the snow should be mostly gone. I’m still trying to take it slow and easy for now. I set up camp at Wahtum Lake, expecting to reach Timberline Lodge in 2 days. Mentally, the day was hard as it was a very long climb to start after a long break. I’m thinking that perhaps a zero day at Timberline or Odell Lake might be in order. One thing that has kept me going was a batch of chocolate chip oatmeal cookies that Betsy baked up just before I left Puyallup. Boy were they nice. I’m also finding myself back into hiker-brain, not wanting to think about anything but survival on the trail. It’s hard to read before bed, as the brain shuts down.
01JULY- mile 2130-2109 (523-544S) The weather started cloudless, and Wahtum Lake was most beautiful. I was on the trail by 6am knowing that I would need to go 21 miles. It wasn’t quite as much climbing as yesterday but still was fairly demanding. About 2 o’clock it started to sprinkle and I put the rain cover on my pack. Not much happened with that. The trail went on a ridge that had Bull Run Reservoir (the drinking water for Portland) on one side and Lost Lake on the other. From the trail you could not see Bull Run and multiple signs announced it off limits. Lost Lake could be seen, and it brought back memories of a camping trip with Betsy soon after we were married.
Before starting the Old Station to Castella section, I began to have terrible pains in my right neck. I could barely move my neck, and pain when trying to sleep became severe. Because I needed my full faculties of thought, I didn’t want to push the benzodiazepines (good for muscle relaxation) or narcotics to relieve the pain. On my short stay at home, most of this pain resolved. The pain began again soon after commencing hiking yesterday and today was unbearable. I could not look up or turn my head to either side without extreme pain. After setting up camp close to another thru-hiker headed south like me, Chuckles from Kotzebue, Alaska also noted that I was holding my head strangely and I explained to her the problem. The pain is extreme enough at this point that it might force me off the trail at Timberline. Tomorrow will tell.
02JUL- mile 2109- 2097
It rained through the night. My tent held true to the word and kept me very dry. I didn’t sleep much because of the neck pain. The rain had stopped by morning but it was quite misty. Chuckles woke up to wish me off. I left her a bunch of food as she was getting low, and planned on doing less than ten miles today, leaving her short of Timberline Lodge. She was a professional dog musher and was doing the trail to get into shape for next season. The trail was almost all upwards with several long climbs. I did the variant that passed Ramona Falls. The Sandy River was a very swift ford with sloppy rocks but I got across uneventfully though with wet feet and pants. At some point the mist increased and by the time I reached Timberline Lodge it was pouring down rain. To be expected, the trail had lengthy segments of mud, or rivers of water. More surprisingly I was told that the trail was snow free yet there were still lengthy segments of snow, some being a bit dangerous. This sort of weather and trail conditions are very typical for this time of year in the Northwest, but I guess I was thinking that I might luck out. By the time I reached Timberline Lodge, I could not even see the Lodge until I was right on it.
I neck continued to hurt severely. I couldn’t look to the side because of pain, so had to stop hiking and turn my entire body to see anything. The pain wasn’t as severe as yesterday, perhaps because of my lighter pack, but knew that I would be getting a 4-5 day supply of food for the next section and so might expect worse pain again. I picked up my resupply box and decided that I should have my neck looked at. My dear friend Fred Bomonti, a near retired chiropractor from Puyallup, said that he would see me the next day. I hopped a shuttle bus from Timberline Lodge to Sandy, another from Sandy to the Gresham MAX station, the MAX from Gresham to Union Station, and the Amtrak back home by 10pm. My dear lovely wife picked me up, and I could not be more happy to see her.
I’ll soon be writing another blog about my thoughts so far and how I plan on negotiating the future life on the trail so stay in touch.