Jul 23

Washington Trails Association Pratt River Trail Work Party 20-22(23)JULY

I do a modest amount of backpacking, and have occasionally encountered trails that were not in the best of shape. I had no idea who cared for the trails, thinking that the forest service did everything. Slowly, I realized how much trail care is actually performed by volunteers. In 2009 in Oregon, I took a 3 day trail design, construction and maintenance course (see http://feuchtblog.net/2009/06/08/4-7jun-trail-skills-college-dee/).  I don’t remember who put it on, but it was a blast. Now that I’m into semi-retirement, I decided to actually do some trail work, and the Washington Trails Association (WTA) provided the perfect opportunity. The Pratt River Trail is within the newly expanded Alpine Lakes Wilderness, one of my favorite places in the whole wide world. There was considerable blow-down of trees from the past few winters and so the forest service requested the WTA to help clean out the timber fallen across the trail. Even though I took the trails skills “college”, I was totally clueless as to what this would actually represent. I e-mailed the WTA about issues, such as if we were going to get really dirty, and they suggested not. Actually, trail work means getting down in the dirt, which means that you will quickly become quite filthy. I wasn’t quite as prepared as I should have been for personal hygiene. True, I had my tooth brush, but then, I wasn’t getting my teeth (literally) into the action. My anxiety led me to arrival at the trailhead meeting point early, and was the first person there besides LeeAnn. The entire party ended up being eight people, with two no-shows. I was the only novice in the group, and truly clueless about what we were about to do.

The party was small enough that it was easy to get to know everybody, but several people stood out. The first was Jim. He was the old geezer of the group, but a true gentleman, and the most knowledgeable of the bunch. Whenever there was a question about a complex or dangerous log clearance issue, Jim was the go-to person, and had actually trained a few of the folk in the party. The work was split up into two sawing groups of 3 people, and two others that assisted and cleared brush. I worked with Rich and Jim, and what a treat it was. Jim was an incredible teacher and a real trooper, while Rich was most patient with me being clueless about running the saws or moving logs.

Jim

Rich and LeeAnne. During a break from work, we walked up to a side trail, leading to a giant Douglas Fir tree just off the trail (sort of)

As you can see, we all had to wear hard hats and gloves. The hard hats didn’t make sense to me, because there was no means of securing the hat to your head, and it was constantly falling off, sometimes when you most wished that it would stay on. LeeAnne was the group leader, and she was a real trooper, really fun to have with. Don was another fairly experienced trail worker in the group, who I enjoyed interacting with. Actually, I really enjoyed everybody, including Monty, Dave, and Emily, though I didn’t get the best photos of them.

Don, loaded to take off

The time transpired as follows. We all met at 8:30, and had an introductory safety session at 9:00. About 9:30, we took off on the trail, walking about 3 miles to a campsite at the point where the Pratt River drains into the middle fork of the Snoqualmie River. We set up our tents, prepared a lunch and water for our day sacks, and then took off to start clearing trail. I didn’t count, but with Jim and Rich, our first day involved clearing about 5-8 trees. Some demanded a moderate strategy and multiple cuts in order to safely remove the tree from the trail. Unlike standing trees, the fallen timber may be under considerable tension with bending, shearing and forces of torsion, which could lead to highly dangerous situations if one were not adequately prepared. Jim taught me much about the safest way to attack a log. After cutting a large log, one still had to move it from the trail. Somehow, we were able to move even enormous logs off the trail by sitting on our butts and pushing the logs with our legs out of the way. Some logs were quite complex to remove, and one situation was a cluster of three logs piled on top of each other, all 2-3 feet in diameter, and all under considerable tension. When fallen logs are under tension, one cannot just saw through the log, because as soon as the saw achieves some depth into the wood, the timber starts to close in on the saw, causing it to jamb. In such a situation, three to five cuts need to be made through the timber, with the space between hacked out with an axe. This means that a large log could take ½ a day just to make a single cut entirely through the log. Here is an example of that occurring on the complex log cluster, with one log already cleared.

Jim supervising, with Don and Rich working the 6 foot crosscut saw. Monty stands off in the distance.

The first day was a bit drizzly, and we were very wet walking through intense underbrush covering the trail. It dried out by afternoon, and the next few days were sunny. We were under a dense forest canopy, and so I didn’t need sunglasses or suntan lotion. The work was intense enough that by afternoon, we would be through several liters of water, and the first order of business on returning to camp was to purify more water from the river.

On the third day, Jim was not feeling well at the end of the day, and after some deliberation, decided that he needed to return home a day early. LeeAnne needed to accompany him out for his safety, but was worried enough about Jim, that she asked me to go with, being that I was a doctor and would have a clue if Jim took a turn for the worse. Carrying some of Jim’s belongings, we got him out safely, and I followed him to North Bend, stopping at a McDonalds to get him some root beer, which seemed to pink up his color considerably.  I felt bad leaving the work crew a ½ day early, and hope that the remainder of the crew all got out safely.

Thoughts on the adventure

  1. My opinion of the WTA skyrocketed. They are not just a lame tree-hugging society, but they really care about people, about trails, and about nature.  I had no clue as to how hard it was to clear a trail, as to how much was performed by volunteers, and as to how dedicated many of these volunteers were, some doing 10 or more work projects per year. It makes my adventure look rather trite.
  2. I know that I need to do more of these, and will try to encourage others to get involved at least one a year on a work party. Anybody that enjoys trails should at least once in a while get out and help with the WTA mission, or with Oregon Trailkeepers and other groups that do this sort of work.
  3. I will be MUCH more prepared next time. I don’t need to bring my ultra-light equipment, but instead have my more durable backpack equipment. Three to seven miles is not too far to walk with a 40-50 lb pack, and a few creature comforts would have helped. My ultralight air mattress had a seam tear out, which meant that there ended being a large bulge in my air mattress making it very uncomfortable to sleep the second night. I will bring a more durable air mattress next time. I will also try to develop a little better first aid kit for the types of problems that might happen on a trail. That might add a pound of weight, but should be tolerable. I’ll possibly also take a refresher course in advanced wilderness life support, offered by the Wilderness Medical Society.
  4. I continue to develop thoughts on the concept of “wilderness”. Perhaps certain rules are a touch crazy, like forbidding trail workers to use mechanized machinery (chain saws, etc.) to maintain existing trails. I wonder how many tree huggers are secretly appreciate the dynamite used to create the Kendall Katwalk, or the Eagle Creek Trail in the Columbia River gorge. I will probably write more on this later, devoting a single blog to my random thoughts on this issue.
  5. I will NEVER again hike a trail without realizing the blood, sweat, and tears that it took to build and maintain that trail. To that I end with my blog with a word of appreciation to all the trail societies (like the WTA, PTCA, Rainier volunteers) that keep up our parks and mountain playgrounds. To the WTA, I might add, sicherlich auf wiedersehen, certainement à bientôt, surely I’ll be seeing you again on a work party.

 

 

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Aug 24

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White Pass to Crystal Mountain on the PCT, 21-23AUG2016

The last trip report had Pete, Russ and I going from Waptus Lake to White Pass. This is now a continuation with just Russ and I from White Pass to Crystal Mountain Ski Resort. It was also two nights, and along the Pacific Crest Trail (PCT). Both Russ and I are now packing a bit lighter, and a bit wiser. To coordinate matters, I dropped my car off at Crystal Mountain, and then Kim Andersen drove us to White Pass and left us to our own devices. The start of the trail was a touch obscure, but we were soon on our way. The first day had beautiful weather with a few scattered clouds, but cool, and no bugs. There was much up and down along the trail, but with lighter packs, we seemed to handle it quite well. We passed multiple lakes, and what I thought would be somewhat monotonous scenery (the long green tunnel) was everything but that. We finally set up camp at Snow Lake.

Day 2, we traversed from Snow Lake to Dewey Lake. It was cloudy the entire day, and most the time, we were hiking in the clouds. We would have had views of Mt. Rainier, which were clouded out today. The scenery persisted in being totally spectacular, and much of the trail actually went through Mt. Rainier National Park. During this hike, I am still experimenting with my Garmin eTrex 30t, and was informed at the end of the day that the battery ran out. Thus, I do not have a complete record. We hiked between 16-17 miles, and climbed about 3000 feet.

Wolkenbergwanderung

Wolkenbergwanderung

Russ waking up at Snow Lake and disorganizing his stuff.

Russ waking up at Snow Lake and disorganizing his stuff.

A hike in the clouds

A hike in the clouds

Russ chilling out at Dewey Lake

Russ chilling out at Dewey Lake

Day 3, we got a little later start of 7:30, and started immediately with a climb up to highway 410 (Chinook Pass). On the way, we encountered Smiles, and then two girls, Old School and Mama Goose, all thru-hikers from Campo. All were putting in 25-30 mile days, carrying packs under 25 lb, and looking as fresh as the first day on the trail. I’m deeply jealous. Maybe 2018? Past Hwy 410, we had another 1800 ft of climbing, reaching Sheep Lake and then Sourdough gap. At Sourdough gap, Russ took off like a jack rabbit chasing the bunnies, and then took a trail off of the PCT, perhaps thinking it was a short cut to Crystal. Fortunately, I caught him quickly enough to correct our course. We continued on the Bear Gap, where there were several trails that took us back to our car. The Crystal Mountain portion of the hike was a little less enjoyable. We stopped at Wallys on the way home, where Russ was able to experience the Waltimate Burger.

Looking down on Dewey Lake

Looking down on Dewey Lake

Heading toward Hwy 410

Heading toward Hwy 410

The never-ending trail

The never-ending trail

From Sourdough Gap, looking back on Sheep Lake with Mt. Adams in the distance.

From Sourdough Gap, looking back on Sheep Lake with Mt. Adams and Goat Rocks in the distance.

From these two hikes, Russ and I both learned the value of going lighter. We were able to talk to many of the thru-hikers and glean knowledge from them as to the methods of their journeys. The common theme was to go lighter, from the pack, to the food you carry, your tent and sleeping accommodations, to your clothes and food. I remain puzzled how many thru-hikers carried cell phones, and yet kept them charged. I saw only a few carrying solar chargers on their packs.

I’ve used the Halfmile maps, and they were extremely helpful in planning the route, and finding your way once on the journey. I was using two year old maps, and the mile markers for this years maps are slightly different by 10 miles. I never needed the Garmin to determine my location, though I’m sure it might help in the Sierras where the route isn’t as clear.

The first hike this year was into Rachel Lake with Peter Tate, and I forgot to bring my trekking poles. It was a totally miserable hike, and I was unstable, falling a lot, and unsure in any sort of tricking footing, like stream crossing. These last two hikes were now with my hiking poles, and what a difference they make. You can hike faster because you can easily catch yourself when you become unsteady. You can lessen the impact when descending. Stream crossing is still slow, but far less unsure. I will never forget my hiking poles again!

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Aug 13

IMG_0807Goat Rocks 10-12AUG 2016

Russ and Pete gearing up for the hike

Russ and Pete gearing up for the hike

We initially planned for a hike from the Suiattle River to Holden, but were informed that the town of Holden was shut down from prior forest fires. After much adjusting we opted for the Goat Rocks Hike. I had apportioned 5 days so that we would not feel stressed about getting back home. We ended up needing only three days. Using two cars with one parked at White Pass and the other at our starting point at Walupt Lake, we were able to start and end our hike by our own conveyance. We left home at 7:30 am on 10AUG and arrived finally at the trailhead in time to start our hike about 11:30. We went up the Nanny Ridge Trail, which was about 2000 ft of immediate climbing until we got to Sheep Lake. We then were on the PCT, and had a little easier elevation profile. Though the trail was designed for horses, it still was a considerable amount of scrambling. The first pass was Cispus Pass, where we were able to meet some through hikers, which included Georgia Boy, who was on the last leg of completing the Triple Crown (Appalachian Trail, Continental Divide Trail, and Pacific Crest Trail). We dumped a bunch of our food on him, and he graciously got a photograph of all of us together.

The Three Musketeers on Cispus Pass

The Three Musketeers on Cispus Pass

Russ, Georgia Boy, and Pete on Cispus Pass

Russ, Georgia Boy, and Pete on Cispus Pass

Georgia Boy took off at almost twice the speed we were going, with less than ½ the weight on his back. It was a sudden realization that we were WAY overloaded with stuff, and started looking at that time for any and every thru-hiker who was starving and needed food. Over the Pass, we found ourselves in a verdant meadow with clean mountain streams and sore bones. It was then that we decided to set up camp, about a mile from our original destination of Snowgrass Flats.

My tent on our first night, with Pete and Russ's tent off in the distance

My tent on our first night, with Pete and Russ’s tent off in the distance

Looking up from our tents

Looking up from our tents

Waking up is hard to do for Russ and Pete

Waking up is hard to do for Russ and Pete


There were a few clouds in the sky which cleared overnight, and we had perfect weather for our walk the next day. The sunrise left a bright glow on Mt. St. Helens, which unfortunately could not be picked up well with my camera. We were at Snowgrass Flats in about an hour, and then slowly wound our way up the side of Old Snowy toward the knife-edge. Looking down, we could see herds of mountain goats, and also a herd of elk. They were a touch too far away to photograph, so left them in our memory. The knife-edge is a 5 mile or more walk along a ridge radiating out from Old Snowy. There was a sheer cliff on each side, which wasn’t terribly dangerous, but demanded your constant attention. One could not be a Hans-Guck-in-die-Luft character. We finally dropped down into McCall Basin, and were greeted by huge fields of alpine flowers in full bloom. What a glorious site.

A view of Mt Adams from Snowgrass Flats

A view of Mt Adams from Snowgrass Flats

A view of Mt. Rainier from above Snowgrass Flats

A view of Mt. Rainier from above Snowgrass Flats

Goat Rocks with Old Snowy on the right. Our went to near the summit of Old Snowy, and then down the knife-edge.

Goat Rocks with Old Snowy on the right. Our went to near the summit of Old Snowy, and then down the knife-edge.

Looking down the valley to Packwood Lake from high on Old Snowy

Looking down the valley to Packwood Lake from high on Old Snowy

Pete ready to start the knife-edge

Pete ready to start the knife-edge

Looking back from the knife-edge on Old Snowy

Looking back from the knife-edge on Old Snowy

A well needed break by a mountain stream in McCall Basin

A well needed break by a mountain stream in McCall Basin

Lupine and Indian Paintbrush were quite prolific

Lupine and Indian Paintbrush were quite prolific


Our resting place that evening was at Tieton Pass, which really didn’t seem like a pass, though it was. At this point, we were greeted by multiple hikers, including a couple going from southern Oregon to Canada, another Mike and Teresa who was doing almost the same hike as us, and who will be later encountered. Our most cherished encounter was with the Brit Family Robinson III, a family from Northern England with a 12 yo daughter and 10 yo son, who had survived the entire journey from Campo (Mexican Border) to here. We gave them a bunch of food which they were quite eager to take, making our packs lighter. The family chronicles might be found here.  https://reallylongwalk.wordpress.com  with Josie and Jack, the Brit Family Robinson III. I dearly hope we might meet them again once they finish their journey. They left us a nice note on our car which we found at the end of our trip.

Scan

We also met Catwater and Sliderule, an elderly couple who hiked the PCT NoBo last year, and now doing it SoBo this year.

Friday am, we were up at 5:15 and on the trail by 7 am. We had no major passes to cross, but needed to cross a ridge which led us to above Shoe Lake. We could have gone to Shoe Lake, but I was concerned about adding elevation and mileage to our hike, which we learned later would not have happened. Dommage! Past Shoe Lake, the trail was nearly uniformly downhill though quite gradual in its descent. It still was hard on the feet, and it seemed like it was easier to go up than to go down. Also, I had run out of water, and there were no good water sources along the trail from Tieton Pass until we were near the end of our hike. I was totally dehydrated once reaching White Pass. Our friends Mike and Teresa had arrived before me, and we had arranged to give them a lift back to their car at Walupt Lake.

On top of our last major ridge climb

On top of our last major ridge climb

Looking down on Shoe Lake

Looking down on Shoe Lake

Looking back at the Goat Rocks

Looking back at the Goat Rocks

A forward look from high up

A forward look from high up

The very well known to PCT thru-hikers Kracker Barrel store - also our destiny.

The very well known to PCT thru-hikers Kracker Barrel store – also our destiny.

Russ arrives at White Pass

Russ arrives at White Pass

Pete arrives at White Pass

Pete arrives at White Pass

 

Lessons that we learned from the hike…

  1. We must go MUCH lighter. That even goes for me, who had the lightest pack.
  2. The Garmin was phenomenal at recording our tracks, and showed very little sign of battery usage, with lithium ion batteries.  I’ll use it again. It incorrectly calculated caloric output, but was a little too truthful about our snail pace on the trail. Plus, we now know exactly where we were.
  3. My shoes wore out. On inspecting the shoes after the hike, there were cracks where I had gotten blisters. I had hoped that they would last forever. I must now explore other hiking shoes.
  4. We need to all be individually prepared. Organizing for three old farts just doesn’t work, as we all want something different for breakfast, lunch and dinner, and have different ideas on how backpacking should take place.
  5. We MUST hike on. The more you do, the more comfortable it is. It is now time to take a year off and do the PCT. I’m not sure I’ll persuade Russ, Pete, or my wife, but it’s worth a try. I still like bicycling, and wish to do some epic rides in the next few years.

To all the wonderful people we met on the trail, may your journeys continue on in safety and comfort.

 

 

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Jul 14

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Rachel Lake with Peter Tate

Peter and I had decided on doing this trip together for the last six months or more. He was going to bring along a friend, and I had hoped to bring Andrew and several grandchildren. In stead, it turned out to be me Peter, Karma, her son, and me. Peter and Karma showed up at our place in Puyallup on 07JUL, and early 08JUL we headed out for the trailhead. We met Karma’s son at the I-90 turnoff, and then proceeded to the trailhead. At this point, I discovered that I had forgotten one of my most important hiking device, my hiking poles. It would prove to me somewhat harmful to me. At least we had food, sufficient clothing and warmth to survive. Karma’s son also had his dog with him, another source of great entertainment on the trail.

Start of the trail

Start of the trail

Bee sting spot. Rachel was stung by a bee here many years before

Bee sting spot. Rachel was stung by a bee here many years before

My tent at Rachel Lake

My tent at Rachel Lake

Peter and Karma's tent at Rachel Lake

Peter and Karma’s tent at Rachel Lake

The hike from the trailhead was four miles, and only a mild climb at first, though occasionally having to hike around many downed trees. The weather was soggy, though we most had heavy rain the first night. We originally intended to ascend up to the Ramparts, but decided against that on reaching Rachel Lake. After finding a choice campsite, tents went up, and we settled in. That night was a very heavy rain, but we all stayed dry in our tents. There were still spots of snow at Rachel Lake, and much more as we ascended to Lila Lakes and the Ramparts. The next day, we did a hike up to and around the Rampart Lakes. After that, we went over to Lila Lakes, a place I’ve never been to before, though I’ve been to the Ramparts many times. Lila Lakes was most spectacular with Box Peak rising up out of the lake. From a viewpoint, only could see the whole of Box Canyon, and the ledge where Rachel Lake was sitting. I regret never having camped at Lila Lakes, and will return.

On the trail up to the Ramparts

On the trail up to the Ramparts

Peter at the Ramparts

Peter at the Ramparts

Lila Lakes with Box Mountain in the background

Lila Lakes with Box Mountain in the background

Lila Lakes

Lila Lakes

Lila Lakes

Lila Lakes

The second night had minimal to no rain. We woke up fairly early, made tea and coffee, and headed out. The trail down was prohibitively slippery, since it was over slick rock (when wet) and tree roots, which are always slippery when wet. I came out quite bruised. There was minimal breaks in the clouds, but at least it wasn’t cold and rainy. All in all, it was another great time with Peter.

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Jan 27

Trail Life

By Kenneth Feucht books No Comments »

TrailLifeJardin

Trail Life: Ray Jardine’s Lightweight Backpacking, by Ray Jardine ★★★★★

Ray Jardine is the new godfather of backpacking, and has completely redefined the sport. Perhaps I might remind folk of Harvey Manning’s and Colin Fletcher’s texts…BackpackingManningWalkerFletcherBoth of these texts defined backpacking when I was a kid. And, both of them were the bibles of how to do it. I remember reading Manning’s text backwards and forwards, and following every step of instructions that he gave. His advice is still apropos to the weekend 5-10 mile hiker. For anybody other than that, Manning and Fletcher are now hopelessly obsolete. Ray Jardine, starting with a text that I have already reviewed recently, published in 1992, irreversibly redefined the art of backpacking. Jardine’s text is most relevant to the long-distance backpacker, but his advice is still relevant to weekend excursions. Ray has thrown out the heavy hiking boots, the heavy packs, the massive requisite arsenal required for survival in the woods in favor of a lean-mean but still relaxed strategy. There is no backpacking text today that will fail to mention Ray Jardine, or the “Ray-way”.

This book covers all aspects of backpacking, including equipment, clothing, food, hygiene, planning, obstacles, safety, etc., etc. It is relatively comprehensive. Besides his continual plea to go light, distinctives of Jardine include a number of defining issues. He has an extreme objection to brand names, and will even purposely remove labels from clothing, sand off labels from equipment, etc. He has a sterility fetish, being even unwilling to use silverware in a restaurant, and brings his own spoon to eat. His dietary advice is unique, usually quite good, but also a touch weird. I guess I’ll try corn spaghetti, but will never plan on eating it almost every night on the trail. There are too many other good foods out there, without having to resort to freeze-dried foods. Ray and his partner sew all their own clothing, as well as backpacks and other hiking equipment. I don’t plan on doing that. I would hope that commercial enterprises can provide us non-sewers with similar items.

Other than that, Jardine is a must-read for the new style backpacker, and this text is beautifully organized and illustrated. Thus, a very high recommendation.

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