August 2016

White Pass to Crystal

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.
Russ waking up at Snow Lake and disorganizing his stuff.
A hike in the clouds
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
Heading toward Hwy 410
The never-ending trail
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!

Goat Rocks Backpacking

Goat Rocks 10-12AUG 2016
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
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
Looking up from our tents
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. 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.
Looking down the valley to Packwood Lake from high on Old Snowy
Pete ready to start the knife-edge
Looking back from the knife-edge on Old Snowy
A well needed break by a mountain stream in McCall Basin
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.  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.
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
Looking down on Shoe Lake
Looking back at the Goat Rocks
A forward look from high up
The very well known to PCT thru-hikers Kracker Barrel store – also our destiny.
Russ 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.

Courage Classic 2016

Courage Classic 2016
I originally did not intend to this years Courage Classic, but the appeal of the fat tire option, and encouragement of a few friends, it seemed like the reasonable thing to do. I was riding as a part of the Auburn Cycling team. I did not take many photographs since I had done this twice before, and did not carry my camera on the bicycle except for the fat tire option of the first day.
Saturday 06AUG — Snoqualmie Pass.  I woke up at 4 am, quickly loaded the bikes, and took off to North Bend. The first day, I was riding my mountain bike, and it followed the Iron Horse trail all the way from North Bend to Cle Elum. I had ridden up to the Snoqualmie Pass tunnel many times, but had not done anything east of the tunnel, so it had a great appeal to me. The start of the ride was very strange, in that it made you ride in reverse to the town of Snoqualmie Falls in order to get out the trail, a distraction of about 3 miles. Getting up to the pass was fairly easy with a steady 3-4% grade, but it was only a very slight descent to Cle Elum on the other side, making riding easy. My only problem was my legs cramping up, and I should have taken in more electrolytes. There was a small amount of road once one entered Cle Elum, and then the fat tire riders were again directed to a gravel road, the Coal Miner’s trail, bringing me into camp. I was anticipating by my Garmin about 10 miles more riding than I actually did , but was grateful to be done with the trip. Oddly, my Garmin read about 56 miles, but others had up to 67 miles on the fat tire option. I was sort of wasted, got my tent set up, and then met a number of friends at dinner. Bedtime was 8 pm, and I slept like a baby.

Sherri Olson and husband in excellent form.
At the start
Ready to roll
Iron Horse trail, east of Snoqualmie Pass
Sunday 07AUG — Blewett Pass. I woke up at 5:30, got my tent down, had a cup of coffee, and took off. The morning was downright cold this am, and had to keep cycling to stay warm. Most of the ride up Blewett Pass was 2-4% grade, but the last few miles were 4-6% grade. They had a great lunch on top, and the descent was awesome. Oddly, they had a very convoluted path to the finish line once in the town of Levenworth. We were back in camp before noon. Much of the last half of the ride was with Ronn Goodnough. It was a lazy afternoon in town, and dinner was as usual at Lion’s Park, with one beer in the beer garden afterwards.
Monday 08AUG — Stevens Pass. Today, I was up at 5:15, and able to get on the road by 6 am. It was cool, with rain anticipated. I was well up Steven’s Pass when the rain started at precisely 9 am. It was another couple hours to the top, which was then in heavy rain and quite cold. I was in a cluster of about 8 loosely spaced riders that were the head of the pack, wanting to get over the pass before the rains became too bad. I had a very quick lunch, and then bolted down the west side of the pass to Snohomish. The route along the old Steven’s Pass highway for about 4.5 miles was the most delightful part of the whole trip. I was able to catch the first shuttle bus back to North Bend, and got home about 5 pm.