Had a great time at the 2022 USASA National Championships! Team Big Alaska killed it. And I was so glad to be back working with the best team in the business on the Boardercross/Ski Cross venue. The last Nationals we held was in 2019 so this was the first big get together for the 30+ separate USASA Series from across the US. Fantastic reunion.
I’m flying to Washington DC in a few days, then taking Amtrak to Harper’s Ferry, WV to start the Appalachian Trail (AT). I plan to hike northbound (NOBO) 1000 miles to Mt Katahdin in Maine, then get myself back to Harper’s Ferry and hike southbound (SOBO) to Springer Mountain in Georgia, another 1000 miles.
Why a Flip Flop hike rather than start at one end and go to the other? Maybe I’m being silly, but the bottom line is I don’t want to be hiking with crowds, worrying about finding a tent site or a bed in a hostel. I do want to have other hikers around me though. I like people. I had the same fear of being crowded out when I started the PCT NOBO in 2015, but it didn’t take all that long for me to find myself in a spread out pack of copacetic hikers going more or less my pace. Over the course of 5 months, people I knew kept turning up after vanishing for a few days or weeks. Even if I hadn’t seen someone I knew in days on the trail, I’d get to a town and just by hanging out in one place for a day or so, people would appear. It was great!
The Appalachian Trail Conservancy (ATC) is putting on a Flip Flop Festival in Harper’s Ferry with speakers and helpful hints and pack shake downs. I’m hoping to meet other hikers heading out after the hiker breakfast, not to formally join forces with immediately but to get to know. I had a good experience last spring on the Continental Divide Trail (CDT), rehiking the first few hundred miles with the Warrior Expedition guys, Kids Out Wild, and other hikers doing our approximate miles and pace.
The AT is going to be challenging for me on many levels. I’m going to have to face my fears. Yes, I have a ton of experience hiking. Things I’m not afraid of include camping solo, bears, hitching to towns, and going hungry. I’ve been warned by friends who’ve hiked the AT, friends I’ve spent the most time on trail with, and who know me well, Puff Puff and the Ravens, that I’m going to hate the rain and the pointless up and downs (PUDs) amongst other challenges. Forewarned, right? Stay tuned….
I took the Olympic Hiking Shuttle to the Oil City trailhead. I highly recommend this shuttle company! A father and son hiking duo had just been picked up from Third Beach and were riding back to their car at Oil City. They asked if I knew Natasha (Poppy) and said they’d camped with her last night. Must have been quite a conversation because they knew everything about her and her hike on the PNT. Fun!
I started out at 9:30 nervous about the tides and footing, there are so many dire warnings out there. The first bit was slow and slippery on rocks but then it was a long, wide sand beach which wasn’t an issue when the tide peaked at 3 pm. Also the ropes are no big deal so far. The ropes are hanging along steep little scrambles up or down from the beach or just where the trail runs inland. They’re kind of handy, and I didn’t really need them, it’s not like using the cables to get up the Half Dome granite in Yosemite NP.
Today was perfect, clear and warm. Gorgeous! I’m camped by myself at a little campsite marked on the map, not a site that requires a specific permit, about a mile from Third Beach. There are tons of people and tents camped on the beaches, yuck, not my thing to be near so many people if I can avoid it.
8/25 11.4 miles
Why do I worry about stuff like getting a skiff ride across the river mouth? Well because if I couldn’t it’s a 9 mile road walk around. But I got to the harbor and Gene, the Harbor Master, took me across no problem. I asked what the standard donation for gas money was and I paid a bit forward for the hikers who paid nothing. And it turns out Gene and his wife have done cultural resource work in Wyoming for energy projects, like I do in Alaska, so we had that in common too.
I had a mishap today. I slipped on a piece of seaweed on wet rock and came down hard on my right hip and hand. Split open a gash on my hip and burst some capillaries. My hand is worse, think I hyperextended my pinkie and ring fingers, both the inside and outside of my hand is bruised and I can’t really use it. Hurt so bad I had to put my head between my knees a couple of times so I wouldn’t pass out. I don’t think any bones are broken though. Time will tell.
I kept going as the tide was coming back in, and found a solo campsite on a small beach that looked like high tide would not reach it. I waited out the afternoon, thinking if I really wanted to, I could start hiking again at dinner time as the tide went out to make it a bit farther. Nobody else came down my beach from either direction and I loved it there, so after the tide started out I pitched my tent. This spot is now on my list of most spiritual places to camp in the world, along with Evolution Valley at Muir Pass in the Sierra and Dzongri, Sikkim, India in the Himalayas. I’m at peace watching the sun set to the gentle sound of tiny waves lapping the sand.
8/26 9.8 miles
Met a couple of park rangers and their group hiking towards me down the beach. He asked where my next permitted campsite was and I told him about the “stealth” sites I’d seen marked by beach debris buoys. He said they were fine and but that he’s trying to get those markers removed. Cool guy, I blathered on about how hard it would be for Search and Rescue (SAR) to get an injured hiker off this coast. I was thinking about my injured hand, hidden but puffed up and bruised all the way down my forearm now too. He laughed and said the SAR people here were US Coast Guard rescue swimmers who would rappel down from a hovering helicopter and load the hiker into a sling basket and hoist them up. To myself I thought that actually sounded like a fun way to be rescued. Dang, too late for me, I’m ambulatory.
It was hard hiking the “beach” tide again. It’s mostly rock scrambling, slower now since I can’t afford another fall on my hand which is a mess but a bit better today. Advil rules.
Anyway I found another stealth site at Yellow Banks beach, up on a bluff—3 for 3!
8/27 9 miles
Hiked the 6 miles remaining on the coast to Cape Alava, the end of the PNT, and joined the 3 mile trail inland to the Ozette Campground.
I saw the same rangers at the campground and they congratulated me on my hike as Dan walked up. We drove to the Winston-Edmonds Washington State Ferry and made our way to Bothell where I get to cat sit Arya, Sarah and Sam’s cat, for a few days while recovering from one hike and resetting for the next—5 or 6 days in the Sierra with Sunset, Lonesome Duck and Disco, some of the guys I did the Rae Lakes Loop in Sequoia King’s Canyon with last year.
On the way back to the trailhead, Sarah and I stopped at the Olympic NP Visitor Center. I talked to a ranger and got the tide charts. I finally feel like I’m organized and doing my own thing. I intend to camp at all the permitted campsites that Poppy got, except for the 2 Quota controlled, just a day later than her. The park service says that should be fine, just be careful of the tides when I hit the coast!
The walk back up the bypass trail was quick, then it was road walk (closed to traffic though), easy, a long ways to trail. I camped near the hot springs in an established camp area with tons of tent sites but only maybe 6 other hikers scattered out of earshot. Perfect.
8/20 17.6 miles
I slept in till 6:30! Then hiked about 11 hours. Lots of uphill today. Lots of people too! Weird. As I was going up early afternoon I couldn’t tell if I was walking into a cloud? Fog? I put on my rain pants and got out my rain jacket but it’s not wet. Beautiful trail but no views because of the cloud. Once I accepted the waterless mist, and that it wasn’t cooling off, I enjoyed the close-in details—cedars and birds and ridge walking. I chatted with assorted campers and hikers and felt quite cheerful. I was going to camp a mile before Deer Lake but as the side trail came into view I saw 2 separate groups heading to the small campsite. I got a little concerned as it was dinner time almost but kept on and found the last site in the Deer Lake complex and nobody came into the campground after me so I was good. Most people who are doing shorter hikes (I call them “short haulers” which is meant as a description not an insult) tend to make camp earlier in the afternoon that long haulers.
8/21 17.7 miles
A lot of boring green tunnel (stretch of trail within vegetation and trees with no open views) until I headed downhill and started to spot fresh horse manure, a good omen!
Suddenly, Pacific Northwest Trail Association (PNTA) trail crew! It is so awesome to be able to directly and personally thank the individuals who actually work out here on the trail—the work they accomplish includes clearing blowdowns and overgrowth, constructing mini rock walls (“water bars” or “check dams”) across the trail to redirect water runoff, building rock steps and filling in eroded stretches with gravel.
They even laughed at my paraphrase of a famous line in the Apocalypse Now movie: “I love the smell of horseshit in the morning, it smells like….trail crew.”
After trail crew I met a retired couple who said this section was impassable until it became part of the PNT route a few years ago. They said it was so wet and swampy and overgrown they had turned back and didn’t try it again for years. I gave them the good news that crew was just ahead making even more improvements!
Then Sterling came hiking towards me! Remember Sterling was the man Poppy and I met at the PNTA office in Sedro-Woolley, the guy who gave us a ride to our motel, the Western Washington Coordinator who brokered agreements with the USFS snd the NPS to deploy trail crews out here and in the Mt Baker area. He recognized me and told me he’d seen Poppy earlier that morning and Beans a few hours later. This is how hikers get trail news—I now know that Poppy and Beans are not hiking or camping together, not that it matters. Anyhow I walked on after a wonderful uplifting conversation with this amazing man and camped alone, contentedly, at Flapjack campsite.
8/22 19 miles
I hate to say it but it was kind of boring today, the rainforest is soft and lush and green but hour after hour of it gets old. Lots of day hikers as most of my day was spent getting to a drive-in trailhead. I talked to everybody, I think the more people out here, the better stewardship we’re going to have for our public lands and wilderness, plus, don’t tell my dearly departed Dad, but unlike him, I actually like people.
The highlight of my morning happened as I was walking along, on soft, peaty tread overhung with ferns. Suddenly an animal I’d never seen before came scurrying up the trail at me. It was about the size snd shape of a shoebox, short gray fur, so low to the ground I could see neither feet, nor face, nor tail. I exclaimed, “Whoa, dude!” but it continued over my left foot and vanished out of site up the trail.
When I got to town I searched the internet and I think it was an Olympic Marmot, something I didn’t know existed, and definitely in an environment unlike any other marmot I’ve seen. A rainforest marmot, how cool! I love rodents and marmots are the bomb.
It was trail to road to bigger road. I wasn’t sure how I’d get into Forks and my motel, there’s a bus from the campground where the trail route takes a hairpin turn south to the coast. I think the issue in this area is private land, including swathes owned by timber companies, and getting permission for foot traveling on private roads, hence the extensive road walking indirectly down to the ocean. But with just a few miles left, the first car going my way stopped and offered me a lift. I gratefully accepted, it was a couple from Colorado, who I’d seen day hiking earlier. Thank you! And when I got into my motel room, sure enough the uphill road walking had irritated my left shin again, it’s swollen and sore, so no guilt about skipping.
Forks is an old lumber town, there’s some very cool interpretive displays and a museum. But seemingly the big attraction is that parts of the five movies in the Twilight Saga vampire romance series were filmed here. I never saw any of the movies but of course I recognize the actors on the movie posters all over town.
Since I’d arrived on Sunday, I couldn’t pick up my box from the post office. That’s the main reason hikers look to send their resupply boxes to a business or motel or trail angel that is open 7 days a week. Not a big deal for me to have it sent back if I didn’t want to wait for Monday post office hours, then take the bus back to trail, then do a 23 mile road walk to the first legal place to camp. I could buy what I needed for the last stretch to the end of the trail. But. You can see where I’m going with this.
At the motel last night after a shower and laundry and a great meal of pizza and beer nearby, I started investigating the logistics of getting out of Forks. Looked up bus times, called them and left a message, googled shuttle services and found Olympic Hiking Shuttle, emailed them. All on a Sunday night so I didn’t expect to hear anything until this morning, Monday, when I did!
Since deciding I needed to be on my own recognizance the far side of Port Angeles, I’ve had to go back to making my own decisions, not a problem. The bus would run me a ways back to trail and maybe a bit further if the bus driver had a place to pull over, today. Olympic Hiking Shuttle could get me to the coast, skipping the 23 mile road walk, for cheap, since they were picking up and dropping off some other hikers back at their car. Tomorrow. I booked another night in Forks and paid online for the shuttle.
And even better, got a text from Ravensong who I knew was going to be back hiking somewhere in this area. She and Judith are doing a week “up the Hoh” to a glacier, and she wondered where Poppy and I were. Well Poppy couldn’t answer I think because she’s up the trail and out of cell service. But I answered and we three ate dinner together in Forks, so happy to meet Judith and see Ravensong again, they’re great!
The zero helped! My shin doesn’t hurt. Rick dropped me at the ferry terminal, it was a 45” ride to Port Townsend where I found the lovely old brick post office and collected my resupply box. With the food I had leftover from so many days staying in motels, I think I’ll be fine. From Port Townsend the trail was city street to a bike path along the harbor, gorgeous views. After awhile the trail was going to be Highway 20 again, but the Guthook comments described an alternative bike path so I took that. Turned out to be double track dirt road for the overhead power lines. After a few miles of easy walking, it turned into a blackberry, Devil’s Club and other things with thorns bushwhack. Arrgggh, too far to turn around so I struggled on, hearing highway traffic nearby. I finally saw cars flashing through openings in the jungle and made my way to an embankment above the highway. I slid down it somehow hanging onto whatever I could find and landed on the skinny shoulder covered in blood smeared all over my arms and legs from thrashing through skin ripping vegetation. I used my water bottle to clean up a bit before another 5 miles or so on lousy Highway 20 to 101 to Poppy and our agreed camping place at a great trail angel place on Uncas Road. Greg is awesome and has a privy, water and tent space along with a shelter if it was crummy weather and a warm greeting. Plus Poppy and Tex were there and we all cooked dinner, talked and admired the flint napping that Greg has been working on. So despite the bushwhacking and relacerated legs and arms, it was actually a fine day.
8/14 21.5 miles
A dog lot of mastiffs on the next property barked off and on all night. Earplugs helped a bit.
More paved road walking today to a nicely graded dirt road and finally trail. A good day all in all, about 12 hours in transit. I realized I’d done a stupid thing and am not carrying enough food for the miles. When I’d planned, I calculated going the shorter alternate route and didn’t check with Poppy what she calculated. It would have come up if we’d taken the same ferry to Port Townsend where she shopped and I got my box for this stretch. So my bad, I’m now rationing for 100 miles, not the 60 I planned. I’ll be fine, if a tad hungry.
8/15 18 miles
Beans is back!! We haven’t seen him since Mt Baker so it was awesome to camp and talk with him again. Also Poppy gave me her extra bagel to help with my poor food planning, yay!
Today was pretty much a green tunnel (all trees, no views) to a full parking lot and great trail, tons of people (30+ when I quit counting humans) and 9 dogs. Marmot Pass was beautiful although there weren’t any marmots, disappointing.
8/16 18.5 miles
Another gorgeous pass although the trail was crap going down the other side to the junction. The next 10 miles I leap frogged with Beans since Poppy takes off early in the morning and she’s gone till the campsite, the new normal now. Beans and I got lightly rained on for an hour or two and got wet mostly because all the vegetation next to the trail brushes your legs. He was feasting on huckleberries as he went and showed me the three different kinds—I had no idea and they really look different from each other. Cool.
Got to camp and Poppy showed me some tent sites near her. I was getting cold from being wet so set up camp and climbed in to get warm. She came over to visit and Beans and I made our dinners and we all chatted with me shivering in my tent snd them sitting just outside. Hikers!
I told her I wasn’t going to follow her plan starting tomorrow. I know she went to a lot of work to get the Olympic National Park (ONP) campsite permits and I appreciate it but I need a night in Port Angeles to recharge batteries and myself. Her plan involves hiking well past tomorrow’s permitted site, then dashing into Port Angeles for groceries and food, then hitching back out and walking 11 more miles. I asked why but there wasn’t an answer. So I will finish 1 day later than she will. I am still permitted for campsites, I just have to avoid the ones that have specific quotas which is only a couple. Hopefully it works out.
8/17 18.8 miles
Poppy was gone when I got up. Beans said goodbye as he headed out a few minutes before I did. Another incredible pass in the alpine with good ONP tread! Hayden Pass. Then a long 9 miles down to our permitted campsite at Mary’s Falls—I had it all to myself right next to the rather loud Elwha River.
8/18 15 miles
Pretty easy day. I heard from Catwater’s Kid on the inReach in the morning. She does have today and tomorrow off from work and will meet me for the night in Port Angeles, that message lit me up with joy. I’m feeling bad about ditching Poppy even though it’s the right choice for me and this happens in the hiking world often. One partner’s getting faster and the other is wearing out, or one has a different time schedule or goals than the other.
You have to walk off the PNT for about 2 miles to access a trailhead and road to the highway and town. I saw a hiker woman making lunch near the junction and went and asked her about the “bypass trail.” She was going to walk out too after her lunch and said, “I want to give you a ride to Port Angeles!” And so it happened, what a hoot she was, from Portland, and in a previous season she’d hiked 500 miles of the PCT. She dropped me at my motel, telling Sarah, “Your mom’s a badass!” which Sarah laughingly agreed with.
After being on short rations for the last stretch, real food and beer was especially welcome. And I try to learn from my mistakes, so I studied the trail ahead pretty carefully, bought resupply, a leg sleeve for my sometimes still sore shin and made a reservation for a night in Forks. Also the Super 8 has a resident cat, Douglas.
Ravensong dropped us off on the road where she’d fetched us from yesterday. What can I say about today? Road, all road, through lovely flat farmlands with that wide open feel I love. Walking Highway 20 isn’t my favorite thing to do. But I’d reserved a lovely motel room in Anacortes—we had our own bedrooms which helps since we seem to be at the point of being constantly irritated with each other—too many weeks together. I don’t think talking it out will help. Feelings would be hurt for no resolution.
8/10 25 miles
A bit of trail in an Anacortes neighborhood to roads for a very long time. Feels like I have a shin splint on my left leg. A bad day when your hiking buddy walks off ahead in the morning and at the end of the day you find yourself ahead of her with some kind of accusation floating in the air. Did I pass her when she was in the little store at a road junction? Doesn’t matter, there was 1.8 miles, off trail, from the “trail” junction to our motel, downhill, but she did not want to walk it. (“I’m not doing 25 miles!”) I had an Uber OK for awhile but that went away. She caught up and flagged down a ride, amazing boldness, yay!
Annoyed with me again, this is getting old. My leg is hurting bad, and the shin is kind of swollen, so I’m not walking the beach but sticking to the road.
I let her know that I was going to stay with a friend on Whidbey Island and she was welcome too. But mid day I got a text that she was at a trail angel’s in Coupeville.
Rick and Mike (and Ellie the Weimaraner) picked me up around 3:30, handed me a beer, and whisked me to Rick’s house in Freeland. Ocean view! Quiet and comfy. It was so great to talk with these smart engineers. Plus they cook! And sweet Ellie let me pet her and scratch her belly.
Lovely relaxing day. My shin needed this rest and barely hurts anymore. Rick cooked me King Salmon, yum! Thanks Rick! Thanks Mike! Hugs, scratches and doggy talk Ellie!
Poppy zeroed at Happy House and decided to take the early ferry from Coupeville to Port Townsend even though I’ll take the later, 8:45 am ferry because I need to get my resupply box during post office hours. We’ll meet at the end of the day at Greg and Heather’s trail angel place to camp.
Ubered to Sedro-Woolley where we left off. Poppy mailed back the road walking shoes she’d picked up in the mail yesterday. She thought they’d suit her better than trail shoes since we’ll be doing so much road walking. Umm hmm.
We walked 8.5 miles up paved Highway 9 to join a steep gravel logging road. We camped in mist which slowly cleared for views over Puget Sound. And traffic noise from the highways below us.
8/7 17.7 miles
Picked up my resupply box at a new trail angel place near Alger. Nobody home but it was great to get a box on a Saturday, not worrying about post office hours in a tiny little place.
It rained all night and now all day. I pitched a wet tent and my fingers and toes are still pruny. Poppy hates not being able to dry her stuff, so as she walked she checked the Alger trail angel place, then the Alger Fire Department, community hall and church, to ask for a place inside to dry out. Nobody home.
For me though, it was not bad today, really, in full rain gear. It’s not cold but there aren’t many views, unless you count walking under the I-5 freeway. Lots of road walking, paved and gravel, until joining lovely trail, I felt fine today.
8/8 maybe 5 miles?
Ravensong! Poppy waterlogged her phone last night, but borrowed a day hiker’s this morning on our way to paved road to call Ravensong who came and picked us up and took Poppy to ATT for a new phone. But first we got second breakfast, all 3 of us, in Edison. Later Ravensong took us to her house for the night. We hung our wet stuff on the porch to dry, showered, washed clothes and visited! We walked from her house to the lake, then the falls where Chris took me when he was living in Bellingham a few years ago. And I suggested Aslan Brewing for dinner, which was great, probably still the dishes Chris created.
My wonderful daughter took us to REI, then all the way back to where she picked us up yesterday before driving hours back to Seattle. We started hiking at 12:30 pm, me with new undies, socks snd bug dope.
It was the paved Mt Baker Highway uphill all day with quite a bit of fast moving traffic. I’d like some signage (a volunteer project for me?) saying something like “PNT National Scenic Trail, Believe It or Not”
We had a lovely stop at the ski resort cafe—cookies, beer and Gatorade at 3:30. Tex is back! He was standing in line ahead of me, haven’t seen him since Metalline Falls. He is an amazingly competent and independent 18 year old from South Africa living with his family in DC.
We made it through the resort and camped, smoky with rain in the forecast. Tomorrow will be trail downhill for quite a ways though.
More than ever, I want to snowboard Mt Baker next winter!
8/1 23 miles
It started early on lovely forest trail for awhile, then not so much. I did 2 awful “butt scoot” river crossings on logs after many hours of overgrowth and blowdowns. I tried to ford but the water was too fast and the hidden rocks too slippery. A lot of times the logs for crossings will have been cross-hatched for traction and have a rail to hang onto. Not these and with my tippy pack on, I just don’t trust that I won’t fall off the log if I walk it. So I sit astraddle and laboriously inch across. Then it was good trail to a short cut, about 9 miles on paved road. It was wet but not cold today.
8/2 20.4 miles
My battery charger is almost empty, it never charged properly in Bellingham. I don’t want my inReach satellite tracking (and SOS) device to go dead and my phone also needs to stay alive because of the maps snd books loaded on it. Yes I also have paper maps.
We walked gravel road uphill to a trailhead, why is it always uphill? And there were people! Beautiful trail around the other side of Mt Baker, even if it was a smoky, hazy, windy kind of walk. The tread was good all day except for the last mile and a half of blowdown. Goon Squad, last seen a few days ago, came in late and camped with us.
8/3 18.5 miles
Ick day. Blowdown to overgrowth, finally at 1:30pm—gravel roads—uphill in clear cuts. We’re now pitched in the worst of the 5 road turnout campsites we’ve used to date. We got woken up at 2:30am by logging equipment driving by, more or less continuously till we finally got up and started walking.
8/4 16 miles
Road walk to Lyman then the rail-to-trail segment to Sedro-Woolley where we went to the PNTA office. There we met Sterling, the trail crew boss and organizer who gave us a ride to Burlington and our comfy motel. We Ubered to downtown Mt Vernon for great pizza and beer on the Skagit River.
Got a new Anker battery charger from Best Buy since mine, 2016 vintage, won’t charge anymore. Also about 2 lbs of See’s Butterscotch candy. Then Farmstrong Brewery, a short walk away, for great food and okay beer.
7/25 Slide Rule drove me to Chelan along the scenic route, which became more scenic as we encountered an unpublished road closure which forced us up through Republic (excellent lunch stop!). I shared a motel room with Beans and Poppy.
7/26 11 miles
We walked a couple miles to the ferry terminal and sat on it from 8:30-1 pm, arriving in Stehekin where Poppy found the ranger and got us a campsite permit since we’re in North Cascades NP. We waited a bit, got the bus, stopped at the bakery and started hiking the PCT at 3 pm. This is my fourth hike through this section, I am home! Even camped where Puff Puff and I stayed in 2016 on the PCT SOBO. It was super hot climbing out of the bus stop, I just felt sleepy. Later on there were 2 bad bears, unafraid of us, not aggressive, just too comfy with humans. Pretty though. We hiked on and camped in the lovely and cool.
7/27 22 miles
Beat feet for 12 miles to make noon pick up at Hwy 20, thanks for the ride, Forest! We waited at the parking area for Ross Lake for Beans’ mom Susan to bring the resupply boxes we’d sent her. 2 trail angels in a single day, so thankful for the helping hands. Meanwhile Poppy and first time acquaintance Ravensong went and got us campsite permits for North Cascades NP, which somehow all 3 of us kind of forgot in the scramble to jump over forest fires. Ravensong is about my age and is the first woman to hike the PCT—in 1976! Plus she has a hiker hostel in Mazama, currently closed due to fire, and is just a delightful person. Susan walked a ways with me and Beans to the Ross Lake Dam and then we walked till 7 pm again for the second day in a row, whew.
7/28 17 miles
Dan’s birthday. Beautiful day: trail, trees, everything. camped again with Ravensong, Beans and Poppy. Saw mule deer and a huge toad and met hiker Goon Squad (who I later learned has a BS in Physics from Stanford—oh shades of my dad).
7/29 18-ish 6am to 6 pm
Just bored with walking today so I camped a few miles before Beans and Poppy. A lot of unmaintained trail—obstacles to be negotiated—including blowdown covered trail petering into washed out and dry creek beds. It was hot, the biting flies are undeterred by bug dope, even Deet, and the smoke is obscuring the views. Poor entitled hiker me.
Ravensong looked exhausted when I passed her at the tip of the steep climb up Whatcom Pass.
Another hiker, Allison, helped me pull across the hand tram to our side, then we pulled ourselves across to Poppy and Beans. I was annoyed that they didn’t know hand tram protocol which made me glad to camp by myself and calm down.
Ravensong came by my tent about 8 pm, worried by the increasing smoke in the valley. She was pretty traumatized by the fire in Mazama, flames behind her house. So she was intent on hiking over Hannegan Pass.
7/30 13 miles
Beautiful Hannegan Pass this morning, even as smoke filled the valleys below me. I got over and to yet another gravel road walk down to a picnic area.
I’d contacted Sarah aka Catwater’s Kid to see if she could drive up from Seattle area and take us to Bellingham, some 50 miles away for a night. So Poppy, Ravensong and I enjoyed sitting and visiting and admiring people’s dogs (and a cat in a backpack!!). Sarah got us, we ate dinner out, dropped Ravensong at her house, then did the hiker chores—shower and laundry—-before settling in for the night. I love my daughter!
As usual, 6 days of food is heavy, especially on the sun exposed switchbacks after the not unpleasant road walk along highway then through the flat farm valley gravel roads. A little girl came running out to the edge of her driveway, barefooted, to tell about her sore toe. She was maybe 5, wearing bright girl colors but told me her favorite color was black, that made me laugh. Her final comment was that her family was selling puppies—good thing I didn’t see them because a puppy would really weigh down my pack.
We got water at a spring on the uphill, needed enough for camping and quite a ways tomorrow. Our campsite was marginal but at least it was flattish and all the standing dead trees were cleared. Later, Brennan walked in and camped too, I had no idea he had zeroed in Bonner’s too, so that was nice. Plus, in the morning he makes real coffee, how cool is that? I’m pretty sick of instant Starbucks Via doctored with protein powder and Instamix. Yuck.
7/16 12 miles
Positioning for the dreaded bushwhack tomorrow. It was a beautiful ridge walk most of the day, although it was quite the long haul to water. I was ecstatic to find pools of water after 9 miles this morning. There’s a trailhead that gives access to Pyramid Lake, then Upper and Lower Ball Lakes which all have campsites. Quite a few locals are camped nearby. Poppy was ahead and met a group of women on a girlfriends’ weekend. “We all hunt and fish,” said the friendly one. All 6 had sidearms “for people, not bears.” Guns don’t bother me, but stupid attitudes do so I did my best not to show my contempt for these chicken shits. At least their dogs will be an early warning system for bear when they enter the girlfriends’ messy camp.
7/17 8 miles or longer
Brennan caught up to us in the morning so we all did the hellish bushwhack together. Turns out one of those women pulled her gun when he turned up at the lake, a totally not scary, harmless guy. I wish I could go all Mama Bear on them, I’m outraged. But I’m not hiking back!
Anyway after about 8 hours, we emerged on an actual trail, bleeding from scratches and punctures. I rolled my ankle, which I’ve done before too many times to count. It hurts for a few minutes, will swell and stabilize, and I’ll continue hiking. So it goes.
We three camped soon after, right near another trailhead that many families were using to hike a short ways to a waterfall.
All of a sudden a helicopter was circling overhead, obviously Search and Rescue (SAR). We all checked to make sure we hadn’t set off our inReach SOS by accident. Then there was another helo with a guy hanging outside on the skids outside looking. Pretty soon a volunteer SAR crew came down the trail from the parking lot with a stretcher. A minute later they came back. I went to talk to them.
After mobilizing 2 helicopters and 2 ambulance crews, it turned out the injured person (head injury in the Falls) was being carried out to the road by a parent.
The Bonner’s Ferry SAR woman told me they’d successfully lifted a PNT hiker with a broken leg the day before. We wondered who it was, just a day ahead of us.
7/18 12.7 miles for me, 20 for Poppy, LOL!
I started first and immediately made a mistake looking for the trail along the river. I backtracked and Poppy was gone, ahead of me. A few miles later on the road walk, I made another mistake. I missed a switchback 1.5 miles behind me. I checked my maps and stayed on the perfectly excellent gravel road that led downhill mostly to the Priest Lakes and the campsite location we’d talked about. I got there by noon and relaxed at a picnic table, watching the boaters and sunbathers. I went for a swim and rinsed out my clothes. Poppy arrived later and also swam after her much longer, arduous day and we settled in near the privies for a quiet night.
7/19 22 miles
A lovely day! Walked from Upper Priest Lake into old growth cedar forest then onto gravel road.
I was dreading coming off the road and onto trail and the heat and smoke made me worry about having to evacuate possibly. Our Guthook app had recent comments about a very long road walk alternate that would put us into Metalline Falls on schedule, rather than having to spend an unplanned extra night on trail. I got ahold of Poppy, ahead, on the inReach, and we decided to do the road walk.
My day was made better when a Sheriff’s K-9 unit came screeching to a halt in front of me. Deputy Darren leaped out of the driver’s seat, grabbed a cooler snd offered me fresh cherries! And I got to pet K-9 Leo! We had a great conversation and I walked on. I knew Brennan was behind and hoped he got the same experience, but Poppy missed it, bummer.
We all 3 wound up camping on the road just downhill from the Pass
7/20 18 miles
Pretty nice gravel road walk this morning turned into a quite painful paved downhill in the heat into Metalline Falls. Like my feet are killing me as I eat a fantastic meal at the Farmhouse Cafe with a tall glass of huckleberry lemonade. Life is great! Met Tix and Nick. The discussion was about Washington DNR closing all recreation on their lands to the west of us and east of North Cascades in 2 days due to worsening fires and heat.
Slide Rule rolled into town in our ‘97 4WD Ford Sportsmobile and took Poppy and I to a motel.
We loaded the van with Ken, Honey Sticks, Best Western, Poppy, Beans (née Brennan) and drove to Spokane. We’re going to bounce a little ahead of what we’d planned, due to the threatening conditions. Brainstorming logistics, resupply, and routes for a few days. I think we’re going to get a ride to Chelan, take the ferry to Stehekin, walk up the PCT to Highway 20, and walk up that and rejoin the PNT on the west facing side of the North Cascades. Should be cooler and less smoky. I hope. Got to figure out resupply and send some boxes.
Another brutal day carrying 5 nights of food, steep ups. Mosquitoes, not too hot though. I’m sleep deprived, I don’t know why I couldn’t sleep in the comfortable, cool Silverado Motel in Eureka. I woke up with a sore throat which sometimes happens when I don’t sleep much or it can be the start of a cold. Really? A summer cold? I”ve never had one but nobody is wearing masks anymore so I guess it is possible. My pack weighs too much but my legs are strong and my breathing and heart are good, I’m just freaking slow on the uphills! And it’s always uphill with too much weight out of a town stop.
7/9 17.8 miles
We walked up to the Mt. Henry lookout. Wonderful views and I found a pair of sunglasses. It was a horrible, rocky steep 4 miles from the lookout down to the creek, then a tough 3 miles up again on one of those pieces of trail that really has never been constructed–so your feet are slanted with the contour of the hill. I finally got a second wind chasing down Poppy who needed water. We camped in another turnout on the gravel road just before you can hitch or walk into Yaak. We’re not going to.
7/10 19.9 miles
Easy 15 mile road walk to Garver Mountain Lookout. This view was kind of unimpressive to me, maybe because of smoke and wind. We continued on through rocks and second growth and hit another dirt road where we camped (again) in a turnout. There were deer everywhere but just a few cars that petered out before dark. A hot, thirsty day and it’s the third day with a sore throat. Smoky too.
7/11 17.8 miles
News of the day! I found the trowel I lost last year. This was my super secret mission of the day–to find the perfect campsite I’d used last year when the big winds and rain hit me on the ridge and I offered Petra and Retune the spot next to me but she rejected it as “unsuitable” and wound up camping a couple miles away and getting their tent flooded. Ha ha, good times.
I guess the sore throat is a cold, not hay fever. Sigh. Today was road to road to trail up through thick green, then rolling up and down ridges and sidehills except for the short rocky bit to Rock Candy Mountain, a lovely granite cirque. I’d love to spend a week there on a volunteer trail crew to build trail where there is none.
It’s just 12 miles to Fiest Resort tomorrow, I hope it’s open for food and drink. And it’s just 27 from our campsite tonight to where we will hitch to Bonner’s Ferry and the beautiful casino/Best Western right on the river–a respite I loved last year!
7/12 13 miles
With a stop at Fiest Resort. Hazel and Brennan were there too! The cold is not better, Advil helps so I got some food then hiked out to the base of tomorrow’s climb to pitch my tent and relax. Poppy was thinking about waiting till it cooled a bit at 4 pm and then walking uphill for 5 miles and camping. I just didn’t want to, plus it doesn’t really cool off at 4pm, it’s more like 8:30 when the sun gets low in the west.
Not bad, a well graded up (which is why I didn’t remember it I guess) and a continue down the other side to State Route 95. Just as short a day as last year. I caught Poppy on the road downhill and waited at the junction for about 20 minutes. She went blasting by me to the highway while I hurriedly threw on my pack and followed. No sooner did she get on the highway than a car came into view, she jumped up and down, waved her arms, made begging hands and they stopped!! I think I’ll keep her around, that was amazing. Nice people from Boise had never picked up hitchhikers before. And by 2:30 pm we were in AC washing clothes and ourselves, getting food and cold beverages, picking up her new shoes at the post office and generally utterly thrilled with ourselves.
Slide Rule arrived and took us shopping. I found a rayon Aloha shirt at the thrift store for a buck! Then we went to visit with the bros, Doug and Dave, up at their fishing camp. We drove back to Bonner’s, picked up Poppy and went out to dinner. Also, Mucinex is helping the stupid cold resolve.