Saturday, July 26, 2014

My first 26 miles on the PCT

I fell in love today.
I fell in love with the PCT.

 I awoke at first light and looked out over the lake.
The sky was blue and soon the sun kissed the mountain tops.
The morning was all blue sky & sunshine!

I was on the trail at 6 and my feet touched the PCT at 6:20.

PCT trail sign at the junction with the Bear Gap trail.

The views just kept getting better and better. Mount Rainier framed the skyline.
Bob's shadow and Mount Rainier towering over the trail.

As I headed north and gained elevation I could see for miles.
Mount Adams towered in the distance.

Mount Adams in the distance.

I walked through field after field of wild flowers.
I was in love.
A deer bounded from the trail and headed to the meadows.
I saw a deer off in the field. Several elk dashed through the forest.

By 2 PM I reached the Urich shelter.
Urich cabin. Lots of through hikers on the PCT stay here in the wet rainy September and October months.

I had walked over 18 miles just on the PCT. I soaked my feet and changed my socks.
Lunch was a protein bar and peanut butter.

The hut is near the jeep road (Naches trail).
Lots of people started showing up, so I decided to head back and camp at the junction with the Arches trail.

My camp after walking 26 miles on the Pacific Crest Trail.
In all, I walked about 26 miles today.
It's a new record for me.

The sun is still shining.
The trail has touched my soul.
I am in love, and it feels wonderful!

Thursday, July 24, 2014

First Solo Overnight Hike

How do I feel about my first solo overnight hike? I feel scared and excited. It is like getting ready to start a race. My muscles are tight; my gut has a small ache.

I got home from a full day of work. I checked my lists and packed my last few items. I am ready to go. I leave at 4:20 and head for Crystal Mountain. I arrived at 5:20.

The trail to Hen Skin lake is reached by following the Silver Creek trail.
I chuckle to myself when I see that the trail goes straight up the hill; no switch backs.
I guess you have to earn your way to the top of the mountain.

The Silver Creek trail leads to the PCT and my destination for tonight, Henskin Lake.
The clouds were hovering above me as I huffed and puffed my way uphill.
But, I was so excited.
My race had started. It felt good!

Henskin Lake above the Crystal Mountain resort
I reached the lake at 6:20. Fish were rising. It was quiet; God's country.

For dinner I had black bean soup, rehydrated with cold water.
I am going stove-less this trip. So far, I love it.

I am snug in my tent now, eager to hit the Pacific Crest Trail tomorrow and test out my body with a day of walking.  Life is good!
My camp site at Henskin Lake.

Sunday, July 13, 2014

Lost Lake to Echo Lake Loop - Norse Peak Wilderness

Almost six months ago, the "walking buddies" decided that we would do a weekend backpacking trip in the summer. I chose the weekend of July 12 and 13th. My suggestion was to hike up the Deep Creek trail to the ridge and then pick a camping spot somewhere near Noble Knob.

After doing some day hiking up the Greenwater river to both Lost Lake and Echo Lake, I decided that our weekend trip should be to Lost Lake. I also decided that we would hike from the Greenwater river trail head instead of using the (steep) Deep Creek trail.

As the weekend approached, I got a text message from Patti saying that she had fallen and tweaked her hip. She would NOT be going on our planned hike!
I was saddened, but glad that Patti was looking out for herself.

I sent a text message to Debbie, wanting to confirm that she would still be going.
She was. In addition, I got another bright idea.

What if we hiked to Lost Lake on Friday evening?
On Saturday, we could hike up to Noble Knob, along the ridge to Corral Pass, and then down the Greenwater River trail to Echo Lake. We could camp there on Saturday night, and then head back to the Greenwater River trail head on Sunday morning. Debbie thought it would be a good idea. I was elated!

Debbie arrived at my house at 2:30 and we arrived at the Greenwater River trail head at 3:25.
The day was sunny and warm.
Bob and Debbie ready to head up the Greenwater River trail to Lost Lake
 Of course the trail up the river crosses five times on log bridges. It was beautiful.
Debbie crossing the Greenwater River on a log bridge.
 As we neared Lost Lake, there were fields on beautiful wild flowers. It was breathtaking.
Fields of wild flowers near Lost Lake
When we arrived at the lake, we were the only ones there!
We picked a prime camp site right on the lake shore and quickly made camp.
Our camp site at Lost Lake
 The evening was perfect. There were hardly any mosquitoes or bugs. This was our view... amazing!
The view from our camp site at Lost Lake
 This was my view from my tent. It doesn't get any better than this.
View from my tent looking out over Lost Lake.
On Saturday morning, we both woke up early and were on the trail by 6:30 AM.
I had warned Debbie that the first two miles were going to be difficult.
The trail gained over 1600 feet in less than two miles.

Here is a map of our loop hike:

On the way up, we surprised two elk. They quickly disappeared into the forest.
Since Debbie knew that this part of the trail was going to be very difficult, she told me to "hike my own hike", so I hiked on ahead, hoping that Debbie would have the energy to make it to the top.

The trail was not easy, but it soon broke out into sub-alpine and alpine forests.
The views were amazing.
Noble Knob was right above, with fields of wild flowers blooming everywhere.
I was in heaven!

Noble Knob looms over the trail.
Morning sun shines through the trees with wild flowers growing along the trail.

Fields of wild flowers and awesome views.
I told Debbie that I would wait for her when I got to another trail junction.
I sat down my pack.
A raven soared overhead, catching the air currents.
There were humming birds and butterflies.

And, finally, Debbie. She made it!
I was so relieved.

AND, the best part of all?
She found her trail name!
She calls herself, "Turtle"!
Junction of the Lost Lake, Noble Knob and Dalles Ridge trails. Debbie is almost there!

Bob at the trail junction.
 As we crossed over the ridge, the impressive Mount Rainier stood out in all her glory.
Mount Rainier
As we neared Corral Pass, Debbie realized that we had cell phone service again.
She called her husband, and I sent a text message to my wife, Valorie.

Near Corral Pass, this was an amazing view of Mount Rainier.
As we walked down the trail towards Corral Pass, we met three young men who were riding cross-country bikes down the trail and were headed to the Ranger Creek trail. As it happens, we met them right at the point where the Deep Creek trail joins with the Dalles Ridge Trail.

Junction of the Deep Creek trail and the Dalles Ridge Trail.
Shortly after that, we met three men who were headed up the trail, carrying what I first thought were fishing nets. Instead, they were out to hunt for butterflies!

From Corral Pass, we headed down the Greenwater River Trail.
By this time, it was getting hot, and we were so glad that we were headed DOWN the trail, not trying to climb it. We passed several streams along the way.
Debbie crosses a stream near a waterfall on the Greenwater River trail.
 The trail was made much more difficult by several huge fallen trees that had not been cleared from the trail.
At these places, we either had to climb over the logs, squeeze under them, go around them, or in some cases, crawl on the ground under them. It was very tiring and made harder by a full back pack.

By mid afternoon we arrived at Echo Lake.
On my prior hike, I noticed a wonderful camp site right along the Greenwater River before it enters the lake.
We made camp there.
Echo Lake

Our camp site. Debbie raises her arms in victory. She made it! I am very proud of her!
We had a good evening and shared a good meal.
I had brought some wine, which we enjoyed by a small camp fire.

On Sunday morning, we arose early and were on the trail shortly after 6 AM.
The sun is so beautiful as it streams through the forest.
These were pretty pink flowers (?) along the trail.

Beautiful pink flowers along the trail. Could they be some type of mushroom?
 The trail down from Echo Lake passes several waterfalls.
Greenwater river waterfall.

My shadow on the trail in the morning sun.

Debbie walks the trail in the magic of the sunlight.
Debbie completes her hike as she arrives at the Greenwater River trail head. It was 9:30 AM.
We had traveled 36.8 miles!
Debbie arrives back at the trail head
What did I learn?

  • Don't be afraid to challenge yourself, but be clear with others about the challenge. I told Debbie that the hike up to the ridge would be difficult. She never gave up and made it to the top. AND, in the process, she found her trail name: Turtle!
  • I am learning how to setting up camp more efficiently. When I get to camp, I first replenish my water. The next step is to start heating my water for dinner, because it takes about ten minutes to get two cups of boiling water. While that is happening, I set up my tent, along with my air mattress and sleeping bag. By then, the water is heated and ready to make my dinner.
  • The "leave no trace" philosophy includes bring out the used toilet paper. I found it is easy to do, especially by using the technique described by "Lady on a Rock".
  • Refilling a Sawyer Squeeze water filter bag is difficult. The bag is flexible, so it does not easily fill by putting it under the water or in the stream flow, Instead, it is easier if you use another plastic bottle to dip the water from the stream or river, and then to pour it into the bag.

This was one of the most memorable hikes I have ever taken.
The weather was unbeatable, with blue skies and temperatures in the 70s.
The camp sites were perfect... close to water, great views, and isolated.
There were very few bugs...of course, there are always bugs.
My hiking partner now has a trail name, and I love it! The "turtle" was victorious!

Sunday, July 6, 2014

Lake Chelan - Lake Shore Trail

Lake Chelan is the third deepest lake in the United States and the terrain around the lake is rugged and isolated. But the views.... the views are spectacular!

The Lake Chelan Lake Shore Trail is only accessible via the Lady of the Lake ferry. The boat departs from the Lake Chelan Boat Company dock and travels up the lake just over 39 miles, making what is called a "flag stop" at Prince Creek. The boat doesn't normally stop here, but will stop at the request of passengers wanting to depart.

Patti and I had been planning this trip for weeks.
We gathered gear, food, and maps.
We were prepared.

But we were nervous.

You see, this was our first overnight backpacking adventure. It was to be a shake-down to see how well our gear worked. Did we bring enough food? Were we carrying enough water and have the right filtration systems? Did we have good maps so we wouldn't loose the trail? Would we find a good place to camp and would we run into wild scary creatures (bears)?

We planned to split the hike into two days. The first day we planned to hike from Prince Creek to Moore Point. We would camp overnight and then head to Stehekin and meet up with my wife, Valorie, who was staying at the Stehekin Valley Ranch.

The map below shows the plan for the first day of our hike.
Lake Chelan Lake Shore Trail - Prince Creek to Moore Point
 We arrived at the dock just before 8 AM, picked up our tickets and waited to board the boat at 8:30.
Valorie and Patti waiting for the Lady of the Lake office to open. The day was bright and sunny!

Lady of the Lake II - a slower boat but one that makes special "flag stops" along the way
The ride up the lake was wonderful. The boat captain gave us a history of the lake and pointed out interesting features along the way. There were several other hikers on the boat who were going to depart at Prince Creek along with us. Two gentlemen were going to hike up the hills and take the high-country trails to Stehekin. A couple of younger women and a family were going to hike the Lake Shore trail, just like us. We hoped to see them on the trail.

Patti talks to other hikers who were departing at Prince Creek to hike the high country towards Stehekin.
The Lady of the Lake is unique in that the boat can nose its way to shore and let down a ramp to let passengers on and off the boat. After a few hours we arrived at Prince Creek and set our feet on the shore! We were there and excited! Our adventure was starting.
Valorie takes our picture as we prepare to hit the trail.
It took us several minutes to get out our hiking poles. By the time we started hiking, the other folks were already out of sight!

We both knew that the timing for the start of the hike was NOT optimal for us. We like to hike in the early morning, and take our naps mid-day! Ha ha! We were starting this trail just before noon, and the sun was hot! But we were happy and excited and looking forward to a great day of walking along the lake.
Patti on the trail. The views are spectacular.
In the distance we caught sight of a couple of the others hiking up the trail.
As the day progressed, we realized that what we thought was an easy "flat" trail, was in reality a trail with lots of ups and downs. Every time we came near a creek or stream, the trail would drop down, cross the stream, and then head back up. Although the elevation gain was not over 300 feet most of the time, it became difficult for Patti. She was carrying a full pack and the rocks were radiating the heat. We made lots of stops, usually in the shade of a tree or bush. The hours dragged on and I realized we were NOT making the miles per hour that we normally do.

The picture below shows how exposed the trail is to the sun.

Patti walking up one of the switch-backs. It was hot!
After crossing one of the small creeks, I caught some movement in the woods. Yep, it was a bear. But not one bear; there were two of them! I tried to get a picture, but they were running fast and disappeared before I could get a picture.

Towards late afternoon, we stopped to look at the map to see how much progress we had made. It was shocking! We were just over half-way to Moore Point, and Patti was really feeling the pack weight in her legs.

To make matters worse, our crossing of Cascade Creek was not pretty. This stream had a large log that I was able to use to cross it, but Patti didn't feel confident to walk it. I remember seeing that hikers often will straddle the log and slide along it, so I suggested that Patti try that. She straddled the log and slid along and made it to the other side. Unfortunately, there were little knobs on the log that cut her leg, so now she had to dig out her first aid kit and apply bandages. She was NOT a happy camper.

It became clear that we were NOT going to have enough energy to make it to Moore Point, so we checked the map and chose Meadow Creek as our destination. Meadow creek had a camp ground and a shelter, so it seemed like a good choice.

I had been trying to stay with Patti as she hiked, but she urged me to hike on ahead at my own pace. She wanted me to "hike my own hike", a common phrase used and accepted in the hiking community. I agreed with Patti, although I was worried about her, since she gets dizzy when she gets tired.

I hiked on ahead. My plan was to get to the Meadow Creek camp ground, find a place to camp, leave my pack, and come back to help Patti the rest of the way. What I didn't consider was that Meadow Creek was the spot that the stream had washed out the trail, so there was a detour. On the way down to the lake, I noticed a flat spot along the stream. It was a good place to make camp.

I left my pack and was headed up the trail, when I hear in the distance, "Hey, Bobaroo!" It was Patti, calling my trail name. I yelled back, "Hey, Patti O!", I called back, using her trail name. She was coming down the trail and glad to be in camp! This is the first time someone has used my trail name! Another first!!

We were both hot and tired. We set up our tents and cooked our dinner. But, for whatever reason, neither of us were hungry. We drank a beer in celebration of the first day, and enjoyed a cup of wine!

Our camp site along Meadow Creek

Our dirt camp - I'm on my sit pad, waiting for water to boil and enjoying a cup of wine
The next morning we both awoke early. I recharged my iPhone and packed my gear. I fixed a Mountain House "Breakfast Scramble", which tasted good as long as you didn't look at what you were eating!

We broke camp and were on the trail by 5:45.
Morning sunrise over Lake Chelan.
I thought we were within a mile of Moore Point, but after hiking for over an hour, I realized that it must have been twice that. It seems that miles on this trail are twice as long as miles during our normal walks!

Yesterday and today, we often walked through burnt out forests, the reminder of several terrible forest fires which swept through this region.
Burnt out forests from fires several years ago.

Patti saw another bear on the hill side, but I couldn't catch sight of it.
Patti has the eagle-eyes this trip for sure!

As we neared Moore Point, Patti told me that she was going to flag down the Lady of the Lake and take the boat into Stehekin. Her legs are just not strong enough to take the many hills. I knew this was a good decision, but was worried that she would NOT be able to flag down the boat. She, however, was confident, so we parted ways at Moore Creek. Later she told me, as she walked the trail to the beach, she surprised another bear along the trail. She got a picture!
Patti got this picture of a bear. It is standing on the large rock.
This is a map of the rest of the trail from Moore Point to Stehekin.
Lake Shore Trail map - Moore Point to Stehekin Landing

The hike from Moore Point to Stehekin was more up and down. The trail rises up to Hunts Bluff just after Moore Creek. It is the highest point on the trail. Patti would not have liked the climb up. However, there were some fabulous views from the top.
View from the top of Hunts Bluff
Barge heading up the lake.
Looking up the lake towards Stehekin.
Along the way, I first heard, and then spotted, a male grouse. His tail feathers were all spread out and he was strutting about.
Male grouse strutting about.
As I neared Stehekin, I caught sight of the two women who left the boat with us. They had a good pace going, but I was slowly catching up. All of a sudden, I heard a loud scream and saw them backing down the trail and pointing to the side of the trail. It was a rattle snake! It was coiled and rattling, but we walked on the far side of the trail and let it be.

I arrived in Stehekin at 10:30 and waited for the boat to arrive at noon.
Restaurant and stores at Stehekin.
Patti had no problem flagging down the boat. In fact, there were several people getting on the boat there.
Lady of the Lake landing at Moore Point.
In retrospect, what did I learn?

  • I liked my pack, but I have too many little ditty bags stored in the outside mesh pouch. It was hard to find the right bag without taking almost everything out. I felt really disorganized while making camp. 
  • I did NOT like my Sawyer water filter and filter bag combination. I had switched to a platypus bag, rather than using the Sawyer bag. The platypus bag would not seal properly to the filter and it leaked terribly as I was trying to filter water. I think the platypus bag has a different thread than the Sawyer bag.
  • I LIKED Patti's SteriPen water purifier. It only took 90 seconds and worked flawlessly.
  • I LIKED my sit pad. It was one of the most useful items at camp and on the trail.
  • I did NOT like the freeze dried food. I cooked Spaghetti and meat sauce for dinner, and added dehydrated peas. Although I enjoyed it once before at home, on the trail I couldn't eat more than one bite. I am considering options for going stove-less in the future.
  • My tent was difficult to anchor in the rocky ground. Since it is not free-standing, I needed the anchors to keep the tent upright. I ended up piling rocks on the stakes to hold them down. The tent seemed small, but it worked fine. I think I'll like it as I use it more.
  • My air mattress worked well, but I had to be careful not to slide off it during the night. Is there some trick to keeping the sleeping bag on the mattress? I managed OK by putting my pack on one side and sleeping close to the side of the tent. Only my feet would slip off.
  • My sleeping bag was much too hot to use at first, but as the evening grew cooler it was great to snuggle into. I like the fact that the bag is very light weight and packs away easily.
  • My shoes worked very well. I have a pair of La Sportiva trail running shoes. They are not waterproof by design, so that moisture produced while walking has a way to evaporate. I also LOVE my Montrail "enduro-soles" custom moldable insoles. You warm them in an oven for two minutes, put them in your shoes, and they mold to your feet. It feels like I am walking on a cloud!
  • I love my hiking shirt and pants. They are sold by RailRiders. My shirt is a Men's Madison River Shirt with Insect Shield and my pants are Men's Eco-Mesh Pant with Insect ShieldThey are extremely light-weight, tough, have insect protection, allow a lot of air circulation, and dry quickly. The dirt doesn't seem to cling to them either. 
  • I was UNABLE to try blogging from the trail. I was surprised at how tired I was at night; I can't imagine how some hikers have the energy to blog every day. Also, since there was absolutely NO reception, it would have been impossible to send a blog had I created one.
  • I love my iPhone. I have an iPhone 5C with 32GB of memory. I put the boat schedule and the Stehekin bus schedule information in a notepad file and it came in handy while on the trail.
  • I love the Gaia GPS app for my phone. This app allowed me to capture a map of the entire Lake Chelan / Stehekin area and save it to my phone. When on the trail, I just had to open the map and the GPS showed me exactly where we were! It doesn't require cell connectivity and worked like magic!

Physical Preparation:
  • I have been hiking every weekend with my pack up trails with significant elevation gain. My legs were strong enough that I enjoyed the ups and downs. Patti, however, had hiked with her pack on weekends, but was not prepared for the elevation gains. What seemed to be an easy hike along the lake was in reality a lot of elevation gain and loss, over and over. 
  • Heat is a big factor while hiking. It was hot and the trail was exposed. The rocks radiated the heat back from the ground so it was like hiking through an oven. 
  • Hike your own hike (HYOH) is a great concept. However, I found it difficult to just head on up the trail, knowing that my hiking partner was struggling. I'm not sure how to balance the concern for a partner with the desire to HYOH. I must admit, however, once Patti had made the decision to catch the boat at Moore Point, I really enjoyed the solo hike up the trail. 

  • I loved hearing the crickets at night! Constant chirping meant no bears snooping through the camp site.
  • I misjudged how far we would be able to hike the first day. I thought it was about eight miles to Moore Point. It was actually 11 miles! I need to pay more attention to mileage on the maps in the future.
  • I assumed that Patti was ready for this hike. We should have done a test hike on a few more difficult trails before attempting this hike. 
In all, I loved this hike.

I learned a great deal, had a good time, but am sad that Patti had to Section Hike the trail.

Stehekin was paradise for me. 
I put my feet on the Pacific Crest trail, ate some of the best croissants from the Stehekin bakery, and enjoyed walking down the road and having everyone smile and wave!

Our cabin at the Stehekin Valley Ranch was superb, and the food was excellent.

No better way to end our first adventure!

Our cabin at Stehekin Valley Ranch. It was wonderful.