Thursday, August 27, 2015

Welcome Bob home BBQ Sunday

Hi faithful readers, this is Valorie, Bob's wife and blog editor.

We're hosting a BBQ at our house Sunday, Aug. 30. Please come and help us celebrate Bob's accomplishment. Please email me if you need our home address or directions.

See you Sunday!

Valorie, valorie dot zimmerman at gmail dot com

PS: Let's send the predicted rain over the mountains, where they sorely need it. -v

PCT Thru Hike Gear Review - The Big 3 (plus 1)

Like many hikers, I chose my gear after doing considerable research and testing. I don't think there is the "perfect" gear choice. There are always trade offs. Do you go for less weight, but perhaps have less durability? Is the product backed by a company with great customer service?

The "big 3" are the three pieces of gear that are often the heaviest and often the most expensive pieces of gear taken on a hike. This is what I used on my 2015 through hike of the Pacific Crest Trail.

ULA Catalyst
ULA Catalyst backpack
The ULA Catalyst is a work horse. It is certainly not the lightest pack on the market, weighing in at 48 ounces.  I chose it because it can hold a large bear canister horizontally, is relatively light weight, and has a track record of being a very durable product. And, if popularity has meaning, there were a lot of ULA packs worn by through hikers on the trail.

The pack can handle loads up to 40 pounds. While hiking through the Sierras, this was important to me. The added weight of a bear canister coupled with carrying many days of food meant pack weights leaving town were heavy. This pack was able to handle the load and didn't make me feel like a pack horse! The pack has a wide waist belt to transfer the pack weight to the hips and the belt comes with two zippered pockets. I used the zippered pockets to carry snacks and my camera. There are side pockets are big enough to hold a 32-ounce Gatorade bottle. I carried one on each side filled with drinking water. There is also an inner pocket that can hold a large water bladder. I chose not to use this, but saw a lot of others who did. I removed the inner pocket and attached it to my shoulder strap and carried a water bottle.
There is no way to access items in the bottom of the pack without opening the pack from the top. It would have been nice to have another access point. Also, I was not able to reach back and retrieve my water bottle while wearing the pack. Perhaps it was just me or the shape of the bottle? I did have a problem with the waist belt size. As I lost weight during my through-hike (30 lbs!), my waist belt could not longer be tightened enough to carry the weight of the pack on my hips. I had to contact ULA customer service several times to identify the problem. They sent me a smaller belt and it corrected the problem. It also took me a long time to understand all of the adjustments required to get a good fit. ULA has a video which explains how to adjust the pack each time it is worn. I finally got to understand that adjustments were needed, especially when I changed the pack loads. To me it seemed overly complicated, and I had a problem at first finding the correct straps to pull while wearing the pack.
In Retrospect:
If I had to choose again for a pack to use on a long through hike, I would consider getting the ULA Circuit. It is a bit smaller and lighter, and can handle loads around 30 pounds. Most of the time my pack weighed under 30 pounds. Also, many hiking the trail used a small bear canister (BV450) for their food, rather than the large canister that I chose (BV500). That would solve the issue with the fit of the bear canister in the pack.

ZPacks Hexamid Solo-Plus
ZPacks Hexamid Solo-Plus Tent
The ZPacks tent is made from Cuben Fiber material. It is waterproof and does not stretch when wet, so readjustment of the tent guy lines is not necessary in rainy weather. It uses one trekking pole for support, so no extra support poles are required. The tent has a "beak" that can be deployed during driving rain to provide more protection. The tent is fully enclosed with a bug screen and has a removable bathtub floor. I also opted to get the V-shaped titanium tent stakes, rather than the round ones. The V-shaped stakes held much better in most types of soil. The tent with tent stakes weighs just 19.6 ounces!
I loved that the tent weighed just 19.6 ounces, that includes the stuff sack and tent pegs. There was enough room inside for everything I carried, including my backpack. The material dried quickly in the sun and the bug netting was a life-saver on those buggy evenings when I was tired. It became my sanctuary. The removable bathtub could be removed and used separately. I never used it that way, but would save having to carry an extra ground cloth when cowboy camping. The front entry has a dual zipper on the bug netting. I could unzip just a portion of one side to enter the tent or add/remove items. The zipper was well made. I never had any problems with zippers, unlike others with different tents. The tent is provided with repair tape, should it be punctured during use. I carried the tape with me, but never had to use it. With practice, the tent can be put up or taken down quickly. Zpacks has an instructional video that should be studied and practiced before heading out for the first time.
The tent requires more space to erect than other free-standing tents. A few times I found a perfect campsite, but was unable to set up my tent because there was not enough room for the guy lines. In regards to set up, it takes practice to get the right height for the tent pole and for setting the guy lines. The spacing between the two front guy lines is critical. I marked my second guy line with a black permanent marker so I could put in the second tent stake at the proper location each time.The tent is completely open in the front, allowing for lots of ventilation. The downside to this is that there is not a lot of privacy from the front. In addition, on windy nights, there can be too much ventilation. I had to use my Zlite sleeping pad propped up on the inside of the tent to block some of the breeze during cold breezy nights. On windy nights, I also noticed that the fabric wrinkles would vibrate, creating additional noise. I could find no way to reduce this and couldn't see any difference when readjusting the guy lines. Also, being a single-walled construction, I got freezing condensation on the inside of the tent and frost on the outside of the tent on several cold nights in the Sierras. I envied those who had rain flies who could just shake the frost off. When the frost melted on the inside, it got the bathtub floor wet. In regards to the entry-way zippers, I found that I could not zip them shut using just one hand. It takes two hands; one to hold the fabric below the zipper and one to pull the zipper. On rainy evenings, I also found that there was back-splash that splattered through the front screen and into the bathtub. This was especially true on hard ground. I came to look for campsites with soft ground or pine needles, especially if rain was in the forecast. Finally, at the end of my hike, I noticed wear on the tent fabric and around the doublers where the guy lines attached to the fabric. With additional use, I suspect resealing or patching would be required to keep the tent water tight. The Cuben Fiber stuff sack had the most wear by the end of my hike. It would need to be replaced before my next excursion.
In Retrospect:
ZPacks makes great products, and is updating them all the time. I would seriously consider one of their newer products or perhaps their Duplex Tent at just 20 ounces! At a little more weight, I know of many people who used Big Agnes or the TarpTents, and they were very happy with them.

ZPacks 10-degree Down Bag
ZPacks 10-degree Down Sleeping Bag
This sleeping bag combines the best aspects of a down quilt and a down sleeping bag at an unbeatable weight. The bag opens up underneath like a blanket for easy temperature control when it is warm out, and a 3/4 length zipper and neck elastic allow for bundling up when the temperature turns cold. ZPacks uses premium 900 fill power goose down. I chose the 10-degree bag with water-resistant down, a draft tube over the zipper, wide width and extra long (6 foot 5 inches).
This bag is light weight at 28.8 ounces, yet kept me warm on freezing nights. The wider width gave me more room to thrash about during the night.  I used it both as a quilt when evenings were warm, and enjoyed having the neck elastic so that I could bundle up and trap heat on the coldest nights. The black inner liner made it quick to heat up when I would lay it out to dry in the sun. The black color also hides the fact that I didn't always change into my sleeping clothes every night. I presume a light colored liner would show a lot more dirt! The bag comes with a Cuben Fiber stuff sack. I stored my sleeping clothes in the stuff sack with the sleeping bag, making it easier to find them on cold evenings. I am glad that I got the 10-degree bag; there were some nights that I was cold in the bag, even though I was also wearing a down jacket and a fleece jacket.
I have very few negative comments. This is an exceptional bag. One problem I did notice was that the zipper, which is designed to be underneath you as you sleep, put pressure on my Thermo-rest NeoAir mattress. I ended up with three separate holes in my mattress, all aligning with the position of the zipper on my sleeping bag. My theory is that my feet put excessive pressure on the zipper, which, over time, pushed a small hole in my mattress. When I used the bag with the zipper on top, I never had any problems with holes in my mattress again.
In Retrospect:
I would get a 10-degree bag again. I would not get the water-resistant down. I understand that the treatment can make it harder to fluff up the down, and has minimal effect on keeping the down dry. I would not get the draft tube option. This is a piece of material that covers the zipper. I thought the zipper would feel cold without one. In reality, the draft tube became a nuisance because it kept getting caught in the zipper. I ended up having my wife double-back tape the draft tube to the bag to keep it out of the way.

Thermarest NeoAir Xlite Sleeping Pad
One of the main functions of a sleeping mattress is to provide insulation between the sleeper and the ground. The other is comfort. I got the regular size mattress, which is 20 inches wide, 6 feet long and 2.5 inches thick. I has an R-value of 3.2. It takes several minutes to inflate. For me, it was about forty lungs-full. I always tried to keep it clean and folded it up and kept it in its carrying bag while hiking. I also took the extra precaution by putting my Tyvek ground sheet under it, even when using it in my tent with a built-in bathtub ground cloth.

This mattress was like heaven. I loved it. It made for restful sleep. Some have complained that there is a crackling noise whenever the sleeper moves on top of it. I heard it at first, but it seemed to diminish after several uses. I have used my Thermarest Z-lite pad on occasion while cowboy camping, and it is not nearly as comfortable. I also placed my shoes under the head of the mattress, to elevate it. Then, using my clothes bag as a pillow, I was able to do my blogging with great comfort every night. It was a perfect set up!
Almost everyone who uses a mattress like this ends up with a puncture at one time or another. I thought I was really careful, but my zipper-pull on my sleeping bag managed to poke three holes in my mattress. Fortunately, I had brought along my field repair kit. I found the holes by submerging the mattress in a lake and looking for bubbles. The leaks are hard to find otherwise. The repair consisted of applying a special tape, which worked well and stopped the leaks. I wish the mattress was more robust and less likely to get punctured. There is nothing worse than to wake up in the middle of the night and realize the mattress has deflated.
In Retrospect:
I would get a shorter mattress. The regular-size six foot length is not needed, and adds weight. The smaller size (47 inches long) would have been adequate, and the weight would have been 8 ounces rather than 16. I regularly used sleeping socks, so I wouldn't need my feet elevated on a mattress. It would also have solved my issue with the sleeping bag zipper poking on the mattress.

I'll post more gear reviews in the coming days. Still trying to put some meat on my bones!

Saturday, August 22, 2015

Manning Park

Friday August 21

As I lay in my tent last night at the campground just beyond the northern monument, I found it hard to sleep. Like the ending of a good book, I didn't want it to be over. And yet, this adventure has come to an end. 

I could have slept in, but it was getting light and I had eight miles to go to get to the lodge at Manning Park. The trail climbed 1,000 feet. Unfortunately, the trail was in poor condition with lots of trees across the trail and steep slippery slopes. It was unusually dark in the forest, so I decided to play music, both to pass the time and to alert other creatures of my presence. 

The weather is turning this morning. Several times there were rain showers; just enough to wet the bushes. As the rain showers fell, the sun peeked through for just a moment and created an amazing rainbow pointing to the northern terminus. What an appropriate ending message from Mother Nature!

For the first time on this hike, I used my umbrella. I was rather awkward trying to maneuver with both hands full. The umbrella is one item I probably would not carry again. 

I arrived at the lodge at 8:30. There were no rooms at the lodge, but I got one at the hostel. The room is tiny, and shares a bathroom with five other rooms. There is no phone service here and no way to contact my wife to let her know where I am.

I got a vegetarian omelette at the restaurant and then decided to wait for my wife in the lodge. 

"More Cowbell" stayed at the hostel last night, so I got to visit with him one last time. He left on the bus headed to Vancouver. 

I had a Wi-Fi connection at the lodge, so I posted my successful ending on Facebook. I immediately got many congratulatory messages. A few other hikers showed up throughout the day, but none I knew. 

My wife arrived in the early evening and I discovered that she had reserved a cabin! The manager at the lodge was gracious enough to refund my money on the room at the hostel. 

We had a wonderful dinner at the Pinewoods restaurant. Because I was a PCT hiker, we both got a free drink. For dessert we enjoyed chocolate cake with chocolate ice cream!

It was odd this evening as I took a shower and removed the protective tape from my toes. I won't be needing it anymore. The same was true for my toiletry supplies and my drinking water. 

I read on Facebook that a lot of hikers are quitting the trail at Stevens Pass. There are just too many wildfires and uncertainty. I feel lucky to have been able to hike the north cascades and to see the PCT northern terminus. 

Manning Park is beautiful, but I am ready to head home and begin a new adventure. I am interested in becoming a trail angel. I want to pay back a little kindness that was shown to me. 

But first I need rest and according to my wife, to put some meat back on my bones!

Thoughts on finishing the PCT

Thursday August 20

I am laying in my tent listening to the wind in the trees. Sometimes it sounds like a river; a soothing sound. Sometimes the gusts are stronger and a few trees creak and groan. 

There are birds living here too. I believe they are Camp Robbers. They make a funny chirping sound. One landed close by, as if to announce that it needed something to rob. 

A chipmunk lives here too. I heard it chiding me as I was setting up my tent. 

There are plenty of insects. As soon as I set down my pack, the black flies smelled the lingering perspiration. They were also interested in the smell of my dinner. One fly managed to get into the tent. With a little bit of encouragement, I got it to fly out as I zipped shut the mosquito netting. 

I am just a visitor in this place. As I have wandered from Mexico to Canada, I have always tried to remember that. I made it my goal to never knowingly harm any animal on the trail, whether it be an ant, butterfly, beetle, lizard, stink bug, baby skunk, dragonfly, spider, caterpillar, worm, moth, slug, bee, grasshopper, snake, fly, centipede, or frog. I want them to live at least for another day. 

I have witnessed that all life is connected. The forest that was burned by fire appears to be tragic. Indeed it was for the living forest that died. But new plants are given a chance to thrive. And new creatures find this their home. 

Most of all, however, I have a restored faith in people. Even though I was a complete stranger, they opened their homes to me. They gave me transportation and went out of their way to get me to my destination. They prepared fantastic dishes of food and tasty beverages and invited me to partake until I was full. 

I met extraordinary people who were also walking the trail. Most would share anything that they had if there was a need. We all had a common bond and the same goal. We all were trying to do something extraordinary. 

I feel sad that I'm heading back to the busy world again. I will miss my nightly cup of hot chocolate and laying here listening to the music of the wild. 

But I have reached my goal and come to an ending. I believe that as one door closes, another will open. 

I just need the courage to walk on through. 

A Dedication

I have been thinking about this for a long time, almost from the first day of my hiking adventure. I wanted to dedicate this hike to a very special person. A person who I loved. A person who died young.

I chose the trail name Bobaroo long before I took a step on the Pacific Crest Trail. The name Bobaroo was given to me by my niece, Angel Betts. I can still hear the ring in her voice when she would see me, "Hey, Bobaroo, how are you?"

Angel took her life many years ago. But her memory lives on.

When people on the trail asked me my trail name, I would tell them it was Bobaroo. I usually would have to repeat it, or say something like, "it's just like kangaroo except with the word Bob. You know, Bob-aroo". 

Some people asked me how I got my trail name, and I would tell them the story. They understood, and many had tears come to their eyes. 

I have proudly carried the name from border to border. I wish to dedicate this hike and all that has transpired to the special person who gave me my trail name. Angel, may you rest in peace.

To my readers, thank you for following along. Now you too know the rest of the story.

Day 127 - Canada

Thursday August 20

A flood of emotions overwhelmed me as I caught sight of the monument at the U.S. and Canadian border. I had walked from Mexico to Canada! Tears filled my eyes. 

It is hard to explain all of my emotions. Mostly I am thankful. 

I am so thankful for all of the people who made this possible. 

My wife was my resupply person and she never missed sending a box or giving me encouragement. She drove for hours to get me to trailheads and meet me as I would finish. 

My family gave me the courage to keep going when times were difficult. My son and his friend Nick surprised me with the ultimate trail angel gift by meeting me at Crater Lake, feeding me and treating me to an airplane ride over the trail. And thank you to my daughter Anne and my brother Ron for sending such wonderful treats to Crater Lake. To my son, Thomas, thank you for house sitting and a special thanks for the brownies. They were a special treat each morning as I got on my way. 

Also, thank you goes to our friends Cody and Jenessa, who dropped everything at a moments notice and hosted my wife and I for a wonderful evening. 

I owe a huge debt of thanks to the trail angel, "Legend", who showed up when I was ready to quit and helped me find the courage to go on. 

Others on the trail gave me advice and help. A special thank you to "No Trace" and "Unbreakable" for answering all my silly questions and helping me solve my problem with my backpack. 

A special thank you to "Willie", as we hiked many hundreds of miles together. He became a good friend and helped me become a better hiker. 

Another thank you goes to my hiking buddies, Deb and Patti. They gave me encouragement to believe in myself, and to make a dream become reality. And thank you Deb for having the courage to walk with me and enjoy the trail from Timberline Lodge to Cascade Locks. 

There are so many other trail angels to thank. Bob Riess hosted me when I first arrived in San Diego. He gave me the confidence I needed at the start of this journey. 

Some trail angels left coolers of treats. Others gave me rides or shared their homes. It is incredible that they did this for a complete stranger. 

I would not be standing at the monument without everyones help. 

You all believed in me. 
Thank you!

A special treat awaited me a the monument. It was "More Cowbell"!  He had arrived just twenty minutes before. We reminisced about times and people who we had met on the trail. It was so good to see him!

I am going to camp tonight at the campground just beyond the monument. I will hike out to Manning Park tomorrow morning and meet my wife there. 

Wow, this is an amazing adventure!

Day 126 - Pasayten Wilderness

Wednesday August 19

As I crested the ridge, all I could see was a towering plume of smoke. Not just one, but three separate fires were burning somewhere to the north.

My mind wrestled with the thought of a trail closure. Not now; not on my hike! Not when I am this close to the end!

The morning began with birds chirping in the woods. I hadn't heard them for quite some time. It made me smile. 

I was packed and hiking by 6 and knew this would be a challenging day. After a short climb to Methow Pass, the trail descended to the valley and crossed the Methow River. It followed the river for several miles before climbing 2,700 feet back to the ridge again. I counted over 30 switchbacks!

When I got to the top is when I noticed the smoke plumes. I checked to see if I had phone service. I didn't. It is so frustrating not to be able to get information when on the trail. I was resigned to continue on to Harts Pass where there is a ranger station. I figured that if there was a new trail closure I would find out there. 

The views of the mountains continue to be exceptional.

When I was almost to Harts Pass, I met a couple of ladies who were section hiking, headed to Canada. They mentioned that they had met "More Cowbell"!  I had hiked with him for several days in Southern California. However, since he is ahead of me by several hours, it is unlikely I would see him on the trail. He has a very fast pace. 

The ladies had run out of water and were hoping to find some at Harts Pass. I told them that I didn't think there was water there, but I could share a liter with them. As I suspected, there was no water there. Fortunately, there was a little creek just a half mile up the trail. I filled up and carried an extra two liters for cooking tonight. 

As the afternoon wore on, the sky filled with smoke. I don't know if it was from the fires I spotted or from the Lake Chelan fires. In any case, the smoke was so thick I could barely see the ridges above me. The sun looked like a big red ball. There were even little flakes of soot falling like snow!

I started looking for a campsite at 3, but as fate would have it, the trail followed the hillsides for many miles. I passed a sign that said I was entering the Pasayten Wilderness. A short time later I finally found a good campsite near a small stream. 

I am camped tonight at PCT mile 2635.8. I hiked 26.9 miles today. The elevation here is 6,591 feet. The border is just 24.3 miles ahead!

Day 125 - Rainy Pass

Tuesday August 18

My day of rest is over. It's time to finish the final leg of this adventure. I am so fortunate to have a wife who is willing to drive me to the trail. It is almost a four-hour drive to Rainy Pass on the Cascade Loop highway. On the way, we had a great breakfast at the Pancake House. I loaded up with carbs having a full serving of French toast and hash browns. It seems that I have more energy when I start my day with carbohydrates. 

I am always nervous heading back out on the trail. Today was no exception. It felt like my stomach was in a knot. For some reason the North Cascades intimidate me. Perhaps it's because they appear so steep and massive. Also, I worry about the weather. There are supposed to be increasing clouds in the next few days. For today, however, the weather was perfect! Beautiful blue sky with temperatures in the 70s. We arrived just before 2 PM.

My goal today was to make it over the first ridge, a 2,000 foot climb. As I headed up the trail, I was amazed at how well maintained the trail was. It had a moderate slope and was well groomed. I was going to be able to walk quickly. 

When I got above the trees, the views were absolutely amazing. In the distance I could see Glacier Peak. The nearby mountains looked similar to the mountains in the high Sierras. As the trail went over the ridge, all I could say was "Wow! This is amazing!"

I hiked until 5:30. There was a great campsite very near a stream. The view from the campsite was also fantastic.

So far I am really impressed with the North Cascades. 

It is just over 50 miles to the Canadian border from my campsite. Assuming I can hike twenty miles each day, I should arrive on Friday, two and a half days from now. I can hardly believe it!

I am camped tonight at PCT mile 2608.9. The elevation here is 6,230 feet. I hiked 9.6 miles this afternoon. 

Tuesday, August 18, 2015

Day 124 - Zero Day at Home

Monday August 17

After sleeping in a tent for over 120 days, it seems odd to sleep in a bed! I am taking a zero day today. No hiking; only rest! Of course I woke up at 5 even though I could have slept later. 

It is difficult to take a zero day at home. Everything is so familiar. I took a shower even though I wasn't dirty. How odd is that? I even took time to pay bills and fiddle around with my home PC. 

I took my sleeping bag outside and let it bake in the sun. It should be much warmer the next time I use it!

I figured that I needed 4 days of food to get from Rainy Pass to the Canadian border. The plan is to drop me off later tomorrow at the Rainy Pass trailhead. I hope to hike for several hours tomorrow. 

I spent a few hours this morning to organize my food and went to the store in Black Diamond to get a few extra snacks. It was the first time that I had driven a car in four months!

Of course, I had to enjoy a cold beer as I sat outside on the deck!

I am anxious about the final section to the border. Perhaps it is the same feeling I get every time I leave town to get back on the trail. The other concern is with the weather. It looks like more cloudy or rainy weather is in the forecast. I just have to deal with it!

My wife plans on taking a road trip while I hike the trail, and then meet me at Manning Park. 

It is hard for me to believe that I will be done with the trail in a few days. What an adventure this has been!

Sunday, August 16, 2015

Day 123 - Stevens Pass

Sunday August 16

I thought I was done with the rain, but after I got into my tent last night at Mig Lake, it started drizzling and then raining. The clouds were thick and by morning the inside of my tent was damp. I bundled up my wet tent and damp sleeping bag with the intent of drying them later on. 

I was on the trail by 5:45 and had eight miles to hike to get to Stevens Pass. There were two 1,000+ foot climbs to do, but they seemed to go quickly. The bushes were loaded with rain from last night, but I had my rain gear on. Only my feet got soaked. 

The sun was burning off the clouds as I approached Stevens Pass. The trail passed under the ski lifts and I knew I was getting close to the pass.

I have never played music while I hiked, basically because I like to listen to the sounds of the forest. Today, however, I thought I would try it as I approached the pass. I played a few of my favorite songs through the iPhone speakers. That way I could hear the forest and the music at the same time. The first song was "All of Me" by John Legend. I broke into tears. As I have said before, I easily get emotional while hiking, and this song spoke to my heart. As I came in sight of the pass, the song "Hallelujah" by The Canadian Tenors was playing. I lifted my arms over my head and yelled "hallelujah" as I completed this difficult section!

I walked across the highway to look at the trailhead heading north. There were several signs warning hikers that the trail was closed ahead due to the Blankenship fire. 

I have been worrying for the last few days about what to do next. I could hike north from Stevens Pass, but would have to exit the trail midway. I could take the boat to Stehekin, and hike north from there, but that would mean a long drive and I am not sure the trail is open from that point on. Instead, I have decided to skip this section for now, and continue on from Rainy Pass. Perhaps I will come back sometime to finish this section, but for now my body and heart tell me to finish starting from Rainy Pass. 

At 10:30 my wife arrived to take me home for a zero day. On the way out of the ski lodge, "Dr. Beaker" saw me and asked if she could get a ride to Hiker Heaven in Baring. I met her several times on the trail, but most recently at the town of Etna. Of course we gave her a ride and got to see the Dinsmore's Hiker Heaven. 

My wife and I stopped in Seattle to celebrate my grandson's eighth birthday. I got to shower there, dried my tent and sleeping bag, and got my laundry done. We had a great time and had wonderful food. 

I plan to rest tomorrow and gather supplies for my final push to the Canadian border. I feel sad that wildfires have disrupted my "fairytale" adventure, but I feel that I have made the right decision for me. 

When I arrived at Stevens Pass, I had reached PCT mile 2476.5. 

Day 122 - Lakes in Fog

Saturday August 15

The rain last night quit around midnight. Then the wind picked up and it was gusty for several hours. I could hear the gusts coming as the trees swished about. All I could think about were several of the nearby dead snags. Would this be the time they came down? Fortunately, nothing came down, and the wind dried most of the rain from my tent. 

I was back on the trail at 5:45. I had a long climb up to the ridge. I had one last look at Deep Lake before I crossed the ridge.

The clouds hung around the mountains all day. When the trail would come to an overlook, I often could see little but hills shrouded in clouds. Several times the trail even climbed up into the clouds! The blowing fog made everything damp. 

Of course the rain wet down the bushes alongside the trail. I put on my rain pants and raincoat to keep from getting soaked. The nice thing about walking a trail that is heavily used is that other people were walking ahead of me. That meant less water remained on the bushes when I went by! I soon noticed that my rain pants weren't needed, and they were starting to get me wet from my own perspiration. I took them off for the rest of the day. 

The trail today took me past many beautiful lakes, including Deception Lake. I liked the way the moss reflected in the water.

I did see several grouse. Their explosive takeoffs always startled me! I also saw a mother deer and her two fawns. They are so cute when they leap away through the forest!

By midday I reached Mig Lake. It had several good campsites, and I picked one that was more secluded and sheltered by trees from wind blowing off the lake.

My dinner tonight was Spaghetti with meat sauce, enhanced with Fritos, pepperoni, olive oil and a dash of "slap yo mama"!

Some people have asked me how I know when there is phone service. Most of the time I have no service at all, so I leave my phone in "airplane mode" to keep it from running down the battery. If I need to use the phone, either to send a message, make a call or upload my blog, I'll check to see if there is service when I reach the top of a mountain or if I can see a city or major highway. Often it makes a difference which side of a mountain you are on. Sometimes I'll just check for service when I am going to use the phone for something else. I often get frustrated when I really need to contact someone and the signal is so weak that it won't even send a text message. On the other hand, sometimes I can send a text message, even when a phone call won't go through.

I am camped at Mig Lake, PCT mile 2468.5. I hiked 22.8 miles today. The elevation here is 4,665 feet. 

Saturday, August 15, 2015

Day 121 - Waptus & Deep Lake

Friday August 14

The rain and thunderstorms that I expected last night didn't happen. It was partly cloudy when I crawled out of the tent at 5:25. I was a happy camper!

I knew today was going to be physically challenging because the trail climbed back up to the top of the next ridge, slightly less than 3,000 feet of elevation gain. The good part about it was that the trail was in much better shape. I just need to concentrate on keeping up a good walking rhythm. 

As I got higher, I noticed thunder clouds starting to build over on the next ridge, and clouds beginning to enter the valley. More about that in a moment.

The mountains in this area are all really rugged. That's why there are so many steep climbs!  Once over the top of the ridge, I saw Waptus Lake.

Over forty years ago, my wife and I hiked into the lake and camped. We were trying to start our family and it is possible that our oldest son was conceived here!

As I dropped down to the Waptus River, I remember hiking up the Pacific Crest Trail to Deep Lake so long ago. I had woken up early, way before breakfast time, so I saw a trail sign, "Deep Lake, 5 miles". Being young and energetic, I figured I could quickly hike up to the lake, check it out, and return for breakfast. I didn't take any food or water. Even though I was a fast hiker, it took a long time to reach the lake. On the way back, I suffered from low blood sugar. I'll never forget how much I craved for something sugary. 

On the hike today, I saw the same trail signs. It seemed to take forever to get to the lake, and as I hiked I thought to myself, "What if you met that young man from long ago hurrying back down the trail? What would you say to him?" I puzzled with that question for some time. I finally decided that I would say, "Hey, next time you see your parents, tell them that you met an old guy who just wanted to send his love one last time!" Both of my parents passed away some time ago. What would you say if somehow you met your younger self?

When I am hiking for long periods of time, sometimes I get lost in thought. Perhaps that is part of the hiking adventure as well. 

The clouds grew thicker as the day wore on, so I decided to make camp early. I found a campsite just beyond Deep Lake. As I was cooking my chicken and rice, it began to sprinkle. I quickly ate dinner and retreated to my tent. The ground here has lots of pine needles, so if there are thunder showers, I'm hoping it will soak into the ground rather than puddle. It is also much cooler, so I am already wearing my down jacket and am bundled up in my sleeping bag. The rain is coming as showers, so I expect to hear the "potter-patter" of rain drops all night. Hopefully I won't hear any falling trees!

I am camped just beyond Deep Lake at PCT mile 2445.7.  I hiked 21.7 miles today. The elevation here is 4,308 feet. 

Day 120 - Alpine Lakes Wilderness

Thursday August 13

As I mentioned in my blog yesterday, I am jumping ahead to Snoqualmie Pass. I have done the section from White Pass to Snoqualmie Pass, and I need to take advantage of the days left in August to finish the sections of the trail that I haven't hiked. 

My wife drove me to the trailhead and I was hiking by 6:30. I knew the hiking would be difficult today because the trail climbs steadily, gaining 3,000 feet in six miles. 

What I didn't a anticipate was how difficult the trail was to walk on. In several places it looked like water had run down the trail, leaving rocks and roots to step on, over or around. For many miles the trail climbed through talus fields. I slipped many times when rocks would shift or roll under my feet. This is what the talus fields looked like.

And, it didn't help that my pack was heavy with four days of food. I compare today's effort to the days when I was crossing the passes in the high Sierras. I have seldom put so much effort into so few miles. 

To offset the difficulty, however, were the fantastic views of the rugged peaks. Mount Rainier could be seen in the distance, but the smoke from the Mount Adams fire made everything hazy.

Reliable water sources were few and far between since this summer has been the driest on record in Washington. There were several pretty deep blue lakes along the way, but the trail usually did not come close enough to use them as a water source. I carry 2.5 liters of water, and by midday I was down to one-half liter. That is very unusual for me and kept me worried for several hours. 

Around noon I noticed a mountain goat walking up the trail ahead of me. It didn't seem to be afraid of me. I yelled and waved my trekking pole and it finally climbed up a steep rock above me.

By early afternoon the trail descended almost 2,700 feet to Lemah creek. I hiked another half mile to a large creek that was supposed to have several campsites near the creek. I couldn't find them! I resigned myself to carrying water to dry camp. I was mentally and physically exhausted. As I headed uphill away from the creek, I noticed a side trail heading into the woods. I followed it and jumped for joy as I saw a wonderful campsite!

I am worried about the weather. Thunderstorms are forecast for tonight and tomorrow. I'll just hope for the best. 

I am camped at PCT mile 2424.1.    I hiked 22.1 miles today. The elevation here is 3,287 feet. 

Wednesday, August 12, 2015

Day 119 - White Pass

Wednesday August 12

I slept really well at Hidden Springs, except I heard thunder towards Mount Rainier. As it turns out, there was rain, but none where I was camped. I arose shortly after 5 and was on the trail before 6. I had just under 8 miles to hike to the trail head. My wife planned to meet me at 9. 

I was hiking a trail that I had hiked last year. Halfway through my hike, I was looking to see if there were any deer or elk, because I had seen tracks on the trail. Suddenly, I heard the thunder of hooves on the hill above me. It was a herd of mountain goats!

I have always wanted to see them and now I have!

The sky is still filled with smoke from the Mount Adams fire. The sun shone red!

I arrived at the trail head at 8:40 and walked up to the Kracker Barrel store at White Pass. Valorie arrived within five minutes and we went for breakfast at the Kettle Restaurant in Enumclaw. I had an entire omelette! It was yummy!

At home, I had the normal town day activities. My wife did my laundry, I showered, and then organized my food. I am going to skip ahead to Snoqualmie Pass, since I have already hiked the section from White Pass to Snoqualmie Pass. 

My son took me to the store to get a few more snacks. I now have all my food for the next four days. 

For dinner, we went to the Black Diamond Pizza and Deli. My daughter met us there and we had a fantastic meal. At home, my daughter gave me a wonderful foot massage. My feet are in heaven! Thank you Anne and Thomas!