I recently was lucky enough to participate in a week-long "volunteer vacation" with the Washington Trails Association (WTA), working to improve the trails near Pete Lake.
I am always worried about getting to a new trailhead on time. Google maps said it would take two hours to get to the Pete Lake trail head from my house. However, I knew that my truck wouldn't go the speed limit, so I gave myself three hours. Traffic was heavy on I-90, but moved steadily. I arrived forty minutes early, and found that the parking lot was packed! I finally found a spot to park alongside the road. As I drove in, I saw Jim, who I met on the Lake Chelan trip, and, as I was walking to the trail head, I saw Claire arriving with a WTA intern named Alex. Soon I saw Steven, who I met on the Ipsut Creek trip. So out of the seven people in our work party, there were only two that I haven't met before!
While waiting for everyone to gather, I watched the Forest Service take our tools and food via horseback up the trail.
|Pack horses heading up the trail with our tools, equipment and food|
|Pete Lake, 4 miles away. The PCT is only 8 miles away!|
We all signed in, and headed up the trail. The trail was easy to walk, although I was rather warm in the sunshine. The four miles to Pete Lake went quickly, and I arrived in an hour and forty minutes. I talked with the rangers for a bit before they headed back down the trail.
|Our camp area at Pete Lake. The horses were tied to trees as they were unloaded.|
Since the rest of the group had not yet arrived, I set up my tent. There were people everywhere, but we had a reserved campsite which, amazingly, was still empty.
I helped set up and organize the cook tent. Others dug a hole for our sump water, another dug a latrine that our group will use during the week. We hung up the water for the hand washing station as well as the water filtering station. Paul headed to the lake to fill our water buckets.
|Our cook tent is set up|
|Our first dinner - Spaghetti, meatballs and warm garlic bread. Yum!|
This will be an interesting week, since there is no picnic table. We ended up sitting on some of the coolers, which worked OK. After dinner, we did our normal dish washing which included washing, rinsing twice and then a bleach rinse.
|After each cooked meal, we thoroughly wash all of the dishes. We only had a little table as our work surface.|
Last night, I heard coyotes howling nearby and several owls!
Sunday, July 3
I heard Stephen get up at 4:45. He gets up early to make coffee and hot water. I rolled out at 5:15 and made a peanut butter and jelly sandwich for my lunch.
I started breakfast at 6 - French toast and bacon. Claire went over tool safety before we split into two work teams.
|Claire reviews the tools we will be using and emphasizes safety|
|Each tool is reviewed: how it is used, how to carry it, how to safely store it alongside the trail|
One group improved the trail over a stream bed. I went with the group that hiked about a mile and a half down the trail to where a tree root ball had left a huge hole in the trail.
|Claire surveys the work site. We needed to restore the trail.|
|Steve places rocks in the hole on a bench dug so that the rocks would not shift over time.|
We had to dig out mineral soil from the root ball and then gather large rocks to build a rock retaining wall. Steve spent and hour placing the first row of stones. We then decided we had enough stones to fill the entire hole, so we filled it up and spread a good layer of soil on top. It looks really nice.
|Steve and Alex adding rocks to the hole|
|Bob helps to fill the hole too|
|We added mineral soil on top. It looks really like a trail again!|
Back at camp we had Gatorade and chips.
|Resting after a long day. Gatorade and chips hit the spot.|
For dinner we had chicken tacos with all the fixings. A lot of people who were camped in the campground went home today, so it was much quieter. Everyone were in their tents by 8:30 after a satisfying day of working on the trail.
Monday, July 4
It seems odd that I am out in the woods again on the Fourth of July. But really I enjoy the quiet and peacefulness of the forest.
|We had two American flags flying for the Fourth of July!|
I helped make sausage McMuffins and headed out to the trail at 7:30. I did not sleep well last night. There were some teenagers camped near the lake who partied until midnight. In addition, my right shoulder has been aching at night. I told Claire that I needed to watch what I did today. I ended up doing brushing all morning. It was hard work and my shoulder still ached. After lunch I helped with tread work and dug out roots. By two I was getting incredibly cold and headed back to camp a half hour early. I felt bad quitting early but I had no more energy.
I rested in my tent for two hours and then helped cook salmon, asparagus and basil pasta. It turned out great.
|The salmon has been seasoned and I cut lemon wedges. The salmon was roasted on the griddle with butter and garlic.|
I headed to bed before 8 and took pain medication for my aching shoulder.
Tuesday, July 5
It was so nice to have a quiet camp last night. I slept well, especially since I took Aleve to keep the ache in my shoulder in check. I was up by 5:15. Stephen had the water and coffee going. I made a peanut butter and jelly sandwich for my lunch.
I fixed blueberry pancakes, scrambled eggs with onions and bacon for breakfast.
We did stretching exercises before heading up the trail.
|Steven led the stretching exercises.|
|Alex, Claire and Steve all getting limber.|
Jim, Steve and Stephen cut a large log out of the trail. There was a large snow pile under the bark debris.
|The log has been cut. You can see the snow under the bark in the lower right of the picture.|
Steven shoveled some into our water carrying bags to supplement our freezer ice.
The rest of the group worked on creating a new switchback. We had to dig out rocks and roots.
|Steve digs out rocks from the roots|
|Alex works on the upper part of the switchback, digging out roots and rocks|
|Jim works to place rocks alongside the trail to hold the dirt that will be added later.|
Then we dug mineral soil to finish the tread. We had one huge rock that we moved into place along the trail to hold the soil in place. It took almost twenty minutes to move the rock into place. I created a speeded-up video showing how much effort it takes to move these giant rocks.
I helped fix pulled pork sandwiches for dinner with baked beans and a garden salad.
Wednesday, July 6
Today is our day off. We can stay around camp, go hiking or do whatever we want. The best part is that it was blue skies and sunshine!
I decided to walk up to Lemah meadows and walk up the PCT. I packed a PB&J sandwich and left camp at 6:30. It was an easy hike and I suspected that the trail was the same one that I camped beside last year on my PCT hike. Sure enough I spotted my old campsite.
|Beautiful old tree on the way to Lemah meadows|
|This is my camp site where I camped a little over a year ago on my through hike of the PCT|
Since it only took me 40 minutes to get to the PCT, I decided to head towards Spectacle Lake. The first river had a wooden bridge and the second had a log that was easy to cross.
|The first stream crossing on the PCT has a wooden bridge|
|The second stream crossing on the PCT has a foot bridge. At the narrow end there was a make-shift rail to hold onto.|
The problem was that there we a jillion logs across the trail. Over, under and around was the order of the day.
|On the way to Spectacle Lake, the PCT passes through a burnt forest. There were many logs fallen over the trail.|
I passed a beautiful waterfall on a wooden bridge and then climbed 20 switchbacks to the Spectacle Lake trail.
It was an easy half mile to the lake. Of course the lake was fantastic. I was the only one there!
|First view of Spectacle Lake with mountains all around|
|At the shore of Spectacle Lake|
On the way back I met Steven and Paul.
|Paul and Steven headed up the PCT to Spectacle Lake|
They were making good time, but had taken another trail where they had to wade across one of the rivers. I also met the church group girls who were also headed to the lake.
I made it back to camp by 12:10. The afternoon was warm, so I washed my dirty shirt and pants. I also took a sponge bath. I took a short nap and then helped cook steak, broccoli and mashed potatoes. Others made a veggie salad.
Paul found a small limb on a tree that he carved to look like a little creature. I think he did a great job!
|Paul's carving looks like a little critter peaking over the log!|
Tomorrow we hope to finish the tread work on the Waptus Pass trail and then log out some of the fallen trees on the trail from Pete Lake to the river ford.
Stephen counted 175 trees down across the trail on his way up to Spectacle Lake!
Thursday, July 7
I had weird dreams last night. I wonder if they are because I have been taking pain medication for my shoulder pain?
I helped fix eggs, sausage and English muffins for breakfast. After a few stretching exercises, we split into two teams. Jim, Steven and Steve hiked up the lake to start sawing out trees from across the trail.
|Using a two-person cross-cut saw to remove a tree that was blocking the trail|
Claire, Paul, Alex and I headed up the Waptus Pass trail to finish the trail switchback. We finished setting the rocks alongside the trail and then gathered stones to fill next to the larger rocks. We then filled bags with mineral soil to level and shape the grade. Paul spent several hours digging out a large tree root. We also widened the turn to accommodate horse traffic. We finally finished at noon.
|Lower end of the new switch back. The huge rock was placed next to the tree on the right of the trail.|
|Looking down the trail. The trail was filled with mineral soil to smooth it out|
|The upper section of the switch back. We made the turn wider so that horses could navigate it more easily.|
|Alex packing down some of the dirt|
After lunch we headed up the trail. Claire had another cross cut saw. Jim's team had already cleared 8 trees. I helped cut the ninth.
|When a saw starts to bind, we used an axe to cut away the wood down to the bottom of the saw cut to relieve the stress.|
For dinner we had Couscous with chicken, onions, peppers and Marsala sauce. We also had a garden salad. I fixed warm peaches topped with fresh blueberries.
Of course, we amuse ourselves by trying to flip whipped cream up in the air and catch it in our mouth. Alex did OK.
It started raining after dinner, but it was dry under our tarp.
|The tarp kept us dry during the many rain showers|
We took extra precautions with food storage since we heard that a bear had come into the Waptus Lake campground, which is just over the ridge from us.
Friday, July 8
The last day of the volunteer vacation is always bitter sweet. It's sad to realize that its almost over and I will be leaving good friends. It's sweet in that there is a real feeling of accomplishment and I will be able to return to family and friends tomorrow.
It lightly rained all night, but was clearing by morning.
|There are breaks in the morning clouds over Pete Lake|
|The water in Pete Lake is crystal clear and cold|
|Checking out the lake in the early morning light|
|Pete Lake and clearing skies. One of the mountain peaks starts to come out of the fog|
|Sun filters through the trees. I just love being here.|
I fixed a large pan of bacon and eggs for breakfast. We then headed up the trail to cut logs out of the trail. I worked with Jim, Steve, and Alex. Jim is a good teacher and explains why we are cutting in certain places, and what may happen as we saw the log. I really enjoyed today's work. We managed to clear the trail of logs all the way to the ford of Lemah creek. One tree across the trail had a yellow jacket nest in it. We flagged the trail and left the tree. I felt this was one of the most successful days ever on the outing.
|This tree fell right into the trail tread. We made two cuts and rolled it to the side|
|Steve and Alex on the now cleared trail|
|Alex and Steven are half-way through. Jim is giving them instructions on how to procede.|
|The trail has been cleared and cleaned|
We had chili for dinner with quesadillas and salad.
A large group of Boy Scouts who are camped nearby. We gave them our extra chili, but they are rather noisy tonight.
Saturday, July 9
It rained fairly hard all night, so we all had wet tents to pack up this morning. After breakfast, we all pitched in to break down camp. One of the tasks was to wash all of the cooking equipment and plates, making sure everything was washed twice and dried. It took over an hour to finish.
We also had to pack the metal panniers, making sure that pairs of them were within one pound of each other. We used a portable scale to weigh each pannier and then had to adjust the weights as needed. They needed to be equal in weight so that the pack horses would have a balanced load on the way out. The horses arrived before everything was packed. We finally finished at 11:30 and headed back to the trailhead.
On the way out, we got a lot of "thank you's" from folks heading up the trail. It really made me feel proud to be making a difference with a WTA work crew!
|Packing up the panniers, making sure pairs of them were equal in weight|
|We had extra carrots, so the horses and mules got a special treat!|
|Loading up the horses with the panniers|
During the course of our week in the woods, we shared riddles with each other. It was fun trying to solve them as we worked.
Give me a common word that has the letters "UFA" together. This one drove me to distraction. It's harder than you think. With enough clues from Steve, I finally got it.
There is a room with an incandescent light bulb hanging from the ceiling. There is one door into the room which is closed. There are no windows, and when the light is on in the room, no light can be seen under or around the door. Outside the room are three light switches, which are all in the "off" position. You can only open the door once to see if the light is on. How can you determine which switch controls the light? I guess this was one of the interview questions at Microsoft. They want people who are problem solvers. I can't imagine being put on the spot during an interview to try to figure this one out.
There is a room with four walls, a ceiling and floor, but no windows. There is a chair and a mirror on the wall. How do you get out of the room? No one could possibly solve this one. You look in the mirror to see what you saw. You used the saw to cut the chair in half. Two halves make and hole, and you use the hole to crawl out. OMG!
There is a blue magical mirror. A moose can pass through, but not an elk. Geese can fly through, but not ducks. You can put your feet through, but not your hand. Give examples of other things that can and cannot pass through. With enough examples, this one becomes easy to solve.
A man lives in a fifty story building on the top floor. When it rains, he takes his umbrella and upon returning uses the elevator to return to his room. If he forgets his umbrella, he can only ride to the tenth floor and then has to take the stairs the rest of the way. When the man goes walking, he takes his trekking pole and rides the elevator to the fiftieth floor upon returning. The day he forgot his trekking pole, he could only ride to the tenth floor. Explain why sometimes he can ride the elevator all the way to the top, where other times he can only ride to the tenth floor. This one didn't seem to be logical, but after asking enough questions, someone finally got it.
Two men go into a bar and order the same drink, whiskey on the rocks. The first man got a phone call and had to leave, so he gulps down his drink and leaves. The second man has time to kill, so he lingers over his drink and chitchats with the bartender. An hour later he keels over dead. An autopsy revealed that his drink was poisoned. Why didn't the first man die as well? I had heard this one before, but didn't remember the answer until someone else got it.