PCT Video: Washington Sections K and L

Two years late… and two years of hiking combined (due to miserable weather we dropped out and followed up the following year). Enjoy!

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PCT Sections H-I: Mammoth to Sonora Pass

After a bit of a delay, most of which was due to me needing to replace my computer… Here is my summary of CA Sections H and I:

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The first destination was a lake called Thousand Island Lake, it was even more beautiful than I had remembered from my last visit here. The vomiting and passing out may have had an impact on my appreciation however. It is still one of the prettier lakes along the PCT so far.

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Continuing up the 11,073ft Donohue pass and I came across this guy- frothing at the mouth as he envisioned eating my gear. I may have mentioned this before but I am not a big fan of Marmots. They are large mountain chipmunks that poo everywhere and eat through gear if you leave it unattended.

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The route up to the pass was quite full of snow- something that I was just starting to realize would be the theme of this trip. This cup snow can be quite brutal on the ankles and it reflects the sun a little too well for my liking.

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Finally at the top, the valley to Tuolumne Meadows can be seen in the distance. I had around 12 miles to do before 5pm so that I could buy some chocolate milk at the store. The route was fairly straightforward until I hit a cliff and had to backtrack a bit and head off to the left of the valley.

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This was the end of the snow for the day, but the beginning of wet shoes. The Sierras had a bit of snow get dumped on them the week before I arrived, and then a heatwave went through which made the “seasonal streams” turn into raging rivers. It was as impressive as it was mood killing.

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This was the Tuolumne River- something that I REALLY did not want to try to ford. There were bridges built in convenient locations which were appreciated. I was hurting fairly bad at this point due to chafing so I spent a bit of time at the Glen Aulen campground trying to avoid further damage. This is where I donned my swimsuit that I ended up wearing for the rest of the hike. Airflow is a good thing!

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I bumped into my first (very) temporary hiking buddy named oldschool. I appreciated the company during the first few larger river crossings. This one was remarkably cold. Come to think of it, most of the river crossings were remarkably cold.

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The next Pass was Benson Pass which sits at 10,150ft. The climb up was full of soft snow and the decent was the worst part of this trip. The trail turned into a constant stream which soaked my feet, and I ended up getting lost for an hour.

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This is the decent right before the footprints disappeared and the cliffs appeared. Rock climbing is not what I like to do with snow covered ledges, but it seemed a bit safer than following the actual trail. I didn’t take any photos of the bad stuff as I was using my hands to keep myself steady.

After waking up early, I headed out from my camp and found some logs to use for the first couple of stream crossings. I love logs. I also ate some of this onion plant. These are quite spicy and add variation to my diet of poptarts and snickers bars.

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The rest of the day consisted of wet, deep, and fast flowing stream crossings and steep snow fields. The trail just sucked at this point. I was surprised that I was still able to average just over 20 miles per day. The Sierras are certainly pretty, but you must pay your dues for the views.

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I ended up camping with Little Cricket and Ducky who ended up being great hiking buddies. We hit the 1,000 mile marker at about 10am and took a few photos. It was nice to finally be done with that many miles of California, I still have quite a few more to hike before I finish that state unfortunately. Mosquitoes were bad here.

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The rest of this trip was spent at fairly high altitude battling steep snow and a lot of rock fields. I am happy that I had company for this bit as it was frustratingly difficult and exposed. My mood wasn’t the greatest as my tendons in my feet were swollen and I had large blisters.

This trip was a good reminder of how much the trail can suck, and I called it quits as I needed 3 days to heal but didn’t have enough PTO to continue if I took that time off.

My 2014 hiking buddy Mr. President ended up saving the day massively and picked me up, gave me a place to stay, and got me a return flight the next day. I can’t thank him enough and look forward to hiking with him in the (hopefully near) future!

Back on the trail

Two years ago, I dropped off the Pacific crest trail in a mountain town called Mammoth Lakes. I walked back south on the trail after becoming violently ill and took a bus to Reno. I had already decided that I would be dropping out after a couple more hundred miles but this illness cemented my decision.

So now I must finish the sections that I have left- and I am back in mammoth now.

This plane:

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This plane:

 

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And these free beers:

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Got me here.

As an added bonus I was able to meet up with Big Red whom I met during my 2014 hike. He is a really nice guy who has kept up with the hiking community much better than I have.

Now all I have to do is get supplied and take a bus to the trailhead and hopefully walk a few hundred more miles!

3 Days in Hawaii: The Big Island

I had the opportunity to take a longer weekend and visit Hawaii. This has been a bucket list item and I had a blast!

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The hardest part for my planning was deciding what “visiting Hawaii” actually meant to me- and thankfully I had a travel buddy that helped broaden my scope of activities and enjoy the experience quite a bit more!

Overall- the plan was to get the most out of the least amount of time and I feel that we did a great job of hitting everything that we wanted- all while staying withing a decently strict budget. We flew into Kona and rented a car from Enterprise (I highly recommend spending a little more to go with a reputable car rental company). The overall thought process was to move about the island in a clockwise direction.

This resulted in a plan that included:

Friday night
  – grab car
  – Drive to Lookout – sleep in car
Saturday Morning
  – Waipio Valley Hike –early–
Saturday Day
  – Farmers Market Honokaa
  – Akaka Falls
Saturday evening
  – Pāhoa, HI
Saturday night
  – Issac Hale Park
  – Volcano National Park (night lava viewing)
Sunday Morning
  – Thurston Lava Tube
  – hike Kīlauea Iki Crater
Sunday Day
  – Volcano National Park
Sunday evening
  – Jagger museum and Volcano National Park
Sunday night
  – Snorkel with Manta Rays
Monday Morning
  – Hawaiian Bakery
  – Kahaluu Beach Park Snorkeling
Monday Day
  – Relaxing
  – Hawaiian food
While we missed the snorkeling at Kahaluu, we substituted a snorkeling adventure with Manta Rays! I can’t recommend this enough!
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Overall I think that this itinerary fit our plans well and didn’t waste time at resorts or bars and we felt that we had a great vacation in the end.
Here are some more shots from the adventure:

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As Promised: long delays between updates.

It may be evident that I have not been updating this blog very much as of late. Don’t worry- I have been having a ton of fun over the past few months, I have just been debating whether or not blogging hurts the natural world.

I have noticed a growing trend of trail trashers- those that are invited into the wilderness by social media to get “the perfect shot” or “tag” the trails with graffiti so they can leave their mark. I am reminded of what I saw in Southern California while hiking down there:

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The issue with the perfect-shot people is that photos can end up trashing nature as people leave trails, cut bushes, and straight up modify nature to make it “prettier”. I do not see this as being helpful to the preservation of these resources for future generations. People who tag the trails are just big jerks- I got in an argument with one such person and they felt it was their right to put their marks on signs and trees. That argument ended in them informing me that I need to carry more paint remover as they were more empowered with their efforts. This didn’t make me happy, so I spent some time trying to figure out if my blog actually hurt nature.

I am still debating it- but I have deleted my photography page, and I am now not posting WTA trip reviews unless it has been a substantial time since the last- we don’t need 20 updates on the Rattlesnake trail each day.

So on to lighter news… here are some shots from the past couple months:

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As is probably evident- I have been doing a lot of biking, mainly during my on-call rotation as I can explore near work and get some good exercise in (2016 totals so far: 540mi and 23,169 ft gain). My goal of this Winter was to avoid muscle loss due to inactivity- I am planning on going back to the PCT this Summer for a couple weeks and need as much muscle as is possible to be able to hop back into the higher mileage days needed.

Hope all of your worlds are spinning in the correct direction- and remember LNT when you are exploring. Here is a good reminder of what you can do to minimize impact: https://lnt.org/learn/online-awareness-course

Happy Trails, Friends!

The start of Oregon: PCT Section G

The completion of Washington left me feeling like my backyard had been explored. Further adventures on the PCT would now require more planning and coordination with rides and time off from work. My time on the trail in 2014 gave me the opportunity to meet some fantastic people- one of which was gracious enough to meet us super late in the evening to drive us to the beginning of Section G. Smitty- thank you very much!

The first night consisted of a 3 mile walk to a camp further away from people. There was a slight incline but it the mileage was easy. My pack was fully loaded with food and water but was only 16lbs- the campsite was about the halfway mark between the highway and Timberline lodge with lots of volcanic sand starting just after. I made it a few minutes in my tent before falling asleep. The drive down after work was enough to tire me out quite well.

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I had no idea that Timberline Lodge was located right off of the trail so when we saw it appear out of the fog and rain, we jumped at the opportunity to get some water and coffee. For those that have not been here before- Timberline Lodge offers an amazing buffet in the morning which hikers tend to feast on. The coffee was worth the $15 alone- I doubt that I will ever have coffee that tasted quite as good as they served. We were cold and fairly miserable as it was foggy, rainy, and windy so this boosted our spirits quite well.

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(photo Credit goes to Jordan for this shot)

After spending 50min dreading the cold and enjoying the warmth- we continued onward. As the day progressed, it kept on raining harder and harder.

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There have been recent discoveries about this effect that water has on fingers- it appears to be evolutionary to help us grab onto things when immersed in water. In this case- it made my hands feel odd and I don’t think it was necessary for my trekking poles- but good on ya evolution… I guess.

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Besides this crossing and a couple other streams, this section was without many larger bodies of water. The sections in Washington all held plentiful lakes along the way but I guess this section could be good during mosquito season. Crossing this river took a little planning and wishful thinking. We made it safe and sound.

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After a while, we finally got a break in the rain. It was pretty and quite nice to have a break from the downpour. The weather forecast called it correctly when they said it would start to clear up in the late afternoon. We had hoped for this to happen as we did not want to camp in the rain. Hauling wet gear is not fun, sleeping in wet gear can be fatal.

We ended the day at 27.5mi- only 1.5mi short of my longest day on the trail. The light packs help a lot and so does the bike commuting that I have been doing recently. As winter approaches- we also were operating on a shorter daylight clock so it was getting dark as we setup camp.

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The following morning consisted of a lot of fog which collected on the trees and made it rain on us- it wasn’t a great way to start but it started to clear up as the day progressed.

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It was good to see familiar mountains from this opening- We could see Mt. St Helens, and Mt. Adams and Rainier off in the distance. We were mainly happy to be out of the fog. This is nearing the point where most PCTers hike down into the Eagle Creek area. After much debate we ended up missing the trail which cemented our plan to hike the official route (5mi longer too). I hope to come back and do a loop of Eagle Creek and another trail that connects two canyons- the Columbia River has amazing cliffs from the lava flows of the past which end up creating amazing waterfalls.

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Two miles later- we rounded a corner and got a full shot of Mount Hood- we hiked on the side of it the previous day but had no visibility which was a big bummer as we could only imagine how nice the views were.

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We finally got our first glimpse of the Columbia- a good sign that our hike was coming to a close. It was getting warm at this point and we had no water for ~8mi, any warmer and we would have had some issues with what water we had left.

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The trail resembled Fern Gully as we descended towards the river- found a salamander and this little guy.

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And a little further down the trail- we finished. With creaky knees, damp clothing, and a long drive ahead of us we quickly changed into clean clothes and drove North. We only did 25.5mi on the final day but the descent was a brutal one. 55mi in less than 45 hours with ~9kft elevation gain was a good amount to accomplish.

I did not ride my bike to work the next day.

Happy Trails everyone- looking forward to exploring more of Oregon soon!

Gothic Basin

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Gothic Basin is a fun and rewarding hike that follows an old mining trail and shares some of the route with the Monte Cristo trail. This area is full of geologic and mining history which are fascinating if you have a change to read into it.

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The rocks have fascinating features all along the way- but get a lot more interesting towards the top!

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The primary destination of the hike is this lake, but there are a few tarns out there as well. I would highly recommend spending more than one day up here and summiting some of the awesome peaks in the area!

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I made sure to bring my MP3 player and listen to gothic music just for a few chuckles. It was a good spot for some good music!

Kayaking the CMT: Camano to Anacortes

The Cascadia Marine Trail is a collection of campsites and launch points that enable people that use beachable and non-motorized watercraft access to travel through Puget Sound in an age of disappearing public access to the shoreline. I am working on knocking out what I refer to as sections of the CMT over the weekends as I love being able to get back on the salt water and do more of a thru-kayak approach to overnights. My goal this time was to go from the Northern Side of Camano Island to Bellingham Bay on my 3 day weekend but that got cut short due to an overuse injury halfway through the second day.

After being dropped off by my father- we headed North on our biggest crossings of the trip. The wind was at our back for the entire crossing to Goat Island.

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Goat Island was once the host of the 4th base in the Triangle of Fire in Puget Sound known as Fort Whittman. Now the obvious question is how can there be a 4th point in a triangle without forming a square? I will give you a hint: it makes no sense. The benefit of this island is that it is a lesser known base so you can generally get the entire place to yourself and the moss compliments the age. Unfortunately- people have felt the need to mark their territory on it so it isn’t as nice as it could be.

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The Island has some fairly large cliffs on the North side and the view is quite nice through the trees. It is fun to imagine what the people stationed here were thinking while they waited for a potential surprise attack through Deception Pass.

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We continued toward Deception Pass fairly quick as we didn’t want to attempt to fight the current flowing against us if we arrived too late. Peak currents hit 6 knots this weekend but we waited until they were closer to 3 knots before going through. I didn’t take many pictures as I was focused mainly on not getting hit by other boat traffic and navigating the currents.

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We made it through and went over to Bowman Bay where we got a glimpse of the large opening to the Pacific along with storm clouds off in the distance. I really enjoyed paddling through this area.

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The view opened up really well once we exited Bowman Bay.

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It was at this point that I remembered there being sea caves along the walls outside of Bowman Bay. We explored a couple of them as I love caving. The waves kept on threatening to crush me into the ceiling which was exciting as well.

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Since I was in my fiberglass kayak, I had to be really careful around the rocks. One bad hit and I would be swimming with the fishes and I only doggy-paddle. This is why I wear PFDs.

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The wind kicked up after this exploration and we found ourselves paddling through some fairly big waves as we approached Allen Island. We had a good time and were ready to get some good food and fall asleep at the CMT campsite on Burrows Island. We saw a large group of rather noisy kayakers in front of us and got concerned that they would be joining us for the night but they headed back to shore and we had the entire campsite to ourselves. We cooked up our food and packed up our gear as best as possible as a storm was predicted to roll in during the night.

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I only woke up a few times but the storm left quite a bit of water inside my tent. I forgot to lower my tent so the wind would have a harder time to bring rain inside. I was happy to learn that my new sleeping bag works really well and I stayed toasty all night.

The morning paddle consisted of an incredible boost from the currents around Bowman Island and we were able to log 11.9mph on the GPSr. It was exciting having to deal with the large waves, swift current, and intense rain/spray from the waves. We had a blast.

Then as we approached Anacortes it became apparent that my paddling buddy was having elbow issues that would lead to a shortened trip. I started to look for alternative landing areas as we approached downtown Anacortes. Along the way we were able to see some cool rotting boats!

The La Merced was the first of such boats. You wouldn’t guess it now- but it was a four masted schooner that was commissioned in 1917 and put into “service” as a breakwater in 1966. It has seen better days- that is for sure!

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Continuing into Anacortes we found some more dying boats. This tug had a very fitting name, although I have doubts as to if it was named that originally. If you look at the boat to the left of this picture- you can see a similar boat with a lot of holes in its hull (I am assuming to reduce air resistance).

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We landed at the Anacortes Seafarer’s Memorial and I dried out as much gear as I could while we waited for my father to come out and pick us up.

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We ate at Anthony’s diner which had amazing food and did a quick look at the bay from above before heading home- feeling tired but happy (and maybe a little sunburned) after a good 36 mile paddle. Even though this trip had reached its end- I am looking forward to reaching Canada and also finishing off a couple more sections in the hopefully near future!

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Happy (water) Trails Everyone!

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Barclay and Eagle Lakes

This hike is one that I put on my list of hikes to go on when I first started backpacking but it fell through the cracks. The original intent was to go up to Big Heart Lake but there was no legal parking up there so we had to find another trail to go on.

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So after two more full trailheads, we decided that this hike would be less populated. While this appeared to be correct- the people on this trail were not what I had expected to find out there. We tried to get down to see Barclay Lake but on each attempt- we had dogs growling at us so I was not able to actually get a picture of the lake.

Continuing on up the less-maintained route to Eagle Lake was a good workout but was manageable once we could actually figure out where the trail started.

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Thankfully- this trail included fewer “bros” and we did not run into anyone until the top of the climb near the small lake up there. This small lake is where things got interesting as a family was camped out partially blocking the trail with multiple off leash dogs that started running at us once they saw us.

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This really didn’t make me feel the warm and fuzzies towards those that are trying to fight the leash laws in this state.

Once we got past these people, the trail finally turned out to be what I had hoped for at the beginning- very few people and a decent lake to visit! To add the fun- there was also a partially abandoned cabin along the lake that I could not find much history on.

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The inside of the cabin was stocked with a variety of things- many of which showed a bit of age… and not much of which showed cleanliness.

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Wilson was an amusing touch- even though it is technically graffiti.

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As night started to sink in, we setup camp at the rather large and well defined site

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Then I went out to get some sunset panos.

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Overall this would have been a good hike for a newbie version of me but the dogs and rude people took away from the experience and I have no plans on going back in the future. The cabin was my favorite part of the hike! If you go- the water has a lot of small swimming creatures in the lake so bring a filter or take from the outlet stream that is free of them (but due to the high activity at this site… treat the water like crazy).