Mount Phelps / McClain Peaks

For a long time, I have seen a peak in the distance from my travels in the Kirkland and Redmond area. I first miss-identified it as Mt. Persis and when I climbed that- it didn’t seem like the right mountain. But finally… I figured it out with the help of a phone app (peak finder) and also quite a bit of research. The oddity of this mountain is that it is falsely called McClain Peaks (if you believe the research online), this is a debated subject- so I will call it both McClain and Phelps. DSC09641edsml

The route begins from near the Nighthawk Mine (now caved in) after traveling about 20 miles on rough logging roads for the first 19 miles and the last bit on a mining road that is barely passable. I have already apologized to my car. IMG_20141118_124953_274ed

(taken with a bad phone camera, but the road continues to the left after the washout)

The hike itself is a scramble and has no real trail, the beginning has quite a few marked routes but they disappear as the climb continues. One can only assume that most people turn around before the top due to safety concerns and I fully understand. This is actually my second climb here in the past week- the first time, we turned around.

After a while in a previously clear cut forest, the trail enters older growth and gets a lot steeper. Route finding is incredibly hard once up here- even with the amazing blazes that someone placed up there. Part of the problem was that there are two routes to the top, one that is insane, and the other that is insaner. Today, I took the insane route as I figured out where I missed my turn. It lived up to its name. Rock hopping in boulder fields was a much nicer way of traveling (vs. the previous battles with huckleberry bushes).

This ended quick unfortunately and the climb to the top began again, through a large quantity of huckleberry bushes.

I took no photos of this as I was focused on not slipping.

After a lot of climbing, some ice navigation, and a bunch of sweating… I finally reached the top! Untitled_Panorama2ssml

I explored a little bit on the top and found a nice cave to hide in! Untitled_Panorama1sml

But as you can see, the sun was setting and I was not looking forward to descending in the dark (not that it would have been fun anyways).

I started the descent, and realized that I missed the trail and was heading towards a cliff and had to walk back. I summited this mountain two times in one day! I was incredibly happy that I had my GPS so that I could follow the same route that I took up as I kept on heading too far North or South to follow the ridge properly.

I was able to record my descent on video thankfully!

The descent was actually really challenging (a little bloody) and I was ready to return home once I was back at my car.

Happy to be done, wouldn’t necessarily recommend.

Route

Kayaking from Steilacoom to Bainbridge Island

It has always been a dream of mine to do a longer mileage trip that included island hopping and lots of fresh seafood. Unfortunately, this trip wasn’t quite what I had expected and left me wanting to search further up North in the future. But that isn’t to say that I had a bad time- it was a fantastic experience and I will do more trips in the area in the (hopefully near) future. The weather was perfect for paddling and due to the timing- I had most of the water to myself.

And so it began. After debating whether it was a good idea or not to go on this solo trip for an hour… I finally took the first step out the door and headed towards Steilacoom. The delay in departure changed my starting point a little further North as I did not want to get stuck in the flood tide’s currents around the Tacoma Narrows Bridge. After a quick launch at the ferry dock, I looked around at the water and couldn’t believe how calm it was.

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As I paddled, I looked at the East side of the channel and found old ruins of what look like military structures with a lot of runners enjoying the sun. A few freight trains passed by as I paddled along- the fake train horns blaring at nearby crossings (I am not entirely sure why they do this, it might be a combination of speed of the trains as well as keeping noise down for the local population.) Realizing that I was making excellent time (5 hours ahead of schedule) by the time I was at the bridge with the Tacoma Narrows Park as my planned campsite on the left of the picture below:

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After making a quick stop at the park, I decided that with the noise pollution of the bridge and the close proximity to Washington’s #1 most dangerous city… I should look up the next CMT campsite. I am very happy that I did this as the site on Vashon Island was incredibly welcoming compared to the Tacoma Narrows Park.

After about an hour or so past the park, I made it through to Gig Harbor and it started pouring. It may sound like a bad thing to experience, but with my spray skirt on, only half of me could get wet and the noises that the water makes when it hits the water is quite beautiful and peaceful. Found some interesting currents just South of the harbor, and took me a little time to figure out where they were moving a little slower.

The sky cleared once again as the sun began to set. It was beautiful. You can see the rain near the right side of the picture below (Port of Tacoma). Vashon Island is the closest land mass.

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I officially entered Colvos Passage which runs on the West side of Vashon Island. One of the more interesting features is the nearly constant flow of the water in a Northern direction. I will say that I was expecting a little faster current to help me along, but at least it was not going towards me! I think it peaked at .5kt, but remained near 0kt for the duration of the paddle.

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Upon arrival, I found two people on the beach and greeted them as I struggled to lift my kayak out of sight before showing weakness. I had 2.75 gallons of water in the boat still and it was a little heavy to lift after paddling 18 miles. I hurriedly setup camp and started dinner prep while watching the sun set. Some whale was out in the passage letting out breaths rather audibly as I waited for my food to rehydrate.

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When I woke up I found two boats idling right off shore, they were making breathing noises. I looked up the flag and found out they had a diver in the water (blue and while flag, not red and white stripe) and saw that they were pulling up some kind of seafood. I decided to keep my distance as I did not want to interfere so I wasn’t able to ask what they were catching.

I headed out and hoped that the marine layer would flee and reveal a nice warm sun… and it did! My next destination was Blake Island, which is a state run Marine Park. The Island looks like an excellent spot to camp at, but again… I was making better time than I had planned and made it there for lunch. I took a long break on the island.

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The campsites themselves look like they are quite nice for larger groups- these ones are non CMT sites, and the price reflects that status. Each site is ranked as a $, $$, or $$$ which means you pick which site looks best and is most affordable. These sites here were ranked $$ and are quite nice, but lack privacy.

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I left after eating some top ramen and spaghetti-os that I dehydrated 8 months ago. still tasty… well at least… still tasted like they did a long time ago. As I left, I decided to head to go to Eagle Harbor and end my trip there as I didn’t really want to do the crossing from Kingston the Mukilteo the following day. I will save that for a multi-paddler trip.

Overall I had a good time and made good progress each day, I was surprised by how many houses cover the shoreline these days- it was not the natural experience that I had hoped for. The broken Group may be on my list of soon-to-visit locations as they should be a lot more wild, and a lot less polluted.

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The trip took me 36.2 miles from Steilacoom to Bainbridge Island in 29 hours (12 hours of travel time) and I enjoyed it greatly. Huge thanks to my mother who drove my car back from Steilacoom and also to Bainbridge to pick me up. The route that I took is below:

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Next time, I will bring someone with me to share the experience with πŸ™‚

Day1 kayak trip

It has been a while since i last updated this… But never fear! I am still quite busy- just have not had much to post about.IMG_20140930_144735_775

So here it is… An update! And I am on another long distance trail πŸ™‚ This time, I really don’t have any plans or hopes to finish in one go- as it is a water trail and I hope to return to it in the future to knock out other sections.

What is this madness you ask? This is the cascadia marine trail which covers much of the Puget sound. I started this journey this morning in hopes of finding some whales, find out my paddling limitations, and get one last hoorah before the summer weather is gone until next year.

Today was mostly sunny for almost the entire day, and not many other boaters were out. It was really nice! I reached my planned camping location about 4-5 hours before I had intended… So I pushed on past the Tacoma narrows bridge and onto vashon island where I am currently in my tent.

About 45min before arriving at the CMT campsite… I heard something… It was a whale! Checked that gloal off my list rather fast! It was pretty far away so I couldn’t tell what type it was… But I am still happy with that.

As I ate my dinner, I heard a few more breaths as well and they are still out there as I lay here in my tent. I am happy!

WA PCT Section L

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88 miles left in Washington! Section L is the final stretch in most thru hikers’ journeys- and it is fantastically beautiful!

We experienced snow, rain, wind, and a lot of sun which was awesome. Our first day out was quite damp and we were happy that we didn’t fully trust the weather report. With our recent memories of the previous week- we had issues keeping our spirits up! All of that changed the following morning when we saw sunshine however!

The North Cascades are magnificent and I look forward to exploring them more in the future- the altitude and vast landscapes made it feel as if we were in another part of the country (mini sierras perhaps?)

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This stretch of trail was only about 70 miles long, so it was fairly easy to do in 3 days- the transportation to and from the trailheads took a long while and we are very happy that we could get a ride up there (Thank you Kim!).

Before we knew it… Monument 78 appeared out of nowhere on our left- this is the Northern Terminus of the PCT. Even though I still have quite a few miles left, I was very happy to be here. After some photos were taken, I signed the log book and we continued for 8 miles into British Columbia to a place called Manning Park. Very few hikers were actually making it into BC, and I am not sure why- it is shorter to end there, and Harts Pass (in WA) is a hard place to get a ride from. The only theory that might hold is that Canada denied them entry due to previous convictions. We bumped into one person who jumped into Manning just to get some treats and said that he wasn’t allowed in but did so anyways so that theory might hold.

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April 14th, 2014 was my start date this year. I dropped out June 17th, and I hiked to the Northern Terminus on Sept 5th, 2014. I still have some more hiking time this year- but I think I am around 1,200 miles so far πŸ™‚

The Great Pacific Crest Trail

After failing to complete the full Pacific Crest Trail in one year- I hoped to at least complete Washington. As of right now, it looks like that will not quite happen this year. I am actually fairly ok with that.

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I have experienced more this year than I could have ever hoped to experience, met some amazing people, and enjoyed the immense human interaction along the way. Right now I stand at 1,360 miles of the PCT that I have hiked (1,045 miles this year) and I am not ashamed about those numbers at all! I am grateful that I have been able to experience it all, from the hook worms and scorpions of California Section F, to the crystal clear waters of Washington.

This past section that I attempted was an impressively intense one! We got hit by several days of nonstop rain and some snow which eventually lead to us ditching the goal of a full section hike. It was a good experience however, and I was able to meet up with Mr. President for a few minutes which was good. We didn’t talk for long however, as our bodies were losing heat very quickly whenever we were stopped.

I like to joke that my camera only captures the best part of hikes. This was very true on this trip as we only had a few hours without rain and I don’t take my camera out if it is raining. Here is a lovely picture of Lake Janus:

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Soon after this picture- the hike turned into a nonstop push through cold rain and wind. It wasn’t fun- to say the least.

We hiked for a while longer before finally choosing to depart the trail after hiking for 53 miles. Our gear was soaked, we were cold, and most importantly- we were not having a good time out there. I took no photos until departing the trail- when we finally got a 30 minute sun break.

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With every choice in life- we discover something new… This time we met up with two amazing people that gave us a ride back to Seattle- they had planned a longer excursion but decided that it wasn’t worth it if they had no fun up there. We talked quite a bit in the car and learned that they had done pretty much every hike that Washington has to offer- I was incredibly impressed and picked their brain for a little bit.

We will see what happens in the remaining days of the hiking season, I hope to go out hiking a few more times and start my job search and become a productive member of society again πŸ™‚

Paying it backwards

Hiking the PCT is not just about putting two feet to the pace of a heartbeat- it is about people helping each other.

Trail Angels are people that offer rides, food, beer, and places to rest to people that are hiking the PCT. I was incredibly grateful when I cam across boxes of beverages, saw a “hiker trash wanted” sign (commonly found on coppertone’s vehicle) or just a sign that listed numbers that you could call to offer rides to the trail or a nearby town. The community built up around hikers is quite impressive and to all of those that helped me on my 950 miles: Thank You!

Before I attempted my thru-hike this year, I had done some trail magic in the form of giving food to starving hikers and picked up some people as well. I did not do much however, so I have been making it a point to pay it backwards to those that have made it all the way up here. As an added bonus, I have been seeing my PCT friends along the way which has been amazing.

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I setup a breakfast at Tacoma Pass in hopes of catching Mr. President on his amazing fundraising journey- the menu was created specifically for him but I brought enough food to feed the other hikers that went through. I met some new faces and made sure that they got good bacon and french toast.

I was incredibly happy to meet up with Mr. President as it had been a long time since we last saw each other- but he saw my final mile on the trail (including the copious amounts of vomit) and he is an incredible person from what he has accomplished in his life, and also his attitude towards life and others as well. His blog can be seen here: http://www.wildernesseffect.com/

And I am going to steal a picture from him from our meeting:

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I am really hoping that I am able to hike with him when I rejoin him in the near future- we made an excellent team in the Sierras and I would love to see him finish his goal at the Northern Terminus!

I also had a meeting with Smitty today (no pictures were taken) but we hiked together for a while with luna and wild in So. Cal. It was good to catch up with him and hear what had changed on the trail (apparently he spent a while looking for me before realizing that I was no longer on the trail 😦  ). I will be bumping into him as he is doing 33 miles a day and will catch up with me fairly quickly- we hope to be able to do some kayaking in Seattle with his wife Danielle before he returns home. Once he goes home- he will be doing a 100 mile race… and contemplated starting the AT as well… Talk about determined!

Next post will probably be after I complete Washington!

Skagit Island

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Β After some delay in getting out in the woods, I decided to go for a quick overnight on Skagit Island (again!). This was my friend’s first kayaking trip which is generally not advisable to start out on salt water on a camping trip. First major event: a capsize! Second: a successful rescue!

Once we landed on the island, we were confronted by a family that had setup camp on the island and told to get off the island. I was not prepared for these people to be so angry/ not understand the concept of sharing. The campsite that we planned on visiting is a human powered-only campsite (no power-boaters) so we ignored their yelling and just set up camp. It was a very tense night and they blockaded the path to the campsite which was rediculous and I finally went through explaining how CMT sites work and what group camping is etc. They stopped yelling at that point but were not happy that we were there.

It was pretty however! The sunset was lovely to watch as it dipped below the horizon and we left fairly early in the morning.

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The morning waters were awesome and calm!

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Climbing The Headless Mountain: Mount Saint Helens

When asked if I wanted to climb Mount Saint Helens, I answered an immediate yes. This mountain has been on my bucket list for as long as I can remember and I looked forward to peering into the crater from the rim.

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Driving down to Cougar for a 4 hour nap at a hotel sounded like a good idea- unfortunately… the hotel did not have AC and the rooms were in their high 90s. I still tried to nap as I normally don’t like hiking into the night.

Upon crawling into bed, I was surprised to discover that a joint was already in the bed along with someone else’s hair! Must have been the super special treatment… The heat was brutal and I just kept on sweating as I tried to take a nap. Then the flies started showing up and kept on biting me right as I started to dose off. This wasn’t working according to plan.

After getting about 8 minutes of sleep, the call to leave was heard at 10pm… we formed a car train that moved out towards the trailhead.

Walking up the mountain involves quite a bit of rock hopping and volcanic ash, it is tiring but is a unique hike because of it.

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We arrived at the summit around 2:30am- just 4 hours until sunrise… 4 long, cold, windy hours. I used my patented technique of burrowing deep into the sand and staying in a fetal position so that I could remain fairly warm and also block the blowing sands at the same time. I slept well.

Then the sunrise happened…

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Besides the exercise- the sunrise was the real goal of the trip and it was well worth it. The winds picked up quickly and also had some rain start coming down- so we didn’t spend very much time up there unfortunately.

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Β 

45mi… er… 55mi loop

After spending all day wishing I was hiking, I finally picked a hike and left home at 2pm. I had issues determining if I was going to actually start the hike or not as I have not really gone solo on a multi-day trek before and it was *rather* late in the day to be starting a hike in hopes of doing at least 12mi. But I got to the trailhead. I listened to a couple songs while I sat there and decided that I would at least hike up to Red Mountain and sleep at the top.

Once I arrived up at Red Pass, I figured that I had gone this far.. I might as well descend down into the Middle Fork Valley- past the sign that clearly stated “Trail Abandoned.”

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This would not be the last of these signs that I would pass… Apparently my route was a more popular one at one time- now it is looking more like what you would see in Fern Gully. After the first few steps, I slid down a scree field- that sealed the deal… I wasn’t going back up! The trail down was quite steep but eventually leveled out near the Goldmeyer Hot Springs- a tempting place to spend the night, but I had no reservation and needed to make a little more progress. Continuing up towards Dutch Miller Gap I ran into a geyser! How exquisite!

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After spending the night a little further up the trail, I crossed through Dutch Miller Gap and went down to Ivanhoe Lake (which was amazingly beautiful!)

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At this point, I started thinking that I was really doing bad on my time management as the hike was only supposed to be 45mi long… My mood dipped, but I soon ran into a PCT hiker and we chatted and hiked along at a good pace I was still thinking that I was behind schedule as I should have made it further down the trail at that point.

One thing is for certain… I had no time to stop and smell the flowers.

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Time moved on and I hiked through the day, enjoying the scenery quite well. Bumped into quite a few nice people and dispensed some trail food recommendations (mountain house is good… but REALLY expensive) They were amazed that you could eat mashed potatoes on the trail without cooking them. I was happy to share knowledge and my overall appreciation for anything that fills my stomach on hikes.

I had actually done this section back in 2011 and was re-living the experiences up here both good and bad. The area had changed a little bit and I had issues remembering certain parts of the trail. Must be my old age creeping into my brain.

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After spending a night at Park Lakes, I set a goal to get back to my car by noon and drink some of the tasty “sports beverage” that I had left in my car, I missed the deadline by 15min but I was quite tired and stopped caring near the end. Turns out that the hike wasn’t the 45mi that I thought it was, so my progress was just fine- but my planning was not. This is why I always carry extra food!

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Route:

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