2013 Gear List

The 2013 hiking season, for me at least, is now officially underway.  The highlight of this year will be about 600 miles along the Pacific Crest Trail in both Northern California and Washington.  This will be preceded by numerous trips into the Olympics to try out gear, get in trail shape, and just to chill out enjoying the creation.

I described last year’s gear list in an earlier blog, but things have changed a bit and it’s time to update it for the 2013 trip.  While this is still subject to change, up until the time I actually leave, it is at least close enough to share, and will be updated later if anything significant changes.  And, as always, am interested in other ideas and alternatives.

Worn or Carried

Pants0, 10 3/4ExOfficio Bug-off with zip off legs
Shirt0, 9 3/8ExOfficio Bug-off long sleeved Tee
Underwear0, 3Under Armour boxers
Shoes1, 15 1/2Brooks Cascadia trail runners (size 14)
Socks0, 1 1/4Cool Mesh II
Sun Gloves0, 0 7/8OR Chroma
Gaiters0, 1 3/8Dirty Girl
Hat0, 2 5/8ExOfficio ball cap with short cape
Watch0, 2 1/8Casio Pathfinder
Trekking Poles1, 5 5/8Black Diamond
Total5, 5 1/2

 

Belly Bag *

Belly Bag0, 4with ID and keys
Maps0, 0 3/4For 1 Green Trails topo in a zip lock bag.  This weight will actually go up for the PCT and the maps will move into a side pocket on the pack.
Compass0, 0 5/8
Reading Glasses0, 1 1/2Small reading glasses in metal case
Nail Clippers0, 0 3/4
Knife0, 0 5/8Tiny Swiss Army Knife
Whistle0, 0 1/8Fox40 Micro
Notebook & Pen0, 4Used for note taking along the way.  Otherwise I’ll forget something I want to relate to the wife when I get home.
Chap Stick0, 0 1/4SPF 15
Anti-bacterial hand cleaner0, 1Travel size
Light0, 0 1/4Photon Freedom Micro
Camera0, 10Sony CyberShot w/generic case
Phone0, 5 1/2Droid Bionic
Bible0, 3 3/8NIV New Testament
ID & Cash0, 0 1/4Drivers License, Credit Card and $20
Total1, 11 7/8

* Belly bags seem not to be terribly common on the trail, but I find using one to be very convenient.  My ID, phone, camera and other misc items are always handy; even when I drop my pack and wander away a bit.  It basically serves the purpose of big cargo pockets, without the rubbing against my legs.

Sleeping, Shelter & Pack *

Pack2, 4 3/4ULA Circuit without internal pockets
Dry Bag0, 4OR Medium.  Holds everything in the pack other than food, tarp and coat.
Hammock1, 10 3/8Warbonnet Traveler 1.7 sng with 14′ straps, whoopie slings and bug net
Tarp0, 10 1/8Hammock Gear Cuben Fiber Hex Tarp with ridgeline, tie outs. stakes, snake skins and stuff sack
Top Quilt1, 6 1/2JRB No Sniveller
Bottom Quilt1, 0Hammock Gear 20o Phoenix
Pad0, 9 1/8Closed cell foam 53″ x 20″ x 3/8″.  Used under my feet at night, and under my seat when stopped along the trail or in camp.
Thermal Sheet0, 1 7/84′ x 6′ mylar sheet inserted between the hammock and the UQ
Pillow0, 4 7/8REI self inflating
Total8, 4

* I realize that using a hammock means I carry 2-3 more pounds than I would with a minimalist ground dweller outfit.  But being able to sleep comfortably at night is well worth the extra weight to me.

Clothing Carried *

Coat0, 12 3/8Westcomb Specter LT Hoody
Long Sleeve Shirt0, 9Light weight fleece
Short Sleeve Shirt0, 4Performance tee
Silk Pants0, 3 3/8REI
Possum Down Socks0, 2 3/4Very warm sleeping socks
Skull Cap0, 1 3/4Smart Wool beanie
Gloves0, 3 3/8Running gloves with mitten covers
Socks0, 2 1/22 pair Cool Mesh II
Stuff Sacks (2)0, 0 3/4Sea to Summit Ultra Mesh 6.5 L
Total2, 8 3/8

* Apart from the coat and Cool Mesh socks, the rest of these clothes are generally just for camp and sleeping use.  I don’t like snuggling under a down quilt wearing dirty and sweaty clothes.

Toiletries

Toothbrush and Toothpaste0, 1 3/8Toob – contains a small refillable tube of toothpast in the handle.
TP0, 0 3/4Pulled from a big roll and put in a small zip lock bag
Wet Wipes0, 2Travel Pack
Cortaid0, 1Travel size anti-itch cream
Insect Repellent0, 1 7/8Ultrathon – 34.34% deet
Sun Screen0, 1 1/4Banana Boat SPF 30
Total0, 8 7/8

 

Food and Water *

Water Filter & Bag0, 4 3/4Sawyer Squeeze filter with 2 qt Evernew bag
Scoop0, 0 3/8Top of a soda bottle
Chlorine Dioxide0, 0 1/810 pills in foil.  For emergency use.
UrSack and OP Sack0, 9
Bowl w/lid0, 1 3/82 cup bowl with screw on lid.  Works well for re-hydrating food while marching along the trail.
Spoon0, 0 1/8Cheap plastic spoon
Gatorade Bottles0, 3 1/22-32 oz bottles.
Total1, 3 1/4

* Does not include the weight of food and water

Other Stuff

SPOT0, 4 7/8Communicator mates with the phone.  Not really necessary but goes along for my wife’s benefit.
Spare Batteries0, 3For the phone and SPOT
iPod & earbuds0, 1 1/8iPod Nano
Stuff Sack0, 0 3/81 small bag
Sun Glasses0, 1Cheap sun glasses in a lightweight bag
Headnet0, 0 7/8Sea to Summit Insect Shield
Bandanna0, 118″ square cotton
Towel0, 1 3/4MSR Ultralite Packtowl
First Aid Kit0, 5 3/8Tape, cream & bandages in a Medical Kit .5 bag
Tyvek0, 1 1/82 foot square chunk of tyvek
Soap Leaves0Sea to Summit Pocket Laundry Wash.  As many leaves as the days I am out.  Stick a leaf in one of the emptied quart or gallon ZipLocs from my food,  and some water and dirty socks, and I have a small washing machine.  Dirty soapy water dumped far from a water source of course.
Total1, 4 1/2

 

Totals

Worn or Carried5, 5 1/2
Belly Bag1, 11 7/8
Sleeping, Shelter & Pack8, 4
Clothes2, 8 3/8
Toiletries0, 8 7/8
Food & Water1, 3 1/4
Other1, 4 1/2
Total Carried in Pack13, 13
Grand Total (Carried & Worn)20, 14 3/8

2013 Shakedown Trip to the Dosewallips

With the forecast calling for another couple of nice days, I decided it was time to head out into the Olympics for a night, just to shake off the rust and make sure I still knew how to hang a hammock.  I wasn’t looking to go very far so decided to hit the Dosewallips River, hiking from the road washout up to the Ranger Station.

After running some errands Friday morning, I heading for the Olympics and got to the Dose trailhead/washout just before 2PM and started walking.  It’s about a 5.5 mile road walk up to the campground at the end of the road, but it has been just a trail for long enough now that some parts of the road actually are no longer anything but a trail.  Much of it is still pretty broad, but it is a pleasant walk and was accomplished in a bit under 2 hours.  The Dose is running hard and loudly now, but the trail/road was pretty dry; only a couple of small wet spots where water was seeping across the road.

I found one Rhododendron blooming along the road, along with a few Dogwoods, a patch of Columbine and a scattering of Strawberry, Dandelion, Paintbrush and a few other small flowers.  Not a great display, but pleasant nonetheless.  The waterfall about 4.5 miles up was really roaring as well; a really pretty sight.

I found one other guy in camp when I arrived.  He invited me to share his fire with him, but I declined.  I really don’t have much use for campfires normally.  He ran his that evening and again this morning; and then broke camp and left it still going.  Wish I knew his name so I could report him.

If you have not been to the Dosewallips campground adjacent to the ranger’s station, it is a nice destination.  Prior to the winter of 2001/2002 it was a frontcountry campground with about 20 or so sites; each with a fire ring, picnic table and some food storage boxes.  All of that is still there, although the potable water and restrooms, apart from a pit toilet, have been turned off and/or closed.  There are a lot of branches and trees down on the road and sites, but it is still generally clean (unlike Elkhorn closer to the washout), and a great destination.  It also makes a great place to stop when heading out into the backcountry.

A couple hours after getting into camp my hiking buddy, Dwayne, showed up and we had a pleasant evening talking about our kids and the state of the world; watching the river flow by; and watching a pair of Barrow’s Goldeneyes and one of Harlequins swimming and diving.

Spent the night in my new Traveler hammock from Warbonnet, swinging between a pair of trees near the river.  The night was pleasant and the sleep was restful; just something about hanging out in the woods near a river.

After breakfast Dwayne broke camp, put out the neighbors fire, and headed back, while I spent a couple more hours watching the river and praying.  Finally, after a second breakfast, I broke camp and headed back to the truck.  On the way out, I passed 28 people, and 3 dogs, on their way in.  About half were day hikers, but it appears like the campground will be hopping tonight.

The Stoveless Menu

I am preparing for another foray onto the PCT this year, and have been working on meal preparation.  Last year I left the stove at home and plan on doing the same thing again.  Not having to deal with a stove has simplified trail life, and helped in pack weight reduction.  But it has complicated the food preparation ahead of time.  It is not enough to browse through the Mountain House meals at REI and purchase enough dinners to get me through the hiking season.  It takes quite a bit more planning and effort to put together a menu that is appealing to my simple tastes as well as nutritious enough to keep me moving down the trail.  While I am far from finished, I am well on the way to being ready for this summer.

Dehydrator

What little drying I did last year was done in the oven on very low heat, and was pretty much limited to canned chicken.  All of the rest of the dry ingredients were bought either from a local grocery or online.  But the selection is somewhat limited and pricey, so this year I opted to buy a dehydrator and give that a try.

I looked at the Excalibur dehydrators first, but was apprehensive about investing so much money in something I was not sure I would use much.  So I bought a 4 tray unit from Nesco, opting for the rectangular unit rather than the round one.  I also bought a pair of screens for use in drying stuff that was small enough to fall through the spokes on the drying trays.  The only thing missing from the unit was a timer, and I solved that by buying a small timer from the local hardware store and plugging the dehydrator into that.

I have found the dehydrator to be fairly easy to use, and it does appear to do a good job.  Stuff dries evenly and, so far at least, it appears to be hard to overdry foods.  I would highly recommend this unit to anyone who was looking to get their feet wet in the dehydration business.  The only issue I have with it is the center hole that is used for moving air through the trays; it occupies about a 2″ diameter section in the middle of each tray.  The Excalibur may be better, but this one works just fine for a considerably less investment.  You can buy additional trays if desired and add them to the stack.  I don’t know what the limit is, but I would guess you could easily double the four trays that I have.

Drying Foods

So far I have dried a good variety of vegetables and meats as well as a couple of leftover meals that I could easily imagine eating cold.  I am not very good yet with being able to set the timer to the right value, and end up drying stuff several times until they are good and dry, but so far nearly everything has turned out well.  Below are some of the foods I have dried and some notes about each.

  • Chicken: I can put a can of chicken on a tray, crumbling it up first, set the temp to about 150 and it is dry in 4-5 hours.  
  • Tuna: I have dried several large cans of albacore, treating it just like the chicken, although drying it in the garage.  It did stink up the garage as well as the basement.
  • Hamburger: Hamburger meat, left over from taco’s, also dried pretty well when spread out and crumpled up.
  • Broccoli: Cut up into fairly small pieces with little stem and then blanched for a minute.  Like everything other than the meats, they dried at 130 degrees for about 10 hours.
  • Carrots: Used small carrots cut up into slices between 1/8 and 1/4 inch and blanched for a minute.  I would never have guess how much water was in a carrot.  They almost disappeared when dried.
  • Bell Pepper: Cut up lengthwise into 12-16 sections, cleaned of seeds and interior walls, and then cut into 1/4 inch pieces.
  • Onion: Diced into small pieces.  Pretty strong.
  • Corn: I used canned whole corn.  Drained and rinsed and then dried until shriveled.
  • Pinto Beans: I used canned beans as well.  Drained and rinsed and then dried until hard.  The beans did not really shrink in size like most other things, but some did split open and were obviously dry.
  • Refried Beans: Spread out a can of refried beans onto a tray and dried.  It dried as a sheet that could be easily broken up into flakes and dust.
  • Tomatoes: I used Roma tomatoes, cutting into eights and then laying on the tray skin side down.  Those that ended up with the skin up, or on their side, stuck to the trays a bit.
  • Mushrooms: Dried sliced mushrooms until they were stiff and curled up.  
  • Barley: Cook the barley according to the directions and then spread out on a tray and dried until they become hard again.
  • Rice: I have tried both a mixed rice combination and a mixed grain combo.  For both I cooked as per the instructions, and then dried.
  • Hard Boiled Egg: I have tried sliced and chopped up in a food processor.  Chopped up was not bad, although not sure I will really use them for anything.
  • Cheese: Used non-fat cheddar.  It dried pretty good and then rehydrated into a clump.  Mixed in with other stuff it should be good.
  • Beef Stroganoff: After dinner, spread a couple of servings on a tray and try until its all crunchy.  It rehydrates well and is not bad cold.
  • Chicken Alfredo:  Same as the stroganoff.
  • Spaghetti: Same as the stroganoff except the bowl is more difficult to clean up eating.  Added some soap and water and put the lid back on for a while and it seemed to clean up OK.
  • Tuna/Bean Spread: A mixture of tuna and white beans pureed in the food processor along with some salsa.  Rehydrates quickly and works with crackers.  Mine was a bit bland when rehydrated through.
  • Applesauce: Spread out applesauce in a thin layer on a screen and doctor with cinnamon if desired.  Dry until firm to the touch and then peel it off the tray.  While others liked this, I did not, so will probably not do it again.
  • Bananas: Slice into 1/4 inches slices and dry until they flex but do not break. I ate most of these, but find them to be a bit overpowering; concentrated banana.  I will likely just opt for store bought banana chips instead.

Storage

I do not have a lot of experience with dehydration, and the shelf life of the product.  But most of what I have read indicates you need to keep it dry and in an airtight container.  And keeping it in the refrigerator or freezer will prolong its shelf life.  So, I bought a case of quart sized canning jars and am using them to store dried ingredients.  Sometimes the ingredients are also in Ziploc bags, allowing peppers and onions, for instance, to be kept in the same jar.

Once I get them combined into actual meals and bagged up, I am putting them into the freezer until it is time to hit the trail.  Hopefully they will keep well until I leave in July.

Meals

Like last year, I a planning on four meals a day, plus snacks.  Most of these meals are pretty simple: a pint of instant breakfast and Nido while breaking camp; granola cereal with Nido mid to late morning; tuna salad (in a foil packet), spam (also in a foil packet) or PB&J on a tortilla in the early afternoon.

Only the evening meal will require any preparation, and that will be minimal.  After the mid afternoon meal, I can empty a dehydrated meal into a two cup Ziploc bowl with a lid, cover it with water, and stow back into my pack until dinner time.  Then I can pull it out, eat, clean the bowl and then set up camp or hike on farther.

Top Ramen Casserole
One of my primary dinners will be Top Ramen based.  But added to the noodles will be a teaspoon of onions and peppers and a tablespoon each of corn, broccoli, carrots, mushrooms and one of the dried meats, seasoned to taste.  I take 4 packages of noodles and divide them up 5 ways and then add the other ingredients into a sandwich sized Ziploc.  2-3 hours before eating, pour it into a bowl, add just enough water to cover the mixture and put the lid on the bowl.  When it is ready you can just eat it out of the bowl with a spoon.

Burritos
My burritos are made of beans, a grain and a meat, along with some onions and cheese.  Since I have both whole and refried pinto beans; barley, mixed grain and mixed rice; chicken, tuna and hanburger; I can make quite a variety of burritos.  I prepare ahead of time by putting 1/4 cup of each of the three main ingredients into a Ziploc, along with onions and cheese and seasoning.  2-3 hours before eating, pour it into a bowl, add just enough water to cover the mixture and put the lid on the bowl.  This makes enough to make two nice burritos using 8″ flour tortillas, plus maybe a bit left over to eat directly from the bowl.  I take along enough individual mayonnaise packets to be able to add one to each burrito for extra fat and flavor, but that addition would be a very personal thing.

Leftovers
So far, I have found that Beef Stroganoff, Chicken Alfredo and Spaghetti all dehydrate well and are tasty when rehydrated and eaten cold.  After they are dried, store in a Ziploc and treat just like the Top Ramen.  I am looking for other leftovers that I can treat the same way.

I still have about 3 months until I start this summers PCT travels, so I am sure that the menu and options will change between now and then.  I expect to update this article over the next three months as I continue to work on the menu.  

Hanging Out in the Woods

It’s 2:30 in the morning.  Will this night ever end.  I feel like the princess sleeping on a pea.  The difference being that she had a mountain of bedding between her and the pea, and I had only a thin pad between me and the ground.  My hips and back are hurting so bad that I can’t bear laying in one position for more than about 15 minutes and am thrashing about so much that I feel like a noodle in a stir fry.

It’s night 4 of a 6 night trip and the ground isn’t getting any softer; if anything it had gotten harder over the years.  I was using a Big Agnes Insulated Air Core that year, and even its 2.5 inches could no longer cut it.  The combination of hard ground and bruised hips from a too heavy pack conspired to make my nights endless.

But the next day was life altering, at least as far as my backpacking was concerned.  One other guy was staying at the lake with us and he was in a hammock from a company called Hennessy.  He claimed to love it and that it was very comfortable to sleep in.  I had tried several cheap hammocks over the years, and had looked at ads for more expensive ones.  But the cheap ones were uncomfortable after a while, and I was not willing to spend the money on a more expensive one without some assurance it would work.

One of the first things I did after getting home was to do a bit of research.  I found the Hennessy web site and looked at their offerings.  I also found the Hammock Forums and spent a lot of time there, reading about hammocks and accessories, watching how-to videos, and trying to digest all the material I had found.  I would have never dreamed that there was so much to know; definitely had my head spinning for a while: hammocks, ridge lines, suspension systems, tarps & other weather protection, under quilts, top quilts, pads, etc.

Ultimately I pulled the trigger and bought a Blackbird, a hammock from a small company called Warbonnet. This seemed to be the most popular hammock on the forums and, more importantly, promised that I would be able to sleep on my side.  I am not much of a back sleeper and was apprehensive about being able to lay flat of my back all night.

My Blackbird finally showed up in the mail (at the time they were individually made when ordered) and I set it up out on the back deck to give it a try.  The Blackbird is indeed a very nice hammock.  It has a double bottom (at least mine does) for inserting an insulating pad, along with a fully enclosed bug net.  The sides can be staked out to expand the living space and create a storage shelf on one side.  It was indeed a fairly comfortable hammock and I could lay on my side without much issue.  One thing I did note right away is that turning over is a bit more complicated than when laying on the ground.  A hammock moves along with you when you move, so you have to grab hold of it so that you can kind of hold it still while you flip.

It took a lot of reading and experimentation over that winter, and to some extent over the following couple of years.  But I now have what I consider to be a good setup that will keep me warm down to freezing (I am seldom out colder than that), dry in inclement weather, and is fairly simple to setup and tear down.  In addition to my hammock, reconfigured to use whoopie slings, I have a Phoenix under quilt and a foot pad to keep me warm on the bottom, a now discontinued No-Sniveller top quilt from Jacks R Better to keep me warm on top, and a MacCat Deluxe tarp to keep the weather off of me.

This setup is about comparable weight wise to my solo tent/20 degree bag/Big Agnes pad setup, but it offers a much more enjoyable camp experience, assuming you are below tree level: hammocks are not of much use if there are no trees to hang from.  I find that I no longer dread the nights and anxiously await first light.  Instead, snuggled down into a warm hammock can make it difficult to face a cold morning.

A hammock also makes a nice camp chair.  If I have much camp time I find that I spend a lot of it sitting it my hammock, sometimes snuggled up in the quilts and sometimes not.  I can even pull the bug screen over me to have a bug free environment.  It definitely beats any other camp chair I have tried for comfort, although it is not really movable.

The covering tarp gives me a nice work area as well if the weather is wet, which is not uncommon here in western Washington.  The tarp is generally strung about 4-5 feet high at the ridge line in order to be higher than the hammock.  While that is not high enough to walk under, it does offer plenty of room.  I generally have the back side staked down fairly close to the hammock, but will frequently stake the front further out and then prop up the two tie-out points in front with my trekking poles.  This gives me a nice porch to work under.  At bedtime, if it is windy, I can drop the poles, re-tighten the guy lines and cut the amount of wind blowing across me.

Site selection can be the biggest problem when using a hammock.  I need to find of pair of trees with diameters between 5 inches and 3 feet, spaced 13 to 20 feet apart and with a minimal amount of low branches and brush between them.  Most established camp sites are configured for tents or tarps and many of them do not have the needed trees.  Sometimes trying to put a hammock into the established site can take a bit of creativity; other times it is just not possible.

But, if you are willing to venture away from the established site, I have found it easier to find spots to hang than to sleep on the ground.  With the hammock I don’t care about rock, roots, level ground, where water might pool:  find two trees with a clearing between them and hang in comfort.

I have traveled throughout the Olympic National Park and on the PCT through all of Oregon and 1/3 of Washington with a hammock.  I have yet to find a place I could not hang.  I realize that there will be some place I will eventually go that will require sleeping on the ground, but for every other place I will continue to enjoy the luxury of swinging between two trees in my bear burrito.

This picture shows the hammock set up but with the front side of the tarp thrown back out of the way.    The  bug screen staked out in front can also be thrown back to allow for easy access to the hammock or for use as a chair.  At night everything, other than the food bag, either goes into the hammock with me or under the hammock to keep it out of the weather and close at hand.

Same location as before but now the tarp is fully deployed.  The ground here is not too bad, but would be pretty challenging for a ground sleeper.  It is not flat and has quite a few roots at the surface.  But it works well for me.  The river side is the front.  Throw back the tarp and bug net and the hammock becomes an easy chair with a view.

Grand Valley and Lillian Lake

With the weather looking promising for the weekend, I took off for the Grand Valley in the Olympics with a buddy.  We got reservations for a couple of nights at Gladys Lake and planned to hike over to Lillian Lake on the day between those two nights.  I have seen Lillian from a distance a couple of times and knew that it was reachable, but had never headed that way before.  I was hopeful that we would be up to the challenge and be able to check off another location from my bucket list.

My buddy still has a real job and had to put in a few hours on Friday so we were late getting started, hitting the trail head at Obstruction Point about 3:30.  We discovered at the trail head that the two guys prepping next to us were heading for the same lake, and since it only had 4 spots and we needed suitable trees to hang from, the race was on.  Fortunately the old legs of our crew had more than enough life to win the race this time and had our pick of spots at Gladys Lake.

If you have never hiked Lillian Ridge from Obstruction Point I would highly recommend it.  The first couple of miles are pretty mellow and offer fantastic views of the Olympics, assuming the skies are clear.  Unfortunately on both the trip in and coming back out the sky was pretty hazy with smoke from the eastern Washington fires and visibility was limited.  At the end of the ridge walk the tail takes the express elevator down to the floor of the Grand Valley, dropping about 1400 feet in about a mile, so you need to be prepared for a serious return climb once you leave the ridge.

We scored a nice spot on Gladys overlooking the lake and the upper valley, including a great view of Low Pass, our entry point into the Lillian drainage.  We quickly setup camp, ate and cleaned up just in time for dark and bed.  Apart from a pesky deer and a visit from the ranger, the evening was quiet.  The night was a bit cold and breezy, but nestled in our down cocoons we was nice and toasty.

Saturday morning was in the low 40’s with some wind, but it soon died down and the sun warmed us up.  We headed up the climb to Low Pass and took a look across the drainage to the Lillian Lake bowl, plus the long traverse over to it.  For the first half of the trip there was an intermittent trail with a few cairns over the talus fields.  But the last couple of miles were pretty much without any indication of a trail that we could see, other than a few game trails.

Apart from getting around the toe of a ridge about a mile into the journey, the going was fairly straightforward until crossing the runoff stream from Lillian Glacier, the low point of the trail.  The trail was steep and hard to find in places, but we generally felt like we knew where we were.

But about a half mile from the stream crossing we lost any semblance of a trail and were on our own.  The old trail description that I had found indicated that the valley floor was a big meadow and all we had to do was go down it until we found the outlet from Lillian Lake and then pick up the trail to the lake.  Unfortunately we did not find anything resembling a big meadow and ended up wandering through the trees along the valley wall for a while before dropping a bit and finding easier passage.  At some point we found muddy boot prints heading up for the lake and followed them until they disappeared.  We then just charged up hill and managed to come out into the bowl below the lake, hiked across it and then up to the lake itself.

Lillian Lake is a beautiful little lake nestled down in a shallow bowl with steep walls around about 1/3 of it, and snow right up to its edge in places.  It was well worth the 3.5 hour journey.  We took the opportunity to eat lunch and rest for a while before the time came to head back out.  As we were leaving we meet a trio who had crossed over after us and were planning to spend the night.

On the way out we followed the outlet creek down for a while, along an intermittent trail and then struck off along a traverse that brought us back to our original stream crossing.  One more shortcut put us back on our trail in and we followed it back to Low Pass and on to Gladys in about 2.5 hours, a big improvement from the outbound trip.

Once back to camp we took advantage of the sun and took a spit bath by the lake, because it was too cold to swim, and then lounged in the sun for the remainder of the day.  To bed at dark for another restful night hanging in the trees and then up this morning to 35 degrees and a return of the hazy conditions.  The trip out was uneventful and another wonderful weekend out in the creation was over.

This yearling and mom took a break half way up the hill to Lillian Ridge.  I knew the trip up was hard for people, but apparently we are not the only ones.

Moose Lake from the north end.

This guy had sentry duty on the trail by Gladys Lake.  

Lillian Lake

A smaller lake near Lillian.  This one still has quite a bit of snow on it.

Looking down from the Lillian Lake bowl, across to Low Pass.

Looking back to Lillian Lake from near Low Pass.  The lake is behind the clump of trees in the center of the bowl.

Gladys Lake from Low Pass.  We were camped in the trees just back of the bare spot above the  left half of the lake.

Low Pass as seen from our camp site on Gladys Lake as the sun is rising.  Beautiful setting.

The trail running along the top of Lillian Ridge back toward the trail head.  A hazy day obscures much of the distant  mountains

Sawyer Squeeze Filter: a Review

Over the years I have mostly used either iodine or Aquamira to treat water in the back country, mostly because they were lightweight and fairly easy to use.  But I was intrigued by the Sawyer Squeeze filter, mostly because of its weight, but also because  it appeared to be fairly simple to use.  So I bought one and have used it for over 500 miles this year.  The following is a review of the filter, along with some tips for using it.

The filter itself is fairly small, weighing in at 3 3/8 oz or 96 grams, is just a shade under 6″ long (with the optional cap included) and a bit under 2″ in diameter at its widest.  Sawyer claims that the filter removes anything larger than .1 micron, including 99.99999% of bacteria, including Salmonella, Cholera and E. Coli, and 99.9999% of protozoa, including Cryptosporidium and Giardia.  The filter does not remove viruses however.

Unfiltered water goes into one end of the filter, through the side walls of a bunch of micro-fibrous tubes into their center, and then out the other end of the filter as clean water.  A certain amount of pressure is required to do this, provided either by gravity, or by squeezing an attached bag of untreated water.  Either way will work, although the squeezing method will generally be faster.

The filter comes out of the box with 3 squeeze bags, one each of 16, 32 and 64 oz.  You can also use a regular soda bottle or other water bottles with compatible threads.  My Platypus bottle has the correct thread size, although apparently some do not, so you would want to check that before going out on the trail with one.  The Mylar bags that come with the filter are probably the lightest option and can be bought separately, so that is probably the best option.

The most general way to use the Squeeze is to fill a bag, attach it to the filter, aim the discharge into your water bottle, and then squeeze the bag; out comes clean water.  This operation is generally fairly simple and within a couple minutes of stopping you can be drinking fresh filtered water.  The biggest challenge I have encountered with this is getting the bag filled.  It you have dripping, or cascading, water this is not a problem.  But it can be difficult from a lake or smoothly flowing river or stream.  When you put the bag into the water to fill it, the water pressure outside the bag keeps it collapsed and very little water will go into the bag.  I resolved this by cutting the top off of a soda bottle and use it as a scoop to pour water into the bag.  This works especially well when the water source is shallow, especially with a lot of sediment.  It is easy to skim water from the surface without disturbing the stuff on the bottom.

I would caution against squeezing the bag too hard.  I have heard from lots of folks who manage to bust the seams of the bag, I suspect because they clamp down too hard.  I apply gentle pressure to the bag, neatly rolling it up as it empties.  This keeps the seams laying flat all the time, reducing the chance of them popping open.  It also makes it easier to get all of the water squeezed out of the bag.  With a filled 2 liter bag, I can fill both of my quart Gatorade bottles in just a couple of minutes.

But what happens if you do manage to bust open your squeeze bag?  You could always carry a spare bag.  But if you have a soda bottle top for a scoop like I do, you can screw the top onto the input side of the filter and then use it as a gravity filter.  My scoop is about 4 inches long and, so long as I keep it nearly full, will allow me to fill a quart Gatorade bottle in about 7 1/2 minutes.  That is slow, but easy, and does give you a fall back without having to carry an extra bag.

I have also, for long dry stretches, carried the squeeze bag full of water, and then filtered it as needed when my Gatorade bottles ran dry.  You need to be a bit careful when doing this, ensuring you have the cap on good and you don’t unduly stress the bag, otherwise you might have a mess.  I carry the full bag in the outside mesh pocket of my ULA pack, cap up, and have had no problems with doing so.

When not in use, I carry the bag rolled up and tucked into the soda bottle scoop along with the filter.  I have taken the remainder of the soda bottle and notched it.  It then fits over the other side of the bag and filter with the bag cap sticking out the notch, offering additional protection for the bag while tucked into the outer mesh pocket of my pack.  And then the whole thing is stuffed into a gallon Ziploc bag, holding it all together.  The filter, a 2 liter bag, the cut-up 20 oz soda bottle and the gallon Ziploc bag weigh a total of 167 grams, or 5 7/8 ozs.

I really like this filter, especially once I figured out how to use it effectively.  I have had no problems with it this year and look forward to using it for years to come.  Keep it periodically back flushed, be gentle with it, and you should be happy with it as well.

For emergency use, the soda bottle scoop can be attached to the filter  input.  If the scoop is kept filled it will take about 7.5 minutes to fill the quart Gatorade bottle.

This is my filter kit: the filter, a 2 liter bag, a cut up soda bottle and a gallon zip lock bag.

The filter and bag go into the soda bottle with the bag cap sticking out of the  notch in the bottom of the soda bottle.

And then the whole thing nestles down into a gallon Ziploc.  

Trail Names

Names.  We all have several.  A first name, a last name, and usually a middle name or two.  Names are useful in providing identification, distinguishing us from other people.  I have only known one other person who has the same set of names that I do, and that was my dad.  But a problem with the names given us at birth is that they are not very descriptive.  The name Edwin says nothing about me.  Nor is it really all that unique.

Many people also have nicknames.  A nickname is an alternative name that a person might use, either because they don’t care for their given name, because it is easier to say, or simply because they just like it.  It is also possible that you might have a nickname hung on you by others, usually because of something you have done or what you look like. In my life I have had two nicknames, one given me by the nurses in the maternity ward when I was born, because I was very chubby, and the other just a shortened version of my first name.

In the culture of the long distance hiker the idea of a nickname has evolved into the trail name; a name usually given by others, but sometime self adopted: SkinnyD, Love Bird, Ironman, Two Hats, Wired, Half Fast, Drop & Roll, Day Breaker, Silent Joe, Tequila Jack, Butter Cup, Calf, Birdie, Moon Shine, Stride, Barracuda, Sunshine, Trail Bait.  Many of these names trigger an image of something about the person with the name.  But other times the name is just a whimsical handle that a person uses when out on the trail.

Trail names have the added advantage of generally being unique, although you might occasionally run across the same name used by multiple people: Hawkeye being an example this year.  And they also provide a bit of anonymity, which may be important to some folks.  But best of all, at least to me, is that they are fun.  I have known about trail names for a few years now, but had no real experience with them until last year, my first to hike more than a single section of the PCT.  That year I hiked the northern 160 miles of Oregon, south bound.  I met a lot of north bound thru hikers and began asking many of them for their names, something that most seemed quite happy to provide.  It became a game for me during that 8 days to collect and record these names, and was one of my favorite parts of life on the trail.

But it was always a bit of a downer when they in turn would ask for mine and the only reply I could provide was Ed.  I wanted a cool trail name.  But no one is going to give a solo south bounder a trail name (we just don’t spend enough time together), and I could not come up with one on my own that I liked.

The 400+ miles on the trail in 2012 were much the same.  I enjoyed talking to the north bounders I would meet, and collected many names.  But until midway through the trip I was just Ed.  And then it hit me.

When my kids were small we all fell in love with Winnie the Pooh.  We watched the adventured of Pooh Bear by the hour, never having to worry about the message that was being passed on to the little ones.  Over time we collected quite a number of VHS tapes of the adventures of Pooh Bear, that we did our best to wear out, as well as all the stuffed characters.  Everyone had their favorite character, and mine was Eeyore.  I do not know just why I related so closely to him (and maybe I am afraid to know), but I did.  And over the years I have been given at least a dozen Eeyore’s, from Christmas ornaments to windup toys.  Most of the Pooh stuff is long put away, but there are still Eeyore’s hanging around, with at least 4 of them watching as I write this.

And so, I became Eeyore on the trail, a name that my wife thought was perfect.  So, in the years to come, when you see an old, tall, lanky guy moseying down the trail toward you, with Eeyore perched high on a shoulder strap, you’ll know who it is.  And if you’re not in too big a hurry, take a quick break and give us a howdy.

2012 Pacific Crest Trail: Stevens Pass to Snoqualmie Pass

A couple days after getting home from finishing up Oregon, I packed the stuff up again, picked up a friend, and our wives dropped us off at Stevens Pass for a southbound journey to Snoqualmie Pass.  We planned on taking 5 days for the 74 mile trip, a leisurely 15 miles per day average.  The forecast ws for clear weather, with the possible exception of day 5, so we left most of the inclement weather gear in the car and hit the trail.

Day 1

The first day was pretty much a roller coaster journey through some pretty country.  The trail starts off with a 1000 rise to a ridge south of the pass, snaking its way under the ski lifts, and then back down under more lifts and a set of power lines, crossing a couple of roads along the way.  Within about 5 miles all of that is left behind and the trail begins to wind its way past a number of beautiful lakes.  We passed by Lake Susan Jane, Josephine Lake in a bowl just below us, Mig Lake, Hope Lake and Trap Lake, also in a bowl below.  These lakes were all inviting and the first 4 had their share of folks either camped on the shore or visiting them.

The final climb of the day was into Trap Pass, up above the beautiful lake with the same name.  From there the trail descended rapidly down to an intersection with the Surprise Lake trail, which continued to drop rapidly until it hit the lake.  This was our destination for the night, and it was well named.  We knew nothing about this lake other than its location on the map 13 miles from the trail head.  What we were to discover was that the lake was accessible from another trail head only 4-5 miles from Highway 2, and that it was apparently a pretty popular lake.  As we walked along the east side of the lake we found that it was crowded with people, including one party on the other side who had a big fire going, in spite of the no fires sign, that was spewing smoke over the south end of the lake.  This group also started to party loudly at dusk; not very good neighbors for a lake full of campers.  We were indeed surprised, but not in a good way.

We ended up hanging our hammocks in the trees a 100 yards up from the lake, over some fairly rough ground.  But that is an advantage of having a hammock.  Since I am not sleeping on the ground, I don’t really care all that much if it is level and cleared.  I can swing over rocks, branches and uneven terrain just as easy as I can over a level tent site.

Apart from the disappointment over the crowd at Surprise Lake, the day had been pleasant, the mountain and lake views very nice and the flowers were bright and colorful.

At the Stevens Pass trail head, ready to head out.

View south from the first ridge.

Josephine Lake

One of many colorful meadows along the way.

The view south during the climb up to Trap Pass.

There was a lot of Paintbrush growing along the trail.

Don’t know what these ‘teeth’ are called, but the area is full of similar spires.

Looking down into Trap Lake

Day 2

We decided on day 2 to head for Deep Lake, about 17 miles down the trail.  We started with a 1400 foot climb over Pieper Pass, a 2000 foot drop down to near Hyas Lake, a 1800 foot climb to Cathedral Rock, and finally a 1200 foot drop down to the lake.  Under many conditions this would have made for a grueling day, but the beauty of the country more than made up for it.

On the climb up to Pieper Pass we could see Glacier Lake, just a mile up from Surprise Lake, and likely a better spot to have stopped the first night.  We also were able to view Glacier Peak for a while, rising up above the surrounding peaks.  On the other side of the pass we found a rock slide with a view of points south and dropped the packs to snack and stare at the ridge, and more distant mountains, to the south of us. I don’t know all of the peaks we were looking at, but the view did include the glaciers on Mount Daniel.  It was pretty impressive and made the climb worthwhile.

The trail dropped down past the Deception Lakes, rose slightly over Deception Pass and then down some more to the flat lands around Hyas Lake.  Near the bottom we passed over what the maps and signs called a dangerous ford.  I have no doubt that earlier in the season this ford would be very treacherous, on a mild late August day I barely got one foot wet making the crossing.

After the ford we made the long steady climb up to Cathedral Pass, passing underneath Cathedral Rock.  I am sure that this massive ‘rock’ would have a commanding view of the surrounding area, and I have no doubt that there is some kind of way trail to the top, but we did not see it, nor feel any inclination to attempt to scramble to its top.

Shortly after making it through the pass we started to catch glimpses of Deep Lake far down below us.  The trail quickly dropped down to the lake and we found a nice spot where two hammocks could hang.  As an added bonus the spot had a large rock that extended out into the lake.  This large flat rock become our home for the evening as we cleaned up, ate and sat admiring the views.  Deep Lake was easily out best camp of the trip, spoiled only by a few pesky mosquitoes.

At the end of the day we both felt like this had been some of the prettiest country we had ever seen.  There had been a lot of ups and downs, but it had truly been worth it.  Little did we know that the best was yet to come.

Glacier Lake with Glacier Peak in the background.

A lovely patch of Lupine along the trail on the ascent to Pieper Pass.

A glacier on Mt. Hinman

There was still quite a bit of Columbine blooming in places.

This was the ‘dangerous ford’ near Hyas Lake.  The barely submerged rocks provided a convenient way across.

Cathedral Rock from the pass below.

Looking down at Deep Lake.  The camps are along the far side of the lake.

Hanging at Deep Lake

Day 3

We had decided to push on to the Lemah Meadows area, about 22 miles away, on this third day, leaving us with a couple of relatively shorter days at the end.  To get there we had to drop another 1400 feet to the Waptus River, climb about 2600 foot to the top of the Escondido Ridge and then drop back down about 2400 foot to Lemah Meadows.

The drop down to the Waptus River was a fairly pleasant walk, although a bit long.  We stopped at the river crossing for a bite and then headed up to the ridge.  This climb was long, and a bit warm in the mid morning. But the worst part of this stretch of trail was the brush.  We had had some brushy trails earlier, but on this ascent there were places were the young trees growing out into the trail threatened to push us off the trail and down the hill.  Pushing through the brush while trying to maintain balance and headway was not a lot of fun.

Eventually the trail hit the ridge top and followed it for about three miles.  The views from atop the ridge were spectacular, especially the last mile before beginning the descent.  We found a big rock to sit on for lunch and stared out at the mountains around us until we had to go on.  And it was not long after that we rounded the final bend and found ourselves facing Chimney Rock and Summit Chief Mountain across the valley.  While they may not be the biggest mountains in the area, they were pretty up close and personal and quite impressive.

There was only a single water source up on the ridge, a little creek flowing out of some small tarns and snow melt and then falling down to Escondido Lake.  The stream braided across a flat spot and was filled with frogs, with mosquitoes swarming the area.  We tanked up there, opting to filter out whatever the frogs had left behind, and headed on to a windier and dryer place for lunch.

The trail descended through alternately burned and forested areas, becoming steadily more covered the further down we went.  This side of the ridge did not have nearly the issue with brush and was a pleasant walk.  Our map showed two campgrounds on creeks about half a mile apart.  The first spot looked good but did not have ready access to water so we went on to the second.  Here the bridge across the creek was out, leaving either a ford or a log crossing to get to the other side.  People passing through told us the the near side camp site was much better than on the other side so we opted not to cross until morning.

Unfortunately the camp site on our side only had a single tree, and it takes at least three to hang two hammocks.  So I ended up following game trails in the area until I found a spot were we could hang for the night.  We went back out to the creek side camp to eat, clean up and get water and then retreated back to the hammocks for the night.

Every day seems to just get better.  The Alpine Lakes Wilderness we are traveling through is quite a wonderful place.  The only fly in the ointment at this time was my lower back which had decided to start acting up.  Carrying the pack was no issue.  Bending over was.

A colorful meadow just below Deep Lake.

Waptus Lake

Looking north from the Escondido Ridge

The Escondido Lake

Looking south from the Escondido Ridge

A wildflower patch atop the ridge.

Chimney Rock

Yet another lovely trail side patch of flowers.

A panoramic view to the west from the south end of the Escondido Ridge.

Day 4

We had planned on heading for Ridge Lake today, but a north bound hiker had told us last night that the lake was posted for no camping.  So with that uncertainty hanging over us we again left early in order to have time for whatever might come.

The trail starts off pretty mellow, passing through a small recently partially burned area, probably from the fire 3 years ago.  After a couple of miles the trail started up.  And up and up.  The trail quickly gained 2000 feet in a couple of miles, and 74 switchbacks (yes, I counted them). On the way up the trail crossed a bridge over the Delate Creek, just below a pretty waterfall, and gave a quick look at the eastern of the Spectacle Lakes.

As the trail came out on top, the views of the Spectacle Lakes with, I believe, Chimney Rock in the background were stunning.  I followed one way trail a bit to a bluff overlooking the lakes and decided that was a place I wanted to return to and spend some time.

The trail dropped into the vicinity of Parks Lakes and then rose up and over the Chikamin Ridge and into the Gold Creek drainage.  On the way up to the ridge was a sign warning pack trains that there were no pull outs for the next 4 miles, making me wonder how you go about backing up a pack train if two of them were to meet.  It was also hard to imagine a 4 mile stretch of trail without any wide spots, although the reason for the warning soon became clear.

The hike around the Gold Creek drainage is about 6-7 mile long and sticks fairly high to the ridge top, moving up and down to avoid shear bluffs.  Much of the trail is on talus, or scree, which makes for slow walking.  But it is truly an amazing walk.  You can see the trail clinging to the hill sides as much as three miles away, on the far side of the bowl.  And it is clear that this is not a place where two pack trains would want to meet, or even two horses.  In places it would not be fun to even meet another hiker.  But it was truly magical.  Seems like all the way around I would walk a few steps and then look up and gawk a bit as the view would change.  The views of Joe Lake across the bowl were pretty appealing as well.

The trail hits a couple of passes along the northern edge of the traverse but the clouds that had started coming in obscured the views to the north and west.  As the trail moves west it skirts high above Joe Lake and Alaska Lake, although there was no obvious sign of a trail down to them.  Both lakes looked like gems set into their deep bowls, and I was thankful for a digital camera so I didn’t have to worry about how many pictures I was taking.

Near the end of the traverse around the larger Gold Creek valley the trail passed between Gravel and Ridge Lakes.  Contrary to what we had been told there appeared to be no restrictions on camping here.  But because of the changing weather and my increasingly sore back we decided to go on past the lakes and out to Snoqualmie Pass that afternoon.

So on we went, past the Catwalk, a trail blasted out of the cliff side and ridge top, and finally passed to the outside of the valley.  From here the trail continued to traverse the outside wall of the drainage before starting to drop down to Snoqualmie Pass and the long trip home.

This was very much a magical trip that just seemed to get better each day.  While this trail is easily doable in 4 days by a strong hiker, there are so many viewpoints to sit and gawk at and lakes to visit that it could also take a week or longer.  I have previously traveled the PCT through all of Oregon and from Rainy Pass north, and nothing I had seen earlier comes close to the awesomeness of this stretch, although the area around Harts Pass comes close.

A waterfall along on the Delate Creek during the ascent to the Chickamin Ridge.

The ruggedness of these mountains never ceased to amaze me.

Looking back at Spectacle Lakes

The Four Brothers

Looking across the Gold Creek drainage toward Joe Lake.

The view to the north through a pass in the Chikamin Ridge.  The clouds were coming.

Looking back east along the Chickamin Ridge.  The trail comes in over the low pass to the right and then traverses left across the upper face of the ridge.

Alaska Lake

Ridge Lake.  

The Kendall Katwalk, a trail blasted out of the shear cliff and ridge top.

A panoramic view east from just south of Joe Lake.

People

Since I had traveled southbound through much of Oregon earlier in the month I was expecting to encounter a few of the same hikers again, and was not disappointed.  Along the way I again met Scott, Stride, Iron, Hawkeye, Clay, Birdie, Calf and Moonshine.  I also encountered the 7 year old Barracuda and his mother Sparrow.  Barracuda is attempting to become the youngest PCT thru hiker and appears to be well on his way to accomplishing that feat.

Overall we encountered close to 100 people on the trail or in camp.  And, apart from a few day hikers near the trail ends and around Surprise Lake, they were all friendly and a pleasure to talk with along the way.  This appears to be a popular trail and is not one to take if you are looking for solitude.  But if you don’t mind a few others sharing your joy at discovering this magical place, then by all means take the 4 days, up to however much food you can carry, and go explore.

2012 Pacific Crest Trail: McKenzie Pass to Crater Lake

After thinking about, and preparing for, this trip for the past several months, it was finally time to launch out on the 2012 edition of the Pacific Crest Trail travels.  This trip would cover the southern 2/3’s of Oregon and a section of Washington and would cover the month of August.  My wife would be providing support for the Oregon portion of the trip.  We left home on August 1st and headed to the town of Sisters, near the McKenzie Pass trail head for an early start on the 2nd.

Day 1

McKenzie Pass is in the middle of a fairly recent volcanic eruption zone.  Most of the ground on either side of the pass is covered in volcanic rubble with an occasional patch of trees.  Heading south from the pass the trail ascends up to the highlands around the Sisters, a set of three volcanic mountains, along with a jumble of other smaller mountains, buttes and cinder cones.

This was a beautiful country that, when I came through, still had quite a bit of snow cover.  There were only a few places were navigation was a bit tricky, although it did slow down travel somewhat.  The views of the Sisters and surrounding landscape were pretty cool.  And the occasional view of the northern mountains, including Jefferson and Hood were pretty awesome. Some portions of the trail were covered in obsidian.  It was interesting to see the gravel underfoot, as well as large nearby rocks, glistening in the sun, which was bright all day.

In spite of the snow there were quite a few people traveling through the Sisters Wilderness, mostly just covering that area, although some were thru-hikers.  It was a bit surprising to me how many of them seemed to easily get lost in the snow.  It did not seem that hard to navigate in to me.

This ended up being a long day that finally ended after about 20 miles and 12 hours at a meadow with Mesa Creek passing through.  There was a nice stand of trees nearby for the hammock and water to cleanup; what more could I ask for.  Quickly setup camp, cleaned up, ate dinner and crashed about 9.  I was tired but had enjoyed the day and was in good spirits.

The northern most pair of the Sisters from near McKenzie Pass.

The trail through the early lava beds.  A bit challenging to walk on.

The Asters were blooming throughout the trip.

Lots of paintbrush everywhere as well.  And of several different shades.

From left: Mt Washington, Three Fingered Jack, Mt Jefferson & Mt Hood (barely visible)

Even in a barren patch of lava, the flowers will take root and bloom.

Still quite a bit of snow around the Sisters when I went through.  Having footprints to follow was pretty handy.

In places the trail was composed mostly of obsidian chips.  It sure glistened in the sun.

Obsidian Falls, the only real waterfall on the official PCT in Oregon.

Wide open views in the Sisters highlands.

The only Glacier Lilies I saw on the trip were around the Sisters.

Day 2

While the second day on this trip was mostly a viewless 20 mile walk through the dusty forest, there were a few highlights.  The Wickiup Plain was, I suspect, a lava flow that is hiding beneath a thin layer of dust.  It is about half a mile wide and a couple of miles long.  The ground is gently rolling but seems to grow little other than rocks and a few small plants.

The trail passed along Sisters Mirror Lake and just before leaving it I was able to see where it had gotten its name.  One of the Sisters, I believe the southern one, was reflected in its still waters.  It was a beautiful little lake; too bad I had only traveled 5 miles by that point.

Sue had spent the night at Elk Lake and came out onto the trail to walk with me a while.  We spent a couple of hours on the trail before she returned to her campsite and I went on.  It was good having someone to share the trail with for a bit.

Toward the end of the day I started hitting some of the lakes in the area.  Many of them were only stagnant seasonal ponds, but there were a number of beautiful little lakes.  I had planned on staying at Cliff Lake, but the only site I saw there was already claimed by a family with a bunch of kids and a dog, all of whom were noisy, so I went on.

I ended up staying at Horseshoe Lake and, after setting up the hammock, getting in a quick swim.  The water was great and it felt good to get semi clean.  While I was fixing dinner a northbound thru-hiker passed by and decided to stay as well.  It was interesting seeing how the super lightweight crowd lived; a bit spartan for me, but definitely lighter than my 16 pound base weight.

While the day had mostly been a long walk in a tunnel, I felt good at the end of it.  I had worried at the start of the trip about how my sore left calf would hold up, and it was doing fine.  While I was sore and tired, everything seemed to be working OK. The reduced pack weight and less ambitious daily mileage, as compared to last year, seem to be helping.

There was Lupine all along the trail.  Some were lush and bushy, and others only a couple of inches high with tiny flowers.

The view along the Wickiup Plain from north to south.

Sisters Mirror Lake with South Sister.

Mt Bachelor, I believe.

Sometimes the dry and dusty ground is covered with flowers.

Diamond Peak awaiting me.

My lovely wife and sometimes trail companion.

There are many mountains of rock around the trail, apparently left by retreating glaciers.

Horseshoe Lake, a beautiful little lake and home for night 2.

Day 3

Not sure why it takes me an hour to get up and on the trail in the morning, but that seems to be the best I can do.  Iron, the young thru-hiker next to me, was gone within a half hour of sitting up.  Granted he has less to pack than I do, but I need to work at reducing that time.  I would like to be able to hit the trail at first light to give me more time in camp in the evenings, as well as hike during the cooler part of the day.

Today’s hike as mostly a repeat of the previous day; looking forward to getting up into higher country so I can see the mountains I am walking by.  I did meet a mother/daughter combo who were hiking the whole trail.  Their initial comment, which I found quite funny, was “Where are we?”  Apparently Trail Bait, the 15 year old daughter, and Blair Witch, her very protective mother, had made it almost 2000 miles while seldom really knowing where they were.

Toward the end of the day I went through an area that had burned a few years ago.  There were still quite a few barren tree trunks standing, but all of the living trees were 8 foot tall or less.  There was also some grasses, small shrubs and flowers growing, but by and large it was pretty desolate, and hot.  I probably spent over an hour traversing this section and was very glad to get back into the shade of the forest again.

I spent the night at Charlton Lake, a fairly good sized lake, and one that had a road come to within a couple hundred yards of it.  As a consequence there were lots of people at the lake, although most of them left before dark.  This was the shortest day so far and gave me a bit of time to relax at the end of the day.  Seems like most evenings, while not rushed, are filled with setting up camp, cleaning up, eating, and heading to bed.

When I got to the lake I meet a group of thru-hikers who had stopped for a break.  Their plan was to push on for another 16 miles that day; I could only shake my head in disbelief.  Many of those guys walk from first light until they can’t see the trail and then curl up on a flat spot and sleep until the sky starts to lighten and then repeat the process, every day for 4 to 5 months.  I sure like the trail, and the experience, but not that much.

Ground Dogwood was not common but did find it in one location.

A surprising amount of the forest has no real ground cover to speak of; just the trees.

One of the nameless seasonal ponds along the trail.

The devastation caused by fire, along with the new growth that follows.

Swinging on the shores of Charlton Lake.

Day 4

Managed to be out on the tail shortly after 6 this morning, cutting a few minutes off the tear down time.  The trail was crawling with thru-hikers today; I meet 18 in the first 4 hours and nearly 30 for the day.  Greenbelt Granny was an 81 year old woman, walking through Oregon with two other women.  She looked like she was just out for a morning stroll through the local park; quite inspiring.

I also meet a trio of section hikers, A man and 2 women who all appeared to be my age.  I talked with them for a while and figured them for a couple and a friend.  Later I passed the man’s wife and two younger women.  They had all started together but after the first night the three jumped ship and headed for the car leaving the husband with the two older women to finish the trip.  Quite interesting.

Finally got back up into some high country briefly today and then descended past the three Rosary Lakes; pretty little lakes just a few miles up the trail from Willamette Pass.  I met Sue just below the lakes and we walked the trail down to the pass and then jumped into the car and to our camp site for the night on Odell Lake.

Found a place to swim in the lake to clean up a bit and then drove to a local bar for some broasted chicken; very good.  Had a thunderstorm with some rain pass through during the evening but stayed dry.  By morning it was all gone, although the storm did start some fires that affected me later on in the trip.

Sunrise over Charlton Lake.

In contrast with some parts of the forest floor, others are covered in life.

One of my favorite little flowers.  Don’t know what it is, but it was pretty.

Looking down at the three Rosary Lakes and Odell Lake.

One of the Rosary Lakes.

Day 5

Sue walked with me for the first couple miles up Diamond Peak before returning to camp and leaving me alone again.  Once she left, I only saw two more people until getting into camp.  This was easily the day on the trail with the most solitude.

Diamond Peak was a welcome break from the long forest tunnel of the previous days.  The trail ascends up to the 7000 foot level and then traverses around the mountain for several miles.  I enjoyed the views and the beauty of the flowers and snow that I occasionally hit.

While on top I met my two people for the day, about an hour apart.  They both warned me of a coming snowfield that they had difficulty navigating across.  I finally found this patch at the south end of the traverse, after giving up on ever seeing it.  It was a couple hundred yards across but there were no footprints that I could (last nights rain had seen to that) and it curved around a shoulder of the mountain hiding the other side.  I set off across the field and never saw any sign of earlier travelers.  Eventually I hit the end, broke out the phone and its GPS and found I had undershot the trail.  It was about 20 yards above me.

Almost as soon as I got back on the trail it started its long descent down to Summit Lake.  I was looking to camp on the southern shore, just before the trail left the lake.  I didn’t see anyone until I found what looked like the perfect place, and then saw the tent in the middle of it.  Went on a bit farther and found one more occupied site so went halfway back and set up in a semi cleared spot between two trees on the shore of the lake.  Not an ideal spot but it worked well for me.  The lake was very warm and made for a good bath.

Diamond Peak showing itself through the trees on the ascent.

An ageless Ent watching over the forest.

While only a single tree blow down, its many branches many it tricky to get across.

The big snow field on Diamond Peak, stretching off over the horizon.

One of the pretty little flowers that grow in scree fields on the mountains.

My first choice for a camp site on Summit lake was on the little peninsula with Diamond Peak in the background.  Unfortunately it was also someone else’s first choice.

Day 6

The trail ahead was dry for about 34 miles, much further than I thought I could travel in a day.  So I loaded up with a gallon of water and headed for Maidu lake, about 25 miles away and a mile off the trail.  The trail was just barely visible when I left, but I wanted to have plenty of time to get to camp before dark.

The day started with a long climb up Cowhorn Mountain.  There was still a little bit of snow on top, but the views were really great.  To the north I could still see a couple of the Sisters as well as Diamond Peak; it is pretty cool to see a distant peak and realize that you were there just yesterday.  To the south were Mt’s Theilsen, Bailey and McLoughlin.

Along the way I met a guy in a wedding dress and pearls.  Apparently he had one for each week he was on the trail.  Quite unusual, although you eventually come to accept the unusual as quite ordinary.  There are a surprising number of gals in skirts and guys in kilts on the trail.

An hour from Maidu I passed a trio of young ladies heading for my lake.  I chatted with them a bit before racing off for the lake.  If I was going to get a bath I needed to beat them there by more than a few minutes.  Not to worry, they hit the lake over an hour after I arrived.

Maidu was a pretty little lake, although shallow and with weedy shorelines.  But I found a good place and got cleaned up; then started to setup camp.  And to my surprise I found that there were no rocks anywhere. After a long search I ended up driving in tarp stakes with a stick.

At 25 miles this had easily been the longest mileage day of the trip.  It felt good to be able to do it and still feel good at the end of the day.  The feet and legs are toughening up and the shoulders and hips are getting used to the weight of the pack.  An overall good day.

Looking back at Diamond Peak from Cowhorn.

The far distant Sisters from Cowhorn.

The trail around Cowhorn.  Many of the high country trails are similar.

Looking south toward Theilsen on the left and Bailey on the right.

I saw a number of these lilies, but only this one in bloom.

Sunset over Maidu Lake.

Day 7

Today started off with a long climb to the highest point on the official PCT in Oregon or Washington, 7560 feet.  There was some snow in the high country but mostly bare ground and sparse meadows, beautiful in the own way.  Also lots of scenic views of the country around.

From this high point the trail dropped down to Theilsen’s Creek, the only on trail water for over 60 miles.  This was a good place to refill the water bottles and get some lunch, and then back up to Mt Theilsen.

The trail wraps around a couple of the western shoulders of Theilsen, offering the last views of the Sisters and Diamond Peak, glimpses of Diamond Lake and Mt Bailey to the west and, finally, the crater wall of Mt Mazama; whose caldera now houses Crater Lake.

Partway down the descent from Theilsen I met Sue and we hiked together down to the road, where she took me out for ice cream, a shower, dinner and a night at the Forest Service campground at Diamond Lake, a very large complex.

Morning mist raising over Maidu Lake

Looks like it is just waiting for someone to come along and give it a shove.

An un-named peak to the north of Theilsen.

While the trail gets higher around Crater Lake, this is the high point for the official trail.

Mount Theilsen.

Theilsen Creek coming out from under the snow.

Mt Bailey and Diamond Lake

The remains of Mt Mazama.

Day 8

The final day of this part of the trip started with a delivery back to the trail head at the base of Theilsen followed by a long walk through the forest north of Crater Lake.  This ended up being the least maintained portion of the trail I traveled.  There were at least 100 trees across the first 9 miles of trail.  None of them required much effort to get across, but they were a bit of a nuisance. 

Eventually the alternate route diverged from the official PCT and the trail began to climb for a few miles and eventually came out on the western edge of the rim wall.  I have to admit I was pretty stunned by the sight.  I do not remember a more beautiful lake.

There is about a 6 mile rim walk over to the Rim Village.  I met Sue about half way around and we then walked on around to the Village and some more ice cream.  The next day would be spent resting and exploring Crater Lake, so I headed on down the trail another 4 miles to Mazama Village, a camp ground with some cabins, a store and a restaurant.  We had a cabin for a couple of nights, which was nice and allowed us to spread out a bit.

My right quad has begun to tighten up quite a bit, causing some pain while walking.  The rest day coming up should do it a world of good.  Otherwise I am  in pretty good shape.

The forest north of Crater Lake.  Often times the trail looked just like this.

One of the little flowers growing in the dust.

A patch of Lupine on the ascent of Mt Mazama.

These mounding flowers, of various hues, were all over Mazama.

My first ever look into Crater Lake.  The picture does not do it justice.

Left over formations from the eruption, collapse and weathering of Mazama.  The lake is in the background.

Clark’s Nutcracker were a common, and noisy, bird around the rim.

Another view of Wizards Island near one side of the lake.

A field of mixed wildflowers on the descent from Mazama.

Wrap-up

The first 8 days of this trip covered 160 miles and covered the central third of Oregon.  I felt much better at this point than I had at the end of last years 8 day 160 mile trip, primarily because Sue was meeting me periodically, meaning I did not have to carry nearly so much food at the beginning.  It also helped having the experience of knowing that it was going to hurt for the first few days;  just hang in there and it gets better.

Overall the trip has been great.  I’ve seen lots of cool stuff and met some interesting people.  I’ve had lots of time alone and been able to spend some time thinking deep thoughts along the way.  And best of all I have been able to enjoy the creation and the Creator.

Two Weeks and Counting

Two weeks from this morning we pack the car and head for Oregon, looking to spend the bulk of August hiking the Pacific Crest Trail (PCT).  I have been looking forward to this hike for quite some time, but suddenly it’s nearly upon me.  Lots to do yet, but its nearly time to turn the preparation into an actual hike.

Darker red lines are this years route.

This years hike will actually be two distinct experiences.  The first will cover the southern 2/3’s of Oregon, from McKenzie Pass to Seiad Valley in California. This part of the trip will be about 320 miles and entail 17 days of hiking with a day off in the middle at Crater Lake.  I will be hiking solo through this section with my lovely and gracious wife meeting me every 3-4 days for resupply.  She will also hike out to meet me from the resupply locations, allowing her to experience parts of the PCT without having to carry more than a day pack or spend the night with the bears.  We have all the resupply points and dates identified, but she may also join me wherever a paved road intersects the trail.

The second part of the hike will shift back to Washington, heading south from Rainy Pass to Stevens Pass, about 120 miles.  I will have a friend along on this 6 day segment with no support along the way.  The wives will drop us off and then party until its time to pick us up at the other end.  This will be the most challenging segment of the trail for me this year, being both longer and considerably more rugged than the Oregon segment.  But by the time I am done with Oregon I should be in tiptop share, if not broken down.

The gear for this year is pretty much dialed in and ready to go.  Just need to stuff it all into the bag and head out.  I have been assured that there are opportunities to hang the hammock over the whole distance, assuming I am willing to look a few miles along the trail for an adequate pair of trees.

The stove is being left behind this year but I am still working on the menu.  I thought I was about ready with cold dinners until someone suggested I might not really have any weight savings with what I was using.  I am still refining my dinners, but have discovered the joys of dehydrating food in the oven, as well as finding a source for some other dried foods, particularly beans and corn.  I should be able to put together a number of different types of ‘burrito’ type dinners using dried chicken and deli meats as well as shredded beef or turkey jerky.  Add in some dried refried beans (pinto or black), freeze dried corn, minute rice (white or brown) and a variety of spice combinations, wrap in a large flour tortilla, and I have a tasty dinner, even when cold.  And the weight is no greater than the freeze dried meals I was taking.

It looks like at least the Oregon stretch will be hot and dry so I can shed a bit of weight by not taking the cold weather clothes.  But for some stretches I will have to carry additional water.  The Washington section will likely be cooler, but I have no forecast for that far out.  I’ll pack some warmer clothes to have in the car should the weather surprise me, but hopefully I won’t have to carry any of that.

The Oregon section of this trip will be very much like 5 back-to-back multi-day trips.  One of the challenges in preparation for this is to be sure I have all of the resupply stuff I need packed into the car before taking off.  If all goes well, I should be able to just swap food bags, replenish consumables, and charge batteries every few nights, and then hit the trail early the next morning.  How well this will work for me still remains to be seen.

I am somewhat concerned about my left calf.  It feels good now, but was hurting by the time I finished my last hike from the Dosewallips river over to the Quinault river, and for several days after; the results of a strained muscle.  But I cancelled my last prep hikes and quit running in order to give it as much time to rest as possible.

Fires are another concern for me.  Last year there ended up being 3 fires on the section I hiked, including one that I was nearly caught in.  It seems hotter and dryer this year, with twice the distance, so fires are a real possibility.  Will just have to handle that as it comes.

Another interesting part of the preparations for this hike is getting the wife ready to car camp and day hike out of the Prius.  She is eager to be a part of this, but has little camping experience, especially solo.  So we are working on getting her equipped to be able to spend at least a few nights in camp grounds along the way, in addition to the nights with me.  Other nights she will find a hotel for the evening as well as explore whatever is in the general area that I am hiking through.  I am very fortunate that she loves to explore and is comfortable with doing it by herself.

My son is taking care of the house; the wife’s sister is taking their mother; and the shopping is just about done.  All that’s left is to get organized; fix a few meals; pack up; and wait for the calendar to get to the right day.  Only 324 more hours!  But who’s counting!

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