Monday, October 29, 2012

"To The PCT!" -- PapaSmurf's Adventures on the Pacific Crest Trail

Thank you to everyone that touched my adventure on this fantastic thru-hike of the Pacific Crest Trail. The long lasting friendships, generosity of trail angels, trail magic (both spontaneous and planned), and support of my family and friends made every day on the trail magnificent. I would especially like to thank the trail angels, trail maintainers, park service, and all the supporting small business owners that make the PCT so magical.
Papa Smurf (PCT class of 2012)

Thursday, October 11, 2012

Oct 10th - Windy Joe and Manning Park

Hiked back to the border this morning and left my extra fuel for other hikers after breakfast. Then up and over into Canada. The PCT approach trail was overgrown, muddy, filled with roots, and steep and washed out in places.

Took a side hike of about four miles to the top of Windy Joe Mountain and it's great enclosed fire tower lookout. A spectacular view of the mountains in a 360 degree panorama.

In Manning Park I met up with Dazzle who offered to share his room at the lodge. Threw my hiking clothes in the trash and enjoyed the shower. The restaurant is on limited off season hours and menu so it's a burger for early dinner and no breakfast hours. They have a pool and hot tub but they will not let me use it in my underwear. I then tried to borrow a VCR to watch a movie but it doesn't work. And they tell me a group of hikers last week drank up the last draft beer keg for the season. Still it's a warm sunny day and the Windy Joe tower hike was a nice finish to my quest. On to Vancouver the morning.

Oct 9th - PaPa Smurf has left the country!

Wow, woke to a fantastic day. Warm and sunny and a great sunrise from the ridge near Tamerack Peak. The whole day, almost to the Canadian border, was on high open ridgelines with fantastic views. Foggy Pass, Jim Pass, the Devils Backbone, and into Holman Pass and Rock Pass.

I expected Woody Pass to be the end of the views but I was dead wrong. Not wooded at all and great expansive views of the mountains and along Lakeview Ridge, the Devils Stairway, and down into the deep blue Hopkins Lake and pass. The views kept coming all the way to Castle Pass. Woody Pass and Hopkins Lake were excellent.

The trail after Castle Pass was overgrown and narrow but the excitement of nearing the border grew. Met Dazzle at the border monument and we took turns taking pictures and finishing off 375 ml of Canadian whiskey brought all the way from Skycomish. The weather and views fantastic for my last day in the USA and the completion of my PCT Quest. Camped in Canada just over the border.

Oct 8th - Slate Peak Lookout and Tamatack Peak

Wow, only one day away from the border and I am still in awe from the beauty that greats me around every bend of the trail. Today started with a long climb up and over Glacier Pass with fantastic views of Azurite Peak and her glaciers. The views continued up the ridgeline of Mt Ballard and beyond in all directions. From the top of the ridge the trail follows up and down the contour and across the shoulder of Tatie Peak.

The views continue for miles as the trail winds around the ridge and passes tall the way to Harts Pass. In this section I met a couple, Coyote and Don't Panic, who had just finished the CDT and were section hiking parts of Washington. I offered them some fresh bread from the Stehekin bakery and they returned the favor with some fuel, spam, and power bars. Now I can have more hot soups and double dinners!

After Harts pass the trail goes near Slate Peak with its wooden lookout tower. I thought for sure there would be a side trail to the tower off the PCT but no luck. So, of course, I climbed straight up the talus slope to the tower. Much tougher than I thought. It seems I've warn the lugs almost completely down on my boots and they slip easily. Great views from the tower. Not wanting to down climb the way I came up I found a vague herd path leading down a knife edge ridge parallel to the PCT. I figured another fun side adventure and it must eventually drop down to the PCT? Great hike but the path never left the ridge so I ended up scrabbling down a rocky cliff to get back to the PCT. A great side adventure!

The trail continues on the open ridge line crossing Buffalo Pass, Windy spass, and I finally settled on a campsite beside Tamarack Peak. Another A+ day!

Oct 7th - The Northern Cascades!

Left the North Cascades National Park this morning and entered the national forest. At first I was a little disappointed. I expected more from a national park then just a pretty woods trail with limited views; but the national forest made up for it with stunning miles of open ridge-line views.

But first, Rainy Pass where I found trail magic of an orange and a cookie. But wait, that's not all. A day hiker came along and saw the box and said he had some left overs he could add. Put came beers, trail mix, and chocolate. So, a nice Black Butte Porter for brunch along with some dark chocolate. I love this trail! Met Jawbones mom at the pass waiting to resupply her son since he missed the window for the post office.

Next I crossed the 2600 mile mark. Only 60 miles left to the Canadian border. The climb up to Cutthroat Pass was long and made more difficult due to the constant flow of day and weekend hikers. Felt like trying to go up a crowded down elevator. Constantly had to stop to let large groups pass. Then I found out why it was so crowded. The next section, from Cutthroat Pass, over Granite Pass and then over to Methow Pass is absolutely wonderful. Full of wide open ridge lines, long views, and the rocky jagged mountain peaks, some dotted with snow. After hiking miles acros this fantastic landscape I dropped down to Methow River to camp.

Oct 6th - The Hideaway

Woke to a view of the lake and mountains from my tent site at Purple Point. More fire smoke is in the air around the mountains. I enjoyed my giant cinnamon bun from the bakery while packing up. The resupply box from Sybille is so well packed it looks like she ironed everything flat and fit them in Ike a jigsaw puzzle. With a few items from the bakery a some leftovers in my pack I will eat like a king these last few days.

Had a nice breakfast and was joined by Dazzle, Blackout and Silky Smooth. Back on the bus we again stopped at the amazing bakery in the middle of nowhere. This time: a loaf of sour dough and whole grain bread and a chicken-bacon-cheese hot pocket, both just out of the oven. Added a giant sticky bun to eat on the bus and we were off to the trail head.

At the trailhead I met Pinky and Ahab heading into town. I noticed Pinky had a neat PCT temporary tattoo. She said she had it custom made online; Betty cool. Headed out with Dazzle, Silky Smooth, and Blackout. My campsite, called The Hideaway, is by the river and the sound of the water is soothing. No sign of the others so I guess I'm the only one here tonight. Except for the mouse I just caught trying to climb into my shoe; that is!

Oct 5th - Stehekin

Got very cold last night. Water froze and both the inside and outside of my tent was covered in ice crystals. They melt on my warm sleeping bag and make it damp. Guess its time to sleep with my water and fuel and add my sleeping bag liner. Or maybe I should camp lower where it's a little warmer? NO; it's to nice to wake to all these mountains and snowfields! This mornings view from my tent is amazing. The sky is filling with fire smoke again making some views hazy but it's still grand. The last section followed a river gorge with some nice waterfalls.

Officially crossed into the North Cascades National Park just before reaching the High Bridge. There is a bus that takes you to the Town of Stehekin and I finally caught up with the couple I was suppose to bring emergency food to. Leanne and Niko, who I now know as Blackout and Silky-smooth. They were happy to get the alcohol fuel.

Long bus ride to go only 11 miles but with a stop at the famous bakery on the way of course. Even got a free cookie as a thru hiker. Made it in time for the post office to get my last food for the end of my journey.

The lake and mountains are beautiful. It's one of the three deepest lakes in the nation; the other two are Lake Tahoe and Crater Lake - and we hiked by them all. Watched a float plane land. Only way into town is by boat, float plane, or hiking.

Set up my tent at the nearby Purple Point campground, had a shower, and dinner at the lodge restaurant where I met up with Dazzle. Saw a standing room only slideshow on the history of the original lodge before the railroad dammed the lake for electricity to run trains through a long tunnel that didn't have enough air to burn fuel. Heading to camp I met up with Sticks, Toad and Chipmunk just getting in.

Still some steep and very scenic miles ahead and the days are to short to keep doing long miles. I plan to eat breakfast, take the 11:15am bus, stop at the bakery again, and return to the trail and hike 10 miles. That leaves 20 miles per day to get to Manning Park for the 10th. (They decided to keep running the summer bus schedule over the weekend before changing to limited winter hours that would have made for no time for breakfast or leaving at dark).

Oct 4th - Day 135, and the last 100 miles

It's day 135 and it still amazes me that I find something new and exciting each new day of this fantastic adventure. Today was another day filled with views and new sights. Camp was warmer last night. Must be the lower elevation and warmer air trapped in this valley. Had the sounds of the waterfalls all night. Glad I camped in this small niche last night because there was nothing close to flat for miles until you made the top of the switchbacks.

Lots ov blowdowns, some I even had to push my pack ahead and crawl through. As I climbed higher it got much colder. The ground under my feet was solidly frozen. Great views through the trees of the snow covered alpine zone from yesterday. I thought I would breakout above the trees for a good picture but the trail turned and crossed an open grassy knoll that blocked the view south.

Crossing the east fork of the Milk Creek was a little tricky with all the rocks coated with ice. Saw what I think was mountain lion or cougar tracks frozen into the trail. An amazing number of mountains surround me but the view is very hazy.

When I dropped down to cross the Suiattle River I had a big decision to make. Take the old abandoned PCT with the famous scary log crossing that has been used since the flood destroyed the bridge; or take the official new section that adds five more miles and has a brand new bridge. Part of me wanted to test my nerve on the log bridge but the purist in me wanted to stay on the official PCT. Given my fear of heights and poor balance, and respect for the amazing amount of trail work done to put in the bridge and approach trails, I took the official route. Glad I did because the new trail passes an amazing section of old growth forest.

Climbing up to Suiattle Pass I passed a number 100 on the ground. Finally dawned on me it's really -100 as in the last 100 miles left before the canadian border. After the pass I dropped down and throw a terminal moraine under the snow fields of Sitting Bull Mtn, and on down to camp at mile 2573.8. Getting cold tonight; definitely below freezing.

Oct 3rd - Glacier Peak Playground

Cold last night. I even made a pot of mashed potatoes to warm me up. My water was frozen in the morning and the ground was spouting ice crystals like mushrooms. Had to watch out for "black ice" on the trail. It was very icy all morning and even into the late afternoon. As it warmed you still were never sure if there was ice under the patches of mud. Slow careful going especially since the tread on my boots is wearing down and they don't have as good traction as they once did.

The moon was out late into the morning and hovered brightly over the mountains. Great open alpine views as I climbed White Pass, around White Mtn, up Red Pass and around White Chuck Cinder Cone. The open alpine ridge lines and meadows gave great views of the snow capped mountains and glaciers.

Lots of bridges and river crossings due to all the streams flowing from the snow fields and glaciers. Lots of large blowdowns, waterfalls, and the remains of several broken bridges. The bridge over the Kennedy Creek was broken in half and looked like a letter "V", but was still useable.

I meet Pinky and Ahab and later their friend Sticks on the trail. Pinky showed me how to identify "King Boletus" mushrooms and I saut├ęd them up with dinner - Excellent!

The hike up Kennedy ridge with views of the glaciers and Kennedy Peak was both difficult and very exciting with its great views. The climb up to Fire Creek Pass and down to Mica Lake was spectacular. It was very cold othis side of the range and the surface of Mica Lake was frozen. Looked like a grat place to camp; but cold. I left Sticks here and suspect Pinky and Ahab will camp here with Sticks.

I continued down a long diets of switchbacks; first in the alpine zone then down into the valley, to cross the Milk Creek. Feed by the Milk Lake Glacier above me it made for an impressive series of waterfalls. After crossing the river I started up the long climb on the other side until I found a very small, mostly flat, spot to camp on the steep slope at mile 2535.8. Big climb still ahead for the morning. Another A+ scenic day on the PCT!

Oct 2nd - Fall Colors in the Pacific North West

It's definitely fall weather now. Cold and chilly unless you are going up hill in the sun. The views were grand again today will lots of open ridge-lines filled with fall colors. The trees are mostly evergreens but the ground cover on the mountain slopes have leaves which have turned to reds, browns and golds. The hillsides are painted with color.

Grizzly Peak and Wenatchee Pass had long views out to the many mountains. Is that Glacier Peak or Mt Baker? Raineer in the distance. All are beautiful. More views from Saddle gap, Cady pass, Wards pass, Dishpan gap and Indian pass. Lots of ups and downs again as you can guess from all these passes I climbed today.

Crossed the 2500 mile point and entered the Glacier Peak Wilderness. Saw Toad and Chipmunk hiking today. Toad told me of a camp spot near Kid Pond which is where I am camping tonight with a nice sunset over the mountains in the distance.

Oct 1st - Leaving the Dinsmore's for the last 200 miles

Coffee and fresh Asian pears from the tree in the yard this morning. Then Jerry drove us to breakfast at the Cascade Lodge. I treated him to breakfast as a thank you for his trail angel work. Then off to the Skykomish Deli for icecream, a sandwich to go, and cheese and bread. Two hikers, who where expecting a resupply in the middle of the next section, we're in trouble because the road is out and the hiker expecting to resupply them was not able to tell them she couldn't get to them. Three of us split up some extra food and fuel in case we find them despite on the trail ahead. Hollywood and the others started trickling in ad I was leaving town. It was good to hike with "Molasses", last remaining member of Team Sardine today. Camping at Lake Janus with a light rain this evening.

Sept 30th - Many Alpine Lakes in route to Stevens Pass

Got colder last night. Set up my tent and had condensation forming on the outside even before I went to sleep. Slept with my gloves, hat, and coat on. In the morning the condensation was frozen. Waited for sunrise but because the sun had to clear the high mountains the colors were not as impressive as I hoped.

The terrain was berry alpine today with some steep switchbacks and rocky sections. Very nice views especially of the snow patched mountain ridge line with Cathedral Rock at the end of the string of peaks. Lots of pica's gathering grasses. Many ups, downs, and switchbacks all day long.

The sun was hot but it was cold in the shade. Too hot going uphill in the sun and too cold downhill or in the shade. Couldn't figure out what to wear to be comfortable.

The views of the many alpine lakes were great. First Hyas lake and Deceptions lake. Then a great spot on top of Piper Pass where I met a couple trying to find a route up nearby Surprise Mtn which looked a bit technical. The view looking down from the pass as I descended was fantastic looking into Glacier Lake which was a rich blue color in the sun. Then more lakes including Surprise lake, spectacular views of Trap lake, and then Hope, Mig, Josephine, and Lake Jane.

The trail had one last surprise before I got to Stevens Pass; up, over, and down a ski area! Got a ride from a Russian hiker, Neil, at the pass who took me through Skykomish to Baring and the Dinsmore's Hiker Haven. He even gave me his number in Seattle in case I needed a place to stay on the way home. Always meeting great people on the trail!

It was too late to go out so Andrea, PCT mom, made me a plate of food. The store recently changed hands and is closed till the new owners start up. Luckily I was able to resupply nicely from the hiker box. Couple of beers and a movie with the other hikers and a bunk for the night!

Monday, October 1, 2012

Sept 29th - In the Shadow of Cathedral Rock

Lots and lots of switchbacks today. It was actually pleasant since it really spreads the elevation gain out. You got to see views in both directions without having to turn around like I usually have to do. In one direction you looked up the canyon at the rocky peaks and numerous snow filled shoots. In the other direction you looked down the canyon and a crossed at miles of other mountains. I had the sound of this fantastic waterfall that flowed down from the snow fields in my ears for the miles of climbing the switchbacks out of Lemah Meadows. Great views from the top but after traversing around the high point and ridge line it was back down miles of more switchbacks. And this would be repeated a few more times today.

Saw some "chicken of the woods" mushrooms today; the only edible mushroom I know how to safely identify. Passed a number of lakes, bridges, and river fords including Waptus Lake and Deep Lake. I carried water from Deep Lake up several miles of switchbacks to dry camp on the ridge.

Great views from my high summit ridge campsite in the shadow of the towering Cathedral Rock at mile 2449. There is a bright full moon framed by the mountain skyline as bright as headlights visible from tent. Wish I could capture a picture but it just comes out blurry.

Sept 28th - The Kendall Katwalk

Another spectacular day! This trail keeps surprising you with each mile. Heading up from Snoqualmie Pass toward Kendall Peak the views just kept opening up. Both down toward the pass and ahead toward Kendall Ridge. Entering the Alpine Lakes Wilderness the trail zigzagged and switched-backed up and around the peaks and ridges. This included the fantastic "Kendall Katwalk" a section blasted out of solid granite on a narrow knife edge.

There were some nice camping spots on the saddle with Gravel Lake and Ridge Lake to either side. The trailing continued on its narrow path alone the ridgeline many times crossing rock slides with difficult footing over large loose rocks. Ran into an elk on the narrow trail and he wasn't sure which way to run. Saw several small picas running among the rocks. Then, after passing around the summits of Alaska Mountain and Huckleberry Mountain I climbed to the saddle just before Chikamin Peak. Their I saw a white mountain goat with large horns just sitting on the lip of the saddle. After he ran away I spent some time here to enjoy the mountain views all around me including Mt Raineer in the distance.

The Four Brothers peaks were impressive and then while climbing down into the Park Lakes Basin a fantastic view of Spectacle Lake opened up. Great spot for my lunch.

Lots and lots of switchbacks down to Delate Creek waterfall and finally my campsite at Lemah Meadow; which doesn't appear to be a meadow at all. Just looks like woods to me.

The map shows a jumbled spaghetti line of switchbacks leading up 3000 feet next so I'll leave that for tomorrow. Many miles of great open ridge-line and views today. Almost as good as Goat Rocks!

Sept 27th - Snoqualmie Pass

Crossed the 2400 mile mark today on my way down to Snoqualmie Pass. It was like hiking in the Whites today with all the roots and rocks and ups and downs. Met a work crew doing trail maintenance. On of them, Saunter, who just finished his triple crown, gave me lots of good data on hiking the CDT next; plus a nice crisp apple!

Hiking under the ski lifts the view up into Snoqualmie Pass was impressive. Lots of hikers arrived while I was at the minimart during the afternoon but I decided it wasn't worth $100 for a hotel room. Had brunch at the pancake restaurant and was going to head back to the trail when I got word that the ski bar, Webbs, was having an all you can eat taco dinner Thursday special for $7.00. Had to stay for a few beers and tacos. The bar also had a Sam Ads sponsored "Stein Hoisting" contest that was fun to watch but didn't look fun to do. LoL. Hiked out at dark and almost ran into a picnic table near the trailhead. Good enough for me; I slept on the picnic table.