Mountains Beyond Mountains

What does it take to make an entire group of PCT thru-hikers sleep like a rock, wake up late, and bonk after 10 miles the next day? Simply put – Washington. Though we’ve had quite a few tough areas on this trail, Washington seems to be the kicker at the end. The biggest day we’ve had recently- 28 miles, and 8000 ft. of climbing, in hot, exposed alpine areas wore us out.  Of course, none of this is without reward. We’re continually bombarded with beautiful alpine passes, and views that are only hindered by towering rock spires and glaciated peaks. Friday, we saw for the first time Glacier Peak and Mt. Baker, the last of the Cascade Volcanoes. Cold, stunningly clear streams feed into equally cold, blue-green alpine lakes, carving steep canyons through the eroding mountainsides. Forested mountain slopes can rise 2000 vertical feet for every lateral mile, making the peaks look more like a vertical, cresting wave than a stationary rock.

Needless to say Lotus and I have been  pooped. The long flat days in Oregon are certainly over, and hiking is more akin to the High Sierra than anything else. Leaving White Pass we were inundated in a true Northwest rainstorm. After sitting out overnight thunderstorms in a Packwood, WA Hotel, we knowingly walked out in to a full day and night of cold rain. It was a damp night without a doubt. The next morning, with almost everything soaked through (save the sleeping bags- bone dry!) we woke up to cold clear sunny weather. Of course, the weather clouded over by 10 AM, and we walked all that day in the cold, with intermittent light rain. Our morale was pretty high, knowing good weather was on the way, and it was gorgeous to see that area what might be its natural state- cloudy. We were lucky enough to hike most days in this section with Blur and Goodall, though we unfortunately left them behind in Snoqualmie Pass, as they spent the night resting up.

Arriving in Snoqualmie pass, we knew we were in for some amazing and difficult hiking. For a day and a half, we had been seeing 8000 ft. peaks in the distance to the North. In the pass, the first of these peaks rises up 3000 feet- right in the path of the trail. This was the first of many of these giant climbs. The heat wave Western Washington is in right now isn’t helping. Our mantra has been “The heat is better than the rain,” and its true- Lotus and I would both rather be in the heat for the rest of the way than in the rain. Unfortunately, it wasn’t meant to be, and now there is rain in the forecast.  We’ve been hiking around several friends from far earlier in the trail- Robin Hood, Blur, Goodall, and Dinnertime. Additionally, we’ve enjoyed hiking around Spark, Instigate, Carrot, and Jack Rabbit.

As you might have presumed, we’ve only got about 9 days left on the trail. Canada is 184 miles away. We are both excited, terrified, happy, sad, confident, proud, and unsure. As on the Appalachian Trail, the end has crept up faster than I’m ready for. The journey is only half over at the Canadian Border. Adapting back to the front-country world is a challenge on its own. Finding our way back to a job (Anyone want to hire us?), back to the things that string our happiness along, back to a (at least somewhat) regular schedule. I won’t get too sentimental yet, but these things are all on our minds.

Extra Special Thanks to Becca and Emma for sending us some fine care packages- they were both so welcome!

Unfortunately, we can’t get any photos up for this blog entry, but we’ll get them to you as soon as we can!

This is likely going to be our last blog post until the end of the trail! 184 miles to the end. We’ll see you on the other side!

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1,500 miles and Almost done with California!

1,500 miles and Almost done with California!

We have made it to mile 1,506 and are in Mount Shasta for a zero day! It has been a while since we have had access to a computer to put up a blog post so we have lots of catching up to do. We left Tahoe back on July 3rd with the intention of picking up our pace a bit and increasing our average (including zero days) to about 21 miles/day. This meant we planned to hike 25 miles a day for 5 or 6 days in a row in order to “earn” one zero day, and we have been right on track! I had a brief problem with some new shoes and some blisters but my feet have healed up and Hermes is doing great.

Leaving Tahoe we started off with our friend Syashinka and did a quick few miles out of town to get to Lake Aloha where we took an afternoon swim break in one of the more beautiful lakes we have seen.

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After Lake Aloha we hiked on towards Donner Pass and Truckee. We arrived in Donner Pass to find a 2012 thru hiker with sodas, fruit and snacks for us- more trail magic! We then had an easy hitch into Truckee to grab some more food and we were back out at the trail in under 2 hours- our fastest resupply yet! This would take us to Sierra City! 20130723-071742.jpg

The hiking between Tahoe and Sierra City wasn’t very tough. We had some ups, and some downs, but overall the miles weren’t too bad. Right before we got into Sierra City we had a long hot downhill- right when we arrived at the end of it we found an amazing waterfall with an ice cold pool to swim in! Refreshed from the swim we hitched into Sierra City where we immediately found other hikers gathered at the Red Moose Inn- an inn owned by trail angels in town who let hikers camp out back,shower and do laundry for free! Right after we got into town, I found Hermes eating a HUGE burger from the general store. We spent the night and the next day resting before heading out to start the couple of thousand foot climb out of Sierra City that evening.

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After leaving Sierra City or next stop would be for lunch in Belden- a small town right on trail with only 9 residents! The terrain getting into Belden is notoriously overgrown, hot, and covered with poison oak. It also has a huge elevation loss to get in with a 3,000+ foot climb out. On the way from Sierra City to Belden we had some tough days of climbing, but were rewarded with an amazing river to swim in, great views, and we got to meet one of the people attempting a speed record of the trail this year. 20130723-071840.jpg

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After leaving Belden we hiked on to get to Chester. The miles in between Belden and Chester were hot, the water was a little sparser than we would have liked, and much of the trail was overgrown. That being said- we still had a great time- and we got to have our first views of Lassen and hit the PCT Midpoint at mile 1,330!

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Whoo- so we finally made it halfway! Hermes and I were so excited to hit the halfway point, although the monument is actually now 3 miles south of where is now officially halfway on the trail, we still both felt a huge sense of accomplishment! From the halfway point we quickly did another 5 or so miles in Chester with plans to stealth camp and do a quick resupply and find a shower if we were lucky.

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Once we got to the road we found a note from our friend Cookie saying that she was staying with Piper’s Mom- an amazing trail angel in Chester. We called Piper’s Mom and she had room for us too- and we are so glad that she did! Piper’s Mom let us camp in her yard, cooked a huge dinner, let us use her shower (one of the nicest we have used on the trail), let us do our laundry, and then topped it all off by cooking a giant breakfast and taking us all back to the trail that afternoon. Thank you Piper’s Mom!!20130723-072723.jpg

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Before we left town, Piper’s Mom suggested that we stop in at the local dentist’s office. We decided to check it out since it was right across the street from the post office and we heard we could use their picnic table and yard to spread out and organize our resupply. We popped in to say hello and we were immediately greeted by the nicest people who gave us cookies (yes, cookies from the dentist!), a new toothbrush, and a voucher for $20 to a local restaurant! We loved Chester!!20130723-072926.jpg

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Well, after our big Mexican lunch and margaritas we decided it was time to hit the trail and head off for our next section. Our next stop was Lassen National Park, followed by Hat Creek Rim- another well known section of the trail that is hot and is a 30 mile stretch without water, and then finally Burney Falls for our next resupply packages. This section had some real challenges- especially Hat Creek Rim! 20130723-072841.jpg20130723-072954.jpg

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Terminal Geyser!

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From Hat Creek Rim we stopped in Burney Falls to do our resupply and then pushed on through a heat wave to Shasta. We are hanging out in Shasta now for a zero day and waiting for Hermes’ friend Dave to come and meet us for the night. With the risk of the blog entry being neverending I will let the pictures speak for our trip from Hat Creek Rim to Mt Shasta! Some highlights include a sighting of a three point buck, two bear cubs, a rattlesnake, a bee sting, a mama deer and her baby, ice cold streams, lots of poison oak, and very hot weather! We are happy to have the day off and be resting now. 20130723-073034.jpg

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210 Miles & Our Tent Only Collapsed Twice Last Night!

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Hermes resting in a tree…

Well the last 100 miles have flown by! We left Warner Springs last Wednesday feeling rested and refreshed after a hot tub, showers, huge dinner and a day of lounging in the shade. We hiked out around 6 miles and had an early camp next to a small spring. It was a campsite that reminded us both of the East Coast and home, it even had mosquitoes!

 

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Day Nine!

The next day we hiked around 20 miles from water source to water source and ended up at our most crowded campsite yet. The “herd” is in full swing and we seem to be right in the midst of it. Before getting to our camp site, we spent a few hours hanging out at “Trail Angel Mike’s” out in the middle of a dry section. When we got there we were given cold water, strawberries, epsom salt foot baths, and vegetarian tacos! We have been on the receiving end of so much trail magic so far!  We have been consistently hiking with a few other people and have gotten to know a bunch of hikers around us. Lately, we have been meeting more and more people that we are catching up with and have been lucky that almost everyone we met have been awesome and interesting people.

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Desert bloom & views

The day after Hermes and I left our crowded campsite we hiked a long day with a big downhill section before we would get to mile 151 where there was a road and an easy hitch to Paradise Cafe to be found. I was having a tough morning and was slogging down the final few miles of downhill with my knees feeling each step when we caught sight of the road and a big tent set up at the trail and road junction. It was more trail magic! Dr. Sole- who helped me with my blisters at Kick Off- was set up with shade, sodas, beers, and his foot triage station. We took full advantage of this after we got a quick ride to Paradise Cafe where I had a giant burrito while Hermes and most of the other hikers there ate huge bacon covered burgers.

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Yucca

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Mile # “kind”

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Trail Angel Mike’s

After leaving Dr. Soles we hiked a few miles and found an early campsite for another 20+/- mile day. We got up the next morning and started climbing, and climbing and climbing. We were nearing the San Jacinto Mountain region. The higher we climbed, the more the landscape changed. We started noticing pine trees, jagged mountains ahead of us and steep cliffs lining the trail. We had a beautiful day of hiking where we got up over 8,000 feet for the first time. We switchbacked and climbed all day through the forest. Hermes and I had a goal of going about 12 miles before we reached our next water source and where would would take our mid-day “siesta.” When we got there, there was a note from our friend Noah saying it was a steep and rocky climb down to stagnant green water. Hermes ended up making the climb down to get us another two liters of gross mothy water, but at least we wouldn’t be stuck without water. Late that night we camped in a windy campsite just a few miles short of Idylwid- where we were headed for our next resupply.

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Morning sun

The next morning we hiked two miles before we hit the Devil’s Slide trail- 2.5 miles of switchbacks down to town. On our way down the trail we met other hikers who were just leaving Idylwild and who were full of tips on the best places to eat and where to go. We met up with a few of our other friends and grabbed a cabin for 7 of us in town after eating a huge breakfast. We did a quick resupply shop, I got new shoes, and we hung around our cabin with other hikers for the evening and made a big pasta dinner.

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Day 10

We decided to leave Idylwild the next morning, even though we kept hearing reports of weather coming in. We had planned to hike San Jacinto and hit the peak at 10,000+ feet, with the weather reports though we decided to skip the peak and stick to the trail where we would approach 9,000 feet. We hiked out with our friend Chad and had a cold and rainy start to the morning. Chad and I made some rain skirts out of trash bags and hiked in those. We spent the next 7 hours hiking non-stop in the freezing rain, through the clouds and with big gusts of wind. Every time we would stop hiking one of us would get too cold and we’d hurry on ahead.

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“Dr. Sole” surprised us at mile 150ish with some trail magic!

We finally went up and around Mount San Jacinto and started the descent onto Fuller Ridge- which has about 20 miles of switchbacks descending into the desert. As we came across Fuller Ridge, Hermes and I started singing and hoping for the sun to come out- we finally got some blue sky and eventually some sun. As soon as we got up and over the ridge and started going down, we were out of pine trees and back in the desert. We caught up with Chad and the three of us found a campsite that we thought “wasn’t that windy” at first. Hermes and my tent only collapsed twice in the wind last night and after the second collapse every time the wind gusted we thought it would just blow away.

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Sun!!

This morning we finished the hike down Fuller Ridge and came out onto a very windy flat desert area with wind farms lining the ridges. We hiked 12 miles to Ziggy and the Bear’s- two amazing trail angels who sat us down and gave us foot baths as soon as we walked in. We are spending the afternoon, and maybe the night, here and hiking on towards our next resupply at Big Bear. OH! and I got my trail name- Lotus!

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Hermes eating dinner

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Manzanillo Tree

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View from our sleeping bags

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Loving the PCT!

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Our first real view of Mount San Jacinto

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From the desert to pine trees in just a few miles…

Up at 8,000+ feet!
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Hermes on a side trail up at 8,000+ feet!

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View of San Jacinto

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Views from the ridge

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Walking on the edge

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Our cabin in Idylwild- big hiker dinner!

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Chad & Lotus in some fancy rain skirts

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Climbing in 35 degrees, rain and big wind!

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More fancy rain clothes

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Blue sky again!

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Sun over the desert as we descend onto Fuller Ridge

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View from our campsite

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Sunrise

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200 miles in on day 13!!

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San Jacinto is behind us now..

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We made it out onto the desert floor

The So-Cal Desert

With Kickoff a few days past, and some a few miles on our legs, we’re posted up in Warner Springs, a small town with a Post Office and community center, free ranging cows, and not too much else. We’re taking the morning off, letting our

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Becky Celebrating 100 miles on the trail! (she had a hard time standing up after crouching for this shot…)

bodies and minds rest for a bit- 80 +  miles in the last four days definitely left us hungry, dirty, and tired.

Interior Southern California has been a total adventure- all new terrain for me, and reminiscent of Becky’s time in Baja with NOLS. The landscape changes constantly from ridge to ridge. Up in the Mount Laguna area, we hiked through tall pine forests, only to pass through very arid burn-scapes fifteen miles later. Eastern mountains are clearly stuck in the

20130501-100136.jpgrain shadow of the western peaks- Often the next ridge over may be forested, when we are hiking through cacti.

Probably the most amazing feature I didn’t expect has been the desert bloom. It’s springtime here, and though that doesn’t mean quite the same thing as it does in Vermont, it is gorgeous. It has been a reasonably dry winter here in SoCal, below average rainfall- but that hasn’t stopped many of the cacti and wildflowers from blooming. See below for pictures!

From here, its 4 days to Idyllwild, 75 miles away. After that comes Mount San Jacinto, the tallest peak in Southern California, around 10,000 ft. Its a 3-4 mile spur trail- miles that don’t count towards the PCT, but we may not be able to resist the temptation to do a little peak-bagging, especially if some snow remains on the top! There is a lot to be excited about, here we go!

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Day Four!

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Yoga

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Day Five!

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Mr. Grumpy

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Putting Our feet up during a mid-day break- staying cool and healthy.

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Not sure what this was doing there…

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Day Six!

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Road Runner!

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Prickly Pear

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High Seven!

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California Poppy

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Yoga under the bridge

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The San-Felipe Hills- dry as a bone.

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Eagle pose at Eagle Rock!

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Eagle pose at Eagle Rock!

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Vegan Dinner from ‘Monty Tam’ in Warner Springs- YES!

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Excited (the first of two plates of food)

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The crowd at Monty’s

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Yucca

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