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!

Sunlight Solar!

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Luke with our new Solar Charger!

We’re happy to announce a new sponsor of ours- Sunlight Solar Energy! They were nice enough to give us a small solar charger/ backup battery, made by Sunpower. Thanks for the generous sponsorship!

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Sunlight Solar sells complete Solar Photovoltaic energy systems, both residential and commercial. Their service territory is Oregon & Washington, as well as Southern New England! If you’re interested in going solar, definitely check them out!

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Soaking up the Sun(power)!

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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Kearsage Pass to Mammoth

Kearsage Pass to Mammoth

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The first of 15 deer we saw in this stretch!

Wow- this 106 mile section was fantastic. Hermes and I have been joking about what to write in this blog post because everyday was so full of beautiful scenery- waterfalls, high mountain passes, mountain lakes, views, deer, forests, and rivers. I’m going to keep this post a bit short, but have far too many photos below- I think the photos really tell the story of this section better than my words can. We left Bishop full of Thai food and with heavy packs and spent our first night camped out just a few miles up Kearsage pass on a windy night. The next morning we woke up and hiked up Kearsage Pass to get back to the trail, we took a slightly different route and had a great view of Bullfrog Lake where we had camped on our way into Bishop.

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View from one of the many passes we did.

After we got back onto the trail we kept on climbing and did our second pass of the day- Glen Pass. This was a snowier pass and took us up around 12,000 feet. Hermes did his first glissading of the trail (sliding down a snowy pass), while I carefully picked my way down the through the ice and rocks. We ran into a huge group of thru hikers that we hadn’t met before and had lunch with them before hiking down into the Rae Lakes.

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Ice blue snow melt water.

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On top of a pass!

The next day we did two more passes and over 6,000 feet of climbing. This was one of the harder days we had in this stretch, but the hard work we put in hiking was constantly rewarded by amazing views, lakes and forests. After we got up and over our first pass of the day, Hermes and I realized we hadn’t packed quite enough food for this section and we began a strict rationing system of our peanut butter and Nutella which go in our wraps.

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These lakes have the clearest and bluest water we had ever seen!

Every lake we saw in this section was crystal clear but also ice cold! We managed to take a few dips in some of the rivers but the lakes proved to be just a bit too cold for us both (snow was melting directly into most of the lakes we passed).

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Rae lakes

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The alpine zone up by the passes was my favorite part of this section.

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Break spot by the Rae Lakes.

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PCT and JMT overlap almost all of the way to Yosemite.

The PCT and the JMT overlap for most of the trail between Mount Whitney and Toulomne Meadows- we have run into a few early Southbound hikers of the John Muir Trail who are having a blast.

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Heading up towards yet another pass!

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We are finally surrounded by water!

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The trees here are amazing.

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Mountain Reflection.

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Hermes on top of Glen Pass!

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Snow!!

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Alpine hiking…

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The views have been just unreal.

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Wildflowers, views and we love the PCT.

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Alpine lake.

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Frosty and Goldilocks!!

We were so excited to run into Frosty and Goldilocks on our way towards Muir Pass! Their blog is awesome too.

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Breakfast spot as we dropped into the valley that leads to Muir Pass.

This section of the High Sierra totally spoiled us for the rest of the trip. Each day we had breakfast and lunch break overlooking a view like this or next to a clean mountain lake. The camping in this section was unreal as well- right next to rivers, over looking valleys, in tall forests, and we didn’t have a single run in with a bear.

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Bearded brothers bars- AMAZING!!

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Yoga after breakfast

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Waterfall on the way into the valley leading to Muir Pass.

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So many waterfalls!

We are now spending TWO zero days in Mammoth in a condo with a few other thru hikers and are enjoying every minute of relaxation. The photo’s and captions below can’t do justice to how beautiful this section was- I know that I will be drawn to come back and explore the High Sierra in the future.

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Hermes loves taking flower photos.

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Hermes looking down into the valley.

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Loving the huge trees!

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Heading up to Muir Pass! My favorite pass in that section.

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So happy!

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Reflections

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Morning view.

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Muir Hut!

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We hiked through lake after lake coming down from Muir.

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Crystal clear and flat water.

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To pretty for a caption.

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Rock hopping on the reflection on the lake.

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Have I said we LOVE the PCT?

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The water coming over Muir was so clear!

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This was our first “real ford.” In a typical snow year this can be a scary and challenging crossing…our only problem was the mosquitos.

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Huge old trees.

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Entering the John Muir Wilderness, after passing through Seqouia and Kings Canyon National Parks. 

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We crossed our first real smoke from a far off fire. At the time, we didn’t know where the fire was but luckily it wasn’t anywhere near us.

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Using our bug nets! We finally (unfortunately) have started needing them.

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I am so in love with the forests and trees here.

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Aspen groves

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Silver Pass- our last pass of the High Sierra…

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High Alpine lakes…we hope we will see such beautiful lakes up the trail.

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Getting close to Mammoth and Reds Meadow!

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Breakfast at Purple Lake

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The view of the Minarets and Mt. Ritter as we hike towards Reds Meadow and leave the HIgh Sierra. The backside to Mammoth Mountain is off to the right and Yosemite NP is in the close distance. 

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900 Miles!!!!!

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I always think there is something so beautiful about burn areas, but can’t stop imaging how pretty it would have been as a living forest.

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Store! Cafe! Bus! Hooray! Mammoth Lakes here we come! 

Into the Sierra!

Yesterday we made it to Kennedy Meadows- 700+ miles into the trail and the entry point into the Sierra! Our last 140 miles from Tehachapi to here were eventful. We stayed an extra day in Tehachapi due to the 75mph winds that shut down the wind farms in the area, even so the day we hiked out we found ourselves in some crazy winds! Tehachapi to Walker Pass was hot but beautiful and we had some great climbs. We heard rumor of trail magic at Walker Pass, which is located in the middle of an extremely dry section of trail, so we decided to push a big day to arrive at the potential trail magic. We did 26 miles into Walker Pass and we were greeted by WATERMELON, vegan dinner, cold sodas and beers, tons of fresh fruit and some of the nicest trail angels we have met yet. This was the most amazing trail magic we have received yet and I was so so grateful. 

At Walker Pass we took a quick side trip into Lake Isabella and resupplied for the next two days to get to Kennedy Meadows- a major milestone in the trail. The hike from Walker Pass to Kennedy Meadows was gorgeous- big rocky mountains, more trees, a river (!), and we were surrounded by our friends Frosty, Ashleigh, the Dillweeds, and Funsize. I also got to see my first bear and a baby rattlesnake. 

We will leave Kennedy Meadows tonight and head off into the Sierra. With a little over 100 miles to go until Bishop, our packs are heavy. We picked up our bear canisters and have around 7 days of food to carry. Luckily about 50 miles from here we will have an abundance of water and can start carrying less of it. With no wi-fi in Kennedy Meadows we aren’t able to post any photos, we should be able to do a blog post from Bishop and get some pictures up.

Overall, spirits are high and Hermes and I are having an amazing time!!