PCT Oregon – Olallie Lake

29th July Olallie Lake Olallie Lake was a pleasant spot with views out to Mt Jefferson and a wooden ranger station and small shop. We picked up our resupply package and eat as much snack food from the shop as we could pack in.

Next day we head out towards Mt Jefferson through the forest in intermittent cloud. At Scout Lake we manage another swim, had lunch and took in the views over flower meadows up to the heights of Mt Jefferson. The way forward was to be quite similar for the next few hundred miles with forested undulating terrain then rising to traverse singular volcanic peaks.

Our immediate trail however took us up to  a mist shrouded Shale Lake where we camped after 23.6 miles. Martina certainly was going strongly again! We met up with fellow thru hiker Woodstock here and hiked with him past Three Fingered Jack – a mountain which we didn’t see due to thick mist all day. In retrospect the mist was a bit of a blessing as it made for cool hiking temperatures and we were much less physically fatigued than when hiking in the sun.

The sun was soon out again though as we hiked past Mt Washington into a weird landscape of solidified lava. We stopped to stroll up to the top of Bell Knap crater for the views south to the Three Sisters our next destination. These three peaks rose up as snowy cones in a north-south orientation above the dark red lava based rock and intermittent forest.

Martina on old lava with Mt Washington behind

We crossed Hw242 just past here in the burning heat of late afternoon  at McKenzie Pass. We had both long since neglected to use any sun block cream and the sun’s rays didn’t really seem to have any effect on us even though we were exposed all day. We put it down to quickly developing a coating of sweat, dirt, grime and dust which was as effective a sun barrier as any! Our camp that evening was at lovely South Matthieu Lake on the north slopes of North Sister mountain which was planned to provide us with another superb soothing evening swim.

2nd August After a refreshing but cold pre breakfast swim we were hiking by 7am up into the great arena of old volcanic activity around North Sister. Surrounded by lovely lush green meadows and purple lupines it made for a scenic days walk as we skirted the heights of the snow covered Three Sisters. The scenery was fitting somehow as I had calculated that we had now hiked 1,330 miles – and that was halfway! We were jubilant that we had made it so far but slightly melancholy as well that we had seen so much, had so many things happen and yet it was only half of the journey. Could we survive the same distance again (?)- that was the question going through our minds as we hiked south and onwards.

Later that day we came upon a large outcrop of obsidian rock- obsidian is volcanic glass that has solidified extremely quickly after volcanic eruption. It would have been useful to locals to make arrow tips and blades and it was unusual to see such a large exposure as this.

In the evening we reached Mirror Lake for a cooling swim then hiked another mile uphill to find a clearing with open views back to the Three Sisters to pitch our tent. Our plan the next day was to deviate from the PCT by about 2 miles down to a small shop at the Elk Lake Resort to pick up some fresh (or just different!) food. We made the 5 miles hiking by 9.30am to find two other PCT hikers- Sideshow and Mensa. Sideshow is a bit of a character as he is hiking with an acoustic guitar! – albeit a ‘backpacking’ cut down guitar. Also there were the ‘A team’- two hikers and their hiking dogs. We had a good breakfast and stacked up on chocolate but found the owner a bit grumpy so we moved on fairly quickly.

Our days were now beginning to develop a planned structure here in lake dotted central Oregon. We would scour the maps at camp in the evening and work out which lakes we could stop at along the way for lunch, dinner and camp to maximise our swims that day. So it was that we had lunch at Dumbbell Lake- which fulfilled all our requirements; a cool, deep, secluded, clear water lake and it even had a rock promontory which we could use as a diving board- perfect! That evening it was Stormy Lake which, rather unusually for the journey, had other campers ensconced- a scout group. I was very weak that evening and it turned out to be simple dehydration which was easily solved by just keeping drinking.

We met Sideshow again at a shady spot beside Charlton Lake and stopped to hear him play ‘Wish You Were Here’ by Pink Floyd. It was tempting just to stay there all day but we knew we were 14 miles to our next resupply stop at Cascade Summit and wanted to progress so that we could hike there easily tomorrow.

Sideshow

Our next day involved an easy forested descent down to  Highway 58 and Willamette Pass then 1.5 miles down a side road to Cascade Summit resort where we intended to laze about and eat for the rest of the day!

Next Cascade Summit on to Crater Lake Oregon

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PCT Oregon – Washington Border

16th July Cascade Locks on the Washington/Oregon border. Cascade Locks was a natural place for us to rest for a day as we had just completed Washington state with a final long 147 mile section. We had noticed that in Oregon the trail didn’t pass by any large towns where we could shop for provisions easily so we decided to do a large shop in Cascade Locks and mail the supplies to ourselves via general delivery to three points through the state. Our diet and shopping requirements were quite unusual and we received some strange looks in the supermarket as we bought industrial size quantities of pasta, soups, chocolate, nuts, raisins, breakfast muesli and dried milk. M&Ms were a favourite as can be seen here as we used our motel room to repackage the food into smaller bags and week-long parcels.

We managed to briefly visit the city of Portland to refresh some of our worn gear by hitching in and, due to a frustrating lack of public transport around, we reluctantly took a $60 taxi back to Cascade Locks. It was here that we finally jettisoned our ice axes as the snow looked to be receding fast and the temperature was a hot 25C.

17th July We left Cascade Locks and the Washington border via the local diner for a fulsome breakfast and headed away from the official PCT to hike the Eagle Creek trail south. This promised some unusual river and waterfall scenery and seemed more interesting than the PCT here abouts.

This was soon born out as we hiked up alongside a steep river gully with lovely waterfalls of all shapes and sizes tumbling over fallen trees, basalt rock and moss. As the temperature was now sizzlingly hot we were soon debating over the best pools for a dip and discovered one at the Devils Punchbowl with its very own tree to serve as a diving board. It was extremely refreshing and reminded us that it was our first proper trailside swim since leaving Canada. As it is a great pleasure for both of us to swim outside in rivers and lakes we were now on the look out for any potential locations!

After lunch and a further climb up the river gully we arrived at Tunnel Falls – a beautiful waterfall where the trail has been tunneled in behind the falls high up above the main river valley. Later that evening, we eventually made it to camp at about 4,300 feet and 18 miles at Indian Springs after a hot day of climbing.

Tunnel Falls

Next day, after an early start at 7am to put in some miles before the heat built up too much, we came to a clearing to see Mt Hood nearby – a lovely snow draped volcanic cone. Our hiking though, was mainly along a tree covered ridge with occasional views out to Hood and also Mt St Helens Rainier and Adams to the north. Higher up on the slopes of Mt Hood we emerged out onto vivid green open alpine pastures, dotted with flowers and crossed by tumbling streams and found a great camping spot.

Mt Hood

Cloud drifted around the mountain as we traversed its slopes next morning before coming across Timberline Lodge- a ski resort which was still open on 19th July! Our trail south descended back into trees on hot hard ground and I began to suffer sore feet with new running shoes I had bought in Portland. Martina also was suffering much worse than I was and it seemed that the Giardia picked up first in mid Washington still hadn’t cleared her system yet.

We started out the next day from Little Crater Lake and Martina was exhausted. Five miles further on we hit the edge of Timothy Lake and saw some fishing boats on the sparkling water. We rested by the side of the lake and sat on a log and to my horror, Martina went grey and blacked out! I was panicking and although Martina came round quickly we both got a huge fright. Our priorities changed, and after a half hour rest we walked round to a campsite we could see at the far end of the lake and set up camp and had some food. By mid afternoon Martina was still dizzy so we decided to abandon the trail for the moment and head for the nearest doctors surgery.

Little Crater Lake

It took us a couple of hitches to reach Sandy, about 30 miles east of Portland where we found a doctor and a motel. Martina was very weak still, quite dizzy, was sick through the night and having difficulty holding down food. 

We hung about in Sandy for a couple of days whilst Martina rested then, when she was strong enough to move around, we rented a car and explored the northern Oregon coast and had some fun being normal tourists. On the 27th July we drove back to Sandy and Martina received her diagnosis from the doctor- she still had Giardia! She was given another course of drugs and we both decide to return to the trail at Timothy Lake to see how things would go from there.

Timothy Lake

We both enjoyed sleeping beside the lake under the stars again that night and were glad to back on the trail if a bit apprehensive about how Martina would do.  Our next day we managed a good start with a pleasant 10 miles to Warm Springs mostly walking in forest and accompanied by loud evening thunderstorms. The forest hiking continued as we headed south towards Olallie Lake where there was a ranger station, small shop and hopefully, our resupply parcel that we had sent from Cascade Locks. We made it that day covering an incredible 21 miles and Martina was delighted to discover a great little camp next to small Head Lake nearby to Olallie which was perfect for swimming.

Next from Olallie Lake south to Cascade Summit…

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PCT Oregon – Introduction

The Pacific Crest Trail in Oregon changes in character subtly from that in Washington to the north. The section in Oregon is flatter, drier, more volcanic and less glaciated than Washington tracing a route along high ground with an average elevation of about 5,100 feet. Rolling hills cloaked in mountain hemlock and lodgepole pine forest are typical whilst the region generally is dotted with many sparkling lakes.

There are some unique landscape features that the PCT passes through or near. A standout is Crater Lake in Southern Oregon, a volcanic caldera about 7 miles in diameter now filled with beautiful turquoise water. The official PCT avoids the lake however there are alternative trails that provide lakeside views around the rim of the lake.

In the north there are a series of dormant volcanos such as Mt Hood which dominates the city of Portland, the Three Sisters, Mount Thielsen, Mt Jefferson and Three Fingered Jack. Although the PCT does not summit any of these it climbs high onto their slopes as it traverses round providing excellent and ever changing views. 

Read on as we start hiking from the Washington border into Oregon……

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PCT Washington – White Pass

White Pass to Cascade Locks Oregon 7th July The next stage in our trek involved a long section of 147 miles to the Oregon border on the Columbia River at a small town called Cascade Locks. This meant carrying 7 days food initially so we braced ourselves for heavy rucksacks! Our mail arrived at 11am and after a bit of sorting and reposting we hiked out past the ski slopes and upwards towards Goat Rocks Wilderness – covering a healthy 15 miles. We settled down high up on the mountainside at a point our guidebook described as a ‘bleak alpine campsites’ at 6,320 feet to, ironically, one of the finest camps we had experienced so far with lovely views to Mt Rainier!

Mt Rainier

We were off hiking at 7am the next morning along the jaggy crest of Goat Rocks amidst magnificent scenery- we felt like we were afloat that day! Martina spotted around 40 mountain goats below us in a snowy coire bowl and we sat and watched them for a while- Martina was ecstatic at having seen these elusive creatures. Continuing onwards we rounded the snow slopes of Old Snowy Mountain into a beautiful alpine cirque before descending green meadows to forest. The Goat Rocks area was fantastic but short lived.

From here it got hotter and the mozzies reappeared so we solved this problem the best way we could- we kept on hiking! We eventually made it to a small creek down at 4,690 feet after 25.5 miles at 19.45pm- a long day.

10th July There was some thunder and rain as we awoke and our tent was still besieged by mozzies so we scrambled our gear together and departed each with our own personal black cloud hanging above our heads. Our next goal was to traverse round the side of volcanic Mt Adams but first we had to travel for a couple of hours through fairly dull new growth forest. On the way we stopped to drink water straight from Lava Springs at the foot of an old lava flow and admired the meadows and flowers at the foot of the glaciers dropping from Mt Adams.

Although we were well into July, the season up here was definitely still spring and we had to negotiate many swollen streams and melting snow patches on our route round the mountain. The PCT descended back into forest after the delightful section past Mt Adams and we were relieved to be able to camp without our friends the mosquitoes that night after making 23.3 miles that day. The forest was our companion for the next two days, however the trees are mostly old growth with ‘gothic like’ hanging mosses and lichens and provide a pleasant backdrop to our hike. The trail is littered with fallen trees from the winter storms and these keep us occupied scrambling over, under, along and through a spaghetti like barrier of branches. 

We put in two more 25 mile days of forest hiking before camping near Wind River next to a lovely golden meadow – with Oregon and the Columbia River gorge only 34 miles away and within our sights. We passed two other PCT hikers Alexis and John who skipped some of the earlier snow sections and have an enjoyable chat with them – other than that there is no one else around. Two stiff climbs near Table Mountain await us before we reached Oregon and we stopped between them to cook some rice for lunch for some extra energy. At our camp 8.5 miles short of Oregon we were quite exhausted 6 days out from town and after averaging 25 miles per day for the last 5 of those days.  We both dreamt of good food, showers and a clean bed tomorrow at Cascade Locks.

Our trail descended easily down to the Columbia River at 200 feet above sea level here, the lowest elevation on our trail. That could only mean one thing- our next hiking would be uphill!!

To cross the river we walked over the road bridge ‘ Bridge of Gods’ with an air of triumph and a skip to our steps. We had traversed Washington, our first complete state and had done so through adverse heavy snow conditions where many others had turned back and we felt justifiably proud of ourselves. A doubt still lingering though was that despite taking medication, Martina still had Giardia symptoms and that wasn’t good at all. Strangely enough, the bridge had a toll booth on the Oregon side and I laughed when the woman attendant asked for a fee for us to walk across the bridge- when I told her we had hiked from Canada to get here she gracefully let us through for free!

Next, Oregon……!

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PCT Washington – Snoqualmie

Snoqualmie to White Pass We  had now reached Snoqualmie Pass in central Washington, 260 hiking miles south of the Canadian border. Martina found out she had Giardia after phoning the Leavenworth doctor’s clinic that and the result was that we had to locate a pharmacy to pick up the prescription medicine flagyl. We achieved this by asking people in the parking lot for a lift to the next town North Bend, about 30 miles down towards Seattle.

After a days rest we headed out south again on 3rd July with 5-6 days food to last us for the 100 mile hike to the next road crossing at the ski resort of White Pass. The hiking was a little less exciting in deep lush forest but at least it was fairly easy going for us with less snow to cross. We reached Camp Ulrich after two days hiking where there was a welcome wooden shelter and a fire place to warm up from the wet mist outside. It was nice to leave in the morning with all our gear dry from last nights fire and our hike continued in and out of the trees over small alpine passes with swirling cloud above.

Camp Ulrich

The damp conditions and frequent wet meadows had introduced us to a new adversary for the season- mosquitoes! Our next campsite at the edge of a meadow was probably ill chosen as the ‘mozzies’ targeted us that evening and made cooking dinner quite a trial.  This somewhat dampened our celebration at reaching the 1,000 miles hiked mark.

In fact the mozzies drove us off early the next morning without breakfast in  mist through a pleasant stagnant atmosphere- it was too dangerous to stop as the mozzies home in on us pretty quickly. The scenery was a pleasant mix of marshy lakes and snow patches nestled in forest with early morning evaporation rising into the air. At our next high pass we could see far south to the changing mountain scenery of southern Washington- here we were to leave the high alpine Cascades and enter mountain terrain dominated by ‘old’ volcanos.

Mt Rainier, Mt Adams and hazily to the south west the distinct cut off cone of Mt St Helens which erupted fairly recently on May 18th 1980. Hiking closer to Mt Rainier took us higher and back into more snow although we were becoming veterans in the art of hiking fast through snow by now! At a high saddle we stopped for lunch and a large troupe of boy scouts passed by- for us seeing other hikers was a sure sign that we were nearing a road. Indeed, a gentle descent and hillside traverse for 5 miles brought us to White Pass road and ski area.

We were expecting to collect six parcels at the grocery/Post Office at the pass and they had four of them only so we slump into a ski lodge room for $50 to wait out for the 11am post the next morning. This is no hardship as the lodge has an outdoor pool, we can have a long lie in and there is a grocery shop next door to meet all our snacking needs!

We had discovered a crack in the internal casing of our water filter which might be the cause of Martina’s Giardia- the raw river water is mixing with the filtered water effectively rendering the filter as useless although we have been using it faithfully throughout our journey and have only just found this out! Pur have agreed to mail us a new filter but our confidence in the device has plummeted  and we considered using iodine tablets instead of the filter.

Next White Pass to Oregon !

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PCT Washington – Stevens Pass

Stevens Pass to Snoqualmie 26th June We arrived at Leavenworth, Washington and checked into a motel to clean up, find Martina a doctors surgery and replace some of our gear. After our last few days in the wet, misty, snowy mountains it felt slightly surreal to back in town, particularly Leavenworth which had adopted a Bavarian theme- even McDonalds! Martina found a dressing for her snow burns and left samples for suspect Giardia condition.

Giardia (Giardia lamblia) is a microscopic parasite which can be picked up from polluted water supplies and has symptoms of diarrhoea, upset stomach and nausea. The parasite lives in the guts of mammals (including humans and beavers- hence the other name ‘beaver fever’) and is passed on through water. To counteract the possibility of picking up Giardia, we carried a water filter device with us which should have filtered it out.

Giardia!

We had a rest day here where we dealt with some post, shopped for the next 75 miles to Snoqualmie, cleaned the stove, I bought new boots, coated the tent seams with waterproof sealant and in between just relaxed. Martina would not hear her results for a week so she decided to just walk onwards anyway.

Brian Sweet’s friend Kathy picked us up the next day and took us with Brian and Marathon Man back up to Stevens Pass to start hiking. It was lovely, warm and sunny which filled us all with optimism for the hike, however we had extra food with us in case we hit more hard snowy going. Away from the road we entered ‘Alpine Lakes Wilderness’ and it was obvious to us that there was much less snow here- maybe about 20% of the trail being covered which was a delight to hike on. Stopping for lunch at a flowery meadow in the hot sun was just what was required with extensive views to snowy peaks in the clear air.

Martina was feeling queasy the next day and Marathon Man and Brian Sweet hiked on ahead of us as we started slowly in the morning. The hiking was still pleasant though and we made 18 miles to Waptus River in this delightful area with no other hikers around. At a junction we spotted a note from 2 other hikers saying that they had been advised by park rangers that the next trail section was impassable and that they had returned to the nearest road. Martina and I had a chat and both agreed we would carry on hiking and make our own mind up!

Our route now entered a glorious alpine region around Spectacle Lake with spiky peaks and a lovely high viewful trail. We dropped to Park Lakes intending to camp at a high pass above but couldn’t find a spot for the tent so proceeded onwards on steep mountainside slopes and hard snow patches. The fact this was our longest mileage yet on the trail at 25.6 miles despite some of the hilliest terrain could probably be attributed to our enjoyment of the high mountain scenery. It was particularly noteworthy for us as Martina seemed to have bounced back from her illness.

For the first time we glimpsed Mt Rainer to the south rising up as a shimmering white cone on the horizon as we stayed high amidst splendid scenery past semi frozen Alaska and Joe lakes. We are both keen outdoor swimmers but the water conditions had been too cold for us high up in the mountains even though it is now 1st July – but we held out hope that our alpine lake swimming time would arrive soon!

South to Mt Rainer

We made our way gradually down in a descent to Snoqualmie Pass where there is a small shop and Post Office. Here there was a gathering of 5 hikers and with their opened mail boxes sitting outside the grocery, the place looked like a hiker bombsite!

Snoqualmie Pass

Next Snoqualmie to White Pass

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PCT Washington – Stehekin

Stehekin to Stevens Pass We met a collection of hikers at the lovely tourist town of Stehekin. Some had come north from California like us whilst others were south bounders and had just started on their long PCT journey. One of whom was William Emerson or Marathon Man who was travelling ultra light and intended to hike the trail in a fast time- we liked his sunshade. We arrived by taking a bus ride in from the PCT trail road crossing a few miles away. The bus dropped us right at the bakery- which was a good start to our stay and great fresh food.

I bought some ‘super gloop’ to repair my boot soles and I would have to make the repair last until our next stop at Stevens Pass in 100 miles. A combination of ‘gloop’ and duck tape didn’t look too pretty but would have to do. Stehekin is a tiny lakeside cluster of houses in a picturesque spot reached by boat from the town of Chelan to the east. We camped at a free site on a patch of grass next to the laundry and showers and went for a buffet $6.95 ‘veggie’ buffet dinner at the quayside lodge. That evening we attended a ranger talk on the stars and we lay on our sleeping mats gazing upwards – great!

Next day we were off early to get the 8.15am bus on 21st June back to the trailhead with six other hikers. We hiked with Brian Sweet and Walter joined us (his wife, Pat(?) had decided to avoid this section and was travelling to Stevens Pass by bus) as we headed up the bubbling Agnes Creek in sunshine. Its not long before we climbed onto snow again though and we stopped for shelter during some heavy hail and thunderstorms which eventually forced us to camp below Suiattle Pass at 7.15pm.

It was a clear night and we were awake at 6am to see the sun hit the snowfields around us. Walter told us he was going back to Stehekin so the remaining 3 of us headed on up the snow slope to Suiattle pass and some grand views of jagged peaks. After a bit of hunting we located the path descending 3000 feet into Miners Creek and the Suiattle River and we stopped here to dry out our gear and warm up. Above us Glacier Peak blocked the way south and we needed to traverse round the mountain anticlockwise over many big ups and downs. We ascended 58 zigzags via Visa Peak upwards in humid drizzly weather, hitting snow at about 5,300 feet and into a huge snow bowl.

Marathon Man was waiting here and we joined up with dramatic bubbling clouds on the horizon. A descent down steep snow on the other side caused some problems- Martina, wearing only shorts, bum slid down the slope after Brian, and succeeded in burning one cheek of her bottom which we tried to patch up later with dressings. Our 20 miles that day included lots of snow and we were glad to camp on dry ground down at Milky Creek.

It rained the next morning on 23rd June as we departed at 7.30am steeply up through snow covered hillside with swirling thick cloud all around. Mica Lake was completely frozen with some lovely turquoise colours and we pumped drinking water in this wintry scene. Our surroundings were now completely white as we climbed up in mist to our next saddle- a good navigation exercise but this was beginning to feel like winter mountaineering! As we descended we had another fright as Brian Sweet tumbled out of control down a snow slope just stopping before some felled trees- he was shaken but unhurt and quite lucky after a 150 feet fall.

Mica Lake

The day continued in the same style- close scrutiny of the maps, compass, examining dimples in the snow for the sign of previous footprints, markings in the trees for evidence of path work – all accompanied with low cloud and rain. We set up a damp tent that night after a long day.

Next day followed in the same vein- a long journey of exhausting trudging through wet snow, losing and finding the path, round sides of hills, aiming for saddles, seeing paths, losing paths, seeing footsteps, not believing them, spreading out to search for the trail… Martina seemed particularly tired that day not helped I think by the dreary weather and conditions. We met Marathon Man again at the end of the day as we must have overtaken him in the mist- it felt good that we were travelling faster than him with his ultra light style and 4.30am starts and that gave us heart that the 3 of us were working well as a team over the difficult terrain. We came to a surprise at Cady Pass where we caught up with a group of 6 hikers- looking similarly tired and wet as ourselves and we hiked on to Pass Creek and camped there.

Meeting Marathon Man

25th June was an epic day. We camped on snow and it rained continually overnight, everything was damp or wet, my inflatable sleeping mat had developed a huge bubble which made it difficult to lie on, the stove was spluttering badly, and a front zip on the tent had failed. Our walk started into the gloomy slushy snow and straight away we were using map and compass contouring round to the left of a pass but rose too quickly to a saddle. Once up there we realised we had reached the wrong feature and retraced our steps before hearing voices. It was the 6 hikers from yesterday plus another- Kevin O’Leary- who we joined up with to descend snow. Later we all teamed up as a loose group of 11 hikers sharing the navigational load. At Wenatchee Pass myself Martina, Brian Sweet and Kevin stopped for lunch and after some cleaning we got the stove going for some welcome hot tea in the rain.

The rest were ahead and we climbed up into snow following their footprints up valley. However after an hour or so we realised that we should rise up right to a ridge and the footsteps were going in the wrong direction. We followed our instincts and thankfully find the correct route after 15 minutes. After reaching a snowy meadow, we lost the way again and only succeed in finding the trail after 1.5 hours searching- eventually locating the trail a mile further on- the key to the door.

That evening we headed on to camp at Lake Janus which was beautifully dry and free of snow- so pleased are we to see it that Martina and I jogged down to it at 8pm after another hard day. It is now only 9.5 miles to Stevens Pass, our next resupply and we were optimistic at a low height of 4,300 feet with little snow that we could make it tomorrow.

Again, the next morning was misty and drizzling- would it ever stop! We had a good dry night anyway but Martina was sick and had had diarrhoea for the last week. Around 12.30 we made Stevens Pass road in the rain and managed to hitch down to the east to the tourist town of Leavenworth….

Next Stevens Pass to Snoqualmie

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PCT Washington – Canadian Border

Heading South, Canadian Border Manning Park

After a hearty breakfast at Manning Park we left at 9.30am on June 16th– our second leg of the walk was about to begin.

As we walked, we revelled in the greenery – hanging moss on the dense conifers and a carpet of green tangled undergrowth around us. For the first time now the path was muddy, presenting a delightful springy surface for our hardened feet. By mid-morning we came across a small clearing in the trees – in fact a linear strip about 10m wide and stretching to the horizon east and west – it was Monument 78, the Canadian/US border (see banner at the top of the screen). After some photos we strode off and climbed gently with occasional views out of the trees to the hills and puffy clouds in a deep blue sky.

Our surroundings changed quickly as we climbed towards the trail’s high point at 7,000 feet. Snow clad mountains appeared with jaggy rock spires punching through to the sky. A wide panorama of endless snowy peaks to the south and west, the Washington cascades were around us. On a snow covered summit ridge we took in this massive scene. It felt as if this was the country I had always hoped to travel in, this was where I belonged. There was much snow around but it was patchy enabling us at least to see the direction of the path. We camped beside the trail at a tremendous rocky notch between two steep mountains in the late evening well satisfied with our 20 mile progress.

First camp in Washington

As we packed up our tent in the morning – a huge surprise- Brian Sweet and another hiker, Mousetrap, appeared ambling down the trail. Brian had continued 80 miles further north than we had into the Sierra Nevada mountains of California with his skis. He made it to Trail Pass then descended to the town of Lone Pine and decided that it was too difficult. From there he had made it to Canada by bus. Mousetrap is from the state of Maine and his name was earned on the Appalachian Trail for carrying a mousetrap to rid the shelters of mice! The four of us headed on south together exchanging tales of of our travels and chatting away.

The trail kept high to the mountain slopes providing good views and we saw our first marmots and quite a few deer in the forest. We made our next camp at Harts Pass where there is a campsite but it had still not opened yet as its deep in snow – oh well , plenty of room for us!

Beards on the Trail There was a definite fashion amongst long distance hikers to grow a beard on their journey. It seemed like a sort of connection and one-ness with the woods and the backcountry. Or perhaps it was just easier not to shave when out on a long hike! Some hikers like Brian Sweet started out fresh of face and just grew a beard as they went. Tim, however looked like his a had been growing for a few years…  Brian never got into the habit and carried a plastic disposable razor or two with him to shave every second day or so- maybe he just didn’t want to face the effort of shaving off a weeks growth! Martina (feeling left out) got caught up with the excitement a bit and grabbed some tree lichen to create a stylish substitute beard! 

Next day, there was much snow around in large patches but the trail could usually be spotted in between. However we did lose the trail completely in a long climb up to Mattow Pass, but it didn’t stop us making a good 23 miles that 3rd day and we were definitely going well despites some aches and pains for both of us. We hit our first main road south of the border at the well named Rainy Pass after 70 miles and sheltered in the toilet booth for a rest!

Our route now followed Bridge Creek for 10 miles- strolling on through Douglas Fir and scrub beside the roaring river. We saw a black bear here and it looked at us in a puzzled way and just stared about 50 meters off the path as we walked by. We finally emerged at our first resupply stop of Stehekin after 90 miles feeling quite pleased with ourselves that we were going fairly strongly…….

Next Stehekin to Stevens Pass

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PCT Washington – Introduction

Prelude After our rest in San Francisco and short tour of Vancouver area we arrived at the Canadian/Washington border eager to start on the trail again.

Our arrival in Canada was somewhat premature- we had intended that it would be the finale of our grande crossing of the USofA walk on the PCT. Instead we touched down at Vancouver airport on Friday 12th June from San Francisco. After being discouraged by the snow depth of the Californian high sierra, our new ‘great idea’ was to fly to Canada and resume the walk southward. Finishing at our trail exit point of Walker Pass, south of the high sierra. To get there, though, we still had 2000+ miles to walk through Washington, Oregon and north/central California.

We settled in quickly to Vancouver. It had less of the out-and-out commercialism of the south and a lusher, more forested look to it. A boat trip out of Vancouver Island to spot Orca killer whales was a wonderful diversion from the walk and made us lust for more of the sea and coast. We both vowed to return for a more extended stay. On the two hour bus trip east from Vancouver we met 2 other hikers (Paul & Holly) who were thru hiker refugees from southern California as we were. They were intent on the same plan as us to complete the walk southward from here. They looked lean, fit but tired due to the 48 hour bus journey from the south the had just completed. We felt our flight and week’s rest was justified.

Our destination was Manning Park, a small resort and campsite tucked away in forest and rolling hills, 8 miles north of the USA border. After a hearty breakfast we left at 9.30am on June 16th– our second leg of the walk was about to begin……….

The PCT in Washington We could expect a great contrast in conditions between Washington and Southern California. The Cascade mountains dominate the centre of north Washington, an alpine range of jumbled snowy peaks cloaked with dense forest of lush mountain-hemlock at lower altitudes. To the south, a range of dormant volcanos take over with Mt Rainier being seen from afar. The trail travels through the forest and over alpine passes and often maintains its height above forest as it contours round the sides of mountains.

Chipmunks and ground squirrels are the most commonly seen mammals whilst deer are abundant and both brown and black bears can be seen.

Next, we start hiking south from Canada……..

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PCT Southern California-Tehachapi

Tehachapi 1st June  We had about an hour’s wait hitching a lift into Tehachapi and managed to get dropped off at an ‘all you can eat’ Mexican near the centre of town. We have arranged to stay with Jim and Sandy, friends of fellow hikers Chris and Janelle, who have an ‘A frame’ house out of town. We met them all at the house and crashed out, very grateful for their hospitality.

Next day we headed back into town to sort out our mail packages at the post office. Whilst rummaging through our box on the floor of the PO, a guy started chatting to us who, it turned out, had llamas on his farm. He and Martina struck a chord and he left us his address and an invite to visit the farm. We had just about decided to do the flip flop and head for Canada next, and so sent our box to a friend, John Hossack, in San Francisco in anticipation of this journey. We bought pizzas for everyone and returned back to the A frame for the rest of the day.

Up at 5am the next day and we were off north on the PCT at 7am with some low cloud, drizzle and wind to accompany us. Perhaps this Scottish-like cool weather – or the good rest- helped us on to hike a good 23 miles to Golden Oak springs where we met up with Chris, Janelle and another hiker Tim.

It was my birthday and Martina produced a card, candles and a sumptuous can of diet coke! As another special present I saw a bobcat nearby in the bushes and it rapidly disappeared as it spotted me.
 

That day, we also spotted a black bear – it’s easy to take hiking for granted at times, but we realise how special it is to be out here with the wildlife and the scenery changing subtly to greener shades as we head northwards to the bigger mountains. That night we camped in a lovely spot sheltered by pines and next to a river and have a great  meal consisting of:

  • Cream of herb soup and bread
  • Curry flavour couscous + sun dried tomatoes
  • White chocolate Jell-O + orange pieces
  • A large toblerone chocolate bar
  • Tea
  • 2 raisin cookies each

A diet for kings and hungry hikers indeed!

We hit a contrast the next day as we headed back from the cool forest into hot, hot chaparral country and a 18 mile waterless stretch which meant that we had to carry all our water with us. After some forest of oak and Jeffrey pine, then some lovely flower meadows we dropped again to drier ground and Joshua trees.

A camp spot was found on dirty ‘cow pat’ ground next to a water spigot and I had an uncomfortable night as my ‘thermarest’ sleeping mat has a puncture- but I couldn’t find the hole! We continued with the early starts and were hiking at 6.45am to beat the midday heat on sandy paths which made for hard going – but the lovely morning light on the Joshua trees made up for it. As we ascended up Skinner peak to 6,900 feet through steep slopes of yellow and purple chia flowers, we glimpsed the ranks of snowy Sierra Nevada peaks faintly to the north for the first time. Before this though, the foreground was dominated by a pinyon pine covered plateau which we would need to cross first.

Our trail soon entered a burnt forest zone and it lent a slightly melancholy feel to the day- not helped by two ATV’s (All Terrain Vehicles) noisily squealing past us on the trail. Damp, windy weather accompanied us on the final stretch down to Walker Pass and our stop off point. Martina managed to get us a lift from the first car that passed and we were soon ensconced in the ‘Subway’ sandwich shop in the town of Isabella to the west down the highway.

Our minds were now resolved to stop hiking north here and to travel up to Canada to resume the hike southwards from the border. We had completed 650 miles in California – a bit under a quarter of the journey- it was 7th June and now we just had a mere 2,000 miles to go- gulp!

Looking back, the scenery and variety in Southern California had been a revelation –  in particular, the displays of flowers will live with us for a long time. We had been fortunate that the wet winter had meant flower displays and, more practically, lots of flowing rivers and streams for our water supplies. We would both like to return again to visit the US desert some time……..

A couple (Chuck and Jean) heard us talking in the Subway shop and again give us a kind offer to drive us to the train station in Bakersfield the next day. We were both tired, sweaty, dusty and a bit bedraggled but looked forward to a rest whilst travelling and a new cooler start in the Washington mountains. Who knows what conditions would be like for us or how we would fare……………………..

Next Canada ! Manning Park southwards through Washington

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