The separation of the wet west side of the Cascades and the dry east side has always seemed to me to be a very fine line, especially so here in Oregon. Yesterday riding from Windigo Pass to Whitefish and up to Diamond View Lake was all east side, dry, dusty trail surrounded by jack pines. Then suddenly within less than a mile you transition into the wet, cool west side. Today from Hwy 58 to Waldo Lake was all west side. It was cool enough this morning I wished I had worn my extra sweatshirt rather than tied it on the back of the saddle.
BG and I passed lots of lakes today, Lower, Middle and North Rosary Lakes, Bobby Lake, Charlton Lake, Hidden, Lost and Found Lakes, lakes to numerous and small to be bothered with names. I passed a bunch of hills and peaks too, though most of them remained hidden in the trees. The last few miles was through a burned area between Charlton Butte and the horse camp where I got my first peek at the mountains to the north as far as Mt. Jefferson.
Trail data: mileposts; 1906-1925, miles ridden; 21.6, trail time; 5:21, average speed; 4, minimum elevation; 5138, maximum elevation; 6600, total ascent; 3056, total descent; 2547
Last night we had some familiar and some new faces in camp. Felix from Georgetown neighborhood in Seattle and Heidi, whom we refer to as the last Swiss Standing, we last saw on that awfully hot afternoon at Ash Camp. Back then Felix was traveling with a friend from Seattle and Heidi was part of the Swiss Five. We were also joined by a new group of six, who shall be known from now on as the Ramblers. This group is as informal as they come, they don’t really hike or camp together, but they do pass each other throughout the day, have become supportive of each other, has only come together in the past few weeks and are home based across the US and Canada.
Today we rode trail that I am pretty familiar with. Mercedes and I took an alternate route today because we had heard the trail over and past Diamond Peak was littered with trees and still ice covered in critical spots. The fact that the trail we chose, the Metolious Windigo trail to Whitefish Horse Camp and the Diamond View Lake trail back to the PCT near Willamette is seven miles shorter had absolutely no bearing on my decision. The route we took had very few downed trees and no snow.
As I was riding through Whitefish I came across a large family camp. I didn’t stop to count but I think 40 men, women and children would be a conservative number. Several of them greeted me as I rode past their dining area where they had half a dozen sun shade set up over a collection of picnic tables where they cooked and ate. The smell of frying bacon was heavy in the air, when I was invited to join them I gladly accepted. Most of them came from the Eugene Oregon area, all appeared to be having a great time. The breakfast was excellent.
This afternoon after my ride Janis and I went down to the Shelter Cove Resort on Odell Lake. We ordered burgers from their fine dining establishment the Hook and Line, gourmet dining at its best, burgers so thick plus nice slabs of tomato, onion and lettuce, I had a hard time getting my mouth around it. We also enjoyed their clean, modern, full size shower facilities, camping at its best.
Trail data: mileposts; 1876-1906, miles ridden; 24, trail time; 6:22, average speed; 3.8, minimum elevation; 4875, maximum elevation; 5985, total ascent; 2328, total descent; 3117
Easier trail today, the ups and downs weren’t too steep, the footing was good. There wasn’t much along the trail for BG to eat or drink. We were in the trees all day, none of the burned or bug kill areas where the grass has taken root providing a little grazing for a hungry horse. The water sources were covered in snow so the only water she got today came 17 miles into the day and was nearly a mile off trail.
There was a bit of snow on the trail, all the patches but one small drift were good snow, snow easily crossed. The one drift that could have stopped my journey was by passed without too much difficulty. When crossing the snow covering Thielsen Creek you have to ride down the creek a hundred yards or so. As I approached the creek I could see where the creek had melted through the snow for about eight feet upstream from where I was, downstream three large boulders pierced the snow; I could hear the creek rushing by them. I arbitrarily picked a spot to cross where I thought the creek was, riding straight across then riding parallel to the creek on the high edge of the snow, where I knew the creek wasn’t. I sure didn’t want to break through the snow to land in the freezing water.
The shady tree cover and good trail makes for an easy ride, but one needs to keep a sharp look out if they want to see any view of the peaks and mountains we passed. The highlight of the day was passing the highest point on the PCT in Washington and Oregon.
Trail data: mileposts 1846-1876, miles ridden; 32.4, trail time; 8:15, average speed; 3.9, minimum elevation; 5845, maximum elevation; 7578, total ascent; 4168, total descent; 4264
Today was the kind of day that ruins reputations. Last night we had thunderstorms and rain showers that lasted throughout the night. I have long maintained, and voiced my opinion to anyone who would listen that I am a fair weather rider.
If there is a cloud in the sky
Gary don’t ri————————————————de
Getting caught out in a rain storm is one thing, but to purposely saddle up and get ready for a ride while it is raining is just wrong. Your saddle is wet before you even get on; it goes against all the laws of nature. So when I found myself suiting up in my raingear even before I saddled Mercedes I thought perhaps I have been a bit of a hypocrite in the past. It was a good thing that I had the raingear on as it continued to thunder and storm until nearly eleven.
One of the items that I may have failed to mention that I have been carrying in my SnugPax the past few weeks is a mosquito net. The rains today brought the ferocious little bugs out in force. As long as we were moving down the trail it was ok, but slow down for just a moment and you were swarmed. I like to let the horses graze a little while I’m walking, but today I just couldn’t do it until I remembered the net. It only protects the head area, but with the rain gear the only other skin I had exposed was my hands. What a marvelous invention, mosquitoes, hah! I scoff at thee. I’m thinking now someone needs to design and make mosquito net pants and shirts, better yet a jump suit, so you can wear shorts and a tee shirt.
Trail Data: mileposts; 1818-1846, miles ridden; 28.4, trail time; 7:32, average speed; 3.8, minimum elevation; 5465, maximum elevation; 6501, total ascent; 2377, total descent; 2744
We had one heck of a thunderstorm while camped at the Sevenmile Equestrian Trailhead. Lightning flashes followed immediately by crashing thunder, Rose headed for the bed. The initial lightning and thunder was closely followed by a hail downpour that bounced three feet in the air, was incredibly loud on the roof of the trailer and lasted a half hour then a deluge of rain that lasted a couple more, thundering and lightening all the while. We were joined in camp by a couple of women from Texas; they had barely gotten their tents up when the hail started. As it turns out these Texas ladies are friends with the couple from Fort Worth that we shared camp with on Hat Creek Rim. We all by chance met up together at the Mazama Village outside Crater Lake. They declared the fat pea almost marble sized hail that Janis and I thought was pretty big, really wasn’t in the grand scope of things, plenty big enough for me.
The trail was pretty much free sailing, if you discount the downed trees. The trail was far more dirt than rock, no big climbs or descents so we were for the first time in many days able to make decent time. BG and I went through large swaths of burned forests and even larger areas of bug kill. Thirty years ago it was all healthy trees, that is one of the reasons I found Oregon so boring at that time, days and days of trees, zero views. Today the silhouette of Mount Mazama was visible most of the day as well as Union Peak and Mt Thielsen. As I rode through the Trinity Alps and Siskiyous there were huge, rocky, nameless crags all along the way. In these southern Cascades every little knob has a name, today I rode by Bunker Hill, Big Bunchgrass, Maude, Ethel and Ruth Mountains, Lone Wolf, Goose Egg, Goose Nest and Jerry Mountain to name but a few.
Once I crossed the park boundary the trail improved dramatically. No more down trees to work around, the trail got wider and clearer, though as I started to drop down off today’s heights towards Hwy 62, I started crossing snow patches, nothing untoward, even if I did feel it strange that the snow got heavier the lower I traveled. Tomorrow is going to be a little longer day; I would like it if it were snow and tree free.
I readily admit that I am terrible about keeping track of my phone. I’ve been a little better on this trip as the phone has taken its place alongside the camera, inReach and GPS as required tools. I have developed a routine for night and morning that ensures each piece of electronics is in its proper place, charged and ready to go when I ride out in the morning. That is until my phone went so dead it shut itself off. Out here where there is no reception is keeps roaming which wears the battery down fairly quickly if I don’t keep it turned off until needed. Anyway – I couldn’t get the phone to charge, the truck has usb ports, 12V power outlets, 120v inverter, I tried them all, I wiggled the cords twice, I let them sit over night on the charger – nothing. After a few days I decided to swap batteries with Janis to see if mine had gone bad. When I took the battery cover off my phone I discovered, no battery, I looked again, still no battery, I turned the phone over and shook it, still no battery.
I’m stumped, no battery, where could it have gone? It is held in the phone by a cover that is held in place with a latch that requires a tool, or a dime, to open. It couldn’t have just fallen out. Was the phone left places where some nefarious character could have poached it? Obviously, but why just take the battery, why not the whole phone or the wallet with cash and credit cards in the next pocket over, I dunno, it’s a mystery. Note to self; add phone batteries to the list of stuff to order and sent to the house in preparation for the next phase.
Trail data: mileposts; 1802-1818, miles ridden; 23.6, trail time; 6:43, average speed 3.5, minimum elevation; 4911, maximum elevation; 6759, total ascent; 3746, total descent; 2456
What a difference a couple of weeks can make in trail conditions. The first seven miles of today’s ride were over the same trail that I had to ride when we turned around a little more than two weeks ago. Earlier I had to find routes around what seemed to be countless downed trees. This time the trees were still down, but enough hikers have gone by that go arounds are well established, no need for raw bush whackin’, which really speeds up progress. Also this time the snow was totally gone on the part of the trail I had ridden before. I did have to cut a few trees out of the way, though none were over 12 inches.
There was still one treacherous bank on the saddle over Devil’s Peak, I thought we could traverse it following the footsteps of earlier travelers but Mercedes was having none of that. The next safest option was to skirt the edge around the top of the bank, about a hundred feet up, then down through loose shale back to the trail, about a hundred and fifty feet down. The going up wasn’t too bad except for the steepness of the slope and the lack of oxygen at that altitude. Finally we crossed the top and got a good look at what we would have to go down, and Mercedes said no way again. I tied her reins to her lead rope to make a longer lead, then I managed to flip the bigger pieces of shale down the slope, where they bounced and crashed for a good long ways, creating a path through smaller rocks. I got at the far end of the lead giving Mercedes room to pick and choose her path.
Hesitantly she took a few steps, I moved a few steps, she took a few more steps moving onto larger rocks that she would slide down, get traction again in the smaller rocks, step on another big one, slide, dig in, repeat. I was kept busy trying to stay ahead of her and not let her get tangled in the ropes. I’m thinking if we had it to do again she would probably traverse the snow. The rest of our ride was uneventful, the trail more dirt than rock, even the downed trees seemed less in number and easier to get around.
While we were riding south in California the temperature was in the 90s at elevation and pushing the 100s down lower. I traded in my Levis for shorts finding them to be ever so much more comfortable. The last couple of days in the Marble Mountains cooled down and I went back to jeans, though now here in Oregon I’m about to make the switch again. The only problem with riding in shorts is no one really believes I’m the horse-guy, they want to see Levis and a Straw hat.
Trail data: mileposts; 1788-1802, miles ridden; 20.9, trail time; 7:03, average speed; 3, minimum elevation; 4865, maximum elevation; 7420, total ascent; 2659, total descent; 3698
The past few weeks there have been more hikers passing through camp, both north bound and south bound. Last week while driving up to meet Gary near Bucks Lake Rd. I passed Trent Peterson, his dog Lillet and his two mustangs. He was walking down the road after hearing trail reports that the trail was difficult ahead. His mom planned to meet him at the road then they were driving to Beldentown for a zero day. Gary and I had just come from Beldentown. When Gary arrived we discussed going back to camp with them so he and Trent could exchange trail information, since each had just come from where the other was headed. I enjoyed visiting with Cheryll, Trent’s mom and crew. Both of us have had some long lonely days waiting by ourselves. We took a zero day then drove back up to Bucks Lake in the evening. In the morning as I fed horses I noticed a lot of smoke in the valley below. I knew there were cabins in the valley below but with the warm weather that didn’t make a lot of sense. I drove down the mountain into Quincy and saw a thick plume of smoke. I tuned in to the local radio station to hear the fire had just been reported. I saw a few Forest Service fire trucks and men rushing up the road toward the fire. I sent Gary a text on the InReach so he would be aware of the situation. It is alarming when you know people are up on the trail and a new fire breaks out.
The local Quincy radio station I listened to for fire information was quite entertaining. The station announces all the local events and news. After the fire reports, I heard about two car accidents, including names, the kind of car they were driving and an explanation of each accident and then of course, the announcer’s two cents on the matter. Next came upcoming sales, rodeo preparations and finally, naming each person having a birthday or anniversary that day… small town America at its best J My days consist of running errands and resupplying ice, beer, hard soda, soda pop and water, both horse and human, before driving up to each new camp. When I am able, I offer hot tired hikers a cold beverage or some chips and a chair to sit on (a chair is as welcome as a cold beer). Rose greets each hiker with enthusiasm and brings them a stick to throw… lots of hikers miss their dogs at home and they are very happy to see Rose.
Our last southbound destination was a horse camp called Lasier Horse Camp near Jackson Meadows, near Sierra City. I was glad to see a family camped nearby so I would not be there alone and they had dogs for Rose to play with too, an added bonus. The morning we prepared to leave, I heard the familiar ring of free range cows with cowbells coming our way… Rose had also heard them and was bringing them into camp. She was so proud of herself for bringing the cow’s home J Speaking of bringing the cows home, there are signs posted along most of the highways with silhouettes of a large cow, warning of free range cattle on the road. I saw one of these signs the other day with the name DOREEN painted just under the picture of the cow. Alas, young love gone awry.
After reaching our southbound destination, we drove up to Castella to start riding north again. We pulled in to camp between the river and rail road tracks, just ¼ mile off I-5 at Soda Creek Rd. It is a popular place for locals to park and fish or swim in the river although this day only a few cars were there. Late afternoon a couple 20ish guys walked up and started talking with Gary who was outside updating the blog. They were covered in tattoos, wearing only low hanging shorts and one was carrying a greasy bike chain. They seemed out of place and made me nervous. One of the guys asked if I wanted some weed and I said no. He persisted and said “I’ll give it to you”. I said NO and added the stink eye. They said they were walking 3-4 miles down the trail to go swimming and might see us on the way back. It was an extremely hot day; they had no water, no food and no towels. I thought it more likely that they were car prowling and we happened to be outside so that was not an option. They asked if we had any water and Gary got them each a bottle. I watched them walk down the path out of sight. I waited about an hour then told Gary we were moving up to trailhead at the off ramp. I immediately felt better about where I was going to sleep that night. Then to add a degree of comfort, a family with a travel trailer had a flat and pulled in to camp next to us. Safety in numbers J Those two guys gave me the same feeling I had when the meth heads ransacked the trailer a few months ago. I recently read on the pct website that the area I had my incident on Piute Mt Rd was closed now due to public safety concerns; armed robberies of emergency fire crews and hikers had taken place so the local sheriff closed that 40 mile section of trail until they can catch the bandits.
A few days later we camped in the Trinity Alps. I unloaded BG, who was immediately set upon by big biting black flies. Even Rose was under attack. I sprayed them with two both types of fly spray which was effective for about ½ hour. The flies then moved to the living quarters of the trailer. I got out one of those sticky fly strips and hung it up and within a few minutes had more than the strip could hold. It sounded like a mob of angry bees. The flies struggled which caused most to become stuck beyond the point of no return, while others broke free, sans a wing or a leg, sticking to whatever they landed on. As I bent over to put my sandals on and noticed something black in my hair. It was a fly who had broken free but was stuck fast to my hair. It was absolutely disgusting trying to get the glue and what remained of that fly out of my hair… the glue held fast while the fly did not, coming off in several pieces. No more fly strips in the trailer for me!
Many of the places I meet Gary are relatively easy to get to but last Friday was a difficult drive. The road we planned to use was closed due to a landslide. An alternate was available though I had never driven it before. The Forest Service office said it was possible to get a trailer up the road but was narrow, steep and windy. The switchbacks almost doubled back on themselves. I held my breath at every blind hairpin corner hoping nobody was coming down as I headed up. As luck would have it, I did encounter a horse trailer coming down, but it was on a section where I was able to ease over into a shallow ditch as he inched by. Our next camp at Grider Creek was shaded but hot. We were able to spend the afternoon cooling off in the creek; cold but very refreshing. We sat in the rapids with our heels dug in to keep from being swept downstream, and let the water massage tired muscles… a little bit of heaven. A nice way to end this section.
BG didn’t like going up the Paradise Lake trail any more than Mercedes liked coming down it the night before. We climbed 3000 feet in something under three miles, brutal. Once on top we cruised along for the next ten miles or so before dropping down along Grider Creek 5000 feet in the next ten miles. Pictures tell the story.
The four bridges of Grider Creek
Janis and I had guests when I got to camp. Meg from Australia, and her partner, Oliver from the UK spent some of the hot part of the day bathing in the creek and hanging out in the shade of Grider Creek campground. Meg travels with the additional weight of a professional quality SLR camera. She took several pictures of Mercedes and me and promised to share them through email. She also keeps a blog, mentalsnake.wordpress.com which I look forward to reading when I can. Ofir from Israel also visited for a while. Ofir is up against a tight visa deadline and is averaging 30 miles a day. He planned to go another ten miles once he left us. Janis gave Meg a ride to town at Idyllwild back in April. Ofir and I played leapfrog a few times the past week.
Janis and I also took advantage of the most excellent bathing in Grider Creek. The stream flow is quite fast but there are a couple of waist deep pools where the current isn’t so fast you get swept off your feet, if you are careful. The water is cool and refreshing, where the water tumbled over the rocks into our little pool it is like a giant cool Jacuzzi, full body massage at no extra cost.
Trail data: mileposts; 1635-1663, miles ridden 29.7, trail time; 7:00, average speed; 3.9, minimum elevation; 1395, maximum elevation; 6915, total ascent; 3423, total descent; 6894
Mercedes and I headed north into the Marble Mountain Wilderness. This next 60 miles of trail has been the last to lose its snow on this phase of the trail, my straw poll of southbound hikers has been about 50/50 as to whether a horse could make it through even now. According to the last hiker we spoke to as he passed our camp on Etna Summit “the worst snow bank is exactly 15 miles back”. Other hikers had spoken of a bowl filled with deep snow that they had found treacherous. The bank and bowl turned out to be one and the same and, thankfully, quite easy to get over. Mercedes steel shoes provided excellent traction and she motored up the hillside as easily as she would have on dirt. I could see where hikers had been slipping as their boots gave them no purchase on the crusty snow.
Most of the day was spent at 6000 foot plus in elevation, mostly in the open which afforded me one grand vista after another. I finally dropped below that altitude as I rode down to the trailhead. The feeder trail was exceedingly steep; steep enough I walked, or slid or stumbled, down a good portion of it. I was very happy to see Janis and the camper after an 11 hour day. Today we passed the halfway point for trail miles, whoooohooooo.
Trail data: mileposts; 1607-1635, miles ridden; 31.3, trail time 11:35, average speed; 2.7, minimum elevation; 4887, maximum elevation; 7083, total ascent; 5537, total descent; 6513
I’ve enjoyed this section of trail, west of I-5. Today I rode through the Russian Wilderness. Though I’ve not been to Europe and as such have not seen the Alps, I think these piles of rocks here in California are impressive in their own right. BG and I left the horse camp this morning and climbed 1000 feet in the first mile. From there throughout the day there were lots of ups and downs, short steep ups and downs, roller coaster ups and downs. Today was one of the most beautiful days as well.
I’ve noticed that the most spectacular scenery usually comes with the most rocky and/or challenging trail. BG and I managed to get around a couple of particularly daunting trees on steep rocky slopes. Both times the best route was going low, I lead her down and around the end of the log then she takes the lead going back up to the trail while I grab a stirrup and let her pull me along. About eight miles into the ride I passed a trail crew, who were cutting out the downed trees, they guaranteed me a log free trail the rest of the day. They also warned me a rock blocking the trail not too far ahead. As it happened the rock provided me with the scariest two seconds on the trail so far. Situated on a sheer rock ledge, completely covering the width of the trail, the only portion of the rock that BG could get over was on the outside edge of the trail where she would have to curve her body out and over the certain death drop. I led her up to the rock, stepped over myself and without putting any pressure on her lead let her look the situation over. I thought if she hesitated at all I would call it quits and turn around, however she barely hesitated before neatly stepping across to safety.
Tonight we are camped at Etna Summit where many hikers hitch to the small town of Etna to resupply and rest. We served up beers and sodas to several hikers we have come to know the past few days, most notably Chris and Catharine from Germany, they headed to town, us headed north on the trail, probably not to meet again.
There was another gentleman, from Salem, who had thru hiked some years ago but has reached the age where knees and hips won’t allow him to do so now. Instead he drives his pickup around to trail heads then hikes in half a day and back out again. He offered the hikers that were going into Etna for a zero day a ride. While he was waiting for a couple more hikers to come down off the trail we visited a bit and he showed us a couple of “trail” banjos he had made.
One looked like a regular 5-string, except the body was made out of a round Christmas cookie tin box. The other, also a 5-string is a “walking stick” banjo with a rectangular toffee box for the body. On one end of the body is a handle like a cane would have which the tuning pegs are attached to. The neck forms the length of the walking stick and has a rubber tip on the end.
He wouldn’t part with the round tin banjo but we did talk him into selling Janis the walking stick. The asking price was $100 to which we readily agreed. The problem arose when we started digging in our pockets for cash. It’s been nearly a month since we left home and our traveling cash supply has dwindled, ATMs are in short supply in the back country. Janis had $76, I could only come up with another $12. Janis thought of our laundry money jar, a jam jar full of quarters, at least another $12 worth. At first he wasn’t much on taking change, but when he saw the jar I think the grab bag aspect had some appeal so he accepted, jar and all. We now have a traveling banjo.
Trail data: milepost; 1586-1607, miles ridden; 20.5, ride time; 6:37, average speed; 3.15, minimum elevation; 5790, maximum elevation; 7336, total ascent; 4275, total descent; 4164