Day 79 Stevens Pass to Stevens Pass

It seems I have used up my share of good luck on this trip, or at least I am running a little low.  After having to turn around at Cayuse Janis and I decided to spend the night at a horse motel near Leavenworth then drive up to Stevens Pass the next day which would give us a much needed day of rest and put us back on schedule.

When we got to the Forever Young ranch we saw that BG had managed to cut her upper eyelid.  Between the amount of blood and BG not cooperating it was hard to tell if it was just the eyebrow or if the eyelid or eye were affected also.  Erring on the side of caution we loaded her back up and hauled her into Wenatchee to Countryside Vet Clinic.  Dr. Kerr got BG anesthetized and discovered the damage to be minimal, three stitches closed the wound and for a very reasonable $125 we were headed back to camp.

As planned we moved to Stevens Pass yesterday where we were able to meet my daughter, Sky.  Sky had brought the paper work we needed to get into and out of Canada.  She was able to spend the night so we had a good visit before we saw her off this morning.

I haven’t packed in nearly 40 years, and I have never packed alone so I was a little nervous about going into what I’ve been repeatedly told is the toughest 125 miles of the PCT.  We got loaded and on the trail, only had to turn around for forgotten items twice.  The short in and outs showed BG’s load to be balanced and riding true.  The first five miles was a gentle down grade on an old road, the horses posed no problems and I started thinking that part of the equation was going to go well.

Then the trail turned into another rocky, narrow side hill, the kind we have come to know so well.  I was having to remind BG to stay back frequently as she was coming up on Mercedes hip with her head.  I am not sure whether she stepped into a hole, or the trail gave out from under her, doesn’t really matter, the bottom line is she fell over the side of the hill tumbling and stumbling a hundred feet down the hill before coming to rest upside down against a log that kept her from rolling further.  Naturally, I could only get to the off side of the rigging, but though it was a struggle we managed to get her unbuckled, unlashed and unsaddled.

While I was undoing BG, Joel, a Swedish thru hiker, chopped a trail down to where we were and hauled some of the pack back up to the trail.  I was able to roll BG onto her side and then with a lot of encouragement she was able to regain her feet landing on top of me before we scrambled back to the trail.  The hill side was really steep, Joel and I slipped and fell several times and were only able to arrest our falls by grasping brush, mostly devil’s club, ouch.  I had a hundred foot length of rope that I tied to a tree and used to lower myself back down to the two remaining pack boxes.  The rope didn’t quite reach but by working the boxes ten feet up the hill I was able to tie to the hanger straps and with me lifting and Joel holding the slack we were able to get all the gear back on the trail.  I guess all the trail magic Janis has been dispensing paid off in a big way.  Without Joel (pronounce YOU-EL) I would still be dragging equipment up the hill.

BG didn’t seem to be hurt in anyway, except for a large L shaped cut on her cheek.  This cut was not going to close with three stitches.  So off we went again, this time to Pilchuck Equine Veterinary Clinic in Snohomish where Dr Bryant and his staff very professionally treated BG.  Four stitches, a dozen or more surgical staples, a bottle of antibiotic pills to be administered for the next two weeks and a $925 bill later we are on our way home to regroup and refresh before we make another attempt at those pesky North Cascades.

The moral of this story is if you have to take your horse to the vet, try to do it in a farming/ranching clinic not a suburban/metropolis clinic.

Stay tuned for further adventures.

Day 78 Cayuse Horse Camp to Waptus Lake and back.

Morning trail

Today started out well enough with a nice ride on BG up the Waptus River to the PCT.  Checking my inReach when I got there I saw that Janis had sent me  “turn around” and “fire closure” messages earlier in the morning.  BG needed no encouragement to head back down the trail, I think we covered the eleven miles back in half the time it took us to get there in the first place.

A bit of a trail washout.
Waptus River

 

Trip data: mileposts 2412-2429, miles ridden; 21.4,

Total miles: PCT; 1917, Ridden; 1996

Day 77 Snoqualmie Pass to Cayuse Horse Camp

morning trail

The much anticipated Kendall Catwalk turned out to be a non-issue.  I wasn’t even aware that I was on it until I was halfway past, and only then because I recognized it from pictures.  It is on a cliff, the drop-off is vertical, but so are many other spots that are much longer and narrower with nastier tread, to include several today alone.  What does make the catwalk unusual is that it is very photogenic you can capture its entire length and dramatic silhouette  with a single photo.

If you see signs like these at the beginning of a trail you may want to rethink your day.

Scenery wise today was one of the best days of the whole trip.  Trail wise it wasn’t.  The trail was not as steep as the previous day, the grade was much easier, as one hiker commented “there are switchbacks and everything”.  But, my word, the rocks.  Big rocks, little rocks, round rocks, sharp rocks, big solid slab no traction for steel shoes rocks, tall rocks forcing you to scramble up or drop down three and four feet at a whack.  Where there weren’t rocks there were roots, just eleven and a half hours of slow going.  By the time I got to camp I was one tired boy.

after five miles of this
we got a little of this,
and then back to this, a scenario that was to repeat itself with some variation through out the day.
I believe this is the beginning of the Kendall Catwalk.
Though it may start as you cross this saddle.
The scenery is great
looking toward the end of the walk.
this part of the trail is a mile or so past the Kendall Catwalk, which goes around Kendall Peak in the background, and in my opinion is narrower and scarier.
as is this
the scenery is awfully hard to beat.
it seems around every corner is another calendar worthy vista.
more rocky trail
nice looking horse.

Traversing Huckleberry Mountain

skinny trail, steep drops
I like to go slow when the trail looks like this, Mercedes does too.
One of the many lakes we would see, Alaska Lake, but not get near this day.

What this picture doesn’t give a fair representation of is how much the leaning rock looms over the trail, a rider has to lean his torso to the outside to keep from bumping it, the large flat rock in the trail has fallen from the leaner, and I am hoping another doesn’t come down while I am going by.
yes, that is the trail going diagonally across the lower right of the picture.

Chikamin Lake with Chimney Peak and Summit Chief Mountain in the background.
Maybe the most picturesque bridge so far, the water fall comes within just a few feet. The approach on the far side has washed out at some point loosening the anchors for the cable hand rails, which is okay as the tops of the uprights on the waterfall side have all rotted away and the cable is just lying there anyway.
Spectacle Lake
The water below this missing bridge is pretty deep and swift, I got my feet wet in the crossing. What you don’t see is the paracord stretched from the old bridge supports to some bushes on the near side, to give hikers something to hang on to as they cross. It catches a rider about waist high as his horse walks under it to use the obvious crossing route, whoa Mercedes.
The poor bridges on Leman Creek, if they didn’t wash out trees fell on them.

Trip data: mileposts; 2390-2412, miles ridden; 28.8, trail time; 11:21, average speed; 2.5, minimum elevation; 2796, maximum elevation; 5952, total ascent; 6109, total descent; 6246

Total miles: PCT; 1900, Ridden; 1970

Day 76 Stampede Pass to Snoqualmie Pass

how did shadow man find the Morning Trail

For as few of miles as we covered today BG really had to work.  The steep ascents and descents of yesterday continued today.  The last 10 miles were especially tough requiring BG to repeatedly jump up and down over rocks often three feet or more high on hills that are already steep and tough going.  We were both glad to see the truck and trailer this afternoon.

 

on the outside looking in

 

inside looking out
a trail friend

Yet another Mirror Lake.
Mirror Lake resident.
A welcome break with cool water.

Kendall Catwalk and the Alpine Lakes tomorrow. 

Trip data: mileposts; 2372-2390, miles ridden; 17.7, trail time; 5:23, average speed; 3.3, minimum elevation; 3046, maximum elevation; 4477, total ascent; 3236, total descent; 3743

Total miles: PCT; 1878, Ridden; 1941

Day 75 Government Meadows to Stampede Pass

Morning Trail

I left camp this morning hoping to be somewhere with a view of the sky during the eclipse.  The problem was I couldn’t remember if the hour was 9 or 10 and whether it was 20 or 40 after.  To be safe we stopped early and often.  Mercedes had more grazing before 11:00 than she gets in a normal day.

Vacation Property #3. Another great deal, the young lady in the picture sold this cool cabin to my for only $162.87, the exact amount of cash I had on me, and both of my yogurt covered granola bars.
Furnishings are pretty sparse, but it does have a stove.
and a sleeping loft.
The two matching out houses have regular and deep snow entrances.
It came with this cool sign.

The PCT in this section passes between public and private lands.  We didn’t go through any fresh clear cuts but we were rarely out of sight of one.  I wonder if restrictions on where the trail can go through the private sections are the reason the trail goes straight up and down the hills.  All I know for sure is the three percent grade rule was thrown out around here.

Washington’s green tunnel

Alpine Lakes are coming.

Trail data: mileposts; 2344-2372, miles ridden; 29.2, trail time; 9:30, average speed; 3, minimum elevation; 3478, maximum elevation; 5638, total ascent; 5138, total descent; 6324

Total miles: PCT; 1860, Ridden; 1923

Day 74 Chinook Pass to Government Meadows

There are forest fires burning within a couple miles of this portion of the trail, the Forest Service said as long as the wind stayed steady blowing to the east the PCT would stay open, but that could change if wind direction changed.  BG and I needed to get about ten miles under our belts to be past where the closure would likely be, so we stepped right out intent on getting the miles behind us.

Last night Mercedes woke Janis up snorting, blowing and stomping her feet.  We assumed at the time that a bear she had seen earlier up on the hill above camp had come back, but within a few minutes Mercedes settled down and we went back to sleep.  This morning as soon as I got on trail, maybe 50 feet from the trailer I noticed fresh elk and deer tracks over the tracks of last nights hikers.  The more I looked at the tracks the less they looked like elk or deer, the large tracks were small for an elk and the deer tracks were too wide, now I think it was a nannie goat and her kids, I know for a fact Mercedes doesn’t think much of goats.

Morning Trail
An old hitchin’ rail, in case you wanted to stick around.

Sheep Lake, two miles north of Chinook Pass, is a popular destination for families with small children to hike to and camp at.  When I rode by there were people everywhere you looked, despite signs imploring people not to camp within 100 feet of the lake tents were set up right to the water’s edge.  It reminded me of being in a busy city park, I was riding within a few feet of people who never looked up, people who were watching me pass didn’t return a wave or greeting.  All in all give me the thru hikers, they may have gone a while without a bath, but they are friendly and are willing to help each other out.

Sheep Lake,

I’ve come full circle, I lost a horse in California and I found one in Washington.  I came around a corner on one of the skinny little cliff hanger trails, one that looks straight down at Crystal Mountain Ski Resort,  to find a hiker standing on the uphill side of a horse leaning over it’s neck, apparently trying to tie a length of paracord to the horse.  All I could think of to say was “I bet that’s not your horse.”  I had passed and talked to this guy before, he readily admitted it wasn’t his horse and was more than willing to pass responsibility for it on to me.  I thought it had probably run off from the horse camp down by the lodge, about 1500 feet below us, and though I didn’t relish leading it down then having to climb back up to the trail I agreed it would be easier for me with BG than him.  So we put BG’s halter on the horse and I started to lead it down to the horse camp.  We made it about 20 feet before the horse stopped and refused to go.  The hiker got behind it and poked it in the haunches while I pulled from BG, no good.  So the hiker led BG off around the corner while I tried to lead the horse on foot, no good.  I tried a couple of my best horse whisperer tricks to get it to move, no good.

Concerned because the wind was shifting, I decided to call the authorities to give them a location thinking the owners would show up or call to report a missing horse.  Contacting the authorities was no easy task, after 30 minutes of being transferred, given different numbers to call and mostly being on hold, I was on the line with a live person, this one I’d been transferred to twice and she was trying to pass me off again, so I said “Ma’am, I’m on the side of a cliff watching a forest fire getting closer all the time, can I just give you the grid coordinates of where this horse is and be on my way?”  Then she wanted to know all about the fire, have I reported it to the authorities? it’s been burning for two weeks and Chinook Pass Hwy is closed because of it, but she did finally take the info, I think.

Fire over the hill
Fire from Basin Lake trail, near where the horse was.
Fire within a couple miles of the trail.

On my way again I ride 100 feet around a corner and there lies a pack saddle, rigging and pad, nice ones.  So now I think there was a pack horse wreck, which would explain the rope burn and why the horse won’t move, and the owners have gone to get help, a theory that was more or less confirmed at camp that night by some Back Country Horsemen that are packing trail crews in.

Afternoon trail
Our back trail.
Barnard Saddle above the Big Crow Basin.

Trip data: mileposts; 2321-2344, miles ridden; 23.9, trail time; 7:50, average speed; 3, minimum elevation; 4809, maximum elevation; 6518, total ascent; 3537, total descent; 4093

Total miles: PCT; 1832, Ridden; 1894

Trip data: mileposts; 2321-2344, miles ridden; 23.9, trail time; 7:50, average speed; 3, minimum elevation; 4809, maximum elevation; 6518, total ascent; 3537, total descent; 4093

Total miles: PCT; 1832, Ridden; 1894

Day 73 White Pass to Chinook Pass

Morning trail

Today’s trail took Mercedes and me through the William O Douglas Wilderness and across the corner of Mt Rainier National Park.    The William O Douglas has long been special to me as it was the site of my first horseback trip to the mountains.  On that occasion we rode the Cowlitz Trail from Soda Springs Campground to Penoyer Lake.  It was a warm, late summer day and we waded the horses across the lake to a site where we had lunch.  In total we rode about eight miles and I was hooked.  Looking back that ride is responsible for the trip I’m on now.

Skip ahead 50 some years and I still find magic in the area.  The whole Cowlitz Pass area is dotted with dozens of lakes and meadows and my favorite hill, Tumac Mtn.   I didn’t have time today to wander around to old favorite spots and indeed the rerouting of the PCT, to make it more sustainable, has eliminated some of the beauty, but while Mercedes and I traveled the wooded trail directly though, my heart and dreams still journeyed through the meadows, past the lakes and over the hills.

One of the many meadows
Snow Lake
Typical trail skirting a meadow and lake.
a new boardwalk
The meadow at Fish Lake.

Last view of Mt Adams and Goat Rocks.

Rocky trails
Dewy Lake
Trail to Chinook Pass

Chinook Pass
Crossing the bridge over Hwy 410
Home Sweet Home

 

Trip data: mileposts; 2292-2321, miles ridden; 28.7, trail time; 9:34, average speed; 3, minimum elevation; 4138, maximum elevation; 5854, total ascent; 5166, total descent; 4238

Total miles: CT; 1809, Ridden; 1870

Day 72 Chambers Lake to White Pass or The Knife’s Edge

Packers and Trail Crew getting ready to go out from Chambers Lake Trailhead, can you tell who is which? hint; the packers have long pants.

Big picture day, as in quantity if not quality.  I tried to cull them down to a manageable number, more than a hundred didn’t make the cut, however there are still a lot of them.  I thought about making the Knife’s Edge a separate post, but many of the pictures there really belong here so, like this sentence, you are getting one long post.

As the Snowgrass Flats trail approaches the PCT it emerges from the trees into alpine meadows thick with wildflowers.  As the PCT continues the climb to the Knife’s Edge the meadows dry out and the flowers grow closer to the ground before disappearing all together.  I have come to the conclusion that getting up to the Knife’s Edge is harder than the crossing, it is a long, steep, rocky, snowy climb.

Morning trail
Snowgrass Flats
Not Snowgrass Flats, though many think it is.
Trail junction to Snowgrass Flats
Mt St Helens over the ridge to Lily Basin.

 

trail to the Knife’s Edge
Mt Adams in the distance.
It is a long climb
Where’s the marmot?

What’s left of the Dana Yelverton shelter. The forest service tore it down some years ago, removing the roofing so that no one would try to rebuild it.

Packwood Glacier has receded, exposing rock for most of the traverse except for two short sections of icy snow.  The trail across the exposed rock was in poor condition.  Slides from above covered parts of it, other parts had slid away.  At the end of the second snow section there was a ten foot near vertical climb up the ice to get back on trail.  I looked at those first slides and decided to lead BG across that section.  When I got across I decided to lead her down the first steep section of the Knife’s Edge, then I led her aross the next section.  At some point I decided I didn’t need the extra stress so I just kept on leading her until we got off the solid rock portion.

Some of the exposed rock above Packwood Glacier, with the first snow traverse in the background.
The second snow traverse.
the scramble up to the trail after the snow.
more exposed rock
What you would see if you could take your eyes off the trail.
Where the knife’s edge starts looking like it.
the trail ahead
Looking back at Packwood Glacier, the trail is near the top of the snow, that is the second traverse you see.
Why some prefer to lead their horse across.
It’s not as narrow as it looks, the trail is a good two feet wide at that narrow spot.
Yes, that is the trail still climbing.
Where we been.
Look sharp, there are holes in the trail, north bound this one was easy to see but was hidden from a south bound horse. I filled it in.

well, maybe it’s a little less than two feet at this narrow spot.
Sometimes there is loose rock on top of solid rock…
and sometimes the loose rock is solid rock.
Don’t just stare at the trail, look around.
Or look down into the McCall basin.
Or the Packwood basin.
or at distant vistas.
Then look where you are going.

or where you are.
Looking back at Ives Peak
then back at the trail,
and the trail ahead,

look around again,

doesn’t it ever end?

Ahh, finally when we go around this corner we start dropping down into the McCall Basin.

Eventually we made it to Elk Pass and down through the McCall basin and back into the trees and pretty good trail until we got to Hogback Ridge, good views and rocky trails.

A snow bridge, BG didn’t want to stay on the beaten path, choosing instead to walk on thicker snow to one side.
the knife’s edge doesn’t look like so much from here.
Back side of the Knife’s Edge from McCall Basin.

Hogback Ridge
On the saddle at Hogback Ridge.

nice trail
Afternoon trail.

More Afternoon Trail.

 

Trip data: mileposts; 2272-2292, miles ridden; 26.2, trail time; 6:47, average speed; 3.9, minimum elevation; 4440, maximum elevation; 7221, total ascent; 5976, total descent; 6197

Total miles: PCT; 1780, Ridden; 1841

Day 71 Midway Guard Station to Chambers Lake

Midway Guard Station
The heart and soul of this operation.

It was cold and misty this morning, the calendar says the middle of August, the weather says fall.  I was so bundled up that I’m not sure I could have gotten back up if I’d fallen down.  The mist bothered me a little bit, I was afraid it wouldn’t burn off before I reached the Klickitat Bowl.  If you have been through the Goat Rocks you know what I mean, if you haven’t I am certain that my  poor words will fail to convey the pure majesty of the place.  I don’t know how many times I have approached the Klickitat Bowl, either after riding through the Cispus Bowl or from over Horseshoe Ridge saddle, more than a dozen less than fifty, still that first view forces me to say “wow”.

morning trail
Mercedes and I were not the first visitors to the water hole this morning. Bear track on the right, cougar? to the left

mist in the trees
happiness is a fresh pile of sawdust.

I need not have worried as the sun burned through while the morning was still young.  On the stretch of trail between Midway and Coleman Weedpatch that lies outside the wilderness boundary dozens of logs had been freshly cut making for very pleasant riding.  Once we got past the Walupt Creek trail the PCT started to climb up out of the trees opening up panoramas in all directions.  Passing Nannie Ridge the trail starts exposing the traveler to the views for which the Goat Rocks are famous.  Lakeview and Horse Mountains, Klickitat Divide, Petross Sidehill, Gilbert Peak, Goat Rock, Ives Peak are not ten miles away or even three, you are right on their shoulders looking them in the face.

Horseshoe Ridge

a popular packer’s camp/meadow

Lakeview Mountain

Cispus Bowl follows Klickitat Bowl and is just as spectacular in it’s own way.  Half a dozen stream add their water to the beginnings of the Cispus River and rush off down the valley in search of more contributions.  There were more wildflowers this year than I have seen in some time.  Even the grass couldn’t be contained at ankle depth, in places it reached Mercedes knees.  A side trail down to the Chamber’s Lake trailhead drops sharply at first through meadows and across more creeks before leveling out down through the forest.

The Goat Rock with the beginning of the Cispus River flowing from it’s base
The falls on the trail at Cispus Bowl
Looking down Cispus Bowl
Horseshoe Ridge from the Cispus Bowl side
Ives Peak over the Cispus Bowl.  
The following four pictures form a panorama of Klickitat Bowl

Arriving at the trailhead I found not only Janis but several Back Country Horsemen (and woman) who had volunteered to pack a large PCTA trail maintenance crew in to the Cispus Bowl to make some much needed repairs to the trail.  Included on their list of stuff to do was fill in a huge washout, one large enough to easily swallow Janis’s truck and trailer with room to spare.  This repair will use some trail engineering and hardware to form a crib which will then be backfilled to the original tread level.  This repair should keep the washout from propagating in future years.  Back home this would be a couple day project with the use of a backhoe and dump truck, it is nearly inconceivable to me that seven or eight volunteers will provide all the labor to get this project done in less than a week.  My hat is off to these people who donate their time to provide a trail that I, or you, can wander down at will, they have certainly earned my continued financial support and I hope yours as well.  You can contribute at PCTA.org

Trip data: mileposts; 2251-2272, miles ridden; 26.7, trail time; 8:04, average speed; 3.3, minimum elevation; 4492, maximum elevation; 6446, total ascent; 4069, total descent; 3928

Total miles: PCT; 1760, Ridden; 1815

Day 70 23 Road crossing to Midway Guard Shack

camp

Today was a beautiful day in the Mt Adams Wilderness.  While we were in the trees most of the day they were either burnt, short or dead and there were lots of meadows so we were in the sun and had lots of views.  It seems funny that after the last two months of high heat when any little shade was welcome that now a short week later I spend most of the day in multiple sweatshirts and an insulated vest looking forward to riding in the sun.

morning trail

Mt St Helens and Strawberry Ridge
Mt Adams cloud cap
morning trail

After the initial climb from the 23 road to the Round the Mountain trail the trail stayed up high on the mountain flank.  The trail is about three miles from the peak as it skirts the mountain’s top crossing numerous creeks and rivers that have their beginning in Adam’s glaciers.  I had my share of vistas today.  I got my first good look at both Mt Rainier and the Goat Rocks today as well as Mt Hood and Jefferson in my rear view mirror.  I am enjoying being in totally familiar country which will continue into the next few days.  No need to check a map to verify I am on the right trail or how far I have to go.

afternoon trail
fresh huckleberries
a longer higher steel bridge, no rails…
Killen Creek Falls

Goat Rocks

Trip data: mileposts; 2227-2251, miles ridden; 23.6, trail time; 6:45, average speed; 3.5, minimum elevation; 4031, maximum elevation; 6121, total ascent; 3632, total descent; 3215