New Heights

PCT SOBO DAYS 21-23

August 5th-7th, 2017

Sobo Mile 358-420.3

Elevation: +12,000 ft/ -11,000 ft

DAY 20: August 5th, we were in Packwood. An interesting, quaint little place. I enjoyed it quite a lot, actually. It’s unpretentious, and had all the “things” I needed. Carrot and I got a room in the charming old house called Hotel Packwood with a wrap around wooden porch and small rooms situated along a cooridor that had two shared bathrooms. The entire place had an old fashioned country look to it’s decor and when the owner (Marilyn) checked us in she took one look at us and said “my God, you girls are filthy, makes me anxious!and then she requested that we wash our socks in the shower before giving them to her for washing in the machine, cuz otherwise they will “break the machine”. I guess she gets a lot of hikers. Carrot and I got settled into our tidy room, all of which we paid $25 each for (including laundry and loaner clothes) and I opted to sleep in the cute little twin bed. We decided that this house was formerly a brothel. It had to be, what else? Now, the bookshelves were lined with books of Christian faith.

My first order of operations for the morning was coffee and a pastry. I was in luck, for there was a great coffee shop right across the way from our hotel. I spent some time there writing, and then we went for a true thru-hiker breakfast at the Pizza joint (Cruisers) again. I took my coffee back to the Hotel and sat on the porch, joined by the owner’s husband (Dave), who is in a wheelchair, is an amputee. He spoke a lot about his faith and God, and the Bible. I’m not really into that Jesus stuff, nor the Bible, but I liked his message, and I related to what he was saying. One thing that he said, which struck me, was that he “listens”. I get this. I listen, too. But for me, I don’t think that the voice I hear is the word of God, I just  think it is the message of the Universal truth, and I am tapping into it. For him, those messages are the “word of the Lord”. He went on a little about it all, but he wasn’t preachy about it, he was just passionate. I listened. He talked about Kris Fowler too, as Kris had stayed with them last fall. In fact, it was the last place he stayed before taking to the trail and disappearing, forever. 

Before hitting the trail again myself, I treated another hiker to acupuncture for some knee trouble he was having, while Carrot sat on the porch of the Hotel and chatted with a group of hikers that had now congregated there. We got a hitch back to the Kraker Barrel from an eclectic woman (Debbie) in her 60’s with sun-worn skin, driving a beat up red truck and she told us all about how she makes a living by having yard sales. She purchases everything at a severe discount, in bulk, and then sells it all to locals at a profit but still at a lower price than they would pay at a store. No overhead! It was quite interesting, and she makes a decent living for herself. Impressive. 

At Kraker Barrel I picked up my resupply box, packed everything up and hoisted my now super heavy pack back onto my body. Ugh, it’s always so heavy on resupply days! But, we were off! Joined by Ghost, McGyver and Danger Dog, we all hit the trail in the afternoon, headed into the Goat Rocks Wilderness. Feeling rereshed, and grateful to be back in the forest, I climbed strong. We made it 12 miles to Tieton Pass by 8pm, situating ourselves for an epic day on the Knife’s Edge tomorrow. We camped in a little grove of trees and I found a strange animal skull there…Horse? Elk? Where was the rest of it’s body? 

DAY 22: August 6th: Knife’s Edge!

Well, this was a day I’d been looking forward to for quite a while, the Knife’s Edge and Old Snowy. It was going to be a lot of climing today (5,845 ft to be exact) and about the same downhill too, big day, a total of 24 miles. Let’s do this!

The morning started out cool, quiet, serene, if a bit smoky, but the views early on were already stellar and I was excited about getting to high country again and to actually see some snow again, too! There were tiny little birds flitting about all morning and the wild flowers were rampant. I stopped in the late morning to fill up on water before the big climb and I was able to collect from a rushing creek that still had a melting snow bank right next to it. The water was so crisp and fresh and the wall of rock up above it was towering and made me feel so small. 

Starting the climb up knife’s edge filled me with adrenaline, it was such a different experience looking all that way UP and knowing I had to climb it. So different than last year coming down. Last year I had amazing views of Mt. Rainier, but today, it was just that looming ghost of a melting ice cream cone, nothing to write home about. But that mattered not, I was really into the close up detail of the Knife’s Edge and all the slabby rocks that clanked as I stepped on them. The terrain did quite a job on my ankle, but it was worth it 100%. 

I took a gazillion photos as I climbed, Carrot was mostly up ahead of me and then I caught up before we made the final ascent up Old Snowy. That last section is an alternate to the PCT and sends you up about another 1,000ft to the Summit, the last part of which is a bit of a scramble, and I had missed it last year. Carrot and I sat up there in a little cleared out area big enough for maybe one tent, and enjoyed lunch and tea. If pictures are worth 1,000 words, then I will just give you the pictures to speak for themselves. Here you go…

Looking Up to the top…..

Looking Down…(no Rainier)

Feeling small in the big space…

Scrambling….

Giving Thanks…

Taking that side trail was refreshing for me, using different muscles, using my hands, getting the stellar views, adrenaline surging, it was thrilling. We headed back down after lunch exuding exuberance and Carrot took a really funny photo of me skipping through the wildflowers. Back on the PCT, we traversed a snow field! We passed by a small turquoise tarn, and started seeing several day and weekend hikers, wondering where they all came from?

Cispus Pass was no less stunning than it had been last year, and as we crossed the notch at the top we stopped for a snack. It was actually pretty hot out and I tucked myself up in the shade of a big tree. Shortly after the pass, we ran into two women from Maine, who were doing 45 second interviews of hikers, where you have to tell your “whole life story” in 45 seconds while they video you. It was fun and the young woman conducting the project wore a hat that said “Make America Gay Always”. Love that!

Cispus Pass area…..

45 Second Life Interview….

By about 5:00pm I was hitting a wall. I had started my period the day we made it to Packwood, and now I was feeling the energy draining from me, literally. I was nearly bonking and had to stop to eat something. Melted greasy cheese oil got all over my stuff and I licked it off my dirty hands. Satiated after the snack I had to push those last 3-4 miles to camp. I zombie walked through mosquito hell in a daze, trying to keep my wits about me. Despite my fatigue, I was happy and still elated from all the adventures of the day. By the time we reached camp, my body hurt, and I was ready for rest. There’s nothing like making it to camp, a little piece of Earth to call home for the night. 

DAY 23: August 7th: Mt. Adams, Lava Spring & the Great Burn 

I ate Maca cookies and Yum butter for breakfast and so I zoomed along the trail for the first 11 miles to Lava Spring. This is one of THE BEST places for water on the entire PCT, hands down. There is a section of lava that the trail hugs the edge of, and you start seeing the black rock off to the East. On the maps you can see how the trail specifically and explicity follows the exact line where the lava ends and dirt begins. It is quite interesting and while I appreciate seeing the lava, I also appreciate that I still get to walk on dirt trail. The spring is the coldest, freshest water that emerges from deep in the Earth beneath the Lava fields, and collects in a couple of pools which the trail passes right over. As it goes, there ended up being a cluster of thru-hikers gathered periodically at the spring, Nobos and Sobos alike. We stayed there for close to an hour, eating lunch and of course I made glorious iced coffee, which I paired with coffee crunch dark chocolate. Zooooom….

After lunch was a gradual climb through a narrow forest on a gentle track up towards Mt. Adams and Killen Creek. The flies had been relentless, even at the spring, there were hords of flies. They are like house flies, just the normal kind that irritate you. At least they don’t bite. They just make it so that a pretty place can loose some of it’s charm. I suppose you could look at them as a blessing, in the sense that they do not let you be  lazy, they keep you moving. 

By the time I made it to Killen Creek, my menstrual cramps were bad and I had to stop and take some Ibuprofen. I hate taking it because it makes me very sleepy. So, I went from super high on caffeine to super low on NSAID’s. So be it, I was rewarded with amazing views of Mt. Adams, so much better than I’d expected due to all the smoke. The Wild Lupines and Indian Paintbrush were also on point, just spreading across fields and slopes, lining all the little cascading creeks, and showing off in their glory. I was bedazzled. 

I splashed off in the water, as my feet felt intensely swollen and I’d developed a new blister. Somehow I was also very dirty and it felt amazing to rinse off in the pure flowing water of Killen Creek as I gazed up at the towering mountain. Carrot had just done the same when I arrived, except that she put her whole body in the water. It was pretty cold, she’s badass!

Soon after Killen was another creek that was part of a bigger drainage coming down off the mountain. This one needed to be forded. I was feeling lazy and therefore not interested in preserving the dryness of my shoes, so I just went all in. In retrospect, it was probably not the best decision because afterward I had to walk through heavy, thick gray sand and it then got caked all over my shoes and that, combined with the water, made my feet really heavy. 

Carrot fording the creek…

By early evening, when the light turns to gold, we found ourselves in a massively beautiful burn area. I specifically remembered this from last year, and I started to slow down and take photos. Carrot was just as enamoured with it as I was and we took our time through those miles, appreciating the stark beauty of the sleek black trees, the fireweed glowing pink and the special evening light. As it turns out, we ended up camping in the burn area, just 3 miles before the Hwy that goes into Trout Lake. We stopped and collected water from a spring that had a quaint little bucket attached to a rope on a tree. It was sweet and I had fun collecting. 

As I fell asleep that night the light of the full moon plastered the sky, but it did not keep me from sleep. The crickets were chirping and there was the occasional and standard sticks breaking somewhere out there, in the black of the night. Tomorrow, Trout Lake, hooray!!

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