Final Words on The Pacific Crest Trail

by sedona maniak


*I'm prone to candor in inappropriate forums. Be prepared for that.

People hike long trails for plenty of different reasons. I met speed hikers who were Hell-bent on finishing quickly. Some fitness fanatics were looking for an extreme version of Slim Fast. There were soul-searchers trying to reconnect with nature. Others were hoping to deal head-on with grief, addiction, mental illness, even terminal illness. For some, it was a life-long dream to hike this trail, come to fruition upon retirement. A few hikers just wanted to have a good time in the woods for a summer.

Importantly, most thru-hikers I met got more out of this experience than they'd expected. Kids out to smoke lots of weed in the woods ended up in deep, meaningful relationships instead, or had epiphanies about their future goals. One PTSD sufferer I met, a veteran of Afghanistan and Iraq, told me that he re-taught himself how to have fun on the trail.

An adventure like this does not lend itself well to expectations. Most people threw out their mileage spreadsheets in the first week (I met some who persevered, though, like Navigator and Half and Half). Strong folks broke down, people quit unexpectedly, athiests found religion, god-people found nature. It was a kind of chaos that constantly made me smile. ("Cats and dogs living together." Ghostbusters.)

My plan for the trail was twofold: catalog flora and fauna as much as possible through photos and spend a summer hiking alone. In light of those goals, I failed miserably. My plant knowledge ran out in the Sierras, and I was in too much pain to bother with photos. And hiking alone? Impossible. First, the trail is crowded and so are the best campsites. Second, I met some amazing people whose company I honestly enjoyed.

But, of course, my naive plans aside, I learned more in my 5 1/2 months out there than I have over many years. Here are ten of the very damned basic things that I got out of this:

1. How to accept proffered help from others

Trail angels, on-the-fly advisors and friends all repeatedly drummed into me that people give a shit and that's alright.

2. How to mind my own business

Nobody can completely do this, but I certainly can rein in it a bit now. When people around me start saying or doing stupid things (in my estimation) of their own volition, I can now generally hold my tongue on the unsolicited advice, having received SO MUCH of it from others on the trail.

3. How to be straightforward

Much of civilized life requires nuance for politeness. Understatement, especially regarding pain levels and emotions, just doesn't fly in the trail environment.

4. How to appreciate simple things

Food, water and shelter. I love them all more now that I've fought my own feet to have them. Running out of the basic things I need to survive, then getting them back, makes me enjoy them even more.

5. How to be with someone constantly without resenting him/her

It took me until the end to do this, but I succeeded. My struggle with this was by far the biggest, and certainly wasn't easy on a couple of pretty amazing people. Thankfully, they've been patient with me.

6. How to love the natural smell of humans

Yeah, I've never been a big fan of the perfumed masses, but now, even people fresh out of a very soapy shower are overpowering to me. Sweat smells better than a flowery disguise.

7. How to cope with chronic pain

Doing this with already fucked-up feet was an interesting decision. My podiatrist told me that my feet "aren't made for walking," and to "consider taking up kayaking." I've discovered that I'm much better at ignoring pain now and focusing on other things as distractions from it.

8. How to use humor for absolutely every kind of situation

At first, I tried to be serious when, say, helping a guy who was scared shitless about his heat exhaustion or talking with someone going through a serious crisis. People come to me, however, because I'm not serious. After I realized that making light of things is my way of dealing with them, I gave up the facade and had lots of successful interpersonal interactions.

9. How to love calories

I was very used to avoiding them. Now I see food in terms of caloric economy: price/calorie, weight/calorie, pleasure/calorie. Therefore Corn Nuts and Pop Tarts.

10. How to accept not working

There have only been a few vacations in my life since the age of 15. I work hard, like long hours, and get restless otherwise. I will admit that not working made me feel guilty. This was exacerbated by the hundreds of folks who told me how "lucky" I was to be doing the trail, since they all had jobs and commitments. Working, in the Western sense, is not the natural human condition. It was nice to experience life from a very different perspective and with a new set of priotities. This is why reintegration is hard on thru-hikers.

On the lighter side, here are some interesting things I noticed on the trail:

1. Dirty, pot-smoking hippies. About 80% of the hikers I met smoked pot as a painkiller or for general recreation.

2. Retired badasses. So many folks have told me that they're "too old" to do something like this. More than half of my friends on the trail were over 50, a good many over 60. Plenty of them were stronger and faster than I, and most were never serious athletes. Just very determined.

3. Dogs. Only a couple, surprisingly, but I really loved seeing them.

4. Nicotine. Appetite suppressant that makes high mountain passes exhilarating. That same 80% of hikers smokes cigarettes (or pipes). It's not evil in moderation, folks.

5. Shit. Horses leave it in the worst places. Narrow mountain passes, places where you can't see what your foot is going to land on until it's too late. People leave it, and toilet paper and goddamned baby wipes, all over the place as well. Surprising and disappointing.

It was an unforgettable time, to be sure. And I miss it.

my favorite impromptu trail snack.  a sandwich within a sandwich within a sandwich.  cue Inception soundtrack.

my favorite impromptu trail snack. a sandwich within a sandwich within a sandwich. cue Inception soundtrack.

that long mohawk was the hair i grew from Campo to Steven's Pass

that long mohawk was the hair i grew from Campo to Steven's Pass

now it's better

now it's better

start

start

finish

finish


10/1 Dinsmores and Out

by sedona maniak


Miles hiked: 9.75 (2466.25 to 2476)
Elevation: +1874/-2964
Number of people who really don't believe I'm done: 26

Slippery and cold last morning on the trail. There were unnecessarily steep bits, random washouts, roots and rocks. It was a perfect microcosm of the whole adventure. I began to miss it, a bit, as I was finishing this little hike into Steven's Pass, but maintained my conviction that ending now was the right choice.
Hitched, after standing in the cold and rain for a couple hours, into the Dinsmores' Hiker Haven in Baring. There we met up with the last group of thru-hikers for the season, I think. There was dinner at the store/cafe, a big fire in the pit outside the Dinsmores' place, lots of drunken 20-somethings making lots of noise. Glad to be leaving the kids behind, frankly.
Space Age, Zero, Hand Me Down and some others all tried very hard to convince us to continue. Instead, we went to the slightly larger town 30 miles up the road and convalesced/reintegrated for a few days. Then I rented a car, dropped Any Minute at SEA/TAC, and promptly went camping/hiking in Olympic NP.

View from my tent vestibule

View from my tent vestibule

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Space Age at the Dinsmores

Space Age at the Dinsmores

waving goodbye

waving goodbye


9/30 Carathras the Cruel

by sedona maniak


Miles hiked: 13.43 (2452.82 to 2466.25)
Elevation: +4211/-2869
Number of times my hands went numb today: 6

Woke up to rain and low clouds hoping that the weather report from a few days before, predicting only scattered showers for today, was still accurate. Packed my very damp belongings and departed. Even for a slacker day, this wouldn't be an easy one. Piper Pass then straight down to a creek, then straight up to Surprise Mountain Gap, then back down again. 4200 up in 10 miles or so.

Washington is a giant puddle waiting for a huge toddler in Wellington boots to splash through. I am a hiker in trail runners and rain gear, though, and quickly became miserable as the rain increased and temperature dropped. Halfway up the second pass, rain became snow. My hands froze to my staff and trekking pole. Wind picked up. I slipped in the snotty clay and went sprawling in the mud, twisting knees and ankles. Had I not already decided to end the hike, today would have done it anyway. I was reminded of Tolkien's evil mountain, Carathras.
We plodded quickly down the second pass to get below the snow, ending our day at 3:30pm, setting up damp tents while shivering uncontrollably. Gods, but it is nice to be with someone else who can keep her wits about her in a potentially hazardous situation. From tent to tent, we called out welfare checks to each other until the dangers of hypothermia and frostbite had passed.
Around 6:30, I heard a familiar voice call out, "hey guys." Space Age, one of my favorite folks on the trail, was also frozen and drowned. We convinced him to stop before the weather could do any more harm. He camped with us and we added him into the welfare checks. Wonderful to see him again, even in these circumstances. What a crazy last night on this beast of a trail.


9/29 You Know When You're Done

by sedona maniak


Miles hiked: 14.69 (2438.13 to 2452.82)
Elevation: +3484/-2409

Terrible and Horrible told me that they just knew when they were done walking this trail. They woke up one morning and neither of them made a move to pack up. For hours, they sat, realizing finally that they were just done.
Today at lunch, as I pondered our collective excruciating pain, our many discussions about both having learned so much from this experience, and the wonder of discovering someone that I can hike with for so long, I sat next to Any Minute Now and said, honestly, that I don't give a damn about making it to the monument. I've stopped gaining anything new from the trail except novel permutations of podiatric agony; I've stopped having any kind of fun, really. I've proved everything I needed to prove to myself, far exceeding my own expectations, and am happy with this achievement as it stands. I think that I had wanted to prove to other folks that I could make it border to border, and it occurs to me now that that is a hollow reason to continue.
Any Minute Now seemed absolutely relieved to hear this. Her ankles roll a few hundred times a day, and she is very done, as well. I think she'd been independently considering the same thing for some time.
So, that decided, we altered our schedule from an 18 mile day followed by a 20 mile day to a whatever-the-hell-we-want-it-to-be day followed by two of the same. Then it started to rain. We found a campsite after a very sketchy bouncy log crossing near a big section of washed-out trail. Fun stuff at the end of the day. Imagine a two-toned chorus of profanity.

i didn't want to start hating this amazing place

i didn't want to start hating this amazing place

best rock hop ever

best rock hop ever


9/28 Goldmyer to PCT

by sedona maniak


Miles hiked: 14.72 (Goldmeyer 11.06 to PCT junction at 2438.14)
Elevation: + 4418/-3146
Times I slipped and fell: 13

Steep. Treacherous and beautiful. Recent rains and poor maintenance on the alternate made it a difficult passage all day. When long drops, snot-slick rocks and walkways, and 2:1 grades with no traction weren't immediately present, the views were spectacular. There aren't enough pixels on my camera or words in English to differentiate the shades of green and blue here. Immense lettuce-leaf lichens hung from tree bark. Mold grew on fungus growing on decaying trees. Thick mushroom scent hung in the air.

We followed the Snoqualmie River most of the day, finally ascending Dutch Meadow Gap and dropping toward a lake. The trail was completely washed out, as was the bridge, which we carefully picked our way over at its extreme angle. By the time the switchbacks leveled out into walkable trail, by abdominal muscles and quadriceps were buckling. The broken toe was screeching, and Any Minute Now had rolled her ankles many times. At the bottom, we found a campsite near the river by the trail junction and gave it up for the day.

my hat is too small for that pancake of a mushroom

my hat is too small for that pancake of a mushroom

dazzling variety of fungus

dazzling variety of fungus

water source

water source

just a little harder to cross than before

just a little harder to cross than before


9/27 Goldmyer Alternate

by sedona maniak


Miles hiked: 11.06 (+ a couple of miles of road before we got to the trail) (1 to 11.06 of the Goldmyer alternate)
Elevation: +3238/-4453
Number of day hikers we blew past on the uphill: 22

So, it was awfully sunny this morning when we finally hit the trail around 10. Clouds encircled the rocky peaks north of Snoqualmie Pass and were hiding low to the south, but the bulk of the sky was bright blue. There was some road walking confusion, as usual, since PCT hikers train themselves to follow one trail and get immediately confused when faced with roads, streets, freeways, even large pieces of furniture. Hell, we get lost in campgrounds.

At any rate, we found the approved alternate trail we'd intended to take. It cuts off a few miles from the regular PCT and passes through some lovely old growth forest and hot springs. Given the weekend timing of our walk, however, we elected to avoid the hot springs. Traffic to the first lake on the trail was very high; we were dodging daywalkers for about 5 miles. After the lake was out of sight, there was nobody.
Truly ancient cedars and firs lined the second trail, Middle Fork. There was an impenetrable carpet of low and middle-sized ferns, moss, lichens and clover. But the trail was a painful contrast to the soft blanket of botanical bliss. Steep, rocky downhill switchbacks flowing with water from the recent rains were doubly dangerous. Deep, silty mud puddles dotted the areas not abusing my feet with tumbled-down pointy rocks. I slid down about a yard, catching myself with the top of the shoe on my trailing foot. The toes came down hard on a rock, and the hammer toe on my right foot yelped with anguish. Think I broke it again.

When we came to the Snoqualmie River bridge with a perfect campsite on its far side, we stopped the downhill madness and apologized to our ankles and knees. Steep downhill is stressful, indeed. I set up my tent at the foot of a grandfather cedar tree. The river is just a few yards away. Lovely place to be.

There was some weather in Snoqualmie.

There was some weather in Snoqualmie.

Moss makes everything look comfortable, doesn't it?

Moss makes everything look comfortable, doesn't it?

Any Minute looking much more steady on the double log cross than I did.

Any Minute looking much more steady on the double log cross than I did.

Yeah.  Terrified of log crossings since I was a kid.  But I did lots of them anyway.  Gotta face the demons.

Yeah. Terrified of log crossings since I was a kid. But I did lots of them anyway. Gotta face the demons.

No, it's a fungus.  Get your mind out of the gutter.

No, it's a fungus. Get your mind out of the gutter.


9/24 to 9/26 Respite

by sedona maniak


Miles hiked (9/24): 5.03 (2396.96 to 2401.99)
Elevation: +659/-1297
Times I stopped to stare at fungus: at least 50

So damp walking into Snoqualmie Pass. But the woods, deep green in the mist, couldn't have been lovelier than under the dark Washington clouds. The trail was a stream under my feet, sparp rocks and high tree roots exposed, but I hopped happily over them, enjoying all of it. Rain makes me smile, especially when I know there's a dry haven at the other end.

On 9/26, decided to stay a second day...so much rain and some kind of stomach thing make me reluctant to head into the deluge.

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9/23 Ramble On

by sedona maniak


Miles hiked: 17.61 (2379.39 to 2397.00)
Elevation: +3987/-4846
Number of mushroom pickers out in the rain: 6

This is a good time to point out that Washington is littered with fungus. There is mold growing on mushrooms which, in turn, are sometimes even growing from lichens. Thick and deep smells of toadstools mingled with blueberry bushes will always stick in my mind as a memory of the trail here. All day, I marveled, through my perpetually steamed-up glasses with fisheye water droplets all over them, at the variety of forms and colors on the fungi. And I really wished for a field guide. We decided to give ourselves a shorter day today to make it to Snoqualmie Pass in time for breakfast tomorrow. Breakfast is my great motivator. I'd hike Pinchot Pass again for a decent chicken fried steak with eggs and hash browns. The hike was an uneventful series of steep climbs and steeper descents in the rain on slippery mud and rocks. But pretty. It smelled nice. Now everything is drenched, and I really hope there's some damned breakfast 4 miles down this muddy mountain.

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9/22 Misty Mountain Hop

by sedona maniak


Miles hiked: 19.32 (2360.18 to 2379.5)
Elevation: +4408/-4850
Number of other hikers seen today: 0

A peaceful night, save for the drizzle early in the morning. I got a little sleep, and when I unzipped my rain fly, the rain had stopped. It was enough to make things a bit damp, but I was happy that it stopped there. Fog shrouded the mountain just a few hundred feet below. An immediate descent brought me right into it, magical and dark. Everything green and covered in moss, it felt primordial. Kept waiting for the roadie to shut off the fog machine.
Though the whole day was one long intense climb after another, the cool dampness and occasional mist of rain kept me moving. I wrote stories in my head, even wrote a song about the end of the PCT, having experienced every type of pain the trail has to offer ("You Don't Have to Hurt Me Anymore"). Like most days, this one's distance was governed by proximity to water. After all that climb, the trickle which Any Minute Now had to collect with a ziploc baggie and I had to strain with a bandanna to remove the flagellating creatures was a bit of a let down. Luckily, I found an old decommissioned road just up from the spring with lots of flat tent space. Truly prime real estate on this trail.

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9/21 Goats and Elk

by sedona maniak


Miles hiked: 17.56 (2342.62 to 2360.18)
Elevation: + 2058/-3207
Number of damned elk buglings between 3am and 6am: roughly 459

At around 10pm, I vaguely heard some footsteps and shuffling about near my tent. Listening to Tolkien on my ipod means that I ingore most sounds until I drift off. The muted shuffling about stopped, I fell asleep for about an hour, then awoke to hoofs and bugling, which lasted most if the night. At some point, I grew used to the bugling long enough to fall asleep again. It was maybe half an hour later, however, when mountain goats started loudly clambering up the rockslide across from the camp, with young ones bleating loudly at every talus slide. Any Minute's alarm went off in her tent across from me, and I was certain that I'd managed a total of two hours of sleep all night. She called over to me, "you have to see this!" Tired, cold, I still couldn't resist. I hopped out in my long underwear to see the elk herd just across from us on the hillside with the bright white goats grazing on the little plateau above them.
We both heard a zipper then, and discovered that the previous night's footsteps had been a southbounder. We'd woken him up, not knowing he had set up next to us. He actually thanked us for getting him started early, for once. Guess he's the sleeping-in type. Bastard.
As usual, we packed up and walked. Halfway through the day, there was a backpacker and snowmobiler shelter with a trail magic cooler and hiker register. I drank a gatorade and a couple of Rainier beer(s) [for my Canadian readers who believe "beer" to be the plural form of "beer"]. I signed the register and looked for folks I knew, as usual. We decided to go another 5 or so miles to the last water in either 11 or 24 miles (the two PCT apps, Guthook and Halfmile, occasionally disagree greatly about water sources). Often, maps are little help for seasonal water or stagnant pools that once were lakes. So, we hiked a little further, fished some water out of the little stream, and are both hoping the elk will tone it down a little tonight.

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9/20 Weariness

by sedona maniak


Miles hiked: 13.25 (2329.37 to 2342.62)
Elevation: +3032/-1976
Number of people who told us to "have fun" today: 3

Humidity + heat + not much water = generally unproductive day. If we could've just called in sick or taken a day off, we would have. Instead, there was a grumpy, hot series of climbs that normally wouldn't have been so bad. There was fresh horse shit all over the narrow trail, day hikers invaded, and all of the rain was steaming back up off the trail into our lungs like thin soup. At 3, when we reached some spring water trickling out of a pipe, we both kinda said, "fuck it." Just down the trail was a lovely campsite with a copy of "The Fellowship of the Ring" stashed in a tree hollow, zipped in a plastic bag to keep out the damp. The site was meant to be. Short on miles, but long on suffering, I'm glad this day is done.

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9/19 Too Perfect

by sedona maniak


Miles hiked: 16.37 (2313 to 2329.37)
Elevation : +3127/-2933
Tiny frogs hopping in the trail: 12

Got up late after listening to the light drizzle fade. Little gusts of wind would shake brief rainstorms onto my tent from the fir needles above me; the tent seemed like a reasonable place to stay for an extra hour. There was sun poking through the clouds when I finally left the hunter camp, and I could finally take a look at Snow Lake. Beautiful with clear, still water.

Leaving late led to multiple long breaks in the sunshine. Every view was crisp and rain-washed, the rocks and plants all in their real, bright colors. I stopped often, taking a few pictures, but mostly just enjoying Washington, finally. So I ended up walking fewer miles than I could've. Ah well.

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9/18 Washington Weather

by sedona maniak


Miles hiked: 10 (2303.00 to 2313.00)
Elevation: +1356/-808
Number of clothing items soaked in rain: 11

This morning, I looked out the window and saw a thick fog hanging just a few hundred feet up. Getting motivated to leave the dry ski lodge room was difficult. From there, I had to overcome the inertia of other hikers who were drinking coffee at the store and making no moves to set out into certain discomfort and dampness. Any Minute grumbled, smiling, at the slackpackers and late risers as we left them in the parking lot at around 11am.

Mist engulfed us immediately in the woods. Low visibility caused objects to appear without warning, including entire lakes. Since we'd had no delusions regarding high mileage today, we stopped at what looks, in this soup, to be a pretty large lake just 10 miles in. When the real rain had begun to supplement the mist, we both were quite happy to quit early and hope the weather report of no rain tomorrow was accurate.


9/16-9/17 White Pass, Trail Magic, a Well-Deserved Zero

by sedona maniak


Miles hiked (9/16): 14.66 (2288.34 to 2303.00)
Elevation: +2538/-3863
Number of different Bob Dylan songs I've been caught singing on the PCT: 24 (listed at the end for bored readers)

At around 2am, I heard a drizzle of rain pelting my tent, but I woke up to a dry and warm morning a few hours later. Just as we were about to leave camp, Sanford came by and expressed his sheer exhaustion at this 150 mile section. It was nice to hear one of the young, able-bodied boys admit that he, too, was needing a break.
Together with Sanford for much of the day, we slogged through a very unimaginative movie set of conifers mixed with reddening blueberry bushes. Sometimes there would be a fern understory, instead, to keep us from believing that we were walking in front of a Flintstones' cartoon background.
Coach and First Class met us as the White Pass trailhead parking lot. I know that cannot sufficiently explain my elation at seeing them. Being with people who had seen me and Any Minute Now at our individually lowest points (well before Any Minute and I had met) and who could also really appreciate the struggles of long-distance hiking was such a relief. Neither of them had thought that either of us would finish. Pretty cool.

Not only did they provide burgers, spaghetti, brownies, cookies and beer to a dozen or so hikers, they came by the White Pass Inn to sit and talk trail with us over beverages afterwards. This is the third time they've magically appeared after leaving the trail. I really appreciate the hell out of those two.

So, a zero here in the land of showers and beds and hooks to dry hand-washed laundry. Tomorrow, on to Snoqualmie!

Bob Dylan songs I've been caught singing on the trail (in order of frequency):
Let Me Die in My Footsteps
To Ramona
Tangled Up in Blue
Talkin Bear Mountain Picnic Massacre Blues
Visions of Johanna
All I Really Wanna Do
Mama, You Been On My Mind
Baby Let Me Follow You Down
Idiot Wind
Most Likely You'll Go Your Way and I'll Go Mine
Queen Jane Approximately
Absolutely Sweet Marie
You're Gonna Make Me Lonesome When You Go
If You Gotta Go, Go Now
It's All Right, Ma (I'm Only Bleeding)
Seven Curses
Just Like Tom Thumb's Blues
When I Paint My Masterpiece
Shelter From the Storm
Wallflower
One More Cup of Coffee
Not Dark Yet
Don't Think Twice, It's Alright
Simple Twist of Fate

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9/15 Goat Rocks, Cispus Pass

by sedona maniak


Miles hiked: 15.44 (2272.9 to 2288.34)
Elevation: +4388/-3621

Number of times I swore at the trail today: ~164

It occurred to me later today that most hikers don't plan to climb Cispus Pass and go through Goat Rocks on the same day. Though 4300+ feet of elevation gain is not generally unmanageable, the rumor that Goat Rocks is difficult probably dissuades people from trying what we just did. On Any Minute's birthday.

First, the climb to Cispus Pass was damned near pleasant. There was a reasonable grade and there were excellent views, even through the haze of smoke from a distant fire. By 1pm, we'd knocked out about 2500' of the climb and began some straight uphill scree walking. Jagged pinnacles, bare but for piles of grey and black rocks began to close us in. Forest thinned and fell away entirely, replaced by huge patches of snow. We dropped our packs near the first snowbank by the trail and collapsed in it, throwing slush at each other.
Further on, the trail narrowed, steepened, and became poorly arranged talus in places. It must be noted that this whole area is on a you-won't-survive-this-fall slope. For many hours. After crossing a very dicey snowfield, we moved on to an open ridgetop with an amazing view of valleys and lakes below and Mt Rainier above. On both sides were certain doom. Each trail step was either straight up or straight down, often on washouts, over broken boulders or on sand spread over granite (most dangerous thing ever). I absolutely loved the challenge of concentrating on every step, of very real peril.
After all the amazing views and awesome ridges stopped, the trail continued to be very hairy. All of my muscles were worn out and shaky. Any Minute also seemed spent as we stumbled repeatedly on the steep rocks down the other side. I thought about the High Sierra passes and decided that this had been as hard as any of them; I also remembered that 15 miles was a perfectly acceptable mileage on those long ago passes. A campsite appeared magically as I was considering this, and Any Minute was quite happy to stop as well. Hell of a birthday walk!
Picas whistled at us while we set up our tents and cooked. A diffuse pink and blue sunset backdropped those harsh rocks. Crazy good day. Even my abdominal muscles hurt.

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9/14 I Guess This Was the Easy Day

by sedona maniak


Miles hiked: 20.0 (2252.9 to 2272.9) Elevation: +1896/-2855
Number of new, exciting blisters: 3

I woke up to the fitting sound of the glacial cascade from Mt Adams; it was damned cold out. Unzipped my rain fly and was sprayed with dislodged frost. Glad I got my zero bag in Trout Lake. I know the cold weather is problematic, but I am enjoying it at the moment.
A whole hiking day can often be predicted by the first steps in the morning. Hiker hobble is normal. The feet take a little time to warm up when they've been repeatedly abused. When hiker hobble becomes a series of desperate, falling lunges rather than steps, however, I predict a day of unhappy feet.
There was beautiful, old growth forest all day, interrupted by large meadows and lake-ponds overgrown with algae. These had a wealth of animal tracks and scat all around them. Lava Creek, on the outer edge of a huge field of pyroclastic debris, flowed into small pools of volcanic material just inside the forest and crossing the trail.
Most of the day, the trail was deep, coarse sand, making my aching feet sorer and more apt to blister. Unable to recover well enough overnight, the generalized, undifferentiated foot pain keeps compounding. Added to new blisters and the usual injuries, I experienced a cacophony of ouch all day. Maybe I can get some damned sleep tonight and recover a bit for Goat Rocks tomorrow.


9/13 Meadow TV

by sedona maniak


Miles hiked: 15.21 (2237.69 to 2252.9)
Elevation: +3093/-1009
Dayhikers with questions: 9

Saturday in a popular hiking area like Mt Adams is always a study in satisfying the curiosity of day hikers and backpackers while still making miles. They all ask the same questions; I have stock answers. It can be irritating, but I feel like a spokesperson for the good thru-hikers, so I try to keep the daywalkers happy.
When I'd screwed up the courage to look at my blistered big toe this morning, it seemed less glossy and magenta, so perhaps less infected-looking. A night of absorbing Neosporin from all sides with three band-aids had hopefully helped. Walking was less painful for the toe today, leaving my pain receptors free to discover other pain, new and old.
For 10 miles, the trail went relentlessly up, in dense fir forest for a couple of miles. Abruptly, at a little ridge near the base of Mt Adams, a huge burned section began. Uphill in dead, charred trees slowed me to 2.5mph at the fastest. When I finally caught Any Minute, who leaves a bit before me most mornings, I discovered that she had had the same creepingly slow kind of morning. We were exhausted at our creek lunch spot, but struggled 5 more miles to a glorious set of green meadows set in huge, healthy trees with a stream separating volcanic hills. Getting 20 miles for the day was put aside. Sometimes, it's just nice to relax somewhere beautiful. We wandered down to a treeline at dusk, sitting still and watching a meadow for wildlife. Too many weekenders, though. The sound of the waterfall rushing from up the mountain nearest my tent and the lingering smell of pipe tobacco are enough to make me smile anyway.

some more bear activity

some more bear activity

burn below mt adams

burn below mt adams

mt adams glacier

mt adams glacier

sweet campsite

sweet campsite


9/12 Trout Lake

by sedona maniak


Miles hiked: 10.33 (2227.35 to 2237.69)
Elevation: +1811/-1847
Minutes spent waiting for a hitch: 5 (fastest ride ever...on a forest road, no less)

Knowing the day would be an easy one, we allowed ourselves to sleep until 7am. Glorious. Winds were still high, making for a cold morning. Overnight, we were joined in our little camp spot by Lapis, Smokey and Tintin. We chatted for awhile, putting off the inevitable. Everyone is pretty damned burned out on doing the same thing every day.
None of that group had planned a Trout Lake resupply; Any Minute and I took off behind the fast young hikers and leapfrogged Lapis until we hit Road 23 and got an incredible hitch from a local Cambodian couple. Like many hitched rides, the driving and accommodations weren't ideal (feel free to ask me personally sometime to expain THAT understatement), but the ride was short.
Trout Lake has a store, restaurant, gas station and post office. All are within a quarter mile. Perfect resupply. We were dropped at the store and quickly were hugged profusely by Tink, Screagle, Timon, 'Merica, Snake Charmer and Ducats. There was much rejoicing. Any Minute and I knew immediately that we would have to escape quickly to defeat the inertia of the group, since they all planned to stay. Grenade appeared just as I was packing up my quilt to ship back to
Vegas, having received my big 0 degree bag from David at the Trout Lake store. We caught a ride back to the trail with Grenade after a quick burger at the little restaurant.

It's very hard to escape such a vortex with just a nero; we congratulated ourselves and camped not far from the road, hoping to catch a view of the predicted aurora borealis. I finally got up the nerve to pop the blister under my big toenail. Try not to ever get a blister there.

Grenade snapped this on our way back to the trail

Grenade snapped this on our way back to the trail

they grow 'em big up here

they grow 'em big up here


9/10 Better Day

by sedona maniak


Miles hiked: 18.86 (+.44 to spring) (2184.95 to 2203.81)
Elevation: +4741/-2686
Yellowjackets on trail: 19

Walking from my tent door is generally the most painful part of the day. My ankle hurt immediately, but after I wandered around for awhile, packing and puttering, it began to warm up. From Trout Creek to the Wind River, it was just low level pain and not too wobbly. I finally relaxed a bit and let myself enjoy the wide Wind River, where I caught up with Any Minute.
Then came 9 miles of climb, punctuated by 2:1 slopes and loose, sandy switchbacks. In the middle of it, at a forest road, we met a day hiker from Stevenson, WA who filled our water bottles and gave us snacks. Just a little unexpected trail magic makes the whole day better. I hurtled past stands of Devil's club and surprise groves of black oak, reaching the 15 mile mark (with the whole day's climb behind me) at 2:30. Water sources being scarce, we decided to stop at a campsite near the last spring for miles.

ok, so washington can be purdy

ok, so washington can be purdy

Transient
Transient
Transient
2200 tried to kill me

2200 tried to kill me

the view from 2200 as I lay dying

the view from 2200 as I lay dying

throwback to the desert's 3rd gate water sign

throwback to the desert's 3rd gate water sign


9/9 Ankle Turning Goodness

by sedona maniak


Miles hiked: 22.06 (2162.89 to 2184.95)
Elevation: +5637/-6119
Giant green slugs in trail: 22

Washington has not yet begun to appeal to me. I woke up to a steep, steady climb that brought out long-forgotten shin splints.  After a few miles, I twisted the Hell out of my ankle, falling down atop it after I turned it.  It has developed swelling from the arch up in a little one inch semicircle.  Oh, and it hurts just a bit.  Along with the neuroma, capsilitis, squished bunion and wierd top of foot tendon pain that my right foot has been exhibiting for the last 2184 miles. A couple miles after the ankle, a yellowjacket bit me twice in the back of my right calf.  Enough bitching, right?

There are lovely damned ferns and moss-encrusted trees and lots of garter snakes.  Any Minute has caught three already, all brightly striped and agile.  I am camped next to a loud, clear stream, Trout Creek, and am happy to have the music of water to put me to sleep. Tomorrow must be better.

ain't Oregon

ain't Oregon

but bridges!

but bridges!