Sunday, October 16, 2016

The Mother of All Plans (Part 1 PCT Section K)

"The Plan" is always the hardest part of any multi day hike; at least for me. So many many many details to work out; it always feels like there is no way it is all going to come together. And with the added complication of 8 other people coming in or out during these 8 days, I would call this year the "Mother of All Plans"! (Hey, I just came up with my title!) I'm afraid trying to even explain it is going to take up half this post; so I'm not going to. You will just have to follow along as best you can.
I have one of the most courageous people I've ever known as a good friend. Cynthia's life has been pretty much been an all uphill climb. I could write a book listing all her struggles, but her diagnosis of a rare form of Muscular Dystrophy in her fifties has really been a tough one. But like she has done with every challenge that comes her way, she has faced it head on...which is why I wasn't surprised she asked if I would take her on her first backpack (as an adult...I'm not counting the one she did as a teen ;)) this summer. After purchasing her 8 pound battery operated ventilator machine required for her to breathe at night, and still insisting that she wanted to carry everything else she needed, she texted me "Do you think I'm foolish?"  I thought to myself, "What you are is stubborn!", but of course that is also what makes her so strong and determined. I am in awe of her. I was SO upset when our earlier plan to do Grand Park fell apart. I didn't think we would get another opportunity until next year.
My hero
But as "the mother plan" was developing, I realized that my first day was going to only be 3.5 miles in--making it the perfect opportunity for Cynthia and I to do our backpack together! She was more than willing to be my drop off person...except she no longer drives. So, I had to recruit someone who would want to hike in for one night with us, and then out with Cynthia and drive her and my car back home. Enter peep #2, Anne; an incredibly good sport and friend of Cynthia's whom I have never met and who has never backpacked a day in her life. Peep #3 would be Heather, who has backpacked with me a couple times, but was itching for a longer adventure and wanted to do four days with me. So, a group of four would hike in on day one, and two would hike out on day two, and one would hike out on day four...but who would she hike out with? I told you this was complicated! We will get to that later.
Say hello to my little friend!
The easy first day was due to the fact I decided to resort to cheating (again...I do that often!) and opted for a short cut trail onto the PCT. Smithbrook is a little steep and rooty, but it's only about a mile up and it saves you seven. Normally I would not have wanted to miss out on Valhalla (the first lake you come to if you hike in from Steven's Pass) but I got that one under my belt last year, so I didn't mind skipping it. 
Everything went to perfection (well, after we finally got Anne's borrowed backpack on...for the first time ever...and had to adjust every single strap on it!) and the newbies powered up the tough mile to the intersection with the PCT without care. We made a big deal here to notice the junction, because even with the obvious signage, it's easy to miss if you're looking down and chatting away. (which I later learned is exactly what happened the next day; but thankfully they realized right as they passed it and successfully made the turn off.) 

Two person tent?
A couple more easy miles, and we found ourselves at Lake Janus without another hiker in sight! (we did pass one guy going out; who gave us dire warning of how cold a night he had. Ugh.) I plopped my stuff down at the gorgeous big site next to the lake without a single thought about the advantages of tree cover. Unbeknownst to me, Heather, (who was a little obsessed with the idea of staying warm) was giving a lot of thought to it; but didn't want to burst my "look how pretty!" bubble. 
Speaking of pretty, Janus has nothin' on Heather!
After we got settled, another group of PCT thru hikers came in and took the smarter (though uglier) spot in the forest above us. This would become the norm; in fact, we had PCT hikers camp with us every night except the last. "PCT" hikers, for those who don't know, are doing a multi MONTH hike on the "Pacific Crest Trail", which starts on the Mexican border and ends when you enter Canada. You know them by their smell, and the fact they will eat anything you offer them. This turned out to be a real blessing, because none of these girls knew how to pack food! Holy crap, when Anne opened her "snack", it looked like lunch for a boy scout troupe!
Go Hawks!
At this time I was following the "store your food 100 feet away by hanging in a tree or using a bear bin" rule, so I was a little concerned how we would fit all this extra food in my already full of 8 days worth of food bear container. I was much relieved when the thru hikers took the FOUR HUGE sandwiches off our hands. Turns out it was Anne's husband who had thoughtfully made them for us, ("kiss him for us", the hikers told her after they devoured them, "we forgot how good lettuce tastes!") but I soon discovered that it really didn't matter, because ALL the through hikers keep their food in the tent with them. The more I talked with them, the more it seemed that lugging along my bulky 3 pound "Bear Vault BV 500 Food Container" was completely pointless. Though, I often use mine as a chair, and I like knowing my garbage is not going to leak in my pack, and that mice are not going to chew through my tent to get at my, I stand by my decision to continue to use mine. Heather, on the other hand, was cursing hers (which I did NOT make her buy, so don't listen to her!) and I think was seriously contemplating throwing it over a cliff. So, if you are in the market for a bear bin, I'm thinking you may be able to score a pretty good bargain if you call Heather! 
Another thru hiker, Woodstock, who camped right between us!
He had some great stories, including near hypothermia!
My angel and her halo!
Poor Heather. All her fears about being cold came true. I failed to stake my new "2 person" (ha!) tent properly; making an already tight fit even worse. Consequently, the rainy night made it's way in, and Heather's down sleeping bag wet. (mine is synthetic and water resistant, thank God) She was having serious second thoughts as the drop off crew and her last chance at a warm night were leaving that next morning. To be continued...


  1. Sounds like a great time, as always! Looking forward to the next chapter! 😀

  2. Sounds like a great time, as always! Looking forward to the next chapter! 😀

  3. Heart smiling here. Loved this entry & looking forward to the next!