Saturday, December 26, 2020

Lake Twenty Two Redo


I hiked Lake 22 years ago. I meant to do a write up – like I do for every hike – but for whatever reason, Lake 22 got swept under the rug. Because it is such a classic hike that is relatively close to me, I must have figured I’d have another go at it. It took me almost 6 years, but I finally did. 


Thinking about it now, I’m pretty sure I was waiting to see it again in a different season. Maybe even show some comparison pics of winter and summer…I bet I was hoping to pose Lexi in a flower patch or something. Sadly that never happened, nor will it ever happen. 

My beautiful girl back in the day

Even so, Lake 22 didn’t disappoint. It’s popular for a reason – not a bad pay off for a fairly easy 2.7 miles to the lake. So popular, in fact, that now there are “no parking” signs all along the highway where the overflow cars will often spill. We were surprised to find the lot still had several spaces available when we arrived around 10 am, and delighted to have the trail almost to ourselves for the majority of the upward trail. 

Hard core Santa ;)

We suspected it wouldn’t last, and of course, we were right. So many people coming up as we were going down that it felt we spent more time stepping to the side than actually hiking. The majority of the adventurers seemed, in our humble opinions, not very well prepared for a slushy/slippery/icy trail. Though even those in tennis shoes (and in one case shorts) seemed to make do. 


We were glad to have Yaktrax (a great option when you want traction but don’t want to mess with micro spikes) though I made the mistake of taking mine off once we were out of the heavy snow. If it wasn’t for my poles, I would have surely gone down on that slick as snot final bridge.

Getting snowier...

and snowier!

Even if I can’t take my Lexi with me (except in spirit) I might still try for those summertime shots someday. It may have to wait until I retire though, because I don’t think I have the patience to visit again on a holiday (this was Christmas Eve) or on the just as busy weekends.  In the meantime, there are far too many other hikes I intend to write about first. Happy Trails and Happy New Year!

Watch your step!


Thursday, November 26, 2020

Working on 500 Miles of the PNT



Everybody need goals. Though most of these goals, if we are honest, are not all that important. In the grand scheme of things, does cleaning out my closet really matter? No. But if we can’t find some meaning in every day existence, we can get swallowed up. Goals keep us moving forward.  I do have my “organize the cupboard” checklist, but bigger goals are a little more exciting. I’ve already accomplished one major goal – 500 miles on the Appalachian Trail. (And then write a book…which you can find and buy on Amazon – link on homepage. Making a couple bucks is always a goal, right? ;)) But now what? 


Except, this “goal” ideal creates a bit of a problem. I don’t want living (or hiking) to be about “accomplishing.” Ego fulfillment is not living in the fullest, in my humble opinion. What a dilemma. 

How do I reconcile these conflicting ideas? I surrender them to the universe. (Or what I call “God”…or because I believe that this mystery is entirely loving, I will boldly even name it “Father” at times.) It’s true that my goals are not that important, but they help me live…therefore, they have importance. I embrace them with gratitude; but I don’t hold them too tightly. They don’t give me value. Maybe I give THEM value–just by experiencing them? I don’t know. But I know one thing – I enjoy goals. So I’m making more. 


Becoming a “thru hiker” would be the pinnacle of my hiking dreams, though it’s a commitment that doesn’t fit into my life. Even finishing the entirety of a long distance trail (bit by bit) feels more than my realistic self can envision. (Completing the PCT would be so amazing…but reading thru hiker accounts of what this actually entails has brought a harsh reality check to what this requires in real life.)

So instead of finishing any one trail, I’ve decided experiencing several is better. Why not finish 500 miles of more than just the Appalachian Trail? 

I’m just 30-ish miles shy of finishing all of Washington’s PCT, which is just over 500 miles.  So once that is done, that makes 500 miles completed on two major thru hikes. The Continental Divide is the other major thru hike in America (the other “crown” in the illusive triple) and it shares it’s beginning (or ending) with the lesser known Pacific Northwest Trail. (Which goes East/West from Glacier Montana to Washington’s coast.)

I’ve discovered I’ve already done almost 100 miles of the Pacific Northwest Trail (PNT) without realizing it. Do 300 more (much of it within a few hours of my house) then do my last 100 to the terminus in Glacier National Park–then hop on the Continental Divide (also in Glacier) and start in on those 500 miles. If I can get in 500 miles on all four of those major hikes, then I can make a nice clean “500 Miles on 5 of America’s Thru Hikes” by visiting my brother in Arizona and working on their “Arizona Trail.” Sounds good, doesn’t it? If nothing else, it will keep me moving…and keep Guthook’s in business. (A must have trail app I was too cheap to pay for on the AT…until I finally caved, and now I can’t give them enough of my money ;))


But I have to add here that after I wrote all of the above, I willy nilly threw a “hail Mary” into the universe and applied for a sponsorship to thru hike the Arizona Trail. If by some miracle I get it, then my only goal will be to finish the Arizona Trail and not disappoint my sponsors. I’ll have until October to figure things out, since that is when I would need to start as a south-bounder. My “let the Spirit lead” attitude is helping me not to feel either anxious or excited – the ball will get caught or it won’t. It will be fine either way. But a touchdown sure would be fun.

So, back to the PNT.  The pictures on this post are from a Thanksgiving trip I took to the Olympic Hot Springs. Some quick things to mention about this hike are:

  1. It’s on the PNT, of course. 
  2. The road is washed out, so what used to be a quick couple miles is now a ten mile hike mostly on pavement. It is 3 miles from the parking area at Madison Fall TH to the abandoned Ranger Station (very cool!) where you connect to the PNT, then it’s another 5 or so miles of road walking to the abandoned Olympic Hot Springs parking, then the 2 relatively easy actual trail miles to the hot springs. 
  3. Embracing this hike for what it is makes it fun. I loved listening to my audio book as I walked on the lonely, desolate feeling road.
  4. You are not supposed to camp by the hot springs. I did anyway. BUT I didn’t make a fire, poop anywhere in the area, and I even picked up trash around my site. I would have never camped there in the summer, but there was nobody there so I was naughty. Sorry.
  5. The hot springs are kinda gross IMO. Not anything like the idealized fantasy I had in my head. The sliminess and smell are hard to get past – and though the above pic looks like your own private hot tub, it was a dirty lukewarm bathtub at best.
  6. You’ll need the Olympic National Park pass so why not drive up to Hurricane Ridge on your way home? You can even hike there from that abandoned Ranger Station I mentioned (in the summer) if you wanted to extend your trip. I drove, of course, and got an extra mile on the PNT by just ambling through the parking lot with a little snow trail walking. (Which explains the snow pic on here.)

Below you’ll find all my completed PNT miles (with links to the story) along with my future hopeful miles. Every time I finish one, I’ll move it to the “completed” list. Happy Trails and happy goal making everyone!

 

MILES COMPLETED

Ozette Triangle: 3 miles https://kellbell-whywouldanyonereadthis.blogspot.com/2013/01/ozette-triangle-at-last.html

Oyster Dome/Blanchard Hill/South Chuckanut: 8 miles https://kellbell-whywouldanyonereadthis.blogspot.com/2016/12/a-lily-lizard-and-lexi.html

East Baker Lake: 14.5 miles https://kellbell-whywouldanyonereadthis.blogspot.com/2016/04/first-backpack-of-2016-baker-lake-north.html

Hannagan Pass: 8.7 miles (Including part of road walk during snowshoe) https://kellbell-whywouldanyonereadthis.blogspot.com/2012/10/day-two-hannegan-pass.html

East Bank Ross Lake: 17 miles https://kellbell-whywouldanyonereadthis.blogspot.com/2013/06/east-bank-trail-ross-lake-part-one.html

Big Beaver Camp: 6 miles https://kellbell-whywouldanyonereadthis.blogspot.com/2017/06/crashing-heathers-party.html

Padilla Bay: 2.2 miles https://kellbell-whywouldanyonereadthis.blogspot.com/2012/04/padilla-bay-shore-trail.html

Park Butte 3 miles https://kellbell-whywouldanyonereadthis.blogspot.com/2014/09/off-rails-at-railroad-grade.html

Ebey’s Landing: 2 miles https://kellbell-whywouldanyonereadthis.blogspot.com/2016/06/step-brother-ebey-steals-show.html

Tommy Thompson Trail to Mount Erie Store: 8.7 miles (I never wrote about this one, but I did a little post about Heart Lake which is part of it) https://kellbell-whywouldanyonereadthis.blogspot.com/2015/02/anacortes-hiking.html

Deception Pass Bridge and Goose Rock: 1 mile https://kellbell-whywouldanyonereadthis.blogspot.com/2011/11/can-i-call-this-hike.html

Baker River Trail: 2.3 miles https://kellbell-whywouldanyonereadthis.blogspot.com/2011/09/baker-river-trail.html

Olympic Hot Springs 9.7 miles (Including road walk up Whiskey Bend Rd & Hurricane Ridge parking lot) Seen here! 😉

Larry Scott Trail from Ferry Dock to Four Corners intersection: 9 miles http://slowesthiker.com/blog/santa-hike-economy-boost/

95.1 TOTAL COMPLETED MILES

FUTURE MILES

Pass Lake: 3 miles

British Army Trail to Trillium Gate: 7.8 miles

Bogachiel: 6 miles (back up/not counted)

Third Beach to Oil City: 17 miles

Rialto to Ozette: 20 miles

Fort Ebey State Park to Whidbey State Park: 8 miles

Alger Creek Rd to St Rt 9: 13 miles

Wickersham Road to Forest Road 150 Scott Paper 110 Rd FR 150 (Lyman Hill): 12 miles (back up/not counted)

John Tursi Trail: 2.2 miles (back up/not counted)

Baker Hot Springs Forest Rd Turn off (811.7) to Lake Ann TH (801.9): 9.8 miles

Devil’s Creek Campground (724.6) to Devil’s Dome and turn at Devil’s Pass (714.5): 10 miles

Elwha to Hurricane Hill TR to Obstruction Point TR: 9 miles

Happy Panther Trail: 6 miles

(Bell Pass Elbow Lake Area FOREST ROAD 12 CLOSED? Maybe in future)

103.6 MILES UNCOMPLETED NEAR ME

BIG TRIPS

(Kettle Crest 44 miles…back up/not counted)

Boundary Trail Pasayten Wilderness 80 miles

Whistler Canyon 24 miles

High Divide/Seven Lakes Basin 19 miles

Tubal Cain (1048.5) Dose Meadows Camp (1076.5) 28 miles– turn to blue line (Grand Pass Alt) up to intersection with Obstruction Point (12.6) then to Deer Park (7.5) 48 miles

171 MILES UNCOMPLETED BIG TRIPS

 ALL TOGETHER 368.2 + FINAL TRIP FROM EUREKA TO EASTERN TERMINUS  (131.8)=500!

Friday, September 25, 2020

Let the Spirit Guide (Finishing Section I of the PCT)

There is a total of 56 “hard earned hiking lessons learned” noted throughout all my posts on my former blog. (Now this blog again since my website attempt failed.) Why did I stop? I haven’t brought any lessons to this new website – practical or philosophical – or at least I stopped numbering them. Maybe because now there is just one ongoing lesson I’m trying to learn and live…let the Spirit guide. Of course, that idea is far too complex (or maybe too simple?) to explain, so I’ll just tell my story.

In life, we plan. Of course we do. There is nothing I enjoy more than planning a hike – it’s half the fun. I write it all down, rethink it when something changes, rework the details, rewrite the agenda…prepare. It’s all good. But life (and the trail) often asks you to let it go. Don’t get stuck in your plan. Let things flow. 

So I did. Bad forecast, roads closed, two car key swap idea out the window…oh well. Throw my painstakingly thought out agenda to the wind and go anyway. Who needs a plan. 

Well, there was ONE important part of the plan to keep – stay in the Crystal Lodge’s walk in only bunk room so we could get an early start on finishing those 38 miles I skipped last time. (The connector trail that would take us to the PCT starts steps from their parking lot.) From there our anticipated daily miles and camps would be a mystery. Let the Spirit decide. (With the help of the Guthooks App, of course!) Though first things first – we needed to drop a car at White Pass where we would be finishing. 
Except when we FINALLY arrived in Packwood to eat dinner (road closures, remember?) we were DONE driving. Then the Spirit whispered in my ear, “Why not just stay here in Packwood and do the rest of the driving tomorrow?” Why not indeed! 
We do not recommend the food at the Packwood Brewing Co...
The Spirit clearly led us here just for the beer ;)

And because we listened and went with the flow, we got to listen to the rain pounding down outside our window at the Crest Trail Lodge…instead of being camped in a dark and abandoned parking lot. Turns out the Crystal Resort totally shuts down in September (or maybe it was because of the road closures due to wild fires?) which was a huge oversight in my original “plan.” Good thing that thing was in the dumpster.
The rest of the trip was more of the same. It evolved and changed as we went along, and it couldn’t have been more perfect. For details you can see the (non) itinerary below. Happy (Spirit led) trails!

DAY 1: 11.5 Miles to Dewey Lake

Had to go up the connector trail again from the Crystal Mountain Resort parking lot. (Because I wanted to get all the miles done I missed last time…see “Mount Adams Wonderland” post for a better explanation.)  I was told this is called “Bear Gap” but you will find no signs calling it that. (Head toward Henskin Lake until you see signs pointing you toward the PCT – it’s a tough 3 miles.) Finally up on the PCT, we went SOBO another 8.4 miles to Dewey Lake. Unfortunately, my friends had misunderstood that the resort was not directly on the trail at Chinook Pass (thinking we were simply doing the “White Pass to Chinook Pass” hike as described on WTA) so those added 5.4 miles to Hwy 410 were a “bonus” for them.

DAY 2: 12.4 Miles to Bumping River

We were wanting to get a couple more miles in this day so we wouldn’t have to do 14 the last day, but the Spirit said to stop. (Okay, maybe it was my feet, ha ha!) Considering the stream here was looking daunting, waiting until morning to go across it seemed like another good reason to call it a day. And besides, it was a lovely camp.

DAY 3: 14 Miles to White Pass

We were all concerned 14 miles were going to make for a really long, tough day – but they were pretty easy and we crushed them in seven and a half hours! That is light speed for me! And thank God, because we had the same LONG detour drive home, since Hwy 410 was still closed. But it was SO worth it (I can’t thank Heidi and Julie enough for supporting me and helping me get these miles in!) and now I only have those last 30 left from Harts Pass to the border (hopefully THAT won’t still be closed next summer) to finally finish all of Washington’s PCT miles! HOORAY!

P.S. Answers to our “google it when we get home” questions along the way: 1) Bears go into hibernation pregnant and give birth while sleeping. 2) The difference between a lake and pond is mostly depth. To be a pond it must be shallow enough for sunlight to hit the bottom. 3) Roads used during this excursion were 1-5/ I-405/WA 167/WA 512/WA 161/WA 7/ US 12/WA 410/ NF 52 (the WORST!)



Sunday, September 20, 2020

Who Put the Gothic in Gothic Basin

Whenever my five year old grandson asks me a question that I answer with “I don’t know,” he always replies, “Well, just google it” – Ha ha!  Though with a world of information at our fingertips, it really is that easy to get our answers these days. But the question this day was not from my grandson, and being we were up in the mountains without service, I’d have to wait until I got home for the all knowing internet to give me what I wanted.

 

The question of “Why did they name this Gothic Basin,” came from one of the gals as we struggled up the steep trail in anticipation of seeing this epic area with an unusual name. There were eight of us women, all of different speeds and experience, and we had a blast together – even though many of us had just met. It’s true that having this trail kick our collective asses could be reason for a quick bond; though bonds are easily formed when you are with amazing people who share such a great love. So far, meeting lovely new people through the PNW Outdoor Women’s Group on FB is batting a thousand. 

 

Oh Crystal! How can hiking not be fun with you around!? <3

Heidi was the instigator for this trip (having done it several times and wanting to share the pain/glory with others) and though she was the expert we looked to for advice on the inevitable “how much longer/worse is this freaking trail?” questions, she didn’t know the reason for the name. Once we got to the top, we couldn’t help assuming the name came from it’s looming and eerie feeling spires that seemed like gargoyles should be perched upon. Gothic indeed.

 

But no, almighty Google simply states: “The mountain was named for early prospector William Gothic”…how boring. But I can guarantee you that is the only thing boring about this trail. Be ready for 12.5 miles (The WTA website lies…if you are expecting their stated 9.2, you will be in for an unpleasant surprise) with almost 3,000 feet of gain – much of it scrambling. I’m glad Heidi talked me into doing this as a day hike instead of a backpack; though the camping spots up there are quite beautiful, and there is a privy. (FYI to anyone wanting to take this on with 40 pounds on your back…all I can say is you’d better have your hiker legs, or lots of time/patience/and sheer will.) 

Heidi is showing us how to rock climb
Not a trail for the faint of heart

After crawling off the mountain, most of us met up at Playa Bonita, which is now our go-to spot after any hike on the Mountain Loop Highway.  A monster size Margarita with a grateful cheers to us for making it out alive – along with talk of future places to explore…I couldn’t think of a better way to end a day. Happy trails!

Google doesn’t know these are called “Tittyshrooms”…you have to hike with Crystal to learn these things 😉

AND YOU CAN READ MY BOOK FOR FREE NOW IF YOU HAVE KINDLE UNLIMITED! JUST SEARCH “50 DAYS 500 MILES AND 5 STATES WHEN I TURNED 50” ON AMAZON 🙂

Saturday, September 12, 2020

Hiking with Heidi


As thick wildfire smoke permeates the air outside here in Washington, I have decided sitting in my favorite comfy chair and catching up on the hikes I never wrote about is the best way to spend this gloomy, hazy Saturday. When I realized all these hikes included Heidi, I knew I had my title.

I started this website with a post about backpacking with a group of gals I had never met, and what a wonderful adventure it was. (Thank you Facebook special groups! Facebook may drive us all crazy at times, but it does have a few redeeming qualities.) Soon after that experience, I decided to try my luck again with yet another stranger’s invite into the woods. Heidi posted she had a permit for Mount St. Helens and wanted to know if anyone was brave enough to join her. Why not? 

Trying to convince the ranger not to throw us off the mountain 😉

Normally I would never agree to spend a couple days with a complete stranger, but hiking tends to make me throw all caution to the wind. I’m so thankful. Turns out Heidi lives just minutes from me, and from the moment we met she has felt like an old friend. 

The wrong (though better) way to enter the Ape Caves. Of course I made Heidi go first 😉

I knew I liked her when she said she wanted to throw in a bonus hike on the way there. So hike #1 is the Ape Caves in Cougar, WA.

The caves are so much more beautiful than I expected

Things to know about the Ape Caves:

  1. Thankfully, there are no apes. (Named in honor of a local boy scout troupe called “The Apes.”)
  2. It’s touristy. Huge parking lot, lots of people. You can walk barely a few feet, go down into the caves via a big staircase, get a pic, and leave. I’m guessing about half the people do just that. 
  3. You can also walk 1.3 miles to the cave’s exit and go backwards. We did this by accident, but were very glad we did because it felt way more adventurous. Though be warned, the hole you go into is easy to miss, and we probably wouldn’t have found it if not for the people who popped out just as we were about to give up the hunt. (The stairs are not very visible from up above where the trail is.)
  4. You have to do some serious climbing. There is an eight foot lava fall wall that is no joke, and climbing down it in the dark is tricky. But totally fun if you like that kind of thing. The idea of bringing small kids though is not a good one, IMO, unless you are okay doing it the touristy way. 
No shame in being a tourist

Hike #2 was of course Mt Saint Helens, after a stay at the Lone Fir Resort. Getting an early start is very important if you are slow like me, so the Lone Fir is a great way to make that happen. Some things to know about summiting Helens:

  1. The Monitor Ridge hike requires a permit, which is not easy to get because they fill up fast. The cost is about $20, and you will find them here: https://www.recreation.gov/permits/4675309
  2. The permits are very specific. Heidi filled hers out with “hiker #2” because she didn’t know who she’d get to go with her. On the way up, another hiker let us know this was a no-no, so we seriously tried to outrun the ranger when we saw him coming. (He goes up every day…he will catch you. But he was nice and just let us know “next time” to put the actual names and have ID on you too. No worries, I told him, because there was no way I would be doing Helens a second time! 
  3. It’s not easy…but it’s not horrible. There is a lot of scrambling over rocks, and gloves are handy– but seeing questions now on aforementioned Facebook groups, it seems many people over-think this. I might say this a lot, but it’s true: if I can do it, just about anyone can. Give yourself plenty of time is all. 

My third hike with Heidi was our “spook-tackular” trip to check out the Iron Goat Trial off of Hwy 2. I actually wrote an article for “Explore Washington State” about it, and you can find that story here: https://explorewashingtonstate.com/conquering-the-iron-goat-trail/?fbclid=IwAR25PTI_TliW4gEZSu85AN6pnpvqZ0Oe41DmiNXiEpWdSqIwHWuQvk0SYcg

And last but not least, Heidi took me on one of her favorites on the Mt Loop Hwy:  Things to know about #4 Mount Dickerman: 

  1. Get ready for switchbacks…there are somewhere around 52…and then you are still not at the top.
  2. Lots of sun exposure once you are out of the woods. I should have brought my new hiking umbrella!
  3. There is a great parking lot with lots of room…for God’s sake, skip Lake 22 and just go here instead. Yes, it is hard, which is why it is less crowded. But you will be glad you pushed yourself–and VERY glad you didn’t have to park your car out on the highway. (Cars lined up from Lake 22 parking lot overflow for a good quarter mile on the day we drove by. Ugh.)
  4. If you want to giggle whenever you say “Dickerman,” you are my kind of person.
Dickerman will kick your butt…but it’s worth it

So, there you go! Thank you smoke, I am all caught up! And because winter will soon be upon us, I should be able to get my upcoming hikes on here lickity split. I have two more planned (fingers crossed the air quality improves) and guess who I’m going with? My hiker soul mate, Miss Heidi. I hope everyone reading this finds theirs. Happy Trails!!

Friday, August 14, 2020

The Mount Adams Wonderland (Finishing Section H of the PCT)

Everyone talks about the “Wonderland Trail” as being the best trail in Washington – people come from around the world to do it. (93 miles around Mt Rainier, in case you’ve never heard of it.) I know I shouldn’t compare, since I didn’t even finish the Wonderland, but I really think mile for mile you get a bigger bang for your buck on the second half of Section H on the PCT. 

The all seeing eye of the PCT is ever upon you 😉

I didn’t start hiking sections of Washington’s PCT with any thoughts that I needed to someday finish it. Looking for trails where I could be out for several days at a time where I didn’t need permits, I found the PCT was often my best bet. Then, after a few years, I discovered I had actually finished half of the 512 miles of Washington – how could I not want to make it a goal to say I did all of it? 

So, I needed to start where I left off last time…which is a HELLA long drive. If you have to be in a car six hours to get on a trail, you want to get as much done as you possibly can. The plan for my 15 days is kinda convoluted and arduous and I don’t want to bore you, so I’m going to focus on the seven days that I consider the gem, the cream, the crux and prime portion of the entire PCT in Washington. (Okay, I still have about 80 miles I haven’t done, but I am confident they are not going to beat out this section.)

Mt Adams, in your face, for DAYZZZZ

I have to concede I may be a little bias about this portion because I got to share it with my gals…the ladies I met online and hiked Section K with last year. (Plus one…Dani, you were a GREAT addition!) We are now officially bonded for life. (With plans for next year already! I’ll keep you posted.) If you have lost hope in the ability of women to be together for any significant amount of time without having drama and cattiness (watching Real Housewives will do that to you) I assure you they can. Women are strong and amazing and can do anything…I saw SO MANY out there. (Maybe even more than men on average? Things are changing, for sure!) My favorite was a woman in her late 60’s going southbound solo to complete half of Washington because she had already hiked all of Oregon. HELL YES!!! I’m just sad I won’t come across her when I decide I need to finish Oregon too. 

GIRLS ROCK!!!

So, without further ado, here is the itinerary for the seven days you really have to experience of the PCT. (Oh heck, I’ll go ahead and add my other days – take from it what you will – but the best part is highlighted.) I promise you, if the slowest hiker can do it, you can do it too. Happy Trails!!!

DAY 1: Starting at Crest Camp (Around 50 miles of trail from Bridge of the Gods. I picked it because even though the road to get here is long, it is easily drive-able with any car) and hiking 10.3 miles to Bear Lake. 

DAY 2: 10.5 miles to Mosquito Creek. (The nice camp right on the creek was unfortunately full when I got there. There is a field less than a mile further that works fine.)

  ————–START OF SEVEN DAY “MOUNT ADAMS WONDERLAND”————-

DAY 3: (OR DAY 1) 11.2 miles to Swampy Creek. Don’t let the name fool you; it’s a great camp. This is where I met the girls, who only had to hike a mile from the Forest Road 23 trailhead. So, if you want to do the awesome seven day trip, you would do the same. I think you’ll find an easy mile a relief after probably driving all day to get there. Forest Road 23 comes in at Trout Lake and is drive-able in any car and has a great lot to park and leave it.

Swampy Creek Camp

DAY 4: (OR DAY 2) 10.1 miles to a great spot on a “milky stream.” (Mutton Creek officially)  Don’t get sucked into stopping at the sandy clearing you first come to in the direct sun. Go a little further – it’s a dream spot. Also, I HIGHLY recommend bringing a hiking umbrella. A LOT of direct sun because of burned out sections, and I really think my umbrella made a huge difference in my not laying down in a heap and crying.

 

DAY 5: (OR DAY 3) 14 miles to Midway Creek. Usually 14 miles would make me feel destroyed, but this is such pleasant trail you hardly feel it. A couple of “challenging” water crossings make it exciting (not very difficult if you hit it early, which is another reason to stay at Mutton Creek) and all the views of Mt. Adams keep you enthralled. This camp was one of the least beautiful, but the intimacy of our off trail spot made it fun. You’ll find the path to a small clearing just before crossing the small creek – otherwise, there is a bigger more populated area just past it.

 

Midway Creek “stealth” camp

DAY 6: (OR DAY 4) 15 miles to Walupt Stream. Ugh, I know, 15 miles is not something I usually shoot for, but again, these are fairly easy miles. (I swear! If I can do it, anyone can) and then you are set up for an AWESOME next day. Thanks to the Guthooks App (a MUST have…SO helpful) we knew there was more than just the one camp mentioned in our Half Mile Maps. (Don’t try and look up Half Mile now, because it’s gone. So sad. But we printed ours up while they were still available.) Walupt Stream is actually a very pretty camp (you have to climb the hill above the one camp you come to that is directly on the trail) though it was FREEZING that night! In August!!! (Literally ice on the tent in the morning.) Thankfully we all knew that hiking in Washington requires you ALWAYS bring some warm stuff. You just never know. 

Coat time!

DAY 7: (OR DAY 5) 11-ish miles to the first spot you come to after going over “The Knife’s Edge.” The younger gals added a mile or more by going up “Old Snowy” and back while us old timers caught up. (Ranger J may be the most “mature” of us, but she is still way faster than me. I’m thankful she stayed with me to make sure we got over the snowfields safely.) This day is in my top five hiking experiences EVER. The views don’t stop ALL DAY. Cispus Pass, McCall Basin, Snow Grass Flats and then the finale, the famous Knife’s Edge. (Not scary at all, IMO. In fact, I kept waiting to get to the scary part until I was informed we already passed it.) The only thing I didn’t like were the snow crossings. After crossing the first one, and I was feeling pretty bad ass, we got to the next one and it looked really sketchy.  I was pretty nervous…until I saw a family with three small children and a dog go across like it was just another snow day. Bass ass hiker? Ha ha…leave it to kids to take you down a couple notches. Oh, and though all the spots to camp in this area are STUNNING, I thought ours was the best.

  

 

 

 

CUTEST hiker family! Rockstars!

 

DAY 8: (OR DAY 6) Around 7 miles to a large camp a little off trail called “Hidden Springs.” Splitting the miles for the last two days worked really well, as they are what I would consider the toughest days. Less views, and more elevation gain and loss make for not as much fun, so having fewer miles is really nice. 

Poncho loves her animals! So fun to talk to some real cowboys out on the trail

DAY 9: (OR DAY 7) Last 8 miles to get to your waiting car or ride at White Pass. You’ll make it before lunch if you start early, and then you’ll want to drive into Packwood where there are many culinary options. After gorging out, you’ll still have lots of time to drive back home – or in my case, get a ride to Chinook Pass. I decided to skip ahead for reasons too complicated to explain (though don’t worry – I’ll be back to get those miles in!) but a stay at Crystal Lodge where I sent my resupply was much needed. If you decide to go too, ask for the hiker’s bunk room. It’s overpriced for what you get, but the other rooms are WAY overpriced and probably sold out. And at least you get a shower…even if it’s downstairs and shared…it’s better than nothing. I will add that I have never felt more desperate to get clean – and that is saying something. As great as this section of trail is, it is DUSTY AS HELL. (If you go in August, which you should. Wildflowers GALORE…and very few bugs. I’ll take dust any day for that.)  So anyway, be prepared to feel like a nasty, stinky, feral cat who has nobody to love it.  

See the thru hiker? He passed and got that far ahead before I could get my camera out. Sheesh.

———-END OF AMAZING SEVEN DAYS AND BACK TO JUST GETTING ER DONE—-

DAY 10: About 10 miles to Martinson Gap. I had to take a connector trail from the Crystal Lodge parking lot, so I am unsure of the exact miles. The “Bear Gap” trail was about two and half miles, and I hated every step. (Actually, maybe it’s called Silver Creek Trail? It’s a little confusing. Oh, and I found a decent campsite along the trail close to Henskin Lake, which may be helpful info for someone.) This was my hardest day – way too hot and exposed; plus I felt lonely without my friends. I think the temps were in the 90’s and by the time I reached camp I really felt like I might have heat exhaustion. Thank God for the umbrella, or it might have been heat stroke! Oh, and a European couple hiking the entire PCT camped there with me, and I remembered seeing them at the Walupt Stream camp. Of course they would catch me, even though I skipped about 30 miles. I am so jealous of thru-hikers!!!

Looking down on Crystal Mountain Resort after finally getting back up on the PCT

DAY 11: Another near 15 mile day. It would have been nice to stay at the “Urich Cabin” (the PCT is not known for it’s shelters, so it would have been a rare treat) but because of 11.8 miles with no water sources coming up the next day, I wanted to push to get to camp at the stream at mile 2351. It was a good call. Oh yeah, I had a herd of Elk cross the trail just 50 feet in front of me on this day. SUPER cool.

Urich Cabin has a wood stove and a loft!!

DAY 12: Exactly the 11.8 miles to the next stream. I do not like to carry extra water, so I knew I had to make it or forget having water to make dinner. Neither Guthooks or Halfmile mention a campsite at the stream, but I had a feeling there would be, and I was right. Thank God, because I didn’t feel like taking another step. 

My private woodsy single spot near the long awaited stream. I loved it!

DAY 13: I think I did another 15 miles this day. Not my favorite. The “camp” I planned on stopping at turned out to be on an abandoned forest road – which is always a big fat no for me – so I just kept going. I finally found an okay place just past a stream…maybe mile 2379? (The PCT refers to all things on the trail by the number of miles starting at the Mexican border, in case you were wondering. All the maps and apps are labeled this way.)

DAY 14: If I am right about where I stopped on day 13, I hiked 8.7 to a very nice spot that is three miles past Mirror Lake. I of course had originally planned on staying at Mirror Lake (it was hard to pass on, though I did take a nice long break there) but being that I was further in than expected, it made the most sense to push on so I would only have 5.5 miles on my last day. I’m really glad I did, because those extra three miles were much harder than I anticipated and would have made my last day feel like an eternity. 

Mirror Lake would have been nice

DAY 15: Just 5.5 miles to Snoqualmie Pass. Finishing a long hike before noon will be my goal henceforth. (Though I highly advise not buying the supersize soda with your lunch just because you can. That is a decision you will regret. A digestive system that has gone without sugar for that amount of time is not prepared for such a butt load of it, I promise you.) BTW, my daughter dropped a car at Snoqualmie for me, which I had painstakingly got permission and a printout “pass” for so it wouldn’t get towed, but now I know there is an awesome trailhead parking lot right there that you simply need a Forest Pass for. Doh.