Thursday, August 1, 2013

A journey completed

With only 85 miles of PCT to go, I headed north to finish my journey. Since I pulled off the trail at Stehekin last year I needed to go back and do the stretch from High Bridge to Rainy Pass. I chose to go in over Cascade Pass and then turn north. Cascade Pass was as advertised - one of the most spectacular trailheads I have been to. Rockfall and glacial movements echoed through the valley as I readied my pack. Then up the switchbacks I went.

Spoke to the ranger at the pass for a while. Nice guy. Then it was down to the Stehekin River. On the way I met a girl who was waiting for her boyfriend to come over the pass. I pointed out the many switchbacks coming down from Pelton Basin so she could watch for him. Her sister is doing the PCT and was near the halfway point.

Once I hit the old road it was smooth sailing down to Bridge Creek. I decided to camp here even though my permit called for High Bridge. It just made more sense to leave my camp here and hike the 4 miles south to High Bridge and then return to Bridge Creek where the PCT left the Stehekin River. I was able to change my permit with the ranger. After dinner, I hiked down the road to High Bridge and returned via the PCT. I didn't arrive back at camp until after midnight.

Had a leisurely morning in camp before pounding out the 13 miles to Rainy Pass. That stretch was hot and buggy. Trail is high above the creek and I finally dropped down to cool off near the junction to Twisp Pass. I met my parents as planned at Rainy Pass where we camped for the night.

The next day it was up to Cutthroat Pass, a place where Flatlander and I turned around in knee deep snow conditions last November. Here is the spot we decided to turn around.

As I made the descent down to Granite Pass and the long traverse to Methow Pass, I kept wondering how difficult things would have been had we kept going. I was glad to be hiking this stretch in summer conditions. I ended up cooking at the West Fork of the Methow and doing another 3 miles after dinner. The next day I climbed up to Glacier Pass along Brush Creek. When I topped out from climbing near Grasshopper Pass, I met a couple who I had seen a few days prior at Cascade Pass. We walked and talked for a while. I also met a southbounder who was just starting his journey to Mexico and wished him luck. Eventually my Dad came up the trail from Hart's Pass and we walked the PCT to Meadow Camp. I dropped my pack and eventually slack packed the few remaining miles to Hart's Pass.

The next day I readied my pack for my last days on the PCT. Dad walked as far as Windy Pass with me. I met a lot of people here who had gone up to the monument and turned around. Billy Goat was on this part of trail and I spotted him the next day. We dropped our packs and talked for the longest time. What a really nice guy and very knowledgeable about the trail.

  I took 2 days to do the last 35 miles because I wanted to enjoy the last days of my thru hike. I camped at the spring near Goat Lakes and then just north of Castle Pass in an old site off the trail. I arrived in camp at 5:00 made dinner. Then it was a quick 3 mile hike down to the monument where I had some time to myself. Then back up to camp.

The next morning I packed up and began to re-hike the last 3 miles of US PCT. As I was heading down, a thru hiker, Dogcatcher, caught up to me. He had started this year around April 15th and skipped the Sierra due to snow. He was very excited to be nearing the monument. Before long we were celebrating, taking pictures, and signing the journal. I was delighted to have someone share this moment with.

Eventually, we parted ways and he turned back to go out Hart's Pass and I continued north to Manning Park. I met my parents again at Hwy 3 and we celebrated the end of my journey. I've hiked every one of the 2,663 miles of the Pacific Crest Trail!


Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Trail angels

Can't finish the blog or the hike without thanking the trail angels and people who helped me along the way.
Special thanks to my parents who not only inspired this dream long ago, but also became the best support team a hiker could ever have.
It was like having your bounce box on wheels. Their RV became recognizable to other thru hikers and would often help fellow hikers with rides at road crossings. They handled my requests to gather my gear or clothing, shipped resupply packages, did my laundry, navigated forest service roads, drove thousands of miles, set up or broke down a spare tent, got up early and stayed up late.  I really enjoyed the times when I would be meeting them at a pass and there would be a sign in the trail or my father's footprints. It was really great when he would walk up the trail to meet me with cold beer in his pack! At times, it seemed like they were having more fun than I was!

Thanks Mom and Dad! Trail names Wing and Prayer. 

Sierra City to Hwy 30

Recap - In 2012, I hiked most of the Pacific Crest Trail. There were several fires in Northern California that closed the trail. When the Chips Creek fire closed the town of Belden, the group I was hiking with made a collective decision to skip from Sierra City up to the Hwy 36 crossing near Chester. This was a 140 mile section.

Luckily, I made it through the Lassen fire just in time. I cut it very close as people who had departed Drakesbad Guest Ranch the same morning as I did were turned back by fire crews who had come in on the Twin Lakes trail. While hiking that day I could see smoke very close to the trail and an aircraft circling above. Eventually I heard chutes open and saw smoke jumpers parachuting into the fire zone. I camped at Badger Flat near the spring and had an uneasy night as smoke drifted across the meadow. When I arrived at Old Station the next day, the fire had erupted into an inferno and ash was falling from the sky.

There was another fire in Seiad Valley. The fire was burning along the PCT just north of town I really hurried to try to get through before another closure. I skipped the 8 mile road walk down to Seiad Valley store attempting to get through but the trail closed the next day. Fire officials were still permitting vehicle traffic on a long windy and steep gravel road up to Cook and Green Pass. This was another 14 miles of trail + the 8 mile road walk down Grider Creek Rd that I didn't get to complete.

Some hikers walked the road making their journey continuous. A few hikers who skipped claimed they completed the entire trail because that section of trail was closed. My goal was to - and still is - to hike every inch of the 2650 mile trail. That meant I needed to go back this year to complete the fire skipped sections.

Earlier this month I went back to hike the reopened sections of trail. I wasn't sure if I had my hiking legs but made great time. Pounded out the 140 miles in 6 1/2 days. Now I can officially say that I've hiked all 1697.5 miles of PCT in California. Oregon was completed last year with no skips. This leaves only 80 miles to go. Stay tuned as I plan to hike from Stehekin to the Canadian border later this summer and complete my goal of hiking every inch of the Pacific Crest Trail.

Climbing up to Sierra Buttes

Looking back down on the North Yuba River. PCT trail bridge is barely visible. 

 It was 105 degrees! Made the climb go very slow.

Looking back at Sierra Buttes North side.


Looking down on Oakland pond. Not much water on roue.

Gold Lake. 

PCT running the ridge

Day 2

On trail water. Just grab and go.

Middle Fork of the Feather River

Getting close to Belden Town

Looking towards Chips Creek canyon north of Belden

Dropping into Belden.

Miles of switchbacks

Heading up Chips Creek canyon

2012 fire damage

1300 mile mark - still there from 21012. Needed a little reassembly

heading towards Devil's peaks in the Siead Valley burn section