Many days I only had energy to write lists of the happenings, in the hopes that it would spur some memories later. These were the days that, I thought, might be type-two fun looking back on them. I can’t really say that about these two days, though they had their good moments. The mileage doesn’t indicate the difficulty, but there were some good hills involved, unmaintained trails, and crazy mosquitoes. We also had a break-up of our fellowship, which was hard for everyone’s morale. I’ll post my actual journal entries, and then try to fill in the gaps below so to tell the story more completely.
7/27 A Day of Days
With a lack of signage and maintained trails, we would occasionally miss turns or walk ourselves completely off of the trail. Sometimes it would come to a road and our map and ap would show it continuing the other side, only to find that it actually picked back up a tenth of a mile or more down the road in one direction or the other. Each time we had to double back or search for the trail it added time and miles to our trek.
The hot, hot hill climb involved taking a sharp turn from the road (that was going to our destination too) and climbing a bit of a mountain. Not only was it maddening to consider that we could have just walked quickly on the road and bypassed the whole thing, but also, after hauling ourselves up a loose, rocky ATV trail in the blazing sun, that we would walk along the contour just briefly before turning and walking straight back down the mountain we had just climbed. Smoke was beginning to obscure our views.
We got our first gullywasher of a rainstorm when we were stopped for lunch. Naturally we all got soaked – it was about time that we got some rain, but it was still unexpected.
Katherine made the decision to leave the trail along a forest road near-ish to a campground, as she figured she could get a ride from there. It was quite sad to be losing such a dynamic member of our team (though she does show up in future posts again) and it was hard to not have cell service to know whether or not she was successful in her ride-finding venture. Immediately after she left, we found ourselves swarmed by mosquitoes, walking some additional bonus steps as a result of lack of signage, and fording a small river. It was a dark day!
We finally reached the area in which we intended to camp, finding that it was incredibly popular spot for boat camping. We found a flat-ish spot that was kind of on the trail, but off enough that people could still walk by. Next door to us were some chatty elderly men, on a ‘full moon cruise’ that they participated in every year. They were so friendly, we were so tired. By the time we ate and cleaned up, it was dark – a late night for the three of us.
7/28 Another Day of Days (aka sh*t sandwich day)
When you make a sandwich, it is usually named by what is inside (for example, a turkey sandwich, a pb&j sandwich). This day we referred to as a sh*t sandwich day, because it was lovely at the beginning and the end, but there was a healthy serving of excrement in the middle. This is also why there isn’t much for pictures – you’ll have to use your imagination!
We awoke in our campsite by the lake and were able to use a latrine that fell along our path – a promising start to a day. We walked in the early morning along the lake shore and entered a magnificent stand of giant cedar trees. The trail was moderately level, and we made good time. We exited the cedars and found ourselves on a not-unpleasant road walk, I think we gave it a 4/5 as far as road walks go – it was cool, a little windy, and had pretty trees on either side, and the bugs, though existing, were not terrible. Yet.
When we got back on trail we were on what I refer to in my journal as a “mosquito switchback tunnel from hell.” This is the best way to describe it. Though there were still beautiful cedars, we found ourselves in such clouds of mosquitoes that it was difficult to enjoy them. Again we were back to either spitting them out as we breathed them in and killing dozens with every slap, or wearing a bug net and rain jacket and sweltering in the fumes from our heavily perspiring, rather unwashed bodies. In addition, we had switchback after switchback to look forward to this time, up and up and up.
Some time in the middle of this, the heavens opened up and it began to rain, but it seemed the least of our worries. I, at least, considered that if we kept going up, maybe at some point we’d get out of the bugs. Until then I ate my granola bars on the fly, shoving calories in as best I could without losing speed.
We came to a section that the trial crews hadn’t reached, with occasional downed trees to navigate and overgrown bushes. As the “trail” continued along the steep side of the mountain, we clung to the soaked bushes to maintain footing (and sometimes didn’t).
At long last we came to a spot in a dry creek bed that was flat enough to sit for a moment and the mosquitoes and flies weren’t as intense. It was late for our lunch, and we were in dire need of a break after our mosquito-driven sprint up the mountain. As we assessed our condition, we realized that we were at a trail junction (when they aren’t well maintained, it’s difficult to tell), and that a little stream we’d cross a bit up the hill would be our last water for at least 7 miles – and this was if we found some along the road. It was too early in the day to stop now, and flat land for camping looked slim in our future, so we decided we’d push to the road in hopes that we’d find water and a flat place to pitch our tents.
We powered down our lunches and continued up the mountain, stopping to fill our bottles in the precious, tiny stream. A few switchbacks later (who’s counting now) we broke out of the tree line and the bugs to great views. As we continued along the ridge, dark clouds raced toward us – the kind you don’t want to see when you’re on an exposed ridge. After some assessment, they moved along (whew), and a message came through that Katherine had indeed made it to her destination safely (double whew!). Though we still had quite a few miles left, things were looking up.
The trail just kept going, and we just kept plodding. It was incredibly beautiful, we were just pretty pooped! After a steep descent, we reached the road. As the other’s assessed our tenting options, I dumped most of my gear and grabbed all our water containers. The map showed some promising streams that ran perpendicular to the road – my plan was to walk down about a half a mile to fill up. As I strolled along, with a steep hill to my right and some wide open views to my left, I heard the unmistakable trickling of water. I peered into a dank cleft overhung by vegetation to find a beautiful little waterfall, with a trickle like a garden hose, perfect for filling up our waters. No extra mile water hike for me!
I returned, victorious, to the others still assessing the tent situation. There was a vehicle pull-off, not ideal, but it was just going to have to work. Setting up non-freestanding tents is tricky in this situation, but by now Jen and I were excellent tent-troubleshooters.
With water and shelter, now it was time for food. We walked down the road a ways to a wide shoulder to cook our dinners. While they were cooking an SUV pulled up. The passengers were very jolly, with ‘five kids in the back!’ and they gave us a massive box of goldfish and some pretzels. With surprise appetizers and dinner on the way, we were a happy bunch.
By the time we cleaned up and were ready to go to bed, darkness was falling. Exhausted, we fell asleep quickly along the quiet mountain road.
Thanks Pacific Northwest Trail Association for the map snip and overview!