Bring Your Own Llama

Annette Lake will always hold a special place in my heart and not just because the sign at the trailhead promotes the fact that llamas are allowed on the trail, although that is one of the many reasons.  

When I first rediscovered hiking a few years ago Annette lake was one of the first hikes on my list. I recall convincing my friend Derek to join me on my first trip. We started up the trail in the afternoon not really knowing what to expect,  moving slowly and trying to figure out how far was had left ahead of us.  We didn’t have maps or cell reception but tried to make educated guesses based on the elevation data from the GPS on our phones. Not only were we lacking in navigational resources but many other essentials as well, as would become very apparent.  As we continued on the trail we began to hear thunder in the distance which not only became closer and louder,  but from multiple directions.  Luckily we were smart enough,  or more likely tired enough,  to decide to turn around.  The thunder continued to intensify until the sky opened up and poured down rain. Not wanting to get struck by lightning we began to run down the trail, trying not to slip and fall. After coming close to rolling my ankle a few times,  maybe falling once, and getting soaked to the bone we ended up back at the car and drove home.  I’d later find out that my camera, a decent DSLR, somehow got damaged to the point that it wouldn’t turn on and I had to buy a new one. 
Despite a challenging first attempt I was determined to make it to the lake. After getting a few more hikes under my belt, and making sure I had proper rain gear,  I cautiously returned to finish the hike.  As soon as I started down the trail I was surprised by a very unexpected text message from a friend,  and avid hiker, that I hadn’t heard from in a long time.  I took it as a sign that I picked the right day to come back. The hike and the lake was stunning and it felt great to finally make it all the way. 

Since then I have returned a few times,  sometimes as an introductory hike for friends. When I discovered that Cristina had never been it moved to the top of our list and in early July we crossed it off. 

Before heading up the main trail you can take a quick detour down a short trail to a nice little waterfall.  The trail itself is pretty gentle,  crossing under some power lines and across a forest road before hitting a series of switchbacks. 

As you continue on you’ll come across one of my favorite “bridges”, a couple platforms lead to the “bridge” which consists of steps cut into a large downed tree with a wooden hand rail. 

A little further up there is another smaller waterfall that cuts down through the trees.  

As you near the top you’ll pass across a couple avalanche chutes where the break in the trees reveals some nice views, which apparently I didn’t take any pictures of this time.  The trail flatens out as you approach the lake. 

The lake itself sits below some impressive peaks and just asks to be swam in.

Cristina and I made our way around the lake until we found a place to escape the heat, set up our hammocks and relax for a while. 

When we finally gave into the fact that we couldn’t stay forever we made our way back down and just like every other time I visited Annette lake I didn’t come across someone with a llama, maybe I need to become the guy with a llama. 

The Enchantments

The area known as “The Enchantments” near Leavenworth, Washington is one of the most popular hiking destinations in the Pacific Northwest. Due to it’s popularity a lottery for a limited number overnight permits is held early each spring, which I never seem to have lucky with.

In the lottery you specify the date you are hoping to start along with your desired zone, the most sought after being a “Core Permit”. Not only does a Core Permit allow you to camp in the Core Enchantment zone, which is what most people think of when you mention The Enchantments, it also allows you to also camp in any of the other zones as well.  After the Core Enchantment zone the most popular zone is the Colchuck followed by Snow and Stuart zone. The least desired zone in  The Enchantments is the Eightmile / Caroline Zone as it does not have a trail which allows you to access the  Core Enchantments.  After the lottery there always ends up being some Eightmile / Caroline permits available.

Even though the Eightmile / Caroline zone is the least popular zone in The Enchantments it is still a spectacular area to visit and since my lottery losing streak continued this year I picked up a permit for Cristina and I. We drove out to stay with friends in Plain, Washington, which is close to Leavenworth and The Enchantments. It is here were I tried to stuff all my gear into my backpack for the first time. After a few very frustrating hours full of swear words, I manged to get everything to fit. All Cristina ended had to carry was her own sleeping gear, toiletries and clothes, I was able to carry everything I would on the PCT. I was so happy when I got everything to fit I had to take a picture.

The next morning we headed out early to grab coffee and unsuccessfully attempted to get a better permit at the ranger station, we did however have a backup plan.  The plan was to knock out a hike up to Colchuck lake, which is the most popular day hike in The Enchantments, before hiking to Eightmile lake to spend the night.  After stopping for breakfast we drove up the surprising smooth forest road to the Stuart Lake trailhead and headed out.

The trail starts off pretty tame with minimal elevation gain, crossing a very aggressive creek about a mile and a half in. 

On our way up we passed a good amount of wildflowers as we darted in and out of the the tress, enjoying the shade they provided as it was starting to get rather warm. 

After hiking for a few miles we hit the junction with the trial up to Colchuck Lake, the main trial continuing on to Lake Stuart.

A short distance down the Colchuck Lake Trail we were again met by the angry creek and a very cool wooden bridge which leads into a small boulder field which was fun to navigate thorugh.

The trial then begins to climb with more intensity with plenty of switch backs. At one point the trail crosses across a small waterfall, we both somehow managed to keep our feet dry while crossing.

Continuing up the trail we made our way to a clearing allowing us to look back down the way we came with a stunning view of Mt. Stuart in the distance.

The trail dipped back into the tress for the final push to the lake, at one point the trail intersected with a stream which was a little tricky to navigate through. Once we arrived at the lake we were greeted by the massive Dragontail Peak and  the slightly smaller Colchuck Peak with Asgard Pass between the two, which we would have had to conquer if we had a snagged a Core permit. I think we were both a bit relived that we didn’t as watching people make their way up was a bit intimidating.

 

After I took a quick swim in the extremely cold lake we ate lunch and started to head back down where we came across a very hungry mountain goat who luckily had plenty to much on and was too busy eating to be concerned with us.

Once we made our way back down to the trailhead we hopped back in the car and made the quick trip over to the Eightmile trailhead to begin our hike up to Eightmile lake.

The sun was rather intense as we made our way up but I found myself distracted by the abundance of wildflowers and some tiny pine cones.

The trail to Eightmile lake is fairly flat which was a nice change of pace after the hike up to Colchuck. A few miles in we hit Little Eightmile Lake which is also the junction for Caroline Lake, which would be our destination the following day.

After a quick break we continued onward as the trail climbed a bit before we arrived at the lake. We found a site and just as I finished setting up the tent a group of very loud college girls decided to set up camp just feet from ours. We quickly packed up, grabbed our backpacks and made our way to another, much better, site right by the lake. Luckily my tent is extremely easy to set up and take down.

After getting everything set up again I took a quick swim in the lake, which was just as cold as Colchuck but it felt amazing after hiking in the sun all day. As we were having dinner one of the locals decided to come dine with us (yes, those are flowers in it’s mouth).

We were both pretty tired after a full day of hiking and after staying up late enough to see the stars decided to get some much needed rest.

The next morning we followed the trial around the lake, hopped over some trees and found another angry stream cutting through the forest.

After breakfast we packed everything up and made our way back down the trail to Little Eightmile Lake where we started up the trail to Caroline Lake.  While the trail didn’t seem very difficult on paper it did prove to be a challenging hike.

The trail starts out rather steep and provides very little shade, which was sorely missed as the sun was blazing as we made our way up.  We would take a break every time we came across a bit of shade.

I even resorted to hiding from the sun in the narrow shadow of a large dead tree and soaking my hat in water to keep cool.

As I looked back down towards Eightmile lake I tried to visualize myself swimming in the ice cold water, it didn’t help.

A little further up the trail we met a couple on their way down and chatted for a bit. The said that the lake was spectacular and warned us about a Coyote they saw up at Windy Pass. We were considering making the hike up to the pass  but decided to avoid it after that.

However, as we rounded a corner about a mile later we were met by a lone Coyote standing in the middle of the trail staring us down. Considering that Coyotes are pack animals I decided to skip the photo and clanked my hiking poles above my head until he decided to head off the trail and run down into the valley. We cautiously continued to the lake without seeing or hearing another.

We found that not only were there no loud college girls at the lake but in fact there was only one other couple on the other side of the lake.  We set up camp and I took a swim in the warmer but still cold Caroline lake.  We spent the rest of the day relaxing before we were forced into the tent due to an army of mosquitoes that occupied the lake.

The next morning I somehow managed to get up early enough to catch a bit of the sunrise.

After enjoying the lack of mosquitoes at the lake for a bit we packed up camp and started our hike back down to the trailhead. We both had one thing in mind as we struggled through the heat….

…..a sausage and beer at Munchen Haus in Leavenworth!  While we didn’t end up hiking through the “real enchantments”, which is probably for the best, we made the most of our time in a really amazing place. Hopefully we can snag a core permit after I finish the PCT next year.

 

Return to Mount Teneriffe

After not making it to the top of Mt. St. Helens  I got the itch to summit something.  I started to consider my options for an after work hike, something that would only take a few hours, a short drive from Seattle, and allow me to stand on the tippy top of something.  I considered a few different hikes, some were too far away, some were too long but Mt. Si seemed just right. While it wasn’t anything exciting or new,  it is just a short drive from work and it had been a while since I climbed all the way up the haystack.  Plus the trail traffic would be at tolerable levels during the week.

So one day after work I made my way to the Mt. Si trailhead and started up the mountain. As expected the trail wasn’t busy at all, I only passed a handful of people on my way up, not something you’d experience on a weekend.  About an hour and a half later I was nearing the top and after navigating over the false summit I arrived a the scramble.

I remember the first time I stood at the bottom of the scramble, nervously thinking that there was no way in hell I was going up. I watched as a few hikers easily navigated up the rocks and figured if they could do it so could I, eventually convincing myself to make my way to the top.. very slowly.  This time, I was excited to see how quickly I could make my way up.  I found a path and scrambled my way up to the top.

On my way up I couldn’t help but feel the need to start climbing again, and by “again” I mean since those two months I spent in a climbing a few years ago. Looking back down was a bit intimidating but I didn’t have to worry about that yet.

At the top of one scramble I was met with the other, much shorter, one. While it is shorter a misstep would result in a pretty bad fall.  I  carefully made my way to the summit and took a moment to take in the views.

I looked back down the side of the mountain and while I felt like I accomplished something It still didn’t fill the void left by Mt. St. Helens. Don’t get me wrong, It was a great feeling to stand at the top and the views were amazing, but it  just wasn’t the challenge I was looking for. 

Looking east towards the Cascades I started to look for another peek to climb that weekend , when the obvious became clear.  I had to return to the only hike I didn’t finish this year, the only way to make up for one incomplete hike was to finish another incomplete hike.  I was heading back to Mount Teneriffe.

Early Sunday morning I made my way to the tiny Mount Teneriffe trail, threw on my backpack and started out. I was on a mission and quickly conquered the flat bit before starting to head up the rocky switchbacks.

The foxgloves were out in force as I made my way up past Teneriffe falls, not stopping to take a picture,  and practically climbed my way up to the top of the ridge.  I took a break to look around and found that like last time I was surrounded by clouds. I continued on ran into another hiker making her way up the trail.

As I got ready to pass her she asked me which way the trail went. She followed me up for a bit before I stopped again to throw on another layer and she continued on I eventually caught up to her and she once again asked me which way the trail went.  As continued up I thought about my last attempt Mt. Teneriffe and remembered where I was when I turned around, before I knew it I had my way to that point.  Knowing that I still had I ways to go I pushed on.

However, I discovered that the trail wasn’t as long as I remembered. After I made my way through another grouping of trees I came to the clearing right before the summit, which still had a bit of snow, the thing that made me turn back last time.

I crossed the snow and made my way to the summit, completely clouded in and windy. I still took a few minutes to look around and enjoy  finally making it back to the top.

I walked around the top and found the marker. When I looked over the edge all I could see is white.  While it didn’t have great views like Mt. Si it was a much more rewarding experience. It was both mentally and physically challenging, and what feels better than overcoming failure and completing a goal. Now I just need to go back to Mt. St. Helens…

Hiking In The Dark

At the end of last July I fulfilled a lifelong goal by climbing to the top of Mt. St. Helens.  Ok, this wasn’t a “goal” until last year, but I had always thought it would be cool to stand on the rim of the crater and look down inside, never imagining that I would actually do it.  The climb to the top was both challenging and exhausting, full of giant rocks and ash but getting to the top was worth every agonizing step.  So, when the on sale datef for 2017 permits was announced I decided I needed to go back and somehow managed to talk Cristina and my friend Shanelle into joining me.

When the permits went on sale at the beginning of February we (I) decided on June 12th for our climb.  I figured that would allow for more than enough time for a majority of snow to melt off.  However, in my excitement there were two things I didn’t account for.  The first being that last year as really dry and it didn’t snow much, so I didn’t have to deal with any snow on my last climb.  The second thing I didn’t account for is that we just had a harsh winter with a lot of snow in the mountains.  As the date of our climb drew closer it became clear that we would be dealing with snow, something neither Cristina or Shanelle signed up for.  I reassured them that the snow would actually make things easier since it would cover all the giant rocks that made things difficult for me last year and promised to teach them how to use an ice axe.  I did, however, downplay the fact that we would have to take the winter route which adds an additional 2 miles and 1,200 feet of elevation gain.

After months of waiting the day came and we headed to our campsite at Beaver Bay campground in Cougar, Washington (I may have let my inner child choose the campground just for the jokes).  Once we arrived and set up camp I began to float a fantastic idea I had..  to hike at night!  This idea was mainly due to the fact that I was slightly concerned about a couple things. One was that it was starting to warm up during the day which meant that the snow would turn to slush and make things really slippery. The other concern was that the forecast called for rain in the afternoon, which would block any views we would have from the top. I tried to sell my idea by mentioning that we could make it to the rim in time for the sunrise, which would be an awesome sight.  Somehow I was able to convince both of them that hiking at night was a good idea and we decided to head to the trailhead around 11:30 PM. Yeah, they probably didn’t think it was “a good idea” but they were on board.

The next thing I knew it was time to head out and we started to make our way to the trailhead. This presented the first obstacle to hiking at night, finding the trailhead in the dark.  I somehow missed a turn and we ended up going much further east than we needed to.  However, we did get to see a huge elk as it darted across the road in front of us; we were all suddenly wide awake after that. After our hour long detour we finally found the trailhead, which was surprisingly full of cars and tents, they must have known how easy it is miss the turn in the dark. While there were plenty people camping out to get an early start, we were the only ones that were gearing up to head out at 1 AM.  We found the trail and headed out.. to climb a volcano.. covered in snow… at night.
The trail cut through the trees, starting out gently and snow free as everyone acclimated to hiking by headlamp.  Shortly down the trail I somehow spotted a spotted owl, who i’m going to say was named Spot, perched in a tree next to the trail. I’m sure Spot wasn’t too happy about all three of us blasting it with our headlamps as we stared at it for a minute or two but it was a nice way to start the hike. As we continued on we started to encounter patches of snow with a nice worn trail, as planned the snow was frozen and easy to cross.  Once the snow became more prevalent we threw on our microspikes, which made hiking in the snow drastically easier, and continued on.  As we emerged from the trees we heard water flowing over Chocolate Falls, we stopped to take a look but couldn’t see much in the dark.  Not only was it dark but it had gotten a bit foggy as well, which caused the light from our headlamps to only illuminate the area 3 feet in front of us. We continued up the trail which eventually began to get hard to follow.  I checked the GPS and discovered another challenge of hiking in the dark, we had started to follow a different trail than planned.  Not knowing if it would eventually re-join with the main trail we backtracked and rejoined our intended trail, this is when things started to get a bit steep.

Since we were starting to really climb upwards in the snow we broke out the ice axes before continuing up the snow field, luckily none of us ended up slipping and having to use it.  Up until this point we hadn’t seen another person on the trail at all, which was really nice, but were quickly passed by two girls that we watched fly up the trail, they must have had super powers. After a bit of traveling in the snow we hit the rocky spine of the trail which was surprisingly snow free.  While it had gotten a bit lighter out at this point navigating through the rocks was a bit tricky, I don’t think I adequately explained the volume and size of rocks and boulders to either Cristina or Shanelle ahead of time.  As we continued on we heard a loud noise, which I can only describe as a cross between a roar and a screech, it seemed to be coming from multiple directions. I swear it was above us but was unable to see anything because of the clouds,  Cristina and Shanelle thought it might be elk or some other animals. We were all pretty tired at this point so who knows what we actually heard.  I still say it was a pterodactyl circling above us.

Next thing we knew the sun began to rise and the clouds appeared to erupt out of the mountainside. We took a break to take in the view, have a snack and asses our progress.  We were just short of the weather station which meant while there wasn’t much distance to cover there was still a lot of elevation gain left.  It’s at this point we decided to turn back, while everyone could have made it coming back down wouldn’t be easy, despite being able to glissade for part of it. Not to mention we were all thinking about crawling into warm sleeping bags and getting some sleep.  We threw our packs back on, and started to head back down.

On our way back down we started to pass people as they were heading up. Some of them were friendly but a lot of them weren’t, which was suprising.  We did however have fun responding to people when they asked “You already summited?!”. I think my favorite was “Yep, second time today”. The question got old really fast though.  I was surprised by the number of people hiking up with snowboards, had to be a fun way to get down. Sure enough, on our way down the snow had already started to turn to slush, it would not have been fun to try to hike through slush with rubber legs had we continued.

Once we made it back to the campsite we got some much needed rest, only to be awoken by an obnoxiously loud garbage truck emptying the abundance of trash cans scattered through the campsite.  We then decided that since we already went up it was time to go down, so we headed to the Ape Caves.  The Ape Caves, otherwise know as lava tubes, were formed by the flow of, you guessed it, lava. Apparently they are called the “Ape Caves” because some miners claimed they were attacked by apes when they were down there.  I was a bit nervous as there are plenty of bats in the ape caves and i’m not a fan of bats,  luckily there were no bats in the section we explored.

As you might expect it was a bit chilly inside, and just like during our hike up Mt. St. Helens we made good use of our headlamps. Our final destination was what is known as “The Meatball”, I have no idea why they call it that.

After exploring the Ape Caves we returned to the campsite at Beaver Bay, in Cougar, (heh) and enjoyed relaxing around the campfire with plenty of s’mores making their way into my tummy. While we didn’t summit Mt. St. Helens we still got to hike at night, which was an awesome idea. We had the trail to ourselves, avoided slipping and falling in slushy snow, met an owl named Spot, heard a pterodactyl, and got to watch the sunrise.

Serenity Now!

A few weeks ago I welcomed one of my best friends back to Washington by introducing her to one of my favorite easy to get to hikes, Lake Serene. While it is a bit of a drive to get to from the Seattle area the trail head is just off of Highway 2 and not down some long bumpy forest road like many others are.

We set out Sunday morning guided by Waze as I was not awake enough to trust my own navigation skills. Plus, i’m always a bit amused by how the British navigation voice pronounces things,  our favorite of the trip was “Mt. Index” (say it fast and use your imagination).  When we arrived at the trail head we found that the parking lot was already full, luckily there was still parking along the Skykomish River.  We threw on our packs and started  down the trail.

The trail starts off pretty flat along an old road which splits almost immediately. A sign points you in the right direction but every time I visit  I find myself wondering  where the other fork goes but have yet to find out. Even though the trail is a popular one, the first bit of the trail is dense with foliage that you have to work your way through before it opens up into a wooded forest.

A little more than a mile and a half in you can split off on to the half mile trail up to Bridal Veil Falls, which is beautiful. However, we had both been there before and with the parking lot as full as it was we knew it would be pretty busy, we were on a mission to get to the lake.  However, here’s a picture of the falls from one of my previous visits in case you were wondering what it looks like.

After the turnoff for Bridal Veil the trail continues through the forest  before crossing a bridge over a smaller waterfall, which is sadly mostly obscured by trees. The trail then drops down to another more impressive waterfall, but not as impressive as Bridal Veil itself. This is a good spot to stop and take in the view and have a snack as the trail is about to get a little harder.

As soon as you move past the falls the trial gets rocky and starts to gain elevation quickly.  All that flat is a thing of the past. As you head up you can take a look back and see part of the falls through the trees. The trail turns into a series of switch backs as you continue upward, some times rocky and sometimes including steps. Luckily it seemed as if  most people were headed for the falls as the trail wasn’t that crowded. Navigating around the rocks and tree roots is extra challenging when it’s crowded, especially with hikers that don’t follow proper trail etiquette.

Once you make your way a bit further up you pass through clearings where you can catch glimpses of the surrounding mountains and the river below. All that time working the switchbacks finally starts to payoff with some spectacular views on a clear day. The trail crosses through a water fall as you begin your final push up to the lake catching views that are more impressive than the last.  Right before you reach the lake you will see parts of Mt. Index shooting upwards towards the sky.

When we arrived at the lake we found that there was still a bit of ice covering it and clouds rolling down the side of Mt. Index.

As we took it all in the clouds began to shift and expose different parts of the mountain.
But as we were staring up at the mountain someone was staring at our snacks. He wasn’t as sneaky as he thought he was, i’ll give him an A for effort though.

You can begin to work your way around the lake crossing over a bridge at the top of the runoff  that turns into falls. Right after the bridge you can follow a short trail to the right to look over the valley below.

The trail continues around to “Lunch Rock” which is a big flat rock perfect for taking a break and … having lunch..  before you head back down.  We, however, had other lunch plans and after enjoying the lake started to make our way back down. The trip back can be just as challenging as the way up, if not more so. All those rocks you have to climb over on your way up are now tricky obstacles to navigate on your way down, the last thing you want to do is roll an ankle. It’s funny how quite hikers get as they are focused on their footwork.  The final stretch of the trail before the trail head, that nice flat beginning of the trail, seems to drag on forever and seems to be longer than it was on the way up.

Once you reach your car and begin your trip home you’ll face another, and perhaps unexpected, obstacle of the hike. Traffic on Highway 2. It can be very slow going on the 2 lane highway as you make your way through Gold Bar, Startup and Sultan.  When we finally hit Sultan we made a stop for lunch at Bubba’s Roadhouse.  In keeping with my tradition of getting the most ridiculous burger available after a hike, I had to get the one that had pulled pork, bacon, ham and fried onions on it. I wonder if I consumed more calories than I burned?

In my head

When you talk to someone who has completed the Pacific Crest Trail they will often tell you that the challenge in hiking the trial is not only a physical one but also, and perhaps more so, a mental one. On my recent hikes I’ve pushed myself pretty hard, seeing how fast I can make it to the end and If I can make it without stopping. In doing so hikes have become easier physically but more difficult mentally as you don’t take the time to enjoy the hike itself.  This became very obvious on my hike up Mount Teneriffe, a 14 mile hike with 4,000 feet of gain, this past Sunday.

I hiked up Mount Teneriffe last summer and remember it being strenuous but nothing that made me hate life, while I knew I was in for a challenge I knew it was one I could accomplish. The trail starts out very easy, about 2 miles on the very flat Mount Teneriffe Road before spotting the sign directing you towards Teneriffe Falls (aka Kamikaze Falls). After the junction things start go get fun, the trail becomes pretty steep and rocky as you make your way up to the falls.  As I made my way up the trail I found myself not really taking in my surroundings and focused on making progress. I wasn’t feeling it, which I found strange, but I pushed on. I made my way to the switchbacks where you start to see the bottom of the falls, I stopped to take some pictures and spent time texting them to friends as I continued on. I finally reached the best view of the falls, snapped a picture and moved on without spending time there to take it all in.

I found the trail that continues up from the falls to the summit of Mount Teneriffe, which is so steep you find yourself using your hands to help you make your way up. This is the part I knew would be challenging.  I pushed on until I made it up to the ridge and took a quick look around, finding myself in a cloud with no views. Onward I went, remembering all the challenging bits as I came across them.  The trail becomes faint as you make your way through the trees along the ridge.  I found myself becoming annoyed as I had to maneuver over a large boulder or up a steep part in the trail, but I continued to push on.  That feeling of annoyance became more prevalent as I hit the snow. I knew there would be snow I was just hoping it would be isolated to the summit. I had trekking poles and microspikes but couldn’t be bothered to get them out, luckily my new pair of Saucony Peregrine 7‎’s have some awesome traction and I slowly made my way through the snow. The snow became more prevalent the further I ascended and the trail became more faint. Then it started snowing.

As I continued up I started thinking about turning back, not because of the physical challenge or being cold, I was actually pretty comfortable, but because I just didn’t feel like hiking anymore.  I started to rationalize turning back, thinking about how I hadn’t seen a single person since the falls and concerned that I might lose track of the trail if it continued to snow.  I knew I was getting close to the summit and should just push on, so I did. The snow had frozen solid in spots and was a bit slippery, it was becoming more difficult to navigate without sending my foot into some soft snow which came up to my knee.  I eventually came to a clearing and looked up to see a group of trees where I expected to see the summit, I wasn’t as close as I thought.  This is the point I actually turned around.

I made my way down feeling somewhat defeated but at the same time relived. Heading down I passed some people on their way up who asked me if I had made it to the top. I told them that I didn’t make it because of the snow although I knew it wasn’t the snow that stopped me an issue but rather my lack of enthusiasm for hiking on this particular day. As I continued down the snow eventually turned to rain. I slowly worked my way down the tricky parts and while my jacket did a good job of keeping me dry for the most of the hike it eventually became saturated and I ended up feeling like Eeyore stuck under my own personal rain cloud.

However, throughout all my gloom and lack of interest in hiking I knew it was only temporary.  I know there will be days when i’m on the PCT and feel like I did hiking up Mount Teneriffe and that’s OK. There will be days that I don’t hike at all and days I feel like giving up but I know I will push through. This hike was a sobering reminder that I need to prepare mentally as well, finding the balance between performance and taking the time to enjoying the hike itself.

P.S.  Don’t worry Teneriffe, i’ll see you again soon.

What condition my condition is in

When hiking on the PCT people generally shoot for hiking, on average between 15 to 20 miles a day. When I first heard this I didn’t think much of it because that’s 15 to 20 miles in an entire day, whereas I generally do around 8 miles in half a day.  That was until I pushed myself last year and did over 20 in one day, those extra miles really made a big difference.  Not to mention that was last year when I was hiking a lot more than I have been in recent months (I blame the snow for that). I clearly need to figure out how i’m going to be able to hit my stride and get ready for months of hiking.

There are two schools of thought when it comes to physically preparing for the PCT.  The first is the obvious one, exercise like crazy, work out and do everything you can to get in shape so you’re ready to hit the ground running.  The second is pretty much the exact opposite of that, don’t train at all and let your body adjust on the trail. While it’s very tempting to go with option number two I’d rather spare myself the extra mental and physical stress on the trail.  Someone once said if you can’t do 20 miles in a day now, there is no way you will be able to do 20 miles in a day on the PCT.

So, what’s the best way to get in shape for a 2,650 mile hike?  Strap on your backpack full of gear and go hike, a lot. What are affectionately known as conditioning hikes. For some, like those that live where it’s completely flat, this might be a little tricky, luckily I live within a short drive to some pretty awesome and challenging hikes.  However, my choice in awesome challenging hikes has been somewhat limited due to the amount of snow in the mountains. Yes, I’ll have to deal with snow on the PCT but i’m not ready to go there just yet.  However, there is one hike in particular that is easy to get to, challenging and snow free and that is Mt. Si.

My first memory of Mt. Si was as a child, my family would make regular trips toeastern Washington to visit family a few times a year and I would always seem to find myself  staring up at Mt. Si in amazement as we drove by North Bend.  The mountains further east are much taller and awe inspiring but there was something about how
Mt. Si. sat by itself that drew my attention. I remember on one trip my mom mentioned that people would hike to the top and it kinda blew my mind.  However, despite fond childhood memories, accessibility, and a challenge I have a bit a love hate relationship with Mt. Si.  Well, not so much the mountain as some of the people that hike there.  Being so close to Seattle the trail has continuously gotten more and more popular over the years. The parking lot at the trailhead is huge yet it will still fill up and cars. On a recent trip I actually noticed that one of the local residents has a sign out advertising trail parking for $10, and it’s probably over a mile from the trailhead.  While i’m all for people getting outside and hiking you should always follow some basic trail etiquette.  It doesn’t bother me so much when people don’t know when to yield or don’t respond when you say hello, but I do have a problem with people that do things like throw their trash into the forest,  or blast music out of portable speakers.  So while I enjoy hiking Mt. Si it’s not always an enjoyable experience, but it’s become my go to hike and there is a great view from the top.


Luckily this year hasn’t been so bad (yet), this could be due in part that I always try to start hikes early in the morning, usually arriving at the trailhead before 7am ready to hike.  What’s new this year, as I get ready for the PCT, is that i’m hiking with a 35lb backpack and timing myself.  The Mt. Si trail is a little over 8 miles long with 3,150 feet of gain, not exactly a walk in the park, most people in decent shape make it to the top in 2 hours.  The first time I hiked Mt. Si this year was with a hiking group from work, I was not prepared for their pace.  They were all in excellent shape and were hiking light, meanwhile I was carrying a full pack and trying to overcome my winter of gluttony and laziness.  While I was able to keep up with them for a little bit they eventually left me in the dust, luckily one of my co-workers was with me and we seemed to keep the same pace while pushing ourselves to not let them get to far ahead of us. We ended up making it to the top in 1 hour and 45 minutes, the rest of the hiking group seemed a bit surprised that we weren’t too far behind them when they passed us on their way down.

Since then I’ve hiked Mt. Si two more times in just a few weeks, once making it in 1 hour 34 minutes and then 1 hour and 29 minutes, with my goal of 1 hour and 15 minutes.  Not only is it a race to 1 hour 15 minutes, but it’s also a race between me and the return of undesirable hikers as well as the snow melting on some more enjoyable hikes.  When I finally move on to another go to conditioner I’ll still enjoy staring up at Mt. Si as I did when I was a child. However, this time it will be while i’m sitting in the Starbucks drive through in North Bend waiting to order some cold brew after completing some other hike.

 

 

You’re doing what?!

In a little over a year I will be boarding  a plane bound for San Diego with nothing more than a backpack full of, hopefully very light, gear. Once I land I will somehow find my way 40 miles west to the town of Campo, which sits just north of the Mexican border. From there I will then head north on the Pacific Crest Trail, hiking all the way through California, Oregon and Washington before crossing the border into Canada.  In doing so I’ll cross through a desert, numerous mountain passes and a few national parks. In total the trail stretches 2,650 miles with 420,880 feet in elevation change.

This blog will primarily be about my preparation for, and time on, the Pacific Crest trail.  I have purposely avoided learning about the ins and outs of the trail and what will be entailed.  No, I have not seen or read “Wild”, nor have I read John Muir’s “My first summer in the Sierra”.  I have picked up a few pieces of knowledge from talking to people that are also planning on hiking the Pacific Crest Trail but not too much.  I know that i’m going to have to mail myself supplies on the way,  I might be hiking through a lot of snow or crossing a river and it rains a lot in Southern California, among other things.

Check back each Tuesday for something new, I’ll do my best to make things informative and entertaining. Who knows, maybe I’ll freak out and have some sort of meltdown when the reality of what i’ll be doing finally sinks in.