Encouragement from the kids of Escuela Verde

Wrap Up and a Call for Action

Steve moves up and over a pass on his 2013 hike from Mexico to Canada via the PCT

Steve moves up and over a pass on his 2013 hike from Mexico to Canada via the PCT


Well it’s been a week since I finished the trail. I’m back in civilization kind of. Celebrated my 50th in Vancouver as envisioned. And not. Orbit was there as were a bunch of others that were unexpected. They turned the evening/morning unpredictable and outrageously fun. I couldn’t have asked for better.

Orbit is now back in New York. The boys are still plugging away on the trail. And I find myself in Seattle getting ready to catch up with an old friend. Then back to Costa Rica. Emotionally I’m very glad to be off the trail. As are my knees and feet. At the same time there is a sadness. I miss purpose driven days. The constant push toward a far-off day. And I miss the members of my club. A city is a disconnected place and I am aware of that. To duck back into the forest and keep going an active urge. But as always, onto the next.

My thanks to all of you readers who came along for the hike. It was gratifying to know there was interest in what I had to write. My apologies for the challenges presented by my off kilter style and atrocious grammar. I’m glad you were able to wade through it for the most part. As to responding to comments, I fell behind on that but am trying to catch up. Unfortunately there is a computer glitch that is preventing me from responding. Cirina is working on that.

A mild suggestion and probably out of line. But here goes. Near the end of the hike I came to this thought. If you can, find private greatness in your life by achieving something significant. Something that is meaningful to you and can only be reached with applied struggle. It can be physical or nonphysical. Public knowledge or private. Just a goal that you have to bust your ass over time to get to. When you pull it off it’s yours forever. It can’t be taken away. The source of a smile in hard times. Your own life prestige.

Encouragement from the kids of Escuela Verde

Encouragement from the kids of Escuela Verde


Finally I wrote this blog to raise funds for Escuela Verde in Costa Rica. If you enjoyed it, and can find it in your heart, please make a donation to the school. However small. 100% will go towards the operation of the school and your karma will soar. Thanks again to Carpenter Zuckerman and Rowley for their continued support throughout the hike. And more thanks to Cirina for making a bunch of scribblings into a blog.

Have a great and important life one and all.

Steve Halteman
Hiked the Pacific Crest Trail – the PCT – in 2013
For the Kids of Escuela Verde

If you’d like to help out and donate, please click here!

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Day 124 – September 3, 2013 – I say hello to the second half of my Century and cross into Canada!

September 3, 2013 28 miles mile 2660+8

Awoke at the end of a half century. Tried to come up with some deep thoughts but my constitution interfered. Rolled out and headed for Woody Pass. Steadily up and then a sharp drop through the crumblings of overhead peaks. Switchbacks and then a long traverse to Woody Pass. Here were the landslides that had been warned of the previous 30 miles. “Stock not to pass. Hikers use extreme caution. 15 mile alternate trail available.” As is often the case they were anticlimactic. Some nimble maneuvering and they were part of history.

Can't get enough of these inversions

Can’t get enough of these inversions


Cloud sneak

Cloud sneak


Didn’t break stride heading up Woody Pass.
Moving up toward Woody Pass

Moving up toward Woody Pass


The traverse to Woody Pass

The traverse to Woody Pass


Took a break at the top and let the view soak into my pores. Also continued my food weight reduction plan. Then on to a 7,000 foot summit nicknamed playfully “The Summit.” Worked the camera and was off just as Orbit showed. Last chance to hike together. All downhill to the border. In high spirits, as we were both ready to be done. But more than that, a plan hatched long ago was about to be realized. Credit to Orbit for that.
Border marker

Border marker


Canadian border security

Canadian border security


Ran into a number of northbounders bouncing back to Hart’s Pass after touching the border. For whatever reason not heading on to Canada. No envy there. The last miles slowed. Whenever you really want something it tends to walk away. And then it was there. You knew it from the voices. A group of through hikers was already gathered. Fellows of ours, but also strangers. A beer was put in my hand. I smiled and tried to make a celebration out of an anti-climax. I sat back and started eating as usual. Three wood posts, a metal marker and a straight borderline sliced through the forest marked the end.
Birthday boy

Birthday boy


Campo's distant twin

Campo’s distant twin


Orbit arrived. We high-fived and hugged. The crowd filtered off. We sat alone trying to figure it all out. This was a random point in a forest. Not a fitting climax like the big Mount Katahdin climb at the end of the AT. Finally we came to this. The PCT had given all she had to give. Incredible beauty 90% of the way. She had nothing left. She was worn out at the end like us. And that made it all alright. Orbit crossed into Canada for the 8 miles to the trailhead in Manning Park. I hung back and performed some private abdulations as I had promised. Then I stepped into Canada. Officially a through hiker. Yeah baby once again.
Follow the border

Follow the border


Ultralight

Ultralight


The last eight miles into Canada were utterly forgettable. Comparable to going for a jog after an ultra marathon. The trail was plain. The clouds broke and dumped. I was done, but Canada had some instruction about done. Definitely the worst part of the entire PCT. I stumbled on, for crappy miles still must be hiked, regardless of motivation. Finally left the trail and went into my head. Into the joy of having just walked 2,660 miles. The eight ground by.
Orbit on the Summit

Orbit on the Summit


Caught up with a staggering Orbit right at the end. “That was horrible,” her only comment. Another mile on the carless road. Mecca. The lodge. Two women coming the opposite direction. “You hiker trash just finish the PCT?” “Yep.” “Here take our beers, you need them more than we do.” Welcome to Canada. Checked into the lodge for rehab. Took care of details. Dreams shattered with a broken hot tub. Okay, then dinner. “Sorry we’re closed.” ” My friend, I’m 50 today and we just walked from Mexico.” “For that we reopen the kitchen and free beers.”

Birthday dinner on Orbit. Carry out to the room. Dinner on beds, mesmerized by a horrible Tom Hanks movie. Storytelling already out of fashion. Then to bed with thoughts. What will the second half-century be like? Two things for sure. It will involve a certain CDT and another known as the AT.

Steve Halteman
On the Pacific Crest Trail
Hiking the PCT for the Kids of Escuela Verde

If you’d like to help out and donate, please click here!

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Day 123 – The last time

September 2, 2013
40 miles
mile 2640

Pools

Pools


Up at first light with a stomach well rested. Began the climb to Cutthroat Pass with the scent of the border strong in my nose. The day was grey to begin, but an unusual reason for it appeared with elevation. A massive inversion was presenting. Basically when the sky falls into the valleys. Soon we were observing mountains herding cotton. Most of our morning was spent jumping into, swimming through and climbing out of this cloud pool. Great fun.
Inversion

Inversion


Made our way through the Labor Day crowds for the first 10 miles then the PCT returned to a solo pursuit. The jagged cascades continued their show and I began to contemplate the end of all this. It will be okay. I am wore out and ready for a rest. A new lament has entered the picture. My heels have begun cracking. Each heel strike painful. A bed and hot tub in Manning Park (the end,end of the trail) pull me.
From Cutthroat Pass

From Cutthroat Pass


Cotton

Cotton


Just before the dive

Just before the dive


20 miles by 1 o’clock. A good time for lunch at the pass I happened to be on. A quick chat with Orbit and she is off, practicing for a speed record whose seed has already been planted in her consciousness. Joined at lunch by Picks Up Stones. No water to be had there so looking forward to streams on the descent. Not to be, as the trail turned upward to an endless procession of climbing switchbacks to yet another pass 1,000 feet higher. To me, and semantics, this renders the first pass a non-pass. More of a lull before the true pass. No water on the way up. At the top I learned it was another two miles to a spring. What to do but pop in a suck pebble and make tracks.

A spring so cold you can’t guzzle. I loaded up, as the literature claims this is the last water for 26 miles. Began the slow descent to Harts Pass along exposed ridgelines. Ran into a guy showing his girlfriend where he had killed a deer last year. A different kind of flowers. At 30 miles arrived at the Harts Pass host cottage. Had a good chat with the caretaker as he doled out leftover trail magic. Learned that Orbit was 15 minutes ahead. Then he spoke of the difficulty southbounders face starting early in the season. Mainly this is due to US border restrictions. Northbound is relatively straightforward. Apply to the Canadians for a free border entry permit. Carry your passport and walk into Canada. Southbound is a different ball of fish. You can’t enter the US from Canada on the PCT. Thus southbounders must hike the 30 miles from Harts Pass to the border, touch it, and turn around and come back. In a big snow year your imagination will explain the difficulties.

Mountain or cloud

Mountain or cloud


Closer

Closer


Stream after stream did I cross until I gave up and dumped the extra two liters I was carrying. So much for the dry stretch. Climbed high within range of a fire observation tower. Picked up a Native American radio station for a new perspective.
Toward the end of 40 miles

Toward the end of 40 miles

Cruising along charting a sunset so strong that I couldn’t tell if it was backlighting clouds or mountains. One last climb and then down the Devils Backbone in the dark. A distant glow a magnet for the double dinner I planned to cook. The familiar Blaster was set out at Shaw creek. Took care of water collection and soon couscous and ramen were on the boil. Entertainment was the back and forth of the stories of the day. Old-fashioned and superior to current methods.

Set up my tent and made my bed. The realization a whammy. The last time.

Steve Halteman
On the Pacific Crest Trail
Hiking the PCT for the Kids of Escuela Verde

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Day 122 – We meet the legendary Anish and devour Doc’s brownies

September 1, 2013
26 miles
mile 2600

Clear skies mean cold as there is nothing to trap the earth’s heat. This knowledge came to me in a shivering way. Learned on day 122 that your tent also can serve as an extra blanket. Education through necessity. But I’d say a little late. Still it made the difference. Awoke to a correction. Arriving in the dark allows one’s imagination to dictate the scenery. Thus I imagined we were snug up against the river as I could hear it clearly. Went to collect some water in the morning and met the reality of light. We were on the edge of a canyon, the river far below. Neat.

Hi bridge ranger station and package delivery center

Hi bridge ranger station and package delivery center

Off quick, as the success of the day rested on catching the 9 AM shuttle into Steheekin. Was back to three mph so the six miles were not an issue. The only hazard being an aggressive squirrel who threw pinecones from ahigh at every passing hiker. The maniacal laugh following each throw didn’t help. Rolled into the Highbridge Ranger Station with plenty of time to spare. The station now appeared to be more of a private home. Nonetheless there were two packages innocently waiting on the front porch. The morning sun spotlighting their importance. Orbit and I laughed at the perfectness that life can sometimes be. Way to go to Jill. A plan that worked.

We tore into the packages. With my passport and permission papers I was now good to enter Canada via the PCT. On to Doc’s package full of brownies, photos and heartfelt messages to each of Orbit and Sons. The highlight being a Doc In The Box. (Currently unavailable in stores.) Kisses Doc, who, by the way, is back in med school and finishing up. The prelude to what will be an unusual life I hope. We sat in the sun and ate the brownies as they warmed. And decided that Steheekin was in need of our brief company. The 9 AM shuttle in, the 12 back out. Plenty of time then for the necessary miles in the afternoon.

Red magic bus

Red magic bus


The red retro bus was on time, and we sped at well above three miles an hour into town. Stopped at Rainbow Falls to have a look for gold. Then to an extensive organic garden. There I enjoyed the preferred destination of my second half century, a finely crafted rocking chair. And then the stop of stops, the bakery. In the eight minute layover Orbit took care of our immediate calorie needs, while I ordered a pick up pizza for lunch on our return journey. Has anyone ever heard of a $51 pizza? If interested, proceed to Steheekin. Which we did shortly.

The village is tiny and set on a 50 mile long lake. Immediately we ran into Bob from Ithaca, who I had picked up hitchhiking in a borrowed truck way back in Mojave. He was off trail now and just up for a hang out. He shouted beers and we headed over to the campsite for a chat. But before that I popped into the general store and bought a little foot love. The REI stocks went into their namesake. A good conversation with Bob. He spoke of the frustrations of teaching biology in intercity New York where policing trumped education. His relief at retiring still palpable. Another goodbye. Another bus ride.

Picked up our pizza topped with diamonds and headed back to the trailhead. A woman sat down next to us. “Are you guys through hiking?” “Yeah.” “Cool.” We talked a bit about hiking. She was very knowledgeable. I asked her if she had done the trail. “Yeah I did it this year and 2005.” “Wow we didn’t see you, when did you start?” “June 3.” The dawning of awareness. “And you’re finished now?” “Yeah.” It could only be one person. Anish. This speedster who finished the trail in 60 days and broke the record. Of course she was out for a day hike with her boyfriend. Some people just can’t get enough miles. An instantly likable person.

The speedster herself, Anish, who averaged 45 miles a day for two months.  Think about that one.

The speedster herself, Anish, who averaged 45 miles a day for two months. Think about that one.

A brief report of her hike. She slept 5.5 hours a night and walked the rest of the time. Eating on the move. She listened to no music, and took a total of two ibuprofen in two months. After finishing she slept 15 straight hours and then felt fine. She did it for her own enjoyment as there is no award or prize money for breaking the record. Finally, she was of the opinion that Scott Williamson (who passed me going south) was shooting to get the record back. What a lucky break for us to have met her.

Doc's brownie bake

Doc’s brownie bake


Orbit was quiet as we tore into the pizza. The whirling obvious. “I think I could do it.” “Probably you could if you didn’t stop to boil coffee.” Stay tuned. The giant ham croissant, two Mountain Dew’s, a similar sized bacon croissant, brownies, two chocolate milks, beer, two scoops of ice cream and multiple slices of pizza anchored me to the table. Don’t know if the eating disorder that afflicts all through hikers has been formally diagnosed. If not it should be as its elements are quite simple. If there is food you eat it.

At two it was time to go. Right. I heaved up, judging my pregnancy to be at about seven months. I was working my way up to 2 mph when I rounded a bend to see Orbit pointing. “Rattlesnake. No disasters this close to the end.” I waddled cautiously by. The heat and the kicking begin to get at me. Early labor. Off trail quick. Whew, glad to be rid of that. Now it was time for miles. Except that it happened again, and again, and again. Seven times in all. I spent more time in the bush then on the trail. The blaster overworked and exhausted. The PCT keeps knocking me down. I pop up and say is that the best you got? Knocked down again. Okay, that was better. I’ll stay down longer in the count. Repeat the mantra. September 3, September 3, September 3.

Another tortured bridge

Another tortured bridge


Eventually there was no more fertilizer. I was empty. Cautiously picked up speed. Found Orbit in the dark. Her headlamp fading. Together we pushed on to snowy pass. At a trailhead parking lot full of Labor Day cars, we put two and two together. It was late. The camping spots ahead were probably full with the occupants of these cars. Here was flat. Here was a toilet. Here one could start in on leftover pizza secure in the knowledge that comfort was nearby. So I lay down and ate myself to sleep.

Steve Halteman
On the Pacific Crest Trail
Hiking the PCT for the Kids of Escuela Verde

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Orbit standing on a broken spine

Day 120 – I realize my last shower was in Oregon

August 30, 2013
30 miles
mile 2535

Waking up wet is corrosive to one’s natural optimism. Wet and cold makes optimism seem unnatural. And so it was. Three hoods were not enough to relieve iced brain. But body memory was enough. Pack and move. A fact. Wet gear is heavier. I was developing a hostility toward northern Washington. Took off in everything I owned. The rain seeking entry points. Slow going. The gloom and rain began to lift. Which left me constantly delayering to avoid overheating. To delayer is another way to say stopping. 3 miles in the first two hours. Should be 6 miles.

When a river grows angry

When a river grows angry


Collided with two locals headed south. They assured me of an improving weather report. I replied with something grumpy and unclever. Then I looked up. You don’t need to be a weatherman to know which way the wind blows, as Bobby liked to say. And you know what, it did look better. Maybe I should snap out of my pity meanderings. Climbed up to a high trail that skirted a long ridge. The mountains reappeared and began to shine. I rerecognized the sun. A German Shepherd fled down the path in front of me. Closer examination revealed a new breed of super Marmot wearing mink coats worthy of a PETA campaign.

Today the PCT threw pass after pass at me. I battled on happily as my heavenly waterfall was no more. In a moment of stillness I caught my aroma. And recoiled. My last shower was in Oregon. Having signed on to Orbit’s campaign of no warshing in Warshington (East Coast and proper pronunciation of terms. See appendix.) I had no one but myself to blame for my stench. And now I understood why the Marmot was fleeing. The Blast Orbit initials logical.

This for 360°

This for 360°


Split some mountains and then made my way down a long Moraine Valley carved by a departed glacier. There I met Orbit by a stream for a formal lunch amidst the steam of our packs. The fine weather produced fine spirits, and we had a lovely chat. Then the boss called us back to trail work. The path lowered into a world of moss. From floor to ceiling all was green carpet. Stayed on the valley floor for an hour, knowing it was a prelude to a big climb. Came to a river rager that signaled the base of the climb. It’s torrent had severed the spine of a bridge oppressor. Here I stopped and dealt with the sock issue.
Super marmot

Super marmot


My new REI socks had proved garbage. Within a week they were 60% holes 40% socks. Which means and translates into blisters. Luckily Orbit had found a pair of forgotten men’s socks drying on a rock. Unluckily they were wool (for which I have a deep animosity) and too small. Those I was wearing now. I removed them and wiped away the blood. Wool eats my skin. Back to the REI garbage. I reversed them so the holes went to the top of my foot. Creativity recycling garbage. Crossed the bridge ruins and started gaining altitude. Passed a fit 70-year-old man who at 120 pounds was carrying a 45 pound pack. Unfortunately he had pulled his quad and was having a hard go of it. I thought of ways to help but selfishly discarded them. All to their own my copout.
Stream and trail through narrow mountain split

Stream and trail through narrow mountain split


My climbing pace increased. My old self in slow return. Injury to me has physical and mental components. I had noticed caution and hesitation since my fall. I worked to discard them. I wanted to reach Canada strong not dragging. In racing, a negative split means the second half of a race is stronger and faster than the first half. It is the hallmark of a race wisely run. At 60 days we had walked roughly 1,000 miles. At Approximately 120 days, if all went well over 1,600 miles. That is the first component of a negative split. The second I began to work on.
Some cascades

Some cascades


The climb was long. By summit, sweat had added greatly to my crust. The light in retreat. But, wow, what a view. For 360° the Cascades raged. I got dizzy spinning. Wanted to be a God and go pinnacle leaping. But alas, mortals just start down the other side. Caught up with Orbit who gave me my daily numbers briefing. Thus informed we discussed the feasibility of various destinations. She pointed to a massive opposing slope coated in switchbacks obviously caused by Zorro having a seizure. “At the top of that is mile 34 and our camping home.” “Not happening,” I replied. “Agreed, it’s too late in the day.” She pulled out her beloved maps and began exploring contour lines that created a 3-D landscape in her head. “We’ll camp at the bottom. That will be 30 miles. Should be something flat.” Plan.
Smoking sunset

Smoking sunset


Night sound effects

Night sound effects


Orbit standing on a broken spine

Orbit standing on a broken spine


Black set in. The switchbacks grew sharp and steep. A memory. A little PTSD maybe. Eyes on the edge. And always down. my knee began it’s late day complain as the Aleve wore off. I spoke gently, “We’re almost there.” Crashing water gave our destination away. No camping spots on this side. Across the bridge. None either. The bridge is bed then. At this hour there will be no more crossers. I gathered for the fire while Orbit ran the tough errands. Not used to being the weak link. Wet wood will burn hot with loving encouragement. I loved. And added pages of my book yet to read. Soon hot food was headed where it belonged and gear was evaporating. Then to bed over the roar of the undamned below.
Camping on the bridge

Camping on the bridge

Steve Halteman
On the Pacific Crest Trail
Hiking the PCT for the Kids of Escuela Verde

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Day 118 – Hills, valleys and a six pack

August 28,2013
31 miles
Mile 2476

Morning gloom

Morning gloom


My ears registered rain before my eyes took in the gloom. Everywhere I looked the rain was part of the landscape. August in Washington. I recognize the courage of the people who call the northern part of the state home. I packed away all dripping. Careful to keep my core warm, which is key in a place where winter is winter and winter is summer. Up into the cotton I climbed. Visibility dropped. I came upon Grouse (the big brown bird of lore) and Pica, too depressed to scatter. I stepped over them. At the top of the pass I breathed clouds.
Pica Chan

Pica Chan

Debris field

Debris field


Then a straight shot down to a lake of blue depth. Pleased that my knee seemed to be improving rather than deteriorating, I allowed an optimistic future back into my thought process. Crossed a debris field of fallen rock that roared. Took me a while to figure out that I was walking across an underground river.
Trail time

Trail time


The pattern of the day repeated itself again and again. Pass a lake, climb a pass, descend from a pass, pass a lake, repeat. One aberration though began to appear more and more. Normally when you come to a branch in the PCT it is safe to assume the harder branch will be the PCT. The easier branch will be some local trail that of course stays flat while the PCT branch climbs away into the mist. Suddenly, in northern Washington, the easier branch is often the PCT. This warms my heart.
Mountain charisma

Mountain charisma


Valley

Valley


Found myself alone all day. By plan, Orbit would forge ahead to Stevens Pass. From there she would hitch into town, buy six days of supplies for our push to the border and then meet me back at the pass. By then I should be there, and we could push on for a couple of hours. Plans. Humans keep making them to pass the time. But the rest of the animal kingdom seem to get along fine without them.
Part of the process

Part of the process


Climbed one last pass to find the top of a chairlift. Had a chat with Maticway Connector going South. Then beelined down to Stevens Pass. Honored by the honorary. There I found some trail magic, a signal, but no Orbit. Through texting I learned of her obstacles. The rain started in. I investigated home possibilities. Settled on a loading dock for the ski resort. Try as it might the rain couldn’t reach me. I glowed at my good fortune. Even found an RV hookup to charge my phone. Five stars on the PCT chart. I hung out my laundry to dry and hunkered down to wait.

Around 9:30 orbit arrived in a taxi with a $70 fare. Ouch. My waiting dock became a hotel dock. Dinner was spread. A chicken, mayo salad and good beer. Not one of Orbit’s shining culinary selections, but enough to stave off self consumption. To sleep dry, knowing you will awake in the same state, brings a calmness to the nights pursuits. And that is how it went.

Steve Halteman
On the Pacific Crest Trail
Hiking the PCT for the Kids of Escuela Verde

If you’d like to help out and donate, please click here!

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Day 117 – Wrecked knees, more toenails pulled off. Success in question.

August 27, 2013
25 miles
mile 2445

Sleep went deep into the morning. But the contract calls of miles. Stood up and discovered a new world of instability. Started my walk with Golda whose beauty masked a streak of cruelty. As it is often so. Slow progress. Orbit tracked down a ride into town on a side road. I politely declined, having found stubbornness will often overcome physical limitations. Orbit then backtracked to the camp for an ace bandage. Being a liability was becoming my new hobby. She returned smitten with the camp host. A double hand fanning indicating the highest level of admiration. She also remembered the bandage.

With that, lots of Aleve and a trekking pole as cane, I resumed north. Flats and uphill were manageable. Downhill not so. It was time for the talk. Orbit’s flight was purchased for the sixth. At this speed the third moved out of reach for me. It was time. I encouraged her to take off. We’d had a great run of hiking together, but in the end we’re all on our own. She agreed. We kicked around some far-fetched alternatives. She hung back. I plodded on. The whirl of gears in her tactical mind audible for some time.

A lake of position

A lake of position

I climbed to a break in the mountain mall. Then skirted a well-positioned late. Orbit caught up. She announced alternative plan 19. Yet another way to reach the border on September third. Shorten miles now, lengthen them later. I smiled. She had made a strange mistake for someone so independent. She had confused her success with our success. Or maybe she just liked confirming her own stubbornness against the wall of fate. I went along. A September third arrival would be a beautiful thing. Off she went leaving me determined in her wake.

Trashed bridge

Trashed bridge

Passed the first of many wrecked bridges to come. Another season must bring a heavier flow. Began a long punishing downhill. My knees buckling at every opportunity. In counterbalance I grew adept at using the trekking pole as a brake and tripod. Miles began to add. Came upon Orbit who had just finished a private pissing turned public. Seems a trail maintenance crew on a ridge above had appreciated a rare bit of forest entertainment. She waved in acknowledgment.

Finally rejoined my steady PCT. Happy my brief flirtation with another trail was over. As punishment for my waywardness the PCT immediately threw a long climb at me. Better than a downhill at this point. Getting the hang of pulling and then pushing with my trekking poles. Let my arms earn their keep for once. Maybe one day I’ll actually take up using these things. Took a break. Curious about my feet. I pulled off my socks. Yanked two more toenails off. Pedicures becoming cheaper by the day.

Bed moss

Bed moss

Dark arrived before my destination. But at least I would arrive. Came to a stream. An azblaster standing sentinel center path. A signal to fill up here because the camp was dry. A sign only I would recognize. And then the light of a glowing tent and it’s attendant joy. Maybe big miles tomorrow. For tonight I was just happy to be stubborn, and for those around me to be the same.

Water-up signal

Water-up signal

Steve Halteman
On the Pacific Crest Trail
Hiking the PCT for the Kids of Escuela Verde

If you’d like to help out and donate, please click here!

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Lake of hues

Day 116 – Is this how it ends?

August 26, 2013
31 miles today

The day began warm and dry. Breakfast hot. Disbelief at our good fortune permeated the morning. The only reminder of outside came when putting on cold wet shoes. Placing such luck in the rearview was tough. But you open a door (fairly novel at this point) step outside and then step away. Soon the wet brush had us soaked again and all moved away from memories of comfort and back to northward.

A high school friend living in Seattle was to meet me at Snoqualime pass. I gave him a fixed arrival time of 1:30. Fixed and certainty are unwise positions to take when hiking. It would be wise to know this, but I don’t. Twenty miles till the pass. We both bonked at around 16 miles and sat down in a field of boulders for recalorie. Picas provided the floor show. I pulled off my socks (also fairly novel). A toenail had died and partially torn away. A bit gruesome but an explanation for that stabbing jab every step. I pulled off the rest between bites. A bit of a blood gusher. Even the Picas had to turn away. Found out that chewing is a good anecdote for pain.

Off quickly, our meeting time still feasible. Trucking along, I mentally reviewed the field reports of the azblaster. All positive. Perhaps next year I will go to kick off and distribute them free to the 2014 crop of hikers. Eliminating TP from the PCT would be a fine legacy. I’ve always wanted to impact history in some way. This could be a chance. My reverie was broken by, “Hey, are you a through hiker?” “Yep.” “What’s your name?” “Blast” “Shit, I’m Thai Kitchen.” With that he came storming out of the huckleberry bushes where he had been loading up Ziploc bags. Thai Kitchen is a great friend of Red Beard who had just finished up the Pacific Northwest Trail. A friend of a friend is a friend. We headed down to his car where he had left out trail magic. Orbit was already there mowing through the family reunion pack size of chocolate chip cookies. A fine conversation followed. Left with hope of a path cross in the future. Our meeting time at Snoqaulime pass slipped out of the realm of feasibility.

Pass drawing near

Pass drawing near


My northern Washington

My northern Washington

Flew down a ski slope to the pass. Late and apologetic. JP stepped out of the car. It had been almost 30 years. Little had changed. His aesthetic, mannerism and voice still the same. We slipped into our friendship and ways easily. He tried to shake my hand. I hugged him. He said, “I knew you’d hug me. I’m clean, you’re filthy. Just right.” He brought pizza and beer. Then he ran us to the supermarket for stocking. All the while we crammed 30 years of review into a compressed time format. Orbit just sat back and took in the ravages and toil that 30 years takes on a graduating class. Soon it was time. So many goodbyes on the PCT. Thanks, John, for the assist.

Snoqualmie Pass

Snoqualmie Pass


Left Snoqaulmie in the muck and fading light around 7 PM. But there was good news on the horizon. Orbit had found Hot Springs on an alternate trail that left the PCT and rejoined some miles later. Only 10 miles to a soak. The trail’s name was the Goldmeyer Trail, which I immediately rechristened the Golda Mier Trail in honor of the late Israeli prime minister. She was tough. The rechristening proved accurate.
Leaving Snoqualmie

Leaving Snoqualmie


All started well enough. Ran into a group of very young kids with a dad monitor. The kids were buzzing. “We just hiked 14 miles.” Excellent. Get them out there early. Of course there is always one at the back. “How much further?” These guys say only five minutes. By now all dad’s credibility shot. Orbit handed out lollipops sent by my sister to smooth those last five minutes of effort. A sharp climb to a lake painted in hues of colorless black, white and gray. Then night all around. Headlamps coming south. A meeting where everyone blinds everyone. “Where are you headed?” “The Hot Springs”. “Tonight? Are you sure?” “Yeah it’s only five more miles.” “Well…good luck.” I need to start listening between the lines with locals more.
Lake of hues

Lake of hues


Crossed a pass and headed down. A roaring river below being a clue to destination. The grade steepened on both sides of each switchback. The trail deteriorated. No loving maintenance here. It started to rain. Bush took over. We slowed. Route finding became an issue. The downslope turned black. A bad sign for mistakes. I was walking point. We were down to one mph. Still our spirits were up. This is what we do. Then that mistake. I remember I was laughing when I stepped on a part of the trail that wasn’t there. Orbit’s words. “You fell off the mountain. Your headlamp light was spinning around. I didn’t like it.” My thoughts. “I can’t stop rolling. So this is how it ends. What a dumbass way to go.” Then I hit a small tree and stopped. Just past me was an edge and black. I don’t want to know about that part. A quick survey before the crawl back up. My right knee was wrecked.

What to do? I love simple answers. Can’t stay here. So go. I dragged my leg and told myself Hot Springs cure everything. But man, was I slow. A great distraction. Orbit discovered a monster salamander that had to be 10 inches long. For those things we get off the couch. The Hot Springs weren’t getting much closer. Change strategies. Orbit set off for camp to return for my back pack. I kept plugging. With a mile to go the welcome return glow of her headlamp. No pride in the matter, I handed over my bag. She slung my pack and took off, though the straps were too big to be of use for her. I’ll never forget watching her cross a single log bridge high over a waterfall chasm all the while drowning under my pack. She’s tough.

Finally into camp at 1:30 AM. Shot, but not to be denied the soak. A half hour of pained wandering until we tracked them down. Not exactly anyone around to ask. Set in a cave they were ecstasy of the highest order. By 3 AM I was moving toward perhaps everything will be okay. Why not? Every once in a while optimism trumps reality.

Steve Halteman
On the Pacific Crest Trail
Hiking the PCT for the Kids of Escuela Verde

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Peephole or moon shrouded in fire smoke

Day 113 – Lost and in a foul mood

August 23, 2013
23 miles
Mile 2313

As it must, the rain began during REM. Light and gentle. The first response to any minor irritation is to ignore it. Offended the god of rain ratcheted up the intensity a notch. Okay, okay I pulled out my tent and threw it over me as a waterproof blanket. Not the response desired, so crank it up. Alright, already. Shit. So at 3:50 AM we set up tents. Mine went up, but a combination of faulty headlamp and stake resistant earth sent orbit back to the waterproof blanket option. The heavens moved toward Ark phase in frustration. I loaned her my headlamp and convinced her to try a new location. Muttering darkly she got the job done. Satisfied, the rain began to taper away.

Cloud impersonation

Cloud impersonation


The morning light gray, grumpy and antagonistic. All wet including all that I owned. I wrote, Orbit walked. Late out of camp with 12 miles to resupply, and not a calorie on my back, I plunged hungrily through the steam on a mission to a menu. My marching trance was broken by an explosion on my left. Thinking IED I jumped into the right side forest. Adrenaline drenched. A sound like 1,000 swirling swords swished by my left ear. I ducked. The big brown bird I had spooked flew away. Instead of trying to identify it, I contemplated it’s taste.

Don’t remember much of the hike after that. Only that I climbed high onto a ridge and stayed there knowing a shortcut to the White Pass store involved following a chairlift down the ski slope. I turned left at the first chairlift I saw. Premature, as the shortcut trail is actually marked on the PCT. I boogied down. Rainier appeared doing the same cloud imitation song and dance. The chairlift ended. Now what? I just kept following runs downward. Took a couple of black diamond runs. Rusty, but did okay. Eventually the longcut brought me to the promised store.

All my packages were there. Thank you Jill and Cirina. As was extreme hospitality and all that was needed. By the standard set of bizarre circumstances I was down to one sock. Try walking miles with that situation. So thrills with a new pair of socks and the fourth and final pair of shoes. Same model, but a faster color. We ate, Interneted, ate, greeted newly arriving hikers, ate, ground dried possessions and try to guess the rest. Orbit off at five, myself at seven, after journel headway and following the Orioles in a close one.

Headed up the trail and into the dark. My new shoes a cushion of cruising joy but too fast for conditions. Snagged on a root, I gently went down. As the dust cleared I noticed Huckleberry’s near my face. A very pleasant lay down snack. Sometimes in life it’s better to stay down after a knock down then get up for more abuse.

Beware of the longcuts that lurk behind the friendly face of a shortcut

Beware of the longcuts that lurk behind the friendly face of a shortcut

Close to the rendezvous at 10 o’clock I missed an arrow on a sign and turned very wrong. Content, plunging toward Death Valley with a good soundtrack going, the sinking feeling was suppressed. The stop. This is wrong. Out with the GPS. It, as confused as I was by the thick forest, sent me here and there. Now we were jointly lost. Sitdown and think. Time for a massive backtrack to the abusive sign and origin of my inattentiveness. A black humor settled. Five hours and 10 miles. Not one of my shining performances. Finally an arrival post midnight. What to do but set up my shrine of respect to the rain gods and shut it all down. Spent the night chasing lost sleep.
Day 113_ 10-37 PM. My head in foreground. You are there. Unfortunately you are also lost and in a foul humor.
Steve Halteman
On the Pacific Crest Trail
Hiking the PCT for the Kids of Escuela Verde

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Lightning bolt for speed.  Last opportunity for goof around before mandatory respectability at age 50.

Day 112 – The long climb to elevation

August 22, 2013
38 miles
Mile 2290

Awoke to winter temperatures at Killin Creek. The great challenge camping is to leave a warm bag for a cold world. But birth must happen. The art is conducting the majority of your morning business from your bag. True masters like Lorax, are completely packed and fed upon exit. I’m not there yet. Far too spread out, my warm steamed away as I gathered gear.

Lightning bolt for speed.  Last opportunity for goof around before mandatory respectability at age 50.

Lightning bolt for speed. Last opportunity for goof around before mandatory respectability at age 50.


We have come upon a new group of through hikers. Mango, Doc H, Robocop, Bird Man, Thunderbolt, Kiddo and Kindergarten Cop to name some. All was downhill through a forest tunnel to start. The path, of fine sand. Mt. Adams stayed behind on good behavior. Orbit saw two elk who bellowed at her. Came to Lava Springs where the water boiled out from beneath a large lava flow. Then a monster ant cone built of pine needles bonded with spit. Later I was to learn they are common in Washington and can grow to five feet tall. This later information did not diminish my earlier discovery delight.
Ant cone with Obrit's mustard catcher for scale

Ant cone with Obrit’s mustard catcher for scale


The hike followed a now established pattern. Hike 10 miles in three hours, 15 minute break, 10 miles, 30 minute lunch, 10 miles, 15 minute break, then the remainder. Sometimes alone, sometimes conversation. Always forward or fueling for forward.

Climbed to a high plateau pocketed with small fetid ponds. Each pond harbored it’s personal squadron of assault mosquitoes. Always they go for the arms. I’ve concluded that the fine hairs on our arms have an evolution developed sensitivity that alerts the brain to mosquito landings. Violent swinging of the arms challenged their landings. But many managed. And many died for that initial success. The agony was the thick huckleberries that one could not stop to pick.

All is going well. An average day on the trail that was about to turn unaverage. But before that came the rain down. Just a spattering rain, but it collected on the overgrown trail. Walking through saturated brush is comparable to being slapped with wet mops. Finally you break down and dig out the rain jacket. Which keeps the rain out, but the sweat it. The end result the same.

First crest of Cesped Pass.  Phone camera inadequate for necessary scale

First crest of Cesped Pass. Phone camera inadequate for necessary scale


Left the tunnel and began a long, big climb to elevation. Change came at the pace of the push. Now Adam’s reappeared. Surrounded by massive valleys of pines happy to be free of fire. Took the third break of the day at around four PM. Everything still unremarkable but not for long. More climbing, another 1,000 feet, toward Cesped Pass. Over a lip and it all started. Long volcanic ranges capped with spiraling lava fingers burning skyward. Which shadowed massive meadow amphitheaters carpeted in wildflowers. Waterfalls everywhere for effect. Bees serenaded. Neither my eyes nor a camera could take it all in.

Climbed again and the same discovery on yet a grander scale. This time we followed the curve of the bowl hopping waterfalls as we went. I kept thinking so this is what it is like to walk through a postcard. Came to some backpackers camped on a ledge. They had planned to do some long miles but came to this spot and froze. For two days they had been sitting there staring at the view.

Orbit crossing snowfield of pass before Knife Ridge

Orbit crossing snowfield of pass before Knife Ridge


Started climbing again. This time to a pass at 7,500 feet. Rounded a turn to two backpackers staring at a staring at them Pica. So this was the squeaky toy impersonator. Picture a shrunken Koala on speed. Very cute. They asked us where we were going. “Lutz lake.” “Not today you’re not.” A little alarming so we picked up the pace. Ever upward through meadows populated by pre-Buddhist Bon Rock stupas. Thick with tents all out to see the sunset slam into Mount Adams.

Left the trees and zigzag raced the approaching night. Passed a work crew party and then across the longest snowfield of the trail. Stopping often to smell the view, but the clock was relentless. Finally to the Knife Ridge and awe. No other word. The mountains erupted and captured the sun. High above all, far above the clouds, was an unusual shape. With focus, it was shockingly the summit of Mount Rainier. The scale unreal. I sat down, munched pretzels, and try to soak it into my memory. I pulled out my camera and took a photo before the battery passed away.

view from Knife Ridge in Goats Rock National Forest

view from Knife Ridge in Goats Rock National Forest


These were mountains from dreams. But not a place to sleep. Time to hustle. The trail followed the Knife Ridge for a couple of miles. Up-and-down, across snowfields and avalanche chutes. Slow going, the rock rock slag hostile to feet and progress. A mistake, at times, would translate into a lack of tomorrow’s. A few close calls but mostly just excitement in the greying light. Caught up with orbit at the turn off the Knife Ridge. We shared the last of our snacks and turned downward to the calm.
Sunset finds Mt. Rainier doing an excellent imitation of Mount Fuji in Japan.  Time to get off the ridge.

Sunset finds Mt. Rainier doing an excellent imitation of Mount Fuji in Japan. Time to get off the ridge.


Orbit about to drop into the valley of waterfalls and wildflowers

Orbit about to drop into the valley of waterfalls and wildflowers


Still buzzed with the gift of our late crossing, and giddy to be off the ridge we made good progress. Out came the headlamps. A large snowfield on the side of a peak took on the shape of Homer Simpson’s ghost. A sure sign of good exhaustion and bad hunger.
Mount Adam's sunset show getting ready to start.  Crowds not visible.

Mount Adam’s sunset show getting ready to start. Crowds not visible.


A truism that is also true. The last miles are the longest. The more we walked, the further Lake Lutz faded into the distance. Finally yelled tag at 9:30. The two established sites were full, so we found our home in the forest.

The last supper before tomorrow’s resupply. I ate everything available, but still remained in caloric deficit. The weather check. Stars buried in blankets of clouds. Too tired to aknowledge the suggestion we cowboy camped. To bed with a smile. For to me, hands-down, the best day of the hike.

Steve Halteman
On the Pacific Crest Trail
Hiking the PCT for the Kids of Escuela Verde

If you’d like to help out and donate, please click here!

Steve H

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