August 22, 2013
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.
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
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
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
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
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.
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.
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.
On the Pacific Crest Trail
Hiking the PCT for the Kids of Escuela Verde
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