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Monday, September 15, 2014

Lower South Fork Skokomish Haven Lake Fire

Just a stroll in the woods to loosen up after my big hike on the PCT.  It was nice but boring to be in my home forest again.  There is a lot of trail work being done.. One big cedar was cut down and I can't figure out why.  It was a healthy tree.

Don't bother coming here for mushrooms, I already picked them all.  Each year students from the Evergreen State College field trips come and pluck everything within one mile of the trail head, I beat them to it this year.  Actually its not a good mushroom season so far.  We had one good rain but now it's too dry.

The Mason County Haven Lake fire has started up again.  I thought it would be out by now.  It's burning in a Greed Diamond tree farm.  That's tax free land, I hope that Greed Diamond foots the entire bill.  I've been to Haven Lake but it's all red dotted and closed off forever now.  South Mountain seems to be closed too.  It's time for me to remove all of my geocaches in the area.

Haven Lake fire

Sunday, September 14, 2014

PCT Mount Hood to Columbia River day 5 - Eagle Creek Trail

Day 3
Day 4
Day 5

My Rainshadow 2 tarptent in the morning
it was a Christmas present in 2005

I woke up with the sun and was ready to hike by 7:30.  Before I started my hike I made myself the best cup of coffee ever by using all of my cocoa powder, all of my Nido and all of my coffee.

 I still did not know where Aimless was and it had been almost 48 hours since I had last seen her.  I decided to start hiking and then once I got to the trail head I would have to figure out what to do.  It was looking like I was going to have to upset her family and report her as missing.  I certainly could not just drive home not knowing where she was.

Old signs on the trail, this trail
needs some TLC
 The Eagle Creek trail is pretty but there were a lot of day hikers on it and I wanted to avoid them.  The trail is narrow and day hikers and tourists don't always understand that backpackers need more space than they do.  I was also almost out of food, so I moved pretty fast.

Morning light hits the river just so

I had 9 miles to hike to get to my car.  6.5 miles on the Eagle Creek trail and 2.5 miles on the road.  When I was just 4 miles from the end of the trail I saw a group who was camped.  They had bear cans but still, they looked like they might be thru-hikers so I asked them if they had seen Aimless.

Finally I got an answer.  A man said that he had seen her at Indian Springs and that she had decided to hike out on the PCT instead of Eagle Creek.

 What a relief, to at last have an answer.  She was safe and she was on a different trail.  I still had no answer regarding why she did not meet me at the windy campsite on the ridge the night before, but at least now I knew that she was probably okay.

I guessed that she might be a day behind me factoring in her speed and the fact that the PCT was longer.  I also factored in that she said she was okay with finishing on Friday morning. 

 So I decided that I would tell her family that I expected her to finish hiking on Friday.  I knew her family who I had been sending Delorme messages to, would be concerned if Aimless did not come home with in a few hours of me hitting Cascade Locks.

This is all of the food I had left at the end

The trail head at 9:34

A flush toilet, first one in five days

Took a wrong turn here

The way back the Cascade Locks was not clear, I knew that Cascade Locks was to the East (right) and that I wanted to take the Gorge trail through a campground to reach it.  I found the Gorge trail but it was going in the wrong direction so I turned back and headed down a bike path.

A bike path is part of the trail too

This is where I should have came out

I soon saw the trail that I should have came out on, but it made very little difference as it was only about a tenth of a mile of trail and then it turned into the road that I was already on.

The way out

The way back to Cascade Locks follows the old highway and it had interesting signs.  I was out of water so I stopped to filter some water at Ruckel Creek.  The noise from nearby highway 84 was loud so I drowned it out with music from my Mp3 player.  Some woman with a stroller who seemed to live in a white bread world frowned at me when I said good morning as she passed by, so I frowned back at her.

Manics like Sam Hill make the world go 'round!

Tunnel under 84

The closer I got to Cascade Locks the higher I got.  I was finally, after three attempts at the Oregon PCT, going to walk into Cascade Locks.  With this my summer would be complete.

Time for re-entry leaving the trail world and back to the non-trail world

Walking down I-84

As I walked down the side of Interstate 84 I felt superior to all the folks driving down it.  Those MF's in their cars!  I was better than all of them!  I was a hiker!   But soon I would be joining them.

The song "Tubthumbing" by Chumbawamba came onto my Mp3 player so I put it on repeat.. it seemed to fit.  I got knocked down twice by the PCT but I got up again!

At last

Day 3
Day 4
Day 5

PCT Mount Hood to Columbia River day 4: Chilly Ridge to Mouse Camp

Little waterfall on Eagle Creek Trail

PCT Mount Hood to Columbia River day 4: Chilly Ridge to Mouse Camp
Trail mile 2132 -2144 12 miles

The sun rose just like it does every  morning and Aimless was still not there.  I boiled water for coffee without getting out of my tent.  When I did get up I found that the cold wind was still blowing and I was getting chilled. I needed to get moving, I could not wait around and get hypothermia.

I started hiking at about 7:15 but first I left a note in the dirt to let Aimless know that I was going 12 miles just like we had planned on.

Communication on the trail
 I like hiking early in the morning because the light is nice, my body is fresh and the animals are out.  Shortly I saw a flash of brown and heard a thundering sound in the woods.  Then I saw a flash of an antler and the thundering moved down the hill.  It was  a big bull elk!  What  noise that elk made running away from me.  I could see the elk tracks and could tell that the elk had only been on the trail for about 40 feet before it saw me and then went back down the hill where it came from.  Down at the bottom of the hill at the base of a small avalanche chute I could hear the elk bugling at me.  What a thrill!

Elk Track
I noticed that I felt good even though I had hiked three days in a row.  My body was getting used to this section hiking thing.  This section hike was proving to be much easier than the last one, it was not too hot, the elevation was not too high and I never lost my appetite.

Soon I reached the spring where I had gotten water the night before, then the trail continued on the ridge until it dropped down and crossed an old logging road. 

Some hikers who had spent the night at Lost Lake passed me.  They said that they had not seen anyone on the trail.  The woman was restarting her hike with a friend after her dad had to bail out due to tendon problems near Sandy River.  They had started hiking from Lolo pass at 5:30 in the evening and they left Lost Lake at 5:30 the next morning, they never saw Aimless.  I thought that was a strange, but maybe Aimless was off the trail an in a campsite when they passed by.

Eventually the trail came out onto a wide open ridge with a stunning view of Mount St. Helens, Mount Ranier and eventually Mount Adams all at the same time.

Mount Adams

my first sighting of an umbilical lichen

After leaving the ridge the trail drops down to Indian Springs.  There were hikers at a picnic table there, a van was parked there as well.  I hoped it was trail magic, but it was not.

I greeted the hikers a the table, two were the ones who passed me when I was in my tent.  They recognized my voice as belonging to the person with the giant tent.  The other two hikers were the ones who had passed me after hiking out of Lost Lake early in the morning.  They all asked if I had found Aimless and I told them I had not.

The spring was nice and cold but I could see that it was coming up out of the dirt just behind a cement block, the cement block dammed the spring and sent it out through a pipe.  I wondered if that pipe would make people who normally filtered their water think that this water was okay?  I saw so many nasty things on this hike that I opted to filter every ounce of water that I drank, including the water coming out of this spring.

I left the spring and headed down the Indian Springs trail to the Eagle Creek trail as we had planned to do.  The Indian Springs trail drops about 2,000 feet in two miles, for the PCT that is a steep grade but it would just be business as usual in the Olympics.  The trail was easy enough, I did not slip at all but when I saw a nice campsite next to the trail I suddenly found my self sitting down in it.

   I sat in that campsite for about two hours until a couple of older men passed me.  I had a nice conversation with them.  They were doing a loop that included a lake and they opted to hike up the Indian Springs trail rather than down it.    I asked them to tell my friend that I was headed for Blue Grouse Camp on the Eagle Creek Trail if they saw her.  I also sent my friend a text with my Delorme to let her know that was where I was headed.  The men belonged to the van that was parked at Indian Springs.

Indian Springs Trail

Indian Springs trail meets the Eagle Creek Trail here

I dropped down to the Eagle Creek trail at about 2:30 and headed for our camp that was just on the other side of tunnel falls.  There were a lot of day hikers out so I gave up on asking people where Aimless was.  Day hikers would not have seen her.

I was surprised at the lack of maintenance on this popular trail.

Tunnel Falls

Tunnel behind tunnel falls

tunnel behind tunnel falls

I came around a corner and all of the sudden there was tunnel falls, the famous waterfall with a tunnel blasted into the rock behind it.  I had been so looking forward to seeing it.  But worrying about where my friend was took a lot of the fun out of it.

At about 4pm I reached the "Blue Grouse" camp site that was exactly 12 miles from where I had camped the night before.  I left arrows on the trail to direct Aimless to where I was camped.  I also posted a note on a tree with a peice of paper.

I was pretty tired when I got to camp so I plopped myself down onto a log and numbly sat there for a while trying to figure out what camp chore to do first.  I had been rationing my food and I was looking forward to dinner.  I had just enough fuel left to cook dinner tonight and make coffee in the morning.  Dinner was not very tasty but I ate it all anyway.  I washed down my dinner with cold chocolate milk since I did not have enough fuel left for hot chocolate milk.

Aimless never did arrive at this campsite and I went to bed at about 7:30.  As soon as I fell sleep a mouse came and woke me up by jumping on top of my cook pot.  I fell asleep again and the mouse woke me up again.  I got up and moved my cookpot to the other side of the campsite so the mouse would not disturb me any more.  I had made the mistake of keeping my cookpot next to my head after I was done with my chocolate drink.  I always put my lid on my pot and put a huge rock on the lid to keep mice out of my pot, but I suppose mice still lick around the edge of my pot lid.

I started to send a message to my spouse asking him if we should report Aimless as missing, but the message did not send, so I deleted it and went to sleep.  I would have to deal with it in the morning.  I hoped I was making the right choice by not upsetting her family and not calling out search and rescue.  Maybe she was just slow, or maybe she was dying of exposure or maybe she had bailed out at Indian Springs or maybe she was wandering around in circles in the woods.  There was just no telling what had happened.

Day 3
Day 4
Day 5