I feel it in my thighs.
We just hiked the Pacific Crest Trail from the South Climb Trail on Mt. Adams, around the mountain, through the forest, up an over the Goat Rocks and all the way to White Pass. It was eight days in the wilderness. My longest stint of the year. The longest trip Lindsey and I have taken together.
And it was utterly groovy.
First, a shout-out to Ali and Colin for being outstanding hiker friends the last three days on the PCT through Goat Rocks Wilderness. It was fun guys. And truly, you made this trip possible by dropping us off at Mt. Adams then days later setting up cars on the northern end, at Walupt Lake and White Pass. PCT section hiking is a mess of impossible logistics. You made it possible.
The Portland portion of vacation was quick: flugtag (flying machines crashing into the river), brewery, Next Adventure (saw PCTers), chores, backyard BBQ, and a comedy show.
Then, hiking. There’s too much to tell and I’m not one for sharing in detail.
Circling around half of Mt. Adams was beautiful. We had nice camps, walked through a large burn area, ran into a friend, and did two side trips. High Camp was very much worth the effort and provided grand views of Adams immediately above, Saint Helens and Rainier. Lookingglass Lake wasn’t. It had burned.
A quintessential sketchy guy, deep in the wilderness, completely unkempt, with a machete, gnarly infected eye and a you-wouldn’t-believe-it charming and nice demeanor, gave us mushrooms on the shoulder of Mt. Adams. We ate those King Boletes and they were delicious with couscous.
As often happens, we slept a lot. Wonderfully long naps. Early bed times. Late starts. Walking 10 miles per day is really darn pleasant. I also read a book (What is the What?), usually with Lindsey cutely reading snippets over my shoulder instead of doing math or reading scientific papers.
I really like section hiking the PCT. Yes, i’ve seen it all. But it’s oh so nice to return to familiar places.
On our fifth day, I swam, read, relaxed, ate the crumbs of my food bag and twiddled thumbs long enough to start to worry. Then, Ali and Colin finally walked up to our backcountry lake, with the food and smiles we were expecting. Whew.
From there on, it was the heart of Goat Rocks Wilderness. It’s for that scenery that I flew up to the northwest. On my thru-hike, I had decidedly mixed conditions through the area. Partly cloudy skies, then rain and fog. This time, wonderful blue skies and puffy clouds dominated. We had one of the most epic PCT camps that I’ve had with full views of Mt. Adams, Saint Helens, Rainier and Goat Lake. We climbed to the summit of Old Snowy and I walked the Old Snowy alternate as well as the actual PCT. Then we hit the iconic Knife’s Edge and did the still very enjoyable miles down to White Pass.
I gave my conditions report to my coworker who is in charge of the area and it was full of details. The major bits were: a bit of ATV incursion near Potato Butte, generally excellent trail, mild brush above Walupt, still incorrect signage on the alternate on Old Snowy, really bad tread collapse on the Knife’s Edge, and the wonderful experience of walking northbound right after logout and new trail around Shoe Lake. Also: every camp had an actively used fire ring, usually far too close the the trail, and during a fire ban. And, too much toilet paper from people that buried it an inch deep, plus multiple outright surface turds. Remember to teach newbies pooping and make sure they comfortable with doing it right.
In 2006, I walked the Pacific Crest Trail. It was hot dang wonderful. Since then, I’ve found myself building a sizable collection of videos on youtube. I thought that I should revisit my PCT hike, since I had little visual documentation of it (an epic tomb of words can be found on this journal.) It was really enjoyable to search back through my photos of the trip. Most of my content on youtube features actual moving images. I hadn’t explored making slideshows. Aren’t those antiquated? Aren’t I more modern? And yet, a slideshow, 2006 technology one might say, was made. The process inspired me to go back through some of the 21,000 photos on my ibook. Perhaps there will be some more slideshows to come. Myanmar definitely deserves it.
A CDT slideshow can be seen by digging a little into my online presence. hint, hint..
I’d just like to too my own horn a little. Toot-Toot!
The current issue of Backpacker Magazine, February 2007(!) has a short interview with me in it. It’s titled “The PCT Project”. They hooked me up with a GPS, some shoes and socks and funding to hike the trial this summer. In exchange, I kept the GPS on all of the time and recorded waypoints and a track log of the whole trail.
Every 40 feet or so the unit recorded a bread crumb and every mile or so I recorded a waypoint. Waypoints are points of “interest”, so deemed by yours truly. Mostly, waypoints are the water sources, trail junctions and roads along the trail. Some pictures that I took will be attached to the data. The magazine blurb is in print but the data hasn’t been posted yet. Hopefully it will be in then next few days. You’ll see it at backpacker.com/hikes
It’s a pay website ($15/year). But there is a 90-free trial, during which you can download the track and the Google Earth file. Funny thing is, the whole PCT is far too big to load in to a GPS unit. There goes your hopes of hiking the trail with a GPS crutch huh? Luckily, as someone that HAS hiked the PCT with GPS, I can confirm that it’s truly NOT necessary. What this project does provide, is a new detailed track and more importantly a waypointed track! Trust me, it’s super cool when loaded in to Google Earth. And it doesn’t have the weirdness of the Forest Service track which thinks that we want to view the hike southbound.
To you avid thru-hikers, some of the interview might make be seem like a bozo. Trust me, I am. But understand that a magazine interview such as this is largely “paraphrasing” from a long conversation. Still, I’m really happy with the end result. I spent a week in Boulder with the Map staff. They’re top notch and doing some cool GPS mapping of the states. The AT was also (hopefully) mapped this year and they’ve got an interesting project for the CDT next year. I STRONGLY encourage the long distance hiking community to look in to the CDT project. It’s introduced in this same issue and you can sign up for the project (if you so choose) at backpacker.com/cdtmap
– I’ll write again when the track is actually online.
– First person that finds a spike off the trail (which marks a spot where I hiked off to go to the bathroom), gets a fresh, steaming pile of poo via Priority Mail.
– First person that actually uses this track, better give me feedback!
Jack “Union” Haskel
P.S.: Like many hikers in ’06, I skipped a burning section in Oregon around Mt. Jefferson. So there’s a 50+ mile gap in my life which I hope to hike and GPS next summer.
I hope everyone is great. I mean really, really great. I’m just writing to keep in touch…
Hmmm… It’s been almost two months since I finished. What have I done? Um, not much. heh. I’m living at home in SF which is pretty nice. I eat well on my parents dime and have very low expenses. I’m trying to keep in good shape but the huge portions that I continue to eat are giving me a nice bit of pudge.
I really went through (am going through) a good bit of reentry regrets. Damn I wish I was still hiking. Lucky for me, I have no job so I do actually get out and hike. I went backpacking right away in the local oak woodlands (Ohlone Wilderness), did another backpacking trip out at the coast (Point Reyes) and went car camping down at this cool ancient volcano (Pinnacles). Keeping sane I guess. San Fran is pretty damn far from the Sierra though and I’m missing it badly. I’ll hopefully head up there soon. I’m still GPSing all my hikes. The first one I didn’t log and every time I got to a gate or a trail junction, it felt strange to not stop for a waypoint. Count another future CDTer here too.
Backpacker told me that if I submit some more trips, they’ll exchange my GPS for a GPS cellphone with minutes that I can use. That’d be nice. I spent a week in Boulder sorting through the data. The project has turned out to be pretty damn cool. And yes, you can actually see some of the times that I walked off trail to take a crap Even funnier though is that the track is too damn big to be of much practical use. You can’t load it in to a GPS!! People, if they so choose, will be able to load sections but not the whole thing. But you can load it in to Google Earth and see the pretty detailed waypoints (turn left here, nice shady oak there, great views over that way, etc). It should be up online sometime in December on backpacker.com/hikes. It’s a pay website ($15/year), but you can sign up for a free trail and download the PCT during that time. There is also a little piece (“The PCT Project”) in the magazine introducing the map and myself. It’s going into the February issue (which comes out in December). I’ll spam the PCT-L and the yahoo group when it goes online.
In the “not great” department, my feet have stayed bigger. Meaning, many of my old shoes don’t fit! Damn it! Has this happen to anyone else? I’m definitely buying new snow boots but will try to hold off on the other sports. My feet are pretty unhappy in my bike shoes though.
On the job search front, there seem to be some cool ones in this world. I’m going for those. I haven’t heard back from anywhere yet though I’m pretty much applying to most of the “core” companies and associations in the backpacking universe. I spend my days applying to places all over the country.
When you come to the city sometime in the future, drop me a line. We’ll do something fun!
Re: trail maintenance in Glacier Peak
Having just hiked the “impassable” section I can shed some light. It’s my understanding that the Forest Service is planning on repairing the trail (there is a sign at the end of the detour that says that they’re currently working on it). It’s understandable though that it’s going to take years, if it’s even possible. First, the Suiattle River needs to be bridged. How it’s possible, I don’t know. The river isn’t big right now but the flood wash around it is about 500ft (?) wide. That’s a HUGE bridge. The other bridges could more easily be repaired but each one will be quite expensive and prone to future destruction. Then there is an area of switchbacks that was washed away in a landslide. It’s a fairly big zone of loose soil and rocks. A large scar down the entire ridge. This obstacle will probably require some re-routing of the trail. For them to do that while still maintaining the slight incline of switchbacks might require moving the whole trail a bit or a lot. I’d be surprised if they could simply rebuild trail accross the active slide path.
The trail is doable as evidenced by the hikers passing through. The danger areas that I identified were the crossings of Whitechuck Creek (I think), and the landslide area. We crossed Whitechuck on a somewhat sketchy log over dangerous water (this was upstream of the destroyed bridge). I heard that there was a better log downstream if you follow the flagging.
The oft-talked about Suiattle River crossing was fine. When we passed through there was a large tree just barely bridging the river downstream of the trail. It’s a constantly changing stream bed though and this log seems to be on it’s way out. I won’t give away the surprise but this log crossing is a novelty. When I passed through, fording the Suiattle seemed in the realm of the possible. Again, dangerous, but possible. It was maybe knee deep, pretty swift but not totally cloudy. The runout of a swim looked decent.
Our route through the landslide was more dangerous than neccessary. It involved some slight, loose mud footholds on very high angle slopes with dangerous consequences. It was better to simply head straight down the slide path for a little bit. Be sure to scout!
All in all, the trail was great. Beautiful and exciting. But be aware that the old trail did involve a greater degree of risk than most of the rest of the PCT held. It was one of the most dangerous things I did on the trail this year. The government has flagged helpful areas. Follow this flagging.
I mitigated the risk by not traveling solo through this section. I suggest you do the same. I’d also seriously consider taking one of the alternates. I’m sure they’re great and they probably safer. Safety is #1 priority, right? So, make up your own mind. I don’t recommending heading in to this area simply because other hikers are doing it.