Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Pacific Crest Trail Hike Recap

Well, It's been almost 2 weeks since my hike of the Pacific Crest Trail from Steven's Pass to Snoqualmie Pass. I've had lots of people asking for pictures and a report, but it has been a busy 2 weeks. I finally just got a moment to sit down and upload some pictures and videos and hope to be able to comment a bit about the trip.

There are 3 youtube videos here at the top. If you are interested they each are about 8-9 minutes long with short videos clips I took along the way. You might get bored watching them in their entirety, unless you are bored already, then enjoy!

The quickest way to check out my trip is to just scroll down through the photos. I'll add a little caption to each one. If any of the small pictures catch your interest you can click on them to see the picture bigger. If this isn't your cup of tea, then just make sure to scroll down to the previous posts to catch up on Jenni's blogs.

I'll try to fill in some details between the pictures. Everything is in chronological order from Steven's Pass to Snoqualmie Pass as you scroll down. Enjoy!

Starting Time: Friday Sep. 12, 2008 7am
Starting Place: Steven's Pass Ski Resort
Starting Elevation: 4117 feet
Ending Time: Saturday Sep. 13 2008 8:17pm
Ending Place: Snoqualmie Pass PCT Trailhead
Ending Elevation: 3013
Total Miles Hiked: 75+-
Of those miles Jogged: 15+-
Cumulative Pace: 29min 48sec/miles
Total Elevation climbed: 14,620 feet
(barometric altimeter updated every minute)
Total Elevation descended: 15,060 feet
Highest Elevation: 5837 feet, Piper Pass, mile 15
Lowest Elevation: 3007 feet, Waptus River, mile 37
Average Climbing Pace: 16 vertical feet/minute
Average Descending Pace: 18 vertical feet/minute
Total Sleep: 2 hours 20 minutes
Total Bear sightings: 4
Total gallons of gatorade drank: 4
Total backpack weight: 15lbs-21lbs
Total body weight lost: 5lbs
Hallucinations from lack of sleep: bears & goats LOL

Video Clips from the start at Steven's Pass to Piper Pass, (mile 15)

Videos Clips from Piper Pass (mile 15) to Enscondido Lake (mile 45)

Video Clips from Escondido Lake (mile 45) to Finish at Snoqualmie Pass (mile 75+-)

As any guy that loves the outdoors can imagine (which you probably are or are married to one) the night before a hike like this is almost like Christmas eve as a kid. I was so excited. I had a detailed checklist of over 100 things to do, to pack, to wash, to wear, etc... The last thing I wanted was to get 50 miles into my hike and then stop and ask myself, did I bring that, or remember to tell Jenni this, etc...?

Me in front of Steven's Pass Ski Resort

Needless to say, I ended up getting to bed a bit past midnight on Thursday evening and had my alarm clock set for 3:55am. I was hoping to be in bed by 8pm, 9pm at the latest. I'm glad I got everything done on my checklist and it was worth the lack of sleep, but next time (crazy, I'm already saying next time) I'll be sure to prepare earlier in advance so I can get more sleep the night before a 75 mile thru-hike.

Me getting ready to start hiking

So instead of starting off at 5 or 6am right as the sun was coming up, we didn't pull into the ski resort until 6:30am. Yes, Jenni was kind enough to get up with me so early and even drive part of the way, so I could try and sleep. Thank you Jenni!!!! Without her seal of approval, this hike would not have happened. I'm not sure how many wives would let their husbands wander off into the woods by themselves only to (hopefully) come out the other end 75 miles and a day later.

Me at the summit of Steven's Pass

Where was I, oh yes, so we got there at 6:30, said our quick goodbyes, then I did a little video clip and was ready to start my watch at 6:45. I did so. 15 minutes later and 2 trails later, I was back at the ski resort restarting my watch. I couldn't find the trail. LOL Yeah, that boosted my confidence. I'm sitting here in the parking lot and I'm lost. How am I supposed to manage my way through 75 miles of rugged no mans land wilderness, when I can't even get out of the parking lot.

A typical alpine meadow clearing, the fall colors where just starting to come in.

Well, I did eventually find the trailhead and started hiking up the ski resort. This was a lot of fun. One of Jenni and I's 1st dates was skiing here at this resort. As I would pass by a certain run or chair lift I would reflect back and remember the good times we had. Later on, she would tell me, that it was on that date that she started to fall for me. I would like to think it was my impeccable skiing abilities, but I'm sure it had more to do with her taking pity on me and thinking she could fix me.

Another beautiful Autumn slope (do I look photoshopped into this? LOL! It's the flash.)

Anyways, this is about my hike, not how Jenni & I fell in love. If you want more of that browse through our previous posts. So I summited the ski resort and was starting down the backside when I got spooked by what appeared to be a bum hiking up the trail. I thought to myself, what is a bum doing clear out here. There is nobody for him to bum off of. I was ready to offer him some of my granola bars if he asked. As he came closer to me, I could start to smell his body odor even though he was still 10-20 feet away. He looked like he hadn't shaved in months and had been wearing the same outfit as long. His shoes had holes and his clothes where in shreads. He had a bag or pack of some sort over his shoulder just like you would see a bum carrying. He was just missing the grocery cart. His thick glasses were dirty and I didn't understand how he could see out of them.

As he got closer, I paused my MP3 player and offered a "good morning." I tried to be polite and treat him just as I would any other hiker. I told him he was up about early. He asked what time it was. Of course he was a bum and had no watch nor looked like he cared what time of day it was. I told him it was about 8:30am and he replied, "oh it's a late start this morning." He asked me how far it was to Hwy 2 and I told him he was just an hour and a half away. He thanked me and kept walking. I thought to myself, "what is he going to do when he gets there, hitch hike into Seattle or something?" I turned back around and asked him where he was coming from. He stopped turned around and tried to focus on me through his dirty glasses. He replied, "Mexico." Then he continued onward up the hill. My jaw just about hit the trail.

Trap Lake & Thunder Mountain

I just stood there awestruck, trying to contemplate what a journey he must have been on. I was speed hiking 75 miles, attempting to cover the miles and survive for the weekend out in this rugged wilderness. He had been hiking daily for over 4 months. He had covered over 2,500 miles, 35 times more than what I was attempting. He was 200 miles from his goal and was near the end of his trek. I had covered about 4 miles and still had 70+ to go thinking I had a long way to go.

This scenario repeated itself over 40 times through the next 70 miles. Each time I was still just as amazed as the 1st time, when I would ask, where you coming from? and they would reply Mexico. It was like a human migration heading north.

Surprise Lake

I would continue to run across people through out the day and it was always fun to stop and chat for awhile. Some where coming from Mexico, most where taking a week and doing the hike that I was doing in reverse. Most people thought I was pretty crazy as well. They would ask where I came from and where I was heading and I would mention that I was doing the same trek as them just in reverse. They would shift the weight of their 40-50lb pack and I would see them eye my pack and make mention of how light I was going. I would then mention that I didn't have plans to stop tonight and I was planning on finishing tomorrow. You could see their minds whirling through all the miles of trail they just spent the last couple days hiking and would make comments like, "There's some big hills ahead." or other remarks of the difficult terrain or trail condition. I'm sure they thought I was just as crazy as I had thought of the so called "bum" I had come across.

Glacier Lake from Piper Pass

I continued throughout the day, everything going to plan. The trail was great, the weather was perfect. I even got cell phone reception once and called Jenni. She said my spot gps device was tracking me fairly well. So everything was great. I was moving along fairly well and was actually anticipating finishing in under 30 hours. My body was holding up well, and I was always excited to see the next lake over the next ridge and the rewarding panoramic views from up top. The trail was continually going up for a few miles or going down for a few miles.

Panoramic view over Deception Creek Drainage (click to enlarge)

I ended up stopping at different lakes to eat some lunch or snacks and filter some more water. I pretty much was moving non-stop and I always refused to sit down during these breaks. I didn't want to face that feeling of trying to move again after being stopped. After I had been going non stop through out the day for about 10-11 hours and 20+ miles I was starting to feel the effects of 4 hours of sleep the night before. I had worked my way down into the valley pictured below and had a 5 mile hike ahead which was all uphill 2,500 vertical feet to Cathedral Pass.

Hyas Lake at bottom of valley

I had finally reached that point of exhaustion. I found a little campsite off to the side of the trail, sat down on a log and had that first "what am I doing?" conversation with myself. It was going to be getting dark in a few hours and I just happened to be located next to my shortest "out". "Out" meaning a different trail that could lead me to a road where Jenni could drive in and pick me up. I could just hit the help button on my spot gps and it would start sending emails and text messages to Jenni every 5 minutes letting her know my location and that I wasn't going to finish at Snoqualmie pass and that she needed to come pick me up. I left her a map with all my "out" locations in case I got injured or couldn't finish the whole trek. There weren't many of these outs and most of them included 10+ mile hikes to reach the road. The next one I was to come across wouldn't be until morning time.

I decided to lay down and close my eyes for awhile. I propped my feet up on the log I had been sitting on and threw my pack under my head and closed my eyes. It took about 5 minutes for my mind to stop wandering and I finally fell asleep. When I came to, my eyes shot open as I looked skyward through the tree tops. It was still light outside. I looked at my watch. It had been 10 minutes since I laid down. I was rested. It felt like hours had went by. I stood up, took mental note of my body and came to the conclusion that I was good as new. There was no using my "out". So I threw my pack on my back and started making my way up the 5 mile trail to the next pass.

Cathedral Peak & Pass

I was so glad I made that decision. Cathedral Pass was beautiful. The alpine meadow was the perfect place to pitch a tent for the evening. I saw backpackers settling into their camps and they all looked like they were having the time of their life, enjoying that once in a lifetime experience. I wanted to pitch my tent too. Eat a hot meal, crawl into my sleeping bag and get a good night sleep before watching the sunrise on this beautiful vista.

That just wasn't going to happen tonight though. I didn't have a tent, hot meal, or a sleeping bag, so I continued onward, over the pass and down into new territory, and it was beautiful. Will, welcome to Deep Lake.

Deep Lake from Cathedral Pass

I was in heaven. My surroundings were breathtaking. I was looking down 1,000 feet onto a glacier blue alpine lake that was surrounded on all sides by beautifully tall mountains. I could hear a waterfall across the valley cascading it's way down into the lake. It was at this moment that I heard my cell phone beep. I had a cell phone signal out here in the middle of no where and a message from my wife.

I gave her a call and we chatted for quite awhile. It was good to hear her voice. I had been rejuvenated from my nap and now from the scenery I was taking in. I comforted her that all was going well and everything was going as planned. I even commented that there was a good chance I would be done by noon tomorrow. Before I started I had given her the finishing window of between noon & 9pm the next day and here I was telling her that my pace was looking good and there was a chance I might actually finish at noon. Boy, I must have been on a high cloud.

Anyway, she made mention that she had just stopped by Blockbuster for some chick flicks and the grocery store for an easy dinner and was preparing for her lonely Friday night. I couldn't help but feel that her modern day comforts of snuggling up on the couch, watching a movie and eating a warm meal where quite tempting and I was missing such things as the sky started growing darker. But the beautiful view I had all around me was my adventure and I was soaking it all in and I was happy, even excited for the nightfall that laid ahead. I had never hiked through the night before. Again something new and exciting.

My fire to keep warm while snoozing and to ward off any critters

I got down into deep lake and came out into a meadow. It was almost officially dark and I could see some backpackers scurrying around their campsite, headlamps lighting up the trees and tents. It seemed like quite the party out in the middle of nowhere. I stood out there in the middle of the meadow with trails going every which way. One of the campers saw my headlight and shouted out, "everything all right?" I replied in the affirmative and asked him which trail was the trail was the PCT. Instead of shouting and pointing me in the right direction he just walked across the meadow until he got to me. He asked me where I was headed and where I planned to hunker down. You could tell he was somewhat worried for me as i just had a daypack on and it was now dark and I was asking for directions instead of asking where a good place to pitch a tent would be. I explained what I was doing. He wished me luck and pointed me off in the right direction. It was at this point that I realized, yes I am crazy. It's now dark and I'm planning on hiking through the night, even though I just hiked all day, yet I was awake, alert and excited for what the night would have in store for me.

Me in the middle of the night

I continued to work my way down to a big lake; Waptus lake and around it. I couldn't move as fast at night, but I was still moving forward so that was good. By about midnight, I was so exhausted from my lack of sleep the previous night and from hiking 35-40 miles over the past 17 hours. I decided it best for me to stop and get some sleep before starting back up over the next pass. I was now at the lowest elevation of the trail and it was fairly warm for being midnight (52 degrees). I knew it would be colder and harder to sleep if I wait until I got up on the next ridge. So I stopped and spent about half an hour getting a fire going and eating some food. I decided to sleep for about an hour and then see how I felt. I curled up next to my fire and was out like a light switch.

I woke up to my shivering and noticed that my fire was just coals. I looked at my watch, the temperature had dropped another 4 degrees and exacatly an hour had passed. I built my fire back up and got warmed up and decided I needed to get moving or else I would end up spending the night right there next to that warm fire. I packed up, put my fire out and started hiking again. Over 2 hours had elapsed, since I stopped. I didn't want to be making a stop like that as I was trying for speed, but alas, the sleep did feel so good and I was refreshed and ready to take on the next 4 miles and 2,500 vertical climb.

After hiking for another hour or so, I once again found my self exhausted and unable to stay awake. I was in need of another power nap. This time there was no soft place to lay down. No log to put my feet up on. I had just been climbing switchback after switchback. I finally gave in and just leaned over onto the upside of the trail into some wet, dewey bushes and closed my eyes. I awoke 10 minutes later cold and wet, so I got to my feet and started moving again. I hoped this would be enough to get me through the rest of the night until the sun came up.

Sunrise on Mt. Rainer

It wasn't. Half and hour later I was again exhausted and unable to keep my eyes open. I determined that I needed another one of those hour long power naps and then I would be able to stay awake until sunrise. This time I didn't have the luxury of making a fire in a campground like last time. I was still climbing up the switchbacks. I pulled out my mylar blanket, wrapped it around me and again fell over into the bushes on the upside of the hill.

I awoke an hour later, this time still warm and dry. That was perfect. I was rested and knew I could make it the next hour or two until sunrise. A new day was on the horizon and I knew I had made it through the night. The hardest part over, I was now onto the home stretch. Today I would be done. The next time I would lay my head down, I would be sleeping in my cozy bed. I was so happy to be done hiking up over the next pass. I was excited for the sun to be up and I was really excited to finally be able to see the beautiful scenery I had come out here to experience in the first place. Good Morning Will!

Panoramic view of Lemah mountain, chimney rock, 4 brothers, chikamin ridge, & others
(click to enlarge)

It was a beautiful morning up on the ridge. I did a couple miles up there, just soaking up the peaceful morning. At one point I heard a barking sound off the trail a few hundred yards and thought it was a camper with a dog, but I never did come across a tent or anything, so I'm assuming a coyote maybe?

My bear bells were a ring a dinging in the early morning I came across some campers eating breakfast and with me in my red shirt was greeted with a, "Good Morning Santa, we heard you coming and was hoping it was you." LOL Yeah, not too many hikers had bear bells, but I promised Jenni I would wear them and I did feel a bit safer, since I was moving along at a quicker pace by myself and didn't want to spook any bear. But with 45 miles down and no bear sighting I was starting to get convinced that all the bears were still at a lower elevation (like my back yard) due to the lack of berries this season.

Spectacle Lake from Chikamin Ridge

I spent the morning and next 12 miles dropping 2000 feet down onto a beautiful valley floor, then climbing the 2000 feet back up the other side. The climb was worth it as though. As I worked my way higher and higher toward the Park Lakes, my view of Spectacle Lake just get getting better and better. This is another spot I would love to come back to and camp and enjoy taking my time. I'm not sure if I would rather camp up here with a view of this beautiful lake or camp down along it's shore, maybe out in the middle of that pennisula.

Fall colors on Chikamin Ridge

I then worked my way up over Chikamin ridge and started my traverse under Four Brothers and Chikamin Peak. I was excited for two reasons: 1. I passed a hiker coming my way that had just seen 4 black bears in the past 6 miles. Yay! I was finally going to get to use my bear bells. and 2. I felt close to finishing at this point. I could start to see down into Hayak, knowing that Snoqualmie pass was just around the corner. I only had 15 miles left and figured they would go quick. Boy was I wrong, most of those miles were super rocky and the bottom of my feel felt like I was stepping on bruises everytime I took a step.

1st real black bear sighting

It was bear #3 that took me by suprise. The other 3 bears that I saw where a couple hundred yards away, just minding their own business mowing through the huckleberry bushes. Bear #3 on the other hand, just happened to be grazing about 5 feet off of the trail and around a corner, so I didn't seem him until I saw him poke his head up at me. He was busy working his way through some thigh deep brushes and he was smaller, so only the tip of his back could be seen above the brush. I'm sure he had been hearing my bear bell, but didn't really care about the noise, but it was when he saw me and he jumped, that I finally took note of him and I as well jumped back. The hair stood up on the back of his neck and he watched me for about 30 seconds as I slowly backed up (I had probably been 10-12 yards away when we first noticed each other) and retrieved my puny can of pepper spray from my side pocket. After I got far enough away, he just put his head back down into the bushes and worked his way further away from the trail so that I could pass by. I thought about trying to take a photo, but our camera makes the sound of a barking dog instead of making the camera shutter sound, so I opted for no pictures. Probably a smart choice.

Numero 2 bear sighting

Huckleberry Mountain & Mt. Thompson with Joe Lake

I continued my way around the 4.5 mile traverse and was treated to beautiful vistas the whole way. This helped keep my mind off of my aching feet.

Mt. Rainer from Chikamin Peak

Glacier Peak looking North from Chikamin Peak

Fall Colors at base of Huckleberry Mountain

Joe Lake

After the traverse and being out in the hot afternoon sun I got to treat myself to some more beautiful alpine lakes. I loved the blue color of the water at both Joe Lake and Alaska Lake. Joe Lake looked almost like a tropical oasis, while Alaska lake had that deep blue lake look.

Joe Lake looking back at 4 brothers and Chikamin Ridge

Looking down on Alaska Lake

I was hoping to have enough water that I didn't need to filter again, but after being without a stream crossing for the past 15 miles I decided to play it safe and fill up here at my last water stop location Ridge Lake. The sun was starting to set and evening was setting in. I wanted so bad to be done before nightfall, but it was going to be close.

Filtering Water at Ridge Lake

After filling up at Ridge Lake I only had 7 miles left, but it felt like it should only be 3-4 miles because it was almost all down hill and heck I had just covered almost 70 miles, so this should be quick and easy.

I picked up my pace again and started jogging when I could, but that was still near impossible with all the rocks on the trail. After pumping quickly through 4 miles and only 3 miles to go I hit my final and only wall of the day. I just couldn't keep my running pace up. I sat down on a step in the trail and had myself a little cry. It was getting dark and I knew I would not make it off the mountain in daylight. I had also wanted to be done by 36 hours and that had come and gone. My stomach had given me issues and I hadn't eaten since this morning. I was naseous and wanted to throw up. The rocky trail had finally given way to a nice soft trail, but I was so mad at the switchbacks. I just wanted to go straight down the hill. I just felt like I was going back and forth and not dropping any elevation on the switchbacks. I called Jenni on my cell phone and told her I was done. I had finally had enough and didn't want to go on.

After about 5 minutes, I regained my composure, stood up put my headlamp back on for the evening darkness and started walking. I got 1 mile down and with 2 miles to go, I breached my wall and started running all out. It was painful, but I knew the faster I ran the quicker it would all be over.

Finish at Snoqualmie Pass Parking Lot

Jenni (and Preston) were waiting patiently for me in the parking lot. Jenni had went out and got me the largest Sprite she could get her hands on and had it waiting for me. I got hugs from them both even though I'm sure I was not in huggable condition with my stinky,dirty body. That shows true love right there. I think Jenni was glad to have me back and out of the woods after letting me out for the weekend.

I took my pack off and laid down in the parking lot and looked up into the night sky. I was done. It felt so good. I had accomplished a distance I had never before attempted on 75 miles of breathtaking trail that I had been dreaming about for years. It was the perfect trip done in the perfect fashion, with perfect weather. I now will have those memories for a lifetime.


Karl Meltzer - Ultra runner tackling the Appalachian Trail

Matt Hart - Endurance Athlete creating a new speed route around the Tetons.

Peter Bawkin - Endurance Athlete that keeps records of the fastest known times on famous trails.

Leor Pantilat - Speedy Mountain runner exploring some cool places here in the NW.

Thank you's:

Where's & - for hooking me up me up with some great gear.

Spot GPS - for hooking me up with a free year subscribtion ($150 value). With out this security, my wife wouldn't have let me out the door. I had over 500 page views to my spot google map while out on the trail. Thanks everyone for following me.

My wife - For letting me experience this amazing trail.


Jenni said...

Will I loved reading this. I certainly didn't get this version of the story when I picked you up after you got back to the trailhead. It was more like "My ran into a bear, I want to throw up, I can't eat...ahhhh thanks for bringing me a pillow...this carseat is heaven." LOL

I love you Will. And I'm so glad that you got to fulfill one of your adventurous dreams, and I'm glad you were watched over.

And yeah, that one picture does look like you photoshopped yourself into it. LOL

Saving Grace said...

Will you're amazing, that's all I have to say!!

Baltimore Papa said...

My favorte part was getting lost in the parking lot. I probably couldn't have even done Jenni's job of dropping you off and picking you up without getting lost. You're crazy! While I was working at Crater Lake I once walked about 15 miles of the PCT and it took me all day. 75 miles is unreal. All these adventures make me jealous. If I were around I'd like to think I could tag along but I'm sure I'd wimp out before going. Could you not convince any of your friends to go along with you?

Carolyn said...

We were on pins and needles until you got back! We were constantly monitoring you in the GPS. We were most worried about you falling off a cliff in the middle of the night.....Jenni's too young to become a widow!

Next time you decide to do something like this, plan far enough in advance that you can take someone with you.

Ron and I have hiked out of one of the high lakes at night, (this summer) across root and rock filled trails, so I know how hard that can be. (It was actually a section of the PCT)

We are so glad that you made it back safe. I'm sure that you were being watched over, with all the prayers that were going your way.

Sandy said...

I'm with Grace. All I can say is WOW!! You amaze me and I'm sure Granpa is so proud of you- as is your Mother. I just want to tell everyone- "See what my son has done." I couldn't stop reading your story and I was loving the pictures. I just don't know how you do all that you do. Keep making those memories. Perhaps you could sell them to National Geographic???

Dan Thomas said...

Sound like you had fun. It looks a lot like where I want to take Mom and hike. That did not happen this year. Oh well. Mom said maybe you and Jenni might like to go with us. That would be fun.

jharmer said...

Will-You are a complete animal. I am completely jealous of your adventure and wish I could have been a part of it. We did end up hiking one of the most amazing peaks in Mt. Ruth, but it was just a Sunday stroll compared to what you accomplished.

Congratulations on your achievement. I'm so glad that you took the time to document your adventure and hope to be on the next one. You will be extremely bored with the pace on Rainier next year!!!

Karen said...

Your adventure and your pictures are unreal!! I keep coming back to your post to read it again and look at the beautiful scenery. You rock!!

Vern Eastley said...

Will, thanks for doing such a great job with the story and pictures. What an awesome adventure you must have had. You rock.

Sam said...

Hi Will, Congrats on an awesome journey, and sounds like it was incredibly fun! Thanks for passing along the link to your write-up! This stretch has been on my to-do list for sure, so thanks a bunch for the tour! Happy trails, and all the best!