Monday, December 23, 2013

Lake Josephine to Stevens Pass--In the Sun!

Sun---sun--sun! Finally no more rain as I pack up my sleeping gear to clear skies as I prepare to hike my last 9 miles to Stevens Pass. I wear my rain pants because the underbrush is full of water that brushes off my pants and gets my last pair of dry socks wet within a half hour of hiking.

I knew I was near Stevens Pass as I saw the back country ski lifts in the distance. It seemed like it took forever until I got up to the top of the ski lift. At the top, I saw that Heather, the Swedish thru hiker had spent the night rather than continuing down to Stevens Pass.

At the top of the ski lift, I was able to call Amtrak and change my reservations to mid-day. I then headed down to Stevens Pass while Heather was drying out his tent for a few more minutes.

It was a long hike down. As I got closer I heard lots of music and an announcer because there was a dirt bike festival. For me, this meant that there would be restaurant food at the Inn.

It was hard to believe there were so many fully decked out dirt bikers. Someone told me that the bikes cost anywhere from $1,000 to $5,000 plus the pads, helmets and fancy clothing.

I got a good seat at the restaurant with a view of the bikers, while I ate a juicy hamburger with some Leavenworth local pale ale microbrew. While I was eating, Heather joined me and ordered two hamburgers.


After lunch, I headed across the pedestrian bridge to the other side of Highway 2 to catch the mid day Amtrak bus to Seattle. Within 1/2 hour, I flagged down the bus to home.

Although the weather was not the best, I enjoyed giving back the the Pacific Crest Trail by joining the Washington Trails Association PCT Deep Lake work party where we replaced two puncheons with two turnpikes that should last for years.

When I finished hiking the Pacific Crest Trail in 2008, a 2,560 mile trail that runs from the Mexican border to Canada, I wanted to pay back for the great experience I had doing this trek. Until you participate in trail building and rehabilatation, you just have no idea of how much effort goes into making this trail passable for hikers and equestrians. Severe government cutbacks makes it impossible for the Forest Service, Bureau of Land Management and Park Service to maintain this trail. Instead, volunteers have stepped in to help with the guidance of these great government organizations. We just did about 50 feet of trail work plus another 3 miles of trail brush trimming. So can you imagine how many volunteers it is taking to make this trail accessible from people all over the world to travel. When I hiked the PCT, I had no idea of how much work was involved in clearing the tred for me. I now know and it feels good to volunteer.


Hiking to Stevens Pass---Josephine Lake

We had our last breakfast on Saturday, September 7th, and I packed up some great meat sandwiches and other goodies to eat on my way to Stevens Pass while the rest of the WTA work crew headed back to the trail head some 8 miles away.

My plan was to hike so that on Sunday, I would be within 10 miles of Stevens Pass so I could catch the Amtrak Bus that stops at the pass if you have reservations. My reservations are at 7pm, but if I get close to Stevens Pass and my cell phone works, I will try to change the reservations to 2pm.

Again I am hiking in my rain pants and jacket as the rain continues as I make my way up to Cathedral Rock and Pass. From there I headed down to the much feared Swift Creek crossing. Here the water can be fast and deep as it rushes down an avalanche shoot from Mt. Daniels that is now obscured in rain clouds.

As I began the crossing, I tried several places to hop across the rocks rather than wade into the rushing water like many of the hikers had reported doing. It wouldn't have mattered if I ended up wading since my feet were wet from all of the rain, but I enjoyed the challenge. I made it across OK, but the ending was on a sloping slab of granite where I had a small ledge for my foot and another for my left hand juust above the rushing creek. One last step and I was back on the trail.

Just behind me was another hiker picking his way across the boulders. He even found an easier crossing. We stopped and had some snacks and it turned out he was a thru hiker with a trail name of Heather. He was a Swede who was a ski patrol/EMT who worked in Norway. I felt pretty safe hiking with him for a while. He was trying to get to Stevens Pass today so after a couple hours of hiking with me, he powered his way on. On the Pacific Crest Trail they have a saying of "hike your own hike"--HYOH, and that's what Heather did.

Since I got off to a late start, it was begining to get dark before I got to Lake Josephine. It was still raining as I pulled out my flashlight and I found myself slipping a lot on the muddy trail. After a couple hours hiking in the dark and rain, I finally reached Lake Josephine overlook. I stopped to put up my tent and while I was doing that, the rain finally stopped. The clouds began to clear and the stars appeared as I headed to bed after covering about 23 miles today.


Saturday, December 21, 2013

Fifth Work Day--WTA Deep Lake

Will the rain ever go away? This morning we quickly got to the kitchen area where we were able to stay dry while having our breakfast and preparing our lunches.

The weather then started to clear as the rain diminished.

Our last work today will be to haul more sandy dirt to the two turnpikes that we have filled with large, medium and small rocks.

It is back to the dirt pit where Kathy is digging out the sandy dirt and Leon is waiting for her to fill up his bag.

Here is the completed 1st turnpike with mounded sandy dirt that the winter's snows will weight down. The log that we sawed is now in two parts, one has been rolled away to the left and the remaining log is now off the trail.

Here is the 2nd finished turnpike with culvert ready for PCT hikers and horsemen.

You can see that ground water has already reached the new culvert on the 2nd turnpike. The dirt has been mounded which the winter snows weight will pack down the trail.

Dan, Liz, Kathy, Leon, Ben, and Terry are standing on the 2nd turnpike that we finished. Notice the culvert that we installed that will allow the water to flow past the trail without getting it soggy.

After celebrating our completion of these two turnpikes, we returned to our camp to cook up our final meal. We had some toasted cheese and meat sandwiches with cream broccoli soup. While we were finishing up our dinner, we had a few thru hikers come through that we fed.

One of the thru hikers with a trail name of JOAT-joker of all trades--stopped by after we had given out all of our sandwiches so he had 8 cups of cream of brocoli soup. On his postholer website, he claims he only had three servings, but we know better. Check it out: Joat - Pacific Crest Trail Journal - 2013


Friday, December 20, 2013

Fourth WTA Work Day

After a day off, we all gathered for another fabulous hamburger dinner with cole slaw and chocolate toffee desert treats. After we bedded down for the night, the sky exploded in a huge lightening show that circled our valley. The thunder from the lightening reveberated around our valley so I could never figure out what was the original lightening strike and what was the echo. I was hoping that the tree I was camped under was not the highest in the area. Counts from the lightening to the thunder was never more than 3 seconds. The lightening made my tent look transparent. This continued on for several hours as the thunder marched on east until it was just a dull rumble. If that was not enough, the rains began as a downpour. The volume of rain that fell was unbelieveable. During the night, I saw that Ben had relocated to our tent kitchen. It turned out that his tent area had become a swimming pool with the torrential rains so he relocated for the rest of the night.

As we got up from this torrential downpour, it was still gently raining so we all got into our rain gear for the fourth work day. One of our first tasks was to place our stringers on the two turnpikes.

We now were able to begin completing the 2nd turnpike with the culvert, but it was a lot of muddy grubby work we had to do to make room for the culvert and pack the turnpike with rocks followed by sandy dirt.

Liz and I are sawing through the lower stringer so the culvert can be installed. This is some tough, muddy, and grubby work that will never be seen when everything is done.

We now have installed the culvert which will move the water from one side of the PCT trail to the lower side without mushing up the trail.

Now that we have finished all of the culvert and rock work it is now on to hauling the sandy dirt from our forest sand pit to the turnpikes. Here we have Ben resting, Kathy is digging more sandy dirt and Terry is hauling away the dirt to our nearby turnpikes.

I am using a bag for hauling the sandy dirt. Check out how deep the hole is and how many trips we had to take to fill up the two turnpikes.

Today it seems like we will never be able to haul enough dirt to finish up these two turnpikes, but by the end of the day it looks like we have finished up the first turnpike.

Hump Day---Time to Explore

Last night it rained a bit and we heard some thunder and the sky lit up with lightening all around us for about three hours before just rain continued through the night. In the morning the skies opened. Wednesday the 4th is a personal day where we can just rest or explore around camp or check out some nearby trails. After breakfast, Leon--the preacher from Omak---and I decided to hike to a nearby Lake Vicente, less than 4 miles round trip.

Before heading out, our breakfast treat was huckleberry pancakes from huckleberries we had gathered the night before. Ben--an experienced WTA intern and a UW computer science student--had decided that it was better to drop the huckleberries on the top of the poured pancakes rather than mixing it into the batter. Here Vivian and I are lining up to test out Ben's theory.

The weather is clearing as Leon and I head south on the PCT to the Vicente Lake trail cutoff. It was a pleasant hike because the weather was good and we were traveling light.

On the Vicente Lake trail we paused for pictures by a zen type clearing with the Cathedral Rock looming in the background with blue skies.

The trail to Vicente Lake was relatively an easy climb until we reached the final wall where we ended up using our hands and feet to scramble up the last 500 feet. Here is the view from the top of this wall.

After enjoying the view down the valley, we were eager to head over the top of the wall to see what Lake Vicente would look like and we were not disappointed.

This is the view to the south east cirque with snow lingering at the edges of this aquamarine mountain lake.

Here is the view to the outlet to the northwest.

Leon is soaking in the beautiful views few other people ever see. He said that none of his sermons could ever capture the beauty and majesty of what he sees here and other areas of the Cascades.

I am enjoying the beauty and purity of Lake Vincente in my WTA volunteer T shirt and my orange Feathered Friends wind-shirt.

I like how WTA has this mid week break from our trail work because we tend to overdue our work effort in the first few days and this gives us a chance to recharge our bodies for work to come.

As we returned to the Pacific Crest Trail and our camp at Deep Lake it was so obvious to determine who the Labor Day hikers were and who were thru hikers who had started their hikes from the Mexican border around mid April thru May. The short time hikers had newer equipment which was much heavier and the thru hikers had very small packs, usually trekking poles, running shoes rather than boots, and a steady pace and a gaunt, grubby look. Thru hikers were also eager to eat anything you offered them.

We got back to camp just as the long missing Forest Service wrangler was unloading the culverts that we were waiting for. She was using this trip to break in some new service mules---she also had no idea who Robert was.



Third WTA Work Day---Deep Lake PCT

On Tuesday September 3rd, we again had a bit of rain during the night that continued until mid day. We continued our rock filling work, but we seem to be running out of loose rocks in our area except for the outlet Deep Lake creek bed. Liz and Vivian became our creek bed rock retrievers for almost the rest of the work party time. Here they are during one of our sunnier moments hauling out some medium sized rocks which some of us hauled over to the turnpikes. The stepping stone rocks on the lower right are for PCT hikers who want to keep their hiking boots dry.

Here is a view of our second turnpike that is awaiting the big rock layer and two more stringer logs with the Cathedral Rock in the background. Notice the stacks of large rocks on each side waiting to be placed in the muddy base.

We still have not seen the Forest Service wrangler who is suppose to bring us some culverts for these turnpikes. We are now concentrating on finishing up the first one with the big log we had to cut.

We are still taking turns cutting the log in the first turnpike. Here is Terry taking his turn at cutting through this log.

After a good day of work, and a fabulous meal, the thunderclouds began to build up all around us as we all headed to our shelters for the night.


Thursday, December 19, 2013

Second Work Day--WTA at Deep Lake

On September 2nd, we awoke to see that the evening rains had cleared with just a bit of mist lingering over Deep Lake as we were relieved to see the sun breaking out. After another hearty breakfast we headed out to continue converting the rotting puncheons---bridges--to turnpikes----tree stringers packed with rocks and mounded dirt.

Here is a view of Deep Lake from the trail that leads down from Cathedral Rock to our Deep Lake campsite. Our campsite is just beyond the green meadow at the far lower left. Our work site is the meadow near the Deep Lake Creek outlet, also to the lower right.


There is no cell phone reception along this portion of the Pacific Crest Trail. Our crewleader, Kathy, has a Forest Service radio that she uses to call in at 10AM every morning. The dispatcher asked Kathy if she had seen a Robert, the Forest Service worker who was hauling in some culverts on a mule train for our work at Deep Lake on Saturday. Kathy said she had not seen him and the culverts had not been delivered. Kathy was asked to call back at noon to see if Robert had shown up because his family was worried that he had not called in on Saturday or Sunday.

When Kathy called back at noon, she was asked to launch a search party for Robert. Some returned to the camp for the first aid kit, sleeping bag and some ropes while Kathy gave instructions to the four who would be heading up the trail to Cathedral Rock. Just before they left, I asked Kathy to double check with the Forest Service dispatcher to see if the missing person was not a Robert, but rather me---Richard.

She made the call, and surprise------the family that was worried about their missing family member was mine. The search party was called off so it was back to hauling rocks. I was unable to get a cell phone signal anywhere on the Pacific Crest Trail and when I met up with the WTA group, they did not call back to say that Terry in our group was missing----we had waited for him to show up at the trailhead. Tani had called the WTA number only to leave several messages on voicemail on Saturday afternoon and Sunday. They had no available live person to talk to.

One of the problems was that the culvert delivery got confused with an unaccounted for WTA volunteer. Needless to say, I wrote up some suggestions for WTA to consider in future work parties regarding accounting for volunteers who do not show up.

For the remainder of the day, we continued to haul big rocks to the two turnpikes as the underlayment. Dan spent his time finding and preparing four stringer logs to become the sides of the turnpikes.

The end of the day brought us another gourmet meal of smoked salmon and tortolini in a cheese cream sauce with deserts of dark chocolate bars.


Wednesday, December 18, 2013

First WTA Work Day at Deep Lake

After a great breakfast of eggs, bacon, coffee, and cinnamon toast, washing the dishes and getting our safety briefing, we all headed out just a few minutes from camp to our work site. It was two puncheons---bridges--that had rotten out and were dangerous to cross, especially for horsemen. They were along the meadow along the outflow from Deep Lake. We also had a large log that was partially in the trail that had to be removed.

We began by sawing the large log to clear the trail so we could remove the rotten puncheon cross ties with their big spikes.


We are now removing the cross ties while still sawing the large log with Cathedral Rock looming in the background.

Ben is standing by the log where we nailed the removed spikes and we have almost finished removing the cross ties.

Terry and Ben are still sawing the log with our crew leader Kathy supervising to make sure all is safe. We are in a Wilderness area so we are not allowed to use chain saws or other motorized equipment.

Above is the second puncheon where we have removed the cross ties. This was enough work for our first work day.

Periodically we have thru hikers who have started in Mexico and are on their way to Canada covering about 2650 miles in 4 to 5 months. They always thank us for our work and many say that they have come across more volunteers in Washington than in Oregon and California combined. Go WTA!


Meet up with WTA Work Party

Woke up on the 31st to some clearing weather and no rain. I had a quick breakfast of milk and granola cereal and then headed up 3 miles to Cathedral Rock where I would find trail 1345 that would head down 5 miles to the meeting point for our WTA work party at 10 AM. I had no cell reception along the way where If I could I would have called Kathy, our WTA Crew Leader and told her I would meet her at the Deep Lake campsite. It was a good thing I liked to hike.

About half way down the 1345 trail, I met a hiker who was resting his pack on a rock while studying his map at a trail divide. He said he was heading up to Deep Lake. I wished him well and continued down to met up with the WTA work party.

I arrived at the trailhead as the other members of our WTA work party continued to arrive between 10AM and 10:15AM. Our crew leader, Kathy, was my crew leader--Blue Hat--on my WTA work party last year at White River. She was joined by other interns, Ben and Dan, and WTA supervisor volunteer, Liz K--Orange Hat--along with other volunteers, Vivian, Leon and me---green Hat. We waited until 11 am for our last volunteer, Terry, but he was a no show. So we headed back to Deep Lake without knowing where Terry was.

When we finally got back to the WTA camp at Deep Lake, we found the missing Terry. He was the guy I met on my way down to meet up with the WTA work party. What a surprise and one that would identify a problem that WTA needed to address as you will soon learn.

Liz is preparing our dinner under the kitchen cover from the rain and bugs where we are using the panniers as our storage cabinets and counter tops.

We wisely put our cook stove outside the kitchen and put up a tarp to have a dry place to rest and have meals.

Here Vivian, Ben and Kathy model their rain gear and bug protection before heading out for trail work.

Vivian, Terry and Leon are selecting their lunch choices---lots of gourmet choices.


Delate Creek to Deep Lake on PCT

On September 30th, just as dawn approached I quickly got back into my clammy and cold rain pants and jacket while it continued to rain. As I packed up my soggy tent, I realized that the extra water was adding a few more pounds to pack weight. From Delate Creek I began my hike toward Watpus Lake. On the way down it was apparent that a lot of trail work had been done clearing back the undergrowth from the trail. It seemed like it took forever to get down to the lake in the rain and clouds.


Once at Waptus Creek, the PCT runs along the east side of Waptus Lake, but during the mile or so along the lake you can not see the lake and only the trails that lead down to the lake. At Spinola Creek the PCT takes a sharp left up to Deep Lake. Again Spinola Creek is far below the trail. On the way up, I continue to slow down to eat the fat, lucious blueberries and huckleberries that invite you to eat them. The rain continues and washes off some of the red berry stains as I continue up to my night destination at Deep Lake some 20 miles from Delate Creek.

I arrived at the south end of Deep Lake and immediately spotted the Washington Trails Association panniers I knew were loaded with gourmet treats for the week for our work party. In the rain, I set up my tent near the WTA camp. The Forest Service must have brought in the panniers and tools in advance of our work this week.

I was tempted to crack open one of the panniers containing some delicious food, but instead I heated up some water and had my couscous with bacon bits for dinner along with hot chocolate. The big tree grove cut down the rainfall as I set up my tent and headed for bed.