Monthly Archives: August 2014

5 days, 7 passes and 3 hungry rodents

Home (away from home) Lake

Home (away from home) Lake

Olympic National Park – entering from Marmot Pass – loop around White Mountain

Distance: 65+ miles
Elevation Gain: thousands
Date: August 24 – 28, 2014
Hikers: Groucho & Harpo
Duration: 4-5 days

Harpo Sez:

Day 1 – Sunday

Groucho and I start out on Sunday evening at 5:00 p.m. It’s only 4.5 miles up to Mystery Camp where we will start our 5-ish-day trek around the SE Olympic National Park. Surprisingly crowded for a non-holiday, non-weekend, we find a spot next to the stream and quickly set up camp in the nippy mountain breeze. Sadly, for the first time ever, our bear hang falls in the middle of the night and later we discover why… A mouse or chipmunk has tampered with my food sack, chewing a hole in the bag, and then through a ziplock in order to eat my fresh peach and all my dried fruit!! Little devil.
Day 2 – Monday 
Marmot Pass

Marmot Pass

We wake early to begin an 18 mile day. Groucho jets up hills like a billy goat (he just finished a 10-day PCT section)… while I struggle, having typed more, and hiked less, as evidenced by my soft urban feet. I put on my good mood and try to keep up. Starting with a nice easy jaunt up Marmot Pass (6,000 feet), dipping down 4ish miles to Home Lake for brunch – an hour of savory oats, blister care, and a frigid lake swim. By noon we’re heading up Constance Pass (5,800 feet),  continue up another mile to 6,500 feet, near the summit of Mount Constance. The views are 360 degrees, the weather clear and gorgeous.
We catch our breath and begin the knee buckling trek down down down down down 6 miles to the Dosewallips riverside trail. Along the way we pass a little pond with hundreds (maybe thousands?!) of tadpoles. Charming, charming little fellows.
Reaching the river we trek another 5 flat miles until my blisters start to burn. Diamond Meadows, a huge camp among the old old cedars next to the Dosewallips river, is empty. We set up camp, Groucho leads hiker yoga, we eat cold hydrated ramen and enjoy a sweet, little fire. A dreamy end to a grueling day.
Day 3 – Tuesday
O'Neil Pass

O’Neil Pass

Breaking camp early, we hike further up river to Honeymoon Meadows. Fording a small river, we meet Steve, a 67 year old gentleman who really has his it together. I appreciate his approach – using Honeymoon Meadows as a base camp for a bunch of short hikes over 5 days.  While we’re only carrying 9 lbs base weight, with 1.2 lbs of food per person per day, the 15 lbs total was starting to weigh me down. Starting up to Anderson Pass (4,450 feet), we continue counterclockwise around White Mountain, leap-froging with our new friend a few times.
The fun really begins with a long late morning walk on a high, flat path at 4,500 feet around the south end of the range. In and out of the trees, the views of nearby glaciers, lowland forest, and  river valley are epic. Finding a creek Groucho sets up a glacier-cold foot soak to help with my increasingly painful blisters. After a short break, we continue 7 miles through subalpine meadows dripping with huckleberries – we devour pints, and our hands stained with blueberry bruises. We hear – and then SEE elk – crossing our path, scattering through the woods, hooves pounding headed straight down the steep slopes. At 6:00 p.m. we cross O’Neil Pass (5,000 feet) -the rocky path makes for sore feet, but it’s all downhill for the rest of the day.
Passing Marmot Lake, we share the trail with a doe and two precious fawns. I’m reminded of my mom taking me to Bambi as a little girl. We descend to the Duckabush River and find a place to make camp as the dark settles in – the softest cedar forest beneath us we sleep, minds full of the wonders of the wild.
Day 4 – Wednesday
campsite at Dose Forks
We’ve been anticipating the climb up to Lacrosse Pass (5,566 feet), which one hiker relayed, up or down, was “hell either way.” It’s difficult, but nothing out of the ordinary for the Northwest. Abundant huckleberries, my personal power pellets, appear in blue, blue-black, hot pink, and regal purple. Taking our time we reach the pass at noon, running into our new buddy Steve. We have a fantastic conversation about gear, snacks, photography, mediation, and public service.
We climb down to Honeymoon Lake again, and begin the long trek toward the river. Arriving at Dose Forks we score a secluded site by a rushing, aquamarine Dosewallips river, finishing a 17 mile day with a quiet fire. Somehow, even using a park-provided bear wire, a mouse sneaks in my food sack as I sleep, and I lose the rest of my Grouchy Mix. I am too tired to be hungry, or mad.
Day 5 – Thursday
Constance Pass

Constance Pass

Labor Day looms, and the park grows crowded. We get up early, hoping to knock out the rigorous 6-mile climb to Constance Pass before we fully wake up. Marching straight uphill 4500 feet it is, as they say, challenging.
We continue without much rest until Home Lake, where we take a lovely late lunch. It’s hard to believe we have 10 miles left. Fortunately with the last of our food gone our packs are light both up to Marmot Pass, and down the remaining 5.4 miles to the trailhead, arriving by 6:30 p.m.
We open the trunk and find – to our disbelief – that a mouse (or some dark eyed bandito) has crept in to the closed trunk of my car (?!) and again eaten my resupply of Grouchy Mix!!!!
The trail mouse is my spirit animal for the journey. Fin.

Gear Shakedown: Sawyer Squeeze Mini vs. Aquamira

IMG_9693

Harpo and I used Aquamira for our Appalachian Trail thru-hike, but saw most thru hikers using the Sawyer squeeze filters, so wanted to try it out. Both systems have strengths and weaknesses…

SAWYER – PROS:

– immediate results
– no need to resupply (the mini guarantees 100,000 gallons of filtration, the standard Sawyer promises 1 million gallons)
– adaptable to most standard 1″ water bottles (such as Smartwater)
– lightweight at 2.7 oz for the filter and back flush syringe
– no floaties

SAWYER – CONS:

– too much squeezing – it takes about 3-5 minutes to filter 1 liter
– needs to be back flushed at least once a day
– can’t freeze it
– not compatible with some water bottles
– any particulates in the water rapidly reduce filter efficiency

AQUAMIRA – PROS:

– less work; we mix .25oz in the morning, and it lasts all day (Aquamira lasts 24 hours after activation)
– enhances water’s flavor
– works in any temperature

AQUAMIRA – CONS:

– Slightly heavier at 5.9 oz for 2 1oz bottles of A & B solution, plus a small bottle for pre-mix
– Resupply (2 x 2oz bottles purify 30 gallons)
– Waiting; you wait 15 minutes after adding Aquamira before drinking the water
– floaties

Overall, I think I come out on the side of Aquamira… there are a couple of instances where it makes more sense to me. Generally, I walk with 1/2 liter or less in my pack, and 1 liter in my hand – usually drinking everything and resupplying at each good water source. Aquamira allows me to make frequent but quick stops, without all the squeezing, which means more time walking. This is espepcially convenient when you’re trying to dip quickly at a buggy source and get out. Aquamira also never clogs – I noticed a distinct loss of flow capacity throughout the day, which means to get the most out of the Sawyer back-flushing often is recommended (it also helps to knock the filter against a hard surface to dislodge particulates as you back-flush).

The difference in weight is kindof a killer tho… with the 4oz of Aquamira with an initial weight 3.2 oz heavier than the total Sawyer system. Hmmm…

As is the need to resupply for longer hikes. Harpo-mane & I got our AT Aquamira super cheap on the internet, and our preferred system works better with the pro-sumer version of 2 x 2oz bottles, rather than the more commonly available ‘backpacker’ style. The problem with the ‘backpacker’ style bottles is the need to mix solution before each purification and wait the 5 minutes for activation, as well as the 15 minutes for the solution to treat the water.

But, so much squeezing…

Maybe the jury’s out on this one. The weight and resupply factor may be the game changer for our next thru hike. And, I’d like to try the standard Sawyer Squeeze rather than the Mini to see if the water flow is better. Only time will tell.. .. .

PRO TIP: Ditch the goofy Sawyer squeeze pouch & use 2 one liter water bottles. Unless you like the pouch. You know – do what makes you feel good..

We Love the Tiny Bottles

Tiny Bottles

We love tiny bottles. Also foam hats, tye-dyed shoelaces, weird markers, umbrellas and other junk we really DO need for $1.59. Daiso is a Japanese based dollar store that has 2 outlets in Seattle – one near Uwajimaya, and the other in Westlake Mall – and apparently an online store as well, though the real pleasure of the Daiso experience is wandering in wonder through the narrow aisles stocked to the ceiling with unrecognizable shiny plastic stuff.

Occasionally you find a real gem – these ‘sauce bottles’ work great for everything from hot sauce to Arnicare, and come in sizes ranging from .2oz to .8oz – way less than a full tube of cortisone cream or the smallest size Spenco Sencond Skin… also, so cheap.

Daiso, we love you.

Tiny Bottles

New Mystics Cultivation Concern

Bruce Willis

Seeds from Bruce Willis – a Cannabis Sativa strain developed in Beacon Hill and organically propagated in South Park, and now, everywhere…

Living in Washington, where marijuana has recently become legal recreationally as well as medicinally, New Mystics is doing something about access. Cannabis has been used for centuries by humans – see Herodotus’ records regarding the Scythians, or the wealth of Ayurvedic literature on the plant as medicine – so it seems appropriate that we end the prohibition of this plant.

New Mystics had some concerns about the corporate takeover which would inevitably ensue from asking the state Liquor Control Board to legislate access to cannabis. Hence, they’ve been planting seeds wherever they roam – an since the crew includes cyclists, messengers, hikers and pedestrians of all stripes, is pretty much everywhere in western Washington. Much like picking huckleberries in August, there should be free and easy access to marijuana for those who want to find it. And sure, if you’ve got the loot and want to buy some super fancy weed at a legal shop then by all means, it’s your legal right to do so. But weed is a weed, and we should let it grow freely…