Meet our new water purification system… Steri-pen. Is rechargeable with a USB plug. Lasts about 6 days. 90 seconds of UV light zaps all the critters in our water. So far so good.
“It will shine still brighter when night is about you. May it be a light to you in dark places, when all other lights go out.” (First dork who can name this reference in the comments gets a postcard from the trail!)
UPDATE 1/6/16: We used Steri-pen our entire PCT thru hike and never got sick. We found that the charge would last 3.5 days of full-on thru hiker summer water consumption, with two people using it. Eventually we each got our own, so we could have more autonomy, and also so we could extend use between charges. Once I had my own steri-pen I used it for up to 6 days consecutively w/out needing to charge it. My only critique is that it takes a long time to fully charge the steri pen, perhaps 4 hours. Plugging it (and my phone) in was the first thing I did in town, and sometimes I left town w/out a full charge. And I carried a light external battery, for emergency power (but thankfully never needed to use it for steri-pen.)
Day 7-14 (Stehekin to Stevens Pass)
Miles hiked this section: 106
PCT miles hiked so far: 184
Total miles hiked so far: 224
Day 7 continued
Each gift comes with a price. So it was with our lovely, bittersweet, drunkerly trail angel of Stehekin. The beers, the personal tour, the Internet and phone were all generously offered in exchange for our full attention to the sweet, lonely soul, repeatedly offering “hot dogs, sausages, hot links”, showers and movies. He was also a little too obsessed with my feet… Later learning he had a bit of a foot fetish I felt slightly creeped out but ultimately he was a softie and I was grateful for his generosity. After days of solitude, the interaction exhausted me and I went to bed that night in the free camp ground at Purple Point a tired depleated empath… feet throbbing from blood that had pooled during a day of unexpected sitting around holding emotional space.
I wake with feet still swollen. We catch the bus to the bakery where Llama, a 2011 thru hiker sells us 2 huge sandwiches, 4 salads, 2 Americanos and 2 bags of Fritos for $30. A deal especially when she tells us there are two bikes outside we can borrow to take up to Rainbow Falls and the historic school house. We catch the bus back to the trail by noon and walk 8 miles. Half way we stop and eat an entire bag of salt and vinegar chips. Groucho thinks hiker hunger might be settling in. We fall asleep in a cedar grove with some dead pines hanging on by threads to their neighbors. Hopefully they hang on one more night.
Father’s Day and Solstice. Our intent to walk from dawn to dusk is thwarted when we sleep thru the alarm. The first half of the day is an uphill trek for 12 miles. The trail is brushy and too sunny and seemingly endless. My pack feels heavy and I begin to despair in that special way that only the onset of menstruation can bring. I start to get lonely and teary and then round a corner – coming upon Groucho who has stripped naked by a rocky outcropping in the thru hiker solstice tradition. Laughter thru tears. The rest of the climb to Suittle Pass sucks. I do finally summit with tears streaming and my Achilles acheing and there are too many Mosquitos at the top for a comfortable break.
Operating on a tip from an elder who looks like he has his ish together, we substitute the next 8 miles of the PCT for a 8 mile detour to Image Lake and the fire tower. Totally worth it with views so nice it hurts my eyes. We begin the steep trek back down to the PCT which lasts at least 30 switchbacks. In a rare moment of impropriety I suggest we do 2 switchbacks nude. Which turns into 5 because we feel so free. And then we round a corner running into a dog named Luna from Leavenworth. We throw our clothes on before greeting her humans. We end the day totally beat after 21 or so miles by a new bridge over a roaring river.
My feet ache before I even get up and we have a 9 mile climb right off the bat to Dolly Vista camp in the Glacier Peak Wilderness. It is thru a beautiful forest filled with huge cedars. I listen to Erin Jorgensen’s new “Hella Zen” album for inspiration and the first 5 miles go fast. Then Groucho and I sing songs and we run into our first other SOBOs. Flo from France and Belinda from Australia. We aren’t alone in the world! They began their Journey a couple days after us but skipped the 60 mile round trip from Hart’s to the border.
The climb feels long, hot and waterless, but breath taking. I keep expecting all this snow to crop up as we near 6000 ft but there is very little.
After lunch we begin a 5 mile descent talking of seasonal work and future plans and dreams. The terrain lulls us into false security with it’s easy flowing switchbacks until the last two miles of increasingly overgrown and rocky trail. It feels like a death trap and we wonder if we are even on trail anymore after some confusing signage at an intersection. We turn back after 10 minutes of bushwacking thru thimble berry and thistles and stinging nettles sure that we took the wrong path, but alas, we were right the first time and now we must re-do that horrible section again.
We are hot and miserable with shredded shins and arms. One finger grows numb from a nettle sting and Groucho trips on a rock. This is inhumane. We finally reach the bridge at Milk Creek and there is no rest spot or natural place to go down to get water so we continue the 4 miles up to Mika Lake. Groucho, mad about trail conditions, blazes ahead. I check battery power and splurge on 1.5 hours of shuffled music on my phone. I need it to get up this mountain. Just before the lake Groucho whistles at me from the ridge above the lake outlet. Seven switchbacks later I join him and watch the snow clumps still floating on the clearest lake water. I strip and stand in the shallow part rinsing away the grime and thorns and sting of this day while simultaneously icing my aching Achilles. Groucho finds the courage to do a full on polar bear plunge. He emerges 1 second later looking wide awake. We bed down on a soft grassy slope overlooking the lake and are asleep before dark despite this 20 mile slog of a day.
After yesterday, today was meant to be easy going and low miles. We don’t set an alarm and wake leisurely at 7:30. We do some good yoga and are feeling great. We hear and see a small rock slide on a nearby hill and feel humbled by nature’s power of self transformation. The first mile up to fire creek pass is challenging but by now the snow is melting fast and feels old hat. We descend the other side and take a long break by a creek, writing, chatting, eating and soaking feet. It is a good day.
After 6 miles we see a sign pointing to Kennedy Hot Springs. The map shows a possible loop to catch this detour, only adding maybe an extra mile to our day. It’s our easy day so why not? The terrain is easy but we have to climb over a few blow downs. We tell each other plots of movies to pass time. As Groucho finishes up Total Recall we arrive at the site of the spring in the river valley and it looks like a bomb has gone off. the afternoon sun is blazing down on an open terrain of blown down white trees, stumps, huge rocks and fine white silt. We don’t see a trail anymore so we take out the GPS for the first time. It says we are on the trail and have just crossed the river. Strange cause we haven’t yet crossed any water. We wander the landscape like alien explorers, occasionally finding validation in disassociated Neil Armstrong-style human footprints. We look for other human signs like a cairn or campsite. We find a murky red pool that might give a good foot soak but it is shadeless and too blazing to go in a hot spring. What were we thinking?
We decide to find the loop trail back to the PCT and then cook lunch. We wander in circles with the GPS trying to figure out where the trail actually crosses the river. It’s not clear so we find a log that seems intentionally placed. It makes me nervous though and rather than walk, I squat and scoot across, probably leaving a trail of menses for some bear to track us. As Groucho cooks I bushwhack through the terrain for signs of trail, noticing instead a few nearby landslides… some as tall as 3 stories. In the bush I lose my spoon. I cry. The 9 year old in me thinks it might be lonely out here in this wasteland. Groucho helps me look and I find it back in the huckleberries hanging on a low branch like a Christmas ornament.
Now time to get out of here and find the loop trail back to the PCT. Groucho checks the GPS. The trail is supposed to be 30 yards west. Toward where the river and log jam is. Huh. So we decide to bushwhack that direction, scrambling up steep, mossy banks, clutching roots and young trees for support. Finally victory as Groucho spots a trail. We hoist ourselves up and hi five. Out of curiosity I turn back to see where this trail began. Ten yards away, the “trail” disappears completely – having been obliterated in a landslide at some point and not rebuilt. We cross our fingers and proceed southeasterly on this track encountering a few other places where landslides have wiped away trail leaving us to carefully bush whack around. As we get back to the PCT I feel relieved. The bushwacking and blowdowns of yesterday have less meaning. We see a sign that warns north bounders of the dangerous trail conditions on the loop. Lucky NOBOs get all the good signs.
We set foot on the PCT and I am thankful for an easy graded, well maintained trail. we hike 2 more miles singing songs to arrive at a soft, low elevation site by Pumice Creek. We are at home. Shortly our international friends catch up and we recount our day… Lovely fellow SOBOs.
Beauty all day. We start with an easy jaunt up to a pass through an expansive meadow. It’s easy terrain and super pretty. We use umbrellas for shade. At the top we take bug photos and eat snacks before walking along the crest of the ridge for awhile. We turn the corner and get our first view of the big lady… Mount Rainer. As we take photos a giant marmot grows bold and comes right up to us for his photo shoot. We descend for several miles along crests with mountains in every direction, blue sky, abundant wild flowers and showers of butterflies. Birds call and marmots whistle and shy pikas beep from their perches. This is life. I am Snow White. As the day progresses clouds start to roll in and finally we get an hour or so of gentle rain making everything dewey and fragrant. The rain breaks as we get to a lake and we jump in. Town is in a couple days and we’re trying this new technique called bathing so we won’t smell so bad. We cross paths with a father daughter duo out for their annual camping trip. Now that her kid is growing up they are going to section hike the whole PCT starting with WA. Nice folks. The terrain is easy going and not too up or down, we sing and chat and amazingly are at camp by 5:30. An easy 20 miles. Maybe we’re getting used to this.
The end of a long stretch is always exhausting. Thoughts turn to town and missed connections and the miles seem endless. Today we encountered a lot of up and down, sun and a really long dry stretch from Pear Lake to Lake Janus… 8 miles or so? We swim in both lakes which is pleasant but the mosquitos and biting flies irritate me and I get snippy. The hike up to Grizzly Peak is too sunny and sweat beads on my brow and lip. I listen to arcade fire on my phone and get all nostalgic and weepy.
I run into Groucho and explain I have feelings. Yogis would say I am experiencing my “pain body” more right now, in the middle of my period. I am carrying the weight of all the injustices ever done to my repressed sisters of the universe – past and present. I think about my friends who have made more conventional life choices by now to have babies and husbands and wonder what is wrong with me. Everything seems bleak and I feel sad that I am probably going to end up a pitied spinster and I am weak and not pretty anymore now that I am 37. Groucho talks me down and says right things and my pain body shrivels up and retreats to its hermitage.
We continue on taking very few breaks to avoid the cloud of blood suckers following us. I have given you enough blood, I say. The last few miles I grow slow and more tired. We sing songs. I can’t believe how long this day is. We climb thru a pass and the breeze dries the sweat and blows away the bugs and we get to go downhill. I am flying for the next 2 miles to camp. We are almost to town.
Blessed town day. We hike an easy 3 miles in on a railroad grade trail and arrive to Stevens Pass. The staff open up the restrooms and I see a mirror for the first time in awhile my eyes are bloodshot and I am a bit too tan. We get coffees and check our internet fame. A 2014 thru hiker says to come to the restaurant at 11. We do and enjoy chatting with Milestone working the bar. We have a beer and huge veggie burgers with waffle fries. A great stop. Just as I am dreading hitching to town, a guy called Meander (a 67 year old who just started hiking at 60 and clocked over 2500 miles last year) walks in offering us a hitch to the Dinsmores hiker haven. A trail angel! We accept and land at Andrea and Jerry’s paradise where we can cook, shower, do laundry and ice our feet for a day. (No store here so get your food in Steven’s or Skykomish.) Our SOBO friends show up a few hours later and we chat and watch dumb movies, going to bed at hiker midnight which is like 9pm.
We now set off for a 74 mile trek down to Snoqualmie Pass. Hopefully posts will be more frequent as we have better cell reception. Questions? Please post in the comments.