Faces

One thing that we realize that we are horrible at doing is catching selfies with all of our friends as we meet them around the world.

Even if we state up front that we need to get one right after getting together, we get caught up in the moment and don’t remember until 20 minutes after we part ways.

It happens more often than not.

Like I said, we are horrible at it.

But here are the ones we’ve managed to catch over the past few months. No names, just smiling faces.

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As I attached these images, it really stuck me how horrible we are at this.  So many smiling faces that we have met with over the past few months that aren’t here simply because we can’t remember to take a moment and capture the meeting.

So if we cross paths over the coming months, please help us to make sure we get a pic.

Markets Galore

‘Sal, we gotta go and never stop going ’till we get there.’
‘Where we going, man?’
‘I don’t know but we gotta go.’

Jack Kerouac, On the Road

Since finishing our thru-hike in late October, that has been us.  Other than two specific scheduled events, we have been floating, planning our travels no more than a few days in advance at most.

Since late November we have been mainly in Germany, but also in Belgium visiting friends and seeing the sights.  We are thankful to have such a vast network of friends who are willing to let us couch surf and take time out of their busy schedules to show us around.

We arrived in Germany just in time for our favorite part of the year, Weinachtsmarkt  (Christmas Market) season.  We made sure to attend a few.

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Weinachtsmarkt and Castle, Heidelberg, Germany

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Pyramid and Heiligeistkirche, Heidelberg, Germany

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Pyramid and kirche, Hockenheim, Germany

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Weinachtsmarkt and Dom, Speyer, Germany

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Saint Nikolas delivery, Speyer Dom, Speyer, Germany

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Weinachtsmarkt statement, Detmold, Germany

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Weinachtsmarkt madness, Freiburg, Germany

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Weinachtsmarkt skating on New Year’s Eve, Köln  (Cologne), Germany

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Steampunk carousel, Bruxelles  (Brussels), Belgium

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Dancing lights, Bruxelles  (Brussels), Belgium

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Market Square, Bruges (Brugge), Belgium

One unfortunate impact on all of these markets was the weather.  It has been unseasonably warm, which really impacts the feel of the market.  It’s a different experience to drink hot glühwein when it’s 12°C (55°F) than it is when it’s -2°C (28°F).  For those markets that had skating rinks, the skaters were moving through puddles and pools more than they were gliding.

But please don’t take any of that as a complaint. We recognized that we were spending our December in Christmas Markets in Europe. It’s very difficult to top that.

Dinner for One

2016 is already rolling through the Pacific nations and will soon spread across Asia.

In a few short minutes here in Germany, the annual showing of “Dinner for One” will start, with 20+ showings on various TV channels between late morning and midnight.

It’s a fun tradition.

We’ll be exploring a new city, but will also make sure we enjoy this before the day is out.

Happy New Year, everyone!

Basking Mermaid

On the last day of autumn, there was no hint of winter in sight.  At least not here in Germany.

Back home in southern Oregon, the ski mountains have several feet of snow on the slopes, with many more to come this week.

Sunday in the Black Forest saw crowded hiking trails as people got out to enjoy the weather.

Including a mermaid who should already be surrounded by ice.

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Still Trekkin’

Wow, has it really been a month since the last post? 

I guess I needed a break from the blogging too.

Post-hike, we worked our way to San Diego to pick up our car, where we had left it in storage while we were on our long walk.

After visiting friends there, we spent the next month driving across the US, stopping along the way to visit friends and family.

Then we hopped on a last-minute Thanksgiving Day flight and had a Thanksgiving dinner of German food and beer.

Since then we’ve been visiting friends and enjoying the season.  December in Europe is fantastic, especially with all of the Christmas Markets.

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Hopefully all is well with all of you.

PCT Thru-hike 2015, By the Numbers

A bit later than we had hoped (like our finishing the hike), but we’ve been busy.

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Campo, CA - 4/12/2015

Southern Terminus, Campo, CA – 4/12/2015

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Northern Terminus, Manning Park, British Columbia – 9/25/2015

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Mount Ashland/Hwy 99 Trailhead – 10/20/2015

The Miles
Campo, CA to Ashland, OR – 1,716
Cascade Locks, OR to Manning Park, BC – 515
Cascade Locks, OR to Ashland, OR – 428

The Elevation Gain
Campo, CA to Ashland, OR – 314,206′
Cascade Locks, OR to Manning Park, BC – 111,095′
Cascade Locks, OR to Ashland, OR – 61,912′

Total Elevation Gain = 487,213′
Mount Everest Summit = 29,209′
Number of Everest’s climbed = 16.7

The Days
April 12 – October 20, 2015 = 192
Zero Days = 26
Hiking Days = 166

Average Miles per Day
192 Days = 13.8
166 Days = 15.7

Favorite Parts
Jen –
CA – Vasquez Rocks County Park
OR – Three Sisters Wilderness
WA – Northern Cascades

Bill –
CA – Sonora Pass Region
OR – Mount Jefferson – Three Sisters Wilderness
WA – Northern Cascades

Supplies
Pairs of shoes (each) = 5
Pairs of socks used = 12
Pairs of pants/kilts = 7
Pairs of underwear = 5
Number of shirts = 3
Number of backpacks used = 5
Number of tents used = 1
Number of NSAIDS taken = 0

FAQ’S
With weather being such a big factor, why did you choose to hike northbound instead of southbound? During the planning stage, months ahead of the actual hike, the weather encountered is anybody’s guess. So we look at averages.  The biggest factor is water, with the Southern California stretch being most problematic. Heading northbound in April, many water sources are already drying up, even after a normal winter.  If we had gone southbound, we wouldn’t have been able to start until mid-June, based on average snowpack in the Washington Cascades. That would have got us into the Southern California desert in October/November after a dry summer.  By then, even the most reliable water sources could be stressed or completely dried up, meaning much longer water carries than we experienced going northbound.  While there were many other considerations going into our choice to hike northbound, water availability was the largest determining factor.

How much weight did you lose? Good question, since neither one of us focused on it.  We knew we would lose weight, but didn’t weigh in before or after.  But it wasn’t insignificant. Jen went from a snug size 14 to very comfortable in size 2 clothes.  I have a similar story – I was stretching the limits of a 36″ waistband, but two days after we finished, I was able to comfortably slide into a pair of 28″ waist jeans that Jen had bought for herself. Guesstimating a weight loss tally for the both of us, we figure we lost the equivalent of a 7th grader.  The downside is now having to buy clothes that fit.

How did you keep things powered for the hike?  Early on we used solar chargers, but didn’t have much success.  Our first charger with built-in battery was dead on arrival; the company offered to refund our money only if we removed our negative review of the product. The review stands.  Then we learned of a different company that made similar solar charges with built-in batteries.  We ordered one and it worked great, but it didn’t have enough capacity for the Samsung Galaxy Note 4 that we were using for photography, blogging and navigation. Then a fellow hiker passed on a solar panel after he had upgraded.  This solar panel worked great for us through Southern California and into the Sierra.  Then we dealt with a week of daily rain showers and thunderstorms, so had very little opportunity to charge, which did cause some issues.  We continued to have issues through Northern California as we spent most of our days in the forest, then dealt with thick smoke.  For Oregon and Washington we switched to a portable battery that had enough capacity to charge the phone at least five times.  When we would get into a town, we would recharge the battery.  In those two states we never worried about the phone.  If it got low, an hour or so on the battery and the phone was completely recharged.  For those that are curious, it was an Anker 15,000 mAh battery.  Totally worth the weight penalty over a straight solar panel.

Hitchhiking?  Aren’t you afraid?  Well, initially, especially since we had never done it.  But soon it was a very comfortable way to travel. Most of the roads that we had to hitch were traveled mainly by locals who knew what we were doing (even now we wouldn’t consider hitching at an Interstate rest stop).  Rarely did we get picked up by anyone who wasn’t aware of the trail and hikers.

What’s the next adventure? What’s next on the bucket list? What are you going to do to top this?  Neither one of us have a bucket list, instead taking things as they come.  We’ll continue to live and do the things we enjoy without a need to “top this”.

When are you doing the AT/CDT, or your next thru-hike.? We aren’t.  We enjoyed our experience, but won’t do one like that again.  Instead, we see the value in shorter section hikes of up to a month where we don’t feel the need to crank out 25+ mile days just to finish.  It will be nice to do 12-15 mile days where we would have the time to swim in all of those lakes that we passed.

Thank you to all of you that supported us along the way!

Wet to the End

With hope of drying out overnight, we slept hard.  That is, until the rain woke us up and we had to close up the tent.

Will we ever learn?

Luckily the rain was short-lived, but the rapid cool down afterwards meant plenty of condensation. We were going to remain soaked.

Any chance of viewing the Sky Lakes below us was short-lived as the clouds moved back in.  But it made for some beautiful hiking.

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A full day in the forest as we approached Mount McLoughlin, a very Fuji-esque ancient volcano that is always prominent in the southern Oregon sky.  But we wouldn’t see much of it, thanks to the clouds and trees. By late afternoon we were on the lower flanks of the mountain and too close to see it.

Day 190 – 22 / 2,572 (1,771)

A few thousand feet lower than we were the morning before, the tent finally dried out overnight.  But clouds meant that we still wouldn’t see Mount McLoughlin as we hiked south.

So imagine, if you will…

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Here’s a view of the mountain from Lake of the Woods, just a few miles east of the trail, taken in summer of ’14.

The clouds remained, occasionally threatening rain, but only occasionally spitting.  The cool weather helped motivate us to keep moving.  That and a lunchtime visit with our trail angel Salt Lick.

One nice thing about getting closer to home is that we get more frequent visits by friends.  That’s handy, especially as we near the end and are constantly wet.  Demoralizing conditions offset by friends.

Soon we met up with Salt Lick, hiked to the next trailhead where he had lunch waiting for us, then more miles down the trail with him as we kept moving.

The rain started again.

Several miles down trail, we bid farewell to Salt Lick as he had to turn around to get back to his car.  We had miles to go, only covering half of our day’s goal by mid-afternoon. The rain started coming down harder, motivating us to move faster.

Mind you, the updates we had been receiving from hikers and hunters along the trail was that the rain was to stop the previous day.  Good thing we didn’t believe them.

By late afternoon we had pushed past 26 miles but still had miles to go to our goal.  Soon after, Jen entered the late stages of experiencing an ultramarathon – “What in the [expletive deleted] do you mean we still have (X number of) miles to go?” and “Why in the [expletive deleted] are we doing this?”.

Recognizing where she was, I kept the conversation light-hearted but on topic, explaining where she was mentally, then comparing it to our friend Lint, who, after finishing the Continental Divide Trail (CDT) to become only the third person to capture his third Triple Crown (thru-hiking the PCT, the Appalachian Trail and the CDT) ran his first 100-mile ultramarathon. I explained that she was where he was mentally at mile 80 and her response was – “Wait a minute.  He ran 100 miles?  Why in the [expletive deleted] would he want to do that?”.  I told her she could ask him in a couple of days.

Then she stepped on a wet rock and her feet went out from under her.  Thanks to her trekking poles she didn’t fall straight on her pack.  Instead, she almost recovered, then went over again, bit didn’t fall.  Almost recovering, she almost went down again, then finally got her feet under her.  The most epic save of the entire hike.  We both laughed for a long while, it broke her funk and she proceeded to drag me the rest of the way to camp in what was our longest mileage for the entire hike – 31.4 miles.

She walked a legit ultra-marathon – 50.7km.  Not just walked, but carried her pack, somewhere in the 30-35lb range.  That’s a lot tougher than “just walking” 50+km.

It was in camp that I had my meltdown.  A paid campsite with an area set up for thru-hikers, there wasn’t a level spot to be had. Once we figured out the best spot, I started setting up the tent. The clay was quite interesting as it was extremely difficult to get a stake in the ground, but as soon as I would put tension on a line, a stake would pull right out.  Sometimes the one attached to the line I was tensioning, sometimes one of the other stakes.  Good thing no one was around to hear my tirade.

I even told Jen that we were going to grab our sleeping bags and sleep on the floor of the bathroom. I didn’t care if we couldn’t turn off the lights.

But she was patient and managed to find rocks for me to use to finishing pitching the tent, where we both slept all night, waiting for more rain.  Rain that finally never arrived.

Day 191 – 31.4 / 2,603 (1,740)

With promise of sun and perhaps some drier feet, we were moving.  We were back in what had basically been our backyard for the past couple of years. We were walking tread that we had both walked many times.  We were both walking tread that we had both helped clear of fallen trees and rehabilitated.  We were both walking tread that we had spent days walking with good friends. That led to stories and laughs.

Then we saw the view we had been waiting for – a look into the Rogue Valley and the end of our journey.

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That was also a view of our day’s hike, along the distant ridgeline to the left to Pilot Rock, then to the base of Mount Ashland, the highest peak just right of center.

Soon after we met a couple of classes of elementary school children who were out on the trail getting lessons on the geography and biosphere of everything we could see.  We were a bit of an interruption because the kids wanted to know about our hike.  We wanted to sit in the back of the class and listen to the lesson.

By mid-afternoon we were approaching Pilot Rock and got our first glimpse in many months of the Northern California valleys.  Plus a view of Mount Shasta with a new blanket of snow.

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Then Pilot Rock.

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Then the trailhead. We had both worked on the PCT and Pilot Rock trail in this area.

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And the trails were a favorite of Skinny’s.  We had good laughs talking about the boy.

With several miles left to go and friends to meet, we beat feet.  The sun was setting fast and it was dark by the time we got to the first trailhead.  They had just pulled up, but we still had over half a mile to go, so they drove down to the other trailhead.  On the way their headlights illuminated a black bear hanging out.  It was gone by the time we got there.

Once to the other trailhead, we arrived at the spot where we had come off the trail in August and skipped forward to complete Washington before winter hit.

To completely tie the knot, we walked up the trail about 10 feet so there was complete overlap and no doubt in our mind that we had walked the entire trail.

A kiss sealed the deal, we loaded up in the car and rode into town.

THE END

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Day 192 – 25 / 2,628 (1,715)

Please help us help the PCT Association as they work to protect and maintain this precious resource: http://tinyurl.com/le5cu9j

The Lakes

After the warmest night we had experienced since early August in California, we were moving with sunrise. I was excited since we were within a short walk of my favorite mountain in Oregon – Mount Thielsen.

We’ve always appreciated it from afar, where its distinctive profile makes it obvious from all directions. But we would be traversing its lower flanks, giving a different view.

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Since it’s difficult from this angle to really appreciate the unique shape of “The Lightning Rod of the Cascades“, here’s a link to an image I took of the mountain last year.

Traversing the Mount Thielsen Wilderness, we were in trees most of the day, thankfully. We were now in the midst of the longest water carry in Oregon, a full marathon between the ice cold flow of Thielsen Creek on the northwest flank of Mount Thielsen to the Rim Village on the southern rim of Crater Lake.  Not only would we need to carry the water for the distance, but also enough for dinner and breakfast since we wouldn’t make the distance in one day.

But we did get a view of our target of Mount Mazama, the remains of which are now Crater Lake.

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It doesn’t look like much from here, which is one of the things I like most about Crater Lake. You don’t think much is special until you get right to the edge, then the full beauty is revealed as a complete shock.

From left to right are the individual mountains around the rim – Mount Scott, which is set back from the rim about a mile; several lesser peaks; the smooth hump of Llao Peak, a deep volcanic flow from the ancient volcano; and Hillman Peak, the highest point on the rim.

The remainder of the day was in forest as we crossed Diamond Lake Highway, transitioning from Mount Thielsen Wilderness to Crater Lake National Park. That transition also marked the slow climb to the rim of the lake.

Since the PCT is on the east side of the North Entrance road into the park, we saw no evidence of the large wildfire that burned the northwest corner of the park earlier this summer.  The firecrews did a fantastic job of using the road as a fire break.

Since the park has very strict rules of where camping is allowed, we stopped short of the rim about three miles and camped.

Day 187 – 20 / 2,511 (1,836)

A 4am alarm and a 3-mile hike in the dark put us in place at is one of my top 3 places in the world to stand and just be.

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Ancient caldera, ancient Bristlecone and a sunrise. Just us, brewing and sipping coffee and getting lost in the moment.

A few moments later and a turn to the right (south) and we can see the new sunlight kiss another ancient Bristlecone and Hillman Peak, while Mount McLoughlin  (our next PCT destination) and a distant Mount Shasta lurk in the distance.

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A quick turn in the opposite direction, looking to the north, we can see South and Middle Sisters, where we hiked a week before.

But it would take a short hike around the Rim Trail before we could catch a glimpse of the fabulous profile of Mount Thielsen.

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The rest of the rim trail continued to give great views of the lake, many that were completely new to us, even after many prior visits to the park.  That knowledge came in handy, as at each of the turnouts we were asked for suggestions on views or hikes around the lake.  We joked that I must have had a bubble floating over my head like a clue-giver in a video game.

Between laughs, the clouds broke enough to give us a glimpse of the signature blue water of Crater Lake. Had we continued our hike in linear fashion, we would have come through in late August and wouldn’t have been able to see much due to smoke from the fires.

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Soon we reached the Rim Village, where we relaxed, ate some fresh hot food, and then headed off the mountain to meet a friend who would deliver our food that we would need for our final push to Ashland.

A great visit, some tasty town food, laughs and connection with two southbound hikers with whom we had leapfrogged over the previous few days, then an after dark push a couple of miles down the trail so that we would get into the allowable backcountry camping zone marked the end of a long (but short mileage) day.

Day 188 – 16 / 2,527 (1,816)

An early morning with a tent soaking of condensation, we moved quickly and waited a couple of miles before breakfast.  Soon after that – rain.  The likes of which we hadn’t experienced since Washington.

Rain heavy enough that we were back to clearing and creating drains to get water off the trail.

It was another long water carry, but we had plenty falling and streaming around us.

We moved from Crater Lake National Park into the Sky Lakes Wilderness. Sky Lakes is an area where I’ve wanted to explore for a couple of years.  Two years ago I didn’t know enough of the area before the end of the hiking seadon, last year it was closed due to a wildfire.

This year we wouldn’t see much due to our hiking a ridgeline in the clouds.  But some views kept us entertained.

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The placement of the gold pan led me to sign a popular ’80’s song, which promptly got stuck in Jen’s head.  She cursed me for that while I giggled. I’m a big enough fan of the group to know other songs to keep me entertained.

She was stuck for a while.

Hehe.

A hope of clearing was short-lived, but at least the rain tapered off before sunset.

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A late day, a scramble to find a suitable campsite, failing at first then squeezing between two burnt-out stumps remaining from last year’s fire, then a late-night fresh rain shower meant we were in for a long, wet, not entirely comfortable night.

Day 189 – 23 / 2,550 (1,793)

Please help us help the PCT Association as they work to protect and maintain this precious resource: http://tinyurl.com/le5cu9j

To Thielsen

We were in the trees all day, so no views to share.  But we ran into this trail junction that has us intrigued.

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Perhaps for another year.

Rolling into camp after sunset but before complete darkness gave us a nice view of a formation called Pulpit Rock reflected in a string of lakes called the Rosaries.

Day 184 – 25 / 2,445 (1,908)

Sunrise on Pulpit Rock over Lower Rosary Lake.

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We soon crossed Willamette Pass and peeled off the PCT to follow the Oregon Skyline Trail  (OST).  This time of year the OST provides opportunities for water, where that stretch of the PCT provides an opportunity to carry water through a 30-mile dry stretch.  We’re all about opportunities, but we opted for water.

With a multi-year drought, Diamond View Lake was more of a big mud hole.  We tried to get to the water, but it was shoe-sucking deep mid, so we kept moving.

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It turned out to be another day in the trees without any views, but we were moving forward and having a great time.

Day 185 – 21 / 2,466 (OST 5)

One disadvantage of picking the route with the water is that we woke up to deal with something we hadn’t worried about since Washington – condensation. Nothing like having to carry around an extra pound of water that we couldn’t drink.  Luckily we climbed out of the damp and could let the tent dry while we had lunch and collected/filtered water.

Throughout the day we kept climbing.  We figured out why everyone thinks Oregon is so cruisey – they are going downhill. But since we’re headed southbound, it’s a lot of uphill for us.  Nothing steep, but 8-10 mile gradual climbs wear on us after a while. 

Eventually we were able to get a view:

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And some light play:

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But all of that work got us to this:

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Followed by a post-sunset view of my favorite mountain in Oregon, Mount Thielsen:

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Even though camp was well above 7,000′, we had the warmest night on the trail than we have had since Northern California. We were roasting (relatively) at the same time that folks approaching the Northern Terminus were waking up to blankets of snow.

We chose well.

Day 186 – 25 / 2,491 (1,856)

Please help us help the PCT Association as they work to protect and maintain this precious resource: http://tinyurl.com/le5cu9j