The Fight To The Finish

Tomorrow this hike enters the third and final phase – Washington. Talking to previous hikers, Washington is the most beautiful state. It is also as challenging as California.

First, the resupply strategy completely changes. To this point, I resupplied in town. This is not an option in Washington. All the resupply points have nothing more than a gas station at best. All my resupply boxes are being sent from home. My daughter Julia in charge of this.

Second, the race is on. The weather is a concern. Rain and snow become more likely each day. My gear is for three seasons. Winter is not one of the seasons. I should be in good shape, as I’m entering in late August. Hopefully, my rain strategy will ensure I keep dry.

Third, the terrain becomes much more difficult. The climbs like Northern California are back. I will still need to do 25 mile days. Fortunately, I’m in shape to do it now.

My evacuation points are much more remote. I may not have phone reception, even in these little towns.

Finally, there is still the fire question. The Northern Terminus remains closed. There are four closures as it stands.

That being said, my health is excellent. I have no injuries. I’m hiking at full speed. I have some concerns about my lack of reserves. I’ve increased my calories in my food bag. I lost 20 pounds in the Sierra Mountains. I don’t have 20 to loose now. The Northern Cascades are as physically demanding as the Sierra Mountains.

Mentally, I’m gunning to finish this. My morale is high. I’m confident in my conditioning. I’m frustrated that is probably all for naught, as I don’t expect to be able to get to the Northern Terminus. However, there is no question that the hike has been a success.

The only gear issue is that the zipper to my next insect netting is still broke. It has been too cold for mosquitoes, so this has not been an issue. The tent keeps me dry, and that I know works. All other pieces of gear are fully functional.

Body says go. Mind says go. Gear says go. Will the trail let me get to Canada?

Day 120: Last Day In Oregon

Started: Wahtum Lake Tentsite (2130.3)

Ended: Cascade Locks (2147.1)

Total Miles: 16.8

Thanks to some solid pushes the previous two days, I only had 16.8 miles to get to Cascade Locks. If I was up at five, I could be in by noon. It was mostly downhill.

Hiking on a ridge early in the morning makes for some interesting lights and shadows.

It wasn’t the best quick jaunt into town. The downgrade was unusually steep, so I couldn’t keep a good quick pace. There was plenty of scree for good measure. There was one spot that had an excellent view.

Once I was down, Cascade Locks was a pretty nice hiker town. The motel let me check in early. The laundromat was close. The food store carried Mountain House and fuel canisters, and wasn’t too expensive. There were plenty of options to carb up.

My good friend Ian, who I had not seen in years drove out to see me for dinner.

Tomorrow I cross the Bridge of the Gods over the Columbia River and leave Oregon behind. Washington promises to be quite the adventure.

Day 119: Wet, Wet, Wet

Started: Tentsite (2106.3)

Ended: Wahtum Lake Tentsite (2130.3)

Total Miles: 24.0

It rained all night. I was a little worried that my tent could handle it. I tested it with a Wisconsin thunderstorm and it kept me perfectly dry. I was concerned that putting it up and taking it down a hundred times meant there were some holes I didn’t see. I also strapped it to the outside of my pack when I didn’t have enough room to carry everything, like in the Sierra Mountains when I carried a bear canister and nine days of food.

I woke up in the middle of the night and checked the state of things, but the tent kept me dry. I’m good for Washington.

I had checked the weather report the day before, so I knew that it should stop raining in the morning. That gave me an opportunity to sleep in. By 7:30 I could hear that the rain subsided and I started getting ready to leave.

The pack was heavy and I was sluggish. Between the wet pack and tent, I was probably carrying an extra liter of water. Back-to-back 28+ mile days probably had something to do with it as well.

I reached a point where electric is brought up the hill. The electric company cuts down all the vegetation, so it made a good place to lay out my gear while I ate lunch.

With 15 miles to go, I was running late. I broke out of the green tunnel and had some excellent views.

I maintained a good 3+ m.p.h. pace for the afternoon. I’m 16.3 miles from Cascade Locks. I’m getting up early to reach there in time to do laundry and resupply for three days. I’m going to meet my friend Ian for the first time in years.

Assuming I get everything done, I will not zero in Cascade Locks. That will cut another day of my hiking schedule. My morale is excellent, but I’d like to go home as well.

Day 118: Walking In The Clouds

Started: Stealth Campsite (2078.1)

Ended: Tentsite (2106.3)

Total Miles: 28.2

Achievements: 2,100 Miles, Timberline Lodge, Wasp Attack, Marathon (6)

When I set up my tent last night, I expected for there to be condensation. I was next to a lake, it was cold, and it rained. I was pleased to find it dry.

My goal for the day was to hike 19 miles to the Timberline Lodge for their all you can eat buffet. I was also buy some additional food to get me through the next two days.

If you have seen the movie The Shining, you’ve seen the Timberline Lodge.

Over the course of the hike, I climbed above the clouds under my own power. That meant cold and wet, but I was ready for that.

I made good time and reached the lodge by one. When I got inside, trail angel Coppertone was there. The food at the lodge was supposed to be the best on trail. He was charged $4 for an orange juice. Other hikers also said that the food was overpriced.

I looked at my food bag and I determined that I have two days worth, so I warmed up and hiked on.

On the way down, i reached 2,100 miles.

Less than a mile from where I intended to camp, I was stung in the calf by a wasp. I’m not allergic to bees and wasps, and normally the pain goes away quickly, but this one hurt. I swatted it away and it came for my face. I just kept on walking.

By hiking on, I will not need to zero in Cascade Locks. I have two days to go 40 miles. I can do that in my sleep.

So, I managed to hike 28 miles by 6:30 p.m. I’m going to read while I relax.

Day 117: Familiar Faces

Started: Lake Jude Tentsite (2049.3)

Ended: Stealth Campsite (2078.1)

Total Miles: 28.8

Achievements: Marathon (5)

I woke up to a wet tent. That is the price you pay for the benefit of a light weight single wall tent. Fortunately, the tent worked as designed and I stayed dry.

Today I ran into south bounders who were once north bounders and who I hiked with before. They flip floped to avoid the smoke. In all three cases, I said “Hello” and they looked confused. I said “I’m Young Buck”. It took a second for it to process. I’m unrecognizable even to people I’ve hiked with.

It is possible that I will be the hiker that looses the most weight overall this year.

There was not much to see today. Not because of smoke fortunately. It was all green tunnel.

There are four backpacking sites at Timothy Lake. As it is a Saturday, they are all taken. I’m exhausted, so I found a flat spot and I will call it home for tonight. I’m at Timberline Lodge tomorrow for their excellent buffet. The alarm is set for five. I have 18 miles to go.

Day 116: A Day Filled With Beauty

Started: Tentsite (2023.5)

Ended: Lake Jude Tentsite (2049.3)

Total Miles: 25.8

I had a beautiful day of hiking. I say that despite a ten mile climb over rocks and scree. I took more pictures today than I have in a long time. It is amazing how good a mood you are in when there is no smoke.

I had a pretty rough river crossing. I had to balance on rocks until I reached a large boulder. I jumped on to that boulder and tossed my trekking poles to the other shore. I then slid down the other side to reach another rock that I could just barely reach. I then flipped myself over and forcefully pushed myself upright. It was an impressive piece of maneuvering when you consider that I was wearing a thirty pound, unbuckled backpack.

You always unbuckle your pack when crossing water so you can escape if you fall in.

The rest of the day consisted of knocking off miles an taking pictures like these:

Day 115: The Kindness Of Strangers

Started: Bend (2000.9)

Ended: Tentsite (2023.5)

Total Miles: 22.6

The city of Bend is a tough city to find a ride. It is over 22 miles off trail. Fortunately, I met two section hikers a couple of days ago. They gave me their number and told me to call them when I was ready to return.

Their names are Rich and Renee, and they were awesome.

For me to be successful, I am completely dependent upon the kindness of strangers. There was no way I could walk to Bend, and leaving Bend would be even harder without kind people like Rich and Renee.

I was on trail by 10, so it was a late start. However, I had plenty of calories in my body. I hiked 22 miles by taking only short rests. It was a good push. I would be in position to enjoy the famous Timberline Lodge breakfast buffet.

Still too much smoke. There were some excellent views that would be much better if I could see them clearly.

Tomorrow, I have a 25 mile day lined up.

Day 114: Zero In Bend

Zero in Bend

Total Miles: 11.2 Bonus Miles

Although it is an off day, I have many chores to do.

I was at the laundromat at 7:30 a.m.

I walked to the REI to buy new shorts, four freeze dried meals, and a new two liter bladder.

After walking back, I stopped off at the post office to mail some stuff home. From there, I stopped at the grocery store to buy the rest of the food I need.

The plan was to just relax for the day, but I got up and walked to the hardware store. I wanted to get on a scale.

Are you ready for this? I have now lost over 100 pounds since I first started to train for this hike! I lost 30 pounds training and another 70 pounds since I started.

I am now a normal weight. I haven’t been a normal weight since I was in my twenties.

This does create a small dilemma for me. I need to add calories to my hiking diet, so I’ve made an extra trip to the grocery store.

Still, I’m pretty jazzed about it.

Overall I walked over eleven miles for the day.

Day 113: 2,000 Miles

Started: Tentsite (1984.1)

Ended: Bend Via Highway 20 (2000.9)

Total Miles: 16.8

Achievements: 2,000 Miles, 16-By-Noon

While I can cruise at 3 m.p.h., I still have an extra speed where I turn on the afterburner. It is called town speed and I only use it going into town. I don’t have to be efficient with my energy usage. We were up at five to get to town early.

The smoke was thick. The lava fields were a surreal landscape.

Instead of angry, I tried to pretend that I was an explorer on an alien world.

Gust egged me on to try and run down the hills. My pack had just a liter of water and little food, so it was as light as it could be. It has been a while since I ran down hills. Turns out I’m also in running shape. It was awkward running with a large pack on, but I ran and jumped and managed not to hurt myself in the process.

The advantage of running some of the miles is that the miles went by fast. Before we knew it, we hiked all 16 miles and reached the 2,000 mile marker. We did all that before noon

After that, it was a simple one mile hike to the road and get a hitch.

Gust had reception for the first time in a while. She has a new pack coming, but it will not be in for two days. I plan on zeroing, but I cannot afford two zeros at this point. On top of that, the second rule of this hike is that I cannot share a room with one female, so we cannot share a hotel room to save money.

Therefore, we decided to part ways. She hitched in with a group her age. I hitched on my own.

I got to Bend and went to my hotel. I dropped off my pack and went to the post office to pick up my new shoes. This last pair went 600 miles, but are ready for retirement.

I called home and we planned the two possible outcomes. Either we are sending boxes to all the resupply points in Washington, or I’ll be leaving the trail at Stevens Pass if the Northern Terminus remains closed.

I had a hankering for pizza, so I ordered one and relaxed. Tomorrow I’ll do laundry, resupply, and relax some more.

Day 112: Hiking On Daggers

Started: Sisters Mirror Lake (1958.7)

Ended: Tentsite (1984.1)

Total Miles: 25.4

Today was a day of incredible beauty and incredible pain. I woke up to a wet sleeping bag. The dangers of a single wall tent is that under certain conditions, you will have condensation inside your tent. I hung my socks to dry the night before and in the morning they were frozen and covered in frost. That is ideal for my breath to condensate. Not a big deal. I would dry them out at lunch.

The smoke moved north and ruined my view again.

We made our way to the Obsidian Falls which were beautiful. However, walking on obsidian is less than ideal. It is as sharp as surgical steel and my Altra Lone Peaks have a few too many miles on them.

Eventually, we made our way to the lava fields. Walking on lava stones is significantly worse. Gust and I swore for about ten miles straight as we climbed Mount Doom. The combination of lava stones, smoke and burnt out trees was surreal.

Eventually we made through it for a twenty mile no water carry. I kept chanting “This is why it is Type Two Fun” in hopes that it would make things better.

It didn’t.

We raced up one last climb. It looked like we were home free for the last two miles, only to run into another lava stone field. They saved the most oddly shaped and sharpest for last.

Tomorrow we will get to Bend after 16 miles. However, the first 2.3 miles will be a big climb up a lava field.

I am so looking forward to that.