Me and Three of my buds!

I leave on an Epic Adventure at 5:30am. Me and Three of my buds are heading into the High Sierras and will be hiking along the Southern Sierra High Route. It is a route that will take us from Bishop Pass to Mt. Whitney. The majority of this hike is above 11k feet with three different 14k peaks. Wooooooey! I am all packed and ready to go. Now it’s just sit and wait and wonder if I’ve forgotten to pack anything. Just kiddin, my pack is ready!

We are expecting to take around 7 days to trek the just over 100 miles route. The majority of the trek, from what I know, will be in the alpine/granite area. Not a lot of trees where we are going. This past week the area was pelted with Thunderstorms and a little bit of fresh snow. We are all bringing micro-spikes. The folk at the wilderness office said that crampons at this point are needed above 13k feet. The weather has shifted and we are expecting mostly sunny days ranging from the mid 20’s to the upper 60’s. I definitely favor the latter, but if we have clear skies at night, I will be spending copious amounts of time shivering underneath the canopy of stars. Yes Please!

I’m sure I am “over”packed with my food, but out of all the things, it is always my biggest concern. I eat a lot, and when you are climbing that many miles for that many days, you get hungry. We are packing for the entire 7 day trek without food stops, so all of our packs will start heavy with food. I already know which food items weigh the most, so I’ll be eating those as quickly as possible.

I made fruit leather for my first time – it’s quite delicious. I pureed 4 green pears (didn’t peel them, just cut them up and took out the seeds), a fresh lemon (squeezed and zested), and fresh lemon-thyme leaves. Everything goes into the blender to a frothy puree and then on to the parchment paper to dry out. I dehydrated for two full days in the dehydrator. It’s absolutely delicious. Sweet and zesty.

I also made my trek mix. Well, I purchased the ingredients and mixed them, but still. Raw almonds, roasted and salted peanuts, cashews, dried cranberries and dark chocolate chips! I can’t even stand myself right now. Get in my belly. I will be eating a cup-a-day. This is one of my favorite trail foods. Nuts & Berries & Chocolate. Mmmmmmm

Between the 4 of us, we will have 3 iphone cameras, a digital SLR, and a GoPro. I’m super stoked for the video we are going to take. I love going on these adventures, and I really love to share them too. There are some amazing spaces in this world. I’m going to give it a go with time-lapse night photography. I’m REALLY hoping for some clear sky nights to catch glimpses of the milky way above the tree line. <sigh>

I’ll blog and post route pictures when I get back.

Never give up! Always Adventure!

-Denny
“Happy Birthday to Me”

Hammock Nap

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Connecting the Dots

I secretly have a crush on one of the areas of the Cascades. It is a space between Mt Hood and Mt Jefferson called the Bull of the Woods. I repeatedly find myself and my backpacking traipsing through the lush forest, hopping over creeks and enjoying the endless display of natural beauty.

IMG_0638Last week, I took a friend into the woods with me. We left after work Tuesday evening (10:00 PM) and got to a base camp in the Bull of the Woods around 1:00. We set up tent and tucked into our sleeping gear for a night’s sleep. At around 3:00am, we realized it had started to snow. It was a light accumulation which was a pleasure to wake up to.

IMG_0705We woke up later than we had anticipated, ate a delicious breakfast of a fried egg in a tortilla wrap, had some hot coffee and packed up the tent into our packs. It took about another 20 minutes to get to the Pansy Basin trailhead.

IMG_0633From Pansy Basin Trail, we climbed up trail # 551 to #549 to #550. We stopped at the boarded up Lookout Tower. There were a lot of clouds so the view was less than stellar. We then hiked down trail #554 to #553 and camped at Big Slide Lake. As it was mid-week, there were no other humans around. We spent the afternoon eating lots of food and playing cards.

IMG_0672The following day, the sun came out and we were blessed with some blue skies! We climbed back up to the tower for some spectacular views. The panoramic picture shows the mountains from Mt Rainier in WA all the way down to the Three Sisters in central/south Oregon. (Click on the photo, then enlarge it. You’ll have a great picture of the cascade mountain range)

IMG_0639From the tower, we headed down towards Welcome Lakes and the Mother Lode on trail #558, then caught trail #551 back to Pansy Basin. We camped at the lake. It was beautiful and quiet. We had guests show up later in the evening with their extremely friendly and adventurous dogs. They camped at one of the spots closer to the trailhead.

Pansy Lake

Pansy Lake

IMG_0701

The following morning, we packed up early and headed back to the trailhead, then back to the city to go to work.

Big Slide Lake

Big Slide Lake

Big Slide Lake

Big Slide Lake

This trek connected a lot of the other trails I had already been through, thus completing most of the trails section I’ve already trekked in the Bull of the Woods. Two more trails to go and I will have completed the whole area.

I love wilderness escapes!IMG_0699

Happy Trekking!

Denny & SamIMG_0658 IMG_0627

Into the Woods!

DennyI decided that with two days off in a row, I needed to go play in the woods. I loaded up my smaller backpack with my overnight gear and some new items to test out for the season. Into the woods!

I took along a few of my favorite things: Hubba NX tent, Igneo sleeping bag, REI Flexlite Chair, ENO Hammock and Strap, ExPed sleeping pad and a backcountry tarp. I also took my knife, headlamp, journal and pen. I took a couple of new items for testing and my sense of adventure!

Camp 2I chose the area around Elk Creek. It is a beautiful hike in the middle of nowhere along a rushing creek. There are creek crossings and more. I posted about this once last year. The hike is more advanced than beginner. It isn’t long, but there are many creek crossings that require some balance and stability. Hiking poles would come in handy, and a willingness to get your feet wet should you slip off a rock and end up splashing through one of the many creeks. I did see one hiker on trail who was out for a day hike. An older gentleman who has been hiking for many years who said it is his goal to get out and hike every day. I want to be him!

Camp ClothesI brought along some new clothing to see how I would fair. I did quite well. I took my zip-away hiking pant/shorts. The zippers up the sides of the Saharas make the legs easy to get on and off and no boot removal is needed! I wore a smartwool t-shirt and underwear, merino wool socks and sported a pair of Solomon trail runners. They were light, easy to get on and off, but absolutely horrible on any wet rock or log. They were like slip-n-slide shoes. They also did not provide any ankle support or protection from hitting my foot on the side of fallen branches. Back to my trail hikers I go.

Dam!I ended up camping along the edge of the creek. A beautiful spot not too far from the creek crossing. There are amazing camp spots all through this area. The creek turned here and headed in a different direction. The area of the turn had a dam and a small island. A perfect eco-habitat for some woodland water creatures. I saw some ducks and plenty of other birds. I did not notice any fish in the creek or land mammals roaming about.

The Hubba NX tent is a single person tent. I picked it up last year at the end of the season. The design is sensational. Symmetrical dome shaped tent with a teardrop door. Sitting inside is like sitting in a little temple! The ruby red base is soothing to the eye, the tent can be set up quickly with it’s one pole system. No need to figure out which end goes to which end because either end will do. The system allows for a quick set-up, meaning you can drop the foot print and set up the fly on top, then get inside and set up the tent. Perfect for the rainy days we get here in the PNW. The rainfly also has a one-of-a-kind gutter that is over the door! Nice job MSR!

WindboilerI wanted to test out their new Windboiler. I have friends who have had Jetboils, and honestly I was never a fan. Plastic and fire just do not go together. The windboiler is an all in one cook system, similar to the others out there. This one however rocks. It has a fully enclosed wind prevention system that keeps the flame burning hot. I boiled my water in under a minute. UNDER a minute. The amount of fuel savings is spectacular. The mechanics of this machine also make it quite easy to use. The materials cool down quickly and because the flame head is large and the system vortexes the heat up, the thing heats up in no time. I’d use this again any time I’m taking dehydrated food on my treks.

Bear HangI didn’t bring my bear vault this time, but opted to hang my food. It is suggested that you hang the food at least 15 feet off the ground and about 4 feet from the tree. Tie one end of the rope to your bag, sling the other end up and over a branch, then hoist it up. Once it’s up, tie the other end off to the tree. If you’ve ever had your food taken by a woodland creature, you’ll know that it isn’t a pleasant experience. You have to leave where you are, cut the trip short and/or find a way to replenish. Though the bear vault is general bulky and heavy, it does keep your food safe. On my super short trips, I will hang food instead.

When in NatureThere was absolutely no one else in the area that evening. It was super quiet and a new moon, so at night it was exceptionally dark. The weather was the warmest we’ve had to date this season – over 70 degrees. Yes please! I also have one rule – when in nature, be natural (at least once/day). I generally can’t stand clothing, unless it’s keeping me warm. I needed to work on my overall tan anyway. It had been a long winter and my body hadn’t seen the light of sun in ages. Don’t be jealous. June 21st is the Unofficial Naked Hiking Day, so plan accordingly!Hammock

I usually do not carry my hammock AND my tent, but as I was only heading into the woods for one day, I figured the extra weight I am not carrying in food, I can easily carry the hammock. I love that I did. I took a nap in the sun for a while and listened to the creek float by.

Camp ChairThe warm clothes I packed in my bag were my puffy Patagonia, smartwool 250 leggings, smartwool zip long sleeve top, my 15 year old wool hat and a pair of beat up gloves. They all came in quite handy after the sun started to set. I tend to get cold easily and having things that can keep me warm are vital to my wellbeing (aka, my happiness). As the evening temperature moved in, I put on my nighttime layers of clothing. The smartwool felt immediately warm and soft which I really appreciate. They are also great at keeping moisture off the body which helps to keep you warm. I wrote in my journal for a long while, made myself an evening snack and went for a walk around the creek.

Naptime came early. I say naptime because it is often that I do not “sleep” when I’m out in nature. I actively rest and take naps between resting. I’m totally okay with this. I did have one moment where I was in my tent and there was a large animal pressing its nose up against my tent walls. I thought it was a deer or moose type animal. I kept trying to tell it to go away, to scare it by saying things like, “SHOO”, but every time I did, nothing came out. I realized that I was actually dreaming and woke myself up. I was in the same place I was dreaming, but there was no animal.

ParadiseThere is something so serene and peaceful to me about the simplicity of a backpacking setup. I consider what I took on this trip “Luxury” packing. A hammock and a chair! It isn’t often that you are willing to carry extra weight. I could spend days out in the wilderness. I did notice that I was up early and “ready” to pack and move. It wasn’t that I wanted to get home, but that as a backpacker, there’s always the next place to get to. I enjoyed my morning breakfast of oatmeal, packed up most of camp and my backpack.

Hammock Nap

I lounged a while longer in my hammock and wrote a bit more in my journal. I wrote a long dedication to my buddy Tyler (my cat) who I lost a week ago. I think he was the reason I was out there anyway. I needed to say goodbye in a place that held a lot of magic and support, that wouldn’t give me opinion or enable me, but just allow me to be exactly where I was. Thanks Nature!

The trek back to my truck (Hank) was quite and brisk. I didn’t pass any hikers at all. I also made it through all the stream crossings with dry feet.

Happiest Trekking!

DennySpying Ducks

PCT Hike – Day 7

day 7Today’s hike was short and sweet. A very quick 7 miles to Elk Lake Resort where I was able to rest, stuff my face with great food and beer, pick up my Cache drop and take a REAL shower!

I left camp in the morning after breakfast and took the short trip along a lake filled path towards Elk Lake Resort. I passed through a handful of beautiful meadows along the way. The trail head off of the PCT to Elk Lake lead me down through a burn zone to a road. There were no signs on the road, so I figured I would head down hill assuming that the lake would be in the lower section. I soon came to a cross road and saw the entrance to Elk Lake Campground across the street.

I arrived in the late morning around 10:00 and was greeted by very loud trucks, lots of activity and the smells of a kitchen. The resort office was down by the water connected to the restaurant. I’d love to say that I was greeted with warmth and friendliness, but truthfully speaking it was almost as if I were a bother being there. No one said hello when I walked in, and the staff that was there were apparently having an important conversation because they also couldn’t be bothered to break away to greet a guest. A few minutes later, a younger man walked in and asked me if I were being helped by the two women sitting behind the desk. When I said No, he looked at them and said, this guy could probably use some help.

Along with the $5.00 handling fee for holding my PCT Box, I got to pay another $5.00 to take a shower (though you do get a fuzzy white towel and a bar of soap), and another $10.90 for one of the PCT Hiker camp spots. I was given Hiker spot A, and was told it was “in the woods behind the Luxury cabins and in front of the small single cabins.” Good, I can do “in the woods” quite well. I collected my box, was given the key to the shower and headed off to my $10.90 camping spot.

Apparently, their version of “in the woods” and my version are two completely separate experiences. The very small swath of land they didn’t chop down to build cabins that was between the two rows of cabins was what they considered the PCT Hiker camping spots “in the woods”. Good lord, where am I? The spot I got was a few trees back from a road behind a luxury cabin, so I got to see the back end of the super sized SUV’s that were parked there. The small single cabin behind me had three cars completely full of “camping stuff”, coolers, chairs and more, with four adults that apparently didn’t know how to talk to each other but instead yelled so they could be heard over each others yelling, and two extremely small infants who liked to cry a lot.

Okay, maybe I just need to take my shower and get some real food in my belly and it will all be different. Up went my camp and off to the showers I went with my extra clothing. I washed all of my clothes and then scrubbed myself down. I put on my pseudo-wet, dry fit clothing and went back to my camp to hang the remaining items to dry. It definitely felt good to be clean. The small cabin full of people and stuff were still talking quite loudly and making an exceptional amount of noise, so I figured I needed some food. I took my maps and my journal and the remainder of the $50.00 I had mailed myself in the package and went down to the restaurant. I sat outside on their deck and ordered a grilled caprese panini, french fries and a two beers. $38.00 I have to say, the food was excellent. While I was sitting there, I realized that I was probably the youngest guest there by about 25 years. Then I saw all of the sail boats. Ah – it’s a country club for the sail boat crowd. That’s why everything costs something and the folk who aren’t paying a lot don’t get a lot, even though it costs a lot.

After my lunch, I was walking back out and met two southbound PCT hikers. They were having the same reaction to all of the things at this place that I was. I went down to the lake and sat on a picnic table to write in my journal. While I was rocking out to Journey’s Greatest Hits which was playing over the loud speaker (at least the music was great), I was talking to the squirrel on the bench next to me, and I realized that out of everyone here, the squirrel by far made the best company.

I ended up bumping into the other two PCT hikers – Alan and Shelly – and I’m so grateful I had. They were totally awesome. I ended up eating dinner with them that night and we had amazing conversations about all of our adventures. Shelly was finishing up segment hiking the PCT, and they have both done a bunch of adventuring in other aspects as well. They were fun, vibrant, full of energy and were great to converse with.

We all ended up moving our camping spots towards the end of the resort where it was a bit more quiet. In the morning I packed up my pack and headed down to the restaurant to have a great breakfast. Alan and Shelly joined me and then I was off again to get to the PCT.

Shelly and Alan had mentioned needing a special permit for the Obsidian Limited Entry Area which I would be passing through on my way up the PCT in the Three Sister’s Wilderness. They said they bumped into someone who was turned away by the Rangers. As they didn’t have permits either, they “snuck” by the Ranger’s camp early in the morning before they were awake. I didn’t ever recall reading about needing a special permit anywhere on the PCT unless you were hiking more than 500 miles at one time. I began to get nervous because I couldn’t see a way around this area without backtracking a whole heck of a lot then going around the entire Three Sisters Wilderness to get back onto the PCT. I asked Trail Angel Tim to do some investigating and he said that there was no permit needed in that area, that PCT hikers could just stay on the PCT and hike through. With that information I felt more at ease, but I do remember not sleeping a lot and spending the next two days over-thinking how I would weasel my way through that area should I come upon a Ranger who says, “YOUU SHALL NOT PASSSSSSSSSSSS”.

One thing that Elk Lake Resort could do, is take one small section of their large property, that is away from the hustle and bustle of their every day guest who they cater to, build a fire pit and create 8-10 pct hiker tent pitching spots for campers that are separate from the rest of their space. PCT Hikers are a different breed. I imagine the majority of us are not interested in flashy, big and loud. We prefer quiet, rural and rustic.

I am grateful Elk Lake offers PCT Hiker Services. I am grateful for the shower, for the food & beer, music, and for the rare gems you find.

mm 1953-1959

Happy Trails,

Denny

Denny Shadow 2

PCT Hike – Day 6

PCT Day 6In Memorum – my tired, achy, blistered and wounded feet will walk for those who cannot walk any longer. 9/11/14

Lunch Lake

Today I trekked just 13.5 miles to Dumbbell Lake. It was a chilly start to the day and I began layered. It was a leisurely day and I got to have lunch at an amazing spot on the way. A very shallow lake surround by beautiful trees. There were just a few wildflowers left around as well.

Porky!

A couple of sign posts I passed along the way had me questioning where I was, or whether or not I had fallen into some time warp. Porky Lake!  Also, one of the PCT trail signs had a handwritten “BOYS ->” posted on it. I actually didn’t go investigate what that meant, but I totally considered it for a little while.

Boys?

On my way to Dumbbell Lake, I passed a small clump of trees which had a 1.5 foot tall owl perched in one tree with two tiny owls under her wings. I think they frightened me as much as I frightened them. They took off in a quick hurry leaving me standing there with my mouth open realizing that I had just seen three of the cutest creatures on the planet. Grey with spots. Adorable!

Snake

I saw a snake today. He was on the trail sunning himself. He allowed me to take his picture too!

I arrived at Dumbbell Lake early and without incident. I was thinking of stopping here if it matched my mood, and if not, I was going to hike the last few miles to Elk Lake Resort to pick up my Cache drop and get a move-on. But I remembered that I would be getting another package on Friday (tomorrow), so I decided to hang back and spend my day here at the lake. It was probably the best camp spot I had the entire trip.

Dumbbell Lake welcomed me with a fire pit on the upper part, but as I ventured down towards the water, I found myself traveling over and through a small group of trees to a peninsula in the middle of the lake. Boys Fort Heaven! I set up camp at the end of the peninsula just before a small grassy meadow that lead to the water. I knew where I’d be spending my afternoon and I was excited by it.

Sun Day 1With camp all set up, I washed some clothes and my body and laid starkers on my camp towel in the grassy knoll with my journal, my solar panel and some water. It felt great, free and wonderful to be there. There was no one around for miles, it was quiet and there were two small black and white ducks playing in the water nearby.

“There is no adventure if you don’t get lost once in a while”

Asshole Bird 2In the early part of the afternoon, I headed up towards the fire pit with my dinner to cook and spent some time preparing my meal. The asshole birds showed up while I was there, and I did everything but throw rocks at them to get them to back off. Aggressive little f*ckers.

Dinner

Even though I had a restful day, I did go to bed relatively early. It was nice to rest, and my feet were quite happy to have the extra time out of the boots. When I did get up to go pee, the stars were shining brightly and happily.

mm 1940-1953

Happy Trails,

Denny

Everything is connected to us. The air, grass, cold and hot. Every part of it we are connected to. It is always there, always present. But because of our ego mind’s control, it pushes our true seer out of the way and “we” forget. So, we begin the search to find it, and it evades us more the more we search. Filling these empty spaces with anything that feels good in the moment, hoping we find our source. And it is always there, in the present. Patiently waiting for us to arrive each time that we’ve gone astray.

 

PCT Hike – Day 5

PCT Day 5When I looked at my maps at Bobby Lake, I noticed that my next section of hiking would be abundant with wetlands. Lots of lakes. There is something delightful about setting up a tent near a lakeshore. I enjoy it. It is serene and it also gives easy access to filling up water bladders. Today I decided that I would hike to Brahma Lake which was a short 16 miles away.

The day proved to be quite uneventful in general. The hiking was, of course, beautifully deep forested and full of lakes along the way. There were no major elevation changes, just a simple soft step forward. I did lose power in my phone (aka camera), and the solar panel was having difficulty with my power cord as my power cord was not being very cooperative. So, I didn’t get very many pictures along the way.

I passed Charlton Lake, which was listed as a water and camping spot on the maps, so I decided to take the very short trail to the lake to see what it was all about. Beautiful, of course, and very quiet. It was also a great place to rest my feet which were getting increasingly cranky. My left heel was beginning to swell and create a crankiness throughout the left side of my body. It felt good to kick off my boots and soak my feet in the lake. There was one camper at the lake, though it looked like he was camping for a long term experience. When I left, I crossed over a dirt access road to the lake, which gave a great explanation to how all the stuff arrived for the person who seemed to be living at the lake.

Not too far from Brahma lake, I heard my first gunshots. Blech! I have an abhorrence to guns. Truthfully, the only thing they are meant to do is kill things, and honestly, enough things in this world die on their own. I wish we could stop destroying every last part of the planet. Okay, I won’t preach my gun philosophy here, but you get the point. Apparently, it was hunting season. Joy.

As I approached Brahma lake, I came across two Southbound hikers – Bottoms Up & Dakota. These were their trail names. I didn’t have a trail name, and the chances of me getting one as a solo hiker doing a section were highly unlikely. They were friendly and informative, and the one woman Bottoms Up, shared the same viewpoint on hunting that I did as she crinkled her nose at the sound of the 2nd gunshot of the day.

I arrived at Brahma lake relatively early in the day. As I came up to the lake, I overlooked the major camp spot that had a fire pit and veered off to the right to a spot that was fit more for one person. It was early in the day and the sun was about another 1.5 hours away from passing over the western tree line. I found camp on the East side of the lake.  Up went my camp and down to the water I went and set up my solar panel with my phone – there was an immediate BUZZ from the connection and I knew that my phone was getting charged. Excellent, I’d have more pictures taking opportunities.

As this was another opportunity for me to get some sun on my body that didn’t just include my forearms and calves, I stripped down to my dry-fit skivvies and laid out on a big rock near the water. I heard a woman on the other side of the lake say to a guy, “<gasp> do you see what he’s doing?”, with his response being, “it’s okay, please just be quiet”.  Apparently, this was her first time in nature, and he was a pro. A pro in full camo, fishing. I’m not sure how that combination works, but perhaps the fish just think he’s a big tree. He did catch a fish while I was there, but he also let it go, telling the fish to calm down that it would be okay. I respected that guy.

One thing I did notice as I was laying out on the rock like I was in Key West, was that I had lost all my body fat. Seriously. It was all gone. I had V-lines on my stomach that I haven’t had since I was in my 20’s, and I’m a very fit person in general. Day 5 and I’m skinny. This is going to be interesting. I was eating as much as I could stomach on a regular basis, but the amount of calories going out were just shredding me of any fat.

That evening I made ratatouille. I was skeptical on how it would come out when I was putting the recipe together, but I have to say, I’m a rock star chef for the backcountry. It was delicious. Rich, flavorful, thick and meaty. I was quite impressed. That will definitely go on my list for future backcountry meal making.

It was an early to bed night again, I was actually in my tent well before dark writing in my journal and looking at my maps. I decided to deal with the big blister on my right foot which was now from the underside of my big toe all the way through my right ring toe. (Is “ring toe” an actual toe name? Okay it was the little piggy that didn’t have roast beef.) Out came my scissors and my bandana, and I was prepped and ready with my bandaging. The amount of liquid ooze that came out left me with a questioning mind. How does that build up? This time it wasn’t just clear, but it was a little brown and colorful. I didn’t gag. It wasn’t the most pleasurable experience to watch, but as it didn’t hurt at all, it made it much more bearable. Drained and drying. Great.

Sleep came fast, I think I was actually sleeping before it was dark. I did manage to get a message to my trail angel Tim through the Delorme InReach which was my SOS and communication device (I highly recommend it). He was going to send out another pair of socks for me, as thick and heavy as he could find, along with a scrubby pad for my filter. What a guy! My personal trail hero and savior. I am forever grateful.

“There is always good and bad. Focus on the good while you are going through the bad”

1924-1940, 16 miles

Happy Trails,

Denny

Camper

PCT Hike – Day 3

PCT Day 3

Rise and shine, it’s another beautiful day to step onto trail. Although I have yet to have a campfire because there are fire bans, I completely smell like smoke at this point. The smoke overnight was quite bad. I can’t even imagine what it is like closer to the fire. I must be miles and miles away from the source of the fire right now.

I spent my morning popping blisters. It wasn’t as “icky” as I thought it was going to be. I took my tiny sharp scissors and made a tiny sharp cut into the bottom of my foot where I felt absolutely nothing as the skin surrounding the blister had already detached itself from any nerve type feeling. Out leaked some oozy clear liquid and that was all. Nothing too exciting, and a lot less drama than what I was anticipating.

Today I knew I was heading to Summit Lake for a pit stop along the way. I needed to rinse out my clothing and wash down my body. It has been a few days since I’ve done any type of bathing and it was time. Breakfast was eaten (thank you oatmeal), and camp was packed, and off I went to a lake.

Very shortly on the trail I heard a raucous in a tree of screeching scratching animal fights. From where I was it took me a moment to locate the source, but eventually I spotted a tree about 20 meters away and up about 5 meters from the ground was a whirling dervish of dark brown fur. My attempts at making small noises to catch their attention and break up their auto destruction was not working, so I bellowed out a big loud “HEY!” and immediately they stopped. What it also did was catch one of them off guard who then decided to fall the 5 meters to the ground. Great, I’ve just killed my first wildlife. I’ve become a hunter and I don’t even like hunting. Fortunately for me however, that furry little creature had some bounce, and no sooner did it hit the ground, but it took off running across my path with the 2nd one directly behind it. To this day I have no idea what they were. I initially thought they were  little brown foxes, then why would a fox be in a tree? So when I got home I googled “Brown Furry Creature in Cascade Mountain Range” and a Fisher came up to the top. Hmmmm… quite possibly. 

Summit Lake

Not too much further and I was on the trail that curved around a big lake. Summit Lake. I found the side trail which lead to the camp noted on the PCT maps. It took me right to the water’s edge which at this time in the morning was still and quiet and quite reflective. There was no one around, so I took my water filter and my body to the water, stripped down and began washing my clothes. After my clothes had a bath, I was next, and it seemed that the ducks that were joyfully playing in the morning sunshine were also having quite a bath as well. Then, don’t ya know, I heard the rev of an engine in the distance that grew louder by the moment. I couldn’t tell where it was coming from or whether or not it was a motorboat, a truck or one of NASA’s rockets taking off. This thing was big and loud. Then through the trees on the shoreline to my left (just past the ducks), I see the biggest of trucks you can imagine. So, obviously there is either a road there, or they are like the honey badger not giving a f*ck and plowing their way through along a walking trail.

Clothes

Of course, this big red-necked truck stops just near where I am, and of course two camouflaged folk come strolling towards the shore looking at the water. They don’t see me at first, but there I was on the water’s edge with my water filter in hand pumping out the water I would need for the day. Finally the girl in camo looked over and saw me, and immediately notified her other half, and as he looked over I waved hello. The conversation went like this:

Me: “Good Morning!  I’m not sure if you’re looking for ducks, but there were two very playful ducks here just moments ago, but someone just drove by in a really loud and big truck and scared all the ducks away.”

This, apparently, was a sure queue for the hunters to retreat back to their “over-sized compensating for something they must feel they are lacking” truck and they drove away. Ducks: 1, Hunters: 0

All of my dry-fit clothing dried rather quickly, so I was dressed and packed and back on the trail in a short amount of time. (Oh, by the way, the camp spot at Summit Lake was sensational – if I hadn’t arrived there at 8:45 in the morning, I would have camped there for sure).

Diamond PeakThe next part of my morning lead me into the Diamond Peak Wilderness. It was windy and cold here with snow on the sides of the expansive mountain range. I’m not sure what happened in this part of the trail, but at one point, all of the trees were knocked down, and it seems that they were all knocked down from the mountain heading East. Regardless, there was an abundance of smaller new growth trees and half-way through the wild of Diamond Peak there was a beautiful little stream.

Once on the other side of Diamond Peak, I began to traverse slowly downward and kept coming upon these amazing little lakelets with lots of wildlife in and around them. We really do have some amazing wilderness here.

At just about 5:00, I decided that it was time for a snack and to rest my feet. I dropped my pack and started chewing on some trail mix and dried fruit and as I was sitting there I looked down and saw what was an obvious “arrow” made by another human out of twigs on the ground. The arrow was pointing down a side trail that I would have missed if I had not stopped to take a break. That intuitive nudge that says “go investigate” was gnawing at my gut and though I felt a little uneasy about leaving the comforts of the PCT for unknown territory, I put on my pack and headed down the path. I am grateful I did.

Otter LakeI passed through a small clump of trees and emerged onto the edge of a lakelet that sat about 15 feet below. It was perfect, secluded, quiet, serene and exactly the spot I was hoping I could camp in. Off came my pack, up went my camp and I spent the rest of the evening (though really that was only a couple of hours which included setting camp and eating) sitting by the waterside just breathing.

Camp Coffee

As it goes when you’re on trail, you’re sleeping by the time it’s dark and up by the time it gets light, so I was off to dreamland relatively early. In the morning, I got up, made my camp coffee and oatmeal then sat again down by the water’s edge. There was commotion on the other side of the lakelet and at first I thought it was two ducks, but quickly found out that it was two otters. OTTERS!  They were so adorable.

At first the otters either didn’t know I was there, or didn’t want to investigate. But eventually their curiosity won out and they started chatting with each other and kept looking my way. They would get into the water from an island, swim a little closer looking at me, chatter then swim away. Eventually, knowing that I’m an animal lover and not a killer, they began a direct swimming path towards me. When they got about 10 feet away, I calmly said, “That’s far enough, we do not need to interact any closer than this”, which they apparently thought quite rude because one otter squawked at the other and they began to swim away.

1900 Mile Marker

Miles: 1890-1908,  18 mile day – 8am-5:45 pm

Happy Trails,

Denny

Shadow Denny