Vacations, Part Three
Pacific Crest Trail, Washington State
In 1971, two years after Outward Bound, my friend Stephanie Atwood came up from California and met me in Seattle for what we planned as a month long backpack trip in the Cascade Mountains. We had all our food (which she prepared and brought) plus climbing and backpack gear for the month. Starting with over seventy pounds, we discovered it was extremely difficult to rise from a sitting position with our packs on! We felt like beetles turned on our backs, waving our arms and legs in the air in our futile efforts. By the end of the trip, we were adept at donning the not-quite-as-heavy burdens.
Our friend from Outward Bound, Mariel, drove us out into the mountains as far as she dared (with huge logging trucks whipping down the roads), and dropped us off. We ended up hiking eleven miles the first day to Kennedy Hot Springs near Glacier Peak. After waiting about an hour for the boy scouts to finish and vacate the ‘tub’, we luxuriated in the springs.
Although it was summer, we encountered a great deal of snow and the scouts told us we wouldn’t be able to follow our planned itinerary because of it. They were wrong. We had a couple of horrendous creek crossings the next day and after pulling ourselves carefully across logs on our bellies, we travelled only a short distance. Glacier Peak made for splendid views! A few days later, we crossed paths with some people on horseback who told us there was a great place to camp “just ahead”. The distance when you’re riding a horse is apparently much different than when you, yourself, are the beast of burden. We finally ended up camping literally ON the trail, which was the only dry spot, with snow on either side. After that, we felt confident we could camp ANYWHERE.
When we planned the trip, we had hoped to do some rock climbing (hence the gold line rope and climbing gear). However, there didn’t seem to be anything suitable in that area, so we decided to go down to a place called Goat Rocks (also on the Pacific Crest Trail) to look for something fun to climb down there. We knew it was illegal to hitchhike, but there was no public transportation going East/West, so we decided to hitch West, take a bus South and hitch East again. As we tried to get back to the mountains (East), a sheriff from Chehalis picked us up. Far from arresting us, he took us to his house where we could camp on his lawn and, in the morning, drove us out to the Cascades. There are nice people everywhere!
We discovered another beautiful area of Washington State, even if we never did a lot of climbing. We did summit Indian Head Peak (first part of the hike) and Mt. Ives in Goat Rocks, but I believe we backed off the crumbling rock of Big Horn (left). Our rope became wedged in the rocks, so Steph went back up to get it and you can see her rappelling back down. Mt. Adams (top photo) dominated our ‘close’ view, while Rainier and Mt. St. Helens were stunning in the distance. Although we had contemplated climbing Mt. Adams, we realized we were ill-prepared for the hazards involved and decided not to attempt it on this trip. I did later return to climb Mt. St. Helens, but by then it was much shorter, having blown its top in 1980.
As we hiked down toward the Columbia River Gorge (our originally planned destination), it began to rain. Perhaps even worse, we had run completely out of M&M’s! We hiked 12 miles to a ranger station where the weather report called for a solid week of drenching. We opted to call it quits after an amazing journey. Besides feeling as if we could camp anywhere, we also felt tremendous confidence in our survival skills and ability to meet the challenges of the wilderness in a safe manner.
We started north with a trail friend who had a jeep with no doors. Whoever sat by the door quickly became solid mud from the wet dirt roads, so we soon changed our minds and headed back to Portland to visit friends in a nice dry house.
Silver Nugget #1: Consider the source. If a person on horseback tells you something is “very close”, take it with a grain of salt. Their perspective is MUCH different.
Silver Nugget #2: Pack more chocolate! (Even if it melts in the gorp, it just makes little clusters which still taste good.)
Next Week: Vacations, Part Four: A Theme, Perchance?