The Hoppy Okapi

A 2012 Pacific Crest Trail Adventure

Walking through Washington September 24, 2012

Filed under: hiking,PCT — Amanda @ 10:30
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I’m less than 200 miles from completing my PCT thru hike! I arrived at Stevens Pass yesterday, following the three toughest days of hiking in Washington so far: the terrain was steeper and rockier, the air oppressively smoky from forest fires to the east, and I had to navigate a “potentially hazardous ford” of a creek which was raging down a ravine with rocks and boulders making even getting to the water to cross it a challenge. After averaging 25 miles per day with relative ease for the first two sections in Washington, struggling for 20-22 miles per day the last few days was mentally tough, and has made these last two hundred miles seem much longer and harder in my head. I spent many hours working through finishing-date scenarios while walking: what if I get to Stehekin before the last shuttle on Friday, or after the post office closes for the weekend on Saturday, or…and it began to stress me out a lot! As amazing as it is that I can turn any patch of flat-enough ground into “home” for the evening, I am longing for the comforts of my real home, and my reunion with Chuck (and the cats!) even more as I finally get close to finishing the hike.
Once I stepped off the trail at Stevens Pass, all of the worries magically lessened. I met a few trail friends who are a day ahead, getting ready to start hiking again; got a burger and beer at the ski resort cafe – a welcome respite from my trail diet of chocolate bars, salty crackers, and instant potatoes; and got a ride to Baring, where trail angels the Dinsmores have provided me with a bed, shower, and laundry before I head out into the wilds for my final 10 days of hiking. Canda, here I come!

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Oregon Update August 29, 2012

Filed under: hiking,PCT — Amanda @ 8:27
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After crossing the California/Oregon border two weeks ago, I’ve hiked about 300 miles, and have 150 left until I meet Chuck in Portland next week! I visited Crater Lake for the first time, enjoyed swimming in some of oregon’s fantastic lakes (warmer than the ones in the Sierras!), seen a herd of elk, and walked through fields of wildflowers and incredible volcanic landscapes. It’s hard to believe I only have about five weeks of hiking left!

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Tahoe to Belden: approaching halfway July 23, 2012

Filed under: hiking,PCT — Amanda @ 11:29
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Getting back on the trail after spending a weekend with Chuck at Lake Tahoe was hard – I really wanted to stay with him and return to the comforts of home (and the kitties!) in San Diego. But alas, the only way to justify the massive resupply trip to REI was to start hiking again, so I headed north on the morning of the 17th, knowing that Sierra City was only 2 days away, and my next visit with Chuck would be in Portland, OR in early September. I hiked about 18 miles the first day, and saw and chatted with lots of day-hikers and weekenders (i think i intimidated a couple who were out for a 15 mile weekend trip when I told them I was going “only” 38 miles in two days – oops!), but no other Pct hikers. I visited the Peter Grubb hut, built to shelter hikers and skiers from winter storms – it had the first two-story outhouse I’ve seen on the trail! I also impressed myself with my topo map reading skills – I found a perfect campsite, sheltered from the wind, in the exact spot that I had identified as a candidate from the contour pattern.
The next day was a quick twenty miles into the Red Moose Inn in Sierra City. On the descent into town I came across a bush of purple flowers that was full of dozens of orange butterflies – a beautiful sight! I enjoyed hiking through the Tahoe National Forest, which had lots of trail signs with mileage markers and an informational sign about the reservoir on the way into town. I met up with several other hikers, including GipC Girl and Action Pack, at the Red Moose, and being around them all again made me feel better about being back on the trail again, and a little less homesick.
I had a fabulous breakfast at the Red Moose the next morning, and set off to tackle the climb out of town under a beautifully overcast sky. The cool weather helped me power up the hill, where i passed the 1200 mile mark, and then I hiked with Action Pack for the rest of the day – chatting with her definitely helped the miles fly by. We hiked past Sierra Buttes, an impressive rock formation north of town; parts of the trail were a bit precarious on a rocky ledge, but it was a beautiful place to hike.
The next day was a tough one – I’d planned 27 miles and was actually hoping to do 29, but was really tired toward the end of the day and ended up camped with a few other hikers near the Fowler Peak trailhead after a 26 mile day. The day’s scenery was mostly pine forests and flowered hillsides, with a few expansive views of more pine-covered valleys. The trade-off for hiking among all of these lush plants is a much higher humidity level than I’ve previously hiked in, and the sticky heat is a bit tough to adjust to. I spent most of the afternoon listening to music, trying to crank out the miles and ignore how tired my feet were.
For some reason, the next day was much better. I got a decently early start and sped through the first few flat miles, walked over a fantastic bridge at the Feather River, and climbed for seven miles in the heat of the afternoon before finishing up with a few flat miles to my campsite – I walked for almost 28 miles that day, my longest day yet! I was pleased with how good I felt on the long uphill section, and eased some of my getting-to-Canada anxiety by giving myself permission to take a little more rest than I had planned along the way instead of pushing to finish by the (not really) magic date of October 1 no matter what mileage it takes to get there.
My long day left me with only twenty miles to go into the town of Belden – a short uphill followed by a long descent into town. I had great views of lakes and flower covered rides in the morning, then walked through more pine forests before emerging onto an exposed ridge with sandy switchbacks. The first few miles of the descent flew by, but the last six miles into town seemed to take forever, and my feet were very tired of the pounding descent. The poison oak that the trail into Belden is famous for had luckily been trimmed back to an easily-avoidable level, and just before I emerged for the final road walk I found some much-welcomed trail magic – an assortment of drinks had been left in a nest of ice on a trailside boulder; I picked up a cold can of guava nectar and gulped it down to energize me for the final mile. I’ll be back on the trail this afternoon after getting my fill of town food at Belden Town Resort and Caribou Crossroads diner, ad enjoying the hospitality of the Braatens, who host hikers here in town. The switchbacks out of town look intimidating, but I’m almost to the halfway point on the trail and am heading into Lassen National Park soon, so I’m excited about the week ahead!

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I made it through The Sierras! July 17, 2012

Filed under: hiking,PCT — Amanda @ 6:40
Tags: ,

My high-mountain adventure lasted almost a month, from June 15, when I walked out of Kennedy Meadows and the landscape started transforming into granite hills and hidden alpine meadows, until July 14th, when I walked over Donner Pass (without being eaten!) and met Chuck for a weekend of resupply and relaxation on the shores of Lake Tahoe. 1160 miles down, 1500 to go! The Sierras deserve a much longer write-up, but I have to get back on trail about two hours, so here are a few highlights:

  • A surprise meeting of friends from San Diego on my descent from Mt Whitney
  • Climbing 14,500-foot Mt Whitney and 13,000-foot Forrester Pass on consecutive days
  • Lots of deer and marmots (high-elevation groundhogs)!
  • More waterfalls and pristine alpine lakes than I ever would have imagined
  • Camping above 10,000 feet, and waking up to a tent covered in ice
  • Seeing the dramatic changes in rock formations through King’s Canyon and Yosemite National Parks and the National Forests in the Sonora Pass area and north to Lake Tahoe
  • Many mountain wildflowers – from tiny little plants hugging the ground above 12,000 feet to meadows full of flowers taller than me! I even got to walk through a field of wild irises.

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Tehachapi to Kennedy Meadows: last days in the desert June 23, 2012

Filed under: hiking,PCT — Amanda @ 11:42
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I really wasn’t looking forward to the seven day hike from Tehachapi to Kennedy Meadows: I thought it was all really hard desert hiking, and it was psyching me out, so i decided to get out of town and hit the trail as soon as possible instead if staying in town and getting more nervous about it.

I got a ride back to the trail from local trail angel Jo Walker on the afternoon of June 6th, and walked ten miles between the roads that lead to Tehachapi. Most of the hike was beautiful, around more wind farms and through cattle pastures. After a less beautiful two mile road walk, I found a mostly flat spot in a rocky wash about two miles from the freeway, and cowboy camped under the stars since it was too windy to set up a tent.
The next day started as so many do – with a big climb out of town into the mountains. Once I reached the top, I was pleasantly surprised to find myself in a pine forest for most of the day – so mush nicer than the seven days of exposed desert that I had feared. At much lunch spot that day I met Young Geezer, Caesar, Skeeter, and Platypus – except for Platypus, who was quite speedy, I would see the other hikers several times over then next week or so. I hiked about twenty miles that day, camping in a pine grove where I found a flat-enough spot around 7pm – my campsite criteria definitely become more lax the later in the evening I hike!

On June 8th I was reunited with Test, challenger, Green Machine, Skeeter and Caesar at the lunchtime water source (if there’s water an shade, you’ll find hikers there!), and Young Geezer came along just as I was leaving. There was moderate elevation gain that day, but I was feeling really sluggish and slow – the highlight was passing the 600 mile marker along the way; Test and I camped at Landers Campground with Mellow Yellow and some of the other hikers we’d met a few days before, under the bridge near the aqueduct. Despite guidebook warnings about noisy off-roaders using the campground, we had it almost to ourselves, and slept peacefully.

The following day was the quintessential Mohave hiking day: the only on-trail water sources were caches maintained by a trail angel named Mary, ad if those were empty we’d have to hike several miles off the trail for water, so my pack was heavy with five or six liters of water heading out of the water sources that day. I was happy to see that the first cache had water, but since there was no shade I filled up and headed out quickly, narrowly missing Mary as she arrived to replenish the cache a few minutes after I left. The afternoon’s hike was crazy-hard: uphill, hot, exposed, sandy trail with mogul ski course-like bumps, and strong side and head-winds that threatened to blow me over, and a heavy pack because I wasn’t sure if the next cache would have water. Caesar and Skeeter passed me in the afternoon, and we leapfrogged a bit as we took turns resting in the shade of Joshua trees and boulders. We all ended up camping at the second water cache at Bird Spring with Test, Mellow Yellow and Gut Feeling, happy to find it full of water. That was a 22-mile day for me, and I was feeling energized by my ability to face the harsh desert conditions and fight through them.
The next day featured a long raid wall and only a little shade, and most of the water sources were either off-trail, contaminated with cow poop, or both, so I was carrying a heavy pack again, and powered through twenty miles by 3pm, getting to Walker Pass in the early afternoon. There I found trail magic hosted by Okie Girl, Jackalope, and Jackalope’s four year old son Julian Walker, named for the pct town of Julian and Walker Pass. Instead of hiking on that evening, I stayed to enjoy the company (and wonderful food) at the trail magic tent – what a welcome break in the middle of a tough seven day stretch of hiking!

The next day I headed up out of walker pass around nine am, after enjoying a delicious egg and sausage breakfast thanks to okie girl and Jackalope. Julian tried to tell me that it was too hot too hike, since most of the other hikers were using that as an excuse to stay until evening, but I actually enjoyed the climb out of walker pass in the morning sunshine. The afternoon was an entirely different story: I stopped for about an hour around four pm, started hiking again for ten minutes, then decided it was still too hot and found another shady spot to sit in until 6pm, when it was finally a bit cooler. I made seventeen miles that day, and camped near the first trail crossing of Spanish Needle creek, which was barely flowing buy ha a pool deep enough for me to get a couple liters of water from.

The next morning I was facing a four mile climb, so I woke up early and kept moving until the sun came over the ridge and my shade disappeared – j made it almost all the way uphill before that happened, so I was pretty happy with my morning’s hike! I descended from that ridge, then took a two-hour lunch break in the shade of a pine tree after meeting section hikers (and recent MIT grads) Isaac and Tzipporah at a stream around noon, then started a seven mile climb, which took me until about five pm because I needed so many shade breaks – it was definitely hot! I promised myself I could camp in the first campsite I came to after 7pm, and found a flat spot in the crook of the trail that was just big enough for one person to cowboy camp. I was a little worried about bears and other critters, but so tired that I didn’t care too much!

The next morning was an exciting one – I was only twelve miles out from Kennedy Meadows, my next “town” stop. I hurried though the morning, passing by the Kern River and through the last if the dry desert landscape, and made it there around noon. I found GipC girl and Hamburger and the store, and hung out with them until they left that afternoon, at which point I pitched my tent, collected my resupply boxes, and settled in for a relaxing zero day before heading off into the mountains.

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