Tag Archives: Wildfires

Fall

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Crossing Bridge of the Gods into Washington

The weather is changing and the cold is settling in. The air has a new crispness and the leaves are turning. Nature’s gentle reminder that Fall is near.

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Lush, hot rainforest

Other parts of our journey are fighting the change in weather. The ever-present snow is still melting and the rivers from the glaciers are still flowing in the summer sun. The birds are still aflutter while feasting on sun-kissed huckleberries. But I feel the change. Where I once avoided the sun, I now finding myself drawn to patches of light peeking through the trees, thawing out my chilled skin.

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Labyrinth at the Buddhist Abbey

This section has been both exhausting and miraculous. Beginning at Cascade Locks, the heat of summer was upon us. With 100°+ days and daunting climbs, the days were rough.

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Pretty flowers at Buddhist Abbey

Smoke from fires in Cascade Locks crept in, making breathing difficult. After only 35 miles, we were chased from the trail again as another fire broke out and the trail was closed ahead. It was an exhausting time, emotionally and mentally, jumping around fires, only to find solace at a Buddhist Abbey.

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Huckleberries!

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More huckleberries!

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Did I mention huckleberries?

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Huckleberries, melted white chocolate, and toasted tortilla!

When I started this trail, I would never have thought I would be picked up from the trail by a Buddhist nun or taken back to the trail by a monk. They were such wonderful people and they treated us as equals, whereas everyone else on the trail treated us like hiker trash. It was a perfect place to clear your mind and partake in meditation lead by a monk. One of my top five meals on the trail was the vegan Vietnamese spring rolls that a monk made us for dinner. One experience I won’t soon forget.

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Posing in front of Mt. Adams after hitting 1,000 miles. 

I watched a hiker video before I started this and they interviewed a girl who said that you can’t be so bent on making miles that you end up passing by the huckleberries. She reiterated, “you have to stop and pick the huckleberries!” I have since been applying the metaphor to life.

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Our first river crossing in many moons

But alas, back on the trail, I was able to actually stop and pick the huckleberries…not just metaphorically. And let me tell you about huckleberries! They look like blueberries but taste like a cherry…although better. They just may be my favorite berry. To top it off, we were drinking water straight from a glacier. You could see the snow melting, flowing down the mountain and into your cup.

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Glaciers on Mt. Adams 

The smoke finally cleared and we had breathtaking views of Mt. Adams, St. Helens, and Rainier. We made our way through glaciers, rivers, sparkling meadows, and moss-covered trees. The most interesting day involved climbing and climbing up mountains, seeing views of glacier lakes and stunning peaks, maneuvering across fields of snow, navigating over volcanic rocks while walking along cliffsides, balancing in the wind while crossing the “Knife’s Edge,” saying hello to mountain goats grazing below the cliffs, and ending the day drinking the best water on the trail.

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Waterfall from Mt. Adams 

At one point, on the skinniest part of the trail, next to a 250′ cliff, I slipped and fell hard on my butt. I let out of stream of curses, having landed just inches from the edge. I was very awake after that.

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Sparkling morning dew 

It was an amazing week leading up to White Pass where we knew we had to get off the trail again because of yet another fire.

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Yakima Indian Reservation

An amazing couple, their daughter, and her friend drove us down the mountain and we all spent the afternoon together. They even treated us to our first hot meal in a week (we ran out of fuel for our stoves). We are constantly reminded of the generosity and kindness of strangers out here. It’s humbling. I wish everyone would attempt this hike.

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Stunning views on Yakima reservation 

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Western anemones in Yakima 

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This tribe knows how to pick land!

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Walking through snow on the best day

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The tiniest switchbacks on the Knife’s Edge 

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Still a bit of snow at 7,000 feet. Knife’s Edge 

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Cliffside on the Knife’s Edge 

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Knife’s Edge, Mt. Rainier, and fires in the distance 

 

Somebody’s Got A Case of the “Monday’s”

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Remaining patches of snow in the Marble Wilderness

“Office Space,” a movie from the 90’s that is dear to my heart, depicts an office scene where the guy is having a crappy day. A woman coworker approaches him, recognizing his foul disposition. Instead of steering clear, she says to him in an obnoxiously chipper voice, “Somebody’s got a case of the Monday’s.” Anyone who has ever worked around anyone knows someone like this. Mine happens to be my diabetic hiking partner when his blood sugar is low. Let me tell you about MY Monday.


I woke up cranky because he woke me at 2 a.m. because he was low. He was cranky because… who really knows. I didn’t ask because I was tired. He left me in his dust as he flew down the trail. We were intending to walk 21 miles that day which was reasonable because it was mostly downhill.

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View in the morning once the smoke cleared

Everyone we met was angry that we were dropping from 6,500 in elevation to 1,700, knowing full well that we would have to climb right back up to 6,000 after town. It was a long day. Even though the terrain was fine, it was hot and muggy.

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Fire Belly Newt

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Newt holding onto my fingers

I caught up to Scott some time around 2 p.m. and we broke for lunch. We had our normal tuna and tortillas (with some delicious seasoning salt we found in a hiker box), then followed it with some blackberries and thimbleberries we picked from a hillside.

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Awesome triple tree

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Watching smoke from one of the fires

Immediately after the berries, he plows by me, saying he needed TO GO. Ten minutes later, he returned and felt the need to describe, explicitly, the details of each moment of his projectile diarrhea.

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Walking through a mountain paradise

We walked together after that but he wasn’t feeling well because his blood sugar was high…and the aforementioned bowel movement. The day was getting hotter and I was getting tired because we’d already done 9 miles. He told me to go ahead while he dealt with it. I was more than happy…I can handle low, but high is scary.

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The bluest alpine lake yet, fed by waterfalls of snow melt

My feet and knees were hurting, so I stopped to filter water and rest. Scott came up and wasn’t looking good. He had gone low again. I gave him half of my remaining Mike & Ikes (since he already had half of my bag the night before). It wasn’t enough. We made a meal. It wasn’t enough. He finished off the Gatorade and it got his number up just high enough to hike. 45 minutes later, we had to do it all again.

The funny thing about diabetics when they’re low, is it’s kind of like dealing with a drunk person. They say silly things and aren’t much help. So, as I’m making dinner, he’s commenting on how I am preparing things (in a chipper coworker fashion). Eventually, I asked him not to speak anymore.

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Giant wall of marble

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A marble cave

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Hillside of berries 

When I was at the end of my rope, the sky opened up and it started pouring rain. There I was, covering all our stuff with the rain fly of my tent. Then we got under it and ate our meal. When the rain subsided, I wrapped my rainfly around my pack, and hiked on. The evening was hot and humid.

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Rainfly-covered pack

I was having flashbacks of hiking in the rainforest in southern China. To top it off, the trail was covered in poison oak. You can only unsuccessfully avoid it so many times before giving up. I just walked straight through it. We only made it 14 miles. The only highlights were setting up camp before dark and scrubbing thoroughly with soap specifically for poison oak.

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Grider Creek during the descent

Aside from that long day, it was a lovely week. There are fires raging all around and I haven’t had to change plans yet. The smoke was pretty bad a few days but nothing terrible. The walk through the Marble Wilderness has been amazing. Absolutely breathtaking. Passing one alpine lake after another. At perfect swimming lake, I made friends with some curious little newts that held onto my fingers in the water. Those tiny creatures were the highlight of my week.

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The Klamath River during a 7-mile road walk to town

Upon finally making it to town, I had a hardy breakfast and spent the day doing chores until a thunder storm blew through. Lightning struck all around in the mountains. A woman from the forest service ran up to all of us hikers and was frantic. The lightning caused a fire 6 miles north of here and she was afraid one of us would start hiking and get caught in it. Now, we all wait to hear what the status of the fire is in the morning. There are more fire closures in Oregon, which is my next stop on the trail. This time next week, I’ll be out of California.

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Hiker parking outside the cafe and general store in Seiad Valley

 

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Receiving love from home

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The beginning of an evening storm that started several fires.