Monday, February 7, 2011

Glorious Sunrise!

Waking up to perhaps the best sunrise of my life! =)
September 15: And what a beautiful sunrise! I lingered in camp a little longer than I normally would have, just to admire the sunrise. Glad I'm not using film in my camera anymore because I probably would have used up everything I had on this sunrise. As it was, I took a liberal amount of photos, doing my best to use up the memory card as quickly as possible. (I'll only post a few of the sunrise photos here, though!) White Beard and Third Monty didn't linger. I'm not sure exactly where they camped, but they passed by early in the morning as I was still admiring the sunrise. =)

Once I got hiking, the trail headed down from Glacier Peak through a series of thick blowdowns. Enormous trees--some the biggest I've ever seen blocking the trail--and a lot of them. It quickly grew frustrating and annoying. The biggest tree of them all left me wondering how to get to the other side. The tree was laying on its side, but was so thick, the thickness of the truck was taller than I stood. Getting under it wasn't an option. And both ends stretched out into the thick brush on both sides. The tree, at first glance, seemed impossible to get around.

I knew that wasn't the case, though. First of all, White Beard and Third Monty would have had to have passed it already since I never saw them double back up the trail. And second of all, I've never come across a tree that couldn't be passed. It might require a lot of bushwacking, but by golly, I would get through. I set my pack down while studying the situation.

Close up, I could see a few small bumps that I could use as handholds and footholds and finally decided to go over the tree, and I scrambled up without pulling too many muscles. Once I made it up to the top of the trunk, though, I started having second thoughts. Getting down the other side looked positively dangerous! There might be footholds down there, but I couldn't see them from my vantage point. I walked along the length of the tree a bit, trying to figure out the best place to get down at. I didn't want to break a leg by jumping down from this height!

One step at a time. First, I'd lower my pack down with a rope. I could have dropped the pack, but no reason to be any harder on it than was strictly necessary. I pulled out a length of rope, attached it to the loop at the top of the page, and started lowering it down the other side. The pack was still heavy, though, and its weight started to get away from me, pulling the rope through my fingers a little quicker than I anticipated, and I finally let go completely when it was halfway day due to rope burn. Crap! The pack dropped hard the rest of the way, and I threw the rest of the rope down after it, and I sucked at my hand where I suffered the rope burn. I felt a little stupid to have not identified that as a potential problem. Had I wrapped the rope around my wrist so it couldn't slide through my fingers so easily, it wouldn't have been a problem. Oh well.... At least my pack was down, and that would make it a little easier to get myself down.

I grabbed a couple of handholds and lowered myself as far as I could, then dropped down the rest of the way. Stupid blowdowns!

The bridge across the Suiattle River was missing, the last of the bridges washed away from the 2003 flooding and the only reason the PCT was officially still detoured around the east side of Glacier Peak. The river didn't look too bad, though. Certainly rambunctious, but no worse than the river crossings in the High Sierras. I didn't even need to get my feet wet, though. A log had fallen across the river, and it was clear that that was what people were using to get across, and I followed suit.

I had reservations about using the natural bridge, though. It was pretty high over the river. If I slipped or fell, it could have been a serious injury. The creek fed through a narrow channel at this point, fast and furious. Had I crossed the creek directly, I'd go downstream where it was slower and shallower. The log bridge looked solid and dry, though, and I decided it wasn't too bad and went for it. If it was wet, I'd definitely have forded the river on foot. A wet, slippery log just wouldn't be worth the risk.

About halfway across the log, I decided that a dry, non-slippery log wasn't worth the risk either. I was looking down at my feet--you have to, to make sure of your footing--and you can't help but notice that fast-churning water far below. Big breaths. Steady, Ryan..... This is so not the place to get a panic attack! I was already halfway across when I started losing my nerve, though. Going back would be just as dangerous as to continue forward, so I kept pushing forward, one slow step at a time.

Okay, that's the last of the sunrise photos.....
I just love how you can see the sunlight streaking through
the mountain ridges in this photo. =)
I finally made it to the other side, and sat down to get ahold of myself. I felt like I could have thrown up. That was a stupid thing to do. I should have just forded the river. Fortunately, nothing bad happened, but it was a stupid, needless risk to take just to keep my feet dry. It didn't seem so bad looking up at the log. It looked big and easy to cross. And if it was two feet off the ground, it would have been big and easy to cross. On it, though, it didn't seem as big or easy and was just a stupid, needless risk.

A short distance further up the trail, I caught up with White Beard and Third Monty, and we compared notes about the Suiattle River crossing. Third Monty admitted that crossing the log made her so nervous, she scooted across on her butt. White Beard walked across it, but didn't much care for the experience either. =)

The rest of the day was uneventful. Somewhere along the way, I passed the 100-mile mark--less than 100 miles to the Canadian border! I was tempted to mark the moment in rocks on the trail, but by late afternoon, the clouds started to look like rain and I pushed on hoping to beat the rain. It did start to sprinkle, and I stopped at Hemlock Camp for the night before it turned into a heavy rain.

Hemlock Camp is perhaps the cutest backcountry camp I've ever had the privilege to use, with trails lined by solar powered lights and an elaborate entrance with a welcome sign. It was only 5:00 in the afternoon, but by golly, I managed to have my tarp up and was safe and dry underneath before the heavy rains started without a moment to spare.

It was a beautiful morning!

Some sort of nest in this tree.... Wasps? I don't really know my insects very well. =)

There was no one around to put in the photo to get a sense
of scale of three tree, so I put my trekking pole in the photo.
The darn thing was as tall as I was!

I made it up the tree, but how to get down safely? In this photo, I already
dropped my trekking pole down the other side, but I hadn't lowered
my pack down with a rope yet.

You can see the original bridge that used to go across this creek
on the far shore. This creek was positively easy to get
across hopping on rocks, though. This wasn't the Suiattle River, either!

This blowdown I decided to go under. There were probably over
a hundred trees blocking the trail along this section. Very annoying,
and it slowed me down considerably!

It's almost embarrassing to admit this river crossing scared me because it doesn't
actually look very bad in this photo--probably the reason I fooled myself into
crossing over the log because it doesn't "seem too bad." It's a lot more nerve-wracking
when you're crossing it, though! And unfortunately, nobody else was around
so you can really get a sense of scale. The river and log actually looked a lot larger
in real life. *shrug*
The Suiattle River was a ferocious little thing!

It's so green, you'd think we were in a rain forest!
(Technically, I don't think this counts as one, but it's certainly typical
Pacific Northwest!)

Nearing a pass, but I forget what it's called.

Clouds are starting grow increasingly angry!

Hemlock Camp is open for business! =) So I did my business.....

Such a cute campsite. They really out-did themselves here!


Anonymous said...

Man that Glacier Wilderness is absolutely beautiful. The only ugly sight was your feet!!! Ironic that you walked all this way to find some of the highest highpoints of the journey in your own "backyard".

Lovin' the homestretch!

My Life Outdoors said...

Beautiful photos! I hate dead-fall too! I once had to turn around after encountering so much dead-fall I couldn't find the trail again after trying to bushwack around it.

Anonymous said...

I have to say, reading about the tree I was thinking to myself - how bad can a tree be. OMG!!!!!!!!! I can't believe how big it was. I know I'd still be up there, that's if I made it to the top in the first place.

Anonymous said...

Absolutely beautiful pictures of the sunrise, worth every moment before heading out. I'm glad that you got it on camera.
Regarding those downed trees, can you imagine the enormous wind that it took to blow down those giants after all these years and hundreds of other storms. It just boogles the mind. Almost hate to see you end this trip and no more blog of the PCT to read, but hey you could always be a South bounder!


Boxes and Brews: Western Letterboxing Tour said...

I would love to hike the places you do and take those awesome pics. I'm just starting out, largely inpart to letterboxing. Going on a western letterboxing and brewery tour in a few months! Hoping to blog about it. Good luck on your next hike, watch those blowdowns.

David Baril Jr. said...

When a river is white, I will not touch it! Generally thinking, there is a lot of air trapped under the surface because of how fast it crashes into the rocks.

Sarcasmo said...

The blowdowns are very impressive. It must have been a bad windstorm and heavy rains? I saw something similar at Battle Ground SP in OR recently. Great photos! I hope to get up to OR/WA/BC to hike along the PCT within the next couple years.

Laughing Orca Ranch said...

What a nice little surprise to find that camp. Someone obviously built it with love for others to enjoy :)

Was that tree a mighty sequoia? I don't think I've ever seen a tree that huge, and not across a trail. I would have been intimidated. I would have liked to have seen how White Beard and Third Monty climbed over it.

The river crossing is a serious reminder about choices and how the results of our choices can decide out fate....

Hike On!
~Twinville Trekkers