Sunday, August 11, 2013

The Desolation Wilderness

Sunrise over Lake Aloha
I woke up to a beautiful morning, but it was already pretty warm out even at sunrise. It was going to be another hot day--no doubt about that!

Today, my goal was to get out of the Desolation Wilderness. My permit was good for one night of camping in the Desolation Wilderness and I just used it. I didn't know what the rangers would do if they caught me camped there for a second night, and while I assumed they'd be understanding that I was unable to walk 20 miles to get out of the wilderness area, I didn't really want to find out either. But to get out of the wilderness area and reach the first available water outside of it, I needed to hike a whopping 20 miles. Which immediately followed the 24-mile day I did yesterday. Even by PCT thru-hiker standards, those were some pretty serious miles. I suspect most TRT thru-hikers would be crippled at the end of such a lengthy day.

But I felt pretty confident that I could do it. I still had no blister, even after my 24-mile day yesterday, and my feet felt pretty good. It wouldn't be easy, but I could get it done. Definitely. *nodding*

I packed up camp and headed out. Early in the morning, I passed two girls who had stopped briefly on the side of the trail, one of whom wore heart-shaped sunglasses. I didn't actually know who the other person was--I just saw an unattended pack laying on the trail. I figured whoever her hiking companion was probably went off to pee or to take care of some other similar type of business.

I caught this person taking a morning swim in Lake Aloha.
Apparently, he likes skinny dipping, and he's drying himself
off with a towel. I have no idea who this person is,
nor did I have any intention of walking up to ask either!
The sunglasses grabbed my attention, though. It was so frivolous and kind of ridiculous in the backcountry, but that's exactly the reason I loved them. =) And, it seemed to me, only a thru-hiker would wear heart-shaped sunglasses.

"Are you thru-hiking the PCT?" I asked.

And yes, indeed, she was. So I talked with her about her thru-hike a bit, and I went on about the total lack of snow I've seen on the trail and how astounding that was to me. "You have no idea how luck you are this year!" I said.

"Oh, we have an idea," she replied diplomatically. =)

I wasn't entirely sure if I should keep hiking right away, though. I didn't really want to walk up up her hiking companion taking a big dump further up the trail, but she didn't seem inclined to stop me from continuing my journey either. It soon became a moot point, though, because her hiking companion soon appeared (from where, I still don't know!), and they introduced themselves as Kara and Erica. (Disclaimer: I have no idea if that's how they actually spell their names.)

I continued on, soon headed up towards Dicks Pass. I was very interested in if there would be any snow on Dicks Pass. Along this section of trail, when I did my PCT thru-hike, the short section between Dicks Pass and Dicks Lake had, hands down, the most snow of any section of the trail. I remember losing the trail completely at the top of Dicks Pass and shooting down the hillside to Dicks Lake, postholing and trying to find the trail again. It was one of the last time I ever lost the trail due to snow on my PCT hike. If there was any snow at all on the trail, this is where it would be.

But the trail was completely free of snow. I could see a patch of snow just below the lip of Dicks Pass, well off the trail and not at all an obstacle, but that was it. Amazing. Absolutely amazing. How I wished right then I had thru-hiked the PCT in 2013 instead of 2010. =)

I rested at the top of Dicks Pass, where Kara and Erica soon passed me. Then I followed the trail down to Dicks Lake, the first time I actually used the trail for this section, and kept on hiking.

I passed Kara and Erica again, and crossed a small stream over a fallen log. I was pretty sure when I thru-hiked the PCT, I had to wade through knee-deep water to cross this small stream. What a difference!

Kara and Erica stopped three times throughout the day to stop and rest, and I passed them all three times. And I stopped to rest three times throughout the day, and they passed me all three times. Barely an hour would pass when the three of us would cross paths again--six times in total throughout the day!

Late in the afternoon, I passed two women cutting out logs from the trail. One used a cross-cut saw, which I eyed enviously. I love sawing out big, thick logs from the trail. The other was using an axe to cut through an impressively large log. Cutting through a log with an axe, I think, is a heck of a lot harder and time consuming than using a cross-cut log, and I was quite impressed with the size of the log she had already cut through and told her that. She seemed pretty proud of the compliment. =)

Then she asked if I had my permit for the Desolation Wilderness. Although I expected to be checked for this, I was still taken a little by surprised when they asked me about it. They were trail workers! Granted, they wore ranger uniforms and all, but I imagined rangers roaming the trail at large looking for scalawags.

The Desolation Wilderness got its name for a reason!
Lots of granite out there!
So I set down my pack and pulled out the permit. She looked it over and nodded with approval. She said nothing about Amanda's name being on the permit, so I didn't offer an explanation. And she told me that campfires weren't allowed due to fire restrictions although camp stoves were still allowed at the present time. (If things got dry enough, though, even camp stoves might be banned.) She also warned me that the weather forecast had a chance of thunderstorms every afternoon through Wednesday. (It was Saturday today.)

I nodded and eventually they let me to go to continue my hike.

My minimum goal for the night was Richardson Lake. It was the first water source outside of the Desolation Wilderness. I was leery about actually spending the night there, concerned about mosquitoes, but at the very least, I needed to reach that point to stock up with water. If the bugs didn't seem too bad, I'd just camp there. If the mosquitoes were out thick, though, I'd continue on another mile or so looking for a place to camp that wasn't near water.

When I arrived, Kara and Erica had already set up camp and I asked them how the bugs seemed. They reported quite a bit of flies, but that they weren't biting. Mosquitoes didn't seem to be an issue, though.

That was good enough for me and I promptly set up camp nearby. I was more than a little pleased to have the company of a couple of thru-hikers to chat with during the evening as well. So they filled me in on the trail gossip.

After I finished dinner, the mosquitoes started coming out. At first it was only one or two, but then their numbers started to multiply in alarmingly. I found myself walking around the campsite to keep them at bay, never stopping any longer than necessary.

Without a doubt, this site turned out to be the absolute worst camp so far for mosquitoes. Not as bad as when I thru-hiked the PCT, but definitely the worst so far on the TRT.

"You tricked me!" I teased Kara and Erica. "No mosquitoes..." *shaking head*

As darkness descended, so did the mosquitoes. Eventually. At which point I got into my sleeping bag, read my book a bit, and eventually went to sleep.

In completely unrelated news.... August is once again here, which means it's time for the annual Hike-a-Thon drive! Amanda and I are trying to raise money for the Washington Trails Association which does some great work building and maintaining trails in Washington state, and please, if you can help us out, even if it's just $5 or something, please do so! Sponsor us now!

This year, I've decided that anyone who sponsors me will be in the running to win an autographed copy of my book, A Tale of Two Trails about my exciting adventures on the West Coast Trail and Juan de Fuca Trail. For anyone that donates at least $40 to the cause, I'll send you a free autographed copy! The catch is.... you have to sponsor my page. Yeah, Amanda and I are a team, and everyone likes her more, but we also have separate accounts and I'll only be looking at those who donate under my account. So if you donate $40+, I'll mail you a free copy of my book. If you donate less than $40, I'll put all of your names into the proverbial hat and choose one at random who will get a free book. =)

That $40 also can give you a membership to the WTA which includes a subscription to the Washington Trails magazine. A book, a magazine subscription and all for a good cause--just $40! =)

The view from the top of Dicks Pass looking down on Dicks Lake. When I thru-hiked
the PCT, I lost the trail in all the snow. This time, that patch of snow just under
Dicks Pass was the only snow I ever came near, and none of it was actually
on the trail.

Taking a rest at Dicks Pass.

This is the view from Dicks Pass looking back. What I like about
this photo--you can see Aloha Lake in the background. It's not those
lakes in the bottom half the photo, but that larger one in the
background partially hidden the ridge. That's where I started the day's
hike from, so I can see the last 7-or-so miles of my hike from this viewpoint.

Fontanillis Lake. For a sense of scale, notice the group of people sitting
on the rock overlooking the lake. =)

Middle Velma Lake

This tree is trying very hard to fall down, but doesn't quite
seem to be succeeding!

These ladies were clearing logs from the trail.
And checking permits!

Well, they did tell me that they had 7 more trees to log out.
I guess they'll get to these as soon as they finish those other ones....

I really like the shadow this tree casts!

Lake Richardson

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