Monday, December 30, 2019

Day 28: Herding Cattle

August 12: The rain had stopped during the night but the ground and vegetation were super wet and I decided to give my waterproof sock a try. I could check and see if they really were as waterproof as they claimed.

This culvert looked so hypnotic!

Most of the day was through a massive burn area. I was already in the burn area when I woke up having passed the last 5 miles or so yesterday going through it, and I'd walk another 15 miles through it today. With the lack of a canopy, the vegetation grew like crazy and my legs soon became soaking wet as they brushed against it.

But my feet.... they were also wet. I wasn't sure if the water on my feet actually came from the vegetation or if it was sweat from my feet trapped by the socks, but either way, it gave my feet a distinctly wet feeling. But they also stayed warm! They acted somewhat like a wet suit--it didn't keep my feet dry, but it did keep them warm. Which wasn't a bad thing, but I think they oversell the "waterproof" aspect of it. Maybe it was just this particular brand, but for that reason, I was disappointed. I really wanted genuinely waterproof socks.

Later in the day, after the rain dried out and the vegetation was dry, I changed into my dry non-waterproof socks which felt wonderful!

The first couple of miles of the day's hike had a lot of annoying blowdowns--not surprising in a burn area--but the rest of the day the trail was in generally good condition.

Lots of blowdowns the first couple of miles of the day.

And the long road walk I'd been following the last four days or so finally came to a definitive end when I reached the Kettle Crest Trail. It was an actual trail and, being in a burn area for most of the day and high on the crest of the mountain range, it provided wide open and expansive views. Wonderful, wonderful views!

Late in the afternoon, I reached a spring that several cattle had clearly made as a base of a operations. There was even a water trough to make it easier for them to access the spring water. Most of the cattle scattered upon my arrival, moving up or down the slope and away from me, but one cow with two calves made the unwise decision to walk further up the trail.

"No!" I shouted at it. "That's the way I'm going!"

Get off the stupid trail!

There wasn't really any way to go around it on the trail, so I just walked further up the trail. And the cow and calves moved further up the trail. And so I moved further up the trail. And they moved further up the trail.

"Get off the trail!" I shouted at the cattle, but it was no use. These animals are dumber than dirt.

This continued on and on and on....

At one point, the mama cow looked back and me and let loose a giant geyser of pee--as if it were marking its territory and dared me to pass the pee. (Fun fact: Did you know all mammals take, on average, 7 seconds to pee? True! Time yourself. Doesn't matter if it's a small animal or a giant elephant--they all take, on average, 7 seconds to pee.)

Of course, I didn't let the pee stop me from continuing on and the cattle continued to lead the way.

About ten minutes later, mama cow stopped and looked back at me malevolently--then did a giant poop on the trail. Really? It was like it was trying to discourage me from following it. Of course, I wasn't "following" it--I was following the trail but the stupid animal couldn't figure that out. And, of course, I didn't let that stop me--but oh my, it smelled bad! That cow had some problems. *nodding*

I shouted at the beast some more. "Just get off the damn trail! Step 20 feet down the hillside, I'll pass by and you'll never see me again!"

Nope, still the wrong way!
Mama cow continued to herd her calves ahead and I continued--unintentionally--herding mama cow further down the trail. I cussed at it. I yelled at it. It seemed it move slower and slower the further down the trail we went, as if it was getting tired. I couldn't blame it, really. This was probably the most exercise the cow had gotten in years, and it was a lot of weight that she was carrying down the trail.

At a couple of places, the trail came out on a steep slope that was largely bare of trees and vegetation and I started going off trail in the hope of going around it, but the cow found that suspicious enough to move further away on the trail until it was surrounded by trees again and thwarting my attempt to get around.

I cussed some more. Just get off the @%#$& trail!

This went on for 1.4 miles! ONE-POINT-FOUR miles!

For the love of all things holy, get of the freaking trail!

The herding ended when we reached another spring and there was a fork in the trail. One prong went past the spring and uphill while the other prong (the official PNT route) continued more-or-less straight on, and the cow went up past the spring and finally got off the trail.

That's also how I knew I herded the stupid cattle for exactly 1.4 miles--that was the distance my maps showed between the two springs and I picked the cattle up at the first spring and finally lost them at the second one.

This spring had been my goal for the day, but there was no way I would stop here. The area was littered with cow patties and besides the three I herded into the area, others had already made the area home. I needed to get away from these beasts if I wanted any rest tonight. So I filled up with water--there would be no more water on the trail for awhile--and pushed on looking for the first decent place I could stop to camp.

I found it nearly a mile further up the trail at an intersection with Old Stagecoach Road. There was a small fire ring previous campers had created, the views were decent, there was no evidence of cattle on the ground and I was far enough away from the spring that I hoped they wouldn't venture out to this location during the night.

And I set up camp.

The long road walk I followed for the last several days finally came to a definitive end when I reached the Kettle Crest Trail.

I finally ditched the cattle when it veered off trail at this spring, but I stopped only long enough to pick up water.

I had a visitor to my campsite!

Friday, December 27, 2019

Day 27: A wet day on trail

August 11: The rain eventually stopped during the night and the flood was over. By morning, much to my astonishment, the large puddle that had formed under my tarp had vanished! Where did the water go?!

The ground was still damp and much of my gear was wet so I got a late start to the day's hike trying to dry out. But still, I managed to get on the trail and walking by 7:00am.

The rain had stopped during the night, but there was patchy fog and off and on sprinkles throughout the morning.

The forecast for the day called for rain throughout the day and although the rain had stopped, it looked like it could start up again at any time--which it did. Throughout the morning, it would sprinkle on and off.

The trail continued to follow gravel roads for most of the day. There was a small section late in the morning where it turned onto a paved road which depressed me, but the pavement only lasted for maybe half a mile before returning to gravel. Whew! And late in the day, the trail followed an actual trail. Well, technically, it used to be an old gravel road but was no longer maintained as such and giant piles of dirt and rocks were piled up to keep out traffic.

But basically, it was a continuation of the previous two days of road walk that added another 23.4 miles of road walk. It was quick and easy, but nothing to write home about either.

Late in the morning, I passed under a railroad bridge which protected the ground underneath from the light rain so I stopped there for a short lunch break.

I took a lunch break under the bridge which protected me from the sprinkles.

Around noon, the sprinkles stopped and I could finally start drying out, but that changed in the late afternoon when ugly clouds with thunder came blowing in. It was, I sensed, a foreboding of much heavier rain than the sprinkles I dealt with throughout the morning.

I picked up my pace hoping to reach the creek where I planned to stop for the night before the rain struck, but I didn't make it. About a mile from my destination, the rain poured down in thick sheets. Argh! I arrived at my campsite completely and utterly soaked to the bone.

I set up my tarp in the deluge, not really in any particular rush since I was already soaked to the bone then dived under it. I unfolded my groundsheet and laid it out then pulled out my dry camp clothes before changing out of the thoroughly wet hiking clothes. I set the wet clothes aside--they weren't going to be fun to put back on in the morning!--and slipped into my sleeping bag where it felt so warm and cozy again.

I'm happy to report that the tarp kept the rain away and there were no water intrusion issues for me to deal with. I did, however, set my tarp a little too low so I couldn't sit up fully underneath it--but that was a much better problem to have than water intrusion issues!

The rain stopped a couple of hours later at which point I got out to raise the roof level of my tarp, fill my bottles with water from the nearby creek and cooked dinner.

And that was that! If there was one word to describe the day, it was just wet. I wet in the morning, wet in the afternoon and wet in the evening. Wet, wet wet!

It was wet enough that all of the pine cones closed up.

I have no idea what this decaying structure used to be!

I thought this was a weird distance to list. Why not just say the next 4 miles?
I passed by some homes along the way, and I think this box was meant for delivery drivers to leave packages inside where they would be protected from the elements.


Wednesday, December 25, 2019

Day 26: Pine cones are the testicles of a tree

August 10: I had been walking for several hours along a gravel road, a bit bored. And I started looking around my surrounding a little more closely. Looking for the beauty in the tiny things in life. The unusual flower that made its home on an inhospitable rock. The delicate butterfly that magically survives horrific storms. Nature is pretty amazing, really. Even the insects--perhaps not beautiful in a traditional manner--are deceptively complex creatures and little walking miracles.

And then I started looking at pine cones. They too can surprise me. They'll close up when they get wet, rainy or cold (or some combination of those) and open again when they dry out and warm. How did this inanimate object know what the weather was like?!

The simple pine cone was somehow optimized to know exactly when to release its seeds. I've heard they will open after a fire clears an area providing optimal growing conditions. And I laughed at the thought that they were the sex organs of a tree. Why was I thinking about the sex organs of a tree? In fact... they kind of resembled large testicles!

Flowers are sex organs as well, and it seems oddly amusing that people gift flowers to others all the time. Nothing says I love you like giving them the disemboweled genitals of a plant.

Plant genitals

Oh! Yes, and shove your nose in it to get a good whiff. Smells nice, eh? Perverts! =)

Yep, this is how my mind wanders when I'm bored.

The day started beautiful and I got an early start out of Northport. Jami and Josh were still sleeping when I left so I tried to pack up my gear as quietly as possible and sneaked out of the house.

Streets of Northport on my way out of town.

The trail left town by crossing over the Columbia River on a large bridge before veering off onto a gravel road where I would spend the rest of the day. The sun was shining and life was good. It wouldn't last--rain was in the forecast late in the afternoon and the good life lasted for about an hour until my mind got bored.

And now here I was, thinking about the sex organs of plants and trees. *sigh*

The road walk ahead was massive! The trail followed something like 60+ miles of road walk out of Northport. In all, I was in the middle of an 80+ mile road walk if you include the road walk into Northport as well. This section of the trail was not what made the Pacific Northwest Trail a national scenic trail.

The good news today, however, was that at least the road was gravel and it wasn't a very busy road. On average, about one vehicle would pass me each hour of the day. And the trail was relatively flat and easy.

So I made good time but I was bored out of my mind.

Dark, menacing clouds rolled in throughout the day, but it was nearing 5:00 in the afternoon when I heard the first rumble of thunder in the distance. Rain, I knew, wouldn't be far off. It was time to set up camp. I had completed nearly 20 miles so had already logged a decent day. I felt no qualms about quitting a little early to set up my tarp and get under it before the rain hit.

I walked on another 10 minutes until I reached a small clearing and proceeded to set up camp about 40 feet off from the road. Then I ducked under the tarp, still dry and comfortable.

Another 10 minutes later, a white truck came up the road and it suddenly stopped when the driver noticed my campsite. Crap. What now? Was I was trespassing or something? As far as I knew, the location was perfectly legal.

He got out of his truck and sauntered over to my campsite.

"You should know," he began, "that there's a monstrous thunderstorm heading our way."

"I know," I replied. "I can hear it already!" In his noisy truck, I wasn't sure that he had heard any thunder, but I had been hearing it for a half hour already.

"It's supposed to generate 1/4-inch hail," he told me.

Well.... crap. That's not good. That's big hail! I've never seen quarter-inch hail before. That could a problem. Especially in my exposed location.

This was not a suitable place for my tarp if 1/4" hail was supposed to hit!

We talked for a couple of more minutes before he sauntered back to his truck and drove off. I was left wondering what to do about a monstrous thunderstorm that was expected to drop 1/4-inch hail from the sky. That would probably shred my tarp and then I'd really be screwed!

I decided to move camp. I looked around nearby for a protected area. All of my gear was already spread out and it felt like the rain could start at any second. I didn't want to move my tarp then have everything get wet before I had a chance to set it up in a new location. I needed to work fast!

I decided on a location next to a small group of trees maybe 50 feet away. It wasn't an ideal location, but the trees protected me from one direction and I could set up my tarp so it had steep sides that hail could graze rather than strike full-on. There was a small depression in the dirt where it looked like cattle had often rested. Normally I tried to avoid depressions when I knew rain was in the forecast but it was fairly small and the tarp should be able to cover it entirely. I wouldn't have to worry about rain water collecting under me--in fact, the berm it formed would help keep water out.

I scrambled to set up the tent as quickly as possible--everything that had been under it was now exposed to the elements. If it started raining now, it would be bad!

I got the tarp up, then started moving my gear under with a great deal of haste. The thunder was getting louder.

A short while later, the rain finally started. First a light sprinkle then a heavy downpour. As the sun set, the lightening lit up the sky like fireworks. Boom! Boom!

After an hour, I noticed some water intrusion happening in three different places around my tarp. I built trenches to channel the water around my campsite and built up a berm which seemed to work pretty well. Until it didn't.

I was in cattle country now--and pretty sure I moved my tarp into a depression that cattle created by laying down in it regularly.

It was a couple of hours later when I felt a mushy, waterbed feeling under my groundsheet. I was astounded--where did the water come from?! I cussed. This was bad. This was really bad. There was a giant puddle under my groundsheet! I turned on my headlamp to see and quickly tried building another trench from it through a berm where it could empty, but then something even more astounding happened--the water started flowing into my campsite! It appeared the water was flowing uphill! How was this even possible?! I broke gravity!

Obviously, I know water doesn't flow uphill. It had to be an illusion. The ground outside of the berm and depression was obviously higher than the ground in the depression, but it couldn't have been by much. Maybe if I could dig the trench deeper and further out, the water would flow out in the other direction.

I kept trying to dig and the only thing that accomplished was to allow even more water to flow into my sanctuary. I cursed some more. This was all going so very very wrong....

I couldn't defeat the water. No hail had come and I wished I was back at my original location. That location was better suited for keeping water away, but I couldn't move now. Not in the middle of a torrential downpour. Every item I had would get soaking wet if I tried to move now.

I shoved all of my gear into my pack then threw my pack up on a high point at the corner of my tarp. At least it was on solid (and dry) ground. Then I pulled up my groundsheet to another small high-point at a second corner of my tarp and curled up into the fetal position. It was all the dry space I had available.

It was going to be a long night.....

So many border crossings to choose from! But I wasn't going into Canada. Nope!
The bridge across the mighty Columbia River
And the view of the Columbia from the bridge was great!
The trail passes by the Northport Raceway... but there weren't any races happening when I went by.

It looks like an old mine shaft! I wonder what they were looking for and if they found anything?

This butterfly didn't have a good day!

There's a monstrous thunderstorm coming....