Friday, January 31, 2020

Day 42: Cathedral Peak and Tungsten Mines

August 26: It had been a cold night. I couldn't be sure how cold, but I was wishing I had my long underwear or a pad to sleep on. I made a note to pick those up before entering the Olympics. It would be even later in the year and likely quite a bit colder!

It was definitely cold enough during the night for frost to form!

It didn't rain anymore during the night but there was a thin layer of condensation on my tarp by morning so I chose to wear my waterproof socks in the morning. My feet would likely get wet from the grass along the trail otherwise.

An hour into my hike, I passed a large group of half a dozen people camped off the side of the trail. They were breaking down camp and I waved as I passed by and they waved in return, but neither side spoke. I kind of wanted to stop and chat, but not with such a large group.

The day's hiking was quite easy. This was a Pacific Crest quality trail! The trail tended to go around tall mountains and follow the contours of the mountains rather than going over the tops of them. There weren't a lot of blowdowns or mud or other trail conditions that would slow me down.

And the scenery was absolutely breathtaking! Spectacular! At one point, I stood looking over the countryside and shouting out, "Now this is why I'm out there!"

The trail reached an old cabin--it was built decades ago for a nearby tungsten mine that closed, I believe, shortly after WWII finished. And long before the area was declared a wilderness--structures like this aren't normally allowed in wilderness areas but this one was grandfathered in. The cabins were maintained--kind of, sort of, in a wilderness sort of way--and hikers were welcome to sleep in them overnight. It was the middle of the afternoon when I arrived, however, and much too early in the day to stop. Anyhow, the inside of the cabins were freezing cold!

Old cabin by the tungsten mine

I left the cabins behind passing the actual site of the old tungsten mine and it suddenly occurred to me that I actually had no idea what tungsten was or what it was used for. Aluminum, copper, coal.... yeah, I get that. But what the hell is tungsten? Besides the filament of lightbulbs that we don't use anymore? Surely there was more to tungsten than old light bulbs. Maybe I'd have to google it when I got back home. I made a mental note to write a note in my journal to remind me to look up tungsten later.

The old, abandoned tungsten mine

The trail continued onward eventually turning a corner where Cathedral Peak spread out in all its glory. The mountain is magnificent! A jaw-dropping wonder! There was no doubt how the peak got its name. The peak towered over the nearby terrain and was visible for a couple of hours before the trail headed over Cathedral Pass and away from the peak. From the backside, the peak wasn't quite so dramatic but it was still a spectacular area.

On the far side of Cathedral Peak was a large burn area. The trail was in good shape, but I was a little concerned about finding a place to camp where I could avoid the risk of dead trees falling on me during the night. My original goal was to camp somewhere near the Andrews Creek Trail junction but stopped a half-mile short of that at the Remmel Cutoff Trail junction because that site was so nice and had no burned trees nearby. I couldn't be sure that the campsites another half-mile ahead would be as nice so I figured I should stop while the stopping was good.

Life was good!

The first clear, unobstructed view of Cathedral Peak is jaw-dropping! (The photo really doesn't do it justice. Of course, it never does--but especially so in this case!)

Teapot Dome--not the one the infamous scandal was named for, though!

Another cabin by the tungsten mine
Inside a cabin
I thought this was a cute poem I found in the cabin

Cathedral Peak looks quite a bit different when you're at the bottom of it looking up! And very much looking like a natural cathedral!

Wednesday, January 29, 2020

Day 41: Into the Pasayten Wilderness!

August 25: I had a restless night. At one point, I heard a large, lumbering beast approaching my campsite. I couldn't see what it was in the darkness but I assumed it was a cow--they were everywhere! I yelled out, "Leave me alone!" and whatever it was ran off. It clearly had no idea I had set up camp there until I yelled out.

Then I heard what sounded like a dog bark in the distance which I didn't think much of at first until several more dog barks echoed in reply and they were completely surrounding me. Was there a pack of wild dogs about to attack me? Are there even packs of wild dogs roaming the mountains? I know there are wolves--do wolves bark? I thought they howled. In any case, I found the situation a little unnerving. I've never been surrounded by a pack of barking dogs before! They weren't nearby, though--the barking was distant like they were trying to find each other. But it was still unsettling enough that I made a point of moving my bear spray into easy reach and taking it out of its holster.

And as if that wasn't enough to disturb me during the night, a mouse dropped by for a visit as well. I scared him off, and he didn't return. This wasn't a heavily-used campsite and I think the mouse was curious about me, but I was unusual enough that he decided it was a bad idea to mess with me.

The morning was quite chilly which made it hard for me to get out of my sleeping bag but eventually I did and was on the trail hiking by 7:00am.

The weather today was overcast and ugly the whole day. Dark clouds would drift by with a slight sprinkle, then it would clear for a half hour, then more dark clouds and another light sprinkle. I was really missing my umbrella. I would try to hide under pine trees whenever it started to sprinkle which seemed to work for the most part and I never become thoroughly soaked.

I finally reached the end of the road walk out of Oroville when I arrived at the Cold Springs trailhead. I went the wrong way a couple of times at intersections but never went more than about 5 minutes in the wrong direction before I realized my mistake and turned back.

Cold Spring trailhead

A few hours later, I was heading up a mountain following the trail, but I had a lot of trouble at one particular area because of all the cow paths crisscrossing the trail. Would the real PNT please stand up?! They were all covered with fresh cow crap and I eventually found the herd that generated them. I tried to go around them to follow the trail on the other side, and the cattle ran away from me off the trail which I was happy about. Until, a minute or two later, I realized the actual PNT was the direction the cattle had run. I had inadvertently chased the cattle onto the trail! *(#$@!

I continued making slow progress mostly because of the trouble I had following the trail--not because the trail itself was difficult--but eventually reached a point where I lost the trail completely. I had no idea where it had went and I was standing on a hillside in a field of grass. At least there wasn't cow crap all over the place anymore. Looking at my topo map, I could tell that the trail was supposed to head to the top of the hill I was on and just went cross-country. Another bushwhack--and this one wasn't even on my map! As far as bushwhacks go, it was easy. I was largely above treeline so there were no fallen trees to navigate and it was mostly a grassy area so no thick vegetation to push through.

Eventually I picked up the trail again at the top of the ridge and continued into the Pasayten Wilderness--the longest, most remote region of the entire trail. If something goes wrong on the trail, this was not the place for it to happen.

The fallen down marker marks the boundary of the Pasayten Wilderness--the longest, most remote section of the entire Pacific Northwest Trail. This is not the place where you want something to go horribly wrong!

The wilderness boundary seemed to finally get me away from the cattle for which I was thankful. I didn't much care for cattle on the trail! And the views started to improve dramatically over the comparatively boring section since leaving Oroville.

Near the end of the day, I passed two women hiking in the opposite direction which I stopped to chat with for a few minutes. They were the first and only hikers I had seen since leaving Oroville. In particular, I asked about the trail conditions ahead. I knew the trail would be going through several burn areas and was concerned about endless blowdowns blocking the trail. They reported the occasional blowdown, but nothing bad. The trail, they declared, was in good shape. That was information I could get excited about!

We continued on our separate ways and I was a little disappointed that our campsites wouldn't overlap for the night. I would have liked the company.

I finally stopped to set up camp at 5:00pm in the afternoon--a relatively early stop to the day. It was a lovely site under pine trees that left a soft cushion of needles to sleep on. Normally I would have hiked longer and further, but I was now on a schedule due to the permit I needed for the North Cascades and I didn't want to get too far ahead of schedule. Nor too far behind schedule.

This gave me plenty of time to cook dinner, though. Then I watched The Office for about an hour but I cut myself off after that. I wouldn't be able to recharge my phone except from the sun for about two weeks and didn't want to run the battery down too quickly. The rest of the evening I spent catching up on the adventures of Dirk Pitt who managed to save the world with mere seconds to spare. A good man, he is. *nodding*

I set up my tarp given the inclement weather, and I was glad I did since one last rain cloud blew through during the evening, but that seemed to be it for the rain. For now, at least....

It's like a Christmas tree... decorated with trash! I was strangely hypnotized and horrified--at the same time!--by the sight.
Yep, totally decorated with trash.

There were piles of barbed-wire (and fence posts--which you can see some a little behind the baby trees on the left) along the trail. I sense some trail work coming in the near future! Probably to help keep cattle out of the Pasayten Wilderness!

It had been quite a while since I saw a nice display of wildflowers. Now that I'm getting back up in the high mountains where its cooler, I started seeing them again.

My home for the night!

Monday, January 27, 2020

Day 40: The Cattle Take Charge

August 24: It didn't rain anymore during the night but the condensation on my tarp in the morning was absolutely horrendous! I was glad I had my tarp set up to keep me dry.

The day's hike was entirely road walk. The first 10 miles were along a paved road that looped around Palmer Lake while the last 9 miles was a gravel road. As a general rule, the paved roads were flat and easy and not particularly busy. A vehicle would drive past every 5 to 10 minutes or so. The gravel roads were generally uphill (but still easy) and got even less traffic.

Slug near camp

The day was warming and I found myself low on water. I filled up all of my water bottles when I left Oroville knowing that there likely wouldn't be much good water for quite awhile and I wasn't excited to drink the water from Similkameen River or Palmer Lake. The area was surrounded by farms and cattle and the water undoubtedly polluted. I wanted to wait for a better water source which I wouldn't reach until later in the afternoon. So I started rationing my water supplies and spent much of the day dreaming about drinking water.

I finally took a long break at Chopaka Creek for a rest break. I had already filled up with water from an earlier creek, but this one had a wide area in the shade to spread out and relax and I needed the rest. I pulled out my groundsheet and cooked a dinner alongside the creek because there was plenty of water nearby.

Dinner was great, and I pulled out my Kindle to continue reading about Dirk Pitt's exploits. Dirk Pitt was in the process of rescuing a damsel in distress (of course!) when a line of cattle came down the road and started veering off the road to my rest area. They startled me--I hadn't seen or heard them until they started going off the road toward my rest area. "Hey!" I shouted at them.

The cow at the head of the line stopped suddenly, looking at me startled. She was clearly surprised to find me there. She seemed stupefied for a moment before backing up to the road and going over the creek on the gravel road to the other side before continuing their journey up the creek. There were about 5 of them, and they stopped in the creek to drink a short way upstream of me.

Then some more cattle arrived. And more arrived. Holy crap! Where did all these guys come from! There were now about 20 of them crowding into the creek but keeping a respectful distance from me. I decided it was time to get out of there. I packed up my stuff and hit the trail. I had initially planned to fill up with water from the creek but decided against it. I should have enough water to get me to the next water source and this source was clearly contaminated with 20 cattle! I wasn't that desperate for water!

Late in the afternoon, I reached a spring with a trough and set up camp nearby. A barbed-wire fence went through the trough and there was a cow on the other side drinking water from the trough, so we agreed to stay on our own side of the barbed-wire fence. I'm not sure if the cow understood our agreement, though. I too filled up with water, but I got it directly from the spring filling the trough rather than the trough itself which, I knew, was contaminated by a cow.

In other news, that evening while adding up my miles, I realized that I had passed the official halfway point of the trail! That was something worth celebrating! So I ate an extra piece of chocolate for dessert.

Then I spent the rest of the evening continuing to read the exploits of Dirk Pitt. I just had to know how he saved that damsel in distress!

I had to share this water source with a cow. We agreed to stay on our own sides of the barbed-wire fence, and she drank out of the trough while I collected water from the spout on the side.

Palmer Lake

Watch out for wasps!
Lots of agriculture out here

Some old, abandoned mining equipment

Friday, January 24, 2020

Day 39: The Gold Miners

August 23: I took my time getting packed up and ready in the morning for, once again, the post office didn't open until 8:30am and I needed to mail my laptop ahead. Then I left town struggling under the weight of 12 days of food.

One disappointment I had leaving town was that I had never been able to contact Gypsy. He had offered to hike with me through the Pasayten Wilderness--a destination I was now heading toward--but I had never heard back from him again. I was hoping even as of this morning I might still get a last-minute call and work something out, but it never happened. I assumed that the fact it took me over a week to get his email with the proposition meant he gave up on me and had already headed into the wilderness himself and he hadn't replied to my calls or emails because he had been out of the reach of cell phone signals the whole time. Nope, it seemed that I'd be hiking through the Pasayten Wilderness alone. Maybe I'd get a signal on my phone up the trail and something could still be worked out, but it seemed unlikely at this point. If I saw Gypsy at all on the trail, it would probably be him hiking back out back to his vehicle!

You can lead a horse to water... but that's not what's happening here!

The trail followed some roads a short way out of town before reaching the trailhead for the Similkameen River Trail where I ran into a group of PNT trail supporters who were discussing future plans for installing a halfway marker on the trail. They were a friendly bunch and seemed excited to see an actual thru-hiker on the trail--I'm sure they've seen them before, but it had a feel like they had spotted a rare creature on the trail.

The Similkameen River Trail is a rails-to-trail route following alongside--no spoilers here--the Similkameen River. The PNT only overlaps it a short while, however, which I found disappointing. After a couple of miles, the PNT goes onto a paved (but not especially busy) road for the rest of the day. The road also follows more-or-less alongside the Similkameen River so I could see the rails-to-trail on the other side of the river for most of the day and it looked loads more comfortable to walk on than a paved road. Unfortunately, it appears to dead end not going all the way through to the small cobble of buildings called Nighthawk. The trail supporters I talked to said they hoped someday to extend the trail to Nighthawk which would then become the PNT. I'm not entirely sure why it's not done already because the trail looked great as far as I could tell. Maybe they hadn't gotten the official right-of-way at a key place on the trail. The river trail also goes through a tunnel in the mountain and maybe the tunnel is dangerous or needs repair before it can be opened to pedestrians. I'm not sure, but it was a little disappointing to see the trail and know I can't (or at least I'm not supposed to) use it.

Similkameen River Trail treailhead

By the afternoon, a light sprinkle started which was a little problematic for me because in the haste of packing back in Republic, I accidentally packed my umbrella with the duffel bag that Amanda took home. I had no umbrella! And there was no rain in the forecast so I didn't even bother to look for a replacement when I was in Oroville. It proved to be a challenge to take photos with my camera while keeping the camera dry! I sat down under a tree for protection against the rain hoping it would pass quickly and when there was a break, I resumed walking.

But it started up again. Eventually, I just started getting wet. It was impossible for me not to. Ugh. I wore a rain coat and stored my camera under the coat to keep it dry, then used one hand to provide cover for the rain when I took it out for a photo. It wasn't a perfect system, but it allowed me to keep taking photos. I took a lot fewer photos, however!

A couple of hours into the day's hike the trail passed a dam on the river creating a long, narrow lake behind it. Then just past the lake where it became a river again, I noticed a boat on the river. It was a dredge! I totally recognized the sluice box on the back as water and dirt ran through it and emptied back into the river leaving a small trail of dirt washing downstream. The dredge didn't have anyone on it, but it was running and it appeared that someone with a wetsuit was underwater sucking up the river bottom with the large pump running on the dredge.

It's a gold-mining dredge in action! See the bubbles in the water to the right of the dredge? I think that's where there's a diver scouring the river bottom with the pump on the dredge, then the tailings coming off the sluice box are streaming out from the dredge. I really wished I had my 300mm zoom lens here--I could have gotten a much better photo!

Then I noticed another dredge further up river. And another. There were dredges everywhere! How much gold was in this river anyhow?! Not all of the dredges were in use. About half of them were stopped and resting onshore seemingly abandoned although I'm sure they weren't truly abandoned. I had a million questions running through my head about how they got into this business, how successful they are (or aren't), do they need to file permits to do this, how long they've been out there and more! I couldn't really talk to any of them, however, with them being underwater or next to a noisy pump far out in the river. In all, I counted 14 dredges. Not including the one that went past me in the back of a trailer during the road walk.

I neared Nighthawk--a town that used to be big enough to host a post office until 1970. A large sign describing the history of the old mining town also says the entire townsite is now private property--perhaps one of the reasons the rail-to-trail doesn't quite reach it.

That's Nighthawk on the other side of the road. Today, there are absolutely no public services available.

As I approached the town, the rain started coming down relatively hard and once again I stopped under a pine tree to take cover. I sat on the side of the road for the better part of an hour before the rain diminished enough that I picked up on moved on.

I decided to cut the day's hike a little early due to the bad weather and set up camp alongside the river about 1.5 miles past Nighthawk. It was a nice, out-of-the-way location and almost immediately upon setting up camp, the rain stopped and even the sun popped out. Sometimes, I think nature just hates me. *shaking head*

I hadn't made it far today--a mere 15 miles--but I was okay with that. I got a late start out of town, the weather was miserable, and my pack was a monstrosity and tortured me with the 12 days of food it carried. And since I needed to camp at three specific campsites nearly two weeks in the future, I planned for shorter days that I knew I could make rather than more moderate days that I might have preferred but would have increased the changes I couldn't make it to my assigned campsites on time.

So I didn't expect to do a big mile day and I knew that tomorrow, my pack would be a couple of pounds lighter after eating a diner and breakfast out of it. I should make it a big dinner and a big breakfast as well. I needed to get my pack weight down! All good reasons to stop after a short day. =)

The rest of the evening I mostly spent reading my Kindle under my tarp and relaxing.

My home for the night!
The old Oroville Depot is now a museum.
The Similkameen River Trail was wonderful to walk on, but the PNT got off it much too soon!
The trail passes a gold course, and I found this golf ball on the road. I left it there. I picked up golf balls last time the trail went past a golf course but this time, I was hiking out of town--and my pack was already far too heavy with 12 days of food in it.
Still in cattle country!
You can see the Similkameen Trail on the other side of the river--entering a tunnel. I really wanted to hike through a tunnel!
There's a dam on the river, but I couldn't get a good photo of it from my vantage point on the road walk.
And the dam created this long lake.
It's not hard to figure out where a lot of the gold miners set up camp!

The view from my campsite was pretty nice!