Friday, October 30, 2020

Day 65: Anderson Mountain and the Attempted Trail Magic

August 13: The condensation during the night turned out to be absolutely horrible. Eventually I pulled out my tarp and threw it over myself like a blanket to help keep me and the rest of my gear dry, but by morning, it looked like it had rained. I packed up my camp, but knew that I would have to set out my tarp and groundsheet later in the day to dry out.

Even areas that weren't clear-cut still had evidence of past logging operations.

The day's hike was mostly along quiet logging roads. There were expansive views near clear-cuts, and the gravel logging roads were easy. The morning was largely downhill into the small hamlet of Wickersham.

Then there was about an hour of walking along Highway 9 that was an absolutely horrible road walk on a busy, paved highway with little or no shoulders to walk on and, as is often the case in rural communities, a couple of aggressive dogs running loose that I had to scare off. I had my bear spray readily available in case I needed it, but shouting at the dogs and wildly waving my trekking pole around kept them at bay. 

I walked along that stretch without stopping, anxious to get off the busy highway and back onto quiet logging roads. This time, they'd take me to the top of Anderson Mountain. 

I stopped for the night near the summit. Not at the summit, though. And I took an alternate route that cut off a couple of miles of needless bushwhacking along the primary route. There was no good reason to do the bushwhack as far as I could tell so I had absolutely no intention of doing it.

Near the summit, I reached a gorgeous viewpoint next to a clear-cut looking back toward Mount Baker and decided to stop right then and there to camp. I originally meant to hike another mile or two, but it seemed unlikely that there could be even better campsites ahead. I wasn't entirely sure it was legal to camp where I did, located near the boundary where the logging company's private property abutted next to public land where I could camp. But I didn't care. It seemed unlikely that anyone would catch me out here. But if my campsite wasn't legal, it couldn't have been by much. And I definitely wasn't the first person to camp here since I found a fire ring along the road at the pullout.

How could I not stop to camp with this gorgeous view of Mount Baker?!

So I set up camp, cooked dinner and settled in after completing 17.8 miles according to my GPS.

Near sunset, a Jeep came along--the first vehicle I had seen on the mountain all afternoon, and when they stopped next to my campsite, I feared that maybe it was a security guy from the logging company wanting to kick me out.

But it wasn't. It was a young woman who asked if I'd like a beer. I turned her down--I definitely didn't want a beer. "Weed?" she asked. Definitely not interested in that either. She seemed genuinely interested in providing trail magic. "Are you hungry?"

Well... not really. I had already eaten dinner and brushed my teeth, and I told her that, but out of curiosity, I asked what she had available. "Chips and guacamole."

Which.... actually sounded pretty good, and if I hadn't already eaten dinner and brushed my teeth, I might have taken her up on that, but I turned her down again.

She seemed a little annoyed at me at this point, like I was wasting her time, and I felt a little bad about it. Maybe I should have taken the chips and guacamole. Oh, well.... The thing I wanted most, actually, was just someone to chat with for awhile, but she didn't offer that and drove off.

The sun set shortly thereafter and, as far as I could tell, I had the entire mountain to myself the rest of the night.

Most of the day followed logging roads such as this.

Near clear-cuts, the views were often quite nice--if you ignored the part that had been clear-cut. The giant humped mountain ahead is Anderson Mountain and I would spend the night near its summit tonight.

That's Lake Whatcom behind Anderson Mountain on the left. The trail won't go to the lake, though.

Just one more obstacle to worry about--traps and snares are hidden in the area. Perfect to nab a hiker going off trail to take a leak. *nodding*

I found this sign (facing back the way I came) when leaving this logging road. Apparently, I had trespassed and didn't have a permit and didn't even know it until I left the area! (I never saw a sign like this from the direction I had arrived.)

Samish River

The Highway 9 road walk was absolutely horrible with just a few inches of shoulder to walk on--not nearly enough to step out from oncoming traffic. (Most vehicles had to swerve over the double-yellow lines to get around me.) This was, in my opinion, one of the most dangerous road walks of the PNT.

Samish River

Lots of these signs all over the place today. Some dated just a few days earlier. (Although this particular one was dated 2.5 months ago.)

The primary PNT lead into a bushwhack at this point, but I had no desire to do a bushwhack and skipped it for more logging roads along an alternate route.

Wednesday, October 28, 2020

Day 64: Getting lost....

August 12: It was finally time to get back on the trail. Amanda drove me back to Lyman where I would continue my hike--and with my full pack once again. My slackpacking days were over.

I followed Pipeline Road north across Highway 20 and back toward the primary PNT route. Two aggressive dogs near the end of the road worried me and I pulled out my bear spray just in case they caused trouble, but I got by without having to use it. Dogs worry me a lot more on the trail than bears, I'll tell you that. I've had far more problems with dogs than I've ever had with bears. It was the main reason I hadn't ditched my bear spray since leaving grizzly country. I knew there were a lot of road walks along this route, and I worried about the dogs that people let run loose.

Crossing Highway 20 at Pipeline Road in Lyman.

There was maybe a quarter-mile of trail between Pipeline Road and the logging road that the primary PNT followed, but I had trouble figuring out how to connect the two. Because this route was a detour featured on the PNTA website to avoid an active logging operation, it wasn't really marked on my map or on my GPS device. I just knew I needed to hike north a short way to reconnect with the primary route.

At one point, according to my GPS, I was less than 1000 feet from the trail, so I looked for a way to connect me and found what looked like an overgrown fire break. I tried following it a bit, but blackberry bushes kept catching me with their thorns and it took me 5 minutes to walk about 15 feet into the break. It was horrible! I finally decided to give up and turned back.

I remembered seeing what appeared to be a trail further back, so I returned to that. It didn't appear to be an official trail, but more of a game trail, but it seemed like it might go in the direction I wanted, so I followed it.

I tried following this apparent fire break at first,
but eventually turned back due to the brambles!

That trail was terribly muddy in sections, but I got through faster. But when I reached a junction, I had no idea which way to take. I tried one direction for awhile, but eventually it seemed to be taking me in the wrong direction and I backtracked again before taking the other route.

Then repeated the process again at yet another junction. There appeared to be a whole network of informal trails through this area!

From my map, I knew I needed to get across a small creek which I eventually reached, and there did appear to be a barely perceptible game trail up a steep hillside on the other side. So I crossed the creek and followed it up, where more blackberry thorns attacked me.

In all, I probably spent the better part of an hour trying to connect that 1000 feet from the end of Pipeline Road to the primary route on the PNT. It was awful! And I finally spilled out onto the gravel road and shouted with joy. Yes! I made it!

The trails I did end up following weren't well defined or maintained.

I wasn't on the road for 5 minutes when a pickup truck drove up and stopped next to me. The driver rolled down his window and asked what I was doing out here.

I told him I was hiking the PNT. He explained that he was hired as security by a logging company and patrolled the area--apparently eco-freaks have caused issues in the past.

"How did you find me so fast? Do you have sensors out here or something? I've only been on this road for not even five minutes!"

He never really answered, but I think it was just a coincidence. I showed him a map of the trail which he looked at and he seemed confused that I wasn't taking the fastest route to the Olympics. "But then I wouldn't be hiking the PNT!" *rolling eyes*

He was completely unfamiliar with the trail--despite driving up and down it on a daily basis.

I was so happy when I finally reached the logging road!

Then he asked where I was from.


"Oooh. The city council just voted to defund your police department by 50%. Good luck calling 911."

Oh, I see. He also liked to watch fake news. I have to admit, I hadn't really been following the news very closely since getting on the trail, and while I wasn't aware of any votes taking place, I knew darned well that was completely and utterly false.

"Well, the protesters want to defund the police by 50%, not the city council," I suggested politely.

"Oh, no... they just voted on it. And it would have been unanimous except one city council member didn't think the cuts were deep enough."

Dumbass. Actually, I could totally believe that they voted for some cuts. The pandemic is going to cause governments at all levels and all departments to require budget cuts, and with police making up a large chunk of the budget, it makes sense that cuts will need to happen. And if a small cut might help appease the protesters and reduce their intensity, that's not necessarily a bad thing. But I knew darned well that the city council at large had no intention of such reckless and draconian cuts. I figured they'd probably vote to cut the police funding by 5 or 10% or something, which in my book is more of a budget cut than truly "defunding" anything.

And I totally believed that one city council member would have voted against it for not thinking that 10% or whatever wasn't enough: Kshama Sawant--definitely the most radical of the council members. But I doubted that even she would vote for more than a 50% cut.

So I knew the guy was full of crap, mixing up real news with with fake news, and it just annoyed the hell out of me. And it annoyed me even more that I hadn't been following the news well enough to call him out on it. I knew enough to know it was BS, but not enough to give actual facts. It's very frustrating!

(If you're curious, now that I can look it up, the 2020 budget called for about a 1% reduction to police, and the 2021 proposed budget calls for a 12% cut. Still nowhere close to 50%. And even that isn't as bad as it seems since most of the "cuts" just move things like parking enforcement and 911 dispatchers to other departments.)

Anyhow, eventually the guy left, but he left a bad taste in my mouth.

I continued on my hiking, eventually reaching the dead-end of a logging road. Or rather a dead-end for vehicles. The road used to continue through but was no longer maintained, and now only people could hike through.

This 'bushwhack' actually followed an old road, but it took me about a half-hour to cover the 0.25 miles along it. It was badly overgrown with brambles and I just couldn't move through it very quickly!

But it was a terrible hike, overgrown with those thorny blackberry bushes ripping at my clothes. It was probably just a quarter-mile, but it took me about a half hour to get through that little section. Wasn't there a gravel logging road that could have taken me around it?

But I made it through--finally--and that was my last bushwhack for awhile. Now it was road walk for pretty much the rest of the day.

Late in the afternoon, though, I started seeing signs that suggested active logging was ahead. Then I reached a clearing that obviously was in the process of being logged! None of the machinery was running at the moment--it was probably after quitting time--but I found myself walking past the giant machinery and piles of cut but unprocessed trees. I had the impression that I wasn't supposed to be walking through. Heck, the detour that took me into Lyman was in place to avoid an area of active logging! Why wasn't there a detour around this section too?

But I didn't know how all the logging roads intersected or which areas were actively being logged, so I plowed through along the primary route anyhow.

At the edge of the logged area, the PNT heads into the woods on a small trail through DNR land. I had trouble finding the it (the Gurdgieff Connector Trail) through all the destruction caused by the logging. Eventually I found it, though, and escaped onto a short section of actual trail.

The trail would only last a couple of miles, however, before returning to logging roads, and being late in the day, I set up camp smack in the middle of it. If that wasn't enough reason to stop for camp, my map warned that the next 16 miles went through private property owned by the logging companies and it was illegal to camp. So I stopped in the small parcel of DNR land for the night.

It was a nice campsite, too, at a small open area with flat ground. I only covered 13.3 miles for the day, but overall, I found it a pretty miserable day of hiking and was thrilled that at least I ended at a pretty nice place to camp. =)

One nice thing about clear-cuts... at least they left wide-open views to enjoy! =)

But clear-cuts are definitely an eye-sore too.

I was rather surprised to find any evidence of the PNT out here!

Views of Puget Sound and the San Juan Islands!

Logging equipment

These are definitely freshly-cut areas! Probably from earlier in the afternoon.

My campsite for the night--a lovely little open area. =)

Monday, October 26, 2020

Day 63: A zero day! Kinda....

August 11: Initially, I had planned to get back on the trail and keep hiking today, but I still found myself with some work to do. There were still a couple of bugs I needed to work out on Atlas Quest and some updates which needed doing on the Straw Hat Pizza website. (I'm a contractor for Straw Hat, which most people probably don't realize.) So... I still had some work I needed to get done before I disconnected from civilization again.

So I went to the front desk to extend our stay at the hotel for an extra night and now I would have real zero day! I would not do any official trail hiking at all! Well, kinda....

I still needed to get out and stretch my legs. I go crazy if I can't walk at least a little each day, and I had the idea that I'd just keep walking down the Cascade Trail. It was fast, flat and easy. And, at this point, is was pretty close to Burlington. It wasn't a long drive to get back to the trail, and it would be an even shorter drive to get back to the hotel at the end.

Amanda dropped me off back in Lyman to continue walking the Cascade Trail.

But the route is also an alternate for the PNT where some people follow it all the way into Sedro-Woolley, then walk up Highway 9 back to the primary PNT. I didn't plan to to do that, however, wanting to return to the primary PNT as quickly as possible.

So I followed the PNT alternate... but not as part of my route to the end of the trail. So it turned out to be a zero day that had me walking on the trail! As confusing as that sounds.... That's the PNT for you! =)

I didn't take any photos for the day because I didn't need anything for Walking 4 Fun and there was nothing particularly exciting to take photos of. I just enjoyed the walk. (The two photos in this blog post I actually took yesterday when I first walked into Lyman and got off the trail.)

Amanda and I had planned to meet at a parking area just off of Highway 20 a couple of hours later, and I walked right past it without stopping. I didn't see Amanda in the parking lot so I thought maybe it was a different parking lot we had agreed to stop at and I just didn't recognize it from the direction I came. So I kept walking, further and further into Sedro-Woolley, at which point I eventually realized that I must have passed the parking lot. I had just beat Amanda to the meeting point--which almost never happens!

After realizing that I definitely passed the meeting point, I gave her a call and she said she was waiting for me at the parking lot and a bunch of cops were parked there as well. I hadn't seen any cops when I went by either! Exciting things were happening, and I was missing all of it! =)

Anyhow, I told Amanda where I was located, and she drove out several minutes later to pick me up about 1/4-mile from the end of the trail in Sedro-Woolley. We stopped at Carls Jr. for lunch, then I returned to the hotel to get some online work done. Amanda spent the afternoon exploring the area some more.

Lyman, apparently, had a problem with people riding their horses through town on public streets, so prohibiting that was their number one concern. It's gotta be a pretty nice town when the biggest problem you have is people riding horses through it. =)

Friday, October 23, 2020

Day 62: The Cascade Trail Detour

August 10: The morning was gray, overcast and generally miserable, but weather reports actually reported clear and sunny in Concrete. It seemed so completely at odds with what were seeing outside it hardly seemed credible.


But! I still had a trail to hike and gray and overcast skies wouldn't stop me. So Amanda and I hopped into the car and drove to Concrete.

I had finished the trail yesterday 6 miles west of Concrete, but I still needed to go into the town to pick up a mail drop that I had sent there before I knew Amanda would be coming out to visit. I couldn't pick it up yesterday because it was Sunday and the post office was closed. And anyhow, I wasn't inclined to carry it for 6 miles before Amanda picked me up. But it meant we needed to swing by in order to retrieve the package.

And, somewhat surprisingly, it actually was clear and sunny in Concrete! The weather reports were accurate!

When we drove west 6 miles on Highway 20 back to Baker Lake Road where I resumed my walk. Amanda drove off to do her antiquing and letterboxing and whatever all she was inclined to do while I started to hike.

It was a relatively quick and uneventful walk that covered a mere 8 miles to the small town of Lyman. The official connector route back to the primary PNT veered off at Hamilton, but the PNTA website reported active logging on that section of the trail and it was closed to hikers, and they recommended a detour that returned me back to the primary PNT through Lyman, so that was what I followed.


But I stopped at Lyman since beyond it, I wasn't sure where else Amanda could pick me up easily. Lyman was easy, though, located right off Highway 20.

And being a rail-to-trail, I covered the 8 miles quickly. Flat as a pancake, wide as a train, and clear as the sky! I zoomed through the distance in about 2.5 hours.

Amanda was doing hikes for Hike-a-Thon, so she wound up parking in Lyman and walking up the trail in my direction for about a mile. Although "walking" might be a somewhat generous term. She had severely sprained her ankle earlier in the week and hobbled around with a severe limp.

I found her resting on a trail-side bench and we walked back to the car. I almost lost her, though, when she spotted blackberries on the side of the trail and tried to eat them all. I finally pulled her away, though, and we made it back to the car and drove back into Burlington.

We stopped for lunch at a Mexican restaurant called Mi Mexico, then returned back to the hotel where I continued to work on my laptop. Amanda went out to look for some nearby letterboxes to fill the rest of her day.

And that was that! The end of another day of hiking!

Amanda resting her foot after spraining it earlier in the week but walking a mile out on the Cascade Trail anyhow.

Wednesday, October 21, 2020

Day 61: Welcome to Concrete!

August 9: I woke up to a mostly clear sky and hit the trail bright and early at about 7:00am. Today was the day I'd enter the town of Concrete and I was anxious to get into town to take a shower, get some real food and reconnect with the world!


Baker Lake just before sunrise.

But first, I had to get there. That began with a 1.4 mile walk through the forest to a trailhead where the road walk would begin. And then, it was a road walk pretty much the rest of the way into town.

The first five miles of road walk weren't so bad. It was a relatively quite gravel road--especially so early in the morning--and I could walk fast and efficiently. 

It also passed over the Upper Baker Dam which was interesting to see. This is a dam I hadn't visited before, but it was a pretty standard-looking dam. It's a large dam, completed in 1959, 312 feet (95 m) tall and 1,200 feet (370 m) long. Not as large as Ross Dam, but still quite substantial.

Upper Baker Lake Dam, and the PNT crosses right over the top of it!

The route then follows a paved road a short way before cutting a corner along a closed, gravel road that ends at a short bushwhack. The bushwhack, on my map, looked to be about 0.1 miles--practically nothing--and required fording a small creek, and I was tempted just to stay on the paved road until it connected with Baker Lake Road and just hike around it. It would have been longer, but it would avoid the bushwhack. But at 0.1 miles, it hardly seemed worth the effort.

So I followed the gravel road for a few minutes to the start of the bushwhack when I noticed a small foot trail leading off into the trees on the right. Where did that trail go? Hmm... It appeared to head in the direction of Baker Lake Road (which I needed to reach), so I followed it and it dumped me out right on the road, just before the creek that I would have had to ford if I followed the bushwhack. Except now I could cross on a bridge. 

I couldn't figure out why this wasn't the official route because it's vastly better than a horrible (albeit short) bushwhack and a ford. In fact, I'd be super annoyed if I was fording this river and could actually see this bridge a stone's throw away. It's absurd! So I was glad to have found this re-route that I invented. =) It was a much better experience!

But, of course, all good things must come to an end, and now I'd be following busy and paved roads the rest of the way into Concrete. First following Baker Lake Road for about 7 miles, then the trail turned onto Burpee Hill Road for the last 4 miles into town. Happily, Burpee Road wasn't as busy as Baker Lake Road, but it was still busier than I would have preferred.

And finally, I arrived in the small community of Concrete. My first stop was at the community garden. There was a small gazebo with shade which allowed me to sit and rest my weary feet--and make some phone calls now that I had some cell service.

Concrete community garden. (I took a short break in the gazebo on the right.)

I called a hotel in town to make sure there was availability, but they reported already being full for the night. Shoot! Well, okay, then I called the other one. They had a room available, they reported, but told me there was no Internet.

That's... kind of a deal-breaker for me. I needed to get online. My job depended on it! I needed to fix bugs! I needed to reply to emails! What kind of hotel doesn't have Internet in this day and age? It's not like it's a cabin deep in the woods and off the grid--I was in a real (albeit small) town!

So I turned down the room. I had a new plan. Amanda had wanted to come out and visit and was planning to drive out later in the afternoon. Once she arrived, she could pick me and and take me to a hotel that was more than walking distance away. Where there was availability and Internet! But it meant I couldn't check into a hotel just now and take a shower or clean up. I had several hours to kill.

What I could do, however, was get some lunch. So I walked deeper into town and stopped at Cascade Burgers, right off Highway 20. A sign on the front door said that the dining room was closed, but to give them a call to make an order. Covid strikes again! So I called the establishment--from just outside the front door--and put in an order.

There were picnic tables outside and I grabbed a table. It was in the hot, brutal sun, though, so I opened the closed umbrella sticking out of the table and life improved dramatically. =)

They eventually came out and delivered my order, and it was delicious. But I still had hours to kill. I called my mom to give her an update on my progress. She had been worried that I covered so little distance yesterday having checked my progress from my SPOT reports. "Are your feet okay? Did something happen? Why didn't you walk very far?!" And I explained that I was perfectly fine. It was just the last backcountry campsite of the trail before I started the long road walk, and I didn't want to camp on the road walk.

I also called Amanda who announced that she had arrived in Seattle (she had been working) and would be on her way soon. I told her about the problem I had with hotels--Concrete wasn't exactly bustling with options!--so now the plan was for her to pick me up and drive to a hotel closer to I-5. 

But she wouldn't arrive for at least two or three hours. I still had a lot of time to kill.

The first thing I decided to do was start searching online for hotels, and I wound up booking a room for two nights in Burlington. It was cheaper than the hotels in Concrete and had a lot more services available. I didn't have a lot of data with my phone plan, however, so I didn't go crazy surfing the web. 

To kill more time, I decided to keep hiking. The route now followed the Cascade Trail, a rail-to-trail route that stretched all the way to Seedro-Woolley. The further I walked, the less Amanda would have to drive to pick me up, and the less we'd both have to travel to get into Burlington.

The Cascade Trail was flat and easy, but a little boring too....

So I started walking. Because the Cascade Trail is a rail-to-trail route, it was wide, flat and I could walk quickly. I could hear the nearby traffic on Highway 20, but most of the time, it wasn't especially close or obnoxious. A pleasant, albeit kind of boring walk in the woods. And thank goodness for the shade the trees provided most of the time because the day had certainly turned into a hot one! I didn't know how hot it was, but in the sun, it was absolutely miserable.

An hour or two later, I contacted Amanda about an update on her progress so we could figure out which road crossing would be the best place to pick me up at, and we figured our paths would intersect near the junction between Highway 20 and Baker Lake Road, about 6 miles west of Concrete. It occurred to me that I could have chopped a few miles off my hiking if I had just followed Baker Lake Road all the way out to Highway 20 instead of making the side trip to Concrete. I had planned to stay in Concrete so it made sense at the time, but now that I wasn't staying there anymore, the detour only made my hike longer.

On the other hand, Burpee Hill Road was marginally better to walk on than Baker Lake Road, I was able to stop for a decent lunch at Cascade Burgers, and the rail-to-trail path was definitely a huge improvement over Baker Lake Road. So maybe the detour wasn't so bad. =) But it did lengthen my day's walk!

For the day, I completed 24 miles of hiking--by far the longest distance I covered in a day since getting back on the trail.

I found Amanda parked on the side of Baker Lake Road having pulled up just a minute or two before I arrived. I jumped in the passenger seat and we headed into Burlington, catching each other up on each other's adventures.

And there I finally got my much needed shower before spending the rest of the night fixing bugs and other problems. The big update I had done just before starting the trail was still coming back to haunt me....

I guess this explains why I haven't seen any bats on the trail!

Upper Baker Dam

Finally! A day clear enough to see Mount Baker! =) I took this photo from the dam.

My arrival into Concrete!

The town of Concrete has really embraced their name!

Even the small, eye-level welcome sign is made of, of course, concrete! =)

I stopped at Cascade Burgers for lunch. Delicious!

Covid foils my lunch plans.... or at least alters them a bit. =)