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. =)


Anonymous said...

Any fish ladders on these dams, or are you too far inland?

Ryan said...

I don't know that we're too far inland, but I think the dams are too tall to have fish ladders.