The $1 trillion bipartisan Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act was finally passed by Congress. It allocates $65 billion for electric grid and power infrastructure, $7.5 billion for electric vehicle chargers, $7.5 billion for zero and low-emission buses and ferries, $39 billion for public transit, and $66 billion for passenger and freight rail.
The Reconciliation Package doesn’t yet include a price on carbon, but carbon pricing now has support from 49 Democrat Senators and the White House. Even if Senator Joe Manchin blocks carbon pricing, the bill is expected to allocate about $550 billion in spending over ten years for new grants, loans, and tax credits to support industrial sector decarbonization, manufacturing credits to help grow domestic supply chains for solar, offshore and onshore wind, and the auto and energy communities, expanding access to rooftop solar and home electrification, expanding grants and loans to rural co-ops to boost clean energy and energy efficiency, and expanding agriculture grants and loans to help farmers shift to clean energy providers with fewer greenhouse gas emissions.
With additional support for carbon pricing from Republican Senators Lisa Murkowski andMitt Romney, a solid foundation has been laid for the next opportunity to pass carbon pricing legislation.
This progress can largely be attributed to Citizens Climate Lobby volunteers (who’ve contacted Congress and the White House about carbon pricing more than 160,000 times since June) and staff (who’ve encouraged and empowered volunteers to keep engaged).
Dear readers, as of November 11, 61 of you have contributed $5,750 to CCL in the name of Steve’s PCT Adventure. Thank you!
I suspect that some of you have contributed without remembering to identify this fundraising campaign. I have a list of identifying contributors, so if you have contributed but aren’t sure if you identified the campaign, or if you’re not sure if you have contributed, send a message firstname.lastname@example.org.
I know that hundreds of people are subscribed to this journal, so many readers haven’t yet contributed. If you enjoyed reading the journal and want to support CCL, please go to https://citizensclimatelobby.org/donate and be sure to identify your contribution as part of Steve’s PCT Adventure.
Three years ago, at least 186 readers contributed $15,000. My goal for this campaign is $10,000. We’re most of the way there. Please help us reach that goal. Every contribution helps, even the $24 minimum corresponding to the 2 cents per mile subscription price.
Topher Anderson says 51 subscribers to this trail journal have given a total of $4,678 to Citizens Climate Lobby or Citizens Climate Education. Yay!
Three years ago, at least 186 people contributed $15,000. Since my trip is shorter this year, my fundraising goal for this year is $10,000. I reached my backpacking goal when I reached the Canadian border. With your help, I can reach my fundraising goal too.
Your support of Citizens Climate Lobby means so much to me. Did you know that the carbon fee and dividend legislation we’ve been advocating for the last ten years is being discussed in the Senate Finance Committee and in the White House? This is happening because of our relationships and dialogue with Members of Congress that we have built over the years. More recently, since July 1 in our effort during the budget reconciliation deliberations CCL volunteers have
· Mobilized 138,000 constituent calls and emails to Congress and the White House. There’s a live report of these contacts here
· Sent out 1,000,000 texts and made 200,000 calls to constituents in key states, asking them to contact Congress.
· Reached 269,000 people with 1,300,000 ads over social media in key states and districts to provide education on the benefits of carbon pricing.
· Pushed out specialized media content in support of carbon pricing for key states like Montana and West Virginia.
· Got 1,086 pieces of media published (articles/op-eds/letters to the editor) and had 48 television and radio appearances.
The press is showing that a carbon price, which is necessary to reach Biden’s goal of hitting 50% emissions reductions by 2030, is taking center stage in the debate.
As stated years ago in the New York Times, “One day, ideally in the not-too-distant future, when Congress finally passes major legislation to curb carbon emissions — to reduce the environmental and economic harm caused by climate change — Americans will owe a big thank you to the perseverance and discipline of the Citizens’ Climate Lobby.”
Again, to give, go to citizensclimatelobby.org. On a laptop click on Donate, and write Steve’s PCT Adventure in the comment box. On a phone, click on the Menu and scroll down to Donate, …
I am planning to give a presentation on the trip. In fact, the slide deck is ready to go. I’m just waiting for the local libraries to open to full capacity, as three years ago we had to turn away people when the room capacity was exceeded. I will send the date and location of the talks when they are scheduled. Since many of you live far from Richland or might have conflicts with the date of the talks, I’ll also give a Zoom presentation after the presentations at the libraries. I’m hoping that will be in November, but it depends on whether we have another pandemic surge as unvaccinated people gather indoors during the cold season.
Christopher “Topher” Anderson is tracking CCL and CCE contributions in the name of Steve’s PCT Adventure. 35 donations totaling $3778 so far! My sincere thank you to those who’ve given so generously. I hope they inspire the rest of you to support Citizens Climate Lobby or Citizens Climate Education as well. Just go to citizensclimatelobby.org, click on Donate, and write Steve’s PCT Adventure in the comment box. Some of those who gave might have forgotten to write that comment, so the total given is likely larger than $3778. Three years ago a total of $15,000 was contributed, so I know this pool of readers is deep.
“Walking is not the action by which one arrives at knowledge, it is itself the means of knowing.” — Robert MacFarlane, The Old Ways.
I’ve had a few days to reflect on the impact of this adventure, so I’ll start with that, followed by reminders on viewing my photos and waypoints, and then details on how you can follow through with your commitment to support Citizens Climate Lobby.
First, as always, I tried to communicate the good news about climate change: we have effective solutions and policies that will drive the implementation of those solutions; we just need courage to adopt those policies. The people I met were remarkably receptive to that message. I am encouraged.
Second, with all that walking I learned some things. I miss my old men’s group, so I’ll start one again. Let me know if you’re interested in getting feedback from others on how to be a better version of yourself.
My walking produced some other ideas for activities, but I won’t describe them here because I need to talk to my wife about how much time they would require.
My walking also informed me that, because my vegetarian diet was driven by my desire to reduce my carbon emissions, I can eat poultry, pork and fish with little effect on my carbon emissions.
Most importantly, I finally experienced climate grief in a visceral way. It gave me a much stronger love for the people who will face climate impacts long after I am gone. I feel their pain, and am more than ever determined to do all that I can to save our climate for them.
I’ve archived most of my photos in google photos. I’ve labeled some of them, and will try to label the rest.
To contribute to Citizens Climate Lobby, go to citizensclimatelobby.org, click on Donate…One-time, select the amount and click on Donate again. The default contribution is to Citizens Climate Lobby, but if you want your contribution to be tax deductible then click the link for Citizens Climate Education. Enter the amount of your contribution ($24 for the minimum 2 cents per mile pledge, but you can give as much as you wish), your name and email address, and IMPORTANT FOR THIS FUNDRAISER, type “Steve’s PCT Adventure” in the comment box.
I hope you enjoyed reading this journal. I don’t expect to add to it until I get a sense of how much has been raised.
I’d love to hear from you, particularly what it has inspired you to do.
Every morning I awake torn between a desire to save the world and an inclination to savor it. This makes it hard to plan the day. But if we forget to savor the world, what possible reason do we have for saving it? In a way, the savoring must come first.”
My heart is full of joy after the last eleven days savoring 223 miles of trail experience from Stevens Pass to Canada and back to Harts Pass.
The splendid scenery produced some of that joy. My favorite along the way was Image Lake, but other places also delighted me. More on that later.
Quality time with other numerous people, while walking, in camp, or in town, brought joy to me as well. Later I’ll describe the meaningful connections that I established with some of them.
Finally, the sense of completion at the border monument caused tears of joy. I’ll review that experience in a bit.
But I had some challenges along the way. A day of walking in the rain reopened the wound in my ankle. I lost the trail. Mice got into my tent on two nights. Equipment failure allowed the cold to impair my sleep. I’ll explain later.
In some places the PCT passes places that to me are worth detouring to experience. Image Lake is one of those places. I’ve been to it four times, but it is so beautiful I’ll go again if an opportunity arises. The detour from the PCT to Image Lake adds only five miles of walking and 500 feet of elevation gain. It’s an obvious choice to me.
But it’s not to the other thru-hikers I invited to come with me. Those on the trail for 2500 miles just don’t want to add any more miles to their trip. Perhaps they fear a new fire will block them. Perhaps they’re just weary. None of those invited agreed to come, even when I showed them a photo that wowed them.
So, I went without them. A storm that had wetted my shoes had passed, and the sky was cobalt blue. I had camped at the junction to the Miners Ridge trail, so two and a half hours of ascending brought me to the crest of Miners Ridge.
From there I first went left a half mile to the Miners Ridge lookout tower. It’s normally occupied during the summer months, but has been vacant this year because the access road is closed. But I could climb to the deck and look in at the facility and enjoy the spectacular view of Glacier Peak and the other rugged mountains in all directions. What a fantastic job it must be for someone inclined!
From the lookout it was a mile and a half back to the junction and beyond to the Image Lake basin. It is such a lovely place, with surrounding meadows of heather and huckleberry giving the lake a blue-green color. Horses are only allowed to pass by above the lake, and camping is only allowed at specific sites away from the lake. Because the primary access road is closed and the PCT hikers aren’t interested, I had the place all to myself until the evening.
So, I walked every trail in the basin, taking dozens of photos and recording several videos, including one with a message to thru-hikers and another quoting EB White on the importance of savoring the world.
I spent the night in the basin and rose early to get a photo of Glacier Peak and its image in the lake. Then it was a fast 25 miles to catch the 3:15 bus to Stehekin.
Other places along the trail also delighted me, particularly from Rainy Pass to the Canadian border, where larch (AKA tamarack) trees in reddening meadows of grass, heather and huckleberry filled me with delight. I’d love to return to this section in late September when the larch needles turn golden.
In this section the trail also descends to below 2500 feet elevation, where towering cedars dwarf the trail and hiker.
Most of my camps during these eleven days were splendid, with big views from meadows to mountains.
Companionship always increases my pleasure when I travel. In this section it was not one person but many people I enjoyed getting to know. I hiked with Lone Wolf (retired from North Carolina), Rotisserie (who turns in his sleep), an Iowan couple Crackers and Simple Soul (a triple crowner), and One Love (22 years old and filled with love of life and his Latvian heritage). I camped with Pinecone (a Portland geologist), his friend Bird Person (a construction manager from Wisconsin looking to change his career), Sage (his girlfriend of 8 years, passionate about climate change, and experienced land conservation advocate), and spent quality time in Stehekin with Blowdown (who recently sold his Portland bar and moved to Alaska) and Salt (his partner and a fundraiser for non-profits), Clawfoot (the young son of Jim Booker, with whom I hiked the High Trail in May) and his girlfriend Last But Not Least, Ninja Cat (a young woman who recognized me from White Pass) and her friend Aurora Borealis (an Alaskan trained in photography but still seeking her way). Long distance hikers normally greet each other with a fist bump, but when I arrived at Harts Pass with One Love, Pinecone, Bird Person and Sage, it was hugs all around. I will miss them.
The walk to Monument 78 essentially completed a journey I started in Dunsmuir on July 28, 2018. But the dream began in 1973 with my coming-of-age adventure from the Dog Mountain trailhead on the Columbia River to the same monument. The PCTA has installed a much larger marker that hikers can pose on,
but it was the old bronze Monument 78 that I kissed when I arrived with eight others on September 3. Tears welled up as I thought about how much both I and the trail have changed over the years.
Now for the troubles, which make adventures all the more interesting.
The rain fell all night as I lay in my shelter from the storm. My tent performed perfectly, keeping everything inside dry while it shed the water onto the ground around it. All my gear except my saw were inside, so I could load all of it into my dry pack which I’d lined with a garbage bag. I then put my shoes on and exited my tent, folded and rolled it as best I could, stuffed it in its sack, and stuffed the sack inside the webbing outside my pack. Ready to go.
The rain had stopped by dawn, but I knew the vegetation along the trail would be loaded with water. So, I wore my raincoat and kilt over my other clothes. The kilt only extends to my knees, so I removed the leggings from my convertible pants and kept them dry in my pack.
My feet were going to get wet. Normally that’s okay, because they’re working hard and stay warm enough. But I knew that wound on my ankle would open again after a day of soaking in rainwater. There was nothing I could do about that until I got to camp. I was still taking antibiotic, so I was protected.
When I arrived at camp, I immediately set up my tent so it could dry before I put my gear in it. But I had to keep my wet shoes and socks on until I could retire for the night, because I don’t carry camp shoes. So, while the tent was drying, I got water, checked in with my satellite communicated, read from my third book, The Old Ways by Robert MacFarlane, cooked and ate dinner, and hung my food.
A few hikers passed by, but few thru-hikers stop hiking as early as I do, so no one had stopped by the time my tent was dry and I could enter it for the night.
Soon after, a half dozen or so decided to camp near me. They were clearly enjoying each other’s company with playful banter, but I could not leave my tent because I’d already dressed my wound and put on my dry socks. My shoes were still soaked.
So, I tried to participate in the conversation from my tent, which was tricky because I couldn’t see them nor they me.
I invited them to join me on my detour to Image Lake, and even showed Pinecone (who seemed to have the most energy) a photo of Image Lake. He agreed it looked worth going to, but not on this trip.
Later I noted there were no bugs at our site, not even ants. So, I kept my mosquito netting open.
It turned dark, but this group was still talking. As an early riser, I dozed off. Suddenly I was awakened by the sound of my pot falling over. I’d been putting it in my tent because I don’t clean it after dinner and rodents had enlarged the rubber spout to get inside.
But with the tent door open there was little to keep a MOUSE FROM GETTING IN MY TENT. I heard the pitter-patter of its little feet as it ran past my head when I reacted to the pot noise. I called out “There’s a mouse in my tent!” and searched my ten essentials bag for my light. My light is very small, so it always takes me a long time to find it, especially when I need it NOW.
Someone else found his light and came over. After I found mine, I could see the little vermin and the chase was on.
Like a flying insect, once inside a tent pests can’t figure out how to escape. The poor mouse, now terrified by the light, raced around the perimeter of the tent three times, missing the door because the bathtub floor extends six inches above ground.
“How do I catch a mouse without getting rabies?” I thought. I grabbed one of my soggy socks and tried to catch it, but it was too fast for me. “I could really use a cat right now, but I know they’re terrible thru-hikers.” Finally, I realized I could use its fear of light to shepherd it to the door, and it found its escape.
I promptly put my pot outside the tent and zipped the mosquito netting shut.
A mouse got into my tent a second time at another camp, through the opening in my netting I use for evacuating my piss at night. I’m thankful no mouse chewed through my tent to get inside. It has happened to others.
Rotisserie and I were enjoying a vigorous ascent toward 6200 ft Fire Creek Pass when we encountered yet another log across the trail. This was in one of the remotest parts of the PCT, its remoteness increased by the closure of the two closest roads. So, the normal 20-mile distance to a road was now at least 30, meaning no trail crew is getting there this year. We labored over, under and around numerous logs far too large for my little pruning saw to sever.
Several potential crossings of this log were apparent. We chose one, and continued on our way.
But something was odd. The grade did not meet the usual gradual PCT standard, instead plunging down ten feet and then back up. And the path was not as well established as we were accustomed to. “Poor trail design”, I told Rotisserie. I decided to contact Michael DeCramer, the PCTA North Cascades Regional Representative. I pulled up the Guthook App to look up the trail milepost. It showed our location, but a bit off trail. GPS uncertainty? We continued on, dismayed until the path finally headed uphill until it reconnected with the true trail. No need for a PCTA rerouting project!
Equipment failure is an issue for backpackers who choose ultralight gear. While I am quite pleased with my Zpacks Duplex tent, other items in my backpacking “kit” disappointed me. My Zpacks Arc Haul pack listed to the left no matter how packed it, bent sideways rather than forward when the arc mechanism is used, and yielded a hole from the rubbing of my pants belt loop against it.
None of that bothered me all that much. More critical were the failed zipper in my down jacket, the insulation gaps in my sleeping quilt, and the leaks in my sleeping pad. I was unable to fix the zipper failure, but I could compensate by wearing my rain jacket over my down jacket when I really needed the insulation.
The insulation gaps in my quilt made me cold at temperatures below 40 degrees F, far short of its 20 degrees rating; I’m convinced the gaps are a consequence of the four-foot length of the baffles. Henceforth I’ll use my Marmot Helium sleeping bag, which weighs only 12 ounces more than my quilt, and does not suffer from cold air seepage between pad and cover, if I expect temperatures below 40.
Fortunately, the three leaks in my Nemo sleeping pad all happened before my last night in a section, so they only ruined three nights of sleep. The first two were on the top of my pad, in the dimples, so they could not have been caused by debris on the tent floor. I consider this to be a design issue with the pad, and will return it to REI, hopefully for a refund. Thicker material is necessary for durability.
It’s a bit too soon to draw conclusions on the meaning and significance of this adventure. I’m going to wait a few days and let it ferment a bit. Stay tuned!
The terrain of the Cascades changes quickly for hikers walking north from Snoqualmie Pass. The gentle emerald ridges are replaced by rugged crags rising above their forested flanks. Dozens of lakes lay in basins scoured by glaciers during the last ice age. Indeed, the protected land between Snoqualmie and Stevens Passes is aptly called the Alpine Lakes Wilderness.
The signature peaks in the wilderness are Chikamin Peak, Lemah Mountain, Chimney Rock, and Summit Chief Mountain, collectively called the Snoqualmie Peaks.
The PCT provides the most direct vantage point of the peaks where it crosses Escondido Ridge above Lemah Creek. Clouds shrouded the peaks as I ascended Escondido from Lemah Creek one morning. But I noticed that, as the air warmed, the low clouds dissipated and the cloud base rose, revealing more of the mountain range. So I lingered for an hour at the high point of the trail on the ridge. A meadow there provided a lovely setting and an appealing foreground for panarama photos of the range. The summits of Chikamin, Lemah and Summit Chief became visible briefly, but then marine air spilled over the Cascade Crest, and clouds once again obscured the tops of all of them. Even then the brooding clouds added drama to the scene.
Most of my camp sites are simply a bare patch of dirt in the woods, but occasionally I get to camp at a gem. This week I camped at a site that is not next to a lake or a stream, but it still gave me a sense of gratitude for being able to camp there. It was on a 5500 foot shoulder of Surprise Mountain, beside a field of a mix of heather and white granite boulders, and below towering cliffs leading to the summit. The boulders could have served as table and bench. Once again, drifting mist added a dynamic quality to the place. As drizzle commenced when the air cooled in the evening, I retreated to my tent and let the cheeps of the pikas led me to sleep.
If the gobsmacking views in the North Cascades don’t slow down a thru-hiker, the berries lining the trail surely will. Huckleberries are known best, but thimble berries and salmon berries also entice. I was able to cover my bowl of oatmeal with berries after just ten minutes of picking around my camp above Waptus Lake.
Sightings of mountain goats in the Washington Cascades used to be quite rare. The Washington State Department of Fish and Game now estimates 2400-3200 living in the state. I enjoyed a close encounter while traversing Chikamin Peak. A mother and her kid were using the PCT to walk right past me.
Tonight I’m staying in the Leavenworth home of Susie Stenkamp, a friend who has scouted the PCT from Chinook to White for me, counting logs across the trail before a logout. Susie hiked south from Stevens Pass to meet me today, drove me and another hiker to her home, and fed us a sumptuous vegetarian dinner. She’s cooking breakfast for me tomorrow morning and driving me back to the pass. Thank you Susie!
Before returning to the trail experience, I want to first contrast Sharon’s and my experience with accommodations before and after the Human Relations Laboratory.
We have a friend who lives in Olympia, and since Olympia is on the way from White Pass to Tahuya, we scheduled an evening at an Olympia winery with her. For our convenience, I booked a room at nearby Olympia Inn, which a reviewer called “a diamond in the rough.” We enjoyed a lovely time with Cheryl-Ann and her fellow, and ate dinner at the winery too. At the motel check-in we learned that one person does the check-in, the room cleaning, and the maintenance. Yikes. So I wasn’t surprised to find that the WiFi doesn’t work and the toilet handle doesn’t work. I can deal with that, but we could not ignore the woman who began raging at 3 am in the room next door. She told someone “I’m going to knife your face and eat you!” After 2 hours of that I got up and went outside to her room. A guy with a large knife was ringing her doorbell. She wasn’t responding, so I tried rapping on her window. She threw open the curtains and yelled at me “Ring the doorbell! I’m going to knife your face and eat you!” I knew then I wasn’t going to be able to settle her down, so I returned to our room. After awhile she did settle down, replacing her raging with loud Christian music. Needless to say, we didn’t sleep anymore that night. But at least the owner was willing to refund half our room fee.
In contrast, before I returned to the trail, we stayed in the lovely Packwood home of Zippy, a thru-hiker and fellow trailworker, who offered to accommodate me when she learned I was walking past White Pass this year. Her husband had taken their daughter camping that night, so it was as quiet as a mouse, the WiFi and toilet worked, and she refused to accept payment for her generous hospitality. Thank you Zippy!
In California I met a section hiker who appeared to be about 75 years old. He told me his wife gave him only one week a year to hike the PCT. At his rate he’ll be 85 before he finishes the trail. That’s a tough way to do it.
I so appreciate Sharon’s willingness to accommodate my PCT adventure. I know she’s missed me while I’ve been in the trail. So it was sweet that we got to walk the trail together for two miles out of White Pass. She is as passionate about hiking as I am. Indeed, she’s dedicated the last 15 years to cofounding and serving on the board of an organization, Friends of Badger Mountain, that has a remarkable record of success in raising funds to preserve local mountains for non-motorized recreation.
After Red and I parted when I left the trail for a week to attend the Lab, I wondered how quickly I’d find a new hiking partner. It took only two miles. A fellow named Bob helped Sharon when she stumbled on some rocks behind me. When Sharon decided to head back, we hugged and parted, and I introduced myself to Bob. When he told me his name was Bob, I asked him his trail name. “Retro”. That sounded familiar. I recalled meeting a hiker with that name three years ago. He carried an old Kelty backpack. “That was me.” I looked in my photo archive, and found a photo of him.
He wasn’t using that pack this year, so he wasn’t using that trail name. We walked from White Pass to Snoqualmie Pass mostly together, sharing all but one camp. He’s a fiscal conservative, so we enjoyed hours of stimulating discussion of economics and taxes, including of course the carbon tax, which he does not object to because his career at the National Ice Core Lab taught him the key role of carbon dioxide in climate change. He needs to take a zero mile day tomorrow while I must keep moving, so we’ll part after sharing breakfast tomorrow morning.
When I walked the PCT across Washington in 1973, my primary companion was my high school classmate Ken Cook. We had a wonderful time together, but did not maintain our relationship after I left Seattle for graduate school and did not return. Indeed, we didn’t see each other until our 45th high school reunion. By then Ken had broken his knee and was unable to hike much at all.
By this year, after four unsuccessful knee surgeries, Ken had had a knee replacement, and was finally able to get his stride back. I did not know about the replacement when I invited him to meet me on the trail, and even Ken didn’t know at the time how far he could walk. So we both were delighted when he met me five miles from Chinook Pass, walked back to Chinook Pass (where he treated Bob and me to fresh peaches and beer), and felt good enough to add another four miles walking with me from Chinook Pass to Sheep Lake and back.
Both Sharon and I were a bit disappointed that I was unable to tap into my feelings at the Human Relations Lab. I was envious of those who wailed in their group or spoke from their heart in the plenary sessions. At the closing of Lab I said I’ll keep attending until I learn how to speak from my heart.
I don’t know what the wailing was about, but during plenary some expressed climate grief with sobs.
So I talked with two of them, Sydney and Kelen. They told me they learned about climate impacts in school, but not climate solutions.
I shared the good news that climate solutions are available, but climate policies are needed to accelerate adoption of the solutions. I then explained the carbon fee and dividend, and gave them my Citizens Climate Lobby business card. They were encouraged by this good news.
I thought about them as I ascended in the mist from camp at Sheep Lake to Sourdough Gap. For the first time, I felt climate grief in my gut. They are the first generation that will feel the consequences of our failure to adopt an aggressive climate policy. I felt both grief and love for them.
Those feelings intensified and expanded to include others, family and friends, until I reached Sourdough Gap. I looked down on meadows and forest below, and said to myself, “I’m trying to save this for these people I love.”
To capture the intensity of these feelings, I recorded a video of myself expressing my feelings at that time.
As I walked beyond Sourdough Gap, I treasured the feelings in my body, and composed in my head what I would write about it. The mist turned to drizzle and continued all day, so I kept walking to stay warm without putting on my down.
Our destination for the day was just what we needed: Camp Mike Urich at Government Meadows. The camp consisted of a log cabin next to a stream, two outhouses, and a stack of firewood.
When I stepped inside I saw fire in a stove and six people. I soon recognized two of them.
I first met Wild Turtle at Shelter Cove Resort, and again when we shared a camp on Eagle Creek. True to his name, he is a slow walker who didn’t take time off, so he caught up to me twice when I stayed in Bend and when I attended the Lab. I had regretted not talking to him at Eagle Creek after he scraped much of the moss off a table-sized rock, so I asked him why. “So my stove wouldn’t start a fire.” I suggested the Leave-No-Trace principle would call for another place to put the stove. He agreed.
I also recognized Gwen. She worked on a logout I led two years ago. Outgoing and frank in a hilarious way, I think she could be a comedian.
She calls herself a walker. She and her husband do not own cars. This summer she’s walked the Wonderland Trail around Mt Rainier, the PCT from there to Stehekin, the PCT again from Trout Lake to Snoqualmie Pass, the John Wayne Trail to North Bend (to see a friend there), back to the PCT, and now south to the Columbia River. I felt close enough to her to share my climate grief recording with her.
I was surprised at how big my voice was in the cabin. I’ve always had a diffident part of me. Perhaps this climate epiphany has changed me. We need bigger voices on climate change.
A total of 12 hikers slept in the cabin that night. One of them was Gormet, the first trans thru-hiker I’ve met. We shared camps on three nights, but Gormet always arrived too late to have a conversation beyond the meals she likes to prepare.
The cabin is a partnership between the U.S. Forest Service and a snowmobile club. It’s a community resource that depends on responsible use by its occupants. We swept it clean before we left.
Somewhere in Oregon I stepped on the front of a stick, which lifted the back end just as my back leg strided into it. It wounded the front of my ankle, where my foot flexes. I don’t usually treat wounds, and it still hadn’t closed when I reached White Pass. So I told the hikers there about it, and one offered to close it with glue. I didn’t walk much the next week at Lab, so the wound closed by the end of Lab. But the full day of walking in the rain opened it up again.
I tried putting Leuko tape over the wound before we left the cabin. It pealed off when I took my socks off. The next day I came to a camp occupied by a woman named Stockholm. She was “bourging” (what the bourgeois do) in her tent. After greeting her, she asked me how I was doing. “Fine, except I have a wound on my ankle.” “I’m a medic. Do you want some help with it?” “Sure.”
Stockholm worked six years as a medic in Afghanistan. I was in good hands. From her foot care kit, she sprayed a disinfectant that of course hurt like hell. An antibiotic ointment followed. She topped it with two layers of moleskin. Since it is slightly infected, she advised me to start taking the course of antibiotic pills that I’d obtained in case I contracted giardia. A serious infection can end my hike.
I need to keep it dry of course, so I’ll cover it with plastic when it rains again (it will).
Thank you Stockholm!
During summer the risks of hiking are manageable. Risks are much greater when winter sets in. This posting at a trail head on Blowout Mountain does more than request help finding the remains of a missing hiker. It reminds us that persevering in an October snowstorm can lead to deadly consequences, particularly for hikers only prepared for summer conditions.
Trail magic is magical because it is rare. I loved it in Oregon. I was delighted by my first Washington trail magic at Tacoma Pass. Cheryl and Taylor chose that pass because it’s far from any services. Strawberry shortcake, how unexpected is that? None of the six of us minded taking a 30 minute break for such delights.
For fans of flowers and fungus, here are fun photos for you from the trail.
My Make Earth Cool Again cap is a great conversation starter. Today I caught up with a hiker, and per the trail behavior norm I asked her what her name is. “Kelso. What’s yours?” “MECA, see my hat?” “ I love it.” “Why?” “I’m a climate researcher.” “So am I.”
Kelso grew up in Kelso Washington and now works at the International Institute for Environment and Development, in London. She represents the least developed countries in the United Nations Conference of Parties climate negotiations. She’s attended the last ten COP meetings.
So we had a lot to talk about. She knows about Citizens Climate Lobby and the carbon fee and dividend, but she also works ensuring the developed countries meet their commitments to the Green Climate Fund, which compensates developing countries for impacts from past emissions by developed countries.
Lots more to say, but so fun to meet another climate researcher on the trail.
If you haven’t noticed a pattern yet, I have rendezvous scheduled at every major trail crossing in Washington. At Snoqualmie Pass, my sister Marcy and her husband Rein brought my parents Vern and Daphne to have dinner together. To my surprise, my daughter Laila, her husband Chris and their son Vincent also showed up. Great fun connecting with them and sharing stories and photos.
For the last week I’ve attended the Human Relations Laboratory at the Sahale Learning Center in Tahuya Washington.
Why did I take a week off from the trail to attend HRL? I attended one in 2019, and it had a powerful impact on how I see myself and how I relate to others.
I wanted more experience with people who can speak from their feelings and who know how to create a place that is emotionally safe enough for others to learn to do the same.
HRL participants set our own goal for the lab, meet in plenary sessions with drumming, singing and movement in addition to teaching, meet in small groups led by experienced leaders who use questions to help us identify experiments that inform what really going on inside and dive deeply into our psyche, and spend free time developing our creativity or simply making friends. A soak in the hot tub and an evening of music, drinking and creative expression in an informal speakeasy called The Swamp are some of my faves.
This was the fifty-second annual HRL. While the early participants are now elders (or even dead), the lab this year was notable for the infusion of a new generation of participants with a powerful yearning for both connection and personal healing. We dealt with issues of gender identification and touching and consent. I personally learned that, because of my power as a man, consent to touch someone in any way might not be freely given even if it seemed it was; I must earn that privilege until it is freely offered. I was happy to share my message of good news on climate change with the “youngers”.
My goal for the lab was to identify obstacles to the formation of a men’s group in the Tr-Cities. That desire was rekindled by my conversation with G on the long climb out of Seiad Valley in June. I learned that the biggest obstacle is my tendency to overcommit to organizations and projects. On the trail I’ve already identified two other new projects that energize me, so I must choose what to focus on. I’ll let my core values be my guide.
If anyone is interested in participating in a future lab or just learning about Sahale or the community that lives or visits there, go to goodenough.org and explore.
Sharon and I are spending the night in the lovely Packwood home of Elise (Zippy) Woodsmith, free of charge. Zippy is a PCT thru-hiker and PCTA volunteer. Thank you Zippy!
I’ve learned from experience that it’s important to vet participants on adventures I lead. So, when Christi asked if she could join my walk from Cascade Locks to White Pass, I asked specific questions about her backpacking experience. She said she’s done some weeklong trips, so I was confident an eight-day section is within her capability, though I still had concerns about whether she’d be ready to walk twenty miles per day from day one.
What she didn’t tell me until we were on the trail is that she’s already climbed Mt Rainier not just once but FIVE times, and oh by the way Denali as well. She should be vetting me!
Christi was well prepared for this trip. Her feet did not get blisters, and if she was more tired than Red or me at the end of the day, she didn’t complain about it. Even better was that her preferred walking pace was only slightly slower than Red’s or mine. She called herself the Party Crasher, but I’d say she completed our little trail family. She was a pleasure to share the experience with.
Starting this 150 mile eight day section from Cascade Locks brought back memories of my coming-age-experience 48 years ago hiking the Washington PCT as a sixteen year old.
In many ways that hike was far more challenging. Though the trail was shorter then (120 miles), it was steeper, gear was far heavier, and at 123 lbs I was not fully grown. Because of that, my friend Ken Cook and I needed ten days to get to White Pass, so with food for ten days our packs at the start weighed 55 pounds.
It was and still is the hardest thing I’ve ever done. But completing that hike gave me a huge boost in my self-confidence.
Even eight days of food is a lot to carry. Christi and I considered resupplying at Trout Lake, a tiny town 14 miles from the midpoint of the section. We decided against it because of the uncertainty in the time it takes to hitchhike into town and back.
We learned on the trail that Trout Lake residents have started a free shuttle service three times a day, and that Trout Lake is one of the best trail towns on the PCT. So, even though we had enough food to get us to White Pass, we adjusted our camp choices so that we could spend a night in Trout Lake.
Trout Lake understands what recognition as a must-visit PCT trail town will do for the community. Visiting hikers are first taken to the general store, where two outgoing ladies describe all of the amenities that hikers seek (showers, power, WiFi, food, community) and Trout Lake can deliver.
After purchasing and consuming the foods we craved, we headed to the Klickitat County Park for our five-minute showers. We then had a choice between sleeping on the lawn between the store and a lovely home, or camping behind the First Presbyterian Church. We chose the former, and immediately started connecting with some of the 22 hikers who signed in at the store that day. At this time of year, SOBO and NOBO were equal in number.
After dinner at shaded picnic tables at the town cafe, I wandered over to the churchyard. A dozen tents were set up. I was invited to finish off the spaghetti the hikers had prepared in the church community hall. I was attracted to music emanating from the hall, and was delighted by Willy Wonka (who earned his trail name by sending himself far more chocolate bars than he could eat) playing Debussy on the upright piano inside. I asked him how long it took him to learn to play that well; “31 years” he said. He was followed by Sandstorm playing ragtime by Scott Joplin. An empty platter on a table stated “Welcome to Trout Lake. We’re not asking for a contribution. This was put here by other hikers who felt it was necessary.”
Two trucks were needed to return the hikers to the trail the next morning. I got the coveted tailgate position in the truck bed. I held on to my MECA hat.
In October of 2013, a young thru-hiker named Rocket Llama became trapped at Killen Creek in 3-4 feet of snow dumped on Mount Adams by a storm called a Pineapple Express. A search and rescue operation failed to find her, but after a week of conserving her food and contemplating her fate, she was at last able to walk down Mount Adams to a road where a motorcyclist found her and connected her with her father and the rescue team. Rocket Llama grew up that week.
I camped at Killen Creek on my PCT hike in 1973, and remember it as a beautiful setting with a spectacular view of Adams from a large meadow.
So, our first camp after Trout Lake had to be at Killen Creek. It did not disappoint. The meadow is still beautiful, and the creek drops down to it in a lovely cascading waterfall. I told Red and Christi the story of Rocket Llama’s ordeal.
But before we could get there, we had to cross glacier-fed Adams Creek. I still remember the challenge of fording it 48 years ago. Now there are logs to walk on carefully across the raging current. We each crossed with only one shoe getting wet; I had to retain my concentration and balance when I sensed a large fly biting my hand.
We’re all keenly aware of the presence of wildfire smoke in the western U.S. this and most recent summers. While not dense enough to feel harmful to us, it reduced visibility to less than ten miles, which frustrated us as we reached viewpoints without views.
We knew the smoke could be eliminated in either of two ways, rain or wind, and hoped for some relief. We got both.
The storm blew in just after we set up camp at Sheep Lake in the Goat Rocks. It started with a blast of wind that blew sand on us and our gear as we laid in our tents. It never rained hard, but I could hear the familiar roar of the wind beating trees on the ridge above us. I knew we should not try to cross the notoriously exposed Knife Edge in such conditions. So we hunkered down the following morning, waiting for a break.
According to my satellite device, the storm could continue through the next day. So we discussed our options: cross today, wait until tomorrow and walk 25 miles to White Pass, or exit the trail at Chambers Lake and ask Christi’s husband Victor to pick us up.
My enthusiasm for waiting all day in our tents diminished when my sleeping pad started leaking air. By 10 am, the roar of the wind on the ridge above subsided, so we decided to go for it. The rain halted and patches of blue sky appeared as we delighted in the views of the flowering meadows of the Goat Rocks.
We spotted a mother marmot holding a pup nearby.
We knew the rain could return at any moment, and indeed it did when we reached the traverse of the slope above Packwood Glacier. We had hoped to take the alternate route that climbs above the treacherous slope, but knew the lower route would be less exposed to the wind.
We were prepared for the conditions, but a SOBO couple that approached us at the high point of the Washington PCT was not. He was wearing a down parka that was soaked because the wind had shredded his flimsy plastic disposable “jacket”. He told us a trail angel had told them it doesn’t rain in Washington during summer, so he’d shipped his raincoat home. What an idiot! I’m going to talk to the PCTA about what can be to prevent such misinformation from spreading. I can only hope the fellow survived the storm, which indeed lasted two days.
My memory of walking the two miles of the Knife Edge in 1973 is dim, probably because the conditions were benign. This time is was far more memorable. The rain driven by 30 miles per hour wind pelted us as we carefully stepped our way along the narrow ridge. It took us two hours to cover the two miles.
From Elk Pass we descended to a sheltered camp beside a creek and meadow. While the fog and rain continued to wet the ridge above, we were able to dry our clothes and gear before dark.
The next day we walked the section of the trail that I’m the steward of. I was disappointed the clouds hid the beautiful views from the high points, but glad that horsemen had logged out most the trail to White Pass.
About a dozen hikers were outside the Cracker Barrel convenience store at White Pass when we arrived. It was fun to see people we’d met earlier, and meet others we hadn’t. I learned that Sandstorm had planned to camp near the PCT high point, but wisely camped lower and waited like we did.
Since I’m taking a week off the trail to attend the Human Relations Lab at Sahale (near Hood Canal), it was time for Red and me to part. Christi and Victor kindly offered to take him to their cabin near Packwood for the night, and return him to the trail the next day.
On the trail Red and I had talked about what we appreciate about each other, and how he will have to take more responsibility for navigating. Before he left with Christi, we hugged each other. I told him I love him, and he responded in kind.
I trust that other NOBOs will take Red under their wing the rest of the way. There are more challenges ahead, as the road to Harts Pass is now closed.
Red and I spent hours taking in the craftsmanship of Timberline Lodge, particularly in the central lobby, with the ceiling rising three stories to the hexagonal fireplace and chimney, the focal point of the entire building.
We did not, however, enjoy our experience in our bedroom. The room was fine (and the price surprisingly low), but our next door neighbors were not. Both were obviously drunk, and started calling friends at 10:00 to complain or brag in a voice that only drunks will use. At 11:00 someone across the hall opened his door and shouted knock it off! One of the drunks replied “Go f*** yourself”. At 11:30 I rapped on the wall between us. Same response. I considered knocking on his door with a glass of cold water for his face, or asking to clerk to boot them out. Let it go, Steve. Finally, at about midnight, one of them said he wanted to sleep, and the abuse came to an end.
From Timberline Lodge the PCT descends to cross Sandy River at 2800 feet. I was delighted to observe an abundance of wild rhododendron between 3000 and 4000 feet. Their blooming season had evidently just ended, as the first blossom I saw was also the last. I’d love to return in June or early July to see blossoms that I’ve only seen in gardens in western Washington, where it is the state flower.
I’d read that the same September wind storm that drove the fire from Mount Jefferson to Breitenbush had also blewn down hundreds of trees across the PCT north of Mount Hood. But, thanks to the heroic dedication of trail crews like the one we met, almost all of the logs had been cleared by the time Red and I left Mount Hood Wilderness. In the few miles not yet logged out, Red and I did what we could with my little pruning saw.
About 90% of thru-hikes are done northbound, because the time between snowmelt in Washington and snowfall in the high Sierra Nevada is quite short. Unless hikers are comfortable with and willing to hike on snow, they must wait until July to start from the Canadian border. We met our first SOBO, Metrick, soon after leaving Timberline Lodge. Metrick had left the Canadian border on July 10, only 18 days earlier. That’s about 30 miles per day on a trail that likely was covered in snow at higher elevations. Metrick was the first of 26 SOBOs we met by the time we reached Cascade Locks. Clearly the SOBO bubble was coming through.
On September 2, 2017, a 15 year old boy sought a sense of power by tossing lit fireworks into tinder-dry brush along the trail up Eagle Creek. The trail is one of the most popular in the Pacific Northwest, featuring numerous spectacular waterfalls in a basalt canyon lined with an evergreen forest. Thanks to heroic leadership by US Forest Service personnel, 170 hikers trapped above the fire were evacuated without loss of life. The forest, however, did not fare so well.
The Pacific Crest Trail does not descend Eagle Creek, but the Eagle Creek trail is a highly recommended alternative because of the spectacular scenery it provides.
It took two years and 6,369 hours of labor for volunteers (mostly PCTA) to clear the trail of 171 logs, stabilize the soil, and replace the bridges burned. The understory has largely regrown, but about 80% of the towering pines and firs are dead. Yet the decision on which trail to take was easy. I especially enjoyed watching Red experience it, as I’ve been there before.
Our camp along Eagle Creek was one of the best I’ve stayed at: logs and rocks to sit on (we hikers don’t ask for much), established tent sites, and a creek flowing across rocks smooth enough to walk comfortably in bare feet. We enjoyed sharing this camp with several others.
The boy who started the fire was apprehended, and social media evidence forced him to admit his crime. He cannot possibly pay the $36 million that he owes for damages, but the latest word is that he been his making restitution payments on time and completed a “good chunk” of his 1920 hours of community service and 150 letters of apology. His name has been withheld for his own protection, as his action produced great anger. I hope that by now he has learned the difference between destructive and constructive power.
We arrived in Cascade Locks at 10:00 to an unexpected welcome. When we stopped at a fruit stand next to Bridge of the Gods, the kind lady working there handed each of us free fresh peaches. Boy did they taste good!
After the usual fantasy-driven stop at the grocery store for ice cream, Red and I were able to check in early at the Columbia Gorge Inn, where Christi Gomez had reserved a room for us. Bonus: it has two beds!
Christi is joining us for the 150-mile Columbia River to White Pass section. Christi is a long distance runner with enough backpacking experience to take on a section that will take eight days with no resupply along the way. She serves as the treasurer for Friends of Badger Mountain, the organization that my wife Sharon co-founded to preserve local ridges for habitat and non-motorized recreation.
After showers and lunch, I met with Bernard Seeger, a Citizens Climate Lobby volunteer who serves as the liaison to the new Congressional Representative in his district. Both of our districts lean conservative, so we both face challenges in connecting with a Representative in a district in which a minority of constituents connect emissions with climate change. I had contacted him last month about meeting because he lives Cascade Locks and I learned that he had been unable to obtain a meeting with his Representative. Perhaps we can learn from each other.
I’m happy to report that, in the meantime, Bernard and Nate Hochman (a bright young Republican who has been published in ergot National Review) were able to talk with their MOC for 20 minutes, and found common ground on the importance of climate solutions that do not strike fear in the hearts of conservatives. This MOC clearly appreciated the constructive conversation, calling for a follow-on meeting.