Eastbound and Down

The fall begins with a a weird feeling of great success filled with failure. We decided to forgo the southern portion of the Oregon Coast Trail in favor of more time with friends and a road trip cross country home. It’s been a great summer of backpacking and vagabonding, making it over 1500 miles on foot.

We tried to rent a small SUV, but ended up getting a brand new Ram 1500 with a HEMI V8 for the same price. Not the most efficient, but it was preferred by all of us. After not having a home for months, the shelter and transportation range the truck provided was a huge luxury.

Headed North, first views of Mount Rainier.

Sunset pictures from Birch Bay State Park in the Northwestern corner of Washington.

This is the view from our friends driveway – they recently moved to Ferndale, WA and it is paradise out there. We stayed with them for several days, enjoying cooking and lounging around the farm and property. Sara and I are hoping to come back to this area in the near future… it’s a beautiful place to live.

More bread making, more cheese.

Sara getting distracted by a friendly gym puppy at Bloc Yard Boulders in Spokane, WA.

Smoky afternoon in Whitefish, MT. We headed to Glacier National Park the next morning, despite the wildfires there. It’s crazy how many miles we’ve traveled around, through, and to wildfires this summer.

Driving the Going to the Sun Road through Glacier…

Smoke over the east side of the park, as seen from Logan Pass.

Like the PCT, only with hand rails for the feint of heart.

The East side of Glacier NP was super smoky, enough to burn the lungs after awhile. Sadly, the day after we were there, Sperry Chalet burned down. It was one of two historic chalets in the park built in the early 1900s.

Back home in Michigan, more big bodies of water but no salt, sharks, or jellyfish.

Delicious pasties and Michigan beer.

Brief stop at Ian’s hunting cabin.

And so it goes. Back home (once we find a place to actually sleep, hah!), at least for now… already starting planning for our return trip to finish the remaining Pacific Crest Trail miles!

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7/5/17 – Mile 1498.7, Mount Shasta, CA

Back to beautiful shaded woods this whole section.  Snow free, a bit warm, and a few mosquitos out now.  It’s been fun watching Mount Shasta grow closer – it takes our breath away each time we emerge from the woods and it’s there, taking up the horizon. Apparently the spirit chief Skell lives within the mountain and fought with Llao, god of the underworld.  Llao resides in Mount Mazama.  There is a lot of fascinating lore surrounding Mount Shasta…

6/30/17 – Low mile day; letting our feet heal at the Burney Mountain Guest Ranch.  Spent most of the day watching the birds and other wildlife at the pond outside our cabin.  Also plenty of time spent utilizing the cell service/wifi (and a little printer troubleshooting for the hosts).  Waited out the afternoon heat and stayed for a delicious homemade pizza and salad dinner.  Thank you Mike and Linda for knowing and providing just what hikers want!  Late evening we headed out from the ranched and walked an easy ~5 miles until we found a meadow to camp in at mile 1412.4.

Custom fireplace, welded by Mike and Linda’s friend.
 

Trail magic!

7/1/17 – Good rhythm today; around five miles of hiking followed by a half hour to hour break then repeat several times.  Nice shady woods most of the day.  While we gained several thousand feet, the grade was gradual.  A few parts of the trail were very overgrown.  Camped by Clark Spring at mile 1434.4.

Lake Britton Dam
Deer carcass.
More of Mount Shasta
Just a little overgrown around these parts…

7/2/17 – Good views, shade, and ridge walking most of the day!  Pushed 6 miles in the morning then took a break to air out the feet.  Another 7 or so miles and a lunch break.  5 or so after that, another break, then another 3 miles.  We’re both a little light on food this section, but hey at least the packs are lighter.  Camped near Gold Creek, at mile 1455.6.

Sara rolling over a blowdown.
Seemingly endless mountains and trees…

7/3/17 – Easy ~12 miles of downhill to start off the day.  Mostly shaded, too dark for sunglasses in some parts of the woods even.    A few more miles and we took a siesta.  Another push late afternoon and we stopped to camp at mile 1475.6.  We’re well ahead of schedule to get into town on the 5th, so no reason to push on.  Lots of skeeters around today; probably time for the bug nets.

Snow free ridges are the best ridges.
Sara gathering plant photos for later identification…
McCloud River


7/4/17 – Textbook trail through the woods again.  First day in a long time I haven’t worn sunglasses.  Took a break after 6.5 miles at Squaw Valley Creek, then continued on another 5.5 miles (uphill, ~2,300ft!) until taking a lunch break with a good Shasta view.  Walked another 4 or so miles then a brief break for water.  A few more miles and we camped just before I-5 at mile 1495.8.

Waterfalls, everywhere.
Some more or less textbook trail.
So hot at night now. Didn’t get below ~70.
 

7/5/17 – Easy couple miles in the morning down to I-5.  Took about an hour but got a hitch into Mount Shasta and breakfast at the Black Bear Diner.  Been fantasizing about hot breakfast and coffee for days!  Short walk to the post office, hotel, then onto the usual town activities – specifically beer, ice cream, resupply, shower, laundry.  Not quite in that order.  We’re both looking forward to a relaxing evening around town!

The San Francisco Layover

So we’ve been off trail and in Morro Bay/San Francisco now for more days than I can count – thanks to Sara’s friend for a place to stay, we could easily stay here even longer.  The food is too good, especially with the added hiker hunger.  But the trail is calling and we’ve been itching to get back to the hiking and out of the big city.  

We’ve been vigilantly scouring Facebook, Instagram, WhiteBlaze, and messaging friends on the trail to consider our next move.  While the snow seems like a challenge we can deal with, the rivers are getting more and more dangerous and unpredictable day by day.  After hearing about many people bailing, skipping ahead, or just having miserable times, we’ve decided to skip ahead about 390 miles, to South Lake Tahoe (by the time this posts, we’ll be on the trail in that section).  We’re gonna bring some of our snow gear, but get to (thankfully!) leave our bear canisters for now and use Ursack’s instead.  The plan is to come back and finish the Sierra’s in the late season – as an added bonus we’ll hopefully skip the mosquitos.  This has not been an an easy decision, but my gut is telling me its the right call.  No sense in taking on too much unecessary risk, the only benefit would be to my own ego.

With that said, we’ve been keeping active here and haven’t fallen completely into binging on luxuries.  Sara’s parents flew in from Michigan for a few days and teamed up with us for some microadventures.  Over the past couple weeks we’ve tackled:

  • Morro Bay/Morro Rock

  • Alcatraz Island

  • Muir Woods National Monument

Baby fox!

  • Muir Beach

  • Sutro Baths

  • Coit Tower
  • Golden Gate Bridge walk

  • Golden Gate Park – Tea Garden, Botanical Gardens
  • Rosie the Riveter WWII Homefront NP

  • Various section hikes of the San Francisco Bay Trail

  • Anchor Steam Brewing Tour
  • Dogpatch Boulders

And so on.  I tried to only list the things that involved being active, the food could probably use it’s own post.  But since this is more or less an adventure/hiking blog, I’ll just give one special mention to Bellota where I had my birthday dinner – damn good paella!


Of course we also spent quite a bit of time preparing for and figuring out this next stretch of our trip.  We probably went to REI or Sports Basement every other day.  We cleaned our gear while catching up on some Netflix.  I even got a hair cut!

Thanks again to Danielle and Lu for hosting and providing us with a place to stay! 

Expect our next blog post to be in a week or two from Quincy, CA.

Colorado 2016

More truck camping!  In Fall 2016 Sara and I drove out to Colorado to meet up with a buddy traveling and living out of his 4Runner for the summer.  We started at the Hoxeyville Music Festival in Hoxeyville, MI and then headed out west to stay with some friends in Fort Collins, CO.  From there we took the “scenic route” down to Jefferson, saw a show at Red Rocks and stayed with another friend.  We slept on BLM land most of the time, with a few notable side trips – the Great Sand Dunes National Park,  Rainbow Lakes Campground, and a hike up the easy 14ers, Grays Peak and Torreys Peak.

Great Sand Dunes National Park

Being from Michigan I’ve seen my share of sand dunes but these blew me away – they compare in beauty to the Michigan dunes but blow them away with their size and backdrop.  The park itself is the dunes, most of the area behind it and our primitive camping site was in the preserve.  There’s a fun 11 mile ORV trail that you can camp along – Medano Pass Road.  It has a few stream crossings, but nothing was more than 1-2′ while we were there in the late summer.

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You can imagine how good this feels on the feet.
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As a Michigan native it’s weird seeing dunes at the foot of a mountain range.

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Campsite off the Medano Pass Road.
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Great Sand Dunes National Park from Zapata Falls.

Rainbow Lakes Campground

Just outside of Nederland, CO, after a thirty minute drive down a rocky dirt path, sits Rainbow Lakes Campground.  This is one of the more remote but most meticulously maintained campgrounds I’ve been too.  The pit toilets are spotless and each campsite is raked after visitors leave.

There’s an easy 3 mile hike to the Rainbow Lakes starting from the campsite.  Each of the lakes have fairly easily followed game trail around them.

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Reflections mmmmm.
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Technically this picture is from a spot we camped on some nearby BLM land.  However I had to include it in this post – this bull wandered within a dozen yards or so of us.
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A rocky path down to one of the drier Rainbow Lakes.

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Grays Peak and Torreys Peak

While these are two of the easier 14ers Colorado has, they still kicked my flatlander ass.  After a few hours of sleep we started the hike around 5:30am, reaching the summit of Grays mid morning and Torreys a half hour or so later.  The summit views were spectacular as expected and surprisingly calm.  Microspikes would have been useful for the descent but sliding on my ass worked pretty well too.

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Looking back at the valley we hiked up.
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Clear skies for Grays summit at 14,270ft.
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Skies still clear.
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Torreys summit at 14,267ft and afternoon clouds rolling in.

Northwest Roadtrip Spring 2015

In April of 2015 I had been working as an IT Field Engineer doing all sorts of high stress system/network troubleshooting.  After the third Saturday in a row of on call night work, I could see this work/life imbalance was just going to continue.  Around that same time I visited an old coworker at the paddle shop I used to work at, she asked what I’d been up to.  The conversation went something like this:

 “Work.”

“That’s it? No trips or anything interesting?”

“Yup.”

Followed immediately by me thinking about how I hadn’t had a vacation in two years.  And noticing just how boring it is if all you have to talk about is work.  So I put in my two weeks notice, the company ended up getting me to work another four weeks to finish up projects and then I’d do something.  I’d never been further west than the Ozarks in Arkansas so I decided to drive around the lower 48 for a while.

My goals for this adventure were:

  • Sleep in the truck when possible to save money
  • Visit friends and family
  • Make it to Colorado, Oregon, and Washington
  • Not return home for at least a month

The Route

I had a rough idea to drive out to Colorado as fast as I could, stay with a friend there, then make my way over to the Pacific Northwest to stay with another friend.  From there I’d take a northern route back to the Upper Peninsula of Michigan to end the trip.  While I didn’t end up recording my exact route, I did stick pretty close to my plan.  Below are most of the places I stopped on the trip, with friends places removed for privacy.

Gas was cheap that summer and my Ram 1500 has a V8 gasser in it, so the fuel economy was relatively low, but for the truck I was satisfied.  It was especially fun driving manual in the mountains.  I tracked the gas in a Google Sheet for no particular reason.

Photos

Favorite photo from the trip:

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Wreck of the Peter Iredale at Fort Stevens State Park, Oregon.

Other photos from the trip, grouped by location:

Garden of the Gods

Colorado

 Lucky Peak State Park

Ecola State Park

Crater Lake National Park

Smith Rock State Park

Fort Stevens State Park

Misc. Oregon/Washington

Hoh Rainforest

Cape Flattery

Olympic National Park

Glacier National Park

Yellowstone National Park

Grand Tetons

Black Hills National Forest

Mount Rushmore

Badlands National Park

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And finally back home to Lake Superior.