Monday, October 3, 2011

Only One of Two Goals Complete--HELP US!

When we started this trail, we decided to help an organization that has worked to preserve the mountains we love and treasure here on the East Coast: the mountains where we first found had our breath taken away by the beauty of the natural world around us. Our goal was to raise a dollar for every mile we hiked on the trail. With us completing the trail, that totals to $2,650. So far, we have raised approximately $800. Thank you to all who have helped us in our effort to raise funds for the Highlands Conservancy. Seeing how determined we were to acheive our goal of completing the trail, you can understand our determination to meet this second goal as well. Please help us if you can!

To donate, just visit the donation link at the top of our blog. To learn more about our trip or donate, you are welcome to attend our public open house in Maryland, likely before the end of this year. We will post more details as they are ironed out.

THANK YOU AGAIN for joining us on this journey!

2650 miles of reflection

It seems surreal that 5 months ago, we started off on this grand adventure not knowing what awaited us up the trail. We had very little idea what to expect and just took the first step having faith that somehow our feet would keep moving us forward, northward the entire way to Canada. We knew the odds were against us--only 50% of those who start the trail complete the entire trail in one year--but I guess our tenaciousness worked in our favor and we overcame the odds. EVERY step was worth it, whether it was on a day when we felt great and light on our feet, when we could feel ice cold water squishing constantly between our toes, or when we were trudging through endless snow pack. It was all worth it.

Our experience was not just centered on the natural beauty of the landscape that continuously surrounded us.
We've learned a lot about ourselves on this trip and about humanity as well.(Okay so, just to get it out of the way: No, we didn't discover the meaning of life or have any huge zen moment.What we were able to do was really take in the moment, contemplate, and fully appreciate human and natural experiences.) The human aspect was unexpected but very much a huge part of what I will remember the most. Primarily, we were humbled...

Humility: Our hearts were touched by the seemingly endless small blessings and kindnesses offered toward us on our journey. Without cars easily available to us, we had no choice but to basically make ourselves vulnerable and beg for rides to town for our food resupplies (aka stick out our thumbs and hope for the best). All I could think of was what I had thought towards people trying to hitchhike where we live and how I would just drive past, avoiding eye contact. Being on the other end, it really hurt when people purposely avoided eye contact like we weren't there, like we didn't exist. We were truly humbled every time someone took the chance and stopped for us, complete strangers.
In addition, there were countless times we came to a paved or dirt road and we would find that someone had left food goodies specifically for those crazy thru-hikers. Sometimes there was actually someone there, waiting for us with sodas, coffee drinks, assorted goodies, maybe even a burger. We had plenty of food in our packs to sustain us (though we welcomed the extra calories), but what made these goodies so good was the person behind them. This person stopped, took a day (or week or month, yes MONTH) out of there normal life, and came out (sometimes very long distances from the city) to give us, total weary strangers, encouragement.  It made a huge difference in our day and our trip overall. Sometimes it was like these angels-in-disguise even knew where the hard sections were... We were energized and reminded of our own inner determination to complete the trail.

Remote Encouragement: We also were thrilled every time we got a message or comment on this blog. We looked forward to checking in every time we had internet availability. From the bottom of our hearts, THANK YOU!!!

Did we hike 2650 miles? YES we did!!

Wow! We are done! Last time we checked in, we were in a little town Skykomish, WA taking shelter from the cold rain that hurried us down the trail for days. With less than 10% of the trail left, what could possibly stand between us and the border? With just days left of the trail, our friend Liz said, "We've got this in the bag!" Well, I've gotta say, the trail gave us a run for our money!

Skykomish to Stehekin: 104 miles
This this section, we had B-E-A-UTIFUL weather and landscapes. We even still had wildflowers to look at due to the late snow melt in the region. The terrain just kicked our butts. In just one day, we gained a total of over 8,000 feet of elevation and lost a total of 8,000 feet of elevation. It was just as hard as it sounds.

One of our first views of Glacier Peak, the last large volcanic mountain we would traversing around on our journey.

Our friend Liz navigating one of the massive blow-downs on the good spirits as she does it!

Taking a break at the top of one of the many passes, assessing the 2,000 foot descent AND immediate 2,000 foot ASCENT out of the canyon below. We could actually look across and see the dozens and dozens of switchbacks going up the steep slope of the canyon before us.

Breathtaking views helped moral as we began our descent into one of many deep canyons surrounding Glacier Peak.

Crossing a grass-covered pass heading down into yet another deep canyon. Can we see Canada yet?

Yes, that's Liz navigating yet another MASSIVE blowdown. She likely had over 1,000 years worth of tree growth above her!

Finally making it to Stehekin! This town was only accessible via trail, boat or float plane. We had 90 degree weather and sunny skies as we rested after the grueling last 4+ days.
 Stehekin to Manning Park: 89 miles
Terrain eased as we worked through the last 90 miles of the trail as weather worsened...
Garrett taking advantage of the relatively clear skies to take in the surrounding mountains. Any geologists out there recognize the U-shaped valley below as one carved at ice sheets of long ago?
 After we took this video, we found ourselves in a snow storm that dumped 5-6 inches of snow in so many hours. The snow turned to rain and the trail turned to slush. We trudged on and were incredibly happy for the shelter of a tent and dry sleeping bags that night!

Liz watching as weather descends upon us yet again. It started out as rain and quickly turned to snow, yet again for the second day in a row.

After days of rain, snow, and cold, we were welcomed to a new day, the last day on the trail with beautiful crisp weather. We could once again see the mountains around us and absorb that that was CANADA. YES. CANADA! Right in front of us!

FINALLY! After 2650 miles, we are at the northern terminus of the Pacific Crest Trail. We started at the southern terminus on April 28 with short hair and clean clothes. Five months later, we found ourselves wearing the same clothes that still managed to smell horrible despite routine washing and in dire need of a hair cut at the northern terminus of the trail. Our smiles remain!

Sunday, September 18, 2011

Adventures- Bend, Oregon to Skykomish, Washington

Fires in Oregon. As we hiked north toward the Three Fingered Jack, we looked back to the south where we had hiked just  days before at Mt. Washington and saw a decent fire starting up. The trail is to the right of the mountain, just a couple miles from the fire. This fire ended up closing the trail in this section as it continued burning. 

Indian paintbrush north of Mount Jefferson. Definitely one of my favorite flowers on the trail!

Standing in front of Timberline Lodge at the base of Mt. Hood. Good friends told us this was a must see,  the trail goes right behind it, and it has a rockin' all-you-can-eat breakfast buffet! We were very motivated by the idea of a breakfast buffet, so motivating that we hiked 41 miles the previous day and 9 more miles in the morning in order to get to breakfast!

Tunnel Falls along Eagle Creek on our last day on the Oregon Trail. The trail literally was blasted into the rock face behind the falls.

Glacial stream flowing from the base of Mount Adams.

Cooking dinner with our long time travel companion, Liz, in the North Cascades just south of Waptus Lake. We had a week of gorgeous weather when we first entered Washington with some days in the 80s. This was the first night of 'Washington' weather--patchy rain throughout the day and a cold night (42 degrees while we were cooking dinner). 

Very wrinkled feet after a day hiking into town in the cold rain. Boy are we glad to have  a roof over our heads tonight and a place to dry out our gear.

From where we are here in Skykomish, we just about 180 miles from the end of this adventure. It has truly been mentally and physically challenging. I've got a smile on my face in this picture, but soaking feet in wet shoes is pretty painful. We've been told that the next and last sections are some of the most challenging and beautiful on the trail. While we will continue to live in the moment this next week as we finish, we are looking forward to coming back to our home in Maryland. It is hard to believe that this chapter of our life journey is nearly over.

Sunday, August 28, 2011

2000 Miles of Trail (& Dirt!)

 In celebration of our 2000 mile marker, we made use of the caked-on dust on our calves and 'cleaned' the numbers out. That is what you get for not showering for a week and not doing laundry for nearly two weeks. When Liz's friend picked us up to take us the hour drive into Bend, OR for a food resupply, she promptly rolled the windows down and said, 'You guys stink! Where is the closest lake I can drop you guys into?'. We laughed at her bluntness and knew it was all too true. It also made us realize how utterly polite all of the kind people were who picked us up from the trail to bring us into a town to resupply. Honestly...we've definitely smelled much worse. We have previously gone more than two weeks without showering or doing laundry (!). When we were hitch-hiking into Burney, CA, a couple picked us up in this nice clean SUV. As we were driving down the road, I realized that we were not the only passengers the couple had picked up when we got in: there were also several flies buzzing round us. Not a word was spoken that we were the real life version of PigPen (!). 

The Oregon Trail

The Oregon trail has proven to be quite different from California. The mountains here are all volcanic and singular protrusions from the otherwise relatively flat surrounding areas, so it has translated into some pretty mellow and flat hiking (hooray!!). With the easier terrain, our average mileage has been consistently 25 to 30 miles a day. The trail has been mostly in pine forests (or former pine forests) which has made some days feel a bit monotonous. However there have been a couple days when we hiked through just amazingly beautiful country including Crater Lake and the Three Sisters Wilderness. So far our favorite Oregon section has been the Three Sisters Wilderness.

Meadows surrounding the South Sister.

Lunch in view of the Middle Sister as clouds are building up and threatening rain.
Lupine and lava flows near the North Sister.

Our hike through Crater Lake National Park was really cool (it is a must see) but we decided we'd enjoy it just as much from a car. I say this because the trail we took followed the rim for miles around the lake on one side and the rim road on the other side. As a consequence we would hike from view point to parking lot, back to view point and back to parking lot.

Hiking around Crater Lake.
 The Insects!! We have been traveling mostly through dry, flat pine forests speckled with hundreds of lakes and ponds. While flowing water was hard to come by, water from most of the lakes has been clear and beautiful. The plethora of lakes and ponds however has been both a blessing and curse. While we've had lakes to swim in, we rarely have been motivated to get in due to the hordes of mosquitoes assaulting any exposed skin. Let's just say we wore head nets for days on end, pants on hot days, and applied more Deet than we'd like to admit. Despite our best efforts, we have lost count of how many bites we have.
Morning at Diamond View Lake. This was one of the many lakes we hiked and camped near but avoided swimming in due to the mosquitoes.

Garrett going for a lunchtime swim when the mosquitoes weren't too bad. 
The Burn. We've hiked through several burned areas on our trip so far and we have already hiked through several in Oregon. So far we've been in three evening thunderstorms and the latest one sparked several fires in the surrounding area. Based on our conversations with locals, this is just the time of year for fires due to the thunderstorms.
Burned area near Mt. Washington.

Monday, August 15, 2011

California in Photo Review

Camping by the Joshua tree in SoCal

Desert hiking at its best

First sunset in the Sierra!

Camping at 11,000 feet on some of the only bare ground around.

On top of Forester Pass, the highest point on the PCT (13,200 feet).

Hiking down from Muir Pass on the John Muir Trail section of the PCT. I called it an arctic wonderland!

One of the many stream crossings...though this one was special because we were actually crossing in the middle of a giant waterfall on a steep mountainside. Garrett was there helping one of our traveling companions accross.


Sending my love from Oregon!!