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Day 55: Poia Lake

I set the alarm for four AM for the second day in a row and got up by it. This time I had the coffee maker already prepped and just had to press the button. I was ready to walk out the door by 4:45.

The drive up to Chief Mountain was very eventful. First, we saw a mama grizzly with cub walking down the side of the road, though it was dark and my picture taken backwards after passing her abs backing up came out blurry.

Immediately after, we saw a black bear on the other side of the road entirely nonplussed by all the attention it was getting from passersby.

We missed the turn for Chief Mountain and had to go back. My bad.

We were stopped by a lady moose in the middle of the road (that, facing us dead on, looked much like a tall, skinny man standing there upon first sight) who kept moving to block us until she ran off. We passed a small-antlered buck a moment later and then nearly ran into a swooping owl.

Finally, we arrived at the Chief Mountain trailhead for a photo session. I got as close to the border as I legally could and got some sign pictures and some trail pictures. I finally hiked out for good around 6:30.

Immediately, I came upon a bird running up the trail. It may have been a ptarmigan or a grouse. Right behind it fifty yards later I came upon a small herd of moose who went tearing out across the river as soon as they saw me.

The rest of the day, I encountered nothing but squirrels and ground squirrels. Maybe it was because I was playing podcasts out loud and clacking my poles together to ensure any bears could hear me coming.

I stopped twice along the way. The first time was fairly early on for a snack because my bagel and yogurt breakfast faded quickly. At this point, I applied tons of insect repellent to my legs because the flies and mosquitos were so thick, a total nightmare. They seemed to come with the territory: a wildflower-filled meadow all down the river valley. I had a horsefly bite my calf right through my calf sleeve. I swatted it instantly. It went down. I stepped on it. I won that exchange.

When I successfully arrived at Gable Creek, six miles in, by 9:30, I committed to reaching Elizabeth Lake by 11 for another snack break. And I achieved that. I knocked down the first nine miles in 4.5 hours, even with breaks included.

Leaving Elizabeth Lake, the trail begins a 4.4 mile climb up to Red Gap Pass. The average slope of the climb was exactly 600 feet per mile–enough to really feel your muscles straining by the end. Once it gets out of the trees, the views are just amazing. It took me four hours to climb those 2640 feet, so I took another snack break in the shadow of a tall red rock. (Come in under the shadow of this red rock…) Then I had a mere 5.5 mile descent to the valley floor and across it to Poia Lake and my designated campsite on the far side.

The man whose permit I was attached to, Boy MacGyver, was already there, as were a group of three others who actually lived just outside the park and had arranged a trip for a large group to come backpack and fish. Most of the group had canceled, freeing up several campsites for such as me. We chatted about the day’s activities and experiences as I cooked and ate.

Just as I was finishing up my dessert, another couple showed up, Jolly and Emma. Since Boy MacGyver had filled his entire campsite already, I pitched my tent with them after they ate. Jolly is about to start selling a line of button-down sun hood shirts for hikers and is reading testing one of the manufacturer samples as he hikes. Emma is testing the model for ladies. I am very impressed with the design and could see it selling very well.

Anyway, it was a pretty good first day for hiking the CDT in Glacier. I got all the way to my campsite in just 12 hours. It wasn’t ever too hot: cloudy in the morning, windy in the pass and by the lake. And I got to bed before sunset.

The next two days will basically be days of rest and fun. No big miles. There will be plenty of time for that at the other end of the week. At the very least, I’m looking for a week of beautiful scenery.

Trail miles: 19.4

Distance to Many Glacier: 7.5 miles

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Dec. 8: Oak Shores Malt Shop

I slept in a little bit, spent a little time on the phone finishing up a podcast out loud while packing in the tent. I paused it when I heard two women walking by talking about tequila mixed drinks. I was closer to the trail than I thought, though they gave no sign of noticing my tent when passing, low as it was behind some bushes.

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Nov. 7: The World In White

This is a simple one. I woke up with snow everywhere, including on top of the tent. But it was otherwise a nice, shiny morning.

The trail was all covered with snow, but it was only a few inches deep at worst. It was very dry powdery snow because it was too cold for it to melt on top and get hard. But it was still awkward to walk on. I tried putting on my microspikes for better traction, but they just stuck to the snow and formed it into large, hard ice balls under my feet, so I took them off by the time of my first snack break.

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Oct. 6: Tuesday Morning Coming Down

I may have slept in a bit and not gotten up until sunup, but I wasn’t going to let that cut my hiking short on a day when the hike was mostly downhill.

The hiking started out level around the mountain, across lava fields and rock piles, through the burnt remnants of forests, rock hopping over the milky glacial rivers.

About two hours in, I stopped for a snack in front of a small cave. It was nice to have a bit of cool air to contrast with the direct sunlight on this exposed section. I thought about crawling inside, but I could see it didn’t go anywhere.

After nine miles, the trail was about to take a sudden hook to the right and down the mountain, so I found a tiny clearing among a tiny patch of living trees and made lunch.

Then it was hours of descent, straight down the side of the mountain, all exposed by fires of years past. There were views, sure, but it wasn’t particularly interesting terrain.

Some four miles later, I was nearly at the bottom of the descent. I passed an elk hunter climbing up the hill to his fresh kill just a couple miles in, ready to butcher and haul the second quarter to his truck. He was the first and only successful hunter I met.

Finally, after passing a quiet hipster with a camera and just before crossing FS 23, the road to Trout Lake, I stopped at the White Salmon River, more of a small creek, for another snack break.

But I wasn’t done for the day. I crossed the road and started another climb. It was fairly steep at first. On the way up, I passed a message. Someone had written “BEE” in pinecones right across the trail. Confused, I looked around but didn’t see any beehives or hear any buzzing. So I kept climbing. The trail got steeper. Huffing a bit, I stopped for a moment to stretch. Bees started pouring out of the ground right next to the trail. I canceled my break instantly and started running up the hill. Just before it leveled out again, I stepped over another pinecone message. “BEE” again, but written the other way so nobos could read it.

I sure climbed that hill fast.

At the top, I crossed a small open meadow with a number of good campsites. But I wasn’t done yet. By not collecting any water, I had committed myself to camping next to the next creek. And why not? There was still plenty of daylight to be had.

After a long level section, the trail hooked and climbed up over a saddle, then began another long winding descent, reminiscent of the one that had started the afternoon, but this time under cover of trees.

Finally, just as the last available light was disappearing, I crossed a creek and found myself at a large campsite with plenty of places to sit. I dropped my bag and went to fetch some water from the next creek (Trout Lake Creek) , then set about making supper by headlamp light.

It felt like the hiking would never end, but I had gotten enough done to be satisfied with my day. More importantly, I was exactly keeping to the camping schedule that I had reported on the self-issue permit coming into the wilderness.

Total distance: 20.5 miles

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Two Days in San Diego

I’ll be straight. We spent the vast majority of these days in our hotel room.

But there were nonetheless some errands to run and a few fun meals to be had.

Thursday began with a breakfast of cold pizza, candy, and Coke. Then it was off to Wal-Mart in National City to buy supplies. Which was miserable. Poorly stocked. Poorly organized. Crowded. Loud. Rude people blocking the aisles. But they had nearly everything I needed to pick up.

Except for a fuel canister. Which mean a mile down the road to another Wal-Mart. One that was the opposite in every way. Well-stocked. Organized. Less crowded. Polite people. I wish we had known to go there in the first place.

Then it was time for lunch and a touristy visit to Coronado Island. Mexican food at Miguel’s Cucina. Because it’s San Diego. You have to get Mexican.

Then we went back to the hotel, so I could pick up some boxes from the post office next door and a package from the front desk containing all my section maps for the trail.

After a brief break in the hotel room, we decided to spend the evening out by visiting a brewery. The Gaslamp Quarter was surprisingly happening despite the various current events conspiring to shut the city down. It’s probably for the best that this place wasn’t open:

But Knotty Brewing was open and a great time. Two flights of craft beer and a chicken sandwich dinner passed the next two hours in a flash while the neighborhood joggers and dogs paraded around us.

We also hit up a Ralph’s around the corner for some breakfast food and snacks, then back to the hotel to start putting map/guide/water report packages together, and a little bit of TV in bed to finish out the night.

Today didn’t involve nearly as much driving or traveling far at all. We started off the day by grabbing take-out breakfast from the Panera across the street and eating in the hotel room. Then, I spent the rest of the morning finishing putting together all the map packets for my bounce box and a food package for my first resupply. By early afternoon, I was ready to return to the post office to ship them.

But we were also ready for lunch, so we just continued out into the neighborhood to visit another brewpub: The Local Eatery of Resident Brewing. Nachos, beer cheese pretzels, Cuban sandwich and fries, and two amazing IPAs. My mom said the first was the best beer she ever tasted. (All Together IPA for future reference.)

Back to the hotel. After a short digestion break on the bed, I repacked my pack for tomorrow. Then, we went down to the pool area to sit on lounge chairs and chill as twilight disappeared. I had my laptop and downloaded 20 audiobooks from the library and a couple dozen podcasts for my mp3 player to listen to while walking. That’s how I always roll as you might know by now.

And now it’s blogging while a Julia Roberts movie from the 90’s plays on Lifetime. The big show starts tomorrow. The nervousness is all gone now–but I still hope I’m not forgetting something. Something always gets forgotten.

Next update to follow within two weeks. Best I can do.

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Getting ready

I’ll be straight with you about this. The name, tagline, color scheme, icon, and background image for this blog come from an anime. Go ahead and call me a total weeb if you like, but I’m going to tell you what it has to do with this trip anyway.

The anime is called Laid-Back Camp, and it’s about a bunch of girls that go camping. It focuses on food, fun, gear, exploration, and beautiful scenery. The theme song, Shiny Days, is a straight-up ripoff of the Jackson Five’s oeuvre, as YouTuber TripleQ has demonstrated with this mashup:

Shiny Jacksons by TripleKyun

The song ends with San Diego from South Park…but my journey begins here in San Diego.

I got my gear packed just a few hours before it was time to go to the airport. Here it is spread out on the garage floor:

You might notice some new items here that weren’t on my AT hike. In particular, I have a new ultralight tent,

From Tarptent

a new ultralight shovel, a new ultralight pillow, a new ultralight sleeping pad, and a new bear canister.

I took most of this new gear to northeast Georgia to do an in-and-out 25 mile section of the Bartram Trail over the first weekend of May. Although there was a decent amount of rain the first afternoon, the rest of the weekend was beautiful, and I only saw a handful of people for obvious reasons–except an enormous family completely taking over Warwoman Dell. I had a heck of a time getting through the crowd while maintaining social distance, and couldn’t even get close to the waterfall. I also severely blistered my left foot in a boot I didn’t realize was so ill-fitting. Anyway, here are the pictures from that trip:

So that’s what spring looks like in the temperate zone. Look back at this post once I start uploading pictures from the Socal desert for a stark contrast.

Modifications made and packing complete, it was time to catch a flight. The Atlanta airport was surprisingly easy to navigate in spite of, or perhaps because of, coronavirus adjustments. We were the only people in our Plane Train car.

The Delta lounge was open with more limited food availability. And it was full. The flight was an easy four hours,

but we arrived to find San Diego basically completely shut down. The Gaslamp Quarter is half boarded up to ward off riots. There’s nothing riotous happening, but it still manages to feel like we’re halfway to the zombie apocalypse.

2020 man. This is the perfect time to go get lost in the wilderness away from all this crap. Or it would be if it weren’t for the tremors under Yellowstone….

So what’s left? Wal-Mart trip. Package sending. And a drive to Agua Dulce to start. I should be on the trail by Saturday at the latest. Let’s do this.