Endless P Summer

9/8/20…..20 miles…..Overland Lake

The Ruby Crest Trail follows along the top of central Nevada’s Ruby Mountains for 31 or so miles. We’re hiking from north to south and then again from south to north. Starting at Lamoille Canyon we’ll walk to the southern edge of the Ruby Mountain Wilderness which is about 6 miles north of Harrison Pass trailhead. Those 6 miles are a double track jeep road and Sara and I don’t feel like doing that twice. In a covid free world I’d probably hike one way between the two trailheads then hitch back to the car. These mountains spring up out of the desert in central Nevada creating a sky island of granite peaks and alpine lakes among a rather flat expanse of dry open desert. I’d first heard of this trail from a shelter caretaker on the AT in ‘16, I put it on my to do list then figured I’d get to it one of these times I’m driving across Nevada. The time is now. 
Yesterday Sara and I left Sacramento and drove east all day on I-80 to Elko, NV where we spent the night. Elko is an interstate, casino, desert town that has a big anti-drug billboard that reads, “Don‘t meth up our town.” This morning we drove south for less than an hour and could see the Rubies from a distance rising way up above the desert. Soon they were all around us. While following Lamoille Canyon Road to the end, we were cut off by a coyote which is always a good sign. When we got to the trailhead my cars thermometer read 30 degrees. Yesterday it was in high 90’s. A day before that us 112 in Sac. Be careful what you wish for I guess. 
The Ruby Crest Trail begins at the trailhead at the end of the road and the first few miles we climbed steadily up past a few beautiful lakes to Liberty Pass. The views really were remarkable. This place is easy on the eyes. We walked up and down through a lakes basin for a half a dozen miles along with a bunch of hawks and other hunting birds before finding ourselves on a ridge walk for awhile. We topped out for the day on Wines Peak which I believe is the high point of the trail around 10,800 feet. There were a few hikers out there and one of them, Camel, was hiking the Hot Springs Trail which starts on the Canadian Border(I think) and goes to Santa Barbara specializing in hot springs. The trail itself was very nice all day and besides being a little chilly it was sunny and clear out. In the evening we found a cozy campsite next to scenic Overland Lake and quickly set up the tent and warmed up. 
9/9/20…..23 miles…..Overland Lake
We should have left the tent set up and maybe left our sleeping bags in it. Just didn’t think it through and didn’t realize we’d be camping in the same spot again. This morning we zigzagged up above Overland Lake to a smaller tarn and then zigzagged some more to a steep pass which we think is Overland Lake Pass. From here we switchbacked way down a couple thousand feet and suddenly were in cow country. We crossed a couple different forks of Smith Creek where water was flowing then kind of went up and down while contouring on the side of mountains. When we reached the edge of the wilderness and beginning of the double track we figured we really don’t need to out and back 6 miles of atv trail. We turned and doubled back to our spot by the lake. Some say that every trail is actually 2 trails, a trail in each direction. You could say that.
From the top of Overland Lake Pass the scenery gradually got less dramatic heading south. If I was recommending this trail to someone(which I would) I’d say start at Harrison Pass and walk north but just go one way. That way the trail keeps getting better and better. 
9/10/20…..20 miles…..car
To read about today’s hiking just go back to day 1 and read it in reverse. Just kidding. The weather today was the best of the 3, nice and warm, sunny, no wind, and clear blue skies. I got in my only swim of the trail in Liberty Lake shortly before finishing. 
To prospective hikers or to my future self if I was to hike this trail again I have a couple little nuggets of advice. This is what I would do: first of all I’d prefer to hike it just one way and I’d go south to north as it gets better as you go, if a yo-yo was my only option I think I’d go from the north to Overland Lake Pass and turn around. Also take note that there’s no water for roughly 12 miles between Favre Lake and a series of springs a couple miles south of Overland Lake. Other than that, enjoy! This place is a gem like the name implies. Feel free to follow this blog or find us on insta for more pictures: @endlesspsummer and @sarahikes

These are pretty much all Sara’s pics, I dropped my phone in Lynn Harbor shortly after our trip. Unintentionally of course, and although I recovered it I lost tons of the best pictures you’ll never see.

9/4/20…..5 miles

This is the second part of a multiple part series about hiking the Sierra High Route. In 2018 Sara and I hiked roughly 2/3 of the Sierra High Route. We had attempted the rest of it but due to unfavorable weather and a tight schedule we ended up bailing and just figured we’d come back later. It’s later now. 

A couple days ago we were up in Eastern Oregon hiking in the Wallowas and heard the wildfires were subdued and hiking in the Sierra Nevada would be possible. We spent a day driving from through Nevada to into California and slept in the car last night outside of Mammoth. This morning we did a few town chores in Mammoth including eating breakfast at Schatt’s Bakery and resupplying at the Groce Out(Grocery Outlet), my favorite of all chain supermarkets. We drove north to Twin Lakes, the northern terminus of the High Route stopping to eat burgers in Bridgeport. Our friends Mac and Paulina met us at Twin Lakes and will be joining us on the route. They, like us, have also hiked the first 2/3 of the route but much more recently, getting off trail just a couple weeks ago due to smoke from the wildfires. This afternoon I went for a quick swim in one of the Twin Lakes and since I’d been carrying a pair of goggles in the car I put those on to see under water. To my shock and pleasure I saw below the surface of the lake a school of hundreds of trout! I couldn’t believe it! There was a couple nearby who were just packing up their fishing rods and they said they’d been there for 3 hours without catching anything. Probably just using the wrong bait I guess. 
We parked our car at Mono Village at the end of the lake($15 for 7 days if you’re considering doing this), and the 4 of us got into Mac’s car and drove south to Red’s Meadow(free parking). Tonight we walked an easy and enjoyable 5 miles on the famous John Muir Trail then the Becks Lake Trail and found water and a campsite just after it got dark. The miles will be getting much harder but our plan is to take our time and tackle the 70 or so remaining miles over the next 5 days.
9/5/20…..16 miles
This morning we walked about two miles from our campsite on trail to just past Superior Lake. From here the High Route leaves the trail to the right and goes up over Nancy Pass. The problem is we didn’t know which part of this wall of mountains was actually Nancy Pass. Roper’s guidebook goes more into detail about a grove of hemlocks nearby than which way to go. Interesting stuff about the trees but still. We think we figured it out and climbed a steep but manageable slope up to a pass that gave us incredible views of the Minarets to the north. Dropping down Nancy Pass, or perhaps not Nancy Pass, was a bit trickier. There was a good amount of steep loose scree and talus that we followed left and eventually made it up to a trail that led to Minaret Lake. This is a beautiful lake in the shadows of the dauntingly jagged Minaret peaks looming overhead and we all couldn’t resist going for a nice swim. I just regret leaving my goggles in the car because there was some big time fish in here. 
Leaving Minaret Lake there was a shift in the winds or something and it suddenly got very smoky. It went from a clear blue sky day to significant haze in a matter of minutes. We followed a use trail up for a short distance then veered off to the right across some talus to a band of cliffs. There was a narrow channel in the cliffs with a short but steep class 3 scramble that brought us up to Cecile Lake. I was able to locate the slot in the band of cliffs from a distance but if it wasn’t for Mac finding the correct climb I would have attempted a ridiculous route up the chute that was well beyond my comfort zone and probably ability. We walked on large talus around Cecile Lake to the outlet and then followed an adventurous use trail steeply down to Iceberg Lake where we ate lunch. Because of lack of sunlight this lake supposedly only thaws for 3-4 months of the year. I jumped in off a rock to see how cold it was and surprisingly not very. 
As we were eating lunch we watched as a surprising amount of dark grey, purple, and orange smoke rose from behind the mountains to the south and overtook the sun. It became windy, chilly, and we could here rumblings of thunder. In a way it was very eerie and felt a bit like the 2017 solar eclipse. This wasn’t good. None of us had seen smoke quite like this from a wildfire before. We decided to pack up and start walking. Luckily if we had to get out of the mountains there was a bailout point coming up. Soon it seemed to go from bad to worse and we were in unanimous decision to bail. We followed the Shadow Lakes Trail to the Agnew Meadow Trailhead and then picked up the road back to Mac’s car at Red’s. Paulina was able to get messages on her GPS and from her friend we learned the Creek Fire started last night and rapidly spread to 35000 acres in a day causing a serious amount of smoke in the Mammoth area and a lot of California. 
It’s never fun to bail off a route but safety first or third or something like that. Plus I want to be able to actually see the Sierra not just walk through it in a smoky haze. Place is awesome. Sara and I will be back to maybe do the SHR in 3 tries and I’m sure Mac and Paulina will too, hopefully all of us together. When we got down to Mammoth it was still wicked smoky and the holiday weekend had hotels jammed up. Camping would have been shit so we picked up our car at Twin Lakes and the 4 of us caravanned to Mac and Paulina’s place in Sacramento. On the way Mac saw a mountain lion on Monitor Pass and captured the footage on his dash cam. I’ve never been more jealous or enticed to buy a dash cam in my life. 
The four of us spent the next day regrouping inside Mac and Paulina’s air conditioned Sacramento apartment while it was 110 degrees outside and hazy from wildfire smoke. These pictures are all the work of either Sara, Mac, or Paulina. To see more of their stuff follow their insta’s @halfwayanyhere or @paulinadao. Mac keeps a real blog also, find it here: halfwayanywhere.com. These two have incredible adventures and are excellent sources for backcountry information.
Of course feel free to check out my insta or Sara’s for more pics. Or the same ones on a different medium. @sarahikes and @endlesspsummer.
2020 was the worst season on record for wildfires in the US and they’ve been increasing getting worse.

8/29/20…..6 miles…..Aneroid Lake 

I was first made aware of the Wallowa Mountains in northeastern Oregon when I was trying to hitchhike across the country a few years ago. I forgot all about them until a few weeks ago when Sara and I drove right by these snow capped peaks and figured we should probably check them out at some point. Our plans got rearranged a little as they do and after bouncing around Washington and Oregon a bit now was the time to do some exploring. 

Yesterday, after bathing in the Deschutes river, we drove west from Bend and last night we slept in the car in the Sheep Creek dispersed camping area outside LaGrande, OR. This was our second(and much better) choice after unsuccessfully trying to sleep at a busy rest area on I-84 near Pendleton. Today, from Sheep Creek, we drove through Hell’s Canyon, resupplied and did laundry in the towns of Enterprise and Joseph, OR. ***Joseph, Oregon named after Chief Joseph of the Nez Perce. The Wallowa Valley was originally their Ancestral homeland.*** In Joseph there was a car show going on right on the main drag through town. As our laundry washed we walked around and looked at shiny antique cars while their owners sat in lawn chairs listening to cowboy music and not wearing masks. Maybe ten percent of the people in Joseph wore masks. Other than that, Joseph was cool. I felt like the car show people didn’t accurately represent the town, I could be wrong though. And another thing, antique cars don’t really do it for me, unless you can sleep in them. RV’s, Vans, or cars and trucks converted to something of an RV are the only vehicles that turn me on.

A few miles outside of town is Wallowa Lake and a trailhead into the Wallowa Mountains within Eagle Cap Wilderness. We took our sweet time reorganizing our packs on a picnic table and didn’t get walking until after 5. It was 6 miles to Aneroid Lake and although the trail climbed almost 3000 feet we kept up a steady pace. At the lake we got a great spot and I had time for a quick swim before it got dark. I almost had a very unfortunate blunder while going swimming. As I walked down an embankment from our site to the water I dropped my clothing bag and watched it bounce right into the drink, luckily I scooped it out quickly and nothing inside got wet. 
8/30/20…..24 miles…..Crater Lake
From Aneroid Lake this morning we climbed up and over a chilly Tenderfoot Pass. In the distance we could see 8-10 mountain goats traversing across the side of a mountain. For the rest of the day any time either of us saw a bright white rock on the side of a mountain, we’d both stare at it for awhile waiting for it to move. I do this all the time. They were all just bright white rocks. After Tenderfoot we climbed higher up and over Polaris Pass. On top of Polaris we could see into the Lakes Basin Area and all the surrounding granite peaks. This place is sometimes referred to as the ‘Oregon Alps‘ or ‘Little Switzerland.’ Although I’ve never been to Switzerland I think I know why. Going down Polaris Pass there was about a thousand switchbacks(maybe not quite that many), and the first few were just a wee bit sketchy with the combination of loose scree and steep slope. We passed Frazier Lake and then ate lunch at Little Frazier Lake across from a waterfall. 

After lunch we climbed switchbacks to the top of Hawkins Pass and then dropped into a valley following the South Fork of the Imnaha River. Looking out from both sides of Hawkins Pass was impressive scenery. We followed the Imnaha for about 5 miles then turned up a trail alongside Cliff Creek for another 5. We came across a few floating heads on the trail making animal calls and carrying crossbows. Shortly afterwards a big beautiful bull elk crossed the trail about a hundred feet ahead of me. Hopefully he goes undetected by the hunters. 

Tonight we camped at Crater Lake, not to be confused with Crater Lake National Park. There seems to be no inflow or outflow to the lake and it must have been caused by a meteor. Lots of fish though, there was a bunch of ripples in the water and just as I was about to go in for a swim we watched an osprey pluck a fish from the surface and bring it to a nearby tree for dinner, majestically.

8/31/20…..22 miles…..Blue Lake 
We started our day walking downhill from Crater Lake on the Little Kettle Creek Trail. This trail wasn’t my favorite but we did see a black bear. I heard some rocks sliding so I walked through a couple trees and looked up on a hill and saw the little fella eating berries or whatever. The trail switchbacked way down over 5 or 6 miles to the East Eagle Trailhead on the southern edge of the forest, there was lots of bear scat along the trail which makes sense. We took a right on the East Eagle Trail following East Eagle Creek back up into the mountains. I saw a bear on this trail too but probably within 10-15 feet of me next to the trail. When the bear realized I was there it quickly skedaddled, absolutely bolting downhill. 

We ate lunch at the creek after about 7 miles then took a side trail up to a couple of alpine lakes; Moon and Hidden. The trail ended at Hidden Lake and it was in something of a cirque(wall of mountains). After exploring for a bit we backtracked back to East Eagle Trail followed it for another mile then took a left up and over Frazier Pass. If you’re feeling froggy I think you could climb up and over a pass behind Hidden Lake and drop down onto the far side of Frazier Pass. There’s no trail but both sides look manageable to the naked eye.

Down the other side of Frazier Pass we took a right and followed the Minam River trail to Minam lake. There was a 1 mile dead end trail up to Blue Lake from here so we took that and have a beautiful campsite next to Blue Lake within another cirque of mountains. Amazingly there’s nobody else camped up here. We actually hardly saw anybody all day, besides a few cowboys and their horses camped down by Minam River. 

9/1/20…..24 miles…..Ice Lake 
While yesterday was chilly and overcast all day and threatening the r-word, today was absolutely beautiful; warmer, sunny, no clouds. I swam in 3 freezing cold alpine lakes today and that’s really all I can ever ask for.

We walked downhill from our campsite at Blue to Minam Lake then up and over Ivan Carper Pass back into the Alpine Lakes Basin. From here we walked past Mirror Lake and Eagle Cap Peak, which the wilderness is named for, to Moccasin Lake. We then took a little detour to do some exploring. We followed an out and back trail that went up Glacier Pass and then down just a little bit on the other side to Glacier Lake. This lake was absolutely gorgeous, my favorite lake in the Wallowas so far and worth the extra effort to seek it out. After swimming we retreated the same way we came, climbing back up Glacier Pass, then back down to Moccasin Lake. We walked a few miles through the Lakes Basin to Lee Lake where we ate lunch and swam again. This lake has a 15 foot cliff that I’m sure people jump off but I wouldn’t recommend, I actually talked to some kids who were just leaving there that said they did it. In order to safely do it you’d have to clear a 6 foot granite shelf at the bottom, definitely not worth the risk to me. I’m just not confident enough in my leaping abilities.

After lunch we took the Lakes Basin Trail down and out of the Basin to the West fork of the Wallowa River. This trail leads all the way back to Wallowa Lake and the car but after a few miles we took another detour up to Ice Lake. The Ice Lake Trail climbed 2300 feet over almost 5 miles but it was well graded and an enjoyable climb. It went past some awesome cascading waterfalls and from the trail we saw a mountain goat in the distance(I’m always pointing out wild animals to Sara or rocks that I think are wild animals). When we got to the lake it was still warm enough to go for a quick dip, so before we set up camp we quickly jumped in and out just as the sun was setting. Just like the name implies, it was icy cold. Beautiful though and a worthy side trip as it sits at the base of some of the highest mountains of the Wallowas. 

9/2/20…..7 miles…..Antelope Resevoir CG, Southeastern Oregon

This morning we backtracked down the Ice Lake Trail to the West Fork of the Wallowa River Trail that leads to Wallowa Lake, where we started, and out of the mountains. Shortly after picking up this trail we got caught up to by Aladdin. We easily picked up each other’s scents and recognized one another as fellow thru hikers. Aladdin had been in the Eagle Cap Wilderness for the last 9 days scouting out a high route which sounded pretty awesome. We talked of long distance trails the 3 of us had hiked and when and came up with a handful of hikers that we all knew. Oddly enough, about a mile before we got to the parking lot we came across 3 more hikers that we had met before but separately; Allgood, the Punisher, and Iron Mike. Aladdin had known Allgood and Sara and I had met the Punisher and Iron Mike briefly in 2018 while we were hiking the Arizona Trail and they were on the Grand Enchantment Trail. Even stranger, just minutes before running into them we were discussing with Aladdin the GET and that we covered some it where it coincides with the Arizona Trail. I just got done telling him we had met GET hikers while on this section. The very people we were about to run into. Hard to follow I’m sure and eerie I guess but not completely shocking. My life continues to be a series of bizarre coincidences. Sara tells me that it’s a small world, and the hiking community is smaller than I think. Besides the chance encounter these three were doing something really cool, literally just starting out on an obscure 600 mile new thru hike called The Blue Mountain Trail(I think). I was a tiny bit jealous. 

Soon Sara and I were out of the woods and back at our car. We took a bath in Wallowa lake, did laundry in the town of Joseph and filled up on burritos and Chimichangas. From here we’re heading south. We drove a few hours to the Snively Hot Springs on the Owyhee River and then a couple more to a campsite on Antelope Reservoir. 

I don’t want to blow this place up but since only my mom and a few of her friends are reading this I feel safe writing it here: the Wallowa Mountains and the Eagle Cap Wilderness are incredible. I recommend visiting and I definitely plan to be back to explore again. 

Check out our instas for more pictures and stuff: @endlesspsummer @sarahikes

Day 1…..24 miles…..Near Scott Pass, OR

The 3 Sisters are three beefy volcanos lined up north to south within the Oregon Cascades. The loop we are hiking is roughly 45 miles with then another 10 or so to summit South Sister and back.
Yesterday afternoon we climbed the ski mountain Mt. Bachelor just south of the Sisters then slept in the car not far from the trailhead. We started this morning from the Devil’s Lake trailhead on the South Sister approach trail. This was a good climb for about a mile and a half until it intersects with the Moraine Lake Trail. We followed this for 3 miles until joining the good ol’ PCT. 

Going clockwise the next 20 miles was smooth sailing on the PCT. I didn’t think I remembered this section but as I was hiking it all became very real, I could recall people I met and conversations I had while walking this section of trail 5 years ago. Today we passed through the Obsidian Creek area which is very cool but does require some red tape. You’re supposed to get a permit to
walk through at $3 pp. I didn’t remember doing this at all in ’15 but then Sara reminded me the PCT covered all these little permits. Anyway there’s some cool waterfalls, an excellent spring, and lots and lots of pieces of obsidian everywhere. Sara explained to me how obsidian is formed and if I listened more carefully I could relay that information to you. It’s basically when volcanic rock cools super quickly it becomes smooth and glass like, I think. Sure does look cool. We walked another 5-6 miles, passed through some lava fields, had great views of not only the Sisters but the other Cascades to the north and then turned off the PCT onto Scott Pass Trail and found a campsite shortly afterwards. Day 2…..22 miles…..near Moraine Lake

Very shortly after breaking camp the trail led us into a huge burn. Good thing we camped when we did, neither of us like to sleep in a burn when there’s a million dead trees hanging around waiting for a stiff breeze
to knock them over. The burn lasted about 10-12 miles and the last 2 miles or so  we had a bunch of blow downs to navigate around. It wasn’t all that pretty. The rest of the day was nice though. We started on Scott Pass trail and soon took a right on Green Lakes Trail which we’d be on most of the day keeping North, Middle, and then South Sister on our right. Near the end of the day we took another right turn to get back onto Moraine Lake Trail which we had started on. 
For most of the day we thought we’d have a shot at summitting South Sister this afternoon but we ended up taking our time. Instead we swam in a couple beautiful mountain lakes opposed to crushing all day and hoping we had enough daylight. We found a campsite just past Moraine Lake off the trail up South Sister very close to where we started yesterday morning. The plan is to summit in the morning then make our way back down to Devil’s Lake Trailhead. 

Day 3…..10 miles…..car

In order to go light on our climb this morning we left our tent set up and our sleeping bags inside then crossed our fingers and hoped nobody would mess with our stuff. Nobody did. From where we slept it was 4 miles to the summit with something like 3500 feet or gain. The first 3 miles were a solid climb with relatively easy to follow trail until we gained the ridge. The ridge itself, if you didn’t know any better, may have appeared to be the top of the mountain. It wasn’t. From there you could see up another another 1200+ feet to the summit of the volcano. Looking up there was a massive glacier to the right and a gigantic slope of red sand to the left. There appeared to be a very thin steep trail dissecting these two sections of the mountain and then the trail cut left across the steep red sand slope. It was actually
quite steep but nothing crazy.

We had small switchbacks all the way up until it cut left and it was much wider than it originally appeared. Once we crossed the red sand we reached the caldera and easily walked around the frozen lake inside of it to the summit of South Sister at 10,363 feet. From the top we had incredible views in every direction especially to the north where we could see the Cascades in a line all the way up to Mt. St. Helens. There was hardly any wind, not a cloud in the sky, and the smoke from nearby wildfires didn’t seem that bad. A beautiful day. On our way down we passed a million people so it seemed we beat the rush. There was even a wedding party climbing to the top where the couple was to be married on the summit. We gathered our gear that was untouched and walked two more miles back to the car. We drove half an hour to Bend with the gaslight on, ate burritos in town and bathed in the Deschutes River. 
This loop was pretty cool. A nice little backpacking trip. 

Undoubtedly the highlight was climbing South Sister. I remember when I hiked the PCT I heard some guys went and did this and it seemed like a fun side trip. Probably have to do it again next time I thru hike. 

Thanks for reading! To see more pics check out our instas: @endlesspsummer @sarahikes and feel free to follow this blog of course

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8/21/20…..31 miles…..White River CG

The Wonderland Trail is the premier volcano perimeter trail of the Pacific Northwest, or at least it’s the longest, that I know of. It’s a footpath that stretches 90 miles around Mt. Rainier, the tallest mountain in Washington and the beefcake you can see from Seattle and the Puget Sound among many other places. I first hiked this trail in September of ‘16 on three of the nicest days of that summer and have been telling people how great it is ever since. Sara had yet to see it for herself and I was definitely down to do it again, so here we are.
When I did this hike in ‘16 I showed up at the ranger station in the morning, waited around for it to open, then was told all the backcountry sites were taken. According to that ranger I could camp in the hiker/biker sites at the 2 front country campgrounds as long as I could get to them each in a days walk. This requires 3 days of 31, 25, and 34 miles each or the other way around. In ’16 all I did by waiting around for the ranger was waste daylight. This year I figured we could just do the same thing. That is, don’t get backcountry permits, just hike big days and camp in the front country hiker/biker walk in sites.
 Last night we slept in the car in a little campsite off the side of the road on National Forest land nearby. We got to Longmire which is more or less the headquarters for Mt Rainier National Park this morning and began hiking counterclockwise. There were chances of rain so a 31 mile day in the rain was preferable to a 34 mile day in the rain. All day the trail was great. We walked through deep dark old growth forest then had long steady climbs to alpine passes and long descents back into the forest. Halfway through the day we ran into a ranger who started asking us questions and feeling us out. Now we didn’t have a permit but according to the guy in ‘16 didn’t need one. I guess things change. This guy we just ran into wasn’t being a dick or anything but he did tell us we need a permit to camp at the hiker/biker site at White River. He told us we might be able to get a car camping spot if we got there in time but if not should plan accordingly. Sara wasn’t worried and figured maybe the guy had his facts wrong. I went along with her assumption that everything would work out just fine. After that it started raining and then pretty much drizzled all afternoon. The rain produced a few glorious rainbows and we even had a nice black bear sighting this afternoon. When we got to White River all the hiker/biker sites were taken and the campground was full. We hiked 30+ miles, it was raining, and getting dark. There weren’t many options but fortunately we met a new friend Charlie and his daughter who were on a road trip touring national parks. Since it was raining they planned to sleep in their truck so we could certainly camp in their unused tent space. They were so nice! And Sara was right, everything worked out just fine. I don’t recommend this though, just get a permit.
8/22/20…..25 miles…..Mowich Lake CG
I woke up in a fog today. Not like I wasn’t thinking clearly, I woke up inside of an actual cloud. We had a stiff uphill for a few miles to start the day and as we got to the top the fog lifted, the sun came out and we had some incredible views of Rainier. On the way up we had an owl swoop down in front of us and then perch him or herself up on a stump beside the trail. It was quite a sighting if you’re into birds of prey, which I am.
For most of the morning we had clear skies and excellent views of the impressive volcano we’re walking around. We stopped at Mystic Lake for lunch and sadly I didn’t swim. The lake looked good for swimming once you got out in the middle, but until then there looked to be just too much mud walking to justify it. From Mystic lake we walked downhill along a massive glacier with an angry river running beneath it. We did this twice actually, descend on trail beside huge glaciers with big mean rivers then cross the rivers on bridges and climb up on the other side. I remember in ‘16 seeing a huge chunk fall from one of these glaciers and scaring the bejesus’s out of me. It’s visibly noticeable to the naked eye how much they’ve melted and receded in only 4 years. No massive chunks falling off them this time but looking across the river we did see a mountain goat, or possibly a polar bear but most likely a mountain goat.
After crossing Carbon River on a suspension we took the Spray Park Alternate. This had the same mileage as the regular route and just a bit more elevation. I think it was cool but mostly it was just cloudy. Lots and lots of waterfalls and babbling brooks and stuff and a few times the clouds cleared and we got a view of the mountain. Tonight we made it to Mowich Lake Campground which is pretty crowded but seems to have a bunch of sites reserved for walk-ins. I don’t know for sure but the ranger we talked to yesterday said we should be fine to stay here.
8/23/20…..34 miles…..Ashford, WA National Forest land
Due to a massive day ahead of us, 34 miles and just under 9000 feet of elevation gain, we got up a little earlier than normal and were walking by 5:20 am. The first 3-4 miles were a steady downhill in the dark followed by a steady 3-4 mile uphill. This continued all day. Either we were going down or going up, nothing extreme but also no flat cruiser trail at all. Oddly each of the climbs and descents got a little bit shorter as the day went on. Today’s elevation profile looked like a saw blade, that could probably be said for just about all of the Wonderland Trail.
It wasn’t the fastest day but we finished before needing to put our headlamps back on(just barely) which was my ultimate goal. The weather was the best of the 3 days and views of Rainier were just the tops. Our only major obstacle today and really of the whole trip was crossing Kautz Creek with about 3 miles left. This is a rather angry river gushing down a gully and had washed out the previous log bridge. Maybe early in the day there’s less water and I’m sure there’s probably an easier place to cross had we walked further downstream but we got a bit misled by a confusingly placed rock cairn. I built myself a shaky bridge with a piece of driftwood while Sara opted for getting her feet wet and carefully walking across. I’d recommend walking further downstream to cross. An hour later we got back to our car parked at Longmire, high fived, and drove 15 mins into Gifford Pinchot National Forest to the same campsite we were at 3 nights ago.
The Wonderland Trail did not disappoint. I didn’t remember it having so much elevation gain and loss but that certainly isn’t new. The views were spectacular, the weather was decent and the trail was challenging but not difficult. I recommend hiking this trail. Mt. Rainier is a natural beauty and a true gem of the Northwest. Do yourself a favor and maybe get the permits ahead of time and take an extra day or two. 

Feel free to follow this blog or find me and QB on Insta @endlesspsummer and @sarahikes. She took all these pictures since I dropped my phone in the ocean.

8/16/20…..33.7 miles…..6800 ft gain

We planned on running the perimeter of MSH, but it ended up being less of a run and more of a long day hike. The Loowit Trail is roughly 30 miles around and can be accessed by a handful of different trails. The shortest of which and the one we chose is the June Lake Trail at about 1.7 miles each way. The Loowit Trail itself is a big loop circumnavigating the (still active?) volcano.

We spent the day before the hike, driving across Oregon into Washington and preparing while putting ourselves in position for an early start. Getting to June Lake from the Columbia River Gorge there’s a super windy road that took upwards of an hour from Hood River, OR. In Hood River we loaded up on burritos, ice cream and a few necessities for the hike. Throughout Gifford Pinchot National Forest is a fair amount of dispersed free camping right off the road. I think there’s a million little unnamed logging roads up this way so probably pretty easy to get lost. We didn’t though. We found a great secluded campsite about a half mile from the trailhead and perfect for car camping. Before any big day I always have trouble sleeping, always, and this was no exception. A massive effort with minimal sleep is doable but frustrating. The weather in the gorge was supposed to be up near a hundred and although a bit cooler on the mountain, we’d be in direct sun for much of the day so we planned on getting up at 4:30. Like a kid on Christmas morning, I tossed and turned most of the night and pushed the wake up time back to 5:30. When we did get up, Sara and I both hemmed and hawed for awhile whether or not this was a good idea to hike on what was probably the hottest day of the year out here. We figured we had a few bailout options if it was horrible and decided to give it a go. This cost us a little more time and we didn’t start walking until 6:15. We survived though. Going up the June Lake Trail we passed through a bunch of massive old growth trees and a sweet waterfall that flows into a murky June Lake. At the intersection with the Loowit Trail we took a left going clockwise to avoid having the sun directly in our faces all morning and it would also give us more water sources later in the day. It was a good choice, I think clockwise is the way to go. For the first 10-12 miles we alternated between lush old growth forests with massive trees(they don’t call it the Evergreen State for nothing) with soft trail underfoot and then rock hopping through volcanic boulder fields. Every once in a while we’d have to cross a gully created by runoff from snowmelt at the top of the volcano. Some were deeper and steeper than others and if so the trail would follow along them downhill until it was safe enough to cross. A couple times there were fixed ropes in place in order to get down into or up out of them. It was a manageable challenge. Some but not all of these had streams running through adding another level to the challenge. Around 12 miles in we grabbed water out of one of these streams and then climbed way up on sandy switch backs into the direct sun. Our next 6-8 miles were probably the crux of the day. We were in direct sunlight going around the north side of MSH where it had erupted 40 years ago. A huge chunk of the peak was missing and we walked through the debris field following poorly defined trail marked by cairns. Our next water source was an extremely silty stream in one or these runoff gullys. I carried some water from it for the next 2 miles but only planned to put it through the filter if our next source was a bust. In 2 miles the water source was far from a bust, only the greatest oasis I’ve ever seen. A beautiful spring with crystal clear, ice cold water coming up from the side of the mountain. This spring created a little ecosystem in the middle of an otherworldly landscape providing shade and a perfect spot for a nice long lunch.

We still had another 12 miles to go but Sara and I felt like we made it. We were rejuvenated after our late lunch, there was a bit of overcast and it felt much cooler. We walked through a section called the Plains of Abraham which was enjoyable. In the distance we could see some waterfalls and a couple of mountain goats, or polar bears, but probably mountain goats. The last 5 miles of the Loowit Trail were tough, this section included a lot of steep gullys we had to drop into and climb out of. At this point though we could smell the barn and knew we’d soon be back within the deep forest and walking down to the car and our cozy bed. Overall we had a great day out there. It was hard but not too bad and I think on a cooler day it would be much more runnable and easier. It took us about 12.5 hours and for us that seemed reasonable. I’d recommend it and I’d do it again.

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8/12/20…..10 miles…..Edna Lake

*Note that I dropped my phone in the ocean since we returned from our honeymoon so I lost a lot of pictures. The ones you see in this post are probably from Sara’s camera or ones I have recovered from text messages. This is why there aren’t as many shots of my beautiful bride as there should be. 

I don’t know if this hike has an official name but Sara came up with a 45 mile hike in the Sawtooths and we’re 11 days into our honeymoon so the Sawtooth Honeymoon Loop is what we’re going with. It’s not really a loop though, more of a figure 8 and even more than that the route is shaped like a barbell or a pair of eyeglasses. It’s 2 roughly 20 mile loops connected by a section of trail about 2 miles long that we’ll do twice. If this is how you actually draw the number 8, you’re doing it wrong. I may also refer to it as the ‘honeymoon barbell.’ Ok, I’m getting way off track here.

If you’re still reading let me give you a little background. We’ve been driving west across the U.S. for the past week and half hiking, running, catching up with friends, checking out new places, and sleeping in the back of our Subaru while trying to tip toe delicately through the country in the time of COVID. Today we woke up in our friends Tami and Kasey’s driveway in Boise and drove a few hours to the Sawtooth Mountains in Central Idaho. I’ve been meaning to explore these mountains since I first hitchhiked through the state 5 years ago. Sara’s never been here either so this place is brand new to both of us. From the Tin Cup Trailhead outside the town of Stanley we walked about 10 miles into some amazing scenery. The trail is well graded and the walking was simple. Since the trail wasn’t too strenuous we took our time stopping to drink out of ice cold springs and taking in the views. Right away there were mountain lakes, then waterfalls, and jagged peaks like the teeth of a saw(hence the name). We started the first loop going counter clockwise, climbed up to Sand Mountain Pass then down to the intersection of the second loop. For the second loop we’re going clockwise and camped at the first lake we came to; Edna Lake. We got a sweet spot on a little peninsula and the tent is tucked in between some big rocks and pine trees. The lake is bright blue, clear, and cold. Just the way I like it and perfect for an evening swim. Supposedly there will be a meteor shower tonight, ‘the Perseids,’ so fingers-crossed the sky is clear and we stay awake for a few shooters. 

8/13/20…..20 miles…..Edna Lake, again

Last night it was overcast as we went to sleep but when my bladder woke me up at 3am the meteor shower was in full effect. I woke Sara up and we enjoyed a nice middle of the night stargazing session. This morning we slept in and didn’t get moving until after 8am. Walking clockwise around the second loop we passed alpine lake after alpine lake, it was rad. Halfway around the second loop we took a spur trail up a short but steep pass to Everly Lake, a pristine mountain lake and a perfect spot for lunch and a cold swim. From Everly lake we returned down the pass to the loop and walked all the way around and back to Edna Lake. The second half of the day the trail was more forested so it didn’t have quite as many views as this morning, still cool though. When we passed Benedict Creek it provided a short little natural water slide in the rocks, so I slid down that half a dozen times. We liked our campsite from last night so much that when we reached the junction to return to the other loop we kept walking the short distance back to Edna Lake. Our site was already taken but we found another one nearby and I went for my third swim of the day. Sara only had 1.5 swims today because I guess we have different standards for what counts as ‘swimming.’

8/14/20…..15 miles…..Oregon Rest Stop

First thing this morning we backtracked just a little bit from our campsite to the junction that would lead us back to the first loop or other side of the barbell. We climbed up to Sand Mountain Pass then down to the other loop that we followed counter clockwise. After passing Toxaway Lake we climbed another pass(it’s either unnamed or I can’t remember it) then dropped down to Twin Lakes and Alice Lake.  

At some point after Alice Lake a pair of hikers stopped us and recognized us from our adventure last year. Mold had picked us up hitchhiking a year ago about 30 minutes outside Hanksville, Utah while we were hiking the Hayduke. He and his wife Mildew(trail names) were up in the Sawtooths from Salt Lake and were on their way to climb a peak. Both thruhikers, they didn’t seem super surprised at this strange coincidence.

We walked another handful of miles and went for a nice swim in Pettit Lake just before reaching our car. From the Tin Cup trailhead we drove through the town of Stanley then stopped for a few hours at Kirkham Hot Springs. Both thumbs all the way up for these springs, lots of pools and some rocks you could jump off and then float down a rapid in the South Fork of the Payette. In a couple days we’re planning to run around Mount St Helen’s in Washington so after leaving the hot springs we drove west out of the mountains and eventually crossed into Oregon. Tonight we’re sleeping in the car at the Weatherby Rest Area on I-84. So far so good for a rest area. I think the Sawtooths are incredible. This small sampling of these mountains provided lots of impressive views, big jagged mountains, cold clear waters, and well maintained trail. I’ll definitely be back. If you’re planning on coming out here keep in mind that the first loop, known as the Alice Lakes Loop, is quite popular and for good reason. The second loop was also incredible but had far less people out there and felt much more secluded, and if you’re out this way don’t skip Everly Lake, it’s well worth a little extra walking. Kirkham Hot Springs

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Day 1…..28 miles…..Cherry Mountain Trailhead

The Cohos(pronounced co-os like the way you would say co-op) Trail is a 165 mile footpath through northern New Hampshire. The southern terminus is at the Davis Path trailhead in Crawford Notch and it stretches to the Canadian Border in the North. We’ll be hiking from south to north. 
Yesterday Sara and I finished Vermont’s Long Trail, drove my car back to Smuggler’s Notch to pick up her car, then drove both cars to the tippity top of NH and dropped her car off by Third Connecticut Lake. From there we drove south to Crawford Notch and spent the night sleeping in my car before setting off in the morning. Along the drive we cached food about halfway in Stark, NH off rt 110 where we hid bear canisters in the woods stuffed with 3 days worth of ramen and Mike and Ike’s. Living in Massachusetts I have always felt that New Hampshire pretty much ends at the White Mountains. Boy was I mistaken. There’s so much more up here in The Great North Woods, as they call it and I’m about to find that out.
This morning we rolled out of the Subaru, crossed Bemis Bridge and climbed up Davis Path towards Stairs Mountain. The Cohos Trail goes up and over Mt. Isolation then drops way down to the Dry River. Actually not dry, we crossed it in knee deep water. From there we climbed up over the Presidential Ridge near Eisenhower, took a left on the AT and followed that for a quarter mile then dropped steeply down Edmonds Trail. We finally had some easier walking on snowmobile trails once we got to the bottom. After passing the Mt. Washington Hotel monstrosity we went west on 302 for a bit. 
For dinner we grabbed gas station sandwiches and walked another mile before looking for a place to camp. The Cohos Trail runs along Old Cherry Mountain Road which has ‘primitive’ camping but everything was taken. These are sites carved into the woods with no toilets or electrical hookup. There were cars in every single one of them. Besides the primitive spots, the woods are so thick with brush it’s next to impossible to find a spot for the tent. We walked a bit longer than we would have liked to but finally found a spot in the woods right across from the trailhead up Old Cherry Mountain. A pleasant and productive first day on the Cohos Trail. 
Day 2…..25 Miles…..Mt Weeks Summit
Yesterday I forgot to dry out my sleeping bag. We got rained on at some point, my bag got wet and I forgot all about it until we set up camp. Sara and I made due with 1 sleeping bag for the night. Fortunately it wasn’t that cold out and we were both exhausted and able to sleep. From our spot next to the trailhead we walked up and over Mounts Martha and Owls Head(the other NH Owls Head). Finally seeing some Cohos Trail signs and yellow blazes we followed these down through a series of snowmobile and rail trails around Pondicherry wildlife sanctuary before doing a decent road walk on 115A. Before starting the road walk I think I saw a bear. I can’t confirm it, it was either a bear or bigfoot, but I think it was a bear.
At the junction of 115A and Rt 2 there’s a country store attached to an Irving gas station. This place has massive subs, both thumbs up, and good pizza. We took our time eating lunch, went back in to pick up a few things for a 1 day resupply then sat on the porch doing some housekeeping; organizing food and cleaning our feet and stuff. We had been there for about an hour and as I looked over towards the gas station I thought I saw my cousin’s husband pumping gas. As I walked over to get a better look, my cousin Kate walked out of the store! Kate, John, and their daughter Mila were up here on vacation and were coming from Santa’s Village. And it was Kate’s birthday! What a treat. I know we’re only 3 hours from the North Shore of Boston and to see someone from home isn’t outside the realm of possibility but at one of the only places we’ll stop this whole trail, and a first cousin, that was quite a coincidence. 
After an unexpected visit with family Sara and I walked up the Starr King Trail towards Kilkenny Ridge. A few miles later my back started burning like a son of a gun. It felt like somebody was simultaneously pulling out every single one of my back hairs. I took my shirt off and Sara wiped my back off, gave me an examination, and a diagnosis: heat rash. Neither one of us knew the cure. For the rest of the day I adjusted my pack so it wasn’t directly on my back and it seemed to help a little. We rolled along Kilkenny Ridge summitting Waumbek and a few smaller peaks before setting up on top of Mt. Weeks. My back seemed to get better for now which is a big relief. 
Day 3…..27 miles…..Percy tent site
This morning we continued on the Kilkenny Ridge Trail slowly for another 15 miles. We went up and down a few smaller peaks and topped out for the day at Mt. Cabot, the northernmost 4000 footer in New Hampshire. On the way up Cabot we met a pair of southbound Cohos Trail thru hikers, Goliath and Handsome Dan. Long distance hikers, if we didn’t know the same people we knew the same trails and traded info with them on stuff coming up.
Eventually, after what seemed like forever, we got off the Kilkenny Ridge trail and found ourselves at South Pond. This pond is at the northernmost part of the White Mountain National Forest. There’s a beach here and a swimming area. While the other beach goers did their thing Sara and I took baths washing off a few days worth of bug spray and B.O. It was extremely refreshing. 
Leaving the pond we had a few miles of road walking, crossing rt 110 then the Upper Ammonoosuc River and entered Nash Stream Forest. We located our hidden bear canisters with our untouched 3 day resupply in them and took a few minutes to organize our food. I think we have now entered the Great North Woods and virtually everything up here is uncharted terrain for me. I’m very familiar with WMNF but I’ve only been hiking north of Cabot once, it’s all brand new to me. Sara and I walked another 6 miles with the last 2 being extra grueling and got to camp at the Percy tent site. 
Amazingly today my heat rash on my back all but vanished. I did my best to keep my pack off my back and the weight of it more on my hips but other than that I didn’t do much to cure it. Had it been as bad as yesterday I would have considered getting off trail at rt 110 and figuring out how to get back to my car. 
Day 4…..29 miles…..Panorama Shelter
Today started off innocently enough. A nice 4 mile downhill to a waterfall with an excellent swimming hole. A cool dip was a perfect way to start the day. 
For the rest of the day we just walked. Here and there we find ourselves on decent trail for a few miles but I’ve noticed much of this trail is a conglomeration of snowmobile trails, road walks, atv or jeep roads, rail trails, and old logging roads. I don’t hate it, I’m enjoying myself, but it hasn’t been super scenic and the trail at times is just ok.
This afternoon we walked through the Balsams Ski Resort. I thought someone was supposed to build a big resort up here but this place looks like a thing of the past. There sure was a huge hotel in the distance though. We dropped way down to Dixville Notch, crossed rt 26, then climbed way up on the north side. Dixville Notch is a highlight of the trail (also the place where the first presidential ballots are cast every 4 years). There’s cascading waterfalls and great views from steep jagged cliffs on both sides. Sara and I had planned to camp once we got up the north side but there was nothing even close to suitable. Another thing about this trail, camping options are very limited. We had to crank out another 3 miles at sunset to Panorama shelter and got in just before the rain started. 
Day 5…..30 miles…..Pittsburg, NH 
All night it rained absolute buckets. Sleeping in the shelter the sound of the rain was amplified by the tin roof making it even scarier or more soothing. We were very lucky to push on last night. Had we set up it most likely would have been in an uneven campsite probably right in middle of the trail somehow and we would have got soaked. 
Although the rain had stopped this morning we still got soaked through splashing in puddles, mud, and walking through wet ferns. The trail turned to road after half a dozen miles and the skies opened up on us. We walked through an empty Colebrook State Park and then had a series of road walks for most of the day. Our goal today was Young’s Store in Pittsburg, 30 miles from Panorama Shelter. It was ambitious especially since it closed at 7pm but with about 20 of those miles on road or ATV road(this area is a hotbed for ATV and snowmobile enthusiasts) I felt pretty confident we’d get there. Since we were a bit ahead of schedule we both had enough food to only be a little bit hungry before finishing the trail tomorrow. By the afternoon we had moved fast enough that we had time for a nice lunch and quick swim in Lake Francis. 
We got to Young’s Store by quarter to 6, got subs, macaroni salad, ice cream and a little bit of food to supplement our bags for tomorrow. There’s cabins for rent across the street so we decided to rent one for two nights. This way we can slack pack the last 25 miles to the border then drive Sara’s car back here and totally relax for a night. 
Day 6…..25 miles…..Canada
Today’s hiking wasn’t great. Sara and I were both glad to be finishing up the trail but the miles today just didn’t have much going for them. It poured again overnight which didn’t help and when we got going at 6am it was already warm. The cloud we were walking through felt like a steam room and the overgrown snowmobile trails were muddier than usual. 
We spent all day within the town of Pittsburg, the largest town by area in New England. The trail parallels rt 3 and took us by 1st, 2nd, 3rd, and 4th Connecticut Lakes. These lakes are the headwaters of the Connecticut River that becomes the NH/VT border and flows all the way to Long Island Sound. Once we reached the Canadian Border the Cohos Trail takes a left for nearly a mile up through the clear cut which is the actual border. Don’t write off this last mile as easy clear cut walking. It’s anything but. After climbing about 500 feet the trail comes to 4th Connecticut Lake and does a small loop before returning to the clear cut then the dastardly mile back to the road. When we got back to the road we walked past the border patrol office then a mile south into the USA where we left Sara’s car by 3rd Connecticut Lake. We jumped in the water and washed off all our sins. Tonight we’re staying again at the Mountain View Cabins in Pittsburg. So rewarding and comfortable! 
Overall Sara and I had a good time out there. We beat the bag out of the trail and had fun. It was difficult but we kind of did that to ourselves. Had we slowed down and taken another day or two it probably would have seemed significantly easier. The weather however, didn’t make me want to stick around too long. I probably wouldn’t hike this trail again but like I said it may have been more enjoyable if we took a bit longer. Also just like the Long Trail, the time of year to hike probably isn’t the dead of summer. One other thing, it might be better to hike this trail south as it gets more mountainous in the south.

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