Endless P Summer

When Sara and I left Colorado we had a couple weeks before we had to be back in Massachusetts. Our plan was to meet our friends Mike and Heather in Minnesota and spend 10 days paddling around in the Boundary Waters Canoe Area(BWCA) on the Minnesota/Ontario Border. These two had recently flown home to New Hampshire from a multiple month trip in Alaska where they spent their time pack rafting, hiking, biking, and fishing. They were driving out west from New England to carry on with their trip and met up with us along the way. When Sara and I left Colorado we drove north through Wyoming into South Dakota then North Dakota. We stopped in Theodore Roosevelt National Park for an evening then found a place to park for the night. Driving east the next day across NoDak and into Minnesota we reached our destination and got a room for the night in Ely, MN. After a day of errands and prep or whatever we got on the water.

Sara in TRNP

Campsite 1534…Basswood Lake…9/23/20

Last night the 4 of us car camped in Ely. This morning we drove to Boundary Waters Outfitters and had them slap a couple canoes on our roofs in exchange for a few bucks and the promise to return 10 days later. After gathering our canoes we went into Ely and enjoyed our last town meal for awhile, a couple of manhole cover sized pancakes each then picked up our fishing licenses at a gas station. From Ely it’s about a 15 minute drive to our put in spot, Fall Lake. We got a permit for 10 days and all you need to confirm is where you’re putting boats in. There’s a couple thousand campsites in the BWCA and I guess they’re all fair game once you get in the water. We started our day on the water paddling across Fall Lake a couple miles to the first portage; a quarter mile walk between Fall Lake and Newton Lake. Sara and I did it in two trips but planned on getting these portages down to one. A couple miles later on the other side of Newton Lake we got that chance and succeeded on another quarter mile portage to the Pipestone Bay portion of Basswood Lake.

Canoe head

This was a long narrow bay with a handful of islands. A father/daughter team told us about their previous nights campsite where they left a bunch of firewood. We found the island, stopped and scooped up the wood before paddling another couple miles to Basswood Lake. There’s a kidney shaped island out in the middle with a sweet campsite on the eastern side where we’re making our home tonight. Saw 5 eagles, a fifty pound beaver, and some of the most stunning peak season foliage I’ve ever seen in a deciduous forest.

D2…..CS 1547…..9/24/20

We were slugs this morning and weren’t feeling 100%. Some of us worse than others. Probably eating 3 day old unrefrigerated Walmart chicken yesterday didn’t help, but we rallied and in a couple hours were on the water. I used that time in camp wisely to narrowly defeat Sara and Mike in Cribbage and explore some of the island we were living on for the last night(had I lost you wouldn’t have been reading about a cribbage game). We had a short paddle across Pipestone Bay and then a long 1 mile portage to avoid being swept away in Basswood Falls. This time we took all the bags down first then Mike and I jogged back for the canoes. These canoes are 17 feet long made of Kevlar and weigh only 45 lbs, they aren’t unreasonable to carry solo by flipping them up on your shoulders. Just a little awkward and not super fun to do for a mile. When we got back to the put in the girls had made lunch and Heather had caught a fish. I threw a line out there and also caught a fish but Sara and Heather claimed it was the same smallmouth bass Heather just caught and she weakened it for me. We were now in narrow water, in Basswood River I believe, and on the northern bank was Canada. There was a short paddle and then a short portage to get around another set of falls, this time Sara went beast mode and hauled the canoe on her shoulders. I went for a nice swim and we all did some fishing. After swimming I caught a gigantic smallmouth bass then Mike caught an even bigger one. Probably Canadian fish.

After awhile we moved on to our last set of falls that we had to portage around and then another 20 minutes of paddling to the campsite we selected. This peninsula we’re camping on was protected by a large bald eagle and a giant beaver. Typical of a piece of land right on the US/Canada border. Mike and I paddled over to the Canadian side to gather firewood and the girls got dinner going. Because we don’t have everything on our backs the whole time we can carry a little more. Tonight Sara sautéed up peppers and onions and cooked quesadillas on the fire pit and somehow Heather baked gingerbread in the fire.

Heather with the first fish of the trip

D3…..CS 1863 …..9/25/20.

This morning started off well enough. We paddled across the river from our campsite to a short portage that brought us around Lower Basswood Falls. The rest of the morning we spent slowly paddling and fishing down the narrow Crooked Lake. There were some pretty beefy cliffs on the American Side that had ancient pictographs drawn on them. Probably could have found a spot to jump those cliffs but it just wasn’t swimming weather. Around noontime it started to drizzle. I wanted to press on because I figured it would let up soon(it did not let up soon). The four of us quickly pulled over on a narrow spit of land as it started to downpour. Mike packed a small tarp so they set that up quickly and we all jammed under it for awhile. Once the rain relaxed a bit we started towards an actual campsite that wasn’t too far away and waited out the weather. It pretty much poured until about 6pm. It took me awhile to commit to this being a half day of paddling but it was out of my hands.

This evening when the rain had stopped and the sun was shining across the lake it gave the world a very cool look. I wet a line and caught a couple of northern pike. Sara and Heather somehow got a fire going with some very wet wood and birch bark while Mike and I went out and gathered a bunch of firewood. It was very nice to hangout by the fire and dry some stuff out instead of being confined to our tents all night.

Day 4…..CS 1860 Iron Lake…..9/26/20

The skies didn’t look good this morning but fortunately it didn’t rain all day until just as we were going to bed. We had a great day of paddling and spent most of our time on calm water crossing Crooked Lake. The bays are named after the days of the week and we went by island after island crossing Wednesday, Thursday, Friday, Saturday and Sunday bay. We stayed mostly along the border but a couple times dipped into Canada going around islands. At the end of Crooked Lake we reached Curtain Falls which had a 30 foot drop and also a half mile portage that avoided the 30 foot falls. On the other side of the falls we were now in Iron Lake.

The first couple of campsites we tried were occupied even though we saw barely anyone the last two days but eventually we found a great spot on an island in the middle of the lake. At camp I started a campfire with Mike’s flint and steel, a super primitive toy that was probably left over from his Boy Scout days. I caught a northern pike gutted and cleaned it under Mike’s tutelage, cooked it over the fire then we all ate it with a little salt, pepper, and lemon juice. Delicious! Sara then made Gnocchi with Pesto and Heather baked gingerbread in the fire. It was a great night.

Mike living off the land

Day 5…..CS 170 Lac LaCroix…..9/27/20

We woke up to crisp air and bright blue sky. From our campsite on Iron Lake we continued paddling west along the US/Canada border and eventually came to a very shallow rocky area that led into Bottle Lake. Today this required a minor portage but it definitely doesn’t when there’s deeper water. We paddled across the short and scenic Bottle Lake to Bottle Portage which is a half mile long muddy trail on the Canadian side of a set of rapids. Normally I think you can go back and forth between Ontario and Minnesota but because of Covid and the border being closed you’re currently not supposed to. That being said, Bottle Portage is in Canada but this is the only way to go. It started to get very windy and suddenly we were in big water, Lac La Croix. For the next hour we paddled hard across a big section of the choppy windy lake to campsite 170, an absolute gem of a site.

We got here in the early afternoon and planned on calling this place home for 2 nights, spending the rest of the day here today then taking a day trip from here tomorrow. The rest of the day we just chilled. Sara and I swam and took a short hike exploring the island. Heather and I paddled the shore collecting fire wood and Mike came with me on a fishing expedition. While we were out we got chased back to camp by some thunderheads. Luckily we made it back but it got super windy and a bit stormy while we were trying to catch dinner. I got skunked fishing today, not for the lack of trying, just wasn’t my day. Sara made quesadillas over the fire that were delicious so I guess just as well.

Day 6…..CS 177 Tiger Bay, Lac La Croix…..9/28/20

Last night Sara and I were terrorized by a mouse at our tent. The gd thing was doing laps around our tent at a million miles an hour then climbing up the screen and running above us between the screen and the fly. This went on until 3 in the morning when I finally fell asleep. Up until now I had been sleeping like a rock out here on these islands. Mike and Heather also got some attention from a mouse last night. The four of us decided to pack up and find another place to camp for tonight instead of spending 2 nights here.

Sara, always smiling

We paddled across a windy section of Lac LaCroix to a small island within Tiger Bay. Our new campsite was on a corner of this island. This was the smallest island we stayed on yet and I easily walked around the rocky shores of the whole thing. Sara and I then Mike and I took exploration and fishing paddles around Tiger Bay and again got shut out on the fishing front, it must be the lake. I did find a big mussel So Heather cooked it over the fire then her, Mike, and I split it up. A bit gamey otherwise I would have gone back for a bunch more. And who knows with shellfish, that’s a gamble I don’t want to lose. We gathered a bunch of firewood then all had a relaxing afternoon and evening out here by the fire. Tomorrow we’ll start slowly backtracking then looping back towards Fall Lake.

Day 7…..CS 1867, Friday Bay, Crooked Lake…..9/29/20

I woke up to the pitter patter of rain on the roof of the tent this morning. Luckily it didn’t last long and we were able to get out on the water. Over the next handful of days we don’t have an insurmountable distance to go but it’s significant enough that a day or half a day lost to lousy weather will put the pressure on us. We moved a few miles from within Tiger Bay north to the Ontario side of Bottle Portage and walked all our stuff and canoes up to Bottle Lake. Sara threw one cast out into Bottle Lake and caught the biggest Northern Pike so far and her first fish of the trip. It was exciting.

Sara and her fish!

We quickly crossed the lake then picked our canoes up over some rocks and were in Iron Lake. In Iron Lake we paddled through Canadian waters to stay protected from the wind and got ourselves back to Curtain Falls where we had another half mile portage up to Crooked Lake. We ate lunch here then paddled about 6 miles across Sunday and Saturday Bay to campsite 1867 on a small island at the mouth of Friday bay. This is a pretty sweet spot on a rocky coastline with a nice view of the brightly colored trees on the American Side of Crooked Lake. After a cloudy and chilly morning the sun was out for the rest of the afternoon and after collecting and chopping a bunch of firewood, Sara and I went for a cold swim. I’ve been struggling to catch a fish the last few days so Mike and I took a little trip around the island to try. I got skunked again but Mike caught a massive smallmouth bass and we brought it back to the fire. I gutted and cleaned the fish and the girls had sharpened sticks in order to splay the thing across the grill on top of the fire. A little salt, pepper, and lemon juice and the 4 of us had a feast while watching a killer sunset and lightning storms in the distance. An excellent day.

D8…..CS 1106 Fourtown Lake…..9/30/20

Today was challenging but we made a lot of progress. First thing we did was move south away from the Canadian Border through Friday Bay and portaged out of Crooked Lake onto Papoose Creek. This felt like we were off of the big water and onto smaller lakes and creeks. With all the wind it’s much more comfortable on the small stuff. Papoose Creek was boggy and cool looking and brought us through Chippewa then Niki then Wagoosh Lake. From there we continued onto Gun Lake, Fairy Lake, Boot Lake then finally across Fourtown Lake to our home for the night, campsite 1106 next to a rocky creek into a smaller part of the lake. Most of these lakes have portages of varying lengths between them. In all we had seven portages with the longest being a mile.

Sara and I have got it down to just 1 trip which makes the portages super quick. She’s been taking the bulk of the gear and I carry the canoe and a small backpack. The canoe, although light for a canoe, is still a chore to carry. The portages are a nice change of pace to the paddling. I don’t mind getting out and stretching my legs once in awhile. When we got to camp the wind was still whipping and kept it pretty chilly here. We’ve got into a nice camping routine of setting up tents, collecting firewood, chopping it, going fishing, playing cribbage, starting a fire, cooking and eating then eating more. Basically in that order. Tonight right after we put the fire out we all heard something crashing through the woods but none of us saw it. I’m guessing either a bear or a moose but Sara thought maybe a beaver dragging a log. We did see a couple beavers or otters swimming nearby so probably.

Day 9…..Ely, MN

Today was heartbreaking. We spent the morning and into the afternoon paddling across windy lakes and made it to a campsite on Pipestone Bay for the last night of the trip that was within striking distance of our take out spot. Throughout the Boundary Waters, none of us had cell service, I never even bothered to check. When we got to this spot we were only about 7 miles from our cars and not much further to the town of Ely. After setting up our tents, Heather turned her phone on and got the tragic news that her mom died. Suddenly, and unexpected.

I can’t write down what Heather and Mike went through that day. It was devastating to witness and be a part of. We knew being out in the woods, miles from the car and half the country away from home wasn’t the place to grieve. We needed to get moving. Sara and I packed up and the four of us paddled and portaged 7 more miles to our cars. To get off the water, everybody had to paddle, there was no automatic transport home. They had a very long way ahead of them to get back to their family. Heather realized the situation and didn’t flinch. It wasn’t easy either, there were multiple portages where we had to again unload the canoes, then carry them through the woods, load them back up, and resume paddling. After a full day on the water too. I couldn’t believe the strength Heather and Mike had. I can’t imagine doing anything but crawling into my tent and wishing it wasn’t true if I had been in their shoes. A couple hours later we were back in Ely. We returned the canoes, said tearful goodbyes, then separately started our drives back to New England.

I had met Trisha Ballestero a couple times. She was awesome, full of life, the kind of person that wanted to get to know you, made you feel welcome in her home, fun, funny, outgoing, happy. And I only met her twice. I feel I really got to know her during the canoe trip, Heather talked about her everyday. The two of them told us all kinds of stories, mostly about Heather’s family, and most of those centered around Trish. A truly devastating loss for the Ballestero family.

A couple weeks later, after Sara and I returned home, donning Aloha shirts and bright clothes we went to Trisha’s celebration of life. On a beautiful fall day in New Hampshire, we listened to best friend after best friend(everyone that met her was Trisha’s best friend) tell us stories about her life and her passion for living it. I’ve never left a funeral feeling so inspired to live and enjoy every day of my life.

After we finished up in Nevada’s Ruby Mountains, Sara and I made our way out to nearby Bishop Hot Springs for a relaxing soak. While there I’ve come as close as I ever have to adopting a puppy. There was a pair of wild(?) dogs out there, although more likely ranch dogs with a gigantic range, that were so friendly and well behaved that I wanted to take them with me. A pair of dogs they make Disney movies about. In the end we figured we didn’t want to actually steal someone’s dogs in case they did actually belong to a ranch or farm out this way. From there we drove east across Utah and into Colorado stopping in Fort Collins and staying with BK and Prickly Pear for a few days where we paddle boarded on the reservoir, ate burritos, and played trains. We couldn’t convince BK but we talked Pear into playing a little hooky and joining us for a few days backpacking through Colorado’s Western Collegiate peaks and maybe summiting a mountain. Sara and I drove south from FoCo to Leadville and parked out in the foothills for the night with plans to start a trip the next day with Pear, and also friends Jabba and Badger who were joining us.

Day 1…..8 miles…..9/15/20

This morning at the Safeway in Leadville we met up with Prickly Pear and also Jabba and Badger who drove over from the Denver area. Our plan was to hike a 60 mile section of the Colorado Trail or the Continental Divide Trail as they overlap here and hopefully(maybe) climb a few of the fourteeners. An early season snow from last week might make matters difficult for climbing these peaks but without that snow the Colorado wildfires would keep us from hiking here at all. 
We dropped 2 cars at Missouri Gulch Trailhead then Badger drove us all down to the Boss Lake Trailhead just north of Monarch Pass. There was about a 1.5 mile access trail to the CT then we just cruised all afternoon until finding a place to camp. In places there was snow on the ground and we got up high topping out over 12,000 feet on Chalk Creek Pass. It may be a bit cold for the next few days but I like our plan and the hiking should be good. 
Day 2…..17 miles…..9/16/20
We rolled out of bed a little later than normal and waited until it got slightly warmer to start walking. Soon we fell in behind 3 hunters and between them and us we saw two bucks about 10 feet from the side of the trail. They either weren’t hunting for deer or are terrible hunters. We walked along the alpine tunnel trail and then up a long slow climb to the top of an unnamed pass. That was the theme of the day, drop down to a creek and then climb up another unnamed pass with excellent views. 
I hiked this trail southbound on the CT in ‘16 and then northbound on the CDT in ‘17. Lots of it seemed very familiar but nothing completely jogged my memory. We did pass through a section where QB, Prickly Pear and I remembered seeing what we thought was Barack Obama’s plane in 2016 and then diving into a bush to take cover from a hailstorm. 
Our pace was a little relaxed today which was nice with some long breaks. Camping looked to be tricky in the next handful of miles so around 5 we found a spot that did the trick. Hiking was great today but there was some snow fields here and there in particular on the north sides of the passes so we walked with rather wet feet all day. This was never really an issue until we got to camp and everyone seemed to have super cold feet. 
Day 3…..19 miles…..9/17/20
It was a cold one this morning, we camped close to 12,000 feet and Badger’s thermometer said something like 33 degrees. The air was also much smokier than before, a local fire was ruled out so we’re guessing it’s smoke that drifted over from California. Because of the smoke we’re probably ruling out climbing any of the fourteeners we loosely planned for at the end of the hike. Other than that the hiking has been great. 
Most of the morning we were climbing before topping out just before Cottonwood Pass. Up at the pass we crossed a road and a bunch of people taking pictures of the Continental Divide sign then started down towards Texas Creek. Jabba, the loudest person I know, was having some sort of ankle injury caused by the high top Altra Lone Peaks he was wearing. He almost hitched out at the pass but since I wear the low cut version of the same sneakers and same size QB suggested we try switching. No problem. It was kinda weird, I’ve never ever switched shoes with someone before, but it was the difference of him bailing or not and they didn’t bother my ankles. 
After walking a few miles in another man’s shoes we dropped down to Texas Creek. We ate lunch, walked along the creek playing the movie game then started a long slow climb up towards Lake Ann Pass before finding a flat spot to camp big enough to accommodate 4 tents. Oh yeah, I saw a moose. Pear, Jabba, and Badger claimed they saw another one but only just the one for me. 
Day 4…..13 miles…..9/18/20
It was significantly warmer at our campsite last night most likely since we were about a thousand feet lower. The 5 of us started strong up our last challenge of this hike, Lake Ann Pass. This is a long gradual climb that tops out around 12,500 feet and provides some awesome views. In 2017 while QB and I were hiking the CDT the north side of this pass was one of the trickier obstacles in Colorado. Thankfully we didn’t have to navigate down a gigantic cornice this time. There was a fair amount of snow on the north side but it wasn’t too difficult to descend. 
On the way down we crossed paths with a couple of ultra runners going for FKT attempts. In particular, Courtney Dawaulter, who might be the most b.a. person in the sport. Today she was out here pacing her friend on a training run. The rest of the day we spent descending, while passing the Huron Peak Trailhead, then the ghost town of Winfield and back to the cars. Prickly Pear and QB headed to Leadville for the afternoon and I drove Jabba and Badger back to Badger’s truck near Monarch Pass. 
I backtracked to Leadville met up with the girls. Over Pizza we changed our minds and decided to try Huron tomorrow. This meant driving back out to Missouri Gulch and setting up camp for the night. With lighter packs we’ll hopefully get up the peak tomorrow. 
Day 5…..11 miles…..9/19/20
The road out to Missouri Gulch isn’t great. It gets worse significantly worse for the 2 miles past the ghost town of Winfield to the Huron Peak trailhead. We camped on the side of the road shortly before Winfield giving us an extra 4 miles round trip of road walking but I’d rather that than destroy my car. 
QB, Prickly Pear, and I quickly covered the 2 miles of road to the Huron Peak Trailhead.  The trail climbs almost 3500 feet over 3.5 miles. It’s steep and it’s a challenge but it’s a walk-up. There aren’t any crazy moves necessary and the exposure level is low. For the first couple miles we were below treeline and just switchbacked upwards gaining significant elevation. Once above the trees we could look up at the behemoth were about to climb. As with all of Colorado’s Fourteeners, Huron was busy. Especially on a Saturday in September. I’m guessing the early season snow kept some people away, still busy though. 
Shortly above treeline we hit snow and spent the next hour climbing up towards the summit. Once we got close it got steeper and icier. We put on what we had for traction; QB and I shared a pair of trekking poles and a pair of spikes. Pear didn’t wear spikes but she had 2 poles. All 3 of us survived and summitted. At the top it was clear, sunny, and warm. Views were awesome and it was a truly beautiful summit. We quickly and easily descended the mountain then backtracked the road to the car. The three of us ate burgers in Leadville then Pear headed home to FoCo. QB and I showered and did laundry at the laundromat then started making our way northeast on the long drive to Minnesota to paddle the Boundary Waters. 
Feel free to checkout our instas for more pics of this adventure and others: @endlesspsummer and @sarahikes.
Our friends have been doing some awesome stuff, if you’d like to see @peardontcare @therealhikingviking @zrdavis

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.

For more pictures and maybe some videos find us on insta @endlesspsummer and @sarahikes