Endless P Summer

9/17 Portland, OR

From the Abbotsford hotel room we were only about 2 miles from the US border and a few hundred from the car that we left at White Pass in Washington. I figured nobody would pick up hitchhikers crossing the border so we just walked through. Sara forgot her passport so that made it a little interesting but no problem, they let her back in. In Sumas, WA we put our thumbs out and had a ride right away. Neal, a senior games gold medal swimmer, picked us up and drove us about an hour to Bellingham. Instead of hitching all day we rented a car here(for a quarter of the price than in Abbotsford) and drove 4 hours to pick up the car at White Pass. It was another 3 hours to Portland, OR where we dropped off the rental then met up with our friend Tami for pizza. Catching up with Tami was fun, we picked her brain about hiking the Hayduke and other adventures she’s got coming up. Plus she lent me her bear canister that should come in handy next week. And we parked the rolling bedroom outside her house for the night.

9/18 Mt Hood

What a perfect day to walk around a city and eat food. Right away we went to the coffee shop near Tami’s house and used the internet for awhile(I’ve had pretty limited service the last couple weeks so it was nice to get caught up on what’s going on). Sara took care of the laundry and came back with Blue Star Donuts, what a treat. We went to the REI downtown to get a few little necessities. I broke my sunglasses about a week ago and I’ve been walking around with duct tape barely holding them onto my face, so it was nice to get a new pair. We walked around downtown getting overwhelmed at how awesome Powell’s Bookstore is and then went to the food trucks. I ate some Vietnamese dumplings before getting some spicy pork dish from a Korean truck.

Tomorrow we’re planning on running the Timberline Trail around Mt Hood so on our way there we stopped in a PCT town, Cascade Locks for ice cream then went to the supermarket in Hood River.

From Hood River we drove an hour south and uphill to the Timberline Lodge(from The Shining) where we’ll start our run in the am. There’s a huge parking lot here that you can park at overnight and that’s exactly what we did.

Sept 19 Timberline Trail

The Timberline Trail goes 44 miles around Mt Hood(there’s some discrepancies with the mileage but Sara’s Strava clocked it at 44 miles). From Timberline Lodge going clockwise it coincides with the PCT for about a dozen miles to Ramona falls. Five miles later it intersects with the PCT again then splits off to the east going all the way around and finally joining back up to the PCT a mile+ south of the lodge. Besides the distance it’s relatively easy, there’s only about 11,000 feet of elevation gain and a lot of the trail is very runnable.

Our alarms went off around 5 but after dragging ass and dilly dallying for a little we were on trail by 5:50. 5 minutes later I realized I forgot my sunglasses, too late now. But Dammit! I just got them yesterday, and I depend on these things, oh well. We wore headlamps for the first 45 minutes and I kept my eyes peeled for Timberline Tigers(this area’s version of the mountain lion). Running clockwise around the mountain it starts off with a pretty long downhill so before long we had some good miles under our belts. We did what we could running this thing, trying to run the downhills and flats and hike the uphills. It proved to be a solid strategy as I think we made good time. I’ve hiked this section of the PCT twice so some of the miles were pretty familiar to me, but the views of Mt Hood don’t get old. Once we got past Ramona Falls and were on the north side of the mountain it was all new to me and it was awesome, especially on a beautiful clear and sunny day. We got to the Cloud Cap Trailhead on the northeast side of the mountain around 1:30 and ate some ham and cheese subs that we’d lugged out there while we battled a long uphill.

Over on the east side of the trail is where we got the highest, around 7300 feet, and could see way out into the Eastern Oregon desert. We ran through Mt Hood Meadows ski resort and from there it was only a few more miles back to the lodge and the car. A few more rivers to cross and we’d be just about done. The hardest part of this trail is getting across these rocky rivers of snow melt. You have to drop way down to get to the river, pick your way across it with varying levels of difficulty, then climb back up to the trail. I kept my feet dry all day, Sara wasn’t so lucky.

Once back on the PCT you can see the lodge from far away but it’s a bit of an illusion as you have to go way up and down a couple times to get to it, we both knew this though and enjoyed the last mile as we were happy to be finishing a great day. We got to the lodge just after 6 for a total of a little over 12 hours. 10 out of 10 would do it again and recommend. After we finished we drove an hour or two south and parked at a rest area near Smith Rock for the night.

Sept 20 Redding, CA

Our plan is to start the Sierra High Route on Saturday in California’s Sierra Nevadas so our main objective today was to get a chunk of the driving done and rest these legs.

First we had to check some stuff out. The rest area we slept at was right next to a ravine 300 feet deep containing the Deschutes River. As far as rest areas go, this was a good one. Then we noticed we were only about 10 minutes from Smith Rock State Park. This place is a haven for rock climbers and also looked like it had some nice trails. I wish I had good legs this morning because I would have loved to run around the park but settled for just taking it all in from the parking lot.

We followed 97 south through Bend for a couple hours then went west for about an hour to the Umpqua Hot Springs. Such a relaxing place to soak. About a quarter mile walk from the parking area there’s 8 pools ranging from body temperature to wicked hot. They sit kind of high above the Umpqua river and as much as I wanted to jump in and out of the cold river and back into the hot springs it looked like a major chore to climb down and I was ill equipped. Either way still very relaxing, clean, easy to find, and not too crowded for hot springs.

We got back on the road after a few hours of laying around in hot water absorbing all kinds minerals and positive energy. In Klamath Falls, pretty much the last town in Oregon, we stopped for supper at a BBQ joint and got some delicious ribs and then on our way out of town grabbed a couple tacos at a Mexican food truck. Who would have though Klamath Falls was such a culinary hot spot. Shortly after that we were in California and had views of the massive and prominent Mt Shasta. I remember when hiking the PCT in ‘15 how much this beefcake dominated the Northern California landscape and it’s still doing that.

We joined I-5 near Weed, CA then dropped way down to the Central Valley where there weren’t many opportunities for free camping. We ended up finding a parking spot in the overnight lot at the Win River Casino in Redding. Casinos, like Walmart’s, let you park for free overnight. I think. I stayed outside of one in Colorado or Utah one time.

9/21 King’s Canyon National Park

The ride from Redding to Fresno is super boring. Just straight and flat for 300 miles. In a way it’s like driving across Kansas. Fresno is the closest city to King’s Canyon, where we’ll be starting our hike tomorrow. It’s only about 200 feet above sea level and today’s a hot one, about 95 degrees.

A few days ago we ordered new sneakers online and had them shipped general delivery to a Fresno PO(sneakers are so much cheaper online). This is a common practice while hiking the long trails but I guess the guys at this particular post office never dealt with it before. They were flabbergasted. “You can’t do that you know! You have to send them to the other post office! We almost sent these back!” one of guys threatened us. To the other guy he says, “we finally found Sara!” The package was literally there for one day. I told them, “we are so sorry, it will never happen again.” Then walked out of the post office with our new shoes in our general delivery package. Were we in the wrong here? We fedexed something to the PO, marked it general delivery so we could pick it up and these guys acted like I mistook a corner of their building for a urinal.

We spent the rest of the afternoon resupplying at a Grocery Outlet(best store ever) then a Walmart, and stopped at a Planet Fitness for our weekly showers.

From Fresno we drove east on 180 towards King’s Canyon National Park and stopped at Twin Valleys in Dunlap for a big pre trail meal. BBQ again tonight and again it was very good. Back on the road we got detoured because of a fire or something and had to take this super steep and winding road for the next hour. Sara was driving and did a good job but I still felt like I was about to vom and I usually don’t get car sick. We got to Convict Flat CG in Sequoia National Forest and called it a night. A much better free campsite than a parking lot at a Redding casino.

Sept 13 PCT mile 2576.8

This morning we woke up a mile outside of Holden Village at their designated campsite and walked to their dining hall for breakfast. In another lifetime this place was a copper mining camp but now it’s a Lutheran Retreat Center, and is completely off the grid. They rarely see PCT hikers but this year because of the fire detour they’ve had a huge influx of hikers and treated us really well. Breakfast was buffet style oatmeal sundaes, then they let us do our laundry for free. From the village there’s a 10 mile rd to Lake Chelan(I think this is their only outlet to the outside world) and a daily yellow school bus took us to Lucerne Landing where we got picked up by a ferry that took us to Stehekin. Lake Chelan is a narrow and extremely long and deep lake surrounded by mountains. Someone told me that it’s a fjord but I’m not exactly sure what that means. Stehekin is a tiny town that sits at the top of the lake and is usually the last stop for PCT’ers. It’s a really cool little place, inaccessible by road, it’s a very remote little vacation town for some people. Or I guess people live here year round too.

We did town stuff like showering for the first time in a week and picking up our resupply boxes at the PO, then walked a couple miles to the world famous(or at least trail famous) Stehekin Bakery. Everybody on the PCT starts hearing about this place when you’re still way down in Southern California and it lives up to the hype. From the bakery we took a shuttle bus to the end of the road, 10 miles out of town where we got back on the PCT. Going north the next 17 miles are within North Cascades NP where we need a permit to camp. Sara and I and half a dozen others all got permits at a site 5 miles out and got here just before dark.

Of any trail I’ve hiked Stehekin is the most complicated town stop. Don’t get me wrong I really like it here, I’d like to buy land out here and put a trailer on it, but for getting in and out of town and trying to coordinate shuttle bus schedules, P.O. hours, making sure we got to the bakery, National Park permits, plus a fire detour and a ferry ride, it’s a pain in the ass.

Sept 14 PCT mile 2609.4

The trail was super cruiser pretty much all day. For the first 15 or so miles we were within North Cascades NP until we reached Rainy Pass and our first paved road in 130 miles(National Park trails are usually always well maintained and well graded, in other words it was easy).

At Rainy Pass we got some killer trail magic. Erica and Nick, 2 former hikers, were grilling up hot dogs and cooking chili. While I was busy eating 1 of my 3 chili dogs, another guy, the Madd Baker drove up to do trail magic also. He had a bunch of cookies for us and I think he was about to cook soup but we had moved on by then.

With a belly full of hot dogs and cookies we started a long 5 mile climb up to Cutthroat Pass. On the way up I looked to the left and saw a black bear farting around in the woods. Immediately I thought it was a black dog, as I always do, but it was a bear. Just a little fella doing his thing. I also saw an owl this morning and Sara saw a pine marten so it was a pretty good day for wildlife. As we walked a little further we ran into this lady who was out day hiking and all excited about the bear asking us if we saw it. She told us she pulled out her bear spray and accidentally sprayed herself, then turned around and went back up towards the pass to get away. We encouraged her to go back down as the bear probably won’t bother her and she did, I just really hope she didn’t end up spraying the bear, poor thing doesn’t deserve it.

When we got up to Cutthroat Pass we were treated to spectacular views then it immediately started snowing on us, I didn’t even think it was cold enough. We would be above tree line for the next 5 miles so this wasn’t good. Luckily it stopped after 20 minutes and the rest of the day was just enjoyable and scenic Washington hiking.

Sept 15 Pasayten Wilderness, Fire detour

Immediately this morning we started climbing up towards Glacier Pass. This was a beefy switchbacked climb and although it was chilly the skies were clear and blue and the views of the North Cascades were awesome. By midday we made it to Hart’s Pass, the last trailhead before the Canadian Border and once again there were people cooking lunch for us. I didn’t get all their names but this time it was a family from Republic, WA doing trail magic and it was great; cheeseburgers, orange soda, corn on the cob, hot chocolate, and fresh vegetables. They did it right.

Hart’s Pass is more or less a dead end trailhead on a dirt road about a 20 mile drive from the nearest town, Mazama. From there it’s regularly 30 PCT miles to the border and then another 8 to Manning Park in Canada. This year though, there’s a wildfire and a detour that makes the route 34 miles to the border.

After lunch we walked up to Slate Pass and then the detour took us east into the Pasayten Wilderness. The detour was nice and everything, nothing extraordinary, just deep dark Washington forest. It feels very remote out here. For most of the afternoon it was rather cold and drizzling and we saw a handful of hikers returning to Hart’s after they just completed their hike. Around 6 we saw this guy coming towards us that looked like the crypt keeper(ok maybe not that scary but he was close to it). I usually don’t think I judge a book by its cover but the way this guy presented himself gave me the creeps. He wasn’t friendly and he kept one hand in his pocket as if he was concealing a weapon. As he passed he asked, “How far to Hart’s Pass?” and Sara told him about 14 miles. He didn’t seem to like that answer and had some short gruff response. This guy had rain gear on but only a very small pack and not in the style of a lightweight long distance hiker(I highly doubt he had a tent and sleeping bag). Old boy had a long way to go and it was cold and rainy out without any prospects of warming up. If he acted a little differently I’m sure we would have stopped and tried to help him out, I mean not that we could have since we’re both only carrying the minimum ourselves. As it was though we didn’t even slow down. I hope he gets where he’s going and everything but I was glad to put some distance between us. I don’t know, maybe I’m overreacting here and the guy had a camp already set up nearby or something. But still. We stopped about an hour and a half later and put our tent next to the west fork of the Pasayten River. I don’t think I’ve ever felt so deep in the heart of Texas, I mean Washington.

Sept 16 Abbotsford, BC

Today we reached the Canadian Border. This is really no big deal for me, I’ve been here before so it’s not a culmination of a long journey or anything like that. For Sara though it is exactly that. She started hiking the PCT at the Mexican Border in 2015 with every intention of walking all the way to Canada(we both started the same day actually although we didn’t hike much together that year). Because of a crazy wildfire season she got off trail at the Oregon/Washington Border and went on to hike about 700 miles in New England that summer. Since then she has completed both the AT and the CDT and has twice returned to Washington to try to complete the PCT. In July of ‘16 she hiked 150 miles from the Oregon Border to White Pass and was forced off due to snow. In ‘17 we tried to get on the PCT after we finished the CDT but there were tons of fires closing some of the trail. Even earlier this year when we first came out here parts of the trail were closed so we went up to Canada for a couple weeks to wait it out. It’s been a bit of an odyssey for her but the time has come.

When we got up today it was clear and cool with blue skies overhead. That wouldn’t last though. We climbed for about 7 or 8 more miles of the fire detour until we rejoined the actual PCT at Woody Pass. While we were climbing the clouds moved in and it started to rain. A cold rain too, and windy. As we got closer to the Pass the rain turned to snow and sooner than later the weather completely went to shit. For what seemed like forever we walked along a snowy and slippery ridge with the wind whipping in our faces. Keep in mind walking through a snowstorm is no big deal if you’re dressed for it but I’m only wearing a thin rain jacket over my tank top and wind pants over my shorts. This isn’t exactly ‘rain gear’ it’s more like a ‘rain outfit’ like this is what I wear during inclement weather, not that it does anything. My shoes and socks have been wet for days and everything else I’m wearing is soaked. We were both uncomfortable but eventually we dropped lower. The snow turned back to rain and although it was still cold and wet at least we felt like we were out of harm’s way.

When we were about 3 miles to the Border Sara turned and pointed to a tree right next to the trail. I looked and saw a tiny little black bear cub hugging a branch(for the record she said she saw two cubs but I only saw one). Bear cubs are cool but I don’t want to see them at ten feet and that’s how close we were. We both started yelling out, ‘Hey Bear!’ and thankfully never did see mama. Another hour of walking through wet bushes and rain and then the sun decided to come out. Perfect timing. We rounded a corner and saw the clear cut forest and then Monument 78, the Canadian Border. After a few high fives and pictures and basking in the sun enjoying the moment, it was time to move on, still 8 miles to Manning Park and the road out.

Once we got to Manning Park we checked to see about reasonable lodging and there was none. It was getting late, late for hitching anyway, do we decided to give it a try for a little bit then find a spot to camp if that didn’t work out. After about 10 minutes Jenna pulled over on her way home from visiting her boyfriend across the province and drove us about an hour and a half to Abbotsford, BC where we got a room for the night. What an incredible day, glad to be warm in bed in a Best Western in a little Canadian Border town tonight. Congratulations QB on persevering and finishing this trail. On to the next thing.feel free to follow this blog or follow me on insta @endlesspsummer and Sara(QB) at @sarahikes

Sept 7 PCT mile 2419.9

So the rest of yesterday, after I fired off the last blog post, went really smoothly. Our friend Malibu, who lives in Seattle, drove out to Snoqualmie Pass to have lunch. And he brought us some massive cookies. We chilled out by the Aardvark food truck all afternoon and just did thru hiker town day stuff.

This morning we got back on trail after pummeling some omelettes and pancakes and had quite a day. The hike out of Snoqualmie Pass is a long switchbacked climb above the tree line to a little strip of trail called Kendall’s Catwalk(or Katwalk, but I refuse to write that). Once you get to this narrow piece of trail the views in every direction are spectacular. For the next 15 or so miles we contoured around jagged peaks and looked out at alpine lakes and other huge mountains. The footing was a little more difficult than usual and the miles a bit slower but well worth it. This is my third time up on this section of trail and the first on a clear day, looking to the southwest I could see Rainier and to the north I could see as far as Glacier Peak(I think).In the late afternoon we dropped a few thousand feet to a valley and along the way I took a quick dip in a swimming hole at the bottom of a waterfall. We crossed a river and then climbed big long switchbacks that brought us way up and out of the valley. With about 2 miles to the next campsite a cold rain had moved in with a crack of thunder and a flash of lightning. Luckily that was it for the T&L and the rain just gave me good reason to pick up speed for the rest of the day. We found a sweet campsite up high next to a little alpine lake.

Sept 8 PCT mile 2450.2

I’m pretty sure it rained all night, but I was busy sleeping peacefully so I didn’t notice. It was raining hard on the tent this morning when I woke up though and I thought we’d be walking through it all day. Luckily the rain stopped right around 7am so we packed up the wet tent and got moving. It was cold and wet for awhile and we had lots of clouds all day but it never rained. Good hiking weather, I’ll take that any day over rain.

The trail dropped down from where we were camped and we walked through a valley for awhile then back up again. It seemed to do that all day. There were at least 3 named passes we climbed; Cathedral, Piper, and Deception. None of them seemed particularly difficult, we’d just walk up long switchbacked trails to a pass with views of jagged peaks and turquoise alpine lakes on the way up then do the same thing on the way down and look at new jagged peaks and turquoise alpine lakes. Washington is awesome.

After walking down Piper Pass and through a boulder field we found a tent site next to Glacier Lake. It was a beautiful and productive 30 mile day. And it didn’t rain at all.

Sept 9 PCT mile 2475.2

Woke up next to Glacier Lake to cool air and clear blue sky. Good day for hiking, most of them are. Today we had to cross route 2 and stop at Steven’s Pass Ski Resort to pick up resupply boxes we mailed out a month ago. It was a quick 14 miles up and down a couple passes, through a few valleys, and we were at Steven’s Pass for lunch. I did fall though. I put my foot on this slanted slippery log in the middle of the trail, not thinking anything of it, and it was like I stepped on a patch of ice. My feet went out from under me and I hit the ground hard with my right big toe taking the brunt of it. I’ll be fine and everything but my toe still hurts and I did a fair amount of whining for the next half hour or so.

At Steven’s Pass we picked up our boxes, sorted our food for the next section and got a couple of cheeseburgers while letting our electronics charge up. This looks like a fun place to ski. It’s got a couple of peaks, it’s steep, and there’s lifts servicing the backside of the mountain also.

Back in 2015, Steven’s Pass is where my thru hike abruptly ended when I found out the trail ahead was closed due to wildfires. The following year I came back to Steven’s and got back on trail to finish what I had started. You can go back in time in this blog if you’d like to read about either of those hikes, but I don’t expect you to. No forced trail evacuations today though, we blasted in and out of town and got another 11 miles in this afternoon. We’re on a very serious mission.

Sept 10 PCT mile 2506.7

It rained a good deal overnight and into this morning. When I first woke up, listening to the raindrops, I thought today would be absolutely miserable. But it wasn’t. The rain stopped and although a little bit delayed we packed up our tent and put on our rain gear. It never really rained the rest of the day but it was constantly threatening. It was misty and foggy, every once in awhile it would drizzle, and today was colder than usual. I never took off my rain jacket or pants all day. Being a little cold is still better than rain. The fog and the mist added an interesting change of scenery to an already beautiful Washington. At times it just looked like something out of the movies. It also feels so remote out here, we saw a few other thru hikers but we’re far from any trailhead or any road for that matter and there’s no day hikers or weekenders out here.

The trail itself was up and down all day. Mostly smooth trail through forest and contouring along mountains. The story of the day for me was definitely the weather and the way it made this place look. With a few miles left we dropped through a huge valley with steep granite mountains on the sides with their peaks obscured by clouds. The valley reminded me of a pass in Nepal that led to Tibet. This valley only leads to more of Washington and eventually a campsite next to a river.

When we got to the campsite I was cold, wet, hungry, and a kind of tired that I only feel after walking all day in this type of weather. We cooked in the vestibule and ate inside the tent: Annie’s Mac n Cheese with bacon bits, coconut oil, and a packet of Tapatio. This was one of the most delicious meals I’ve ever had.

Sept 11 PCT mile 2535.3

I can’t sugar coat it, today pretty much sucked. At least the first half of the day. Right off the bat I saw an owl though, and that was cool. It swooped down in front of me and then perched itself up in a branch next to the trail for awhile. Then things went downhill(figuratively). It was cold and wet out right away. It rained overnight and the trail was overgrown so for about an hour I was getting soaked from both sides as the bushes gave the trail a car wash effect. When it actually did start to rain I was already drenched and wicked cold. Then it rained all morning and as we climbed higher it turned to a ‘wintry mix’ and then to snow. As we descended it would go back to a cold, cold rain. We figured we had 2 choices: either set up the tent and get into dry clothes to wait it out, or just keep walking to try to stay warm and eventually it would stop(finding a relatively dry place to just sit and wait it out and warm up wasn’t an option, too cold for that.) We chose the latter and that ended up being the right move. It was miserably cold and uncomfortable but we weren’t quite in danger and I really thought the sun would come out soon and make everything all better. This was one of my hardest days on trail that I can remember and Sara wouldn’t even commiserate with me because she was too busy belting out show tunes.

Her positivity worked though because after 4-5 hours of weather, as we walked over Mica Lake Pass, the sun did come out in all of its glory. Moments earlier it was dark and dreary and we were crunching through snow and now the sun lit the whole world up. A tremendously bright rainbow appeared and the sun shown on the glistening peaks that were freshly snow capped. The steam was rising from the ground, there were waterfalls seemed to sprout from everywhere, and I suddenly felt warm. It was glorious.

Nothing as wild as this happened the rest of the day. We did dry out and walked a huge uphill followed by a huge downhill around Glacier Peak. This evening it felt so good to finally be lying down and dry inside the tent.

Sept 12 Outside Holden Village

What a treat this morning was. If yesterday morning the PCT slapped me in the face, then today the trail welcomed me back with open arms. We walked along smooth soft dirt for a few miles through a forest full of big huge old growth trees until we got to a bridge that crossed the Suiattle River. On the other side of the river the trail was still pretty cruiser and had a gentle incline for the next 10 miles.

We’re aiming for the town of Stehekin, but due to wildfires part of the trail is closed and we’ll have to walk the reroute. The detour isn’t actually all the way into Stehekin and doesn’t connect back to the PCT. So we’ve got 2 options with one of them involving a boat, I’ll try to explain later.

The reroute started 17 miles into our day and brought us up and over Cloudy Pass and down into a valley with beautiful Lyman Lake. This place was really incredible to see and if it wasn’t for this fire detour I probably never would have walked through here. It rained again while we were in the valley but I knew it wouldn’t last and once again the sun came out and produced a beautiful rainbow. From Cloudy Pass we walked 10 miles to this tiny place called Holden Village(It’s not really a town, I guess it used to be a mining camp and now it’s a Lutheran Retread Center?). Tonight We’ll camp outside of Holden Village then tomorrow take a shuttle to Lake Chelan where we’ll catch a ferry to Stehekin. Our other option would be to walk another 17 miles of detour that doesn’t bring us back to the trail anyway and still have to catch a bus to town. North of Stehekin the trail is open again so as long as we get our boxes at the P.O. and a permit to stay in North Cascades NP tomorrow night, we’ll take the shuttle 10 miles out of town to get us back on trail for the final stretch. You followed all that, right? feel free to follow this blog or follow me on insta @endlesspsummer and Sara @sarahikes

Aug 26th Lois Lake, Sunshine Coast

We woke up this morning in the car at the Kin Beach CG and enjoyed a view across the Salish Sea(which is part of the Straight of Georgia) to mainland British Columbia. We took a 10 am ferry from the town of Comax to Powell River on the other side. Powell River is a little town on the Sunshine Coast and although the SC is on mainland British Columbia, I guess a couple of deep fjords make it impossible to build road access and ends up making it a rather remote little area.

Our plan is to hike the Sunshine Coast Trail which is a hut to hut hiking trail that stretches 112 miles(and even more kilometers) from Sarah’s Point to Saltery Bay. In order to get to get to Sarah’s Point we have to take a water taxi from the tiny town of Lund at the northern end of the Sunshine Coast. So what we’re doing today is food shopping and organizing our food for about 5 days of hiking, doing laundry, hopefully finding a place to run and swim, then driving to Saltery Bay where we’ll end up camping and leaving the car. Tomorrow we’ll be hitching to Lund to catch the water taxi to Sarah’s point in the afternoon(I better see an orca). Logistics are a MFer but the trail looks cool so I bet it will all be worth it.

We did find a good place to run. Inland Lake Provincial Park is near Powell River and there’s a really nice trail around the lake and some nice clean water to jump into afterwards. And for camping tonight we heard about this mysterious free campground next to Lois Lake but to find it you had to follow a series of unmarked logging roads. Eventually we got there and it was worth a few wrong turns because it was an absolutely beautiful spot next to a pristine lake.

Aug 27th SCT 16K Manzanita Hut

We woke up next to Lois Lake and it was better looking in the daylight. Because it’s forest land there’s a few cabins floating out on the water. I don’t really know how that works but they looked like cool places to live.

From Lois Lake we drove south towards Saltery Bay, found a spot to take a quick dip in the ocean then left the car in a parking lot near the ferry terminal. We had to hitch north about 60K to Lund where we catch a water taxi to Sarah’s Point and the beginning of the trail. Our first ride, Wendy, had 4 little daschunds with her and drove us about 10 minutes before we got another ride from Chris. This guy traveled the world and was a retired professional soccer player, sheriff, volunteer firefighter, carpenter, and I’m guessing a few other things. I’ll be reading his book when it comes out. He learned us about all kinds of stuff on the Sunshine Coast and gave us a lift to Powell River, waited for us to run an errand then drove us about 10 minutes further north. We put our thumbs out and quickly got picked up by Ian, Denise, and Nora. Ian dropped the two women off at their waterfront home then brought us the rest of the way into Lund giving us some more info about the area.

Lund is the very northern point of Route 101 that goes all the way south to the tip of Argentina, it’s the ‘end of the road’ if you will. It’s basically a marina, a hotel, some camps and a bakery.

Our boat didn’t leave until 4:45 so we chilled out in the bakery until then. The water taxi was a short 20 minute ride up the rocky coast along a bunch of houses that are only accessible by boat or a 4×4 Jeep road. We opted for the boat ride. When we got to Sarah’s point there was no dock but just a rock we got close to and jumped onto. And that was the beginning of the trail. It’s 180 kilometers back to Saltery Bay so we brought maybe enough food for 5 days. People have been asking us how long we plan on hiking for and when we tell them 5 days they look at us like we’ve got lobsters crawling out of our ears. I don’t really think it’s all that fast but we’ll see. Anyway we didn’t have much sunlight left so we just kind of crushed it through some dense green forest for 16k to Manzanita Hut. There’s 2 other girls staying here who were already in bed so we quietly ate a quick meal of rehydrated beans and called it a night.

Aug 28th SCT 58K

Today was great although uneventful, I just walked all day. We got moving from Manzanita Hut around 7:30 and were up and down through deep green forest for most of the morning. Once in a while we’d come to a pond or cross a river on a fallen down tree turned into a lot bridge. We ate lunch at Rieveley Hut and I saw a bunch of bull frogs. The huts on this trail are in really good condition, so far anyway, I’ve only seen 2. They both had a picnic table and kitchen area downstairs then the upstairs were just big lofts with space for about a dozen people.

This afternoon we were walking through more old growth rain forest and then all of a sudden I found the ultimate swimming hole. Gorge Falls had a few big pools of icy cold water then a narrow pool that was about 12 feet deep, way over my head anyway. After we got cleaned up there we walked along Sliammon Lake and up onto a bluff where we could see out across Salish Sea to the mountains on Vancouver Island plus Hardwick and Texada Islands. It was quite an amazing view. We walked down from the bluff to Powell Lake and passed climbers top roping on a cliff right next to us. When we got to Powell Lake we were actually pretty close to the town of Powell River and it would be easy to just start here if you wanted to do a modified hike of the SCT. We had planned on camping at Haywire Bay, but after a couple hours of walking along the lake we realized it was a pay campground and at $23 a night neither one of us was having that. About 100 meters after the campground was a flat spot next to the trail and that’s where we set up our tent.

Aug 29th SCT 93K

Today was a tough one. We started off walking down towards Inland Lake, the same lake we ran around a few days ago, and followed the trail around the southern half of the lake. Leaving Inland Lake the trail climbed very steeply up towards Confederation Lake, this went on for about an hour and it was the steepest the trail has been yet. We had a little lunch break at the Confederation Lake Hut and this place was sweet! There was a pellet stove and it was winterized, I’m guessing a perfect place to snowshoe up to for a night in the winter.

The rest of the day was big descents and big climbs with Tin Hat Mountain being the biggest. From the top of this peak there were panoramic views of all the mountains and lakes in the area. There was also another winterized hut and if there weren’t so many people already staying and if we had enough water we probably would have spent the night but decided to push on for awhile. The trail down from Tin Hat was super steep and kilometer markers were grossly inaccurate. This whole trail every kilometer has been marked and we usually pass a marker every 12-15 minutes but during this descent it took over an hour for one K. I didn’t think that was right and it ended up taking us longer than I wanted to get to Lewis Lake where we camped for the night. Plus I got stung by a wasp on the way down, Sara already got stung twice today but you wouldn’t have known it. I definitely did enough whining for the both of us.

Aug 30 SCT 134K

First thing this morning Sara spotted a few beavers swimming around in Lewis Lake right next to the trail as we walked by. There were three of them just swimming slowly in a big circle looking for fish or sticks or whatever and every once in awhile smacking their tails against the water. I must have heard them doing this last night as I was trying to sleep but I just figured the noise I heard was bullfrogs doing belly flops off logs. It was an incredible wildlife sighting.

The rest of the day went pretty smoothly, the trail went up and down all day through forest and right up close to some recently clear cut forest that can be a bit ugly. We climbed up to Elk Lake where I took a quick bath then we ate lunch at the hut there. Later this afternoon we climbed up Walt Hill and some amazing views of the surrounding mountains, lakes, sea and islands. The Sunshine Coast is a really beautiful area. For much of this trail we’ve been walking through forest, which is cool, but when we get up high and the views open up you can see all the incredible surroundings.

As we were looking for a campsite tonight I heard a bunch of rustling in the bushes. I just figured it was a bear but as we turned a corner I saw about 15-20 elk running from a section of clear cut forest into the woods. 1 male and the rest female(his harem). I learned from a hitch one time that the end of August is mating season, and also hunting season. Shortly after we got all set up I heard half a dozen shots, hopefully none of those elk got hit.

Aug 31 SCT 171K Fairview Bay

We pretty much camped right on trail last night, there wasn’t much we could do about it, so we got up quickly before anybody had to ask us to move and started walking. After a couple hours we came to Lois Lake where we had car camped the night before we started the trail. We watched a giant eagle that flew across the water and checked out these little cabins that are built on floats. I don’t get it but I think it has something to do with it being forest land and you can’t have cabins on land. I want one.

The trail climbed from there, eventually bringing us up to Elephant lake where we took a break and I went for a quick swim. Yesterday I swam in Elk Lake and ended up seeing about 20 elk, I better see a bunch of wild elephants today. Probably won’t happen though. From the lake we climbed up to the top of the Troubridge Massif, over 4000 feet and the highest point of the trail. It wasn’t too tough and there were some awesome views of Saltery Bay and the Salish Sea from the top. The descent sucked though. It was super steep! My legs were burning. I would much rather climb something steep then descend.

We could have walked another coupe hours tonight and got to the car but we stopped at Fairview Bay Shelter for the night. This is a really nice little shelter right on the ocean. We ate on a rock looking out at the bay and I went for a quick swim thinking that the salt water will neutralize my b.o. Maybe a little.

Sep 1 SCT 178K Saltery Bay

Sunshine Coast Trail complete! What a great trail! It’s obvious how much this trail is cared for by the locals in the area. The SCT was built completely by volunteers from the PR PAWS and the B.O.M.B. Squad and it’s very well done. The huts are in great shape, there’s lots of other handmade infrastructure and a ton of the trail has been cut through some thick forest. It couldn’t have been easy to build. And it’s well signed, almost too well signed, there’s little orange squares nailed onto what seems like every other tree. Super easy to navigate. It’s a great trail but it’s tough, definitely more difficult than I expected, so if you’re in the mood for a nice cruiser short trail to crush this probably isn’t the one for you. Still fun though.

This morning we walked for a couple hours, mostly along the coast, finishing what we had left and got back to the car. The trail ends right at the Saltery Bay ferry terminal and as we were getting to the car we watched as the 9:30 ferry took off. Oh well, we got the next one. We had to catch a ferry to Earl’s Cove, drive an hour and a half then catch another ferry to mainland BC and drive to Vancouver. It takes awhile to get anywhere from the Sunshine Coast but that’s kind of the beauty of it, so GD isolated.

This evening we spent a few hours walking around and eating a bunch of food in Vancouver and then just decided to go back to the U.S. We parked at the first rest area over the Washington Border and called it a night. Feel free to follow me on insta for more pictures @endlesspsummer and Sara or QB @sarahikes

Aug 20 Seattle, WA

As we were driving out of our parking spot in the Fishtrap BLM land this morning, we noticed how smoky it was in eastern Washington. So smoky that we might not be hiking the PCT. We still had a few hours to monitor the situation but as we were driving west things weren’t looking good. Parts of the trail were closed so if we were to hike, the views would be shit and we still wouldn’t be able to finish. We stopped at Snoqualmie Pass and talked to a few hikers, they didn’t really have good news and that sealed the deal for us.

I got in touch with my friend Ruthie in Seattle who was quick to offer to host us for a night which was great. Sara and I drove another hour to Seattle and came up with a plan to get out to the Vancouver Island Coast and hopefully away from the smoke. With Ruthie and her wolf dog Syd, the 4 of us spent the day eating lots of food, walking around Alki beach and exploring Discovery Park. It was a fun day in a great city. Plus it was our first time in a week that we slept indoors and were able to shower and do laundry.

Aug 21 Port Renfrew, BC

Sara and I got some pastries in West Seattle for breakfast then started making our way through the morning rush hour traffic. We had a ferry to catch in the afternoon from Anacortes, WA to Sidney, BC. Before that we had some time so we went for a run all over Deception Pass State Park. This place is sweet! There’s 2 big bridges that connect Fidalgo and Whidbey Islands and the surrounding areas have a bunch of trails and a beach. After our hilly sweaty run we of course jumped in the cold water and cleaned up a little, or at least cooled off.

We got lunch in Anacortes and waited in line for the international ferry. The boat ride through the San Juan Islands was enjoyable. The whole time I stood on watch with my bino’s for orcas and for the first time ever I saw not one but two, plus a few porpoises.

Once we reached land in Sidney we quickly went through customs then started making our way towards Port Renfrew on the southwest corner of the island. We found a parking spot at the Botanical Beach trailhead and tomorrow morning we’ll start here and hike the Juan de Fuca trail along the coast.

Aug 22, Chin Beach, JDF Trail

The Juan de Fuca trail stretches 47 kilometers across a section of Vancouver Island’s SW Coast. Since being in Canada half a day I’ve quickly converted to the metric system. You should too.

We started walking eastbound from the Botanical Beach parking lot this morning, mostly against the flow of hiking traffic. It’s been really nice. For the most part we’ve been in an old growth rain forest that sits right along the coast. We’re walking through lush forest with some massive trees and the trail is loaded with lots of infrastructure. When I say infrastructure I’m talking about staircases built into the side of the trail, or planks on the ground so you won’t step in mud, or bridges built out of old fallen down trees. I like that sort of stuff. Every once in awhile we’ll have a view of the ocean or pop out onto a beach and walk along that for a bit. Some sections you need to have a tidal chart in order to safely get around the headlands, luckily for us we’ve yet to get jammed up with high tides. I’ll say this about this place, it’s definitely more crowded than I expected. When we got to Sombrio Beach there were all kinds of people walking around, probably because there’s a road out that way but I was surprised. Still beautiful though and I’ve been digging it.

Since there’s only certain places you’re allowed to camp, when we got to Chin Beach around 5:30 after only 26 Kilometers we called it a night. Otherwise it’s about 12K more to the next camping.

Aug 23, Tofino, BC

The first 10K or so of the trail this morning, from Chin Beach to Bear Beach, was a bit difficult. Lots of ups and downs, a little muddy, and some roots and stuff. It wasn’t quite as tough as I expected though, one older guy compared it to childbirth(that didn’t make much sense unless he was talking about somebody else. Or maybe he was talking about when he was born, which seems like it would be difficult to remember). Anyway once we got to Bear Beach we chilled out for a bit, saw a bunch of seals and a baby sea otter. The rest of the trail was rather mellow and we reached the China Beach Trailhead in the early afternoon. We put our thumbs out and after about 15-20 minutes Mariah, a Port Renfrew local, drove us about a half hour back to our car at Botanical Beach.

Sara and I started making our way North on the Island towards Tofino and after a couple hours of driving we saw 2 girls with backpacks hitchhiking. We picked up Brittany and Chaya who were also on their way to Tofino. These two were good company and they told us about the hostel style campground they were headed to. Since the Tofino area didn’t have much for free camping, plus it was late, we ponied up the short money and got a parking spot at Poole’s Land for the night. It was more of a hippie commune than campground and definitely not for everyone but it was cool and an interesting place to experience.

Aug 24 Tofino, BC

Tofino, along with it’s neighboring city Ucluelet, is a surfing Mecca halfway up the west coast of Victoria Island. There’s other cool stuff to do there and not being much of a surfer I wanted to rent a sea kayak for a few nights and go camp out on an island(I’m not much of a kayaker either). When we started looking into renting kayaks we quickly realized we needed either a guided tour or knowledge of the local area, navigational charts, a 2 way radio, permits to camp in the Pacific Rim National Park reserve, a credit report, pass a background check, a clean driving record plus they were sold out. Maybe you didn’t need all that stuff but renting a kayak was no picnic.

So we went for a nice run on the Wild Pacific Trail in Ucluelet to come up with a plan. This trail was great for running, it was hilly with good footing, along a rocky coastline and it was home to some giant cedar trees. Supposedly we were in wolf/bear/cougar territory and although I didn’t see any of those predators I did see a massive bald eagle perched in a tree stalking some salmon or something.

After our run we checked out Ucluelet and looked into renting surfboards. No problem! Way easier than getting our hands on a kayak. We went to the Wya Point surf shop and for a few bucks we each had a wetsuit and a couple of boards strapped to the roof of the Outback with the promise of returning them tomorrow afternoon. Sara and I drove up the road about 10 minutes to Wickanannish Beach and were in the water in minutes. So much fun! Not saying I’m Kelly Slater or anything but I did get up on the very first wave, QB was totally impressed. All afternoon there were big Canadian waves and really not all that many surfers in the water.

On the recommendation of my friend George we went to Tacofino for burritos afterwards and it may have been the best burrito of my life. I was wicked hungry but still, I think it was the greatest of all time. Sara was also a gigantic fan. If you’re ever in Tofino, BC and find yourself with a hankering for some Mexican food, the Tacofino food truck will not disappoint.

Aug 25 Comox, BC

Surf’s up bro! Just kidding, but seriously what an awesome day! It was raining on the car when we first woke up and the towels and wetsuits that we draped over the top were now soaked instead of dry. Oh well! Sara and I headed back to Wick Beach but there was nobody in the lot and when we walked out to the beach the waves looked way smaller than yesterday so we drove up the road a bit to Cox Bay and found some big time waves. Neither of us really know what we’re doing at all but after a while we were both getting up on the boards just about every other wave.

Our friend Ash and her boyfriend Zach were up this way enjoying a holiday of their own so we got in touch with them and met for lunch in town. I guess we just missed them on the water yesterday, if it wasn’t for this damn international cell service we could have all been catching some gnarly waves together (for the record Sara hates it when I talk like Spicoli when we’re surfing). After lunch those two were heading south and Sara and I had a few more hours to splash around with our new found surfing skills before heading east.

Tonight we drove east across the island on the wild and wooly rt 4 and eventually got to Comox, BC. There’s not really logging roads or pull offs over this way so we found a sweet little seaside campground at Kin Beach Provincial Park along the Straight of Georgia.for more pictures find me on insta @endlesspsummer and Sara @sarahikes

May 5th and 6th…..Pokhara, Nepal

The Mardi Himal Base Camp Trek is a relatively new trekking route that’s only been open for about 5 or 6 years. It starts in Phedi at 3,700 feet and goes up to the Base Camp at 14,500 feet. The peak itself for Mardi Himal is around 18,200 feet. Since we only have 3 days we’ll try to get as close to Base Camp as possible in a day and a half and then head back to the city. It’s doable to get there if we’re hustling and also if the weather and our health are working in our favor.World Peace Pagoda, Pokhara

We left Besi Sahar en route to Pokhara on May 5th and for awhile our chances of getting to our destination didn’t look good. There was a nationwide transportation strike and the buses weren’t running that day so we paid 4,000 rupees each and rented a Jeep. Before getting out of town we were stopped by the Nepal police and got a special escort along with some other jeeps, something to do with Maoist politics, I didn’t understand it. A half hour later our driver couldn’t shift gears anymore and we broke down so the escort moved along without us. The transmission line shit the bed so we waited on the side of the road for a half hour until 2 guys on a scooter pulled up with the part and an hour later we were good to go again. This is when our driver told us there was a roadblock 15 km ahead and we probably wouldn’t be able to get through and would have to try again tomorrow, again something to do with Maoist politics that I didn’t understand. Luckily there was no roadblock and all it did was get my nerves up. A few hours later we got into Pokhara. There were lots of people bombing around on scooters and motorcycles and there were cows running around in the street. Just as I was thinking, ‘one of these cows is about to get waffled by one of these scooters’ one of the cows got waffled by one of the scooters. It was gruesome. A few minutes later we got dropped off into the Lakeside area of Pokhara(Lakeside is the tourist section of town). Pokhara is the 2nd biggest city in Nepal and is described by Wikipedia as more ‘mystical’ than Kathmandu and only had roads going to it for the last 50 years. I thought the town seemed more modern than Kathmandu and also had the highest concentration of dreadlocked white people that I’ve ever seen. We spent a couple days relaxing and regrouping in Pokhara. It was so nice to shower and do laundry and then just chill out for a little while with no place to be. I liked Pokhara. We explored the Lakeside neighborhood, walked along Lake Fewa, took a yoga class, went on a trip up to the World Peace Pagoda overlooking the lake, and of course ate lots of food. Now to the Mardi Himal trek.

May 7th…..Humal(Low Camp)….elev 9797 feet

This morning we took a cab about a half hour from the Crystal Palace hotel in Pokhara to the village of Phedi where we started our trek. From Phedi to Dahmpus the trail was a stone staircase the whole way. It took us up almost 2000 feet in elevation over the course of an hour. Stairs are fun, I’d climb stairs all day if I could(QB said she’ll count the stairs on the way back, we’ll see). Oh it was hot out too and wicked humid, I was quickly drenched with sweat. Once up in Dahmpus the temperature cooled a little bit but we were basically walking inside a cloud the whole day. An hour or so later we got to the village of Pothana where they had a checkpost to check our permits. We thought our Annapurna permits were still good but the fine print said they were ‘single entry only’ and since we had left the Annapurna region and then came back they were no longer valid. Because of this little guffaw on our part, we had to pay double the entry fee for new permits at the checkpost: 4500 rupees each, womp womp womp…Not the end of the world but had we noticed this yesterday we could have easily taken care of it in Pokhara for the regular permit price of 2250. From Pothana we walked steadily uphill through a rainforest or jungle the rest of the day. There wasn’t much for views of the mountains because of the cloud we were inside of but the fog gave a really cool look to the jungle. It was very green and there were lots of big moss covered trees. By the end of the day we got to Humal, aka Low Camp, ate a meal and crashed out for the night. Low Camp doesn’t really seem like a village but just a lodge catering to us and the few other trekkers here.

May 8th….Pothana…..elev. 6525 feet

We got a good start this morning and around 6:30, right after we wolfed down our oatmeal, we were walking uphill. The first half hour we climbed steadily through a rhododendron maze from Low Camp to Middle Camp. Once up at Middle Camp we were on a ridge above tree line and had fantastic views. We could see Annapurna South, Imchuli Peak, and the never before climbed Machhapuchhre AKA Fishtail Peak. It was amazing. I also was lucky enough to see a pair of Nepal’s National Birds; the very colorful Himalayan Monal(I didn’t get a picture but google them, they were wicked cool). I can only describe them to her as mountain peacocks. We walked for another hour and a half until we got to High Camp at 11,800 feet, where we stopped for tea. From High Camp to Base Camp was supposed to be a 2+ hour walk but the clouds had really started to roll in. We walked for about 40 minutes and when the mountains were all socked in we decided to turn around. It was pointless to me to keep walking towards Base Camp without anymore views, but what we saw was awesome. I think the best way to do this hike would be to get to High Camp in the evening and camp there, then in the morning wake up early while it’s hopefully clear and go back and forth to Base Camp. Or you could just do what we did, that was fun too.

From our turn around point we cruised down to Middle Camp then to Low Camp where we had lunch and another hour to Forest Camp. We walked downhill all afternoon through the jungle and then heard a crack of thunder and moments later were being pelted with hail. Good thing for the tree cover, we didn’t get it too bad. We did wait out the rest of the storm when we got to Deurali and then walked another half hour to Pothana and found a teahouse to spend the night.

May 9th…..Back in Pokhara

Holy Mackerel! Crazy thunderstorms overnight last night. I woke up in the middle of the night and didn’t know what the hell was going on, I thought the sheet metal roof of the teahouse was about to fly into outer space. It didn’t though, and I quickly fell back asleep and woke up in Pothana to a nice clear morning with views of Fishtail Peak. After eating our porridge we spent a little over an hour walking down to and through the rather sprawling village of Dahmpus and from there started the massive staircase to Phedi. QB counted the steps on the way down the staircase, 2803, I didn’t even try. Immediately while in Phedi a bus came by and we jumped on. 50 rupees to Pokhara(that’s not a lot of rupees). I’d been wanting to ride one of these buses just to see what it was like, it really didn’t look that enjoyable and it wasn’t, but I was intrigued. It was jam packed and even though I was descending all morning I was still soaked through with sweat and I’m sure I stunk so I definitely wasn’t helping the situation. The bus really wasn’t too bad but a 1 hour ride from Phedi to Pokhara was enough for me. I’d rather not travel all day on one of these. Once back in Pokhara we enjoyed a nice little day here; eating momos and Indian food, taking yoga and walking up and down Lakeside running into a handful of people we met up in the mountains.

Tomorrow we’re taking a short flight from here to Kathmandu then spending a couple days in the big city until we fly back to the US. It’s been quite a trip and Nepal lived up to the hype and then some. This is a magical place and I will be looking forward to the day I come back. Until then if you have any questions about traveling to Nepal or any of these treks feel free to contact me and maybe I can help you out. And of course follow me on insta @endlesspsummer if you’d like.

Day 10

Danakyu

Elev. 7181 feet

Today we mixed things up a little. Sara and I have been thinking about what we were going to do after the Manaslu Circuit. A couple days ago we decided to just link it to the Annapurna Circuit and try to do them back to back. The start of the Annapurna circuit overlaps the end of the Manaslu circuit anyway. We don’t need a guide and we already have the permits, and since Mac can lend us a map of the Annapurna region and loan us some extra rupees there’s no reason to leave the mountains yet. We took Mac up on his offer since we wouldn’t see an ATM for awhile and cash is king in the mountains. Our original plan was to walk another 2 days to the end of the Manaslu circuit, Besi Sahar, and then catch a ride down to Pokhara, the nearest city, but we figure this plan is better. 

Today we walked from Bimthang to Dharapani. It was almost all downhill and it was pretty cool, we had awesome views of the big mountains early on then we got into a pine forest with plenty of pink and red rhododendrons in full bloom. We arrived in Dharapani around 3 PM which is where the 2 circuits join. Our friends would walk the rest of the way to Besi Sahar so we said goodbye to them in Dharapani; Mac was headed back to Kathmandu for a while then on to thruhike the Japanese Alps, Moist was trying to decide between going to the Everest region or going to Kyrgyzstan, and Gopal AKA Mountain Tiger was headed home to Kathmandu until his next guiding mission.

QB and I walked along a road, the first road we’ve seen since day 1, for another hour until we got to the town of Danakyu. We found a place to stay for the night, pretty much just picking at random. This should be interesting going without a guide and figuring it out on our own. We’ve done absolutely zero research on the Annapurna Circuit but how hard could it be? We have a map.

Day 11

Upper Pisang

Elev. 10,820 feet

I think everybody gets sick eventually in Nepal. Today it was QB’s turn. Yesterday she started feeling lousy walking down from Bimthang and it progressed throughout the day and overnight. She’s tough though and once she got on the Imodium train this morning she started feeling better. Maybe not 100% yet but she’s getting there.

The weather wasn’t great today plus with QB’s bellyache it didn’t look like we’d have much of a day. Still crushed though. There was a decent climb from Danakyu to Timthang then walked a couple more hours to Chame. A German guy Alan walked with us for a while and that was a breath of fresh air, someone new. He stopped in Chame where he was meeting a friend and we carried on. For lunch we got to this lodge in Brathang that looked totally out of place. It looked more like a farmhouse you’d see in the Montana mountains than a tea house in Nepal, and it was actually called ‘The Farmhouse.’ All of a sudden there were lots of other trekkers around. I think a lot of them were actually starting here at The Farmhouse. The Annapurna Circuit is much different than Manaslu for a bunch of reasons but for starters there’s a Jeep road on Annapurna that goes almost all the way around. This gives people the option to start in all different towns.

We walked a couple more hours after lunch, sometimes on the Jeep road and sometimes on trail, until we got to Upper Pisang where we’ll spend the night. There’s a big group of Russians here and another group from Israel. Including us and the locals there’s four different languages being spoken in the dining room but I can only understand one.

Day 12

Gunsang

Elev. 12,952 feet

Well, today was awesome. Yesterday we had a choice; take either the low route or the high route. The high route was longer and had more elevation gain but left the road and had incredible views. The low route stuck down on the road and would have been easier walking, albeit less scenic. Naturally we went high.

Shortly after we left Upper Pisang this morning we were admiring the beefy Annapurna II from across the valley. I was alternating between looking straight ahead where I was going and turning to get another look at this gigantic mountain when suddenly I saw a massive amount of snow break off from near the top of the peak and pick up steam and more snow as it tumbled down towards the valley. AVALANCHE! The natural phenomenon that until this point I had only heard about. It was incredible. Thankfully it didn’t reach the valley containing Lower Pisang and I don’t think people climb that side of the mountain. I hope not anyway. Check out below for a video or see it on my instagram @endlesspsummer.

 

The rest of the day was cool but nothing happened as exciting as a Himalayan avalanche. From Upper Pisang we had a steep climb up to Ghyaru, an ancient village looking over the valley. We contoured along the side of a mountain for awhile and got to Ngawal. The villages for the most part seem much bigger in the Annapurna region than over by Manaslu, probably because most can be accessed by a road or at least close to a road.

Eventually we rejoined a road and had to stop at a police checkpoint, and for whatever reason QB’s permit has her listed as Algerian but the Nepal police didn’t question it. I wasn’t about to say anything, that would just slow us down. We got lunch at a really good spot in a tiny village called Manchi then made our way to the big city in the area; Manang.

Manang is literally the end of the road, it will be all trail from here until we get over the pass. Because of this we figured we better stock up on coconut cookies and other goodies before the prices jump when we get higher in the mountains. Lots of trekkers usually stop in Manang for a night or 2 but we strategically wanted to get a little higher for acclimating purposes. We walked another hour uphill to this place Gunsang that is pretty much just one active hotel.

After taking a few minutes to get set up we came out to eat and the kid here was like, “My parents just left and will be back in an hour or two.” It’s 5:30 and we’re both wicked hungry and it’s not like they just ran to the store or something, the nearest anything is an hours walk in each direction. Whatever, at least the kid here made us some tea and I guess we just eat late. It’s weird though, I would have thought they would have told us they won’t be around to cook for awhile. Anyway our room tonight is incredible, I mean there’s nothing to it but we have a view of some of the most gigantic mountains I’ve ever seen and it will probably only cost something like 3-5 dollars.

Well I just learned that the reason the parents ran out is because they went to check on one of their yaks that was bitten by either a snow leopard or a wolf(I didn’t know there were wolves here but who knows). I guess I can wait for my food, sure hope their yak is ok.Sweet $3 view!

Day 13

Thorung Phedi

Elev. 14,837 feet

Today was a short day for miles hiked or for hours hiked but we did put ourselves another couple thousand feet higher and should be good to go to get up and over Thorung Pass tomorrow. Ideally we would just walk all day and be on the other side of the pass tonight but that’s not the way things go out here. Clouds usually roll in every afternoon and the chances for lousy weather go way up later in the day. Thorung La(or pass) sits at something like 17,500 feet and I’ve never been up that high, I’ve also never slept as high as I am tonight. I think getting acclimated the last couple weeks has got me and QB in good condition and we’ll spend most of the day resting, eating, and drinking mint tea. Hopefully tomorrow morning will be nice and clear and we’ll be able to get it done. Even though we only walked about 4 hours today the hiking was pretty rad. We walked higher and higher through a valley all morning and had views of some incredible mountains ahead of us and behind us. At one point along the side of the trail there was a dead goat or a blue sheep carcass and we watched as about a dozen Himalayan Vultures(not sure what the real name is for these birds but they’re massive) fought and picked over the dead meat. It was quite a sight. 3rd coolest thing I’ve seen in 2 days: avalanche, a dog sliding off a roof that a girl caught that we saw in Manang, and these vulture fights.

 

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We got to Thorung Phedi around 11 and our only other option for today was to go another hour and another thousand feet to sleep at High Camp. I’m comfortable here. Excited about tomorrow and a little nervous.

Day 14

Thorung Phedi

Elev. 14,837 feet

Well today didn’t go as planned. We woke up at 4:30 am and were ready to crush it up the pass. Overnight the weather turned to shit and it was already snowing down here below 15,000 feet. We decided to wait until 6 and if it didn’t improve we’d wait it out a day for safety’s sake and try the pass tomorrow. It didn’t improve. Not the end of the world though, it was nice just laying around, resting, reading, and beating Sara in Chess.

Then around noontime my stomach started doing somersaults. Over the next few hours my condition deteriorated. I’ll spare you the details but if you look back to my entry for day 3 of this adventure you’ll get a good idea of what I went through again. Things aren’t looking good for getting over Thorung Pass. If by some miracle I’m 100% by morning and the skies are clear we might go for it. Otherwise I think our best option will be turning around and hiking down to Besi Sahar(our original ending point for the Manaslu Circuit). It will probably be about 4 days of walking either way, hopefully between the 2 of us we’re carrying enough Imodium. Thorung Pass and the Annapurna Circuit were never part of the original plan so I won’t be too upset if I don’t get up and over it. Sure would be cool though.

Day 15

Besi Sahar

Elev. 2500 feet

The skies were clear and the weather looked just about perfect to go up and over the pass this morning. The problem was I was completely drained. I wasn’t so much feeling sick and nauseous anymore but I didn’t have any energy at all, I was dehydrated and I’d barely eaten anything in the last 24 hours. Neither of us slept well the last 2 nights. Going over the pass would be a poor decision. QB and I decided to head back down the way we came and in a few days end up in Besi Sahar, which was the town we were originally aiming for before detouring over to the Annapurna Circuit. In just a few hours of walking quickly downhill we were back in Manang, the town where the trail meets the road and vice versa. We walked another couple hours and were just getting through the town of Humde when a Jeep pulled over with a deal for us: 8,000 rupees for the 8 hour ride to Besi Sahar. Deal! I’m only in Nepal for so long and I don’t need to see the same things twice.

There were already seven other Nepalis jammed into this thing so Sara and I jumped into the back and it was an enjoyable first couple hours. At one point a couple got out and they told us to come sit in front. I just do what I’m told. The road got wicked bumpy after that and the ride was slow going and treacherous. It’s beyond me why people go 4 wheeling for fun. After a long day of traveling we got Besi Sahar and will stay here for the night. Tomorrow we’ll either get another Jeep or a bus to take us into Polkara where we’ll regroup, do laundry, take showers, have internet and come up with a plan for the rest of our trip.

It’s been a great couple weeks in the Himalayas. A very different style of hiking than I’m used to and also for the most part very enjoyable. I’ve switched from coffee to tea and gave up eating meat for my time in the mountains. I also had 2 separate and very extreme cases of getting sick. I got sick more times in the last 2 weeks of hiking in Nepal than in almost 10,000 miles of long distance hiking in the States. Maybe I’m just unlucky. I broke my no shower record(not sure if my hygiene contributed to me getting sick but I diligently used hand sanitizer before I ate and I treated all the water I drank). I climbed to the highest point in my life multiple times on this trip and also slept higher than I’ve ever slept before. Most importantly I got to see a part of the world that is simply incredible; people living with a backdrop of arguably the most spectacular landscape on the planet.

Day 5

Pewa

Elev. 5700 feet

This morning we left the Yak Hotel in Lar and started walking back towards the Manaslu Circuit from Tsum Valley. The first hour or so was pretty cold until the sun came out. It’s weird, daylight and sunrise aren’t even close. It gets light out way before the sun shows itself over the mountains. Once the sun does show itself the temperature rises considerable. After we walked through Chhokang Paro the trail dropped steeply for awhile and we had to redo the dicey spot where the trail got real narrow and the footing was soft due to a previous landslide. I usually don’t like doing out and back style hikes but since I felt like death the other day it was nice to re-walk the same trail and I was able to enjoy it more. Same goes for the place we had lunch today in Chumling; 2 days ago I was throwing up in their bathroom and today I wolfed down a plate of fried noodles. From lunch we walked a few hours downhill to Lokpa and then a couple more to where we rejoined the Manaslu Circuit and the confluence with the Buddhi Gandaki river. We all went for an icy cold refreshing bath in a little tributary to the big river. It was so nice! I love cold water on a hot day. We returned to the circuit and everything was new again.

The trail stayed right alongside the river for the rest of the day and in the early evening we got to the tiny village of Pewa where we’re staying the night. Gopal strongly suggested the dal bhat and since I’m a glutton for punishment I figured I should get back at it. It was good, I just hope I don’t suffer the consequences again. The bed here is comfortable and directly next to the loud soothing sound of the river, really hoping for a nice peaceful night sleep.

Day 6

Lho

Elev. 10,425 feet

Today was great day! QB celebrated her 25th birthday and what better place than smack dab in the middle of the Himalayas. I was finally able to lighten my pack and unload her present, a dark chocolate bar that I’ve been carrying for a week.

After breakfast we walked on the side of a cliff along the river for most of the morning. There was only one relatively gnarly spot where the trail was damaged from landslides but we got through no problem. I’m not too crazy about these landslide sections but they’re never as bad as they seem and so far so good, 100% survival rate (knock on wood). For lunch we made it to the little village of Gap and pigged out on some fried noodles with egg. Today there’s been lots of other trekkers from all over the place but none going a similar pace so we usually just exchange niceties and what not and don’t see them again. After lunch the trail went through what I guess would technically be called a jungle and we were suddenly in the middle of a bunch of big trees. The river got smaller and faster as we climbed higher and at one point it caused this really cool arch in the rock. We also saw more monkeys and blue sheep this afternoon. Around 3 we got to Namrung which was home to the fanciest hotel I’ve seen up this way. We aren’t staying here but as luck would have it they were selling pieces of chocolate cake and we were able to have a little birthday ceremony for QB. the Birthday GirlAfter Namrung, Gopal suggested we hike for a few more hours and of course we were all in so we crushed the rest of the day with steep climbs all the way to the village of Lho. People are always asking where we are coming from, it’s like the main topic of conversation out here, and one local villager said to Mac, “Even Nepali people don’t walk from Pewa to Lho in one day.” I guess we really are crushing. Lho is almost 5000 feet higher than where we slept last night. The lodge here is bigger than usual, has a wood stove to keep the dining room warm, a sit down(western)toilet, and some really good food. I got Swiss Rosti which is some kind of delicious fried potato and garlic pancake with eggs and cheese on top, my favorite dish of the whole trip. We also were able to get WiFi cards and had a little bit of service for the first time in a week. I mean a real little bit. Everybody had just enough service to get a message back and forth to their folks.

Day 7

Samdo

Elev. 12,700 feet

Today for breakfast I had a huge delicious apple pancake. I have to give it to the place in Lho for food, best so far on the Circuit (in my opinion anyway). It was cloudy when we got in last night because this morning we got our first look at Manaslu Peak. What a beefcake! 8000+ meters and the 8th tallest mountain in the world. After we ate breakfast we quickly climbed about 500 feet to Ribung Gompa and had ourselves a little look around. This monastery was bustling with monks, I think there was a school there and they were all sitting outside studying. From the monastery we walked through lots of pink and red blooming rhododendrons and then the trail climbed steeply through a forest until we got to the town of Shyla. Mountains in every direction. Another hour of walking and we were in Samagon, one of the largest towns we’ve been in. I thought the villages would get smaller as we got higher but I guess since we are getting closer to the Tibetan border the villages draw people from Tibet. From Samagon the trail was really flat for a couple hours as we walked through a huge valley until we got to Samdo.

The plan is to go over Larke Pass(16,900 feet), the main obstacle of the Circuit, in 2 days. We’ll stay in Samdo(at 12,700 feet the highest place I’ve ever slept) tonight and tomorrow and do a couple of hikes around here to get acclimated. Mac’s been over 20,000 feet before, but the highest the rest of us have been is 14,500. I don’t want to mess around with altitude sickness, so I’m really hoping things go alright and we get through the next few days ok. This afternoon Gopal, Mac, QB, and I climbed up to just over 14,000 going up a peak right outside of Samdo. Moist wasn’t feeling too hot so he stayed down low to rest.

On our way down we stopped and watched a festival going on. I guess we just missed an archery competition but there were lots of people dancing and a soccer game at 12,000 feet. The prize for the winning team was standing by, a live goat to be slaughtered. We watched the game for a little bit then got some supper and early to bed. Tomorrow we plan to climb a pass that goes to the Tibetan Border. It would be cool to make it to Tibet but I just heard there’s a decent snowpack so maybe we’ll just get as high as we can.

Day 8

Samdo

Elev. 12,700 feet

Right after breakfast today we walked to China. Well we walked to the Nepal/Tibet border and since Tibet is an autonomous region under Chinese rule, we technically walked to China. From Samdo we walked west toward Larkya Pass then cut north through a valley that went towards Tibet. The trail was steep, rocky and awesome. We saw tons of marmots, yaks, a few blue sheep but sadly no snow leopards. I guess this was the place to see the elusive snow leopard but it just didn’t happen for me. Moist rebounded nicely from feeling lousy yesterday and joined us for the first couple thousand feet. He turned back at 14,700 and the rest of us continued. Gopal, Mac, QB and myself got to the border after about 4 hours.

Lajyang Pass, right on the border, sits at 16,392 feet and is the highest I’ve ever been before. At that elevation I could see my house, just kidding. I definitely felt the effects, a little bit of head pressure, but nothing serious. I’ve been drinking lots of water and took a couple of IBs around 14,000 feet. The border itself is just a small fence that goes along the pass in between 2 higher mountains. Gopal said that since it is not patrolled until a 2 hour walk into Tibet, and it was ok to step over and take pictures. I’ll leave it to your imagination whether or not we did that. People on both sides of the border bring their yaks back and forth to graze with special permission from both governments.

The way down was quicker and we were back in Samdo around 2:30pm. Our plan is to get an alpine start in the morning and get up and over Larkya Pass tomorrow. I’m definitely getting another rosti for supper and hoping to get to bed early.

Day 9

Bimthang

Elev. 12,146 feet

Today we woke up a couple hours before the b-crack of dawn and started walking at 3:45 am. Our goal was to get to the top of Larkya La(La means pass) before the clouds roll in usually around 10 or 11. We all started with our headlamps except for Mountain Tiger, he has night vision so he led the way.

The sky was awesome as we walked through the early morning hours. First the stars were incredible and as the sun began to come out it lit up the very peak of Manaslu and then gradually the surrounding mountains.

We got to the tiny village of Dharmasala at 6am. This was an option as a place to stay last night and I’m glad we didn’t do it. Dharmasala sits at 14,700 feet and has 1 long room where they serve food and a bunch of semi-permanent tents where everybody sleeps. I guess there were around 60 people here last night and when they all tried to get breakfast at the sane time it was just chaos. By the time we got here most were already gone and we stopped in for a quick cup of garlic soup and some black tea. It was cold, at 6 am we still weren’t in the sun so even though I was warm from walking my water bottle was starting to freeze.

Once we left Dharmasala we were in direct sunlight and had a pleasant 3 hour walk to the top of the Pass. It was a beautiful morning and I was feeling good so I was able to crush the couple thousand feet to the top of Larkya La at 16,800 feet. Today felt like a long gradual climb and besides the elevation it was pretty easy. I felt like climbing to Tibet yesterday was a more difficult pass and getting up high definitely prepared me for today.

There was a ton of people on top of the pass and we all hung out on top for about 45 minutes until the clouds started to roll in. The descent was kind of lousy, it was super steep and there was a fair amount of snow. Thankfully QB and I had been carrying micro spikes this whole time and were glad to have them for this section.

Eventually we got below the snow line and walked a few more hours until we got to a tea house in Bimthang around 1pm. We still had lots of daylight left but everybody was content to just chill out and stay here the rest of the day.