Endless P Summer

Sept 28 SHR mile 128

I didn’t sleep so well in the Mammoth Lakes Motel 6 last night. Probably the combination of lack of air conditioning, the tractor trailer trucks rolling through the parking lot, or most likely that I’m just not used to sleeping in beds. I ate good though. Sara and I went to Schat’s bakery for breakfast and fueled up on pastries then I went a bit overboard at the Loco Frijole for lunch. I had a chimichanga which I like to think is a not so distant cousin to the Monte Christo sandwich, both usually the most filling item on the menu. Then I finished Sara’s burrito and had about a thousand tortilla chips.

Our pal Golden, the hiker turned trail angel, came by the restaurant around 1:30 and drove us back up to Red’s Meadow picking up a couple other PCT’ers on the way. We were in no hurry to get moving up at Red’s so while we were sitting at the picnic tables out front I recognized this hiker Beardoh. We’d never met before but he, Sara, and I already followed each other on Instagram and knew a bunch of the same people and places. Beardoh is currently wrapping up his season hiking the John Muir Trail and was waiting on a ride down to Mammoth. We talked with him for awhile and as it always happens when I talk to other people that are heavily invested in this lifestyle I start getting all kinds of ideas of other hikes and projects I want to do.

Eventually we got moving. With heavy packs and both trying to digest food babies we were going nowhere fast. We took the Minaret Lake Trail past Devil’s Postpile and skirting Nancy Pass about 8 miles to Minaret Lake. If you’re keeping score at home this is our second easy alternate in a row. Maybe someday I’ll come back and hike over Nancy Pass. Maybe not. Right now I’m cozy in my tent next to this beautiful lake in the shadow of the powerful Minaret spires. And I’m skipping dinner. So full. Soulful.

Sept 29 Independence, CA

The wind was crazy last night. Every night this week it got windy around 8pm but it would usually stop around 10. Not last night. It was something fierce. All night long it would come and go building up steam whipping sand through our tent with a vengeance. We forgot our tent stakes in the car a week ago so Sara’s been rigging up the 2 most important corners of the rain fly with our shit shovels. The wind knocked these things loose half a dozen times over the course of the night and by sunrise both of us had barely slept and had sand in our eyes, ears, noses, and mouths. Plus all over everything else. Rolling up the tent felt like flying a kite and we were careful not to lose anything as we packed the rest of our gear. Maybe it would settle down but if it didn’t neither one of us was in the mood to crawl across talus fields in order to stand on top of a pass in this weather. We decided to head back to Red’s Meadow the way we came in and start returning to the car. In essence we did about 60% of the Sierra High Route plus an overnight out and back to Minaret Lake.

When we got to the road by Devil’s Postpile(a national monument and geological wonder) the first car coming by was our buddy Golden. He drove us back into Mammoth where we grabbed breakfast and reserved a rental car from Hertz at the Mammoth Airport. We got a quick hitch from an Oregonian, Maryann, who drove us the 15 minutes out of town to the airport. There was nobody there. Sara called Hertz and a woman told her they don’t have any cars today and they only rent them from the in town location anyway. The woman gave Sara some nonsense about how you can’t book the cars online from the airport and then something about fine print and some other bullshit. No big deal, we’ll just figure something else out. The thing is, as the crow flies the car isn’t too far away, but you can’t get there from here as they say. It’s a 6 hour drive all the way around the mountains. Instead we figured we’d hitch south to Independence then hike 20 miles up and over Kearsarge Pass to the Bubbs Creek Trail and back to our car.

Too bad the airport is a couple of miles from the highway with zero traffic so we had to hoof it. Once we walked got back to 395(the highway through Owen’s Valley east of the Sierras) we got picked up by a French Couple, Ben and Margaux. These two were traveling the US in a camper van and drove us an hour and a half south to Independence. In exchange we helped them with converting the metric system to the wacky way we measure things in the US.

Independence is a tiny little Highway town with just the essentials. We got a room at the Winnedumah Hotel, most likely haunted, then ate burgers at the Still Life Cafe. It’s the only show in town but the food was good, reasonably priced, and the setting was straight out of another era with a piano in the corner and swing music playing.

A few of our buddies; Mac, Appa, and Moist drove up this way from LA to start their own little adventure in the Sierras. They were planning on camping just to the south of us in Lone Pine tonight but drove up to Independence and we ate gas station ice creams across from the hotel.

Sept 30 Convict Flat CG Sequoia NF

I slept decently in the Winnedumah, especially for a haunted hotel, and they put on a pretty good breakfast; homemade quiche, banana bread, and waffles. After breakfast we started walking towards the Onion Valley Trailhead and put our thumbs out. The first car that drove by stopped for us and Dan and Karen, a couple of hikers from Stockton, drove us up the steep winding road to the beginning of the Kearsarge Pass Trail.

It’s about 5 miles up this big beefy pass but the trail is all switchbacked and smooth so it was easy going. On the way up we ran into this kid Vulture that we met back in March in Oracle, AZ at the beginning of the Arizona Trail. He’s had quite a season hiking the AZT now currently southbounding the PCT. Today he was just going over Kearsarge Pass to get into town to resupply. I did the same thing when I hiked the PCT and I remember Kearsarge, even though back and forth it added something like 16 miles, to be a highlight of the Sierras. It still is.

On the way down from the Pass we walked past beautiful Bullfrog lake among others and eventually made it to the Bubbs Creek Trail. For the next 14 miles we walked mostly mellow trail along Bubbs Creek and through a canyon until we got back to Road’s End where we parked 9 days ago. We drove a half hour out of the park and pulled into Convict Flat CG same place we camped before we started this hike.

Oh yeah we saw this massive hawk today right next to the trail. He/she was perched on a dead stump of a tree about eye level 10 feet away from us. We stopped and just watched it for awhile and it barely moved but looked like maybe it had something in it’s mouth. For experiences with birds of prey, it was right up there.

Oct 1 Big Sur, CA

This morning we drove the winding road from our campsite to the General Grant Grove. This is the original National Park that was later on taken over by King’s Canyon NP and consists of a grove of massive sequoia trees. No doubt very impressive. We walked around admiring all these gigantic trees including the General Grant tree itself, the third largest tree in the world by volume.

After our little nature walk we began driving an even windier road all the way through Sequoia National Park and eventually down to the valley.

The rest of the afternoon was a bit frustrating. Last night when I started the car after letting it sit for 8 or 9 days, a bunch of the dashboard lights were on; check engine, brake, eyesight, low air pressure, oil temp, etc. I figure it’s just something electrical and all I needed to do was go to an auto parts store and have them reset it with their code reader. The thing is they don’t do that in California and I need to either go to a shop or go to a dealership. First thing I did was get an oil change(needed to do that anyway) then we drove around going to a couple different auto parts stores, then I disconnected the battery, reconnected it without change, then I tried calling a Subaru dealership but they said I could only get an appointment a few days out. It’s been frustrating and annoying to have all these lights on. Hopefully it’s no big deal. I’ll go to a shop next time I see one. Or when I get home.

Throughout the day we made our way west towards the Pacific and reached the ocean near the town of Cambria. From there we drove north on Highway 1 into the sunset. I’m not sure exactly where Big Sur starts but I think we’re in it now and it’s a beautiful coastal drive. We’re definitely within Los Padres National Forest and we drove up this steep dirt road off Highway 1 and found a spot to park for the night overlooking the ocean.

Oct 2 Bonny Doon, CA

First thing this morning, before I even woke up or actually this is what woke me up, someone in a truck drove by our free campsite from their free campsite blasting their horn. What a dick. That was around 6am and I never got back to sleep.

Whatever. We ate some breakfast at our little campsite pull off then started making our way north along the Big Sur Coast stopping at anything that piqued our interest. At Andrew Molera State Park we went for a run along the bluffs then down to the ocean. The trails were great for running and at the beach there were porpoises or dolphins breaching just off shore.

Traveling up the coast we ate lunch at Cannery Row in Monterey and oddly enough I just happened to have started listening to John Steinbeck’s Cannery Row audiobook the other day. From Monterey we drove north along the bay to Santa Cruz and explored the pier and checked out the waves at this surf town. Word is there’s been humpback whales breaching but I didn’t see any.

I got in touch with my friend Walker aka Diatom who lives with his folks up in Bonny Doon which I guess is a ‘census-designated place’ within Santa Cruz county but it’s actually more of a state of mind. Now this is a sweet piece of property. Steve(Walker’s dad)and his wife Gloria, who was out of town tonight, had the house built 20 years ago during which time the family all lived in a fifth wheel trailer and a tent on the property. Now there’s gardens, ponds, dogs, lots of trees, a sweet lawn, a John Steinbeck themed outhouse, and Walker and his and Steve run their own business out of a shop next to the house creating and selling ceramic lanterns. I’m sure you can find it online if you want to check it out: Bonny Doon Designs. It was great to catch up with my buddy Diatom who I hiked hundreds of miles with and get to know his father who’s had his share of adventures. Diatom cooked us dinner and they put us up for the night. I kinda want to move in.

Oct 3 San Francisco, CA

This morning we drove down from Bonny Doon to the Coast. We checked the waves at Cowell’s Beach but nothing was happening so we drove south about 5 miles to Pleasure Point and rented surfboards.

Now the last time I surfed was in Tofino and while we were up there I felt like I was getting right up on every other wave and riding them all the way in. Today I wasn’t so lucky or maybe my surf skills are just more suited for Canadian waters. I did overhear a serious surfer saying that today was a ‘tough’ day. Either way it was still fun. Sara and I were out there all morning and got up on the boards once in awhile but most of the time I was just getting tossed around by waves.

This afternoon we drove up to San Francisco and began what I think we’ll be a multiple day walking and noodle eating tour. We saw the painted ladies, went to multiple chinatowns for dumplings and found a place to park for the night near the beach along Great Highway, supposedly it’s a good quiet spot to sleep for the night. We’ll see, at least the price is right.

Oct 4 San Francisco, CA

What a city! And not a bad night parked on the Great Highway either, so good we’ll try it again tonight. It’s quiet, dark, and we didn’t have any disturbances last night. The Great Highway goes along the edge of the Outer Sunset District from the SF Zoo past Golden Gate Park and feels more like a city street than an actual Highway. We’re parked across the street from houses and directly next to a thin strip of grass and trees that has a walking path going through it. Parallel to us on the other side of the path is another road, also ‘the Great Highway’ and then it’s beach and then the Pacific Ocean. So essentially what we have here is ocean front property. It’s comfortable but not so comfortable that I’d get outside the car and fire up our camping stove to cook supper, just comfortable enough to sleep inside the car for a couple nights with the curtains drawn.

Today we walked and ate all over the city. Specifically we went to get breakfast nearby in Sunset then took a bus over to SoMa, bought some used clothes, walked from there back to Chinatown, ate lunch then found the fortune cookie factory, walked up the Fillmore steps, were dazzled by the Blue Angels Flight Squad, went up Coit Tower, took an Uber across the city to China Beach, climbed on the rocks, laid eyes on the mighty Golden Gate Bridge, walked through the Presidio, bought a used book in Inner Richmond, walked through Golden Gate Park, up and down Haight-Ashbury then took a bus back to Sunset and back to car. We ate bagels, donuts, noodles, dumplings, pizza, tacos and ice cream. Almost all of the major food groups.

Oct 5 Lake Chabot CG, CA

Well I guess stealth camping along the Great Highway wasn’t so ‘Great’ last night. Around 1:30, while enjoying a deep REM cycle, I woke up to somebody trying to open the doors to the car. I’m assuming he or she must also drive a black Subaru Outback with Massachusetts plates and a cargo carrier on top and was just confused about where they left it. Before Sara or I could even figure out what was going on someone else drove by and the confused person must have remembered where they parked their car and took off. Confused person or burglar, we weren’t getting back to sleep in this location so we drove over the Golden Gate Bridge and parked at a rest area just to the north. We probably should have done this in the first place as it was a relatively dark and quiet place to park for the night. The lot did fill up quick with loud tourists this morning though, including ourselves.

We went down to Sausalito, a town within the bay, for breakfast then drove over to the Marin Headlands for a little walking and looking around. The Point Bonita Lighthouse was closed for visitors today but we still got a good look at the bridge and saw tons of seals on the walk out towards it. Driving back along the coast we stopped and walked out a couple hundred yards for some absolutely striking views of the bridge. I guess this is fleet week and we watched as a SF Fire Boat, a Navy aircraft carrier, and a handful of other navy and coast guard ships went under the bridge. A truly impressive sight. A Coast Guard Helicopter even flew under the bridge, I’d like to think the pilot was disobeying his superior just for the sake of showing off but that probably wasn’t the case.

Tomorrow we’re running the Dick Collins Firetrails 50 Mile Trail Race(what a name!) in and around Lake Chabot regional park. We had to pick up our race packets today at a running store in Oakland, so we did that then walked around the Rock Ridge neighborhood for awhile. After that we drove over to Berkeley and explored for a couple hours before driving out towards Lake Chabot. We’re sleeping in an actual pay campground tonight. Not just because of the events from last night, I actually thought of this a few days ago, just wanted to give us both the best chances of a decent nights sleep before the race. I’m a bit nervous and anxious about the race, Sara on the other hand, not at all.

Oct 6

Today was the day! We ran and completed the Dick Collins Firetrails 50 Miler. 10 hours 40 something minutes.

It wasn’t easy but it was fun. First of all we had to wake up at 4:45 am then drive over from the campground to be ready to start the race at 6am. Luckily Sara and I both got a decent night’s sleep. The course was dark for the first hour and for whatever reason I didn’t bring a headlamp but was able to get by because just about everybody else had one and kept the place lit up pretty well. During the first 10 miles we faced some of the most severe climbs and descents, and since it was an out and back style course we knew we had these hills to look forward to again. After the hills we reached Lake Chabot which is a major outdoor recreation area in the East Bay and draws lots of people from Oakland and the surrounding towns. Around the lake the course is paved for a handful of miles. I’m not too crazy about running on the pavement, I feel like it just beats up my knees and feet. It didn’t last forever though and after the Lake there were a couple of aid stations relatively close together so it made the miles seem to tick by quickly. We did some more climbs and drops then we got to my favorite part of the course which was a few miles through a redwood canyon(I think it was actually called ‘Redwood Canyon’). It was deep and dark and the footing was soft and pleasant. Because of the style of the course we started seeing the leaders through this section. We had one long steep hill until the turnaround then repeated the whole thing.

Around mile 20 a woman at an aid station told Sara she was the 5th place female. The rest of the day we tried and were successful in at least retaining that position. Not that we were being competitive and racing but it did give us something to shoot for. We actually didn’t lose any ground at all for the rest of the race. After the first hour when everybody was bunched up, the crowd got pretty thin. We leap frogged with 2 different runners for really long stretches of the course with one of them finishing in front and the other behind us. In the section just after the turnaround we got passed by 2 guys but we were able to catch them and another runner 20 miles later going up one of the massive hills near the end. I felt like I was suited quite well for these hills. They were hot and exposed and so steep that they were unrunnable and although these were our slowest miles of the day I was able to climb them pretty quickly. Finishing the race was a great feeling and I’m sure my body will pay the price for a few days. Sara ended up winning her age group and 5th place female. Not bad for her first race, not just first ultra, this was her first organized race outside of a couple Wednesday night runs in Lynn Woods last summer. I finished just after the 5th place female and we came in 21st and 22nd overall. There was a great spread at the finish line so we hung out for a couple hours eating food, talking to runners, and watching people finish. A very fun and successful day! For tonight instead of sleeping in the car I sprung for a hotel room in nearby Hayward, CA. I’ve run these long runs before and I know it’s important to be near a toilet. An actual bed helps too. feel free to follow this blog or find me on insta @endlesspsummer and Sara @sarahikes

Sept 22 SHR Mile 18

The Sierra High Route isn’t so much a trail but more of a route through California’s Sierra Nevada mountains. It stretches roughly 195 miles from Road’s End in King’s Canyon north to Twin Lakes near Mono Village(or the other way around but we’re going north). Unlike most of the hiking I’ve done, a lot of this route isn’t on trail. There’s lots of route finding, cross country walking, scrambling over talus fields and maneuvering through loose scree, and also some trail. The route parallels a lot of the John Muir Trail(JMT) which also coincides with the PCT and occasionally the route will follow some of this trail for a few miles here and there. This is my first time back to the Sierras since I walked through here on the PCT in ‘15 and I’m very excited. This is a magical place. Hopefully the route goes smoothly, read up to find out.

This morning we drove about a half hour from Convict Flat CG to the wilderness permit station at the very end of Road’s End in King’s Canyon National Park. The ranger there was great. I feel like I’ve had my share of experiences with rangers that try to rain on my parade, they try to shoot down my plans, act like I can’t do what I want to do, or just make matters difficult. This guy was cool though, he just did his job and gave us the permits we needed. We left the car at Road’s End and got started shortly after 9 beginning a steep climb up the Copper Creek Trail. The trail was smooth and was all switchbacks but we climbed over 5000 feet right away and my pack was as heavy as it’s ever been. It will be slow going so we figured 6+ days of food for a 118 mile section from here to Red’s Meadow where we’ll get into Mammoth to resupply. We also are required to carry bear canisters through these parks which add about 2-3 lbs. I’m using the same pack I’ve had for awhile a Hyperlite 2400 and it was maxed out. Sara opted for her bigger ULA Om instead of her tiny Pa’lante pack she used on the PCT and the Om was at full capacity. My only gear switch was a Hawaiian shirt instead of a tank top for better sun protection. We’re carrying heavy and climbing high but we’re in the Sierras and the weather is beautiful so it’s all good. From the top of the Copper Creek Trail we did some cross country walking towards Grouse Lake where I just had to go for a quick swim then climbed up Grouse Lake Pass at over 11,000 feet. Suddenly I felt like we were plopped right down in the middle of the Sierras, which we are. There were beautiful turquoise alpine lakes and granite mountains in every direction, with more craggy peaks in the distance and all different kinds of pine trees everywhere. It was awesome. Quite different from the 95 degree Walmart parking lot in Fresno yesterday.

We walked down then up and over Goat Crest Pass, picking are way around scree fields and then down to another lake. This went on for the rest of the afternoon. We’d find whatever we were supposed to be aiming for; a lake, a low lying saddle or a mountain and then just walk towards it.

For navigation, in case you’re wondering, we’re using a couple different routes on Gaia. One route is from a hiker named Swami that Sara found online and the other is from this maniac Jabba who sent me a very similar route with a few alternates to give us some options. We’ll use both of them and probably add a couple alternates of our own and make decisions accordingly. We also have Steve Roper’s guidebook downloaded to give us descriptions of where we should be going and what to look for.

This evening we did end up joining something of a trail for awhile. We followed that around Horseshoe Lakes and after the trail petered out we climbed up onto a saddle and found a campsite near a small tarn(small lake). Perfect first day on the SHR.

Sept 23 SHR mile 35

Holy Toledo, Ohio what a day! This might take us longer than I anticipated. Right away this morning we did a little climbing then dropped way down then started climbing again way up towards White Pass. Picking our way through big huge boulders. From White Pass we contoured through a talus field to Red Pass then dropped steeply towards Marian Lake maneuvering through an even steeper gully right at the end. Maybe the most perfect turquoise lake I’ve ever seen surrounded by granite. From Marian we climbed up through a basin containing a bunch of lakes and started making our way to Frozen Lake Pass. Keep in mind this whole time we’re traveling around 1 mph and about to slow down.

Frozen Lake Pass is a super steep pass up a talus field that at first glance looked impossible. We figured a route would begin to present itself as long as we took it nice and slow. Climbing up the talus field most of the rocks were solid but occasionally there’d be a loose one so as we scrambled up we’d test the rocks before proceeding. At the top of the pass it looked even steeper on the way down beginning we some dastardly loose scree. We descended one at a time, went slowly, and eventually made it down to a snowfield that was a bit easier to traverse. The talus field flattened out for awhile then dropped steeply again for until we got to a little alpine lake. I knew this was the end of the hard section for the day so I went for a quick icy cold swim to celebrate.

From the lake we walked cross country for a mile or so until we joined the JMT/PCT. Ahh! Home sweet home, the PCT. It was a treat to walk along this nicely manicured trail for awhile and we were able to pick up the pace a bit. Even the trail was tough though, it brought us up and down Mather Pass and along Palisades Lakes but this was a cakewalk compared to Frozen Lake Pass. We hadn’t see another person in the 24+ hours that we were off trail but during the 5 miles we were on trail we must have seen 20 people, mostly southbound JMTers.

After the lakes we veered off the trail to the right and began making our way up towards Cirque Pass. Instead of nicely groomed trail we were hopping around boulders and scrambling up little cliffs. We got to the cirque below the pass as the sun was setting and decided to leave the rest of it for the morning.

The full moon came up over the peaks and at 11,400 feet we’re camping next to a tarn in one of my favorite campsites of all time. And I saw a shooting star.

Sept 24 SHR mile 58

Alright I might not need to put myself on extreme food rations just yet, we were able to crank out some miles today and get back on track.

Laying up below Cirque Pass last night proved to be the right move. It took us over an hour to get up and down the pass first thing this morning and would have been dangerous to try that with just headlamps last night. From Cirque Pass we went down to a lake then immediately up and over Potluck Pass. This looked like a formidable wall and unlikely that we would be able to get over it but as we got closer we realized there were all kinds of little ledges and ramps that we could scramble up. From the top of Potluck we could see our next obstacle 2 miles to the north, Knapsack Pass. First we had to drop down off of Potluck and zig zag through a valley going up and down little boulder hills and what not. It’s not difficult or anything it was just tedious and slow walking. These huge valleys in between passes are absolutely incredible though. Because they’re so hard to get to, there’s nobody out here, or almost nobody. I thought we had this gigantic valley to ourselves so I was belting out Phil Collins at the top of my lungs when I saw a couple of figures near the top of Knapsack. We ended up meeting Hurl Goat and Mary Poppins a little later and these are the only other High Route hikers we’ve come across so far. Going up and down Knapsack was a slow process but we were able to take our time and pick safe manageable lines up and down the pass.

For the next hour we dropped down to Dusy Basin where I went for my daily bath. After another mile or so we joined the Bishop Pass trail that led down into LeConte Canyon where once again we picked up the JMT/PCT.

Coming from scrambling across the talus fields of the High Route to walking north on the PCT I felt like a dog with a broken leash. We were able to cruise all afternoon and cover some ground. Even as the PCT climbed up the long and gradual Muir Pass we were able to move quickly. I met a handful of southbounders today on their way to Mexico and really got me thinking about hiking that trail south in the future. Might just be the way to do it. We walked a little bit into the dark tonight but being on actual trail that’s no problem. At the last of Evolution Lakes we found a spot to camp as the moon was coming up.

Sept 25 SHR mile 78

This place is amazing. We started this morning by walking about a half mile on the PCT before taking a right onto a steep faint path up towards Darwin Bench, a beautiful spot with a bunch of little lakes surrounded by mountains.

From Darwin Bench we kept climbing and after a little while we could see our next obstacle, Alpine Col(I think col is just another word for Pass, same with notch, gap, and in Nepal; la. They all seem to mean a low spot in a wall of mountains). Alpine Col is daunting. From a distance there looked like no way up and over it. We walked slowly the next hour rock hopping on big boulders along a couple of lakes while looking up towards the col. This only built nervous anticipation. As we got closer a few routes began to unfold and I knew we’d be able to get up it. For some reason I chose a narrow chute of loose scree which looked better than it was. I managed ok but suggested Sara try something else and she seemed to find an easier way. Descending Alpine Col was no picnic either. We had to maneuver around big huge boulders and were very careful picking our lines in order to not get cliffed out. Then when it did finally flatten out we had about a mile of talus field to get through. Looking back I couldn’t imagine having to go up and over Alpine Col from the north side. And this was the easier option! We could have taken Snow Tongue Pass but the description of this one sounded downright harrowing.

Alpine Col and Snow Tongue Pass are on an 8 mile ridge called the Glacier Divide and I think this is what separates Kings Canyon NP from Muir Wilderness. After we got into Muir Wilderness we took an alternate from the Sierra HR that brought us down along Piute Creek below tree line and then we turned and took a right up French Canyon. This was a relaxing handful of miles compared to what we went through this morning. It wouldn’t last though. From French Canyon we climbed steeply up towards Merriam Lake and then further up to LaSalle Lake where we could see our next challenge; Feather Pass.

Climbing Feather Pass wasn’t as technically difficult as some of the other ones but it was a big beefy pass at over 12,300 feet that still involved some scrambling and we were in a race against the sun. I thought it was important to have enough natural light to find our way down that we weren’t rushing. Good thing we crushed all afternoon so when we got to the top of Feather Pass at 6 we still had an hour of light to navigate the talus field on the north side. The sun was setting as we walked through this valley of lakes and it was absolutely stunning. We reached Bear Paw lake and have an excellent campsite for the night.

Sept 26 SHR mile 97

No easy days out here, and I thought for sure today might be one. From our campsite this morning we made our way up and around a bunch of lakes all with bear names. It’s a very beautiful area and feels so far removed from anything. We had to climb a few steep gullies and over some talus but it was rather easy until we got to the top of White Bear Lake Pass. WBL Pass is actually a low lying pass so getting to the top was no big deal but descending the north side requires some slow and careful route finding around cliffs and through a big talus field. This seemed to go on forever and I was amazed looking back at it that we were able to safely get down.We walked another much flatter mile or so and came to Lake Italy(I guess some cartographer thought this long narrow lake resembled The Boot).

At the lake we ran into our first pair of southbound High Routers, Mike and Steve. I didn’t envy what they were about to climb. 20 minutes after we went our separate ways I came up with the best idea; I should have given those guys the key to my car and then they could have driven it up to the Northern Terminus to pick up their own car and left mine for us, it would have been a win win all the way around! A perfect opportunity like that doesn’t come across often and I blew it, just didn’t think of it at the time. Sara said there were too many variables and chances it wouldn’t work out, but I don’t know.

From the northern end of Lake Italy we blasted up a steep slope to Gabbot Pass. There was nothing tricky about it just good strong hiking to get to the top and it was the last time the route goes over 12,000 feet. On the north side of Gabbot was lots and lots of talus to get through but it never seemed too steep just time consuming. We eventually dropped down a path of loose scree to beautiful Lower Mills Creek Lake and found a rock to jump off into the icy cold turquoise water. We ate lunch at the lake and then followed a faint path steeply through forest down to Second Recess(whatever that is, some kind of geology term). I wasn’t crazy about this particular decline, I was slipping and sliding and struggling to find the trail. Once we got to Second Recess though we had a half hour of quite relaxing trail until we picked up a super steep trail up to Laurel Creek. Sara and I both blasted uphill then walked through a valley to Laurel Lake at the bottom of Bighorn Pass.

Bighorn Pass was quite steep and was much grassier than the other passes which made it unusual. There was nothing technical here and we didn’t take our time ascending because once again daylight was an issue and we still had another major obstacle. From the top of Bighorn we had to contour and climb over to Shout-of-Relief Pass. This was a bit tricky. It wasn’t super far or anything just littered with big huge boulders that we had to work our way around. There were a bunch of little climbs and drops and careful route finding involved before being able to let out a Shout of Relief. From the top of this pass we had a rather gentle and enjoyable walk down about a half mile to the closest tarn where we set up camp in some trees on a cozy pine needle floor.

Sept 27 SHR mile 118

Today was an easy day. The first three miles took forever walking cross country and finding our way downhill through a lake basin and all kinds of cliffs and stuff until we got to the McGee Pass Trail. From there we walked a nice smooth mile until the High Route rejoined the PCT. The trail climbed steadily up some nice switchbacks to Purple Lake Pass(probably not the real name) then we just cruised for half a dozen miles.

The High Route veers off the PCT to go up towards Duck Pass but we elected to walk trail for the next 10-12 miles so we could get to Red’s Meadow then down into Mammoth for the night. It was absolutely delightful to just walk along a peaceful trail all day. We’ve had a long 6 days out here and getting into town was a priority.Red’s Meadow is a mule packing station with a little campground, small restaurant, and small store. It’s not really ideal for resupplying although some hikers mail themselves packages here for a hefty fee. In the past I’ve taken a bus into the town of Mammoth but I guess they only run it on the weekends during September. We heard there was a trail angel running shuttles back and forth so I got his number and gave him a call.

Golden, who just finished the PCT, was spending some time in the area driving hikers around. Thankfully he drove the hour round trip for us and entertained us along the way, telling us about when he used to hang out with John Cazale (Fredo)in Brooklyn back in the 70’s.

When I was in Mammoth in 2015 I went to this place Giovanni’s and had Spicy Thai Pizza then talked about it for a couple thousand miles. Today I had that pizza again. Now I guess it’s a tradition. After pizza, Sara and I did all the town stuff: got our resupply done for the next section, showered, did laundry and got a room for the night. Not all in that order.

We’re hoping to get back on the route tomorrow afternoon and travel 77 miles over the next 4-5 days to the Northern Terminus at Twin Lakes up near Mono Village.

Feel free to follow this blog or find me on insta @endlesspsummer and Sara/QB @sarahikes

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 2

Today was quite productive, even though I tossed and turned all night trying to sleep in the car at the rest area. Since the smoke seems to have cleared out from Washington quite a bit, Sara and I are going to try to get on the PCT for awhile. She’s got unfinished business starting at White Pass and going north for 350 miles to the Canadian Border. We had a bunch of stuff to do if we’re to get on trail by tomorrow. So after breakfast we found a Planet Fitness and both took much needed showers(rivers, lakes, and the occasional ocean dip only go so far). Next we found a place to do laundry and resupply, then drove the 3-4 hours south to the town of Packwood. This is usually a tiny little town right next to Mt Rainier NP and White Pass but not today. As we were driving into town there were tents set up everywhere, people selling all kinds of food and lots of other stuff. It felt like we were driving right into the middle of the Topsfield Fair(besides the traffic). I guess the Packwood flea market is a major event every year on Labor Day Weekend. Cool! I’m no stranger to a flea market so we went and got some fried chicken and looked around at some old stuff. As we were walking back to the car these relatively dirty hikers across the street were yelling,”Sara, Sara!” At first I figured they were thru hikers that we must have met on a previous trail but a thru hiker would have used trail names. Turns out it was this girl Stephanie that picked us up while hitchhiking last year on the Olympic Peninsula. Tonight she was with her boyfriend and they driven up from Portland, OR to hike for a few days. They had seen us walk by earlier and I guess she was like, I know that couple. Small world right?

We left the flea market and drove a few miles into the woods. Found a free campsite at Summit Creek CG in the national forest.

Sept 3 PCT mile 2320.8

So good to be back on the PCT! I absolutely love this trail.

This morning we drove down to the White Pass ski resort and Kracker Barrel next door, found a place to park the car long term, then walked the half mile to the trailhead. Back on the PCT it felt really good to be walking these miles again. The trail itself just feels like a nice, soft, easy, fast, path through the woods. The PCT was the first long trail I hiked, I have fond memories of it and I’m really happy to be back walking on it again.

There were a fair amount of thru hikers at the Kracker Barrel and being the long Labor Day weekend we passed a handful of people that were just out for a few days. 2 of these people were Ram and Red Feather. Now this is a strange coincidence. Ram was one of the first people I met on the PCT in 2015, we actually both stayed at Scout and Frodo’s(San Diego Trail Angels) the night before I started the hike. I briefly met Red Feather maybe 1000 or so miles later that summer and then I guess those two both met, hiked together, got married and Ram moved to Washington from Israel. The thing is I learned all this the last time I randomly ran into them in the middle of the woods. In the summer of 2016 I was in between long trails, spending time in the PNW and was hiking around Snoqualmie Pass when I crossed paths with Ram and Red Feather just out for a few days on trail. Odd I know, but this stuff happens to me all the time. Today when we parted ways we just said ‘see you next time.’

The rest of the day was just some sweet Washington miles. We’ve been on the border of Mount Rainier NP all day and got some good views of that beautiful beefy mountain. I think it was pouring rain when I was here in ‘15 so I didn’t remember the details of what was to come at all. Last time I was just head down walking in the rain while today I could enjoy it a lot more.

Last night and this morning I had been texting with my friend Thor who’s a Seattle guy and hikes all over Washington. He knew where we were getting on so unbeknownst to us he got on trail 30 miles north, handed out trail magic beers all day and hiked south to meet us. We met Thor last year on the CDT when he was flying a gigantic red beard and today he was pretty tough to recognize while running towards us with way less facial hair. It was great, the 3 of us walked north for the last 10 or so miles of the day and got caught up on all things CDT and hiking and what not. Thor hiked the 3 long trails the same years I hiked them so we know loads of the same people.

We got to Dewey Lake a little after 7 and all set up for the night. It felt like a nice easy 25 mile day. And there’s a bunch of elk bugling while I’m laying in the tent probably trying to keep me awake, but I guess it is mating season.

Sept 4 PCT mile 2352.9

The bugling elk didn’t keep me up last night, I slept quite soundly in our cozy spot next to the lake. So soundly that it was tough getting out of the tent into the cold morning air. It warmed up quick though and after a few miles I was dressing down and enjoyed a beautiful day. Thor hiked with us for about 3 miles to Chinook Pass where he left his truck yesterday and for the rest of the day Sara and I just cruised down the PCT.

Besides hiking a Pemi Loop in NH about a month ago, this was the first 30+ mile day either of us had done since Arizona in the spring. And it felt so easy! Most of the day was just smooth rolling trail, through forest, then a burned out forest, up on ridges, and contouring along the sides of mountains. There’s elevation gain and loss and all that but it never felt too severe.

It seems that we walked right into the ‘Bubble’ of thru hikers(bubble just means the bulk of the hikers in close proximity). There’s lots of people out. It feels a little strange as most of these hikers have been walking since Mexico and we’re just coming on trail so late, still crushing though. So many people are on trail that at the water source we planned to camp at tonight there were already about 10 other tents jammed in there. With no flat space left we had to push on and it wasn’t looking good for awhile. We reached a road where Sara looked at the topo map and decided we should walk up the road(off trail) where it flattened out. About a tenth of a mile from trail we found a massive clearing in the woods complete with a bear hang and everything. She was so proud of herself, and I was proud of her too, this is a sweet campsite.

Sept 5 PCT mile 2384.6

Crush city all day. The trail, at least the scenery on the trail, was pretty subdued today which meant there wasn’t much else to do but keep walking. I mean it’s pretty and everything but mostly just walking through pine forests and up on a few ridges. It was smooth and fast though and we were able to crank out another 30+ mile day.

Like I was saying yesterday we’re definitely in the bubble, and probably towards the back of the bubble so there’s lots of hikers around and in front of us. We’ll be meeting new people everyday. I met a handful of hikers today and I even ran into one guy, ‘Crunchmaster’ that I first met in Oregon in 2015. One of the lousy parts about the trail being so crowded(and I can’t be mad about the trail being crowded, I’m part of the problem too) is that when it comes time to camp, all the good spots usually have a tent on them. I like to hike until just about dark and when we got to Mirror Lake near 8pm there wasn’t much to choose from. We just kept walking and as usual the trail provides, we found a nice spot at an intersection past the lake.

Sept 6 PCT mile 2393.1 Snoqualmie Pass

We don’t exactly need a day off today as both of us are feeling good and it’s a beautiful day out there, but it did make sense to stop in town after walking less than 10 miles. We had to stop to resupply anyway and since there’s a hotel at Snoqualmie Pass, it might be our last chance to get a room on trail. Plus our buddy Malibu is supposed to drive out from Seattle to meet us for a meal.

Snoqualmie Pass isn’t much of a town but a ski resort/truck stop right on I-90. We drove through here a couple weeks ago and we could pretty much take a right and just follow this road all the way back home(but that’s not happening). This morning went smoothly and right when we got here they had a room ready then we feasted on omelettes and pancakes and stuff. This should be an enjoyable day.

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.