August 21, 2016, Mile 2519: Not My Favorite Stretch of Trail

At a campsite, mile 2519

Today I coined a new phrase: Full Body Workout Blowdowns. These are blowdowns (fallen trees) which necessitate much more than a simple slide over the top, or trot around the end. They may involve old growth trees, tangled masses of young-ish alder, or any of the above. They can also require a belly crawl underneath, or a descent down a steep slope followed by a full-on veggie belay to pull yourself up. Crossfit has *nothing* on these bad boys, in my not-so-humble opinion.

The trail is also highly overgrown. Near the tops of ridges, you’ll get berry bushes and other high-alpine plants. And near the river bottoms, you’ll get masses of lowland shrubs and trees. In both of these areas, the overgrowth hasn’t been brushed back in quite some time. And if things haven’t recently been brushed back, the trail can’t be maintained: there was quite a bit of slump on all sides, which couldn’t be seen unless you looked carefully through the overgrowth. The overgrowth also makes ascents difficult. If I’ve got a rhythm going, I normally focus on my feet, and my arms/poles help keep pace. With this kind of overgrowth, I have to punch and push my way through.

What this all meant for me is an eight mile day. A couple of weeks ago I was doing double this, or even more, so I was mighty frustrated.

Please note that I am NOT under any circumstances dissing our beloved trail crews. Last winter was horrific in terms of blowdowns and other problems. I am really impressed with their ability to clear as much as they did, and having hiked this section, I am that much more grateful to them for their efforts. The work they do is fantastic. For more information on the local trail crews, check out the North 350 Blades. They have taken responsibility for the northernmost 350 miles of the PCT, or White Pass to the Canadian Border. “Blades” refers to their crosscut saws. Thank you to their awesome volunteers!

But even the slowest of days has its delights. I hiked down the Fire Creek drainage, with deep blue skies and brilliant greens.

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Fire Creek

From there, I climbed the ridge to Laslaih Creek Trail 2517. The ridge was wide open, with views everywhere. And the coolest thing for me was seeing an original Cascade Crest Trail sign! The Cascade Crest Trail was the original Washington section of the PCT; it and five other trails were merged into the PCT in 1973 (http://www.pcta.org/about-us/history/).

I sat on top of the ridge for awhile, chatting with a thru named Roberto. We admired the views…they are really stunning. The further north you go, the more spectacular they are. Right now, though, they showed gathering clouds. The forecast told of rain, and so I left the vistas and headed downhill toward my campsite.

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The campsite was partway down into the Milk Creek drainage. The first stop was the gorgeous Mica Lake 2518. The water is a perfect turquoise (which I couldn’t capture, but which blew my mind), and although I wasn’t planning on camping there, I spent a little bit just soaking in the beauty.

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Reluctantly, I headed downhill. I decided a little extra sleep would help my attitude, so I set everything up in preparation for the looming rain, and made dinner in my tent, in hopes to get to bed early.

I had one campsite-mate: a guy named Matt, in his early 20s, who is an engineering student from Ohio. He had lots of questions, as this was his first real backpacking trip, so I did my best to answer them. He seemed nice, and it was good to have a fellow traveler in camp.

Bedtime at 7:30!

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