Lucy Goes Wandering: Week 4?!?

The week we fell in love with a new town, and gave up on several things. (You can skip soliloquy below if you just want the recap)

It’s odd how time moves on a trip like this. Although, to be fair, time seems to be moving oddly in every situation, excepting the most boring. An afternoon can go on for ages, but an evening of fishing is done too soon. It simultaneously seems like it’s been a month or two since we were in Yosemite, like we were there in a dream, and that it was just the other day (it was 9 days, actually). Packing in as much as we are, it’s easy to have one campsite blur into the next, to lose a day, to forget something really beautiful until you’re late night scrolling through your photos because you have no cell reception and are bored of your book and can’t sleep. We’re trying to be actively aware of our experiences, but to some extent, you can’t really reflect as things are happening. Reflection is the second round of enjoyment (usually). Part of the “stress” of travel is fearing that you’re not getting enough out of it. Are we on our phones too much? Who do I really need to text? Should we be eschewing social media to obtain enlightenment? Who knows. And we won’t know until it’s all over, so for now, we just go day to day, plan and adjust and deal with things as they come, and try to do what makes us happy. A long introduction just to say, here’s what’s been filling up these days:

July 21:  Ran up to Duck Lake (kind of the classic Mammoth hike), Justin fished, and we hung out at Black Velvet Coffee, our adopted go-to spot for the great drinks (Justin wants me to point out that the espresso was too fruity, but the beer selection was good) and enough space for gulit-free wifi mooching. Also made a killer Manhattan when we got back to camp!

July 22: Fishing day for Justin, lazy day for me. Not a bad view in the whole Mammoth area, it’s insanely gorgeous. But also really hot in the valley, too hot to enjoy the famous hot springs (at least during the day).

July 23: Taking care of business day, mostly- speed workouts (😧), permits, groceries, food packing for our backpacking trip, but we did spend a very enjoyable afternoon at a reggae festival in the Village at Mammoth, replete with a solid happy hour and great people watching. And we got to have another  coffee at BVC, so a great day all in all.

July 24: Backpacking! Yay! after an early start from camp, we lacked enthusiasm on reaching the shuttle pick up, and leisurely drank our coffee and read the news. Got on trail just before 9 am, and it was immediately hot. The packs felt heavy, and we had a big trip planned (40 miles in 2.5 days). We werent feeling it. We tried, we did positive self-talk and ate good food, but the love wasn’t there. 15 miles isn’t a long way to go in a day, but we’re used to doing it fast, and our slow 2.5 mph pace (which, yes, I know is a perfectly good backpacking speed) was killing both of us. By the time we had lunch at Thousand Island Lake, we were ready to reassess our plan. We shaved off a day and 14 some miles of fluff hiking, focusing on just the best spots. Found a nice campsite near Shadow Creek, and settled in for a long afternoon of sunbathing and napping.

July 25: Went for a run up to Cecile Lake, fun alpine exploring (recapped on Facebook), backpacked back out to trailhead, caught a shuttle, went for a swim in Horseshoe Lake, then grabbed a growler fill from Mammoth Brewing and went to Burgers (so tasty after 2 long days on trail). Fueled up with a quad shot Americano,  washed my hair in the forest service parking lot (got my first dirty look of the trip!), and we headed off into the sunset to Utah!

July 26: Got to Provo early, found a nice RV campground for wifi and showers and pool and shade, then went into town, found an arcade and a $5 movie theater, saw Ghostbusters, ate ice cream, groceries, bed.

July 27: The day we spent a lot of money and didn’t get any  sleep (unrelated). Gave up on trying to get Justin’s phone to work so replaced that with a new iphone, and gave up on trying to keep ice in our Coleman in the Utah heat, so we bought a Yeti. Then gave up on being outside and sat at Starbucks for 3 hours planning and editing. Found what looked like great dispersed camping near the Mt. Timp trailhead, but spent the evening like this: 9 pm- pack up for bed. 10 pm-request music to be turned down. We get 10% lower. Okay. We read, try to ignore.  11 pm- teens trying to restart their motorbike, literally 800 times. 11:45 pm- plead, tearfully, with neighbors to stop shooting guns and yelling. Recite list of the last 8 songs they’ve played. They comply, thankfully. 12 am- motorbike gets started, there is yelling, some victory laps, and they’re off. 12:10- asleep. 12:20 am- girl in another campsite starts screaming to just let her go home, she will walk, she doesn’t care if she dies. These histrionics continue across the campground, out onto the road. She threatens anyone who requests her not to scream. Seems to finally run out of energy and sit nearby, sobbing and giving half hearted rants every 10 minutes or so. 1:30 am- Nyquil. Ahh…

July 28: Timp in the morning. Got a late start due to the aforementioned shenanigans. Gorgeous run but kicked my butt. Altitude, heat, and rougher trails than expected.

Took a solid swim in the frigid Provo river to bring me back to life. Justin fished, without much luck. Then I saw a guy, had lots of fishing gear, sent him to talk to Justin. Turns out he literally wrote the book on fishing the Provo, and not only did he loan Justin a fly, he took us out for a night fishing on his friend’s private access, showed us a few holes to check out later and was generous enough to share his vast knowledge about trout and the river with us. Justin caught 4 trout, and we came back to a quiet campground.
July 29: Phew. Today. I should stay on top of these recaps. We drove from our campsite back around to Alta so I could run there – kind of a pain, but so beautiful. Spent 4.5 hours exploring peaks, ridges, cattracks, and wildflowers. Much happier run than the day before.

Then beer and fries at the lodge, an afternoon river float, dinner, and now this:

Off to Aspen tomorrow for familiar faces, cooler temps, and bigger mountains! Whoo hoo!!!

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Lucy Goes Wandering: The Backstory

One of my biggest flaws is my general assumption that whoever I’m talking to was party to the minutes/hours/days of internal dialogue preceding the first words out of my mouth. (Or in this case, keys pecked out by my fingers). On a weekly basis, I have to stop, back up, and fill in the plot for whatever scheme or diatribe I’m subjecting my dear patient husband to. And thankfully, someone pointed out that I need to do the exact same thing with this whole trip. While Justin and I have been scheming and planning for months, I’ve generally been restrained in my social media sharing (mostly due to the hectic pace involved in preparing while working, but also partly out of modesty). So here it is, the what and how and why of Lucy Goes Wandering.


What: Lucy Goes Wandering is the name we’ve given to the roadtrip portions of our longer season of adventure: 7-8 months of travel that bounces us all around the globe for purposes of weddings and exploration and citizenship. We start with roadtrip, back to Seattle for Cascade Crest and a wedding, then Australia for Emma’s wedding, Thailand/Malaysia/Indonesia for fun, Australia for a wedding, then back to the US to finish Justin’s citizenship and see my family for Christmas, then back to Australia when the citizenship finishes.

Why: We’ve had a long term plan to travel this summer, then relocate to Australia. Originally, it was going to be South America for 6 months, but then those plans fizzled and Justin’s sister Emma got engaged and scheduled her wedding for mid-September, giving us 10 weeks to explore somewhere. We realized we hadn’t really seen much of the American West, so we settled on a roadtrip.(Actually, the roadtrip is really two roadtrips: a large loop around the west this summer, focused on mountains and fishing and sunshine, and a second cross-country loop in the winter with a focus on visiting family/friends and skiing as much as we can afford). Why the west? All the mountains and running and fishing our bodies can handle, plus lots of sunshine and good breweries.

And finally, why not???

How: That’s the major category of question we’ve gotten: How did you afford it? What did you do with your stuff? Where are you staying? I completely understand the luxury of not working for 8 months, and that this whole thing may sound absurd or entitled or irresponsible. But let me be clear: we worked two jobs for 3 years- lots of 70 hour weeks, lots of Fridays and Saturdays spent pouring beer instead of drinking it. We were frugal, and we kept our goal in mind. We put aside enough money for a house down payment before we even started budgeting for this trip. Speaking of budgets, we made a realistic list of expenses over a year ago and figured out how much that meant we had to put aside each week. And then we did it. We picked up weeknight shifts even though it meant we were tired for a day or two. And then, suddenly, the years of hustle were over and we were on the road.

As for our camping set up, I’ll detail our Lucy build out in another post (only waiting on good photos). But basically we built a sleeping platform in the back of the car, got a roof box, and can store everything we have either under the bed or on the roof, meaning we can pull up to a spot and be tucked in 3 minutes later. We did this to save money on camping, because money you don’t spend camping is money you can spend on beer and french fries.

As for our stuff, most of it returned from whence it came (Goodwill), and our favorite clothes, nice cookware, and ski gear is in storage, ready to fly to Australia when we do. I don’t miss any of it, except comfy chair, which found a safe home.

Where:

For the roadtrip only: we started in the North Cascades, after a test run at Mt. Rainier, then hit Bend, OR for a visit with friends, then Portland for a wedding. After that, southern OR coast and northern California coast (all those details here: Week 1, Week 2). Then Yosemite, and now Mammoth Lakes to round out week 3. Upcoming : Uintas mountains in Utah, then out to Aspen, CO to see my step-brother, more wandering and running around Colorado (Silverton for Softrock if I can swing it), up to Montana via Wyoming/Yellowstone, then on to Idaho and Cascade Crest on August 27. Then a few days to play around the mountains or Seattle, before the San Juans for another wedding. And September 7 we fly out to Australia. Our plan is flexible, as we really only have a few places we have to be, so we are feeling it out as we go. After years of juggling tight schedules and never feeling like there was enough time for things, the wide open itinerary is so liberating.

So on we travel, for the love of sunshine and new playlists and a clear mountain stream, for the joy of sunset on new peaks and a good Americano after a week of making your own, and for the sake of being, at least for this small moment in out lives, almost completely free.

Lucy Goes Wandering… week 3? I think? What day is it?

July 16: Spent the morning getting our proverbial ducks in a row (internet, groceries, gas, cleaning, etc.) then drove further south, stopping at beaches and lookouts along the way. Found another pull off north of Bodega, CA. 


July 17: woke up early, drove out to a nice picnic area overlooking the ocean, and cooked up a breakfast in the chilly morning fog. Drove a litter further and realized we were only 30 miles from San Fran while grabbing a delicious pastry in Point Reyes, so we did a little research, decided to grab a spot at Pantoll on Mt. Tam. Then napped, ran part of the coastal trail, and visited San Francisco Running Company for tailwind and a really great tshirt. Decided we needed showers desperately, so found  a community pool nearby. For $10 we had a super warm outdoor sunny swim and a shower, plus the lifeguard was the friendliest man ever. Then on to Sausalito for date night: beers and tacos! Caught sunset over the city and tucked in for a noisy night next to panoramic highway.


July 18: overslept our intended sunrise Mt. Tam hike, then lazed about in our sleeping bags, looked at the map, and decided we didn’t want to drive 4 hours to Big Sur for only 2 days and then backtrack north to Yosemite. Tired of driving and relocating all the time. That, and we were getting over the cold coastal weather. Packed up, cooked brekky overlooking the bridge, then headed to Yosemite. Found a site at Yosemite Creek and relaxed in the sun.


July 19:
Didn’t want to drive into the madness of the valley, plus the road out of the campground was long and in bad shape, so we decided to run into the valley instead. Explored both ways and grabbed some lunch and snacks before bolting because that place is crazy. Justin bruised his kneecap in a burly fall but was a boss as usual. 23 miles roundtrip with awesome views, 143 switchbacks up to the falls, and lots of good swims.

A perfect spot for a midmorning soak 🙂

July 20: Early wake up to catch the sun breaking into the valley, then cooked breakfast before driving up to Tulomne Meadows visitor center. Got a sticker and a recommendation for Gaylor lakes, which were gorgeous and buggy and trouty. Now Mammoth lakes for a few days for all the activities and some beer. 

Lost Coast Trail: Sandy Success and Fawn Failure

The Lost Coast Trail is really two trails- a northern section that’s an epic 25 miles of beach hiking, and a southern section, 28-ish* miles long that travels up and down cliffs, bluffs and mountains. Here’s a lot more detail that I won’t rewrite: Wonderland Guides: The Lost Coast Trail

Day 1: High tide was around 8:50 am,  so Justin and I took off at 8 heading south. Our plan was to run as far as the Punta Gorda lighthouse together (3.3 miles), where he’d turn back and then drive the  2-hr shuttle to Black Sands Beach at the southern end. The first section of trail that’s impassable at high-tide is after the lighthouse, so I figured I’d have a receding tide in my favor the rest of the day. Lots of sand, so slow going.


 The fog was clearing off already and to our surprise, there were half a dozen elephant seals resting on the beach just in front of the lighthouse. Like the orcas in Alaska last summer, I lost my breath, just shocked to see such amazing animals 50 ft away. We watched them flop and tussle for 10 minutes or so until it got chilly and we parted ways.


 I flew on the harder packed trail for the next few miles, so excited about the seals and the sun and the incredible views. The trail alternated between beach and grassy flat above the beach, but off-beach, I soon found out, did not necessarily mean easy running terrain. There were some short climbs, and longer stretches of really soft sand. 



I met and chatted with lots of nice people, and before I knew it, had reached Big Flat Creek, signaling only 8 or so more miles to go. This last section was all beach, and I was worried I’d be slow and barely be able to run at all. With the tide going out, I was able to find a few stretches of sand that weren’t quite firm, but I wasn’t sinking my whole shoe in with each step. I started a little counting song in my head, running to a count of 100, then again, and again, and again. Before I knew it, I could make out the headland at Shelter Cove a few miles in the distance. I was in such a trance- just jogging/slogging happily through the sand, that I nearly stepped on a baby seal hauled out and hiding behind a rock. As I came past a knee-high boulder, I heard a little yip and looked down to see a seal just 2 feet to my left. I quickly scuttled away lest momma and poppa see me nearby and abandon the baby, then turned around to watch the little guy from afar. He and I stared at each other for a few minutes and then continued on our own ways. 


The last stretch of sand along Black Sands Beach was the softest all day- 2 miles of unrelenting spsshh, spsshh, but I spied the trailhead and didn’t quit running until I got there. Even when it turned out I had to go up a short steep hill to finish, I kept counting and made it there without stopping. Hot and tired and completely satisfied, I promptly drank a beer and found an ice cream cone. The second section of trail started up the road aways, and in talking to a shop girl, found out we could camp at the Naderos campground and connect onto the trail from there, no driving involved. We settled in for an afternoon of reading and stretching, and went to bed early.

Day 2: Mosquitos everywhere. So many goddamn mosquitos. We hesitated getting out of the tent, listening to them buzz. We quickly ate breakfast and ate in the car. Tucked away in the woods, my enthusiasm for the second day’s effort was low. Mostly, I didn’t have a good sense of the trail, and that was making me anxious. I knew that Justin would be able to find me at the end, but I didn’t have a great map or a sense of the sections, so 22 miles felt overwhelming. (Also, it wasn’t 22 miles, but 28, although I didn’t find that out until later). We started off up towards Chemise Mountain, a nice forested climb but not much of a view, besides a lookout. After Justin turned back, again to drive a 2-hour shuttle, the trail rolled along the forested ridgetop, before starting down towards Whale Gulch. 


This section of trail was severely neglected- it appeared no one had hiked it in several weeks. There were weeds overgrowing the trail, lots of down limbs, and the tread was uneven where it had been washed away or trampled by animals when muddy. I picked my way down, losing the trail every now and then, and finally broke out onto the flat before Needle Rock. As I reached the visitor center, I saw humans and was thrilled! Also, lots of nice gum trees. I think gum trees are the most beautiful trees, even if they aren’t technically native here. I saw a sign indicating I’d come 8 miles and was stoked- only 14 to go! Then I saw an informational sign about the trail- perfect! I could find out about the sections ahead, get a better sense for when climbs were and so on. I began reading and reached this line “the trail runs 22.1 miles from Usal Beach to Whale Gulch”.. I’d only passed Whale Gulch 20 minutes ago. I reread the description of each trail section and did the math. 19.4 miles left. I tried again. 19.4 miles left. And a third time? Same result. I sent Justin a message from my SPOT: “Trajl (sic- no autocorrect on a SPOT) is 28, 19 left. Okay but sad. 4-5 eta” I was mildly bummed but kind of excited for an additional challenge. It didn’t seem like there was any way to change the plan, so I just continued to move forward.


The next few miles were a road that rolled along, not especially exciting but fairly easy. I noticed a lot of elk droppings so I expected I’d run into an elk sooner or later. I came around the corner and a small family of them turned around and stared at me from 50 yards off. I clapped in an attempt to get them to move off the trail (I read later that this was a very bad idea). They shuffled forward, and I followed behind, keeping my distance. The trail turned again and suddenly, there was a herd of 70+ elk (I only know the number I could count, but more were in the woods), stretching up the road as far as I could see, and off into the brush and hills on either side. Lots of fawns, their mommas, and a few bull elk as well. I paused, attempted to make some more noise, and… nothing. They didn’t move. They would look at me, then go back to eating. I got closer, but no response. I waited a few more minutes. Loud talking? No effect. I knew not to approach them, so I thought maybe I’d walk around, but in any direction I went, I’d suddenly spot more elk. At one point, as I tucked myself into a thorny bush to stay out of the way, a large cow elk came up from behind and walked within 5 feet of me. I couldn’t believe how large and powerful she was- her shoulder as tall as mine, and her head well above. Staring and snorting, she paused for a second and I calmly begged her not to kill me. Then she walked on, and ate some more grass. I waited another 10 minutes, but the herd showed no signs of moving. Some elk had begun to bed down right next to the trail. I’d been stuck for 30 minutes, still had 17.5 miles to run, and it was already noon. 


Frustrated beyond belief, I sent another SPOT text: “Stuck behind elk 30, dont drive, think I have to turn back”. I loudly pleaded with the elk to just let me through, but I knew better than to try and walk through their herd, especially with the babies right smack in the middle of the trail. I turned around, and jogged back to the visitor center to make a plan. I knew worst case I could run all the way back to the trailhead, but I didn’t remember that section of trail fondly and wanted to be done as soon as possible. A map at the visitor center let me know that with a 4-mile dirt track walk, I could get myself back to a paved road. Fortunately, Justin was still in cell service, so I sent a text to meet at the top of the road and started up. It was a long climb, relentlessly up. I finally reached the intersection and and had just sat down to eat a snack when I heard Lucy rumbling to the rescue.

I’ll be back to finish this southern section another day, but it was good and humbling lesson in letting go. I was immensely frustrated initially, but talking through it with Justin helped me realize that sometimes you just don’t have the option to do what you want, and you have to be okay with that.

Things to note:

Camping at Mattole Beach and Naderos campground were perfect. Mattole was crowded by 6 pm, Naderos was empty all day.

Roads are rough, especially Mattole Rd. and Usal Rd. REALLY rough. Expect to drive 25 miles per hour.

Some sections of the trail are washed away between Spanish Flat and Big Flat. This means there’s more beach walking than expected.

I made a lot of mistakes with the elk, and I’m probably lucky I didn’t get hurt. Momma elk are protective of their young and very unpredictable. Loud noises can spook them or come off as confrontational- I shouldn’t have yelled or clapped. I also shouldn’t have been as close as I was. Don’t let your drive towards something put you in an unsafe situation, whether it’s weather or fuel levels or elk.

Lucy Goes Wandering: Week 2(ish)

We’ve been away from computer-enabled living for a few days, which means I’m using the word “week” in a rough sense. Since the last update, we’ve made our way around a large mountain, narrowly avoided sleeping in a homeless encampment, and made our way through some jaw-dropping sections of the Oregon/California coastline. Here’s the day-by-day:

July 7: Timberline Trail Day 1 (detailed at this post)

July 8: Timberline Trail Day 2. post-run, we got an amazing plate of vegetarian chili cheese fries at the ski lodge (and they loaded it up with goodies too, since it was closing time) and recouperated. Decided a shower and laundry would be nice so drove to a massive RV park, replete with all the amenities plus game room, sauna, indoor pool, etc (none of which we utilized, despite our mid-afternoon enthusiasm for them). Showered, napped, and then it started to pour, so we decided to head into town for a meal not cooked in the rain. Ended up at a nice albeit cheesy little restaurant full of eager and warm elderly staff reassuring us how nice their restaurant was. Beer was good, food was good, and it was dry. Slept soundly.

July 9: Headed into Portland to hit up Goodwill for wedding duds and Starbucks for wifi and power. Skies started to dry out, fortunately, just in time for an incredible wedding. Robin and Erik chose a great venue in Pendarvis Farm, a quirky, folky farm, and we set up camp in the woods behind the barn along with other guests. After a sweet ceremony and some catching up with the wonderful Kate Erickson from my NYC days, we got down to dancing. Every guest we met was charming and the night was just straight fun. Slept soundly and woke up to a misty grey morning.

July 10: The day we almost lived in the Jungle, Oregon Coast edition. Had some bagels and coffee, chatted with Robin’s family and friends in the cook area, then headed out towards the Oregon Coast. It rained and rained and rained on the way out, really draining to drive in, but  when we reached our destination, the sun broke out and stayed out. Wanted to camp in the parking lot at Sunset Bay State Park (which was beautiful!), but signs everywhere forbade it, and plenty of rangers about, so we tried for another area we’d seen just north at Bastendorff Beach.

 

See that gorgeous view? Perfect spot, right? Just as we’d gotten settled, I walked to the nearby bathrooms, and noticed several seemingly abandoned tents. There were also lots of people in old cars full of stuff, sitting inside and watching movies on computers/phones/etc. hmm… I’m used to a little variety in the types of people frequenting parks, but I suddenly felt very out of place. I quickly googled the name of the beach and found out that there was indeed a problem with a drug-using transient encampment, and although conditions had improved, there had been a murder there as recently as March. We packed up in about 2 minutes, and drove back up the road and paid $18 to camp at the nice, secure state park. (I’ve been thinking a lot about the privilege of choosing homelessness, as we have technically done, and will write more about this later, but I felt an immense gratitude at the ability to move to a safer place, knowing that many people don’t have that choice.)

July 11: Awesome trail runs in the state park in the morning, a nice lunch by the sea, and then we were off towards California. 


Stopped briefly in Crescent City to taste the beers at Port O’Pints, which were super tasty, then headed out to camp along the Smith River. There was an incredibly clear and deep swimming hole, but it was cool and getting dark, so we saved a swim for later.

July 12: Oh Smith River. I’ve never known a river so perfect. After a quick breakfast, we took our coffee for a stroll through the redwoods in Jebediah Smith State Park. The redwoods were magnificent, but the river really stole the show at first. In the early morning light, the mist rising off the water, we had one of the best swims of my life- water just warm enough to be welcoming but too cool to stay for long. We drove and then ran the redwoods, I had a few tears of amazement, and then we headed towards Humboldt. Drank some beer @ Lost Coast Brewery, camped at the Humboldt County Fairgrounds. It was pretty!

July 13: Lazy morning at fairgrounds, showers and such, then packed up and headed out towards Mattole Beach, the northern trailhead of the Lost Coast Trail. Gorgeous camping spot, beautiful but terrible road to get there. Windy at the campsite, but found a good sheltered spot and ate as much food as possible.

July 14: Lost Coast (Trip report)

July 15: Lost Coast Day 2 (see trip report above). Post-rescue, had an awesome swim at a little spot off the highway

Followed by a good feed and beer@ Seapal in Fort Bragg
and then spent the night at a pullout with this view at sunset.. too good.

 We’ve realized the power of asking for suggestions- when we couldn’t find any good burger and a beer  restaurants in Fort Bragg, I stopped a guy locking up a surfwear store and he pointed us to the awesomely laid-back, cheap and delicious spot where I had the best fish sandwich ever. The locals know. The Internet doesn’t. The end.

Timberline Trail Fastpack Report

The gray water churned icy around our ankles. “Are you nervous?” Justin asked. “Yeah”, I replied, “but I trust you.” Locked at the elbow, we slowly edged deeper into the current, testing each new territory with our poles, watching them jiggle and hoping our legs held up strong. 15 steps, knee-deep at first then just a little deeper, before we hit the far shore. Cursing and shaking my hands, half from the cold, half from the adrenaline, I took a second to regather and look around. I could see all of 20 feet in any direction. Just as they had been all morning, the clouds were thick around us. Somewhere on this bank we were to find a rope to assist us in scaling back up the scree slopes lining this glacial washout. It would have been fine in good weather, but in the dense mist, it seemed like a big task.
We had no idea what time it was, since I’d killed my phone by accidentally turning on tracking for my fancy new GPS map the day before. That also meant we had no map by which to navigate. It wasn’t actually totally dead- I turned it off with 6% remaining, in case of emergency, but we werent quite at that point yet. We fumbled around the boulders looking for cairns and eventually spotted a pole up high on the moraine. Spaced out to avoid killing each other should we step on a loose rock, we made our way up to it. Attached to the pole was the rope, cut about 2 feet from its start. Well, at least there was one way in which we hadn’t failed on this little adventure.

Two days before, Justin offhandedly suggested we fastpack around Mt. Hood. At 40 miles, it’d be a challenging trip for both of us- longer than he’d ever gone before, and coming only 5 days after the bakery run, it’d put me at 100 miles in 7 days. Still, I was stoked he wanted to try it and we started to make plans. Okay, we didn’t really make plans. We did some minor research, downloaded a GPS track, and watched the weather. Thursday morning we arrived at the Timberline Lodge parking lot, full of young ski racers at camp, and dawdled getting our packs ready. The gray skis had dampened our enthusiasm, and overnight the forecast had gone from meh to ugh: rain and wind in the afternoon and overnight, tapering off the next morning. Our plan was to do slightly more than 20 miles Day 1, leaving ourselves with less mileage Day 2. We packed our bags and set off clockwise towards Ramona Falls.

Lesson 1: fastpacking with normal backpacks kind of sucks. Neither of us had packs designed for running or daypacks, so we ended up carrying our 60L bags cinched as small as they could go. Also, with the weather, we were worried about staying dry and warm, so we brought basically a normal overnight set up. It took a long time to get used to running with a big pack, and it never really got comfortable. We couldn’t make good time on anything except downhills, and lamented not just going for the loop in one hit. Fastpacking with the right gear would probably be awesome – for us, it just seemed uncomfortable.

Most of the first 10 miles or so were runnable and gorgeous trail, though not super scenic. I likened it to the start of the Wonderland- almost all of south and western half of the loop was forest. Some nice overlooks, a nice waterfall, and a lot of forest. When we got further along, the route climbed up higher into open forest, meadows, and then again into soft green lush woods. We passed through what seemed like hours of burned woods, with snow drops carpeting the floor.

The clouds had rolled in by this point, but no rain yet. We hit Dollar Lake area and decided to push on past the Coe Fork crossing before setting up for the night. Almost immediately we hit a long section of blowdowns. Up, around, over, between.. it was relentless. As we finally reached the river, it started to rain. We made it across in a cold, deep ford, then started looking for a spot to camp. The wind picked up. We climbed open hillsides, steep burn areas, up and up and up without seeing anywhere sheltered. We finally found a spot in a stand of trees, quickly set up, and climbed inside.

Lesson 2: Even when you’re cold and wet and hungry, remember the golden rules of safety. In this case, never camp under dead snags. In a hurry to get sheltered, we set up in the first flat looking spot, and later, when the wind started howling, my refreshed and warmed up eyes saw that our tentsite was in the middle of a bunch of dead fall on the fringes of the burn area. Moving it fully assembled was not a fun task.

We spent the night reading and eating cold tortilla wraps (fast and light, except we brought a book) and I ruminated about the rain, hoping it wouldn’t blow out the rivers and force us to backtrack all the way we’d come. Also the wind. I had visions of being pinned under a fallen tree even though I knew we were in a safe spot. Eventually the wind died down and I fell asleep. We woke up to a calm morning, not wet but totally socked in. We packed up quickly and started off down the trail.

We reached the Eliot washout sooner than we expected, and once we’d gotten back up the other side (maybe 45 min?), it felt like we were home free. Our minimal research meant we had no idea how much climbing or snow lay ahead. We reached Cloud Cap and the heavy fog began to break up, giving us close-up glimpses of Mt. Hood and eventually, a few hours of sun. We traversed many long snow fields, most easy enough to navigate. Somewhere towards the end of the alpine section, we followed the wrong boot track and ended up 300 feet above the trail, forcing us to down climb through scrub and pines to get back on track. In every situation like this, Justin was positive, rational, and an incredible leader. At times when I would have freaked out, he knew the safest and fastest way to solve the problem.

See, look at that confidence!

Lesson 3: Know your route, and if you plan to use a cellphone as navigation device, make sure its charged and bring a backup way to charge it. If I hadn’t drained my phone battery, or if I’d brought a cord (we brought a backup battery charger), we could have saved 30-40 minutes of routefinding if we’d had the map and GPS to navigate the tougher stretches. I had some knowledge of how the route was supposed to go, when the climbs were, etc. but not enough to really be helpful. More research = more fun.

A GPS track is only as good as the battery 

Once back on trail, we knew we had only 8.5 miles or so to go. Only a few miles of that were downhill, the rest was a mix of climbs through meadows and across the eastern arms of the mountain. As we reached the final junction with the PCT, we could literally see the end ahead. The last mile was a slog up a sandy trail, but eventually, we hit the parking lot. We cracked a beer, and the skies opened up again. We happily imbibed in the shelter of our dear Lucy, and watched the mountain move in and out of the clouds. We had somehow bumbled our way, 20-lb packs and all, around the whole damn mountain, and we’d done it together.
For those interested in running: do it in one day. Poles will help with the creek crossings. Bring a map and check it whenever you’re unsure. The trail is fairly well marked but there’s lots of junctions as well. Its gorgeous trail and you’ll enjoy the diversity. Its not quite as mind blowing as Wonderland, but it’s still an incredibly scenic loop. Bring a camera. Plenty of water now, some snowmelt creeks might dry up later on.

Essential Gear:
Justin: Salomon Speedcross, Patagonia Houdini jacket
Jordan: Merell AllOut Peaks, OR Helium II jacket, Pettet Endurance Project longsleeve,
Big Agnes Fly Creek UL 2 tent
Black Diamond Z-lite poles

Justin takes much nicer photos (more at jrichardsphoto.net/blog):

 

Lucy Goes Wandering: Week 1

 

June 29: Mt. Rainier! Camped at Ranger Creek and went for an early morning jaunt from White River up to First Burroughs in the Sunrise area- photo taking and trail running splendor. Had an awesome breakfast in the sunshine and came back in time for happy hour in Gig Harbor.

July 1: Canamerican Runcation – camped at Colonial Creek Campground with Alicia, Julien, Tara and Ryan- hiked up to Fourth of July Pass, ate burgers, and no one sang any national anthems.

July 2: Canamerican Runcation – camped again at Colonial Creek Campground with Alicia, Julien, Tara, Ryan, Nate and Meredith. Girls ran to Stehekin and back, the boys caught a few cutthroat up at Blue Lake. Then there was gorging: Indian, cinnamon rolls, beer, and whiskey from both sides of the border.

July 3: Canamerica Runcation- had a lazy morning at camp, made a bomb breakfast, then everyone hiked up to Easy Pass. We said our goodbyes and Justin and I pushed on to Cashmere, where we made friends with a scraggly dog at a tiny park, saw a nice sunset, then cruised to Big Pine Campground and spent the night in the back of Lucy. So cozy! Curtains worked fantastic.

July 4: Bend! – woke up to the sun warming the Yakima Canyon. Justin threw a few lines in the river but the fish were on the far banks out of reach. A long but beautiful drive took us to Bend, where we picnicked by the Deschutes, went for a chilly dip, then enjoyed a nice wine, a delicious fresh meal, some very calm fireworks (and one not-so-calm one), and a BED!

July 5: Bend! – slept in (BED! BED! BED!) and had a more-than-we-deserve breakfast cooked up for us by Nick, surprisingly domesticated. Did some planning and writing, went for a run at Mackenzie Pass, oohed and aahed at the crazy lava flows, then spent the afternoon relaxing by the Metolius River. Hit Crux for beer and evening sunshine, then closed down the night at Sunriver Brewing.

July 6: Off to fastpack the Timberline trail around Mt. Hood before we head to Portland for Robin and Erik’s wedding weekend.

We are really blessed to have this life right now. It’s unreal.

 

Justin took some nice photos,  I took some crappy ones. His are below. Mine are still stuck on my Samsung  below that. (more good photos at jrichardsphoto.net/blog)

Washington-7
The view of Diablo Lake from the overlook
Washington-12
Hiking up to Easy Pass, with the Sawtooths spread behind.
Washington-5
Ryan’s first fly fishing ever, and he caught 4 trout!
Washington-4
I can’t believe how spiffy this awesome backdrop makes me look
Washington-3
We owed Barron a photo of Rainier. Here it is! 

 

And here’s my shabby collection of photos: