Saturday, September 20, 2008

Steak in Stehekin

In 2003, crazy rains in Northern Washington washed out sections of
the PCT and destroyed bridges on about 10 creeks/rivers between
Skykomish and Stehekin. For several years the trail was detoured
through this section. In 2006, when a few bridges had been rebuilt,
more floods swept the progress of restoration away.

For five years, very little trail maintenance occurred and hundreds of
trees fell over onto the trail. None but the most adventurous have
seen the Glacier Peak Wilderness via the PCT for a long time.

But then 2008 came around, bridges were built, and a large log spanned
the breadth of the Suiattle river. The downed trees, known as
"blowdowns," were mostly still around, but it was the river and it's
log that everyone cared about.

Yogi, the author of a key guidebook said that scooting on her butt
across the log in 2007 was the "scariest thing she's ever done in her
life." She's hiked the Continental Divide Trail, which is five times
scarier than the PCT.

Since we entered WA, to do or not to do the original PCT has been
nearly as frequent a conversation topic as bodily functions (the #1
topic of the trail, hands down).

So it was that we left Skykomish with most of our crew and the intent
to brave the blowdowns and the log...

Before getting to the frightening stuff, we encountered: two hunters
who said they had just seen a mama grizzly with two cubs an hour
before meeting us, thousands upon thousands of vertical climbs and
descents, several black bears eating berries in the distance, the
beginning of what looked like a forest fire, the coolest sunrise of
the trip, and Rapunzel, a friend who we haven't seen since Agua Dulce,
2000 miles before.

Unfortunately, our chance meeting with Rapunzel was marred by the
returning pain in her knee which had kept her off the trail for three
weeks and which was now keeping her from finishing altogether. She
turned on the jets in Agua Dulce and was a month ahead of us by the
time she got to OR, but her stories of stopping only twice a day for
ten minutes each because of the terrible mosquitos through ALL of
Oregon, made us grateful to infinity plus one for being slow and
taking this trip at the pace we have.

But I digress. How was the log? Well, first you've got to walk through
two miles of trail that takes about 2.5 hours because of blowdowns.
These obstacles can be a single tree, several trees splayed out in odd
angles, or in a few instances, a 6 to 8 foot tall old growth behemoth.
It was an obstacle course that sapped our energy, but was actually
better than we thought it would be. It also made us appreciate
maintenance volunteers who keep the rest of the trail clear - the PCT
would be impossible without them.

At the end of the blowdowns is Vista creek without a bridge. Vista's
log crossing had all its branches sticking up and out and the trunk
was barely a foot wide. I watched Clearwater walk across without
trouble and said to myself, "ok, if he can do it, I can do it."
We both made it with only a minor pause in the middle. Only 2.4 miles
to the big one, now.

The old bridge across the Suiattle river was 50 yards long, I'd read.
The log was 8 feet off the water, I'd heard. If it was wet, it would
be twice as frightening. The forecast in Skykomish said rain on
Thursday. We arrived at the log on Thursday.

So we get there. The log is 8 feet off the water. But the sun is
shining, and the log is only 30 feet across. I hand the camera off to
Jane, and before she had time to worry about me, I just walk across.
She almost didn't get a picture.

Everyone else crossed successfully and we congratulated ourselves at
imagining something so terrifying that the real thing was easy. I was
more scared at Vista creek.

Now we're in Stehekin, which you can't get to in normal life by road,
and the steak I dreamed about was enjoyed thoroughly last night at
Lorenzo's birthday party. After dinner, he treated everyone to
birthday cake, champagne, beer, and wine in one of the hotel common
rooms, which we filled with laughter late into the night.

Rain is coming. Since we haven't seen rain for three weeks in WA, we
figure it's about time.

Presently, my parents are flying to Seattle and will make the long
trip to Stehekin tomorrow, by which time we'll be gone. Oh well, we'll
see them in Canada.

I almost forgot, for those of you unfamiliar with the Pacific
Northwest, this picture is an example of what passes for a creek up
here.

3 comments:

Shell said...

On another bright note, congrats Jane for seeing your first bear on the trail!!! (If I am totally wrong by this post just ignore me.)

I miss both of you and am excited to see you in october!

Erik said...

What a wonderful post! I usually expect this detail and clarity from Jane, so it was a pleasure to see Steve do so. I can't wait to see photos from this leg of the adventure. Amazing that it is all almost over.

david said...

when you post about eating I get hungry