Gone with the Wind

All together, and injury free we headed out from the trail angels house, well rested after a zero day. By now, we were far into Washington and the mountains only seemed to grow the farther north I hiked. Every day of hiking the total elevation change was over 10,000 feet. This made miles longer, but the climbs revealed vistas that made the aches and pains fade away.

High Alpine Meadow

While studying the map on the first night back in trail we discovered an alternate roof that would shave about five miles off the days hike. The alt was the old pct and the reason it was abandoned is that it requires fording one river and crossing a rather large river on logs. We decided to go for it and set off down the overgrown trail early in the morning.

When we reached the first river there was no way to get through it but fording it. Searching for the best spot to do so, we hiked upstream a little bit and ended up standing over a bee hive that had fallen from a tree. After noticing this, everyone jumped back but it was a second too late. Curry, the only person with us that is allergic to bees had been stung on her leg. She said she would be fine since it was not on her torso or neck so we hiked on eventually making it past both rivers.

A few miles after this, we stopped for lunch. It wasn’t until this point that we realized something was wrong. Curry was breaking out in hives and started to swell. The first signs of anaphylactic shock. As we discussed our┬ácourse of action we realized we had passed some forest service rangers doing trail work earlier that day and ran back to talk to them. With their radios, they called in the problem. Next thing we knew, a helicopter was in route from Seattle. As we waited Curry seemed to worsen and was in her sleeping bag in the middle of a hot summer day. She was in pain and not very responsive.

Rescue Helicopter

Bee Keeper and I set out to find a place for the helicopter to land. We found a small swampy field in the thick Washington forest and called in our longitude and latitude to the helicopter.

A few minutes later we heard the sound of helicopter blades and waved emergency blankets in the air to signal our location. Unable to land due to the small field, a medic repelled down. The wind from the blades above us was so strong it challenged me to stand my ground. The medic ran over and began work on Curry, giving her a shot. Immediately after he harnessed her up and the copter pulled her up. Next he pulled himself up and as quickly as they came, they disappeared.

Helicopter Medic

For a moment we all stood there in shock at the event that had just happened. Without anything else to do though, we pulled on our packs and continued our hike.

Noel Nelson (pct mile 2568)

Goat Rocks

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After a quick goodbye it was back to the trail, having only been in town a few hours. I needed to make up ground and every hour that passed increased my chances of my group getting too far ahead to catch up to. Another reason I was anxious to get back on trail is the next stretch was regarded as one of the best of the whole PCT. The first two days are spent under the shadow of Mt. Adams and the next two are in the Goat Rocks Wilderness. As I rapped around the base of Adams it’s magnificent beauty stopped me at every viewing point. The afternoon I set out I got in 11 miles before dark and set up camp. Stories of one of the famous Washington rain storms coming was circulating on the trail. That night around 11pm the rain begin and as I awoke on the second day, the rain was still going. I tried to pack up as much of my stuff as I could in my tent before getting out but getting wet would be inevitable today. As I hiked, the rain/mist soaked me too the bone and hid the mountain looming close over me. It rained almost the entire day and by the time I got to camp I was still cold and wet. I quickly set up camp and crawled in my sleeping bag. Even though half of my time around Adams wasn’t what I hoped, tomorrow I would enter the Goat Rocks. When I woke on day three, the rainy mist was still there… Preparing for another wet day I started to hike. As the trail climbed I eventually made it above the cloud cover and was given a breathtaking view of Adams with dark clouds at its base. After going over a pass I entered the start of the goat rocks, the land was rich was green grass and alpine streams, all with aggressive rocky mountains looming in the distance. I took a side trail and climbed a close by mountain named Old Snowy. Taking side trips like this are uncommon while thru-hiking but I think it is rather important for the mental aspect to remind yourself that you are out here for fun. Not just to make big miles.
After my side trip I descended back to the pct and to a short section of trail known as “the knifes edge”. Accurately named, this trail walks along a thin mountain edge with massive drops on both sides. Being so high up I was still above the clouds on the knifes edge and the views continued to amaze.
When I reached town the next day I found my group. Sadly Lt Dan was leaving with new people after hiking with the group since the desert. I had to resupply and charge devises so I said goodbye to him and stayed with the others. Unfortunately Lt Dan was the one I was closest with so I felt like an outsider with these people. When I asked to sleep on the floor of their hotel and the said it was too crowded, my suspensions were conformed.
That night I slept on the porch of the hotel and planned to hike with them for only the short foreseeable future.

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Old Friends and New States

The breakfast was everything I dreamed of. After lounging around for the better part of the day in a food coma, I forced myself to leave and get a few more miles in. I finished the last part of Oregon by myself. It was rather uneventful and my mind was on the state to come. Another thing that preoccupied my mind was that my friend Christopher Bitter and his dad and brother were meeting me at the border to backpack with me for a few days. Back home in the summer I pretty much see Chris every day so I was super excited for him to come out to the trail to meet me.

At Cascade Locks the Bitters pulled up in their Uber from the airport. Some negotiations went on between me and Mr Bitter about what gear they should take and then the next morning we headed off. Crossing the Bridge of the Gods, the Oregon/Washington border was a moment I had been thinking about for a long time. From there we hitched to the trial and started the hike.

Brige of the Gods

Right after starting we were hit with a brutal 10 mile climb. I was rather used to these types of climbs but the Bitters were not. Despite their lack of experience with this terrain they all held their own. The first night we dry camped and I showed them a hiker favorite meal. “Hiker bomb” is instant mashed potatoes mixed with ramen soup.

The next day we got in 15 miles ending at Blue Lake. While thru-hiking it is easy to get into a type of funk, where miles are the only thing that matters. You don’t make camp fires or swim in lakes enough and it’s rather sad. With Chris I was able to slow down and truly enjoy the area around me. At blue lake we swam, rock climbed, fished and made a fire. It was a beautiful lake and our night there was one of the best.

Group Picture at Blue Lake

The next day we hiked similar miles and ended at another lake. This time almost all of the camping was taken up by weekenders and we had to struggle to find a spot. We were all a little tired by the time camp got set up so not as many camp activities occurred.

 

We had originally wanted to finish our trek with a climb of Mt Adams but after learning about how much snow was up there, we decided against it. So without that in the itinerary we had an empty day. We knew we wanted to camp somewhere but our section of trail was ending and it seemed the only place to go was in town.

As soon as we reached the road a trail angel named Gary was there dropping hikers off. We talked with him for a bit and he decided to drive us to a camping spot on a river a few miles away. We all hoped in the couch in the back of his truck and headed down the road. The spot he took us to was super cool and a great way to spend our final night. Additionally the next day was Mr Bitter’s birthday. As it just so happened we did a fifty mile trek for his fiftieth birthday. A great was to celebrate if you ask me.

Couch Hitch

Gary picked us up the next morning and drove us into town where we all devoured some pancakes and french toast. From there I resupplied and the said my goodbyes to the Bitters. Having them was amazing.

Chris Bitter

While we were together my group got a little ahead so hopefully I will be able to catch up before to long. As for now I’m back on my own.

Noel Nelson (PCT mile 2192)