THE MAJESTY OF ANGEL FALLS AND THE LOST WORLD!

Friday 13th July 2018

After getting up and packing up.. after breakfast and securing ‘Henry’ for the 6 days we’ll be away.. (‘Henry’s’ our much loved and trusted 4×4).. we awaited our driver Aurelio who arrived and met us at the Norte Hotel in Boa Vista.. Roraima State in the remote north west corner of the Brazilian Amazon! We’d been staying there for the three previous days.. and he arrived promptly.. shortly before 11am.

We then drove the 200 kilometer stretch up the BR-174 to the Brazilian/Venezuelan border where we joined the enormous queues of refugees awaiting entry into Brasil.. on the Brazilian side! This took a good couple of hours.. jostling inside the huge white tents that have been set up as temporary processing centers.. by both the Brazilian military and the UNHCR.. monitoring and adjudicating in the processing of thousands of immigrants leaving Venezuela every day!

On the drive up I had expected to see lines of processed refugees on the road as we made our way north on the BR-174.. an alternately well sealed road for most of the way.. through flat tropical marshlands.. mixed with the occasional farms of corn.. soy and rice. Then on through to the more undulating hills and rocky mountain terrain of the indigenous lands as we approached the border.. The roads becoming progressively more potholed the closer we got.. but all in all not bad!

We however only witnessed two or three groups of refugees.. perhaps families.. walking the 5 days to Boa Vista.. high hopes and dreams of a new and better life in Brasil spurring their stride!

We’d spent a fair amount of time deciding whether we should.. or should not.. be traveling up into Venezuela.. there amongst.. and deep within the jungle.. are the Angel Falls.. the highest falls on earth.. cascading 976 meters.. almost 3000 feet.. into the dense green canopy below?? Should we be there at all when there are so many without money or food.. trying desperately just to get out?

We did however decide to go.. and pushed on with our plans into Venezuela as many Venezuelans had said that it was imperative we go.. they are.. we were told.. in desperate need of any and all finance.. whatever the trickle.. into this gorgeous.. yet deeply troubled country of theirs! Tourists.. who in turn would spend money and thereby formulate and help sustain the jobs that are fast disappearing.. aiding in the very livelihoods of the people we had passed?!

Whilst we were waiting amongst the queues of refugees Hairim from Venezuela who’s company we had booked (Kamadac Tours).. and who’d arranged to meet us at the border taking over from Aurelio.. spotted us and introduced herself.. thereafter discretely waiting outside for the 2 hours.. until we ourselves had been processed and released! She then led us to her reliable but rusty old red Toyota pick up and we drove the kilometer to the Venezuelan border crossing.. where we were quickly and efficiently given our 90 day visas and cheerfully sent on our way.

Rejoining Hairim we drove a further 20 kilometers on through to the Venezuelan border town of Santa Elena and were dropped off at our posada.

(Note; Now if money and exchange rates are just not your thing.. skip to the next paragraph outside the parentheses as this was one of the most confusing things we found about Venezuela!

Could a Black Market really exist within a Black Market??!

Before being dropped at our posada we made a discrete roadside exchange of 100 Brazilian Reis (almost US$27) for what we thought was an astonishing and unbelievable 16,000,000.. yes MILLION!! Venezuelan Bolivars!!!

(We were later to discover that there is another Black Market.. as mentioned.. within the Black Market.. where Venezuelans actually receive 81,000,000 Bolivars for our equivalent US$27!!

CONFUSED???

We certainly were and have yet to work out the how’s and why’s.. and so it seems are the Venezuelans?!)

So.. US$1 is the equivalent of 600,000 Bolivars on the first Black Market.. (ie by the roadside).. and US$1 is equivalent to 3,000,000 Bolivars on the Black Market within the Black Market?! By comparison.. the official government rate on the international exchange comes in at only 119,700 Venezuelan Bolivars for each US$1 (an inordinately and artificially low rate.. held there by the powers that be??!)

(NB; Gasoline/petrol is only US1 CENT.. or alternately one fifth of a cent.. per liter.. depending on where that liter is purchased?!)

We quickly stuffed the wads of ‘elastic band’ secured notes we’d received into a rucksack and proceeded on to the hotel?! What and how we thought.. are we ever going to be able to carry all this cash around without being noticed.. an almost surreal and unbelievable experience!

We soon realized however.. that each and every Venezuelan themselves had their own backpacks and bags stacked and bulked up with wads of notes representing.. well.. practically nothing! The cost of a beer we later discovered.. was 800,000 Bolivars.. and a plate of French Fries just under a 1,000,000 Bolivars?!!!)

The minimum wage in Venezuela is 1,500,000 Bolivars?! Go figure!!)

How on earth did they.. these cheerfully resilient people survive at this price.. and how had they even begun to allow such a system to operate.. a system that now had full control of every facet.. and every aspect of their lives?!

Finally.. in contemplation.. and pondering these thoughts.. I slept!

Saturday 14th July 2018

Puerto Ordaz: This evening as I stand outside in the still air of yet another tropical night.. looking out through the palms.. to the surrounding lights of a city alive.. and yet cloaked in mystery..

As I listen to the muted thump and beat of alternating latin and western tunes being thrust out.. vibrating from some faraway nightclub.. I am plagued and confused by an intense feeling of sadness.. a feeling that all Venezuela is a cauldron about to boil over.. I am an intruder and all of this is somehow forbidden?!

Am I an observer of the cataclysm yet to come.. or is this the fruit of an over ripe imagination??

The day had begun at 6am in Santa Elena with the biting cold of a shower whose electrics had been disconnected from the attached heater.. the water was consequently breathtakingly cold!!

Fully awake I then resealed all the ziplock bags containing my clothes and other items against the inevitable humidity.. and joined Melissa and Derek outside awaiting the transport north.

Diomar.. our driver for the next few days.. and not as prompt as Aurelio yesterday.. arrived a half an hour late at 7.30am for the 10 hour drive north to Puerto Ordaz.. As we were to discover over the coming days.. Diomar’s interpretation of time was distinctly different from ours and he was.. reliably so.. late for everything! Though he knew the roads.. his supped up metallic blue Hyundai Elantra was an apt reflection of him and his character and consequently we drove everywhere at closer to 140 kph than the speed limit! ‘Red lights’ were no exception and were often ignored totally.. though ignoring ‘red lights’ seems to be the norm here.. and everyone does it?!

Most of the roads seemed in good repair but every now and then there’d be a bucket load of enormous holes.. some of which we certainly hit!! Driving.. or being driven here in Venezuela is definitely not for the faint hearted and as this car is certainly not ‘Henry’.. with all the padded suspension etc.. we DEFINITELY felt each and every bump!!

About 200 kilometers from Santa Elena we drove off the edge of the cool.. dry plateau we’d come upon on leaving Brasil and descended back down into the hot humid jungle.. the hustle and traffic of the towns we passed.. very different from the quiet cool we had felt on the plateau itself!

We presented our passports at the numerous military and police checkpoints along the way.. these we presumed were there to either control the people.. or to prevent the passage of illicit goods whether it be food.. gasoline.. money or contraband?! We counted well in excess of 15 checkpoints along the 600 kilometer drive north!

Rusty old vehicles from the 1970’s such as

Chrysler’s.. Lincoln’s and Cadillac’s seemingly held together solely by straps and filler predominated! All large cars.. due presumably to the extremely unrealistic and artificially low price of gasoline bumped along in single file on a road that often needed intense repair!

We finally arrived here in Puerto Ordaz at 5.30pm.. checked into our posada and ate dinner at a nearby food market before retiring for the night to the rhythm and beat of our nightclub revellers??

Sunday 15th July 2018

Diomar our driver.. scheduled to pick us up for our flight at 8am.. arrived as mentioned before.. reliably ‘late’ at 8.15am however had us at the airport by 8.25am for our flight to the indigenous village of Canaima on the Rio Carrao.

Lying to the south west of Puerto Ordaz and deep within the Venezuelan jungle is an area known as ‘The Lost World’.. and rising over 1000 vertical meters or 3000 spectacular feet above the verdantly green.. jungle canopy of this ‘Lost World’ lies an uninhabitable and largely impenetrable rock massive called the Auyan-tepuy Plateau.. (‘Tepuy’ meaning ‘Islands in the Sky’!)

With a plateau area of over 700 square kilometers this ‘world above the world’ has its own distinctly unique ecosystem.. the resulting weather system often furnishing.. as one.. a thousand veils of cascading water.. from the plateaus rim to the jungle floor below.. an indescribably beautiful spectacle to behold! One of these waterfalls.. the most magnificent of them all.. is called ‘Angel Falls’ or ‘Korepakupo Vena’ to the locals and at 976 meters high.. (almost 3000 feet) it is recognized as the highest single fall of water on our planet! THIS today.. was to be our destination!

In a dual pilot operated ‘BAe Jetstream 32’ carrying 16 passengers.. we left Puerto Ordaz.. ‘civilization’ and flew uneventfully into this ‘Lost World’.. and the indigenous village of Canaima!

Here we were joined by three young Japanese travelers.. our guide ‘Tony’ and his three crew for the 73 kilometer canoe ride up the Rio Carrao and it’s tributary.. the Rio Churun to our camp for the night opposite the Angel Falls!

We passed several indigenous villages as we travelled upriver in the dugout.. the Auyan-tepuy Plateau rising before us.. at first a mere line on the horizon.. but then.. and as suddenly.. towering above us! We wound our way through the maze of waterways..deeper into the intense tangle.. and far below the canopy that is the surrounding jungle.. stopping only once for lunch and a visit to one of the rudimentary but efficiently adequate thatch abodes of the ‘Pemon’ tribe.. the ‘Pemon’ being a combination of the people from three surrounding areas.. the ‘Kamaracoto’ (from Canaima).. the ‘Arekuna’ and the ‘Taurepan’!

On reaching our camp and briefly basking in the breathtaking spectacle of ‘Angel Falls’ across the river.. wondering at her magnificence before the curtain of night descended.. we were treated to dinner and once claimed.. retired to our hammocks replete in body and mind.. our hearts full with the anticipation of what was to come! We drifted to sleep between towering cliffs of granite.. hidden deep within the jungles canopy.. listening only to the hypnotic banter of rain on the tin roof above our heads!

Monday 16th July 2018

The day began and ended with an awesome display of nature’s power and beauty!

We climbed out of our hammocks at 6am and made our way down to the river.. As we arrived and as if on queue.. the first rays of the eastern sun cleared the mountains and through the dispersing cloud.. lit the enormous multi hued rock face to the west.. where.. as if awakening ‘herself’.. the awe inspiring beauty of ‘Angel Falls’ shrugged off the mists of night.. and cascading diamonds in the reflection of the sun.. revealed inch by incredible inch.. the brilliance of her mysterious veil.. dancing and pirouetting as a child laughing at the youth of a new day.. and though as old as millennia.. she is youth personified.. breathtakingly beautiful.. captivating and mesmerizing in her veil of brilliance!

We sat and watched.. breathing in the moment.. passive observers cocooned in the jungles eternal embrace! Later we would swim in the pool at the base of the falls.. but for now we were summoned back to our camp.. to pack up before an enjoyable breakfast of eggs.. potatoes and Arepa (a deep fried type of Venezuelan/Columbian pancake made of corn).

We were then back aboard our dugout for the crossing of the river followed by an hours walk through the pristine jungle to the base of the falls.. peering up into the heavens and nature’s awesome display almost a thousand meters (3000 feet) above! The water was cold.. very cold.. but refreshing and invigorating after walking the moist and ever humid jungle.. so we stayed an hour to swim and enjoy this phenomenal creation.. another wonder in a world full of wonders! Each unique and ultimately.. each beyond words! Angel Falls was more than any of us had dreamed!

We returned to our camp for a lunch of roast chicken cooked over the fire.. packed everything back into the dugout and retraced our steps through the mosaic of rivers.. meandering beneath the protective canopy of jungle.. preserving the mystery of this ancient land hidden beneath the towering cliffs.. and finally back to the indigenous settlement of Canaima!

Just as we were expecting this exceptional day to end.. having witnessed such magnificent beauty.. our senses fully satiated.. we were taken down the side of one of Canaima’s seven waterfalls.. each enormous.. to an entrance.. conveniently hidden beneath the torrents of water plummeting just meters away! This natural pathway allows access beneath the falls.. beneath the millions of tons of water thundering down to the lagoon below! To walk this gauntlet.. some 400 to 500 meters from one side to the other .. under the falls.. is as unimaginable as it is electrifying and as unbelievable as it is phenomenal!

First we emerged on the other side our senses buzzing.. absolutely drenched and in awe of nature’s power.. and whilst still attempting to fully absorb what we had witnessed and as if to confirm its authenticity.. we then plunged headlong back into the maelstrom.. expelling any doubts.. and returned the way we had come! What a day!!

Tuesday 17th July 2018

Once again Diomar proved reliability is the key.. and arrived almost 30 minutes late to pick us up from the airport on are arrival flight from Canaima to Puerto Ordaz!

Today was quieter.. we are now ‘homeward’ bound.. back to ‘Henry’.. and back to Boa Vista!Our time here has been exceptional.. definitely breathtakingly unique.. a diversely beautiful country with people who are friendly and welcoming.. if not a little subdued! All in a country so rich it beggars belief that destitution and starvation skulk precariously around each corner!

Our time here in Venezuela has therefore been tempered.. the headiness of wonder with the oddities of a country in lockdown.. a country at odds with the world outside and a country shunned and vilified!

To return to the abundance in Brasil after witnessing the sparse and empty shelves of shops and supermarkets within Venezuela.. to return to a reasonably maintained infrastructure and facilities that operate as they are designed to do so and to return to normality after the simmering indifference and progressive destitution witnessed here is simply to step from one world into another.. each entirely different!

We remained another night in our hotel/posada in Puerto Ordaz.. ordering a pizza delivery for dinner which never arrived! After waiting over two hours.. at 10pm we were finally told they had no more pizzas.. so retired to bed on an empty stomach realizing in the smallest degree.. and on a totally different level.. the frustration that Venezuelans must feel.. day in and day out!

Wednesday 18th July 2017

Diomar picked us up at 5.30am at our hotel/posada in Puerto Ordaz.. (need I mention his reliability?!).. and we retraced our steps back through 600 kilometers of farms and indigenous settlements.. back through the towns and villages.. passed all the military and police checkpoints.. over the cool dry plateau to the border town of Santa Elena where we changed from Diomars supped up metallic blue Hyundai Elantra.. to the more professionally sedate vehicle of Aurelio who had previously driven us up to the border in Brasil at the start of this fantastical journey into a world of unknowns.. a world that had now in part.. become intricately woven into the fabric of our lives!

Aurelio now drove us back through Customs and Border Control.. assisting us with passport formalities and baggage checks before dropping us back at the Norte Hotel in Boa Vista where ‘Henry’.. our much loved and trusted 4×4 had been waiting diligently to take us on up to Guyana and another border.. in another town!

But that perhaps..

is another story..

for another time!

7 DAY’S AND OVER 400 KM’S.. BUT IT’S JUST NOT FOR ME?!

Well.. after 7 days on the road.. on the very ‘busy’ roads.. and over 400 kilometers from my start point in Yorktown.. Virginia.. I’ve decided that biking across the USA is just not for me. I wasn’t enjoying the mentally fatiguing concern of whether each and every passing truck or car was giving me sufficient space.. the focus and concentration required to remain on the road and the absence of nature at its best which is the aspect I’d enjoyed so much whilst hiking the Pacific Crest Trail.. and most of all I found the cycling particularly lonely!

The PCT and cycling ‘Coast to Coast’.. both distinctly different undertakings I had realized at the start.. but whilst on the PCT I had been amongst like minded hikers.. always comparing notes and experiences.. whereas the single minded resilience required day after day.. whilst biking is extraordinarily different. I had in no way anticipated the lack of social contact.. though I was almost constantly amongst people!

On 2 of my 7 evenings the sincere kindness offered by the United Methodist Church and community in both Glendale and Palmyra broke that loneliness with the welcoming warmth they offered. Thank you for your positive encouragement and unconditional friendship.

Sincere thanks too.. to all of you whom have offered your support and encouragement on both this ‘short and somewhat stunted’ adventure and my successful hike last year.. your advice.. and love have kept me going and sustained me during the more difficult times! I’m not sure what I’ll be up to next.. but for the moment I’m happily gathering my thoughts and planning any possible subsequent moves!

.. ON MY WAY!..

Coast to Coast (C-C) Day 1 April 8th

After a slightly delayed departure I finally set off on this odyssey from the East Coast in Yorktown.. Virginia.. just south of Washington DC on Sunday 8th April.. aiming to be in San Fransisco in a little over 2 months from now! It might be a ‘big ask’.. but will put peddle to the metal and see how it all goes?!

I mentioned a slightly delayed departure as yesterday.. my original start date.. had temperatures approaching 32F (0C) along with copious amounts of rain mixed with the odd shower of snow! Not for the birds.. so most definitely not for me!

The wind was up and after consultation with my wonderful.. and very sensible friends Kalina and Andy.. common sense prevailed.. so after Andy had kindly driven me across to Yorktown.. I hunkered down for the night at the Duke of York Hotel on the waterfront awaiting the storms end.

Ceremoniously dipping my rear wheel in the Atlantic Ocean in almost sub zero temperatures the day before I actually set off!

As luck would have it.. April 8th dawned bitingly cold.. but the sun was out and I was on my way! For the most part.. my route today was on a well sealed biking path.. beside the road which made for much easier cycling not having to worry about the vehicles.. but the wind was a full frontal and at times my progress was depressingly slow!

I passed some of the first settlements in the American colonies.. towns like Williamsburg.. Jamestown and Charles City.. as history would have it these are also towns where the final battles for Independence from the UK were fought in the 1780’s! The UK finally capitulating and thereby leaving the newly formed United States to self governance.

The ‘Victory Monument’ in Yorktown.. this is also the official start point for the ‘Trans America Bicycle Trail’!

After almost 60 miles (96 km’s) with my legs aching like they’ve never ached before I discovered and was kindly welcomed into the Willis United Methodist Church by Pastor Art.. Juanita and Heather! I was fed and allowed to sleep in the warmth of the churches crèche for the night. A VERY welcome end to my first exciting but exhausting day on the road. Sincere thanks to you all for your kindness and hospitality!

Willis United Methodist ChurchThe crèche.. my bed for the night!Gifts from the Willis congregation!

…. A NEW JOURNEY AND A NEW ADVENTURE! ….

The last few weeks have been put to good use organizing my forthcoming coast to coast cycling adventure here in the USA!

REI (Recreation Equipment Incorporated).. the largest outdoor store here in the US.. have been both instrumental and extremely helpful in the purchase and outfit of my ‘Co-op ADV 3.1’ touring bike! (Customer service here in the States is second to none! To be able to fully return a bike or any part thereof at any time within the coming year.. guarantees a very very happy me!

Whilst preparing for my upcoming tour I’ve been extremely lucky to be staying with amazing friends Kalina and Andy in their spectacular home looking out over the White House.. the Capitol and Washington Monument! Thank you both so much for your super kind hospitality.. support and help with the numerous facets involved in planning my coast to coast bike tour! I could not have done it without you!

Between the planning I’ve managed to catch up on some of the ‘must see’s’ that this town has to offer.. including a myriad of museums (all of which are free entry!) Arlington Cemetery.. the Lincoln Memorial and the aforementioned White House.. Capitol and Washington Monument!

Having now refined my starting point and route to a combination of the ‘TransAmerica’ Bicycle Trail and the ‘Western Express’ Bicycle Trail.. Starting in Yorktown, Virginia and finishing in San Fransisco.. I’ll be transiting from the TransAmerica to the Western Express midway through the country in Pueblo, Colorado. From there.. I’ll be cruising on to the ocean finishing in San Fransisco sometime around mid June?!

I have the maps.. I have my bike and I have the determination and inspiration! With fortune and the wind at my back as well as a little luck to boot.. I’ll be dipping my ‘rear’ wheel in the Atlantic Ocean on the 4th April.. and my ‘front’ wheel in the Pacific.. if all goes to plan.. just 2 months later!

IN SUMMARY.. A PASSING THOUGHT?!

683662EC-7DCD-4D3C-9922-4C6C5A2D1EA1Literally a thousand miles and seemingly a lifetime ago.. I set to climbing the mountains and swimming the rivers of my life.. I took that initial step along an epic path and began the first day of the rest of my life! Now as I sit back comfortably in my ‘First Class Suite’ aboard an Emirates flight bound for ‘the future’.. I am able to reflect on the impact of my recent hike.. a 156 day.. 4277 kilometer odyssey that has undoubtedly changed my life!

I readily admit that if I had known at the start what I now know.. if I had foreseen the challenges and dangers into which I was naively plunging as I set out to cross the magnificent but unforgiving Sierra in this.. the highest snow year since 1969 requiring mountaineering and type specific skills I did not yet possess.. I would never have started! I might instead have chosen a ‘normal’ year.. one in which the snows dissipate.. recede and finally clear by mid June.. but ultimately.. this exceptional year was to be ‘my’ year?!

B2BF12F0-DE35-44C6-9103-397527299AF7Over and above the many physical changes.. the loss of almost 20 kilograms (44 pounds).. the growth of hair and beard.. the increased size from 9 to 11.5 of my feet.. countless blisters and the resulting calluses.. the cuts.. scratches and bruises.. the dried.. cracked and broken lips and skin.. a broken tooth.. rashes and bites of both plant and insect and the sprains and strains.. there were also the profound mental and psychological changes within?! I certainly had a world of time in which to think!

What started as an egotistical goal.. and the basking in accolades of accomplishment.. had within weeks.. all changed irrevocably in the face of the challenge I had set myself.. and were replaced instead by an immensely humbling respect for the forces at work within our world.. equanimity and fortitude had replaced pain and ineptitude.. strength and courage replaced weakness! I was forced to face the unimaginable power.. diversity and beauty of our natural world in all its forms and I was humbled!

905AD27F-9CDE-4306-8DE7-6A57253E96ACThis fast paced world in which we survive and the stresses under which we live are of our own creation.. it is an unfortunate and unnecessary product of our existence.. Why we covet the material and idolize the seemingly impossible is a result of a culmination of both advertising and media in all its forms. The paths of our lives have been to a greater or lesser extent.. depending on where and how we live.. dictated from birth.. and we have become prisoners within a system of our own design!

Taking ‘time out’ to survive.. devoid of the comforts and luxuries so abundant in a materialistic world built on compulsive obsession.. has taught me just how little in fact we need.. just how little on which we are able to exist.. and how.. when this material is stripped away.. torn from around us.. we are forced to acknowledge and instead live our ‘natural’ lives.. serene and at peace within nature’s embrace!

4A435592-4F1D-4E98-84A0-03B500D8841CWhy then have I.. or must I return to this world of reckless materialism rather than embrace natures divinity?! Precisely because through design.. I have become a product of our modern existence.. I too am an addict and I too am addicted to the comforts and luxuries around which we live! Once we have tasted the fruit of success.. it is a rare individual.. few and far between that will revoke the privilege bestowed upon them and irreversibly return to the rawness of nature!

I have been extremely fortunate in life.. I love my life and I love the fact that I am able to enjoy the adventure of travel.. surrounding myself with diverse peoples and their cultures.. Yet when the time or need arises.. I am able to rest in the comfort of ‘home’.. and all without becoming a burden on the society of my creation! We are all of us.. imperfect people living within an imperfect world.. but the role we have to play will determine the legacy we leave behind!

Live life to the full.. as none of us know which day will be our last? I may wish to live another hundred years.. but I will happily accept whatever I am given! Life is a gift and not a right.. so celebrate the passing of the ages!

I will at the end of the day.. live the adventure of today.. and look forward to adventures yet to come!

NORTHERN WASHINGTON, THE TERMINUS, AND CROSSING THE BORDER INTO CANADA!

[NB: This last section of my blog is unfortunately rather late due to the sudden tragic death of my iPhone on Day 152.. as a consequence I’ve had to rewrite a large part of the initial blog through memory.. as well as the latter part due to a sudden lack of enthusiasm due to the aforementioned death of the phone and subsequent loss of all pictures and information?!

I am unable to remember much at all of what happened on both Day 151 and Day 153 so my account has been kept short on these two days as they were the last I wrote.. and felt the need to finish and get this posted!

Presently the pictures throughout these last days have been borrowed from the internet.. and will hopefully be substituted with my actual pictures if and when I am able to retrieve them from the chip at some time in the future?!)

(NB: All pictures with a black border to the left and right are kind curtesy of Bennet Murch.. also known as ‘Strider’.. Thank you!)

F248A68C-1236-4F99-835B-D3A8AD29C48APCT DAY 147.. August 30th Mile 2405.3 4800 feet 14.8 miles

Departed the little town of Snoqualmie just after mid day climbing the nearby mountains and traversing the far side with spectacular views to the horizon due to a cold front that came through last night clearing the lingering smoke of the fires that were plainly visible to the east in the distance!

5BE6DD6C-FDC8-49A3-83CF-1F785BC300D7Today was all about traversing enormous tracts drawn into the surrounding mountains and distant peaks! I was able to see my path for many miles and hours ahead.. so very different from much of the past weeks where the trail has been cloaked in the greenery of the encompassing forest.. As the sun was setting.. I stopped for the night and set up my tent by a small pond at the edge of yet another magical forest..

img_5596PCT DAY 148.. August 31st Mile 2432.1 4300 feet 26.8 miles

YAHOO! Huckleberries are in season!! For the last month as I hike.. huckleberries and blueberries have been so plentiful that I.. like most hikers have been supplementing our daily intake with copious amounts of fresh berries picked on the trail! For those that have never tasted a huckleberry.. they are very similar in appearance to blueberries.. but the flavor is uniquely full bodied and sweet.. they are absolutely delicious!

342F0B78-7239-452C-B5C0-6D6819E4EB73Getting closer to that line that defines the border to the north! I know I’ll be over the moon to arrive.. however at the same time I am mindful that I will greatly miss this trail.. and all the amazing people on it.. Together they have defined the path and direction of my life for the last 5 months!!

FA621AB3-FBF6-487F-ADA5-2B0985BB6AE7PCT DAY 149.. September 1st Mile 2454.2 4600 feet 22.1 miles

Today I met a group of 4 amazing young individuals.. Julianna.. Everett.. Jackson and Thomas.. who represent some of Americas youth that have an interest in discovering and experiencing the incredible beauty of the outdoors and all that it has to offer! They are seniors in High School and amongst their busy schedules.. their greatest pleasure is living and hiking the numerous trails that abound in this gorgeously picturesque state!

4443E419-D643-4E94-BF41-18CED972CC70I had hiked the day over breathtaking mountains and pristine turquoise lakes..to finish in a valley at a place called Mig Lake.. It was here I met the group.. all of whom were to individually inspire me as the evening progressed! Full of the fun and laughter of life.. we swapped stories and chatted over dinner and throughout the evening.. Amongst other things.. they had created a hikers club at school with over 50 members.. and since this was their final year together.. had undertaken this 4 day hike creating memories that would last a lifetime.. Each will go on to colleges of their choice next year and though life will temporarily though inevitably separate them.. each from the other.. the union they share in friendship will remain.. forever unbroken!

“From youths seeds of friendship propagated.. evolve enduring bonds of love sustained!”

7977D5DD-3FCB-43C5-A67E-30623142A71APCT DAY 150.. September 2nd Mile 2476.1 5500 feet 21.9 miles

In the early morning as the group still slept.. I packed up my tent and continued on my way.. a solitary figure in the early morning mists through to Stevens Pass and from there on to the summit of a solitary mountain curiously named ‘Grizzly Peak’!

13AB950D-C79E-4B45-A6E7-827B53CB7384At Stevens Pass.. a ski resort.. I bought additional food to supplement my resupply and instead of hitching a lift into the small town of Skykomish.. decided to continue through the mountains and on into valleys abundant in lakes and clear water springs.. I arrived in the early evening at Grizzly Peak where I set up camp somewhat reassured in the knowledge that a family of section hikers were similarly camped nearby!

733DD15A-2208-43AD-8994-173A26F55333EDF7D8B5-241A-4302-94D0-55CE15D3B6FDThe night was uneventful and I was never able to fully understand the origin of this unusually named peak?!

D15E085F-54D8-43BA-9B2B-F3389840FFCEPCT DAY 151.. September 3rd Mile 2504.0 5400 feet 27.9 miles

The day began as it ended.. cloaked in the mists of oncoming winter and chilled by the winds at elevation! Time appeared to stand still as I waded through steps bogged down in imaginary treacle and the day seemed never to end! It was not until late afternoon that the trail dried and the sun made it’s all to brief appearance.. Night descended early no doubt assisted by the blanket of cloud above.. and I retired once again for an early nights sleep!

0782F5A6-D487-4A73-B837-6EEE95F3EB39PCT DAY 152.. September 4th Mile 2526.8 5900 feet 22.8 miles

Milk Creek!! Milk Creek will always have particular significance as a water crossing for me on the PCT?! Hidden in a forested valley between two enormous mountains requiring countless switchbacks.. the creek itself is a raging torrent of whitewater with a slightly milky hue due to its glacial origins only a mile or so upstream! Boulders worn smooth by natures incessant flow.. river beds and the rocks therein have all been shaped through the ravages of time.. and their likes are seen constantly throughout the PCT.. this one however stands out as it had quite a substantial footbridge seemingly locking the two mountains together! A footbridge that by all counts should have prevented me from plunging headlong into the icy waters of this wild torrent!

That I almost drowned in this innocuous creek is a constant reminder of the need to always consider the perils surrounding us.. and the need to always be mindful of hidden dangers lurking unsuspected.. at any moment in time?

C5631F3D-7930-4F14-B2C9-C5BB19C373DD1D0A81CC-8E42-4B81-BBC3-456BEE3A955BI needed water before the next climb.. the last of a spectacular day of switchbacks.. both up and down.. a testament in themselves to the severity of the gradient in Washington’s jumble of mountains! The bridge above the creek was too high to collect water so I climbed down the slope and ended up perched on two of the aforementioned boulders.. With the aid of a ‘seemingly substantial’ branch which I grabbed for support in one hand.. I reached down to collect a bottle’s worth of water! Unfortunately the now.. ‘not so substantial’ branch abruptly snapped off and launched me headfirst into the middle of Milk Creek!!

93696A16-A2BE-4B0E-8187-E65DBD368736The breath was instantly knocked out of me due to the extreme cold.. and still under the seething whitewater.. I knew instantly I had to grasp hold of a boulder.. any boulder to prevent myself being dragged downstream and over the near falls?! I had already narrowly missed cracking my head on several boulders as they’d rushed by.. and as I surfaced I found myself clinging to yet another.. midstream! Hauling myself to the side and subsequently out of the turgidly frigid waters I suddenly realized my iPhone.. (literally my right arm!) was in my pocket.. and had therefore suffered similarly! Reaching my pack I instantly surrounded my understandably ailing phone with rice in a zip lock bag.. and then to warm my own ‘shaking’ body.. I took off up the switchback totally drenched.. my trail runners and socks soaked.. but feeling justifiably lucky to be alive.. and once again on the trail?!

Unfortunately my phone never did recover.. but rather suffered a tragic end.. and as a consequence I lost most of my Washington pictures for the last few weeks.. all contacts and information.. and all my notes for this blog?! (They had yet to be backed up..) I am.. and have therefore been rewriting as much as can be remembered.. and will be substituting my ‘lost’ pictures taken of the PCT in Washington.. for ones curtesy of ‘www’ (the worldwide web)!

A7830274-0602-4130-A460-F8E241A332C6PCT DAY 153.. September 5th Mile 2557.0 3500 feet 30.2 miles

As I come back to this day.. the day after Milk Creek.. I find I am unable to remember anything of significance that defines this from a myriad of similar days over the past weeks? Still frustrated and saddened at the loss of so much information and the associated pictures since my arrival in Washington.. I have unfortunately let too much time lapse between the actual hike and the writing of this days events!

CD2510F0-FFEE-4B27-B302-68700F26D4809AB1F89A-4E7A-4997-B46C-2A8C0429B71CThe scenery was certainly spectacular but without any means to record such magnificence I temporarily lost the incentive to physically write an account of the day! By evening I had once again camped by a river.. refilled my bottles and ate hastily before retiring for the night with the promise of redemption at Stehekin tomorrow!

DD6DE93C-F408-47A6-8209-88752AB2F391PCT DAY 154.. September 6th Mile 2574.3 2100 feet 17.3 miles

This morning hiked the 12 miles through to the ranger station upriver from Stehekin (a little settlement in the middle of a reserve) and caught the shuttle bus down to the town itself.. initially with the intent of camping and staying the night there.. get some laundry done and clean up in a shower?! In the end however I settled for a small resupply at the one tiny store and decided to catch the next bus back up to the ranger station to continue the hike for a few miles before making camp for the night!

B5344F7A-F5C0-4DB6-9FDA-C409078A581AUnfortunately I stubbed my big toe on a piece of granite that ‘apparently’ happened to be the top of some enormous mountain buried right beneath the trail with only the slightest hint protruding through the middle of the PCT.. presumably to catch unsuspecting hikers like me??!! I’ve managed to miss countless rocks.. stones.. roots and all the debris the trail has thrown at me.. generally only lightly stubbing my toes 4 or 5 times a day.. (something every other hiker does too..) but nothing too serious.. this time however it was eye wateringly painful!! It instantly tore the nail from the top of my big toe (Double ‘OUCH’ and #=>*!) I didn’t even want to stop for an examination as I knew exactly what it would look like.. so continued on down the trail cursing everything the PCT stood for.. before setting up camp for the night.. a few hours later?!!

Once settled.. I peeled back my sock and washed the rather mutilated and particularly bloody area around my big toe! It had throbbed throughout the day.. and was at the same time.. a sharp pain that was with me throughout the afternoon.. but in the end.. is just another foot problem to add to countless others accrued on this awesomely beautiful trail littered with innumerable.. constantly unexpected hidden perils?!

B41275C3-9689-423A-9D0E-FC6E2DCBEE8EPCT DAY 155.. September 7th Mile 2604.1 4400 feet 29.8 miles

Today I felt more like a goat as I traversed the sheer ledges that formed most of the trail for miles at a time as I crossed the mountains.. from one to the next! The tread was almost solely one of rocks and shale.. a particularly treacherous combination whilst ascending and descending!

Late in the afternoon I came across a note left on the trail by ‘Harry’ and ‘Brown’ warning of a possible closure of the trail from a place called Harts Pass through to the Canadian border and ‘Terminus’.. all due to a new forest fire here in Washington?!!! Damn.. not again!! *#!*

BF38932B-D016-418C-B3D4-36E4471951C7I knew this would be bound to stress and fire up the guys behind me!! On my end though I will hike this hike.. hopefully all the way through to the end.. as long as the trail doesn’t close.. without the need to rush and the associated stress involved!!

Camping with two other wonderful section hikers.. Jan and Nancy.. with whom I shared a deliciously cooked dinner prepared by Nancy! Fell into bed around 7pm with the prospect of a big day tomorrow?! With these fires now starting up here in Washington I don’t want to delay my arrival in Canada.. I won’t stress.. but at the same time it really would be a devastating blow if after all these miles.. the Forestry Department was to close the trail and I am unable to finish due to similar fires that closed Oregon?!! This really is turning out to be a ‘nail biting’.. will I.. won’t I finish ‘hike’.. right through to the bitter end when that very last step is taken!!

BE2952ED-A42E-44B1-8CE8-53643C3D6674PCT DAY 156.. September 8th Mile 2630.5 5900 feet 26.4 miles

I woke this morning at 5am after having heard the guys ‘Mike’.. ‘A.M.’ and ‘Gator’ fly by in an attempt to catch the rest of the crowd at.. or near the ‘Terminus’.. the border between the USA and Canada?! ‘Spider Bite’ quickly joined the former three on this rather stressful ‘run’ for the border on the pretense that the ongoing Diamond Creek Fire might yet close the trail.. ordering the evacuation of those still hiking.. and preventing us all from attaining our goal of reaching the ‘Terminus’?! If that is the case.. it would without doubt be a devastating blow.. but so be it?! I packed up and continued on my way.. at my usual pace.. I will not let the stress of the unknown affect my growing mood of excitement!!

ECD70DED-F9FD-43DF-894B-2A7DB7040D0EAs I climbed through the mountain passes.. the mists and fog of the lowering clouds formed droplets of water on my skin.. soon soaking me as surely as if it had rained.. then later.. as I was traversing the subsequent mountains.. the sun appeared and though the wind was still bitterly cold.. the two slowly but surely managed to dry me out.. Around mid day I cruised through Harts Pass.. the last place the Forestry Service would close the trail if fire or smoke had threatened.. and continued on to camp solo on a mountainside slightly protected from the still howling wind and inevitable rain yet to come?!

The border and ‘Terminus’ is now less than 20 miles to the north along a trail well over a hundred times that length winding away to the south behind me! Tomorrow I will have completed a personal dream of crossing this enormous country on foot.. and though I had a trail on which to walk.. resupply options and GPS.. through continuity and immersion.. I am in the tiniest way possible.. able to feel a sense of what it must have been like for the pioneers and early settlers of this then emerging country! They risked the lives of themselves and that of their families.. in a climate of adversity and danger the likes of which we will never fully contemplate.. all for the goal of a better life! In the face of their accomplishments and reaching out towards the myriad goals I have yet to come.. I am truly humbled!

45554D6E-FCC6-4DAC-8701-B9544743B769PCT DAY 157.. September 9th Mile 2658.9 3900 feet 28.4 miles (Manning Park Lodge.. Canada!)

GOOD MORNING WORLD!! Today I have a very exciting announcement.. today is my very LAST day hiking this incredibly awesome.. frustratingly challenging trail called the PCT or Pacific Crest Trail! Today I will reach the ‘Terminus’ (the border between the US of A and Canada) which is officially the end of the PCT.. and from there I will continue on into Canada with my ‘special entry visa’ in hand.. and finish as mentioned at the rather remote but poignantly significant Manning Park Resort!

Let’s hike!!

4A435592-4F1D-4E98-84A0-03B500D8841CThrough the early morning mists that eventually turned to rain.. over the tops of the mountains and down through the forested valleys.. much the same as had been done throughout most of this trip.. but today.. today nothing.. not the rain.. the snow or howling wind could dampen or eclipse the anticipation of my arrival at firstly the ‘Terminus’ and thereafter Manning Park! The excitement amongst those I passed was palpable! We were approaching the end of this breathtaking odyssey that had completely absorbed us throughout the last months.. the best part of half a year.. of our lives!

C99F63B0-B358-4E8A-8754-B46822D6C0C5YAHOO!!!! I did it.. the hike is now over and I find myself 2658 miles or 4277 kilometers from my start point on the Mexican border! 156 days ago on the 6th April I set out and have since battled the rains of Washington.. the snows of the Sierra and the merciless sun of the deserts in Southern California! I’ve endured touches of heat stroke and dehydration.. trench foot and hypothermia.. sprains and strains.. and other minor ailments?! I’ve negotiated snow covered granite peaked mountains.. forested valleys.. lakes of ice.. raging rivers and swampy marshland! In summary I’ve experienced a great deal! A fantastical adventure of epic personal proportions.. and apart from a few microseconds.. I’ve LOVED every moment! 😊

THE ENDLESS BEAUTY OF WASHINGTON’S RUGGED ROCKY MOUNTAINS

Capturing the eclipse on August 21st!

PCT DAY 132.. August 15th Zero day with Ginny and Jim!

PCT DAY 133.. August 16th Mile 2089 4200 feet 5 miles

Last day in the town of Bend with our hosts Ginny and Jim.. Spent the morning relaxing and waiting for Tatter’s camera to arrive by express delivery.. once we had that.. Ginny very kindly drove us.. myself.. Tatters and Tim up to the PCT trail junction at mile 2084.. passed all the fires closing the sections from Elk Lake Resort where they picked us up a few days ago! This closure I have now accepted and will just continue from here on through to the border of Oregon and Washington states.. in a few days time.. and then on up through Washington to the Canadian border and Manning Park in about a month!

Camped solo just 5 miles up the trail from the drop off junction.. in thick forest.. as the sun was going down through the trees! All quiet and feeling good! Tomorrow I’ll do as much as I can starting early with my head lamp at 4am.. I have a mountain to climb before the sun comes up around 6.30am!

Goodnight all! Thinking of you and thanks SO much for all your kind messages of support! I LOVE reading.. and re reading them all!

PCT DAY 134.. August 17th Mile 2119.0 4200 feet 30 miles

Well.. I’m almost out of Oregon.. and whomever said it was flat obviously doesn’t know what ‘flat’ really is.. it definitely has its share of ups and downs.. though not a steep grade and the tread is generally always good!

Highlights for today were Timberline Lodge where they filmed the Jack Nicholson horror movie ‘The Shining’.. so took up the axe he used.. for a picture of myself.. resembling the film!!

Further along the trail I passed the gorgeous Ramona Falls.. a horsetail spectacle of water and rock.. not to be missed on this section of the PCT!

PCT DAY 135.. August 18th Mile 2144.6 90 feet! 25.6 miles
(Cascade Locks and Bridge of the Gods!)

The miles hiked today.. were the last in Oregon.. as I’ll be heading over the ‘Bridge of the Gods’ and into Washington State (my last state on the PCT) in a few days time! I descended into the town of Cascade Locks and located the ‘tent city’ that was to be my home for the next few days.. set up on an island in the Columbia River called ‘Thunder Island’.. adjoining the RV Park.. This is where the ‘Trail Days’ or ‘PCT Days’ fair is to be held!

After setting up tent I had 2 packages to collect from the Post Office before it closed for the weekend.. one was my resupply box and the other.. full of every type of chocolate one could imagine.. was a wonderful surprise package from my angels.. Kalina and Andy Milani in Atlanta! Thank you both SO much.. this is a hikers dream.. and every single calorie will be put to good use!

Caught up with Mozart and a number of other hikers I hadn’t seen in months which was great..and said my farewells to ‘Tatters’ who is heading into Portland for a few days R&R.. Looks like it’s going to be a great weekend!!

PCT DAY 136.. August 19th Zero day on Thunder Island (RV Park) Cascade Locks

Today was spent relaxing with almost 200 other hikers and campers on an island in the Columbia River that joins.. and is part of the RV park! The ‘PCT Days’ or ‘Trail Days’ fair had started.. and kiosks have been set up in the same park selling everything a hiker might.. or for that matter.. might not want?!!

One kind couple selling sleeping bags and accessories offered to wash as many sleeping bags as they could in their special machine back at their business in town.. I think they got well over a hundred bags and by 3pm.. I had mine freshly laundered.. (it certainly needed a freshen up as it hadn’t been washed in over 5 months??!!)

PCT DAY 137.. August 20th Mile 2174.2 1200 feet 29.6 miles

Today around mid day I managed to find a ledge of rock.. just off the PCT.. jutting out thousands of feet above the forest floor below.. such a magnificent view.. and so very peaceful! I could even see the snow capped peaks of Mt Saint Helens and Mt Adams in the foreground.. and Mt Rainier between them.. in the distance! Pure magic against the start of my day!!

Ok.. so here’s another rather unfortunate story??! I left the overflowing campground in Cascade Locks at 4am and with the aid of a head lamp.. negotiated my way across the ‘Bridge of the Gods’ spanning the Columbia River.. and for the first time.. entered Washington State.. As I was looking for the PCT trail sign in the dark.. my right foot buckled and gave way as I’d stepped half on the bitumen road surface and half in a pothole! My worst nightmare hiking the PCT had just become a reality and with a painful crack.. something tore loose in my right ankle as I collapsed in a heap! #>!?# DAMD!!

I picked myself up.. and tentatively put weight on my foot to see if anything was broken.. fortunately it wasn’t.. So.. determined that ‘foot or no foot’.. I was going to finish this hike.. I set off up the mountain! At least it wasn’t broken.. and if it was I’d have carried it to Canada?!!

The day’s trail wound up and down through the gorgeously lush forests of Washington.. and thankfully due to copious amounts of Ibuprofen.. I was able to continue from Cascade Locks through to Trout Creek!

By the evening though.. when I removed my shoes I found that my ankle had swollen to the size of a golf ball?! =#?!# DOUBLE DAMD!! I soaked it in the cool waters of Trout Creek.. took another Ibuprofen and promptly went to bed.. hoping that tomorrow morning at least.. the swelling will have gone down??

PCT DAY 138.. August 21st Mile 2197.2 4000 feet 23 miles

Set my alarm to wake up at 4am.. but when I checked my foot it looked more like a football!! OHHHHH??! #=?# Consequently I had a granola bar and chocolate kindly provided by Kalina and Andy..before taking 400mg of ibuprofen and went promptly back to sleep resetting my alarm for 6am! In the light my foot did look significantly better.. so I limped around packing up camp and set off.. albeit at a VERY slow pace for the first couple of hours! After that and once I had maneuverability.. the pace quickened and I was almost able to hike normally.. ignoring what little pain there was!

The sun was up and as I scaled the first mountain I found a spot on a ledge at about 9.30am to watch the eclipse through the special glasses I’d picked up in a hiker box a few days ago.. again.. generously provided by some caring Trail Angel.. The sun all but disappeared as it was due to be a 98% eclipse here in Washington state.. and 100% eclipse in Oregon! Certainly something I have never seen before.. as the world took on a distinctly eerie evening glow..

Some section hikers that just happened to be on the ledge with me viewing the eclipse at the same time.. turned out to be doctors from the Czech Republic!! Fortune smiled on me as they very kindly put a compression bandage on my swollen ankle.. That seemed to cure all and off I hopped finishing the day by Sheep Lake having covered another 24 miles!

Camping solo with just the chip monks.. birds and as always.. the unfortunately ever present ants.. flies and mosquitoes! Had a little trail magic about 5 miles before camping courtesy of Mark and Anne whose son ‘Double D’ is also doing the PCT.. And my foot.. though still swollen does feel a good deal better! So goodnight to all.. from a peacefully content and very happy ‘me’!

PCT DAY 139.. August 22nd Mile 2226.4 3800 feet 29.2 miles

Today’s hike was all about the Ibuprofen and negotiating rocky terrain unfit for injured feet?! Consequently the day seemed never ending and as such.. it was with great pleasure that I ran into two through hikers.. ‘Simba’ and ‘Coco’ whilst we were all topping up our water bottles at ‘Mosquito Creek’?!

Simba informed me of a tiny town called Trout Lake.. about 19 miles east of the PCT that served great burgers and shakes.. AND is known to be super hiker friendly! My spirits improved.. I hiked on and caught the same lift into town as Simba and Coco.. kindly provided by trail angel Denis!

After both burger and shake.. we headed over to the General Store across the road where Bev.. the landowner and storekeeper kindly offers her front yard up to hikers for the night.. and all for free! So set up my tent and spent the rest of the afternoon chatting and swapping stories with the other 10 similarly lucky hikers that had chosen to visit the likes of one tiny.. but extremely friendly and accommodating little town called Trout Lake!

PCT DAY 140.. August 23rd Mile 2253.2 5100 feet 26.8 miles

With my foot feeling better by the day.. I set off from the trailhead just outside Trout Lake.. climbing up through the forest into first the foothills.. and then the actual slopes of Mt Adams.. high above the tree line!

I spent most of the day circumnavigating this mountain of glaciers.. before descending once again to the forest below.. as the trail continued its quest to the north.. ‘on on’ as it were.. towards some invisible line demarcating the boundaries of these two great nations.. the United States and Canada!

PCT DAY 141.. August 24th Mile 2277.4 6000 feet 24.2 miles

WOW.. what a day! The hike was like nothing I have encountered yet on the PCT! Climbing up through the granite sentinels at Cispus Pass with views into the spectacular canyon below.. surrounded on all sides by the jagged.. snow capped peaks I was yet to climb! As I later descended Cispus.. the valley opened into a wonderland of rivers and creeks cascading from sheer cliffs above in varying waterfalls of every shape and size!

I then climbed the steep ascent and traversed what is known as the ‘knife edge’?! A two mile long path literally cut into the ridge line of the jagged peaks I’d seen earlier.. with sheer drops on both sides to the valley floors.. thousands of feet below.. This in fact is the highest point on the PCT in the state of Washington at just on 7500 feet! An adrenaline rush for sure.. all on slippery shale.. and all with the most incredible 360 degree views.. Mt Adams.. Mt St Helens and Mt Hood behind me and the towering Mt Rainier ahead.. Views of thousands of miles of endless wilderness.. some of which behind me.. I had already traversed.. and the challenges ahead.. of those yet to come!

Camping just a thousand feet down from the ‘knife edge’.. by a clear.. gurgling.. ice cold stream.. fed from the snow still clinging to the peaks above.. with two other through hikers I’d met in Trout Lake.. ‘Double D’ and ‘Top’ as well as a few section hikers.. either heading north like us.. or south.. What a day.. and what an immense treat for those yet to hike these awesome cliffs of towering ice and rock!!

PCT DAY 142.. August 25th Mile 2299.5 5200 feet 22.2 miles

Woke up this morning to the first frost of the coming winter.. and the first since the Sierra?! Time is certainly moving on!! Slept in late.. probably due to the frozen conditions outside.. but once up the views over the snow covered mountains we’d crossed yesterday were spectacular! Washington state has certainly surpassed anything we saw in Oregon.. and is without doubt the most stunning scenery after the Sierra!

Today’s hike was once again through majestically forested valleys followed by equally awe inspiring mountains.. the tops of which had breathtaking views of snow capped Mt Rainier and the jagged peaks beyond!

Stopped briefly at the single gas station that ‘is’ ‘White Pass’ for refreshments and a small resupply before covering another eight miles into the wilderness and camping with 3 other hikers (‘Ambassador’ from Sweden.. ‘Triple S’ from Germany and ‘Action’ from here in Washington) on the shores of an unnamed lake.. in one of the thousands of equally unnamed valleys!

My memories of yesterday and today will always be of some of the most stunning scenery I have ever seen!

PCT DAY 143.. August 26th Mile 2323.3 5700 feet 23.8 miles

Today I had intended to do more miles.. but the terrain here in Washington is extremely steep.. both the ascents and descents! Combine this with the extremely rocky trail.. and it invariably makes for a much slower pace?! I am also particularly aware of the ease at which my weakened foot could again roll on this ground.. so a slower pace is secondary to making sure the ankle heals properly! Anyway covered just over 23 miles for the day.. again with magnificent views of Mt Rainier and the forested valleys below..

Hit a bit of trail magic just before the day ended.. with a couple who had set up tent.. and were serving free sodas and cookies! Camping half way up a mountain at a place called Sheep Lake.. I think the second lake with the same name in as many weeks?!! This place however is a very popular spot for day/weekend hikers and their families.. and as such.. because it’s a Saturday.. I have a number of families camped around me.. Great to hear the laughter and squeals of delight from all the kids out on such an magnificent adventure with their parents!

PCT DAY 144.. August 27th Mile 2349.3 5100 feet 26 miles

Some days you feel it.. and some you just don’t?! Today was one of those days I just didn’t seem to have the energy for hiking?? I don’t know why.. but there it is.. so I just pushed myself on.. the whole day.. until I got to a spring with a tent site! Springs of water coming straight out of the ground are the very BEST of water sources.. clear.. fresh and ice cold..

Hiked.. as I’ve now hiked for the last few weeks.. solo.. and barely saw another soul! Camping again tonight with ‘Action’ a super guy from Pennsylvania..

My foot.. though still swollen.. is definitely feeling a whole lot better and today only had to take two Ibuprofen in the morning to get me going.. even by this evening there is practically no pain! Hoping it continues to improve..

PCT DAY 145.. August 28th Mile 2377.3 3400 feet 28 miles

Woke up this morning to the smell of wood smoke.. which startled me at first.. until I realized that yesterday I’d passed a forest fire deep in the valley 20 or so miles back?! With no wind overnight the thick smoke had found its way through the mountains.. and now lay stagnant in the early morning mist! Later in the day this was to disappear.. but all morning the air was acrid with the smell of the forest burning so many miles away!

I continued hiking solo.. though as is nearly always the case.. I know who is several miles in front and behind me.. ‘Action’.. ‘Hui’ and the ‘Coronel’ as well as a lovely couple ‘Piker’ and ‘Laundry-Matt’.. we’ve all been leapfrogging each other now for the past few days.. chatting at springs or creeks when ever we catch up!

Camping again tonight in the forests of Washington with ‘Action’ (tonight’s his last night on the trail) and tomorrow I’m heading into Snoqualmie for resupply!

PCT DAY 146.. August 29th Mile 2390.6 3000 feet 13.3 miles

A short day today as I just had to make it into Snoqualmie.. a little town on the trail for resupply! The day was mainly smoky due to the fires burning in Oregon.. and also heard that they’ve closed a 50 mile section of the PCT from White Pass on.. due to a new fire there?! So am really lucky that at least that’s behind me.. Feeling sorry though for all the hikers south of White Pass.. that it will affect.. including poor Grizz and Lovely Heart?!

Staying tonight at the Summit Inn here in Snoqualmie and sharing the room with two others.. ‘Action’ and ‘Sky’.. an Israeli guy we met today.. it all helps keep the costs down! Also had my first shower and wash in 11 days.. so feeling scrubbed and fresh.. having removed all the dust.. grime.. sweat and dirt of almost two weeks on the trail!!

Tomorrow setting off for Skykomish.. another little town four days up.. but off the trail. Goodnight all!