Thursday, September 27, 2012


We got up very early and after a record speed packup, we were on our way. 12 miles sounds like a lot of miles before 12:15 PM. But we were up for the challenge. The bakery in Stehekin was calling our names. It is legendary on this trail for having some of the best baked goods on the whole trail.
   We ran into our friend, Paws, who we hiked with in California, over a month ago. He is heading southbound through Washington right now. Very good to see him.
  But we were on our pilgrimage to the bakery. We said our goodbyes and were on our way. We made it to the bus stop before 11 AM. The bus took us down to the bakery where we went a little crazy with food. Then it stopped at a produce stand, where we bought peaches and goat yogurt. After that, the bus took us to Stehekin Landing. We had 40 minutes before a bus going back up to the ranch took off. We decided to divide and conquer. I would go to the post office and get our packages while Lauren called her mom. It was frantic but we did it with maybe 2 minutes to spare. Lauren's friends Soren and Justin were there and had gotten us a permit for North Cascades National Park.
    They were also staying at the ranch and joined us for dinner. This ranch is amazing. I am so glad we decided to stay here tonight. Amazing dinner and should be more amazing food tomorrow. Played Apples to Apples until the late hour of 9. Time for sleep.


  The campsite was my favorite so far last night. The sunrise was incredible. We left by 7, again hiking separately. It was a perfect morning. It was nice and cool out.
   I got to the turn off for the "old PCT" around 9. There was a sign at the junction and someone had written in pencil "no log xing". It was enough to keep us from taking the shortcut that would have either saved us 5 miles or cost us 4 miles. A flood in 2003 washed out the bridge over the Suittale River. Hikers still went through this area, even though it was closed from 2003-2011. They had been using a  log that had fallen across the river A new bridge was finally completed in September 2011, but to get to the bridge, one must hike 5 more miles than the old route. So as unexcited as we were, we decided to walk the new route. It actually was very pleasant though, newly redone trail. It also goes through some of the largest trees I have seen on this trail.
    After climbing over 3000 feet to Suittale Pass, the trees opened up again and we were once again in sweet above treeline country. We made it down to Hemlock Camp and have a great campsite. We are only 12 miles out of Stehekin and hope to make the 12:15 bus into town tomorrow. We hiked 27 miles today! Wahoo.


  We liked the arrangement of hiking separately in the morning yesterday so much that we did it again today. It was a great morning too. So beautiful out and the hike was spectacular. It involved a lot of uphill, about 4000 just in the first half of the day. Glacier Peak has been the centerpiece of our hike lately and as we got around to the north side mountain today it showed its amazing glaciers.
     I waited for Lauren at Mica Lake. It was beautiful there. The lake was still covered in ice and snow. I rinsed off in the lake and the water was some of the coldest I have felt in a long time!
   Lauren showed up and we began the long descent down to Milk Creek. This is the first year since 2003 that the PCT has been open in this section. A storm in 2003 washed out bridges, chunks of trail, and took down a large amount of trees. I am so glad the trail has been reopened and fixed up so nicely. The trail down to Milk Creek was in great shape, except for the last quarter mile which was very overgrown. We got down to where the old bridge crossed the river and I thought it would be fun to take the old PCT. It would save a mile and be an adventure. It was fine for me, but Lauren was not as excited. The scramble down to the river was tough on her knees. I made a bridge out of rocks and a large log and she was able to cross with dry feet.
    After that we had another 2200 foot climb. It was full of switchbacks and took a long time. Both of us were exhausted and out of water when we reached the top.  Decided  to camp just another mile down the trail. We have an amazing campsite. 360 degree views of mountains around us. Have I mentioned lately that the weather is great!
   We have another big day ahead of us tomorrow. Need to get to Stehekin soon, I am almost out of toilet paper...


 Today was much better. We decided on a meeting point ten miles up the trail and hiked seperately to that point. I needed the alone time and so did Lauren. I am an introvert, so alone time really recharges me and makes me feel good.
   The trail was AMAZING today. We walked right on a treeless ridge for most of the day. This trail is going out with a kick too. We had close to 6000 feet of elevation gain today. Tomorrow looks like over 7000! For the first time in months, my calves are sore after a 25 mile day.
    It feels good to still be out here, life is so very simple. Not excited for the life that awaits me in Helena. Tonight I will enjoy sleeping next to a raging glacier fed creek, right next to the girl I love.


  Compromise. I think its how we have hiked this far together. Its not easy hiking together, living, and being together 24 hours a day for 100 days. Even when we hike big parts of the day alone, we still cook dinner, camp, and wake up together every morning.
    I love hiking with Lauren, but our hiking styles are very different. Mine is in fact very different from most. When I hike by myself, I hike all day. I start very early and hike very late. I see a mountain in front of me, I climb it. I see a creek or river, and I hike right through it. I take few breaks but when I break I eat a lot and then hike on. It is sick the way I push myself. Not sure what drives me to do this, but its what I do.
   I suppose not hiking my way has its benefits. The biggest being I have had no injuries this summer (knock on wood). I only suffered 2 little blisters around Mt Hood that went away after a few days. I have also had more time in camp and am one of the few hikers who never loses weight onn a 2000 mile hike!
   Today we stopped at 430. 18 miles. Not bad, just thought we should do more. The weather is good, we feel good, and a good campsite was only 4 miles away. Compromise, its the only way this will work...


     The slope we slept on was less than stellar, but I still slept great. We hiked separately on the seven mile hike to Steven's Pass. I felt great on the hike and made great time.
   I passed several very friendly day hikers going the other way. They all talked to me about the hike and one even gave me a package of M&Ms. I found a cooler of trail magic at the pass too.
   We hitched with Whodeeknee and Party Tent into the Dinsmore's. They are trail angels that offer a place to stay, rest, and shower. Andrea Dinsmore even washes everyone's clothes. The general store across the street has amazing food. The owner, Steve offered the hikers here a $12 pork chop dinner. So we enjoyed it. I was a little worried I would not get full, but he gave us unlimited corn on the cob, green beans, and mashed potatoes, along with 2 large pork chops. It was amazing!
    One of the best parts of the day was running into our old friend, Gut Feeling. She is super fun and very friendly. Lots of other hikers here, lots of good company. We will take an early ride back tomorrow!


   The night was great, we both slept very well and woke up feeling refreshed. We started hiking later, but both of us felt good. Lauren's knees still are bothering her, but she still made good time.
   This wilderness area is sweet. Just all around beautiful. Lakes, huge cliffs, and water cascading down them. It is undoubtedly some of the prettiest stuff we have seen so far. I am very excited for more to come.
   We are in a huge bubble of hikers right now. We met many today who we had not met before. The Tourist hiked the Hayduke Trail in 2008. We talked about the trail at a creek for awhile.
    The trail today was full of ups and downs. We had three climbs close to 1000 feet each. It felt good to get the calves going again.
  We started talking about home a lot lately. I am honestly tired right now. Just need some serious rest. I am also excited to work on school work again. But I am not looking forward to finding a job, finding a place to live, and trying to figure out what to do with my life. It is exciting and scary at the same time.


  Goldmyer hot springs were amazing. We soaked in the pools last night and it was by far, the coolest hot springs I had ever been in. The springs flowed out of a cave and there was a 20' long pool inside of  the cave. It was really pretty and hard to leave. They even had a changing room nearby. We need one of these springs at the end of everyday.
   I slept amazingly after the soak, and woke up late feeling refreshed. Lauren went in for another soak this morning while I made some tent stakes out of sticks. I must have left our stakes somewhere, possibly Rob and Maggie's house. It felt good to make stakes though, simple, but I cut them to size and put notches in them.
  We started hiking about 9 AM. I was anxious to hike fast, its been so long since we really did a big day. But Lauren's knees were slowing her down to about two miles an hour. I ended up hiking ahead a-ways. I really enjoyed the straight-forward climb of the trail up to Dutch Miller Gap. Not much for switchbacks, and good and steep.
   The smoke is terrible here. It burns the lungs a bit and really dims the views around here. Its still  beautiful, but its harder to see the texture of the huge mountains that surround us. I guess 65 fires were started by that storm on Saturday, no telling where the smoke is from. But so far, no closures on the PCT.
    We walked together the last 8 miles of our day. Found a great campsite with a view of the valley below us. Made 21 miles today.
   I think I am about ready to be done hiking this Summer.


  It rained all night Sunday night. We woke up Monday with a  soaked tent, but good spirits. We were only 12 miles from Snoqualamie Pass where Lauren's cousin was going to pick us up.
   I hiked fast and made it to the pass by 11 am. Ate a ton of food and Lauren made it shortly and we ate more. The Ardvark restaurant treated us really well. Dan makes amazing food and has good prices!
   Rob picked us up around 4 and drove us into Wenatchee. Maggie and Rob spoiled us. Beer, good food, a warm bed. Life was good!
   On Tuesday they let us borrow their brand new Subaru which we drove all over town taking care of errands. It was so nice to not have to walk around town. It was also great to get to know more of Lauren's family and I felt like I was treated like family.
   Today, we rode with Maggie back to the pass and are back on the trail. We are headed to Goldmyer Hot Springs, a short 11 mile day. But the trail is brutal. Lots of overgrown trail, blow downs, rock slides, and bad tread. Guess this is what we get for getting off the PCT.
   Amazing weather today. The forecast called for 10 more days of this stuff. Good to be outside.


  The thunder and lightning came around 11 pm. It started out as a dry storm, but around midnight we had some intense rain and hail falling. The thunder smashed up above us and the lightning did the same. The storm seemed to sit right on top of us and the noise alone kept me awake from 11-2.
    Non-the-less, we were up by 630 and hiking in off and on drizzle. What a change from yesterday. Also, this was the first rainy day we have had on the trail.
     I had planned on hiking ahead of Lauren today, on to where the PCTA crew was working. This all changed when I got to Tacoma Pass! A sign indicated trail magic just ahead. I got there to find "Not Phil's dad". He had a great set up with two large canopy tents and chairs with loads of food under it for hikers. He made us hot chocolate and chilly dogs. Perfect second breakfast! I also ate an orange, a peach, and hiked out with a large muffin!
   We left feeling full and happy! We then hiked on. It was actually beautiful walking in the drizzle and clouds. In the 50s, it was perfect for hiking.
     I could not resist picking huckleberries after Tacoma Pass, and I picked half a quart in no time. I ran into the trail crew around 11 am. TC showed me how he makes perfect trail. The trail his crew was brushing and retreading was amazingly smooth and clear. Thanks PCTA! He told us where their camp was and where to find the fuel canisters he got for us. We parted after chatting awhile, and got to the camp quickly. There we found the cooks who immediately offered to cook us lunch! Grilled cheese, soup, cheesecake, and Gatorade were all given to us. What a great lunch on a cold rainy day! We eventually left the vortex and kept hiking. Thanks for everything TC and PCTA.
   Onward. We were given word that there was yet more trail magic at Stampede Pass, 6 miles away. We leisurely walked talking about the food we had been given today, and how lucky we are!
   At Stampede Pass we found the Stumbling Norwegian giving even more trail magic. He made us a hamburger, hot dogs, gave me a beer and homemade Kahlua, and brownies, and cookies, and poptarts. So amazingly kind.
   We had three legit, amazing, tasty, gifts of trail magic all in 12 miles. We are so lucky and could not ask for a better day to be spoiled, our first rainy day!
   We walked a few more miles and found a good campsite. There are a lot of elk around here bugling! It is very majestic. We hiked over 21 miles today and enjoyed three hot meals and three hour long breaks. What a great day.


  Today was good. First time in over a week that we hiked more than 20 miles. We both felt pretty good all day. Lauren's knee was feeling better and we were able to do around 2.5 miles all day.
   We ran into a few hikers we had met over a week ago. Always good to see familiar faces!
   We had an amazing view of the mountains around us 360 degree views. A storm appeared to be raging on Mt. Rainier. Now the storm may be headed our way as we sit in our tent near Tacoma Pass.
   We are only 9 trail miles from where my friend TC is doing trail work. I hope we can catch him tomorrow to at least say hi!
   Lauren's cousin and his family are planning to meet us on Monday at Snoqualimie Pass. Lauren has made arrangements to get a doctors appointment on Tuesday. So we are going to take a night off in Winachee and see if we can get advice for her knees.


   On Wednesday we continued hiking northward. We had big dreams of big miles. But after just 6-7 miles, Lauren's knees were swelled up and really bothering her. She stopped and wrapped them, but the pain was still too much. I helped lighten her load, but we were still traveling less than two miles per hour over easy terrain. We decided we should take a day off and we hitched into Packwood again, just 28 miles and a day after we left the first time. Very frustrating for both of us.
   We took a day off in Packwood and I really enjoyed the town. We stayed at the quaint Hotel Packwood which was within walking distance to the rest of the town. I was able to spend some quality time applying for jobs and lounging. We met some great people in town and I even had the owner of the sporting goods store buy me a beer at the bar!
   Today we hitched back to Chinook Pass. It wasn't an easy hitch either, took three seperate rides, but we made it back around one pm today. Lauren's knees are  feeling a bit better, still not 100%. I took a bunch of her weight again today and that seemed to help. We are so close to the finish. I have mixed feelings about finishing! I am excited to start a new chapter of life, not excited to finish this one. We have a few backup plans if her knees can't make it right now, but that is worst case. We hiked 13 miles this afternoon and she felt pretty good. Tomorrow we will hike over 20 and that will be the real test.
   The hiking here is just amazing. We are walking right on the crest with views of mountains and more mountains on both sides. No real signs of development. We are however camped right under a flight path to Seattle/Tacoma international airport, seems the flights are coming through non-stop. Kind of fun to watch though. I like to think about everyone on those planes and how they all have stories and all have a reason to go to Seattle this evening.


  We got up very early on Monday, hiking by 630. The sunrise on the climb up to the knifes edge was spectacular. We could see Adams, St. Helens, and Rainier. The moon was still up and it was chilly on the climb up, but amazing. We passed tents left and right on the climb up to the ridge, lots of weekend warriors out and about. At the ridge top I waited for Lauren and watched people working their way up to the ridge. I could see the trail for miles and enjoyed watching the groups approach the ridge.
    The walk on the knifes edge was like no other hike I had ever been on. Not for someone with vertigo, cliffs thousands of feet down on both sides.
   The rest of the hike to town was easy and mellow. Lauren was feeling better and we moved pretty good all the way to Whites Pass. At the pass I started to call hotels in Packwood, see if anything was available. Right when I was about to give up, because everything was full, Steve and Steady showed up. We met them months ago near Belden and had seen them a few times since. Steve is a serious trail angel, and his wife Steady is a triple crowner hiking large sections of the trail this year. Both are amazing people.
   They said the hotel they are staying at had rooms available and though it was out of town, they could drive us around. It worked out great and Steve even treated us to dinner at an amazing pizza place!
   Today we enjoyed Packwood some more. Very nice library, great outdoor shop, and all around friendly town. I didn't want to leave. It is probably my favorite town on this trail so far. We convinced each other that we should leave though, as it was a beautiful day and we might as well be hiking.
    We got a ride out of town in less than ten minutes. A tractor trailer pulled over to our surprise, and delight. A native Washington man hauling doubles full of gliserine across the state. Super nice guy and my first ever hitch from a tractor trailer. He said he was tired and happy to have some people to talk to.
    We got back on the trail at about 3 pm, and enjoyed the pretty flat walking. Ten miles is about what we did, and we both feel great. I packed out leftover pizza and beer for dinner, it was great.
   I am excited to be back out here. My friend TC is doing trail maintenance south of Snoqualimie Pass and we hope to catch him in a couple days.

Tuesday, September 4, 2012


   We both slept well all night and were up early after over nine hours of sleep. The huckleberries I picked yesterday went really well with granola this morning. We were on the trail by eight, and although Lauren was still sick, she felt better.
    The day got better and better the further North we went. Goat Rocks Wilderness is amazing. Reminds me of the Sierras and Beartooths. Out of nowhere, we began seeing the Labor Day hikers. Hundreds of them around here. All very friendly. One of them said the forecast is great for the next nine days. I am super excited for that.
   We camped very early, around 430, after about 19 miles. We are unsure where the next campsite is, and Lauren needs more rest. Plus, this site has amazing views and near a waterfall. I got my water out of a waterfall to drink. Who can say they did that today.
  We are planning to get up very early so we can enjoy the sunrise while hiking on the knifes edge. I am stoked, but unsure that Lauren understands how cold it may be at six in the morning up here!


   Another hard day. Lauren was feeling exhausted all day. This head cold has really gotten her down. We started late today, around 830. Our latest on trail start yet. By noon we only had eight miles in. Very discouraging for both of us. It was such a pretty day too, I wish we were both feeling good.
   This trail has been really tough for Lauren, it seems like there is just one problem after the next. I really hope she can kick this cold soon and feel good.
   The terrain was very easy today, mostly gradual downhill. But we had to rest often. Stopped early with 18 miles in. I was honestly frusterated, really wanted to hike a little later. But I also know this is really hard for her, and wish I could help more. While Lauren napped in camp, I picked huckleberries. It really calmed me down and helped relax me. I picked nearly a quart in just over an hour.
   I have honestly come to my senses and havee learned that I need to get my heart rate pumping for a good amount of time every single day, or I am anxious and irretible. Lauren noticed this when we first started dating. She tells me to go for a bike ride when I am in a bad mood. Its crazy though, even on the trail its still true. I did not work hard today. After picking huckleberries I ran fast for 20 minutes. Not very long, but it sure felt good.
   I made a twinkie hucckleberry mix and heated it in my pot, it was so good. I keep feeding Lauren tea, hoping that helps. My good friend Danielle sent me tons of teas, so we are enjoying that!
   I really hope we are both feeling good tomorrow. Goat Rocks wilderness is supposed to rock.


   Lauren woke up with a cold this morning. Some coughing and a sore throat. Not sure where she got it, but hoping its not a rough one. The miles went by so slowly as she was really dragging. We had each other convinced that going into Trout Lake for a night off was a good idea. I called every hotel in town when I got a signal. No rooms anywhere. I became content with the idea of camping early though, and taking the day slowly. So thats what we did.
    We hiked apart for a bunch of the day. When I got to road 23, I found amazing trail magic. A family whose daughters are hiking the trail, brought tons of goodies. There was cookies, sodas, beer, veggies, fruit, and chips. I felt completely spoiled. Before the family left, they gave me a bunch of stuff to give to Lauren, who had not shown up yet. She was very excited to get the fresh veggies and fruit.
   Despite feeling sick, she wanted to power on. So we climbed 2800 feet out of the valley to the base of Mt. Adams. This place is really sweet, I am loving it here. This is another volcanic mountain that sticks up out of nowhere. We found a sweet campsite with an amazing view of the mountain. It is going to be a chilly night. The wind is howling through here like a freight train.
   22 miles today. Lauren is amazing hiking that far with a cold. Not many people even exercize with a cold, let alone climb mountains.
  My parents sent me a great care package to Cascade Locks. Tons of cookies and snacks. My favorite part was a 30 day supply of quotes. They are all inspiring. My mother put a lot of time into this, and I feel very lucky to have such loving and supporting parents.
   Lauren's (and my) friend Andrea also sent lots of goodies which caught up to us at Cascade Locks. The beer was amazing, and Lauren even let me have a peice of chocolate! Thank you!
  If anyone else would like to send something, we would love it! Cookies, gummy worms, trail mix, or anything else edible would be appreciated. My favorite thing is personal notes and good sunday comics. Our last stop on the trail is Stehekin, Washington. If you would like to send something, please send it via the US postal service by September 8th, to Andrew Rivers or Lauren Balcken, C/O General Delivery, Stehekin, WA 98852. Write on the package, please hold for PCT hikers, ETA 9/17/12. Again, nothing is expected, but everything, including guest book entries on here, are appreciated!


  The morning was cool. The sky was completely blue, amazing weather. It made me eager to hike. When we were telling our friends Obie and Val about this crazy hike, they thought we were a tad crazy for putting ourselves in the Cascades in September. The weather can change with the snap of your fingers, and we will likely get snow at some point. So every day we have blue skies and good weather, I will be feeling a bit eager to pump out some miles.
   We did just that today. 26 miles before 630 pm. The terrain was pretty, but nothing spectacular, a lot of little lakes and a ton of people. That was just a little reminder that we are approaching Memorial Day weekend. The woods may get a little crazy over the next few days.
    I took several amazing breaks in the sun today. It felt so good. Funny how much you appreciate the sun once its started to get colder out.
   We are camped at Surprise Lakes. Our surprise was the number of folks picking huckleberries around here. Tons of them. With buckets to throw their berries into. They say its a low crop year, but I have found hundreds of them without trying today. I wonder how many it takes to fill a five gallon bucket though...


   Sure the packs were heavy after four days without them. But my feet feel 100 times better than they did a week ago. It also felt good to be fattened up again after being spoiled with great food from Lauren's parents. We left them this morning after a large breakfast which was followed by cookies and non-powdered milk.
     With 5 days of food on my back though, it was slow moving this morning. We managed to hike over 25 miles today though. It did feel good to hike over some large hills today. I think that the heavy weighted packs may bother Lauren more than myself. She seems to hurt a bit more than I do with the weight, which is okay, we still made good miles and had fun today.
   It is strange to see clouds in the sky. Today we hardly saw the sun at all. I think this is just how Washington may be! It is also super green here. So much new sruff to look at. We are camped with a guy who picked some Lobster Mushrooms today. Super tasty. They charge $40 a pound for them at Whole Foods, and they grow right along this trail. May have to find some in the future.
       I have been thinking about life after trail lately. Not looking forward to it. We will likely be done in three weeks. Then I have to find a job, a place to live, and start school once again. Though I am happy to contribute to society, I am not ready to be done hiking right now. Can I do both?


    Today we finally left town. We took the easy route out of town and had Lauren's parents slack-pack us up the trail 20 miles. It made the climb out of Cascade Locks much more enjoyable.
   We made excellent time and finished our 20 mile hike in about 6 hours. It felt really good to be hiking again today. Lauren's parents spoiled us again at the road junction. We are camped with them and they made us a great dinner for us and gave us a couple beers. Lauren helped me get rid of a couple pounds of food weight. Some stuff I had carried for over 300 miles. Smooshed/balled up Sunbelt NutraGrain bars. I can't eat them, but am often to stubborn to throw away food. But my parents sent me some amazing homemade cookies to Cascade Locks. I would rather carry good tasting snacks than something that I would never eat.
   Tomorrow we will walk with fully loaded packs. North towards Canada. Less than 500 miles to go. Very exciting.