• Brandon A. Kelone

Pacific Crest Trail Diary 16: Day 110 (White Pass/Packwood, WA)

Updated: Sep 21, 2018

I feel like it's been awhile since I've actually had an opportunity to write. I posted a few scribbles of a note at Timberline, but it really wasn't sufficient. And seeing that I'm in Washington now, it's unlikely that I'll see computer access like I found in Bend before Canada, so if I want anything written, I'm going to have to do it on my phone. So forgive the typos and broken syntax--writing full journals on a touch screen phone is hard. 

I left Bend on the night of the "blue moon"--the second full moon in the month of July. I had plans for that night, and I'm grateful to have followed through with them. There was smoke in the sky when I left Bend; I believe the fire was somewhere around Shelter Cove to the south, so it wasn't a bother really, but it did cast some beautiful light. I've come to sort of like fires for that reason. Although there are obvious reasons to hate forest fires, I've come to accept that they are largely out of my control and so I look for the good in them. And that good is beautiful light. It will cause the entire day to look like sunset as the sun glows through the thick smoke. On the night of the blue moon the smoke was just enough to produce something that I'd never witnessed before. 

I camped that night at the shore of Sisters Mirror Lake, hiking around the shore to reach a place where I could watch the moon's reflection on the lake when it came. After the sun set I hesitantly walked to the lake shore and sat, leaning against a rock, right at the water line; if I'd wanted I could have reached down and dipped my hands into the water. It took a bit of time for the moon to begin warming the horizon, which was good because I needed time to meditate. I haven't meditated enough on trail, and it was nice (that isn't the right word, but you get the point) to reconnect with that part of myself. Once the horizon did start to glow I breathed deeply. When I opened my eyes again, feeling completely changed and utterly reborn, the moon was a glowing cherry on the tree line. Never had I seen a moon glow such a hot red that it was that night from shining through the smoke. I looked straight up at the stars and was reminded of how big the sky above our heads actually is. It was a magical moment. It took bravery to get to that place, but it was something--an experience--that I walked away from with such gratitude. I stayed at that waterline for about an hour. I wish I could say more about that hour, but due to the public nature of this journal, I must remain brief. 

The next day was a lot of climbing, as was much of northern Oregon, but the views of Mt.Jefferson and then later Mt.Hood were really spectacular. I also had the fortune of reaching Ollollie Lake that day--an unanticipated stop where I was able to get beer and Oreos before hiking back out with a bit of drunk in my skull. That night I met four other hikers and we camped together by a water source. It was nice to have that company for the night. 

I walked out the following day and reached Timberline Lodge. Something that caused me a great deal of difficulty happened there. I'll maybe explain it more when I write a book. 

The breakfast at Timberline the next morning is rumored to be the best on trail, and I have to agree. It is a very nice hotel--the place where they filmed the outside shots in "The Shining." It was a breakfast buffet and the food was spectacular! And being up there in the high mountain air of Mt.Hood--just beyond words man. I was however extremely stressed at Timberline as it started to get very crowded with tourists by noon. I nearly had a panic attack before leaving there. It was really bad and affected me for a couple days. 

I'd been having foot issues going into Timberline, so I ordered new shoes to be shipped to White Pass before leaving. 

I walked for awhile alone and wondered why I was out there at all. 

By and by I came to a place called "the Eagle Creek Alternate." I'd heard about this trail for about a week. The word on the trail was that Eagle Creek was an absolutely beautiful canyon that was off trail and offered as an alternate detour, and I had decided not to take it because I wanted to be left alone. I knew that everyone else was going to take the alt route, so by avoiding it I'd be missing some really beautiful trail, but I'd also find isolation. That all said, when I got to the trail split, I changed my mind; I needed to see something beautiful and I needed my passion for being out here to be restored. So I dropped into the canyon alt route. I cannot talk too much about what happened in the "Eagle Creek Saga" but I will say that it completely shifted my disposition and reminded me why I started this hike. I was overflowing with love and understanding of the universe. I looked into another persons' eyes and I saw the universe in there; we'd never met and we will never meet again, but in those eyes I saw the universe. That moment lasted for less than a second, and the canyon hike for about three hours before I reached bridge of the gods and Cascade Locks. 

I was tired from the day when I arrived at Cascade Locks. I ate a pint of ice cream, then followed signs to a trail angel's house where I slept for the night. 

The next day I crossed the Bridge of the Gods and entered the last state of the PCT--Washington. It was somewhat overwhelming seeing that bridge and crossing the Columbia... I was very moved and nearly (or fully) brought to tears. 

The start of Washington was not something that I enjoyed; it was a green goblin. You want to know what the start of Washington looks like? It looks like that scene from "Honey I Shrunk the Kids" where they get shrunk down and are running around I the lawn. It makes you feel so small. Everything is so green and giant. Sort of like "Jurassic Park" only less tropical. It's hard to explain why I didn't like the jungle there except to say that it made me feel very claustrophobic. Also there are bees. 

After a few days Washington rose up a bit and the trees thinned just a little. One day I awoke and thought that someone near by had a camp fire going, but I came to discover that it was a forest fire. These situations are scary, scares you don't have any information and all you can tell is that there is a lot of smoke--no way to know where the fire is or how big. But I made the 16 miles into the town of Trout Lake where forest service said that the fire is on the opposite end of Mt.Adams and would not affect the trail. Locals however would go out of their way to tell me that the fire was right on the trail and that it would be suicide to continue, but we went on anyways (we= myself and another dude I met in Cascade Locks). We got a hitch back to trail from a dude who is certifiably the craziest human being to ever live. I cannot even explain how scared I was. Dude was swerving all the way across the road into oncoming traffic and ranting about how the federal government had bugged his car to listen in on his communication with God. I also thought that he was going to pull a gun out of the dash at the end of our drive. Wish I had access to a keyboard just so o could tell more about that crazy character. He didn't have many teeth and told me emphatically that he is writing a book but that he is only writing it in his head so that the government can't get access to it. 

Anyways, we survived that hitch and hiked 6 miles up Mt.Adams together. I liked hiking with "Willow." He was a really cool guy and we connected on a lot of things. It was odd to spend miles with another hiker and I would have enjoyed hiking with him more, but our miles didn't match up, and so we separated the following morning. 

That next day was amazing! The smoke caused Mt.Adams to look like a volcano and the entire sky was just unbelievable! It looked like a sunset all day and the sun was a bright cherry that I could look directly into without burning my eyes. Really spectacular! And the photos turned out really great!

The day that followed brought me to Goat Rocks, a place that is said to be one of the most beautiful on trail. Unfortunately, smoke had settled in and made views very restricted. It was still really great up there though. The trail goes through some really rugged and gnarly country after getting up above the tree line-- it even crossed some snow fields!

That was yesterday. Last night I landed in a campground at Highway 12 (White Pass) and today walked a half mile to the gas station where I got my resupply packages, a bunch of slurpies, and a pizza. Then it started to rain--hard. That's when the Sobo with whom I was sharing pizza decided that we should split a motel for the night. The weather is expected to improve tomorrow, so this lets us rest (I haven't slept in a bed in 700 miles!) and get our gear dried out before continuing on. 

Now is the part where I have to talk about a major problem that is preventing most people from getting all the way from Mexico to Canada--there are several very severe fires that are currently burning in and around the final town of the trail. So in short, the trail is literally closed up north and the road walk is not only over 100 miles, but it is growing/moving every day and closing trail, towns, and roads every day. So although I'm only 350 trail miles from the end, I have no way of knowing how I'll be able to make it to Canada. It is really discouraging and it scares me a lot. There is literally a chance that I will not be able to complete my hike because of these fires. If that happens, I don't know what I'll do. I've walked 2300 miles and I may be shut out from completion in the last 100 miles... It is the topic of a lot of conversation on trail and everyone is aware of it. The town is called "Stahekin" and people refer to it as "the S Word" as a means by which to acknowledge how terrible the situation is. 

I have not done justice to explaining the fires that are ongoing, but I'm going to have to deal with that for the time being, as I need to do some other things and I've been tapping the screen of my phone for the last hour and a half.


I wish you all the best and hope to get to a keyboard sometime soon. 

Tomorrow I'll hike out to my next stop (99 miles north) then one more stop after that (75 miles) and then begins the fire saga. I don't know what will happen between now and then, but I will try to stay positive and remember that the universe works in ways that are beyond my knowing.  

Thanks for your support and for reading about my rants. 



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