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Expedition 2023, Day 2

Taken from where I placed a rock a year ago looking back at Slate Peak. The subalpine larch were just beginning to turn yellow. Just look at all that hiking potential!

Slate Peak

Lots of Bonsai style plants on the ridge


Fun in the sun

Shadow on rocks

As I was about to depart the trailhead Lindsay with her dog Jake drove in looking for a place to park, so I told her I was about to leave. Somehow a really interesting and enjoyable conversation ensued that went on for a long time. We touched on many subjects as conversations often do, like all the interesting places she’s been, what it’s like to travel as a single woman, and more. She said Jake is a really good judge of character and won’t tolerate sketchy men but I suspect he is mostly reading her body language. Either way Jake and I got along great. She operates as what I suppose is a life coach and I’m guessing she is very skilled at it. She was interested in my diverse history and very moved by the recent chapter in my life. She gave me a big hug and then surprised me by asking if she could have a rock to place in B.C. where she’s from. Knowing all the wild and cool places all over North America she has been I thought that was an excellent idea. Hopefully she follows through someday.

Would you sit on that guardrail?


I hung out on top waiting for the sun to reach down into the campground. Eventually I went down and made breakfast and then took a walk to the lower campsites to look at the view. While chatting with the young couple that had followed me up the hill from Mazama I noticed one of the tires on their Subaru Impreza was nearly flat. Boy were they unhappy. Their car doesn’t have much clearance to begin with and driving on that road with a donut spare would likely beat up the underside of their car. I had them remove the wheel while I went and got my rig. I used my plug kit and air compressor to get the small hole fixed up just fine. They were naturally a bit nervous about the upcoming drive and wondered if I would follow them out Sunday morning. I pointed out that if their tire went flat I would be stuck behind them without any way get them or their wheel to town so it would be better if they followed me. So that’s what we did. Once to the highway we waved goodby and they turned west toward Seattle and I headed east for Winthrop.

I found talking to the thru hikers very interesting. They are good folk and oddly enough it seems like there are more women than men doing wilderness trips. It’s amazing how fresh they look after all those miles on the trail. The couple below are (trail names) Mule and Scatter from Burien. They were hiking the Pacific Northwest Trail (Cape Alava to Glacier N.P.) in segments because of fires. They had just picked up nine days of food for the next segment (120 miles) from there to Oroville. They told me the PNT is half the length of the PCT but twice the vertical. I took some gear off their hands they were tired of carrying and they will retrieve it when they get home. Who sports painted nails on a backpacking trip anyway?

Mule and Scatter

I met another young lady that was hanging out waiting for some friends to show up. They were doing a quick hike to the border and back (60 miles round trip). It turns out she had been a Navy officer (a couple generations more recent than me of course) so we had a lot to talk about. It was fun. I could tell she had a lot of moxie. She had brought a cooler of cold drinks and trays of cupcakes for the thru hikers.

Sitting around it seemed like a major subject of discussion was footwear choice. Some had boots but many had lightweight shoes that only make a hundred miles before falling apart. That’s more than two dozen pairs for the trip! The logistics of that seem daunting. I think it mostly boils down to what one’s feet and ankles can withstand and your budget for constantly replacing shoes. About then a frizzy haired bear of a guy strolled in and set down to drink one of the free beers from the cooler. He looked like he had been rolling in dust for days. His clothes were threadbare and hanging in tatters. When the shoe conversation came along he held up a foot. Basically what he had was the remnants of soles held onto his socks with string. I really wish I had a photo of that. He said it had been like that for a hundred miles. I knew he only had 30 miles left to go so I gave him a small roll of duct tape.

The other major discussion was that the PCT had become impossible to complete for most because of the constant fire closures. Part of the issue is that while there are alternate trails to get around the segments on fire, the alternates have become impassable with downed trees from older fires. It’s going to take time, years probably, to clear up the trails. And it will likely start looking more like Europe where the mountains have been deforested.

The lady that runs the guard station was a kick in the pants and clearly enjoyed being in charge of everything associated with that station. She had the only communication gear, a sat phone. The campground and outhouse was spotless, so she was doing a good job. I took her an empty water jug which she was glad to have (there is no source of water there) and got a complete tour of the cabin and associated gear, plus her ongoing efforts to foil packrats. What a character. I kicked myself later for not filling up her jug from my supply since I was soon headed to town. I never saw all this activity the previous year because the cliff holding the road had collapsed early in the year and I was the first person up the new and very rugged road besides the forest service and construction crews.

Sitting in camp and moving my chair to remain in spots of sun I noticed the remarkably large number of rodents and birds of numerous species industriously scouring the forest floor. I'm guessing this was because the camp was located near the edge of the forest and also was an island of unburned forest. Edges like this are known as biogeographic transition zones noted for biodiversity. With so much prey around it's understandable that there were hawks there as well, and at night barred owls and great horned owls could be heard.

While sitting at a table with some hikers one lady said "ewwww, a rat". I couldn't let that pass. I told her it was a tree vole and received a skeptical look for my effort. I said "look, unlike rats it has a short tail". She thought for awhile and then asked then why isn't it in a tree. Clearly a tough customer. I didn't want to get into mansplaining mode but with a challenge hanging there and knowing the answer, a minor biology class began. I explained the males live in brush on the forest floor much of the time and the females and juveniles live in the trees and never descend to the floor. Because of that they need old growth forest to get around. Since they are the major prey for the endangered Spotted Owl, that's why there has been so much effort to preserve old growth forests. Soon they were asking me to identify all the creatures that they hadn't even been aware of until then. That done I pointed out some things they hadn't seen. First was a Snowshoe Hare hunkered down in the shade quietly eating grass. They were amazed. It had been there for the two days I was there and plenty of people walked obliviously within a few feet of it. Then I said just sit and wait for some grey jays to come through. I described how pairs forage by leapfrogging each other several yards at time and continually call to each other using a very soft call. I'm sure they call to keep track of each other. Not five minutes later two pairs came through doing just that. The chipmunks and golden mantle ground squirrels were masters at getting into gear the instant a back was turned. Cute though.


After two nights at Harts Pass it was time to move on. The hiking opportunities are so great there I hope to go back next year for some day hiking.

On to Day 3