We’re on our way to better weather

Day 17 – 7/23/16
Delayed Creek
Miles – 18.0
Total Miles – 269.2 (PCT 2408.7)
We woke to very low clouds and it had rained overnight. I checked the weather, it says that it should be cleaning today and then we’ll have several days of sunshine. Looking out the window it was pretty hard to believe. We all went down for another breakfast of pancakes, French toast, eggs, sausage, and hash browns. We had more food then we could eat, so we took two pancakes and four pieces of French toast with us for a snack on the trail. We found out last year that cold pancakes for a snack on the trail was very good. Jeremy, who now has the trail name of barking spider was also having breakfast.  He too is leaving this morning.
After eating, we packed the last of the gear and hit the trail about 9:20. The hike out of Snoqualmie was not fun. It is miles of steady up, topping out at the cat walk, a narrow edge we need to cross over. On the way up, two women were coming down the trail who were out day hiking. One of them, asked us if we were hiking the PCT last year.  Papa Raven answered yes. She said she ran into us three days out of Campo at Laguna Mts. She was out for a three-day backpack trip then. It’s a small world!  The whole way up, the clouds kept blowing over us. In a way this was good for us, it kept us cool. The trail next dropped down to Ridge Lake and then contoured around a basin which held Alaska Lake.  As we left the basin, heading for the next basin, we could see the clouds breaking up to the east. The land is absolutely beautiful. Each basin, with its craggily ridges, has a hanging lake in them that has one edge like an infinity swimming pool. The land is covered with Moss and ferns and wild flowers. There is no way to put in words the beauty we are surrounded by. The next basin held Joe Lake. Upon leaving that basin, we entered the last basin. A small one. The only problem with this basin was that the clouds were pushed right up against its edge and a very cold wind was pushing the clouds into us. It was not comfortable.  As we reached the far side, we saw two mountain goats standing across a little valley. They did not seem to be afraid of us. They just stood there calmly, watching us. We traversed across the canyon wall toward a pass and the best part was that it was all sunny. As we headed down the other side, we looked back and there was a massive wall of clouds that simply stopped on the jagged ridge.  We headed down until we got to the first bridge and that is where we set up camp for the night.
All day Bling felt fine until just before dinner, then he had another relapse. We will see how he feels tomorrow.

Snoqualmie

Day 15 and 16
7/21/16
Snoqualmie
Miles – 5.5
Total Miles 251.2 (PCT 2390.7)
We had sunshine first thing this morning. That has not happened very often this trip. Since it is a short five miles to town, we were a bit slow getting out of camp.  That is at least Mama and Papa Raven were. Little Crow and Bling were so excited for town day they were up and ready at record speed!  The hike to town started with a simple traverse. The only problem was with the dew. Washington is the only place were you can hike on a clear day and still get totally soaked. The trail is often overgrown and dew collects on the leaves. As we hiked through them we got wet.  The vegetation up here is green and beautiful with lush ferns, mosses, clover and grasses. There are wildflowers of every color.  One of our favorite has been there Bear Grass.  A tall stock grows out from the center of a clump of dark green grass. The stock ends in a explosion of hundreds of tiny white flowers. When we came through here last September, the Bear Grass was long gone. Vast variety of mushrooms are up here too.  The local residents know which ones are edible and they come up and gather them. We are clueless about them so we are not about to try any of them.  There are also berry bushes galore:  huckleberries, blueberries, black berries, salmon berries, thimble berries, and ones we do not even know their names. This is how today’s trail went until we crossed over to the eastern side of the mountain. Once over to the sunny side, our paced picked up and we passed under the Summit Ski lifts. By 10:00 we dropped down the mountain and hiked into Snoqualmie Pass.
First thing we did was to stop by the gas station to pick up some drinks and something to eat. Papa Raven went over to the hotel to see when our room would be ready. It will not be ready at 12:30. He picked up our re-supply box and we sat at a picnic table and sorted through it. This did not take long, so we spent a lot of time just sitting and waiting. Finally 12:30 came, and we got into our room. Showers and laundry were the most urgent tasks completed. Bling and Papa Raven got their new shoes. The old ones were eagerly thrown in the trash. We had dinner at a restaurant across the street called the Commonwealth. It was excellent and we plan on eating there tomorrow night as well. The sunshine we woke up to this morning disappeared to dark gray cloud cover. It did not rain. That comes tomorrow, while we will be dry inside the hotel room!

7/22/16
Snoqualmie
Zero
We did our best to do nothing. We ate. We did some repair on the  equipment. We sat and rested the feet. We watched TV. We watched Discovery Channel’s Alone, Deadliest Catch and Alaskan Bush People.  Mama Raven worked on photographs for the blog. That’s about it!
We did pick a good day to take a zero. We woke to rain. The clouds stayed very low all day and it rained several more times throughout the day. We were glad that we were not hiking in this wet weather.
Around 1:00, Bling started to feel sick (nauseated). He took a nap and stayed in bed and by 6:00, he felt better and wanted dinner. It was kind of weird, not feeling well for 5 hours. We hope that is the end of that ailment for Bling. We ate at the Commonwealth restaurant again for another awesome dinner. The Raven’s favorite part was the carmel apple crisp with vanilla ice cream.

A beautiful day

Day 14 – 7/20/16
Stream camp
Miles – 16.9
Total Miles – 245.7 (PCT 2385.2)
It was a restful night. We woke at 6:00 to a very foggy layer which burned off as soon as the sun hit it. The remainder of the day we had blue sky with a cloud every now and then. Since we are not trying to get to Snoqualmie today, we could take long breaks without pushing ourselves. Today’s trail was not difficult. We started out with a small up and then traversed around hill tops. We crossed under 8  huge electrical delivery lines. The area under them is kept clear of trees, so this gives the huckleberries a chance to grow under full sun. Under the last set of power lines, we found our first fully ripe berries.  They were some of the biggest huckleberries we have ever seen. Perhaps the electric currents from the wires produced big berries? Of course, we all stopped to pick hand fulls to eat. In the mid afternoon, we stopped to filter several bottles of water. We did not do all of them because we are so close to town. While we filtered, Papa Raven checked to see if we had a phone connection, he had only one bar, but it was enough to call the hotel in Snoqualmie and reserve a room for tomorrow night. They also confirmed that two of our the boxes are there. Those two came in today, a new water bottle and new shoes for Bling and Papa Raven. We will see about our food box when we get there. In the late afternoon, we came to Yakama Pass, this was the start of our one big climb. We climbed until we reached the midway point, Mirror Lake, and stopped for a break.  There were a number of people camping here and we are concerned that out intended campsite would be filled so we pushed on. An hour or so later, we finished the climb and traversed over to the campsite. It was still empty and we moved in. This was the earliest we have stopped the whole trip, about 7:00. With only 5.5 miles to go to Snoqualmie Pass, we will get there and have a nero and a zero.  We are all looking forward to a little time off.

A Little Sunshine

Day 13 – 7/19/16
Campsite on an abandoned road
Miles – 19.1
Total Miles – 228.8 (PCT 2368.3)
It sprinkled on and off throughout the night.  When we poked our heads out of the tents in the morning to see what type of weather we would have, we reconciled ourselves to another gloomy, wet day.  A drizzling gray cloud had engulfed us. Consequently, we were in no hurry to get up. Instead we fell back asleep. However short time later, Papa Raven woke up and saw sun shinning on our tent.  He spoke loudly about the glorious affair, and Mama Raven popped awake instantly.  Even Bling and Little Crow woke up suddenly.  We all peeked again outside and found that the sky was a mixture of clouds and blue sky. Hallelujahs!!!  Our spirits soared high at that moment.  Hiking in so much rain over the past two weeks has dampened our spirits (pun intended). Our joy faded as we watched a very thick cloud move over us as we ate breakfast. By the time we got out of the tents to finish packing, we could not see more than 50 yards in front of us. It was drizzling also. The days hiking started out through an old clear cut that was slowly growing back. We hiked right on a ridge with a foggy, cloud blowing around us. The drizzle had stopped. However, we were getting very wet from the over grown bushes we walked through. Our socks, shoes and feet were quickly saturated with water.  As a general rule, we always carry three pairs of socks each. That usually allows time to get a pair washed which we hang off our packs to dry. With the wet weather we have had, there has not been enough sunshine to dry them.  All socks we have are wet. At one point, we tried to put the days pair of wet, dirty socks in a zip lock bag and tucked them away in the pack to keep everything around them dry.  We would open them that night to the most obnoxious smell. The smell made us gag it was so bad.  We now just hang the dirty socks on the outside of the pack, rain or shine. The other problem was the water dropping from the trees got us as wet as if it really were raining. It took us hours to cross the ridges and start up Blowout Mt. As we hiked down the other side, we noticed a thinning of the clouds. By noon, we were heading down the mountain towards Tacoma Pass, and to all our joy, full sun shined on us. We just stood there facing the sun and bathed in all its warmth.  We did not want to leave. Finally we went down to our low point for the day, Tacoma Pass. The drop was very hard on our feet so we took a long rest at the bottom. The 1200′ up on the other side went by faster then we thought. Hiking up does not hurt the feet as much as going down. The rest of the day was taken up traversing the tops of the mountains as we headed northeast.
Our original plan was to get into Snoqualmie late tomorrow. We are about 22 miles out. We have decided to shorten tomorrows hike to about 18-19 miles and come into town early Thursday. This will give us a nero on Thursday and a zero on Friday. Our feet deserve a rest.

More rain

Day 12 – 7/18/16
Small spring
Miles – 19.0
Total Miles – 209.7 (PCT 2349.2)
It was a rough night. The angle of the campsite had us sliding into the side of the tent. It was hard to get comfortable. Also, we camped at 6100′ and it was cold. When we got up, we had a beautiful view of Mt Rainier with a cloud wrapped around is summit and low clouds blanketing the valleys below us. We packed up, started hiking toward Scott Pass and the morning sun. As we descended from the pass, we came to a nice spring in Big Crow Basin. We filled all of our bottles from it. We do not filter spring water so this makes our water collecting much faster than when we have to filter. The trail left the basin and wrapped into Little Crow Basin. Little Crow liked this name, of course. We had a long contour out of the basin and took a short break at Martinson Gap. All morning, as we hiked, the clouds were thickening.  After leaving the gap, we heard thunder very close to us and then it quickly began to rain. We are on the edge of a big thunderhead but we could not tell for sure because the sky was a uniform drab gray. The rain varied from light to heavy and it lasted for hours. Needless to say, our packs got soaked and of course our feet did too.  Our upper bodies stayed pretty dry thanks to our rain skirts, coats, and umbrellas. Our only problem was staying warm. As the day went on, we dropped in elevation and about mid-afternoon we came to Urich Cabin. By this time the rain had stopped, all the plants were wet, which made walking a very soggy endeavor.  We walked past areas that had several inches of  hail. The cabin was a dry refuge. We decided to take a lunch break in it.  Little Crow wanted us to light a fire but that would take too much time. Finally, we left the cabin and hiked toward an old burn area. This section was burned back in 1988.  Most of the old burned trees are still standing after all these years and have turned to a weathered grey color.  Forest like this are referred to as a grey forest.  For many miles leading up to the cabin and through the burned area, we had many, many fallen trees we had to find away around, over or under.  Because the logs were wet, they were very slippery. Many of them were a large pile up of multiple trees.  Being on such a steep mountain side, finding away around them became tricky at times. Both Bling and Mama Raven sled down the muddy hillside resulting in their legs being completely covered in mud. This section has not had anybody come in and cut the down logs. The PCT association depends on volunteers to clear trails and volunteers are hard to come by. The few crew teams we have talked too, said that strong wind storm come through last November over the entire length of Oregon and Washington resulting in five times more blow downs than normal to clear. The unlogged trees make hiking very hard. Despite Bling and Mama Raven’s difficulties, Little Crow had the hardest time because  of her short legs which made climbing over hard.  Late in the day, we came across a spring with a good campsite we decided to stop early. The Ravens were cold, soggy, muddy, and tired! The sun also came out this afternoon but low foggy clouds kept rolling in. Right now we are in a thick cloud and it has been sprinkling on and off. We are going to have wet tents tomorrow morning. The Ravens are officially tired of the wet weather!

Around Mt Rainier

Day 11 – 7/17/16
Before Scott Pass
Miles – 22.0
Total Miles – 190.7 (PCT 2330.3)
Last night was the warmest night yet. Everyone slept very soundly and did not get up till 6:30.  We were on the trail by 7:30. The sky was mostly blue with a few puffy grey clouds.  First thing this morning was a 800′ climb around a lake and up onto a ridge. The vistas and craggy peaks were beautiful.  The blue sky was quickly disappearing and being replaced with dark thunder heads. We contoured along and we were approached Dewey Lake when we stopped to pump water. This can take anywhere from thirty minutes to an hour. As we were filtering the water, we heard the first booms of thunder. There were two thunder heads around us, one to the north and the other to the south. Little Crow does not like thunder one bit and she was not enjoying it. She would hide her head inside Papa Raven’s jacket. She is convinced that we are going to be struck by the lightning. Bling tenderly tried to comfort her. After about 15 minutes of loud thunder, it started to rain big, fat, drops, then the hail started. We sat under a thicket of trees with our umbrellas overhead. We waited through the worst of the storm as we filled bottle after bottle of water.  Finally, when we had filled all the bottles, we hiked out. After crossing a small ridge, we hiked down to Dewey Lake then around it and on to the eastern entrance to Mt Rainier National Park. There is a large wooden bridge over the road and we stopped for pictures. The trail from there is a long gentil climb up to Sheep Lake. This is the second Sheep Lake on this trip. By this time, the rain had stopped and we pushed on. We climbed up to another ridge and hiked from gap to gap and pass to pass. The weather report says that there will be larger thunderstorms that will last most of the day tomorrow thus we wanted to cross the high exposed rides before the thunder comes tomorrow. We almost made it, Scott Pass is the last one before we drop back down. It was a long day. Right at the end of the day, Mama Raven and Bling saw a large herd of elk that ran off as soon as they spotted them.  In the evening, the sky cleared up high where we where, although below us the peaks and valleys were socked in with clouds. The low clouds looked like they went on forever with an occasional mountain peak, rising above the clouds. It was extraordinarily beautiful and ethereal.
We got into camp after the sun had set and it is getting very cold now.

Leaving White Pass

Day 10 – 7/16/16
Small camp at a creek
Miles – 16.4
Total Miles – 168.7 (PCT 2308.3)
Last night we decided to not leave early and have breakfast at the Kracker Barrel store which does not open till 8:00. Before breakfast we packed most of our gear and ordered new shoes for Papa Raven and Bling.  Bling’s shoes fit him before we left on this trip however now they are too small and given him all kinds of feet problems. Papa Raven’s shoes are just plain horrible! He currently has 6 blisters and the balls of his feet hurt when he walks. These were a new pair of shoes before we started and ever since the first day of the hike they have given him problems. A new water bag was also ordered for Bling because his started leaking a few days ago. We finally made it over to breakfast around 9:00 and had a crescent roll breakfast sandwich, three eggs muffins, and four chocolate milks. Mr. Z was there along with Jeremy, Tea Time and Gandalf the Grey. Once breakfast was done we said goodbye and returned to our room to finish packing.
We set out for the trail at 10:00, a good late start. The trail climbed out of White Pass, it is not a hard climb but it is several miles long. When it leveled off, we entered an area of thick trees and little ponds everywhere. All these ponds brought out the mosquitoes. They were not bad while we walked, but when we stopped, we were swarmed. Bling has the record of 8 mosquitoes in one hit. Hitting 3 and 4 at a time, was not uncommon. Toward the late afternoon, we came to our only real climb of the day. We made good time climbing up out of the valley. We did camp a little early because there was nowhere to camp for the next 3.5 miles and we did want to get in after dark. So we are in a nice flat area on the side of a steep valley wall. Not a bad location. The day ended with sprinkles of rain. Tomorrow is supposed to be the worse with heavy thunder storms.  Little Crow will not be happy!

White Pass

Day 9 – 7/15/16
White Pass
Miles – 10.4
Total Miles – 152.3 (PCT 2292.4)
We had another dry night. Two dry nights in a row!  We can get use to that. Quickly we got out of camp because we were looking forward to getting to town as fast as possible. Town days are exciting for hikers.  The main reason is food!  The visions of pizza, hamburgers, French fries, sodas, and ice cream were dancing in our heads. The trail led up a ridge past Shoe Lake.  After that it crossed a bowl with few snow patches.  When we entered the bowl we saw nine mountain goats near the trail. They noticed us right away and ran up the cliffs above.  They perched themselves on the craggily knife-edge, watching us as we marched by them far below on the trail. Next, the trail went near several ski lifts.  We took one break at an open area where we had views north and east. We noticed that a fire is burning out in the Washington desert. After eating, we set off to town. As we were going toward the White Pass, we saw Joe, who helped with Bling’s rescue last September, riding his horse toward us. He was a bringing gear for a PCTA trail crew. He told us that we could camp with him and Cindy, his wife if we liked. He also said we could come by for dinner. We parted company, hoping to meet later and walked the last few miles to White Pass. Shortly after Joe we ran into some more horseman who greeted us with a big “hello Ravens!” It was Doc and Matt, who also helped in Bling’s rescue. It was good to see them. We talked a few minutes before we continued on. At White Pass is the Kracker Barrel store which has food, groceries, and our re-supply box. Since it was around noon we picked up sandwiches and drinks. We sat at one of the tables inside and ate. There is a lodge just above the store and Little Crow and I went to see if we could get a room. All The Ravens need a bath and we also need a place to spread our gear out. There was one available and we took it. Soon we were all in the room, emptying packs, getting showers, and sorting out the food box. This took longer than it should because we just wanted to sit and get off our sore feet. We hand washed the most important things in the sink and dried them the at the store. If we had done a full load of laundry at the store, it would have been seven dollars.  Around 6:00, we walked the short half mile over to Joe’s camp. We stayed for several hours and talked with all the horseman that had come up for the weekend. We had a delicious feast of baked beans, pork chops, salad, and Jello side dishes. The dinner wrapped up with a homemade blackberry pie. It will be a meal we dream about and long for while we are hiking. We all had a great time. Finally we walked back to our room and settled in for the night.

Fun in the snow fields

Day 8 – 7/14/16
Before Hidden Spring Trail
Miles – 19.1
Total Miles 141.9 (PCT 2284.0)
After eight days on the trail, we had our first dry night. There was no drizzle, rain, not even condensation. Hurray!!!!  We were up at 6:00, had our usual breakfast of chocolate Carnation Instant breakfast and Bevita biscuits. We packed up and got out around 7:00, a good time to start hiking. The trail started off in an area that gets late sun, thus it was cold.  As we were hiking, we saw a huge mountain lion paw print in the mud.  Each claw made a perfect indent.  The Ravens looked around and wondered if it was still around or possibly even watching us at that moment.  We decided it was time to move on.  Shortly, we came out into the sun on the top of a ridge. We stopped for a few minutes and Little Crow and Bling slid down a snow bank on the their insolite pads.  We were now in the Goat Rocks, and the views of the tall, spiral peaks surrounding us were beautiful.  Next, we crossed several snow fields to reach the top of Cispus Pass were we waited a few minutes to take in the scenery before we headed down to the basin below. We also started to reminisce about Bling’s leg last year. The basin we hiked into was the one where Bling fully broke his femur last fall. We hiked around the basin re-living every detail of that difficult day. . . twisting his good ankle and jamming his bad leg in the ground to catch himself, trying to cross the out flow of the waterfall on the rocks with his leg broken, large clusters of snow flakes falling while Little Crow tried to catch them in her mouth.  We stopped for something to eat at the same location we camped at where we waited to have Bling rescued by the horseman. The remainder of our hike will be new for Bling. Little Crow keeps telling him what to expect around each corner.  In the next section, the trail climbed up above most of the trees and we had stunning views of all the surrounding mountains: Mt Adams to the south, Mt Saint Helens to the west, and Mt Rainer to the north.  With the climb in elevation, we encountered many snow fields. The main ones were on the side of Old Snowy and the Packard Glacier. Our hiking slowed down a lot as we crossed them.  We needed to be careful because slipping in the snow would result in a several hundred feet fall straight down. Bling wanted to led the way across the snow fields with Little Crow right behind him. Finally we made it over to the spine of the Goat Rocks, a ridge of rocks that drops down several thousand feet on both sides. It was a relief to see that they were clear of snow. We worked our way down to the ridge. At the bottom there were more snow fields. We made it through them easily.  Looking down below us we could see the trail.  All four Ravens decided we could reach the trail below us faster if we sled down the hills instead of walking up and over the ridges. It certainly would be fun!  First the kids tried to slide down on their insolite pads. This did not work well because the snow was too soft. Then Bling and Papa Raven boot skied all the way down. Mama Raven and Little Crow came up behind. Little Crow had never boot skied before. She giggled and laughed all the way down.  We worked our way from snow field to snow field dropping altitude fast. Finally the fun ended because we were out of snow fields. We looked back up where we sled and the pristine snow fields were riddled with our tracks going every which way.  Today’s hiking was slow so we pushed on as far as we could with the remainder the days light. We have only 8 more miles to go to get to White Pass, our next food drop.
We found a place to camp just off the trail. As we were setting up camp, I realized that my umbrella was missing. I though that it might have fallen out when I removed my coat a little while ago. So I grabbed a flashlight and started to hike back. I ended up hiking back much farther, about 2 miles, to a small pond we had stopped at to see if we could camp there. I found the missing umbrella near there. I quickly hiked back. The sun had set by this time and I was using my headlamp in the dusk light. When I was about a mile from camp I saw a light heading my way. Then I realized there were three lights. Everyone had come looking for me. They had become concerned with how long I had been gone.  Little Crow scolded me for hiking alone. Mama Raven said she kept imaging a mountain lion attacking me. We all hiked back to camp and had a late dinner.
Tomorrow we hike to White Pass.

What is that big orange thing in the sky?

Day 7 – 7/13/16
Near Sheep Lake
Miles – 22.4
Total Miles – 122.8 (PCT 2267.0)
We only had a light sprinkle just before bed last night, after that it did not rain. The morning had broken clouds that cleared away to blue sky. Even though we had to put on wet socks and shoes, there were smiles on everybody’s faces with the prospect of a sunny day and dry feet.  We had only hiked 2.5 miles before our first stop at Lava Springs. This is a large spring flowing out of the bottom of a lava field. It has some of the best tasting water on the whole trail. We missed this spring last year because this part of the trail was closed due to a fire on the east side of Mt Adams. We filled all of our bottles, ate, and then hiked out. The next 4-5 miles was very level and straight and we made good time across it. We were revealing in joy of blue sky. Next, the trail started to climb. After a few miles, it rounded into a valley of trees and ponds and we walked into the worst mosquitoes we have had on this trip. When we stopped,  they would swarm around us, growing in numbers every passing second. We were surrounded with a black cloud of mosquitoes. When the mosquitoes get this bad, care must be taken not to inhale one which is never pleasant. Mama Raven frantically looked for her deet with no luck!  Deet is the best mosquito repellent there is. Higher the deet content, the better it works.  Ours is 100% deet. It is very toxic and melts some plastic.  We did not stay long even though we were tired and hungry. We left the spot, swatting the horribly annoying bugs. The farther away from the area we went, less and less mosquitoes followed. We knew that about a mile up further, everything opened up and we would have great views and hopefully no bugs. Shortly we got to the open rock field and took a break, once again mosquitoes rudely attacked us. Mama Raven frantically took apart her pack looking for the deet. Finally after emptying every item in her pack on to the ground, the deet was found at the very bottom of her pack. We immediately put it on. This small bottle of toxic juice instantly changed our misery to euphoria.  We LOVE deet!!!  The mosquitoes were immediately pushed back. We now could cure our hunger pains and eat in peace. The next section was down and then across a wide valley. On the far side of the valley, we started a big up. It went on for miles and we were very tired. We literally dragged ourselves up the last bit of the up. We took a break and sat on the side of a mountain looking into the valley below and views of Mt. Adams, we decided to cut the day short and hike only two miles more to Sheep Lake. If our endurance was stronger, we could have done 3-4 more miles, given how much daylight we had left. Despite the mosquitoes, today was a great day because we were blessed with blue sky and we went to bed with dry feet!

Mt Adams

Day 6 – 7/12/16
Muddy Meadows Trail
Miles – 18.2
Total Miles – 100.4 (PCT 2244.6)
It sprinkled last night but we were dry inside of our room.  We ate breakfast at the same cafe we had dinner at; everyone ordered pancakes except for Little Crow who had French Toast. After breakfast, we headed to the room to finish the last bit of packing. Bling and Little Crow petted Mikey one last time.  Gary was returning at 8:30 to drive as back to the trail head. The swelling in Papa Ravens ankle had gone down but it was not gone. We decided to hike out anyways. Gray arrived and took us back to the trail head. We were hiking by 9:00. The weather in Trout Lake was mostly clear with a few clouds.  We were all relieved to see the blue sky. Unfortunately, the weather did not stay that way.  Fourteen miles north, when we got close to Mt. Adams, the sky was completely packed in with dark and heavy gray clouds.
The first thing the trail did was a 2000′ climb up the southwest side of Mt. Adams and then across the west face and finally turned north. Climbing up 2000′ was very tiring.  Since Mt. Adams is a really big mountain, actually it is a volcano, it has a big effect on weather.  Any unstable air pushed up against it, rises, causing rain. It could be clear and sunny several miles away from it, but close to the mountain it rains. As we hiked around Mt Adams the clouds got thicker and thicker. Finally around 5:00, the dreaded rain came. Just a light sprinkle at first and then it grew to a solid hard downpour. The rain continued for several hours. It was the hardest stretch of rain we have had this trip. When we woke this morning in the room, to blue sky, The Ravens were excited about hiking with no rain today. We knew we were going to go to bed with dry feet tonight. We did not even bother to pack for rain. Well, we were wrong! When it started, we had to quickly repack the packs in order to keep the sleeping bags and essential items dry. Discouragingly, it did not take long for our feet to be saturated with water. The weather reports we keep reading say that the weather will be clearing but it never actually does. We stopped a little early. We hope the weather will clear for tomorrow.
Just before it started to rain today we met up with Jeremy who decided to hike with us for a little ways. He is from Arlington, Washington and just graduated from college as an electrical engineer. Before he joins into the real world of work, he wanted to hike the length of his home state. We enjoyed his company today.

Trout Lake

Day 5 – 7/11/16
Trout Lake
Miles – 10.1
Total Miles – 82.2 (PCT 2226.4)
With only ten miles to go to get to Road that leads to Trout Lake we did not need to get moving too early. Nonetheless, we did anyways, at least earlier than the last four days. Every morning so far, we have woken up to rain and had to stay in the tent until it stopped. Once again, we had rain over night.  A light drizzle.  Enough to get the tents all wet. Despite the condensation falling on us, we packed up early and headed for our ride to Trout Lake.
The trail was easy. We had a medium size up and a really big down. The sun was coming out every now and then as we hiked.  We took a short break underneath an old growth pine tree whose girth was enormous.  There are not too many trees left like him.  Last year, we stopped for a break underneath it also. It was good to see him again.  We got to the trail head just before 1:00. That gave us a two-hour wait. I did try to get a phone connection but it was not strong enough to make a call. Since our gear was saturated with water, we pulled it out and dried it in the sun. Our back packs even had a chance to dry. The time passed quickly. Gary arrived at 3:00 and we put our packs in his truck, then it was off to Trout Lake. On the way to town we had a good conversation with Gary, the gentleman that picked us up.  He had been a forest fire fighter for thirty years, but now he is retired .  When the space shuttle Challenger exploded over Texas, he was called in to search for shuttle debris. He also worked in the evacuation of New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina hit Louisiana.  He has fought forest fires all over the country, including San Diego. He now spends his time during the summer shuttling hikers back and forth. We tried to pay him for the gas, but Gary would not accept any thing. As we walked in the store, Bev, the owner, gave us the same room we had last year, it is at the back of the grocery store. Actually, the room belongs to “Mikey” the cat.  He just lets us borrow it from him. The kids loved his company last year, and this year was no difference. We dropped our packs and started to make a laundry pile as everyone cycled through the shower. Just before 7:00 we walked over to the cafe for cheese burgers and huckleberry pie. After dinner we worked on our re-supply box and then it was off to bed. Just what you need for a re-supply stop food, a shower, and a warm dry bed.
The only problem for the day was Papa Ravens foot. We think that one of his heel blisters got infected and his ankle has swollen up a bit. We will look at it tomorrow. Mama Raven also noticed she has some Poison Oak from the first day of our hike. Despite all the rain we have had since we began our hiking trip five days ago, we are thankful to be here. The Ravens are happiest, when they are hiking.  It is amazing how content we are out here. We simply are walking in peace and beauty. Concerns and problems melt away. I (Mama Raven) dread the day we have to go home.

A very cloudy day

Day 4 – 7/10/16
Large camp just after a foot bridge
Miles – 21
Total Miles – 72.1 ( PCT 2216.3)
Another rainy night.  Another morning of soggy socks and shoes to put on. Another morning of packing wet gear. This scenario has gotten very old, very quickly.  The rain let up as we were having breakfast, although the trees keep dripping on us as we packed up as quickly as we could. Today’s hike went through an area called Indian Heaven which is famous for its huckleberries. Pickers from all over Washington come to pick the berries in late July and August. Sadly, we are too early and last year we were too late to enjoy these treats. We climbed up out of the valley and headed up into a cloud. The wind came up and it got very cold. The one bright spot was when we saw the sun. We had gained enough altitude that the sun was starting to break through the clouds . This lifted our spirits immensely. Unfortunately, this did not last.  We reached the far side of the mountain and headed down where everything went back to cloud gray. As we traversed down the ridges and out into flatter country, all we could see were dark gray clouds. Every now and then it would sprinkle but not enough to worry about. In the late afternoon, we stopped for a break and discovered that we had enough of a signal to make a phone call out.
Our first food drop is Trout Lake which is 14 miles off the PCT. Having stopped there last fall, we knew the grocery store had a list of trail angels who would pick up hikers at the trail head and drive them to town. Since we had phone reception, which is rare out here, Papa Raven called the general store to ask someone about getting a few names and phone numbers. She said to hold on as she asked someone in the store if he could pick us up tomorrow. He said yes, so we have our ride all lined up for 3:00 in the afternoon. We also reserved a room. Bev said right now they are completely filled with hikers because of the rain and she is uncertain who will be leaving tomorrow.  Nonetheless, she said if one opens up, it is ours.  We told her who we were and she said she remembered us from last year. She said “you’re the family with the boy who had a broken leg.” We said “yes that is us.”
After arranging a ride, we decided to put in as many miles as we could to make tomorrow easier. We past one of the locations we camped at last year and pushed on several more hours. About an hour before dark, we came across a large camp where another tent was. After hearing voices from inside the tent, Mama Raven went over to it and yelled “hello.” A woman greeted her as she stuck her head out of the tent. Mama Raven asked if she minded having company tonight.  She said not at all!  We talked with her a few minutes before we found level spots for our tents.  We learned that there were three women in the tent and they were as soggy as we were and looking forward to Trout Lake to dry out.  The Ravens are very tired tonight. After a dinner of quasidillas, we all went to sleep quickly.

Such a happy blistery day

Day 3 – 7/9/16
Crest Horse Camp
Miles – 20.3
Total Miles – 51.1 (PCT 2195.3)
It rained on and off all night. It was a lucky thing we camped in an open area because the trees did not drip on us all night.  The sky was breaking up as we packed the tents. The plants in Washington hold a great amounts of water.  When walking through them, you get very wet. We put on our rain gear and started to push our way through the wet overgrown plants covering the trail.  We love this area. Thick moss grows and hangs off of everything around.  The moss is dripping off the trees.  We crossed a wide valley and then hiked up to Panther Creek Campground were we stopped by the bathroom, dumped our trash, and filled up our water bottles. We talked with a camper from San Diego for a few minutes. He asked him if we needed anything? We said the only thing we could use is zip lock bags to put our soggy items in, to separate them from the things we do not want to get wet. He said he had plenty and gave us some. The next part of the trail was not fun.  A 3100′ foot climb awaited us which took nearly all day.  Luckily, other than a short sprinkle at the beginning of the climb, we had no other rain, just a mix of clouds and sun. By the time we got to the top of the climb Papa Raven’s feet were hurting. Yesterday he had developed a blister on his left heel and that was really hurting.  Now his right heel began to hurt.  We stopped at a spring to fill our water bottles and he doctored his sore feet. The blister on his left foot was inflamed and a new one developed on the right heel. Once fixed, we headed toward a remote campground several miles away for our nights camp. We stopped near the campground and pitched our tents. After the tents were set up, Papa Raven took a closer look at his feet. Not only was the blisters hurting but also the balls of his feet as well as the middle of the feet. He did not see anything wrong in those locations other than two more blisters under his big toes. While he was looking at his feet, Bling came in our tent and said his the bottom of his feet were hurting.  Mama Raven found two blisters on his feet. She doctored him up. Hopefully this will be the end of our blisters. Six in a day is a little much. Our feet are soaked all day inside our shoes as we hike.  In the evening when we shoes off, our feet are completely white with huge wrinkles at the bottom.  They look strange. During the night they have a chance to dry out.  We have the morning to look forward to putting on wet socks and shoes.  It is raining again as this is being written.

Not a bad second day

Day 2 – 7/8/16
End of a dirt road
Miles – 17.5
Total Miles – 30.8 (PCT 2175.0)
It rained all night. We were glad to have the tents pitched under the large tarp. To our surprise, the tents still got wet. The wind blew water on us, however we were not as wet as we would have been without the tarp. Despite the noise of the rain throughout the night, we slept long and hard.  We were tired after our first of hiking. We took our time getting packed because there was a lot of water dripping on the tarp. It was nearly 8:30 when we were ready to go. Just before we hiked out, a truck pulled up with five PCT trail crew members. After we told them that we camped under their tarp the said they were happy that their tarp was useful for us. They said they were going to cleanup the over grown trail that we went through yesterday.
The first part of the day was a 1600’ down. This dropped us off at beautiful Rock Creek were we got water. The environment looked very prehistoric with ferns and moss everywhere. The only thing missing were the dinosaurs.  All we saw were lots of huge 4 inch slugs, snails and salamanders. Of course if you hike down into a deep valley,  you have to hike up to get out.  In this case, a very long 1800’ climb.  We found this climb to be very hard, mainly because this was only our second day.  Usually it takes about three to four days for our bodies to get adjusted to carrying weight and walking all day.  The second and the third being the hardest.  We had no endurance on the climb. We took a much-needed rest at the top and then started down.  Next came a 1800’ down which took the last of our energy reserves. When we reached the bottom we were tired and feet sore.  The Ravens were done for the day.  Down in the bottoms of these valleys there is very little open ground to camp on because vegetation covers all the open ground. We had to hike a bit farther to find a piece of land for our two tents which ended up being a dirt road. Today’s weather was cloudy with drizzles threw out the day. The sun did break through several times in the late morning.  Yet, as we were setting up our tents, it started to rain. It lasted long enough to get everything wet.  As the sun set, the clouds broke up, but there are still cloud cells coming in behind the brief clearing. As I’m writing, it is raining. Hopefully, tomorrow will be a clear day.  The Ravens are extremely tired.  It is one of those nights our heads hit the pillows and we are sound asleep.

Into Washington… Again

Day 1 – 7/7/16
PCT Trail Camp
Miles – 13.3
Total miles – 13.3 (PCT 2157.5)

After a nine month hiatus from hiking the PCT, The Ravens are back on the trail.  We made a promise to Bling that we would come back and get him to Canada after he broke his femur just three weeks away from completing the entire PCT.  Mama and Papa Raven, and Little Crow had to finish without Bling. Over the winter, his leg healed.  Papa and  Mama Ravens biggest concern was if Papa Raven got a job, we would not have the vacation time needed to re-hike Washington. Papa Raven was diligent about looking for a new job, however nothing ever came about.  Being unemployed for so long, has been terribly nerve-racking for us.  Despite our concerns, we are thankful for the opportunity to be back out on the trail and helping Bling complete the PCT.

This morning Cindy and Joe meet us at Cascade Locks to pick up or car.  We need a place to store it while Bling finished the PCT.  Cindy and Joe who were involved with Bling’s rescue last year.  Being back on the PCT feels mighty good.  She was terribly missed these past few months but we are now reunited with our dear friend, the trail.

We began are hike at 9:30 this morning by crossing the Bridge of the Gods into Washington. It is very ironic that with all the rain we encountered last September in Washington, we would begin this year’s trip with rain!  Tempting as it was to hold up in hotel in Cascade Locks to wait out the incoming weather front, we decided to hike out.  The rain will be with us for a couple of days and staying that long in a hotel becomes very costly.  Besides, we were antsy to be back on the trail. The trail quickly climbed, passing through abundance of poison oak which has overgrown the trail.  Whenever we crossed a stream, we would have to wash our arms and legs off to get the poison oak oils off our skin. As the day progressed, the clouds got thicker and darker. Of course it rained the hardest and longest when we had to swim through the plants that had overgrown the trail. We quickly became soaked from head to toe.  Yes, The Ravens our still happy to be out on the trail.  All the rain is what makes Washington so mind-boggling green. We ended the day a little early when we came across a large tarp protecting a PCT trail crew’s equipment. There was no sign of anybody and it looked like it was recently dropped off then they left.  Perhaps the trail crew wanted to wait out the bad weather and left their tools.  The tarp provided a dry place to set up our tents. We could not pass it up even though we had lots of day light left.  Our tents and gear will be dry tonight and, with luck, our wet gear will dry.

Home

I (Mama Raven) am feeling a lot of guilt these days for not updating our blog.  There has been so little time to sit down and write.  Also, writing is something that does not come easy to me.  It is a terribly laborious endeavor.   However, I need to rid myself of my guilt and just sit down and do it!  The Ravens are way behind schedule for just about everything in life these days, including thank you notes and updating our blog. Whatever free time I have had, has been dedicated to working on the  20,000 photographs I took of our thru-hike.  I am almost done with them.   We got back home from our PCT hike in early October and it has been quite an adventure adjusting back into normal life – if such a thing is possible.  Upon returning, we were rudely thrown back into normal, hectic life with kids. I am jealous of the hikers who could return home and gradually ease back into society.  Although, perhaps a forced transition is better. It gets it over with!  We are crazily busy.  It is always go, go, go and rush, rush, rush.  There is rarely a moment to stop and take a deep breath and revel in what is good or to reminisce about our hike.  That treat usually occurs when I lay my head down on my pillow each night.  It is then that my mind is flooded with the beautiful and brilliant  memories of our families adventure this past summer.  I am far happier on the trail.  I miss everything about it.  Well . . . that might not be completely true.  I don’t miss the sore feet, day after day of rain, and digging cat holes.  Despite those few unpleasant times, I am terribly home sick for the two foot wide path that was our home for six months.  I miss the friends we made along the way.  I long to be soothed by the nature that surrounded us, and I yearn for the simple, yet intricately beautiful life we had every day.  I want to go home!

There were many people who faithfully followed our blog this past summer.  One of my favorite followers was Margaret, who often left beautiful comments for us.  Margaret, I am uncertain if you will read this, but just in case you do, I want you to know I savored every word you wrote.  You have a gift for putting your beautiful thoughts down in writing.  A talent I wish I had.  Anyways, you once asked a question that I never answered:   what was it like hiking without Bling?  The answer  is . . . it was no longer fun.  It became a job that we had to complete.  I got mad.  Bling had hiked so far,  endured so much, and was so close to the final goal.   Moms are supposed to fix things and make things better, but this one I could not.  We missed everything about him:   his smile, witty humor,  gift of being content in all situations, his logical way of thinking, his unfailing memory, his sensitivity and cheerful demeanor, and his companionship.   One forth of The Ravens was Bling.  One  forth of The Ravens  was gone.  It was like losing a major part of your body and having to learn how to function without that missing part.   Our ending of the trail was bitter-sweet.  Three forths of The Ravens made it to Monument 78.   One forth did not!

The latest update with Bling’s broken femur is that after two months in a full cast and then two months of a full leg brace.  He got the doctors OK, which was the day before Christmas, to be free of all devices on his leg.  His leg has lost much of its muscle strength and the knee and ankle joint do not want to fully bend or straighten.  For the next three months, he is to do no high impact activities, although swimming, bicycle riding and walking are allowed to increase his muscle and mobility of his joints.  His doctor wants him to do physical therapy, but we cannot begin until the insurance approves it, which hopefully is soon.   Bling walks with a big limp, but other than that, he is doing well!

Little Crow is back into springboard diving and the swim team.  Consequently, we spend a considerable amount of time at the high school swimming pool.  She recently had a diving competition where she placed first.  She also swam in five events at a swim meet. She earned three firsts and two second places.  Her times were fast enough to move her up a rank which means in her next swim meet, she will have a much harder time doing as well.   Nonetheless, we are all excited for her.  These wins are not normal for her.  For the first time in a competition, she really  wanted to do well, and she succeed.  Hiking the PCT has done something positive to improve her motivation.

Tim is still unemployed, but we have high hopes for the first of the year that something will come along.  To be honest, I do not look forward to him going back to work.  We love having Papa Raven at home with us.  Our hiking friend Cat Water, who is from Alaska,  sent us a Christmas card and she says she will be south bounding the PCT next year and she asked if anybody wanted to join her.   The Ravens want to respond with an enthusiastic yes, but we cannot.  Our hearts are ready for another long hike, but the practicality of it actually happening is sadly far off  in the future.  We will have to be patient and wait for Tim to retire before our next long hike, which probably will be the Continental Divide Trail.  Papa Raven has already signed us up for the CDT Coalition and visions of hiking the Sierra Madras and the San Juan Mountains, seeing ghost towns, and passing through New Mexico, Colorado, Wyoming, Idaho, and Montana are dancing in our heads.

One of the things I wanted to do when we returned was to send out thank you notes. We failed at that goal! Nonetheless, here is our long, overdue thank you:  from those who worked so diligently mailing our supply boxes and shopping for all the misc. items we needed (that is your Karin, Denise, and Cheryl), to everyone who met us along the way and fed us like royalty, to friends that mailed letters to Bling and Little Crow, to the trail angels we met and did not meet, to the businesses and towns that treated the hikers so kindly,  to the rescue team who helped Bling (that includes you Lewis and Florence), to the friends and strangers who followed our blogs and even took time to leave comments, and finally to our fellow hiking companions that made our adventure so extraordinary special. . . . thank you . . . . and that is one super-sized, deeply heart-felt, THANK YOU!

Update on Bling’s leg

DSC02059-10-26-15We’ve had a number of people asking about the status of Bling’s leg.  He is still in a cast from his toes to the top of his thigh.  The doctor was concerned why his leg developed a fracture from just walking, so Bling got a CAT scan, which did not show anything out of the ordinary.  Bling will hopefully get his cast off next week.  However he will have to wear a brace and use crutches for the next several months.  He is not happy about that!DSC02061-10-26-15 DSC02057-10-26-15

More to Come

The Ravens have a little more to say, including Bling and Little Crow.
There are lots of photographs to work on and to add to the blog. However, The Ravens are going to take a little vacation from all things related to our PCT adventure. One of the hardest obstacles of a long thru-hike is coming home. Re-entry into the real world can be difficult. Only a few days have past since the end of our adventure and there is much we already miss of our trail life. There are a few things that we do not miss. Nonetheless, we are homeward bound. Bling and Little Crow will be starting a new school. Mama Raven is nervous about this. Papa Raven has to find a new job. Hopefully, that will not take too long. We have seen the dismal news headlines. We have observed human behavior: people get mad because their food took so long to arrive at a restaurant. Horns are honked because someone is not going fast enough on the freeway or accidentally did something wrong. The stress of the real world is already creeping back into our lives! It can not be avoided. Although I suppose the trick to surviving stress lays in how one handles the burdens that cause it. And we must remember the simplest act of kindness is mighty powerful. So hopefully we have learned something on our adventure and we can rise above it and simply enjoy our lives. At the end of The Return of the King, Frodo says to Sam . . . “you still have much to enjoy, to experience and to be”. That is what The Ravens will do.