Why is Being Home so Difficult?

I do not want to be here.  Right here is my home where I dream of the trail.  Returning home, after a long thru hike, is by far the most difficult task of the adventure.  It can be dismal.  After months of hiking,  a new person emerges from their old shell.   Unfortunately, the rest of the world is the same.  Upon reemergence to regular life, one tries desperately to hold on to their “new self” and rise above the day to day chaos and strife.  Little by little, life’s burdens get heavier and heavier.  Slowly, the real world smothers the life out of this new person.  After living such a beautiful and peaceful life on the trail, being home is too complicated, too busy, and it goes against all the common sense of what life is supposed to be.  I put my head down on my pillow each night, and visions of the two foot wide path that was our home for six months frolics in my head.  I yearn for the dirt we walked on, the water that surrounded us and the trees that towered above our heads.  I miss that never ending big blue sky and all the little life forms of nature we encountered every day.  Each new sunrise that greeted us in the morning and sunset that we went to bed with, became my dearest friend.  We grew deeply connected to the earth as each mile passed by.  I realized that humans and the earth are entwined deeply with one another.  We come from the same source with each individual having an important role to play.  The tiny microscopic fungi growing on a dead and decaying tree is just as important and beautiful as the tallest tree in the forest.  Eliminate the smallest aspect and all falls apart.  We humans are no different.  Because of the unique path of each individual, no one is more important than another.  Each person has their own individual lessons to learn.  With this in mind, each deserves not to be judged.  Instead, they need to be embraced with respect and kindness for the job they must do.  That is the way of a thru hiker.

Mama Raven, November 2016

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Manning Park

Day 33 – 8/8/16
Manning Park
Miles – 8.6
Total Miles – 519.3 (PCT 2650.1)
It rained over night and the sky was filled with dark clouds when we got up.  It is not a long hike to Manning Park and we knew that we would get there this morning.  Even though we would have a room tonight, we still packed for rain.  It is always better to err on the side of safety.  We started hiking in a light rain.  The trail to Manning Park is a lot different from the PCT.  It is much steeper and less cleared.  The PCT has been designed with horses and hikers in mind so it rarely gets very steep.  The plants have not been cut back for some time so we got very wet walking through them after the mornings rain.
After several hours hiking, we crested a ridge and had our last view of the U.S. shrouded in rain clouds. We took a short break to eat something. Short because to was just too cold to sit for very long. The trail climbed up through a small gap and then started down toward the resort on dirt roads.  The hiking was easy and we made good time. However, Mama Raven slowed us down to take photographs of the mushrooms that lined the path.  Down deep, she does not want the trip to end, so by taking time to take photographs,  the trip lasted a little bit longer.  As we hiked up to the lodge, it started to rain.  We had been lucky to hike the whole way to Manning Park under threatening dark clouds with very little rain.  It was considerate of them to hold off till we reached the resort.  Our task was to get a room.  This did not turn out how we had hoped.  The resort was full.  The receptionist told us that there was camping about a mile back up the road.  The thought of walking to a camp site in the rain with our soggy gear,  was utterly unappealing.   The Ravens had been so looking forward to a warm shower and soft beds with clean dry sheets; the last thing we wanted to do was to head back out into the rain and find a wet campsite.  Papa Raven also checked with the receptionist about our box.  She could not find it and had no record of it arriving.  Lastly, we checked about the outbound buses.  We needed to go from here to Osoyoos to cross back into the U.S. The receptionist informed us that 2 months ago the bus service changed its hours and the bus to Osoyoos would leave the lodge at 3:15 am.  Definitely not a convenient time, especially having to pack the gear in the rain, and walk a mile in the dark to catch the bus.  Postponing the dismal walk to the camp ground,  we settled down in the lodge’s lobby while Papa Raven got on-line to buy bus tickets for the morning’s bus.  While we were sitting there, another hiker came in and inquired about a room.  Mama Raven overheard the receptionist tell him that there were full but there was a hostel he could stay at.  Hostel!  That was our answer.  Mama Raven immediately went and talked to her about it.  She had forgotten about it when she first talked with us.  A short time later, we had two rooms and we headed across the highway to settle into our cozy, dry rooms!  Winning the lottery, could not make us more happy than we were at that moment knowing we did not have to spend another night in the rain. The hostel had showers and a kitchen.  We took turns showering and tried to dry our clothes as best as we could.  The Olympics started a few days ago and we sat by the TV in the kitchen watching them.  Being in Canada,  all the coverage was Canadian specific.  So we rooted for the Canadians.  We consumed a very big dinner at the lodge restaurant.  Little Crow and Bling both ordered nachos separately.   When they arrived to the table, we were shocked at the mountain of nachos that were set before both of them.  Neither of them could finish them.  Mama Raven and I had burgers.  Finally, we headed back to our rooms and to bed because 3:00 will come very fast tomorrow morning.

Oh Canada!

Day 32 – 8/7/16
Castle Creek camp
Miles – 19.8
Total Miles – 510.7 (PCT 2650.1)
It was a cold night. By early morning it was getting hard to stay warm. The only good thing about our campsite is that it would get early sun. It was weak sun, but sun light nonetheless. We packed up, but The Ravens kept standing in any patch of morning sun to warm up. Finally, we got out of camp, with only 19.5 miles to reach Canada. Our first obstacle of the day was a big up, however it was the only one for the day. As we traveled up,  we noticed that foggy clouds were rolling over the ridge. We would go into clouds and out again. We came to Holman Pass quickly and then we contoured up toward Rock Pass. The trail passed through green fields of wildflowers with clumps of trees. Gently, the clouds were rolling over the ridge above Rock Pass but we were luckily in sun most of the time. The moving clouds made things even more beautiful. As we crossed Rock Pass, we could see our next goal of Woody Pass. There was a very thick cloud pushing its way through the pass. We worked our way over toward Woody and as we got closer to it, the wind picked up. Bitterly cold wind and fog whipped through. It was not pleasant hiking. At least it did not last long. About a quarter of a mile beyond the pass, the wind thank goodness, let up. All around us was a thick cloud, but it was far more comfortable without the biting wind.
We were working our way up onto a ridge when a hiker came toward us. We stopped a moment to say hi and recognized him. There was a pause and Papa Raven asked “Scott?” It was Scott Williams (Bink) one for the PCT’s legends. Incredibly, he has hiked the PCT 13 times. He was the first to yo-yo it (to hike North and South in the same trip) and he has done that twice. In all our years of hiking the PCT, we have bumped in to him several times including our first PCT thru-hike in1996. Back then, he was hiking with a young man named Psycho Ken who had a hard time dealing with the real world and shortly afterwards committed suicide.  Scott remembered us, including our real names of Tim and Ann. We talked a bit before parting company. It was good to see him again.
From this point to the border, the trail is easy, mostly down hill. We hiked to Castle Pass and then started the long descent to the border. The clouds around us no longer looked like fog but were dark rain clouds holding lots of water just waiting for the right moment to dump their heavy load of water on us.  We could hear the distant bursts of thunder around us. We were hiking for more than an hour when Little Crow and Bling were bitten by Yellow Jackets. Usually the first person who walks by, in this case it was Mama Raven, disturbs the yellow jackets nest and the ones behind get attacked. You do not want to stand around or many more Yellow Jackets will get you. Thus, Little Crow and I quickly run away from the area.  We ran out into a clearing and we then noticed that it had started to sprinkle. We hiked quickly to the next stand of trees and changed our clothes: down jackets off, rain jackets on. We knew the border is close so we hiked quickly in a hard rain. About 15 minutes later, we came upon Bling and Mama Raven. They had waited for us so we could hike to the border together.  Little Crow and Papa Raven repacked for rain then we all headed to Canada.  We began this adventure four weeks ago in the rain, and The Ravens will end the trip in rain too. The rain was coming down hard and the monument was before us. We stayed long enough to take a photo and quickly found a camp not far away on the Canadian side of the border.
An hour or so later the rain stopped.  The Ravens had a dinner of Vodka Pasta Sauce and drinks we carried out from Stehekin to toast Bling’s completion of the PCT.

Almost There!

Day 31 – 8/6/16
Several camps before Holman Pass
Miles – 23.6
Total Miles – 490.9 (PCT 2630.5)
Given we camped in a deep valley we did not see the sun for a long time this morning. We had thousands of feet to climb in the first five miles. We started the first half of the climb, to Glacier Pass, in a strong very cold wind. It was blowing down stream and it was biting cold. It finally let up as in entered the trees on the pass. The second half of the climb was up the west side of the valley wall. It passes through open fields of flowers and lush vegetation and had great views of the surrounding mountains. We came upon a huge marmot standing tall at the entry to its den waiting for the sun to hit him. He did not move as we passed by.
Right at the beginning of the climb, we came across a backpack sitting on the side of the trail. The backpack had a name tag on it and it matched the name on the Canadian entry papers we found yesterday. Whoever this person was, they got rid of a lot of gear yesterday and their pack today. They are about 8-10 miles from Harts Pass. We hope they are OK and are trying to get out.
The climb up the valley wall is not hard, just long. The trail is well graded. About halfway up, we came across two men. One with a pack and the other without. We had found the man who was leaving gear along the trail. Mama Raven got there first and was talking to them. It is a father and son from Georgia who planned to hike from Rainy Pass to Canada but the altitude was too much for the 73 year old father. They are now planning on exiting at Harts Pass. The son realized the problem with the information on the entry papers, and he was very happy when we returned them. The son was planning on getting his dad to the top of the ridge and then going back down for his dad’s backpack. We hiked on.
After climbing to the top of the ridge, we started a very easy section. The trail does not change altitude very much and it traverses over many passes. Most of the terrain was open fields of flowers with grass and trees here and there. It is very beautiful. We hiked on from pass to pass until it was getting late and we found a camp next to the trail. We should get to Monument 78 tomorrow. Now if the rain would hold off for one day. It is supposed to rain tomorrow and Monday.
Today’s passes: Glacier Pass, Harts Pass, Buffalo Pass, Windy Pass, Foggy Pass, and Jim Pass.

Night of Card Playing

Day 30 – 8/5/16
Brush Creek
Miles – 20.7
Total Miles – 467.3 (PCT 2606.9)
Despite sleeping next to a loud river, we slept well. This morning we needed to finish the long 25 mile climb we started yesterday. We set out from camp to Rainy Pass. We crossed Hwy 2 and started the next part of our up, climbing to the top of Cutthroat Pass. It is a good pull up from Rainy Pass to Cutthroat Pass, but we did it with only one short rest to remove jackets. The views from the top of Cutthroat Pass are expansive both East and West. This is where we took our first break of the day.  From Cutthroat Pass we contoured around the mountain and then dropped down to Granite Pass. Looking North, we tried to guess which mountains were in Canada. The Ravens are getting excited to be so close to their final goal.   After reaching Granite Pass and we then contoured around toward Methow Pass. This is where we camped last year and watched the lunar eclipse. The pass is wide and open and we sat there relaxing and eating before continuing on. Now the trail dropped into a narrow river valley. It was not a steep down but it continued for miles.
On the way down, we came upon something strange, someone had lined up on a log 9 or 10 freeze-dried dinners, three shirts, long John pants, rope, Esbits fuel, maps, and their Canadian entry papers. Everything was in zip lock bags. After reading the entry papers, we discovered that the person started from Rainy Pass and was headed into Canada. He started on 8/4 and would get to Canada on 8/8. All we could think of, is that he was dumping extra weight, but the maps were for this section and he would need the entry papers. The other problem with the entry papers is that it has his SS number and Passport number. Not something to just leave lying around. Very strange. Looking at the birthdate on the Canadian entry paper we knew he was an older gentleman in his mid seventies. We decided to take the entry papers with us and hopefully we would run into him.
As we got to the end of the decent from Methow Pass, we came to the last camp before our next climb. It was too late to make it to the next camp but to early to stop. We did not want to come in after dark so we decided to have an early camp. We had time to play some cards together. We are tucked into a little camp about 50′ from the river.

One long climb

Day 29 – 8/4/16
Bridge Creek
Miles – 16.8
Total Miles 446.6 (PCT 2586.2)
Since the store did not open until 8:00, we slept in a bit. It was a warm night.  We packed as quietly as we could because other campers were still asleep. We got to the store a little before eight and waited. Once it opened, we got some extra candy bars, drinks (to celebrate with at the Canadian border) and bus tickets back up to High Bridge. We boarded the bus 15 minutes later. Of course the bus stopped at the bakery and we got breakfast and more treats for the trail:  3 kutchens, 2 sandwiches, a mountain bar, and a huge cinnamon bun. When we got off the bus at High Bridge, we sat down on the picnic table and had breakfast. We finally hit the trail at 10:00. It was a late start but we’ll worth it for breakfast from the Stehekin Bakery.
The trail away from High Bridge was all up, almost 25 miles of it. We needed to hike beyond the borders of the Northern Cascades National Park because we do not have a permit to stay the night. That means that we needed to cover 15 miles today. The hike up the valley is not very exciting. The trail stays up on the side of the valley above Bridge Creek. It crosses it once on a big bridge. The day was very hot with limited shade.  We hiked slowly.  About 5 miles into the climb, we stopped at the first of 4 designated camp grounds. We liked this spot because it had a picnic table and was in total shade and a small Creek nearby. We ate our sandwiches, even though we were not hungry and played cards. We did not want to leave. It was cool and it was relaxing to just sit and hang out together without walking! Grudgingly, we got going.  We saw four bears in this section:  a Mama Bear and her two cubs and a solitary one.  As the day was ending, we finally turned north and hiked out of the  National Park. We camped at the first flat place we could find which was in front of an old fallen down bridge. Early tomorrow we will cross Rainy Pass which means we are only four days from the Canadian border!

Stehekin

Day 28 – 8/3/16
Stehekin
Miles – 9.6
Total Miles – 429.8 (PCT 2569.4)
It was a warm night and we slept soundly after our twenty-five mile day yesterday. With a sigh of relief, we saw blue sky with only a cloud here and there when we poked our heads out of the tents. It looks as if the unexpected storm had passed. We packed up quickly and got hiking. We wanted to catch the 11:00 bus into Stehekin so we had to push ourselves to make it on time. The trail dropped all the way to High Bridge. It is not a steep drop and is easy hiking.  High Bridge is where the bus would pick us up. We made only one stop to eat on the way down. Bling and Mama Raven made it to the bridge first at 11:06. We missed the bus!  We would have to wait for the next one. Gloomily, we hiked on down to the pickup point. There was a bus schedule posted and we noticed that there was not an 11:00 bus, instead it did not arrive until 12:30. Everyone was a lot happier knowing we were not late after trying so hard to be on time. Also we were eager for food, and a place to get clean and to dry out the gear. Stehekin is a small resort located at the North end of Lake Chelan, which is 41 miles long. No roads go into Stehekin. The only way to get to it is by sea plane or boat. The buses and cars that are in Stehekin came over on barges.
On the way into the resort, the bus stopped at the famous Stehekin bakery.  Martha Stewart visited it many years ago and claimed it as one of the best bakeries she had ever been to. Long before Martha Stewart’s discovery of the bakery, long distance hikers on the PCT knew how good it is. Up and down the trail, it is well-known as one of the best places to eat. For hikers, it is a legend. We got pizza, two big ham and cheese croissant, a blueberry Danish, and fruit kuchen.
When we got into Stehekin, we started to look for a room. We disappointedly found out that the lodge was full. Next we tried the ranch, it too was full. We needed showers and clean laundry!! What to do?  The boat from Chelan came up and we went to see how much the fair to the other end of the lake to the town of Chelan. The only problem was that they boat was working on only one out of the two motors and will take twice as long to get there. That would between 8:00-9:00 tonight. So that would not work. We really wanted to clean up. It has been six days of sweat, dirt, mud, bugs and plants in hair. We stink!  We were feeling very sub-human.  Mama Raven said how about look into a sea plane to Chelan.  That would be a treat for every one. The sea plane was $120 per person one way. Too expensive!  Somebody told us about the public laundry and shower and off we went.  There was only one shower and one laundry machine, and of course there was a line of people waiting. Luckily, we were the only ones needing laundry.  We cycled each of us through the shower, one dollar for 5 minutes. As this was going on, we sorted our box. After several hours, we finished and decide to stay at the campground. We walked over and found a spot. At least we had somewhere to stay and we were now clean!  We were human again! We went over to the lodge for dinner around 6:30 and found that Lord Vader was there. We sat and ate with him.  We all had a wonderful time sitting and talking about trail life and life after long distance hiking, especially trying to “melt back into the world of muggles.”  (what thru-hikers affectionately call non thru-hikers).  It is more often than not a difficult transition. Nonetheless, we thoroughly enjoyed our evening with Lord Vader.
We will be back to the trail tomorrow morning. Rain is forecasted for Sunday, we will be nearing the boarder that day. I hope it waits a bit and let us get to Manning Park before it rains.

What! Rain! Who ordered that?

Day 27 – 8/2/16
Cedar camp
Miles – 25.1
Total Miles 420.2 (PCT 2559.8)
It was a warm night and everyone slept well. We poked or heads out of the tents to see the sky and we could not tell what the weather was through the tall trees.  Was it the blue gray of clouds or of pre-dawn light?  Quickly we packed up and got ready to hike. The weather reports we have gotten said there is no rain in the forecast,  thus we did not take the time to pack for rain. Just as we headed out, we came to the conclusion that the sky was covered with clouds. The down to Suiattle bridge went by fast because the trail was almost level as it meanders through forest of cedar, fir, ferns and plush moss.  In one area, we walked through an area of ancient, and beautiful old growth trees. It was a privilege to walk amongst such old souls. The Suiattle (Indian word for Seattle) bridge is long and connected the two river sides via an island. The bridge was built here 5 years ago after the last one washed away further up stream. After a short break, we started hiking toward Suiattle Pass. This was a very big climb, about 3300′, and it took a good part of the day. The trail is well graded and we were able to hike many miles without stopping. During the only break we took on the climb, it started to mist. We decided it was best to repack the backpacks for rain, just in case the mist turned into rain. We hiked the rest of the way to the pass without any problems, then we started down. It was not long before the sprinkles started. We got out our umbrellas and rain skirts. As we descended, it started to rain. The temperature dropped quickly as the rain came down hard. The trail down went into two big bowls each devoid of trees but covered in thick flowers and ferns. The plants were our biggest problem. They had grown thick and tall over the trail. In some places, they towered over our heads and we needed to push our way through. It felt like we were swimming through the plants. Everyone’s feet got soaked. The rain lasted for 3 of 4 hours and it made the hiking very hard. We stopped only once for a quick tortilla with peanut butter which we ate while we hiked. It was too cold for anything longer.  Finally, about an hour after the rain stopped, we reached the bottom. Since we lost so much time with the rain, we decided to continue hiking down the valley as long as light permitted. We came to Crater Camp about 8:30 and had just enough light to pitch our tents. It is not the best camp but we are only 9.6 miles from High Bridge and the bus to Stehekin.

Up and down and up and down

Day 26 – 8/1/16
Before Upper Suiattle Trail
Miles – 21.5
Total Miles – 395.1 (PCT 2534.7)
We woke to beautiful blue skies. Not a cloud anywhere.  Camping in the river valley meant that we had a cold night. Mama and Papa Raven could not get warm through out the night. Our camp was on the west face of Glacier Peak, which meant that we got late sun.  We packed up and started our first climb of the day which was to the top of Fire Creek Pass. The trail contoured and climbed from ridge to ridge until it reached the pass. Bling and Little Crow got to the top about 10 minutes before we did. Mama and Papa Raven stopped to talk to a young man from Oceanside Ca. (a town near where we live).  He was thru hiking SOBO. Our tardiness allowed Little Crow and Bling time to make and hide many snowballs. As we reached the top, they popped up from their hiding place and started throwing snowballs at us. They had a great time pelting us, and we could not retaliate. The snow field was to far away. The kids had an epic snowball fight on what looked like the top of the world with the magnificent Glacier Peak looming over head and the entire northern Cascades surrounding us. Eagerly, we took a break at the top to revel in the beauty we were in. The Northern Cascades are extremely strenuous.  The trail goes up steep ups to only go down steep downs on the other side. Then it repeats itself over and over again. Despite the difficult terrain, hikers are rewarded grandly with stunning scenery.  It is beautiful, rugged country! The effort is worth it.  The next part of our trail headed down 3000′ in about 5.5 miles to Milk Creek. This was just a long foot pounding down. What we were not looking forward to was what came next, a 1600′ climb in 4.5 miles. The day was getting hot as we started up.  We had to swim are way through plants that over grew the trail.  The temperature and humidity rose dramatically when we were in them. It was a difficult section. Tiredly, we reached the top and rested on an outcropping of rocks as Glacier Peak, stood behind us.  We had a little more up to go before we dropped over 3000′. The day was disappearing quickly as we hiked into the valley, we went for several miles through fields of purple lupine and an unknown white flower.  The air we passed through, smelled sweet from the flowers. At the bottom of the valley, we came to the only camp in the valley.  We found four other tents there. We stopped to talk to the other hikers. We quickly realized that one of the hikers was Lord Vader. He hiked the majority of the PCT last year and only got off after an injury to his foot. He missed White Pass to Stehekin and is back this year to complete that section to finish his PCT thru-hikers.  Last year we meet him only once at Old Station. He was leaving the town as we hiked in and he gave us his room key so we could take showers. We all talked for a bit before we hiked on to find a camp. The Ravens were excited to run into him and to finally get a chance to talk to him.  Mama Raven was probably the happiest over our encounter with Lord Vader because she tried hard to get a photo of all the hikers we came in contact with, and Lord Vader was one she did not have. Now she does! It was quickly getting dark so we said our good byes and hiked a mile further till we found a spot off the trail. It was soft and semi-flat and home for the night for the tired Ravens.

Beautiful Country!

Day 25 – 7/31/16
Pumice Creek
Miles – 21.1
Total Miles – 373.7 (PCT 2513.2)
No condensation last night!  Yeah!!! The wind blew hard all night and clouds rolled around us but we stayed dry. However, it was cold. Our thermometer said 43°.  We ate breakfast and packed up quickly so we could get moving to warm up.  Everyone hiked out with their down jackets on. Clouds engulfed us, so our visibility was very poor. If there was a large peak in front of us, we could not see it. The trail lead us on an easy path. For the most part, it started high and then it kept rolling around small peaks.  We contoured our way to White Pass. We did stop at a snow field near Reflection Pond and let the kids try to slide down it on their insulate pads.  It was not a steep snow bank and the snow was soft so they could not go as fast as they wanted Nonetheless, the kids had fun.
As we were hiking toward White Pass, we heard a loud explosion. It echoed down the valley. The clouds had broken up as we headed to White Pass. As we started the traverse between White Pass and Red Pass we came upon a sign telling us that they were using explosives up ahead. Near the far side of the traverse, we came upon a trail crew cleaning up the debris from the last explosion. They were widening the trail through a rocky section and cutting out blow downs. We thanked them for their work and headed on to Red Pass. There are no words to describe how beautiful it is here. You will just have to trust us when we say the master designer out did themselves up here. We are in marmot country. They are the biggest ones we have ever seen, and there are so many of them.  They have dug their burrows right next to the trail. As we pass through them, they sent out a series of loud chirps to warn the other marmots, there is danger approaching.  At the top of Red Pass, there was supposed to be views of Glacier Peak but because of cloud cover, we could not see it. Nonetheless the views we did have were impressive. In fact, the clouds gave it a unique beauty.  Red Pass is the beginning of a very long down, about 7 or 8 miles. We went through a wooded section where everything is covered with plush moss. Ferns grew thick and mushrooms popped up everywhere.  Hiking was easy here, because it was level for a couple of miles. . . a rare thing in northern Washington. It took us hours to reach its end and start-up. By this point, most of the day had passed but we began climbing and we continued climbing steeply for about 1700′. Finally as the sun was getting low, we came upon Pumice Creek and a small campsite. We took it. The Washington state is beautiful, but to get to that beauty is strenuous work!

Catwater

Day 24 – 7/30/16
Camp in a ridge
Miles – 21.0
Total miles – 352.6 (PCT 2492.1)
We all sleep well last night and we did not want to get up this morning. Our tents were dry and warm. Just after we finished eating breakfast, two southbound hikers past us. As Papa Raven crawled out of the tent, he saw another one coming toward us. To his great surprise, he recognized who it was. It was our good friend Catwater. The Ravens hiked with her last year through Oregon. Mama Raven and Catwater quickly became good friends. Catwater is from Alaska and is an anthropologist and a snow board expert who travels the world setting up snowboard tracks for ski resorts. We had heard that she would be trying to SOBO (southbound) the PCT this year, but we did not know if she was really on the trail. Over the last few weeks, we have asked SOBO’s if they had seen her. None had. And here Papa Raven climbs out of the tent and she walks up. Quickly she and Papa Raven give each other a hug. He pointed to the open tent. He took her poles and she moved to the tent entrance. Mama Raven saw only a pair of hiking shoes and the bottom of a black skirt. Instantly, Mama Ravens popped her head out and yells with joy, “Catwater!” Bling and Little Crow get out of their tent to greet her. For quite a while, we stood there talking. She could not believe how much the kids have grown over the winter. Come to find out, that the two people we saw earlier were Catwater’s husband and her friend Jackie. We meet Jackie last year in southern Oregon. She mailed the rocks Mama Raven’s had been collecting home. We were sorry to have missed her. The two of them are hiking Washington with Catwater.  Eventually, we had to say goodbye. It was a sad goodbye to an old friend.  We told her when she gets closer to San Diego on her thru hike, we will meet her and deliver her some trail magic!  With great excitement having bumped into Catwater, we left camp and, within a few minutes, past Janus Lake. From there, we started out on our first big up of the day. We worked our way up onto a ridge and then over to Grizzly Peak. The landscape was beautiful. The clouds had moved into the valleys and they were being pushed up over the ridge. It was cold.  As the trail turned north, we hiked out into sun and warmth. Most of today was taken up hiking along a ridge and then dropping down to a pass and then going back up to the top of a ridge again. We did this over Wenatchee Pass, Saddle Gap, and Cady Pass. We talked to a day hiker who said there is no rain in sight for the next ten days however during the night clouds are supposed to move in and will not burn off till late morning. That is OK with us, just so long as there is no more rain.
Towards the end of the day we ran into a Forest Service trail crew. 6 men and women, working in pairs, cutting up several massive downed trees. They had been working on this all day. We are in a Wilderness area which means no power tools are allowed in the back country.  Therefore no chain saws! They had to use old fashion saws and axes for the job. It is not easy work cutting trees that are 3 to 4 feet in diameter, by hand. We left them and headed to Lake Sally Ann but every camp site was filled, so we hiked on. We were hoping to camp on top of Wards Pass. When we got there, we found one tent. We started to look for a camp farther down the ridge when we heard someone calling our names. It was Jeromy. We thought that he was behind us, come to find out he left Stevens Pass first thing in the morning yesterday. We ended up camping with him. The wind has been blowing over the ridge and the clouds have moved in. It is going to be a cold, wet night.

Getting out of town

Day 23 – 7/29/16
Before Lake Janus
Miles – 9.3
Total Miles – 331.6 (PCT 2471.1)
Today was an easy day. We took our time getting our of the hotel room because our bus back to Stevens Pass would not depart from Leavenworth until 1:15. While the kids were taking their showers, (it will be six days before an opportunity to have another shower), Mama Raven and I walked to the grocery store to pick up hot dogs for tonight’s dinner. We returned to the room and everyone packed all of their backpacks. We waited in the hotel room until the 11:00, checkout time. The hotel receptionist said we could store our packs in a corner of the lobby while we went to town for lunch.  We first walked to an island surrounded by the Wenatchee River. About noon, we worked our way back to town and picked up some Subway sandwiches for lunch. At 12:30, we returned to the hotel and picked up our backpacks and then we walked to the gas station where we would catch the bus. We sat in the shade waiting. The temperature in Leavenworth, the last few days, has been in the upper 90’s, Stevens Pass should be in the upper 70’s. A big difference. The bus came about 1:25. Forty-five minutes later we were back at Stevens Pass. We took care of a few things, and finally we started to hike at 3:00. The trial north out of Stevens Pass was very easy. It is built on an old railroad track bed, so it is very wide and flat. After several miles, it turned up a valley and crossed a ridge to Valhalla Lake. We took a quick break there and ate the sausages and mini muffins from this morning’s breakfast at the hotel. As we left the lake, we crossed another ridge and started to drop. Over the next few miles, we dropped down and crossed two more saddles. It was getting late as we came towards the next saddle were we found a large flat place to camp. It was an easy first day back on the trail. Mama Ravens toe did not bother her at all. We made a good choice to have part of her toe nail removed.

Leavenworth

Day 21, 22 – 7/27/16
Leavenworth
Miles – 0
Total Miles – 322.3 (PCT 2461.8)
Even through we are not hiking today, we still got up at our normal time. It is a town day and excitement is high!!! Nonetheless, we leisurely packed up and headed over to Stevens Pass Ski Resort before 8:00. This year and last year, the PCT passed through many ski resorts causing Bling and Little Crow to want to try the sport. Papa and Mama Raven use to ski and both love it. However that was many years ago, before owning a house with a mortgage, bills, years of private school tuition, kids and now unemployment. Our response to the kids has always been “one day, it sure would be fun to ski!”  Anyways, we cleaned out our packs of all trash and waited for the store to open at 9:00. When it did open, we ordered four smoothies, ice cream, and our box. We sorted out the box and got the packs ready to go.
At about 8:00 this morning, we started to tried to get bus reservations. Stevens Pass is not a regular stop, so Papa Raven had to line it up ahead of time so the bus driver would stop for us. Everyone he called could not figure out how much it was and they kept having him call a different company. It took four different companies before
he was able to buy the tickets. Next, we just had to wait until 11:30 for the bus to come. By 11:50, the bus had not arrived so we called the bus company to see if we missed the bus or was it late. Come to find out, the Seattle traffic had held it up. We were relieved we had not missed it. Finally, the bus arrived a little after noon. Once we were in Leavenworth, we quickly found a room in our price range and Mama and Papa Raven took showers so we would not stink when we went to the medical clinic. We had no time to wash clothes, so hopefully most of the smell was on our bodies and not the clothes. It was the best we could do under the circumstances.  We left the kids in the room, as we walked over to the clinic. We walked in to the clinic at 3:00 and right away we got to see a nurse practitioner. She said what needed to be done was to remove a quarter of the nail on the side that is causing the problem. However, she was hesitant to recommend this because we would be hiking with an exposed nail bed and that will be uncomfortable; also would be hard to keep it clean. Mama Raven said let’s have the procedure done anyways because hiking with it the way it is has become unbearable. Thus, the job was done in 15 minutes. Mama Raven said the worst part of the procedure was all the nerve block shots to numb her toe. After that, it was easy!  At the end, the nurse put a big, fat bandage on Mama Ravens toe. It was so large it would not fit into her shoe. They gave her a hospital sock to put on. And that is how we left the hospital: one shoe on one foot and a sock on the other, hobbling down the road.  Good thing we only had to walk a mile back to the room!

7/28/16
Leavenworth
We spent a quite day in Leavenworth. Mama Ravens toe is feeling much better. She is very happy we had the ingrown nail trimmed back. Around lunch, everyone walked into town. We wondered in and out of the shops and played the tourist. We worked our way to the far end of town so we could stop by a Safeway, for some extra food for the next section, and hardware store for epoxy and duct tape to repair Bling’s and Mama Ravens hiking poles. We all returned to our room and relaxed. All and all, it was a good day of not doing much of anything.

Stevens Pass

Day 20 – 7/26/16
Just beyond Stevens Pass
Miles – 15.4
Total Miles 322.3 (PCT 2461.8)
We woke with condensation inside of the tents dripping on us. For some reason the condensation was very bad over night. As we packed up, we dried the tents with our bandannas. The sun rose to another glorious rain free day. We decided to take the time to dry the tents in the morning sun before we packed them.  While the tents dried in the sun, the kids played games running through and scrambling up the rock piles behind our camp.  Our camp site was high up a mountain side just below a jagged spire of rock. We had dramatic views of snow-covered Glacier Peak to the north.  Beyond it was another range of mountains. We were wondering if those far off mountains were in Canada or not?  We suspect they were because we only have ten more hiking days till the Canadian border.  It was a perfect spot to camp except for the hundreds of pesky mosquitoes buzzing around us. A short time later, with all of our gear dry, we started to hike. The trail dropped to the valley floor and passed by Glacier Lake. As we rounded the lake, Papa Raven spotted a large spring coming out of the side of a cliff. Little Crow took her pack off to run ahead to tell Mama Raven and Bling about the spring. They were only a quarter of a mile ahead. They returned to Papa Raven and we all replenished their empty water bottles. After reaching the far end of the valley, we began climbing up Trapper Pass. This was a bit of a pull. As we got closer to the top, there were countless number of small switchbacks.  At the end of each switch back, we kept thinking that had to be the last one. But no it was not!  Eventually, we made it to the top. On the way down the other side, we passed through fields of plants which raised the humidity dramatically. After Trapper Pass, the trail traversed downwards toward Hope Lake and then to Mig Lake. There we took our shoes off and soaked our feet. Mama Raven has been having more and more trouble with an ingrown toenail. Each step she took, was terribly painful especially when going down hill.  Her speed had slowed way down. We have decided to head out at Stevens Pass to have it taken care of.  After cooling our feet off in Mig Lake we pushed on. The trail had one last big climb for the day and then it headed down into the Stevens Pass Ski Resort. It was getting late when we topped the last hill and we could see Hwy 2 way below us. The store with our box closes at 5:00 according to our guide-book. We had 40 minutes to get down there. Bling and Papa Raven headed out as fast as they could, reaching the store a few minutes before five. Unfortunately,  everything was already closed up. We guessed they closed early. When Mama Raven and Little Crow showed up, we sat down at an outside table and tried to figure out our plans. We called Andrea Dinsmore for some information. Our two choices are a clinic in Monroe or in the opposite direction to Leavenworth. There is a bus that can take us to Leavenworth, or we hitch a ride to Andrea’s, where she could drive us to the health clinic in Monroe. For tonight, we decided to camp near Stevens Pass, then, tomorrow morning, get our box and sort it. Leavenworth won out because we have always heard about it and were curious about it. It is a Bavarian tourist town next to the Wenatchee River. All the stores and streets make you feel like you are actually in Austria or Germany. The town has a reputation of being expensive so we hope we can find a hotel that is affordable and a medical clinic that will see us right away. Meanwhile, we are going to enjoy being tourists of Leavenworth.

A hard day

Day 19 – 7/25/16
Small camp after Piper Pass
Miles 18.8
Total Miles 306.9 (PCT 2446.4)
It was the warmest night we have had on the trail. We had all the vestibules open and we were still too hot. We got up and packed quickly. We wanted to climb as much of the valley before the sun hit us. We made a good distance. The trail worked its way up a low valley toward a meadow with a lake in it below Cathedral Pass, which was our next goal. We crossed the meadow and headed up the pass. The last of the climb was not long, just a few switch backs that carried us up quickly. We took a break at the top of the pass. We ate and enjoyed the views around us. The next obstacle was a river crossing that has a  dangerous reputation depending on snow melt and the time of the year.  Back in 2011, which was a record snow year up here, Bling was nine and Little Crow was six, we tried to cross it in mid July. It was too dangerous for them so we had to find another way around it. We had to crawl and bushwhack our way through devil’s club to reach the bottom of the valley where the river mellowed out. There is a reason devil’s club is called what it is. The plant as thorns completely covering every micro centimeter of its stem. Also the underside of its leaves are covered with painful thorns. We were all bloody after that adventure. Nonetheless we found a safe way to cross the river with two tiny kids. On last year hike, we were so late in the season that the water was low and not a problem.  Any ways, that was then and today as we approached the river with apprehension, we wondered what the crossing would be like.  The trail traversed in and out of valleys for about 3 miles until it came to the large river crossing. We stopped 100′ above it to take a look. To our relief, there were some logs crossing about half of it, which was the deepest part. If they were not there, we would have a scary time crossing the river. We went down to the river’s edge and Papa Raven dropped his pack and walked up-stream to where a down log was. It took him about 5 minutes to work the log loose from the rocks. He then added it to the other two logs crossing the river. As he was doing this, two south-bounders were working their way across. We watched their path and they made it without a problem. Papa Raven unbuckled his hip belt on his pack and went across first. On river crossings, the hip belt and sternum straps should be left unbuckled. This way, if you should happen to fall in, you will be able to easily and quickly get the pack off. Wet, heavy backpacks have been known to hold people under water and drown them. Papa Raven made it to an island in the middle of the river, dropped his pack and went back to help everyone else across. Bling came next without any problems. Then Little Crow, she did need a helping hand in a few places. As Mama Raven crossed,  Bling had found a way across the rest of the river and he was helping Little Crow through it. Finally, Mama Raven crossed the last part of the river and then we worked our way down to the trail. We had made it across with only a few wet feet. Since we were stopped, we ate and filtered water. The next part of the trail is a long traversing climb over Deception Pass and then on to Piper Pass. This took the rest of the day. We then hiked down below the pass, about. 5 miles, to the first camp we could find and stopped for the night.
Current problems: on the way up to Piper Pass, Bling became very tired and came down with a bad sore throat. Mama Raven has been fighting an infection with her ingrown toe nail since the beginning of the trip. Now it is green with infection.  Papa Raven is still fighting blisters, infact many blisters! The new shoes have helped but the feet need to heal. Little Crow is the only one without any problems!
Way to go Little Crow!!!

A beautiful sunny day

Day 18 – 7/24/16
Creekside camps
Miles – 18.9
Total Miles – 288.1 (PCT 2427.6)
To great joy, we woke to sun on our tents. We asked Bling how he felt and he said that his stomach was OK. We had breakfast and started to pack up. Little Crow and Papa Raven got out of the tents at about the same time. Papa Raven poked his head in to see how Bling was doing. After eating, he was not feeling well again. We got him out of the tent and told him to go sit on a rock in the sun. We all slowly packed up as we wondered what is wrong with Bling. Should we not hike today? When we were finished we went over to see Bling. He said that he was getting a little better and that he would like to try to hike. We were relieved a bit, but still concerned about Bling’s health.
The trail started by passing a large waterfall and then it headed down toward the valley floor. There were a number of downed trees we had to climb over. By the time we were hiking up the valley Bling was feeling good again.  He said he was tired but his stomach felt better. Both Mama and Papa Raven agreed we would take it easy today.
Bling thinks that his upset stomach was related to what he ate for breakfast in Snoqualmie. He had the same thing for breakfast both days and in the afternoon he felt sick. The only problem was that other people ate the same things and did not have the same reaction. So it is still a mystery to us.
As we hiked up the valley, we had to maneuver around and over many down trees. In one location, there were 10 fallen trees in a single group. Finally we started our big up of the day, 2000′ in 4 miles under the hot sun. It took us the rest of the morning to get to the top. Once there we had to stop to filter water. On the way up, we had another small world moment! A couple coming down stopped to talk to us. Something we said made them ask us if we were The Ravens?  She told us that her brother-in-law is Bush Wacker. We got all excited! We meet Bush Wacker in Oregon and were regularly bumping into him along the way. He kept telling his family about this family hiking the PCT also. Anyways, they took a picture of us to send to Bush Wacker to prove that they actually ran into The Ravens.  At the top of the ridge we had a good view of Mt. Rainier way to the south. What goes with a good big up? A big down, and that is what came next. The only problem was by the time we reached the down, everyone’s feet hurt and a big down was not going to help. We headed down, slow and steady. And yes, by the time we reached the bottom we were done, but the only problem was finding a campsite. We hiked to the first trail junction and it’s camp.  We decided to go another 1.5 miles to the next camp. When we got there,  other hikers were already there. So we had to go on.  Mama Raven found a semi-flat place down the embankment and we made it work.  Oh, and Bling stomach did not bother him any more today to everyone’s relief.

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.