Where there’s fire, there’s smoke. A *lot* of smoke.

This week it was time for my second backpacking trip, another 2-night 3-day adventure.

Did you miss the first one? It had a regrettable ending, but hey, the photos were great!

Despite knowing that Western Washington would be congested with wildfire smoke during our outing, and that it would worsen each day, we opted to go anyway, knowing that if we waited for the perfect circumstances, we’d miss our window entirely. In only two more weeks, we’ve got to head back to Texas for our usual autumn round of visits.

We were hoping that we’d have cleaner air and better visibility once we got some elevation beneath us in the Mount Adams Wilderness, but as you’ll see below, that was not the case.

Mount Adams is right there. Get yourself about halfway between Portland and Seattle, then head east.

Day 1: Orange path from A to B
Day 2: Pink path from B to a point just west of The Hump, then back up to C
Day 3: Green path from C to A
Total mileage: 28.5

Point A: Killen Creek Trailhead, which we found after winding our way over a ridiculous number of bumpy forest service roads. The road that provided the most direct route was closed for construction, so we had to take a very elaborate detour.

The 12,280-foot peak of Mount Adams is right behind us, I swear.
The trail we were on was at about 6,000 feet, so it should have been imposingly visible.
Damn wildfire smoke.

Oh, there it is!
The air cleared just enough for a shadowy glimpse on our first evening.
The following two days? Not so much.

Campsite #1

Sunrise through the smoke, on Day 2

We filter our drinking and cooking water from clear, running streams.
Remember this for comparison.

This is a rushing river of glacial run-off, and you can see that it’s full of dirt particles and who knows what-all else that makes it murky. We could filter it and drink it if we had to, but… ew.

And after the river, an immense boulder field.
Wow, Mother Nature.

Evidence of death; evidence of new life

A hiking hippie chick showed me that wild blueberries were growing right next to the trail.
I ate about a dozen, and they were the blueberriest blueberries I’ve ever tasted!
Also? I have a feeling that hiking hippie chick could have shown me many other things I’ve never tried.

At the end of Day 2, I needed a rinse.
(OK, what I really needed was a hot bath with lots and lots of soap.)
This was yet another creek full of glacial runoff, but truth be told it was cleaner than I was, so I gave myself a quick splash-n-suds to the most offensive bits, and called it good enough.

And then I hung my clothes up to get some fresh air, convincing myself that the pines loved this chance to feel like Christmas trees.

A tale of two river crossings:
On Day 2, heading south, I crossed slowly, but upright until the very end, when I had to lean forward and brace myself with my hands for a few steps.
On Day 3, heading back northward, I lost my mojo. I knew I had to get across. I also knew that my confidence in my ability to maintain my balance was low.
So I got low.
And Tim — the only person around who could have helped me if I’d gone in the drink — made sure there was evidence. My hero.

We met this guy, trail name “Lost,” on Day 2. He’d been hiking the Pacific Crest Trail northbound since the end of March, from its start at the CA-Mexico border.
And he’d had enough of walking in smoke, which has been horrible for PCT hikers this season, ruining their views and clogging their lungs from northern California, all the way through Oregon and Washington. That’s about 1500 trail miles of misery, y’all.
In fact, parts of the trail have been closed, including the final stretch to the northern terminus.
We encountered many dejected northbound thru-hikers, trudging onward, knowing they will likely not be able to complete their journey the way they’d hoped.
“Lost” — who has also thru-hiked the Appalachian Trail and Camino de Santiago — was looking for a way to get off the trail and re-evaluate his options.
We told him we’d be heading back toward civilization the next day, and would happily give him a lift if he wanted to meet us at the trailhead where we’d parked the BFT.
He took us up on the offer, and even beat us to the parking lot the next morning!
And that’s when we learned that he’s also an Army veteran, wounded twice in combat (legs shattered by a suicide bomber; shot in the head) and medically retired after 10 years of service. #Hero
We know he’ll be just fine, and we’ll be following his Instagram just to make sure.

That would have been a perfect place to close… but then I rediscovered this hilarious evidence of my own hiking history.

Come with me back to 1979, for a rainy hike along the C&O canal with my Girl Scout troop in Frostburg, MD. My mom thought to take before and after photos, and look at my face.

The quality of my outdoor gear and attire has definitely changed for the better, but I still make that hopeful “Off we go” face when we set off, and the “Poor, pitiful me” one after a long or stressful venture.

Ah, the 1970’s.
That track suit was pure polyester, the canteen made whatever was in it taste like metal, and let’s not even speculate about my backpack and shoes. I’ve got way better gear now!

Coming up next: We’re relocating to the Olympic Peninsula today, and we hope to squeeze in one more (less smoky) backpacking trip in Olympic National Park before we point our nose back to Texas.


Descriptions of our other two Washington backpacking adventures:

A virgin no longer: Emily’s first backpacking trip

I really didn’t think I’d ever do it.

Day hikes? Yes, please.

But… carrying all that extra stuff on my back and cuh-cuh-cuh-camping out? Overnight? With no shower at the end of a long hiking day? And having to… you know… in the woods?

I don’t think so.

Say hello to our backwoods poop kit.
1. Dig a hole at least 6″ deep. (That’s dirt on the trowel, y’all. Just dirt.)
2. Poop in it.
3. Use TP/wipes as needed.
4. Bury the human waste and biodegradable paper products.
5. Bag any non-biodegradable paper waste and carry it out.
6. Use hand sanitizer.

Backpacking has always been Tim’s thing. He’s been sending himself on long-distance walkabouts almost every year since he retired from the Navy in 2013, starting with a 3-month trip on the Pacific Crest Trail. He’s also done the entire John Muir Trail, parts of the Appalachian Trail, and a Grand Canyon down-n-up, among others.

I’ve always been the support person for these adventures, providing drop-offs and pick-ups at trail heads, mailing supply packages, and taking care of all the other things that need to happen when one’s spouse is temporarily living off the grid.

What made me change my mind? A combination of three things.

  1. Being in Washington for an extended period of time, with access to fantastic trails in both the Cascades and Olympics, during prime hiking season;
  2. Realizing that other than a proper pack for me, we had enough gear & supplies needed to outfit both of us safely; and
  3. Reminding myself yet again that life is short, so maybe I should fix my pony tail, set my squeamies aside, and find out what I’ve been missing.

    This.
    This would be one of the things I’d been missing.

So we bought me a big-girl pack, and we planned our first excursion: 3 days, 2 nights, about 27 trail miles.

Come along with us. The easy way.

Day 1:

We started there at the red pin, Tipsoo Lake, on August 6.
Thought you might like to see a map that shows where we were in relation to someplace you might recognize. Like Seattle.

Day 1 (orange): Parked at Tipsoo Lake (A) and camped for the night at Sheep Lake (B)
Day 2 (pink): Pacific Crest Trail to camp at Basin Lake (C)
Day 3 (green): Basin Lake alllll the way back to our Point A
Mileage by map: 23.4
Mileage by tracking app: 29.1.
Average of the two: 26.2 (Can I count this as my first marathon?)

Our home for the first night: Sheep Lake
Popular place.
We were definitely not alone. Lots of other campers, due to the fairly easy 2-mile hike from a main road.

We arrived mid-afternoon, and refilled our water containers from the stream that feeds the lake.
This is my “dirty bag” for collecting water, which I then filtered into…

This!
Delicious, cold, fresh and safe

That stream made for a good tootsie soak too, but only for a few seconds at a time. Icy!

One-pot dinner, served in…

… multi-use cup.
After a few minutes standing in hot water, that formerly dehydrated chicken breast looked and tasted like… dry chicken.

Home sweet tent.
It’s model name is Hubba Hubba, and we have made all the jokes.

Zipped in and ready for bed, yes, while it was still light out.
That 40-degree rated mummy bag? Nope. I got cold, even wearing jammies, and temps probably hovered around the mid-50’s.
We have since replaced it with a warmer bag.

Let’s start Day 2:

The best part of waking up is not exactly instant coffee in your cup (which is also used to hold your oatmeal, sports drink, rehydrated dinner, etc.), but it’ll do for the short term.

We trekked northward…

… and Mount Rainier watched over us.

That which we worship protects us …

… but we can’t always protect that which we worship.
This was our first evidence of recent forest fires.

Our first view of our home for Night 2: Basin Lake
We arrived at about 2:30 p.m., and had the entire basin to ourselves. There may or may not have been afternoon skinny dipping, and we didn’t even encounter anyone coming in as we climbed out the next morning!

Home sweet tent, this time with the rain fly added for warmth.
I missed seeing the stars through our roof, but I slept far more comfortably than I had the night before.

OK, put your boots & pack back on, and pick up your poles for Day 3:

We found our way through this haunting scenery.
Following the trail was difficult, with fallen trees and ash obscuring the route in places.

Found later on a live, still standing tree: one very old trail marker!

I took this screen cap at what might have been the highest elevation point on our trip.
Based on topographical maps, we probably hit about 6500.

Wanna watch how slowly I hike? Sometimes I cover a whopping 2 miles per hour. Oh, and you can probably tell I didn’t know Tim was taking video. Derp.

We made it back to our RV park by late afternoon for long, hot showers.
Look at my dirty pants!
And herein lies a shopping lesson.
These are boys’ REI brand mountaineering pants, priced at $39.95.
Comparable pants in women’s sizes started at $64.50.
The boys’ version fit me perfectly, and my psychological barrier to purchasing clothing marked XL instead of S was completely obliterated by my excitement over the money I’d saved!

And then we went out for a big, calorie-laden, non-dehydrated dinner, and I ordered a wild boar sandwich for the express purpose of being able to post, “I was so hungry, I ate a boar.”
And that is when karma made its move against my sense of hubris.
The boar attacked within about an hour, and I spent the next 2 days battling and recovering from food poisoning. That sandwich was the one and only item I took in that day that Tim didn’t, so we’re sure it’s the culprit.
Message received.
And no boar for me again, ever. Even pork is gonna be an issue for a while.

The illness was unfortunate, and I wish — really wish — it hadn’t happened, but it did not ruin backpacking for me.
I’m ready for more of this.


Descriptions of our other two Washington backpacking adventures:

Disclaimer: No compensation was received from any brands or entities named above, nor does our mention of them constitute an endorsement. Links are provided for information and convenience only.

Walked our butts to the Butteville Store

From our site here at the Champoeg State Heritage Area just south of Portland, OR, we took a little trip back in time along the Willamette River.

Two miles out to the red 5, two miles back.  Yep, in the rain.  Because it's the Pacific Northwest, and if you don't get out and move, you'll mold.

Two miles out to the red 5, two miles back.
Yep, in the rain.
Because it’s the Pacific Northwest, and if you don’t get out and move, you’ll mold.

The bigger picture

The bigger picture

It was a gray and drizzly day...

It was a gray and drizzly day…

Oregon's longest operating store is closed for the season, which we knew before we headed out, but wanted to see it anyway.

Oregon’s oldest continuously operating store, established in 1863, is closed for the season. We knew that before we headed out, but wanted to see it anyway. Worth the walk to peer inside the wavy glass and see the old tables, chairs and countertops inside.

"But Emily," you inquire. "We know you hate mud. Why did you go hiking four miles on a rainy day, idiot?"

“But Emily,” you inquire. “We know you hate mud. Why did you go hiking four miles on a rainy day, idiot?”

Paved trails, bitches! I win.

Paved trails, bitches!
I win.

Nobody puts us in a corner. We’ll walk there our own damn selves.

Today’s adventure: the very outermost tip of the Olympic Peninsula, accessed by the Cape Flattery trail. It’s only 1.5 miles, round trip — easy for us. But we made the long drive because that little trail leads to a unique, wild, and beautiful spot: the northwesternmost point of the continental U.S.

Cape Flattery: the northwesternmost point in the continental United States

That’s it. That’s where we went.

From the Washington Trails Association, “Here, where the Strait of Juan de Fuca meets the Pacific, Cape Flattery protrudes into a sea of tumultuous waters. A land of dramatic headlands, sea stacks, and deep narrow coves, Cape Flattery exhibits sheer rugged beauty. Scores of seabirds ride the surf and scavenge the sea stacks. Watch for whales and sea lions too… [from] the final viewing platform, teetering on the edge of terra firma.”

Other than a few of those seabirds, and 7 (seven!) bald eagles, the closest thing to wild animals we encountered on the trail was a pack of White North American Unwashed Hippies with one of their young. Wow. Reeking of weed would have been an improvement. All part of the adventure…

The forecast was not completely true. We got sunshine! Lots of it! But, that wind chill part was for real. Brrrrrr.

The forecast was not completely true. We got sunshine! Lots of it! But, that wind chill part was for real. Brrrrrr.

On the way to Neah Bay, we saw a bald eagle fly under this rainbow. It was indeed a harbinger of breathtaking scenes to come.

On the way to Neah Bay, we saw a bald eagle fly under this rainbow. It was indeed a harbinger of breathtaking scenery to come.

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Oh. Canada! (Those mountains across the water are on Vancouver Island.)

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Welcome figures at the Makah Museum in Neah Bay. We spent over an hour there, learning about the Makah tribal history. For nearly 4,000 years their people have occupied the Olympic Peninsula.

These figures welcomed us at our starting point, the Makah Museum in Neah Bay. We spent over an hour there, learning about Makah tribal history. For nearly 4,000 years their people have occupied the Olympic Peninsula.

$10 permit required to explore tribal lands, including the trails we hiked today. Seems a pittance, considering...

This $10 permit is required for exploring tribal lands, including the trails we hiked today.
Seems a pittance, considering…

At the Cape Flattery Trail Head, walking sticks provided by the Makah. Free for use-and-return, $5 to take-and-keep.

At the Cape Flattery Trailhead, we found a pleasant surprise: walking sticks provided by the Makah. Free for use-and-return, $5 to take-and-keep.

I chose one!

I chose one!

Next several shots: scenes from our hike along the Cape Flattery Trail. It's only 3/4 mile, but oh, where it took us!

Next several shots: scenes from our hike along the Cape Flattery Trail. It’s only 3/4 mile, but oh, where it took us!

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No tufted puffins today. Sorry, Maria. Wrong season.

No tufted puffins today. Sorry, Maria. Wrong season.

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At the end of the trail, which feels like it's at the end of the earth, we had a crystal clear view of the Cape Flattery Light, on Tatoosh Island, about half a mile from the coast.

At the end of the trail, which feels like it’s at the end of the earth, we had a crystal clear view of the Cape Flattery Light, on Tatoosh Island, about half a mile from the coast.

Here we are. Top left corner of CONUS. Check!

Top left corner of CONUS: check!

With Tatoosh Island behind us

With Tatoosh Island behind us

Since we finished at Cape Flattery by 1:30, we decided to make the most of the sunny skies (and our 3-hour drive to get there) by driving down to the Shi-Shi Beach Trail, which took us on a ridge above the Pacific Ocean.

Since we finished at Cape Flattery by 1:30, we decided to make the most of the sunny skies (and our 3-hour drive to get there) by driving down to the Shi Shi Beach Trail, which took us on a messy but really rather glorious walk along a ridge above the Pacific Ocean.

"Beach access in Olympic National Park is by steep trail." By which they mean there are actual ropes tied to trees to help you descend. At that point, we were short on both daylight and patience, so we skipped the potential cliff tumble and turned back.

“Beach access in Olympic National Park is by steep trail.” By which they mean there are actual ropes tied to trees to help you descend.
At that point, we were short on both daylight and patience, so we skipped the potential cliff tumble and turned back.

Two miles out, one mile of which was mud. Two miles back, same mud.

Two miles out, one mile of which was mud.
Two miles back, same mud, but tired feet.

I tried really, really hard to avoid it...

I tried really, really hard to avoid it…

But lost the battle on the way back to the trailhead.

It didn’t go well.

Yeah. That was a deep one.

Yeah. That was a deep one.

But definitely...

But definitely…

worth...

worth…

the reward.

the reward.

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We even saw a little frosty snowy stuff on the walkway.

Thank you, Makah tribe.
Your land is a treasure.
We showed it utmost respect by leaving only bootprints, and taking only memories.

I saw one ship go rowing out, on New Year’s Day in the morning

Tim, Alden and Karynna (Alden’s girlfriend) went rowing ’round the bay with the Sea Scouts this afternoon, while I took a walk along a teensy-weensy part of the 1200-mile Pacific Northwest Trail, which is one of our nation’s newest national trails (and not to be confused with the Pacific Crest Trail, which Tim hiked over the summer of 2013, to mark his transition from active duty to retired Navy life).

Because when your nearly 21-year-old son, who’s been living on his own in WA for 2+ years, asks if you want to go boating with his Sea Scout troop, on New Year’s Day, as per their annual tradition, in Port Townsend Bay, where the average water temp is 53 degrees in July, you pull out your long johns, grab gloves, a wool cap, and the warmest coat you own, and you go. There'll be coffee and a hot shower when it's over.

When your nearly 21-year-old son,
who’s been living on his own in WA for 2+ years,
asks if you want to go boating with his Sea Scout troop,
on New Year’s Day,
as per their annual tradition,
in Port Townsend Bay,
where the average water temp is 53 degrees in July,
you pull on your long johns,
grab gloves, a wool cap, and the warmest coat you own,
and you go.
There’ll be coffee and a hot shower when it’s over.

The excursion began at the Wooden Boat Foundation, where the sea scouts hold their meetings and store their gear.

The excursion began at the Wooden Boat Foundation, where the sea scouts hold their meetings and store their gear.

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Our boy and his girl (photo by Karynna)

Our boy and his girl
(photo by Karynna)

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Ready to row and sail onboard Bear

Watch them row, with cheers from the crowd on the pier:

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If you peer closely at the right hand side, you can see the gray-blue shadow of Mount Rainier behind our intrepid oarsmen.

Sea Scouts on the left, appearing to take on a Washington State Ferry.

Sea Scouts in the little boat on the left, appearing to take on a Washington State Ferry.

Not.

Not.

I saw three ships come sailing in...

I saw three ships come sailing in…

Mountain views from the bay were spectacular today. Mount Baker and the Cascades were to our left, the Olympics to our right, and shadowy Mount Rainier in the middle. Look.

Olympics

Olympics

Cascades

Cascades

Mt. Baker

Mt. Baker

Olympics

Olympics

Mt. Rainier centered beneath the sign

Mt. Rainier centered beneath the sign

Mt. Baker at sunset

Mt. Baker at sunset

Mt. Rainier at sunset

Mt. Rainier at sunset

The views from my walk weren’t too shabby either.

Looking south along the Larry Scott portion of the Pacific Northwest Trail. That's a paper factory in the distance.

Looking southwest along the Larry Scott portion of the Pacific Northwest Trail. That’s a paper factory in the distance.

The northward view, with chicken hat selfie. It seemed an appropriate way to greet the new year, and I got a kick out watching passing motorists say "Look at her chicken hat!"

The northeasterly view, with chicken hat selfie.
It seemed an appropriate way to greet the new year, and I got a kick out of watching passing motorists say “Look at her chicken hat!”

The West Marine mascot appeared to be just as bewildered by my hat as I was by him.

The West Marine mascot appeared to be just as bewildered by my hat as I was by him.

I warmed up afterwards with a perfect cuppa joe at Velocity, while I waited for the scouts to return.

I warmed up afterward with a perfect cuppa joe at Velocity, while I waited for the scouts to return.

2016, Day 1: hard to beat