Days 10 to 13 - The West Collegiates
The last few days have shown us some of the most spectacular scenery that I've ever had the pleasure of witnessing. But boy, did we have to work for it.
Over 72 hours, we walked over 120km through the high reaches of the Colorado ranges. We gained and lost almost 20 000 feet in altitude, and spent the entire time higher than Mt Kosciusko, struggling up passes where there was barely more than half the oxygen available at sea level.
And every time we labored up a pass, we were rewarded with views like these. I would happily go back again in a heartbeat.
Days 8 to 10 - Copper Springs to Twin Lakes.
Every morning we rise before the rays of the sun hit our tents, often to thick frost around our tents. It's hard to leave the warmth of our sleeping bags, but in many ways, these early hours are my favorite of the day.
I love watching the world begin to transform as the sun reaches the turning autumn leaves, and melt the frost away.
Day 7 - Frisco to Copper Mountain
If we'd thought the trail was mountainous before, at least it was graded for bikes.
All of a sudden the trail got steep enough that we were almost on hands and knees all the way to the ridgetop. The clouds cleared as we reached the peak though we were greeted with these spectacular views, before being chased off by yet another incoming storm!
Colorado Trail - Days 1 to 5 - Denver to Frisco
Our first five days gave us a taste of the unique challenges of Colorado.
Our heads ached from the altitude and we struggled for breathe on steep climbs. Each day brought unpredictable weather with thunder booming one minute and clear skies the next. Our tents were even christened by a violent hailstorm and we woke to frozen food bags and deep frost.
And it was beautiful. Absolutely and unrelentingly beautiful. I think we're going to like it here.
Colorado trail - Day 9 - Hope Pass
Well, I'm afraid this is going to put my posts a little out of order, but I couldn't help but share this beautiful view while I have reception.
Looking back towards twin lakes from Hope Pass. A tough 3500 foot climb, but worth every single step!
Loving the broad views and big mountains out here.
Last days in Washington. Aug 20th.
With just over 1000 miles under our belt, we were treated to one final day of glorious clear skies before we felt the full wrath of Canada's wildfires.
Still two weeks from the border, we walked for two days through smoke so thick it stung our eyes and burned our lungs. With little to no visibility, we began to wonder whether the stress we were putting on our bodies was worthwhile.
Through the rumours of the trail, our 'best laid plans' were dealt the final blow when we discovered that the PCT was - and still remains - closed to the Canadian border. A fire had started on the trail 30 miles from the finish line, and there was no reaching Canada via the PCT.
Many of our friends decided to carry on regardless. To walk as far as the could on the trail, or to reach Canada by road/car or other, less traveled trails. Most had walked all the way from Mexico, so this I completely understand. To me, hiking the PCT was always meant to be a joyful experience. It seemed there was little joy ahead walking without views through the steep and typically beautiful Northern Cascades towards an uncertain end. With this in mind we made the hard decision to get off the trail whilst we had easy access to Seattle.
A week or so later, we are hoping to leave the smoke far behind, and to find our feet on a new trail as we fly to Denver. For the next month we will be walking the spine of Colorado along the 486 mile Colorado trail.
More updates to come.
Day 61 - Goat Rocks Wilderness
We rose early to a haze of smoke still hanging in the air. As we pushed up steep switchbacks, the sun began to throw shadows across the mountains. By the time we reached the 'knife's edge' the warmth of the sun was on our faces, and just for a moment, the haze of smoke seemed to fade away.
If I've ever been on a more scenic stretch of trail, then I have been truly blessed.
Day? - First days in Washington
It's been a while since my last post, but our first few days in Washington have been fantastic.
We celebrated the end of Oregon with some delicious ice-cream as we walked over the Columbia river on the bridge of the gods.
The forest here is like something out of a fairy tale. It makes the copious sweat and humidity seem worthwhile! We got trail magic twice in one day, the second instance ending with a bit of a hangover the next day.... Finally, we got our first day of solid rain, which, whilst a little cold was also beautiful and a nice change of scenery. Oh and classic me, I found a frog to be friends with.
Washington, I think we shall be firm friends. Onwards to Canada!
PCT - Shelter Cove to Bend, Oregon
From still blue lakes, to huge volcanic peaks peppered with glaciers, to waterfalls made of dragon glass (obsidian), and walking across ankle twisting lava flows that made us feel like we were on our way to Mordor: it's been a challenging and beautiful few days.
The three sisters wilderness has been one of my favorite sections so far. Being out of the forest and up on the ridges again has given me a feeling of space and openess that the dark Oregon woodlands have left me craving.
Day ?? - Crater lake to shelter cove
Yesterday I set out to challenge myself. Yesterday I hiked 82km.
I've been having a hard time staying motivated through burnt out trail and smoke smothered scenery this week. With no views ahead I thought I would try and achieve a personal goal. To walk more than 50km in a day. Something my friend @mowgli_tesla and I have always talked about doing.
A few bad blisters aside I was feeling strong, and as the miles flew by, I knew that the 33 miles (53km) to camp would be done by early evening. I set my sights instead on the next civilization, just over 50 miles (80km) ahead. Walking through the setting sun was beautiful. When nightfall fell and exhaustion started to take hold, I was fighting irrational fear. Looking over my shoulder every few minutes with my dim head torch, convinced I'd see a Mountain Lion stalking behind. Mercifully the adrenaline kicked in, and I only had to walk alone in the dark for 3 hours before reaching my goal a little after midnight.
Why would I bother? I spent the next day resting up, so I'm not getting to Canada any quicker. I had plenty of extra food weighing me down, so no deadline there.
I guess that I always admired the tenacity of my late brother, Shannon. He was much more determined that I've ever been. He always asked me to push myself harder physically, and he was always asking the same of himself. I think that he would be proud of my for trying. Trying would have been enough for him - whether I succeeded or not. Walking all day, I reflected on our life together, and in that way, it wasn't a hard day for me, it was a special day, filled with good memories.
I wish you could have walked it alongside me. Your loving brother.
Day ?? - Dunsmuir to Etna - By far the windiest, most exposed night we've had on the trail so far. Camping on ridgetops makes for good pictures but doesn't always lead to a solid nights sleep!
Still, it's hard to argue with views like this.
Feeling lucky to be out here with this sister of mine.
Day ?? - Etna to Saeid Valley - "Man-eater Lake"
I've seen more than a few pristine alpine lakes on this walk. This one was by far my favorite. Squeezed into a steep gully, surrounded by tall mountains and slippery scree, it felt like the sort of place that had been frozen in time. If Rowan hadn't been waiting for me up ahead, I was very seriously considering descending the saddle to camp right next to it for the night.
Probably best I didn't. It wasn't until the next day that I pulled out the map and saw it was labelled man-eater lake!
Well, whilst I can't claim that I've walked all 1417 miles, the few hundred so far have been unforgettable. Looking forward to getting back out on the trail again after a few days off to rest up sore knees.
Day 11- After 60km with only one natural water source, we reached the sanctuary of beautiful Burney Falls. The river is completely dry only 1km upstream and seeps out of the water table just above these beautiful cascades. One of the coldest swims I've ever had, but washing off several days worth of dirt was worth the pain!
Hiking across the hat creek rim was beautiful and challenging. Over 20km without water, scorching heat and little shade. It was still hauntingly beautiful, and reminded me of the Simpson Desert back home. Glad to be showered and lying on a real bed though. 150km walked in 4 days really takes it out of you!
Day 5. I took the liberty of a little excursion off the trail to find these beautiful hanging lakes hidden by a thick pine forest. It can be hard to keep on pushing down the track when these vistas keep inviting you away!