I hiked Red Mountain on July 29. Ok well most of Red Mountain. I turned around before the actual summit. I’ve got my eye on you Red…
Wednesday. July 29, 2015. Hike: Red Mountain (Commonwealth Basin). Distance: Probably 8-10 miles. Elevation gain: 2900 feet. High Point: 5890 feet (I probably made it to 5800).
I wake early and leave home around 5:30 or 6 am. I’m shooting to beat rush hour. I do and make it to the trail by 7.
After my hike to the Kendall Katwalk yesterday – where I saw Red Mountain up close and personal – I couldn’t resist coming back to try to conquer this aptly named peak. The red peak loomed in the distance and I wondered to myself, “hmm I wonder what that mountain is called. I’d like to hike it”. Lo and behold, the creative mountain namers out there dubbed it Red Mountain. Ha.
I opt to take the “abandoned” old Commonwealth Basin trail into the Commonwealth Basin. This allegedly abandoned trail parallels the PCT (which I hiked yesterday), but cuts off some distance, making the trail steeper and shorter. While abandoned, the trail is super cush. It’s beautiful, has more character, crosses an idyllic creek, and the bushes lining the trail are overflowing with huckleberries and salmonberries. Win win win. Nothing about the condition of the trail would make you think it was abandoned other than the fact that I saw no one else on it and there were no signs other than one nailed to a tree that simply said “abandoned”.
I make good time up the trail. I pass Guy Peak (another peak that looks alluring but requires ropes which is outside my current hiking plan). Red Mountain comes into view. Watch out, Red! Here I come.
I pass wildflowers. I plan to pick berries on the way back down. I intercept the actual Commonwealth Basin trail and continue on. A tent is set up off the trail to the left, which I pass around 9 am.
The trail gets steeper and climbs more abruptly up the flanks of Red. Tight switchbacks. Views of Rainier! With every ascending switchback, more and more of Rainier comes into view.
I reach the top/end of the trail below the scramble to the peak. After exploring the social trails for a few minutes, I take the sharp right after the second cairn as per trail report instructions and begin the scramble. It’s of course steep and the footing is pretty sketchy – lots of scree. The higher I go, the more the boot path is dominated by more rock and less soil. I put away my phone so I can use my hands on the scramble. It gets steeper and I have a hard time following the boot path. I look back down and think, hmm how am I going to get down this completely loose scree? what if I loose my way? The fear is enough to deter me. Falling and/or getting stuck or lost doesn’t sound fun. I vow to come back to the top of Red one day. One day.
I turn around and slowly scramble my way back down. Snack break. I see my first person of the day – the older guy who set his tent up below. We chat then I’m off. Some running on the trail down until I reach huckleberry territory. I use the tiny zip lock bag that once held saltines to hold the berries.
I pass two guys in their 40’s. They make unfunny jokes about seeing a cougar. I let it slide because they give me pro berry picking tips which makes them ok in my book.
I hike and pick until my tiny bag is bursting with berries. Back down to the car sometime shortly after noon. Drive back to Seattle before the afternoon rush hour begins!
Some day I’ll come back for Red Mountain. Just you wait, Red…
(Later I mixed the berries with blueberries and made a bomber Huckleberry-Blueberry-Salmonberry cobbler/crisp! It was delicious)
A belated blog post from last month. I hiked Kendall Katwalk the day before hiking Red Mountain at the end of July. A sunny and gradual hike along the PCT from Snoqualmie Pass with stunning views.
Tuesday. July 28, 2015. Hike: Kendall Katwalk. Distance: 12 miles. Elevation gain: 2600 feet. High point: 5400 feet.
I wanted to go on a longer day hike, over 10 miles, but didn’t want anything too crazy in terms of elevation gain and loss. And I didn’t want to drive too far but needed good views…so lo and behold…Kendall Katwalk!
I wake at an average time and wait until rush hour has passed before leaving the city. You either have to leave at 6:30 or 10:30 to play it safe. I get to the trailhead in about an hour, eat a snack, download the topo map of the area, and head out on the trail. The PCT is graded for horse travel, so I knew nothing would be too steep or demanding. Plus, a lot of folks trail run out here if they want ups and downs but nothing too aggressive.
The trail starts out in the woods. Nice and easy. Past a picnic table. Across wide switchbacks. 2 miles in the trail opens up. Nice low views of Guy Peak. And a stand out red mountain – what is it? I consult the topo, guess what? It’s called Red Mountain!
I pass a family of 4 and continue on. Back in the woods. About 4 miles in there is another clearing. Pretty wildflowers. Evidence of an old storm/downed trees. Back into the woods but approaching tree line. Around 5 1/2 miles in, I cross a scree slope and am out in the open – on the Kendall Katwalk. Great views all around. Rainier to the south.
I snack atop the ridge. Continue on until I can see the other side of Kendall Peak and pause there. I take in the views (there’s still a tiny bit of snow up here too). After a few minutes of sitting still, I get moving again.
I retrace my steps across the katwalk and down, down, down the mild slopes. Back to my car and I drive back to Seattle. I’m in a little traffic, but not terrible. I’ll come back for Red Mountain…
THE END OF THE LONG TRAIL! WE’VE DONE IT! WE FINISHED! SO LONG, LONG SWAMP!
Tuesday, July 7 – Day 18
We wake for breakfast at 7:30 and gorge ourselves on the most delicious homemade food: strawberry pancakes with butter and maple syrup, ham and cheese omelet, and coffee. So. Full. We chat with a couple from Arlington MA over breakfast – she’s an artist with landscapes on display at the Brian Gallery in Burlington.
Marsha gives us a ride to the post office, where we pick up our resupply and a care package from Jared filled with chocolate, tanka bars, chocolate, chocolate, chocolate. Yum. We send TWO boxes BACK to Exeter. A rude man in the post office gives us shit for having our resupply stuff spread out, and I give it right back to him. Marsha brings us back to the trailhead, and away we go!
On trail a bit after 10. It’s sooo hot and sooo humid. Yuck. We run into two men hiking immediately. They’re in front of us but going the exact same pace on the uphill, but slower on the downhills. I ask to pass – we do – and then they work hard to keep up with us (enough to kind of sketch me out until I realize they don’t want to beat by girls. Ha too bad suckas.)
We push up to Prospect Rock – a big, hot, humid climb. My legs are burning already. One of the men who was on our tails on the way up pauses at Prospect Rock but the other guy we meet back on the trail – he’d taken a detour around the view somehow. Strange. Another mile or two later we ask him where he’s going…Prospect Rock…well he missed it! Oopsies. Maybe he should think twice before trying to race Andrea and Jean!
We hike uphill to Roundtop Shelter. It has skylights – so cush! Snacktime. Downhill to Plot Road, up and down a small hill, and down to adorable Codding Hollow. Barking labs. Then up, up, up Mt Laraway. A few sprinkles after the summit. Fast hiking to avoid rains. We pass a man with 3 kids who we think are the family of the woman who gave us a ride from Mansfield to Stowe – nice!
We make it to our end point at Corliss Camp around 4 pm – early for us. We settle in and change out of our ridiculously sweaty hiking clothes. I managed to drench my shirt in sweat completely. After a little bit two women, sisters section hiking the trail over 14 years, with their dog join us at the shelter. Porcini risotto for dinner. Yum. We chat and chat swapping LT tales. Eventually sleep.
Wednesday, July 8 – Day 19
It rains overnight but we stay dry in our 4 sided shelter. We hike a moderate distance from Corliss Camp to Tillotson Camp in good weather. We get on trail around 9:45 am and say our farewells to sisters Missy and Diane and dog Rudy. I’m overcaffienated and scatterbrained.
Climbing up Butternut Mountain I immediately shed my wind pants and poncho. Andrea falls in the mud and slides downhill. Amazing. We meander the 6.7 miles from Butternut to Bowen Mountain – somehow the longest unbroken stretch – and eventually make it to Spruce Ledge Lodge. The lodge has nice skylights and it overlooks the Devils Perch Outlook to Belvidere Mountain – our next destination.
We hike down into Devils Gulch, which is pretty cool: flowing water, mossy rocks. Near Ritterbush Pond, up and over a knoll, across Route 118, then up up up Belvidere Mountain. Seemingly neverending. We take the 0.2 mile spur to Belvidere. I climb the windy firetower. I talk to Nancy on the phone, then to Jared. I’ve had such little service so far!
Then up the trail comes a young, tall guy wearing running shorts and Brooks Cascadias. Classic thruhiker. We hadn’t seen him before, so I ask him if he’s southbounding. Nope, northbounding. Something clicks in his head, then he asks, “Wait, are you Lady Luck??!!”. He’d seen our notes in the trail journals along the way and was trying to catch us for days! Awesome. His name is Sporkless. We’ll meet up at camp tonight. For now – back on the trail.
We hike quickly along the swamp trail, at one point having to crawl on hands and knees under a downed tree. We joke about being on Vermonts longest swamp. I’m starting to wonder if it IS really just a long swamp – so much much and roots!
We make it to Tillotson Camp at 7:30 and stay in the shelter with Sporkless – a nice kid! I drink Starbucks hot chocolate and eat my Thanksgiving-on-the-trail dinner. Good chat time, lots of laughter. A good way to end our 14.1 mile day. Sleep.
Thursday, July 9 – Day 20
Second to last day on the LT! We’re so ready to finish tomorrow! Today is long and emotionally tough (that last tough push before I can coast to the finish).
We share hot water with Sporkless who has been stoveless – eating his Idahoans and oatmeal packets with cold water. Yuck. He’s off to finish today!
On the trail just after 8 am, we hike 14.3 miles – up Haystack Mountain, down to Hazen’s Notch, up past a sign for Hazen’s Notch Camp. We see a sign that says 17 miles to Canada – awesome! It seems real now. Up Buchanan Mountain. I led the climb then immediately started falling behind. I’m tired, ready to be done, annoyed be the constant thwacking of overgrown tree branches and mud pits to navigate. Over Domey’s Dome, over Gilpin Mountain, then down to Jay Pass/Route 242.
We sit on the pavement for a few minutes before climbing Jay. We heard it was tough. I’m out of water, but the thought of getting more fuels me on and we race up the mountain in 45 minutes! So easy! The well maintained trail without swamps or branches to the face make the hike a breeze. People take the chair lift to the top and it’s a popular tourist destination, so there’s a cafe at the summit.
The cafe is closed, but we get to go inside, warm up, fill water, get TP, and use real toilets before the building closes at 5:15pm. I buy a gingerale from the soda machine and it pushes off the hanger for a while.
Downhill less than an hour more to camp at Laura Woodward Shelter. Our last shelter of the trip – it’s just us! Our only night that we didn’t meet another person at a shelter! I wash my feet. Eat dinner. I’m tired. Sleep…
Friday, July 10 – Day 21
LAST DAY!! We wake at Laura Woodward shelter – it had rained overnight. So much humidity means everything is soaked with sweat and never dried, as per usual. I eat granola, drink coffee, and finish the last of my coveted maple syrup. We start hiking around 7 am.
Up Doll Peak – so much fog! Eventually it starts to burn off and there’s sunshine. We shoot past Shooting Star Shelter, up little Burnt Mountain, then down to North Jay Pass where there’s road construction. It’s the last road crossing and we’re in the home stretch! I know I can make it, but I stop for a snack of nut butter and a probar to ensure I’m not hangry – I like to finish a trail on a full stomach so I’m happy. Andrea is a few steps ahead. I pass a trail runner who says “You’re almost there!” – yessss!
Up our last little peak – Carleton Mountain – then downhill! I take as many pictures of blazes (good ol’ Buddy Blaze) as I can. We cross the 45th latitude. Sweet. Then a sign…the end! Hooray! Yay! We did it!
Pics, monument, border swath, Canada! Snacks.
Then we hike the 1.3 miles out. Halfway there we stop at Journey’s End Shelter. The walls of the shelter are covered with quotes that hikers have written on their way out. I scrawl a few more. We find a note from Sporkless in the trail journal – so awesome! We hike on out. Just before the end of the trail, we meet N&C! We all hike on down the trail together, then pile in the car. Success.
On the way back to Glencliff, we stop at the Kingdom Taproom for real food and Hill Farmstead beer – a great find. Now it really feels complete.
Stowe to Johnson today! Hotel to B&B! It’s a cush life… Our last town stop before we’re DONE WITH THE LONG TRAIL! Yippee!
Monday, July 6 – Day 17
We eat our free breakfast and check out of the motel. We hitch a ride from a woman named Gail who owns one of the sports stores downtown and knows someone who used to work at Phillips Exeter Academy (where Andrea works) – small world.
We’re on the trail around 9:15am and we begin with a steep ascent up to Elephant’s Head (a worthy view of Smuggler’s Notch) and to Sterling Pond. A sweet spot! We say hello to the caretaker next to the shelter. He enthusiastically feeds us cookies – so excited to have spotted some LT thruhikers. Then up Madonna Peak where I sing Borderline, across ski trails, and to a Smuggler’s Notch ski lift. Up Morse Mountain, snack at Whiteface Lodge. I had my second epic fall of the trek – I slipped on a rock and my feet literally slipped out and up into the air before seemed to levitate in the air and fall smack onto my ass and pack. I’ll have a nice bruise.
Down to Bear Hollow. We call Nye’s B&B from there – we plan to stay there tonight and are calling for a ride. Down the fast trail from there, mostly on roads, past sugarlines, taps, log yards, and homes. Down a rail trail, across a hayfield, and by a cemetery. At last at Route 15! I call Nye’s and Marsha picks us up in her white convertible and drives us back to her most adorable and hospitable B&B.
At Nye’s they do our laundry, stuff dryer sheets into our stinky shoes, drive us into the tiny town of Jefferson where we get burgers and beer at the Village Tavern, and pick us up. I manage to thwack myself in the face with the car seat. Awesome. Shower. Sleep.