Sunday, September 14, 2014

PCT Mount Hood to Columbia River day 4: Chilly Ridge to Mouse Camp

Little waterfall on Eagle Creek Trail

PCT Mount Hood to Columbia River day 4: Chilly Ridge to Mouse Camp
Trail mile 2132 -2144 12 miles

The sun rose just like it does every  morning and Aimless was still not there.  I boiled water for coffee without getting out of my tent.  When I did get up I found that the cold wind was still blowing and I was getting chilled. I needed to get moving, I could not wait around and get hypothermia.

I started hiking at about 7:15 but first I left a note in the dirt to let Aimless know that I was going 12 miles just like we had planned on.

Communication on the trail
 I like hiking early in the morning because the light is nice, my body is fresh and the animals are out.  Shortly I saw a flash of brown and heard a thundering sound in the woods.  Then I saw a flash of an antler and the thundering moved down the hill.  It was  a big bull elk!  What  noise that elk made running away from me.  I could see the elk tracks and could tell that the elk had only been on the trail for about 40 feet before it saw me and then went back down the hill where it came from.  Down at the bottom of the hill at the base of a small avalanche chute I could hear the elk bugling at me.  What a thrill!

Elk Track
I noticed that I felt good even though I had hiked three days in a row.  My body was getting used to this section hiking thing.  This section hike was proving to be much easier than the last one, it was not too hot, the elevation was not too high and I never lost my appetite.

Soon I reached the spring where I had gotten water the night before, then the trail continued on the ridge until it dropped down and crossed an old logging road. 

Some hikers who had spent the night at Lost Lake passed me.  They said that they had not seen anyone on the trail.  The woman was restarting her hike with a friend after her dad had to bail out due to tendon problems near Sandy River.  They had started hiking from Lolo pass at 5:30 in the evening and they left Lost Lake at 5:30 the next morning, they never saw Aimless.  I thought that was a strange, but maybe Aimless was off the trail  in a campsite when they passed by.

Eventually the trail came out onto a wide open ridge with a stunning view of Mount St. Helens, Mount Ranier and then finally Mount Adams all at the same time.

Mount Adams

my first sighting of an umbilical lichen

After leaving the ridge the trail drops down to Indian Springs.  There were hikers at a picnic table there, a van was parked there as well.  I hoped it was trail magic, but it was not.

I greeted the hikers a the table, two were the ones who passed me when I was in my tent.  They recognized my voice as belonging to the person with the giant tent.  The other two hikers were the ones who had passed me after hiking out of Lost Lake early in the morning.  They all asked if I had found Aimless and I told them I had not.

The spring was nice and cold but I could see that it was coming up out of the dirt just behind a cement block, the cement block dammed the spring and sent it out through a pipe.  I wondered if that pipe would make people who normally filtered their water think that this water was okay?  I saw so many nasty things on this hike that I opted to filter every ounce of water that I drank, including the water coming out of this spring.

I left the spring and headed down the Indian Springs trail to the Eagle Creek trail as we had planned to do.  The Indian Springs trail drops about 2,000 feet in two miles, for the PCT that is a steep grade but it would just be business as usual in the Olympics.  The trail was easy enough, I did not slip at all, but when I saw a nice campsite next to the trail I suddenly found my self sitting down in it.

   I sat in that campsite for about two hours until a couple of older men passed me.  I had a nice conversation with them.  They were doing a loop that included a lake and they opted to hike up the Indian Springs trail rather than down it.   I asked them to tell my friend that I was headed for Blue Grouse Camp on the Eagle Creek Trail if they saw her.  I also sent my friend a text with my Delorme to let her know that was where I was headed.  The men belonged to the van that was parked at Indian Springs.

Indian Springs Trail

Indian Springs trail meets the Eagle Creek Trail here

I dropped down to the Eagle Creek trail at about 2:30 and headed for our camp that was just on the other side of tunnel falls.  There were a lot of day hikers out so I gave up on asking people where Aimless was.  Day hikers would not have seen her.

I was surprised at the lack of maintenance on this popular trail.

Tunnel Falls

Tunnel behind tunnel falls

tunnel behind tunnel falls

I came around a corner and all of the sudden there was tunnel falls, the famous waterfall with a tunnel blasted into the rock behind it.  I had been so looking forward to seeing it.  But worrying about where my friend was took a lot of the fun out of it.

At about 4pm I reached the "Blue Grouse" camp site that was exactly 12 miles from where I had camped the night before.  I left arrows on the trail to direct Aimless to where I was camped.  I also posted a note on a tree with a peice of paper.

I was pretty tired when I got to camp so I plopped myself down onto a log and numbly sat there for a while trying to figure out what camp chore to do first.  I had been rationing my food and I was looking forward to dinner.  I had just enough fuel left to cook dinner tonight and make coffee in the morning.  Dinner was not very tasty but I ate it all anyway.  I washed down my dinner with cold chocolate milk since I did not have enough fuel left for hot chocolate milk.

Aimless never did arrive at this campsite and I went to bed at about 7:30.  As soon as I fell sleep a mouse came and woke me up by jumping on top of my cook pot.  I fell asleep again and the mouse woke me up again.  I got up and moved my cookpot to the other side of the campsite so the mouse would not disturb me any more.  I had made the mistake of keeping my cookpot next to my head after I was done with my chocolate drink.  I always put my lid on my pot and put a huge rock on the lid to keep mice out of my pot, but I suppose mice still lick around the edge of my pot lid.

I started to send a message to my spouse asking him if we should report Aimless as missing, but the message did not send, so I deleted it and went to sleep.  I would have to deal with it in the morning.  I hoped I was making the right choice by not upsetting her family and not calling out search and rescue.  Maybe she was just slow, or maybe she was dying of exposure with an open leg fracture after falling off of a cliff, or maybe she had bailed out at Indian Springs or maybe she was wandering around in circles in the woods or maybe she had forgotten about me.  There was just no telling what had happened.

Day 3
Day 4
Day 5

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