This trip had an interesting start, as I was back from London without much sleep and decided to take advantage of good weather on Monday and Tuesday (Sep 15-16) to head out. But first I was supposed to pick up some new pants from Beyond Clothing, and waited at the Seattle store for the UPS truck to arrive with said trousers. As I finally had to head out the door from the no show truck, they sent me to their warehouse in Kent to pick up a pair on the way to the mountain. No belt on these puppies so I stopped at my buddy's house in Puyallup to get one. They told me I am the first one with these as they are not for sale yet. These shopping delays had me on the trail past 3:30 Pm on Monday.
This trip was really about gear testing, mostly the clothing and a ZPacks specially made Cuben EVent jacket (long cut). My rest system, as of course I had no permits and I was simply going to rest and not camp, consisted of clothing, my 9.7 oz quilt, a custom 3/4 length bivy (made for me 2 years ago) and my new ZPacks XLarge Long jacket for the top. I also sported a half length Z Rest pad and used my pointy hat for my feet. Add in a few more items and my pack weight was 8 lbs, plus not knowing how long I was going to be out, I had about 6 pounds of food.
I might call this the "freedom hike" as I had no itinerary and the option to quit at any point along the way with transport available via my InReach. I set off and enjoyed about 4 hours of daylight and a delightful evening on the Cowlitz Divide, though Indian Bar and over Panhandle Gap to Summerland. The quarter moon rose, the stars were ablaze and I had expansive views through this whole section, albeit without color. As I approached Panhandle Gap the moon disappeared behind a dark cloud and incredibly, exactly at the Gap, it started to rain and hail on me. "Really!?" I said out loud and unfortunately had packed my rain jacket deep inside my pack as I didn't expect to use it until the next day. Hail pelted me as I dug through the pack and finally donned the jacket and crossed the snowless Gap in the rain/hail mix. Somewhere at the bottom I lost the trail and spent 15 minutes reacquiring it in the indistinct features of dark sky and wet rock. By the time I got to Summerland the moon was shining again along with the stars. My own personal rain cloud, I guess. Well I did want to test the clothing under various conditions. By the time I was slightly above the Fryingpan Creek trailhead I figured I should get some sleep, so set up my system in a soft spot right next to the trail and caught about an hour and a half. I awoke to lightening skies so quickly packed up and headed out. Physically things still felt good although I am not so fast going up hill. Tuesday the 16th was clear and very pleasant, on the warm side, and I saw a few people around the Sunrise area as I continued CCW. By the time I got to Skyscraper Pass the clouds were moving in and one could see a change in weather was afoot, as predicted.
I wondered when I was going to get some decent sleep and finally stopped above Dick Creek and bedded down again, this time for about 3 hours. After getting up and heading down the trail, I was distinctly aware that my sleep bank was getting precariously low and noticed its lack on my thinking and my swiftness. However, I was still quite enjoying myself in my nighttime wanderings, having heard bugling elk, startled by large creatures suddenly crashing away in the trees, and uttering one "holy sh$t" when a bat swooped right in front of my face. Fun times. It stopped being fun on the climb to Ipsut Pass, as the motor was really running out of gas and I felt some blisters coming on on my little toes. Interesting as I have over 200 trail miles on my Inov8 TrailRocs and haven't had to hit the foot kit for years. When I stopped to address the problem I discovered that my stuff sack with all the foot goodies contained a bunch of useless wet stuff, probably from the soaking it received on my Pasayten hike. I rummaged around and could only come up with wrapping my little toe with Elasticon as everything else was useless. Note to self, obtain waterproof container and redo first aid/foot kit. Anyway, I fully admit that by the time I reached Ipsut Pass I was worked, the first time since I started that my fun meter was pegging. As if to edge me in the right direction, I mistakingly somehow just followed the trail towards Eunice Lake. My wandering mind didn't realize something was amiss until I had wasted another 45 minutes on this side trip. As Mowich was my last pickup spot I decided that tackling the remaining 35 miles would certainly put me in the sufferfest realm. I texted my ride (man, I love that InReach!) and caught some sleep before the pickup, luckily testing my sleep system in the rain. I was too tired to move under shelter. I did come to a few realizations though: 1. Get some sleep before a big trip. 2. Start early for a normal schedule and plan to camp for quality rest. 3. Come to grips that in a few months I'll be 60, I can't play like I used to. 4. If I want to do night hiking, go for just one day like I did recently on my Curtis Ridge/Old Desolate trip. A reminder that one can always make a deposit into the experience bank. In this 40 hour period I covered 60 miles and 14,300 feet of elevation.