Start Mile: 2182.1, 6/26/2018

This morning I woke up to the 5:00 am bird call alarm, cold, tired and not wanting to move. It’s funny how the birds all quiet down within an hour but right as the sun is coming out they ALL let loose. I can’t understand it. It’s not a species things – you have to go several layers up on Linnaeus taxonomy to cover all those things squawking together at sunrise (well, not together, more like on top of each other).

Soon, “disaster” struck. I couldn’t find my one and only eating utensil – my spoon. I carefully retraced steps from last night with no success. After slurping down a liquid breakfast to compensate, I ultimately found it hiding under my air mattress. 3.5 hours and 3,300 pointless steps later, I left camp When everything has multiple uses the loss of even the simplest of things is traumatic. The naughty spoon now has orange duct tape.

You see, camp miles don’t count. While I am not obsessed with finishing, but if I walk 1.5 miles in the morning before hitting the trail, I’ve just used a bunch of calories that are unplanned for. It’s all about fuel.

Neighbors did give me some hot chocolate spiked with cinnamon red hots to go. Ooh, luxury.

The hike began with, yet again, a bridge to mark a boundary into a new section.

I needed the red hots because the day starts with a grueling 3,600 ft ascent in 9 miles.

I soon found this on the ground …

And instinctively I immediately looked up:

Time to move on…

Along the way I thought about two of the most pervasive plants in the underbrush. First, there is the Thimbleberry, or as David calls it, “Nature’s Toilet Paper”.

Its soft leaves have all sorts of purposes for the long distance hiker. And its berries are edible, to boot! What a useful plant to know.

Next is the ever present Vanilla Leaf plant with their telltale duck foot shaped leaves. There are all sorts fun things about these plants:

  • Bend back the middle lead and you have moose antlers
  • Bend back the side to leaves and you have a duck foot
  • Dry the leaves and they smell like vanilla
  • And dried or even fresh leaves rubbed on your skin can act as a mosquito repellant!
  • Finally, I’ve always been amazed at how they can shoot up that stamen spike so that it is perfect in the center of all three leaves.

The flowers themselves are beautiful upon inspection.

Moving on, the trail continued to climb and I found several instances of one of my all time favorite flowers – the rare Phantom Orchid.

The entire plant is completely white other than a small amount of yellow in the flowers. How does it survive? Its roots have a symbiotic – or possibly parasitic – relationship with the roots of the nearby trees that make energy for it. It is an incredible instance of nature.

As I climbed further on, I thought about the Ship of Theseus question after thinking about how much of our body is being remade, how much of it is not even our DNA – something I’ve written about before. It was spurred by thinking of the Linnaeus taxonomy being rejiggered due to DNA studies. It also sparks questions from Westworld as humans move to robotic hosts with age.

Here is the philosophical question: As Theseus’ ship was preserved over the years (hypothetically) boards and planks were replaced until everything was not original. Was it still his ship? If not, hen did it stop? So is it the material that defines the entity? Memory? Form?

I came to the conclusion that I think it is best to consider identity as root defined by lineage. We are who we are not because material, memory or form – but by our lineage or linear connection to the past. We are who we are now because of who we were before. It is an interesting definition that shakes up the concept of personal identity. It also brings to the forefront of the other form of lineage – your familial lineage across generations. And with that, my hats off to my parents for creating my identity, extending their own, and providing a foundation upon which my whole sense of self is based upon.

With the gaining elevation, grand vistas would occasionally peek out, including this beauty of one with Mt Hood and the gorge.

At one rest stop I came across an old stump that showed what branches look like on the inside of the tree (photo is taken looking down).

As I climbed up and east, the forest subtly changed. I could see more than a 100 feet ahead as the vegetation was shorter – although I couldn’t say for certain if it was due to rain shadow or less growing time since the snow melt.

Along the way I found a viewpoint to the south that finally gave me one bar of cell – first one in three days. I made a call home and was instantly transported back to the trials of home life. It was a tough call, and took a bit of time to process and remind myself why I am on the trail. I’m appreciative of my wife for taking care of the home life while I am out.

The climb continued and gave me ample drive to focus on some of the reasons why I am on the hike, as I forced one Achilles’ tendon push in front of another (they are no longer just steps). I pondered what changes .. or should I say additions .. I’d like to make on myself and how I wish to be thought of in the world.

After an hour climbing I was greeted with the best view of the hike so far – and truly the image doesn’t capture it.

And with it came one bar of LTE! I did a data sync on upcoming trail notes, downloaded scat and bird ID apps and closed out any remaining emails that were critical.

Onwards and upwards, but soon I got that telltale burning sign that your body is going into serious repair mode. My best guess is that I had only minutes away before my first foot blister on m heel. Leukotape time. Listening to your body on the trail is a hard requirement.

Unfortunately that didn’t do it as the burning got worse. But I had only a little left to go (blue dot):

I soon learned though that it was below the skin that was the problem. Continuing on, soon both Achilles Tendons were barking up a storm – the ascent with pack were testing them. I had never before felt this muscle – but now I was hyper sensitive to its use. I figured out some work arounds in gait, and the ever increasingly beautiful vistas spurred me on, including my first real sighting of Mt Adams:

Reaching the peak, I enjoyed some butterflies feasting on columbines

I was now in Huckleberry country – if only it was August.

Walking along the crest now, I enjoyed a strong crop of bunchberry growing everywhere. I am partial to the bunchberry and it’s refine-ness.

In particular, bunch berry looks best when growing against an old stump – which they seem to love to do.

I also found this huge fungi – I’ve sent a picture to my Naturalist daughter for identification.

Soon after, I came to the first and only (and even only for first half of tomorrow) water supply.

Yup, that’s it. A piped spring. Strangely, managing the water supply was easier now – so caused me no huge concern.

The spring also gave me a moment to assess my co travelers on the trail. With the tracks in the mud around the spring, I could count the number of recent travelers and their direction. Hmm, at least three headed south – only one set headed north – presumably Weatherman’s.

Eventually the forest changed to more western forest, as the lush canopy disappear as headed into a rain shadow. Eventually I made it on to a lava field from Helens which was great fun to walk along as my hiking poles made ever changing thunking sounds – it was hollow underneath the path!

All around I could see lava caves and cave-ins. What a treat for my evening walk.

Walking through the lava fields I found some classic bobcat scat:

Looking at the notes in Guthook, I saw that there was a recent bear sighting here as well – and the landscape was turning to classic bear country with lots of fresh huckleberry shoots growing. I soon was calling “hey bear” with every bend in the trail – for the last two hours of the trail.

The day ended with another forest service campground. This time it was deserted – except for mosquitos. And tonight I would be blessed with… a bench – A REAL BENCH!!

Day 4 Stats:

  • Beginning mileage: 2182.1
  • Ending mileage: 2197.9
  • Trail Miles completed: 15.8
  • FitBit Steps:
  • FitBit Miles:
  • FitBit Flights of Stairs:
  • FitBit Calories Burned:
  • Weather: chilly morning, beautiful perfect day
  • iPhone Battery: sub 40%
  • InReach Battery:
  • Anker battery: 2 out 4

  • People Parties Met: 0 !!
  • Confirmed PCT hikers: 0 !!
  • Conversations about PCT: 0 !!

  • Wakeup: 5:00 AM
  • Camp Departure: 8:30 AM
  • Camp Arrival: 8:00 PM
  • Sleep Attempted: 11:00 pm
  • Camp Co-Inhabitors: 0
  • Morning Pack rolls: 5 1/2


  • Sorest Body Part: the Achilles’ tendon , no doubt
  • Highlight of the Day: seeing Mt Hood peak over the gorge
  • What did I shed from civilization: nearby campground’s pit toilet in the morning was not to be feared, but oh so loved!
  • Realization of the day: we are defined by our lineage
  • Trail tidbit I learned today: put orange tape on anything you don’t want to lose.