Start mile: 0 – off trail, 6/28/2018

It was a chilly night and morning. Easily into the lower 40s, possibly 30s. It took every layer of clothing on me not to shiver. Since last night I’ve been able to see my breath. I am further glad I was not camping a 1,000+ ft up where I was 12 hours ago.

For today, my trail was a dirt road into the town of Trout Lake where I’d hang out for a shuttle Friday (and after a reconnect with my wife, we pushed this to Saturday).

It was first for me to walk a road for 17 miles. And a first for me to try and hitchhike. But it soon became apparent that like the Campsite, this road was not really in use. Here is what it looks like:

I did manage to see a few cars heading the other direction. One stopped to check that I was ok – and they were in complete amazement that I was walking all the way to Trout Lake. Funny, it seemed like an easy walk to me now 🙂

Saw my first elk – on the road of course. More wet to follow – it was great fun to study then as they watched me with befuddlement.

But as it turns out, road walking is .. well, not that interesting. I put my mind loose on what lesson to learn. Soon I saw a marker on the map that said ice caves were 3 miles off. Thinking of the ice caves Ms Tomlinson went to 35 years ago in Europe I got jazzed about seeing the Washington State lava version. Now I was hoping not for a hitchhike – at least for the next three miles.

That got me thinking about the difference between a destination and a heading. Thinking I am heading to trout lake opens many doors mentally over my destination is trout lake. How can I make my path through life more of a heading rather than a destination. It solves the chase vs the kill problem by an orthogonal angle. It also addresses Andrew Herman’s distaste for goal setting that I could never put my personal weight behind. A heading is a balance between knowing where you are going and the freedom to wander.

I eventually came to an intersection o my to find an information booth on the family who lived here – The Peters! Somehow their name got changed to Peterson when the campground was created – but any Peters will tell you that’s pretty normal.

The information display tells a heck of a story about saving cattle in a harsh winter. It brought me clear to the question of Trail Angels, of which I could reach out to for a possible ride in to trout lake. But then, maybe it is instead a lesson that debts are not to be doubled down. Can you imagine the act of solidarity today? I have trust that it is there in the same degree, but again, in society we are not tested to that level. With generations passing does generosity insisted dissolve?

With my new heading of ice caves, I found a side road leading to Natural Bridges – and only 1 mike off current heading.

While I debated the unspoken question, my feet interceded nd I turned to go back. But there was a snowmobile trail heading in my direction – so I headed there instead.

At one point the trail was washed out giving a glimpse beneath the soil. Pulling from my geologist classes the tumultuous and recent history of this area was clear in the layers.

I also got to see some bob cat evidence.

It is funny, for as I was preparing for the trip I distinctly remembering seeing the ice caves and even did a calculation to see how far off trail they were. It was fate that pulled me here. We just need to listen for her.

And she delivered – the ice caves were amazing.

From the stairs alone you could feel the coldness.

For those unused to the Pacific Northwest, Lava caves are formed when a slow moving flow of magma cools on the outside slowly enough for the inner magma to drain out, leaving behind a cave just beneath the surface.

Inside, stalactites and stalagmites and full columns made of glass ice were everywhere.

Even the floor was a sheet of ice.

I took pictures using the light of my headlamp, which seemed to work better than a flash.

The individual stalagmites were amazing in their detail.

This one had a fan like crystallization formation:

And look at these designs:

Stranger still, the rocks had some sort of gold dust on them – I could not tell if it was a living creature or inherent to the rock – either way, it made the rocks glisten like gold when the light would shine directly on them. Fascinating! Unfortunately the effect is barely visible in images.

Turns out they harvested ice from here for years. They ice even showed up in mixed drinks in The Dallas.

One enterprising fellow in the 1920’s discovered that a potato stored in the cave would go over a month without sprouting.

After exiting the cave and chatting briefly with a Navy guy and his wife visiting from Whidbey Island, I returned to the now paved road for the remaining 7 miles to town and mile further to the motel. A couple of miles of the hard pavement had my legs barking stronger than they ever did on the trail and with five miles still to go – they officially called it quits when a calf muscle cramped. Miles went to yards on how much I had left.

So after giving a few passing cars exhausted but unrequited looks, I actually stood up and did a few practice thumbs up to help breakdown my resistance to hitchhiking.

Within a minute a small car came in to view and I put my thumb out – and voila, they stopped!

They were a full car and I somehow squeezed my pack poles and body in amongst the crew. The gal driving was in her 40s and looked fresh from a daytime talk show on some bizarre issue in normal America. Front passenger seat was a short, bald and goateed biker guy that looked like one of those biker types that might have a soft spot, but you never want to test the theory. And lastly I shared the back seat with bushy mustaches Canadian in his late fifties that kept eye contact far too long – which can be fine except his eyes were a little wider and wild-eye than normal. I could tell instantly I was his new specimen. Oh, and the car looked to be 20 years old and had warning lights blinking in the dashboard regarding engine issues that clearly have been long ignored.

And they were the nicest people – and that assessment is independent of the fact that they were giving me a free ride.

Conversation quickly turned to Sasquatch – as I learned that the bond between them was their hunt (although they deplored the word hunt) for Sasquatch. The wild eyed man explained to me that Sasquatch can only be seen with an open heart and mind. They can read your minds, you see. Think to yourself – or even say out loud – “I am Geoff, I come in Peace” and they will soon appear to you. But you have to be open to it. In fact, he could tell that I had the energy, the aura, to commune with Sasquatch – and was convinced that the Sasquatch made my legs give out so that I could meet with them to get the lesson to open my heart to the Sasquatch. I tried to get a word in edgewise about my friend David, but every word seemed to convince the fellow that I was in need of further affirmation that we were brought together by them for a reason.

Well.. what a fascinating 10 minutes ride into town and to the motel.

I checked in to the motel and immediately laid down on the bed (what an incredibly under appreciated invention!). I nearly fell asleep in a hot bath I was so exhausted. Being in societal comforts again, I began to realize that the 225,000 steps I had taken in the past 6 days was not normal routine from the perspective of this hot bath.

I walked into town to get some dinner – realizing that I again had pushed through the day with minimal food intake. I ordered two and a half meals – a full salad, the biggest burger they had, and a side of fries.

I chatted up the cook and my neighboring bar seat mate, a man in his early thirties dressed in camo. He was mildly introverted shy but had a crooked smile and clearly had see grueling manual labor for much of his life thus far (turns out, he was in construction and did everything from septic tanks to road construction for timber companies)

As we talked, I learned my seat mate was at least third generation Trout Lake native. For context, Trout Lake consists of a General Store, a motel, and two restaurants. His graduating class in high school was 17 (which we got a good laugh at when I first expressed amazement that it was only – and incorrectly heard – 70).

I leant him my iPhone charger and he told me stories of how is grandmother used to have (or was it make for him?) milkshakes using the ice from the Ice Cave. There is also another cave on private land that is called the Cheese Cave for reasons left unnecessary to say. It was a great conversation.

My meal soon arrived, and bid farewell to the fellow (whose name was Jason) and turned my attention to more food than I’ve eaten in one setting in ages. I chatted up the cook and waitress duo behind counter (yeah, I was in full regalia extroverted style in order to seep in the life of Trout Lake).

We gossiped a bit about the town and shared some cooking tips. Inside the place, beside the 8 bar seat counter, there were three tables for guests, and being a summertime business there was lots of outside seating.

Strangely, the inside tables tonight were occupied by a single large group of young men fresh from presumably Africa. Their accents were thick and their skin was about as dark as I’ve seen. With them, were two mid 60’s very congenial men, with white western mustaches and lots of jokes told with winks. Oh, and they paid the bill.

I struggled with this contrast all through dinner and could not figure out the answer. Who where they, and why are they here of all places – I wondered as they ordered clearly their first ever huckleberry (or any flavor) homemade milkshake.

If they were here for academic reasons, then their two handlers would have looked – well academic. So I finally learned over to the cook and pleaded, “what do you think is the story with them?”

The smile in his pause told me that he was not trying to figure out the answer but rather trying to figure out whether or not to tell me. Finally, he leaned over and whispered “Its either for UFOs or for Sasquatch”.

My eyes narrowed as he continued on. Turns out, he says, Trout Lake is a world capital for both the Yeti and the SETI crowds, with major sightings having occurred for both within 50 miles of here. When I asked him if he was shitting me, he explained further – People pay tons of money to have guys take them for a couple of weeks to find UFOs or Sasquatch, depending on which brochure they read. He has seen lots of Australians come in, but occasional groups from everywhere else.

As I reflected on my hitchhiking experience earlier, I gave in to belief and concluded that these guys were indeed swindled by these charming fast talking jokesters. In fact, it was now easy to see the skeptics in the group that came along for the ride.

With my belly unbelievably full, and my thirst for culture at least temporarily quenched, I went to pay for the bill…

… and it turns out the construction worker paid for my massive meal already. Now you don’t see that happen in the city. Feeling guilty that a guy who works so hard for a living paid my bill secretly before leaving, I assuaged my guilt by leaving a big tip for the cook (Jessie) and waitress (Rachel).

I walked home and promptly crashed.

Daily Stats:

  • Beginning mileage: 2210.8
  • Ending mileage: 2210.8
  • Trail Miles completed: 0
  • FitBit Steps: 35,716
  • FitBit Miles: 16.84
  • FitBit Flights of Stairs: 33
  • FitBit Calories Burned: 4,656
  • Weather: Cold but clear
  • iPhone Battery: 20%
  • InReach Battery: 10%

  • People Parties Met: 5
  • Confirmed PCT hikers: 0
  • Conversations about PCT: 0

  • Wakeup: 6:15 am
  • Camp Departure: 9:30 am
  • Camp Arrival: 4:30 pm
  • Sleep Attempted:
  • Camp Co-Inhabitors:
  • Morning Pack rolls:

  • Sorest Body Part: calf
  • Highlight of the Day: small town gossip
  • What did I shed from civilization: fear of hitchhiking
  • Realization of the day: People are driven to be spiritual, and that void can be filled in many ways.
  • Trail tidbit I learned today: don’t walk on pavement – ever!