Day Eleven
Lava Springs to unnamed spring near Walupt Lake Trail

11.5 miles

Summary: Long forest walks through flat terrain. You cross a few forest service roads here and may see hunters or even immigrants harvesting bear grass. You pass eight ponds before hiking up to 5700 feet on a ridge above Walupt Lake. Could be nice views--we had rain.

From my trail journal, "Another wet day. We are so tired of it. It rained in the morning so I didn't want to get up." We waited and waited and at last it stopped. It was time for a quick breakfast, so I made Mountain House freeze-dried eggs and bacon and served it with backpacker's carrot cake that I had made at home. It started misting so we had to cover the food with an umbrella. Chuck and Beth thought this was so memorable they made me hold the margarine bottle for a photo. Then we packed up our damp tents and hoped for the best.

The Parkay Margarine added a Martha Stewart touch to our breakfast. Note how we had to protect our food with an umbrella.

As we passed the Lava Springs we filled up with water the guidebook says may be the best along the entire 2,650 miles of the PCT! It was unusual-a slightly sodium taste to the outpourings. One of the hunters came down to talk with us. He said it takes years for the water to filter through the lava field (I don't have any way of confirming this). The trail telegraph was still working, "More rain is coming," he warned us. I asked him to take a shot of the four of us and he kindly obliged.

Tom, Chuck, Beth and Kevin at the Lava Springs.

Once beyond the lava flow we were in flatter country. At times the PCT followed an old road bed and served as the boundary between forest service land and the Yakama Indian Reservation. We saw truck tracks on the road and soon came across a Latino immigrant with bunches of grass in his pack. He told us he was harvesting bear grass for florists in Tacoma, who would give him $25 a bunch.

Later, at a road crossing, I took a break and saw two hunters drive by in a pickup. There were wearing their camouflage and looked rather serious, but I chatted with them for a few minutes anyway. I also ran into Huff, the through hiker. It was surprising to see so much activity on the trail.

By noon it was misting again. Once more I had to take shelter under a tree to eat lunch. This was getting to be absurd. For a week I had worn only shorts. Now I had to wear three layers to eat lunch. How much longer could this last?

We had thought about camping on one of the eight ponds that are set along this stretch of trail, but it was only lunchtime. The three others wanted to push on while it was only overcast or misting. I agreed. We thought there might be a lake slightly off the trail we could use after climbing a ridge above Walupt Lake, so we set off for this destination.

As we climbed the ridge, Kevin and I got ahead of Beth and Chuck. The weather got ugly. It was cold and raining pretty hard by the time we got to the top of the 5,700-foot ridge. As we came down on the other side, we bumped into a solitary hiker going southbound.

I was on the lookout for a southbound hiker from Australia, David Booth. We both subscribe to the PCT-L list and had chatted off line about our trips. He was hiking from the Canadian border to the Columbia River in August and September. I told him that there was a chance we'd meet on the trail in the Goat Rocks as I was hiking northbound from the river.

I asked this southbounder if he was "David from Australia" and he said he was. I revealed that I was "Tom from Seattle" and he said, "Well, I wouldn't have recognized you. You don't look like the photos on your Web site." We were pretty excited to see each other in the flesh after conversing over the Internet. He told me about the fabulous trip he was having. "Did you see the Knife's Edge in the Goat Rocks" " I asked. "Well, no, it was raining and foggy when I crossed it," he replied. We talked about gear, about crossing the border, about where to camp that night, but then we had to get going. Kevin snapped a photo of the two of us and we parted ways.

David Booth from Australia and me at our meeting on the PCT.

It was rainy, cold and getting late. I had no idea if this off-trail lake had a campsite, or if we would even find the trail to it. The book did mention a spring at the bottom of the ridge-one of the last opportunities for good water for a while. When we got there, Kevin and I agree this was far enough. We would camp here, even though there was not a dedicated campsite.

We did find two flat places under the trees for our tents. Beth was pretty cold from the long walk in the rain and Chuck set up their tent quickly and even rigged a temporary rain fly using an emergency poncho. Kevin built a fire ring and then started a fire. Thank God I had brought a tube of fire starter.

Chuck and Beth pose in front of their tent with a poncho used as an improvised rain fly.

Soon another through hiker showed up-Fashion Plate Dan. He stopped for water at the spring and was eager to chat. He had an injury that kept him off the trail for a while in the early part of the summer, but he healed up and was back at it. Chuck asked him why he was doing it. Dan said that his job was just going nowhere and he felt like now was the time to make a break. I asked if most of the through hikers were younger kids in college or just graduating, and he said that maybe 2/3 were, but another 1/3 were older and didn't fit any stereotype.

That night we tried to dry our socks at the fire. At one point I had to hold an umbrella over Beth while she tried to dry her socks. We were getting wetter and wetter. Their single-wall tent just wasn't holding up as well as the tent Kevin and I shared with the rain fly. If our down bags got soaked, then we'd really be in trouble, I thought. As it was, I was wearing my down vest and my wool hat at night. Fortunately, my sleeping bag was still warm and cozy.

Beth dries her socks over the fire while I hold an umbrella over her. Are we having fun yet?

Day Twelve
Day Thirteen
Day Fourteen
Day Fifteen
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