For the second year in a row, I joined the Nomads staffing an aid station along the course of the Cascade Crest 100. This is an epic race, and our aid station is just 15 miles in. We get the runners while they’re still fresh and fairly happy.
The organizers reserve the group camp area of the Silver Ridge Ranch for folks coming out for the race – runners, volunteers, spectators, support & pacing crews. It’s probably the quietest camp anywhere, as folks are heading out on a huge undertaking the next morning. The noise of nearby I-90 is ever-present, but unlike nearby Lake Easton State Park, it’s not next to a railway.
I found a spot with a good tree and hung my hammock between the tree & my truck. I had all my backpacking gear, so I made my dinner on my backpacking stove (meaty mac & cheese). It was a cool evening, so the hot & gooey meal hit the spot.
I use my 45°F sleeping bag as an underquilt. The bag has a two-way zipper that runs the full length of the bag, so I can run the hammock through the far end. I was delighted to discover I can zip the bag up over my other bag – a 25°F bag – for extra warmth. Theoretically, I could use the 45°F alone this way. The down side is that it makes it impossible to get diagonal in the hammock – a necessity to lie on one’s side – but this hammock is a little too narrow to get very diagonal.
I should have slept very well, but alas, there was a nearby group who were pretty noisy until well after midnight. They weren’t with our group, but sound travels easily. They were talking too loudly for me to fall asleep. It was frustrating, but they did finally quiet down. I resisted the temptation to walk to their campsite at 7 a.m. and talk loudly outside their tents.
After the sweepers went through the aid station, we got everything packed up. On the way up to Easton, I stopped at a thrift store and found a nice-looking pair of hiking shoes. It was a risk, but I decided to try them out on this trip. (Better to do it on an overnight than a week-long hike!) Alas, I neglected to pack my hiking socks, and I didn’t want to try out ‘new’ shoes with socks that sometimes cause discomfort in my little toe. So I headed into Cle Elum to pick up socks.
All this activity meant I didn’t make it onto the trail until almost 5:30 p.m. Sunset was a little before 8, so I knew I needed to have a campsite by 7. I debated whether to bring water, but decided against it as it looked like I’d be passing a few water sources along the way.
I didn’t get as far as I would have liked Friday evening. A little over two miles in, I stopped at a almost-still stream to get water. This was my first time using the Sawyer Squeeze – it’s quite different. Using my old Pur Hiker would have been relatively quick & easy: set it up, drop pre-filter into water, pump until water bag is full. The Sawyer Squeeze requires getting water into a water bag with a small mouth – the size of a soda bottle’s mouth – attaching the filter, then squeezing the water out of the bag and into the potable water bag. The water in this stream was only a few inches deep, so it took a fair amount of effort to get a liter of water. In retrospect, I should have used my cook pot to scoop water out of the stream. I heat up the water in the pot anyway, and that would have sanitized it.
I camped nearby, and I’m glad I stopped when I did. The next section of the trail is in a burn area – no good areas for a hammock. Also, it was getting dark as I got my food bag hung. Just in time!
Dinner was trail beef stew. I made it a little too thin, but it was delicious. I could already tell I might not have enough water to make coffee with breakfast, but I had enough for the breakfast.
I had a hard time falling asleep — the cups of regular coffee I had that morning were probably the culprit — so I lie awake in my hammock for several hours. It was eerily quiet. No deer hooves. No critters. Only the occasional plane flying over. Too quiet.
I woke at five but went back to sleep. I was surprised that I slept until seven — I imagine I needed the sleep! Breakfast – cheesy corn grits with chorizo – was delicious, but I was right in that I only had about a cup of water to take with me on the trail. It took me too long to get out of the camp. I wasn’t on the trail until nine. Clearly, I need to streamline this process.
My goal was a 16+ mile loop hike with 4200′ elevation gain and loss. If I’d made it four miles in on Saturday, I might have been able to do the rest. I started off still optimistic, though.
About a mile in, I crossed Hour Creek. I filtered another quart of water. Just a few minutes later, I came to a huge horse camp along the trail. If I’d been at the trailhead earlier Saturday afternoon, this would have been a very nice camp. A few miles later, I decided to stop for lunch and make this a leisurely day. I’m really glad I did. This section of the trail has many lovely views of the Waptus River, and it was nice to be able to pause and enjoy to experience.
The place I stopped for lunch is another good-sized camp. This camp was along a mostly-still section of the Waptus River. There was a short, steep, dusty trail to the river. I was able to fill the water bags for the Sawyer Squeeze – the water is deep and moving. I ate my trail salad – re-hydrated coleslaw – and made the coffee I had to skip at breakfast.
I headed back to the truck. It was a short hike, but still a worthwhile use of my day. I got back to the trailhead and attempted to make the chocolate-coconut peanut butter & banana sandwich I’d intended to make for lunch. I was sad to discover that the stuff I made wouldn’t squeeze out of the tube. Not sure if it would be more pliable if it was at body temperature; I’ll need to sort this out prior to next month’s hike – either that, or buy the individual-serving packets of it. I ate a banana and a protein bar, drank some Skratch, chatted with a fly fisher waiting the return of his friends, then decided to get on the road.
I stopped at Marko’s Place for a beer. I figured I’d eaten enough after the hike, but by the time I got to Cle Elum I decided to grab a burger from the Red Arrow Drive-In (formerly McKeans). I ordered a Giant Burger, and oh my, it was giant! It was a sloppy, delicious mess.
I’m now pondering the next trip – the big trip. I’m busy the next two weekends, so I need to do my planning and preparing during the week. Along the trail yesterday, I came up with the idea of trail chicken & dumplings. (It’s essentially the beef stew, but with chicken, a white sauce, and ‘just add water’ biscuit mix.) I’ve got some more ideas for trail mix – my batch I used this weekend was delicious, but on a week-long hike it’ll be nice to have variety. I’m creating my trail meals as recipes in MyFitnessPal to check the calorie count – I need to make sure I have enough food while I’m doing this or it will be a very miserable week.
I think this means I get to test out a few recipes, too. 🙂