Thursday, December 10, 2009

MS Greenway Thru-Hike Part 3

Day 3

Part 1 HERE

Part 2 HERE

Today was to be our hardest day, the longest day, a grand total of 13.7 miles, over the top of Pitcher, Hubbard, Jackson and Oak Hills. Our backs are already in rough shape as we groan about putting our packs on. Luckily for us it was nice and cool last night and the good nights rest was welcomed. We break camp at 830 and make it to center pond in a hurry to restock our water supplies. From here it’s a long road climb up and out of the ponds basin. At the top of the hill after confronting an old angry dog, we cut across a landowner’s property and slab Parker Hill. On the map at camp there was a marking showing a campsite somewhere in this area, but we never found it. Perhaps it’s a future construction site. This stretch of the trail was fantastic; Rolling single track, log bridges over mud pits and a wonderful brook waterfall.

It’s still early in the morning when we reach the South Pasture of Blueberries. The trail runs us straight through the overgrowth. Either this stretch of trail is rarely passed through, or there was a bypass that we had missed as we bushwhacked our way through the next ¼ mile while chomping down handfuls of blueberries. We reached the base of Pitcher Mountain around 11am. It was later then we had hoped for, and the drizzle was starting to settle in. In hopes to beat the rain and perhaps get a better idea of what was heading our way, we quickly signed into the log book and tried to get to the top as fast as possible. The view from the fire tower was just as un-promising as the view from the parking lot below. The grey clouds above turning darker as you looked towards the west. Dustin snapped a quick photo and sent it to his wife before we pushed on down the trail. The blueberries bushes, soaked by the drizzle doused us every time we brushed up against them. We found that as we came off of Pitcher we were already wet, and the rain had yet to start.

The woods started to rumble as the rain pours down. The leaves providing us shelter as we marched along the amazing single track between the peaks. We popped out onto the road and try to duck under a pine switch to consult the map. We decide we’re going the right way but it’s hard to tell. The rain is falling so hard now that we can only see about 30’ ahead of us. We finally decide to put on our rain gear, but it was too little, too late. The only thing the gear provided us at this point was a shield from the howling wind over the top of Hubbard. I’d stop from time to time to snag a handful of blueberries, but it was hardly what I had envisioned for the day. I was hoping to graze happily in the sun. Now we were hiking over these berry filled peaks in record time, just to return to the woods for some protection.

The long single track off of Hubbard Hill is now a stream, 8” deep in the middle so we dance from trail edge to trail edge to try to stay somewhat dry. I stop, look at Dustin, he looks at me. We both grumble and grunt at the situation, put our heads down and death march on. After the long silent climb up Jackson both notice the same thing. The comment “you know how good of a day it has been and is going to be when your trail blaze is 3 inches under water.”

What a joke, this is insane. The hardest day of the trip and we were going to spend 11 miles of it in torrential downfalls. I laugh like an idiot, give up, and just start splashing through the puddles. I’m already soaked, so I figured I might as well enjoy the ride. I try to snap a few more photos, but the camera gets soaked and then ruined.

After Jackson hill there is a long stretch of snowmobile trail, which wouldn’t have been so bad if it didn’t seem to be built in a stream bed. In sections where you could appreciate the natural beauty of the trail, you’d end up finding a sink hole that would swallow your shoe up to your mid calf. By the time we got to the next beaver pond section we had to wade about knee deep 20’ through the water until we got TO the bridge. We were both fried now, talking was at a bare minimum. I was starting to go hypothermic, this isn’t how today was supposed to go. We’d scarf down our food and push on verses stopping at our preplanned break spots. I finally had to sit down and clean out my shoes in front of the First advent church in Washington. A rock carved next to a trail beside the Church caught my eye. I sat in front of it and read while pulling out stone after stone from my shoes. It was called the Sabbath Trail.

The thought and message intregied me. While I’ve never been much for organized religion, feeling that more times then not, it’s just a way to control people, the logic carved onto that rock made sense to me. “…as you commune with him in natures cathedral” It was perfect. The thought of not just driving to church, to sitting there feeling guilty for an hour, and then cursing people out as you try to get out of the parking lot. The thought of actually going for a 1 mile walk in the woods and seeing God all around you, imagine if more people did that? Dustin laughed at my infatuation with the concept and it helped us march down the next 2 miles of road in a pretty timely manner. We both knew when we ducked back into the woods we’d climb over Oak hill and on the decent we’d be at the site. So when the trail turned back into the woods we were relieved. The rain was still falling steadily and we were cold, tired, and wanted to grab some real food from the Washington General store, which we knew closed at 6pm.

Loni had hiked this stretch of trail before and had given us a lot of good pointers, but when we asked her about Oak hill she kind of trailed off in her description. Well it became clear pretty quickly as the trail made a turn and started climbing at a rapid rate. Dustin started to fall behind and I just put my head down and marched on as if it was an ultra. I sat for him on the cairn at the top. When he caught up to me he said “screw calling this oak hill, this is nut hill.” Obviously the climb had been harder for him.

On the decent Dustin comments about how nice the stream sounds next to the trail. I quickly warn him that he shouldn’t say things like this. Twenty feet later, we find the once peaceful bubbling brook was now smack dab in the middle of our trail. Splashing along I can feel my toes going numb. We walk in the brook for a bit before having to cross it, it’s rushing pretty fast and about knee deep. I hand dustin one of my trekking poles and we each use one to get across safely. Oh no, we aren’t done yet, the trail crosses that bloody brook not two, not three, but FOUR times! Camp is a sight for sore eyes, we’re soaked entirely through, at least I was. I dump out the contents of my pack and find that my sleeping bag is pretty wet in the feet area. I can only sigh in disgust. Thankfully we made it into town with enough time to pick up two large pizzas and a 6 pack of beer. After getting back to camp and changing into dry clothes we proceed to consume almost ALL of both pizzas and 4 of the beers before passing out. Before we fall asleep, we are treated to a nice red sunset on the horizon as the last of the clouds just now are finally passing overhead.

Quotes of the Day:

“Camp is a place you come to lick your wounds”

“I havn’t been this wet in the shower”

"imagine hiking this for 30 days, you'd have a mushroom growing out of your ear!"

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