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When you're hiking for two months, you're bound to encounter some strange things.
In eastern Washington, we had to take a very long (like 50 miles) detour due to wildfires. Along this reroute, while looking for a place to camp at the end of the day, we found this crazy tree. Yes, it's covered in hundreds of shoes, boots, slippers, all sorts of footwear.
For the next few days, we asked folks if they knew of it. Only a couple knew what we were talking about and they just said 'folks nail their old shoes to it', but they didn't know why.
Another strange thing we found were rocks painted yellow scattered in an alpine meadow on the very top of a mountain. The mountain is Bunker Hill in the Pasayten Wilderness in Washington. We found some old structure foundations on the hilltop also.
The meadow was dry, dead grass so I walked around the rocks and finally figured out what they were.
If you click the link below, I think you'll figure it out also.
Yes, they weren't actually scattered around. They were arranged.
One last strange thing I recall. For some reason, a person with a chainsaw cut a hole through this tree somewhere in Montana. The tree is still alive and seemingly healthy, but we could figure out no reason for this.
Do you have any explanation for that cut?
Or, what strange things have you seen on trail?
I've also loved Weird Al Jankovic's parodies for as long as I can remember. The lyrics are so creative! So, a throwback 18 years to 1999 and Al's 'The Saga Begins' song seems fitting today. (I just listened to it twice :-) )
The movie is supposed to release on December 15 (that's THIS Friday) - maybe I'll see you in line.
Until then, Hike On!
On the Pacific Northwest Trail this summer, I tried some different foods - some good, some not. Here's a few tidbits that might make your next trek more successful...
We did no cooking. This meant there was no stove, cook kit, fuel, or cleaning items to carry. Eating was much faster and easier and we could eat whenever wherever we wanted. This simplicity was a much bigger benefit to us than the cost of having no hot food. And, with the severe fire season, it was good to not have fire of any kind.
I historically have eaten a lot of chocolatey food on trail. At the start of this trek, chocolate just did not sound good to me so I wasn't eating enough. At our first resupply, I picked up some alternatives and here are some that worked great for me:
Tart and sour chewy candies were a huge hit! A bag of Sourpatch Kids was always in my sidepocket and we would each eat a few at most rest breaks. Again, that fruity, citrus taste was what I craved this trip.
- Jerky - I very seldom take jerky along but it tasted good this time around.
Little Debbie - We ate waaaaay too many Little Debbie desserts but I'm now quite an expert. Their cakes, muffins, and doughnuts squish too much, so don't take them. The brownies are dense and perfect for packing. The peanut cluster cookies are great, but the oatmeal cookies fall apart. Honey buns squish flat but taste good. Nutty Buddy bars are awesome! My favorite was the Cosmic Brownies and I still long for them off trail. :-)
Peanut Butter and Jelly - mixed in a plastic jar, this saved weight and the fruity jelly taste was just what I wanted.
- Fig Bars - Newtons are very expensive but off brands taste just as good. They are dense and once again have a fruit rather than chocolate flavor.
- Spicey Trail Mix - This was new to me. I found an off brand hot trail mix that was hot rather than sweet. I loved it!
- Summer Sausage - As a change from tuna, we split a small sausage on tortillas. They are heavy but have a lot of calories and packed just fine for days on end.
- Tortillas - In the past, I've used ritz-style crackers because they have a lot more calories per ounce than tortillas. But, tortillas pack a lot better, hold food better, and taste good.
If you have an ALDI store near you, or find one along the trail, I've found they are a perfect place to find backpacking food. Much of it is inexpensive and calorie-dense. Wal-mart is the next best place for this type of food.
To figure out how much food you need for a long trek,
I've got a food needs calculator that comes pretty close.
I bought two pair of Darn Tough Vermont socks for my AT section hike. They were pretty expensive ($17) but have a warranty that states they can be returned for free replacement whenever they wear out.
I'm tough on socks. Hiking 20-30 miles a day for two months in dust, dirt, sand, and rock tends to wear everything out. Sure enough, I wore holes through the bottom of all four socks this summer - but not until I'd worn them for over 1,500 miles. They lasted longer than three pairs of shoes!
For perspective, when the Darn Toughs wore out, I bought a pack of 4 pair of other socks and wore through all of them in the last 500 miles of my PNT trek.
When I returned from my PNT thru-hike, I sent back the Darn Tough socks and crossed my fingers, hoping the warranty was legit. The return postage was a couple dollars.
Well, sure enough, this week I just got a small package with two brand new pair of Darn Toughs and my feet have been skipping in comfort on my morning walks the last couple days! Nice padding on the bottom and no extra weight up the ankle.
If you are looking for durable, comfortable, light hiking socks with a great warranty that is fulfilled with no hassle, give Darn Tough Vermont a look. I like the 1/4 length ankle socks, but they've got a bunch of styles.
(I bought these socks and have received no compensation for posting my thoughts. I just really do like them.)
Just in time for cooler fall hikes and Christmas gifts, you can get Hiking Dude hand warmers!
Unlike iron powder hand warmers that get used once and tossed, you use these over and over for years. They get reset by sitting in a pot of hot water for a few minutes.
Watch the video below to see how fun they are to activate, watch the chemical reaction, and feel the heat. They heat to 130 degrees and last about 45 minutes to an hour. The best thing is that they contain sodium acetate and water - non-toxic stuff.
Buy handwarmers and get some free stickers, too.
Guess what all my relatives are getting in their stockings for Christmas this year. :-)
Having reached the end of the Pacific Northwest Trail on Friday afternoon, we had a leisurely 4-mile walk east to the Ozette Ranger Station on Saturday. Our friend wouldn't be picking us up until 3pm, so we lounged around camp on the coast enjoying the calm, misty view of the tide working its way in and eating our extra food.
We finally packed up and headed inland. The trail was easy, well maintained, and very crowded with folks hiking to the coast for the day or weekend. Long sections of the trail are a cedar boardwalk, so that was fun but a bit slick in spots.
We got bored at the ranger station and decided to walk another 1/2 mile or so down the road to the Lost Resort. As we discovered, they have a well-stocked convenience store and eatery at resort prices. Plus, they have WiFi which we were allowed to use. Eating ice cream and drinking my first soda in a long time, we passed the time.
Our ride arrived around 3:45 and we were off. A quick stop in Forks to return the bear can we had rented from Forks Outfitters. Another 3+ hours to Hoaquim where we stopped for a Subway dinner. Finally arriving in Puyallup around 9pm. Bethany was a real trail angel, driving a long round trip to help get us home.
In Puyallup, we met Josh's friends and went to a hotdog bar - a restaurant that sells high-priced, fancy-named hotdogs. It was fun to meet them and visit awhile. As it was getting late, we made it to Karin's place where we'd spend the night. We got to sleep in a clean, dry shed in her backyard after taking showers.
Sunday was spent in airports and on planes. My wife picked us up at 6:30pm in Minneapolis and we had pizza at home for dinner. That was the end of the trip!
I lost about 17 pounds on our trek. Josh lost a lot, but less than that.
Our gear took a beating, but most of it had already seen many days and miles on trail. Both backpacks have rips and tears so they'll be replaced. My inflatable sleeping pad and pillow from ExPed both had internal baffles separate so they are unusable. My two pair of Darn Tough socks wore holes through them so I've returned them for free replacements - we'll see how that works out. Two of our four hiking poles broke, one snapping and one losing the tip. And, I threw my two t-shirts away - they weren't worn out, I was just tired of wearing them after 5 years. :-)
If you'd like more info about our trek and the Pacific Northwest Trail, I've updated my PNT Page with our trail journal, map track, gear, expenses, and other info.
Please feel free to ask about our trek, especially if you are planning a PNT thru-hike and have questions.
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Feb 13, 2020 - Jason Berklund
Getting to the northern terminus is expensive (in my mind). If you can schedule correctly, Arrowhead Transit is cheapest to Grand Marais, but then Harriet Quarles is the only shuttle I know of. You might find a good ol' boy in Grand Marais willing to drive you the 35 miles to the end for a few $$$.
It's a 3 hour drive from Duluth - that's 6 hours and 300 miles round-trip. Maybe your friend would like to drive up the north shore for a day.
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