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Tag Archives: Pacific Crest Trail

Summer has come to an abrupt end. The good news is that wildfires no longer threaten people and their homes and soon the smoke will be gone from the valley.

Last week Mary and I and our pack of dogs headed for Harts Pass and the Pacific Crest Trail. We had a good hike to Grasshopper Pass, going past many PCT thru hikers who were anxious to keep walking. If everything went well for them, they’d be in Canada, 35 miles away, the next day. A few flowers were still blooming and we heard marmots and pikas and we ate a few huckleberries along the way. We had a little sunshine, some breezes, a little misty rain and ever-changing light. It was really lovely.

This last week has featured temperatures over 100 degrees, Fahrenheit! Our house is not designed for extremes of heat and it is difficult to keep it anywhere near a comfortable temperature. Outside, it’s been too hot to do things that need to be done. While we ignore them, the weeds grow gleefully upward, blooming and spreading their seeds. What’s a person or dog to do?

Ignore the weeds; that’s for sure.

Sunday the thermometer topped out at 110! In the morning we took the dogs and a PFD and some floaty toys and went to the lake. We got an early start so we could find a coveted place big enough for us and the dogs without bothering other recreaters. There were several rowing sculls on the water and a canoe and some people swimming for exercise or fun. The dogs were ecstatic and we threw and threw their bumpers. When I thought they might be tiring, I put them away. Sky disappeared into the bushes and came out with a brand new tennis ball! That dog has a nose for tennis balls. If you ever lose one, call on Sky and she will find it for you. But then you have to throw it for her. Again and again. We floated around in the water with PFD, just relaxing and enjoying the cooling lake. Back at home, we all felt somewhat rejuvenated and got a little bit of work done.

Late in the afternoon we packed up a picnic and drove to Harts Pass at about 6100 feet elevation. It was much cooler up there – in the sixties and it felt SO good. There was a threat of thunder storms and we had a little bit of light rain but nothing that chased us away. Ken chatted with a fellow who had just started the Pacific Crest Trail (PCT), traveling north to south. He plans to arrive at Mexico in November. We wished him good luck. The mosquitoes were annoying when we ate our picnic so we ate fast. Then we headed out for a short walk on the PCT. We were greeted by pikas, hoary marmots, Swainson’s Thrushes and a few wildflowers. There were small patches of snow – nothing like last year. It’s already very dry. Many of the creeks are quite low or even dry and it’s not even July. Compare that with a day on the same part of the trail last year in July here.  The flowers are not as floriferous either.

 

 

 

 

Every summer I try to get up to the Harts Pass area as early as possible to catch the start of high mountain wildflowers. I have to wait til the road is open and passable. There are always new washouts over the winter and the Forest Service works hard to get it open for use. Hot weather has settled into the valley so it was a great relief to get up high and enjoy the cooler mountain air and sweet little creeks flowing with melted snow. The dogs were excited to be in snow too! The Pacific Crest Trail (PCT) crosses through this region and can be accessed at several trailheads. We picked the one that goes generally south towards Grasshopper Pass from near the Meadows campground. It was a good choice with a cool breeze and enough water to keep the dogs hydrated and snow to cool their feet and bellies. The snow and water won’t last long with this hot weather. It’s too early for the through hikers to be here – they are the ones that start at the Mexican border and walk all the way to Canada. We had the trail almost all to ourselves except for the marmots, pikas and ground squirrels. We saw only three other day hikers. The wildflowers were over the top beautiful!

Life has kept me busy here at home with lots of work in June followed by visitors for ten days. While I am grateful for lots of work and happy to have our visitors from far away, I missed getting out in the mountains in the early summer when the snow first began to retreat leaving wildflowers in its wake. Yesterday I got up to Harts Pass and hiked on part of the Pacific Crest Trail and enjoyed vast views and flowers and a few remaining snow patches. Luna and I were joined by her pal Wyatt Ann, my friend Lindsey and her three dogs – Moose, Mavi and Little Bear. We were a pack. The weather was perfect – not too hot and we had a lovely day in the mountains again.

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Fabulous rocks with wonderful lichen patterns

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Slate Peak lookout in the distance

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Buttercups

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I think this is a Veronica or Speedwell

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A succulent sedum

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Polemonium sp?

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Such a beautiful shade of blue

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One of the many penstemons

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Lewisia Columbiana

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Great patches of the Lewisia

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Contrasted with burned trees on the far hillside

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Castilleja or paintbrush

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The creeks in this valley are already drying up.

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Little Bear is both playful and independent

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Wyatt Ann is a deep thinker

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Cairns don’t always point out the way

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Mavi is happy for the snow to cool his belly

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Wyatt Ann is wondering where do we go next?

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Phlox

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Dead trees tell stories

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Rocks are maps

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What stories do you see?

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Anemone

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A waterleaf

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Crossing the big talus slope where the pikas and hoary marmots live. Little Bear is leading the way. Behind Lindsey are Mavi, Luna, Moose and Wyatt Ann who has come back to check on me. Normally Moose and I lagged far behind.

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An old log with character

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The Pacific Crest Trail (PCT) stretches from Mexico to Canada along the crest of the mountains – from the Sierra Nevada in California to the Cascades of Washington. It intersects roads in many places so day hikers can get a taste of what the through hikers do everyday for months on end. One of my favorite pieces of the PCT follows a ridgeline to Grasshopper Pass. I like this trail for a variety of reasons – one, it’s never steep; two, the views are outstanding; three, the wildflowers are grand; and four – later on the larch trees change to a lovely shade of orange before dropping their needles. Oh, there are also lots of marmots and ground squirells and pikas! Pikas, if you are not familiar with them, live in talus slopes and are the smallest member of the lagomorph family; they are tiny rabbits. They do not hibernate like many of the mammals of the high alpine country. Instead, during the summer and fall months, they gather grasses and vegetation and create little hay piles to keep them nourished through the LONG winter! And it is long. The snow has only just recently melted from this region.

Only 35 miles to Canada. Doesn’t sound so bad.

The trail starts out crossing this rocky talus slope where the pikas live.

Anemone

I do not know this pretty blue flower

I think this is Lewisia columbiana

Its tiny delicate flowers up close

A vibrant red Castilleja (paintbrush)

Really, do I always have to include an image of lupine?

Ground hugging phlox

I think this is a penstemon

I knew this one last year!

Columbine

Maybe a lousewort?

The trail is carpeted with last year’s needles from the alpine larch trees that are now covered in fine green foliage.

Nothing better than finding a snow field on a July hike!

See the smoke in the lower left hand corner? Probably a result of the previous night’s lightning storm.

Bugs do it.

Anyone know what kind of bug does it? The flower is an anemone seedhead.

Looking back on the trail across the talus slope

Ahhhhh.

Thistles are not well liked by most but they are attractive

Cow parsnip?

I think these are non-native daisies but they sure are pretty little things.

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