Just a Routine Day On The Trail
Beginning Elevation = 5,900
Ending Elevation = 5,750
Elevation Range = 4,500 – 5,900
Weather: Sunny, turned cloudy, high of 75°F
I decided to not set my alarm this morning. My body’s clock woke me up at 5:30am. Then began my morning routine for getting packed up and ready to hike. As requested (cheers to you James!), I’m going to try and give some insight into my typical day-to-day activities in today’s post.
So…what goes on in this 45 minutes between when I wake up and when I start hiking? First, I usually have a bit of fighting the wake up, wanting to stay in my warm sleeping bag. Once I get enough motivation, I sit up, bleary-eyed and my head brushing the top of the tent, and decide what to wear. Big decision right? And then I switch out of my baselayers (aka Smartwool long underwear, probably my favorite pieces of clothing) into my hiking attire.
The reality is that I’m wearing pretty much the same thing every day, day after day, over and over. I can switch it up between my Liverpool shorts and my Columbia hiking pants, but I’ve had the same blue button up (or is it button down?) shirt since Campo. I also have two pairs of boxer briefs and currently two pairs of Darn Tough socks. What I mean by deciding what to wear is essentially whether I add layers (hat and my top baselayer) for the cold morning or not.
Sheesh two paragraphs already…and just about clothes! This might be a long one.
Next on the to do list for me (I’m sure every hiker has their own specific routine) is to pack up everything I can right from where I sit in my tent. That means stuffing my sleeping bag into it’s compression stuff sack, deflating my inflatable pillow, taking all the food and smelly items out of my odorproof plastic bags, and then placing it all into my pack. I have what I’ll call a flexibly specific way in which I like to organize things, but the main idea is to keep weight low and balanced and also to keep what I need during the day at the top where it’s accessible. Once I’ve done everything that I can from where I sit, I get my shoes on and climb out of my tent, which I then proceed to break down. Sometimes it’s damp from condensation or the rain and then I find a way to put all tent stuff on the outside of the pack.
And just like that, I’m ready to go. My last step is conducting a very specific regimine of stretches that I’ve learned over many moons, specifically intended for muscles used during extended miles of hiking. In actuality, they’re the same stretches I learned when I was seven years old during my first season of AYSO soccer. I basically used those same exact ones throughout every successive year I played, so they had to be good I’m sure 😉.
This morning, I discovered an unpleasant surprise while going through my routine…a small critter had made an assault on my pack in search of food and chewed holes in my hip belt pouch. Bummer right? Indeed, post crime investigations would reveal that the animal’s motive was the remnants of a Keebler cheese cracker wrapper and crumbs. This led me to believe that a mouse (or mice) was the culprit. I’ve seen Tom and Jerry and the movie Mouse Hunt and therefore know that mice enjoy eating copious amounts of cheese. Plus, forensic analysis found evidence of both an entry hole and exit hole with marks that “could only have been made by very sharp teeth and claw.” If not for the tiny size of the holes, I surely would have suspected the dogman.
I put the matter behind me and began my hike, stepping quietly around the tents of Bass bone, Dave, and Salt Lick. Snickers had escaped before I even got up. I was happy to find that the trail went downhill and was quite gradual right away and so I made great time. It was very peaceful and I even saw some deer. A mama and a fawn that appeared to still have spots even. I couldn’t tell for sure though. I passed by a nice pond below with Mount Rainier in the background. Getting closer to that big guy.
I passed by a series of creeks, some lava rocks, and then found my way to a gravel road. It was kind of wild because I didn’t see the road at first, but started hearing something big and loud coming my way fast. I thought it might be a helicopter, but nope, a log truck was zooming through the forest! After it passed and the dust settled, I crossed the road and found a Snickers hanging out right there in the gravel of the trailhead parking area. He was eating his breakfast in the sun.
This is part of our day-to-day routine we’ve developed as well. We’re on board with the get up and go for a few hours, eat some bars for snacking, and then break for a bit to sit and eat a sort of “second breakfast.” Others do it differently by taking longer in camp, boiling water for oatmeal and maybe coffee, and then getting going. I also do my teeth brushing post breakfast. I have a little travel sized toothbrush. And I have floss along too, but I’ll be honest and admit to the world that I’m not always taking the time to do it. Eww gross.
Snickers and I hiked together after breakfast, chatting about various topics. I think part of the time was spent listening and learning about his various marathon experiences and the whole running club scene in New York City. Got me inspired., I could see myself getting into it at some point.
The trail was very kind to us and we cruised along nicely. We stopped around 12:45pm for our lunch break. Another aspect of our daily schedule, usually we stop somewhere between 12:30pm and 1:00pm for a longer break, maybe around an hour. Usually I’m taking my shoes and socks off here and definitely taking my sleeping pad out to sit on. Today’s spot was our best view of the day up to that point.
I had a butterfly hanging around me for most of the break.
We’d entered into the Goat Rocks Wilderness Area by this point and soon after lunch we ended our relatively flat trail we’d been loving and started going up. We weren’t phased. Reason number 1, we’re basically highly tuned athletic machines by this point, and reason number 2, we were getting into an amazing part of the trail! Check out our trail going up and these views looking south back at Adams…
Just before 6:00pm we made it to Sheep Lake. We weren’t sure if we were going to push on further and try to make it over Cispus Pass, but we needed water either way. While filtering out water from the lake, we had a mini meeting and decided to set up and camp here. We met some hikers already set up, Slip N’ Slide and Pop Tart who were going north hiking the Washington portion of the trail, and then three guys who were doing a few day trip through this wonderful area.
The usual steps we take once camp is reached are pretty basic…find a flat spot to set up, set up our tents and organize (throwing things into the tent that I’ll need for the evening and everything else back into the pack), then bring out the food and cooking stuff. Usually we find some sort of centralized area to meet up and eat at. During dinner or while cooking or something, we might look ahead to tomorrow and see what’s coming up, specifically what water sources we’ll have in the morning and how much we’ll need.
After dinner and dishes and a second round of teeth brushing are done there’s the final staging of things and putting all smelly items into our odorproof sacks. I haven’t been lately, but may start hanging my food bag once again. I’ll get water too if needed, basically getting everything ready for a quick start the next morning. Once organized and such, I’ll do my best to wash the dust off my feet and legs either using a lake or stream or just wet wipes. Then it’s blog writing and occasionally watching a downloaded Netflix episode or part of one anyway. I usually don’t make it through the whole thing.
That’s the basic idea of things. Obviously, it’s not always the same. Every day brings new experiences and sometimes calls to switch things up.