100 Days of National Parks: Day 55 – One Does Not Simply Walk into Chinook Pass, Mt. Rainier National Park

Located on the easter edge of Mt. Rainier National Park in Washington, where State Highway 410 crosses the Cascades before dropping down toward the town of Yakima, Chinook Pass is one of the major road crossings for the Pacific Crest Trail in Washington. I passed through the area in the summer of 2015 while section hiking portions of the trail through the state, amid the smoke from fires throughout the Cascade mountains that summer. As massive wildfires engulfed areas around Mt. Adams and elsewhere, thick smoke blanketed the sky throughout Washington, lending itself to amazingly apocalyptic light displays like the one above.

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One Does Not Simply Walk into Chinook Pass

Located on the easter edge of Mt. Rainier National Park in Washington, where State Highway 410 crosses the Cascades before dropping down toward the town of Yakima, Chinook Pass is one of the major road crossings for the Pacific Crest Trail in Washington.  I passed through the area in the summer of 2015 while section hiking portions of the trail through the state, amid the smoke from fires throughout the Cascade mountains that summer.  As massive wildfires engulfed areas around Mt. Adams and elsewhere, thick smoke blanketed the sky throughout Washington, lending itself to amazingly apocalyptic light displays like the one above.

Continue reading “100 Days of National Parks: Day 55 – One Does Not Simply Walk into Chinook Pass, Mt. Rainier National Park”

100 Days of National Parks: Day 24 – Rocky Pass, North Cascades

One of the things I absolutely am excited for in the coming months is the prospect of further exploring the wilderness of North Cascades National Park. The huge glacial valleys and craggy peaks are simply magical, and walking along the ridges and through the forests of this wilderness is one of the most primal experiences I’ve ever had the joy of undertaking.

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Rocky Pass

One of the things I absolutely am excited for in the coming months is the prospect of further exploring the wilderness of North Cascades National Park.  The huge glacial valleys and craggy peaks are simply magical, and walking along the ridges and through the forests of this wilderness is one of the most primal experiences I’ve ever had the joy of undertaking.

Continue reading “100 Days of National Parks: Day 24 – Rocky Pass, North Cascades”

100 Days of National Parks: Day 11 – Parting the Veil, Sequoia National Park

Parting the Veil

Parting the Veil
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Mt. Whitney.

The tallest mountain in the lower 48 states.

In my years of hiking, I’ve always repeated the mantra, “Sometimes you beat the mountain, sometimes the mountain beats you.”  Whitney, that unassuming monolith at the southern end of the Sierra Nevada Mountains on the eastern edge of Sequoia National Park, is the one mountain that has truly beaten me.

In 2015, while descending the switchbacks on the western side of the mountain, after being turned back from a thunderstorm that swept in during my ascent, I picked up a stress fracture that ended my dreams of thru-hiking the Pacific Crest Trail that year.  It was a tough injury, more for the emotional and mental distress than for the physical hardships it caused.  I left Sequoia and the PCT that June defeated but determined to return, to beat the mountain that beat me so resoundingly.

“When defeat comes, accept it as a signal that your plans are not sound, rebuild those plans, and set sail once more toward your coveted goal.” – Napoleon Hill

When most people think of Sequoia National Park, they think of the big trees, with the mountains almost an afterthought, but so much staggering beauty is out there in the backcountry of the High Sierra, waiting to be explored.  Though daunting, these mountains are some of the most dramatic, beautiful examples of wilderness we have in the U.S.  I encourage everyone to get out and explore them some time, to find their own mountain they need to beat, I know I intend to.

100 Days of National Parks: Day 8 – Watchman Overlook, Crater Lake National Park

Watchman Overlook

Crater Lake is Oregon’s only National Park, and stands out as one of the most impressive sights in all of the Pacific Northwest. It’s America’s deepest lake, and it’s pristine blue waters seem unfathomable perched on the rim.

I visited the park for the first time in almost 15 years in September of 2015, driving through what was left of the wildfire scorched northern forest, and sleeping out on the rim, waiting for this amazing sunrise to come up over the eastern horizon. There is something profoundly captivating about this lake and its mysterious depths, the way the water seems eternally still, dark, and full of secrets. It was one of the things I wanted to see the most when I set out on my Pacific Crest Trail hike, and I was glad to have had the opportunity to hike along the rim this past summer, truly a highlight of my year.

Watchman Overlook

Watchman Overlook
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Crater Lake is Oregon’s only National Park, and stands out as one of the most impressive sights in all of the Pacific Northwest.  It’s America’s deepest lake, and it’s pristine blue waters seem unfathomable perched on the rim.

I visited the park for the first time in almost 15 years in September of 2015, driving through what was left of the wildfire scorched northern forest, and sleeping out on the rim, waiting for this amazing sunrise to come up over the eastern horizon.  There is something profoundly captivating about this lake and its mysterious depths, the way the water seems eternally still, dark, and full of secrets.  It was one of the things I wanted to see the most when I set out on my Pacific Crest Trail hike, and I was glad to have had the opportunity to hike along the rim this past summer, truly a highlight of my year.

100/100/100: Day 7 – Three Fools Peak, North Cascades National Park

Three Fools Peak

Though technically just past the eastern boundary of North Cascades National Park, this impressive promontory is one of the last such peaks you see on the Pacific Crest Trail before making the descent to Canada from Hopkins Pass and the Devil’s Stairway. To me it is truly representative, however, of the dramatic vistas this off-the-beaten-path National Park has to offer. Only truly accessible in the summer, the mountains of the North Cascades are what I picture when I think of mountains: jagged peaks, sparkling lakes, and lush meadows abounding with wildflowers.

Following my broken leg in the Sierra section of the PCT in 2015, I spent my recovery in Washington, and attempted to get back on the trail by “flip-flopping,” tagging the Canadian border then reversing all the way back to the mountain that beat me, Mt. Whitney. I made it as far as this mountain, before the realization dawned on me that my injury was not completely healed, and I’d have to stumble back to a bail-out at Hart’s Pass some 25 miles to the south.

Three Fools Peak is my Northern Terminus, in many ways the end of the road for my thru-hiking dreams, but also the instigator for my subsequent section hiking for the following few months. I realized, after passing this mountain, that I would have neither the time, nor the physical ability, to complete my PCT adventure that summer, but that I could at the very least tag the highlights of places I’d always wanted to see, to pick up the pieces of a dream led astray. Every time I look at this picture, it reminds me that someday I’ll get beyond this point, someday I’ll make the full 2650 mile trek along the Pacific Crest Trail

Three Fools Peak

Three Fools Peak
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Marking the eastern edge of North Cascades National Park, this impressive promontory is one of the last such peaks you see on the Pacific Crest Trail before making the descent to Canada from Hopkins Pass and the Devil’s Stairway.  To me it is truly representative, however, of the dramatic vistas this off-the-beaten-path National Park has to offer.  Only truly accessible in the summer, the mountains of the North Cascades are what I picture when I think of mountains: jagged peaks, sparkling lakes, and lush meadows abounding with wildflowers.

Following my broken leg in the Sierra section of the PCT in 2015, I spent my recovery in Washington, and attempted to get back on the trail by “flip-flopping,” tagging the Canadian border then reversing all the way back to the mountain that beat me, Mt. Whitney.  I made it as far as this mountain, before the realization dawned on me that my injury was not completely healed, and I’d have to stumble back to a bail-out at Hart’s Pass some 25 miles to the south.

Three Fools Peak is my Northern Terminus, in many ways the end of the road for my thru-hiking dreams, but also the instigator for my subsequent section hiking for the following few months.  I realized, after passing this mountain, that I would have neither the time, nor the physical ability, to complete my PCT adventure that summer, but that I could at the very least tag the highlights of places I’d always wanted to see, to pick up the pieces of a dream led astray.  Every time I look at this picture, it reminds me that someday I’ll get beyond this point, someday I’ll make the full 2650 mile trek along the Pacific Crest Trail

A Walk in the (Jefferson) Park

Desolation around Jefferson

In September of 2015, I found my days on the Pacific Crest Trail winding to a close. I’d spent the previous two and a half months picking up the pieces of what was supposed to be a continuous 2663 mile hike from Mexico to Canada, but was derailed by a stress fracture after less than a quarter of that. After recovering from my injury, I pushed to return to the trail, at first attempting a southbound hike from the Canadian border, then settling on a more piecemeal approach, targeting specific sections of the Trail that I’d wanted to see, but didn’t get the chance to.

In September of 2015, I found my days on the Pacific Crest Trail winding to a close.  I’d spent the previous two and a half months picking up the pieces of what was supposed to be a continuous 2663 mile hike from Mexico to Canada, but was derailed by a stress fracture after less than a quarter of that.  After recovering from my injury, I pushed to return to the trail, at first attempting a southbound hike from the Canadian border, then settling on a more piecemeal approach, targeting specific sections of the Trail that I’d wanted to see, but didn’t get the chance to.
Continue reading “A Walk in the (Jefferson) Park”

Retracing Footsteps Buried in Snow

It’s safe to say I left a big part of myself behind on the Pacific Crest Trail when I decided to finally leave it in September of 2015. As I write about it for my book/memoir, tentatively titled I am Not a Thru-Hiker, I’m constantly brought back to my experiences hiking nearly 1400 miles of the 2663 mile trail, constantly reliving my interactions with other hikers and remembering the places that have branded themselves upon my memory for the rest of my life. Hiking the PCT was an experience like no other, and almost half a year later, I still long to be back out there, walking the lonely miles through deserts and forests and mountain passes.

It’s safe to say I left a big part of myself behind on the Pacific Crest Trail when I decided to finally leave it in September of 2015.  As I write about it for my book/memoir, tentatively titled I am Not a Thru-Hiker, I’m constantly brought back to my experiences hiking nearly 1400 miles of the 2663 mile trail, constantly reliving my interactions with other hikers and remembering the places that have branded themselves upon my memory for the rest of my life.  Hiking the PCT was an experience like no other, and almost half a year later, I still long to be back out there, walking the lonely miles through deserts and forests and mountain passes.

Continue reading “Retracing Footsteps Buried in Snow”