Monday, March 2, 2015

PCT Section Hike: Panther Creek to Cascade Locks 2/23/15-2/24/15

PCT Mile 2190.0 to 2155

We started with a shuttle from "Luna" from Cascade Locks to Panther Creek with a stop for breakfast enroute. We aimed for a breakfast place in Carson, WA but despite the hours on the sign at the place it was closed. So we turned around and went back to Stevenson, WA and went to "The big T's" diner, your typical breakfast diner with with a decent view of the Columbia River. Back on our way and after passing accidentaly by where the trail crosses the road we stopped to change drivers and get out our gear. The first several miles were cool, almost needing to pull out gloves but eventually we got into some sunnier areas and the day began to warm. The first few miles were meandering, not really climbing or descending with bridges crossing two different streams along the way. We passed a few homes on the edge of fields and then began to climb. It was primarily in the trees with not many views other than a great rock overlook with a view of the loud creek below and the fields that we had just passed before the start of the climb. We did not see any other people that first day other than a truck that  was driving by on a dirt road that we crossed. More climbing and after a check of the map we figured that the long downhill was soon to start. We started to get tired miles before our planned campsite due to having early season legs and checked the map for alternatives but decided to push on setting us up to do the hike in just 2 days instead of 3 due to looming bad weather on the 3rd day. A stream crossing with a washed out bridge about a half mile from our campsite left us with cold feet, BooBoo walking straight through the creek and Hedgehog taking off his shoes and socks to cross. 

We get to the bridge that crossed Rock Creek and our planned campsite and were impressed by the swimming hole created by the bend in the creek but initially disappointed with the small campsite very close to the water's edge. We dropped packs and wandered up a make-shift trail going up a steep hill and found a great campsite, so we grabbed our packs and set up there. Shelter first, meaning our tent up, and then we sat a little ways away to make dinner and hot drinks after filtering water from the creek. We tried a freeze dried fajita mix and it was not bad or great, just ok. And then hot chocolate to keep up warm. We also had dessert that was an add cold water creme brule that tasted better while out camping as always, compared to when we have eaten it at home. It was dark by 6:30p and we were in our bags for warmth and because we were warn out. Hiked about 16 miles on the first day.

Day 2 started with a cool morning and hitting snooze for 30 minutes to allow the sun to warm up the air a little before crawling out of our sleeping bags. We were fine, but just a little too cold overnight in our lighter weight camping gear. Once we got going we warmed up quick since we started with a several mile long climb right away. It was chilly though as we were on the shaded side of the hill. Once we got a little higher and on the other side of the ridge we warmed up, got some sun, and some great views of Mt Adams, Mt St Helens, and then Mt Rainier. On the top of the ridge in an old clearcut area we found a great campsite with views north and south of the area's glaciers. Such a neat campsite, just no water nearby that was obvious. We descended past the turnoff to Table Mountain but wanted to get to the car and cross the Bridge of the Gods in the daylight so we skipped the side trail for the day with a plan to return to do it as a dayhike. Lunch was in the sun with a great view of Mt Hood and the Columbia River (first picture below), consisted of salami, string cheese, avocado on tortillas (same lunch yesterday) with the addition of instant coffee mixed with hot chocolate powder for motivation. 

The next 4.5 hours were mostly downhill, some over very rocky sections. The last few miles meandered past some small lakes and dirt roads, going under powerlines. It felt like we were more in no-man's land rather than wildnerness. This is where we saw a combined 9 people out hiking or exploring the lakes. The highway gradually got louder and we knew we were getting close, certainly a little anxious about the bridge crossing. We saw a road sign from the trail that said 1/2 mile to bridge but that felt like a lot more. The tool for pedestrians said 50c each and I checked that I had a dollar to cover both of us. I made sure I stayed looking ahead as we crossed the grated part, Hedgehog said he looked down a few times and got a little vertigo with the Columbia River being so far down below the bridge and the wind blowing. We got to the toll booth, the lady waived off our dollar after she asked if we were hiking the trail, we told her only a section but she waived off our dollar fare again. We told her thanks and walked across the little park to our car that Luna had left for us. We hiked roughly 18 miles and we were tired and very hungry. Plan A was to go to the little drive through ice cream place in Cascade Locks, and to our luck it was open. Root beer floats were amazing, and HH got a cheeseburger. About an hour drive home with a little rush hour congestion, showers and then lounging on the couch as we were both pretty spent but glad to get a little backpacking in so early in the season. We did not see any snow along the trail but in some shady spots there was frozen ground that made a fun crunching noise as we hiked through.

Next few hikes will be Trout Lake back to Panther Creek and Ollalie Lake South to some road crossings depending on how many days we have available and the terrain. 


Wednesday, November 12, 2014

10/29 - Approach to Machu Picchu

Today we get our first views of Machu Picchu. I am totally looking forward to that. Dalmiro had warned us that today would be the hardest day of hiking on the trip. Rivalling Salkantay Pass, as we had to climb 1900' or so, cross Llactapata Pass and then descend 2900' down to the Aobamba River in the valley on the other side. That and it was going to be hot and very humid as we were in deeper jungle than yesterday.
So I tried not to eat too much for breakfast (full tummy + hiking + heat = Unhappy Hedgehog). Our coffee we ordered yesterday showed up right on time this morning. Huzzah we have local Peruvian beans to bring home.
Another shot of the typical breakfast buffet, with 3 juices and 3 yogurts. You could also order eggs any way you wanted them with whatever you wanted (cheese, bacon, tomatoes,etc). I had coffee and eggs this morning.
Part of the group waiting for Dalmiro to pay the porters. (Left to Right) Christian, Mark, Lisa, Tom, and Carol.
Our luggage had to be carried by porters the last bit of yesterday and all the way to the train today as no pack animals are allowed on the Inca Trail. This is in an effort to preserve it. Local farmers can have their livestock on the Inca Trail as needed.
Looking back, the silver roof is the coffee plantation we visited yesterday.
Even though it was partly cloudy, Dalmiro was right. The day got hot and humid very quickly. Don't Doubt Dalmiro.

 Becca looking down into the valley, about half way up our climb to Llactapata Pass.
Yet another unusual Orchid that Dalmiro pointed out.
Resting at a clearing in Llactapata Pass. 5 Inca trails converge in this clearing.
Hurrah! Heading downhill after our break in the clearing.
Our very first view of Machu Picchu! It was down a side trail and it was unfortunately pretty hazy but there it is!
This is the symbol for ruins. Llaqtapata Pass was named after the ruins found here. Some of the ruins have been restored. Restored in that the jungle growth has been removed and the walls rebuilt.

The restored walls of Llaqtapata.
A couple of examples of ruins that the jungle has overtaken at the same site.

Dalmiro looking through the main door of the ruin. Note the shape of the doorway and the channel running beyond it.
The channel points straight to Machu Picchu.
Standing in the doorway and looking down the trench at Machu Picchu.
I'm still enthralled with the doorway and the building technique, the rest of the group has already gathered at the plateau edge to stare at Machu Picchu.
Machu Picchu from the plateau edge.

Our group gathering to leave and head down trail to where our lunch awaits.
Another jungle covered wall as we head for lunch.

Llacqtapata Lodge - Not a lodge in the Mountain Lodges of Peru chain. An independant that is setup to cater to trekkers. They have a field for people to camp, a toilet that is 1 Sol and food to sell them. 
Everyone getting ready for lunch. You can see the camping field in the background and the toilet through the gate and on the right.
And this is the dining hall.
Inside the dining hall.
An example of the type of appetizer we would get with lunch. Avocados, peas, carrots and fava beans with some local cheese on top. Main dish was fish and dessert was a fruit cup.

The view of Machu Picchu from Llaqtapata Lodge. It is clearing up a little but still hazy.

Machu Picchu is over Becca's head in the distance.

 Dalmiro tells us there is 98 switchbacks between Llaqtapata Lodge and the Aobamba River. He has that playful look in his eyes, so suspicious we check with Lis and she confirms. 98 switchbacks, yay.

Becca, Lisa and Christian checking out the view on our way down after lunch. This is before the switchbacks start.

View of a waterfall in the distance from a switchback, we'll go right by there.
Local farmer has a lot of beehives. They give a decent idea of the slope of the hill which is why there are so many switchbacks.

Bananas growing along  the trail.
Suspension bridge over the Aobamba River.
Dalmiro and Becca checking out the suspension bridge while waiting for the rest of our group.
Becca crossing the suspension bridge.
Butterfly resting on Becca's shoulder while she's resting on a log waiting for the rest of the group to cross the suspension bridge.
Waterfall we've been seeing in the distance from it's base.
The group nearing the Hydroelectric. It has been this exposed and sunny since crossing the suspension bridge and it is hot.
Dalmiro provides documentation for our entry to the Hydroelectric while we mill around.
This announcement is due to a large number of tourists taking naked selfies at Machu Picchu. Who knew that was a thing?
After getting waved through we hike into the Hydroelectric area and there are military personnel everywhere. It takes about another 10 minutes to come to a train station in the middle of the complex. Very unusual. Now I keep calling it the Hydroelectric. It's not a dam. What they did was dig a tunnel through the mountain and diverted part of the river into the tunnel. At this end there are 2 massive pipes that come out the side of the mountain and the water pushes down through the pipes turning massive turbines. Generating 91 MWs of electricity. The water then flows back into the river. Actually the waterfall we walked by is the overflow release when there is too much water for the pipes to handle. Pretty ingenious. I didn't take any pictures of the pipes up close due to the security.
A sign at the train station.
Waiting for the train to arrive. (Front to back) Tom, Lis, Katie and Sue. Sue still wasn't fully recovered and hiked the 0.5mi back to the road this morning and was driven here. She's been waiting for us for hours.
Our train arrives.
We are sitting in the tourist car. It is very comfortable and has A/C which feels AWESOME after the heat and humidity. The rest of the cars are not this nice apparently.
Christian and Dalmiro figuring out which seat is Christians. 
Becca enjoying the A/C while we wait to leave.
The group gathers in the Aguas Calientes train station. Our hotel in town Inkaterra Hotel, has sent someone to guide us to the hotel and some porters to take our luggage.
Following our guide to the hotel.
Inkaterra Hotel has a complex that is acres large. They don't have rooms per se, they have apartments. They also have two restaurateurs on grounds, 3 hot tubs and a pool, an Orchid Garden, gift shop, private zoo with Spectacled Bears (native to the Andes but listed as Vulnerable and not very common), a lounge, several bar areas and sitting areas. It is quite the place. You need a map to get around

Photos of our apartment, our luggage was waiting for us in the room as usual.

The Inkaterra Cafe, one of the two restaurants, it is situated with views of the river.
The lounge area where Tea Time is served.
After checking in we took advantage of the 3 hot tubs, each a different temperature, before our evening briefing and dinner. Dalmiro told us that we'd have a late start tomorrow so we're planning on exploring Agua Calientes before we leave for Machu Picchu.