Wednesday, September 28, 2011

The Loowit Trail around Mt. St. Helens

Mt. St. Helens was the first of our training hikes for the PCT. Two weeks after returning from the Timberline Trail, The Barracuda and I hit the road for Mt. St. Helens. With school about to start and dogs not allowed on over 10 miles of the trail, Jules stayed home with the puppies and planned curriculum.

The Loowit Trail is unique for a couple of reasons. The first one, and most obvious, is that it surrounds an active volcano. So active, in fact, that steam vents from the crater even as I write this. It is estimated that within the next 100 years the lava dome will have completely rebuilt itself.

The second reason is the restricted area. Ten point eight of the 29 mile hike is referred to as "The Breach." It is the section which blew out in 1980 and is still being studied. Absolutely no camping is allowed. No dogs, No picnicking, no restroom use. Yep, that's right, you aren't even supposed to stop and pee. it is one straight shot of solid movement. Believe it or not, it is heavily enforced with a minimum fine of $100. The area is being studied so heavily by scientists that not only were helicopters flying over, but we ran into three scientists. That is 3 more than the other 30 miles of the Loowit (counting the out and back to get to the trail) and the 50 miles of Mt. Hood combined! They are trying desperately to keep the area as "freely natural" as possible. Apparently urine doesn't count as natural.

The third, and potentially lease unique aspect of the trail is the water conservation. Due to having blown up, there is very little water on the mountain. Keep in mind that we were traveling during the late summer, and thus the driest part of the year, but even during the wetter months the water level isn't as high as it would be other places. The ash and pumice which blew out don't hold moisture, so it all runs off quite quickly. Though water could be found every 8 to 10 miles on the south (reasonably intact) side the north side was much more sparse. Only one small trickle of murky, ashen water existed. Since most all of the trail is above treeline, it means 100 percent exposure and no water sources. All that adds up to a lot of water carrying and conservation. All in all it made for both a great training hike and a pretty amazing learning opportunity.

There are many entry points to enter the Loowit, but no roads actually cross the trail. We chose to enter at Windy Pass and walk from the edge of The Breach (the blast zone) though the intact South Side and back around through the desolate, northern volcanic expanse. In my mind, this would give The Barracuda upclose contact with full magnitude of the volcanoes power. Somehow I thought he might miss the impact. Sometimes, I'm a duphus. If The Barracuda somehow missed the magnitude, I'd have to check him for a pulse. There is no way to not stand in complete, humbled speechlessness as you look to your left and see Old Growth trees and then turn to look to your right and see what looks like a desert. Then you add in that it has been over 30 years and you are just leveled in your tracks. It was pretty cool.

Day 1: Windy Pass to East Dome/Shoestring Glacier - 10 miles

The Plains of Abraham dump ash into your feet, climb relentlessly in a few places, and leave you feeling as small as an ant. They were INCREDIBLE!

The 5 mile hike in is first on an access road and then cairn hopping through what appear to be sand dunes from a distance. Only when you get closer do you realize that they ware really giant mounds of gravel-sized pumice. Pumice was quickly added to The Barracuda's list of "Things I Dislike Hiking On."

Once on the Loowit you head through the Plains of Abraham. These cliff faces and long stark landscapes of devastation were incredibly exiting for the science geek in me. Out here almost nothing can grow. Even after 30 years there isn't enough soil and water to support life. A few seeds have been brought in on the mountain bikes that frequent the area, but mainly it is a lot of tan and grey. The cliff faces that weren't shattered were blasted by sand, pumice, and hot gas to create scenes so different from the normal water/erosion look. They are slab rocks where any crags have been polished smooth.

Up until this point I's never really thought about how much trails aren't graded for small legs. My leg span is small (only 28 inches), but The Barracuda is so much tinier yet. Multiple times his rock climbing experience came into play as he slab climbed sections of extreme exposure. Trail maintenance crews were doing their best, but with erosion and not much to work with they had their hands full. What was a long leg stretch and balancing act for me, became total free soloing for The Barracuda.

We filtered and filled up water at what would prove to be our only river crossing which wasn't dry, and continued on through multiple gullies and ridgelines. As evening approached, vegetation began to come back. First Lupin, then Indian Paintbrush, and finally hill after hill of wild huckleberries. We camped in a flat-ish, open meadow and ate huckleberries till our hands were stained. they were huge and lush and couldn't be passed up.

That night the open exposure and katabatic winds beat on the tent mercilessly. The rocks piled over and around the stakes kept the guylines up, but it was the first time I can ever remember being scared of a wind storm.

Day 2: Huckleberry Hill to Sheep Canyon - 10 miles

Many of the hillsides were covered in the purple lupin flowers and dotted with red Indian Paintbrush. Though chilly and foggy, when the sun came out to shine down on them the area smelled divine.

The plan was to do a 10 mile day and two 15's. Due to some extraneous circumstances that didn't exactly happen. What did happen was a most incredible sunrise, a frigid morning, and quite an enjoyable afternoon of boulder hopping.

There literally was no trail. Cairns were held in place by boulders for mile after mile all along the rubble which and been blown out of the mountain. Every so often a bit of moss, but mainly a stark moonscape of jagged pumice. By late afternoon we were back to ridgelines and even steeper gullies. The fog burned off, the sun came down full blast, and we could see for miles. Rainer could be picked out, Adams, Hood, and faintly the Three Sisters were all visible as well. As we began to circle around the mountain the views of each would come and go, but they were all a welcome sight as we are getting so familiar with them now.

When we went to bed at the edge of Sheep Canyon a sinking feeling was building in my stomach. The actual Loowit Trail is only 29 miles, but with the added 5 miles in and out that made 40. With only 20 miles covered and the restricted area ahead of us, we had a 20 mile day we would be forced to cover. There wasn't any way out of it. The Barracuda had only done 15 mile days at that point, and with only the two of us his pack weighed 10 lbs. I honestly didn't know if he could do it. Before the trip, Jules and I had discussed points of entry and one would have required a 17 mile day. Both of us felt that was asking far too much and dooming The Barracuda to fail. Here we were faced with a 20....

Day 3: Sheep Canyon through The Breach - 20 Miles

This was the most well marked trail I have ever hiked. You were never worried you had missed something. Every where you looked were cairns. They were coming out of the pumice, out of the boulders, flagged in the gullies, everywhere.

We were up early and moving by 7 am. The Barracuda had been briefed on our status and though you could tell he was a bit scared, his stoic nature quickly took over. As long as we kept moving it would be fine. It was decided that it didn't matter how much he slowed down on the uphills of the gullies, as long as he moved as fast as he safely could on the downhills and straight-aways. One foot in front of the other.

Miles were flying for the first part of the day. We had to hike downward (our only sustained downward of the entire hike) about 2 miles to get to the Touttle River. We had heard from other hikers that this might be a doozy of a climb up the riverbank on the otherside. Manned with parachord to rope The Barracuda up I felt confident. That was, until we began to get close to the river. The Toutle River produced the largest debris landslide in recorded history when the mountain erupted. The entire riverbed is gouged out from the mud and debris flow which tore down the mountain. The view was intense. Luckily, we had just finished hiking Elliot Glacier on the Timberline. The Barracuda was highly confident.

It is time to confess that I hate getting my feet wet. I really dislike hiking in squishing shoes. More than a couple times I have completely taken my shoes and socks off, rolled up my tights, and then crossed the river. I will walk up and down a bit to see where the best place is as well. Once we found where we thought we could cross, I hopped over and then stretched dramatically to help The Barracuda. I then promptly dropped him and myself into the water. No one was hurt and it is now joked about, but it has gotten me over wet feet. They are much better than completely wet self.

I filtered our last water of the day while our clothes dried and we ate a snack. Twenty minutes late we were climbing hand over hand up the vertical slope of the Toutle Riverbank. Again, The Barracuda's previous climbing history shone through and we passed the sketchiest section. The only thing holding us back now, were the miles.

The Breach is basically an open desert-like space with a few tufts of grassy stuff here and there. The trail was constant cairn hopping, exposed dune walking, and dry gully after gully of run-off. There wasn't a better place to have tried to pull The Barracuda's first 20. Due to how well the trail has to be marked (since you are in complete desolation) the concept of millions of small goals is right in plain view. All you have to do is get to the next cairn. If you think about it as 20 miles, you are shot. The overwhelming nature of the task was too much for him. However, he could walk 1/4 mile, he could walk up switch-backed hill, and then he could find the next place to go from there.

The morning was foggy and frigid, by the end of the day the sun was in full strength and layers were shed. We couldn't down water like crazy, since there wasn't going to be any more, but we could talk as we hiked. The talking is the best park of hiking with The Barracuda. We will invent games, discuss how we feel about things, he will let me in on little insights he has been pondering. More often than not, I am completely impressed by the depth of his thoughts or the complexity of his vocabulary and knowledge. Our talking during the school day is different. With so many other things to focus on, we don't get to have completely uninterrupted conversation for large stretches of time. Moreover, when we hike with Jules, The Barracuda doesn't communicate in the same way. It is a special personal time for us that is quite wonderful.

And so we walked, and we walked, and we walked. A peripheral male elk wandered by quite frenzied looking for water. We passed the Johnson Observatory way up on the hill. We watched as Spirit Lake got bigger and bigger in front of us. With us both having hydration bladders, there was no reason to stop, so we just kept on moving. With there being nothing distinguishing about one place to the next, the map wasn't helpful so it stayed put away. About 2 o'clock we came across the most bizarre half mile of red, volcanic, pumice rock. It appeared completely in the middle of nowhere, and we later found out, ended just as abruptly. The Floating Island Lava Flow. For the first time we could see where we were and find ourselves on the map. Out came the map, out came The Barracuda's finger to find us, out came my fingers to measure how many miles we had left to hike. Low and behold, we were only 6 miles from the end. Six miles! We could do 6 miles; it was only 2 o'clock. With spirits lifted we hiked on.

Soon we began to see day-hikers and weekend-warriors decked out in their cotton and clean gaiters. We were far from clean at that point. The dust of The Breach had covered us and filled our shoes. We had awkward tan lines from the last couple days of sun. We merely nodded at most of their horrified looks and kept moving. We are hiker trash and we know it. At 5:13 we rounded the edge of the Loowit Trail. The sign caused jumps of glee from The Barracuda. The last few miles had been all uphill and he was getting tired at that point.

The last five miles of access road hiking just, plain sucked. To make matters worse, three science trucks drove right past us and didn't offer rides. We'd step out of the way and the truck would charge past, waving no less. Every bend in the road seemed like it just had to be the last one. By the last three miles it was getting dark and windy. They mean it when they call it Windy Pass. Sometimes you had to lean in quite dramatically to keep from being knocked over. We were getting cold in the shade and our feet were down right hurting. Up until then our pace had been quite good. Now, not so much. Just after 7 pm we hobbled into the Windy Pass parking lot. We made it! Dirty, sore, and stinky, the tourists sort of parted and stared as we moved to our car. The Barracuda made a celebratory call to his father and both our shoes and socks can off right away. We drove home excited with not only another item off of his Life List, but a major milestone packed away.

And so it was that The Barracuda pulled his first 20 - with water conservation, a 10 pound pack, and no lunch or dinner for the day. It took us just over 12 hours, but he did it. Sitting in his booster seat, munching a Pop Tart and a hunk of cheese, The Barracuda spoke up as we pulled away, "See Mom, I can do the PCT. I know I can do it. You shouldn't discount me because I'm small. It is just a million tiny goals."

Well said, Little Man, well said.

Monday, September 26, 2011

The Pacific Crest Trail

The Barracuda has decided he wants to do a Pacific Crest Trail attempt this coming year (2012) and break the record of the youngest thru-hiker. We are actively preparing. Though this came as a bit of a shock to his father and I, when we sat down and thought about it he has gained many of the skills necessary to be able to have a successful shot this next year. Throughout the post you can see pictures of him learning various skills over the past year and a half.

The Pacific Crest Trail has been on my life list for quite a while. I've wanted to thru-hike it; to really finish it and have the accomplishment of knowing it was all done at once. Quite a bit ago the Fimby people (as they're family is known in our house) sent us the book Zero Days from their outdoor blog. It describes the trip taken by 10 year old Mary Chambers and her family hiking the Pacific Crest Trail. She is currently still holding the record of the youngest thru hiker of the trail. We read the book together, and though The Barracuda was completely baffled by the way they hiked (as it is completely different from how we backpack), he was a bit taken by the fact a kid had completed such a famous trail. At that point, we weren't doing much by way of complete trails and were focusing more on just hiking around. The thought stewed with him a while. You could see his little brain a workin'. Sometime later, he decided that he wanted to try it. He would hike The Pacific Crest Trail; let's put it on his Life List. This was highly pleasing to Jules and I since we had wanted to continue long distance backpacking and hoped our son would one day join us.
That was it for quite a bit (almost a year). The intent had been declared, nothing else to it. When we began to really backpack in earnest, with miles flying away at the waysides, The Barracuda began to ask a few more questions. How many miles a day would you have to hike? How many miles had his father hiked on the AT? How did his dad carry all the stuff? How much did his backpack weigh when he thru-hiked? Long distance backpacking was becoming a reality he could really grasp.

Learning to read elevation change on topographical maps. This is the precursor to learning compass bearings and route finding skills. We have also actively been working on the math and visual/spacial skills while homeschooling.

While hiking the Timberline Trail this summer, The Barracuda made his intentions clear. Next year he wanted to thru-hike the Pacific Crest Trail. He would be 7 then, a full three years before Mary Chambers. He wanted to be the youngest and he thought he could do it. If he could hike 50 miles around a mountain, he could hike three states. He was homeschooled and thus wouldn't have to miss class. We already had all the gear. I already knew how to make the food. Guadie could already put that many miles on her paws. His reasoning continued and soon his father and I became a bit convinced. He might actually have a crazy is that?!

Learning to glissade (and levitate apparently). Before ice axe use, you learn to glissade just with yourself for better balance. Once you can balance during the slide, you can add the ice axe for steering and speed control.

After arriving home, Jules and I sat down to talk. The kid had put in his time. He could hike the miles, he can read a map, his snow skills are good, his perseverance is higher than many adults we know. He needed to increase his daily miles from 14-15 up to 20-25, he would need an ice axe and we'd have to work on a boot belay for the Sierras, we'd need a smaller tent and to find a decent kids backpack (I'm going to have make one, they just don't exist with small enough torsos and enough carrying capacity for a kid to actually backpack). Alright, Jules agreed; we could do it.

The kid is just fit. There is no getting around it. Even the sports therapists all agreed - he's in incredible shape. Now all we have to work on is modesty :)

The details needed to be attended to. We had been planning on doing the PCT with The Barracuda, but not exactly this soon. He is still under 48 inches tall. Those little legs of his are so tiny he isn't allowed in the pool by himself, let alone hiking that many miles. So after checking with a sports therapist (or 3!) to make sure he could physically do it without blowing out his body, and after looking into gear costs to make sure we could do it without blowing out our wallet, and after looking at timelines to make sure we could do it without blowing out our state homeschool funding, I said yes.

Evaluating river crossings and learning technique with the Leki poles. I dislike Lekis but The Barracuda seems to be interested in carrying them and they make great tent poles to lighten our load.

The Barracuda then figured out a training schedule within 2 days of being home. (He is so organized it is disgusting!) He wanted us to walk 10 miles a day and increase by 2 miles each week. While increasing in miles we would increase in Nalgene bottles of water to add weight. On weekends we would then go out and backpack the forest to train. He and I would carry everything and Jules would get to carry only his stuff. The kid is determined. He didn't have any details of where this was all going to happen, but that was for us parents to figure out. More and more I am impressed by how much thought this kid can put into goals. It is definitely a skill I don't must be attached to his Y chromosome somewhere.

Testing the depth of the ice. The Barracuda gets to actively use an ice axe (in fact he got his own for his birthday) because crampons are still far too dangerous. He needs to practice self arrest rolls to be sure he can stop from a multitude of angles, but we figure a few summits this coming fall will help with that.

We now walk at least 1o miles a day. We are trying to get in 15 miles a day, but that extra 5 is proving hard to schedule in. Luckily, the dogs can help us remember with constant nagging. The walk is just up our road with nice elevation changes and good scenery. At 5 miles total (we clocked it in the car) we hike every morning and every evening. So far, so good. The dehydrator has been going almost non-stop and the weighing/packaging of meals is well underway. At this point, the only issue we are having is where to put all of it. One-hundred and forty-six days of food is proving to be quite a lot. Clearance has been given from our virtual school and homeschooling from the trail is still acceptable. In fact, The Barracuda's advisor is a bit excited about it. We are looking for pen pals from the trail (gotta love backpacking while homeschooling) so if anyone out there wants to send and receive letters, comment away. We are compiling a list of good post offices and town stops which we can post in the future. As it currently stands, we will leave April 30th and return September 17th.

Some days are long and exhausting. A couple of times dinner has consisted of cheese and tortillas eaten inside sleeping bags. But, he hangs in there. The Barracuda is always ready to go the next morning, always blazing the trail ahead of his father and I, always eager to climb a talus slope, play in a meadow, or throw rocks into an alpine lake.

The Barracuda's Thoughts on Our Pacific Crest Trail Attempt
When asked to say something about the trail, this is what The Barracuda had to say.

I think it is big and it is long. It has so many miles in it. 2,658 miles is a big number. I have no idea even how long that is. I mean, I look at a map and it is from Mexico to Canada. I can move my finger, but I can't really know how long that is.

I am nervous, but at the same time, it makes me feel excited. The reason I am nervous is that it is so far away from everything I've known and it is so long. It will be weird not seeing different things in different places. What I mean is like, how I've never seen El Campo before or Kennedy Meadows, and I'm going to see them on the trail. I'm not going to drive up or drive through, I'm going to walk. When you drive you feel like you are going fast. You look out the window and think "Look at that" then it disappears. When you are walking, you actually get to see it. It lasts for a while and you are there with it, not just in the car by yourself.

I think it will be fun to do because we will be seeing new plants, and being in hot deserts, and new ecosystems and everything. Sometimes it is going to be hard to do 20 miles at the same time. The first day and the last day will be the hardest parts of the entire hike. The first day will be the hard because we are just starting and have to leave my dad. On the last day it will hard because we have to leave the trail.

I think that breaking the record will be exciting and I feel like I've accomplished something. It will be fun to be able to say that I broke the record.

Sunday, September 04, 2011

The Timberline Trail

After coming home from Rainier, we decided to go out on the Timberline Trail (#600). The Timberline circumnavigates Mt. Hood in a 38 mile loop. As always, when we go to Mt. Hood we try to get up to Yocum Ridge. This side trail turned it into a 48 mile loop by adding the extra 10 miles, out and back. The entire trip took us 5 days (4 full days and 2 halves) and we averaged about 12 on our full days (yes, I promise it is mathematically possible if you count the epic encounter). More than anything, we wanted to see just how far The Barracuda could hike over some difficult terrain.

More and more, our son's appreciation of mountains is becoming apparent. He now knows the order of the Northern and Central Cascades and can identify most by silhouette. He is becoming transfixed with mountains.

Day 1 - Timberline Lodge to Paradise - 4 miles

We had no less than 4 separate tourists take our picture. Apparently there is something very interesting about a dog with a backpack and a family all geared up.

Since we got out later than expected (doesn't that ALWAYS happen?) we didn't arrive and get walking till about 3 in the afternoon or later. We hit the trail, hiked for an hour and a half or so, ate, and hiked another mile to begin looking for a decent campsite. We have begun experimenting with ways to make more milage in the day. By eating and then putting in a few more miles before the end of the day we can add 4 or 5 miles to the day without much issue and stealth camp without the need of food prep. We can't quite tell if we like this yet.

Day 2 - Paradise Park to Yocum Ridge - 11 miles

The Timberline crosses a good 3-5 rivers a day as you work through the gullies and melt waters of the mountain. The Barracuda is becoming quite good with Leki poles and can ford most rivers now by himself with the occasional help of hand through some extreme leaps. Guadalupe, however, HATES water and must be manhandled carried over most rivers. She finds this most undignifying!

Yocum Ridge is one of our favorite places on Mt. Hood. It was discovered by Jules when he did his first hike of the Timberline Trail a year or so before I met him. The 10 mile (total out and back) side trail is a brutal uphill of almost continuous switchbacks, but you are rewarded with a personal alpine meadow and an awe inspiring view.

Day 3 - Yocum Ridge to Carin Basin - 14 miles

Muddy Fork runs through Cathedral Ridge. Before the first snow, we will hopefully take a weekend trip up to the actual ridge line instead of the valley.

We were up and out of camp by 7 and pounding miles. Today brought us past Cathedral Ridge and a new place to explore. Though there is a fondness within us for Yocum, Cathedral's towering rock formations and three beautiful waterfalls surround you from all sides. It has a very different feel from Yocum's expansiveness.

Every real backpacking trip has a moment where you think, "This is completely insane!" It is a commitment moment where you have to decide once and for all, are you in? This river crossing would be it for the Timberline trail. As I watched my son slowly wiggle across three haphazardly strewn (and seemingly flimsy) logs, slip twice due to there being no bark on the logs and a gushing torrent of rocky rapids beneath him, and then reach out trying to grab his father's outstretched hand, I couldn't help but have a moment of "What the hell are we doing?!" To make matters worse, the logs were not tied together so as The Barracuda began walking they shifted to and fro beneath his weight.

Day 4 - Carin Basin to Cloud Cap - 14 miles

The dog was horrified; The Barracuda thought it was beyond awesome!
Click on the link below to see the washout in real time via YouTube.

This was an epic day. All went well until we hit the washout at Elliot Glacier. Everyone on the mountain we met was talking about Elliot: "How are you going to get around Elliot?" "Why aren't they fixing Elliot?" "Aren't they supposed to have a bridge over Elliot by now?" There are stacks of pictures and talk on the Internet about Elliot. Everyone just needs to get over it! In the floods of 2006, the winter here was brutal and Elliot Glacier took out the entire trail. It literally drops off in a sheer vertical down to the river. The vertical is over 150 feet high and requires a cross country (not skis, but unmaintained) backtrail and then a technical scramble down an arete, and then getting to a rope to back down to the water. Once down, we forded the river three or four times, crossed the talus and scree for a good 2 hours, and then tied both Guadalupe and The Barracuda up for the vertical climb (no rope provide this time) up the other side. It was exhausting and got us no closer to Cloud Cap. After some bushwacking and route finding, we discovered an old fire road (thank goodness for the Cloud Cap fire a couple years ago). Another unmaintained vertical climb up a fire slope with only water bars to hold the soil in and a quarter mile walk following the smell of campfires took us to a road. We must have looked like Sasquatch scrambling up to the road from the forest. The road lead to Cloud Cap Campground. Needless to say, taking the dog down and then up scree, talus, and places where she was tied together with climbing webbing wasn't Guadie's favorite activity. Her paws were split open by the end and she was drooling uncontrollably, but she followed through in Stickeen fashion and has now permanently won Jules' love. The Barracuda began to go into sugar shock from lack of solid food (he is extremely blood sugar sensitive) about half way through, but pulled it together enough to make it to camp. There were some sketchy moments and I'm sure we looked horrifying when we stumblied into Cloud Cap by nightfall.

Day 5 - Cloud Cap to White River (10 miles)

Walking around the mountain gives the peak a highly personal experience because you get to see it from every angle. Rather than a veiwpoint and only one side, you see them all and you witness them change from one to another. Though I have grown up watching Mt. Hood, I feel like I didn't really know much about it at all now having walked around it.

Being homeschoolers, the lines of education versus life become very blurry. These learning moments are one of the things we enjoy so much about the homeschooling process and a large part of why we take our son hiking so much at such a young age. There have been many amazing learning moments over the last couple years, but one of the greatest happened going from Cloud Cap through Cooper's Spur. From up that high you can see one of the largest expanses in Oregon, but most interestingly, you can physically watch the rain shadow effect and the tectonic plate line come together. The hilly, green expanse in front of you becomes a ridge and then a flat, brown space on the other side. The mountains of Rainier, St. Helens, Adams, Hood, Jefferson, and the Three Sisters all line up and directly before you the puzzle pieces of the Earth's crust become real. The Barracuda has studied volcanoes, subduction zones, the Ring of Fire, and all that jazz but here he could literally see in front of him how it all worked. I realize I'm a total science geek, but it was pretty rad.

Day 6 - Mitchel Creek to Timberline (3 miles)

The ridgelines of Mt. Hood are one of the predominant features of the Timberline Trail.. There is a combined elevation loss/gain of over 12,000 feet on the Timberline Trail (not including Yocum Ridge) so you are rather constantly either going up or down.

We slept in, woke up low key and were moving by 8. We had been warned by another hiker that it had been washed out to the point she was turning around. The thought of another Elliot Glacier crossing wasn't pleasant, but all that was keeping us from Timberline and we were committed. We hiked down to White River to view the damage, and sure enough, total wash out. Notes were posted of other groups heading back. Much like Elliot, we headed down to a nearby arete and were determined to make our way down. Surprisingly, we caught the trail on lower switchbacks. Apparently all that was washed out was the upper portion of the trail. Less than a 5 minute bushwhack and we were back on track. It was a very quick out, even with Timberline teasing us in the distance while we cairn hopped, hiking uphill through glacial silt. A stop by the gift shop to pick up a patch for The Barracuda and we were driving away to Dairy Queen before 11 o'clock.

It was a great trip and a significant victory for The Barracuda. He can check the first item off of his Life List and solidified his confidence about pulling larger mileage in succession. We knew he could do it, but he needed to know.

When we came home, we were suprised to find out that The Barracuda is the youngest person to have ever finished this hike. Apparently a 7 an a 9 year old boy finished the trip with their family a couple years ago, and had claimed the record until now. Our son doesn't much care about that, all he really wanted was a Blizzard ice cream treat.