Solo into the Glacier Peak Wilderness, July 2015

Fotos & Reflections from my 65-mile Solo Backpacking Trip into

the Glacier Peak Wilderness,

Washington State/Cascadia, Monday – Friday 27 – 31 July 2015.

*Click on each foto to blow it up big. Enjoy!*

Views of Image Lake and of Glacier Peak and surrounding mountains from deep in the Wilderness on the morning of the Third Day, Wednesday 29 July 2015.

Views of Image Lake and of Dakobed (Glacier Peak) and surrounding mountains from deep in the Wilderness on the morning of the Third Day, Wednesday 29 July 2015.

“Off the Grid & gone. Solo. Well or unwell. Glacier Peak Wilderness will swallow me up. Reemergence in about a week. Been planning for a year. Going into the Deep High Lonesome. Adios.”

Those words were my Facebook post for Monday morning on the 27th of July before I left Seattle for the Glacier Peak Wilderness. Before my adventure was over, it had turned into a middle-aged man’s Hero’s Journey, a strange Quest of sorts, and on the last day there was a time I realized I might not make it out alive. I did, of course, despite developing what turned out to be rhabdomyolysis, as I share these words and pictures with all of you. My travels into the Deep High Lonesome proved transformative in slowly unfolding ways, ways I am aware of as I write these words well over a year afterwards.

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Chiwawa River.  Looking upstream from a roadside campsite in the Okanogan-Wenatchee National Forest towards the Glacier Peak Wilderness Area. Day 1 on Monday the 27th of July 2015.

Another roadside campsite beckons, but I stop only to stretch my legs, relieve myself, and smell the fresh forest air of mountains & rivers.

Looking across the Chiwawa River into the Glacier Peak Wilderness from the same campground. The river’s running low, and the temperature’s rising. I’m the only person here at the moment. 

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Dusty ass road walk. I parked my car at the Buck Creek Trailhead at Trinity (792.50 meters or 2,600 feet) and walked all the way back and then up the long Phelps Creek Road towards the Phelps Creek Trailhead (1,066.80 m/3,500 ft) to Spider Meadows. I started walking from Trinity about 15:00 or 3:00 pm PDT in the afternoon of Day 1, Monday 27 July 2015.

Was reminded of the words of Doug Scott, the British mountaineer from Nottingham, England, who once pointed out when one goes into the mountains one must be prepared to die. Not wanting to die, of course, but mentally understanding and accepting the risk. Didn’t plan any alpine mountaineering, tho, as my intention is to trek and scramble cross-country in a physically demanding and remote part of this journey.

The section I planned to traverse off-trail from Buck Creek Pass up into the alpine zone towards and then down into the Upper Napeequa Valley was expected to be the most daunting. Scrambling thru High Pass on the way was one of the highlights I looked forward to experiencing. The Napeequa was notorious for being remote, difficult, fly-infested, and spectacular.

As I contemplate the possibility of dying amidst such magnificent beauty, however, I know I’ll be fine. Just what’s going thru my mind. In case this proved relevant for any search and rescue, which I hoped there wouldn’t be any need for. So, here I am, very much alive and ready for more. 

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Selfie shot standing in the hot, dusty ass Phelps Creek Road. Gusts of wind swirls dust devils and flying sheets of grit. Even so, it is a beautiful day in the backcountry. I’m grateful to be here in the Great Outdoors.

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Sleeping with Ghosts on the Appalachian Trail

Ruminations, Romance, and the Lives of a Family Long Dead

Story and Photographs by William Dudley Bass

Ruins of the old Sarver Homestead along the Appalachian Trail in Virginia, May 1991.

Ruins of the old Sarver Homestead along the Appalachian Trail in Virginia, May 1991.

In late May 1991, almost three months into our odyssey along the Appalachian Trail, my wife and I planned to sleep among ghosts. Old-timey Virginia ghosts. It seemed like a fitting thing to do while walking across our home state, a journey as rich with rumination as it was with hardship and joy.

Gwen and I had embarked on the first day of spring from the top of Springer Mountain in northern Georgia to backpack the whole Appalachian Trail end to end. The AT, as we hikers called it, or simply “the Trail,” stretches more than 2,000 miles northwards across 14 states to the summit of mile-high Mt. Katahdin in north-central Maine. Almost a quarter of the Trail passes through the Old Dominion, making Virginia home to the longest section of the AT, more than any other state. Gwen and I took six-and-a-half months to backpack the whole Trail, climbing Katahdin in early October on the day after our third wedding anniversary.

Rich in both history and wildlife, the Appalachian Trail is an intersection of people and wilderness. Those who backpack end-to-end in one push are known as “thruhikers,” while those who attempt to complete the whole thing in stages are called “section hikers.” Most take on trail names. Gwen and I were thruhikers, as such a distinct minority among the day hikers, weekenders, and picnickers. We called ourselves the Pregnant Rhinos.

Our trail name arose from a backpacking trip out West the previous year, when we got teased about the huge new internal-frame expedition packs bulging from our backs. “Damn, y’all look like a coupla pregnant rhinoceroses,” exclaimed a teenage boy, his own rickety, external-frame pack jangling with pots and pans and sloppy blankets.

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Swimming in Avalanches

Click on any photo to ENLARGE it.

Lightning Storms are common in the Mountains. Photo from a free wallpaper/stock photo set.

Lightning Storms are common in the Mountains. Foto of multiple plasma strikes in the Rockies from a free wallpaper/stock photo set.

Lightning struck the mountain as the heavens cracked with thunder. Snow and ice burst loose like boiling water, and I was swept down the couloir, a steep gulley plunging down the flank of the mountain. Runaway snow felt like galloping wet sand and hissed like snakes. It was a hell of a way to spend a summer vacation.

It was mid-July 1986, and I was in the Wyoming Wind River Range toward the end of a 30-day Wind River Mountaineering Course with NOLS, the world-famous National Outdoor Leadership School. Headquartered on the edge of the range in the cowboy town of Lander, Wyoming, NOLS was the premier outdoor adventure school of my time. Once I was on purpose to become a NOLS Instructor. At least I was until love, romance, and a broken down car got in the way. Nevertheless this 30-day NOLS mountaineering course proved to be one of the most pivotal points in my life.

Back then I planned a career in outdoor adventure and sought concentrated training in hard skills such as alpine rock climbing and glacier travel and in soft skills such as teamwork and leadership under pressure. Along with those skills NOLS also taught natural history, science in the field, environmental responsibility, wilderness navigation, and backcountry first aid, all knowledge I desired. I had one semester left in grad school, too, back east in Richmond, Virginia. And, to be sure, what I most wanted as an ol’ farmboy from Virginia was an immersion adventure in the Wild American West. And I got it.

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