Thursday, July 7, 2011

Volunteer Vacation Part 3: Day Off

Day 6 - Off day
June 22th Wednesday

I just can't sleep in! Going to bed as early as we do every night makes for lots of sleep and an early rise just to get out of the tent. Fortunately Bette and Liz are also early risers, so I have good company while we wait for the others to rouse - Josh and Joni typically the last two to roll out by 15 minutes to 45 later. I don't mind though, I like relaxing over several cups of coffee and don't like to feel rushed.
This morning, being our day off, is especially relaxing. We have talked about what we wanted to do today. At first I thought about trying to do a strenuous solo hike, possibly hiking the Company Creek to Devore Creek loop, but after seeing how the trail is, knowing that the elevation gain would triple what we had already climbed, and knowing the mileage of 25 miles is as the crow flies - not including elevation (making it more like a 30 mile loop), I ditched the idea. I want to come back and do that loop... over the course of several days!
The evening before everyone had mentioned wanting to rent bikes. I had seen some bikes by the yurts that looked available to the trail crews, so we decided to check those out instead of renting a bike for $25 for the day.
Josh and Joni get up soon enough. We walk over to the yurts and check out the bikes. We find six that are in good enough condition to ride... but only just! Several don't change gears. Mine has only front brakes. Howard says he hasn't rode a bike in 30 years, and was a bit apprehensive about riding. He was going to take the truck and meet us where ever we were going if he didn't feel comfortable. But, as the sayings goes, he didn't forget. We all climbed on our bikes and biked across the trestle bridge and down valley towards the bakery. Since this was a free day no food was scheduled for the day, so I suggested we go to the bakery to pick up something for breakfast and lunch.

 The couple miles down valley to the bakery are incredibly pleasant. The morning air is crisp in the shade, and chilly when we pass by a creek - the glacial run-off water locally cools the area around the rushing of the water. We pass a sign for Bucknard Orchard on the right and Rainbow Falls on the left, the waterfalls is viewable as we pedal by it. We bike past the old school and the new before reaching the Bakery.
The experience of biking by the same things already driven by is very enjoyable. The breeze rushing by, the scents and closeness to surroundings brings everything in more focus. The old trucks, flower beds, lives and history of the people all become more apparent.
We park our bikes in front of the bakery and go inside. The sweet smell of baking goods fills the air in the shop. The display case has a large selection of huge delicious pastries covered in nuts, glazed in sugar, covered in fruit. All scream that they are the most delicious - I tend to believe them all! I settle on a sticky bun larger than a brick and coffee to wash it down. I also get two slices of cold pizza for lunch.
After we all leisurely eat we saddle back up. We have planned to cycle to Agnes Creek for an out and back hike once we get there, and a chance to see the PCT briefly. At breakfast we also decided to stop at the school house and Rainbow falls, since they were right off the road.
The old school house is unlocked and we walk in. There are historical displays inside, as well as pictures of classes past and a very old map of the world. Reading the history of Stehekin is very interesting. It doesn't take us long to read through the displays in the small schoolhouse.

A short ride later we take the cut-off to Rainbow Falls. The falls can be heard as a loud roar as we pedal to the trail head. The trail is very short to get to the viewing area for the falls. Later Bill explains that this trail was just completed a few months ago, allowing people to view the falls much closer up and in more of it's grandeur. The lower viewing area is gorgeous, and the temperature drops immediately by 10 degrees. As I take the trail to the higher viewing area, the trees begin dripping slightly then pouring like they are raining. The mist from the falls is thick, and drenching the trees. It becomes very cold! The view is gorgeous but so mist drenched I cannot linger! I snap a few pictures and even take a small video, but a few minutes is all I can take before I'm hurrying back to the warmth of the sun. The bracing coldness makes me feel wonderful! The warm sun dries me and my mind expands! I feel so ALIVE!!!

I pedal back down to the main road with a huge smile on my face. The ride back to Company Creek road goes quickly on the blacktop. Once there we continue up Stehekin Road, the road turning to gravel. Going up stream we go up hill slightly a lot. It doesn't seem like it, as the road goes up steeply and then has some descents. But we are constantly gaining elevation. Sometimes I ride in the front, and pedal hard to get in front and take pictures as the rest of the Crew catches up; at other times I ride in the back, slowly going and enjoying the surroundings and the day.
The road follows the river passing fewer and fewer homes and cottages as we go further. We pass beautiful sun-lite fields framed beyond in mountains, more wild-flowers by the roadside grassy swales and fields fill the view and complete the relaxation. Very little traffic passes a couple cars and the Park Service bus, everyone slowing and waving. We ride by the Ranch that we have heard about. There is supposed to be a restaurant there. The place looks great, cottages behind a field with the lodge behind.

The road passes through dark green forest bordering the river, and more open pine forest at slightly higher elevation. The road begins a more steep ascent, the river going from broad and winding to more narrow and much more swift. After some hard pedaling I arrive at High Bridge. This is where the Park Service bus makes it's last stop. We are also close to Agnes Creek Gorge Trail. Sanya is said to live at the Park Service cabin here. Very secluded, and very nice. I see a small water pump down in the river to bring water up to the cabin.
The bridge is very cool looking, over a high rocky part in the river. Here the river is noisy and has huge swells from the rocks just below the surface. After all arrive we decide to stop here for lunch and a few moments of relaxation after the stiff hill to get here.

After eating we cross the bridge and immediately run into a very steep hill. I know the trail should be very close, so I gear down and work hard to get the bike up the hill. Soon enough I cross the PCT and find the Agnes Gorge Trail. Happily, I get off the bike. A couple minutes later (the smart ones) Joni and Bette walk up the hill, "one look at the hill and that was it". Brilliant!
Bette didn't wear her hiking boots, so she has no plans to hike fast. So her and Liz hang back, Joni Josh and myself hiking off quickly in the front. The trail doesn't gain much elevation, mostly following the hillside elevation profile making for an easy trail. The 2.5 mile trail goes quickly - occasionally in old forest, other times the view opened up, leading around cliffs, crossing a few streams, and occasionally through hot meadows. In no time we get to the main attraction. The river goes through a squeeze, swirling and foaming over rocks, the other side of the gorge very steep. I climb down next to it and take many pictures. I climb over rocks and trees, looking down the river, beyond a few waterfalls and rapids, a waterfall streams down the cliff face joining the river. This marvelous glade is totally enchanting. Plenty of things to see and climb on over and around. Totally worth the hike out here!

 We stay for awhile enjoying the sights and sounds. Soon enough we head back down the trail. We stick together, I hang back to snap some pictures of the group. The hike is quick, enjoying the easy walking and light conversation.

 Back at the trail head we head back towards camp. Considering how long it took us to get there, we are expecting it to take as long. We are very surprised at how quick we get back. There was a lot more uphill to get to High Bridge. The uphill was deceptive though, and we didn't even realize it. Going back was smooth and easy. I got out front and tried to pedal as hard as I could, first to get photos of everyone, then just to go. I wanted to pedal hard and work my butt off for the fun of it. Liz kept up the entire way, neither of us were killing ourselves, just pedaling hard. I feel if she wanted to she could have passed me at anytime and left me in the dust!
Back at camp much quicker than expected, everyone but Liz and I took showers. We were just hungry and didn't mind going to dinner as dirt-balls! Once everyone was ready we climbed into the truck and drove to the Landing. Once there we met Bill's wife, whom works at the restaurant. Our server was a very nice woman by the name of Melissa. She mentioned her boy friend was hiking the PCT and I started asking a bunch of questions, "Where's he at on the Trail?", "Is this his first time?", "Did he meet you here while he was doing the Trail previously?". Bill was saying Stehekin is the last resupply stop for the final push to the termination of the PCT at the Canadian border.
We drank a few beers and had an excellent dinner. It was so nice to be served and not have to clean up dishes!
As we climbed back into the truck I got behind the drivers wheel and everyone else jumped into the bed of the truck, I got to chauffeur them all! Next time we used the truck I jokingly demanded that they all ride in the cab so I could have the back to myself!!
Back at camp I packed up as much as possible, transferring the gear I didn't want to carry into the back country into the duffel bag I planned on leaving in the truck. Tomorrow we backpack into the back country! I hit the pillow quickly, tired and content!

Next: Finishing Work