Gear Review: Ruffwear Approach Dog Pack

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I have used these packs exclusively for 3 years and hundreds of miles with my two border collies. Kye is a 34lb female and Cody is a 40lb male.

When first buying these packs I bought the small for Kye and the medium for Cody, according to the measurements and weight guidelines on the website. Despite this the medium pack really was too large for Cody and I had it cinched down as tight as possible to make it fit. The panniers themselves were massive on him. Recently I replaced his medium pack with a small and it fits much better and has smaller panniers.

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What I love about these packs is how they fit and carry on each of my dogs. The weight is carried over their shoulder and is not suspended from their back like other bags. This creates less fatigue and rubbing.

The fully-adjustable 5-point harness of these packs means that they do well on any shape or size of dog (assuming you get generally the right size), and as long as they are adjusted correctly I have seen absolutely zero chaffing, rubbing or hair wear during or after our backpacking trips. The key to this is not having the harness too tight; it needs to keep the pack on the dog NOT keep the pack in place on the dog. Keeping the pack in place is achieved by correct placement and balance of the pack’s contents, much like the panniers on a pack horse. I have seen several dogs with packs hanging to one side…this is uncomfortable for the dog and causes chaffing and fatigue.

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The panniers themselves, on a size medium, have the capacity to carry about 3-4 days worth of regular dog food (about 2 cups per meal) on each side. I usually only have my dogs carry two meals on each side due to weight more than capacity.

The fabric of these packs has held up extremely well. My dogs generally stay on trail with me but they have been through boulder fields and up talus trails, through scrub, under and over trees, between rock faces and more. The only wear, after 3 years of use, is along the very bottom of the panniers where have often rubbed against rocks, trunks and tree limbs as the dogs have climbed over or around them. Even snagging on large branches has not affected the fabric.

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These packs also feature a grab handle (useful when Kye almost fell between two boulders on Jackass Pass in Wyoming) and a leash D-ring if you don’t want to use their collar (which every dog should be wearing on the trail). The positive aspect about the leash connection on the pack is that a leash is less-likely to get wrapped beneath the panniers than if using their collar.

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All in all these are great packs, they fit well and my dogs love them. Highly recommended. The only packs that I have seen that are comparable in quality and fit are Groundbird Gear Dog Packs but they have a long wait period and are much more expensive. Ruffwear dog packs are readily available in REI and at online retailers.

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Colorado Trail, Collegiate East Section Hike, June 2018: Part 2

Day 3 – Frenchman Creek Campsite to Silver Creek Campsite (9 miles)

Kye startled me awake this morning with a few barks at 6:30. Kye rarely barks and it had me on edge not knowing what it was. I called out “what’s out there” thinking it was a critter if some kind. A voice answered back “it’s just me”…like I would know who “me” was. Either way the voice confirmed it was a person although I hadn’t expected to have another person walk through my campsite so early in the morning. It was only later that I realized there was another trail (French Creek Trail) that went right by where I was camped.

So we were awake and despite the cold I got out of bed, pulled on my puffy jacket and started packing gear. I set a new record and was out of camp at 7:50am. I was happy for an early start as we had a big day of hiking ahead of us.

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The first half of the day was a few ups but mostly downs. We swiftly covered the miles and we ran into several day hikers heading for Harvard Lakes which were half way between camp and the trail head, and just outside of the wilderness boundary so I was starting to see bike tracks and run into some cyclists…they looked like they weren’t having much fun with the steep climb.

We reached Silver Creek trailhead by 11am which is what I had been hoping for. I wanted to fill up on calories and take an hour break before attempting another steep climb.

During our lunch break two ladies who were section hiking, Clara (from Colorado) and Stacy (from Arizona), stopped and chatted and then decided to also eat lunch. We talked a little longer and then I headed up the trail at noon. It started out fairly moderate for the first 3/4 mile but soon got ugly and steep and I was counting steps, always trying to reach 60 before pausing. It was tough and was the steepest grade we had done yet on this trail. It didn’t help that the trail was mostly in the sun and we were pausing in the shade of each tree on the way. We passed several day hikers on their way back down (I forgot it was a Saturday) and got a report from each about much further it was to each data point I was using as reference. With the trail so steep (including to the side) it was impossible to step off the trail with the dogs but everyone was very gracious about it and they still got lots of compliments.

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I had only packed a liter of water as I was expecting to find a water source at 1.5 miles up the trail. I never found the location the data book meant but we managed to reach the creek at 2.5 miles with a little water to spare. I’m still amazed that we didn’t run out.

I had originally planned to hike over the saddle below Mt Yale but after seeing where the trail still had to go, with another 800ft gain over a mile, and feeling completely exhausted I gave up on my plan and found a campsite along the creek.

Less than 30 minutes later Clara and Stacy showed up with their massive 40lb packs (I thought they would take longer with that kind of weight to haul) and set up camp next to me in the small and only camping area. It was nice to share the afternoon and evening with others for a change and we chatted, ate dinner and chatted some more until the sun disappeared behind the mountains and the mosquitoes came out to feast. Cody and Kye certainly got their fill of attention and love for the day.

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With our mileage falling short of our plan tomorrow would be a longer, albeit easier day with the last 800ft to the saddle being our only major climb. I am certainly looking forward to being on the Collegiate West where the trail doesn’t constantly go down steeply to trailheads and then back up again just as steeply.

Day 4 – Silver Creek Campsite to Dry Creek Campsite

Another early morning started at 6:30am again. I had not slept well the past couple of nights and believe it was due to the altitude (both campsites were around 11,000 feet). I also managed to break yesterday’s early-start record by 5 minutes this morning and was on the trail at 7:45am.

I knew what was coming…800ft elevation gain over a mile to a saddle below Mt Yale. We took our time, and being the first climb and activity of the day it was a lot easier than I was expecting and took a little under an hour. I was also expecting to come out on an exposed saddle above the beaver ponds as that had been the trail I had seen yesterday…and my reason for stopping so early. However this was not where the trail went and I wondered if I could have made the climb the day before. It all worked out for the best though as I had thoroughly enjoyed my evening with Stacy and Clara.

I passed a couple with a dog. Another one of those irritating “he’s friendly” dogs who didn’t listen well and wanted to get up close and personal with Kye and Cody. The couple moved on but we soon heard them behind us again…apparently they were wanting to summit Mt Yale and had missed the trail turn off on the saddle ridge…that’s a whole lot of extra elevation they did there.

I stopped at the top and snacked on some cashews while I waited for Clara and Stacy. We exchanged numbers as they were hiking to the top of an exposed knoll and I asked them to send me a picture as I was on a bit of a mileage crunch and didn’t want to make the detour.

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The first mile of the way down was just as steep as the way up but it soon mellowed out and we were cruising well for a while….right up until I rolled my ankle, again. (I had twisted it a month prior to the hike when I stepped on the edge of a hole in a friend’s yard). I had rolled it at least once a day so far but this was the worst and I hit the ground with my left knee as pain ripped through my ankle…I wasn’t sure I would be able to put weight on it. I stood, gingerly, and was happy it could hold me. We were still a couple of miles from the trailhead and we took it VERY slowly and carefully down the steep and rocky trail. I was determined this wasn’t going to put an end to my hike.

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Once at the bottom we took a break at Middle Cottonwood Creek and then checked the data book. The trail was moderate for a while with limited downhill and mostly level. I was willing to risk another 2 miles on my ankle and to see how it did. It did fine although it was tender and I had to be careful where I stepped.

With another climb ahead of us we took a long 90 minute lunch break at South Cottonwood Creek where the dogs snoozed and I took advantage of the water to clean some pretty grimy feet…again. I also wanted to fill up on calories for the climb ahead.

I had planned on a 2 hour break but after an hour and a half I was bored and getting chilly so we set out on the climb. The climb up to the saddle/ridge below Bald Mt. Was 1200ft over almost four miles…almost so gradual you didn’t know you were climbing most of the time and that was a nice change. It was also a positive thing as we needed to hurry…a massive storm was coming over the top of Mt Yale and headed straight for us. I hoped no one was at the top of the mountain, or even on any of the ridges when that hit…it looked ugly although it did not appear to be a thunderstorm. Thankfully it skirted us and headed east over the valley. I was definitely thankful we didn’t get caught in it and I was constantly scanning for trees (and not lone ones) to shelter under.

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With the saddle reached the trail leveled out considerably and we made really good time, stopping for an occasional water or pee break (both me and the dogs). The views were pretty typical of the trail…looking out over the valley and Highway 24 with looming peaks in the distance…nothing special after four days but still pretty nonetheless.

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We crossed two creeks, the second with a campsite that was already occupied by several backpacking tents and I could pick out at least one Tarptent and one YAMA Mountain Gear Cirriform. I said “hi” to two girls but moved on as I still had another 2 miles to go…I wanted to be as close to Mt Princeton Hot Springs as possible for the morning…a place that meant a shower, burger and beer(s).

We camped at Dry Creek, which ironically is listed in the data book as a “guaranteed” water supply, meaning it is always running! I checked out one campsite, discarded it, went back across the creek to check out another that had no flat spots and returned to the first which, while dusty, had a nice flat spot for my tent.

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As I was clearing up around camp and getting ready to check out the information for the next day I realized I had misplaced (ie they had fallen out of my pack pocket) my data book pages…pages that give me detailed information about water, elevation gain or loss, campsites, trail junctions and other important things on the trail. I hiked back a mile along the trail but couldn’t find them which was frustrating, and the whole thing a dumb mistake on my part.

Thankfully with Stacy and Clara having texted me pictures earlier I was able to contact them (the whole Collegiate East section seems to have good cell service) and have them take pictures of the pages of the data book I needed to get me to Monarch Pass. Trail magic indeed! (I did find the pages at the BOTTOM of my pack at the end of the hike but have no idea how they got there as I had them outside my pack and I had been looking at them that day).

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Day 5 – Dry Creek to Mt Princeton Hot Springs

I slept in a little this morning (compared to others) but was still out of camp before 8am. Cody wasn’t looking great and was limping slightly but I couldn’t find anything in his paw and there was no swelling but I gave him a baby aspirin anyway. Either way we didn’t have a choice but to hike and we covered the two miles of single-track trail and two miles of road to our first resupply point at Mt Princeton Hot Springs at the 50 mile mark. Cody was doing okay but still tender every 20th step or so which meant I didn’t think it was a joint or muscle issue.

I washed clothes, took a shower and washed more clothes in the bath house sink with whatever soap there was available. With all the cleaning done we crossed back to the lodge and Cody was limping a lot more. I was having serious doubts about our ability to continue and was going over various options in my mind.

But first priority was food and I ate…ordered a burger and salad with a side or two of beer. It was soooo good. The dogs were tied to my pack under a broad pine tree and slept and enjoyed every minute of their down time. The kids of the gardeners played with them for a while and I’m not sure whether the dogs or the kids enjoyed that more.

I ordered a third beer (yeah, I’m a lush so deal with it but I needed calories…lol) and went to hang out under the tree with the dogs while I waited for the last few items of clothing to dry. I rechecked Cody’s paws and found a not-so-serious crack in one of his toe pads. It looked minor and I went to find some superglue to close it up and see if it would help…it did, but only slightly.

After taking the dogs into the rough grass to take care of business and watching Cody struggle to put weight on his leg/paw anywhere that was spiky I knew my hike was done for a while. Taking my dogs is a risk and I have to hike their hike. I can push myself when I get hurt because I have a choice and I know why I’m doing what I’m doing but I won’t do that to my dogs.

So with Cody’s well-being in the forefront of my mind I paid for a shuttle back to my truck. I was bummed to have come so far only to have to quit but my dogs’ health also takes priority over everything else. They love being on the trail and I often stop to let them explore a scent trail or stare at a squirrel as that is what they enjoy about it, and they have to enjoy it as much as I do…even if it is for different reasons.

Colorado Trail/ Collegiate East Section Hike, June 2018: Part 1

Prologue

I was beginning to think someone didn’t want me hiking this trail. Two mornings my truck wouldn’t start due to the cold and higher elevation. Then my backpack broke after I had already loaded it and stored it in a tote for the next day. I had to make a 120 mile trip to Colorado Springs to buy a replacement during which time I also got a nail in my tire. It was definitely an ordeal getting to this point, but two days after I was supposed to start we were finally on the trail…on the summer solstice aka Hike Naked Day (and no, I did not).

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Day 1 – Twin Lakes TH to Clear Creek Campsite (10.5 miles, with detour)

After a quick call to the Leadville Ranger District about leaving my truck at the trailhead at Twin Lakes we set out on the Colorado Trail for the first time. As per usual for me we managed to take a wrong turn right off the bat and headed toward the other trailhead. So with an extra mile under our belts by 9am we finally got back on track and followed the southern edge of Twin Lakes for a mile and a half before the Collegiate East trail (official Colorado Trail) and Collegiate West trail (official Continental Divide Trail) diverged.

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A short steep climb soon leveled out and we hiked through scrub, pines, aspens and sage brush. We passed another couple who had backtracked to the lake for water as they thought the seasonal creeks had no water. We chatted for a while and then I headed up the trail.

It was a gorgeous day but the sun was definitely starting to heat things up and we were glad for the shade. All seasonal creeks were flowing which meant the dogs had consistent access to water and I didn’t have to ration mine so much (we would have run out). An extra hot climb along a powerline road was the least fun part of the hike, but it was fairly short and there was a fast flowing creek the dogs made excellent use of.

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With the trail at lower elevation there were not many views but eventually we climbed over a ridge to see views of some of the Collegiate Peaks we would be climbing over the next few days.

The whole trail was very well sign-posted (loved it) and the first day on a mostly level trail was much appreciated.

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We ended up back at Clear Creek Reservoir where I had camped the night I realized my backpack was broken. It was a short 11 mile day and we camped in a very private and secluded location next to the creek, and had camp set up by 2:30pm…definitely too early to be camped when there is nothing else to do but there was no way I could have made the 3500ft climb that afternoon as it was another 6 miles to the next water source.

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The dogs played in the water, cooling off after our long, sun-exposed hike down to the lake and I tried to fill my time as best as possible. I kept an eye out for the couple behind me as we had leap-frogged fairly constantly most of the day and I figured I would see them at the lake and invite them to join me. But as hidden as I was and with my limited view of the trail I missed them. I did run into another solo female hiker while out walking on the trail with the dogs but she was making for the next water source as her time on the trail was more constrained than mine.

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Day 2 – Clear Creek Campsite to Frenchman Creek Campsite (11.8 miles)

Today was brutal.

I was up early, for me, at 6:30am  with the sun already warming my tent. With the day already getting hot I was on the trail by 8:15am. I stopped and chatted with the couple I had met yesterday but they didn’t think they’d make it to the creek crossing I was planning for as my camp site for the night…the elevation gain seemed too much.

When I say “brutal” I mean we started an ascent that climbed over 3500ft and never felt like it would ever end. It was barely 5 miles but that was the longest 5 miles of my life. I started out well but quickly lost steam and it took us 3 hours to do 5 miles. I had absolutely no energy to give…maybe something to do with just a granola bar for breakfast and a bag of chips (I just couldn’t eat and had no appetite).

I passed a handful of backpackers coming down and almost all were doing the Collegiate Loop in the opposite direction to me (I’m trying to save the best (the Collegiate West) for last.

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By the time we reached the top of the ridge which sat below Mt. Waverly I was done and I stuffed cheese sticks, some jerky and the other breakfast granola bar into my mouth before resting for a half hour…I was in a serious calorie-deficit but I still wasn’t feeling hungry. Sadly the wind picked up, the sun went away and my nap didn’t last very long. At least the dogs got to rest for a while and get some sleep.

We were finally going down for a couple of miles and the trail was great. I was really appreciating not having to go up for a while.

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Pine Creek was at the bottom of the descent and I had planned on trying for a nap again there but again the wind picked up and the sun hid behind clouds…it had been gorgeous not 10 minutes before. Rain spattered briefly so I hunkered down under a tree for a few minutes and ate a bag of cookies to try and give my body some much-needed calories.

I loaded up with water for another 1500ft climb and took a moment to enjoy the engineering feat of the beavers who had built a pretty impressive dam just above the bridge. Again we started off well and the trail was moderate but got steeper and rockier the higher we climbed. I was making it 100 yards before having to stop and it took us two hours to reach the top of the ridge below Mt Harvard. I also got my first glimpse of some wildlife…the rear end of a cow elk disappearing into the trees.

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A mile from the top I met a couple who were thru-hiking the Colorado Trail (or as much of it as was open with the fire outside of Durango) a mile from the top. The guy had the same pack as the me (my ZPacks Arc Haul not the Osprey I was currently carrying) and in the same color. We chatted about the broken stays in my pack and they were also surprised that they would bend. We parted ways after they informed me I still had a mile to go and another 400ft if elevation gain. I groaned inwardly. The worst was the false summit I reached…those things suck!

But we finally got there and this time at the top we were rewarded with amazing views of Mt Harvard and Mt Columbia and the valley below us. You certainly can’t get those views without a little work.

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Finally we were on the home stretch and we cruised the last 3 miles to our campsite above Frenchman Creek, winding down the valley and being completely awed by the towering peaks just above me. The guide stated there was camping 200 yards from the bridge that crossed the creek and we found a flat a secluded piece of dirt to pitch the tent well off the trail.

With the clouds looking like they might be threatening rain, as they had been doing on and off all day, I quickly got the tent up. The clouds moved on to places where, like those before them, they dumped their load further east…I was grateful!

Dinner, as has been the norm with my “home-made” backpacking meals, left a lot to be desired and was much more food than I could eat (again, just not hungry) and so I shared with the dogs who happily wolfed it down (glad to have them have the extra calories when it’s just rice, chicken and peas). I am going to have to rethink my meal plans for future trips as it would really help to have something tasty.

Three Days on the PCT, June 2018

Day 1 Cascade Locks to CG2032 Road Campsite

I believe today was some new version of hiking torture. In order to do a loop that incorporated the PCT I had to make some sacrifices and spend at least half my time hiking gravel roads and ATV trails…all of which I had to do today and half of tomorrow.

I left my truck at the home of a trail angel who had offered a safe place to park it and who then dropped me off at the junction of Ash Lake and Blue Lake Road. I had camped at the top of Blue Lake Road the night before so I already knew how steep the first climb was.

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Within a mile I had already taken a wrong turn as there were no signs for any roads. I pulled out my trusty DeLorme InReach and relocated myself before backtracking a 1/4 mile. The gravel road quickly became an ATV two track which at least felt somewhat like a trail. There was little to see but green trees, green bushes and green grass and it soon began to look very unused and I was hoping it wouldn’t peter out altogether.

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Another unmarked junction at the top of a climb had me pulling out my GPS again, despite my maps. I was on the right trail and it soon looked well-used again. Views over the Columbia River Gorge were few and far between.

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A brief stint on a well-maintained gravel road, used extensively by logging trucks, took us to another turn off that led us below the powerlines…and then the road ended. It looked like there had been a landslide of some kind so we picked our way carefully over the torn-up road, and then the path REALLY ended. I could see where we needed to be…1000ft straight down, though some very ugly brush, branches and countless trip hazards. One misstep here and you wouldn’t stop until the bottom…unless you got impaled on something.

Exhaustion quickly set in with the steep descent and constantly risk of falling but we eventually made it to the bottom. I was once again reminded of how much goat DNA my dogs must have in them! My legs felt like jelly and I’m sure the dogs’ did too…they were definitely panting hard. We finished the last of the water, took a short break and then headed up and then down the road to Rock Creek.

After crossing the bridge and climbing down another short steep slope I ditched my pack and pulled the dogs out of theirs before continuing to the creek. There were swing ropes hung from the bridge over a deep turquoise pool that looked incredibly inviting. The creek itself was gorgeous, cold and refreshing and we took a 1/2 hour break while I filtered water.

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Soon we had to continue up the gravel road (such uninspiring hiking) but after the treacherous down-hill climb my legs just didn’t have any more energy and it took us an hour to go a mile with all the stopping. My map showed a permanent creek and I was hoping it WAS a permanent creek as one I had crossed earlier in the day was dry…and that doesn’t inspire confidence in the rest of the so-called permanent creeks (as opposed to seasonal creeks).

Thankfully the stream had good flow and we bypassed it in the search of a campsite. I didn’t need water but I knew I would for the morning. My first campsite of the year certainly left a lot to be desired as it was just off the side of the gravel road and the ground was impossible to get tent stakes into…I ended up having to hunt down and make use of rocks and trees, and I was glad the wind wasn’t too crazy as I doubted some of the smaller rocks would hold.

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Dinner was a homemade freeze-dried meal concoction made with ramen and the remaining freeze-dried food stash from my camper (that which I hadn’t sold). While it was still warm I refilled all my water containers…it was looking like the next day would be a long dry stretch, especially if not all creeks were running.

Twenty minutes after I finished writing today’s entry there was a lot of snapping of twigs and other noise through the trees and behind my tent. Not knowing what it was, although the dogs were definitely interested, I made a fair amount of noise and calling out to let whatever it know that there were humans around. I grabbed my camera thinking it would just be a noisy dear but as I watched a large black bear emerged from where I had been refilling water less than 30 minutes before, and only 100 yards from camp. Thankfully he turned away from us and ambled up the road. I was definitely a little spooked and nervous and hurried to hang my food (which I actually hadn’t planned on hanging) all while continuing to make a lot of human noise.

Finally enough time passed that I felt more relaxed and didn’t feel worried that the bear would return to bother us. I actually slept fairly well. I generally don’t worry about bears…unless they are close to camp with food around or spooking them on the trail. Bison, from my perspective, have always been the one animal I have been most wary of.

Day 2 – CG2032 Campsite to Rock Creek

The dawn chorus woke me at 4:30am…and there was no way I was getting up THAT early. I pulled my hat over my eyes and went back to sleep for a couple more hours. The sleeping bag that had been way to warm at the beginning of the night wasn’t too bad by 3am (still a little warm, but not unbearable).

The day promised to start well despite the 3 liter water carry as we walked up on a doe and two very new fawns. Sadly mom took off into the brush and one fawn ran for a while before also turning off the road. The second fawn, however, took off down the road. I waited so that I didn’t spook it further if it came back, and come back it did…straight towards me. It stopped and the dogs and I watched her. She moved towards me again and stopped within about 15ft of us. She had a nasty shoulder gash but it didn’t seem to hinder her. Mom jumped onto the road and apparently spooked her again as she went around us, standing in the middle of the road. Cody unfortunately chose that moment to give into his instincts to chase. He didn’t go after her but it required a lot of yelling his name on my part…something I’ve never had to do and he was definitely disciplined quickly.

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We continued up the road now the fawn was behind us and I hope the mom and baby were reunited.

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That incident was the only decent thing about the day. We hiked up more depressing gravel roads, incessantly up and up and up, 2500ft up to be exact and it was miserable; my legs were feeling pretty burned-out from yesterday’s steep descent and the going was slow but we kept plodding along. With only two more miles expected to finally connect with the PCT the road ended…abruptly. No warning, nothing. There was no more road. I checked with the GPS…I was in the right place and even THAT showed a road. It wasn’t even as though it looked like there HAD been a road there at some time. I was pissed. I have always been the kind of person to double check Google’s directions and maps, and hiking trails elsewhere and everything told me there was supposed to be a road there. I had just climbed and would have to descend 2500ft and cover 10 miles extra miles all because of a stupid glitch.

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I dumped some of the water I was carrying as I knew we’d be crossing Rock Creek again, and could fill up there, and so we made our way back down the mountain.

After 6 hours of hiking with nothing accomplished we arrived back at the pretty creek with the rope swing under the bridge. We  took an hour long break to allow the dogs to sleep and get some rest…I definitely envied them. I soaked my feet in the water and filtered a couple of liters. The one benefit to having to come back was that I could get a photo…a benefit I could really have done without.

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Our only option now, other than calling for a ride and quitting, was to hike another 5 miles up yet another gravel road to where the PCT intersects with Rock Creek. It was a long, hot walk but at least the road remained fairly flat and we made it in 2 1/2 hours with many stops for water.

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I located a very pretty campsite next to the creek, just off the gravel road and a short way before the PCT. The tent was quickly up so it could dry then I cooked dinner, fed the dogs, hung the food bag and went to bed. We were all sore and limpy and should never have had to hike so much. I am looking forward to finally being able to set foot on the PCT tomorrow despite knowing it should have been 18 hours prior.

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Day 3 – Rock Creek Camp to Cascade Locks

Today started off so promising. I had slept well and woke up at the late hour of 7:30am. It looked to be a warm and beautiful day. I packed camp as quickly as I could but still wasn’t on the move until 9am…I’m still not sure what takes so much time.

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And finally I set foot on the PCT, and got off the gravel roads and on to single track. It was perfect. It was green, level and the footbed was perfect. My legs were still suffering from the steep downhill descent and the extra miles but I felt pretty good even loaded down with 4 liters of water.

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The climb started moderately and I knew we had to climb about 2000 ft over 5 miles…not too bad…but I swear that climb went on forever and it felt a lot more than 2000ft. Massive slugs covered the trail and that was about all the wildlife I saw.

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And while very not LNT this cute little gnome scene in a rotting tree stump gave me a smile and perked me up a little. I shouldn’t condone it but I enjoyed the surprise and imagination that went along with it.

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And just when I thought there was no more uphill…there was another 400ft to go up, again and again and again. By the top I swear we were just a few more steps to heaven. Thankfully most of the morning we were hiking in the shade of massive pine trees but of course this meant few views and it was just one long uphill, green tunnel. Eventually we were rewarded with some impressive views of Mt Adams and Mt St Helens as well as the valley below.

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Finally when I swore I couldn’t go another step upwards and was begging the trail to go down, it did. And that was almost worse. I moved slower but took a lot less breaks and my legs were screaming. I was miserable and could barely appreciate the views of Mt Hood that rose before me…but it was pretty spectacular, especially when thinking of it Middle Earth terms (it looks JUST like the Lonely Mountain from The Hobbit). At least there were views but that also meant we were in the sun a lot more and the dogs were getting hot. It didn’t help that the trail went from good dirt to rocks and talus.

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It was about the 15 mile mark I decided I was done. Cody was sore, I was in agony and there were no campsites to be found. I just wasn’t enjoying it…and I don’t hike to torture myself, I do it because I enjoy it. I called the lady who had dropped me at the Blue Lake turn off (where I started hiking) and after a lot of back and forth I finally got a ride back to my truck, although with the amount of walking I had to do to meet her, and the time it took her to find me (even with provided GPS co-ordinates), I should have just finished the hike despite the pain and exhaustion.

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I parked for the night not far from where I had camped before the hike and cleaned up with copious amounts of baby wipes (so easy and love them) and crawled into bed. I was ready for my bed but the night was rough and restless and sleep did not come very well partially, I think, due to being somewhat dehydrated. I left the organizing and unpacking for the morning.

I was extremely glad I had been picked up as the following day I could barely move for hurting, but I hobbled around and got packed up to hit the road and head for Canby, Oregon for the renaissance faire. After looking at the weather and the three days of predicted heavy non-stop rain, especially on Saturday, I sadly made the decision to fore-go the faire (the only one I could have made this year) because despite the fact that I won’t melt…my leather gear doesn’t particularly like water. So I headed out and started my drive to Idaho