Posted by: Matt | August 11, 2009

DEET on Lips = Much Needed Dose of Reality

“Riddle me this Batman, how can you eat your goo after you DEET your legs?” Anyone who’s ever sprayed DEET anywhere on their body knows that even with the Bat applicator it gets all over your hands. It’s a solvent and has a tendency to cover your hands when you apply it even if you don’t use your hands to spread it out or apply it.

Now that you’re well protected from being eaten by the numerous mosquitos buzzing around your head it’s invariably time to grab a bit of goo from ye ol’ ruck and give your legs a little energy to move you down the trail. The DEET on your hands is now on your packet of orange-vanilla goo, although you don’t suspect this malignant association until you use your lips to squeegee the last bits of your tasty treat from its little Mylar packet. Now you know how a mosquito must feel when it’s been stupid enough to buzz on down and try dining on your flesh post DEET application.

Sputtering and drooling I made my way back down the trail. At least you’re immediately reminded of the nature of your existence out in the boonies by moments like this. It gets you out of that mode of wishful thinking and into your real and present condition immediately.

Fox Glove along the way

Fox Glove along the way

Yesterday’s trail run set me forth on the Pacific Crest Trail headed south from Snoqualmie pass. This segment is a really cool lesson just waiting to happen. It gets a bad rap because it’s a part of the Mt. Baker-Snoqualmie forest that has been turned into a commodity. There are clear cuts, there are logging roads, the water bars could use the back side of a Pulaski and a little sweat equity and signage can be misleading or nonexistent in places. It’s the bad side of the tracks (literally) and none of the cool kids play here.

Here’s where it starts to get good if you ask me. No one wants to play here. Yesterday I ran nearly to Mirror Lake, I saw one guy looking for a place to pitch a tent at Olallie Meadows and that, my friends, was it. Nobody at Lodge Lake. Nobody eating the copious amounts of native blackberries, thimbleberries, huckleberries and such. Nobody climbing any of the peaks. Nobody other than that one dude who was gone by the time I ran back.

Granite Peak Lookout

Granite Peak Lookout

Last Saturday’s run up Commonwealth Basin is just on the other side of I-90. I suspect that the Forest Service may put in a parking garage at this trail head to service the weekend crowds that descend on the location in the summer. Most people who park here are headed up to the Kendall Catwalk, some will camp out at Gravel or Rail lakes and come back down the following day, and a few are just working their way north or south on that segment of the PCT. But it’s good to know that if you’d like to get out into the open, where you can still have a little elbow room all you have to do is cross the street.

The fist mile and a half you’ll be working your way up into the forest by crossing the ski slopes. This hill is tiny considering you could be climbing up the other side. After a bit of running through dense, old forests full of berries you’ll come out to several boulder fields which overlook the Interstate. Yes you can hear the traffic below, just keep moving and all will be well. Soon thereafter you’ll pass a couple of lumbering sites and start to head south and up between Silver Peak (west side) and Mt Catherine (east side).

Silver Peak off on the right side

Silver Peak off on the right side

When you encounter a wet, peat bog with wildflowers blooming all over the place you will have reached Olallie Meadows. You won’t be able to hear the traffic any longer. And you’ll probably be surprised at your good fortune because this is pretty darn beautiful and you’re most likely the only person looking at it.

I got to the Meadows yesterday evening early and so I pushed on toward Mirror Lake which sits up high just behind Abiel Peak. Next time I’ll probably spend the time to finish the run the whole way to Mirror Lake, last night I turned around and looked back down on Olallie Meadows and realized that the storm which had been content to drop rain on Seattle earlier was now moving up my hill and threatening lots of wetness in the dark if I didn’t high tail it back down.

Abiel Peak

Abiel Peak

High tail it I did only stopping to snap a couple more photos. Wet I became, the clouds weren’t dropping a lot of moisture. Rather they were upon me and the run became a kind of chilly, high mountain swimming event. Under the trees there was almost no light or what was there was diffuse enough to be completely useless, I got out my headlamp to help me see in these spots. By the time I came to the back end of the ski resort the sun was going down and the clouds were so thick they required fog lighting to run through. At some point I lost my way and ran off the trail, but getting down at this point was not a problem. Just follow the sounds of the ski resort and I was there.

Olallie Meadows in the clouds

Olallie Meadows in the clouds

Wool clothing is very helpful on trips like these, I was never cold and I didn’t worry about my safety in the wet and dark. I could have stayed out over night with what I had on and been comfortable and warm. In my experience you don’t get the same kind of insulation from synthetic clothes and cotton is completely useless in scenarios like this. As the cool, wet weather starts to become normal please keep this in mind as you head out into the open.

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