Sunday, August 25, 2013

Part 178 - Please, Not Giardia

It’s never fun packing up a wet tent while standing in the mud as rain continues to drizzle, but it is what it is and complaining wouldn’t make the task any easier.  Breakfast is only a snack this morning and then I was back on the trail at 8:00 a.m. – extremely late.  As I walked, I keep my eyes peeled, hoping to spot where Frank and Brownie might have camped, but I never do locate their campsites.  Where the trail crossed a scree slope, the rain from last night’s storm had done significant damage to the trail, washing it down the mountain, and leaving many small gullies behind.

My goal for the day was a shelter called the Urich cabin located at mile 2,355 in Government Meadow, and it took me until 7:00 p.m. to reach this location; that was eleven hours of hiking to only go fifteen miles.  It continued to rain on and off throughout the day, so I never had a chance to take my rainsuit off.  All day, I was plagued with bouts of diarrhea, thanks to my Giardia host.

Once having contracted Giardia, it takes about two weeks for the first symptoms to make their appearance, and left untreated, it can stay with a person for a long time.  The only medication I had with me was Imodium, and it helped, but didn’t solve the problem. 

For this foul weather, the Urich cabin was a lifesaver.  There were fifteen hikers already at the cabin and most had claimed a spot on the cabin floor or in the loft above to lay out their sleeping bags.  The cabin had a large wood stove in the far end of the building and a toasty fire was blazing which provided adequate warmth for the structure.  Along the ceiling crossbeams and sides of the interior of the cabin were nails and hooks on which to hang articles of clothing, sleeping bags, tents, and ground cloths to dry out.  I found several nails close to the stove and hung my sleeping bag up to dry.  The cabin was full of mice, but nobody paid them any attention.  These little guys had to eat too.

Most of the hikers at the cabin were no strangers to me.  After twenty-three hundred miles, I recognized most of them.  Ranch and Biers were here; in fact, they had been here for several days.  Biers said he had been quite ill, and trail angels Beaker and Dragon Fly, a hiking couple I hadn’t seen or heard from since our meeting on Mount San Jacinto in Southern California, had been taking care of him.  I knew that Biers only had one kidney, but I was not sure that this was the cause of his ailments.

My Giardia was in full activation mode, so I chose to sleep outside on the porch so as not to disturb anyone on my nightly runs to the outhouse.  Giardia waits for no man or woman.

The cabin was built by the Sno-Jammers Snowmobile Club out of Puyallup, Washington, and was constructed in the fashion of a log cabin.  The entire structure was assembled off-site, then disassembled and ferried by helicopter to the building site, where it was again re-assembled.  The cabin was named for Mike Urich, a trail worker in this area during the 1940s and1950s, and attached to the outside wall above the entrance door was a warning sign that said the wrath of Mike would descend upon anyone who did harm to the trees.

In the middle of the night, during one of my treks to the outhouse, the cloud cover had disappeared and the nighttime sky was ablaze with twinkling stars, but by morning, gray skies had reappeared, obliterating the sun that was rising in the east.  I was up early, gathering my equipment from inside the cabin, and trying hard not to disturb anyone.

One by one, the other hikers also began to rise, and several immediately began cooking their morning breakfast.  My breakfast consisted of a package of Pop-Tarts, a small bag of nuts, and a little tub of peanut butter; that was enough to get me going for the day.  Of the fifteen hikers at the cabin, I was the fourth to leave, but within a few hours the rest caught up and overtook me, and then I had the whole trail to myself.

The Urich cabin could be accessed by numerous logging roads that crisscrossed the mountains in this section of the PCT.  Indeed, as I pressed on up the trail towards Green Pass and Blowout Mountain, I crossed many of these logging roads, and from the high ridges that the trail kept to, I had a panoramic view of vast tracts of forestlands that had been clear-cut by loggers, much more so than seen in previous national forests.

And there was a reason for this, and that reason was the Burlington Northern Railroad.  In 1880, the railroad was granted land subsidies amounting to every other square-mile section of land as compensation for laying tracks across Stampede Pass. Eventually, the timber interests of the Burlington Northern were spun off as a separate company, known today as Plum Creek, the largest private landowner in the continental U.S.  Much of the timberlands that the PCT passed through in this area had been logged and were awaiting reseeding.

The views from the trail crests were stunning; Mount Rainier dominated the skyline, but Mounts Adam and Saint Helen could also be seen in all their majesty and glory.  The storm of the last two days had moved out of the area, leaving behind blue skies and warm sunny days.  It was a great time to be on the trail, and I was enjoying the hike, except for lingering bouts of Giardia.

This was the only clear shot I could obtain of Mount Rainier. As you can see, it is one massive mountain/volcano.

Highway 410, Chinook Pass  and the entrance to Mount Rainier National Park. It was here that I first encountered Frank.

After last night's bone chilling rain storm, the Urich cabin was a most welcome respite. It offered dry shelter and a chance to dry sleeping bags, tents and wet clothing. I slept on the porch.

Two hikers preparing their breakfast prior to setting out on the trail.

 Same two hikers.

The actual trail goes just behind the cabin and heads off into the woods.

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