Goodbye Summer, Hello Autumn

Not long after September's session of dog camp, I make what has been an annual pilgrimage to one of my favorite trails in the Pacific Northwest. I bring along Finn and my friend Suzanne. We run up the six mile section of the Pacific Crest Trail north from Snoqualmie Pass to the Kendall Katwalk.

Suzanne and Finn on the PCT.
There is still a fair amount of smoke in the air from the same wildfires that had made me worry about dog camp. The smoke ruins our distant views - of Mt. Rainier and other high peaks - but the near views are fine.

Suzanne poses on Kendall Katwalk.

Me, imitating Suzanne; Finn looking embarassed.

After enjoying the sunshine and views at the Katwalk for several minutes, we start our return to the trail head.

We quickly meet a hiker who had been sitting off the side of trail when we passed him on the way up. He gives off an easy, mellow vibe, so I stop to say hello and ask where he's headed this day.

Through-hiker Dazzle.

"I'll know when I get there," he says.

I laugh, thinking that's an unusual response. Most hikers with big packs have a specific overnight campsite in mind. Then I realize he's probably out for the long haul, so I ask, "Are you a through-hiker?" He admits that he is. Cool.

The PCT is 2,650 miles long, stretching from Mexico to Canada through California, Oregon and Washington. Each year, about 300 people attempt to hike its entire length in one season. No mean feat. Others will take several years, doing as long a section as they can manage in any given year until they've strung together the entire route.

I often encounter through-hikers on this stretch of the PCT, but they rarely look as clean as this gentleman. Then I realize he's just come from Snoqualmie Pass, where through-hikers typically have supplies mailed and waiting. This man likely had a shower and maybe even spent a night or two on a real bed.

I ask if I can take his photo, and he readily agrees. We continue chatting. I learn he's from Hawaii. He started his trek at the border with Mexico, and will be done when he reaches Canada. He's been on the trail four months. The wildfires in Washington nearly brought his journey to a halt, but he got through just before a section of the PCT to the south of us was closed. He's a little worried about reaching Canada before snow flies.

I ask his name. "Dazzle," he says. I'm reminded that through-hikers often acquire a trail name, something easy to remember, a bit like hobos in days gone by.

We wish Dazzle good travels and say goodbye. Suzanne, Finn and I continue on, running easily what is now an all downhill stretch to the car.

I'm happy I made it up here this year; time was running out, with snow often hitting these higher elevations sometime in October. This trail always lifts my spirits and makes me happy. I'm jealous that Dazzle gets to enjoy this and similar sections of the PCT for months on end. What an adventure.


October brings a change in weather and leaves - lots of leaves changing color and dropping to the ground along the streets and forest trails Finn and I love to run.

Finn on Cougar Mtn trails that won't be so green much longer; October 5 2012.

A week later, another outing to Cougar Mountain.

October 12 2012 - leaves falling.

The lighting is poor so my iPhone struggles to keep things in focus.

Weak morning sun peeking through tree quickly losing their leaves.

Meanwhile, back at the ranch (aka townhouse) the potted flowers on the deck are enjoying a second blooming season because it's so warm. After one of our driest summers on record it has also finally rained a bit. The geraniums in particular are thriving...

...while the leaves are turning gorgeous colors or red, orange and yellow.

Vine maples beyond the deck.

Yet another romp on the trails at Cougar Mtn with Finn (October 25th), noting the effects of gravity and age on the leaves in the forest.

Finn on old log bridge across Tibbetts Creek, covered with slick leaves.

This late October run is misty and wet - a typical autumn trail run.

Same spot as earlier photo taken October 12 2012, above.

Sunlight glistens on leaves and fern fronds doused by recent rain.

Finn soaks up some Vitamin D during the brief sun break.

And now in November it's mid-Autumn. Few leaves remain on the trees at Cougar Mtn.

Finn (yes, he's in the photo) cools his toes in a leaf-filled Coal Creek Falls.

The bridge across Coal Creek.

And for a slightly different view, Tiger Mountain (more evergreens, fewer deciduous trees)

Another blurry, low light cell phone camera shot, on Adventure Trail.

I'm not trying to rush things, but...I can hardly wait to run in the snow on these trails, something I enjoy, almost as much as Finn.
Rebecca WallickComment