Day 17: Bodies on the edge, hiking into Snoqualamie, WA

Second 30 mile day in a row, and it seems as if it broke down pretty much the whole group. It’s not easy to put your body through that kind of intense, prolonged stress. So after 60 miles in 2 days, all the aches and pins really start to set in and intensify.

On the plus side though the weather held out for the most part, and even though the sun never really came from out behind the clouds and it was incredibly humid, at least it never rained on us. (Apparently, while in the Northwest we were in the middle of one of the most humid days on record, in the southern California, they had been experiencing one of the hottest days on record!) It’s also quite a good feeling, I think, despite the bruising your body feels at the end of the day, to look back and say I was able to do those kinds of miles. I will most likely have to get a new pair of shoes however, because my feet, still getting used to the trail and not great shoes, got completely torn up yesterday, particularly around my achilles with old blisters ripped, new ones forming, and the area completely swollen and tender.

Tomorrow will be a day to relax, re-energize, and resupply then hike a short day out.

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Day 16: Hiking 30 miles

Big day today, the time to make up some serious miles. With the days like these it becomes pretty important to carefully regulate your breaks, not wanting to take too many or stop too long, especially because now, with the days becoming shorter, that can seriously cut into your daylight. Even so, we all didn’t have too much trouble finishing up the day right after dark.

Tomorrow it looks like the plan is for another 30, this one into a town and a Howard Johnson Inn (with a Jacuzzi!), so hopefully we can finish early enough to enjoy that!

Quest for the Tail of the Dragon

Quest for the tail of the dragon

by Bruce Lessard


My passion to ride the tail of the dragon  became reality aug 5 leaving  toronto with an easy destination of dearborn michigan. Crossed the border and witnessed the hard times of detroit with street upon street of abandoned buildings . As soon as you cross the line at dearborn you are welcomed by starbucks and gas stations without cashiers in cages. Thus my first night turns out to be Extended Stay America totally adequate with all you need and the temptation to cook with all the facilities but trust me go with the order in pizza. I left behind a pound of cheese and a bottle of mustard as well as microwave pizza chips etc.

Day two i land in cinncinati make no mistake I75 is nothin but a quick way across a lot of flat land. One of the busiest trucking routes in North America its all about the quicker you get to your destination the better. Check out rubberonroad.com for more on that one. I maintained a 70mph average easily picking up to 80 to pass a transport or two. As i booked my first three nights in advance the second stop was Cinncinati Ohio staying at the millenium downtown.

Just my luck a bridal convention in town and hotel full of potential brides. i took a ride sans helmet as is legal in Ohio.I paid 8 bucks for parking overnight in a local lot as recommended by the concierge. Actually night security told me just drive out exit gate dont bother paying but in the morning a bike that loud commands attention which is what i got so decided to keep it on the up and up and paid up.

Day three found the geography gradually much more interesting as i rode deeper into kentucky.

Tiring and motivated by the thought of a hot shower and sleep i was feeling good.My destination in Robbinsville NC seemed close as  i took turn off for I129 as dusk was settling in after 6 miles or so on pretty much isolated  road i came across a gas station store . Jesse sitting outside informed me that Robbinsville NC was 47 miles thru the smokeys and id have to ride the tail to get there. I was at the wrong end of the dragon damn. You gotta do what u gotta do i found myself heading out in to the night with nothing but my destination in mind 50 so miles later after what seemed an impossible task i  arrived in Robbinsville.

Riding the tail at night like that is a magical experience. Lucky no bears were wandering the road that night. The number of bikes parked right out front of hotel assured me i was in familiar territory and the microtel in Robbinsville is more than you can ask for with free breakfast and friendly staff. They even supply towels just for wiping down the bike in the morning.

Across the street in the bank parking lot was a market where local farmers and artisans brought their talents and harvest to sell early saturday morning. The dragon truly earns its name my best ride ever.

Graham county is a dry county and thus the night life reflects that but after an amazing two days there i rode the dragon on my way out. By the way the restaurant at dealsgap is where you want to eat. Good food. Sunday i headed for Nashville because so close i had to see it. Sunday i was not sure whether to head home or check out Nashville which was 200 mi or so away and would change my route back to Toronto. Nashville here we come ….

My phone dead and not connecting with friends or family for days i pulled off in Knoxville at a Holiday Inn Express and asked if i could pay to use internet. The guy at the desk told me to help myself so i got out my emails, booked a room in Nashville via hotwire and planned my trip home. Nashville is definitely the place to go for music. Most bars on the strip had entertainment even though it was Sunday night and even my hotel (Hotel Indigo) which i highly recommend had songwriters night.  I never thought id complain about the heat but it was incredibly hot with the sun beating down and temps averaging about 100 degrees day and night. The temptation to ride without helmet was now what seemed absolutely necessary. Next day Nashville to Indianapolis another 300 mi or so also without helmet. Obviously the helmet is a life saver but i must admit it was a very liberating experience.

I had planned to stay in Windsor on my way home but the thought of waking up in my own bed was too tempting. I questioned my reason as i maintained approx 80 mi an hour down a stretch of the 401 that seemed to go on forever. I finally made it home and when i looked at clock i couldnt believe it was 2:30 in the morning. I had left Indy at appr noon so twelve and a half hours later.

I have to say Vera made it all possible. The 2006 1200 Harley Sportster XL (formerly Bucks ride) took me there and back under some pretty grueling conditions without a hitch. Altogether over 2300 miles from wednesday to wednesday. An amazing trip and just a taste of whats to come im definitely still a rookie but there is no better way to learn than to pack up and hit the road. The rest will take care of itself.

Day 15: Great trail angel, nice weather, and great views

After our amazing breakfast and packing up, we all got back in the car. We had some last minute stuff to pick up as some people went to a Fred Meyers and Big foot and I went to a running store ( I needed some superfeet because I’d been having some foot problems and wanted to change things a little to see if it would help, superfeet providing some stronger support). Afterwards, Jon took us all to an amazing burger place for burgers and shakes.

On the drive back up to the pass, there was a bit of a scary moment when traffic got stopped suddenly. When we finally drove by and got to see what happened, we could see what happened, we could see what looked like an H-D Ultra Classic, surrounded by emergency vehicles, including an ambulance. Then we noticed a guy in a stretcher, with a neck brace on and the bottom part of his jeans cut off by the paramedics. Given that only a couple of weeks before, I had just gone off the road, it kind of hit home to see a biker laid out like that…

Soon we were back up at Chinook Pass. The weather was perfect, and since it was a Saturday, there were a lot of weekend hikers out. Since we got such a late start, we only did about 11 miles. It was kind of nice though as this was the first night in a week and a half that I was setting up camp before dark, under a clear sky. To top it off, Grinder built a great fire that we all cooked and hung out by until about 10 o’clock when it was time to get to sleep and get ready for our planned 30 tomorrow

Day 14- Trail Angel takes in 9 hikers

September 25th; 24 miles

Cowbell Lake to Chinook Pass

Rained all through the night, so it wasn’t fun putting away a wet tent, but when I finally got packed up, it actually looked like I might get an actual clear day of hiking.

Barrel Roll had another friend from work who lived an hour from the trail at Chinook Pass. Apparently he had offered to take all 9 of us in to his home and host us for the night. So we aimed to do the 24 miles by 6 o’clock.

The weather did actually stay clear all day, and we actually got our first views of Mount Rainier, a gorgeous, snow and glacier covered volcano. It was impossible to miss as it just shot up from among the evergreen covered ridges that surround it (and cover most of the wilderness of Washington state).

BR’s friend Jon and his family were incredible. We managed to get all 9 of us and our packs into his Explorer. We were greeted by Jon’s wife, 2 kids (a 2 year old girl and 4 year old boy), and some friends and their 5 kids, not to mention an amazing pasta dinner with pumpkin pie for dessert.

We all talked for a while around the dinner table, introducing ourselves, our backgrounds, and talking about the trail. Soon it was time for laundry, showers, and, finally, sleep. In the morning, another incredible meal: scrambled eggs, bacon, fruit, bear sausage (yes, the animal, sausage from a bear), and homade coffee cake, with fresh OJ and coffee.

After all that, it was time to pack up. Jon actually works as a rep for the pack company, Jansport. At one point, he pulled out some prototypes to show us. Turns out they could use a test run and asked if anyone wanted to try it out and hike the rest of the way with it. So, after the wonderful stay, I even got a new pack for the rest of my hike!

Day 13- Back on the trail with the Sobohobos

Sept. 23rd; 6 miles

A lot of waiting today, but I finally met up with my friends from the Appalachian Trail and the group they’ve been hiking with.

After waking up and coming from behind the store at around 9:30, I saw a guy coming from his car. He looked at me and asked, “Are you hiking with the Sobohobos?” I told him that I sort of was and explained the situation. Turns out he was a friend of BR’s through work, and had come with some snacks and supplies for the group and to ferry people to the store. So he offered me some donuts and fried chicken and we chatted as we waited for them to show up.

BR had told his friend, Keith, they’d be there between 10 and 11, but it took a bit longer. Keith waited by the trail and I hung out at the store with some new thru-hikers, Two-step, Ace, Ninja, and Happy Feet.

Finally, by 3:30 the Sobohobos had shown up. Besides the core 4 that I knew, BR, Steiner, Moosey, and Gangles, there was Bigfoot, Grinder, Swiss Miss, and T-bone. So we all hung out for a while, chatting as they resupplied on food. Despite the rain starting up again today, after a 2 day break, with my feet callosed and body feeling strong again (not to mention being dry), I was ready to get back on the trail.

So at about 5:30, we headed down the trail, about 6 miles. We hiked a bit in the dark, but at least it was nothing like on Knife Edge. Tomorrow, about 24 miles down the trail, apparently BR has another friend who will be picking us all up and hosting us for the night.

So finally, after nearly 2 weeks on the trail, I’m hiking with the Sobohobos again!

Days 11 and 12: Recovering from my little adventure

September 21-22nd (Zero Miles)

Ended up taking two days off in Packwood, a double zero. I knew that my plan was going to at least be to wait for the sobohobos (my friends Barrel Roll, Steiner, and Moosecharmer who were hiking on the PCT) to get here, since seeing/hiking with them wasa  primary purpose of coming out here to hike at all, and in the meantime I could decide if I would continue on hiking or not.

I found out in the morning from the front desk at the motel that Barrel Roll (BR) had called the night before. He was in Trout Lake, which put him 2.5 days behind. I confirmed this when I was able to check my e-mail where he said they would be in White Pass the morning of the 23rd.

In terms of leaving the trail, I found that the next major town/road, about 100 miles away, could take me to Seattle, either by bus or hitch hiking. So I decided that my plan of action would be to wait for my friends, hike the next section with them and see how I felt after 100 more miles (and how the weather would hold up).

The other concern I would have to keep in mind would be timing. I still had to be able to drive across the north on my motorcycle before it got too cold, and I had a flight out of NY back to Beijing on November 2nd. The best course of action left to me was obviously just to play it by ear!

The 1st zero day in town was spent mainly drying stuff off and cleaning up. We had our 1st mostly clear day in a week, so Curly, Cloudbuster, Double Check, and I laid all our stuff out in the motel’s driveway to soak up the sun. The 3 of them had miles to make though and wouldn’t be taking any time off. So we exchanged information as I most likely wouldn’t be catching up with them as we approached the Canadian border.

After that, I moved to another hotel, more in the center of town and cheaper. It was very rustic and cozy, apparently being around since the 19th century. I spent the rest of the day relaxing with Thatch and Brazil Nut who were also zeroing (and later Hmmm who showed up in the afternoon), chatting eating, drinking, and watching TV.

For the second day, I did more inventorying of food and repairing/waterproofing of gear. I couldn’t really afford lodging for a 3rd night so I hitched back to the White Pass store and set up my tent behind it. I’ll spend the night here, excite to finally (hopefully see the sobohobos and actually be back on the trail. Only problem is that apparently I used up all the good weather with my zeros as there’s supposed to be rain again tomorrow.