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[TR] Self-Propelled: Tatoosh - (Partial) Traverse 8/23/2011


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Trip: Self-Propelled: Tatoosh - (Partial) Traverse


Date: 8/23/2011


Trip Report:

The seeds of this adventure were sewn several years ago while discussing the impact of easy access to the wilderness. It's pretty strange to think that really, you can get from downtown Seattle to the TH of pretty much any remote NW destination in just a few hours. But imagine how hard things would have been before cars and roads, when a trip to the North Cascades or Rainier would have been a committing journey in itself? Imagine bailing off of a hard route and knowing you still had a long journey ahead of you, just to get home? We have it easy.


Right about that time, I started to get into cycling and I decided it would be a neat game to change the level of access we normally enjoy by not using cars. I decided a bike-and-boots trip was just up my alley: door-to-door, no internal combustion engines or self-propelled vehicles of any kind, and limited beta only. I know, I know -- it's totally contrived (high-tech gear, maps, lightweight stuff, etc.), but don't be a hater.


A few summers went by before I decided I had the fitness to give it a go. Weather was nice -- why not try the Tatoosh? I couldn't find anyone who wanted to join, so it turned out to be just me. I kind of preferred it that way, honestly. That way, nobody complains about my singing.



( Shameless Wikipedia photo )


Packing the bike was a bit of a drag -- I originally intended to just strap my pack on the rear-rack, but it proved to be ill-shaped for such purposes and leaned awkwardly in strange directions. I eventually settled on putting my things in panniers, so that I could crumple up the pack on top. It was easier to carry, but those panniers are heavy, unfortunately. Especially after adding 5 days of food.



(Leaving Seattle Tuesday morning. I packed pretty light but it was still heavier than I would have liked. Those panniers are pretty heavy.)

My journey started in Madison Valley, and took me through the ID, and out through south Seattle to the Green River and Interurban Trails, then down to Hwy 162/161 and finally the Mtn. Hwy to Longmire.



(Rail yard south of Seattle, from Airport Way.)


By the time I reached Sumner, I decided to stop and get a spare spoke -- I had forgotten one, and as I got further and further away from home I got more and more tweaky about breaking down.


That's when I realized I forgot my wallet -- no cash or credit cards.



(*Broke* down.)


I stopped at the Western Union in Sumner and my father convinced them to let him wire me money without a driver's license or other ID. I know, I know -- cheating. Whatever, I told you this whole thing was contrived anyway, so I get to make the rules.



(Waiting for the money transfer, recharging my cell phone.)



(Back on the highway. Still so long to go!)


I do have to say, the trip certainly felt more committing. Once I was a good 50 or 60 miles out, turning back wasn't a very encouraging option. It's a lot different than driving a car -- more committing.



(Eventually, it's all just farms and woods.)



(And barns.)


I turned off 161 to take the Alder-Cutoff road out of Eatonville, which looked like it would save me a few miles. It did. Also, it has ZERO shoulder. The white line is basically painted on the gravel. A couple of truckers decided to "teach me a lesson" by attempting to run me off the road. Good times.



(Alder Lake, after finishing the cutoff)



(Indeed. Saw this at a yard sale somewhere on the Mtn. Hwy. He wanted $200 for it)


I made it to Longmire after dark. It took me about 8:30, and roughly 105 miles -- which sounds pretty slow. I slept on the ground behind what I thought was an empty building at Longmire, until 6AM when I was awoken by rangers -- turns out I was sleeping on the ground next to the Museum. HAH!



(Packing, after getting my wilderness permit. The rangers told me they were used to "crazies" coming through there.)


The plan was to hike from Longmire to the Bench/Snow Lake TH, via the Wonderland Trail. Then I'd climb Unicorn, and a traverse of the Tatoosh would deposit me back at Longmire, where I had hidden my bike in the woods.



(I'm not sure what's up with this photo.)



(When your only camera is a cell phone, you take what you can get.)


After nearly 9 hours on the bike, I'd never been so happy to walk! I made it to the TH pretty quickly. It was only like 6 miles. That part of the Wonderland Trail is basically Rainier's version of the Burke-Gilman, complete with joggers and babies.



(The Snow Lake TH sign. Ooops!)


After reaching Snow Lake, I looked for a way to gain the upper sloped below Unicorn. I didn't bring much beta, and especially avoided specifics on the traverse (i.e. things like "cross the ridge through the small gap on the SW side," etc.) so I tried to find my own way.



(Things were melting out. I found this access gully. The snow was harder than I thought it would be.)



(Halo. I'm on a mission from god.)


Around this time, my phone started malfunctioning -- turning off and refusing to turn back on until I banged it a few times. So pictures become more rare.



(Looking west from Unicorn. Starting to feel pretty lonely.)


Unicorn was easy. It was the only part of the traverse I had actively sought out info on -- namely, to ask if I needed a rope for the descent. I did not bring one, and the down-climbing was a bit exposed but not too bad.


The access gully to reach the saddle below Unicorn is not melted out, although the snow has gotten steepish. I noticed a scree-path skirting the snow finger, but I opted to just kick steps up.



(Gully leading to gap below Unicorn)


After tagging Unicorn, I set up a bivy for the night above the gap. AMAZING views. AMAZING stars. Powered by the battery in my solar-charger, I was able to listen to Pink Floyd's Wish You Were Here in it's entirety, as the sun set. TRANSCENDENT. I'm sure Ivan knows what I mean.


The next morning, I made my way down the snow gully (much harder in the morning!!!) and back up towards Foss.



(Luckily, there was plenty of water.)



(A solo TR has GOT to have lots of one-handed self-portraits.)



(Looking back towards Unicorn.


AND -- the flowers were out. Holy shit!





I ran into trouble at Foss, I couldn't tell if I was supposed to go UP it and over, or around. I just went up and over. No big deal. Castle gave me some trouble, too -- I ended up descending to the north side, crossing snow slopes and climbing back up to the Castle/Pinnacle saddle via a steep north-facing snow couloir, and then climbed Castle from the SW side. Pinnacle was easier, since there were plenty of use-trails.


At Pinnacle, I ran into a couple of rangers who had a survey wheel. They were rolling it around the various use-trails around Pinnacle, trying to measure impact.



(I watched these rangers roll the survey wheel across the upper snow slopes in this photo -- sans ice axe or poles. I followed behind them, with treking poles. I couldn't imagine being so cavalier as to drag a survey wheel behind me across these run-outs!)


Plummer was easy, but I ran into more trouble around Denman -- climb straight up, or go around and climb up the backside? I finally opted going straight up and over -- but lost a lot of time dicking around with route-finding and checking and double-checking things. It was now around 2 PM.


At Lane, I took a look towards Wahpanayo. Due to lack of beta, I was moving WAY slower then I had originally planned, forced to try different ways around various obstacles, getting cliffed out and backtracking, etc. The snow was not melted enough to find much of a use trail, and the route-finding looked to get more difficult around Wahpanayo. I knew that my last realistic option to bail was the Pinnacle Peak Trail behind me, and that continuing would be committing myself to possibly another full day. I had planned in an extra day to my schedule, but I wasn't sure how close I wanted to cut it, with 100+ miles and a loaded bike between Longmire and Seattle.


So I made the hard choice, and backtracked to the trail, and made it back to Longmire in time for dinner. Looking back, part of me is really disappointed with myself, but I guess we all have to make choices, and what else can you do but trust your judgement and live with the consequences? Isn't that all any of us can do? It seemed like the right decision at the time.



(Back at Longmire. I forgot my wallet and ID, and they would not sell me beer. :mad:)


I slept in the bushes this time. The next morning, I made my long trip back.



(Strange company.)



(Good to know.)



(A straw?)





(This entire section of the river bank was made out of old tires. There were people standing all around fishing here.)



(Tired. Can I go home now?)



(Trash. I must be getting close!)


I saw a lot of these rediculous billboards on my trip and finally had to take a photo. I'm not even sure what they mean???





The single moment I'll always remember is stopping on the Airport Way bridge (over the railyard) and looking north and seeing the city, and looking behind me and seeing Rainier. It's just one of those single images that creates a powerful memory.






(I came all this way just that day?)



(Ah, feels so good when you stop.)



(This is what happens when you forget to water a coffee tree for 4 days in the summer.)



(At least the cat was happy to see me back!)


What a long, strange trip it's been!


Gear Notes:

Don't forget ID or they won't sell you beer.


Approach Notes:

Bike. Boots.

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Thanks, guys! It's my first try at something like this, so I picked something relatively low-risk that would still give me a realistic taste of what's involved in doing something like this.


I'm already figuring out improvements to make for next year's trip. For one thing, I've either got to get a front rack to distribute weight, or a good trailer -- especially as the load increases as I take on more technical endeavors. I'm leaning towards a small trailer so that I can just strap my pack directly on and also I'd like to experiment with getting the weight off the frame.


One thing that surprised me was that it was much easier than I expected. Longer and slower, though. I had enough energy left to jog down the Wonderland Trail back to the bike, and I spent most of the ride home plotting the next trip -- always a good sign, in my book. :D


Great story. Are those Wiley X glasses?


Nope, Oakleys with prescription photosensitive lenses. Fancy!

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Powered by the battery in my solar-charger, I was able to listen to Pink Floyd's Wish You Were Here in it's entirety, as the sun set. TRANSCENDENT. I'm sure Ivan knows what I mean.






wait, what? :)


i remember shitting meself in a mall parking lot when i was like 19 when the guiiiiitar starts on "wish you were here" :lmao:

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