Margay

At 1:30 this afternoon, near the end of an eight-hour block of tracking Wedge-billed Woodcreepers through the jungle, I noticed a flock of agitated antshrikes mobbing something in a tree just off the transect I was working on. Thinking that they might have found a roosting raptor, I plunged into the undergrowth to see what the fuss was about.

It took a minute to spot: a dense clump of fur about 20 feet off the ground, tucked above a couple of horizontal branches. Upon closer inspection, the fur had spots. Some kind of cat!

Tiputini has one of the highest densities of jaguars in the world (about 22 per 100 square kilometers, according to camera trap data) and is also home to jaguarundis, ocelots, and margays, but all those tropical cats are rarely seen. Some researchers have worked at Tiputini for years without encountering a single feline. So I was extremely lucky to discover one within three weeks of arriving here!

The cat was small, so obviously not a jaguar. I couldn’t decide if it was an ocelot or margay (both of which are about the size of a bobcat), but it was very cooperative, probably because it had spent the entire day asleep. It barely flicked an eyelid as I jockeyed for the best photo angle.

After a few minutes, I realized it would probably stay there until dusk. A moment of indecision: should I tell anyone? I was working alone with no radio, and the station was about a mile and a half away by muddy trails. Ah, what the heck; I tore off in search of Rebekah, tracking woodcreepers about a half kilometer away. When we returned, the cat hadn’t moved a muscle, so I left her there and ran all the way back to Tiputini to spread the news. An hour later I was back at the site with Abby and Sara; the cat still hadn’t budged, and I had run more than three miles in rubber boots.

The photos seem to show a margay, which has a slightly longer tail, flatter head, and bigger eyes than an ocelot (otherwise they’re nearly identical). Sweet – now, to find a jaguar …

Dropped From 130 Feet

On my first full day off at Tiputini, I decided to climb the canopy tower at sunrise. A set of rickety metal scaffolding ascends to a platform in the fork of a huge ceiba tree which towers over the surrounding jungle, 130 feet above the ground – it’s a great spot for canopy birds and monkeys.

And rain, as it turned out. No sooner had I switched off my headlamp then a downpour ripped out of nowhere. I huddled on my high perch under an umbrella and watched the sodden sunrise (and a Paradise Tanager) for half an hour before giving up. Umbrella in one hand, I grabbed my pack to climb down.

But one zipper wasn’t quite zipped and, as I lifted the backpack to my shoulder, my 100mm image-stabilized lens slipped out at just the wrong moment. I watched in horror as my prized macro lens arced gracefully over the handrail and flipped slowly through space before gravity kicked in. Several heavy heartbeats later, a wet thud echoed up from the forest floor, 130 feet below.

I raced down 118 steps of scaffolding and searched the ground for a few minutes before discovering my camera lens a few inches from one of the tower’s concrete support pads, lens cap about 10 feet away. I expected it to be smashed to smithereens but the lens was incredibly intact for a high-tech meteorite. The glass wasn’t even scratched; it must have landed in a patch of mud or bounced through some leaves on the way down. Amazingly, it survived a fall that probably would have killed me.

The focus and image stabilizer, though, were knocked loose, so, for now, I’ll have to hope it can be fixed when I get home. Oh well. After dropping two different camera bodies in Australian rivers last year, drowning another one in a Costa Rican thunderstorm last winter, and losing my binoculars on the Pacific Crest Trail this summer, a lens isn’t such a big deal. But it is expensive…

I spent the rest of the day birding and found some goodies: Blue-and-yellow, Scarlet, and Red-and-green Macaws; a Long-billed Woodcreeper; and a pair of Slender-footed Tyrannulets building a nest. Oh, and I saw my 2,000th life bird this week – a Yellow-billed Nunbird. Makes it all worth it!

1,999

As I write this, my life list stands at 1,999 species. It’s likely that I’ll hit 2,000 this very afternoon, since, at Tiputini, practically anything is possible. What bird will it be?

I arrived on Friday after spending 24 hours in international airports and eight hours on a small plane, a bus, a boat, another bus, and another boat, working steadily deeper into the remote Amazonian lowlands of eastern Ecuador. I will be studying Wedge-billed Woodcreepers at Tiputini Biodiversity Station for the next three months.

The station is located on the bank of the Tiputini River alongside Yasuni National Park and run by the Universidad San Francisco de Quito. It’s a popular stop for study abroad groups from the United States, so the facilities are pretty good. We get electricity for six hours a day, cooked meals, and maid service.

This is the “drier” season at Tiputini. By way of introduction, I got soaked in an intense thunderstorm during my first morning in the humid rainforest, slipped on a muddy slope, landed on a sharp stump, and ripped a 2-inch hole through the seat of my field pants before pouring several inches of water out of my rubber boots. Lesson learned: always bring your umbrella…

Meanwhile, I’m enjoying the process of getting settled in to jungle life. This place is full of canopy walkways, boardwalks, towers, muddy trails, and canoes – and 500+ species of birds!

Ecuador Bound

The holidays are over and it’s time to head to the tropics!

Tomorrow I catch a flight to Quito, Ecuador, then I’ll travel onward via small plane and boat to Tiputini Biodiversity Station, one of the most remote research stations in the world. I’ll be studying Wedge-billed Woodcreepers there for the next three months, spending most of my time wandering around in pristine Amazon rainforest. And, of course, seeing a lot of birds, and taking lots of photos ;)

So it’s time to kick this blog into gear. I’ve been home for the last two months, working on a few writing projects (two books and a new magazine column – more to come over the next few months), enjoying some local birding and a bit of regular life, and planning ahead. 2011 was awesome – Costa Rica, the Pacific Crest Trail, and Maine – and 2012 is looking just as great…

Stay tuned. As I get settled in Ecuador this week, I’ll be posting updates here. Who knows what adventures await?

 

Wild Book Signing

At Portland’s Wild Arts festival yesterday, I shared a small table with Robert Pyle, that internationally known butterfly expert, conservationist, and author. We spent almost five hours signing books; I sat behind a glossy stack of Among Penguins, while Bob’s 15 or 20 titles formed an impressive mountain covering his side of the desk. Along with a dozen or two other authors in the room, we were busy. The place was packed with hundreds of people.

A woman with her small child approached my side of the table, looking worried. “I told my kid that s-a-n-t-a would be here, but I guess it’s too early in the season for someone to be dressed up,” she explained. “Do you think Bob would mind playing along a bit? He’s the closest lookalike I can find.” I glanced over at the butterfly expert, who bore a striking resemblance to Kenny Rogers with a big, fluffy white beard, as he signed a book for someone else. “Sure,” I said. “Why not?”

Another lady approached and grabbed a copy of Among Penguins. “Would this be suitable for an 11-year-old?” she asked, flipping through the photo section in the middle. I answered, honestly, that I didn’t know; maybe she could read the first chapter to get a feel for the writing. After a while, she looked up. “Is there any sex in this book?” No, I said, nothing like that. She bought a copy and went away smiling.

Half an hour later, a different woman stopped to ask, “Would this book be suitable for a 12-year-old in the seventh grade?” I grinned. “Well, someone else just bought a copy for their 11-year-old…” I explained.

Jay and Susan, birder friends of mine from Portland, stopped by to say hi and gave me an early Christmas present: a foot-long, shimmery holographic ruler of penguins which seemed to walk and flap their wings as you twisted the ruler. I stuck it in front of my name plate propped on the table, and, for the rest of the day, random people kept stopping to admire it. “Look at that, honey! Penguins!”

Bob, the butterfly guy, leaned over after we’d been signing books for about two hours. “Would you inscribe one to Bob and Thea?” he asked. It was nice gesture, and I passed him a signed copy of Among Penguins. About an hour later, he leaned over again. “I can tell that I’m going to enjoy this, after listening to you talk about it for the last three hours!”

It was fun to chat with people about penguins all day. The Wild Arts festival was even bigger than I’d imagined, and well-organized. Volunteers constantly circulated among the author tables offering water, coffee, or to swap in if we needed a break. The artists and authors were an awesome group of people. I ended up selling 25 or 30 copies of my book. Great success!

 

Penguins at the Rotary

“See that table, in the corner?” asked Pat, President of the Grants Pass Rotary club in southern Oregon, just after lunch today. “They’re a little hard of hearing back there. If they hold up a giant sign that says LOUDER, lean in to the microphone. They’re brutal.”

I was about to give my penguin slideshow for the 20th time this year. I’ve talked at retirement homes, Audubon and Natural History societies, bookstores, and college classes, but this was my first service club. They run things a bit different, as it turns out.

“We have some business to discuss before your show,” said Pat, “so grab a plate of food, sit down, and enjoy the meeting.”

The room, adjoining a pub in Grants Pass, was packed – 140 people. My grandparents, who live nearby, sat at reserved places near the front of the room. When Pat gave me the signal, I took a hammer and hit a large bell to begin proceedings.

I’d been asked to sign a pack of penguin-themed balloons, bought at the dollar store, which were given to the first person who could guess the name of another club member after hearing a quote they’d posted on Facebook. In the midst of this, the table in the corner raised their LOUDER sign. A new member was inducted to the club and lectured about how to get rid of his “red badge.” Someone gave a brief and direct speech concerning the eradication of polio disease. Songs were sung, and standing ovations were given.

My talk went really well, people laughed in all the right places, and I sold and signed about 30 copies of my book – all that I had left in stock! Guess I need to order some more, since I have a few more shows to do before Christmas ;)

(If you’re curious, you can check out the tour schedule.)

 

Playing With Panoramas

My dad and I are prowling the sagebrush country of southeast Oregon this week, birding and photographing stuff. Our carmometer registered 17 F this morning, typical early winter weather at Malheur, and most birds have migrated south (no wonder birders never come here in November). But the high desert is beautiful this time of year…

Photographing that scenery is a challenge. My camera arsenal is mostly designed for faraway specks; I’ve been lugging around my 600mm lens all weekend, which weighs 11.8 pounds and is worth about as much as my car (life’s priorities). That’s great for birds and the occasional furtive coyote, but no so ideal for landscapes. Even my 100mm lens, relatively tiny, is no good for a wide scenery shot. Luckily, I can take panoramas!

I’ve actually never tried this before. I don’t know why. It’s awesome. You take a bunch of overlapping photos and then stitch them together into one image (I did these by hand in Photoshop, but there are some programs that’ll do panoramas automatically).

One side effect of this is that the resulting picture is enormous – I could print one of these out poster-size and you’d be able to see every little detail. The files are also off-the-scale huge; Photoshop kept crashing as I manipulated half a dozen full-resolution photos into one. Maybe I need a bigger computer?

It’s pretty satisfying to build the panorama, watching edges line up and magically disappear. If you ever try one, be sure to keep your camera on manual exposure so that adjoining images match correctly. And stick to static scenes; animals and moving objects (like a tree in the wind) are apt to mess things up – though I got lucky with some cows in a field.

As usual, click on any photo to see a larger version ;)

Malheur NWR Headquarters

Moooooooooooooooooo

A Lonely Willow Tree

 

That Big Bad Birding Movie

Half an hour ago, I watched closing credits roll on The Big Year at our local theater in Eugene. It’s been out for more than two weeks, so I’m probably the last birder on Earth to have seen it. But, hey, I’ve been living on a remote island in Maine for the last month; what can you do? (Yep, I’m back home in Oregon now, beginning a big new project – so stay tuned).

I’m lucky to have caught the movie still in theaters. It cost $57 million to make and has grossed a pitiful $7 million at the box office. People haven’t exactly been flocking to see a film about competitive birdwatching, even if it does star Jack Black, Owen Wilson, and Steve Martin. And, after seeing it myself, I admit: it won’t win any Oscars. At least the birds were accurate… more or less.

But who cares? I had heard that Birding magazine, where I work as Associate Editor, features prominently in several scenes. Sure enough, the climax of the whole movie arrives with the latest issue of Birding (a real mockup with Owen Wilson on the cover) and the main characters rushing to their mailbox to tear it open. How often does your magazine show up in a major Hollywood motion picture?

Awesome.

It’s been fascinating to follow the whole process of this movie being made – first the three crazy birders vying to break the North American big year record in 1998, then Mark Obmascik’s page-turning book about their endeavors (which I have read several times – guess I’m a nerd), then, incredibly, the announcement of a partially fictionalized Hollywood version of the story to be filmed and released in 2011, with a couple characters based on people I know personally. Over the past few months, I’ve watched with amusement as birders across the country posted excited updates on various email lists: Steve Martin talked about eagles on Letterman! stills have been leaked! the poster is here! the trailer is out! this will change the face of birding!

That last sentiment was probably a bit hopeful, and, in a bizarre discussion on the American Birding Association’s blog this week, led to a snipey argument about whether the American public is too dumb to enjoy birding. Eh, whatever. Me, I enjoyed watching the movie because I enjoy watching birds, and, yes, I enjoy watching people watch birds. But I’m not holding my breath for The Big Year 2

63 Saw-whet Owls in 9 Hours

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After a full day of banding songbirds, Ed and I stayed up almost all night catching owls. Conditions couldn’t have been better: clear, calm, and cold with no moon. Though we have caught a few owls every night this week, last night was the best yet – 63 saw-whets! We finally turned into bed at 4:00 am, slept an hour and a half, and headed out at dawn for another field day of banding songbirds. It never stops…

Saw-whet Owls are just unimaginably cute. I can’t get over it. Those big eyes and soft, soft feathers get me every time. And saw-whets are normally very hard to find; before banding them here, I had seen exactly two in my whole life. Handling 63 in one night blows my mind!

Shrike!

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A northern cold front brought a nice collection of winter migrants today, and Ed and I banded 86 new birds at Petit Manan Point – very solid. We were pretty stoked about catching our first tree sparrow of the fall until Ed came running back from a net run with a Northern Shrike, definitely the most awesomest bird of the entire season so far!

Shrikes have murderous hooked bills designed for tearing apart other, smaller birds. This one tore us up, too, as we took its measurements, but the bloodshed was worth it…

Angry Cardinal

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Winter is coming to Maine. The forecast for Sunday calls for a high of 38 and snow showers. Brrr.

First, though, we’ve got several warm(ish) days of northwest winds to look forward to, after enduring almost two weeks of south winds (bad for migratory birds around here). Ed and I are hoping this brings one last big push this week before we head home at the end of the month. We only caught 11 birds this morning, but enjoyed an Orange-crowned Warbler and the first cardinal of the fall at Petit Manan Point.

Day And Night

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My schedule is getting strange. Ed and I stayed up past one a.m. catching owls, rose at dawn for six hours of songbird banding, took a four-and-a-half-hour nap in the afternoon, opened the owl nets again at dusk, stayed up past 3:30 am and caught 15 new saw-whets, slept less than two hours, banded 127 migrant songbirds between 6 am and noon, took a three-hour nap, and opened the owl nets again at sunset.

So far tonight, we’ve caught four new owls. After dark, the nets only need to be checked once an hour, so we’ve been trading off on net runs and napping in between. This morning was fantastic for songbirds; we took a big hit of sparrows. Who knows what tomorrow will bring? I’ll be up to find out soon enough…

Catching Saw-whet Owls

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I’m staying up tonight with Ed to capture Northern Saw-whet Owls. It’s 11pm, and we’ve caught three so far – not bad, but not spectacular (a good night at Petit Manan Point might yield 20 by midnight). We take turns checking seven mist nets outside our trailer once an hour, luring in the fist-sized owls with a boombox which continuously broadcasts their calls at full volume.

Couple of interesting things about saw-whets. You can tell how old they are by looking at different generations of feathers in their wings, and this is made easier by spreading their wing under a blacklight (fresh feathers glow pink under UV rays). We use a light called the “stink finder,” designed to find cat pee stains in carpets. And Saw-whets often take a minute to fly away upon release, so you can sit one on your shoulder to pose for photos. Cool stuff!

From Island to Peninsula

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Yesterday, after I’d spent three weeks banding birds on Metinic Island, a Fish and Wildlife boat showed up to transport our crew back to the Maine mainland. So I’m once again in the land of cars, flushing toilets, and lobster lunches.

I’m not done here, though. Metinic Island may be closed for the year, but I’ll spend the next ten days extending the season at another bird banding station called Petit Manan point, a couple hours up the coast, working with my good friend Ed (who I last saw in Costa Rica last winter). We’re occupying a tiny trailer on a windswept coastal peninsula, hoping to catch lots more songbirds and, probably, lots of saw-whet owls. At least, if it ever stops raining…

Thousands Of Birds

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It’s been a crazy week on Metinic Island. We captured and banded 200+ new birds on five out of the last six days, capped by a tremendous 467 (!) yesterday, an all-time record at this banding station! It was such an incredible effort that special, “half millennium” T-shirts are in the works for this crew.

Chuck and I managed to catch a fist-sized Northern Saw-whet Owl in a mist net after dark – definitely the softest, cuddliest bird I’ve ever held. And I even got a life bird today: two White-rumped Sandpipers huddled down on the beach. Looks like rain coming, which means a couple of slower days ahead. We could use a bit of a rest…

Huge Bird Wave!

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As soon as I stepped out the door this morning, I could feel it. A Rusty Blackbird was on the compost heap. A Brown Creeper inched incongruously up the shingles of the house. And, I quickly realized, every tree, bush, and vine was awash in hundreds, thousands of fluttering, restless shapes. Last night, Metinic Island was invaded by birds.

All day long, waves upon waves of warblers, sparrows, thrushes, kinglets, and woodpeckers sloshed back and forth while we sprinted to keep up the banding station, in sheer awe of the numbers of birds – underfoot, overhead, flocks of hundreds flushing with every step through the brush. Transporting them in soft cotton bags, we were barely able to keep up as more and more birds piled up in the mist nets. In the end, we banded 293 birds today, nearly doubling my biggest mist-netting effort to date. Looks good for another big hit tomorrow, too!

Gale Force

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Adrienne, Chuck, Andrea and I gathered around our digital weather display this afternoon as a windstorm slammed the cabin on Metinic Island. When the wind hit 50 mph, the refrigerator inside our kitchen started to shake. When it hit 62 mph, we all ran outside to rescue a microphone (which records calls of migrating birds) after it blew off its support.

Otherwise, the weather is looking up. We had enough sun to replenish the solar battery today, and the lights are back on. And we put in a full, uninterrupted day of banding this morning, catching 129 birds. I found a Yellow-throated Vireo and an American Golden-Plover. Life is good.

Three Weeks In Maine

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At 300-acre Metinic Island, seven miles off the coast of central Maine, it’s currently raining sideways with a steady 30-mph wind. I arrived on a Fish and Wildlife powerboat three days ago for three weeks of migratory bird banding with a small field crew, but the weather has made that difficult this week; even our large bank of solar panels can’t keep up after several days without sun, so we are crawling around the island’s two-story cabin with headlamps to save power.

But things are already looking up. This morning we were able to open a third of our mist nets and captured 161 birds, mostly colorful eastern warblers – awesome! And sunshine is in the long-range forecast. They tell me that this is just the beginning of the busiest month of the year here, so fingers crossed. And sitting in a rustic cabin feels pretty luxurious after spending the last four months hiking through the western wilderness!

A 64-mile Dayhike

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On the PCT this summer, I was all about consistency. I never tried a truly huge day (my biggest was 35.8 miles), but, increasingly, I found myself wondering: given easy trail and a light pack, how far could I really hike in one 24-hour period? (No running allowed). What if I walked from midnight to midnight?

Today, a week after finishing the PCT, it was time to find out. I’ll probably never be in better shape to attempt a 24-hour hike. In the interest of carrying as little as possible, I decided to park my car at a strategic location near some running paths in south Eugene and use it as a resupply station between a series of loops.

I started walking at 12:08 am, using a GPS to measure mileage. For six hours I walked in the dark, dodging Friday-night revelers and a sneaky skunk while waiting for the sun to come up. By dawn I’d already logged 21 miles, off to a good start.

I hit 30 miles before 11 am, somewhere on the Ridgeline Trail near Spencer Butte; I worried about my legs feeling tight, but kept a steady pace with few breaks. The afternoon was tough mentally, not close to the beginning or end, so I did a bunch of laps around the Rexius Trail and hit 50 miles around dinnertime. With legs like iron, I pushed on into the night and finally, mercifully stopped at 11:42 pm, having walked 64.0 miles (103 kilometers) in less than 24 hours!

I drove home, pulled on compression tights (purchased last year when I ran a marathon in Australia and flew home to Oregon the same afternoon), and collapsed into bed, having slept less than two hours of the previous 40. What a day! This summer has definitely redefined my perception of reasonable mileage. But, now, I’m done with long walks for a while – promise!

CANADA!

Just before 9:30 this morning, after 123 days and 25 minutes of nonstop walking, came the moment I have been anticipating so long: The Canadian border, and the northern end of the Pacific Crest Trail – I made it!!!!!!!!

It took just under four calendar months (May 19 to Sep 18) to hike 2,663 miles from Mexico to Canada this summer, averaging 21.6 miles/day (everything included). From the SoCal desert through the snowy high Sierra, dusty NorCal wilderness, buggy Oregon, and lush Washington, it’s been an incredible journey.

A big THANK YOU to everyone who gave encouragement through comments and emails – they have meant a lot to me! I can’t express how much the support helped, especially through difficult sections.

I am happy to be done; northern Washington was physically and mentally intense. Last night it rained intermittently while I tossed and turned, unable to sleep, and my gear was soaked this morning. My dad met me at the border monument, snapped a few photos, and shepherded me to the Manning Park Lodge where we’re spending the night before driving home tomorrow. It is surreal to return to civilization after so long in the woods.

I will be working at a migratory songbird banding station on Metinic Island, off the coast of Maine, from late September (next week!) to late October; and on a Wedge-billed Woodcreeper tracking project at Tiputini Biodiversity Station, in eastern Ecuador, from January to April, so stay tuned for more adventures.

Meanwhile, I will be doing preliminary research for a possible book about the 2011 PCT season. If you hiked this summer, watch out – I may be calling you soon…

Sorry for the lag in recent updates; I had no cell service for the last eight days. I’ll post an overall summary when I am home and settled. For now, a giant dinner awaits – success is sweet!

Pasayten Wilderness

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During an early sunbreak on a breathtaking ridge in the Pasayten Wilderness, I felt the first, bittersweet twinges of regret that this trip is nearly over. It’s been nearly four months of nonstop hiking, without much time to pause and reflect; I suppose the enormity of it all is really beginning to sink in. I hiked a while, misty-eyed, reminiscing over the summer – then I tripped on a rock, a mean-looking cloud blotted out the sun, and my reverie was snapped. Onward to the finish line!

My thermometer read 28F this morning, and the weather continues to deteriorate, so I’m glad to be out tomorrow. I hiked a frigid 29 miles today under threatening clouds, wearing gloves, hat, rainpants, and down parka most of the day; by late afternoon an intermittent, sleeting drizzle had set in. Time to wrap this thing up – winter is arriving in the mountains.

So Close…

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This morning the fog burned off for a few hours of pleasant sunshine, but a layer of clouds had blotted out the sky by midafternoon, and my thermometer registered 37F at six pm with an icy wind – brrr! So much for summer. Some climbers reported snow flurries at 8,000 feet yesterday; I’m camped among rugged peaks at 7,000′ tonight, hoping any precipitation holds off just a little longer…

I hiked 25 miles today, well past the 2,600 mark, and am now camped just 35 miles from the Canadian border (not that I’m counting). Should get there on Sunday morning, whatever the weather brings. It’s so hard to wait.

A Change In Weather

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Last night was very windy in Stehekin, and I woke up to gray skies this morning. Finally, the weather I had expected in Washington: cool and cloudy. I just hope any real rain holds off for three more days…

Because of breakfast and shuttle schedules, my dad didn’t see me off until after noon (next time we see each other, on Sunday, we’ll be in Canada!). I hiked a steady 20 miles up to aptly-named Rainy Pass where a heavy, saturating mist is now drizzling down, enough to soak everything; luckily I found a dry(ish) campsite, just before dark, under a thick tree about 20 feet behind an outhouse by the trailhead parking lot. Gotta love the wilderness.

Stehekin

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Another 27 miles (3,000 feet up, 5,000 down) brought me to Stehekin today, an isolated town in northern Washington. The roads here don’t connect anywhere else, so it’s necessary to take an expensive ferry to reach Stehekin – except, of course, if you walk here!

My dad took the ferry, loved it, and met me at the Stehekin Lodge where we are staying tonight. Looks like a change in weather ahead, but I only have four days left – can I reach Canada before the rain comes? I’ll be at the border on Sunday… It’s weird to be so close to the finish line.

New PCT

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A couple miles before I reached the Suiattle River crossing this afternoon, I found a sign proclaiming, “New! PCT + Bridge,” pointing down a freshly cut side trail. Knowing that the bridge had been out for a few years, and sick of hauling myself over miles of poorly maintained trail (thick, head-high brush with lots of deadfall), I followed the sign to see what adventures awaited.

Turns out the PCT has officially been rerouted to incorporate a new bridge three miles downstream, where better bedrock exists. I found the trail crew and a Forest Service employee putting some finishing touches on the excellent bridge before they are airlifted out on Thursday, mission complete. They were pretty excited to see me, saying I was maybe the first hiker to use the new route (!), which also now incorporates a spectacular, 700-year-old stand of oldgrowth. Unfortunately, it adds at least four extra miles, and I fell short of my target this evening despite hiking 27 rough miles today. It’s gonna be tight getting to Stehekin tomorrow…