Sacramento to Calgary 1981

April 17, 1981 through October 26, 1981.  A 2,000 mile, 6 month hike with burros via mountain trails and back roads.

  • 430 miles Sacramento to California-Oregon border
  • 444 miles California-Oregon border to Oregon-Washington border
  • 487 miles Oregon-Washington border to Canadian border
  • 510 miles Canadian border to British Columbia-Alberta border
  • 200 miles British Columbia border to Calgary

April 17, 1981 – American River Trail, Sacramento, CA

Today was the first day of the journey.  The troupe includes my wife, Debi, our cat, myself and two personable donkeys, Stonewall and Jackson.  Our dog, Kobuk, is recovering from leg surgery and will join us at the Oregon/California border.  As we left town we realized that we lacked toilet paper so at a convenience store we bought the only paper they had, a four roll pack – enough for the donkeys to even use.

April 19, 1981 – Rattlesnake Bar, Folsom Reservoir, Folsom, CA

It could only be Easter because today Debi found a beautifully marked bird egg along the trail, and when we stopped for camp at Rattlesnake Bar on Folsom Lake we found a cottontail waiting for us.  The trail today was winding and up and down but beautiful, puddles and all.  One of the straps securing Jackson’s butt-harness broke so we stopped on the trail and I made a new one.

May 10, 1981 –  west of Round Valley Butte, Ca

Frost this morning.  Mosquitoes were bothersome.  At lunch they were eating us alive when, shortly, a rushing sound like a waterfall could be heard from the northwest and after a few minutes a cold wind was blowing – end of the mosquito problem for the day.  We stopped for the day at a small, sparse meadow where a tiny trickle of water runs through.  The tent we set up beneath some trees and the donkeys we let graze for three to four hours.

May 11, 1981 – Butte Creek, 9 miles south of Cave Campground & Hwy 89

Tonight we had rice and tuna fish, and I showed Debi how to cook biscuits wrapped around a stick and held over coals.  While cooking more biscuits, a doe approached us followed by a buck.  They approached to within fifty feet of us over a span of maybe five minutes, except by this time I was burning the biscuits, so I had to make a decision on priorities.  Besides, the damn deer were circling us slowly while I cooked the biscuits and I was getting a crick in my neck trying to watch them.  Unfortunately, I didn’t have my camera ready.  Fact is, the deer were closer to it than me and it was sitting on the tripod yet!

May 27, 1981 – 2 miles southwest of Eagle Rock, Cascade Mountains, CA

It seems that we spent most of our time this evening setting up the tent and preparing and eating dinner.  We had a five course dinner, seven if one counts tea and hot chocolate, all prepared on one massive tree stump kitchen table.  We had a mountain of instant potatoes with a small can of ham mixed in, an eight ounce can of string beans, popcorn and Debi attempted some cinnamon biscuits out of Bisquick with sugar and cinnamon added.  They were tasty if you didn’t look at them.

June 20, 1981 – Whitefish Creek Horse Campground, Crescent Lake, Oregon

Three days after crossing into Oregon we met up with two longtime friends, Bruce and Michele Bonnello, who were joining us on our adventure accompanied by their two horses and two mules.  Feed for the horses was scarce to absent in the Cascades this time of year and we had to take this into consideration when planning each day’s travels.  The mules and burros could get by on much less.

June 23, 1981 – Whitefish Creek Horse Campground, Crescent Lake, Oregon

Crescent Lake is a barren, sandy-shore lake surrounded by a dry Lodgepole Pine forest.  Nearby is a horse-camp with stalls and picnic tables at each campsite.  We let the burros and one mule run free to feed while the other mule was picketed to a fifty-foot rope;  Bruce and Michele held onto both horses as they grazed.

June 25, 1981 – Irish Mountain Trail, Three Sisters Wilderness, Oregon

The trail to Irish Mountain was very steep with few switchbacks, thick woods, and many downed logs across the trail.  The trail became progressively less defined towards the top and we had to search out old blaze marks to locate it.  The trail ran out just after dropping down from a saddle.  Large patches of snow and downed trees made travel appear impossible.  I went ahead while the others waited and although I could not find a trail I located a route that took us to Storm Lake and connected with the Pacific Crest Trail.

July 6, 1981 – Pacific Crest Trail, Mount Jefferson, Oregon

What an incredible day!  Early on we connected up with an old route of the Pacific Crest Trail at 5,640 feet elevation in a saddle.  From here we switch-backed down through an  increasingly lush understory of incredible multitudes of flowers.  Rose colors of Salmon Berry, brilliant orange-red Columbine and Indian Paintbrush, white Thimbleberry and Elderberry, plus bell-shaped blues, daisy-like yellows and many more.  Every kind of berry plant was represented.  Water droplets hung from the plants like jewels and the forest was such intense shades of green with moss covered rocks and logs.  Hanging waterfalls dropped from the steep canyon walls.  A never ending show of beauty.

July 6, 1981 – Pacific Crest Trail, Mount Jefferson, Cascade Mountains, Oregon

As we climbed in elevation and neared our intended goal of Scout Lake, snow began to fall until, as we topped at Jefferson Park, a large flat rock plain, it was blizzard conditions and we passed right by Scout Lake and its companions without seeing them.  We continued across the mostly open country protected sporadically from the driving snow by clumps of firs until we encountered the Breitenbush Trail juncture and from there we struck out blindly three-hundred yards due east of the trail to Lake Russell.  Here we found shelter on the northwest shore beside a clump of tall trees at about 5:15 pm.

July 26, 1981 – Pacific Crest Trail, Mount Adams, Washington

A couple of days after Debi, Bruce and Michele decided not to continue on, I came to a swath of downed trees running perpendicular to the trail for as far as I could see in either direction.  With no other alternative, I took out the hatchet and folding saw and started cutting branches.  When finished, what was left was a maze of knee-high logs across the trail.  With some lining with rope and coaxing, I was able to get Jackson across and with more lining, eventually Stonewall.  Almost the entire day was an up hill climb as we ascended the long slopes of Mount Adams.  About three miles past lunch I met a hiker coming down the trail, a rare occurrence.  He had hiked 125 miles in Jasper, Canada.  He mentioned grizzlies in the Rockies.  Everyone mentions grizzlies in the Rockies!

July 26, 1981 – Pacific Crest Trail, Mount Adams, Washington

The sky cleared at dusk and three miles east and five-thousand feet higher towers Mount Adams blanketed in snow.  The stars are legion and the air is fifty-one degrees Fahrenheit.  I’m sleeping out on top of a tarp just awed by the beauty.  I lie under the stars now with the Milky Way overhead and the rushing of water in the night air.  And people, friends and family, wonder why I’m here.

July 29, 1981 – Pacific Crest Trail, Packwood Glacier, Snoqualimie National Forest, Washington

The trail crossed a large snowfield of one hundred yards,  the top of Packwood Glacier.  With a biting wind and conditions  close to a whiteout, I must say it was a tense crossing.  Jackson almost fell backwards after crossing the glacier when he turned uphill to gain his footing but I had him by his lead line and held him as he recovered his balance.

July 29, 1981 – Pacific Crest Trail, Packwood Glacier, Snoqualimie National Forest, Washington

The mist and light rain stung like needles on my face as we maneuvered for four miles along the narrow trail, which sometimes was only four to five feet wide with precipices on both sides that dropped off quickly into a void.  I was dressed in long underwear, flannel and wool shirts, stocking cap, wool gloves and a rain parka and rain pants that thankfully cut the wind.

August 2, 1981 – Northeast side of Blowout Mountain, Washington

At a brief gap just north of Blowout Mountain, after two attempts, I located the trail that led south along the east side of this mountain to a small lake.  Visibility dropped to forty or fifty yards and light was failing rapidly as we struck down the trail.  It was getting hard to read the map with everything around me gray and the map gray also.

August 3, 1981 – Pacific Crest Trail, south flank of Bearpaw Butte to Stamped Pass, WA

Logging blight and clear cutting operations dominated the day.  It was like a war zone all day long with only occasional instances of unaffected woods.  On the south flank of Bearpaw Butte the Pacific Crest Trail ended in a current logging operation – a jumble of uprooted trees and debris.  I spent a good hour scouting out a route through it.

August 26, 1981 – Pacific Crest Trail, Vista Ridge, Glacier Peak Wilderness, WA

It was a day of climbing and descending.  Eight and a half miles along and we topped Fire Pass at 6,350 feet.  The weather was beautiful so I was presented with a spectacular view of the North Cascades.  I took a little time there taking photos and we then started the long descent that would take us five miles and 2,500 feet down to Milk Creek.

August 27, 1981 – Pacific Crest Trail, S. Fork Agnes Creek, Glacier Peak Wilderness, WA

During the long descent to the South Fork of Agnes Creek darkness caught us with about two miles still to go.  We traveled those last miles without a flashlight with Kobuk leading the way.  The only thing I could see when in the woods as we neared the creek was Jackson’s white butt ahead of me but I even lost sight of that if he got more than five feet away from me.

August 31, 1981 – Pacific Crest Trail, cabin at Frisco Camp, North Cascade National Park, WA

The trail today was easy and we reached a cabin at Frisco Camp early, at 3:45 p.m.  The cabin is about fifteen by twenty-five feet and divided into two rooms.  The larger room has two walls with paned windows though several panes are broken, and two wood tables and a bench.  I moved the larger table into the room where the roof doesn’t leak and will sleep on it so that I won’t have mice skittering across my topknot in the night.

September 1, 1981 – Pacific Crest Trail, Cutthroat Pass, Okanagan National Forest, WA

I topped Cutthroat Pass and the terrain became much more rocky and alpine.  By the time I descended vertical cliffs via switchbacks to Granite Pass two and a half miles further, I was cold from the wind and rain.  Low clouds obscured much of the mountains about me, but I could see the day’s goal two and a quarter miles away along the side of a ridge with an open, wind-swept trail traversing from the pass to it.

September 2, 1981 – Pacific Crest Trail, Brush Creek, Okanagan National Forest, WA

Just as we got to the top of Brush Creek and made our first switchback up towards Glacier Pass, Stonewall, who was trailing behind, didn’t see us take the switchback and started back down the canyon.  I noticed him missing and returned one quarter mile calling and whistling for him and met him coming back up the trail.  Whew.  He could have gone back a long ways.

September 3, 1981 – Slate Peak, Pasayten Wilderness, Washington

The views from on top of Slate Peak were fantastic and I lingered for a while.  But what really impressed me was the glacial valley of the west fork of the Pasayten River.  In the near distance lay the Canadian border.  One hundred yards down along the talus trail to the leading to the Pasayten River I found a lunch bag with a sandwich and orange.  I decided to pick it up and, if I didn’t find the owner, eat the contents.  Five minutes later I ate it.

September 4, 1981 – Pasayten Wilderness, Washington

As we neared the Canadian border we suddenly found ourselves in the middle of a boggy marsh and the trail seemed to dead-end.  After some searching I found a trail leading west out of the marsh to a hillside.  It was tricky getting through the mud and stagnant drainages but we finally gained high ground.  Soon afterwards we stumbled upon monument 85, a five foot tall copper obelisk marking the United States/Canadian border.

September 6, 1981 – Ashnola River, British Columbia

From Flattop Mountain I traveled cross country following the northern traces of Easygoing Creek downhill to the creek which eventually led to the Ashnola River.  While following the water drainage to Easygoing Creek, Stonewall, who was carrying my guitar, decided to go between two trees and in doing so broke the neck from my guitar.  I ended up cooking dinner over it.

September 12-17, 1981 – Osoyoos immigration and customs border station, B.C.

After entering Canada and checking in at the first RCMP office,  I learned that only weeks earlier a law was passed requiring all burros to have a blood test for piroplasmosis and vaccination and of course, because it was a new requirement, Stonewall and Jackson had no such vaccination. A phone call to the immigration office led to their insistence that I return to the U.S./Canada border for processing. It was a three day trek and once there the Canadian customs couldn’t figure out what to do about the burros.  Five days were to pass before I was again on my way.

September 26, 1981 – east of Bench Creek, British Columbia

When we finally came in view of the Columbia River Basin, I was stunned to see a wall of snow across the peaks of the mountains on the east side of the river where I will be traveling through Monday.  It appears to be a considerable amount, perhaps as low as six thousand feet which is the altitude that we will be climbing to.

September 29, 1981 – enroute to Koch Creek, Selkirk Mountains, British Columbia

We followed a dirt power line road into the Selkirk Mountains.  At five thousand and eight hundred feet we encountered the first traces of snow which quickly thickened as we climbed further.  Within an hour the snow was three to four inches deep and swirling in flurries limiting visibility.  It was a beautiful snowfall, absolutely silent, the flakes large and accumulating on the burro’s packs.

October 3, 1981 – PICT 13-31, Kootenay Lake, British Columbia

Fjord-like Kootenay Lake lies between the north-south trending Selkirk and Purcell mountain ranges and, at sixty-five miles in length, presented a serious obstacle to my easterly travel.  Fortunately, a free ferry was available that reduced what would have been a lengthy trek around the southern extremity that would have taken precious days, to a mere three mile ride across.  I was concerned about the reaction of the burros loading onto the ferry but, led by Kobuk, they nonchalantly marched onto the ferry and we all enjoyed the ride.

October 19, 1981 – Elk River, Rocky Mountains, British Columbia

Morning brought low, billowing clouds and a trace of snowflakes.  I built a fire and had Cream of Wheat with butter and honey and prepared for the climb over Elk Pass and our last mountain range, the Rockies.  By 6:00 p.m. snow began to fall in earnest and by the time we reached the pass forty-five minutes later I was covered with snow, the ground was turning white and darkness was close at hand.

October 20, 1981 – Elbow River Pass, Rocky Mountains, Alberta

Arose at 7:40 and thankfully the burros were still around.  I had let them both loose last night so they could seek shelter from the snow and stay warm, or at least as warm as possible.  I built a fire and had Cream of Wheat and tea.   Two and a half to three inches of snow accumulated during the night and passing clouds dropped a bit more off and on as I packed.  Stonewall carried seventy pounds and Jackson one hundred today.

October 20, 1981- Elbow River Valley, Canadian Rockies, Alberta

By the end of the day my clothes were damp from snow, and my feet and lower pants wet and turned to ice from fording rivers.  The home stretch lies some eighty winding miles down this snow bound Elbow River valley.  Reaching Calgary couldn’t come soon enough.  [We reached Calgary six days later.]

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