By Ashley Lodato
Last month I wrote about valley resident Brian Lance participating in the Pass to Pass hike from Hart’s Pass to Rainy Pass to raise awareness about and funds for Parkinson’s Disease. Brian was diagnosed with Young Onset Parkinson’s Disease when he was 44. (See this page for the story.)
Recently I caught up with Brian’s wife, Esther Hammerschlag, to hear how the hike went. “The trip was remarkably smooth and without mishaps,” she says, “We had a magical trip!”
Esther notes that despite ample quantities of food out on the trail, the hikers and their support teams still indulged in food fantasies — evidence that adult backpackers are really no different than Boy Scouts or Outward Bound students when it comes to trail food. “There was a lot of conversation about baguette from the Mazama Store on the trail — I think we talked about baguette for a couple hours one evening,” Esther says.
The pack llamas, says Esther, quickly became the darlings of the trip. “They have really big teeth,” she says. “And they make these cute little moaning noises, too, especially if you put their pack on and don’t start moving right away.”
In the mountains, the transition from smoke to snow seems to have occurred almost overnight. Those of us who ventured into alpine areas over the weekend found either dustings of snow, or full-blown covering, depending on whether we hiked on Saturday or Sunday. The Pacific Crest Trail (PCT) through-hiker crowd must certainly be feeling the time ticking on the backpacking season. I crossed paths with no one on my way out to Snowy Lakes on Saturday, but on the way back to Rainy Pass I must have seen at least 25 through-hikers, all headed north in the final push to the PCT’s terminus in Manning Park.
The 2,600-mile crowd isn’t the only one out on the trail these days. Students in the Methow Valley School District are taking full advantage of the outdoor classroom lately, beginning with the annual three-day sixth-grade campout last week, during which sixth-graders hike the Maple Pass loop, snorkel in the river, create nature-inspired art, and listen to Native American stories around a campfire (or in years like this one, around battery-powered lanterns).
This week, the entire fifth grade will be at North Cascades Institute for three days, exploring the western slope of the Cascades, while seventh- and ninth-graders participate in two-day and three-day Outward Bound adventures. And Independent Learning Center students will go to Outward Bound next week.
So our kids are learning the lessons the mountains have to offer, and continuing to form a sense of place by exploring this magical valley they’re lucky enough to call home. Happy trails, y’all.