Ridge & Gravel Lakes via Kendall Katwalk Trail Report (PCT-J)

I am going to begin this report with a line that has been swimming amongst my thoughts since just below the Kendall Katwalk, “Don’t be this person.” Who I mean is the pink hatted boomer descending the trail, what I mean is the self appointed “expert” on what/who does and does not have value.

Happy picture of me to distract from unhappy words of me

Long story short. Yes, ya old hag, it is a camera. No, I am not taking pictures of myself like the narcissist you seem to think I am. Had you bothered to show even a modicum of curiosity instead of judging me wanting you could have found out what I was about and I would have told you I liked your hat.

Okay, that’s out of the way, now we can begin the trail report. Busy for a Monday, yeah? I arrived at about 11:30 maybe, which is good for me considering that the ferry schedule is amended. One of the boats keeps breaking down. Then the West Seattle Bridge hasn’t been crossable since for what seems like ever. Yeah, I know, I could get up at the crack of dawn and camp at the trailhead. I’m not that young any more. The lower lot was mostly full, but much like being “mostly dead” that means there’s still some spaces left. I found mine.

Loaded up with mostly water, a little food and batteries I hit the dusty trail. And it is dusty considering that it’s only mid July. Lots of flowers are out in the foresty bits including some remarkably abundant devil’s club. Don’t touch it, but it’s cool to see.

I poured on the speed as much as I was able to clear the sound of the interstate as fast as possible. A reasonably aware hiker still catches hints of it well past the Wilderness boundary which is unfortunate to say the least. The good news is that you can get over the first major hump and into Commonwealth drainage and the noise will be diminished. Often, barely an inconvenience.

Then you walk well up the basin, turn right the fuck around, and walk right back up that first ridge line where you can once again hear and even see the concrete monster and nonstop motorcades of semi tractor-trailers engaging pressure braking systems on the downhill sections of the pass from well inside Wilderness boundary. Yay! Congress Critters, apparently y’all never hiked a day in your arbitrary boundary drawing lives.

Okay, some real trail reporting for this foresty bit. There are some downed trees here. Bigg’uns too. And more importantly they weren’t “blow downs” in the literal sense of the word. Rather, they’re dead because of a fungal infection and I suspect that the whole grove is susceptible. Might be worth a little time and effort to test for laminate root rot, etc etc.

In the mean time, a cross cut saw or two would be keen. The trees aren’t too difficult to get around, but unfortunately, getting around them has caused a bunch of heard pathing to occur in heat damaged soils.

Okay, let’s talk about heat damage. I’ve been hiking and running Section J a lot since 1997. Enough that I don’t even know how many times I’ve been up and down the trail any more. In that time I’ve never seen the trail this melted out this early in the season. Never. Things are really, really freakishly dry.

I counted three pika, and I went all the way to Mount Thomson and back out again. Only saw one of them, so it could have been two. A decade ago, I’d lose count past the Katwalk. Seriously, it was rotten with ’em.

Zero, yes you read that right, ZERO marmots and I hung out and Ridge and Gravel Lakes for a while looking for the rat bastards. They are gone.

Everything is dry. Places that should have big, thick snow deposits have big thick black fly deposits with shriveled up moss to remind you that there should be snow there.

“This isn’t normal,” is what I kept repeating to myself, but the problem is that I know it probably is. It’s new-normal. Like if everyone read Silent Spring and then started adding DDT to their coffee in the morning.

I’m sorry to be that guy who takes a simple trail report turns it into a call to action, but somebody has to do something. I really don’t know what else to do. I mean, seriously, there are 7 billion of you. How am I going to convince even one of you to turn off a light or eat less meat? We’re all changing these places. No, we’re all changing this place.

We’re the ones making it uninhabitable for rat bastard marmots who live there to live there.

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