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Tami Asars

Book Review – Hiking the Pacific Crest Trail

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Hiking the Pacific Crest Trail
Washington:  Section Hiking from the Columbia River to Manning Park
By Tami Asars
286 pp. Available through Mountaineers Books for $24.95

hiking the pacific crest trail

Tami Asars is quickly becoming one of the Northwest’s most cherished guidebook writers.  Her latest work will serve as the definitive source for anyone considering hiking Washington’s section of the Pacific Crest Trail (PCT).  What makes Tami’s work so great is that she takes her years of experience as a former REI guide and brings that detailed knowledge and expertise to her guidebooks.  She knows what you need to know and what questions you will have before you ever think to ask.  Want to know the reliable water sources between Hope Lake and Stevens Pass?  Tami will show you.  Want to know where to find the best pastries on earth after a long day on the trail?  Tami will give you directions (here is a hint… p. 185).

Tami provides exceptional detail and is a thorough researcher.  Her Hiking the Pacific Crest Trail guidebook breaks down Washington’s portion of the PCT into sections and legs that Tami took years to document.  Each leg is illustrated with a detailed relief map that will tell you much of what you need to know at a quick glance; mileage, water source, trail numbers, camp sites, and elevation gain/loss are all at your fingertips.  Sections itineraries are also suggested to help you plan your time on the trail.

The book is full of guide tricks and knowledge only gained when you lead people around in the wilderness for a living.  She quickly and easily demystifies the web of rules, permits, and land management agencies you encounter on the trail.  She also provides advice and helpful hints about camping spots during busy seasons along the trial.  Besides this very specific advice, Tami also gently reminds you of trail etiquette and hygiene considerations.

While Tami’s book it packed full of must-have PCT knowledge and entertaining writing, the information is not the only reason to purchase the book.  Tami is also an accomplished professional photographer and her book is beautifully illustrated by her own photos.  Glimpse into the wild through Tami’s lens and see the sights you can hope to see when you take your own journey on Washington’s PCT.

Hiking the Pacific Crest Trail
Tami Asars is a Washington based writer and photographer. Her latest guidebook – Hiking the Pacific Crest Trail is available through Mountaineers Books.

Future PCT publications by Mountaineers Books

hiking the pacific crest trail

Hiking the Pacific Crest Trail: Oregon by Eli Boschetto (January 2017)

Hiking the Pacific Crest Trail: Northern California by Phillip Kramer (Fall 2017)

Hiking the Pacific Crest Trail: Southern California by Shawnte Salabert (Fall 2017)

Part 2 – Tami Asars PCT Experience in Her Own Words

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Tami Asars
Hiker on the PCT enjoys the view above Joe Lake north of Snoqualmie Pass. Photo by Tami Asars.

Last week we introduced a two-part interview with guidebook writer and photographer Tami Asars.  This week we complete the series with Tami Asars giving us expert advice for trekking Washington’s PCT.  From shoes to pastries, Tami Asars tells us what we need to know to make the most of our own PCT experience.

What advice would you give to someone thinking about doing the Washington part of the PCT?  If someone is stage hiking is there a “must do” section?

As I always say, that the feather in your cap is not that you hiked X amount of miles along the PCT, but rather that you experienced the wild backcountry with the muscle and mental power of your beautiful, human self.

Every single section of the PCT has something to see.  Near the Columbia River the landscape occasionally echoes our east coast neighbors with deciduous trees, riparian brush, quiet forests, dribbling creeks and view of Mount Adams and Mount Hood.

As you head north the trail curves around the broad shoulders of the giant Mount Adams and truly introduces “purple mountain majesty” with meadows of lupine and aster lining the rocky soil. Volcanic views make you realize just how tiny you are in the grand scheme of the universe.

From there, it’s up and over to Goat Rocks Wilderness where an ancient strata volcano guides hikers into subalpine meadows, spectacular views and alpine landscapes before crossing one of the most exhilarating and somewhat nerve wracking stretches on the entire Pacific Crest Trail- the Goat Rocks Knife Edge or The Spine. The cliffs below you drop off into valleys up to 3,000 feet below the trail.  Goat herds click and clack along the exposed rocks while grassy meadows below the trail offer rich grazing grounds for elk and deer. This view will knock off your socks and maybe even your boots.

Tami Asars
Dramatic open views are provided at Cispus Basin in Goat Rocks Wilderness. Photo by Tami Asars.

North of White Pass the grade is gentle to moderate and lakes and tarns abound.  There are so many in fact, that you might lose count of how many you’ve passed.  The peacefulness of the place attracts visitors who wish to saturate themselves in backcountry magic on the many shorelines of this tranquil landscape.

Rumors you may have heard about the trail between Chinook Pass and Snoqualmie Pass being all clear cuts is just not true. Sure there are a few here and there, but the trail also crosses the grand backcountry near Crystal Mountain ski area and the beautiful meadows and historic cabin near Government Meadow. When clear cuts present themselves, there are often herds of elk grazing on the young, green shoots.

Snoqualmie Pass to Steven Pass is one of the most popular sections for a reason!  The vast views of jagged peaks such as Mount Daniel, Bears Breast, and Cathedral Rock will have you reaching for your camera over and over again. Tranquil lakes, green meadows and running rivers provide hikers a brilliant opportunity to metaphorically take a load off.

From Stevens Pass to Rainy Pass the countryside looms large, rugged and breathtaking. From the high country of Glacier Peak Wilderness to the rumbling, deep valleys there is something for everyone, provided you are motivated, as this is the longest section in the guide. The tiny town of Stehekin is in the mix of this stretch, giving hikers an opportunity for a side trip.  The ponderosa pines of the east side of the Cascade Crest make more of an appearance and at times you feel like someone has dropped you into the set of a John Wayne movie.

North of Rainy Pass the trail hits one of the most majestic stretches of the North Cascades- the vast area known as Cutthroat Pass with sweeping views of mountains as far as the eye can see. Staying on the eastern side of the crest, the trail eventually meets up with the car camping area of Harts Pass, a popular access spot for those looking to sync up with friends.  From there, it’s more peaks and valleys until you arrive at Monument 78, also known as the wide swath of cleared land differentiating the US and Canadian borders. Folks looking to travel into Canada and end up in Manning Park, B. C. must have appropriate paperwork arranged in advance. With that in hand, you’ll sleep like a baby once you reach the cozy Manning Park Lodge off Highway 3, the final destination for many weary hikers.

I really love the North Cascades from Rainy Pass to Manning Park, B. C.! That stretch is extremely panoramic and, if you can wait until fall, you’ll be in the thick of yellow larch trees and fewer people in the backcountry.  When you get closer to the Canadian Border, the only evidence of people is the trail you are following. Simply put, it’s undisturbed serenity.

How did your experience guiding the Wonderland help with this project?

I actually guided on the Northern Loop Trail in Mount Rainier National Park which connects in with the Wonderland. During that experience, I saw people with a variety of athletic abilities carrying a pack, many for the first time, over challenging terrain. I made a few notes of ways to make this guidebook extremely useful.

  1. Water sources. Folks new to backpacking will often carry way too much water, fearing that they may not find more up ahead. Carrying too much heavy water can weigh the most athletic hikers down to a snail’s pace and create potential for injuries. A good guidebook, like my PCT guide, will have information on where water sources are found and can be a tremendous asset in your planning. When you are training, learn your body’s hydration needs and carry only the amount you require until your next water source. Also, when you get to your water source, fill a bottle and drink it before you leave. As a guide, we helped people do the delicate dance between carrying too much water and carrying too little.
  1. Camping challenges. While the Northern Loop and Wonderland Trails have prearranged designated camps, the PCT does not.  In the beating heart of the summer, on some of the most popular PCT sections, camps get very full. When this happens, section hikers have no idea how far they need to keep hiking on tired feet and sore shoulders until they reach the next viable flat spot to call home for the night. I spent two years documenting all the camps along the trail including them in the guide’s elevation profile, maps and trail descriptions so that folks know exactly how far it is from one to the next. There is even a camp to camp distance chart at the end of each leg to further help those folks who want hard numbers.

Are there any pieces of gear you would recommend as a “must have?”

There are many, but if I had to pick one, I’d say my Altra Lone Peak trail running shoes.  Years ago everyone wore heavy backpacking boots, but these days it’s much more common to see folks traipsing down the trail wearing a lightweight, sneaker-style shoes designed to handle off- road terrain with reinforced foot protection and more aggressive stability.

The trail shoes were a game changer with respects to foot and leg fatigue and allowed me to cover much more ground than traditional hiking boots. Not only are they lighter, but the wide toe box provides plenty of room for my swollen, weary feet to spread-out without rubbing, pinching or impeding in anyway. Since I’ve started wearing them, I’ve gone from 15 mile days to over 20 with very little foot pain or exhaustion and for a professional hiker like myself, those are precious, deadline miles!

Any places off the trail (towns, restaurants, coffee shops, post offices) that you would recommend?

Don’t even think of missing the town of Stehekin! It’s one of the most amazing micro-towns you’ll ever get the chance to visit. There is so much to see and do in this historic villa located at the northern tip of Lake Chelan. Waterfalls, a historic one-room school house, a rustic bakery serving mouthwatering pies and cinnamon rolls, a gorgeous garden selling local produce, cheese and honey, bicycle rentals, kayak rentals, petroglyphs, fly-fishing adventures, and a handful of salt-of-the-earth residents are just a few reasons to visit! My new guidebook has contact information for a variety of lodging and activities you may want to enjoy.

 

 

Tami AsarsGuide book writer Tami Asars on the Pacific Crest Trail. Tami’s new guide book will be out in September 2016 in a full color coffee-table style edition.  An e-reader version is available for those that want to take the book with them on the trail.  Tami Asars says that her book is one in a series of PCT guide books that will be out this fall, other books will cover the California and Oregon sections of the PCT.  For details about where Tami Asars will be signing books and talking about her adventures go to her website at www.tamiasars.com

Renowned Guide Book Writer Tami Asars – The PCT Experience in Her Own Words

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Mount Adams
Tami Asars
As you head north the trail curves around the broad shoulders of the giant Mount Adams and truly introduces ‘purple mountain majesty’ with meadows of lupine and aster lining the rocky soil. Volcanic views make you realize just how tiny you are in the grand scheme of the universe. Words and Photo by guide book writer Tami Asars.

This fall, photographer, former REI guide, and guide book writer Tami Asars will release her third backpacking guide book.  Tami’s critically acclaimed books are known for detailed trail information and beautiful photograph.  I caught up with Tami this summer after her two-year odyssey to write the definitive guide book of Washington’s portion of the Pacific Crest Trail (PCT).  This timely book follows a 137 percent increase in PCT usage between 2013 and 2015.

In this two-part series, I will explore Tami’s experiences writing the book and her advice for those thinking about taking on the challenge of backpacking Washington’s PCT.  Not wanting to change a word, I present Tami’s responses unedited.  Enjoy!

Part One:  Tami Asars in her own words

What gave you the idea to write the guide book about the Washington PCT?

As a guidebook author, I’m constantly thinking of ways to share my passions with other hikers.  While I love day hiking, I’m absolutely smitten by backpacking and love doing long distance trips, especially in Washington State.  Because it’s so beautiful, section hikers are becoming increasingly more prevalent in the backcountry and I wanted to give them a tool to help them discover the best way to see the trail from logical point to logical point.

How long did you spend on the PCT?  Was it continuous or did you break it up?

I spent two summers pushing up every pass and traipsing down every valley with the GPS rolling. I documented every water source, every camp site, every trail intersection, every river ford, every challenge and every reward.

The first year, I hiked from Snoqualmie Pass to Manning Park, B.C a distance of just over 267 miles. It took me roughly 13 days and it rained, hailed, and drizzled consistently for 9 solid days out of those 13. Washington weather is extremely fickle and I was able to represent the landscape and countryside in photos and trail descriptions having experienced a wide variety of conditions.

Tami Asars
Lodge Lake near Snoqualmie Pass. Photo by guide book writer Tami Asars.

The following summer I bobbed and weaved through lightning bolts, rain and sunshine from the Columbia River to Forest Road 23, near the town of Trout Lake, a total of 81.8 miles which took me 3.5 days.  During those days I enjoyed the splendor of the deciduous forests and riparian landscapes near the southern Washington border, and wandered through Indian Heaven Wilderness elbow deep in huckleberries.

I took a break at that point and explored the Columbia Gorge before hopping back on the trail and hiking from Forest Road 23 to Snoqualmie Pass a total of nearly 163 miles. During that stretch there were moments of peacefully, haunting quietness save for the occasional lone Clark’s Nutcracker call in the Mount Adams Wilderness.

What was your experience on the trail? Your time alone, people you met, wildlife encounters, observations of nature, photography.

I hiked half of the state solo which I always enjoy.  Don’t get me wrong, I love company too, but I believe all of us seek to peel back the layers and find out just how strong we are, both emotionally and physically, and hiking completely alone does just that.

When you spend time deep in thought simultaneously hyper aware of your surrounds, you actually begin to use all of your senses more keenly. Because we live in a modern world, I think we forget about the fact that underneath it all we are mammals and those senses are there for our survival; they are just a little buried underneath computer screens and central heat.  Out on the trail I could smell where there had been herds of elk before I came to their tracks. I could hear water dripping down creek beds long before I saw them. And, at one point, I felt as if I was being watched, so I stopped and took a hard look around. I thought I was going crazy before I discovered a beautiful, red-tailed hawk perched on a tree branch not more than 30 feet above me.

One night, I met a thru-hiker who offered to let me pitch my tent not far from hers.  It was late and getting dark, so my options were limited and she seemed happy and chatty. We talked for a long time about her med school ambitions and shared stories about our love of wild creatures and places.  We were so deep in conversation that we nearly missed the most brilliant sunset I’ve ever seen!  As we starred at the hues of reds, pinks, yellows and turquoise melding into the setting stars over Mount Adams, we were hypnotized into a stilled state of awe.  Sometimes the most brilliant of life’s moment unfold at the most unexpected times.

As for wildlife encounters, I’ve seen many animals along Washington’s PCT.  All have been quick to scamper off much to the chagrin of my waiting camera. Deer, elk, bear, bobcats, pikas, marmots, martens, toads, frogs, snakes, lizards, and too many birds to list have crossed my path along the way. And, it’s likely I chatted with every animal who would listen to me talk.

What obstacles did you face on the trail and with the book?

The most challenging part of the book, hands-down was the data and ensuring it was as accurate as possible. Collecting data is challenging in the best of conditions but add in a dense forest in places and/or an overcast sky which prevents the GPS from seeing the sky/satellites and data can get messy. What’s more GPS’s are often slightly inaccurate.

GPS technology used for recreational purposes is simply not an exact science, so unravelling the mysterious data tracks took a lot of imports and exports on a variety of mapping software as well as comparisons with numerous paper maps and other trusted sources. In the end, I proudly stand with my conclusions.

 

Check back next week when Tami gives sage advice for those thinking of backpacking Washington’s PCT.

PCT SignGuide book writer Tami Asars on the Pacific Crest Trail. Tami’s new guide book will be out in September 2016 in a full color coffee-table style edition.  An e-reader version is available for those that want to take the book with them on the trail.  Tami says that her book is one in a series of PCT guide books that will be out this fall, other books will cover the California and Oregon sections of the PCT.  For details about where Tami Asars will be signing books and talking about her adventures go to her website at www.tamiasars.com.

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