Day 126 – The Finish

Tuesday 9/13/16
You didn’t think you were done with me just yet, did you? I still haven’t told you about my arrival to the finish – the PCT monument at the northern terminus I.e. CANADA! 

When I woke up Tuesday morning, Yuch had been up since 2 am. It’s not easy sleeping through the night when it’s freezing cold outside. With my trusty liner, I have mostly been able to keep warm at night. Yuch opted not to bring his liner to Washington, in attempt to save some weight. Mainly we both didn’t expect Washington to be that cold, but it has in fact proven to be the coldest part of the trail due to the rain, lack of sunshine, and often being stuck in the depths of the forest far from the sun if there is any. 

We were motivated to get on to the trail and to the border, mainly just to get moving and get warm. So after getting down an ice cold mocha (instant coffee + chocolate malt ovaltine + instant creamer) and an ice cold oatmeal with fresh huckleberries, we set out on to our last 8.5 miles of the PCT, all downhill. 

It was freezing. I had hoped the further down we descended the warmer we would get, but it in fact got colder and icier as we hiked further and further away from the comforting rays of the sun. We hiked faster. So this will be my last memory of the PCT. 

Well, that, and maybe just a few more downed trees to hop over, under, and around. Ok, maybe that will be my last memory of the PCT. 

Arriving at the monument, I had thought I would burst into tears of happiness, relief, sadness, whatever. But when it popped up into sight, this wasn’t exactly the case. Instead, it was mainly business – take photos, sign the register, and keep on walking before we turn into frozen hiker mummies. 

Signing the register I saw that Noémie (now Red Cross) had signed the register on the 10th, just 3 days before me. I couldn’t believe it. I had thought she had finished closer to Animal and Chance. If only I had known she was so close, I would have hiked faster or taken less zero/Nero days. I wish I could have seen her again before she flew back home to Switzerland. 

I signed the register that Coconut and I had completed the PCT at 9:30 am, and the usual “the goose hangs high”. (If anyone even knows what that means…)

And then, onward to Manning Park, just 8.9 more non-PCT miles to the lodge where I would “officially” be done hiking, for good. 

At Manning Park, a trail angel named Canadian Bacon immediately approached us. He was a hiker who had to cut his journey short due to an injury and now was providing trail magic at the finish. He had a picnic table set up with beer and tons of food, but his main form of magic was that he was offering rides to Vancouver for the next few days. 

Yuch and I had planned on staying the night at the lodge, and then taking the 1:50 am Greyhound to Vancouver the following day. Yes, you heard that right. The only method of public transportation from Manning Park to Vancouver is a Greyhound that picks up at the most convenient hour of 1:50 am. So, we were pretty happy to hear that this guy was offering an alternative service. We told him we would love to get a ride into Vancouver the following day, after a full nights rest at the lodge, as well as showering and laundry. 

The scene at Manning Park was well, both happy and sad. Obviously everyone including me was ecstatic to be done hiking. The sad part was seeing everyone get there, and just leave. Back to the real world, never to be seen again. Almost like this never really happened. 

3 Bucks’ brother came to pick him up and after a couple games of foosball (in which I finally met my match), I said goodbye to my friend from so far across the world. 

Yuch and I thoroughly enjoyed the accommodations at the lodge. Taking our first shower, doing laundry, getting dinner at the restaurant, and sleeping in a bed without worrying that we would freeze during the night. 

The next morning we greeted Proton and Dreamcatcher as they arrived off the trail and we all had breakfast together. They soon got picked up by a friend who would whisk them back to Seattle. 

The rest of the day was spent in the game room of the lodge, brushing up on our pool, foosball, and table tennis until it was time for our ride into Vancouver. 

Our wonderful trail angel & fellow hiker Canadian Bacon dropped us off right in front of our bed and breakfast which we will stay at for 2 nights before heading back to Seattle.

It is in the hip (at least it seems hip) and super nice area known as Mt. Pleasant, not too far from the downtown area. Canadian Bacon, like many other trail Angels, would not accept our money for the 3.5 hour drive, but did except a slurpee from the 7-11 on the way. 

I guess you probably want to know my thoughts on the PCT. Some people hike the trail to find answers. Did I find them? Let me just say this… Have you ever played 52 card pick up? I actually felt like a solidly packed and organized deck of cards before I left. Now I feel like someone threw all my cards up in the air and they’ve landed all over the place. 

That’s the only way I can describe it. I’m not sure if that’s a good or bad thing. 

I’ve learned that I really do enjoy backpacking and the great outdoors, but to truly appreciate it, you needn’t be pressured by time. On this hike, I had time on my mind every moment of every day. I regret that. However, had I not set a time limit, I might still be on the trail and I hear Washington is in for a lot of rain and cold this week.
Will I ever do a thru-hike again? I’m saying no, right now. There were times on the trail that I was scared to death. “Never again”, I told myself without doubt. Just like I tell myself after I run a really hard road marathon…

Last Night on the PCT

Monday 9/12/16

It’s my last night on the PCT so I thought I’d write a blog entry. I know my entries are becoming less and less frequent as my enthusiasm has gone from “Let’s do this!” to “Get me off this trail and into my sleeping bag!”

The honest truth is I’m feeling a little sentimental as I sit here in my sleeping bag just 8.5 miles from the northern terminus in Canada. This campsite at 6,882 ft with an incredible view is the last place I will camp before ending my journey. 

This is the last time I will pitch my true blue tent – well, almost true blue – the zipper broke a few days ago. The last time I will take 30+ breaths to blow up my NeoAir sleeping pad. Thank goodness for that. The last time I will spill out the contents of my pack in a very organized, but somewhat OCD manner inside of my tent as if it was my own home. It is my home. 

It is the last time I will pour dehydrated lentils into my mug and then rehydrate it with cold water. Tonight is a special night. It’s my birthday, and coincidentally I happen to find not one, but two bags of chips left in my food bag for this momentous occasion. My lentil soup is probably one of my favorite dinners. I never get tired of it, but I look forward to hot meals in my future. 

For dessert I will have one frosted blueberry Poptart. (I had the other last night) It is quite possibly the last time I will boast about the calorie content in such an item, as if it is a “good” thing. Two Poptarts contain approximately 440 calories! 

For my second dessert I will have a Reese’s peanut butter “Big Cup” – a whopping 200 calories. The most impressive part here is not the calorie content, but that I’ve actually been able to save my Reese’s Big Cup for 7 whole days without diving into it. Again – it’s my birthday, plus whenever it’s as cold as it is tonight I just want to keep eating to keep warm.

Next to my sleeping bag is my solar lantern. I have loved this lantern for as long as I’ve been on the trail, and now it is my primary light source since my headlamp ran out of juice two days ago. 

Yep, things are coming to an end. Not only my gear is falling apart, but my legs and feet are ready for a much needed rest. I may be nostalgic, but I’m not crazy. Bring it on, Canada…

We lucked out. After many days of rain, the sun finally came out in Washington. It came, and it went, and then it came back. The last three days have been really beautiful. What a difference the weather can make. How wonderful it is to have a dry tent, dry feet, to feel the sun shining down on you, and to actually see a view. 

I’m afraid we missed quite a few views from Snoqualamie to Steven’s Pass due to the rain and fog, and then again in Glacier Peak Wilderness after leaving Steven’s Pass. Sometimes when you can’t have the big spectacular views, you have to focus on the little things, like the most beautiful British Soldier lichen you’ve ever seen! 

Washington forests are abundant with lichen and moss and green. There is hardly a surface that is not covered in something green! I love it.

But, when the rain finally stopped, we were ecstatic. Saturday morning was probably the first totally sunny and clear day. Leaving the High Bridge ranger station was difficult. Most people take a bus into Stehekin here to resupply and to go to what is apparently the most outrageously delicious bakery on planet Earth. We did not and instead packed 8 whopping days of food out of Steven’s Pass. Leaving the ranger station and bus stop I thought about my friends in town, sitting back relaxing, eating cinnamon rolls, croissants, and enjoying town life. 

Yuch assured me that the food I will eat when I get to Manning Park will taste so much better to me having been on the trail for 8 days, than to someone who ate mass amounts of glorious pastries 3 days prior. So, we set back on the trail with this new mindset. Our food will taste so much better than theirs.

Back on the trail we had entered a completely different climate zone. We had descended to nearly 1500 ft to get to the High Bridge ranger station and also seemed to have gone from the western side of Washington over to the eastern side where everything is much drier. Most noticeably, I felt like I had walked into Fall! 

Instead of being surrounded by everything green, I was now surrounded with fall colors of orange and red. Additionally, the sun was out and it was HOT. Where the heck am I? I took off my jacket for the first time in days, and I began drinking water because I was actually thirsty for once. Perhaps now that we are on the Eastern side, it will stay dry from now on?

But the next morning we woke up to rain. Just when I was getting used to things bring dry. Ironically, we would be hiking just 2.5 miles to Rainy Pass. I guess it wouldn’t be Rainy Pass without the rain. 

At Rainy Pass I began talking to a hiker who was trying to hitch a ride. He had already hiked to the border and to avoid going into Canada, turned around, hiked back, and was now trying to hitch into the closest town. Mainly I was trying to make conversation while waiting for Yuch (I had left him to dig a hole in privacy). The conversation turned to this guy trying to dissuade me from hiking North with the rain as it was. “I wouldn’t hike into this. Not in this weather. Especially with that cold of yours.” I guess he heard me coughing. He was right. I still hadn’t shaken my cold and every day had been a daily battle of coughing and blowing my nose. 

The hiker explained that the whole next section was exposed. “Like the Sierra”, he said. I began to worry. Yuch returned to the pass and I told him what the hiker had told me. Did we really want to spend our last 3 days on the trail in rain and wind without any views? I had been really looking forward to finally catching some views. We considered hitching into town and waiting it out, but the problem was without cell reception, we had no idea what the forecast looked like and how long the rain would last. 

Just then, 3 Bucks showed up donned in rain gear. He had gone in and out of Stehekin pretty quickly and caught up. Being from England, he’s no stranger to rain and would be going forward. He assured me, as he always has, not to listen to what anyone else has to say. Feeling stronger with his confidence and now as a group of three, we decided to push forward. 

I’m glad that we did, because soon the rain would stop, the sky would clear, and the sun would emerge. Ascending up into the mountains we would find the result of the rain the night before in higher elevations. The mountains were dusted with a layer of snow. It was beautiful. 

We finally were blessed with some spectacular views for the first time. And the sun felt amazing. 

At lunch time we dried out our tents, and later that afternoon we would pass the 2600 mile marker. 

The rain the night before Rainy Pass would be our last. The rest of the trail would be dry and very very cold as soon as the sun went down. The rest of the trail would also include a total of 9 passes in just 2 days, but to be clear these passes were nothing like those of the High Sierra. Many of the passes were mostly unnoticeable. 

Rock Pass and Woody Pass were probably the most memorable as they would be the last two somewhat substantial climbs of the PCT. You can actually see Woody Pass from Rock Pass and an old abandoned trail cutting straight over, but Yogi’s Guide advises to stay on the PCT “unless you want to die on your last day of the PCT”. 

Heading down the switchbacks back down to the valley, I could see what she meant. This abandoned trail might seem like a fast way to avoid going down and then right back up to the next pass, but it was dodgy as hell. Yuch commented that he could see how it might be tempting to take that trail. I said with complete confidence, that I was not in the least bit tempted. 
Finally at the top of Woody Pass, we sat down and took in the view. The last big climb and pass of the trail was now complete. 

Tonight it is cold, possibly as cold as last night when we were camped at 6,500 ft and woke up with frost on our tents and icy water. I will not miss the cold. I have loved Washington for its lushness, it’s lichen, it’s views, and even its rain – yes, the rain was torturous at times – but it instilled some fortitude in me that was much needed. I now know that I can survive in the cold, in the rain, and even with a miserable cold. And that makes me feel, well…kinda hardcore. 

The Forest Spirits

 The next morning, I prayed to the forest spirits. I imagined them to look like the Kodama in Princess Mononoke, small white creatures with large rattling heads, inhabiting the trees in the forest. Kodama are spirits in Japanese folklore that are known to be mountain gods. 

After my 11 solid hours of sleep, I was feeling significantly better mentally than the previous day, although still physically unwell. In my renewed and almost positively silly state, I told Yuch we must pray to the forest spirits for better weather. We both bowed down to the Kodama, acknowledged our gratitude for their presence, and humbly asked for better weather. “We love you, trees!” I concluded in my “prayer”.

Using our new map that we had been given the day before, we began making our way back to the PCT. The Kodama had seemed to have received my prayers and the rain had stopped. The blueberry bushes flanking the sides of the trail were filled with leftover rain water that now dumped on to our shoes and socks leaving them just as soaked as if it had been raining. 

The overall morale was high as we stuffed blueberries into our mouths and made our way back to the PCT. Finally, after a lot of ascending, we made it back to the trail. “Hooray!” I exclaimed. It felt good to be back. 

Our detour had set us back quite a bit and we still had 41 miles to Steven’s Pass. I had not brought enough food for that long, but since Yuch’s appetite was not as ravenous as mine, he assured me he should have enough food for the two of us. 
The rain held off for most of the day, but the views were still masked with clouds and mist. We waited for the sun to come out so we could dry out our gear. When it rains, you have no choice but to pack away a wet tent and hope there comes a chance to dry it out. Finally, we began ascending to what looked like a good place to dry our tents. The sun even seemed to be breaking through the clouds. It felt good to feel the sun on me again. 

We pulled into a nice open area where we could take our lunch break and dry out our gear. Just then, it started raining. It had been too good to be true. I was desperate to take a lunch break where I wasn’t huddled under my umbrella shivering, losing body heat. We picked up our packs and continued hiking. “I wish I had a cave!” I told Yuch. Just then, on the side of the trail appeared a small inset shelter, and it was perfectly dry. “Thank you, forest spirits!” We ate our lunch in our little cave as the sun shone directly on us and we watched the rain pouring down “outside”. We had lucked out. 

The rain was on and off the rest of the day, but not nearly as bad as the day before. The trails seemed to absorb the water quickly, and with less rain they were not nearly as sloppy as before either. Knowing this would be our last night on the trail before getting to Steven’s Pass was helpful in hiking through the cold, still suffering with my cold. Yuch and I talked about what we would eat or drink if we could pick anything. I said I would have a hot apple cider and hot chicken noodle soup. 

The next morning I woke up just as miserable as the previous days. It is difficult to recover from a cold when you are exerting your body all day every day. It would be just 22 miles to Steven’s Pass. 

Steven’s Pass is a ski resort where we would be picking up our resupply boxes and hitching to Leavenworth, a small Bavarian themed town 35 miles east on the highway. A 35 mile hitch is not the most convenient option, but after what we had been through and also because I was sick, a full service town where we could spend 2 nights in a warm bed was definitely in order. 

“King of the Mountain” – a pika claims his territory

Two chipmunks dine while balancing on branches

I barely stumbled into Steven’s Pass. Completely out of food, and running on nearly empty I arrived to the little ski resort around 4 pm. I was lightheaded, coughing, and completely exhaustified. At the espresso bar, I ordered a hot apple cider, and at the restaurant, a chicken noodle soup. We picked up our resupply boxes and began working on making a reservation for the next two nights. Apparently the whole town of Leavenworth was completely slammed for Labor Day weekend and we were lucky to finally snag a reservation at the Evergreen Inn. 

The next task would be getting a ride. The one bus that goes from Steven’s Pass to Leavenworth had left at 1 pm, so our only hope was hitching. We began approaching people in the parking lot, but everyone seemed to have a full house as most people going to Steven’s Pass bring their mountain bikes. After finding out which way was East, we stood by the highway and I stuck my thumb out. The second car that drove by pulled over. It was a miracle and this driver seemed to be an angel in disguise. This angel drove a Subaru with a completely empty hatchback ready for our packs. He was good looking, friendly, and immediately asked, “You guys need a ride to Leavenworth?” I couldn’t believe it. For once, things seemed to be in our favor.

We spent two nights in Leavenworth, a small town that at one point decided to theme itself around Bavaria as a method to boost their economy. The town reminds me of Solvang in Southern California, with quaint little bakeries, breweries, and gelato shops. 

Lunch at Good Mood Food

Dinner at Icicle Brewery

It has been small enough for us to get around by foot. After 2 nights of rest and drugs, my cold is finally on its way out.

 Yesterday we were able to wash and dry out our gear. At least it’s dry for now…The weather forecast for the week looks to be an improvement from last week. 

Just 200ish miles to Canada. I’m ready for it. 

When it rains, it pours

Saturday, 9/3/16
I woke up Friday morning with a sore throat. I immediately knew that I had caught Yuch’s cold. He had picked up a bug possibly on the flight to Seattle and had a sore throat and mild congestion for just a day or two on the trail. He didn’t seem too affected by the bug, so I could only hope I wouldn’t be either.

I’d like to think my immune system is super strong since hiking the PCT, but the truth is there’s really nothing to give you a cold out in the wilderness. It’s the real world that’s infected with bugs. That explains why my first day off the PCT when going on my 3 week break I came down with food poisoning right away. And why, this little “bug” would have a much bigger effect on me than it did Yuch.

It was close to 8 am when we set out on the trail. Unfortunately, the cold and rain is not conducive to early starts. I soon remembered the encounter with the rockslide man. I was not looking forward to the trail today.

The morning hike was full of walks bordering large mountains full of boulders and rocks above. My imagination began going to really bad places as images of rocks tumbling over me filled my head each time I took a step. I imagined one little step affecting one rock, and then another, and then another. The whole morning was like this, filled with anxiety.

Yuch tried to remind me that had we not run into this guy, that I would never have even thought twice about the issue. It’s true. There have been a number of similar areas on the PCT where I wasn’t concerned, but they were just as rocky. Well, except for Mather Pass. I definitely remember being pretty freaked out of a rockslide there.

We hiked up to great heights with disappointing views of mountains shrouded in fog. The weather makes for some dramatic effects, but ultimately I felt it was a little unfair that I would not be seeing what my friends had seen the week before.

The rain continued throughout the day as my cold worsened. My waterproof shoes had seemed to lost their waterproof-ness with the constant downpour of rain. I was grateful for my umbrella, but really wished I had rain pants. My hiking pants are only water “resistant” and ended up getting soaked which in turn soaked my legs. Hiking with a cold, in the cold, carrying wet cold pants, in wet socks and shoes is not fun.

The goal was to keep moving. Each and every time we stopped was only an opportunity to take away any warmth we had gained from hiking and set a deep damp cold back into our bones. But my hiking was slowing down. Physically, I felt weak, every time I swallowed I felt like I was swallowing razors, my head felt like it was going to pop off from congestion, and my handkerchief was soaked from blowing my nose every 5 minutes. Mentally, I felt weak, like I had nothing left to give, and I so badly wanted to end my time on the trail right then and there. I couldn’t stop the tears from flowing only adding to the breaks required for blowing my nose.

In case you’re still having trouble imagining this picture, let me put this bluntly – I essentially was like a baby crying non stop. As a result, Yuch had no idea what to do with me, and our daily mileage was not looking to be anything substantial. I began worrying that my crying would never stop and decided to take half an Ativan to calm me down. At this rate, we would run out of food and never get to Steven’s Pass.

Mid-day, we came across two southbound hikers who alerted us of at least 40 downed trees on the PCT up ahead. “Take Pete’s Lake Trail instead”, they advised us. It was 0.2 miles shorter, had no downed trees, but well had just one “sort of precarious” creek crossing. At the lake, the trail would then “pop right back on to the PCT”.

Taking their advice, we hopped on to Pete’s Lake Trail. The trail was full of puddles that were turning into small streams, but then again this was how all the trails were beginning to look like with the rain. The creek crossing was indeed “sort of precarious” with a semi-submerged log placed to walk across. Not feeling confident that I could successfully board the log without slipping, I opted for re-soaking my already soaked shoes and legs and walking straight across the creek. Using my trekking poles, Yuch successfully and agilely shimmied himself across the log.

Arriving at Pete’s Lake, I began to feel sedated from the Ativan I had taken. I had stopped crying, but now was ready to pass out. We followed the trail around the lake, wondering when it would “pop back on to the PCT”, as the hikers had mentioned. After over 2 miles, we knew we had gone too far. We ran into some weekend hikers who gave us an extra map of the area and advised us that the quickest way to get back on the PCT was to hike the 2 miles back to Pete’s Lake. The connector trail was there.

Either the Ativan wore off, or my mental breakdown capabilities were far stronger than any drug because I once again broke down. I didn’t care that we had hiked 4 extra miles, but I was done. I couldn’t hike any further. After hiking the 2 miles back to the lake, I called it quits. With still a couple hours left of daylight and potential hiking, I just wanted to go to sleep. I had reached my end. With only 16 PCT miles hiked that day, we set up camp at Pete’s Lake and I would pass out at 7 pm, sleeping for 11 straight hours. We both agreed, we would have been better off having not run into the hikers with the Pete’s Lake Trail alternate tip.

The Rain Begins…

Thursday, 9/1/16
It’s interesting reading my friends’ PCT blogs, because their experiences are so different than mine. Sometimes I feel like I’m hiking a completely different trail. While everyone else is having a good old time enjoying the views, I’m thinking I’m going to die every other minute. Ok, maybe not that often, but the number of times I fear for my life is beginning to increase. The reality is that I’m not, or at least it’s extremely unlikely that I’m not – but well, in case you hadn’t noticed or don’t know me that well, I do tend to consider the worst case scenario a little more often than not. 

Some of my biggest fears include my car spontaneously blowing up on the freeway after I see someone toss a cigarette butt out their car window and every time I hear a plane up above I think it’s going to crash on me. So, hiking the PCT hasn’t exactly been a walk in the park for me. 

After sharing my experience hiking Knife’s Edge with multiple other hikers it has come to my attention that I took the “wrong way”. Apparently there are two trails – the PCT and the PCT alternate. Apparently everyone took the alternate as it is the “new PCT” and the PCT is the “old PCT”. Sound confusing? Well, I guess that explains why I just took the one labeled simply, PCT. This route is the stock route, which GutHook indicate is harder and sketchier. Apparently this route is supposed to be “closed”, yet I saw no signs saying so. Many hikers have either had to be rescued or really hurt themselves. This morning over breakfast at the Summit Pancake House at Snoqualamie Pass, I was shown pictures of a hiker with large gashes on his leg. I feel really lucky that I got out of there with a few scrapes. 

These kinds of stories and experiences really scare me, because while most of the PCT is safe and straightforward, it’s still the wilderness and very serious things can still happen. So, before the first rain arrived yesterday, you better believe I was already dreading it. 
Prior to tonight and writing this blog entry, I really began falling in love with Washington. Everyone has their specific parts of the trail that “wow” them. To most people hiking the PCT, that part is the High Sierra. I’m not going to deny the beauty of the John Muir Trail. The views from high up are like no other, but I think Washington has been a little more my style. I mean, come on – the lush wet environment here is a haven for huge numbers and varieties of mushrooms and lichen! 

Seeing these small and often ignored magnificent life forms makes me smile secretly on the trail. I’m not used to seeing pixie cup lichen and British soldier lichen in the Bay Area so seeing it popping out of tree trunks on the side of the trail or even right out of the soil as I pop a squat is a big treat. I feel like I’m walking through an enchanted forest. 

In this enchanted forest are tons – and I really do mean tons – of huckleberries and blueberries. So many that sometimes you just have to stop what you’re doing and just pick them and eat them. So many that you decide you have to keep your eyes on the “prize” (the trail) and divert your eyes from the temptation of all the juicy plump berries surrounding you. 

Unfortunately, this enchanted forest doesn’t stay this way without the inevitable – rain. 

I knew it rained in Washington and I was prepared. My new shoes are the waterproof version of the Lone Peak – the Lone Peak Neo Shell. I have a lightweight rain jacket and a pack cover. My pack is additionally lined with a garbage bag, and my latest purchase is the Gossamar Gear “Chrome Dome”, a ridiculously lightweight umbrella. 

The first rain actually arrived yesterday afternoon. It was a light steady rain, but it kindly breaked at the perfect time – when it was time to set up camp. After that, it rained all night long. 

I woke up this morning to two small puddles that had formed on the sides of my tent. Because I don’t have an external fly, condensation often builds up on the sides of my tent and drips into puddles. Other than that, I was cozy and warm in my lined sleeping bag. I soaked up the puddles with my trusty green sponge which has served multiple valuable purposes on the trail including scrubbing layers of grime off my legs and feet. 
After Yuch and I had set up camp last night, four other hikers had squeezed into our small campsite. That’s a total of 6 hikers and 5 tents in a small site built for 2. We had been hoping to have a little privacy but as we do not own the place couldn’t really tell our very next door neighbors to necessarily, well, get lost. 

This morning I awoke to two of the hikers saying how they had booked the next two nights at Snoqualamie Pass to wait out the rain. This seemed a little futile to me since rain is inevitable with Washington and is likely to return even after this wet stretch. 

The rain let up for the hike into Snoqualamie and we arrived at the Summit Pancake House around 10 am – perfect timing for brunch. We would be meeting Proton and DC around noon. Oh, I guess I forgot to mention that Yuch left his glasses, contact case, and contact solution at the hotel in White Pass and has been sleeping in his contacts for 4 nights straight. Fortunately Proton and DC were able to procure the goods and bring them forward to us as long as we slowed down our mileage enough to allow them to catch up. 

The restaurant lobby was full of stinky hiker packs and the restaurant itself full of stinky hikers, the topic of conversation being the rain, or as some put it “the storm”. Many hikers were staying overnight at the Summit Inn, and I must admit – I was extremely tempted. But, I knew I could not avoid the Washington rain (although Victoria, Animal, Noémie, and Chance all seemed to and reached Canada just two days ago), and so after brunch, grabbing a few more things at the store, and taking about an hour to attempt to dry out our soaking wet tents in the parking lot, we set back on the trail. 

The whole morning the rain had subsided, but about an hour into our hike, it began again. Up our umbrellas went as we climbed out of Snoqualamie Pass and up into the Alpine Lakes Wilderness. This is exactly how I imagined Washington to be; green, lush, and shrouded in mist. 

We stopped to pick more berries, since we’re in no rush. We are 4 days ahead of our September 15th finish date. In fact, I had been planning my finish date around my house sitting gig that was supposed to start on September 21st. Just this morning I received an email from Diantha that Jim broke his femur and they are postponing their trip to next Spring. In short, they no longer need me. In short, I didn’t need to rush this whole time. Oh well. 

My anxiety slowly and gradually began creeping on me as slowly and gradually as the rain fall. My main concern was days on end of rain with no breaks of sun for drying out. But, it was comforting to know that Stevens Pass was just 71 miles away.

And then we ran into a hiker coming down the trail, southbound. He had just witnessed a rockslide and was completely shaken up. He had been hiking the PCT northbound since the Mexican border, but had now decided to end his journey claiming, “The trail is not safe!” He was heading back to Snoqualamie Pass. 

Yuch didn’t seem phased by this encounter, but I, of course, flipped out. I burst into tears and told Yuch I was scared of going forward. This guy had planted a seed in my already worried mind. I began imagining trees uprooting, rock slides, and land slides, all caused by the rain. 

Yuch reminded me that I already knew that rockslides occurred. We had come across a very sad forest of Aspen trees in the Sierra that had been trampled down by a rockslide. I knew they happened, but I surely didn’t want to be reminded, and I also didn’t want to know that they were happening near me. 

After a momentary breakdown, I continued on the trail. We came across two hikers who I couldn’t help but comment to, “I heard there was a rockslide?” “Oh, that guy?” One of them responded, “That guy is crazy. Don’t listen to him. Yeah, there was a rockslide, but it didn’t even affect the trail. Plus, that guy has been looking for an excuse to get off the trail for days!” I looked at the man standing next to him. His face was covered in patches of bloody scrapes. “Oh, this? I just fell of a cliff. Don’t worry. You’ll be fine.” I continued on, having no idea if the conversation with the two men had left me feeling better or worse. 

That night we only ended up hiking 9 miles before setting up camp. The rain let up for just enough time to allow us to set up our tents. Tonight, I just wanted to go to sleep in my warm sleeping bag. I would deal with this rockslide business the next day…

The Knife’s Edge

Friday 8/26/16
The Knife’s Edge is the highest point on the PCT in Washington at 7642 ft. It is precisely what it sounds like, a skimpy ridge line, with steep drop offs on either side of the trail. It is the epitome of a crest walk – stark, exposed, and magnificent. The actual trail was not as bad as I had imagined and trust me, I had been imagining it for days. 

Leaving Cascade Locks on Monday morning I wondered if I would be hiking the next section alone or if I would find some new or old friends. As everyone typically has their own agenda, I set off on my own after picking up my packages from the post office. I received my resupply box, my umbrella from Gossamer Gear, a package from Noémie, and…not my new shoes.

My new shoes from Altra had been delayed and now I would have to hike a whole 150 more miles in my old worn out shoes. They agreed to forward the shoes to White Pass and in the meantime I was able to find some brand new Altra insoles in a hiker box to stack on top of my old ones. 

Back on the PCT, I stepped on to the Bridge of the Gods, the bridge that crosses the Hood River and delivers you to Washington. There is no pedestrian/hiker path or shoulder on this bridge so as always it is recommended that pedestrians walk facing oncoming traffic. I did this, but a group of hikers behind me did not, making it a tight squeeze for the vehicles in the middle. 

On the other side of the bridge, I saw Proton and Dreamcatcher. Proton was snapping photos of me coming over the bridge. I began hiking with them and thought, maybe I won’t be hiking Knife’s Edge alone after all! But halfway through the day, they ended up falling behind and eventually I knew I had out hiked them for the day.

Proton and DC never ended up catching up with me. Instead I ran into 3 Bucks. We hiked on and off together. It’s amazing how easy it is to lose someone on the trail. Once you lose them, there’s really no way to communicate except for leaving physical notes on the trail or leaving a message with a Southbounder. 
One day I found a note that had been stuck to a tree. It said “Pringle” with an arrow and a date. I wondered if it was for Pringle or by Pringle, but mostly I didn’t care because on the other side of the note was a brand new never been done before LA Times crossword puzzle! Assuming the point of the note was purely informational, I took it upon myself to do the crossword on my lunch break, making sure to return the note back to the tree afterward. 

The night before the Goat Rocks Wilderness and just in time for Knife’s Edge, I found 3 Bucks after losing him the day before. 

Ascending up to Knife’s Edge the trail was beautiful. No photograph could capture the beauty of this green haven with bubbling brooks, waterfalls, and scores of wildflowers. 

Much to my dismay, I would find snow at the beginning of Knife’s Edge. Say it isn’t so! I sighed and my stomach dropped. I hate snowy traverses and now I didn’t have my microspikes. Following behind 3 Bucks I placed my footsteps in his. 

After the first traverse, the snow was replaced with rocks that we carefully walked over as they moved beneath us. “I come in peace”, I told the rocks beneath me stepping gently to avoid slipping and worse case scenario (as my anxious mind tends to gravitate towards) a rockslide or avalanche. 

Approaching the next patch of snow I saw two paths of footprints, a lower and higher path. The higher path seemed to be on a much steeper and sketchier slope, but ended right at the trail. The lower path seemed to be much sturdier, more travelled, but would involve a scramble back up to the trail at the end. 3 Bucks asked me which one I wanted to take. I wanted to take the lower one. 

Reaching the other side, we were then faced with the issue of getting back up to the trail. It would involve a steep rock climb. 3 Bucks lifted himself and his pack up grabbing a hold of some rocks on the way up. It looked easy enough, if I hadn’t been burdened by my huge pack. I didn’t feel confident I could lift myself up, so began looking for an alternate way that didn’t involve as much upper body strength which I don’t have. 

I finally settled on a spot that seemed do-able, but at this point I was nearly paralyzed with fear. None of the rocks were stable enough to be trustworthy, the soil was extremely crumbly, and 3 Bucks was too far up to help me. Fear can paralyze you, but I think it can also produce adrenaline which can lead you to push forward. As scared as I was, I knew I couldn’t stay down there.

I began climbing up one step at a time, placing my foot on footholds that I was not 100% confident would hold me. “I made a move!” I shouted up to 3 Bucks each time I took a step which seemed to be every 2-3 minutes. I felt badly that he had gotten stuck with me, and now here I was taking ages to do something that had taken him minutes. Every so often I would freeze, having no idea where to go. The soil was crumbling and I couldn’t trust anything to be solid enough to grab on to. 

At one point, the rocks underneath me gave way and I slid even further down losing the progress that I had made and scraping my legs. “I’m scared!” I yelled up, and “Where should I go now?” I think he was trying to get closer down to me, but in doing so little rocks were crumbling down on top of me. 

Finally, I couldn’t stand it anymore. I felt like this should be easier than it was. Maybe it would have been if I didn’t have a pack on my back and two trekking poles in my hand, or maybe if the dirt was actually firm and I could trust it. I finally just went for it. I scrambled straight up the mountain’s crumbling soil. The worst part was that I had very little confidence that I would make it without slipping down, but went for it anyway. Finally at the top, I reached my hand up to 3 Bucks who gave me the last final lift back up to the trail. The picture below really doesn’t capture the steepness of the mountain but you can see how crumbly the soil is.

At the trail, I sighed with relief and tried to avoid breaking down into tears in front of my friend like I had with Yuch during the ascent up Muir Pass. But I felt the same way. I wanted to get the heck over and off this mountain and back to safety.

But, this was just the beginning of Knife’s Edge. The trail would wind over the edge of this mountain for a long time and I had just hardly begun. 

The trail itself was not as skimpy and terrifying as I had imagined. It’s just that I was now traumatized from what had happened so still was full of fear with every step I took. The 360 degree views from Knife’s Edge were amazing, but the consequences of a misstep terrifying. 

Massive Mt. Rainier announces itself in the distance. 

Unfortunately, and similarly to summiting Whitney, I could not fully relax and enjoy the experience since my priority was getting down to lower ground. 

I asked 3 Bucks if he was scared, and he said no. I passed people nearly galloping down the trail and I thought, “Am I the only person scared up here?” 

I passed by two men coming up the trail who asked us, “How was the snow?” In order to not sound like a total loser, I responded, “It’s passable”. They then asked which route we took, and it eventually came out that I had taken the lower route and I saw their eyes make their way over to the bloody scrapes on my legs. Apparently there was a third route, a higher one which surpassed the snow altogether. After admitting that I was a huge scaredy cat, the men told me that I wasn’t the only one. Apparently they had heard of multiple evacuations from people who had taken that lower route in the last few weeks. I felt a little better. At least I didn’t have to be evacuated!

The descent down from Knife’s Edge was just as beautiful as the way up. I was greeted right away with lush wildflowers and bubbling brooks which was much different from the miles of snow typically encountered before and after a High Sierra pass.

That night I would camp just 8 miles from White Pass, making for a short hike in the next morning. 

In White Pass I had a hotel reservation waiting for me, my resupply box, my new shoes, and most importantly – Yuch. 

Twas the Night Before Timberline – A Poem

‘Twas the night before Timberline and all through the trail 
All the thru hikers had been hiking the pace of a snail 

The Southbounders had spread good word of the feast
It was then that the Northbounders paces increased

Hiking late through the night, straining their legs

In the morning, each hiker wanted to be first to the eggs

At last it was time. Just one last ascent

Pretty soon it was clear just how much this meant!

Each hiker lined up with one plate in their hand

Anyone found with two would surely be banned!

There was ham and links, an egg scramble with cheese

Could I have an omelet, and some potatoes too, please?

The pastries were booming. By their side, loads of fruit

Strawberries, melon, huckleberries to boot!

There were pancakes and waffles and berries galore

There was just one problem. We all wanted more

Going back for seconds, then three times then four

For just $15.95, this was definitely a score 

When finally all the hikers had eaten all to be ate
Reality set in. The trail could not wait…

Into Washington

Sunday 8/21/16
After 16 days in Oregon, I have arrived to Cascade Locks. Tomorrow I will cross over the famous Bridge of the Gods into Washington. 

Today is my 103rd day “on” the PCT. With 6 total zeros, that makes 97 days of hiking. It’s amazing to think I was in California for the bulk of this trail, then speeded through Oregon, and now I am just around the corner from Canada. 

I am feeling more comfortable in the wilderness alone. One of my goals was to deepen my relationship with nature, and I think I can say I achieved that. Before the PCT, the thought of being alone in the wild was intimidating. The sun setting and the arrival of night time signaled time for camp & avoiding scary night animals and The Boogey Man. 

The truth is that the trail is really not that different at night except that it’s dark. With a good headlamp, the trail is just as navigable as during the day the only downside being the pesky bugs and moths that flock straight towards your headlamp and face. 

Unfortunately I bring this up because I’ve been hiking way too late this last week. The days are getting shorter and 30 mile days are not something that can be achieved quickly. Many times I end up racing against the clock and sun, and most recently I have been competing for tent space with other hikers as well as the Southbound herd.

This weekend was PCT Days, an annual three day event held in Cascade Locks. Many hikers have been pushing to get here for the event, and consequently I’ve been running into some difficulties at night when it’s time to camp. 

The night before getting into Cascade Locks, I had such difficulty finding a spot to camp, my only option was to keep hiking. Around 10 pm I finally called it quits and decided it was time for my first attempt at cowboy camping. I always look forward to setting up and getting into my little home for the night, but there are perks to cowboy camping including falling asleep under the stars, and no tent set-up or break-down required!
This last stretch of trail has offered a variety of things and places to look forward to. On Wednesday, just 1/10 of a mile off the trail was the Ollalie Lake store. 

Being so close to the trail, I couldn’t resist a stop there for lunch and the opportunity for a cold beverage. The store was pretty pricey and limited, but it was nice to have a San Pellegrino orange soda with my trail mix that day. I waded into the lake with an incredible view and washed my legs and socks. 

As soon as I got out of the water, I noticed a sign indicating that no swimming was allowed as this water was used for drinking water. Whoops! 

Two days after the Ollalie Lake store was the famous Timberline Lodge. I had heard of this place first from Animal and Noémie, and then pretty much every southbounder since them has raved about the amazing $15.95 breakfast buffet that will surely make any hungry hiker’s eyes pop out of their head. 

The night before Timberline there was a huge cluster of hikers staging themselves for just a short jaunt to the lodge in the morning. That night was the first night since I was very small that I could barely wait until the next morning. It felt like the night before Christmas. I could hardly wait for this breakfast. I woke up several times very early in the morning thinking, “is it time??” Other hikers I talked to later would describe the same feeling of anticipation. 

When it was finally time, the short 2 mile hike that morning was an epic one. The ascent up to the lodge was sandy, the wind blew gusts of sand towards my face, and Mt. Hood came into view as the sun came up. I wished I had goggles, but mostly I didn’t care because it was Christmas Day!

Arriving at the lodge, I went straight to the bathroom to wash up. This place is fancy, and there are fancy looking people staying overnight and dining there. 

I looked like a dirty hiker, but not as dirty as this girl Slo-Mo whose legs and arms looked like they hadn’t been washed in months. She was also in the bathroom attempting to redeem herself. 

The buffet was more than I could have ever imagined. There were cheesy eggs, omelets, potatoes, sausage, ham, toffee chip pancakes, make your own waffles, bowls of huckleberries, raspberries, perfectly balled globes of butter and whipped cream, Greek yogurt, raspberry yogurt, heaping displays of fruit, beautiful looking granola, pitchers of berry smoothie, and pastries galore. It was amazing. After our meal was finished, everyone received a small glass of an elixir made of ginger, apple cider vinegar, and some other mysterious ingredients. It was apparently for “digestive purposes”, and perhaps would aid in getting us out of the lodge and back on the trail. We charged our phones, sat on plush sofas in the lobby, and got lost snooping around the lodge until it was time to go. 

Back on the trail, I felt rejuvenated and positive about the rest of the day and PCT in general. 

And then I took a wrong turn. Just so you know, it’s hard to take a wrong turn on the PCT. I must have been in the groove and not noticed that I had stepped over a log across the trail, a log indicating “do not go this way”. Before I knew it I was climbing down a steep and sandy ridge with no shoulder. To my right was a deep gorge, thousands of feet down. I shivered. One false move and I was toast. I then found myself winding through dense patches of huckleberry bushes, all the while thinking things like “this is really steep”, “this seems like a weird place for the PCT to go”, etc. At the same time, there was a clear footpath and footsteps that I was following so I continued on. I finally stopped when I was walking so close to the edge of this sandy cliff that I couldn’t go on any further. This seemed way too precarious even for the PCT. I decided this couldn’t be the trail and if it was, at least I could go back up the trail and find someone to hike with. The way back up was even more difficult trekking through deep mountains of sand. I could feel the sand filtering right through my shoes and lumps forming underneath my feet. I finally got back up to where I last remembered the trail being and saw that I had clearly gone the wrong way, following the footsteps of many others who had done the sand thing.

Back on the trail I sighed a huge sigh of relief. I was extremely relieved to be alive and back on the trail. I had been walking dangerously close to a very long long drop to my death. I sat down to take a breath and shake out my shoes. Mounds of sand poured out. Just then Three Bucks walked by. He had been at the Timberline, but had left later than me. Due to my lengthy “detour”, he had caught up. I was so grateful to see him and we walked together for the rest of the day. 
A big perk on the trail recently has been all the huckleberries at our fingertips. 

They look like small blueberries but in my opinion taste like a combination of blueberries and blackberries. The bigger and bluer the better! They are pretty small so the move is to just completely stop hiking, gather a bunch at a time, hike for a while, and repeat.

They are so good!
When I haven’t been in the trees, the vistas have been incredible. Leaving Sisters, Mt. Jefferson came into view. 

At first it was a beautiful sight in the distance, then it was a huge mountain I was circumnavigating, and then it was quickly behind me with Mt. Hood now in the spotlight, and the vague outline of Mt. Rainier behind that. 

Three Fingered Jack was also a highlight of this section. 

Three Fingered Jack is the remaining structure of an ancient volcano that stands today as a crest. 

The last highlight of this stretch was the Eagle Falls alternate trail. Getting into Cascade Locks you can either take the PCT or take the scenic Eagle Falls alternate which is about 4 miles shorter. I had heard that a hiker had died on the trail just weeks ago, but then it was later revealed that they weren’t a PCT hiker and they had gone off the trail. I was a little nervous hearing this, but Proton assured me it was perfectly safe and was not to be missed. 
He was right and the trail was beautiful. It reminded me a lot of Muir Woods, so green and lush with ferns, moss, and lichen everywhere. 

The main attraction of the trail was Tunnel Falls, where the trail has you hiking right through a natural tunnel in the mountain right behind a waterfall. 

Adding to the Muir Woods experience came the day hikers. And, it was a Saturday. There were loads of day hikers around every corner I turned, and they all smelled – clean, fresh, and often smelling of perfumes and colognes. 

My experience as a thru-hiker has at times made me feel like the witches from Roald Dahl’s “The Witches”. In case you aren’t familiar with the story, the witches can smell a clean child a mile away but there noses are nearly immune to the dirty ones. On the trail, a clean person is a new and foreign smell to my nose. You cannot hide!

As I’m hiking faster than my schedule, I arrived at Cascade Locks on the weekend when the post office was closed resulting in an impromptu Zero day. I’m grateful for the day off since I’ve found my Lone Peaks only last a maximum of 4-500 miles and my current pair has now reached their limit. My toes begin to get pretty swollen after 30 mile days day after day and it’s amazing how effective a short ice bath can be to reducing inflammation and pain. 

Tomorrow after the post office opens, I’ll set back on the trail in Washington. In just 6 days, I’ll meet with Yuch at White Pass and he will hike the rest of the trail to Canada with me. I’m really looking forward to seeing him and treating the rest of the trail more like a “vacation”, with shorter more relaxing days. 

Anything, Everything, Anyone, and Everyone

Monday 8/15/16
A few days ago as I was hiking on the trail, a thought entered my head – Jean’s sister who lives in Oregon. It’s amazing all the various random thoughts that flutter around your head spending hours on the trail with no other stimulation. You think about anything, everything, anyone, and everyone. Chances are, if you’re reading this, I’ve even thought about you! 

For those of you who don’t know, Jean is my very good friend from Sausalito. I met her when I began working at Roost ten years ago. Being friends with her over the years, I was familiar with her annual vacations. Twice a year she went to New York for the Roost trade show, sometimes she would go on a yoga retreat to some fabulous place, and every year she visited her “sister in Oregon”. 

Jean has three sisters but the one I mainly hear about and have met is Janet because she loves so close, in Kentfield. I know nothing about this sister in Oregon…or maybe I just never listened. I’m not sure. I texted Jean from the trail. “Just out of curiosity, where does you sister live in Oregon?” 
Jean’s sister, Marilyn, and her husband John live in the small agriculture town of Tumelo just north of Bend. On Sunday, I would be arriving to Big Lake Youth Camp, a seventh day Adventist youth camp that catered to PCT hikers. I would be picking up my resupply box there and hopefully showering, doing my laundry, and dining there. I had heard they cooked a vegetarian meal for all the hikers every night. Jean asked if I wanted to stay with her sister, but I was pretty sure I was set at the camp. It was nice to know she was fairly close, just in case of you know, anything. 

The day before arriving to Big Lake Youth Camp, I was amazed at the considerable amount of hikers on the trail in contrast to the day before. I had entered the Three Sisters Wilderness, a ridiculously beautiful and scenic area. My prayers had been answered and I had emerged from the trees! All day I was staring at various views of the Sisters. South Sister is apparently the youngest. Middle and North are side by side and North is the oldest. They are all beautiful. Don’t ask me which is which at this point. I’ve completely lost track and now I hear there is a Little Brother, too?

Wildflowers flanked the sides of the trail today and I could see why this was such a popular area. 

Being easily accessible, the day was packed with day and section hikers. I entered the Obsidian Wilderness, aptly named for all the obsidian on the trail. 

I have begun to hit the herd of Southbounders. I had gotten a message from Dan’s friends from Mill Valley that we might cross paths that day. Cheri had messaged me to look for a girl in braids and a blue skirt and Andrew would be wearing a SFRC buff. 
Later that day, I decided to take a break by a creek. I was making good time and would reward myself with a snack, green tea, and foot soak. I looked over to my left and saw a couple that I was pretty sure might be Dan’s friends. It was! For a short while we were shouting from a distance when I decided, it’s not every day you run into someone on the trail that you “know” so I got up, walked up the trail, and sat down next to them. They started on the PCT on July 6th and planned to get to Mexico by beginning to mid November. We shared stories of the trail and traded tips from previous places we had been. It was a treat to meet them knowing they are friends of Dan’s. 

After saying hello and goodbye to my new friends, I continued on the trail. I would leave the creeks and wildflowers and enter large lava fields. I walked on lava rocks for miles to camp that night. 

Arriving at Big Lake Youth Camp the next day, there were other hikers sitting out front. I saw a sign that directed PCT hikers to check in at “Headquarters”. I checked in and told them I was expecting 3 packages – my resupply box, a box from Sophie, and a box from Yuch. The only box that was there was the one from Sophie. I was afraid of this. I knew I was now 5 days ahead of schedule and I was traveling barely right behind my resupply box. I knew it had arrived on Saturday, but being a Sunday I had worried that it might not arrive to the camp until Monday. 

I had been hiking fast so I could gain some time off, and now I had it. I would just have to spend the night there and wait until my box arrived. No biggie. I asked about showers, laundry, and dinner. Apparently it was the last day of camp, and they were spending the day clearing all the campers out. Additionally, they had a big staff meeting that night. In short, no dinner tonight. 
Excuse me?

But, they did have a bag lunch for all the hikers. Ok, at least there’s that. And showers? “Well, we just cleaned the showers, so no showers tonight, but…there is the lake. You’re welcome to go in there.” Wait, what? And, laundry? The volunteer answering my questions didn’t seem 100% confident in his answers and would constantly double check with another volunteer. “Laundry…maybe…maybe in a couple of hours”. 

Wow, I sure picked a heck of a place to take care of all my chores and needs! 

I grabbed my bag lunch and called Yuch. Hallelujah – at least there was phone reception! I was happy to have something other than trail mix and fruit for lunch. I felt like Dorothy in the Return to Oz as she opened up her lunch pail that she picked from the lunch pail tree. In my bag there were: two slices of plain bread, a small tub of peanut butter, a small tub of jelly, an apple, a bag of chips, a bag of carrot sticks, a bottle of cold water, and one cookie. I hope these aren’t poisoned. (Just kidding). I chowed down on my lunch noisily as I talked Yuch’s ear off. Having little to no reception on the trail is a nice thing, but sometimes I crave contact with my loved ones. 
I really miss Yuch and wish he could join me earlier than White Pass. He’s pretty bogged down with his work as it is, so I will have to be grateful that he’s even joining me at all. It’ll be such a morale boost to see him and to hike the rest of the trail with him. I feel like I’m nearing the end of a marathon and I need all the help I can get. Signs, cheering, you name it. 

I got off the phone and thought again about Jean’s sister. It would sure be nice to take a shower and do my laundry! I called Jean. We both weren’t sure exactly how long the drive would be from

Tumelo to the camp, but she left a message with her sister anyway. 

In the meantime, I charged my phone and raided the hiker box. The hiker box at BLYC is incredible. I stocked up on things that I really don’t need, but could not pass up. 

I opened up Sophie’s package. Great Scott! She’s really done it this time! The goodies on the right are all from Sophie. The ones on the left are from the hiker box. How the heck will I have my room for everything when my actual box comes in??

Additionally, Proton’s mom had sent him loads of homemade brownies and cookies that he couldn’t possibly eat on his own or bring on the trail. 

Then I heard that we, in fact, could take showers. I think the camp was beginning to feel sorry for us pitiful hikers and gave in. They gave us fresh towels, and we grabbed shampoo and soap from the fabulous hiker boxes. The showers were really nice. I felt a little guilty since they had just cleaned the showers earlier that day. 

Then they decided, ok, we could do laundry too. So I did my laundry next. 

Then Jean called me back. Her sister, Marilyn, lived an hour from the camp and would come pick me up. Really?! I felt bad since an hour seemed pretty far, but the idea of a real dinner and bed sounded much more enticing than cold mashed potatoes and setting up my tent for the umpteenth time. The only caveat was that she wouldn’t be able to bring me back until late the following afternoon. Let’s do it!
I heard a hiker yell, “A car!” and I knew Marilyn had arrived. All of the camp staff had evacuated to their meeting and left us hikers on our own. New hikers had arrived with questions with no one to answer. They thought Marilyn might be a staff member, but she was clearly a civilized person from the real world. 

I packed up my stuff and jumped into the car. A real car. A real civilized person. And now off, to the real world. Marilyn had the car windows open the whole way back to Tumelo and I began to wonder if I smelled. I had showered, and washed my clothes, but it was possible that I still smelled. Yikes… 
Marilyn and John live in a beautiful little home out in the country. 

Their kids are all grown up and on their own, but they do have some furry kids: a cat named Buck, a dog named Frank, and another dog named Butch. I thoroughly enjoyed having a furry animal by my side to give and accept love. 

For dinner we had an amazing pork roast, sausage gravy, corn, and salad. Everything was so good and I had seconds, all washed down with a glass of wine. I’ve never eaten so much meat in my life at one time. We are on their back porch which has an amazing view of the Sisters. 

It smells so good here. I think it smells even better and pinier than the PCT! 

I am staying in the little ski cabin while the other part of the house is just next door. 

I slept so well. For breakfast John made me an omelet, bacon, and toast with orange juice and coffee. Don’t worry, I only had one cup. 

I tried to contact the camp to see if my box had arrived but no staff seems to be on the premises. Just my luck. I’ve also tried to contact USPS to track my box with no luck. I guess I’ll just cross my fingers and hope that it’s there when Marilyn drops me off later today. I could potentially recreate a new resupply box using food from the hiker boxes but I have some pretty critical items in my box – two new pairs of socks to replace my hole-y ones and my maps for this next section to Cascade Locks. 

While I wait, this impromptu Zero has provided me the opportunity to rest my legs and catch up on my blogs. I certainly can’t complain about that! 

The Trees

Friday 8/12/16
Today I passed by at least a dozen lakes throughout the course of the day. 

Fortunately, I had fixed my Katadyn water filter the day before with Suzanne’s help. Something to do with the “check valve”. I didn’t quite understand it, but was thankful to have my filter back. When it comes to stagnant water sources, I much prefer the pump filter to the Aqua Mira. 
I ran into the RV again early that morning at a road crossing. Hooray!
At the RV, I indulged in two cups of coffee. I was feeling pretty drowsy due to the Benadryl I had taken the night before. I had taken it to keep myself from staying up itching my mosquito bites. The coffee was amazing, and I even had a third – yes, third – breakfast of granola with berries. Suzanne and Carl said this would be goodbye for good as it was time for them to head up to Portland. I refilled my salt and pepper shaker and they supplied me with more anti-bacterial gel and mosquito repellent wipes. I changed into shorts and sprayed my legs and arms with Off! This would be my first time in shorts in a long time. The mosquito situation seemed to be improving a bit the further north I hiked, but a heat wave was also coming in and long pants and shirt was not going to cut it anymore. 
I waved goodbye for good and set back out on the trail. It is SO much easier hiking in shorts! 
Back on the trail, I could feel the coffee right away. I was moving quickly and loving it. I felt happy and rejuvenated. I began walking through a burn forest and without the shelter of trees, it was hot. But I didn’t care, because it was a beautiful day and I felt good. 

I began to listen to a Radiolab podcast. Coincidentally, it quite related to the trail. The episode was called “From Tree to Shining Tree”, and it blew my caffeinated mind. I recommend you all download this episode right away!

Essentially, the episode talks about a little known fungus that is actually most responsible for making trees stand up big and tall. Most people believe that it’s the trees roots that take in the nutrients and minerals from the soil. This is true to an extent, but this fungus which is a thin and super long network of tubing is thinner and can probe and penetrate crevices that roots and root hairs cannot. Essentially, these fungi are natural miners – mining the soil and rocks for minerals to give back to the trees through their roots. The trees, in return, give the fungus sugar; a symbiotic relationship! 
The fungus connects hundreds of trees in the forest, making a giant network of trees working together. When one tree is in danger, say – a beetle attacks it – it will communicate to the other trees around it and sometimes even surrender its nutrients to a neighboring tree via this fungus. For example, an older tree might give nutrients to a newer younger tree who has a better chance of surviving. A specific species of tree will not show loyalty necessarily to trees of its own kind, but will look out for the overall needs of the forest sometimes sacrificing its nutrients to a completely different species. 

A really fascinating piece of this episode was when they mentioned all the fish they found in the roots of these trees. When bears grab fish from the water, they shake them to and fro and leave the carcass on the forest floor. The fungus will grab these nutrients and deliver it to the trees. They found evidence of tons of fish in the trees. 
This all really blew my mind as I walked through trees all day today. There was a huge network of roots underneath me – a massive operation of business and intelligence. I couldn’t believe it. I had great respect for the thriving trees around me, and total sadness for the miles of burn forests. 

Seriously. Download this episode now.

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After my mind was blown, I suddenly began to feel the speediness of my legs transform into something else. I was now feeling very “speedy” from the caffeine, not in a good way. All of a sudden, I was very anxious and hot. I realized quickly that my body had become very sensitive to caffeine, and two cups of coffee had been over my limit. 
I tried to listen to another Radiolab episode, but it made me even more anxious. I took my headphones off completely and the silence of the forest began to make me nervous. I hadn’t seen another hiker in a very long time. Was I the last person alive? Anxiety can make your mind go to really bad places when you are all alone. 
It was 2 pm and I realized I hadn’t eaten my lunch yet. It’s true I had 3 breakfasts that morning, but typically my stomach is still growling even before noon. Even though the coffee had suppressed my appetite, I decided I should stop and eat some trail mix. Maybe the food would lessen my anxiety. 

After eating the trail mix, my anxiety worsened. A typical trend when I get anxiety is I will convince myself that somehow I’ve been poisoned in a very implausible way. I started to believe that I had Deet on my hands, and now had poisoned myself from shoving my Deet covered hands into the trail mix bag and back into my mouth.
This isn’t the first time this has happened. 
The first anxiety attack I’ve ever had I thought my doctor had accidentally given me cocaine instead of Zoloft, when really I had just started with too big of a dose. With a racing heart I called my mom who assured me I was having an anxiety attack, it was not cocaine, and that I should take an Ativan to calm down. I feared taking the Ativan worrying that I would overdose and die. Clearly, I didn’t. 

The second time I was at work and had bought a bag of chips to go with my lunch. I reached into the bag and ate a chip and wasn’t sure if it tasted “right” or not. Then, I all of a sudden couldn’t recall if I had opened the bag myself or if it had been open when I got it. Before I knew it, my heart was racing and I had convinced myself that the bag had been open when I bought it, someone had poisoned it, and I was soon going to die right there at my desk. I called Yuch to tell him I loved him before I died and he was able to convince me that I had likely opened the bag and it was not poisoned. 
I thought about these past incidents and was able to assure myself that I had a history of this. All I could do was breathe and keep hiking. But it was difficult walking through trees all day. I so desperately longer to emerge from the trees, to climb up to an exposed ridge with fresh air. But it was not in the cards for the day. 
Later that afternoon, I was hiking and breathing when suddenly I heard a “Hi!” I looked up startled. I had been really in the zone and hadn’t seen two hikers resting on the side of the trail. I was so relieved to return to reality and see my first hikers of the day. I dropped my pack and decided to take a break too. I ate a snack and began confessing my anxieties to them. I think they thought I was crazy, but who knows. I felt paranoid and like I was talking fast. I began to tell them about the trees and the remarkable network of fungus tubes. I’m not sure how interested they were, but I think it is fascinating!
I finally began to come down and began seeing more and more hikers, all faces that I had never seen before. 
That night I arrived to Dumbbell Lake. 

The coffee had finally left my system. It’s amazing it took the whole day. I was so relieved to have a secluded little spot right next to the water. That night I stepped into the lake, using my green sponge to clean off all the dirt and Deet, and wash away all my worries from the day. I relaxed in to my sleeping bag, with the knowledge that beneath and around me was an enormous web of tree intelligence.