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Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Mile 1988ish: into Bend


Cold, cold morning after camping in the rain. Everything was damp. It cleared up a little as we hiked along, "Oh, hey, there was a huge beautiful mountain that just poked out from behind yonder cloudbank!" Apparently we were hiking by the Three Sisters, when previously it had just looked like we were hiking by trees and clouds. It got beautiful and the terrain became another breathtaking alien volcanic landscape. Sisters Trail Angel Lloyd Gus (or as we misheard, Lord Gust) had described the upcoming section as a "trough of razor-sharp baseballs." I thought it was rather fitting. As pleased as my eyes were, my feet were screaming in pain.

I had decided to skip the section between McKenzie and Santiam Pass in order to spend more time with Amy's mom, Cindy. Microburst and Sweet 16 were going to take a shorter town stop and hike the section, it was a way to appease everyone. The last I saw of them, I was running into the trees as Microburst called out, "Bye Poopy!" We drive each other nuts, but we also love each other so.

I ran into some weekenders that told me Highway 242 was closed at the PCT from fires, and to try my hitching luck from a nearby trailhead, offering me a ride down to Sisters if we were there at the same time. Shortly thereafter, another hiker ran into me at a trail junction, and ahead of his group and without maps of his own, asked to look at mine. We ended up hiking all the way back to the trailhead together, talking the whole way about a monthlong hike he'd done in Europe that I'd LOVE to do, mountaineering, and his upcoming bid for a state senate seat against the incumbent Republican. He was charismatic, intelligent, and very very good looking; if the voters in his district are as uninformed and easily charmed as I, it'll be a Democratic victory. I think I might try to stay abreast of politics a little better this fall. I always intend to, but now there's a more personal curiosity too.

His friends gave me a ride down to Sisters, where I drank a delicious huckleberry smoothie and met up with Cindy. It was nice to ride with backpackers: I wasn't as worried about disgusting them with my aweful hiker-stench, and they were all super-nice and friendly, I instantly felt so comfortable and at home with them that I had to remind myself that they didn't need a thru-hiker detracting from their victory lunch, it was time to give them space and attend to my own business once we got to Sisters.

Cindy and I spent the evening running errands, which always takes longer than I want it to. My most exciting purchase was a real spoon that won't break after a few days like all my cheap deli cutlery keeps doing, and nutella. I also bought a new shirt with no holes in the armpits big enough to stick my allayed hands through and some superfeet due to stabbing pains in the arches, but neither are as gratifying as eating. We went out for some delicious burgers and beers at the Deschutes brewery, I drank an "easily enjoyable beer inspired by the 'Mello Yello' song."

Mile 1976ish: The weather sets in


Clouds appeared two days ago- to add visual interest? They thickened yesterday- to warn us of the future to come? They leaked all over us today- oh, right. Weather. We knew it was an eventuality, we were just expecting it later. Micro (from Seattle) and I (from Anchorage) remarked to each other how much it felt like home. Except at home, we'd get to go home, and cuddle up with hot soup and a good book or bad movie. With my poncho, windbreaker, and fleece pullover, I could handle the rain, but I was none too happy. When the rain turned white and started falling slower, staying on the ground longer, I didn't know what to feel.

We ate lunch with Hot Mess and Sneezes, who we miraculously caught up to after being a week behind for ages: they had taken 4-5 days off in Ashland, and another zero in Elk Lake. It was a reminder of how fun guys can be to hike with- they're not all social misfits, inappropriate creeps, etc. These guys are witty, clever, and very very funny. Us girls laugh all the time, but the boys had me afraid of spewing tea out my nose. Hope we Leapfrog with them for a while, they're fun to be around.

I ran into a guy with snowshoes strapped to his pack, and asked him where he was headed. Apparently, he had missed the glacier. He felt sure that he knew where he was, and pointed to a region on the map way off trail. Anywhere on the trail would have been a more logical guess. I pulled out my maps and gave him the pages he would need to get to Elk Lake Lodge, where he could get back to civilization, and showed him on the map exactly where we were. I hope he made it out ok... I don't think it would be that hard.

Mile 1919ish: Maiden Peak ski hut


The Oregon-hiking was at it's best today: easy terrain, gorgeous views, plentiful water (as lakes), cool weather, and blue/huckleberries. Microburst and Sweet 16 stopped into Shelter Cove Resort since we'll be getting to the first access point to Sisters on a Sunday, when the PO is closed. I'll go in then anyway to see Cindy, my friend Amy's mom. We're going to meet up with them in Sisters on Monday, and then head out- me having skipped 16 miles in order to spend more time with Cindy.

I think I could move to Oregon just for its backcountry Nordic skiing opportunities. We're staying in the Maiden Peak shelter right now. It's super nice. Too bad my powdered goat milk exploded all over my foodbag- huge mess, the Reese's Micro brought back from Shelter Cove helped with my spirits.

Mile1850.9: Crater Rim

A quick summary:

We left our campspot within the lodge's landscaping not-as-early as we would have liked. The walk around the rim was beautiful, but knowing that the road around Crater Lake and the trail around the lake intersected at all the lookouts had me tempted to cut a few miles out by hitching. "No, I'll regret it if I do, I'll miss something beautiful." I actually regretted NOT doing it, because the section I was considering skipping didne't view the rim for the most part.

Once away from the rim, the trail was exactly as I had picture Oregon, flat and dry. A guy named Jake had met his dad in Crater Lake. Jake's dad told us allthat he was meeting Jake atthe highway with water- he'd share. We got there, no water. Si we hiked 8 more miles to Thielson creek.

Mile 1834.9: Crater Lake Resupply

I learned something today: taking care of my feet at night is the most important part of my day. My new shoes, though squishy and comfortable underfoot, give me terrible blisters. So I've mostly been using Chacos, which give me terrible callouses. The callouses then split, causing deep, painful gashes. Solution: prevent crackable callouses by applying Vaseline (or Carmex, now that I'm out of Vaseline) after cleaning feet every night, then wearing socks to bed. Problem: I haven't been doing this religiously, so I got three in very rapid succession.

I learned something else today too: ibuprofen is not a choice. I was told by Hasty a long while back that ibuprofen needs to be in your system for a few days before it becomes REALLY effective. I forgot all about that, and since my knees were not hurting so bad anymore, I stopped/backed off on the regimen. Poor choice. My joints were scraming in agony.

So, I got up early, and hobbled down the trail excrutiatingly slow, trying to get to Mazama Village. It took a long time, but I showed up. I showered, resupplied, and did laundry, then we hitched back to Crater Lake lodge We ate delicious, expensive food, and stayed in the lodge to the extent that we actually just slept in the landscaping.

Mile 1807.5ish: a really good day!

Although I didn't make it out of camp by my goal time of 5:30, I did get out before the others by 6. I hiked and hiked and hiked, and suddenly, I was at my water source half an hour before I was expecting, 20 minutes before my original goal schedule: awright! If there hadn't been a sign, I would have blown right past it, I wasn't even looking yet. I celebrated by wasting time there until I was right back on schedule. It felt really nice to stop for lunch right at 12:00, right when and where I wanted to be, with nobody waiting for me, already halfway through their lunch. In fact, nobody caught up to me until I was packing up to move on according to schedule- and it was neither Micro nor 16, it was Gnar, back on the trail and going strong.

Around 5:30 or 5:45, I hit the trail junction that my databook said was 1.1 miles before our water source and camp spot. Yes! Sweet 16 caught up to me by 6:00, and we got to a little creek with great camping by 6:20. We dropped our packs, and celebrated our goood work by washing our feet in the water. Microburst came at 6:30 to burst our bubble: the data book was wrong, the true Honeymoon Creek was 2.5 miles after our little seasonal creeklet.

Despite our already long hike (20 or 22.5 miles) to do before the Crater Lake Post Office closes, we decided to stay here: end a good day on a good note. Unfortunately, everybody is going to try to get out really early in the morning too. I'm wondering if my "mental problems" are a self-fulfilling prophecy: if I'm behind, I feel I must be going slow, so I do. Tooday I broke that pattern, by leaving early and staying ahead.

Mile 1780.6: Highway 140, The straw that broke the camel's back

Feeding us (really good food), letting us borrow their truck, and two nights of generous hospitality weren't enough for Robert and Lee. They wanted to meet us at Highway 140 to shower us with more kindness, namely non-trail food and wine.

Unfortunately, our schedule had us getting there early in the morning, a terrible time to meet for both them and us. So we pushed to get there at the end of a long day. Micro was stressed, getting there too late was just as bad as early in the morning, and she didn't want to make them wait. I tried to leave earlier than the others, but they passed me at 10 while I was searching for an outhouse and water by a campground. I rolled into lunch at 12:30 with 18 miles left to the highway, and heard Microburst telling Robert, "We'll get there between 7 and 8."

My mental math told me, "Whoa there, at 2.5 mph leaving at 1, you won't get there until after 8, plus you'll stop a few times for water, snacks, maps, etc." I truly did think she was calculating based on noon rather than one, so I said, "You might get there at 7, but I won't until after 8." She stewed on this for the rest of lunch, thinking I was accusing her of only thinking about how fast she hikes, not taking into consideration how slow I hike.

Once we were out of Sweet 16's hearing range, she burst into, "Just so you know, I'm thinking of you ALL THE TIME." And a fight ensued. Basically, we confirmed things that we already know: I hike slow. Micro doesn't like rolling into camp late. If we want to keep hiking with 16, it means long days of long miles. She doesn't have to wait, though she feels pbligated to and then resentful.

Of course, it didn't go down that drily. I cried, Micro accused me of being depressed and having mental problems. I remember yelling, "There's no point in waiting until dark for me if you're just going to leave me to hike by myself while you hike fast with [16] and feel sorry for yourselves!" She asked me for the umpteenth time why I'm not having fun, and if I'm not having fun, why don't I just get off the trail.

I hate that she puts these feelings in my mouth, just because I want to be done with this long-ass trail and get back to my regular life doesn't mean that I'm miserable every single moment I'm out here. I'm most miserable when Micro's waiting for me, actually. So we agreed that instead of worrying about each other, we'd worry about ourselves and do what needed to be done to take care of ourselves.

I got to 1/4 mile from Highway 140 at 8:35, where Turtle Don (a section hiker who does ten miles a day) was camped. He knew all about me from talking to Micro and 16, and proceeded to tell me all about myself and say how worried he had been waiting for me to come by. He was really nice, but I got really antsy with the cyclical conversation, and just wanted to get to the highway. I got to Micro and 16, eating a delicious picnic, at 8:50. There was super tasty (deliciously greasy and tender) rotisserie chicken, fresh fruit, ambrosia, and potato salad. I did my best to finish it off, then spent the next hour doing math and scheduling. My conclusion: in order to eat lunch at the same time as Micro and 16, and get to camp before dark, I'd have to leave "butt-fuck early."

Mile 1748.5: Ashland resupply- new shoes, new pack, new duds

Our zero day in Ashland began wonderfully: we both slept in (Micro til 6, me til 6:45) and Robert made us delicious crepes. The resupply itself went, as usual, to pieces. It took us seven hours to buy shoes, eat a piece of amazing creme brulee cheesecake, fit and exchange my pack, shop at the natural foods co-op, and drive to the closed printing company where I had ordered Half-Mile's maps to be printed. It sucked. I had a breakdown of indecision and hunger at the co-op, Micro was pulled over, got out of it, and then had an angry-yelling breakdown on the drive home (I was scared).

We got off to a later start than intended this morning, as usual due to me taking a long time to do anything. We picked up the printed maps, ran to the grocery store for some forgotten items, dropped our Crater Lake resupply boxes off at the Post Office, and finally were off.

Robert gave us surveyor's tape to tie to our packs because it's hunting season now. Sweet 16 made a bow out of some for her hair. It's huge and ridiculous, I love it. I heard a number of times a sound similar to the elk bugle Robert had played for us: was it hunters, elk, or birds and an overactive imagination?

- Typoed on my iPhone

Mile 1719.3: Out of California

Around 8:30 in a very nondescript section of
woods, we crossed the California-Oregon border. Although it was a very momentous occasion for us, it was hard to drum up the proper enthusiasm. I was still preoccupied with the question, "Why does slough smell + cow patty smell = tomato plant smell?"

Reading the register was entertaining. Some of my favorites:
"I am in Oregon" - Captain Obvious
-A breakup letter to California from Guthook, saying that it's just been good but really long, and he just wants to see other states, "Can we still be friends?"
-"You are now leaving the Land of Fruits and Nuts, welcome to the Land of Milk and Honey"
I couldn't think of anything clever, so I went with disgusting instead:
"I just took my last shit in California. It was nice. Looking forward to the sandy soils of Oregon." -Thump Thump

I mentioned poop again as a response to the embarassing moment prompt later on in an empty trail magic register. I should be careful, or I'm going to earn myself a shitty reputation.

Sweet 16's dad picked us up in the evening from Mt Ashland, eight miles up from I-5. We cut off those eight trail miles so we could have two nights in Ashland and not come in a midnight. Unfortunately, they were replaced by eight harrowing miles of windy mountain roads that Carmine took in true California-driver style. I was terrified.

Microburst and I were picked up from Carmine and Sweet 16's hotel by family friends/surrogate family to Micro's boyfriend. Robert took us back to his place, a gorgeous house (with the kitchen of my dreams) right on the Rogue River and fed us an amazing smoked salmon salad. We dried off from out showers with plush, thick towels and slept between 800 thread count sheets. I did not want to start hiking again.

Mile 1693ish: Thump Thump is a user

I slept terribly last night. In Seiad Valley, I was able to get ibuprofen not laced with sleeping meds (unfortunately, I had to buy them in individual $0.57 two-packs of brand-name Advil, UFO shaped and sugar-coated: yum!). Without my triple-shot of sleeping pills, I laid awake for a long time, wondering if I had made myself dependent on Advil PM. I was hearing suspicious rustling in every gust if wind through the leaves: was paranoia a withdrawal side effect? Then my skin started crawling: was I a full blown meth-head now? No, I had ants crawling all over me. It was awful, I moved my whole sleeping situation into the middle of the trail, and slept in my windbreaker and bugnet.

The rest of the day just drug on forever. I divide the day into two distinct halves: contouring through chaparral in the intense sun and heat, and going along, beside, and occasionally over a ridgeline as a storm just ahead grew more and more threatening. Unfortunately, during that first part of the day, I grew cocky and lazy, and decided that hiking five miles on a liter was better than walking 0.1 miles off-trail to get another half or full liter (during cool mornings, a liter will get me seven or so miles, but only three during the heat of the day). Hiking to the next spring I was rationing my water, and grew more tired, then headachy, and finally sick. Off and on since Old Station, I've felt ill after eating or drinking- that was happening worse than ever. I was dehydrated, the conservative hiker FAILED.

Princess caught up to and camped with us a few miles short of our most ambitious mileage goal for the day. She is a loud, friendly, sweet, and very gutsy hiker. We really enjoyed her company.

Mile 1665.8: Stuff your face in Seiad Valley

We hiked out of the steep-walled Grider Creek drainage to a six mile, HOT roadwalk into Seiad Valley. We did 14 miles before 11:45, and would have been in earlier if we weren't distracted by the ripe blackberries growing along the roadside. Yum!

I passed up The Infamous Seiad Valley Pancake Challenge at the local diner (eat five 1" thick, plate sized pancakes in under forty-five minutes and they're FREE!) and opted instead for a milkshake and a bacon-avocado-chicken melt with cottage cheese and a pineapple ring instead of fries. I can't imagine I would have had a worse stomachache from the pancakes. I was terribly uncomfortable resupplying and repacking, the mercury was hovering right under 100, the humidity was high, and my belly was distended out from my spandex shorts from all the food and then all the cold beverages I was chugging.

We hit the trail much later than intended, daunted by the multi-thousand foot climb awaiting us in the heat and humidity. I was carrying two and a half liters, realizing that I'm more comfortable carrying the excess weight than I am dehydrated, and unsure if we'd make it to a water source before remembering how much we hate night hiking. Micro and Sweet 16 make fun of me for it, but I get to make my own decisions. Sure enough, Micro and 16 each got less than a liter each at our first source at 8 pm to make it over four and a half miles to our next source. We're camping two miles from that second source, and I gave them each some water to make it possible. I need about a liter and a half to comfortably dry camp and make it a few mikes in the morning, which I had. I laid down the new rules though: no more making fun of me when I decide to carry water in excess of what I absolutely need to get to the next source. The conservative hiker prevails!

- Typoed on my iPhone

Mile 1648.0: Marble Mountains

We woke up to flashes of lightning but no thunder. It was very odd (we hypothesize that since we were in a bowl, the acoustics were somewhat shielding us). It was also drizzling. We set up our tents as fast as we could, then the rain stopped. "Damn, all that work for nothing! We could have just pulled the rainfly over us and called it good!" Then it started raining in earnest, and we fell asleep satisfied with ourselves.

Due to the previous night's activities, we all slept waaay in, 'til seven. Late morning begat late lunch, late lunch begat late night. When we got into camp tonight, we could see the reflective corneas of a deer, which refused to leave and creeped us out.

The Marble Mountains were really really beautiful though. The terrain (ups and downs), and specifically the trail surface (rocky) were hard to deal with after cruising through the forests of Northern California, but it was worth it. Areas of overgrowth on the trail were annoying, but I couldn't complain about needs for trail crews in the area: it was mostly just meadows of hip- to chest-high annuals. Bushwhacking replaced by flower-whacking. Sounds rather pleasant now.

The natural world wasn't the only gorgeousness my eyes beheld. At the top of a ridge (and therefore a long climb), Micro and I ran into a guy out for a weekend of fishing. He was blond and clean-shaven and very, very handsome. My mouth was literally agape, and I almost said, "Wow, you're gorgeous," but changed to, "Wow, you're, you've come to a gorgeous place to fish." I realized that I, who previously was easily distracted by good-looking men and television, will now be completely powerless against them. Can I blame it on an overactive visual cortex rather than lack of willpower? It also made me realize that my "type" has switched from the dark, bearded, dirty, and scruffy to blond, clean shaven, and smelling of soap. I was super-excited about the prospects on the trail, but I suppose overexposure has me jaded.

Mile 1620.0: kinda shitty

-Started poorly: Micro had counted on a seasonal spring flowing where we camped, so I grabbed an extra half liter for her (just in case) from the last reliable creek. In a fit of generosity, I gave her an entire liter when the spring was dry. So I woke up with no water, thirstily looking over to Micro, and the half-full bottle next to her. I had four miles to go before the next reliable source.

-I spent the entire day hungry. I was hungry after breakfast, I was hungry despite my snack, and I forgot to rehydrate my couscous for lunch at the last on-trail water for 15ish miles, so I had to eat my snacks for lunch, and lunch for snacks. Unfortunately, our next on-trail water source was only 3.7 miles before camp: by the time the couscous had soaked up all that water, it'd be dinner time.

-When Micro caught up to me, she started pestering me as to WHY I could go so fast yesterday but not today. It felt like she was accusing me of being lazy and not trying. We made up later, but I was upset for a good part of the morning.

-The trail was rocky, exposed rockiness contouring up and down below ridgelines. I hobbled most of that.

Mile 1591.4: brief summary

Castella's only ibuprofen containing product was advil pm. I have barely enough regular ibuo get me through the day, but blue pills come in handy at night. I have to take them as soon as I get into camp so that I'm not hiking stoned the next morning. Did I already write about how the first morning out of Castella I was a zombie? I would find flat straight smooth short sections of trail and hike them with my eyes closed. Anyway, I have two days to write before the hammer hits my brain.

-My sleeping pad developed a leak at a stress point. Didn't sleep well. I found water deep enough to submerge the pad, found the leak, and discovered that my Mat-Fix-A tube had developed a leak too... and was completely cured.

-I felt really nauseaus after lunch, for about a minute. Then it felt like somebody had strapped me to a jetpack: I was flying! It only lasted for a couple of hours, but I covered some good ground and was in front of both Sweet 16 and Microburst.

-I ran into a deer hunter with either a bow or a crossbow. He said he was out for ten days, but his pack was piled so high it looked like he could have survived a month. The man plus the pack weighed so much his footprints were very clearly indented into the trail, much better than anyone else's. He was wearing a glove he had fitted with sharp steel claws coming out of the back of the hand- for mountain lions. I felt intimidated.

-Right before camp, I heard metallic donging in the distance. I thought, "Oh, Micro and 16 are banging on their pots and having fun with me. Ha ha, must be close to camp!" but the donging never stopped for a giggle break, and soon it was clear the sound was coming from two different locations off-trail. Wind chimes perhaps? Really, really creepy wind chimes? I started imagining myself in Blair Witch Project 2: Haunted Public Use Cabins. I reached for my pocket knife. Then I came out of the trees, and... cows. With cowbells. Duh.

Mile 1564.3: confusing water, and a plethora of swear words

I woke up in the middle of the night to the delicate sounds of gagging, heaving, retching, and coughing. Sweet 16 was in the process of finding out that even freeze-dry chicken goes bad after a while. Poor thing, she sounded so miserable.

We misread the maps at our lunch spot: Microburst had the terrain completely inverted (seeing the topo lines wrong so ridges looked like drainages and vice versa), I thought that our spot looked a lot like Chilcoot Creek on the map with the exception of the creek itself, wishful thinking had me thinking the creek was in the next drainage over, and I don't remember what fallacies were going through Sweet 16's brain.

Sweet 16 took off first, then myself. It soon became quite clear that I would need to go to the off-trail lake below a saddle if the spring listed on Microburst's map but not ours was seasonal. Sweet 16 had oddly passed the lake wihout a second glance and just half a liter- was she assuming the spring would be flowing? I waited for Microburst (and her maps) for a while, then realizing that I could have gone down and back in the time I'd spent dilly-dallying, I headed down. I got extra water for 16 in case the spring was dry and she found herself S.O.L., and while I was down there so stinky and the water so tempting, clear, and perfect temperature, I also washed out my clothes and scrubbed myself down.

When I got back up to the saddle, I realized that I had first hit that spot an hour earlier. I swore profusely. When I hit the spring gushing strongly a mile later, realizing that hour was all wasted, I swore even louder.

The swearing soon became a pattern, as I came across more and more unlisted water sources and trail junctions. Soon I didn't know where I was other than very far behind. More lengthy swearing.

When I finally did

Saturday, August 28, 2010

Mile 1949.4: late day


Got in late last night, slept in until 6:30 or 7 in the cabin, so the whole day was late. Ate lunch at 2, go into camp at 9. I need to get an earlier start tomorrow morning. We are also sleeping in a shelter tonight, but this one is open air (and somewhat open-roofed too), nothing like last night's.

I saw so many huckleberries today! And some nice
lakes, and more beautiful burnt areas (is my morbid love of tree-corpses the hiker equivalent of high school Goths?) I think I can add onto yesterday's statement, I could move to Oregon for it's summer recreation opportunities too.

- Typoed on my iPhone

Thursday, August 26, 2010

Mile 1889.9: I just want to sleep.

Long day. Gross standing water.

- Typoed on my iPhone

Thursday, August 12, 2010

Mile 1536.3: sex, drugs, and Blue angels

Sex: Sweet 16 bought men's deodorant bar soap for our quarter-showers while in Castella. We can all smell like it on ourselves, and really enjoyed the upgrade from smelling like stinky, sweaty men to hot, clean men. As I wandered groggily up the trail, I forgot it was me and thought I was following aforementioned hot, clean man. By now though, I think our clothes all smell foul like hockey gear or whatever.

Drugs: The only ibuprofen available at the store in Castella was Advil PM. I slept like a rock last night, despite trains, but woke up an hour later than usual still completely drugged up.

Blue Angels: Two fighter jets, obiously goofing around somewhat, went over the rige top we were hiking along. They were moving fast enough that the fighter was already past us by the time the sound hit. It was loud, BUT SO COOL! I think I have an inner hick that wants to be indulged with cheap beer and hockey, shooting stuff, going to see airshows, and monster truck rallies.

Today was pretty uneventful, it started with a 14 mile uphill, we ate lunch 2 hours earlier and 5 miles later than intended. But we made our goal miles before dark!

- Typoed on my iPhone

Mile 1509.0: good talks and a long resupply in Castella

Microburst had and I had a long, serious talk as we hiked down toward I-5. What if I'm doing permanent damage to my knees? What if I had to get off the trail? Would I be able to think of what I've already done as a partial success, or would I view my lack of finishing as a failure? Given my history of knee problems, was this whole hike a really stupid idea? Should I give up hiking (more specifically, downhills), running, and downhill skiing in favor of swimming, biking, and cross country skiing? A switch like that could be a cop-out, but I could also be the doorway to a happy, active future- with less pain and limping. The conversation ended with us both crying and hugging, suddenly very emotional about the idea of me leaving.

When we caught up to Sweet 16, conversation turned sillier. Ever since Micro thought she saw/heard a cougar hiking into the night, we've been discussing the merits of cougars, and cat's in general. They can hang out and jump on you from rocky outcroppings and cliffs, they can sneak around, etc. No wonder there's a Cat Woman. Felines can do cool shit. But what if there was an enemy, or maybe a side kick: Dog Woman. Her powers: loyalty, happiness, and rolling in smelly stuff.

In Castella, I talked on the phone to a friend's husband who is an Orhopedic surgeon's P.A. From our converstion, this is what I gathered:
I'm probably not doing

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Mile 1489.?: Dealing with the aftermath, deep questions asked.

After another night of excruciating knee pain and little sleep, I changed something last night: I propped my legs up on a tree to "drain" for 20-30 min while I wrote last night's entry. It seemed to help really well, I slept pretty darn good. I even woke up bright, chipper, and perky. It stayed that way until about five minutes of hiking, when that positive energy gave way to nausea that lasted for the entire rest of the day.

I stopped for lunch and a nap after fifteen miles. If I were the only person on the trail, I might have been in and out in an hour, but between Microburst and Sweet 16 stopping to chat and eat, and Cloudkicker following ten minutes after I finally got peace and quiet, my break lasted two and a half hours in total.

The final miles of the day were brutal. My knees were killing me on the long downhills, and my feet could feel every single rock trying to indent themselves into the bruised ball of my foot through my thin and utterly thrashed running shoes. I wanted to be hiking faster, but instead I was taking short, pained, mincing steps. In my exhaustion and self-pity, I found myself sniffling my way down the final downhill, and then giving in to full-on heaving sobs.

When I got to Squaw Valley Creek, I could see Microburst and Sweet 16 waiting for me on some cliffy ledges below the trail. I took my time trying to regain composure before joining them, which held for about three seconds until 16 asked, "How's it going?" when I lost it all over again. At that point, Micro and 16 were suddenly flanking my sides, hugging me, petting my head, and generally being super-awesome friends. The cognizant part of my head that wasn't wrapped up in my feelings, giving into them, and struggling to get a hold of myself; wondered if I was putting on a show for attention. I think I was exhausted and being melodramatic, not a drama queen.

The sobbing fit spurred some important discussions, after it was decided that we'd camp at the creek rather than the originally planned four more miles to a day's full marathon.

1.) How many miles do we need to be doing to finish on time? If we take one zero day in Ashland and a quarter of a day for each resupply, we do indeed need to hike a marathon a day.

2.) What if I can't cut it? I'll probably go north to the border and hike south to Ashland, giving myself more time to race against the snow. Microburst and Sweet 16 would either stay on the original plan (they aren't struggling) or join me, depending on what they wanted to do.

3.) Am I enjoying myself? What defines enjoyment?How important is it for me to enjoy myself? Microburst can tell I'm not having fun, and it both bothers and worries her. I get enjoyment out of many of the things I do in the making and meeting goals. This is no different. If I was out here to have fun, I would have skipped all the hard/boring parts. I'm out here for the challenge. Am I really having less fun now than I was in the desert?

Mile 1476.8: Two Girls, No Map, or "Careful when taking directions from German tourists"

Today was probably Sweet 16's worst on trail. I won't share all the details, but the morning started shitty, followed by bushwhacking and lots of spider webs, two things that 16 despises. I ate lunch seperately from everyone else, who had an early lunch at the water source 12 miles in. I pushed on and ate mine at two, hoping to make the afternoon feel shorter by stretching out morning as long as possible. Sweet 16 caught up by the end of my lunch, and that's where the fun began.

Several southbounders warned of bushwhacking ahead, and advised us to take the forest service road to cut the shrubwhacking and a little distance too. It sounded very appealing, despite the fact that neither of us have maps for this section. So we got directions for when to get on and off the road from a southbound German couple.

We took a big, well-maintained road from the junction, but instead of numerous trail crossings, we dead-ended at a clear cut about a mile down. Never fear, we have Sense of Direction on our side! The trail has got to go along the ridge, so we'll just go to the top and intercept the trail along the way! Up we went, contributing to the erosion in the clearcut, brushwhacking and route finding until we got to the big, wide, flat ridge. No trail. We hunted around for a little while longer, until we accepted that we'd wasted an hour trying to cut distance and avoid bushwhacking, and instead we've bushwhacked and made no (negative?) progress, and were borderline lost. In defeat, we made our way back down to the road and back up to the trail.

Right at the trail, no more than five feet away,,we saw a little overgrown road that looked like it only went back to some campsites. This road is important enough to have a name?

As we hiked in turbo, "It's 6:00 and we still have 10 miles to do," panic mode, we saw that shrubby little "road" weave back and forth across the trail, but it didn't even skip the worst of the brush. We finally got back to the area we'd been searching in, and sure enough, the trail dropped below the ridgeline right there, on the wrong side. Damn. We busted out butts all ten miles, hiked with headlamps for an hour, and got into camp at ten.

Mile 1440.5: Burney Falls and how not to handle a bear


We caught up to Brazil Nut (who we haven't seen since the Saufley's) this morning. She had hiked 37 miles yesterday, trying to catch up to us, though unbeknownst to her, she had passed us during dinner. She's Brazilian, with a beautiful Portugese accent, and an absolute hoot. Her style is to hike long days and then party in towns, but I hope we'll be able to keep up for at least a few days.

We got into Burney Falls State Park this morning. Sweet 16 had to resupply, and unfortunately the pickings were slim. She ended up buying a loaf of bread and some bologna. We ran into Gnar, who's been talking about getting off the trail for quite some time now, but every time we run into him, he's changed his mind. This time, he's set on it, and we didn't try to talk him out of it. He's going to Humboldt to enjoy the best of what the county has to offer, and also the beaches and honeys. We're sad to see him go, but he might end up southbounding Oregon or something like that.

Burney Falls is pretty cool. The falls themselves are tall and pretty and flowy and the like, but 600 feet upstream, the riverbed is completely dry. Except during peak runoff, the falls are completely spring fed. It's awesome!

A few miles down the trail from Burney Falls, we crossed Rock Creek. There's an excellent - albeit nearly inaccessible - swimming hole beneath the falls. We found some decent swimming holes upstream of the bridge, although it took a little (bu)'shwacking. I was so happy! I got in with all my clothes on, and just tried to stay 90% submerged as much as possible. As I lazily swam in place pointed upstream, Brazil Nut called me a salmon, and once I started taking off my clothes, I couldn't stop, and she ended up calling me Eve in my own little Eden. Once ou of the water, I laid out all my clothes to dry while I brushed my hair and ate lunch, and refused to put any on until I was ready to go. Sweet 16 took a photo of me in my underroos and cowboy hat, with my long hair making up for the lack of bra.

We came across a sign nicely explaining how the trail ran through an area that was in the middle of being logged. They were attemting to create an old-growth ecosystem by removing the smaller, thinner, shorter trees and thereby reducing competition for the old trees. Sure enough, I looked around and saw little stumps and big trees standing happily. I felt pretty good about the whole thing, but somebody had written, "Bull Shit!" A few miles later, we saw a tirade taped to a tree. The gist was about how the next section is all natural as nature can regulate itself, and the last section was just raped and pillaged to line the pockets of Big Timber tree co. We all had to laugh, because it seemed like the doofus who wrote these things doesnt understand forest ecology any better than we do it.

Brazil Nut ran into a bear this evening. She's had a lot of bear encounters during this trip, and is completely unphased. Once the bear, a young adult by the sounds of it, had seen her, it moved a few feet off trail to behind a stump. Then it just stayed there, playfully/curiously peaking out at her while Brazil Nut quietly took photos and waited for us to catch up. It annoyed me, since my phobia of all bears tells me that bear attacks are like the Spanish Inquisition. If I had been in her shoes, I would have been making more noise as I walked along in hopes of preventing bear encounters, and once the bear had seen me and showed no sign of fear, trying to scare it away with yelling, poorly aimed projectiles, etc. Oh well. Nothing bad happenned, it ambled off very slowly once Sweet 16 and I showed up, and we talked in loud voices. Still, I don't like the idea of a bear that isn't immediately frightened away by humans.

Mile 1414ish: rimjobs and temper tantrums

We finished up Hat Creek Rim this morning. As usual, not as bad as the hype suggests. Sweet 16 and I left before six, when Microburst was in "looking around and blinking" stage. Good thing the fastest hiker isn't also the earliest riser! It was cool hiking along the rim, scrub and sage and high desert ecosystem on gently rolling flatness to the right, cliffs and incredible volcanic views just a few feet to the left. The Lassen/Shasta area was supposedly part of a huge volcano way back when. I think we were walking on the edge of the old caldera, it looked like an enormous crater of black pumice. Micro said the topography we could see down below us looked like long overgrown lava flows.

At "Cache 22," the water cache on road 22 that breaks the 29.4 mike waterless (unless you want to drink heavily polluted PG&E water) stretch into manageable 12 and 17 mile stretches, Sweet 16 and I were greeted by hikers from previous years who gave us cold Arizona Ice Tea. Ah, delicious! The register had some funny comments, notably somebody calling the hiking of Hat Creek Rim, "quite a rimjob," and Paparazzi half an hour behind t h a t c h who was trying to catch up to Paparazzi, who also mentioned he wanted "Gnar and three girls to catch up soon." Sorry Pops, we got sick.

After Micro caught up at lunch, 16 announced that she needed to donat least 26 miles per day to see her brother on leave and get on with her life in a timely manner. Micro and I decided to try to keep up as best we can, we can't stand the idea of Mexico or Bust breaking up. At that point, Micro said, "We're like the Odd Couple without you!" and tried to hum the theme song, although it was the B*witched song that came out instead.

Once we got off the rim, it got really really hot and our breeze died out. That was rough. Sweet 16 developed some weird rash on her lower legs, we think it's heat rash. We stopped for dinner at the fish hatchery (using bathroom water, not fish poop water). While there, Micro and I finally went over the food that my mom had sent in a package to Old Station. Her parents have been sending us expensive Mountain House and other freeze dried food in packages, and my mother has been sending us really delicious homemade food and staples in hers. We agreed that we'd both be happier splitting and sharing the booty than sticking to the cuisine of our individual parent's choice, which works great as long as we go through and split up packages before we resupply and pack up. In Old Station, I didn't have baggies to divide everything so we could go halvsies, so I split up as best I could, trying to divide weight, volume, and nutrition equally, with the intent that we'd go over it before we packed it all up and share once on trail. We never did go over it together, which has led to much misunderstanding and friction. We finally went over the communal food before dinner, and I really hope that was the end of the food fights.

At the hatchery, I also lost the silk mini hankerchief my mother had JUST sent me, the second she's made at my request and the third I've lost. Hiking the three miles to camp, once I'd realized my mistake and hoping that one of the other girls had picked it up, I started to have a breakdown. Suddenly, sniffling my way along the trail, I was the lamest adult ever for losing something three times in a row, I was a terrible daughter for losing the hand-made with love gift from my mother after hardly 24 hours of use, incapable of sharing and communicating about the delicious and nutritious bounty that she so generously and lovingly puts together and sends to us. Once I caught up to Sweet 16 at camp, I asked if she'd accidentally picked it up, and when she said no, I broke down and threw a ten minute temper-tantrum directed at myself. I ended up getting a hold of myself by blowing up my sleeping pad with deep, calming breaths.

Shortly thereafter, once it had gotten dark, we could hear Micro calling out on the trail, much like I had been doing half an hour prior. We hollered right back at her, it was like "Marco Polo" except it was "Micro Hey-o," and she didn't hear us. She rolled in pissed. She thought (how, I do not know) we were only hiking two miles before camping, and hung out with Paul and Jaybird 'til an hour before dark. As she hiked past the two-mile mark, she thought she heard a cougar, and it scared her.
"You know I would wait for YOU if it got dark!"
"It wasn't dark when I got here!"
Now I understand her fear, somehow my alignment and the acoustics of our little clearing make all of Sweet 16's snores and movements sound louder and from the opposite direction. The first little growl-snuffle I woke everybody up for and made me shake for five minutes as I typed.

Mile 1387.2ish: Out of Old Station, beginning of Hat Creek Rim

The plan was that we'd spend the night with the trail angels in Old Station and get out early in the morning. Thinking about the exposed, hot, dry, 30-mile long waterless stretch ahead, we decided to leave in the afternoon so we could be in the shade during the hot part of the day, and on the rim itself during the cool part of the day. Right after breakfast, Sweet 16 got a terrible stomachache, followed quickly by diarrhea. As the day progressed, Microburst and I started feeling sick too. This morning, Micro and I came down with the shits too. So we delayed our departure until this afternoon, when all three of us felt good again. What happened? Was it food poisoning? Hand washing? Bad water? Whatever happened, I'm glad the effects hit while we were in town, and it was convenient if we all were to get it that it was pretty much at the same time.

We spent long enough hanging around Hiker Hideaway feeling poorly for me to get really annoyed by many people. All of them are really nice, well-intentioned people, which makes me feel like a horrible person that they get on my nerves and I don't like them. I found myself doing very unflattering, mocking impersonations of a middle-aged woman with romantic troubles, dedicating herself to helping make hikers happy. She doesn't deserve that kind of mockery, no matter how she walks, talks, smacks her gums, or dresses! I also wanted to take the cute, nice, and smart girlfriend of an attractive but really obnoxious hiker aside and say, "I don't care how hard it is to find a decent guy in New York, you can do way better than him!

Before heading up to Hat Creek Rim, we went through the Subway Caves, which are something like the biggest lava tubes (in the world? this side of Quincy?). They were cool. Once we got down into them, we started hearing a faint but growing high-pitched whistling, which slowly changed until we realized Jaybird, Paul, and Gnar were probably having fun with the accoustics of the cave. It ended when it seemed like the cave was an enormous didgeridoo. 16 and I had the foresight to pull out our headlamps, but Micro had figured she'd just mooch off of our illumination. Finally, not having her own light was driving her nuts, so she stopped to tear through her pack for the lamp at the bottom, a lengthy process. The next corner we rounded we saw daylight.

At dinner, Micro saw the first glimpse of Shasta and pointed it out. Since we'll be seeing it for the next 13 or so days and I was digging through my own pack, I drily joked, "I refuse to look at it as long as I can avoid it, I'll be seeing it so much it'll drive me crazy as we walk SOUTH around it." She thought I was serious and told me I was being stupid. It did look very nice at sunset, with all the layers of mountains taking on different hazy shades of blue and purple under an orange, pink, and yellow sky, framed with the black silhouettes of ponderosa pine.

Mile 1377.4: into Old Station


It was nice to soak in the hotsprings (tepid springs) of Drakesbad, getting truly relaxed and lethargic-sleepy, and then zonking out in the campground. Something about human-noises lets me sleep a little sounder and safer-feeling than animal noises, no matter how long I've been sleeping under the stars. I wanted the night to never end (or my alarm to never ring), but obligation and habit pulled me out of my sleeping bag at 5:30. We looked over into the campsite next to us, and there was Gnar; wrapped up in his fleece blanket. He had gotten in during the night and unsuccessfully looked for other through-hikers to commune with. Unlike usual, Microburst was the first out of camp: she was on a mission. She was going to try to hike the 23 miles to Old Station before 4 so she could pick up our packages from my lovely mother. As it turns out, 23 miles before 4 wasn't quite enough of a challenge for my friend with a jetpack for a butt; she made it there by 2. Holy cow! Hero of the day!

Sweet 16 and I were going to take a better watered, more scenic, alternate route before lunch, but I dropped behind when I de- and re- layered halfway up the first hill of the morning and never caught up. A boyscouts troop had been through inbetween us and completely obliterated 16's pole scrathces for me, so I missed the significant junction. I started thinking I was way behind when al the hikers I saw denied seeing 16, but I showed up to he lunch hideout only 15 minutes after 16.

In celebration of getting into town today, I tried to drain my phone battery again, but this time it was episodes of This American Life. I was soon sucked in, crying, laughing, and dancing with excitement at all the appropriate times. Eventually, I felt like I was on a roadtrip, one in which your legs are uncomfortable no matter what... and you're only driving 2.5 mph.

Once we got into Old Station, 16 and I ate $1.5o tacos and drank milkshakes, unsure of where Microburst was. The guy who ran the deli in the general store was retired from his $32/hr job for the National Weather Service, now happily in food service for 8-9 dollars. He was really nice, but we could hardly get words in edgewise, and ended up staying an hour until Firefly, the owner of the Hiker Hideaway we are staying at tonight, came and picked us up. Gnar, Lowe, 16, and I squeezed into the back of the van with multiple other hikers with town-beer agendas.

Mile 1354.2: a series of entertaining conversations

I woke up on my stomach, feet propped up on my pack, legs bent, and right knee in excrutiating pain. Did the long, gentle, long downhill at the end of the day really do me in that badly? My right knee was stiff all day long, even on uphills, feeling like I was hyperextending it even when bent. I started the day at almost normal speed, and got progressively slower all day long.

After crossing Hwy 36 and enjoying the fresh fruit trail magic, I was still (miraculously) in the lead. We were in the Collins Pine Co land for a while, and they had set up a display of sorts, with plots of differently managed land and interpretive signs. "This swath was clearcut by the previous owners of this land." "This area has remained unlogged and unburnt for the last 100 years." "This area has been managed with controled burns to mimic the conditions natural 150 years ago." "This plot is selectively logged for trees of all sizes and species every 15 years and managed with controlled burns." It was cool. At one point, I glanced to my left and thought I saw a huge whale skeleton. Realizing that made no sense, I looked again and realized that the "ribs" were, in fact, branches cut off a tree once down, undisturbed but for the lack of tree as "spine."

At another point, I looked up and saw two dust clouds. "Hey-o!" How strange. Road ahead and I just didn't hear the vehicles? As I got closer, I saw the clouds dissipating: obviously very recently made. Looking at the trail right there, I saw the strange tracks that resemble both human footprints and dog tracks: bear tracks. They went straight down the middle over everyone else's tracks. "Hey-o!" I hope that's the closest I'll get to a bear this entire trio, or even better, my whole life.

We ate lunch with Walking Flower, an Asian-looking woman that I originally mistook to be a tourist on a hardcore vacation. No, she's a through-hiker, and a fast one at that. I felt a racist bitch. We managed to steer clear from our one reliable topic of conversation for the entire hour, instead discussing hiker food, mileage, home, the Sierra, etc. As soon as she left, Microburst said, "From now on, we should only talk about poop with other hikers, try to be as awkward as possible.
'How often do you poop in a day?' 'How big is it?' 'Do you get diarrhea very often?' 'Can you see seeds in yours?' 'I saw black beans in mine yesterday, do you think that's bad?' "

At this point, I was absolutely in stitches, leading to my first mental image of the day: I was putting my shorts back on, Ieg through; the other not. I had to pee, and was crossing my legs, paralyzed to do anything productive with the shorts (like pull them up or take them off), laughing so hard and squealing, "I'm gonna pee! Hahaha. I'g gonna pee my pants!" over and over.

The second mental image was also during lunch: I looked up during a conversation about hiker food, to see her beating the dust out of her socks with all her might, saying through clenched teeth, "I. FUCKING. HATE. RAISINS!"

Later, Sweet 16 pulled out her snack options. "I have a Builder Bar, which is aimed at men, and a Luna Bar, which is aimed at women. Clif bar sure has the market cornered!"
"Or they will, once they come up with a bar for hermaphrodites."
"We will call it... Bits'n'Pieces!"

We finally saw (and smelled) some of the geothermal features Lassen is known for. I figured Boiling Lake would be a tepid lake with a hot inflow. No, the lake is actually boiling, the vents/mudpots on the side bubbling like mad. We made it to, but not beyond Drakesbad Guest Ranch. We re-ran into Jaybird, as well as Walking Flower eating dinner. We joined them for a drink, but balking at the $21 cost for dinners, declined food. Ed was not to be dissuaded, and brought us food regardless.

Mile 1333.6: HALFWAY!

Last night we camped with a southbounder named Keegan and his burro, Burly. Keegan was nice and friendly and generous with his mashed potatoes; Burly was so cute! His calls were so expressive, and eyes so big and pretty. Apparently he likes being around people; Keegan told us a story about Burly feeling mischevious and "running away," Keegan ran after him, but got tired and stopped. When Burly looked back and saw that Keegan wasn't chasing him anymore, he turned around and ran right back. As I hiked out this morning, I was following cute mini-donkey tracks (and cute mini-donkey turds), as well as more disturbingly, bear tracks.

I headed out half a minute before Sweet 16, and Microburst took her time to make and drink coffee and chat with Gnar (who wasn't even awake when I left) before hitting the trail. I got to lunch half a minute after 16, and Micro one minute later. It was pretty much perfect. What was not perfect was that in the cool morning, I only drank one liter over 13 miles. I left lunch, 10.4 miles to the next water source, with a little under three liters. Even with rationing, I sucked my dromedary dry about a mile before the spring. It was no big deal, obviously, but I hate getting dehydrated.

We passed an inocuous little monument this afternoon, marking the official (though now inaccurate) halfway point on the PCT. All I could think to write in the register was, "Yay! -Thump Thump." It's cool though, I am now closer to Canada, my destination, than Mexico, my departure point. We hope to cover the distance it has taken us a month and a third to cover in less than two.

Saturday, August 7, 2010

Mile 1308.6: We didn't start the fire...

I'm listening to "We Didn't Start the Fire," by Billy Joel, a song I get stuck in my head at least once a week. Today it's appropriate, because... we didn't start the fire. After lunch, we looked back down the valley toward Belden, and there was a column of smoke going up. It obviously must have started after we had gone past. Sweet 16, Microburst, and I all pooped before leaving Belden, and we pack out, not burn, our toilet paper. So what was the cause? No lightning, it must have been human-caused.

None of us slept well last night, it turns out that camping in the middle of a highway-railroad sandwich is not conducive to sleeping well. At one point, a train went by, and a confused 16 reacted to the loud noise as if it were a large animal trying to eat us (or worse, our food), yelling, moving around, and generally making a racket of her own. Micro had to tell her, "shh, that's a train, not a cougar!" which 16 realized she knew all along.

The first 13 or so miles of today were all uphill. I heard complaints from Micro, 16, and Gnar, but there were none from me. I am built to go uphill! Not only was I able to catch up, I was faster than the others at times, and I felt (and still feel) perky and refreshed, not exhausted and beaten.

I saw a huge slug today, sliming it's way under my clothes (we ate lunch and cleaned up at a deepish creek, I was not wearing many of them). I wish that I could say creepy crawlies didn't bother me at this point, but to the contrary, the bravado I usually hold in reserve is all dried up, and they surprise and annoy the shit out of me.

I discovered today that wiping with a wad of wild mint sprigs causes a fresh, tingly feeling: not altogether unpleasant. This is opposed to yucca leaves, which 16 used once in a dire pinch. She reported that it stung for days.

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Mile 1289.3: Belden (and bitching)

Last night, Microburst and I had the television on as background noise while we packed up for the trail. Anyone who knows me well would know this is a recipe for disaster (or at least zero productivity), as I am very easily distracted by moving images and can't multitask with TV going. In this way, even though I had far less to do than Micro, and she took breaks to call her boyfriend, etc., we both ended up ready for bed at the same time. But wait! We had flipped to a channel that was playing 'Orphan,' a truly creepy movie that had us scared shitless, screaming, hyperventilating, and in the same bed, clutching at each other for reassurance.

The scary movie cuddle fest was a nice break from what ended up being a long period of bitchiness (or may I say, downright hostility?) that started last evening and ran through late this morning. I feel sensitive and embarassed about being the slowest member of the team and afraid of current trends continuing, Micro hates being characterized as the slave driver. As we stiffly made up this morning, I realized how huge an effect aplologies have on me: with a little aging, all is forgiven. I also learned that my way of requesting things in the "but I can be flexible way" just comes off as being passive-aggressive, and I need to just say things like, "I'm tired and I want to camp here. I can keep going for up to another hour before we camp if you guys want to keep going."

The terrain this morning was lovely and rolling, I'd catch up to Sweet 16 on the uphills and she'd pull ahead of me on the downhills. The afternoon, however, was six miles of switchbacks downhill. It was brutal.

Here in Belden, I staggered my way into the bar with my jelly-legs and jelly-gut. I ordered a "Tree Smacker," a fruity drink that got me sloshed in no time. Now we're camped right outside the place. When I went to set up my spot, I laid out my tarp, spread-eagled myself across it, pulled my sleeping pad over me with the nozzle in my mouth, and slowly blew it up, on prolonged breath at a time. After a sobering dinner, I returned and saw that my hard prep work of earlier amounted to no more than my half-inflated sleeping pad and my sleeping bag in a disheveled pile partially on the dirt. Yep, drunk.