Thursday, September 30, 2010

Mile 2663.5: The End

We couldn't sleep last night. First off, there were some very brazen mice keeping me up, and at 3:30 in the morning, all three of us realized that we were awake. We were whispering and giggling like it was an-all girl's slumber party. I guess it technically was, one that lasted over 1900 miles.

We hiked to the border together, spirits higher than the mercury. The border is not exciting, just a clearcut swath, a sign welcoming us to Canada, the PCT monument of different-height beams, and a cute little obelisk, a mini Washington monument no higher than chest level. As we hit the clearing, I announced, "I'm doing it!" dropped my pack, and stripped off all my layers (quite the process). I pranced over to the "Welcome to Canada!" sign, suddenly feeling very silly, and Micro took some carefully posed pictures. Then Sweet 16 wanted in on the naked action, so she stripped and we took photos with the monument. We really have been looking forward to getting naked.

Once we had our clothes back on, as we were still messing with tying our shoes, Fuzzy Monkey strolled in from the Canadian side. He wanted pictures taken not at arm's length, wanted to experience the border with other hikers, and so he hiked back from his nearby campsite when he figured we'd be there.

I couldn't remember all the clever and witty things I'd thought of writing in the register, so it ended up something like this:

"Crossed an international border naked. It was cold. To quote Grateful Dead (when in doubt, quote somebody else, right?) 'What a long, strange trip it's been.' Time to keep truckin' on."

I'd thought of writing:

"Wrote 'Looking forward to snacks, naps, and bearded men' in the register at the Mexican border. I've had plenty of snacks, I'm tired of bearded men, it's naptime."

"Dear Knees,
Thank you so much for your help and cooperation these last 5 months. We've made it a long way together, and I couldn't have done it without you. We had fun though, right? We've seen some amazing country and met some fabulous people. You've made big, painful sacrifices, and I promise you a winter of Nordic skiing and knitting last year's Christmas presents. How about we look into bike touring after this?
Thump Thump"

"Team Mexico or Bust: now farther from our destination than ever before- and loving it."

Since Tradja and Swipe had commented on our fizzled out trail romance novel, I fabricated a 'last page surviving Washington's rain and mice' to greet them when they read the register. At the monument, Big Spoon suggests that they get a room. Loony Toed Quack coyly raises an eye, asking how he wants to celebrate. He says, "Nah, I'm tired. Let's go cuddle."

We hiked to Manning Park headquarters/lodge/resort, so happy that we all had passports and didn't need to backtrack all the way back to Hart's Pass or Rainy Pass. Along the way, we started saying "aboot" and "eh?" making fun of Canada as much as possible, despite how happy we were to be there. We ended up singing many a Canada-themed song from South Park.

In Manning Park, we found out that Sweet 16's sister-in-law wasn't expecting us to get there for another three hours: we had three hours to burn; relax and celebrate! We ate lunch with Fuzzy Monkey and two pints of beer each and napped in the sun.

When Morgan got there, she had everything under control to an unbelievable extreme. We Febreezed and garbage-bagged our packs, then took showers. She had brought shampoo, conditioner, soap, a loofah each, and a comb. She had made sure we had every item of clothing and flip flops to wear so there would be no temptation to wear trail clothes, and febreezed and double-bagged our clothes.

It was a long drive back. Now I'm tired. I haven't done today justice, but I don't have words to describe my feelings, so I'm describing actions instead.

- Typoed on my iPhone

Mile 2652.5: last night! Reflections

I am about 2.5-2.7 miles from the Canadian border. We decided not to push on tonight because
a.) It will be more fun to get there in the daylight, excited, rather than in the dark, tired, hungry, and crabby
b.) Two other hikers are planning on camping there, and it sounds like a small spot
c.) We can hike in together (Sweet 16 and I are still holding out on our dream to cross into Canada naked)

Today wasn't all that exceptional, at least compared to the last five months. Micro and I woke up super-bitchy and the sun was rising beautifully, turning the clouds pink and orange; very quickly we brightened up and weather turned wet and windy. Sometime in the afternoon, either I was zoned out beyond recognition or the weather turned instantly; I looked up and the sky was blue and the sun was shining and the air was calm. The terrain was also gorgeous, maybe it had been all day but I only noticed once I took my hood off and looked around. A couple miles later, I was at camp, and we had our final "stay or push on" debate.

Time for some reflections.

In the last five months...
-My hiking pace has gone from 2.5 mph to 2.5 mph
-I have lost almost all bladder and bowel control. I have never pooped my pants (though it's been close), but I have peed them countless times during the five seconds between my "hey, I need to pee" realization and having poles off, pack off, and pants layers down two feet off the trail.
-My dinners have increased from 16 oz to 28 oz
-I've lost about 25 pounds
I have read 1.5 books and every single food label (the entire label) at least four times

I look forward to...
-Just listening to music when I get Ricky Martin stuck in my head for hours
-Toilets! Beds!
-Spitting out my toothpaste
-Not carrying all my trash (including used toilet paper) around for days at a time.
-Watching movies on televisions rather than in my fallible, scatterbrained memory

I dread...
-Traffic, and driving in it.
-Having to watch what I eat
-Excercise requiring special effort, rather than a given
-Gaining weight no matter how good I try to be
-My financial situation
-Holding my pee beyond the next bush
-Needing to be busy, busy, busy when all I'll want to be is lazy, lazy, lazy
-Being homeless and unemployed
-Finding a job and a place to live

I'll miss...
-Having a data book to answer all my important questions. Having all important questions answerable by mileages in a data book?
-Having a solid, reliable routine to fall back on at all times
-Waking up next to/near Microburst and Sweet 16
-Eating and talking with Micro and 16
-Adding peanut butter or mayonnaise to food in order to make it more nutritionally appropriate for me.

It will be weird...
-To have more clothing choices in the morning beyond, "Do I want to wear my shorts over my long johns under my rainpants or not?" and "Clean underwear, dirty underwear, or no underwear?"
-To have something other than "walk north" on my to-do list.
-When getting in bed is exactly that simple.
-Calling people by regular names rather than nouns and cultural references.
-To not be a mini-celebrity everywhere I go
-To listen to podcasts within a month of their release
-When "having the brightest headlamp" will not be a reliable source of legitimate pride and joy
-To look at my watch for the date rather than day of the week.

I have gotten really good at...
-Mental math

I wish I could tell my Mexican-border self...
-All the things I eventually got rid of
-I need variety between sections, not during. Turns out I can happily eat the same thing every single day for a week as long as I'll be eating something different over and over next week.
-Not to get emotionally wrapped up with anybody
-To enjoy my knees while they last

- Typoed on my iPhone

Mile 2630.0: Nacho Yurt

Beautiful morning, fabulous weather, gorgeous views of dying glaciers, technicolor alpine foliage, neverending switchbacks. It started drizzling at lunch, and it continued to do so on and off for the rest of the day, through drier, rockier, burnt terrain. The databook lists a 21.1 mile dry stretch stretching from our lunch spot, but we've come across at least two creeks since then. I bought an extra water bottle in Stehekin, increasing my capacity to 2.5L, while Micro and 16 were sure enough that the rainy weather would provide us with flowing ephemeral streams and stuck with 1.5L capacities. They were rueing their decision at lunch, trying to camel up on water, but it turned out that 1.5L was plenty, I've just been hauling extra weight for fun and character-building.

We heard from previous year's hikers about a super-nice yurt used by a heli-skiing company on one of the "weather passes" (this section has Rainy Pass, Windy Pass, and Foggy Pass). Foggy Pass would have been perfect according to our mileage goals, but we were happy to stop 2.2 miles earlier when we saw the yurt at Windy Pass. Unfortunately for us vagrants, Micro and 16's reconnaissance mission found the yurt boarded up, locked, and inaccessible with a polite sign from the heli-company asking hikers to please respect their private property and not try to stay there. Not yo' yurt. We ended up camping half a mile later at a creek with flat spots and a really well protected eating/cooking area in the middle.

- Typoed on my iPhone

Mile 2608.6: Golden Creek and Willis Camp

I loved today! It was wonderful. It started with a rich, moist, doughy cinnamon roll slathered in cream cheese frosting. I managed to not even touch my sleeping bag with my sticky fingers! There was a little bit of rain and wet brush in the morning's 10 miles, but there was also one pit latrine and two outhouses.

After lunch (during which we were rained on while directly under blue sky), we climbed up to Cutthroat Pass, into an open sub-alpine ecosystem, allowing us breathtaking views of the amazing mountains surrounding us. The plants are now nature's own fireworks, with rich magenta blueberry leaves, appropriately colored berries, green plants of all sorts from dark to bright, orange and red maple leaves, and yellow larch. I thought, "What's killing all these pine/spruce/fir trees?" until Microburst explained to me that larch aren't evergreens.

The scenery was so gorgeous and the weather so pleasant, that the afternoon was not a struggle for me. Since Sweet 16's sister-in-law is picking us up midday on the 29th, there's no need to rush to Canada, and there are known camping spots conveniently every 23 miles until there, we get to enjoy this last section of the PCT at a relaxed pace. I didn't need to fret, stress, or push to get in to camp an hour before dark.

The sheer magnitude of what we've done and how close we are to being done had definitely hit Micro and 16 by the time we got to Stehekin, though I was feeling decidedly unphased. I am still feeling quite underwhelmed at the moment, but now that we are on the same page-spread as THE END of the PCT, 100 pages into the data book, I'm starting to get excited.

- Typoed on my iPhone

Mile 2574.1: into Stehekin

A beautiful day. Last night's dusting of snow on the mountain tops brought sharp relief to the texture of the jagged rock, and I was out of the tent early enough to see all the peaks turn rosy pink and orange as the sun rose. The trail followed the walls of a canyon, into two glacial bowls bursting with fall color, and into thick, lush forest. It was beautiful, and very easy, all downhill. The weather messed with me a little bit, it changed every time I finally stopped being stubborn and changed to adapt to IT.

Since today was a town day, it was every woman for herself. Sweet 16, with her 3+ mile headstart, made it just in time for the noon shuttle, Micro got there at 1-something and hitched a ride from a local. Her old town guide had said the shuttle ran every two hours, starting at 8 and ending at 6. It turns out the schedule is changed quite often, I got there right after the 3:00 shuttle departed, almost three hours until the next and final run. I had to work really hard to put on a good attitude, be happy for the opportunity to read and journal without any town distractions. Right when I had settled into writing, the park ranger had to run into town and offered me a lift. Yay! So thankful.

In town, there was no cell phone service, I just wandered around to businesses asking if they had a message for me from two other girls. The cashier at the general store said "yes" and handed me a sticky note with directions to the room they had rented for us in the lodge. Micro was taking a shower and couldn't hear my banging on the door, so I dropped my stuff and continued to wander.

I misjudged my caloric needs for this last section. I rationed so I never ran out of food, but I was never full. This last day, my calories consisted of my breakfast and a huge halvah roll. I was starving by the time I got into town at four, and the bakery was closed.

I knew that thoughtful Microburst would have foreseen this turn of events and would have bought me an extra goodie. With our plans for celebration and me not immediately shoving pastries down my gullet upon walkin into the hotel room, the treats became our munchy-food to share when we were drunk later. It was ok, I could handle the hunger as long as I didn't let low blood sugar make me cranky. Once the three of us were all showered, we'd eat dinner, then drink and do laundry, right? Wrong. Laundry, which always takes longer than we expect, was to take place before the last possible seating time at the restaurant so we could eat in clean clothes. By our 7:30 reservation, I was barely keeping it together (more stupid than snappy), and by 8:00, the restaurant realized that a huge party was taking too long and asked us waiting hikers (now including Ann, Tradja, Swipe, and their CDT friend Skittles) to take our food to-go. Tradja and Swipe said they can do to-go orders, but since they were camping in the wet and paying full-price for food, they wanted to eat inside. Our small-looking portions of food was served in quick-cooling clamshell boxes, we had to specially ask for things like drinks, condiments, and dessert. It was a very disappointed experience since we were paying so much. Hikers got the shit end of the stick there.

We didn't get drunk to celebrate, instead we split a cinnamon roll and crashed in our tiny but spendy inn room.

- Typoed on my iPhone

Mile 2556.8: Suiattle River, Suiattle Pass

From about 7:30 am til 2 pm, I had but one focus: reconstructing the children's rhyme that follows, word by word backwards as the melody played incessantly through my head:

Little bunny FuFu,
Hoppin' through the forest,
Scooping up the field mice,
And boppin' 'em on the heads

Along came (somebody who think's she's somebody), and says:

Little Bunny FuFu
I don't want to see you,
Scoopin' up the field mice,
And boppin' 'em on the heads

I don't remember exactly what follows, but I like to imagine that the plot thickens as little bunny FuFu debates the moral implications of scooping up field mice and bopping them on the heads. Is it a traged or comedy? I'll have to ask my 3 (4?)-yr old littlest sister how it ends. Maybe it's like other old nursery rhymes, sinister, morbid, or hiding sexual entendre.

The reason this song was stuck in my head is that we had mice in our tent last night, and I wouldn't have minded if little bunny FuFu popped in for some head-bopping. The mice ate a hole through my bagel bag and the colorful part off my book. They also left lots of droppings all over the TOP of my sleeping bag, and one got inside Micro's bug bivy net, realized it was trapped, and went berserk. As soon as I put 2-and-2 together with the horrible night's sleep, droppings, food, and mystery noises, I had "hmm hmm hmm hmm, lala la la lala, something something, bop 'em on the heads!" stuck.

We began the day with a 2.5 mile climb up brushy switchbacks to the ridge where Sweet 16 slept, and we missed her by 15 minutes. It snowed a tiny bit on us as we wound our way through some alpine tundra and a glacial bowl, and then we started dropping elevation through forest. We ate lunch one creek crossing early, once again missing 16, and got to the Suiattle River.

We've been hearing all about the Suiattle for weeks now. As advertised, there was a log going clear across the river about 300 feet upstream. Micro and I, both excellent at imagining the worst that could happen, both got a little shaky looking at the churning, milky water rushing past, but we put one foot in front of the other and crossed completely dry and unharmed.

In October 2003, a massive storm caused flooding that took out a whole bunch of bridges along this section of the PCT. Thanks to the stimulus package, all but one of them have been rebuilt. This last one was the Suiattle. It's easy to see why this has been left unbridged the longest. Looking at the channel, it's hard to imagine the scale of the flooding that formed it and littered it with huge tree debris. To build a bridge that would be unscathed by that sort of flooding would have to be HUGE (really high up and long to make the span) or SUPER burly.

Then came the fun part, that nobody told us about: a 7.4 mile, 3130' climb up to Suiattle Pass. It wasn't difficult, the trail was at a really gentle, mellow grade, but goodness me it was long. It was also completely viewless

- Typoed on my iPhone

Mile 2534.8: Camera lickin' good fun

I suppose that this journal entry, like all my other journal entries, should describe parts of my day in fine detail while missing the big picture. Instead, I start with a list, by way of explanation for the odd title.

Questionable Things I Have Eaten:
-Numerous bits of candy, nuts, or dried fruit found on the trail, unwrapped, and dropped by a complete stranger.
-My own food, dropped in mud, prepared in a dirty pot, or retrieved with black fingers.
-Soggy candybars, sandwiches, and other things that should not be soggy.
-A ham-cheddar-taco sauce-English muffin sandwich and chocolate milk, made of perishable ingredients found in a cooler on the side of the trail with no explanation or ice.
-a him-bao (sp?) roll, already baked, found in a bag of other him-bao rolls abandoned on the side of the trail. When first bought, these rolls are just raw dough with raw pork stuffed inside. Based on the texture of a chunk that I spat out, these rolls were not thoroughly cooked. Sweet 16 and I each polished one off anyway.
-The remnants of a (an?) FRS energy chew that Micro had given me and I had stowed in my camera pocket. There was rain, I was drenched, and the candy dissolved in the pocket. Now every time I pull out my camera, I also lick the screen, hoping for a caffeine buzz.

Today was a beautiful day, making up for our miserable first day out. I got an early start and had the morning to myself, it was glorious. After a long traverse through several saddles to Red's Pass, I had to stop and gawk at the amazing views of Glacier Peak, alpine tundra in fall colors, snowfields, and rock. I yelled to the sky, "I am so happy right now! There is no place I'd rather be!"

The day continued on through a really long walk in the woods, a long lunch break spent drying our frosty gear in the sun, a climb up to another pass, and a long, switchbacky descent to Milk Creek. At this point, Sweet 16 continued on up 2 miles more switchbacks to a ridgetop campsite, and Micro and I set up camp on the bridge because it was already dark, I was crying from low blood sugar, and we figured 16 could use the alone time. After 8, Tradja and Swipe joined us, also hoping to find camping adjacent to Milk Creek, and resigned to bridge camping.

- Typoed on my iPhone

Mile 2511.9ish: alpine tundra

Although the rain and the clouds cleared away by morning, it was still very cold, and all my stuff was still very wet, and therefore, I was miserable with a good view. That's how I know I'm ready to be done- I wake up in the morning to a spectacular array of mountains in riotous fall color, dusted with snow, and I think, "(F), I hope we don't go over there." That and I spent most of yesterday afternoon and this morning not at all "in the moment" but instead, trying to recreate, in detail, the plot and scenes from Disney's Beauty and the Beast.

It was beautiful today though. It looked like blueberry picking in Alaska with plants on 'roids. I was able to appreciate this after two hours of hiking when I finally warmed up and saw that we were not about to hit snowline. We laid out our stuff to dry at lunch, which was semi-effective; though it was sunny, it was also still quite cold, and the saturated forest was steaming itself as it dried.

- Typoed on my iPhone

Saturday, September 25, 2010

Mile 2491.9: cold, wet, and miserable

Miserable day. I've been cold and wet ever since we started hiking. Rather than the kinder fluctuations between sunny and sprinkling, the weather switched between drizzle and downpour. My rain gear is old, and apparently has lost it's waterproofing. I started coming up with names for my cold hands as they lost dexterity, such as Ricky Retardo and Dreadful Spiller. I couldn't light the stove to make hot cocoa, Micro had to do it for me.

- Typoed on my iPhone

Monday, September 20, 2010

Mile 2476.3: Stevens Pass shortcut, solo resupply in Faux-Bavaria

Paparazzi, Ghettoblast, Firehose, and Snacks (and more?) joined us after even Micro and I were holed up in our tents. Somehow, Micro and I managed to escape mice again while they attacked all of our camping compadres. The downpour fell equally on all of us though. Unfortunately, Nonstop and Maybelline's tent is now a complete P.O.S. and they spent the last two nights cold, wet, miserable, and covered in mice. The new theory is that Micro and I ARE the mice, we just morph in the middle of the night so we can eat other hiker's food.

We took a shortcut to the highway, cutting off 10 miles. Oh yeah! Damn it feels good to be a gangsta. Micro went west toward Skykomish, Baring, and the trail angel family known as the Dinsmores to relax, resupply, etc. I headed east to Leavenworth. I needed a new sleeping pad after the nozzle on mine gave up the ghost this morning. I was picked up by a super-nice woman with no sense of smell who owned a backcountry ski guiding company with her husband. The drive was long, but we held a super-good conversation. The town was crazy, all the storefronts are embellished to look like that kind of construction.

I got my sleeping pad, resupplied at the Safeway (the [S] cute-sie-used too), and tried to hitch back out of town. My chances seemed more and more dismal, until a woman who lives along the highway offered to take me as far as her house and let me sleep in her yard if I couldn't get a hitch before dark, which I couldn't. She fed me dinner and let me take a shower. Now I'm stretched out on the floor of her shop, next to our tent set up to dry, and evrytging else wet I own.

- Typoed on my iPhone

Mile 2445.8: a good shitty campspot and gentler Cascades.

When we got to Delate Creek, there was not much camping. The downside of hiking with other hikers is competing for tentspots, I suppose. Micro and I backtracked to a little shelf under a huge tree that she had seen in the midst of switchbacks, and we set up the tent there. It looked terrible: bumpy and small. It also had giant ants.

I woke up in the middle of the night with my sleeping pad completely flat. Then I realized that I was more comfortable in that moment than I ever had been before on the trail. The soft, thick layer of duff was gently spooning me. I slept like a baby.

When we passed the campspot with all the other hikers, we heard about their horror-story of a night. The place was infested with mice, Maybelline woke up to one on her face. It sounded awful. Nonstop was told, "Kill it! Kill it!" by Maybelline, but the rest of camp, when polled, was undecided. He looked at the mouse, and the mouse looked at him, and he went soft.

The day was uneventful. The rain of the night abated to a drizzle, then just fog, and brief sunshine, followed by more rain. The trail took us up and down countless switchbacks for a 2,200' climb and descent and more climbing. I night-hiked into Deep Lake with Nonstop and Maybelline, who was feeling sick after drinking too much coffee.

- Typoed on my iPhone

Saturday, September 18, 2010

Mile 2420.6: Seattle resupply, Alpine Lakes

Another hectic, stressful zero day. So many items on the to-do list, so few completed.

Wr took Sweet 16 out to Tacoma to see her brother for some 1-on-1 time before he deploys, she was thoroughly disappointed with the experience. He took a nap and played World of Warcraft, and tried to refuse to do his share of the shuttling back to Seattle. I would have been very hurt and pissed; she said she would have had a better time staying in Seattle with Micro and I.

On the way back from dropping 16 off, Micro and I stopped at Goodwill. She had been giving me a hard time bcause all of my street clothes literally hung off of me. My Carhartts gave me a plumber's crack with no effort. I found a pair of Lucky jeans and a black cotton cardigan. It's exciting, I feel like I look good but not emaciated. It was also nice to wear COTTON!

Micro's dad dropped us off nice and early (leaving early being yet another stressful to-do in Seattle), and at the Chevron, we ran into Nonstop, Maybelline, Sunshine, Paparazzi, Splizzard, Jolly Green Giant, and the Youngbloods, Ghettoblast and Firehose. It was a party!

The climb out of Snoqualmie was not brutal, but it was never-ending. Thankfully, it was not raining, yet. Once we got up to the top of our multi-thousand foot climb: wow! The north Cascades really are imposing, and the Alpine Lakes Wilderness is beautiful. I ceased to enjoy it thoroughly because it started to drizzle, and we had a long, long, LONG daunting rocky traverse around a huge cirque.

I expected to do climb up and over the next available pass once we topped the ridge, but instead, we took switchbacks down for miles.

- Typoed on my iPhone

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Mile 2401.7: night hike first

We had 25 miles to do today, and Micro's dad was going to meet us at 6:30 at Snoqualmie Pass. In order to make that happen, Micro and I woke up at 4:30 and hiked together for the whole day. I felt bad that she had to wake up early and hike slow in order for us to make our rendezvous time, but she insisted that she wanted to.

We started hiking in the pitch-black, and watched the horizon get splashed with color, blaze brighter, and finally the sun come up. It was really beautiful. We passed lots of blueberry and huckleberry bushes, I practiced my stealth-nab: not stopping to pick, but deftly grabbing one as I trot by. It sounds cool in those words, and feels cool when it works, but I mostly just get empty or purple fingers.

It started drizzling 1-2 hours before we got down to Snoqualmie Pass and I-90, and going downhill through rocky stretches hurt my knee so bad, but it was hard to be miserable with a warm, dry car so close. We made it to the pass by 5:35, and thanks to cell service, Micro's dad was waiting for us.

As we loitered in the parking lot, a guy rode his bike-trailer up to us and started talking. He had a straggly white beard and leathery skin, he was missing most of his teeth, and those that were there were sharp and brown as coffee with just a splash of cream. His clear-blue eyes had teeny-tiny pupils. From looks alone, I would have called him a crazy old meth-head homeless guy, but he told us he had just finished hiking the Appalachian Trail last year, he road a bike from Maine to Washington this year, and now he's going to ride down to the Mexican border so he can hike the PCT next year. He kept telling us how much harder the AT is than the PCT. I'm fully aware that the AT goes straight up, over, and down steep mountains on rocky, rooted trails, and I have no desire to ever do it myself, but I do wonder what he'll think of waterless stretches, post-holing over snowy passes, sketchy river crossings, and the like.

Micro's mom greeted us in their Seattle driveway saying, "Hippie's use back door! You aren't nearly as aromatic as younwere in White Pass... But still, dirty stinky hippie hikers use back door!" After Micro found our missing passports in her desk, her mom said, "Whew, we nearly got a divorce over those documents!" We ate curry chicken (super good), pilaf, and carrots for dinner, and passed out as soon as we could politely get ourselves to bed.

- Typoed on my iPhone

Mile 2375.8: more stove mishaps

I hiked as fast as I could to avoid night-hiking tonight. It worked! Yay.

At lunch, I had further disasters with the stove. I was really jumpy after last night, but that didn't prevent me from nearly knocking everything down even with my hand on the handle. I also had forgotten that I had my camp towel bunched up inside the fuel-efficiency spring-ring: it smoked, it burnt, and it didn't transfer any heat to my stove.

We ate lunch on a forest-service road, thinking, "yay, flat, sunny, nobody will come through here!" Wrong, so many trucks full of hunters rolled by. One guy pulled over to talk to us, he was super-cute, and his passenger was openly ogling us while we were openly ogling the driver. It made me think, "Maybe we don't bugle, but we're not that much classier than the horny elk we hear multiple times a day."

- Typoed on my iPhone

Mile 2323.3: I don't want to see your penis

I saw a lot of horses and bowhunters today, and despite them all, ran into a mama and baby elk. The most interesting thing to us, however, was running into a fellow through-hiker who had to get off the trail due to really bad knee problems, but has been hop-scotching sections since he recovered. He's a nice guy, likeable too, but that doesn't mean Team Mexico or Bust loves him. He was wearing all long-johns, with no nether support. It was obvious he likes his new-found skinny hiker body, he stood at our table (where we were sitting... crotch at eye level), gyrating his hips with every poit like an Italian uses his hands. It was like a bad accident, we didn't want to look, we knew we wouldn't like what we saw, but with all that swinging and dangling going on, it was hard not to.
- Typoed on my iPhone

Mile 2302.8: Knife Edge perfection

That was my coldest night on the trail, and I was wearing my fleece and longjohns. I did mental roll-call whenever I woke up, making sure I heard both of the other girls breathing. We probably weren't at risk of freezing to death in the middle of the night, but that didn't stop me. I woke up so hungry that I had a bagel spread thick with cream cheese, nutella, peanut butter, AND brown sugar. Calories! Only thing missing was mayo.

This morning, I heard the usual sounds of Sweet 16 getting out of her tent at the usual time. They were followed by, "Ohmigod! Ohmigod! Ohmigod! Adams! Rainier!" The sky had cleared overnight, and the rising sun was turning the volcanoes beautiful shades of orange and pink.

Microburst sprung into action. First, she made like a caterpillar over me to look out my side. Then looking out her own side, she got so excited that she let loose one killer of a fart. The timing was perfect as she exclaimed her appreciation too. I ended up laughing so hard I didn't breath through my nose at all: lucky me.

We hiked along the Knife's Edge (trail conditions weren't treacherous, but I'm so happy we didn't try to get across the night before). The views were amazing, incredible, beautiful, better than anything I've seen this entire trip.

We made our ways seperately down to White Pass where Micro's parents were waiting. They took us down to Yakima, where we did laundry, ate steak, resupplied, and slept in hotel beds. So nice, but a very late night.

- Typoed on my iPhone

Mile 2285.4: Good or bad decisions in Goat Rocks?

I knew this would happen. Last night, We camped 24 miles from "bleak alpine campsites," 27 miles from better campsites, 20 miles from good alpine campsites, and 40 miles from White Pass, where Micro's parents will pick us up, feed us, and take us to a hotel in Yakima. In between the 20 and 24 mile alpine campsites lies the "Knife Edge," a very steep and narrow ridge that we hike along. No camping up there.

Reports on the conditions awaiting us along the Knife's Edge have varied, from, "no problem," to, "sketchy, don't be up there during any kind of weather or near dark." So we were pulled by two conflicting interests: try to go far, do the Knife's Edge in the evening, and have a shorter day to get into White Pass during the afternoon; or, camp early, give ourselves plenty of time to do the Knife's edge, and not a lot of time in town.

I was torn, but prefer safety to risky indulgences, had I been the sole decider, we would have stayed at the 20 mile campsite. Micro and 16 did not hide their preferences: more today, less tomorrow. Since I also really want to spend time chillin in Yakima, we had 2.49 votes FOR trying to do Knife's Edge tonight, 0.51 votes AGAINST.

Another compounding factor was the weather: it stopped raining this morning, and the cloud cover was starting to slowly lift. Would it be prettier to do it tomorrow morning? Would it snow tonight?

We got to the 20 mile campsite at 6:00, and Micro and 16 rephrased to, "I'm fine either way, I'd just PREFER to keep moving." We went up a one mile, 6.1% grade rocky slope to some spots with rocks for wind shelters: last known bailout, 6:30, 2.7 miles to the "bleak alpine" sites. The others turned to me, I was to have the final word. My gut instinct said "stay!" but knowing and sharing my partners desires, not wanting to be Debbie Downer if the sketchy section was actually no problem, etc convinced me to put on my game face and say, "Let's do it!"

At 7:10, we had gone maybe 0.75 miles across permanent snow fields and narrower, rockier terrain. Deciding that we'd probably not make it as far as we wanted by dark with an exposed but flat campspot beckoning to us, we parked ourselves here for the evening. We really should have taken those sheltered spots, but instead we are really high up, and the air temp is definitely below freezing. We were inside the clouds, but now we're above them. It's barely breezy, I just hope it stays that way.

- Typoed on my iPhone

Mile 2350.1: now be left-handed

Pretty views of Mount Rainier this morning, pretty views all day. Ran into an old man who was completely out of water and wanted to know where the next source was- about five miles south, or about a mile north if he backtracked. I gave him a least a liter of my own. I wish I had seen him backtrack and camp at the lake below, but instead he reached out his bottle for more.

I had to night-hike WELL after dark again. From all the elk I've been interrupting, I've started to sing constantly. Too bad I can't remember many songs, and those I can never remeber the lyrics.

As I was cooking dinner, I accidentally knocked the entire setup down. Luckily, my lentils extinct guished the flame, but as I grabbed the stove to turn off the gas, one of the tines burned a hole into my finger. The whole experience was quite upsetting; I lost my night's dinner, I burnt my finger, and I could have lit the tent on fire. Thanks to low blood sugar and the adrenaline, I was very weepy for the rest of the night.

- Typoed on my iPhone

Sunday, September 12, 2010

Mile 2262.4: And God smiled upon my poop

After nearly five months of camping, you'd think I'd be a pro at pooping. Not so. Something usually goes wrong; the soil is difficult to dig through, a good spot is hard to find or get to, my aim is off, there's too much or not enough soil for backfilling, the spot is so perfect, it's already used for another trail/camosite, etc. This morning, I thought I'd found a hidden spot behind a downed-tree's rootball, but then I saw a southbounder clearly walking along the trail, quite within easy sight. I couldn't find my way back from my farther spot, and ended up wandering down the trail in the wrong direction looking for my pack.

All factors combined this afternoon. My spot was easy to get to, but well-hidden by a terrain feature and a curtain of vegetation. The soil was easy to dig through and my aim was on the bullseye. After three to four days of pretty solid rain, the sun came out, warm and shining, very briefly. Within minutes of putting my pack on, it was back to raining.

- Typoed on my iPhone

Mile 2237.9: More rain and misery

Even though it's light enough to hike by 6:15, it is too dark to believe it is time to start getting ready at 5:30. So I keep leaving at 6:45. Burnin' daylight!

Today was a math intensive day. I talked to Sweet 16 about speeds, mileages, and end dates when she passed me. Then I relayed that to Micro and we talked some more trail math when she passed me. Micro and 16 discussed the topic further when she passed 16, 16 and I continued at lunch, and I wrapped it up with Micro when I caught up to her at her lunch spot.

Sweet 16 and I had a good laugh at Micro's expense as we talked mileages. We don't quite understand how Micro conceptualizes and thinks about days and mileages, but it's definitely different from how we do it, and often wrong. For instance, today. Each section in Washington is evenly divisible by 25 miles, very convenient since that's our daily goal. We left Hood River at 5 pm, Sweet 16 and I figure that we'll do 150 miles in six 24-hour periods, and get into White Pass at 5 pm. If we leave White Pass at 10 am, we'll do the 100 miles to Snoqualmie Pass in four 24-hour periods and get to Snoqualmie at 10 am. Somehow, this line of logic does not work for Micro. We had a very exasperating and irritating (mostly for Micro, I was too amused to be very pissed) conversation today, me trying to convince her that if we eat breakfast with her parents in Snoqualmie and don't increase our daily average, we'll be getting into Snoqualmie at the very inconvient time of late-morning. She swore up and down that we'd be getting in during the evening, finally spelling it out for me:
"Look, let's say we leave by 10. Then we'll probably get 20 miles in the first day (optimistic estimate). The next day we'll do 25, which means 55 total, then another 25 the day after that, so 80 total, then we'll only have to do 20 miles the last day and we'll get in during the evening." Great logic, dear, except it's wrong. This happens every single section, usually multiple times.

It rained more persistently and harder today. I'm worried about tackling the Goat Rocks Wilderness if it stays stormy.

- Typoed on my iPhone

Mile 2210.0: I love mayonnaise!

Rained and drizzled on and off all day. Not too miserable though. Best trail magic since before South Lake Tahoe, thanks to section alums Joanne and Greg. Killed enough time there that Micro and I had to do a bit of night hiking to catch up to Sweet 16. Couldn't find a very good tent spot, ended up pitching our tent in the middle of a trail junction.

At the trail magic, I had two hotdogs. I couldn't remember if hotdogs are typically eaten with ketchup, mustard, relish, and mayonnaise, just like how hamburgers are usually eaten with mayo, mustard, ketchup, lettuce, tomato, and onion. So I went ahead and put mayo on my hotdog, which it turns out is not typical. I used to think mayo was gross, but actually it's amazing! It's creamy, fatty, and super delicious. Mmm... I could eat if with a spoon!

- Typoed on my iPhone

Mile 2185.7: we hike

Nothing very interesting happenned to me today, though Microburst did get stung by a bee and tripped on a root that ripped her other shoe open. Sweet 16 is getting faster. She got to our super-sweet campspot at 5:30, Micro got there at 7, and I toddled in at 8. It's tempting to be depressed that I'm having my ass handed to me by BOTH my hiking partners now; that I really am the ball and chain holding Team Mexico or Bust back. I have spent too much time (in Northern California, mostly) being depressed and heaping on the self-loathing. I don't want to go back to that, I'm on track to finish before October 1st, and I can do what it takes to stay on-track.

- Typoed on my iPhone

Mile 2160ish: Bridge of the Gods

We spent the morning resupplying, which I barely had to do since my mom sent a boxful of dank, homemade food. The entire county seemed to be out of fuel canisters, which made me nervous since I've already gotten over 900 miles from my current one. Safeway did have jalapeƱo-cheddar bagels fresh out of the oven though, so I managed to keep it under control.

Jeff dropped us off at the trailhead for the Bridge of the Gods, which is funny, since there is no trail or pedestrian lane for Bridge of the Gods. We just walked across that grate that looked down onto the water 1,000's of feet below at the same time as the rest of Washington drive

- Typoed on my iPhone

Mile 2155.7: into Cascade Locks

After yesterday's beautiful weather, it was only fitting that I woke up in swirling fog this morning. I panicked, thinking that rain was imminent and my sleeping bag would be rendered useless, but then I remembered that I'd be in town tonight, I'd be fine no matter what. Once I was packed up and got moving, drops began to fall, but I think it was only the clouds condensed in the trees, and the wind blowing the condensed water out of the trees.

We took the Eagle Creek alternate route down to Cascade Locks; far more beautiful than the PCT and a mile shorter. It follows Eagle Creek as it cascades from pool to pool, and goes through a tunnel behind a very tall waterfall along a sheer basalt cliff. It was pretty cool. It was also very rocky, and I was moving particularly slowly as I dealt with the tenderness of my feet and the slowness of my brain picking my way down the trail.

About four miles from the trailhead, I met a group of four women hiking with two or three men, out from Portland and elsewhere for Labor Day weekend. I tried to keep up with them because I knew my own natural pace just would not do, and when they offered to let me pass, I had to explain that I was actually jus mooching off of their speed and I could drop back farther if I was too close for comfort. Instead, we talked about the PCT and world news outside of the PCT, and before I knew it, I was at the trailhead saying goodbye to my new friends.

I asked another group of three women about the trailhead restrooms, and we started talking about the PCT and the High Sierra, and how two of them had just done the John Muir Trail a few weeks before. I complemented one on her super-cute boots as I simultaneously asked for a ride to Cascade Locks, and I was in. They even gave me Burts Bees sage oil spray-on deodorant!

Microburst, Sweet 16, and I met Jeff, a friend of a friend, at the Charburger in Cascade Locks. I had been really afraid that we were asking way too much by calling one week in advance, sending tons of boxes for him to pick up at the Post Office, and showing up expecting rides, showers, laundry, and probably food and beds as well. I got over my fears fast, probably faster than I should have. Jeff and his wife Lindsey were so cool and relaxed that I quickly forgot any semblance of manners thar I may have once had.

After much deliberation ("I dunno, what do you want to do?" "I dunno, what do you want to do?") we decided to stay in for dinner, which was an excellent choice. Lindsey talked herself down as a cook, but the food was truly excellent. We had a caprese salad (or at least I think that's the right name) with fresh mozzarella and tomatoes and basil from the garden, saffron rice, heirloom green beans, broccolini sauteed in olive oil and bacon (I ended up licking the pan clean), and salmon that Josh had caught in the Kasilof river. I ate a ton, but since it was good food rather than the gross stuff I usually gorge myself on, I never got sick. Between the shower, the food, the beer, and the company, I went to bed a very happy girl.

Mile 2128.7: Mt. Hood


Sweet 16 and I hitched a ride out of Government Camp up to Timberline Lodge. Our ride was almost immediate, it was a marketing director or other such type. His car and his man-toiletries smelled so good, and we smelled so bad. Microburst wanted to hike the five miles up to Timberline from Barlow Pass, I would have been super-worried or changed my plans to go with her, but she had said during our stay (and argument) at Breitenbush that she never gets any alone time and how much she just wants to get some space sometimes. So I inquired after her mace, her cell phone, and any desire for company, and left it be at that.

Sweet 16 and I got there right as the buffet was starting, and my-oh-my was it a buffet: waffles with all sorts of toppings, pancakes, bacon, sausage, eggs, biscuits'n'gravy, fresh squeezed orange juice, croissants, pastries, scones, toast, cheese, granola, yogurt, nuts, berries, oatmeal...mmm. We stuffed our caves, and just as I was about to push back to digest, Microburst showed up several hours before we were expecting her (her hitch was impossible that early and she beelined for Timberline).

After much ado about nothing later, we hiked up to Paradise park. It was so beautiful! Lush alpine meadows in bloom with Mt. Hood in full glory as the backdrop. The sky was free of clouds, except for one lenticular cloud (that's nerdy for [standing] wave cloud) kept forming and re-forming over the peak. We ran into Nonstop, Maybelline, Sunshine, Shannon, and Rif-Raf.

Unfortunately, to get into Cascade Locks/Hood River at a reasonable time, we had to do 20 miles today after the brunch, which put me into camp at 9:30. I got tired of saying "Hey-O" over and over again, so I started quoting Monty Python every few minutes. At first I was conserving the silliness, but then after a large, persistent, localized rustling in some brush, it was nonstop. I had just finished up with a terribly botched song about the universe ("well the sun and you and me, and all the stars that we can see... so just when you're feeling small and insecure (blah blah blah) how unlikely is your birth, and just hope there's something intelligent out there, 'cuz it's all just tugged down here on earth") and had started in on "Every Sperm is Sacred" when I saw headlamps: lots of them. Rather than rationally figuring that I was close to camp, I thought I had stumbled into the tree-people who had kidnapped that Olympian outside Bozeman to make her someone's wife. But it was ok, it really was just camp.

- Typoed on my iPhone

Friday, September 3, 2010

Mile ????: Hitching as hiking, the scariest campsite yet


After a lovely morning of more "vegetarian, organic, bountiful fare" we took stock of how far behind schedule we were, and what to do about it. This, of course, prompted fighting amongst the ranks. Microburst wants to complete the entire trail as fast as possible, and actually could, she is pissed that she is saddled with me and my slow pace. Sweet 16 also wants to do the entire trail, but most importantly wants to ge to Canada in time to see her brother and catch her plane home. Obviously, I'm not entirely sure what I want, but I'm sick of struggling to keep up and worrying about mileage and pace etc. The more the trail sucks, the more I'm tempted to quit, but if I start cheating in a way that I can enjoy the experience, I think I can make it to Canada. Microburst and I are bound to one another by our increasingly important tent, and none of the three of us want to break up our trio.

We hitched a ride out of Breitenbush back to the fire detour/shuttle route with a massage therapist from Portland. While we waited, we debated the merits of skipping not just the 12 burnt miles, but all the way to Mt Hood to get caught up to schedule. We had finally all agreed it was an ok plan when the shuttle came by and picked us up. We got in, and were back to indecision land. I was all for the hitch, especially since we're meeting/greatly imposing upon a friend of my friend, and I'm afraid that a weekday arrival in Cascade Locks/Hood River would be much worse than our original weekend plan. Sweet 16 surprised me with a yes vote, and finally Micro agreed again to the hitch. So Ryan the cute shuttle driver dropped us off at the junction between Highway 46 and a forest service road to the PCT.

Shortly after we were picked up by Justin and Janelle, other Portland residents down at Breitenbush, taking the scenic route back home. Janelle entertained us with stories from the set-decorating business. They dropped us off at a gas station at the intersection to our next road. From there, we hit up people for the six mile ride to Sandy.

A young couple with a bright and talkative 5-year old daughter took us, even though it was farther than their final destination. Somehow we all completely spaced on offering them gas money, even though they were clearly somewhat poor and had gone out of their way to give us the ride. As they drove past once we were dropped off, the man slowed down and sheepishly asked if we were 4-20 friendly girls. Though we're completely fine with others smoking, none of us actively do, nor do we carry any, but I instantly realized how tactless we had been to not offer gas money. Feeling terrible the three of us quickly scrounged up $9, which I hope more than makes up for the mistake.

From there we had a long hike along the highway to the next gas station, where a local man who introduced himself as, "just a nice guy," agreed to give us a ride to Welch's halfway up. He gave us the history of the area and interesting tidbits.

At the grocery store-gas station he dropped us off at, we were having miserable luck and getting nervous as the sky started growing darker. We finally had luck with two guys out with their dirt bikes and four-wheelers and coolers, out for a weekend of fun. We had only asked for a ride 1.5 miles up to a better hitching location, but when Dean realized that he could take us farther on his route, he did.

Now we are attempting to stealth camp at one of the ski resorts on Mt Hood before we get back on the trail in the morning. We thought it wound be super-chill, but we passed a number of OTHER tents on our way up: were these other cheapskates, or homeless people, or tweakers? As we looked for flat spots, we could hear male voices in the distance and see headlamps. So we went further. As we were cooking dinner, suddenly we could see a flashlight working it's way up toward us from the OTHER side. We quickly turned off our headlamps and waited quietly. From Micro's feak-out over proximity to the other tents and voices at the first campspt we found (and left), I was surprised if not a litttle bit pissed at how quickly she turned on her headlamp and resumed noisily scraping her pot once the light was even with us.

Tonight I sleep with my bra on, valuables tucked in the sides, knife back in the cleavage.

Morning upate:
Lived to tell the tale. Nothing more exciting happenned than gettin up to pee and reinflating my sleeping pad.
- Typoed on my iPhone

Mile ????: Braidenbush Hotsprings, Hippie Heaven

I am in hippie heaven. After a miserable day (cold, rain, wind, falling down) after a miserable night (cold, rain, wind, wet down), I barely missed the last shuttle of the day from the Braidenbush Trailhead 45 miles around a 12 mile section closed due to forest fires. A nice man named Dale offered to take us down to Braidenbush Hotsprings, which we had been fantasizing about all day long as we hiked through fog, wind, rain, and wet brush, usually all at once.

We went. At $70/person, it was more than we had bargained for, but we certainly weren't going to ask Dale to drive us right back, nor were we going to pay $55/person to camp in our own wet gear. The price includes three vegetarian, organic meals, 24 hour access to all their clothing-optional geothermal features, and admittance to their well-being workshops. It is heaven for the crunchy types and those who like to make fun of them. I am doubly satisfied. The cabins are cleaned by members of the "Cleaning Arts Team," and squirrels and dragonflies are allowed in the lodge because Braidenbush is a "wildlife sanctuary."

In the morning:
Feels so nice to sleep in til 7. Gah my knee hurts so bad though! I thougt long and hard yesterday about what it would mean to get off the trail. I'm somewhat ahsamed to admit that my primary motivator to remain on the trail is fear: fear of what I'd have to tell my friends and family (and potential employers) when they'd inevitably ask, "Why'd you quit early? Why didn't you finish?"

The thing is though, I'm now operating on everyone else's goal, the goal of hiking the entire PCT from Mexico to Canada. I specifically DIDN'T want to se myself up for failure and self-loathing, my own goal when I set out this summer was to spend my summer hiking along or near the PCT from Mexico toward Canada, and to do something fun every day. I have largely lost sight of that goal, and with all my skipping ahead, I certainly won't meet everyone else's stated goal even if I do make it to Manning's Park, British Columbia.

Imagine standing on a rocky precipice. There are jagged snow-capped volcanoes in the distance, some alpine lakes in-between, slopes velvety with lush evergreens carpeting them. The shot is framed by some gnarled, wind-tortured trees. Sounds lovely, doesn't it?

Now imagine standing at that exact same spot, but your field of vision is significantly reduced down to the tunnel formed by the bill of your hat and your hooks cinched tight around your face. It doesn't matter though, because you can't see anything but grey-white beyond the trees directly next to you, because you're inside a cloud, and you have been for several days. The trees are dripping on you, the wind catches the shredded remains of your cheap poncho, and as you turn from the pointless viewpoint, it gets snagged and shredded some more by the trees.

Tha is my experience lately. I'm missing out on gorgeous terrain, and I'm miserable while I'm at it. I'm not ready to quit because I'm stubborn, but I might be coming to peace with it. Badger and Sweet Jesus figured out what they wanted to do with their lives while on the trail, and got off to do it. I realize that I want to live a balanced life, which hiking can be part of, but what I'm doing right now most certainly is not balanced.

- Typoed on my iPhone

Mile 2019ish still: more misery

It continued to rain and blow ALL night long. Two hours after I went to bed, I was still awake from the noise and put in earplugs. The fly dripping and collapsing SOAKED my shoes (which were somewhat dry until then because I'd been hiking in Chacos) and gloves. The fly dripped on the already flooded groundcloth. My down bag is damp. For the first time Imever on this trail, I slept cold. We woke up to no change in the weather, and decided to at least wait until it was light. I realized that I had packed a day short on food. I can see why people get off this trail for weather. I might.

- Typoed on my iPhone

Mile 2019ish: leaving Bend, misery


The plan yesterday was to meet up for lunch, then hike on from the Santiam Pass trailhead. As of 10 or so in the morning, it was downpouring with no signs of ceasing. A quick teleconference between Cindy's house in Bend and the hiker's hotel room in Sister led to the decision to make it a full zero day and sleep at Cindy's house. Within a few hours, the weather cleared, but it was too late, we were comitted. We had a good time with Cindy, enjoyed a delicious home-cooked meal, and all slept in our own warm, comfy beds.

This morning was gorgeous too, and we dawdled about getting up, eating, getting ready, and getting going. Eventually though; we were at the trailhead, pictures taken and bladders emptied.

It got really miserable really fast after lunch. I told myself, "You'll get hypothermia if you stop for any reason before you see Micro and 16 camping." So I hauled, but my lack of usable poles with my arms all balled up under my poncho to conserve warmth, andthe rest if me was coolf