Day 121: One month left

Day 121
August 17
mile 2022.2-near 2046.1
23.9 miles

Soon after the dogs were allowed out of their tent, they sprinted into the woods after a deer. Cowgirl was left waiting for them to return on their own. While I ate my breakfast and got ready, the dogs returned and Midnight Chocolate and Cowgirl started their walk. After my fourth pill of six, I felt a bit hopeful. If that was all it took to cure my problem, I would feel stupid about not doing that a long time ago. “But at least I am learning,” I said to Connie.
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We talked a little about the message that I received yesterday as we filtered our water and then I packed up and headed out. I hadn’t seen Puma at all and wondered where he had camped last night.
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Several miles into my hike, I came across three men, each from a different generation, sitting along the trail taking a break. They were interested in talking to me and asked me a few questions about my hike. I mentioned what I was suffering from. The older man immediately said, “You need more toilet paper!” and then asked me how I was able to eat anything! Wow! Someone that understood! He told me that his wife suffered with it for a year. “A year?!” He knew all about it and told me not to be shy in asking for more toilet paper if I needed it. I said I was fine, but thanked him and then headed on.
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I stopped at Shale Lake for my ice coffee break and collected more water there. A young couple was there when I arrived and headed out shortly after. The three guys walked by and made fun of me for stopping so soon after I had announced how many miles I still had to get in this day. As I sat snacking, a huge bird soared over me, flapping its wings in whooshes, almost as if in slow motion. I had never experienced anything like that before! I thought it must be a condor! As I packed up and started walking, Connie came along! She didn’t need to collect water so we both headed on, but ended up getting confused as to where to the trail was! Finally, we found it and I took the lead. A minute later, I heard her voice call my name. She wasn’t sure which way the trail went and I directed her towards me.
Later on, I was surprised to see Puma taking a break in a little alcove in the woods. I stopped to say hi and told him that I had first met him at the Anderson’s, but was never introduced. He now remembered and we caught up with each other on what had happened to us over the last 1,500 or so miles!
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Then, I headed on. As I approached Milk Creek, I could see the girls and their dogs down below. It looked like they might wait for me to arrive, but then they suddenly took off and started climbing up the other side. I was left to find a way to ford the glacial river on my own.
About halfway up the next climb, I found a spot on a steep slope along the trail to take a break. It was otherwise covered in thick brush. While I snacked on stale Goldfish crackers and disgusting beef jerky, I looked up to see someone approaching. It was Connie! She sat beside me for the remainder of my break. Puma walked by and commented on our nice spot with the same serene smile he had had the day before. We asked him if he played his guitar while he walked. “Sometimes,” he said.
I took the lead as we continued to climb and found the girls taking a break with their very tired dogs. One was too tired to even lift up his head! They asked if I had seen Connie and I told her she was right behind me! They all planned on stopping at the next big lake. When she arrived, they warned us that there was another ford coming up (implying that we should help each other).
We climbed and climbed and then the trail descended a short way. I could hear the rushing water before I saw it and my stomach tensed.
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When I reached the edge of the water, I followed it upstream to look for the best crossing. A man that had passed me a little earlier (who tried to convince me to stay at the lake and swim in it), told me that he had rock hopped across, but also told me about watching a woman who was too scared to do the same, even with her boyfriend helping. I saw the rocks and they looked much too far apart for me to cross, especially with a heavy pack on my back! Connie reached the water and I gave her a shrug. I was just going to walk through it. I lengthened my poles and plunged them into the rocks below and carefully placed my feet in the rushing, cold water. From the other side of the bank, I asked her if she could lengthen her poles first, and then watched as she carefully made her way across. This was her first real ford and I felt so proud of her!
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I continued on ahead of her, and as I thought about what she was accomplishing out here by herself, tears welled in my eyes. I felt a bit like a proud mother.
The trail climbed and I eventually had to stop to take my pack off. I was surprised that Connie was not appearing! Shortly after, I saw a sign pointing to the lake where they planned on stopping at for the night. I kept on the PCT and once I saw the trail leaving the direction of the lake, decided to walk down and check it out. There were a lot of campers in the area and I didn’t feel like I was missing much. I definitely did not have time to go for a swim. Back up on the PCT, I had another emergency with my intestines. All hope that I had in the morning was now completely gone. Nothing had changed! I ate a little snack to boost my energy and headed on, disappointed that I didn’t get a chance to say goodbye to Connie or tell her how proud I was of her.
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About a mile later, I ran into a couple going the other way. The guy asked me my trail name and then told me that he had also hiked the PCT and that his friend was putting on the PCT Days Trail festival in Cascade Locks. He thought I might want to go. I asked when it would be held and he said Sept. 6-8 and then realized I would be far from there at that point!
I felt tired and down. The trail continued to climb.
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I was surprised to see the sign saying that I had entered the Mt. Hood wilderness already! I searched for the direction of the trail and then saw a field of snow in front of me.
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When I talked with Forrest Man, I was worried about the snow I would encounter in Washington, but assumed there was none in Oregon. He corrected me, but then thought maybe it would have melted by the time I arrived.
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I stepped through it and then came to an even bigger patch. I followed the footprints across it but could not tell where the trail went! I walked back and forth on the slippery surface and wondered how Connie was going to find this. Finally, I decided to backtrack and make my way down by side stepping, as I could see the thin ribbon of dry trail in the distance. I walked through the rocky landscape as the air turned chilly. The sun had already begun to set. Parts of the trail were so rocky that it took a great amount of time to travel just 100 yards…
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Eventually, I made my way back into the woods. It was very windy and now very cold. I spotted a nice place to camp on the other side of a pond, in some trees. It looked very cozy, but I was much, much too cold to stop! I felt like I was going to freeze. I decided to keep walking.
At a bend in the trail, I saw a flattish piece of dirt that I decided I would stop at. It was warmer at this lower elevation than at the nicer campsite. Although I was sleeping next to the trail, I had a nice view of a distant mountain in the few minutes before the sun set. I bundled up, cooked my dinner, and snuggled into my sleeping bag.
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