Day 149: Rainy Pass

Day 149
September 14
mile 2587.9-2610 (Methow Pass)
22.1 miles

All remained quiet in the morning. I enjoyed another “thumb print” from the bakery with my morning coffee before packing up and heading out. Today, I would be climbing over 4,300 feet to an elevation of almost 7,000 feet.
IMG_7476 copy 2
Shortly into my hike, I was surprised to see a hiker coming south and even more surprised when she called out my name. “Wendy! You made it!”. It was Skinny D with a big smile on her face. “Can I give you a hug?” she asked. Of course! I asked her what she was still doing hiking! She explained that her brother was picking her up in Stehekin and that she had gotten a ride from Hart’s Pass to Rainy Pass, so the extra hiking wasn’t too bad. I told her I couldn’t wait to give my body a chance to rest so my stomach could have a chance to start healing. I also told her I wanted to do this hike again when I was in a healthier state. This was Skinny D’s second thru-hike of the PCT and she agreed that it was much more enjoyable the second time around. She told me that the wash-outs coming up would slow me down, but they were really no big deal. She was wearing a red and white lei around her neck, and after we parted and I turned around to watch her leave, I saw that she had a little Canadian flag sticking out of her backpack. So festive! I still had several more days of work and many miles ahead of me before I could start celebrating.
IMG_7478 copy 2

IMG_7479 copy 2
I soon reached a sign before the next creek crossing with one arrow pointing in the direction of the ford and one pointing towards the footbridge. I could not figure out how to follow the path to the footbridge, nor could I even see one, so I decided to ford the creek. Rocks were laid out where the water dropped off and I carefully stepped across those ones until my foot no longer had a rock to step on! I wasn’t able to manage to keep my feet dry, but it was of little matter. There was plenty of time for them to dry with all of the climbing I had ahead of me.
I passed by the side paths to two other designated camping areas and then, after several more miles, came to a broken bridge in front of me with pink caution tape wrapped around the end.
IMG_7481 copy 2
It did not look possible to cross, so I made my way along the creek and found a thin tree laid out. I didn’t feel that I had enough balance to attempt that way, either, so I tried rock hopping, and once again, could not manage to keep my feet dry.
IMG_7482 copy 2

IMG_7483 copy 2
Once I reached Rainy Lake Outlet, I decided it was time for my ice coffee break. I collected and filtered water here, looking at the wooden beam I would soon have to cross, hoping it was wide enough so that I wouldn’t lose my balance.
IMG_7486 copy 2
As I snacked, I noticed tiny, cute mushrooms beside me that looked as if they belonged in a dollhouse world.
IMG_7485 copy 2IMG_7487 copy 2
The bridge turned out to be no problem, fortunately. Ahead, I reached an informational board and found a white paper plate with the words “Trail Magic at Hart’s Pass, Sat-Sun 5-7pm” on it. Seeking had told me that there trail magic there when I saw him after Steven’s Pass, but since I was so far away at that point, I knew I couldn’t expect it to still be there when I arrived. This sign made me think that it actually might be! The trail split and I followed it to the right and emerged onto the highway. I saw a little parking lot and outhouse, but was very confused, as it was too early to be at Rainy Pass.
Eventually, I figured out that I had veered off the PCT and went back to the intersection in the woods and took the left path.
IMG_7488 copy 2
I crossed over another creek and headed up to the real Rainy Pass.
IMG_7489 copy 2

IMG_7490 copy 2
No one else was around! I crossed the highway and followed the paved road to the parking lot, which was full of cars, but no people. At least there was another outhouse here. After a brief break, I started up the 2,000 foot climb to Cutthroat Pass.
IMG_7493 copy 2

IMG_7494 copy 2

IMG_7495 copy 2

IMG_7496 copy 2
Several day hikers were making their way down the mountain. I began to grow tired and sat along the edge of the trail to snack as another group came down. The landscape changed from forest to sub-alpine. The higher I climbed, the more it opened up.
IMG_7501 copy 2
As I made my way up the final weaving switchbacks, a family of three was slowly making their way down. One of the women said, “You’re almost there!”. I smiled. I was almost there in more ways than one. I was now well over 2,600 miles into my hike, with less than 70 remaining. I was almost there…
IMG_7504 copy 2
The trail looped widely in surprising directions and then, I was in an expansive, dry, desert looking landscape at an alpine elevation.
IMG_7505 copy 2IMG_7507 copy 2

IMG_7509 copy 2

IMG_7511 copy 2IMG_7513 copy 2IMG_7515 copy 2IMG_7519 copy 2IMG_7524 copy 2
This was where I was happiest- in places in which I could look around me and see mountains from every side. I dropped my pack, took some photos, and tried to take it all in. I could see the trail following the ridge ahead and decided it was time to follow it. After less than a mile, I sat down for another energy boost to get me through the remaining miles of the day. Crows flew overhead. I wanted to save my remaining baked good for breakfast tomorrow, but couldn’t manage to hold off. I figured it would at least help lighten up my pack.
IMG_7533 copy 2IMG_7534 copy 2
Another group headed past me in the opposite direction. As the trail rounded a corner, I wondered if this was the spot where UB was airlifted out of WA. I looked down below to see if a helicopter would have room to land there. The trail headed downhill and in a dry area, I encountered another couple collecting water. I decided to wait to collect some for myself and moved past them. The trail crumbled underneath me in spots where it had been washed away. Eventually, I found my own little stream to collect ad filter water for my dinner and morning coffee. I walked past a little meadow area where a couple was camping. The woman was sitting on a log reading. When the man noticed me, he called out, “Are you a PCT hiker?”. They congratulated me as I headed up the next climb. I still had a mile to go before I would reach the next campsite. At the top, I saw a man resting. His clothes were hanging from a tree branch beside him. I realized it was Story Time and couldn’t believe it. Although it was only 6:30, I didn’t want to go any further. The next campsite was nearly five miles away, which was much too far for tonight. When I told Story Time that I was going to camp here, too, he said that he was only taking a dinner break, and would be heading on. I felt relieved. He invited me to join him for dinner, but I said I wanted to set up my tent first. I picked a spot and struggled a bit as usual. There were now holes in the cuben fiber material at the top of my tent and I knew a storm was coming in. The wind was already picking up. Since I had used almost all of my duct tape on repairing my broken pole, I had essentially none left. I had to muster up some courage to ask if Story Time had any he could spare. It turned out that he had a lot. He also wanted to follow me back to my tent and help me put the duct tape on, although it was a one person job. He asked me if my legs got cold in my skirt and if I had slowed my pace recently. He seemed to think that I was faster in the Sierras, or that maybe he had gotten faster as he dropped more weight. I really didn’t care. He also wanted to know if I planned on going to the trail magic tomorrow and started complaining about how it was holding him up. He wished it were around 2pm instead of 5. I didn’t think he should be complaining about the timing of free food…
He eventually headed off and I was left to watch the sky change extraordinary colors.
IMG_7537 copy 2

IMG_7540 copy 2

IMG_7541 copy 2IMG_7543 copy 2

IMG_7546 copy 2IMG_7549 copy 2IMG_7552 copy 2
Soon, it was all dark and I cooked my dinner, cleaned up, and drifted off to sleep for the third to last time on the trail. It was a good feeling.

Day 148: The Last Stretch

Day 148
September 13
mile 2580.2-2587.9 (North Fork Camp)
7.7 miles

Although I wished I could keep sleeping, I got up well before 8. I had so many things to do! I headed over to the restaurant for breakfast, where I was surprised to find no other thru-hikers. Soon enough, Purple Haze came in to join me, however. We talked about our post-hike plans and I finally got some confirmation that the lodge and hostel in Manning Park was open! His wife had made a reservation! I now no longer had to worry about the bus to Vancouver and could pack one night’s less dinner! I thought I would need to camp out on my final night! This news brought me a lot of relief!
At 8:00, I ran out to wave goodbye to the boys as they boarded the bus, thinking this was definitely the last time I would be seeing them. Then, I returned to my table and ordered some yogurt with granola and fruit. This would be my last chance to eat a double breakfast!
Then, I headed back to my room to do my sorting and packing. The post office opened at 10, so I walked my box of extra things to send home back down the street.
IMG_7458 copy 2

IMG_7459 copy 2
I ended up walking way past the building, however! I didn’t realize it was really only steps from my room! After that was taken care of, I headed over to the common area to see if I could get on the one common computer in the Landing. I found Purple Haze on it, however, typing up his latest Trail Journal entry, so I decided to head back to my room and finish packing. I needed to get on the next bus which left at 11am, and would hang out at the bakery until the afternoon bus came to bring me back to the trail. I wished the bakery was in this section of the town so I could look at the water while I ate. I felt like I didn’t have a chance to take in the beauty of this place, which was only accessible by hiking the PCT and taking the shuttle in, taking a ferry, or flying in on a water plane! I wished I could have gone swimming or at least watch the sun set over the gorge. With minutes to go, I managed to get on the computer to tell the friend I had asked if he could pick me up at the airport to please reply by e-mail, as I had no reception and couldn’t access text messages. The computer was unbelievably slow! I tried to send out a quick facebook update to let people I was in the final town and had only 90 miles to go, and then I had to run for the bus!
Several of the hikers that I had seen at the Dinsmores were now hanging out at The Landing. I loaded my pack into the crowded bus and told the driver I would be getting the 2:00 bus back to the trail from the bakery and gave him a tip for his efforts in getting me to the post office before it closed yesterday.
As I exited the bus at the bakery, the morning crowd got back on. “Now it’s my turn!”. Gumby told me that she and Double-It were on the five day plan to get to the border, so they would probably be seeing me. “Cool”.
IMG_7461 copy 2

IMG_7462 copy 2
I headed over to the chairs on the lawn, set my pack down, and spread out my wet clothes. Then, I headed inside for a latte and scone. Unfortunately, they were completely out of the blueberry scones and weren’t making anymore! I scoured the case for something else, but was having a very hard time coming up with something that I wanted! I went back and forth between the day old shelf and the fresh baked goods, and at last decided on something called a thumbprint. The cashier told me he would make my latte after the hiker crowd got their fill and were all back on the bus. As I sat outside, the mosquitoes bit me, one after another. Shouldn’t they be gone by now? It was the middle of September!
Soon, Joat, his father, and several members of his fanclub (ladies from a hiking club just outside of Portland) arrived. It was nice to see some familiar faces. Joat’s father was very sweet to me and very concerned about my stomach illness. He told me not to push too hard. They were headed to the Landing to get Joat’s resupply box.
I decided to head inside to try to escape the mosquitoes. It turned out they were worse inside! I kept slapping my arms as they landed on me. Soon, the bus from the Ranger Station pulled in and another batch of thru-hikers got out. “Tumbleweed! How did you get behind me?!”. He told me that he had taken a couple days off to hang out with some friends. He didn’t think he was going to be able to finish by the 17th anymore. He told me Puma would probably be coming in on the next bus.
IMG_7463 copy 2
I watched the frenzy at the counter and then went outside to watch the hikers re-board the bus. Beads got excited when she saw me and asked if she could give me a hug. Several of the Portland hiking group members also boarded the bus, leaving only a few behind. One of the ladies pointed me out to her husband and told him, “That’s Wendy! You should talk to her!”. He offered to buy me an ice cream in exchange for my life story. “Talk to her about her career!”, his wife shouted as she got on the bus. After we got our ice cream, we sat on one of the picnic tables outside and I told them why I hiked these long trails. The woman said it was very understandable. Unfortunately, the man wasn’t able to offer much advice in the way of a career because I told him that I didn’t want to work in biotech anymore. It was nice to have some friendly and interesting company for awhile. I had to jump up to order a sandwich to take with me as well as a couple of extra baked goods before the bus came back.
My companions sat near me on the bus as they returned to the ranch and then I was left with the few remaining section hikers on the way back to High Bridge. The man in front of me started talking to me and I learned that he had hiked the AT in the late 60s. He told me about all of the peaks he had subsequently climbed.
As we arrived at the ranger station, I saw Story Time sitting near the bus and thought he was headed into Stehekin. However, he was still there when it left! He was bypassing the last town and would be in the exact part of the trail as me in this final stretch! I couldn’t believe it…
IMG_7465 copy 2

IMG_7466 copy 2
I decided to sit at the picnic table and eat half of my sandwich so I didn’t have to carry the weight. The friend of the man who had hiked the AT sat down across from me and chatted with me a bit before the AT guy came over. He had a very serious, straight-laced demeanor and never smiled! He asked me why I was hiking the trail and seemed to like my answer. They then headed off to start their hike, leaving me alone for a few minutes to take in the feeling of starting my final stretch and last 90 miles of this hike. There were so many tasks that I was hoping to get done in Skykomish or Stehekin, like call up my gas and internet companies to let them know when I was returning home and when I needed my service restarted, plans for an airport pick-up and possible wedding attendance, the purchase of a wedding gift, and other communication, none of which happened because I had no service. But part of me was just fine with the sense of peace of not having that outside connection to the world. I thought about everything I had dreamed this hike would be and everything that I went through, and felt very, very strong.
I packed up and headed back out to the trail, this time knowing exactly where it started because I had checked it out while I waited for the bus yesterday. I climbed up to Coon Lake and instead of feeling the strength and happiness that I usually feel upon leaving town, felt like I was dragging. My pack was much, much too heavy. And I thought I had lightened it up as best I could! I wondered if Geared Up and Captain Kiddo had put a stone in it when I left it in their sight while I checked out of my room! I guess it was the weight from the baked goods that was making it feel so heavy!
IMG_7467 copy 2
After another stretch of climbing, I decided to sit down and eat the rest of the sandwich to try to lighten my load.
I hiked on to the Bridge Creek Camp area, which was extremely crowded, and then headed back into the solitary woods to climb again. I had read in my guidebook that special permits were needed to camp in this section, and that camping was only allowed in certain allotted campgrounds, each with a quota. Since none of the other thru-hikers I had talked to were concerned about the additional permit, I didn’t worry either.
IMG_7470 copy 2

IMG_7471 copy 2
In the evening, I came across Story Time sprawled out along the trail, snacking. I had to talk to him for a couple of minutes and then continued on my way in the receding light.
IMG_7473 copy 2IMG_7475 copy 2
After crossing Bridge Creek, I followed the tent symbol on a wooden sign up the side trail to the North Fork Camp. Surprisingly, no one seemed to be there! I decided to set up in a spot away from the water so I could hear if someone came by, and when it got dark, figured no rangers would be bothering me now. I ate the last remnants of my sandwich for dinner and tucked myself into my sleeping bag, feeling peaceful about the last stretch ahead of me.

Day 147: Stehekin!

Day 147
September 12
mile 2565.5- 2580.2
14.7 miles

The kid never returned last night, but in the morning light, I discovered that I had slept right next to a mouse hole! I saw one scurry by my groundcloth and disappear into a hole right beside me when I sat up! With only 14.7 miles to hike before I got to High Bridge, I knew I could make the 3:00 shuttle. I still wanted to get going as early as possible to ensure I wouldn’t need to rush. I was now on the last 105 miles of my journey, which I almost couldn’t believe! It’s been long and tough and far more stressful than I ever imagined, yet here I am at the other end. I have fewer miles to hike than my first stretch from the border to Warner Springs (although much tougher ones)! Yesterday, I thought a lot about the 100 mile Wilderness and Mt. Katahdin at the end of my Appalachian Trail hike- the equivalent to where I am now on this one.
IMG_7411 copy 2IMG_7413 copy

IMG_7414 copy 2
After I ate my breakfast and packed up, I headed back down the side path to the PCT, still unsure of what I might find on my way. Fortunately, I saw no fallen trees or crushed bodies. Although there were many small uphills sprinkled into the miles, I was generally descending about 4100 feet today. However, I discovered that it wasn’t going to be as easy as the profile made it look.
IMG_7417 copy 2

IMG_7418 copy 2
I encountered several more huge fallen trees over the trail which took a lot of extra time and energy to get around, and then realized I had to ford another wide river. I spent several minutes trying to figure out the best way to get across and ended up using a thin fallen tree, which made me nervous about falling off. My body was extremely tight and I had no agility left, and with my backpack on, it was easy to topple over. Somehow, I made it across, but couldn’t figure out where the trail picked up on the other side! I reached a dead-end and realized I needed to turn around. The extra minutes I had given myself were rapidly disappearing. I walked past a sign posted on a log warning not to camp in this area due to the falling trees, and again, was glad I had stopped where I did last night (although trees were falling up there, too!).
IMG_7420 copy 2
When I reached Cedar Camp after about five miles, I stopped for a snack break. I felt extremely tired.
The day heated up rapidly and my intestines were still acting up, which was frustrating. At one point, a brown animal caught my eye.
IMG_7423 copy 2
He was moving very quickly from a branch to the trunk of a big tree and would alternate between hiding and peeking out to look at me as I stood there hoping to get a better glimpse of him. I never figured out what he was. It looked somewhat like a marten, but bigger. I was thankful I got to see him, though!
IMG_7426 copy 2IMG_7429 copy 2
Later on, I spent a few minutes watching a squirrel play on the trunk of a gigantic tree that
made the little guy seem so tiny!
IMG_7435 copy 2

IMG_7436 copy 2
As the miles wore on, I felt more and more worn down. Suddenly, I came across a large group of people sitting on a rock. They all turned and looked at me as I walked by. One of them asked if was hiking the PCT and another asked if I knew Joat, who they were waiting for. I had never heard of him! They said they were expecting him at any moment. The one man in the group walked towards me and asked me something. I learned that this was Joat’s father and we tried to piece together where he might be. He told me when he had left Steven’s Pass, what color clothes he was wearing, and how many miles a day he was hiking. I figured the only way I could have not yet met him was if he started after me and was only now catching up. Some of the women came over and started asking me questions. One of them liked my skirt and wanted to know where it was from. She said I looked like I stepped out of a Patagonia catalog! Most of the group wanted to head back to the Ranger Station to get the 3:00 bus back to Stehekin, but Joat’s father said he would stay awhile longer to wait for his son and get the 6pm bus back. I thought it was so sweet for him to come out here and wait for him like that! And this guy had an entire fan club in addition!
The interactions helped give my energy a bit of a boost for the last several miles, but still, I felt very tired and dehydrated. I needed to take a couple more breaks. During one of them, the young kid that had walked away from his tent last night passed by with only the slightest acknowledgement! I watched him ahead of me on the switchbacks descending towards the Ranger’s Station.
IMG_7439 copy 2

IMG_7440 copy 2

IMG_7441 copy 2
The little uphills thrown in zapped any remnants of energy I had. It took everything in me to get across the final bridge and reach the picnic table area.
IMG_7442 copy 2

IMG_7447 copy 2

IMG_7448 copy 2

IMG_7452 copy 2
A couple of hikers were hanging out and reading, but none were thru-hikers. The sun was incredibly strong and I felt like I was baking. I brought my pack over to a picnic table in a more shaded area and opened up my food bag. Nothing was appealing anymore, but I needed to eat something. I lied down on a bench and tried to relax while I waited nearly an hour for the bus to arrive. It was one of the first times on this hike that I had the chance to do so! Occasionally, I would look around to see if anyone was offering a ride into town. I saw the kid when I first got here, but he had disappeared again! Someone must have given him a ride.
The members of Joat’s fanclub slowly started coming in, and well before the bus arrived, Joat and his father made it in as well! It was now after 3. The bus was late. I took out some cash, packed everything up and continued to wait. Finally, the red bus pulled in. Before I got on, Joat’s father introduced me to his son, who confirmed that we had never met. On our ride in, a couple of the ladies chatted with me, asked a little about my journey, and told me about the ranch where they were all staying. I planned on staying in the “Landing” which was where the lodge, restaurant, and post office were. The first stop was the ranch, where most of the bus emptied out. The bus then turned around and headed back onto the main road. I assumed the Landing would be the next stop, but the driver pulled over next to a small building. Everyone was confused. He asked if anyone wanted to get off at the bakery and I finally understood that he was stopping briefly and that we would be able to get back on. No one budged. Since the driver continued to sit, I got up and volunteered to get out and see what the bakery had. He said, “You asked when the post office closed. You’ll need to hurry. You have two minutes!”. I ran in, looked at the goods in the glass case in front of me, and asked for a blueberry scone, a fudge brownie, and a cup of coffee. Upon seeing me run out, another man in the bus decided to do the same. It was all a bit exciting. Then, we piled back in the bus with our goodies, which
I nibbled on as we drove further down the road. This would give my energy level a little boost! Then, we got stuck. A construction crew was working on clearing the rock debris off the road from the recent rock slide and the bus driver was told to wait. He told me that I would have to drop my pack and run up the stairs as soon as he let me out and explain to the postmaster that I was held up due to the road work. The driver said he hated it when hikers arrived to pick up their packages when he was about to close.
I got myself as ready as best I could with my paper bag of baked goods, coffee cup, stuff sack, and backpack at the front of the bus. When the door opened, I clumsily made my way out and dropped my possessions in the grass at the base of the steps. I was surprised to find that the man was not in a bad mood! I also saw why there had been a lot of theft at this post office in recent years. All of the boxes were piled around the room in no order. First, he needed to find each one on his list, look for the number, and then search for the box which was in one of two rooms. My friend Erik had mentioned that he was going to send me something here, but I only found my name next to two boxes- my regular resupply box and one I had sent ahead from Cascade Locks. He asked me to sit out in the lobby and look through the list of names while he searched for my second box upstairs. I found nothing from Erik, but it was interesting to see the names of the hikers who had mail waiting for them here, as that meant they were still on trail.
I thanked him and headed back down the steps to finish my scone and coffee before walking up the road to the Landing with an even heavier load in my arms. On the porch of the main building, I could see Ole,Veggie, and Trackmeat! “How do you get up there?” I asked. Ole invited me to join them at their beer can littered table. They had arrived in the morning and had spent a couple of hours swimming in the water. They said it was a perfect temperature. I said I wanted to see if I could get a room first. Fortunately, there was one available and Ole offered to help me bring my boxes back to my room. We agreed to meet for dinner after I showered and got settled. I started hand-washing as many clothes as I could and then headed back to the porch, where we strung together several tables. I was introduced to Gumby and Double-It, whose names I had been seeing in the registers most of the way, but who I had never met. Iceman and Cattywampus and Purple Haze also joined the table. I decided to get a glass of wine with my dinner and it turned out to be a good one. We were telling funny stories about things that had happened to us during our hike and although it’s easy to make me laugh, the wine was making me laugh even harder. Purple Haze was talking about the guy who had given him a ride into Tehachapi, who was convinced that he would one day see Bigfoot in the Mojave desert and who later wrote comments on Purple Haze’s blog asking if he had had any sightings. I asked Purple Haze if he had allowed the guy to think that he believed in it, too, and he said, “Well, I did kind of leave the door open!”. I told the guys near me about my strange night with the kid walking off and then, I saw him walk by. Trackmeat thought he looked creepy. “Did you see him staring at you as he walked by?”. Then Ole said, “He’s looking at you through the vines down below!”. I had seen him at one of the tables when I walked into the bakery, but didn’t feel like talking to him. I told them about the frog hopping towards my face and the mice hole I slept next to, and soon everyone was talking about their cowboy camping animal encounters. We recalled Viking’s deer clothes-eating story and the time the deer leapt over Veggie and TrackMeat while they were asleep. Then, Ole told the story of waking up early one morning when he heard Veggie getting up and feeling something wet on his face. It was a giant green slug!! And it had left a trail of slime all over his sleeping bag! After he peeled it off his face, Veggie asked him if he wanted him to put it back on so he could take a picture! I thought that was by far the most disgusting animal story I had heard! The boys had no plans on where to sleep. They hoped they could spend the night on the porch and then take the 8:00 bus back to the trail. Ole said I would still probably be sleeping then and I said he was probably right!
I headed back to my room and looked at the boxes of things I had to sort through. I washed out my pot and a few more pieces of clothing and put all of the food aside to deal with in the morning. It was time to go to sleep.

Day 146: A sense of peace

Day 146
September 11
mile 2541.6-2565.5
23.9 miles

Although I had a restless night in which I barely slept (even after an exhausting 25 mile day), I woke with an unusual feeling of ease. The sun was rising across the mountains from which my tent faced, and although I was too tired to put on my glasses, I watched the light appear. After giving myself a few extra minutes to rest, I got up at 6:26 and felt like things were going to go smoothly today. (I don’t know why).
IMG_7369 copy 2

IMG_7370 copy 2
I started walking at 7:39, beginning the 3,500 foot descent to the Suiattle River in eight miles. The glare of the sun and the overgrown path made it hard to see where I was stepping and there were a lot of obstacles in my way! The trail was extremely muddy and slippery here, making it very easy to fall, and there were also big stones in the path which were easy to trip on.
IMG_7374 copy 2

IMG_7375 copy 2
I moved very slowly and grew frustrated at my pace. Maybe it wasn’t going to be such a good day after all!
As I made it back into the forest, I again encountered many huge fallen trees across the trail. I felt like this section of trail was one of the hardest, most demanding, and exhausting on the entire hike!
IMG_7376 copy 2

IMG_7377 copy 2
I saw a father and son packing up their camp at 9:14 and felt envious of their slow start. By 10am, I needed to take a snack break along the side of the trail. I had only hiked 4.7 miles so far! This year, the trail was made 3 miles longer with the repair of the bridge across the Suiattle River. While the extra miles were fairly easy, they also felt like they were taking forever! I came to a washed out part of the trail that was composed of loose silt and gravel and had to carefully find a way through it.
IMG_7378 copy 2
In the past few days, I found myself yawning a lot as I hiked. I felt so tired!
IMG_7379 copy 2

IMG_7380 copy 2

IMG_7381 copy 2
IMG_7383 copy 2
After finally crossing the river, I had to climb back up 3,600 feet. Luckily, I found a nice little waterfall in the woods to collect water for the day and to make an ice coffee. My pace picked up as I climbed and I began to feel better about my progress. I was also starting to feel more peaceful in general. I was glad that I didn’t have to worry about anymore resupply interactions, and that I didn’t need anything from anyone right now. I also felt like I had finally gotten over all of the people in my life that had been holding me at a distance. At last, I was feeling the sense of peace that I had been wanting to feel in Washington. Although my intestines were still acting up and causing me problems, I felt internally strong and only wanted to cultivate relationships that were healthy, giving, and loving.
A man heading south passed by without wanting to interact at all. Further on, I came across two girls who were nimbly scrambling across the fallen trees on the trail as if there were no obstacles in their way. I wished it was as easy for me!
I found a fallen log to sit on and snack in the forest before continuing the climb. Eventually, I found myself in Sierra-like terrain once again, with snowy mountains around me.
IMG_7386 copy 2

IMG_7387 copy 2IMG_7391 copy 2
IMG_7397 copy 2

IMG_7401 copy 2
I descended through loose rock, in a basin with granite cliffs rising up on all sides, and then climbed up to another ridge. When I found a little cascade of water along the trail, I stopped to collect and filter some. Suddenly, I was startled by a voice. “Oh! A person!”, the man said. I hadn’t seen anyone in a long time and thought I was alone up here. Apparently, he did, too! He told me that I looked spacey and said that’s what people said thru-hikers looked like: spacey, thin, and harried. I didn’t appreciate his description. I was filtering water and zoning out after a long day. What did he want me to look like? I moved over so he could get into the one little spot where it was possible to collect water. He then told me that there were a couple of campsites “aways down”. He said “they” were camped at the nearby site. Thanks…
He returned to his campsite as I continued to filter my water. When I passed by, I saw them collecting berries from the bushes.
IMG_7404 copy 2

IMG_7405 copy 2
I descended from the ridge, crossing over several streams, and then reached another broken bridge.
IMG_7408 copy 2
I knew there was a campsite coming up, and when I smelled the smoke of a forest fire, suspected there was already someone camping where I intended to stay. I saw a sign at the intersection of the side path to the site and was dismayed to find that it climbed steeply. It was also longer than I had wished it to be! When I arrived, I found a young guy eating his dinner. I asked if he minded if I stayed here as well. He had his tent set up in the main camping space but pointed out a couple of smaller spaces in the area. None of them looked big enough to stake my tent. “It’s not going to rain tonight, right?”. He looked up at the sky and shook his head. I decided that I would cowboy camp and picked my spot. It was already getting dark in the woods although it wasn’t even 7:30. The guy took his things away from the fire ring and hung out by his tent. He had a much nicer view of the surrounding cliffs.
IMG_7410 copy 2
Once I set up my sleeping bag, I boiled water for my dinner, cleaned up, and put on my warm clothes.
As I ate my dinner, I was surprised to see the guy walk by with his sleeping bag and pad and a few other things in his arms! Where was he going? He left his tent behind. I wondered if I had disturbed his private space and felt guilty. But where else was I supposed to go? A bold frog suddenly came hopping towards me, landing right on my sleeping bag and heading towards my face! I swatted it away with my phone. Several seconds later, it hopped back onto my groundcloth and sleeping bag again! This time I used my hiking pole to shoo it away! The bugs had also come out! I hoped they weren’t going to bother me all night long!
The boy never came back. I found it hard to sleep because I felt bad about disturbing him.
During the night, I was awoken by the sound of a crashing tree! It was very loud and I felt shaken by it. Afterwards, I started to wonder if it had fallen on the boy! I imagined having to walk over his crushed body on my way back down to the trail.

Day 145: The Land of Gigantic Mushrooms!

Day 145
September 10
mile 2516.7-2541.6
24.9 miles

The bruises on my shins were now big, raised welts. Even though I hadn’t cleaned out the open wounds, I dotted some neosporin on them. My new goal was to catch the 3:00 bus into Stehekin if I could. That way, I wouldn’t be racing to get dinner and find a place to stay. It would take nearly an hour to get into town from the High Bridge Ranger Station. I ate my breakfast and looked out at the cliffs in the morning light as I packed up. Everything looked bluer and darker.
IMG_7264 copy 2

IMG_7265 copy 2

IMG_7267 copy 2

IMG_7269 copy 2
Then, I began my decent into the wet lowlands, where I crossed numerous glacial creeks and brushed up against the wet bushes lining the trail, soaking my legs.
IMG_7271 copy 2IMG_7276 copy 2

IMG_7277 copy 2

IMG_7279 copy 2

IMG_7280 copy 2
In the forest, I saw the biggest mushrooms that I had ever seen in my life!
IMG_7281 copy 2

IMG_7282 copy 2
I was also stopped by more gigantic trees that I had to find my around. At times, I would have to take off my pack, shove it under the tree and then crawl under myself.
The lower the terrain got, the more muddy it became, as well. It took a great amount of time to find rocks to place my feet on or try to step to the side of the mud pits. Eventually, I gave up trying to keep my feet dry. The last in the series of creeks had a bridge across it which was broken in the middle. I wished someone had been around to take my picture with it!
IMG_7284 copy 2
Grabbing the handrails, I slowly made my way down to the center point and then back up the other side.
IMG_7285 copy 2
Then, I began the next 1,700 foot ascent. Near the top, I found a fallen log in the forest to sit on for a break, but the flies wouldn’t leave me alone. I found it especially annoying that they wanted to land in my wounds! As tired as I was, I decided to keep going. I came out into more open terrain, and although scratchy plants lined both sides of the trail, I needed a break. I took my sleeping pad off the top of my back and sat down in the tall grass. The sun was burning down strongly.
IMG_7287 copy 2
A short while later, I reached a nice creek where I stopped to collect water and take my ice coffee break.
IMG_7292 copy 2

IMG_7293 copy 2
I kept backing myself further and further into the evergreen tree on the side of the bank in order not to be burned by the intensity of the sun. I covered my legs the best I could with my bandana.
The trail climbed again and headed into snow filled mountains.
IMG_7302 copy 2

IMG_7303 copy 2IMG_7309 copy 2

IMG_7310 copy 2

IMG_7312 copy 2

IMG_7314 copy 2IMG_7320 copy 2

IMG_7322 copy 2
The landscape opened up, but the rocks made the hiking slow going. I kept looking at the time and knew that I could only afford to take a couple of very short breaks for the remainder of the day.
When I saw Mica Lake, I wished I had time to stop, but I did not. I felt exhausted and stressed. I had to keep going. It was now 3pm and I had only hiked just under 15 miles for the day.
IMG_7325 copy 2
IMG_7332 copy 2
After descending towards Milk Creek for several miles, I needed to stop for a snack to boost my energy. I looked at my watch and figured I could take two 5 minute breaks for the rest of the day. This was not fun! Two ladies made their way past me in the opposite direction. They were in much better moods than I was. After I crossed the bridge, I had to start a 2,600 foot climb! It was so hot out that I was sweating! How could it be this warm in September? The weather always seemed to be at an extreme. Slowly, I huffed my way up the mountain.
IMG_7337 copy 2IMG_7341 copy 2

IMG_7342 copy 2
In the evening light, I found myself in an open, rocky, exposed landscape that was reminiscent of the Sierras. There was definitely no place to camp in this area!
IMG_7348 copy 2
A small marmot peaked out from behind a rock and stared at me, which made me laugh. I realized that was the first time I had smiled the entire day! I felt like I had not had a moment to enjoy myself! When I reached a cascade, I stopped to collect and filter water, hoping the process would go as quickly as possible. The air was now very cold and I needed to race against the setting sun. I continued to climb higher and saw the sliver of moon in the sky.
IMG_7357 copy 2
On the other side, towards which I was heading, the sun had cast the mountains in purple.
IMG_7356 copy 2
I still had miles to go before I would reach a camping spot.
As the sun disappeared, I found myself in a grassy landscape at high altitude.
IMG_7358 copy 2IMG_7361 copy 2

IMG_7363 copy 2

IMG_7364 copy 2
It became harder and harder to see the path in front of me. At last, I reentered forest and found my camp spot in a grove of trees. It was 7:48 and now completely dark. I set up my tent by headlamp, cooked some dinner, and then crawled into my sleeping bag, thankful to finally be able to lie down and rest.

Day 144: A note I regret following

Day 144
September 9
mile 2492-2516.7
24.7 miles

Actually, I didn’t even know if the shuttle into Stehekin was running. Andrea Dinsmore had said that it was not currently operating as there had been a huge rock slide in the village and the main road into town was shut down. I could only hope that by the time I got there in four days, that it would be running again. For that matter, I still had not been able to confirm whether there was a bus to Vancouver from Manning Park. Before I left for my hike, I heard that the hostel and lodge in Manning Park had closed and no one knew if the bus would be stopping there anymore. Not even Scout, the head of the PCTA, knew back in April. I figured Andrea would know, as she was the trail angel closest to the border, but she also had no idea. At least I wasn’t hearing that there was no bus. Some hope still existed!
I awoke to the sun rising between the trees in my little campsite. Everything was quiet. Surprisingly, I hadn’t noticed any other hikers passing by.
IMG_7107 copy 2

IMG_7109 copy 2

IMG_7110 copy 2
I headed back to the muddy trail through the little berry bushes, descending to the bottom of the hill, where I originally planned to reach last night.
IMG_7116 copy 2
Upon arriving there, I was very happy that I had camped where I did! I didn’t see the camp site here- only mud holes and a distinct lack of sunlight! I climbed back up into the granite boulders and came across a grouse running on the trail in front of me.
IMG_7118 copy 2

IMG_7121 copy 2

IMG_7122 copy 2

IMG_7123 copy 2
Later on, I found myself blocked by a huge fallen tree across the trail. It was too thick to climb on top of, and I couldn’t see a way around it. What was I supposed to do? I ended up climbing up the steep hill to my right, making my own path above it, and then descending back to the trail. It took quite a bit of effort and I was surprised that I managed to do that all alone!
IMG_7129 copy 2
In eight and a half miles, I reached a creek, where I stopped for my ice coffee break. The sun was shining brightly and I took the opportunity to spread out my wet items to give them a chance to dry. I hadn’t seen anyone else this morning so far, but kept expecting to see one of the other thru-hikers who I knew were close behind at any moment. I enjoyed some more of the Polish cookies and junior mints, filtered some fresh water, and then headed on my way. Soon, I found a note left in the middle of the trail. It was written by two thru-hikers that I had met in the desert and who I hadn’t seen since. I didn’t have the best energy with them. The note explained that there was a wasp nest right on the PCT about 25 yards ahead. They had made a little drawing, advising how to get around it. I stared at the little piece of paper for awhile, trying to figure out its orientation and what I was supposed to do. Part of me wanted to ignore it. I had not been stung at all the last time I passed by a nest. This time probably wouldn’t be any different. I figured out that they were advising to bypass the switchback up ahead and cut up the slope. Since I didn’t know how far ahead the nest was, I figured I might as well start the bypass here. The problem was, the hill was incredibly steep! And it was also very slippery! I had to dig my poles into the ground and bear my entire weight on them with each step. Once I made it a fair distance up, I needed to get over another fallen tree. With one foot over, the other one slipped and my leg scraped against the bark. The wood was slippery from all of the rain! I had no choice but to keep going. Blood was running down my leg and the cuts were stinging. I probably would have been better off risking being stung. I wished I hadn’t followed their advice after all.
The bruises underneath the cuts started to appear in the afternoon. I counted the number of days left until the wedding and hoped my wounds could heal in that amount of time.
As I continued to climb, a saw a slow-going man ahead of me. He seemed to be making snorting sounds as if he were a horse! I tried to make my presence known, but he did not hear me until I said hello when I was right behind him. Startled, he put his hand over his heart and mumbled something. I apologized.
I climbed to the open ridge and stopped when I saw a marmot playing in the rocks.
IMG_7137 copy 2
After several minutes of talking to him, I continued on, down into a green, rocky valley, where I could see another hiker ahead.
IMG_7148 copy 2
I had strapped my tent to the top of my pack since it was wet, and now that it was drying, it was coming loose and flapping about. I had to stop to tuck it back in. The hiker ahead turned back and started walking towards me. “Have you seen my brother?” he asked. I wanted to ask him if his brother thought he was a horse, but refrained. It was time for another break, but I wanted to find a place to my own. Along the ridge, I encountered another man sitting in the middle of the trail. As I scooted around him, he said, “I’m going to assume this doesn’t bother you.” These were some strange people on the trail today! When I reached a cascade of incredibly clear water, I decided this would be my stopping place. I climbed up on a rock and looked at my wounds and then dabbed some water on them.
IMG_7149 copy 2

IMG_7150 copy 2

IMG_7151 copy 2
The man who had been sitting in the middle of the trail approached, looked at the water, and decided that he also wanted to collect some here, rather than waiting until the next pond. The brother also made his way past. I enjoyed some more treats, filtered more water, and headed on, quickly passing the brother, and making my way to Lake Sally Ann, where the other guy was taking another break.
IMG_7155 copy 2

IMG_7157 copy 2
I walked along the shore and encountered two men headed south, one of whom chatted with me for a couple of minutes.
Several minutes later, I met a woman headed south. She said I was the first person she had seen today and told me that she was going to camp at the lake. She asked if I planned on getting over the pass tonight and told me that one of her favorite camping spots was on the other side.
IMG_7160 copy 2IMG_7162 copy 2IMG_7167 copy 2IMG_7178 copy 2IMG_7181 copy 2IMG_7182 copy 2

IMG_7183 copy 2IMG_7185 copy 2

IMG_7186 copy 2IMG_7206 copy 2

IMG_7207 copy 2
In the evening hours, I found myself on the final 1500 foot ascent of the day. I was tired. Before I reached the most exposed part of the climb, I came across signs warning that camping was not allowed along the ridge. If I went on, I was committing to walking at least 3 more miles. I looked at my watch and knew that I would need to keep moving as rapidly as I could. A man in overalls headed past me in the opposite direction. My shoulders ached and I needed to put my pack down and rest for a couple of minutes before making the final push.
IMG_7211 copy 2IMG_7213 copy 2IMG_7219 copy 2IMG_7225 copy 2
I could see layers of blue mountains in the distance and as I headed along the open ridge, I heard marmots whistling in the rocks. It sounded like the whistle of a train conductor and it felt like they were announcing my arrival. Here I was, passing through, on my last 150 miles of my thru-hike! It felt like I was being cheered on!
The trail turned as it ascended to the peak. Above me, I could see a woman doing some half sun salutations. I surprised her when I reached her camping area. She thought that no one else would be passing through at this time of evening and warned me not to trip on the tent guy lines. Her husband was sitting further back and remained quiet. She commented about the likelihood of the night being cold and windy. I didn’t think camping on top of the peak was even allowed. Clearly, they chose the most cold place to be! She asked if I was thru-hiking and congratulated me, and then said they had met several others earlier in the day. She wanted to know what made me want to do this, which ordinarily, I love answering, but right now, I needed to get moving!
Darkness was approaching and I still had to collect and filter water, hike a couple of miles, and set up my camp! We somehow got on the topic of yoga and she said, “I was just doing some!”. I told her that I saw. She said it was the best place to do it and asked if I did yoga every day on my hike. When I said I did not, she seemed shocked. I explained that when you are hiking 12-13 hours a day, there isn’t any time leftover! I excused myself and descended down the other side of the mountain.
IMG_7233 copy 2IMG_7236 copy 2IMG_7239 copy 2IMG_7247 copy 2

IMG_7248 copy 2
The setting sun was casting red shadows on the mountain tops in front of me and I stopped often to take pictures. It was unbelievably beautiful! It was also getting very cold! Once I reached a nice cascade of water, I stopped to fill up and sat for about 15-20 minutes filtering it. I still had a good mile to hike before I would reach a camp site and the sun was quickly disappearing.
I walked through a grassy area littered with big rocks and unsuitable for camping. Then, when I did not expect it, I saw a square piece of bare dirt just to the side of the trail. I guess this was my spot for the night!
IMG_7260 copy 2
I struggled with my tent set-up once again, staking and re-staking the lines to try to fit within the barriers created by logs on either side of the patch of dirt. I felt exhausted.
IMG_7262 copy 2
Once I lied down, I had to be careful which way I turned, as my bruises and cuts revolted with any amount of pressure on them.

Day 143: Beginning the penultimate stretch

Day 143
September 8
mile 2476-2492
16 miles

I was dead tired in the morning. The lack of sunlight in the garage didn’t provide any incentive to wake up, and I did not sit up on my mattress until 8am! After asking if there was a bathroom at the store, I bypassed the outhouse outside the garage and headed across the train tracks. Inside the store, I found Ole, Trackmeat, and Veggie. They welcomed me to join them. When I returned from the bathroom, they had moved us to a bigger table, as Geared Up had also come over. Unfortunately, there was no cell service in this town, so I couldn’t send any e-mails out. “You guys, this is our second to last stop! Can you believe it?”. I thought about how far we had come, all of the obstacles that we had overcome, and all of the effort that we had put into this. “We’re amazing!”. I remembered Texas Poo telling me about all the people who had dropped out, who I had assumed were somewhere behind us. Each time I had mentioned someone’s name and asked if he knew them, he would tell me something I hadn’t known. “Whistler didn’t make it?!….Oh, no!… How come? Sexy Legs is off the trail?!… Tejas broke her leg?!”. After hearing about all of these people that didn’t finish, I realized that making it the entire way really was a big achievement.
There were Continental Divide banners hanging up in the store and the guys started talking about what was next. For now, the general consensus was that we all just wanted to sleep for awhile. “I just want to lie down for 10 days,” one of the guys said. It’s always good to hear that other people feel similarly to you!
The waitress was very nice, but seemed a bit overwhelmed with our second orders. She said it would be awhile before I could get some french toast. Veggie had ordered the circus waffles, which apparently created a problem because the cook didn’t have an open outlet for the waffle maker! “Meathook! You’re causing me problems!” the cook shouted over to him. Last night, he apparently ate a quadruple patty hamburger and was renamed Meathook by the staff. We thought his order had been forgotten, but finally the circus waffles arrived! The boys had had a great time in this restaurant in the time that they had been in town. Last night, they had turned on some music for them so they could dance. I felt like I was just quickly passing through and didn’t have a chance to get to know the place. Ole told us his embarrassing story from Shelter Cove. Apparently, a girl on the porch commented on how skinny he was and Ole assumed she must have known him from earlier in the hike. He wrapped his arms around her and asked how she was, while her boyfriend stood by, looking on warily. She had actually never met him before. I told him that reminded me of when a young guy came over to me after my yoga class at kick-off and I immediately reached out and hugged him!
The boys were already packed up and ready to go, so after we finished our food and paid, they headed out to hitch a ride back to the trail. The waitress wanted me to sign the guestbook, but halfway through, I decided I needed to run out and take a picture of the guys as this might be my last time seeing them! “I’ll be right back!”.
IMG_7061 copy
I still needed to head back to the garage and do all of my sorting and packing for the next stretch! Besides repackaging the cookies and graham crackers that the girls had sent me into ziplocs, I needed to get rid of some extra weight in my pack for the next 100 miles. It was too heavy during the last stretch. Although it was Sunday, I hoped that if I gave someone money, they could mail out a box for me at the store. I dropped my extra cookies into the hiker box and then headed back to the store, where Andrea was. She wanted me to walk my box back to the house, but luckily, I was able to find a piece of paper for the address and she let me put it into her car.
Now it was time to hitch a ride back to the trail! Fortunately, I didn’t have to wait too long! A nice guy picked me up on his way to the start of his own hike. After he dropped me off at Stevens Pass, I took a few moments to myself in the parking lot. There was reception here, so I let Ham know that I got my box with the passport in it and watched UBs most recent dramatic video. Then, it was time to find the trail again. Once again, I had no idea where to go! I headed one way, then another, and was completely lost! Finally, I saw two women standing in front of an information board, and decided it must be over there!
The trail was flat at first and wove a path through very tall grass and weeds! It felt like a very different landscape from the rest of the PCT and the flatness caused me to keep checking my GPS. Was this really the PCT?
IMG_7068 copy 2
Finally, it started to climb and I began to feel more at home.
IMG_7070 copy 2IMG_7071 copy 2
I found a nice little area to the side of the trail to take my first break. I made an ice coffee and enjoyed a couple of the Polish cookies from a woman in my lab and then had a few Junior Mints. They gave me such a burst of energy and I felt very happy. I wondered why I had never packed any of those before! My goal was to hike 17 miles today, with my noon start time. So far, I was making good progress.
I continued on my way and soon saw a familiar face. It was Seeking, taking a break on the side of the trail. He, too, was doing a flip-flop hike and expected to finish in late October or early November. He asked me if I still had giardia. I told him that I didn’t have that anymore, but that I had something else! He couldn’t believe I was still going, and more than that, he couldn’t believe that I was at the front of the pack! He had his tent drying on some bushes and told me about his scary experience in the lightning storm. As we chatted, the other hikers who were staying at the hostel all started passing by. Maverick and Lodgepole, Geared Up, Kiddo and Laura. I began to worry about my campsite being taken! Seeking wanted to keep chatting with me, though! He offered me some of the sardines that he was eating, which I declined, and told me about his stay in Stehekin. Finally, I offered to give him my e-mail in case he wanted to keep in touch after the trail. I had now lost at least a mile’s worth of time and knew I wouldn’t make my original goal.
One by one,I overtook the other hikers from the hostel and took the lead again. I was feeling strong, but pressed for time. At least it was not raining and I was able to see what was around me!
IMG_7072 copy 2

IMG_7073 copy 2IMG_7075 copy 2

IMG_7076 copy 2

IMG_7077 copy 2IMG_7080 copy 2
At an intersection in the trail, two white dogs came running down the path in front of me, both of whom had bear bells on their collars. Their owner was running after them, trying to keep them under control. I could understand why the dogs had bear bells, but still thought it unnecessary for people! I headed on, descending through the woods, before beginning the next climb. Although it was not raining, the trail was still very wet, muddy, and slippery from the last stretch of bad weather and caused my pace to slow. I saw a man ahead of me, but before I could pass him, he had decided to head down to a campsite on the side of the trail. Further up the climb, I found a couple taking a break. The man was smoking. I wondered how far they planned on hiking tonight. Once I reached the top of the peak, the trail opened up along a ridge.
IMG_7082 copy 2IMG_7087 copy 2IMG_7089 copy 2IMG_7091 copy 2

IMG_7092 copy 2

IMG_7093 copy 2

IMG_7095 copy 2

IMG_7096 copy 2IMG_7098 copy 2
The sun was now setting and I had to move quickly if I was going to make my modified goal of 16 miles.
IMG_7099 copy 2

IMG_7100 copy 2

IMG_7101 copy 2

IMG_7102 copy 2

IMG_7103 copy 2

IMG_7104 copy 2

IMG_7105 copy 2

IMG_7106 copy 2
The trail descended and all I could see was wet looking meadows. Then, I saw a very narrow path into some bushes and followed that to a nice patch of dirt underneath some trees! I had made it! I had to re-stake my tent several times, which was difficult to do with the huckleberry bushes behind it. As the last remnants of the sun disappeared, I brought everything inside my tent, cooked my dinner, and went to sleep. My goal was to make the 6pm bus to Stehekin in four days.