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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Day 119: Back into the Lava Fields!

Day 119
August 15
mile 1989.5-1994.6
5.1 miles

Last night, I had written a message to my doctor friend who had called in a prescription for my giardia when I was in Lone Pine. I told her that I still wasn’t feeling well and that I was pretty certain that I had been suffering from C. Dif for months now. I asked if there was any possibility of her prescribing one of the antibiotics that Allyson’s sister said I needed. While I was unable to sleep, I checked my phone to see a terse message from her saying she could not. Oh, well… It was at least worth a try.
Allyson is an early riser and was having a hard time lying in bed, so I got up for her. She said that she had a conference call in an hour and was going to go grab some breakfast in the lobby first. I told her I would go with her. Connie was still asleep. I ate a bowl of raisin bran with my cup of coffee and then we headed back up to the room so Allyson could get ready for her call. Connie opened her eyes when we opened the door. She had been sound asleep and looked so peaceful! I wished I could sleep like that! While Allyson prepared, I went back to the lobby to eat with Connie. I brought my baggie of guatamalan tea and Old Man’s Beard with me to make my tea, which Connie was curious to see. This time, I ate some waffles. I felt much more relaxed and at ease sitting with Connie. Some people are just easy to be around and it doesn’t matter if you are talking or not. The space is just natural and accepting. Because she felt like she needed to get back on the trail sooner than later, she called the man who had given her a ride to the trail a few days ago and asked if he could take her again. She had to quickly pack up her things and get ready, so we didn’t have time to relax or chat to my dismay.
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Back in the room, we said goodbye, hoping we would see each other again soon. Allyson had now finished her call and was hungry for a real breakfast, so we headed down the road and found a nice place nearby. My omelet looked amazing, but my stomach quickly started hurting again and I wasn’t able to enjoy it. Suddenly, Allyson realized that check-out time was just minutes away! I started to panic. I hadn’t had a chance to take a shower this morning or sort through all of my resupply items! I had hoped to find a place to get my haircut in preparation for the wedding, as well, knowing that this would be my last real town stop on the trail. I also needed to buy a plane ticket and get to the post office to send out my boxes of extra stuff. We were able to get an extra hour in the room, and then we took my stuff down to the lobby to start sorting. I had a lot to go through! First, I needed to divide up my probiotic pills, go through my maps and guidebook pages, pack my food bag for the next 120 (!) mile stretch, decide what I wanted to send further up the trail and where the best place to send it was, and what was worth sending back home. All the while, the pain in my stomach was growing worse and worse! Then, I needed to look up prices for flights and think, think, think…! I was now committing myself to finishing the trail by a certain date. If I wanted to get to the wedding, I would have no leeway for storm days or any days of rest. I would need to do high mileage days throughout Washington without knowing what the terrain would allow. (I had heard that Washington is tough and steep- second in difficulty to the Sierras). I sent a message to Checka and she wrote a very heartful message back that brought tears to my eyes. She did not want me to rush or stress to get to her wedding and said that the years of friendship we had in the future was more worth it than this one day. Being the stubborn person that I am (and not wanting to be selfish), I went ahead and bought the plane ticket so that I could make it to her wedding. Then, I wrote a quick update about what was happening with my hike to post on Facebook. By now, it was late in the afternoon and I felt bad that Allyson had to sit around while I attended to all of my chores. Connie had sent a text to Allyson, saying that she had somehow dropped her maps on the trail and asked if I could buy her a new set. All I could do at that point was make copies of my own pages and give them to her when I caught up to her.
We loaded up the car and headed out to buy new water bottles for me and find something to eat for her. I was in too much pain to eat anything. I don’t think Allyson understood because she insisted that I tell her what would be appeasing to my stomach. We ended up buying some peanut butter and chocolate frozen yogurt smoothies which we drank on the way to the trail, but by that point, nothing could make my stomach feel better. Even after emptying all of its contents, I still had clear diarrhea and a lot of pain.
We stopped to use the outhouse near the stone tower and I thought I recognized the green jacket and bandana of the hiker on top. I wanted to shout out, “Baxter?!”. Another hiker approached from behind the bathroom when we needed someone to take a picture of us. He asked if we were hiking the whole trail and I found out that he was a southbounder from France, named Poptart. I asked him if I would be able to hike 25 mile days in Washington. He hesitated for a few seconds before saying that it might be possible since I already had my “legs”. I smiled, feeling the tiniest bit relieved, but still feeling immense apprehension about my ability to do this.
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We walked back down to the trail and found Baxter and a friend of his sitting on the side of the road. It was really him, after all! At first, he didn’t recognize me, but was then happy to see me. He asked about my stomach and I explained that I found out what antibiotics I needed and that I had written to two doctors I knew from home, both of whom turned me down. He was sorry to hear it. When Allyson mentioned the name of the antibiotics I needed, Baxter asked, “Cipro? That’s what you need? I have a prescription of that on me. Do you want it?” Baxter was a nurse and was given three different prescriptions from his co-worker doctor for several things that he might need while on the trail. Wildcat had the other antibiotic with her. She was now in town. I found the difference between a hiker’s willingness to help out another hiker in need and the willingness of people living in society who had the power to help, but ultimately would not, quite astounding. I also found the timing of this encounter to be extraordinary. What if I had left town an hour or two earlier? I would have never run into Baxter.
Allyson wanted to hike a couple of miles with me before she had to turn back and drive to the bus station to meet her boyfriend. Although my stomach was still in great distress, walking felt good and helped to create a different and better environment to interact in.
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I felt bad that it had taken me so long to sort my things and take care of my business, as Allyson would have liked to hike more of the trail. When it was time for her to turn around, I was surprised to hear her say that she wanted to come out and hike a bigger part of the trail with me. Even if she wasn’t able to do that, she wanted to meet me at Timberline Lodge. I took off my pack to give her a hug goodbye, which she didn’t seem to expect. I thanked her for helping me out and being my personal trail angel and then headed on as she jogged back. We had just crossed another section of volcanic rock and it looked like the trail was now headed back into the woods, where I was sure I could easily find a nice place to camp. To my surprise, the woods were very short lived and the trail took me right back into the lava fields! Oh, dear… Finding a place to camp in this area was going to be a major challenge!
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I ended up passing by a very tiny spot that would be possible to cowboy camp in, but decided that I wanted to get in five miles tonight. I kept going. To my great fortune, I ended up finding a much bigger and better spot ahead!
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A nice open, flat space among the lava rocks! And there was still plenty of light out to set up camp! I spread out my groundcloth, sleeping pad, and sleeping bag and bundled up to protect myself from the cold wind. Then, I boiled water for my dinner of Lipton noodles which had looked so gross to me in the hotel room. They turned out to be really tasty, however- probably because they were something different! As I tucked myself into my sleeping bag, I felt completely content (other than my hurting belly). Here, in the harsh lava rock field, all alone in the dark, I was a happy girl.
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Quick Oregon update

Over halfway through Oregon. Only 166 miles until the Washington border! I am still sick… I’m pretty sure that I got Cdif from the antibiotics I took for the giardia. (I hate western medicine!!) Yesterday, I learned that the probiotics I have been taking for over 2 months were not doing anything because they didn’t contain the strain that fights cdif. I’ve hiked most of the trail unwell, so I am sure I can finish off these last 700 miles in the same condition. Southern Oregon was cold, stormy, and wet. There are a lot of bees, trees (and mosquitoes in Oregon!) And cute weasels. Crater Lake was a spectacular sight (even when it was cloudy). I am getting very sad about this journey coming to a close. I will miss many of these people and the simple life… Thinking about being in the airport and going back to Boston is already a traumatizing thought.

Day 118: A New Friend!

Day 118
August 14
mile 1972.5-1989.5
17 miles

Before it was light out, wile I was half asleep, I heard a noise near me. I thought it was probably an early morning hiker headed out on the trail. Then, I heard it again! This time, I knew it was too close to me to be a hiker! It was a large animal. I shifted in my sleeping bag and told it to go away. It did and then came back! I was too tired to look, but knew it was a deer. I decided that I better get up and eat my breakfast. A lot of moisture had condensed onto my sleeping bag and groundcloth overnight. I packed up my wet belongings and started walking in the overcast morning light.
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After a few miles, I reached the Obsidian Falls area, where a unique kind of shiny, black rock could be seen along the trail.
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I had only previously ever seen this kind of rock in museums and enjoyed this section of trail. It ended all too quickly, however! I soon reached the Obsidian Falls, which were nice, but not remarkable.
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I almost took a break there but decided to keep moving. I climbed the terrain above the falls and saw two men packing up their camp. As I headed on toward a tiny stream, I saw several other backpackers hiking down a different trail. They waved to me as I moved away in a different direction. I then started up a hill and found an open space to take my break. The sun had come out and I decided to take the opportunity to dry out my sleeping bag and groundcloth.
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As I snacked, I watched a woman, hiking with her dog, study her map on a trail below me, and then head on. The two men approached and greeted me. I think they thought I had camped here last night. Once my gear was fairly dry, I re-packed my pack and headed out again. I walked by the two men again as they sat beside the trail taking a break. They now learned that I was hiking the PCT by myself (“You can’t do that!” one said) and asked me when I started. They said they had met a few others with similar start dates.
I continued on, feeling pressed to make it to the pass in time to meet my friend.
I passed by another man who was out hiking with his dog. I thought he was headed in the opposite direction, but then discovered he was going the same way that I was. He chatted with me a bit before I headed on. The landscape shifted into volcanic rock and my energy was fading. I felt so slow today!
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The trail climbed steeply and my breath became labored. This was hard work! I looked back and was astonished to see the day hiker gaining on me! That never happens! He ended up needing to stop to give his dog some water and asked me where I was from. I finished up the climb, followed the trail to the left, and never saw him again.
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The trail descended back into the woods and I reached the supposedly always flowing Minnie Scott Spring. Another solo female backpacker was adjusting her pack on a rock just before the stream. I said hello and went to check out the situation. It turned out to be an extremely shallow stream, where finding a running trickle looked to be a difficult task. Hmmm… I headed back along the stream and collected what I could and then sat down along the trail in the grass to filter it. The other hiker still needed to collect water for herself, and we started chatting. She asked me about my two liter (gigantic!) collecting bag and a couple of other questions and I soon learned that she was out here on her first backpacking trip ever! She had flown to Portland from Houston in order to hike a 200 mile section of the Oregon part of the PCT. I thought she was incredibly brave to do this alone! After her first two nights, she was finding the solitary nature of the experience to be difficult. I told her that if she was near any thru-hiker and didn’t want to be alone, she should ask if it would be okay to camp near them and that I could guarantee her that 99% of them would say absolutely!
As I drank my ice coffee, and ate my Snickers, she headed back out. Suddenly, I felt like a good friend was walking away from me! I wanted to catch back up to her and keep talking! I finished my snack, filtered the rest of my water, packed up, and headed out, expecting to see her not too far ahead. I was wrong! The girl was moving quickly! A family of four walked by me and I continued down to a meadow. Two women were approaching me and in the distance, I could see my friend heading into the woods to start the next climb! The women wanted to chat, though. One of them asked if she could shake my hand when she learned I was hiking the whole PCT! I told her she was sweet. The other one asked if there was water at Minnie Scott Spring and how far they were from it. I headed on and eventually caught up to my friend on a climb. She immediately let me pass and I was disappointed that she didn’t seem to want to chat. Then, I started asking her questions. Was she going into Bend? She said she was not, since she had just started from there a couple days ago. I asked her when she planned on finishing at Cascade Locks. I was also curious about what she had done to prepare physically for this because she was definitely in good shape! She said she had been doing CrossFit. Later, she lamented about following the advice of an older man employee at REI when she asked what to wear on the trail. She said she felt dumpy, but I disagreed! I told her she was welcome to come with me into town if she wanted and that she would have a sure ride. She thought about it and then asked if I would be willing to pick her up a hiking skirt at REI if she gave me the money. I told her of course!
A bit later on, she said that she was thinking more and more about coming into Bend with me. I turned around and smiled. We calculated how many miles she would need to hike a day in order to finish when she planned to if she made this extra trip. It turned out to still be very doable!
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As we crested the peak, we met a group of women hikers who were very excited to talk to us. “Are you hiking the entire trail?”. They were blown away when I said yes and just as excited when Connie said she had just begun her hike two days ago.
After we left them, Connie said, “You must get that all the time!”. I told her I loved it!
I felt under a good amount of pressure to not arrive late at the road as I didn’t want my friend to have to wait for me. I told Connie I was going to pick up the pace, but that she should hike at a speed that was comfortable for her and that we would wait for her.
When I needed to, I stopped to take a pack break and a few minutes later, was surprised to see Connie approaching! She was an impressive hiker!
I stopped at the next lake for a moment and said that I wished I had time for a swim. She said I would have time later on, but I knew my schedule was too strict. We headed on and I again took the lead. I kept checking my watch and the miles I had left. I had not a minute to waste! I did realize that the stress I was putting on myself to get there exactly at 3 was a bit ridiculous. Surely, my friend would understand if I was a bit late…
The trail came out of the woods and headed across a maze of lava rocks. These ones were a bit harder to walk on than the previous lava field. I could see the road, but the trail kept looping around in crazy directions. I could see a stone tower by the road and people standing on top of it and I imagined my friend being able to see me approach from it. I also imagined that she was telling the other people about me and my hike and that they were all cheering me on!
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At last, I arrived at the road, just 2 minutes after the hour. Strangely, no one was there. I didn’t even see the tower. I didn’t want to walk up the road for fear that Connie would think I had abandoned her, so I sat down by the road and dug out my food bag. I was so tired and so hungry. Several minutes later, my friend drove by and stuck her head out the window. “There you are!” she exclaimed. She motioned for me to get in. She began telling me about her ordeal finding the trail and wanted to immediately head into town. It wasn’t easy for me to cut in and tell her that someone else, still on the trail, was hoping for a ride… We headed up the road to use the restrooms and and our way back down, found Connie, looking off into the distance. I felt bad about not being there when she arrived!
We headed toward the town of Sisters, which I had thought from reading the town descriptions, was a very tiny place. It was a lot larger than I had imagined! Allyson asked if we wanted to stop at the coffee shop. That sounded good to me, even though I was dehydrated. (When she had first asked me if she could bring me anything, I thought about asking her for a peanut butter and jelly sandwich and a bottle of water, but then decided not to. Still, I hoped she might bring something… She did not, however). The coffee shop smelled SO good inside! I instantly became happy! I bought a cookie and coffee and paid for Allyson’s treat, as well, since she came all the way out to help me. Then, we relaxed into the leather couches while Allyson started to look up motels in Bend. The choices were overwhelming. She didn’t want to stay long, so we headed right back out. This time, I was given the task of picking out a motel, while she drove, which was a bit stressful for me.
We found one with a pool, but it turned out not to have a washer or dryer. My mind started to become overwhelmed with all of the activity around me as we pulled into the motel. Allyson told me to relax for a minute while she checked us in, and then we took our things up to our room. I started rinsing out my dirtiest articles of clothing, one by one, and Connie took her shower. Then, I showered and we headed out to find dinner. Again, it was a bit of an ordeal. Bend was a big place! It was not at all a trail friendly town. A car was a requirement. We located a tavern-like place and then spent a significant amount of time trying to find a parking space. Then, upon entering the very loud restaurant, we learned that there would be a wait. So, we headed back to the car and drove around town some more. We stopped at a burger place that was more like a fast food restaurant, but they sold wine. As we sat at an outside table, eating, I started to relax a bit. I wanted to get a milkshake after my meal, but suddenly Allyson said that it was almost 8 and REI was about to close! So we raced across town and got there 10 minutes before closing. I asked for my resupply box and then ran around the store, trying to remember the things I had wanted to look for. Why did I not make a list? Allyson helped me find a new shirt, I looked for a matching bandana, which I could not find, I tried to find a plastic eye dropper bottle (also not there), and then remembered I needed another tent stake (my titanium stakes were worthless!). Connie found her skirt, and we checked out and headed on to Whole Foods. Allyson’s sister had had a lot of experience with C. Dif from strong antibiotics over the course of her life and also worked as a nurse in the ER. She wrote down the names of 2 antibiotics that would probably help, as well as the strain of probiotic that I needed in my system. It turned out that the probiotics I had been taking since Lone Pine did not contain this strain and that is why they weren’t having any effect. I bought capsules of the specific strain, another box of general probiotic capsules, and a yogurt like shot of probiotics to drink tonight. I also bought a fudgey brownie. Connie bought a bottle of wine for us to share. She said she was so grateful for our willingness to take her in, but I was just so happy that she had joined me! We headed back to the room and Allyson brought our clothes to the laundromat and washed them for us, while I opened my resupply box and started sorting. I learned that Connie was inspired to come out and hike this section of the trail after reading “Wild.” She had already been a fan of Cheryl Strayed before this book came out, when she wrote an advice column for an internet site. Many people who had seen me on my hikes had mentioned how brave I am to hike them alone, but I thought what Connie was doing was far more brave! I don’t think I would have undertaken my first backpacking trip ever all alone, and I certainly wouldn’t have flown across the country to hike 200 miles my first time! We weren’t able to find a wine opener anywhere and were growing more and more tired by the moment. I fretted about which bed to sleep in. I didn’t want to offend my old friend or make my new friend uncomfortable after just meeting her…
When Allyson returned, she said I could share the bed with her, so I did. However, I was not at all comfortable and my mind raced all night long. In my exhausted condition, I was not able to get any sleep.

Day 117: Another bad day for my intestines!

Day 117
August 13
1947.9-1972.5
24.6 miles

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Even though I was now in the “easiest” part of the trail, I was feeling more and more exhausted and therefore getting up later and later. I think the accumulation of miles was finally catching up to me. I had not had a day off from hiking since July 4th! And I was still very sick. So far, neither the Guatamalan tea, nor the Old Man’s Beard had had any positive effects. I had another emergency this morning, and while I was in the middle of it, I heard a man cough. Someone was coming down the trail! I did what I could and stood there as the person passed by. My eyes grew wide as I realized it was my 75 year old fiend, Phil, who I had last seen at the Callahan’s. How on earth did he catch up to me?! I waved to him, but he did not seem to recognize me. I guess that was for the better, given the situation I was in. I packed up my tent and stuffed all of my possessions into my backpack and headed back out to the trail. It didn’t take me too long to catch up to my friend. “Phil!”
He turned around and now recognized me. “Wendy! Was that you back there?”.
I asked him how he was now here. “Well, I’ve really picked up my speed since I last saw you,” he began. I was incredulous. Then he explained that the night he stopped at the Fish Hatchery, the smoke in the air from the nearby forest fires was so thick that he was having trouble breathing. He called his wife and she came to pick him up and bring him back home for a few days. He decided to get back on the trail just after Shelter Cove. Today, he was going to head out on the Elk Lake Trail and be picked up by his wife to spend another few days in Bend. I told him I planned on getting there tomorrow from MacKenzie Pass. I mentioned that his pack looked a lot smaller now! He explained that Slacks’s friend, who he had never met, saw him on the trail and told him that his pack was looking very lopsided. He asked if he wanted help adjusting it and spent several minutes adjusting all of the straps for him. Slack then came along and apparently had the same reaction to seeing him as I did! He couldn’t believe that he was now at the same place as him and Phil had fun playing with him about his increased pace and endurance. I thought it was so sweet that these guys took the time to help him and also thought it was interesting that Slack and I were the two thru-hikers that were repeatedly being placed in his path. I liked this connection. I slowed down my pace to keep chatting, as I was enjoying our conversation. I began to grow hot in the rain layers that I had started out in and stepped aside to peel off the extra clothes. Phil told me his last name so I could look him up in the phone book if I needed to be driven somewhere while I was in Bend.
Then, I got moving. I told my friend that I would be at the Pass as close to 3pm as possible. I still had nearly 40 miles to hike before then!
I walked through another burn area with the sun glaring down on me and walked by the Elk Lake Trail turn-off.
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Soon after, I found a grassy slope to sit on and enjoyed an ice coffee and snacks. It was now 1pm, and I still had 31 miles to hike by 3pm tomorrow! That thought alone exhausted me!
I began the next, steeper climb. My tummy was hurting and I felt lethargic. At the top of the climb, on top of a pile of rocks, I noticed that I had some reception and stopped to check in with my friend. She wanted to know if I had plans for the evening. I began to worry that she might want to go out and do something in town. All I could think about was getting a shower, washing my clothes, picking up my resupply box that I sent to REI, sleeping, sorting, and eating! There was no time for anything fun…
I headed on, feeling worse and worse. This was a bad intestinal day! As I approached the next lake, I heard a woman calling for her dog. When she saw me, she asked if I had seen him. I had not. She was very surprised to hear what I was doing out here and especially that I was doing it alone. We talked about my illness and she sympathized, as her daughter had picked up something similar during her world travels and still struggled with it years later. She asked me to keep a lookout for her dog, who had chased after some big animal, and asked if I could yell back to her if I saw him. Before we parted, her dog came trotting over to her, now without his pink pack that was holding its dog food! It acted extremely nonchalant, as if nothing had happened and he had never left her side. I left her to the task of searching out his pack and headed on, stopping at the lake to snack and collect more water. I could see her family sitting on the shore of the opposite side of the lake.
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I thought the trail would take me over there, but it headed away from the lake and back into the woods.
Soon after, the trail emerged from the woods back out into an open landscape. I could see a huge snowy mountain in the distance, but had no idea which one it was. All I knew was that I was happy to be back in an open expanse again. It had been a long time!
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I listened to some Ray LaMontagne as I walked and felt energetically fed. A large group of teenage girls headed toward me and a couple of the leaders asked me about my journey as they passed by. They were planning on camping at the same lake as the woman and her dog. I still had many miles to go…
I re-entered the woods and came across a nice, flowing stream, saw a cute deer, and had another intestinal emergency.
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The trail climbed again and I walked through a field where I could see a tent set up in the distance and a couple walking around outside of it. I thought that must be where the upcoming pond was. I continued to walk and came upon tent after tent. This was a crowded area! The mosquitoes were out in full force again. I needed my own space, so I walked by the pond and all the campers and headed back into the woods, searching out a possible camp spot.
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After several minutes, I decided to pull over. I could have set up my sleeping bag on a large rock, but decided it would be better to sleep on dirt and thus moved. Once again, my intestines demanded immediate attention. When was this ever going to end?! I had had enough!
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I set up my cowboy camp as the air cooled and cooked my pasta in the darkening night air. In the distance, I heard a loud rumbling. It sounded like an avalanche on the big mountain nearby! I hoped everyone camping underneath it remained safe. Tomorrow, I would have to get up fairly early, as I had to hike 17 miles by 3:00!

Day 108: Stories

Day 108
August 4
mile 1732-1757.3
25.5 miles

The pain in my stomach finally started to subside after midnight and I was able to get a couple hours of rest.
I made my way back up to the trail and resumed my walk on the sliver of dirt that had been cut through the evergreen trees. Before long, I came across two cute deer who were not immediately frightened off.
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After my first couple of miles, when I needed to take my first pack break along the edge of the trail, Veggie approached. He, Ole, and Track Meat had gone into the town of Ashland and then attempted to get back on the trail in the evening. At the trailhead, they ran into Legend and Viking, who had been drinking, and was now in the mood to go dancing. He convinced Ole and Track Meat to head back into town to go clubbing. Veggie did not want to go and carried all three of their packs a little way up the trail to a camping spot. They returned in the early morning hours and hadn’t woken up by the time Veggie started hiking. As he relayed the story, a crazy squirrel kept running towards us without fear! It kept scaring me and we had to continually shoo it away!
In a couple more miles, I found Veggie and another hiker sitting around chatting. We were now in a very dry stretch of trail, without much shade. I hadn’t noticed the faucet nearby until I asked where the water was. Apparently, a big group of hikers had camped here last night and there was an unusually high level of animal activity, as well, including a bear! I listened to the stories from the guy I didn’t know as I sat on a rock, filtering my water. He talked about some crazy birds in New Zealand (or Australia?) that would dive bomb people and peck their heads! This guy had camped here last night as well and had spent the morning journalling. Both of them decided to carry very little water, banking on a source not far ahead.
I carried a lot, as usual, and was very happy that I did when I saw the tiny puddle of muck ahead…
A little after noon, I ran into a hiker heading south. I had met the first southbounder of the year, Bobcat, on the day I hiked into Ashland. He was very skinny and it was easy to tell that he was a thru-hiker. He was also very calm and polite and told me about all the smoke in Ashland from the forest fires. Fortunately, it seemed to have started clearing. I asked the guy sitting on the log on the side of the trail if he was also a southbounder. He said his name was Forrest Man and I asked him what Washington was like, as I had asked Bobcat. I was worried about the tough terrain and my ability to hike 25 miles a day, which I would need to do in order to finish the trail by the 17th of September! They both talked about how much snow there was and how extraordinarily slow going it was for the first 200 miles. Forrest Man decided to skip 200 miles of the trail because of the conditions. He told me about spotting a dry branch in the middle of the several feet of snow he was walking on and stepped on it for a break. An entire tree sprung out of the snow when he did so! He also talked about how lonely it was. He said he enjoyed talking to all of the northbounders he met now. I asked him if that was taking up a lot of his time, to which he answered that he has now reduced his miles in order to chat. He didn’t seem to want to stop the conversation with me, so I had to slowly pull myself away. I had a lot of miles planned for today and needed to get a move on it! Before I left, he mentioned that I had a huge dry section of trail coming up (who would have thought Oregon would be so dry?) but that I could stop at Hyatt Lake resort, about 1.4 miles off trail, where I could get a shower. Since I had just showered a couple of days ago, and couldn’t eat real food, I had no desire to hike off trail. He did say there was a pump after the resort.
Ever since I reached the half-way point of the trail, and especially with less than 1,000 miles remaining, I kept my mind occupied by trying to remember where I was and what was happening to me at that same mile into my hike. I was surprised at how much I could remember.
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In the late afternoon, I was surprised to reach a bridge spanning a wide, fast-flowing creek! Forrest had not mentioned this as a water source! I was a little perplexed, but happy to be able to replenish my water and make myself an ice coffee! As I sat on the edge of the bridge, Track Meat came along and told me his version of the night’s happening at the dance club and their scary ride back to the trail with a man who was high and who decided to follow them back to their campsite. Without a headlamp, and in the state he was in, he kept stumbling, losing the trail, and shouting out for help. He kept the guys up with his talking until they told them they didn’t mean to be rude, but that they needed to get some sleep. Track Meat took out an entire package of Newman’s mint oreo cookies and offered me one. It was such a treat with my ice coffee! He, too, was surprised about this river. “The southbounder failed to mention this raging river!” I said.
As I sat there snacking, a mother, daughter, and their dog came off a side trail and then picked some blackberries nearby. Soon, Ole came along. I got to hear the same story from his perspective, which was amusing. He had been having a tough time staying awake as he walked today and I asked him why he couldn’t just lie down and take a nap. He wanted to keep up with Veggie. He was also stopped by Forrest and had to excuse himself when he couldn’t keep his eyes open anymore. He headed on as I finished my break.
I crossed the road leading to the Hyatt Resort and as I was about to reenter the woods, I looked back at the road as a car turned off. I recognized the shirt on the arm hanging out the window as that of Beer. Hmmm… It had been quite apparent to me that he and Ranch had been hitchhiking and skipping parts of the trail, but now I knew for sure.
I came upon the faucet and the multitude of bees swarming around it and topped off my water supply before heading back out.
It was now late in the day and I was growing tired. I took frequent pack breaks and tried to muster up all of my remaining energy.
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Eventually, I came out to a flat area with an intersection of dirt roads. I wasn’t sure where the trail was. There were several fire rings around, but the area was too eerie to camp in. I walked by a tree with a no camping sign and was amused to see a fire ring right beside it!
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I found the trail as it lead back into the forest and caught a glimpse of the huge orb of red sun sinking through the trees. It was casting a magnificent shade of color on a section of trees on the other side of the trail.
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Before long, I spotted an area off to the side of the trail that was suitable to stop at, even though I was surrounded by charred chunks of trees. I set up my cowboy camp and cooked dinner and then watched a man hike south along the trail into the darkening night. I felt slightly vulnerable. Fortunately, he offered a slight wave and kept walking.

Oregon!

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I made it to the border of Oregon on the evening of August 1st! I had so much energy all day and easily hiked the 28.4 miles (except for the last mile) to the border. And I was happy that I kept up with Bandleader and Sky Eyes, so I would have someone to take my picture at this meaningful place!
All day, we couldn’t see any views because of all of the forest fires around us, and we smelled and breathed in the smoke. The air had turned cool the night before (after 2 weeks of very hot and surprisingly humid weather!). By the time we reached the border, it was cold and misty (just what you might picture Oregon to look like!).
I found a cozy place to camp right next to a dirt road less than half a mile after the border, washed some of the dirt off me, put on warmer layers, and cooked my dinner. (I’m a little worried about how cold I will be in Washington because I am often still cold now in all my layers!).
I’m still having a lot of stomach/intestinal problems, but my spirit is strong and I can still hike, so that is all that matters to me.

The next morning, the air cleared and I cried thinking about this trip being over. I feel like I am leaving my soul out here. This is where I am the most happy and the most strong. I slept on a bridge the other night. Since mile 300-something, I have set up my tent only twice. I almost always sleep (and hike alone), but if I am in the vicinity of others, I am always amused when I am the only one who hasn’t set up a tent. I’ve become a cowgirl camper!
I endured a lot of hardship in California- giardia, repercussions of some awful antibiotics (10 weeks now!), two resupply boxes that did not get to me (very stressful!), personal heartbreak, storms, etc, but I accept it all. This journey has been a lot about letting go (letting go of being in control, letting go of attachment), and also about opening up.
One of the best things about this hike is what other people are reflecting back to me about who I am. Although I have been alone a lot, at certain times, people drop in to my life, seemingly to remind me of my own self- worth (the thing I have always struggled the most with). People like Fun Size and Bandleader and Muk Muk and Dust Bunny. They don’t know much about me- only what they see in this very moment, and I can’t believe the compliments they have given me. And many people from home have sent me care packages (several of whom also don’t know me very well), which is extraordinarily meaningful to me.
I think I am starting to like myself out here and I wish I could just keep hiking this trail…
But winter is coming and I have to hike fast to be able to finish and avoid the bad weather.
It’s a catch 22. So all I can do is stay in the present as much as possible and be grateful for the opportunity to be out here. And then pick a place out here to live and begin a different, better life.

Day 105: Oregon!!

Day 105
August 1
mile 1670 – about 1699.2
29.2 miles

When I awoke, I looked out on a completely new landscape- one that looked more like the sea than the sky! White clouds hung below the tops of the mountains, making them appear to be floating. I couldn’t believe what I was seeing!
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After I ate my breakfast and shifted around, I noticed a huge squished bug that looked like a giant tick on my groundcloth that I had apparently rolled over on during the night. Sometimes, it’s best not to wonder about what is crawling around your head while you try to sleep…
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I headed out, continually looking at the horizon and the unbelievable views that the low clouds were creating. It was stunning!
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After a mile or so, I came upon Rabbit Stix staring at his map at an intersection. The trail was actually marked here, but I waited for him to confirm our direction and then headed on. As I climbed, I looked back to see another hiker approaching. I couldn’t tell who it was. I began to heat up in my layers and decided it was time to strip. While I was doing so, the other hiker caught up. It was Band Leader, who I hadn’t seen since Echo Lake! He said that I had caught him going to the bathroom, but I didn’t know what he was talking about. Apparently, he was up on the ridge and saw me coming. He said that I was keeping my eyes on the trail and he thought he was going to go unseen, but at the last second, my eyes turned up to where he was! I told him that I didn’t see him at all! I was just looking at the amazing views!
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The next water source was a questionable one in a marshy area. Rabbit Stix decided to check it out and I turned off the trail to follow. I wished I hadn’t because only a pump would work with the small puddle that existed. Another hiker left the area shouting. Something had clearly gotten him worked up!
I headed back to the trail and ended up stopping to take a pack break right before the next potential water source. The frustrated hiker came along and asked if there was any water here. I had no idea! It turned out to be only a faint dribble. We headed on through the woods and then coming back out to a ridge. The air was extremely smoky and all of the views had now disappeared. I wondered how close we were to a fire and if we were safe.
As we descended to a dirt road that lead to a spring, I saw a large tent set up, along with a grill and some gallons of water. I wondered if someone was offering trail magic. A woman with a stern face then emerged from the tent and glared at me. I guess not… I asked her if the spring was that way and she answered in an unfriendly manner. I started down the path and then decided to wait instead and hope for water at the next spring that was closer to the trail.
No officials were waiting at this road to tell us to get off the trail, so I assumed it was safe to keep walking. I passed by Band Leader taking a break. He wanted to know where his friend Sky Eyes was. I told him that he needed to stop to get water at the last spring and would be along shortly.
I ended up taking a break further ahead and Band Leader said he wished he had waited to take his break there when he passed by.
Several miles later, when I reached Bear Dog spring, I found Band Leader and a hiker I did not know, named Wight sitting on a log, eating their lunch. Runs with Elk was sitting above them in a grove of trees. The guys told me the spring was dried up and then, when they admitted they were kidding, said it was a quarter mile downhill. “No, it’s not!”. Unfortunately, it was only a puddle, so they said I needed to scoop out the water with. I told them that, luckily, I had a wide-mouthed smart water bottle for that purpose. Wight said that wouldn’t be good enough and lent me his mug.
I joined them to eat my own lunch and filter my water. Wight had only eaten a Cliff bar and was ready to head out again. Band Leader complained about having too much food on him and asked me if I wanted anything. I also had too much! Runs With Elk was interested, however, and came down to look through the offerings. The only thing that had looked good to me was some pastel colored eggs. Finally, Band Leader asked if I wanted any. “Yes, please!” I felt so happy just staring at them in my hand!
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Runs with Elk asked me if I had ever made a nest on a hike to leave some chocolate eggs in. She said she had done that a couple of times. Band Leader thought that sounded like a fun idea and asked if they could build a nest now! He went off and started gathering pretty leaves and flowers and quickly turned them into a beautiful nest and placed it on a log with some of the candies in the center.
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Sky Eyes came along and when the nest was pointed out to him, first thought it was real, and then that it had taken someone a long time to make!
I headed out into the hot afternoon and after about twenty minutes, decided that an ice coffee sounded good. I figured I had better make it now before my water got too hot. The boys passed by and made fun of me for stopping so soon after my last break. We were all excited about reaching the Oregon border, which we were shooting for tonight “Remember when it used to take us all day to hike 20 miles?” I asked Band Leader. “Yeah. And now we can easily hike 30. I think we’re getting the hang of this thing, Wendy!”.
I was excited to have people in my vicinity and hoped I could keep up so that someone could take my picture at this monumental point!
I hiked at a strong pace by myself for the next several miles and was glad to come across Band Leader and Sky Eyes sitting down taking a break. “We only have ten miles until the border!”. We talked about the wedding I was trying to make it to and Band Leader joked that I should wear my current outfit to it. He said I should arrive late, apologizing profusely, and then ask, “Is there any food around here?”. In a normal thru-hiker state, that would make sense, but I was worried that I wouldn’t even be able to eat at the wedding!
I continued on, watching hawks fly overhead, and then had to sit down to take my break as the boys pressed on. I soon caught up to Band Leader and Wight and hiked with them to the last water source of the day.
Our guidebook made it seem like it would be difficult to find and easy to miss, but that was actually far from the case! We found Cookie leaving the source and could hear it from a distance! The water was so cold that my hands hurt trying to filter it. Wight spread out his groundcloth and decided to make some hot chocolate and perhaps stay there for the night. I headed on. I soon caught up to Cookie, who said she didn’t know if she was going to try for the border tonight. (How could you not know that?). I hiked as hard as I could, wanting to stay ahead of everyone to make sure there was someone to take my picture. Still, I had to take my little pack breaks.
My energy remained fairly strong until I hit the last mile. Cookie had caught back up to me and was obviously going to reach the border, as well. I struggled to keep my pace and kept looking at my GPS as I walked. Where was this thing? As I got closer and closer, I wanted to stay in the lead, even though I knew it didn’t matter who got there first. I felt like I had worked really hard and wanted to see the sign appear in front of me, rather than another person reaching the sign.
At last, there it was. Cookie let out a yelp behind me and I let out nothing. No emotions arose within me. I was just there.
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I asked Cookie if she would take a couple of pictures of me and then I did the same for her.
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As we read through the register, the boys came along with much more excitement. Sky Eyes fell to the ground, so happy to be in his home state of Oregon, and Band Leader tumbled on top of him. Sky Eyes said that he had been waiting for this moment for an entire week- and that his reason had to do with Band Leader. Cookie and I looked at each other. Then, Sky Eyes pulled out a joint. Band Leader promised he would smoke with him when they arrived at the border and now it was time to make due on his promise. I was offered some but said no. Sky Eyes understood. He said that for people who naturally laugh a lot, marijuana just makes them very sleepy. It was now very cold out and the haze from the smoke of the forest fires caused our surroundings to look a lot like one would expect Oregon to look like.
I thought the boys were planning to sleep at the border, but we all ended up putting our packs on and heading out. Cookie lead and pulled over when she saw a spot without saying anything. I continued walking and once I crossed a dirt road, noticed a patch of dirt beside a tree. I decided I would stop right there. There were a couple of beer cans around, and sleeping by a road is never the most comfortable thing, but I was dead tired and this place offered me my own little space. I set up my cowboy camp, cooked dinner, washed up, layered up, and went to sleep.
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