Day 152: The End!

Day 152
September 17
2656.5-2668.7
12.2 miles

As on most nights on the trail, I woke up every hour or so, checked the time, saw that it was still the middle of the night, and changed my sleeping position. Around 5:30 in the morning, I fell asleep hard (also as usual). This morning, I awoke at 6:33 to the sound of my breathing. It was 6:30 already? I looked out and saw Gumby and Double-It packing up their tent. There was no way I could be ready in time to leave with them. Although I was worried that there would be no one to take my picture at the border, I reminded myself to stay calm and stick to my own rhythm. Everything would work out, I told myself. I ate my half serving of granola and started a boil for my coffee, which I ate with a single poptart. Double-It called out another “Congratulations” to me, which made me smile. Gumby said that if they didn’t see me at the border, they would see me in Manning Park. “Okay”. They took off at 7am. It was still rainy and dark out. I figured that my slower start would give the clouds more of a chance to break up. Slowly, I packed up my things- stuffing my long underwear and sleeping socks into my extra clothing stuff sack for the last time, squishing my sleeping bag into its own sack, and throwing each little bag outside my tent in order to fold up my sleeping pad and groundcloth.
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I realized that it was best if I took a few extra minutes to myself on this last morning. A few tears flowed out as I thought about the magnitude of what I had just undertaken and what I had gone through over these past few months. In only a few miles, it would all be over. It was time. It’s not fun to hike and camp in cold rain every day, and now that my tent was completely blown apart, I didn’t even have a useful shelter anymore. I needed to give my body a chance to rest and heal, as well. I had been sick for far too long. A month into this hike, I remember feeling so sad that I only had four months left out here. In Oregon, I felt traumatized by the thought of being alone in Vancouver, going through security and waiting in long lines at the airport, and being cramped up in an airplane for hours on my way to a city in which I really had no one to greet me. I wanted to keep living this trail life, even though I was sick and in pain. Now, it had come to its natural end and I was finally ready for it to be over.
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I headed onto the trail for the last time. The bushes along it transferred the rain water that had settled on them onto my rain pants as I walked. I thought I had slept in too late and had missed Joat on his return, but suddenly, I saw him in front of me! I congratulated him again, and just like last night, he reminded me that what we had done was a very impressive thing. He said there are a lot of people who will never be able to comprehend why anyone would ever want to walk more than 10 miles. Very few people would be able to even begin to understand what we did. The emotions that I had felt while I was packing up quickly returned. My face contorted and I could not hold back the tears. Joat stood calmly in front of me, allowing me to release what needed to be released. I realized how much pain and suffering I had gone through for most of the duration of the hike, knowing that it had made my hike so much tougher than it would have been otherwise. Despite everything, I had made it and now stood two miles from the finish line. I asked Joat what his name meant and he said “Jack of all Trades”. He listed all of the occupations that he had tried out during his life. Now, the thing that he wanted the most was to be back with his wife. He asked me if I needed someone to take my picture at the border. I told him that I wasn’t worried- that someone would come along. “It always works out.” He agreed. Then he looked up, and said, “Here comes someone now!”. I smiled and looked back to see who it was. Purple Haze! I waved to him but he didn’t seem to recognize me until he got close. “Wendy! How did you get ahead of me?”. I was wondering the same thing! “How did you get behind me?”. Joat said, “You two can take pictures of each other at the border!”. Purple Haze said his wife was coming to meet him, so he didn’t need anyone, but I knew I now had someone to take my picture. Joat let me know that when I hit the S-curves in the trail, I was close. Part of me wished he hadn’t said anything so it could be more of a surprise. We said our goodbyes and let Joat continue on his way, and then I took the lead, happy to exchange my tears for smiles and chit-chat. Purple Haze talked about his early night last night and the feast of snacks that he had allowed himself to eat. He also told me the story about meeting Story Time one night in the dark. After he had gotten into his tent, he heard a noise, which he thought was an animal. “Go away!” he shouted at it. In the morning, he awoke to find that another camper that had slept nearby. He introduced himself as Story Time, and Purple Haze realized that he was the one he had shouted at last night. He actually did move away!
I saw a grouse in front of me and stopped to take a picture. “It’s a male”, I told Purple Haze. My camera was not capturing it in the darkness, but for some reason, the grouse was not frightened off. It was the first one on my hike that let me take its picture over and over again until I finally got a good one!
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Purple Haze was pleased as well. We finally both got good images and felt like we could continue on. After awhile, Purple Haze fell behind a bit.
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And then, before I knew it, I came to the first S-curve! My heart started to beat a little faster. Still, I had to be patient. The monument was not within sight.
On the final curve, I saw a clearing through the trees and could make out part of the wooden monument and a sign. “I see it!” I called back to Purple Haze. And then, I was suddenly there in front of it. Just a quiet little wooden monument in the middle of a clearing in the woods.
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I yelled out a “whoo-hoo” and lifted my hands into the air. Purple Haze gave me a hug and I set my pack near the obelisk and tried to lift it off its base, as I knew the register was inside. I also knew I wanted to have my picture taken with me lifting it up, as I had a seen a picture of my friend doing it last year. I did not, however, realize how extraordinarily heavy it was! I could not get the top part off the base! Purple Haze and I had to rock it back and forth several times and then he was finally able to get it off. If I was alone, I don’t know how I would have managed! As I was flipping through the pages of the registry, I heard a noise in the woods. I looked up to see Beads heading towards us. “Beads! Congratulations!”. I tried to give her a hug, but she wasn’t as receptive as she was in Stehekin. She said that she had something in mind. “Something in mind?”. I wondered if she had some party horns or champagne or something similar in her pack. It turned out that she wanted to have her picture taken naked! She had been doing this on all of the high passes throughout the hike. I told her she better hurry up and do it before Mrs. Haze came along, as I was pretty sure she would not appreciate that! Purple Haze gladly accepted the job of photographer. After she was done, it was my turn to have my picture taken.
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I told them that I wanted to lift up the monument and somehow was able to gather up enough strength to do so!
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They wanted to try it, too, but neither managed to lift it up. The rain started coming down again and we scrambled to put back on our rain layers and tuck our packs under some branches. Beads said she wanted to get going, but I wanted to stay and read through the registry and hang out a bit longer. I huddled underneath a tree, shivering in the wet, while I read the previous comments.
At last, Mrs. Haze arrived! After her celebratory hugs, kisses, and photographs with her husband, and the gift of a matching Purple Haze T-shirt, I was invited to share the bottle of champagne and snacks that she had hiked in. The champagne began to affect me and I had to do my best to hold myself together while I answered Mrs. Haze’s questions. Purple Haze told her about his role of photographer to Beads, and she was not pleased! She said that if she had seen that when she arrived, she would have turned right around and hiked the 8 miles back!
I still had to sign the register so I walked back to the notebook in its plastic bag on the base of the monument. My hand almost couldn’t write and my brain was not able to think properly by that point. I scribbled something illegible.
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I took one more look at the clear-cut separating the border between the two countries, and then put on my backpack once again.
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I thought it would be nice to have some company for the remaining 9 miles, but they urged me to go on ahead, as I would be faster. I figured that they needed some catching up time, as well. During the first mile or so, I thought about all of the lessons that I had learned on my journey and felt like I was having a lot of profound thoughts that I would have to share with people later. Then, the effect of the champagne wore off and I suddenly felt very, very tired and I quickly forgot all of my fascinating thoughts! How many miles did I have left? I wanted to get my heavy pack of my back! The trail climbed and still, the grey clouds hung low.
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I walked over a little stream, which just a day ago, was so meaningful and life-saving to me, but now, I just wanted to be done with it all.
The remaining miles dragged on and on. Mrs. Haze had directed me on which way to turn, but I hadn’t really taken it in. Maybe I would get lost on my own. I followed the signs to the best of my ability, and when I got tired, found a little rock to sit on and eat another Snickers bar and take a sip of water from my dirty water bottle. The trail opened up to a wider path and then dropped down to wetter terrain. I had to step to the sides of the trail to avoid getting my feet wet. At last, I reached the road. After figuring out which way to turn, I hoped someone would offer to drive me the last mile to the lodge. No one did. Ever so slowly, and with all of the remaining energy I had, I finally reached Manning Park. I tried to figure out which building was the lodge, but chose incorrectly. A van driver said, “You look like you just walked a long way.” I nodded. He pointed me over to the lodge. Then, I saw Beads outside a white van. And before I knew it, TrackMeat was making his way over! Everyone was still here! They were all waiting to get a ride to Vancouver on the floor of Story Time’s converted van. I still hadn’t taken my pack off because it was raining and I just wanted to get inside. They invited me to go with them, but I said I was going to spend the night here and take the bus to Vancouver in the morning.
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We posed for a group picture, said goodbye, and I finally headed into the lodge to get a room.
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My fingers were so cold that I could not even manage to use the pen to sign my name!
I made my way to my room, and for the last time, stripped off my dirty, smelly clothes and jumped into the warm shower. I let the water fall off my body, and with it, all of the stress that had accumulated within me to make it here. I turned on the coffee maker, jumped under the bedsheets to warm up, and for the first time on this endeavor, did not worry about cleaning or re-organizing anything. After months of preparation and five months of constantly being on the go, I finally had nothing to do. It was a very good feeling.

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Day 150: No trail magic at Hart’s Pass

Day 150
September 15
mile 2610- 2635.2
25.2 miles

The landscape was revealed in an entirely different light in the morning, but was just as beautiful as last night. I was glad that I chose to camp up high. The wind was still active, but no rain had fallen during the night. I knew it was on its way, though!
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After packing up and taking several more photos, I began the long descent down. For awhile, I could see gigantic granite walls and peaks off to my left before reentering the forest.
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After a few miles, I encountered a man heading the opposite way. He greeted me briefly and kept going until I asked if he happened to have a weather report. He said that someone at Hart’s Pass had told him that a storm was coming today and that it would linger for the next couple of days. He also said that there was still trail magic at Hart’s Pass. After today, the guy planned on leaving, but this man informed him that most of the hikers were still on their way and he seemed to think he would stay. It seemed he was guaranteed to be there tonight, in any case. Then, he told me that it was good that I had beaten the stormy weather in Washington. He said he thru-hiked the PCT in 1981, but was prevented from finishing when he reached Rainy Pass because the snow came early that year. When I gave him a disappointed reaction, he said it was fine. He was able to finish it up another year. Although I hadn’t encountered any snow in Washington, I definitely didn’t feel like I had arrived before the stormy weather! I wasn’t able to see half the state because of all the rain!
I passed by the Methow River and campsites and then, a couple of miles later, found a nice little spot off the trail that had a bench to take a break at. Soon after, I reached Brush Creek, where I stopped to collect water before starting up the next 2500 foot pass.
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As I traversed the switchbacks, nearing the top, a man coming down informed me that there was a woman ahead who wasn’t doing so well. She was hiking with a big poodle and she seemed sick. She told him that she was going to try to make it to Hart’s Pass. He was sure I would catch up to her and wanted me to help her out. I wasn’t sure what I was supposed to do…
Once I arrived at the top, I found a little alcove to take a break and eat a snack. A man headed by in the opposite direction and waved.
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I could see the line of the trail traversing the ridge as it descended slightly. Once I found myself along it, I had to carefully make my way around little washouts every so often. At each one, there was a mound of gravel that I had to slowly step over and try to avoid slipping. I wondered if these were the washouts everyone had been talking about.
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Once I reached another highpoint, I stopped to take a break. I had a little extra time if I wanted to wait for the trail magic at Hart’s Pass, so I unstrapped my folded up sleeping pad and rested on it for a few minutes. It felt like a luxury! When I got up, the wind suddenly blew it away! Oh, no! Not yet! I still had two more nights where I needed that thing! It had tumbled off the ridge, but was still on the slope. Carefully, I stepped down onto the silty clay-colored gravel and reached my hand for it. The wind blew it further away. At last, I was able to grab it! Second sleeping pad disaster averted!
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I continued on my way, feeling quite tired. Soon, I saw a woman heading my way. She introduced herself as Nurse Betty and told me that she was trying to hike the Washington section of the PCT this year. We talked about the oncoming storm and she told me to take my time with the washouts. I guess the ones I had just crossed weren’t the real ones. She told me that they were extremely frustrating and slow going, but that they were do-able. It had taken her 45 minutes to get through a 200 yard section of the trail! I was not looking forward to this…
The next few miles took all of the energy out of me. I tried to hold off from taking a break until I reached Hart’s Pass, where I imagined there would be a hamburger, but had to sit down along the trail and eat another snack for a bit of energy.
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I could see some pavement through the bare trees below me and wondered if the trail would loop back around to it. I thought that was Hart’s Pass and looked for people hanging out. However, I saw no one and found that the trail turned away from it and headed in another direction. Soon, I saw a ranger, walking her dog, heading towards me. The dog wouldn’t stop barking at me! She struggled to pull it off to the side of the trail and quiet it down. Then, she asked me if I was expecting trail magic at Hart’s Pass. “I guess,” I said. She said the guy had left this morning and that there was nothing there. Part of me thought she might not know what she was talking about. Maybe he drove off to get something, but would be coming back. The man I talked to this morning said he would be there for sure today! As I walked on, any remaining energy I had left deflated out of me.
I finally reached Hart’s Pass and found nothing there but a man sitting in a rocking chair on the porch of the ranger’s house. “If you’re looking for trail magic, there’s nothing here,” he said. Great. I looked over and saw the outhouse and headed over to a picnic table. Maybe I would just cook some dinner here and take a break like I had planned and then get in a few more miles. Part of me didn’t want to be watched by that man, however. After I used the restroom, I decided to head out. “Do you know where the trail goes?”.
“No.” He explained the route and then warned me about the impending storm. “You don’t want to be caught up on the ridge in that. There are places to camp here.”
It was 4:30 in the afternoon. I am a thru-hiker… I wasn’t going to spend the night here. I thanked him and headed down the road. I found the path back into the woods and then came upon a little stream. I decided to sit down and take my break here where no one was watching me. I picked the most sugary things I could find out of my food bag and as I ate them, felt my energy increase enough to get moving again. The trail climbed from about 6,200 feet up to nearly 7,000 feet. I could see a bunch of horses above me near the road before I headed out into more open land. As I continued to climb, a couple who were out for an evening stroll passed by, headed back to their car and the safety of their home. I felt a bit envious. To my left, I could see the mountains that I had just crossed, and I could also see black clouds hovering in the sky above them. Although the sky was still blue above me, I knew I had to hurry. I started to sing the words to the Sesame Street song to help keep the stormy clouds away and the sky bright. “Sunny day, keeping the clouds away, On my way to where the air is sweet… Can you tell me how to get, how to get to Can-aaa-da?” So, the last word didn’t really fit. I tried different variations, but at least I was in a good enough mood to sing!
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My goal was to get to the campsite at mile 2635.9.
As I headed downhill and came to a flat area, I saw a tent set up a bit off the trail. I continued past it and soon saw a little side path. I figured there must be a place to camp down there, as well. I could either stop here or continue to climb. I decided it was wiser to stop here and headed down to find a nice flat spot in front of a tree. I began the process of setting up my tent- staking it and re-staking it over and over. Somehow, it was much lower to the ground than it normally was! I continued to work at it and then couldn’t believe what it looked like when I walked around to the front! I realized my hiking pole that was being used as the support had collapsed and I needed to start the set-up from the beginning! It had to be set up properly as the rain was imminent! It was dark before I got inside and cooked my pasta dinner. By nine o’clock, lightning was flashing all around and the rain started to pound my tent.
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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.
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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.
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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.
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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.
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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.
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As I snacked, I noticed tiny, cute mushrooms beside me that looked as if they belonged in a dollhouse world.
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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.
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I crossed over another creek and headed up to the real Rainy Pass.
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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.
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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.
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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…
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The trail looped widely in surprising directions and then, I was in an expansive, dry, desert looking landscape at an alpine elevation.
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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.
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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.
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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.
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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”.
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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.
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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…
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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!
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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.
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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.
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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 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).
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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.
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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!
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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.
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In the past few days, I found myself yawning a lot as I hiked. I felt so tired!
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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.
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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.
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I descended from the ridge, crossing over several streams, and then reached another broken bridge.
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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.
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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 139: “You’re Gonna Die!”

Day 139
September 4
mile 2402-2412
10 miles

I barely slept during the night because someone had put their clothes into the washer, but didn’t get to dry them before I went to bed. I thought it was someone who wanted to leave early in the morning and would be mad at me for locking the door. I did get up around 6:30 to put the clothes in the dryer and start them drying, but the noise was too loud to sleep with so close to my head.
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When I did get up, I walked into the kitchen, couldn’t find any clean coffee cups or coffee, and decided to go back to bed! In the few minutes I had left the room, the owner of the clothes had turned on the dryer. I decided to boil some water for my oatmeal and instant coffee. I asked when Kara was coming back and found out that she was gone for the rest of the day! How was I going to get back to the Chevron to get my other package? Someone said there was a list of trail angels on the wall by the phone. I saw three names and two clearly lived far away. One person was in Seattle. I couldn’t call someone who lived 60 miles away to give me a ride 2 miles into town! I called one number of a local woman, but she said she was going for a hike today and wouldn’t be back until the late afternoon. The call got dropped. When she called back, she asked if I was ready to go right now, as she was just heading out. I said yes! StoryTime also wanted a ride. I would just have to hang out for a couple of hours. When we got dropped off at the Chevron, our driver asked Dan, the owner of the Aardvark, if I could hang out with him. He said, of course!
Screen shot 2013-12-26 at 1.23.41 AMScreen shot 2013-12-26 at 1.22.37 AMScreen shot 2013-12-26 at 1.23.00 AM I got a nice cup of coffee, made from a French press and after looking at the breakfast menu, decided to order the bacon filled pancakes wrapped around vanilla ice cream! It was something I had never had before! StoryTime also sat in there and decided to get something to eat, after originally planning to eat at the restaurant attached to the Inn. He was also headed back to the trail today, but didn’t seem to be in a rush. A big series of storms was forcasted for the next several days. Everyone else back at the hostel was going to take another day or two off. I had no choice but to hike through it.
Later on, two hikers who had stayed at the Inn came in for breakfast. I recognized them from Independence- Split and Two Step. They were also going to take a couple of days off. Two Step was talking about a huge ford that would be dangerous with all of the rain. My eyes got wide. I kept my eye out for the postal woman, but she didn’t appear to be coming, even though it was well after 11. Dan said it was usual for her to be late.
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At last, the blue van appeared and I headed into the Chevron with the signed form. “Are you Wendy?” she asked. “Thank God! Tell your friend that I want to ring his neck!”. John had shipped his package Fed-ex to make sure I would get it, not knowing that this wasn’t a real post office. She went back out to her van and brought in a large box for me. It was filled with food! Unfortunately, I couldn’t ship anything ahead. I shared some of it with her, as she was very excited to see what was in the box! Her son was in the Boy Scouts and did a lot of hiking and she said this was going to make his day! John was also kind enough to send me a warm scarf for the cold, stormy weather. Another lady came by to pick up her mail and somehow, she ended up bringing me back to Kara’s place. Dan had offered me his van, but I told him I was too afraid to drive it! We went to the wrong house, at first, but soon enough, I was back at the Mostel and had to start sorting through all of my things! I ended up having a huge box of leftovers that the other hikers picked through in a couple of minutes. They wanted to know why I had so much stuff!
A friend of Texas Poo had driven out from Seattle to take him back to his place for a night or two and said he could bring me back to the trail. First, we had to wait for Let it Be to get his stuff together. He couldn’t decide if he wanted to go to Seattle or stay here. The afternoon was ticking by, and my goal for the day had to be readjusted before I even started! Braveheart said, “You’re leaving us?”. I told him I had a plane waiting for me! (Besides, I wasn’t leaving anyone. I’d hiked the whole trail alone from the beginning).
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We finally loaded up the car and headed out. Texas Poo said I should listen to heavy metal music to help me through the storms. He started making up words. “You’re gonna die! Slipping on scree…PCT!”. He kept emphasizing the dying part.
When we got out of the car and I showed him my pole that immediately collapses, he told me to duct tape it up. “That’s dangerous!”. It was dangerous. I didn’t have much duct tape left, which was why I hadn’t tried taping it before. I told him I would do it tonight. “You’re gonna die…!” he said again.
“No, I’m not!” I smiled.
Then, I started climbing.
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I had a 2,500 foot climb to start off with. I was feeling good, despite my heavy pack, from my town interactions. Before long, I met a group of women, and they were full of enthusiasm about my hike. They told me that I looked good! I laughed a lot and definitely seemed in a good mood, which made me feel stronger. Awhile later, I met a man who asked me if I was hiking the PCT and then bowed down to me! I think that was definitely a first. He said he was now too old to hike the whole trail. Before he went on, he asked if he could give me a kiss. Since he was originally from Switzerland, I didn’t know if he was talking about a European kiss or an American one. He ended up kissing me on the cheek.
I continued on, climbing into the fog as the trail emerged from the woods. The I couldn’t see any of the views.
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As I neared the top, I ran into another man headed down. He asked where I was going to camp. I didn’t know! I told him how far I wanted to hike, but he didn’t think I would make it! He said there were some sites coming up in a meadow and mentioned something about the cat walk being slow-going.
I stopped to look at the fog and clouds overtaking the sky as the sun started to sink. I could see the tip of a mountain, like an island in the sea.
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I hiked on, thinking about the cat walk. I liked the sound of that! I decided to listen to some music because that part sounded like it deserved some dancing! I enjoyed that part, but wished I could see the views!
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Later on, the sky got even darker, and rain started coming down. I stopped to take out my rain layers and quickly put my pack cover on. Here we go… The temperature had quickly dropped. I walked past a rocky area and heard the pikas making their sounds and saw a couple of marmots down below. They were awaiting the storm, too!
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It began to get darker and darker and I needed to find a place to camp. I had passed the meadows a long time ago and was nearing my goal of 10 miles for the afternoon.
I spotted an area in the grass below the trail, and knowing that it was going to be a rainy night, set up where the ground was higher. I did my best to minimize getting my things wet while I put up the tent and then spread out everything inside, bundled up in all of my layers, including my new scarf, and cooked some dinner. I hoped I was set up well enough to avoid water rushing into my tent! All I could do now was wait!

Day 138: To Snoqualmie

Day 138
September 3
mile 2381.5-2402
20.5 miles

It started raining in the morning. Great… Soon, it was going to be time to get up! I lied back down and waited. At six, it was still raining. I tried to sleep a little more and then sat up and ate my breakfast. By the time I started packing everything up, it was only a light drizzle.
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I passed under the spooky power lines in the fog and was relieved I didn’t have to sleep near them.
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In two miles, I reached a road and found a woman in a bathrobe standing near a car. It took me a bit of time to process this sight. Did she camp here and bring a robe? As I walked past the car, a man was preparing his backpack. He asked me where I had started from today. We both were headed into Snoqualmie. We talked about the PCT and where I was from and I soon found out that he had been a professor at a Harvard biochemistry lab and knew one of the professors that used to work on the same floor that I worked on! Small world! He now lived in Washington. He asked me what was in my pack. “What’s in it?” I started listing things. He said he weighed his pack, and with one day of food, it weighed twenty-eight pounds. I said I would help him go through it during a break. He kissed his wife goodbye, and we started up the climb. I soon got hot in my rain layers and had to take them off. The professor told me to go on ahead, as he had to get his body warmed up and used to climbing.
About six and a half miles later, I saw a nice place to have a lunch break just off the trail, in what turned out to be a campsite. These days, I was largely subsisting on candy, as I couldn’t stand any of my other food. I made an ice coffee from the water I had collected at a nice cascading stream earlier, and ate my Snickers and almond butter with it. Just as I was finishing, the professor walked by. I thought he might stop so we could look through his pack, but he kept walking!
I soon overtook him again and decided that I wanted to listen to some music. I had been feeling tired and needed a boost. A little Christina Aguilera helped me along! Soon, I came across two men who were working on the trail. I stopped my singing as I neared them. “Did you see two guys pass through today?” I asked. I had been wondering why I hadn’t seen Craig or Texas Poo. They said they saw three guys. “Did one of them have a gray backpack with a bandana on the outside?”.
He said there was no bandana, but words that read “Golite, Go F… Yourself!” Yup. That was Texas Poo. He said that he had read the words aloud when he passed, and his buddy further up the trail thought he was telling the hiker to go f… himself! I found that extremely funny. Now that I knew they were at least an hour in front of me (maybe they did get up at 3:45!), I felt I could resume my singing. Then, I ran into someone else. “Nice singing,” he said. (That was just a little Rihanna). He had a bandana on his head so I asked him which way he was hiking. He said he was doing surveying work for the trail crew. I felt relieved that I wasn’t going to see him again!
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I headed on, finishing the climb, and then descending to Twilight Lake before I started climbing again. I was getting so tired! I sat down in the woods and dug out my food bag for another snack. Then, I grabbed a couple of huckleberries from a bush nearby for dessert and headed onward.
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After several miles, I crossed a road and saw a parked car. The driver waved to me and I went over to say hi after struggling to shut off my music several times. She asked me where I was hiking from and was blown away when I said Mexico! She asked me what the hardest part of the journey had been and I told her, for me, it was my stomach and intestinal illnesses and that I didn’t really know how I was doing this. She said that she would also like to hike the trail. I gave her my blog address and she took out her book to write it down. Then, she asked if I would like some cookies! Yes, please! She had driven her friend, who she caretakes for, up here to look at the mountains. She said she didn’t want to hold me up, so I headed on my way with the cookies in my hand. I still had over four miles to hike. One part of the trail was confusing, but I managed to find my way through it. I was feeling more and more tired, however. I had to sit down on some rocks and eat the cookies, which were delicious! I couldn’t stand anything in my food bag at that point, and none of it seemed to be giving me energy anymore. The cookies were different and being homemade, really helped get me through that last stretch.
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I could see the road down below, but it was taking forever to get there. I still had to climb through the forest.
At last, I looked down and saw the red roof of the Summit Inn!
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It was time to cut down the ski slopes! I was excited, but the gravel on parts of the slope was very slippery, and I had to take my time. Getting to the bottom of that hill was also taking forever!
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Then, when I reached a road, I still had to loop all the way around a row of houses and then walk back along the highway to get to the Chevron and Inn. It was killing me!
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When I was on that road, a car drove by and the woman driving called out my name. How did anyone driving a car around here know my name? I was very confused. It turned out that there were a bunch of hikers in the car! The only one I knew was Story Time. The driver was Kara, who operated “The Mostel”. She said she could come back and take me there. I had been planning on getting my own room at the Summit Inn, but she said that a couple had just cancelled their reservation on one of her private rooms and I could have that if I wanted it. Meanwhile, Story Time was telling me that there was a sign hanging up at the post office telling me that it needed my signature before I could pick up my package, which was being held in North Bend. “What?”. I was so confused! Why was my package in a faraway town?! Kara said she would come back and help me.
I headed across the street to the Chevron and was directed to the walk in cooler at the back of the store to look for my packages. There were tons of them in there all piled up and strewn about in no order at all. And every one of them looked the same! This was a nightmare! I found a package for UB, packages for other hikers I knew, but none for me! Finally, I found one. Allyson’s boyfriend had dropped off one of the extra ones that I had packed in Bend here as well. At last, I found the two, but still couldn’t find the care package from John. I asked where the post office was and was directed to the back of the store where I found the note and a signature form. The note said that the package would be available to pick up here at 11am. Otherwise, I would have to go to North Bend. The man at the counter checked my ID and I went to sit outside and wait for Kara. Since she wasn’t coming, I headed over to the Aardvark, which was a tiny take-out place in a trailer outside the gas station. They served a lot of ginger chicken wraps and variations on that, but when I saw that they had a burger, I decided that is what I wanted. Unfortunately, she had just cleaned the juice machine, so I had a Pepsi (they were out of rootbeers). I was nervous that Kara was going to come by and not see me, but the girl who served me kept reassuring me that she would find me here. When she did arrive, she hung out and chatted with her friend for awhile. It was fun to listen to them. Then, we loaded up her car and headed back to The Mostel. Braveheart, Halfway, Dora, Let it Be, Squeaks and Happy Hour, Story Time, Texas Poo, and OTC were all there. One of them had told Kara that I would likely be coming in tomorrow. I wondered who thought that I couldn’t hike 20 miles in a day! Someone mentioned the old cheerleading outfits that Kara had out as loaner clothes. “Where?” I asked. Craig said they were in my room (along with the washer and dryer) and brought out one of the shirts. I decided to try it on. It was definitely not made for my proportions, but I went out to the porch to show the guys anyway. Later, when I was back in my room, I found the skirt that went with it and put that on, as well. When I went back out to the living room, everyone started taking pictures. Braveheart put one of Kara’s vests on and Happy Hour put on one of her old T-shirts. We posed together and then I told the guys to lift me up. They did not hesitate for a second and lowered their hands down so I could step on them as a base. It was so much fun! And I hadn’t even showered yet! Within seconds, the pictures were all over the internet. (What happens in hostels on the PCT does not stay…).
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I later found out that both of those guys had attended my yoga class at kick-off! Loads of laundry were being done in my room, so it wasn’t exactly private.
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I socialized a bit and then headed to sleep after receiving a very nice note from Cathy, who was the woman who had given me the cookies. She had found my blog and even gave me a donation! How sweet!