Day 152: The End!

Day 152
September 17
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.


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!

Day 132: Mt. Adams in the clouds

Day 132
August 28
mile 2242.8-2268.8
26 miles

It did end up raining, beginning around 3:45am. It got increasingly heavy throughout the night. I sat up a few times to see if water was coming into my tent, but it looked like everything was okay. I got up at 6:22 when it had appeared that the rain had stopped. However, it started right back up again! I ate my half portion of granola and my one poptart with my coffee and then got ready for the day.
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During a break in the rain, I got out of my tent to go to the bathroom. Inger had woken up by then and I told her that the spaceship was still here! I broke down my tent, packed everything up, and said goodbye to Inger. I told her that I hoped to see her again, but we both knew it was unlikely. I thought it was strange that I hadn’t seen Puma.
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I continued the climb, getting glimpses of the big mountains in the distance through the burned trees. After a couple of miles, I saw the pond that Inger had mentioned (which was actually off the trail) and then crossed Riley Creek, where I collected more water.
After a mile or so, I passed by a section hiker and then forded a couple of rivers before meeting his partner, who was waiting for him at a trail junction. I was now at the base of Mt. Adams and the water I was fording was run-off from the snow on that mountain. I could not see the top of the mountain, however, as it was heavily obscured in clouds.
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Around noon, I ran into two southbounders. The girl asked me if I was Wendy, which really surprised me. She said they had heard about me. I wondered what they had heard and from whom! She said that they had met StoryTime and he told them that I was close behind. They had started their hike northbound, but when they got to Sierra City, skipped up to the northern border and were now hiking south as they knew they weren’t going to beat the winter weather. I asked them if they had gotten caught in the huge storm that produced the washouts and they shook their head no. I also asked them if there was any snow in Washington. Dixie said there was only one section and that it wasn’t bad.
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A couple of hours later, I reached Lava Spring where I found a hiker drying out all of his gear and eating lunch. He looked slightly familiar, but I could not place him. I apologized and asked him to remind me of his name. It was U-Haul, who hiked with Cowboy and Birdman down Kearsarge and who stayed at the campground with his girlfriend that night. He then remembered me and mentioned something about Mt. Whitney. “You were on top of Whitney with me?” I asked him. He was also flip-flopping and was surprised that the northbounders were so spread out now. He expected to see everyone he knew within a couple of days! He told me that he had run into Cowboy in Snoqualmie and Birdman a few days later. They separated after Birdman got giardia and needed to take a couple of days off. Because Birdman’s wife was going to come out and hike with him for a bit, Cowboy decided to keep going. U-Haul also told me about being right in the middle of the storm that caused the washouts. Lightning was striking all around him and everything he had on him was wet. He wondered what he was doing out there.
He asked if I had seen Babyface and Dixie and wondered if he would catch them today. I asked him if he had seen Whistler or Hooligan, but he hadn’t. He told me that I was the 40th thru-hiker that he had seen from the border, which I nearly couldn’t believe! Later, we talked about the upcoming sections. He told me that he hated the section between White Pass and Snoqualmie and that there was nothing to see there. I wondered when I was going to get to the good views that I thought Washington had!
My short break turned out to be a lot longer than I had intended due to all the talking. I finally got up and thanked U-turn for the conversation and then continued on my way. I still hoped to get in 11 more miles today!
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When I reached Midway Creek, I stopped to fill up on water, as it was supposedly the last source for a long stretch. I would have to hike the remaining 7 miles with a heavy pack! The trail climbed a little over 1,000 feet and at last, I entered the Goat Rocks Wilderness, which I was excited about. I remember Roadrunner telling Salty that this was her favorite section of the trail back in Lake Isabella. I tried to take a photo of myself by the sign, but no matter how hard I tried to smile and look excited, all I could see was the exhaustion in my face.
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Today, I also felt like I was feeling hungrier than I had been, as well.
I reached my campsite at 7:26 and began to set up my troublesome tent. I was so tired!!

Day 131: Trout Lake ( “So, what made you decide to walk 2,200 miles?”)

Day 131
August 27
mile 2227.9-2242.8
14.9 miles

I got up at 6:24. It was still raining lightly, but fortunately, everything remained dry in my tent!
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At 7:44, I started walking. I had less than ten miles to get to the road from which I would get into the town of Trout Lake, which was my next resupply point. After stepping over Steamboat Creek, I came across a big bullfrog scrambling up the bank along the trail to get out of harm’s way. He was the biggest frog I had seen on my journey so far!
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I watched him for a couple of minutes and then moved on, heading down to the road. Once I crossed it, I had to pee really badly. I almost couldn’t wait until I got back into the woods, but somehow managed to. As I was peeing, I saw StoryTime heading across the road! Why now?! There was nothing I could do. Actually, I didn’t really care. I was doing what I needed to do. When he saw me, he turned back and waited for me to tell him that I was done. He went on ahead, but in a few minutes, I found him sprawled across the trail. He said that he hadn’t been able to charge his solar panel in the last few days and was going to take full advantage of the spot of sunlight coming through the trees. (Why he couldn’t sit along the trail, instead of right in the middle, I don’t know…). I was very pleasant with him, taking a couple of minutes to chat, and felt very proud of myself afterwards. I had one more climb of just over 1,000 feet ahead of me before the next road from where I would hitch. It was all in the forest. Luckily, the rain had stopped. When I reached the ridge, I decided to take out my iphone and listen to some music to help me with the last few miles. While doing so, I managed to trip. My iphone flung out of my hand, and my body hurled forward. Very slowly, I sat up. Was my body okay? Where was my phone? I wasn’t sure what had gotten hurt and how bad it was if so. Somehow, everything seemed to be okay… It was my second face plant on this hike. I guess one every 1,000 miles isn’t so bad… Hopefully, a third one wasn’t coming!

Right before the road, I found a garbage can with some stray items in it as well as a register left by The Mount Adams Zen Buddhist Temple. There was also an ornamental house with a statue inside, meant to be the “patron of travelers and all beings in hell”. I was very amused at this. I thought Buddhists didn’t believe in hell in the first place, and why were travelers grouped together with beings in hell?
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I headed toward the road and was surprised to see another hiker waiting for a ride! At first, I didn’t recognize him, but then I saw that it was Puma! Yay! I asked him where Tumbleweed was and he said that he was probably 8-10 miles ahead by now. They had separated last night because Tumbleweed was not resupplying in Trout Lake. I asked Puma if he planned to stay the night there and he said he would decide when he got there. I planned on doing the same thing. I could only afford to take one half day at my first four Washington stops and 3/4 of a day at the final one. Puma had been having a hard time hitching here. I mentioned that my guidebook had said that if we walked a mile down the road, we would get reception and could call for a possible ride. Puma wanted to spend another half hour here first. The first car that passed took no notice of us. It was a very low traffic road in the first place. Fortunately, the second one stopped! The woman in the passenger seat asked us where we needed to go. She looked at her husband, who agreed they could take us the 13 miles to town. Puma and I were going to get into the back of the truck, but the woman was worried they would get in trouble. They were pulling a trailer, but she said it was too bumpy to ride in. Finally, she decided to take one of her daughters with her to sit in the trailer and gave Puma and I spots in the truck. We felt bad and told her we would sit in the trailer several times, but she was insistent. We talked about our journey with the father and learned they were returning from their vacation in the mountains. He thought Puma and I were hiking together. I hadn’t seen Puma in awhile, so we caught up on stories such as what had happened to us with the wasp nest. Tumbleweed ended up getting 8 or 9 stings and Puma got three. We pulled into the gas station in front of the restaurant and headed for the store to find our resupply boxes. They were scattered about in no order and it took me awhile to find mine. I was expecting one from John, but could not find it. Then, I headed out to try to get a room at the B and B. I ended up getting permission to walk through someone’s yard, as I got mixed up on how to get there. It turned out that they were all full. Maybe I would just head back to the trail after all. I walked along the road and found the family who had given us a ride still there. The engine light had turned on in the truck and the father was trying to figure out what the problem was. The wife asked me, “So, what made you decide to walk 2,200 miles?”. (I had told her that was how long we had walked so far back at the trailhead.) I smiled and tried to answer her question as best as I could. “What do you learn about yourself on such a long walk?” she then asked. I told her that you learn how incredibly strong you are, for one thing. After hearing about my illness, she offered to drive me to my next stopping point at White Pass, but I told her I wanted to walk the whole thing. She realized that her offer didn’t fit with my statement about my own strength.
I headed to the picnic tables outside of the store and put my pack and boxes down. I didn’t even notice that Puma was also sitting there until several minutes later. When I was about to head into the restaurant to get something to eat, I was startled to see Warner Springs Monty headed towards me. He said that someone had told him that someone named Wendy was sick. He checked my blog and discovered that it was me. He offered to take me to a hospital if I needed it. I went inside and ordered a hamburger and lemonade, which I had planned on eating outside with Puma, but now felt like sequestering myself away… At least I could charge my electronics while I was in here. I was also able to text a bit with Connie, which was nice. Monty came in and asked if I would be ready to head back to the trail soon. I said that I still needed to sort through my resupply and organize everything. Peter Pan had offered to take Puma and I back. Everyone was fine with waiting, so I got a piece of chocolate cake and a coffee for dessert and bought a huckleberry scone to take with me on the trail. As I sorted through my things outside, a nice older couple began chatting with me. The man had been suffering from early stages of Alzheimer’s, but was having a good day today. They love visiting Trout Lake and don’t mind making the long drive. Before they left, I got a hug, my picture taken, and a promise to look for my book in their local library (they don’t have the internet!). I told them it was going to take awhile…
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Once I packed up, we got into Peter Pan’s car and headed out, only to turn around when Monty wanted to see if any other hikers were at the store. Finally, we were on our way back to the trail. We stood outside the car for awhile. Monty always has a lot to say… I was antsy to get going, but didn’t want to be rude. At 4:20, I finally peeled myself away and headed back into the woods. A climb of over 2,000 feet was awaiting me.
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After my brief stop in town, I was feeling good and strong. I had loaded up on water like I always do in town, so I didn’t need to take the time to stop and filter water from the creeks. When I reached a sign pointing to a spring at mile 2240.7, I stopped to check it out, just for curiosity. I saw a bucket tied to a tree which was meant to be lowered into a ravine to collect water. However, there didn’t look to be much water! I headed on and soon saw a woman ahead of me, moving very slowly. I said hello to let her know I was there and she let me by. When I heard her accent, I asked where she was from. “Washington,” she said. She wanted to know how far I was planning on hiking tonight and I told her just a couple more miles. We were now in a burn area and she commented that she hadn’t seen any camping spots in a long while. “Oh, I’ve seen lots of them!” I said.
“In the burn area? I wouldn’t camp here,” she replied.
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She mentioned the lack of water at the last spring and that she had planned on collecting water from there. Her guidebook had made it seem as if it was a sure source. Mine did, as well! I told her that I was carrying a lot and offered her some of mine, but she declined. She said she would just have to hike to Sheep Lake. I knew that that would take her into the night…
I discovered that the campsite I was aiming to reach was a huge, open grassy area! I arrived at 6:35, which seemed like a luxury to me. First I needed to take care of my female issue. I headed back into the woods after dropping off my pack. When I returned, I saw the woman in the field. I guess she had decided to stop here, too! I set up my tent, struggling once again. This time, I didn’t think it needed to be extremely taut because I didn’t think it was going to rain. Inger came over and I offered her some of my water again. This time, she accepted. She said it would be useful to boil water for her dinner. Since her dinners were meant for two people, and she was never able to finish them, she offered to share one with me in exchange for the water. We decided on sweet and sour chicken.
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While outside my tent, I noticed some miniature frogs hopping around and was instantly amused. They were the tiniest frogs I had ever seen! I had to take some pictures. I looked up at the sky and noticed the clouds coming in. They weren’t looking so good… I joined Inger in front of her tent and realized that she was the hiker that had waved to me the night before. She had come out here to hike the Washington part of the PCT. She had planned on hiking with a friend, but she had backed out at the last minute. It was probably for the best, as the friend had never backpacked before and got stressed extremely easily. Inger said she wouldn’t have been able to deal with the fact that there was no water at the last source. She talked about a section of the trail in northern Washington that had been washed out due to some heavy storms earlier in the month and it took me awhile to realize that this had happened this year! It was the first I had heard of this situation. She said she had watched a video of a hiker’s sleeping bag roll down the mountain in that section and terrifying accounts of people trying to get through it. There had been a call put out for trail crews to come out and work on it, but she didn’t know the current state of it. A highway near the area had also been shut down! I learned that Inger was originally from Norway and that she owned an independent travel agency.
While we ate, Inger commented on my tent looking like a spaceship and joked that it might fly away during the night. I looked over at it and started laughing. It did look like a spaceship!
The sweet and sour chicken tasted amazing! I was so grateful for a different and pleasant taste, as well as some companionship and laughter!
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Day 128: Into the State of Washington

Day 128
August 24
mile 2155.1-2175.1
20 miles

I decided it was worth it to get another breakfast in the lobby before I headed out. The room was crowded and noisy, with children running around and the TV blaring. One of the stories was about a huge fire raging in Yosemite. Today, there was no opportunity to make waffles for some reason. While I was eating, I texted my resupply people and learned that they had shipped my canister fuel to the wrong location. I had been having such a hard time getting information on how much I had left of certain items- my socks, especially, and also my canisters of fuel. And even though I had sent out periodic e-mails, asking for certain things to be sent to certain locations, a lot of the directions weren’t being followed. So much of my energy had been spent on worrying about what I would have to get me through each remaining stretch. Now, I was going to have to carry double the weight in fuel and not know if I had enough to get to the end of the trail.
I headed back to my room for the final packing. Unfortunately, my hat was still very damp. There wasn’t anything I could do about it now. Ever since I had arrived in Cascade Locks, I had been a bit worried about there being someone around to take my picture as I crossed over the bridge into Washington. Now it was time to head out and see.
As I crossed the street, two backpackers appeared right in front of me! Wow! I didn’t have to worry anymore! The road curved as we headed towards the stairs and someone driving by asked if we were hiking the PCT. The two boys did not answer, but I said yes. He said they were doing trail magic. Feeling the need to get off the road, he said he would be up by the restrooms. I didn’t know what to do now that I felt they were expecting me. I didn’t need any food, as I had just eaten. I just wanted to climb the steps and get to the bridge! I cut up the grassy hill and found the couple standing outside of the pick up truck. They understood that I had just eaten, but wanted to offer me something anyway. I said that the only thing I really needed now was someone to take my picture on the bridge. The husband volunteered to walk with me while his wife drove the truck across.
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As we walked past the toll collector, she told the man that he would have to pay, but that I was all set. Only thru-hikers get to walk across for free. When he explained that he was only going to take my picture and then drive across with his wife, she allowed him access.
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I had wanted to do a special pose in this significant place, but when the moment came, I did not feel comfortable, and felt rushed to stay out of the way of traffic. The wind coming up through the grate was also blowing my skirt up! I let my hope about that picture go.
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The man said goodbye and I started my walk across the bridge. I felt so happy! The Columbia river was gorgeous and everything felt fine and hopeful in those few minutes.
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As I reached the other side of the bridge, I saw the Welcome to Washington sign! No one was around who was willing to take my picture there, however.
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I did see the couple further down the road and when I got there, I chatted with the wife for a few minutes. She told me how impressed she was by me and that I was the first girl thru-hiker that she had seen! “Really?”. She said that going it alone is an achievement in itself, but that I am also at the front of the pack! She said they have only seen guys so far!
She told me her husband was putting out some treats a little way into the trail and then they would drive about twenty miles to set up a barbecue for the thru-hikers. We talked about how tired I was and how I thought the open views in Washington would give me energy, just like I had felt walking across the bridge. She then told me that, actually, Washington was very forested. “Oh…”. Her husband came back and took a picture of his wife and I, and then I headed out to the trail.
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I found the box of apples and power bars that he had just put out and decided to take an apple.
Soon after, I reached a trail sign with a ziplock baggie of individually wrapped ghiradelli brownies for PCT hikers, welcoming us to Washington! Wow! This was a nice state!
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I headed into the woods and soon passed by the two male hikers who were just starting their trip. The couple who were doing trail magic advised me not to carry so much water. They told me I would come across a large pond a few miles in where I could fill up, but it turned out to be a fair distance from the trail.
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When I reached a nice campspot in the woods near a creek, I decided to stop and enjoy my brownie!
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The boys passed by while I was getting ready to take off again. I followed them across a bridge and they later stepped aside as we climbed.
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Blackberry bushes lined the trail and I stopped occasionally to eat a few. I headed away from Cascade Locks and the activity on the river and continued to climb into the mountains. At one point, I looked down to see a somewhat startling sight. A huge, green slug that looked like it could only be from a world of imagination inched across the trail! I had never seen or heard of anything like it!
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Later, I encountered a group of people headed south. I almost thought the leader was a southbound hiker before realizing that his pack was way too big for that to be possible. He warned me about a wasp’s nest on the trail around mile 2182 or 83. He said that someone had placed a note on the ground near it but advised me not to stop and read it, or I would get stung! He said that if I had pants, I should put them on, as they went right for the ankles, and to just run through that part as fast as I could!
I continued the climb and looked out over the pretty Columbia river for what was likely the last time. I couldn’t believe that I was now in Washington!
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Further on, I passed by a bulletin board and saw a note left by Band Leader, wondering when he was going to run into Puma again. I knew by the date that I was not going to be able to catch up to him.
A little later, at a place where the trail diverged and I wanted to be sure I was following the correct path, Muppets and Stilts appeared. They told me that Wildcat and Baxter had chosen to take the road walk, which cut off twenty something miles of trail!
As I walked, it was hard to get some bad feelings out of my head. While I was in Cascade Locks, I discovered that after my doctor friend had sent me that message, that she had also unfriended me! She really was burning the bridge and offering me no chance to respond. I also discovered that my friend from the AT who had visited me early on in the hike had unfriended me. I couldn’t believe it. He did something and then wanted to get rid of me? Underneath it all, I know it is about them being unable to deal with their own actions. I also had the unkind words of my resupply people in my head. I wish people could know the power of the words they choose and take a moment to phrase whatever they have to say in a kind manner, at the very least.
I ate my banana that I had taken from breakfast near the top of the climb. My goal for the evening was to make it to Rock Creek. I trudged onward, growing more and more tired the longer I hiked.
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The sunlight began to disappear. I finally reached the creek only to find two tents set up. I walked by, wondering if there were other open spaces, but saw nothing. I knew there was a second creek less than half a mile away and hoped there would be a camping spot there. Unfortunately, there was not. The growth along the trail in Washington was even thicker than that of Oregon! I learned that finding a spot to camp was going to take more planning than it had before. I stopped to rest my shoulders and regroup. The light was diminishing and I felt very unsure about finding a place to sleep.
I headed on and stepped over a tiny stream. I hadn’t even stopped to collect water as I felt like finding a spot to camp was a much more pressing problem at this time. By some great fortune, I looked down to see a flat spot in a grove of trees. I was going to be okay! And even better, was that there was water nearby! I grabbed my collecting bags and walked back to fill up on water, then set up my cowboy camp in the dark. It felt slightly eerie, but I had done this many times before and told myself not to worry. As I cooked my dinner, I noticed beetles crawling around the edges of my groundcloth. I wished I had been able to lie down before I saw them! I took out my still wet hat and decided that it would probably dry faster if I wore it. At least, that is what I hoped!