Day 144: A note I regret following

Day 144
September 9
mile 2492-2516.7
24.7 miles

Actually, I didn’t even know if the shuttle into Stehekin was running. Andrea Dinsmore had said that it was not currently operating as there had been a huge rock slide in the village and the main road into town was shut down. I could only hope that by the time I got there in four days, that it would be running again. For that matter, I still had not been able to confirm whether there was a bus to Vancouver from Manning Park. Before I left for my hike, I heard that the hostel and lodge in Manning Park had closed and no one knew if the bus would be stopping there anymore. Not even Scout, the head of the PCTA, knew back in April. I figured Andrea would know, as she was the trail angel closest to the border, but she also had no idea. At least I wasn’t hearing that there was no bus. Some hope still existed!
I awoke to the sun rising between the trees in my little campsite. Everything was quiet. Surprisingly, I hadn’t noticed any other hikers passing by.
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I headed back to the muddy trail through the little berry bushes, descending to the bottom of the hill, where I originally planned to reach last night.
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Upon arriving there, I was very happy that I had camped where I did! I didn’t see the camp site here- only mud holes and a distinct lack of sunlight! I climbed back up into the granite boulders and came across a grouse running on the trail in front of me.
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Later on, I found myself blocked by a huge fallen tree across the trail. It was too thick to climb on top of, and I couldn’t see a way around it. What was I supposed to do? I ended up climbing up the steep hill to my right, making my own path above it, and then descending back to the trail. It took quite a bit of effort and I was surprised that I managed to do that all alone!
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In eight and a half miles, I reached a creek, where I stopped for my ice coffee break. The sun was shining brightly and I took the opportunity to spread out my wet items to give them a chance to dry. I hadn’t seen anyone else this morning so far, but kept expecting to see one of the other thru-hikers who I knew were close behind at any moment. I enjoyed some more of the Polish cookies and junior mints, filtered some fresh water, and then headed on my way. Soon, I found a note left in the middle of the trail. It was written by two thru-hikers that I had met in the desert and who I hadn’t seen since. I didn’t have the best energy with them. The note explained that there was a wasp nest right on the PCT about 25 yards ahead. They had made a little drawing, advising how to get around it. I stared at the little piece of paper for awhile, trying to figure out its orientation and what I was supposed to do. Part of me wanted to ignore it. I had not been stung at all the last time I passed by a nest. This time probably wouldn’t be any different. I figured out that they were advising to bypass the switchback up ahead and cut up the slope. Since I didn’t know how far ahead the nest was, I figured I might as well start the bypass here. The problem was, the hill was incredibly steep! And it was also very slippery! I had to dig my poles into the ground and bear my entire weight on them with each step. Once I made it a fair distance up, I needed to get over another fallen tree. With one foot over, the other one slipped and my leg scraped against the bark. The wood was slippery from all of the rain! I had no choice but to keep going. Blood was running down my leg and the cuts were stinging. I probably would have been better off risking being stung. I wished I hadn’t followed their advice after all.
The bruises underneath the cuts started to appear in the afternoon. I counted the number of days left until the wedding and hoped my wounds could heal in that amount of time.
As I continued to climb, a saw a slow-going man ahead of me. He seemed to be making snorting sounds as if he were a horse! I tried to make my presence known, but he did not hear me until I said hello when I was right behind him. Startled, he put his hand over his heart and mumbled something. I apologized.
I climbed to the open ridge and stopped when I saw a marmot playing in the rocks.
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After several minutes of talking to him, I continued on, down into a green, rocky valley, where I could see another hiker ahead.
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I had strapped my tent to the top of my pack since it was wet, and now that it was drying, it was coming loose and flapping about. I had to stop to tuck it back in. The hiker ahead turned back and started walking towards me. “Have you seen my brother?” he asked. I wanted to ask him if his brother thought he was a horse, but refrained. It was time for another break, but I wanted to find a place to my own. Along the ridge, I encountered another man sitting in the middle of the trail. As I scooted around him, he said, “I’m going to assume this doesn’t bother you.” These were some strange people on the trail today! When I reached a cascade of incredibly clear water, I decided this would be my stopping place. I climbed up on a rock and looked at my wounds and then dabbed some water on them.
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The man who had been sitting in the middle of the trail approached, looked at the water, and decided that he also wanted to collect some here, rather than waiting until the next pond. The brother also made his way past. I enjoyed some more treats, filtered more water, and headed on, quickly passing the brother, and making my way to Lake Sally Ann, where the other guy was taking another break.
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I walked along the shore and encountered two men headed south, one of whom chatted with me for a couple of minutes.
Several minutes later, I met a woman headed south. She said I was the first person she had seen today and told me that she was going to camp at the lake. She asked if I planned on getting over the pass tonight and told me that one of her favorite camping spots was on the other side.
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In the evening hours, I found myself on the final 1500 foot ascent of the day. I was tired. Before I reached the most exposed part of the climb, I came across signs warning that camping was not allowed along the ridge. If I went on, I was committing to walking at least 3 more miles. I looked at my watch and knew that I would need to keep moving as rapidly as I could. A man in overalls headed past me in the opposite direction. My shoulders ached and I needed to put my pack down and rest for a couple of minutes before making the final push.
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I could see layers of blue mountains in the distance and as I headed along the open ridge, I heard marmots whistling in the rocks. It sounded like the whistle of a train conductor and it felt like they were announcing my arrival. Here I was, passing through, on my last 150 miles of my thru-hike! It felt like I was being cheered on!
The trail turned as it ascended to the peak. Above me, I could see a woman doing some half sun salutations. I surprised her when I reached her camping area. She thought that no one else would be passing through at this time of evening and warned me not to trip on the tent guy lines. Her husband was sitting further back and remained quiet. She commented about the likelihood of the night being cold and windy. I didn’t think camping on top of the peak was even allowed. Clearly, they chose the most cold place to be! She asked if I was thru-hiking and congratulated me, and then said they had met several others earlier in the day. She wanted to know what made me want to do this, which ordinarily, I love answering, but right now, I needed to get moving!
Darkness was approaching and I still had to collect and filter water, hike a couple of miles, and set up my camp! We somehow got on the topic of yoga and she said, “I was just doing some!”. I told her that I saw. She said it was the best place to do it and asked if I did yoga every day on my hike. When I said I did not, she seemed shocked. I explained that when you are hiking 12-13 hours a day, there isn’t any time leftover! I excused myself and descended down the other side of the mountain.
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The setting sun was casting red shadows on the mountain tops in front of me and I stopped often to take pictures. It was unbelievably beautiful! It was also getting very cold! Once I reached a nice cascade of water, I stopped to fill up and sat for about 15-20 minutes filtering it. I still had a good mile to hike before I would reach a camp site and the sun was quickly disappearing.
I walked through a grassy area littered with big rocks and unsuitable for camping. Then, when I did not expect it, I saw a square piece of bare dirt just to the side of the trail. I guess this was my spot for the night!
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I struggled with my tent set-up once again, staking and re-staking the lines to try to fit within the barriers created by logs on either side of the patch of dirt. I felt exhausted.
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Once I lied down, I had to be careful which way I turned, as my bruises and cuts revolted with any amount of pressure on them.

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Day 140: The biggest lightning storm!

Day 140
September 5
2412-2434.5
22.5 miles

The rain came down quite heavily for a period of time, but everything seemed okay in my tent. Of course, this was one of the few nights that I needed to get up and pee. I waited for the rain to lighten before putting on my rain jacket and getting out of my tent.
In the morning hours, the rain was light. I packed up my possessions in a similar manner as I had unpacked them last night, trying to find the driest ground I could to set down my stuff sacks. As I started walking, the sun peeked out from behind the trees.
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I climbed another thousand feet, emerging from the forest, and rising above the clouds.
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The landscape was quite beautiful. Once I followed the curve of the trail back to the same direction I had come from, I sat on some rocks to have a snack. A couple of pikas and marmots were close by and kept me company.
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As I walked on, I met a man headed in the opposite direction. He wanted to know the name of the mountains that I had just come from, but I was unable to tell him. “I’m just walking,” I said. He laughed.
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The trail turned and started a descent. The landscape reminded me of the Sierras.

A couple of hours later, I ran into a couple more people. A woman was sitting on the side of the trail, waiting for her husband. She asked me to tell him she was there when I saw him. He seemed in no rush. He asked if I knew that the bridge over the creek had collapsed, and said that people were walking across a fallen tree, pointing down to where an older man was just emerging. This other man came up to me and asked if I was Wendy. A bit startled, I said yes. He told me that Story Time had told him I was close behind. (I don’t know why he was telling everyone that!). We chatted for a minute and then he pointed to the fallen tree that started well before the water.
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It was of a large width and didn’t seem to be much of a problem at first. Still, my breath shortened and my heart started to beat faster. As I got closer to the water, the tree became narrower. I was doing fine until I looked down at the rushing water underneath me. Suddenly, I felt dizzy, and got scared. Because my pack always leans to the left, I was pulled over that way and fell into the water blindly. It was up to my mid-thighs, but I landed on both feet. I felt embarrassed about falling and hoped that no one was watching me. Now, I had to pull myself back up onto the log. After only a couple more steps, I made it back onto the dirt. My body was shaking. Luckily, the water did not damage my phone or camera. My hands were scraped and my skirt was wet, but I seemed to be generally okay. Getting up the steep embankment with the dirt giving way was almost harder than crossing the creek. Once I made it back to the PCT, I looked down at the water and saw a person sitting across from the broken bridge. If they hadn’t seen me, they surely heard me fall in! Oh, well. It was time to get moving!
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I had another huge climb in front of me. It was six miles long and over 2,500 feet. I grew more and more tired as the afternoon turned into evening.
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I made it to the top of the ridge and watched the clouds turn color from the setting sun.
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Minutes later, thunder boomed overhead. I needed to hurry to find a place to camp. I wanted to get off the ridge, at least. I moved as quickly as I could. In the near darkness, I found a flat spot just off the trail and got to work setting up my tent. I knew it was about to rain, so I tried to get the lines as taut as possible. I threw my groundcloth, sleeping bad, and sleeping bag in, followed by my stuff sacks and backpack and then went to find a place to pee. Just as I got into my sleeping bag, big flashes of lightning lit up the sky. The bolts turned everything red and they were sustained for longer than I had ever seen before! At first, my heart started to race, but then I put my hands on my stomach to calm myself down. Nothing was likely to happen. And if I did die, I wouldn’t feel anything anyway! Thunder roared through the sky and bolt after bolt lit up the entire interior of my tent with the color red. Even when I closed my eyes, it reached the back of my eyeballs. After a few minutes of staying awake to watch the intensity of this show, I realized I was too exhausted to keep my eyes open any longer.
The rain poured down as I lied in my sleeping bag and the wind kicked up the dirt and blew it inside through the mosquito netting, covering everything like it had done in the dessert. Only now, it was wet dirt.

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 137: A sweet horse and lots of laughs

Day 137
September 2
mile 2355.3-2381.5
26.2 miles

The horses did stomp the ground and snort throughout the night, but I was at least able to get a little rest. I wondered how it was possible that they never slept, themselves!
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I got up around 6:30 and headed over to the tent for breakfast. I was surprised that only Beads was there! Craig and Texas Poo were standing by the fire pit, looking at the mist over the field. I was asked to go back to my tent to get my pot for the oatmeal, which Dragonfly had made. We got to put some maple syrup in it for flavor. It had little pieces of apple in it, which tasted really good! Afterwards, I added some boiling water to my packet of Via for coffee. I learned that Beaker and Dragonfly had started the trail this year, but since they had already hiked sections of the PCT, only wanted to cover the terrain that they had not already seen. They had met Beads early on, and when she learned that her grandfather had passed away, Dragonfly and Beaker brought her to the airport so she could attend the funeral since they lived close by. Last night, Dragonfly picked her back up and brought her here.
Craig (now OTC) and Texas Poo were recalling the trail magic at Lake Isabella that Yogi and several others came out to do. Almost everyone ended up spending the night there, except for Craig. Yardsale was trying to get him to stay. “We want to hear about the 90s! Stay, and tell us what the 90s were like!”. I thought that was funny.
As I walked back to my tent to pack up, I saw Texas Poo petting one of the horses. “I want to pet one, too!”. Not being a horse person, I didn’t know if that was an okay thing to do or how they would react, but I decided to try petting the one closest to me. I talked to it and put my hand in front of its mouth to give it a chance to warm up to me. Within minutes, it was allowing me to pet him and even put its face up to mine! Craig came over to take a picture, but it got skittish and backed away a little. After he left, the horse allowed me to get close to him again and then it did the most astonishing thing! It turned its head and rested its jaw on my shoulder! I couldn’t believe it! I wanted someone to take a picture, but everyone was back in their tents! I know that horses are very sensitive to people’s energy and that they don’t like fearful people or harsh people. I couldn’t believe it was trusting me so much! The owner had come out to unclip them from their ropes and let them graze in the field and saw what the horse was doing. He told me its name was Annie and warned me that she got excited when the others were getting released, so I should watch out. When he unclipped her, she headed into the woods instead of the field until he called her to turn around. Their front legs were still tied tightly together and I felt so bad for them!
I broke down my tent, packed up, and went back to the tent to thank Beaker and Dragonfly before I headed out. Even though I had very little water, I decided that I didn’t want to go backwards to collect more. The next spring was in 5 miles.
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I walked alone, passing through another burn area, and then back into the woods before reaching the spring.

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The sun was burning down, so after collecting the water, I went and sat on the slope on the side of the trail where it was at least partially shaded. There, I filtered the water and had a snack. Texas Poo came along as I was sitting there and we chatted for a minute.
I headed out alone again, climbing up to a ridgeline.
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After a couple of miles, I decided to sit and have my ice coffee break while I had a nice view. I had to put my rain jacket on because I was chilly sitting there. When I was just about finished, I heard someone pushing hard to get up the hill. It was Craig and he looked like he was on a mission! He was pounding the ground with his poles and huffing his way up. When he saw me, he stopped. Then, Texas Poo came charging up behind. His head was down and he was dripping with sweat. The sight made me laugh! I thought we were long finished with sweating! He started swearing at OTC. “What got into you? All of a sudden, you started charging up the mountain like a mad man! I couldn’t keep up!”.
OTC said that he had eaten too much sugar which had affected his mood and made him start thinking about things that made him angry. He took all of that energy and started moving like he never had before!
I said I wished I could charge up one mountain like that!
We fell into line again and started hiking together. I said that I couldn’t believe that horse had rested its head on my shoulder! I was still really happy about that. Texas Poo said that he tried petting the same one after I had left and it wouldn’t allow him to. The female owner said that one was ornery. Even the man that saw it couldn’t believe it!
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Texas Poo and Craig both love to talk about music and occasionally stopped to show each other videos. Craig showed Texas Poo a you-tube video about a man trying to to fix a piano and swearing up a storm and Texas Poo shared the video that Craig took when he caught him dancing during a break. I asked him if that was a tap dance because that’s what it looked like to me!
I had read in my guidebook that there was an easy side trail to the top of Blowout mountain with 360 views that was supposedly a sight not to miss. I had been been keeping my eye out for the turnoff and when I thought we had reached it, asked the guys if they also wanted to see it. We turned down the path and then got confused. Craig looked at the map and then crumpled the piece of paper and threw it to the ground. “All done with that one!” he shouted out. My eyes grew wide and I stared at the ball of paper on the ground. Is that really how he disposed of his maps? I tried not to react on the outside and then looked at Texas Poo to see what he was thinking. When he laughed, I did, too. And then OTC said, “Second littering reaction recorded!”
“You were filming me?!”.
“Yup.” Texas Poo was the first he had tried that one on. We turned around and started bushwacking up the mountain. Texas Poo kept tripping over fallen trees and swearing. I began to think it wasn’t worth all of this trouble. When he got farther away from me, he called out, “Oh, wow! The views are incredible up here!”.
“No they aren’t!”. I knew it was all forested and they couldn’t see anything. We all turned back. On the way down the boys pretended to get in a reality-TV-like fight, hurling insults at each other the whole way. I took my time getting down but I could hear them at the bottom making up.
“Thanks, Jackie, for misleading us!”, they shouted out. We had lost a decent amount of time on that failed attempt, but it was nice to be around good-natured people who really didn’t care. We headed on. The guys were planning on taking their next break at the water source coming up in six miles. I don’t know how they could last so long without eating or resting! As we walked, Texas Poo started to bring up some anger about a previous relationship. He said this was the first time he had mentioned it on this hike and had promised himself that he wasn’t going to bring it up. Before long, he started picking up the pace and went ahead of me and OTC.
The spring was located off the trail on one of the switchbacks. You were supposed to stand and listen for it. Fortunately for us, a bright pink piece of tape was placed on a rock with an arrow and H2O written on it. I said to Craig, “The trail is so much different than it was in the 90s!”. Craig looked at his phone and said “It’s a four bar forest!”. I decided that I had enough water on me and didn’t need to take the side path. Craig thought Texas had continued on, but I said he was probably down by the creek. “Oh, you’re probably right!”. He encouraged me to hang out by the water with them, but I wanted to get in 10 more miles and time was short. I sat down on the labeled rock and ate a snack and then headed on, down towards the next dirt road, and then up another mountain range.
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In the evening, I came across Story Time sprawled out along the trail. Last night, he had night hiked out of the Urich shelter, which I found odd. I expected him to be further ahead, but here he was, right at the same spot as me again. He asked me if I had collected water at the spongy spring. “No. I have enough.” He looked at the water level in my bottles to see if he agreed. Then he asked how much longer I was going to hike. I told him probably 30-40 minutes. He said he was going to the same. Now that I had competition, I had to really move. There weren’t any campsites listed in this area in our guidebooks, so finding one was going to be tough enough. I finished the climb, crested the ridge, stopped for a short snack, and then descended back into the woods. The light was diminishing rapidly.
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I looked to the sides of the trail but saw no possible places to camp. Ahead, I knew there was a series of dirt roads and power lines which did not seem inviting to sleep near. I heard a loud crash in the forest and saw another elk run off. The longer I hiked without seeing anything, the more worried and stressed I became. I could barely see the terrain, as it was because it was so dark. I reached the bottom of the descent and fortunately saw a nice flat space to camp just two minutes before 8:00. I felt so relieved! I quickly got to work setting up my tent, needing to put my headlamp on to do so. As I was placing my things inside, Story Time walked by and started up the next climb. I felt a little bad, but he didn’t ask if he could stay here and I knew he liked hiking in the dark.
I cooked my dinner from inside my tent and looked at my guidebook for the next day. As I did so, I heard loud voices coming down the trail. As they came nearer, I could hear one of them exclaiming about some things that his ex-girlfriend had done. When they reached the place where my tent was set up, they said. “There’s Wendy!.”
“Yup. You’re still talking about her?”.
“You could hear that. Oh, jeez. It was only in the last 10 minutes that I stated talking about that again,” Texas Pooh said. “How embarrassing.”
Craig asked if I had found the trail magic at Tacoma Pass. I hadn’t. He said it was pretty hidden and that Texas Poo hadn’t seen it either. Because he had his headphones in, he couldn’t hear OTC calling after him, and OTC had to chase him down. Texas Poo offered me an apple, but I said I was fine. “If it were a banana, I would take it”.
“You’ve walked over 2,300 miles and now you are starting to get picky?”.
They said they were going to hike for another mile or so and would see me tomorrow. “What time are you getting up?” I asked.
“3:45” said Craig.
Ha, ha. “Okay, well, I’ll see you sometime tomorrow!”.
I finished cleaning up and hunkered down for some sleep.

Day 136: Companions!

Day 136
September 1
mile 2329-2355.3
26.3 miles

I didn’t get up particularly early, even though I wished to get up and get out of that place! I ate my breakfast, and as I was changing into my hiking socks, talking to myself as I looked down at my feet, the ranger suddenly appeared right next to me! I coiled back out of shock. Why was he creeping around and why was he still carrying his pot with him? Couldn’t he just leave me alone? He asked me how this spot worked out for me. “Fine.”
Then, he apologized for making me move last night, but “you were rather blatant”.
“I’m sorry”.
He wished me a good hike and walked away. Man! I needed to get out of here!
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First, I needed to find a bathroom spot, however. Braveheart and Halfway passed by at that time. After I packed up, I headed up the hill and across a ridge, where I encountered a few hikers. It was a nice morning and the views were pretty.
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I knew there was an outhouse and a trashcan coming up just off the trail, and decided it was worth the extra distance to head down there. As I walked, I thought that it would be nice to hike for someone for a little while. I was thinking of someone like Truckin’, who I met on the AT, or Muk-Muk on this trail.
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I looked up and was surprised to see Braveheart and Halfway, sitting on a stonewall. I headed over to them and asked if they wanted some peanut butter M&Ms and/or beef jerky. My pack was too heavy! Braveheart is a vegetarian, so he took the candy. Then, I took my garbage to the trash can. Along the way, a man asked me how to drive to Mt. Rainier. I told him I didn’t know. I had just been walking. Again, he tried getting information on how to get to the mountain, which I didn’t even really understand. If you drive to the actual mountain (and there are many sides of it), you wouldn’t really see much of it from the base. Again, I told him that I didn’t know. I had walked here from Mexico. He didn’t even seem to hear me. I felt very perplexed.
I made my way back to the boys and we were soon joined by the other hiker who was eating with them at the Kracker Barrel Store at White Pass. “Dude! Wendy! You must have booked it to get here” he said. I smiled. I was just walking my normal pace. He was confused as to why were were gathered at this wall when the trail passed behind the outhouses. I thought I had to hike back up the road!
I started up the trail and was soon overtaken by the guys. So much for having some company!
I walked along the ridge and could see where I had just come from.
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In two miles, I reached another ‘Sheep Lake’ (!) and found the boys lounging and snacking. They joked that they hadn’t made it very far. Lots of day hikers and campers were also in the area. One advised that there was a better spot to collect water on the other side of the lake where it was actually running. I headed over there, followed by Halfway. I walked over a little foot bridge and then started to head off the trail in search of this running water as Halfway moved on. I decided that I didn’t want to expend too much effort searching for something that I wasn’t sure even existed and headed back to the bridge, where the water was at least dribbling. Was this what the guy meant?
Braveheart passed by as I sat there filtering it. I continued up the climb and after a little while, heard the other hiker coming up behind me. I stepped over so he could pass. A few steps later, I asked him, “What’s your name?”. He didn’t answer. I asked a second time and still, no answer. He had his headphones in and couldn’t hear me. Whatever. Then, he turned around. “Did you just ask me something?”.
“I said what is your name?”.
“Texas Poo”.
“Ohhh!! I’ve heard a lot about you!”. He half laughed and said that a lot of people had given him the exact same response.
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He headed on and soon, I caught up to the two men that passed by while I was filtering water. They asked if I was trying to catch up to Texas Poo. “Nope. I’m only trying to keep up with myself”. At the top of the steep climb, the trail changed directions and opened up to a completely new view. I thought it would be a nice place for a snack break.
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Ahead of me, I could see Texas Poo excitedly interacting with another hiker. It was an animated reunion. From the voice and the mannerisms of the other hiker, I could tell it was Craig, who I hadn’t seen since the time I tried hiking up Kearsarge Pass in the storm. He was headed towards me, so I assumed that he was also flipping. “Wendy!” he said when he approached. “It’s been a long time!”. He explained that he was still headed north, but that he had camped high up on the ridge and wanted to come back here to take a photo of this particular location. He and his father had hiked parts of the PCT when he was about 8 or 10 years old, and he wanted to recreate the photos that they had taken back then. A minute later, I saw Texas Poo climbing back up to us.
“Why are you coming back here?” I asked.
“Because, I’ve missed this guy!”.
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I listened to them banter and then we all headed down the trail in a line. My wish for company had come true after all! We stopped whenever we came to an old photo location and I was asked to recreate the image. “Here’s the reference photo.”
I told him he needed to bend the other knee and look a little more relaxed.
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As we walked on, I saw Texas Poo holding up his phone. “Are you taking video?”.
“Yup!”.
“Of me?”.
This was the first time someone had filmed me walking! At first, I felt embarrassed, but then it started to become a little fun. I found out that Craig was taking pictures of all of the signs he found along the trail and taking a lot of video, as well! I thought I took a lot of pictures, but not compared to him! We came across an older couple and stopped to chat. Texas Poo said he admired the woman’s ski poles. She told us she got them when she first started dating her husband and they still worked well! Mine, on the other hand, weren’t even making it through this hike! Texas Poo asked them if he could take their picture, which amused me. We later encountered a younger couple with a little dog and also stopped to chat and take pictures of each other. The scenery was incredible. At one point, I looked behind me and was stunned. I told the guys to look and they couldn’t believe the view, either!
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When we rounded a bend, we came across two families eating lunch. They were stunned to learn that we had been walking since April and one of the women immediately offered us some chips. Before we knew it, she was handing us vegetables and Craig got a turkey sandwich! Texas Poo loves telling stories and had everyone enthralled. I later asked him if that happened to him all of the time. He said it did! He loves to talk to people about the trail and they love to feed him in return! He said a lady gave him a nice chocolate bar at Dewey Lake.
We said our goodbyes and continued on. We all hoped to get to the Mike Urich shelter, but still had nearly 16 miles to go! I was beginning to doubt that I would make it.
We broke off into our own spaces as we hiked on. I took a lot of pictures, as I could still see Rainier, which was still pretty in the clouds.
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I found a nice spot for my ice coffee and snack break and even got reception! Craig walked by while I was sitting there.
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The next water source was from a pipe that I kept a lookout for. I could hear Craig and Texas Poo talking and laughing in the distance. After I collected water, I found them lounging under a tree. They asked how I was and I told them my stomach had been hurting. I thought that it had been starting to feel a tiny bit better, but today felt like I had taken several steps back. “Come sit down for awhile,” Texas Poo said.
“But I’ll never make it to the shelter if I do!”. He implored me to do so anyway, so I joined them for awhile. We had heard that there was trail magic at the shelter, but at this point, I wasn’t going to roll in before 9! The guys were lucky that they could hike faster!
I headed back to the trail before they did and was proud that they didn’t catch me in the six miles I hiked before I needed to sit down and take a break at an intersection. Just as I was finishing, they came along. Craig got excited when he saw the sign for “Airplane Meadows”.
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Apparently, the wreckage from an old plane crash was still in the field, and they headed down the path to see if they could find it. They invited me, but I didn’t feel like I had time to do that, especially not knowing how far away it was. I figured this would give me another head start. A couple minutes later, I heard some yelling which made me think they had quickly found it. But I was intent on scurrying out so I could stay ahead of them! I still had nearly eight miles to get there and I needed to move as quickly as possible!
A few miles later, I heard the noise of a large animal crashing into the forest. I saw what I think was an elk. The light was too weak to get a decent picture, however. My body began to fatigue and I struggled up a short, but steep climb. I needed to take off my heavy pack and eat a snack. There was still no sign of the guys. I kept looking at my watch and counting down the miles I had left.
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At 7:50, I finally made it to the shelter! It was nearly dark. I walked over to Braveheart and Halfway, who were sitting around a fire. No one welcomed me or offered me any food. I was hoping to make it in time for dinner so I didn’t have to cook my disgusting pasta again. Then, a woman said I could take a cold drink out of the cooler. I told her I was cold, myself, and didn’t want something cold. She said I could take it by the fire. I looked around for a place to set up my tent. I was going to sleep in the meadow, but was strongly advised not to do that because of the condensation. Braveheart and Halfway had set up in the woods, but said I was going to have a hard time finding a spot back there. With only minutes of light left, I needed to do something fast. I saw a flat spot next to the horses and decided that would be fine. It took me awhile to get the tent up, as usual. When everything was done, a man came over and asked if I was a light sleeper. I said I was. He informed me that this probably wasn’t a good place to try to sleep, as the horses stomped all night long. He even tied their feet together because of it! The loudest one was the one closest to me! I decided that I was used to not sleeping on the trail and would just stay there. It was too much work to break everything down and set it up again. I returned back to the canvas tent, hoping there would be something to eat. I met Beaker, who was hosting the trail magic. He offered me some cookies. He pointed out all the food they had for lunch and dinner (hot dogs, deli turkey, bread, etc), but it appeared that they were now offering only cookies and drinks. I almost asked for a piece of bread, but didn’t want to overstep my boundaries. Craig went to get his stove and cooked some noodles for dinner. I felt sad. We had pushed so hard to get here, hoping that we wouldn’t have to cook our same meals, but were now sitting in the dark, feeling very tired and very hungry, with food all around us, but nothing available. After staying up well past our bedtime, I headed back to my tent and hoped the horses weren’t going to keep me up all night long.

Day 135: Mt. Rainier and an order to break down my tent and move!

Day 135
August 31
mile 2303-2329
26 miles

Of course, I didn’t get up very early… I thought it might be nice to eat breakfast on my little patio, but it was so cold out, that I ate my coffee and yogurt cup inside. I placed my insoles into my new and last pair of shoes, packed everything up, and headed out. Instead of taking the road back to the trail, I took the trail that started behind the motel and wrapped around the pond. As usual, I got a bit lost and headed towards the pond where I came upon some sleeping bags. I retreated back up the hill and took the other path. The sun was beaming brightly and made it hard to see the water.
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I made my way through the wooded path, which eventually intersected the PCT. At the same time, I was also trying to see if someone would be available to pick me up at the airport. I had thought for a long time about the possibilities of people who would do that for me, and came up with essentially no one! I still need to work on bringing more people into my life. I quickly lost reception and returned my focus to the 1,000 foot climb in front of me. The morning hours passed by with little excitement.
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Eight hours later, I reached a ridge top which gave me a nice view of the distant mountains. One of them stood out and I wondered if it was Mt. Rainier.
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Five minutes later, I rounded a bend in the trail and right in front of was the most incredible, unobstructed view of the actual Mt. Rainier.
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My jaw dropped. How could it be right in front of me like this and how had I not been able to see it at all before this? I was stunned. It was so big!
I headed down the ridge, still being able to see this mountain and before long, came across two teenage boys sitting on the side of the trail. One was examining his maps while the other snacked on his bag of trailmix. Neither one of them saw me until I was practically right in front of them. They must have been 15 years old. The one offered me some of his trailmix, which I thought was sweet, and the other asked me if I knew how far away the pond they had planned on camping at was. I did not. “Did you pass by any lakes?”. I had to think. I saw several of them, but none had been along the trail. I told them that they were going to come across a magnificent view of Mt. Rainier soon, though. I received a half, dis-interested smile and then realized they had probably already seen many views of it.
I walked on for a few minutes and suddenly, my hipbelt buckle snapped open. This had happened a few times before. I cinched it back together and continued walking. It popped open again after just a few seconds. What was going on? Was there a pebble or something it in that was preventing it from closing properly? No, it looked fine. Again, I walked, and again, it popped open. For the next 10 minutes, I was continually frustrated. If this thing was broken, there was no way I could hike the last 360 miles like this, and I had no clue how I could fix this problem. I continued to struggle with it for awhile, and then, for some reason, it stayed fastened for the remaining miles of the day.
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My goal was to make it to the tent site that my app had listed at Dewey lake. The sunlight had now diminished and I was very tired. I had already walked over 25 miles.
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When I reached the site, I found a tent already set up there. I was going to have to keep moving, not knowing what I would find. I began to hear the noise of children running around and soon came upon a large group of campers. It was Labor Day weekend and lots of people were out here! I continued on, searching both sides of the trail. I went up to investigate a possible place on a small hill, which didn’t turn out to be suitable and saw several llamas in the field below.
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I moved on, coming across a tent set up in a space that would have fit me, as well. I considered asking the person inside if I could camp there, too, but did not. Instead, I moved forward. Everywhere, I looked, people were occupying all of the possible places! Then, I noticed a flat spot near a pond. I decided it would work. I went about setting up my tent, hoping that if a ranger was checking on people, that he would have already made his rounds. I finally got everything spread out and set up inside my tent, and now the only thing I had to do was cook my dinner.
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I breathed a sigh of relief. I was exhausted. Just then, I heard footsteps approaching. Oh, no. “Hello? Are you a thru-hiker?”
“Yes.” My heart sank. Maybe, just maybe he would let this slide, since I had just put in a 26 mile day and would be up and out of here in the morning.
“You know you aren’t allowed to camp within 200 feet of the water.”
“So, I have to move?”.
“Yes.”
This was the worst situation possible. I had just endured a huge amount of stress finding a place to camp before nightfall and had spent my last remnants of energy setting up my shelter. Now, I was being told that I had to break it all down, pack everything up again, and start hiking in the pitch black?
He said that he would be bathing just down from my tent.
I got out and started calmly taking each item out of my tent and placing it on the dirt. Then, I started talking to myself as I looked over at the ranger. I figured it wouldn’t be normal to not be upset so I started dropping things harder onto the ground. My voice got louder and the things that came out became more sarcastic. “This is great. This is just what I wanted to happen after I hiked 26 miles. I’m not tired at all. I love putting up my tent and having to move. I love hiking in the dark. I’ll just pretend I’m back in the desert!”. Finally, I hoisted my pack on my back and headed out into the night. I didn’t know how long I was going to have to hike for. I did know the trail was about to climb again. Part of me was relieved to get away from all of the people and the ranger. And then, before I knew it, I saw a semi-flat area to the side of the trail and decided I would just sleep there. There was no way I was going to set up my tent again, so I just spread out my groundcloth and sleeping bag, cooked my pasta for dinner, ate some chocolate for dessert, and looked at the headlamps in the distance. Just after 9:00, two hikers walked by me heading south. And then a bit later, two northbound guys who were talking to each other, started up the climb. They were saying something about Braveheart.