Day 130: More rain, more forest, more exhaustion!

Day 130
August 26
2200.8-2227.9
27.1 miles

I was so exhausted that I didn’t even want to sit up and check whether rain was coming into my tent last night at 10:13! I could barely open my eyes!
In the morning, I ate half a ziplock of granola with milk and then had one poptart with my coffee. It was a good combination of nutrition and sweetness! I wonder why it had taken me so long to figure that one out!
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I started hiking at 7:50. The air was cold and I wore my rain layers as I walked. The trail once again remained in the woods. The lady I had met at the Bridge of the Gods was right! Washington was very forested! I was not expecting this!
Immediately after I took a pee break, I reached a camping area with an outhouse! It was around 9:30 am, and a man was just breaking down his tent.
Once across the road, the trail climbed about 1500 feet. After a couple of miles, I passed by Sheep Lake, which my guidebook described as “gross, disgusting water”. It also seemed to be called “Duck Pond”.
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I continued to climb and found a sign that announced a shortcut, which seemed appealing. Not knowing where it actually went, I kept on the PCT.
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Just as I decided to take a break, the rain started coming down again! I hesitated and thought about continuing on, but then decided I needed a snack. I found a tree to sit under and since I was so cold, I boiled some water for my second cup of coffee. I found that I had reception and received a rare comment on my blog which gave my spirit a boost. It’s amazing what a few words can do! As I sat there, I heard some very loud voices approaching. A father and his three children eventually appeared and he apologized to me for the noise. He said he was giving them a botany lesson. They had been discussing the different colors of the berries along the trail and what the colors meant.
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Although the rain was very unpleasant to hike in and the temperature was cold, the miles were fairly easy. I listened to my yoga playlist music, which helped me get my mind away from things that have been bothering me. I also ate a second Snickers bar again. So much of my food was inedible to me now- either because it was stale, or because I could no longer stand it. My diet was starting to consist mostly of chocolate and coffee.
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I planned on stopping at the tent site right after Mosquito Creek, but when I arrived, I saw Story Time and a woman who I couldn’t see very well already set up. The woman waved to me and I waved back and then kept walking. I hadn’t collected water at the creek, as I had planned on walking back to it after I had set up. Now, I wasn’t sure what I would find ahead. According to my guidebook, the next source was nearly three miles away. The rain started once again and my spirits sank. Fortunately, I came across a nicely running creek and was at least able to collect water for the night and morning. Now, I just had to find a place to sleep! Thick plant growth lined both sides of the trail. I bushwacked down the trail a bit to check out a potential area, but it turned out not to be suitable. Later, I again went off the trail when the terrain flattened out. This time, I thought I could set up my tent in a small area in between some young spruce. It was now about 7:20. Again, I struggled immensely with my tent set-up. Knowing that it was going to be another wet night, I had to get it taut enough so the rain wouldn’t drip inside, but still be able to close my tent zipper. I cooked my dinner, washed up, and crawled into my sleeping bag. After another long and trying day, I finally closed my eyes.

Day 129: Rain, trees, climbs, and slugs!

Day 129
August 25
mile 2175-2200.8
25.8 miles

It seemed unusually dark in the morning. I didn’t know if rain was coming, or if it was just dark because I was in the thick of the forest. I ate my chocolate granola for breakfast. At 6:30, one of the guys who had camped at Rock Creek walked by! There was still no change with my intestinal issues.
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I packed up and started walking by 7:35. I came across a few more gigantic green slugs on the forested climb.
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By 9:43, I had passed the other hiker. Shortly after, I stopped for a snack break. We then leap-frogged each other for awhile. He wanted to know if this was going to happen all day. He asked if I was keeping a blog, as he had been reading several other hiker’s journals from this year, including Story Time’s, who he was happy to run into.
As I walked, I told myself that I needed to get all of the people that had been causing me stress during this hike to get out of my head and find some peace for myself instead. This was my final state and I now had just under 500 miles to hike. It would all be over too soon.
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I was aware of keeping my eye out for the wasp’s nest, and as I rounded a little bend in the trail, I suddenly saw the piece of paper on the ground, gasped, and turned around. It looked like the wasps were congregated on the right side of the trail. I took my rain pants and rain jacket out of my pack and put them on. Then, I prepared myself to keep to the far left of the trail and hurry through. I made it through with no stings! The air was quite humid, so I had to stop and take off the rain layers when I had a chance.
Rain started to fall before I reached Trout Creek.
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I had planned on taking a break here at the half picnic table, but now I wasn’t sure what to do. I put my pack cover over my pack after taking out my food bag and set it against the table. Then, I put on my rain layers once again. I needed to find another place to go to the bathroom and ended up scraping my leg on a big fallen tree on my way. Although the rain remained, it was light enough for me to stay and have an ice coffee and snickers before I headed across the bridge. On the other side, I saw a sign warning about recent mountain lion activity near the area in which I camped last night! Great! There were no signs on the side of the trail from which I had just come! (I actually thought about a mountain lion in the area as I was hiking last night, although I really thought we were long past their territory!). Muk Muk was not going to be happy about this!
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I continued on to Panther Creek, which was the last water source for the next 13 or so miles. It had been raining on and off, but once I stopped to go to the bathroom once again, it picked up again. I found a tree to sit under and snack, not wanting to go out into exposed territory to collect water. However, I had a limited amount of time for breaks! It was now after 2pm, and I had 11 more miles to get in and a big climb in front of me! I finally walked over to the creek to collect water, sat back under the tree to filer it, packed up, and headed out with my 3 liters of water.
The trail climbed just over 3,000 feet over the next 9 miles. It was a lot tougher than I expected. The rain stopped for awhile, but just as I stopped to take my second Snickers bar break, it started coming down again! I had no reception in this area, but I actually felt relieved about that, as I was able to stay more within myself and not worry about interacting with other people.
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Just before I reached a dirt road, I ran into a man and woman and their dog. The man had a German accent and asked me if I was doing the whole trail. “When did you start?” he asked. After I told him, he exclaimed, “Holy crap!”, which amused me. He then asked me if I was going to finish the whole thing. Several people had asked me this question since around mid-Oregon. Did they really think I was going to call it good enough to just end the hike somewhere in Oregon or Washington? Of course, I was going to hike the whole thing!
I reached my campsite at 7:23 and proceeded to struggle greatly with the set-up of my tent once again. It took me so long to get the tension adjusted so that I could zip it up!
I cooked my dinner and discovered that my winter hat now smelled like mold. Wonderful… The earliest that I could wash it would be in Trout Lake. I felt exhausted again. I am so tired of hiking 26 mile days!! That is one thing that I will not miss after the trail- the high pressure to consistently hike big mile days every day!

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!