Friday, September 24, 2010

ROAR! (Part 1 -Facts)

Over the course of the trail I've written about events, people, feelings, and changes.  But giving a summary of the end result of the 5 months worth of changes, adventures, stories, and hard.  I'm tempted to begin this post with where I am now, both mentally, emotionally, and physically... but it would be a strangely inaccurate representation of me, my hike, and the end of the trail.
Part 1 -  I will catch you up on the last 2 weeks of hiking as if the end hasn't occurred. It's a struggle to relate... to explain and/or summarize changes and ending thoughts so Part 2 will be about being done / reflection.

 The days of Washington are filled with gray mist that begins 20 feet away in every direction... and it never ends.  Rain falls softly, angrily, slowly, quickly, or loudly. It is always wet, humid, and cold.  Clothes don't dry, the tent is stuffed while it's still dripping steady streams of condensation and rain.  Dreams of being warm, dry, or comfortable fade quickly as the days blend together.  After the first day everything is always soaked.

I discovered just how ineffective my rain gear is the day I left Snoqualime with Boat and Slimjim .  The jacket collected water in the forearm as I hiked, causing my fleece to get soaked, and the shirt beneath was already drenched in sweat.   The rain pants had small tears from my glisades in the Sierra's.  It turns out duct tape doesn't actually fix everything.  The pants let moisture in, but not out... so the bottom half of me became as wet and cold as my top half.  In one word... I became miserable. As I didn't have any other clothes besides a pair of long-john bottoms to sleep in, this became a problem.

After the first night camping in an open meadow, with ineffective rain gear, a tent that must not be seam-sealed any longer, a damp sleeping bag, and a failing neo-air I became the hiker I swore to never become.  I walked with my head down, feet to the grindstone.  I walked on auto-pilot.  The Golden Child Zombie walk began as I trudged through thick mist, feeling cold, and depressed.  Unable to take breaks in fear of getting wetter and colder, I didn't see a gorgeous Washington... I missed the flowers, the goats, the berries.

As the day continued and the rain fell heavier I took a wrong turn somewhere.  Lost and confused I took a 3 mile "alternate route".  I discovered how far behind Slimjim and Boat I was when I found a note in the middle of the trail saying they were headed for Desolation Lakes to camp for the night... and "WHERE the hell was I?"  FoxTrot and Flashback(really fast hikers) caught up to me on my 15 minute lunch break; they had taken the same extra route I had.  I was able to catch up with Boat and Slimjim after 2 hours of hard hiking(3.5 -4 mph).  As Boat and I walked toward Desolation Lakes I slightly ranted about how everything was breaking... and I made up my mind that I needed to go to REI when I got into Skykomish no matter how far behind it would put me.  Everything was breaking, they only piece of equipment that hadn't was my stove!  Boat and I considered pulling an all-nighter but I ended up putting my tent up anyways. That night was the first battle between the field mice and I.  I woke Boat up periodically through the night with my headlamp and yells. We fought all night over two snickers bars, my maps/atlas, and my toilet paper. I won the maps and toilet paper, but the mice got the snickers.  After barely any sleep I settled on taking a shortcut into Skykomish as did Slimjim.  As we split off from Boat for the four miles of extreme descent,(3,000+ ft) I listened to Slimjim tell me about reaching his patience with people. We got down to the road in two hours.  Slimjim must have been reaching the end of his patience because after waiting 30 minutes for a car he picked up his pack and told me he was going to start walking. I think he thought I would follow him... but I didn't.  Within 15 minutes a car pulled over and we headed down the road.  I explained to the driver that another hiker was on the road ahead and asked if he would mind picking him up too.  He said no.  If a man had left me to hitch-hike alone then he had done me a disservice making me hitch as a lone female.  This made me slightly nervous... alone in a car with someone who wants to keep me alone.  He dropped me off at Steve's Shop near the Dinsmore's and gave me his cell phone number in case I wanted a ride to REI.

 So I arrived at the tiny General Store / Diner alone.  The conversation with Steve,the owner, was hilarious to me...
Steve: Hiker?
me: yes(sigh)
Steve: Cold?
me: and wet
Steve: Dinsmore's House?
me: yes
Steve: Coffee?
me: YES
Steve: Menu?
me: pancakes?
Steve: I make KILLER pancakes!
me: DONE

After the best pancakes of the trail I headed to the Dinsmore's House(local trail angels) where I  showered and put on a dress from the hiker clothes box. I ended up calling the driver from my previous hitch and he drove me to REI(90+ miles away) and back to Skykomish... it was the scariest ride I've ever had.  But it was worth it for the new rain jacket and replaced neo-air and rain pants.

Slimjim, Damien, and Smiles had decided to get a hotel room further in town, so when I got back Babysteps, Foxtrot, Flashback, Drugstore, Boat, and Cruisin'(CDT hiker) were in the garage. It was a bubble of activity and I found Bump doing trail magic!  She had brought three cakes and they were so delicious. When Bump dropped Babysteps, Foxtrot, Flashback and I off at the trail head the next morning the car was full of energy! We sang Kat Stevens the whole way! High-fives and hugs of excitement, we started off headed for Stehikin.  

I caught up to Boat and Drugstore who had started hiking earlier that day than I.  Boat and I decided on only doing 25 mile days to the border because we didn't want to rush the last part of the trail. Drugstore on the other hand was ready to put the miles in and get the trail finished.  By the end of our first full day on the trail Drugstore had out hiked us by 10+ miles.  The last day getting into Stehikin Boat and I decided to be crazy and hike all the way until 1am to the Stehikin Ranger Station.  In the morning we saw Foxtrot, Flashback, Slimjim, Babysteps, and Drugstore all headed out to the Border(82 miles away).  Boat and I stayed in Stehikin for the night and treated ourselves to the Ranch and the Bakery.  Between the two of us our bakery bill was $78 dollars.  We bought a giant scone for every morning we'd  be on the trail(total = 9) loafs of bread for lunches, sticks of butter, and tons of sweet and intoxicating-ly tasty pastries behind the glass cases.

Leaving Stehikin was hard, Five days of hiking for me, Four days for Boat... we walked 25 mile days, woke up when we wanted, stopped for berries on every hill.  I just tried to enjoy every minute of each climb, descent, break, dinner, and view.  We arrived at the border on September 18th at 4:15pm.  There was excitement... but there was more sadness than anything.  After taking pictures, eating lunch, and making hot chocolate it was time for us to part ways.  Boat on his way to Canada and me back toward Harts Pass(30 miles) where I planned to hitch-hike to a town with a pay phone and call Bump for a pick-up and ride to Seattle.

Things worked out amazingly well the day after the border...  It turns out Balls and his daughter Sunshine had decided to hike from Harts Pass to the Border and back.  I ran into them early the next morning and they had camped with Foxtrot that night, he had already completed his thru-hike and was heading south just like me.  I camped with Balls and Sunshine that night and in the morning we all hiked to Harts Pass... through snow, hail and rain.   When I got to Harts Pass I found Foxtrot beneath the bathroom roof.  My hands were so frozen I needed help un-buckling my pack, getting my dry clothes out from the bottom of the pack inside three seperate bags,... and he untied my shoes then made me hot chocolate.  Before I had finished changing into my dry clothes Balls and Sunshine arrived and we packed the compact car up fully loaded with soaking wet gear and extremely smelly hikers.  Both Foxtrot and I as well as a hiker I didn't know well, RT, rode into Seattle by way of Balls and Sunshine.

Monday, September 6, 2010

Oregon leftovers and Be-Puddled in Washington...

Oregon Leftovers -

When I got back on the trail after a 3 hour hitch from Roseburg, OR. I began hiking alone and found being on the trail strangly hard.  I'd been off of trail life for 6-7 eternity for any hiker, but on top of that I ate an average of 5 meals a day and gained 10 pounds back.  Slightly overweight and mentally unconditioned for the return to hiking. 
I managed the 8 or so miles to the closest water source and found a single thru-hiker camped far away from the weekenders.  I had run into Bump! We camped together and caught up on all the goings on! We spent the following day hiking together and ran into a fast section hiker, Grateful.  He is fairly unique and caught us off guard by hiking in a loincloth.(He didn't wear it the whole time)  I must admit that whatever my initial thoughts were he become a terrific trail companion. And for the next few days we hiked at the same pace, grabbed pizza and beer, snuck into a ski resort's lighting shed, and had good conversation while we walked.  When his section ended and he headed out for hitchhiking I was definitely sad to be on my own again.  Over the course of this trip I would say he is the only person I've met where I didn't feel compelled to finish my sentences because he already understood. The last bit of trail that Grateful and I walked through was right next to a forest fire.  When Grateful and I parted ways my eye began to bother me...
I hiked to the next trail head and was stopped by an Oregon State Trooper.  He pulled out a map and told me I would need to hike somewhere else.  I humorously explained, I had already hiked everything South of here and only planned on hiking North.  After comparing maps and trail locations he determined it was acceptable for me to continue, but only on the condition that I give him my blog address and I carry Police Grade Pepper Spray.  It made me laugh seeing how his face twitched with concern.  I really felt bad for making him worry, I tried to explain how safe I was when I hitch hike... and how I try to avoid bad situations... but he was still concerned.  I was touched that he gave me Pepper Spray and told me how to use it.  It made me feel special and cared about. He also asked me what was wrong with my eye.  It turns out that I got ash from the forest fire between my eye and the contact.  I discovered this two days later, after hiking with one contact to the Big Lake Youth Camp, having my eye washed out by the nurse, and then hitching into Sisters, OR to see a doctor.  I scratched the eye and needed to take antibiotic eye drops for 5-7 days.  As there was another forest fire North of where I got off the trail I decided I didn't want to hike with one contact(no glasses) through another forest fire area.  I spent the night in Sisters and in the morning I found Bump sitting on a picnic table in the County Campground when I returned after going to the local coffee shop.  We got a hold of the local Trail Angel, Loyld, and headed into Bend so we could catch a bus up to Gov't Camp, so we could hitch to Cascade Locks, so we could attend Trail Days(a PCT event for current and previous thru-hikers and trail angels). In the end I skipped 150 miles of Oregon due to the scratch.  I hope to return and hike it with Grateful as it is his last section as well. 

Be-Puddled in Washington -
At Cascade Locks I ran into Slimjim, Psycho and Apricots, Boat, Little Engine and Plain Slice, Auxille, Duff, Shades, Sunshine and Balls, Zero Zero, Just Dave, Redhead, and tons of other hikers I've met along the way!  It was a great time seeing everyone again all in the same place at the same time.  Everyone had stories to share and questions to ask.  It was quite the reunion. 

I left Cascade Locks with Slimjim and Boat and off into Washington we walked!  We passed a few other hikers: Otter, Wyhoming, Passant and Darko, and were passed by Drugstore. Unfortunately it rained quite steadily the entire three days.  The last night out my sleeping bag was soaked and I wrapped myself in trashbags so the heat of my body wouldn't escape.  I woke up to puddles of water in my tent and knew it was going to be a long cold and wet day.  As we trudged through Goat Rocks National Park, I took the lead of the group and managed to take the wrong trail... I missed a turn off(still hiking with one contact) and had to hike back to the last trail intersection. This took place right before Knife's Edge - one of the most scenic and dangerous parts of the trail on the PCT.  As I had gotten lost, both Slimjim and Boat had gotten ahead of me.  I climbed the steep mountain, got to the beginning of the Knife's Edge and became really concerned.  The trail is 16 inches wide with steep cliffs dropping down from the end of the 16 inch trail.  I was so high and the clouds were so low I could only see 100 feet of the drop offs, but I tried not to look because the wind was gusting stubborn 20 mph speeds.  Slimjim got my scary descent on video.  I was so glad to find Slimjim and Boat waiting for me at the bottom.  We continued on, knowing that we had to get into White Pass and get a hotel room.  With soaking wet gear we wouldn't make it through the night.  We got to the trail head to find one of Slimjim's friends waiting for us with chocolate cake, raspberries from the garden, and fresh peaches.  He had no idea she would be there!! We were all so thankful for her kindness, she drove us to her house(60 miles away), fed us, gave us showers, blankets, warm food, and arranged for her neighbor to drive us back to the trail.  It was a perfect ending for walking in 3 days of steady rain!

From White Pass Slimjim, Boat, Drugstore, and I continued forward.  I was finally able to put the other contact in my other eye, so I led our group to a very spacious campground not too far from the trail.  We relaxed and made a fire that evening.  The following day we did 34 miles.  The next day, Slimjim pulled ahead of the group toward the afternoon.  By dinner it was Boat, Drugstore, and I at a creek.  I piped up and said, "Hey, so this is a crazy idea by why not hike through the night and go all the way to Snoqualmie?"  They thought about it, Drugstore had tons of caffeine pills, and we decide to go for it.  We hiked through the night and completed 57.5 miles in a matter of 24 hours and 47 minutes.  We passed tons of tents during our night hike and when we found Slimjim he turned our crazyness down and decided to sleep instead. When we got into Snoqualmie we headed straight to the Breakfast Buffet and ate 4 plates each.  I was cold, wet, and exhausted but so proud. Yea, it's crazy to walk such a distance and to hike for so long a time, but there are only so many days left to be a crazy thru-hiker and it was a perfect adventure.  After breakfast Boat and I snuck down to the Ski Resort's storage area and fell asleep while we waited for Slimjim to arrive.    

Slimjim once again had the Trail Angel connections and we were soon picked up by Thanksgiving Mom.  She was so kind and fed us SO much good food.  We were dropped off at the trail head, fully rested, jacuzzied out, and saturated in starbuck's coffee.  I've got 250ish miles to the Canadian Border and I am really looking forward to being done.

Hiker Updates:
Damien - He is back on the trail and I saw him yesterday at the hotel in Snoqualmie. I should be catching up to him tomorrow or the following day.  He is hiking with my favourite Swedish woman, Smiles!
Shroomer, Missing Link, and Johnny Law  - are all ahead by two days.

I'm not sure what else to share, except to say:  I am happy.  I am warm and clean with my hair in a braid sitting in a carpeted hotel lobby.  I've got all my fingers and all my toes and I miss everyone so much.