PART TWO: 186 days in the woods

Day 106, between Miles 1440 & 1470
August 5
I’ve had some sort of break through today.  Walking I feel energized and relaxed, peaceful and mindful.  The clouds in my head are dissipating.
Ran into a group of 3 men, about my dad’s age.  Stopped and chatted and they made me an espresso in the middle of the woods.
The trail provides.

Day 112, Mile ???
August 11
Walked 23 miles.
Red rocks, ridge-walking. White rock islands in a sea of green forest.
22 miles till Etna.

OB_hiking_Ncal
Northern California

Day 116, Mile 1630
August 15
First south-bounder sighting!
Less than 70 miles left in Cali.
Being asked often if I’m “on schedule” and I say “what schedule?” and they start talking about finishing and snow in Washington.
Time goes so slowly out here, yet it’s already mid-August.  Oregon should take 3ish weeks…mid-September.  Then 4ish for Washington…mid-October.  As much as I try and calculate the future or conceptualize “finishing”, today’s steps are challenging enough.

Day 117, Mile 1662
August 16
Arrived in Seiad Valley after a 6.4 mile road walk lined with blackberries ripe and glowing in the morning sun.
Ate an epic waffle sandwich, drank an epic amount of coffee, downed an epic glass of milk.
Hung out and took showers at the RV park.  30 and I played badminton under the trees, listening to Old Crow Medicine Show and drinking Rolling Rock.
Made it after dark to the spring 6 miles out and up from town.
The clouds are moving and it makes it look like the moon is moving. We get to Oregon tomorrow or early the next day.
Today was Friday.

OB_tent_sunrise
Sunrise, Mt. Shasta.

Day 123, Mile 1725
August 22
Back on trail after 3 sick-days in Ashland.  Fever, headache, muscle-ache, the whole shebang.  Hadn’t zeroed since Tahoe and it took it’s toll.  On top of that, got the x-ray and 30’s foot is officially broken.  So we’re taking care of eachother.
Smoke is rolling in from the forest fires in Northern Cali.

Day 124, Mile 1748
August 23
Late start today but still managed 23 miles.  Flat, cool, relatively smoke-free.  Trying for a 30 tomorrow.
Was in some sort of mood all day and was giving 30 earfuls about all sorts of nonsense.
Found a toad on the trail- had to pick it up just like I would’ve as a kid.

Day 125, Mile ????
August 24
4-Month Anniversary On Trail!
Celebrated with a short day.  18 miles.
Started the day with a hornet-bite on my right butt-cheek.  Hurt like a mother.
Spent much of the day dreaming up crazy plans for post-hike.

Day 127, Mile 1810
Woke up cold and wet from yesterday’s rainstorms.
A postcard and bracelet from Hot Tub waiting for me at Christi Spring.  Made me laugh and cry.
We’ll arrive at Crater Lake tomorrow evening.

Day 133, Mile ????
September 1
Camped under the stars at Bobby Lake.  We got in at dark so I don’t know what to expect, but I’m sure it will be beautiful.
Last day/evening/night of being 23.  I hope 24 is adventurous, satisfied, motivated, spontaneous, playful, loving.

OB_craterlake
Crater Lake, OR.

Day 134, Mile ????
September 2
My Birthday.
Slept straight through sunrise.  Steam is rolling off the lake’s glassy surface and there are dragon flies and ducks.  And the yellow jackets are out, feisty and buzzing though it’s still early.
I was a morning-baby and, 24 years ago, my parents were holding me, fresh and new.  Mama didn’t know I was going to be a girl and in the home video of that dark, hectic, hospital room, you can hear the words “It’s a girl!” from the doctor and she repeats his words over and over with such joy.
23 was the first adult year I spent out of school.  I baked bread.  I lived with Lacy and Lily. I hiked and skiid and cooked, biked, played kickball, listened to music, had great house-parties, made new friends, kept old friends.  Bolt died and Debbie’s cancer got worse.
I planned my trip on the PCT and walked 1800 miles.
My friend Julie asked me yesterday how I typically celebrated my birthday, triggering a flood of memories from past celebrations- family dinners, 20 people around the table, unimaginable amounts of pasta, bread and wine being consumed; the themed parties of my childhood (deep-sea, soccer, jungle, etc.), party favors, jump-roping, squealing and screaming; the celebrations of my 20s starting dance parties in the bar.
Today is an exceptionally quiet, subtle, sober take on my birthday.  Just me and 30 Pack, waking on the shore of a lake, drinking instant coffee+hot cocoa in the sun, reading cards from my family.
You ain’t got nothing but time.
And time ain’t got nothing on you.

Day 139, Mile 2000ish
September 7
Hit mile 2000 today.

Day 147, Mile 2142
September 15
Last day on trail in OR and hoping it doesn’t rain on us.
Taking the Eagle Creek alternate past Tunnel Falls.  About 13 out from Cascade Locks.
Excited for a bed- haven’t had one in 450 miles.

OB_TunnelFalls
Tunnel Falls, OR.

Day 150, Mile ????
September 18
Made camp, real camp, with fire and spring water, dinner and hot cocoa.
Did 22 today.  New shoes’ve got my feet hurting.
Coming up on a full moon again.

Day 152, Mile 2,300ish
September 20
Made it to Trout Lake alright.  The town is more or less a general store and a gas station- my favorite kind of stop.
400 miles from Canada…how the hell did that happen!? For all the work it took, all the fear and anticipation I felt before I got here, it all seems easier in retrospect.

Day 129, Mile ????
September 27
Cold and damp.  Days are getting shorter and we’re slowing to 20 miles per day in order to sleep-in in the morning and have a fire at night.  Anyway, why rush through the best thing I’ve ever done for myself?
Should be to Snoqualmie by Sunday evening.

OB_rivercrossing_WA
River Crossing, WA.

Day 162, Mile 2,402
September 30
Issaquah, WA
Off trail for a few days to avoid super rain/wind/snow.
Weathered 3 days of continuous rain.  Set a record on our way in to Snoqualmie- 20 miles in 7 hours.  Arrived at the pass soaked to the bone.
Prepared to modify and continue on after the weather clears.  Need to boost our trashbag/ziploc reinforcements.
Trail Specificities:
Over 150 days since leaving the border.
Approximately 750,000 calories devoted to walking.
150 cat holes.
2400 miles.

Day 165, Mile ????
October 3
Elizabeth has joined us, a whole new dynamic.  Gives me and 30 a break from one another.
Cold and wet, but we’re in good spirits.
Tired.  The cold makes me tired.

Day 169, Mile ????
October 7
Spent two nights in Cle Elum and bought snow shoes.
Back in the woods, in the tent, eating chocolate bars and cheese, making sandwiches for tomorrow.
Feeling content and at home, despite the weather.  Hearing about people calling it quits and being asked when we will. We haven’t reached our limits yet.

OB_Liz_logcrossing_snow
Outburst and Elizabeth. Log crossing before Steven’s Pass.

Day 172, Mile 2,472
October 10
We made it to Steven’s Pass.  First group to make it from Snoqualmie since the snow hit.
Eating pie at the Baring Store/Restaurant.
Read an article in the Seattle Times about PCT hikers finishing the trail with a 100-plus mile road walk to Canada.  The Wenatchee newspaper shows a picture of Hippie and New Orleans walking on the highway.
The words are circulating: “hiking season is over”.  Very discouraging.  It seems that then entire hiking community is throwing in the towel. The excitement and optimism that keeps us all going  has been extinguished, replaced by doubt, fear, even criticism towards those of us who choose to keep trying.  Facebook is the worst, a petri-dish of fear-feeding-fear.
The conditions haven’t worsened, but a few hikers got stranded in the mountains and had to be retrieved by the local SAR.
No one has made it the 120 miles from here to Rainey Pass since the snow hit.  Several groups have attempted and turned around.  We know the risks of going back into the mountains, and we’re doing everything we can to prepare- exit strategies, new gear, extra food.

Day 173, Mile 2,482
October 11
Camped 10 miles in.
Seven of us left from Steven’s Pass this morning.  Me and 30, old friends- Hot Tub, Sweet Tooth, Elizabeth, and new friends- Luna, Werewolf and their dog, Supdog.
Snowshoes, gaiters, rain pants and coats, 3 pair gloves, 4 pair socks, 2 pair long underwear, fire starters, hats, extra batteries, etc. etc.
We’ve got a two week weather-window, food for eleven days and are expecting between 10 and 15 miles/day.

Day 174, Mile ????
October 12
Climbed over 3,000 feet, wore snow shoes for the first time, animal tracks everywhere, camping on packed snow, cold feet, no campfire.

OB_snowshoes
Scaling the Northern Cascades in snowshoes.

Day 175, Mile ????
October 13
Day threee of the Expedition.
Becoming more competant in snowshoes, but still exhausting.  The mountains look beautiful and intimidating all covered in snow.
This long trail has transformed so many times.
90 miles to Rainey Pass.

Day 176, Mile 2520
October 14
Elizabeth exited. The snowy slopes were too much.  I thought we had seen the worst of it yesterday, and told her as much, but I’m glad she didn’t believe me because today was much worse.
The 1.8 miles from White Pass to Red Pass took us 2.5 hours. The steepest, sketchiest shit I’ve ever done. Combined with maneuvering in snowshoes, it was the most stressful 2+ hours my body has ever endured.
After a long break at the pass, we cruised down the back side, plodding through the powder, the freedom of an open snow-field after those excruciating hours.
Three more big climbs before we’re through this.  Weather is looking good.
In camp, safe, happy and warm.

Day 177, Mile ???
October 15
6:15 Alarm goes off, turned off, doze
6:30 motivate to make coffee, first few sips provide motivation to make oatmeal
6:45 Make first exit to pee.

Day 178, Mile 2546.7
October 16
Day Six of the Expedition.
Slept on snow but stayed warm. Did 13 miles today, 4000 feet of descent and 5800 up. We’re getting good at this whole winter camping thing- drying shit out in the sun at lunch, making fires to dry out shit at night.
We have one big climb tomorrow, Cloudy Pass, then we’re headed downhill to Rainey Pass and hotels and hot showers.

OB_tent_snow
Snow camping.

Day 179, Mile ???
October 17
The snow is disappearing quickly.
Hot Tub and Sweettooth got a fire going this morning to help us motivate to get up and out of camp.
About 35 miles from Hwy 20/Rainey Pass.  Two more days till we hit town.
Dry and happy, though fatigue is setting in.  Still good on food.

Day 180, Mile ???
October 18
Day Eight of the Expedition
15 miles of dirt. Took our time getting to High Bridge where, generally, you could catch a shuttle to Stehekin. But all that is closed now.
We’re all tired after this long stretch. But tomorrow is town.
We did it. We made it.

OB_hands&knees_WA
Back on dirt.

***The  conditions only got better along the 70 miles from Rainey Pass to the Canadian Border.
I reached the Northern Terminus of the PCT on the morning of October 26.  I finished with a handful of my closest friends from the previous six months.  It was the most surreal moment of my life.

OB_monument_solo
Coldsmoke at the border.

November 2
One week off trail.
Picking at my callouses in the bathtub. Developed over six months, layers upon layers of hardened skin. My big toe on my right food tingles more than it feels.

I’ve heard that, after doing any one thing for a thousand hours, you become proficient at that thing.  At an average pace of 2.5 miles per hour, walking 2668 miles would require 1067.2 hours. 133.4 days of walking, 8 hour shifts each day. My walking-hours were spread over a period of 186 days and, after all that, I can say I’ve become a proficient walker.

I spent my summer zigzagging up and over mountains with my head in the clouds.   To stay afloat, I broke it down, from months and thousands of miles, to days, minutes, sunrises, sunsets, water sources, lunches, snack breaks.  Broke it down to climbing and falling.  Now I understand. The balance and repetition, the congruence of the trail.

 

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5 thoughts on “PART TWO: 186 days in the woods”

  1. I thought I was impressed before you wrote this Alex, but now I am even more impressed, may amazed. though I knew your parents raised Hulu well, the determination & strength you possess is great to see. I am especially
    glad that Kevin was such a great of support for you. He Seems like such a good guy. Working through the times when people were quitting I know was very hard but I’m pretty sure you Re now thankful that you kept on. You should be so proud of yourself.

  2. I thought I was impressed before you wrote this Alex, but now I am even more impressed, even amazed. though I knew your parents raised you well, the determination & strength you possess is great to see. I am especially
    glad that Kevin was such a great support for you. He Seems like such a good guy. Working through the times when people were quitting I know was very hard but I’m pretty sure you are now thankful that you kept on. You should be so proud of yourself.

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