So, Backcountry Ninjas, the t-shirt company we’ve been developing along the road- from Montana to Texas to California to, as of tonight, Seattle- FINALLY has some GIRL STUFF.
We are now selling women’s athletic shirts, women’s cut-off t-shirts and PURPLE RAIN ADVENTURE SKIRTS, hand-made by our friend and fellow thru-hiker, Purple Rain, right out of Portland, OR.
As always, Backcountry Ninjas is devoted to the enjoyment and stewardship of nature and all it has to offer. For this reason we will always donate 7% of proceeds- 3% to each the Pacific Crest Trail Association and Appalachian Trail Conservancy, and 1% to a third, rotating charity, currently For Love Of Children.
We hope you are gearing up, wherever you are, for an awesome summer! Keep on rocking in the tree world!
Day 106, between Miles 1440 & 1470
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 ???
Walked 23 miles.
Red rocks, ridge-walking. White rock islands in a sea of green forest.
22 miles till Etna.
Day 116, Mile 1630
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
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.
Day 123, Mile 1725
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
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 ????
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 ????
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.
Day 134, Mile ????
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
Hit mile 2000 today.
Day 147, Mile 2142
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.
Day 150, Mile ????
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
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 ????
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.
Day 162, Mile 2,402
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.
Over 150 days since leaving the border.
Approximately 750,000 calories devoted to walking.
150 cat holes.
Day 165, Mile ????
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 ????
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.
Day 172, Mile 2,472
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
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 ????
Climbed over 3,000 feet, wore snow shoes for the first time, animal tracks everywhere, camping on packed snow, cold feet, no campfire.
Day 175, Mile ????
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
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 ???
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
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.
Day 179, Mile ???
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 ???
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.
***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.
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.
Guadalupe Peak, our last stop before leaving Texas, is the highest point in Texas, 8,749 feet. The trek to the summit, 8.4 miles round-trip, is a beautiful one with awesome views and 3,000 feet of elevation gain.
Guadalupe Peak Trail
View of El Capitan’s backside from the summit of Guadalupe Peak. Guadalupe Mountains National Park, TX.
Guadalupe Peak Monument
Exploring the fossil garden. Guadalupe Peak, TX.
The Guadalupe Mountains hold the fossils of an ancient marine reef, “El Capitan Reef”, spanning 400 miles. Up close, the fossils are amazingly intact and abundant.
Limestone layers, Guadalupe Mountains.
We camped right near the trailhead at the Pine Springs campground for $8. On our next visit, we’ll camp (with a free backcountry permit) at the awesome site just shy of the summit. The perfect vantage for the sunrise and set.
All in all, a wonderful send-off from the vast and varied state of Texas.
WAY DOWN SOUTH, turn at the little town of Marathon Texas, onto a road stretching towards Mexico. Lined by the barbed wire fences and branded gates of ranches, the black strip of asphalt has one intention: Big Bend. The subtle contours of Texas Hill Country, dotted with yucca blooms and tangled mesquite, are deceptive. Follow the road through the park entrance and the land transforms; slopes and ridgelines grow into breathtaking mountains and cliffs, the expanse of blue sky above enhancing their majesty.
The desert is a place of such wonder. Appearing unlivable, yet supporting an abundance of life that is so unique and perfected. Not only existing but thriving, parched and scorched and wind-weathered.
We spent four nights in this spectacular place and left with scraped-up legs, sun-reddened faces and the regret of leaving so soon.
Over a hundred million years ago it was all under water, a sea. Two different seas, actually, that came and went, leaving layers of limestone and fossils. These layers were exposed by the same tectonic disruptions that formed my beloved Rockies. The Mariscol Mountains in the south of Big Bend are the southernmost extension of the Rocky Mountain Range.
The park’s high and low points have a difference of nearly 6,000 feet, reaching 7,825 ft. at the summit of Emory Peak, and dropping to 1,850 ft. at the Rio Grande Village. The Chisos Mountains- rugged, reddish lava towers- are grouped in the park’s center. Emory Peak stands the tallest of these formations, severe slopes uniting at a jagged summit. Casa Grande, at 7,325 feet, acts as a formidable sentry, casting her shadow across the winding road leading to the Chisos Basin.
Big Bend’s disparate elevation and dynamic geological history fosters a variety of ecosystems and tremendous diversity amongst the resident flora and fauna. The park is a sanctuary for thousands of species, many of which are endemic and/or endangered. Plants range from Juniper and Oak trees to more than sixty species of cacti, from delicate wildflowers to viciously-spiked-and-barbed everything else. The animals include some 450 species of birds, of which we saw only a handful. Though cougars, bears and other creatures inhabit the park, we saw only jackrabbits, sprinting and springing across the gravely hills, and heard the wailings of coyotes in the early morning hours.
Claret Cup Cactus
Prickly Pear Cactus
Prickly Pear Cactus, buds
Prickly Pear Cactus, blooms
Purple Prickly Pear Cactus
Dr. Suess plant
Century Plant, blooms once in its life time
Funnel Web Spider
We find beauty within every inch of the natural landscape. Patterns, spiraled, spotted, layered; textures, smooth, curved, rugged. They catch the eye in a way modern-day clean-cuts and white-washings cannot; they captivate the mind erasing the droning, buzzing, beeping world of walls in which we eat, sleep and work.
In nature, we awaken and play.
WHERE WE WALKED
Buro Mesa Pouroff. 1 mile, round-trip. A fairly level path, across the sand, through the cacti, to a break in another one of Big Bend’s giant rock walls. Step down into the river bed and follow it back, the towering walls narrowing till they meet. We hear there can be water, but it’s bone dry. It’s left it’s mark over the years, a giant chute formed where the rock walls meet.
Emory Peak overnighter. Climb from Chisos Trailhead. After 4 miles, reach the saddle and spur trail to Emory Peak. The 1.5 miles to the summit ends in a technical rock-scramble to the top.
From Emory Peak, we coast down Boot Canyon to camp. It’s cool and lush and the setting sun illuminates the cliffs around us. Our camp is quiet and protected amids Oak, Juniper and Pinon Pines. Big Bend’s backcountry camps are complete with bear boxes and composting toilets.
The park service warns that there are no reliable water sources in the backcountry of Big Bend. Climbing out of Boot Canyon to the South Rim, Boot Creek is dry, a stream-bed of lava rock, polished and sculpted from past flows.
Morning view of the Sierra Quemada Wilderness, South Rim of the Chisos Mountain Range. The land, shaped by volcanic activity some 40 million years ago, was one of the last strongholds of the Apache tribe. The Chisos Mountains are thought to have inherited their name from the Apache word “chishe” meaning “people of the forest.” A windy day in Big Bend, the dusty haze lasts into the evening.
Return to Chisos Basin on the Laguna Meadow Trail, downhill all the way home. Makes for 16 miles round trip, a nice breaking-in for our legs and feet.
We can see Boquillas Del Carmen, a village across the border, i.e. across the Rio Grande. Stashes of hand-made walking-sticks and copper-wire figurines are tucked along trails and overlooks. The cardboard signs request money to bus the children of Boquillas to school. Buying such “contraband” is explicitely stated as illegal by the park service and federal government. Tourists can visit Boquillas through Big Bend with a passport.
Boquillas Canyon, accesible via an easy trail along the Rio Grande floodplain.
The hot springs are located in the Southeastern corner of the park. The ruins of an old hotel nearby, the rudimentary foundation built around the spring is dated 1912. Respite for weary bodies.
The short walk to the springs threads its way between the tall grasses bordering the Rio Grande and limestone walls where you can see ancient wall art mixed with modern vandalism. Art as defacement, defacement as art.
The setting moon illuminated by the rising sun. Morning at K-Bar 2, one of many primitive car camping sites. A $10 backcountry permit allows you as many nights at primitive and backcountry sites as desired.
Off-roading in the name of geology.
Walking through an old burn area, this nasty pierced through the sole of my shoe up on into my foot. Deep breaths.
Under two miles, the trail to the Santa Elena Canyon Overlook was one of the most serene and spectacular moments in the park. 1.8 miles round trip. Through tall grass to the river and the mouth of the canyon. Then up a few paved switchbacks with cacti jutting across the trail and fossilized seashells peeping out of the rock walls. A gradual descent on a sandy path to the river bank where you can sit and hear the river, watch the big birds circle above, see the sun shine on the rocks. The sediment in the water turns the river a murky, sea-foam green and the rocks of the canyon are smooth, as if polished.
Interpretive trail. Took the Lost Mine Trail a mile up to the saddle and turned onto a faint trail leading to Casa Grande.
The furious calm of the wild, so many sprouting, growing, blooming, dying, decaying things. Effortless transitions between states of being, occurring and intermingling. In every death there is life.
This entry is in memory of my late Aunt Deb. A woman unafraid to be smart, to be beautiful, to stand tall.
We made it! From Montana to the Gulf of Mexico, how sweet it is! Here is a jumbled look at the last few weeks as we’ve roamed the giant state of Texas. We’ve been so lucky to see all these beautiful things, even more so to visit so many good friends along the way. It seems that everywhere we’ve been, we are met with open arms.
Now, onward to Big Bend National Park! Yeeehaw!
View from the pier
Big dead fish
Mili out to sea
Little sea birdies, all in a line.
Beautiful Cousin Michelle and darling son Jesse
Iced over, Katy TX. We’ve dragged the cold from MT to TX. Sorry folks!
We’ve reached the Gulf of Mexico! South Padre Island, TX
Down Town San Antonio, TX
Courthouse, San Antonio
The Esquire. Dern Hipsters…
….but they make a dern good Old Fashioned
Alone in a sea of buildings.
Day hike, Hill Country State Natural Area, TX
30 Pack, Rampage and Moose. Hill Country State Natural Area, TX.