Pacific Northwest Trail; mile 75.6

Thurs, July 25, 2019 day 5

It is 0849. I have only just risen and relieved myself.

I hear the crunching of footsteps. I peer through the netting of my tent. A man, around my age, no pack, staring at his phone, heading southeast along Hay Creek Road/PNT. He did not even glance this way; did not feel my stare. They were too busy glancing at their phone.

I have been feeling a little off lately. I think it is just my body adjusting. They did not have a filter replacement to my liking at the Mercantile. I will have to get one somewhere up the road.

It sounds like traffic is picking up. It was time to move.

As I organized my maps for the day, I discovered that I had accidentally tossed the next 50 miles. I am carrying the entire mapset with me. I folded the upcoming portion while at Mercantile to be more accessible, then accidentally threw them out with old ones. It’s just 50 miles, I told myself. Learn from this.

I packed up my things and made iced coffee with protein powder. I shake it in my almond butter jar and it develops a frothy texture (delicious).

I think of the relationships I have forged while hiking other long-trails.

It is already 1039. Though I must still mind time strongly in relation to changing seasons, the wilderness seems to be the one place where I can begin to wrap my mind around the idea that time is illusionary, non-linear. Just keep walking.

Drivers on the roads don’t crane there heads or gawk; they acknowledge and wave.

I found that it was not uncommon, after telling a Montana-born individual that I am originally from California, to receive the response “…well, we won’t hold that against ya.”

I think of people’s experience venturing someplace new. I think of what is accepted in certain regions as opposed to others. I think of recognition, followed by either accceptance, indifference, or rejection of something different than oneself.

Road walking empty gravel leaves lots of space for thoughts.

I experience physical discomfort, but I am happy. I wonder which would be amplified if I were hiking with a partner: discomfort, or happiness. I wonder if I could ever hike a long-distance trail with a romantic partner. Surely, I could. Would we each need our own tents? Certainly so.

Though I shift beneath my pack uncomfortably, from time to time, overall the weight feels easier to carry. It could just be the level nature of the road.

I spot faint signs of hikers that have walked the road before me. Slightly worn paths appear in roadside fields, or beneath a bridge and leading upstream for water collection. It makes me feel connected to a traveling network much larger than myself. Though I am physically singular, in another sense, I am not travelling alone.

I begin to miss the beauty of Glacier, of hiking through the wildnerness. Despite the roadwalk, I am in love with the feeling of independence and anonymity. I am unaccounted for, no mandated designations or obligations. My world is vast. I am a speck floating freely on the breeze in the sun.

I take roadside rest in the relative shade.

I spot cairns that help confirm my way.

I think of the term “thru-hiker”. How hiking the Pacific Northwest Trail almost seems to imply a “thru-hike”. The PNT is not one trail, but the network by which many trails and roads connect. I find it’s slightly fragmented nature, a beautiful challenge.

…more roads, and a landscape filled with thoughts.

I’m not sure how to express what I am feeling. I am everywhere and no where. I am centered yet beautifully scattered, sensing everything with such intensity. Meeting the sun and the earth and the wind and the rain. Meeting the journey. Floating above high velocity, I feel I am in my element. I feel I am home.

I think of four days from now. When I’ll have hopefully made it to the town of Eureka. To a bed, a shower, a mirror. I will meet my society self. I wonder if I’ll have something to teach them.

Then, I reached Hay Creek Trail.

The wildflowers and the breeze and the cream colored butterflies and the sway and the distant creek–I am intoxicated. I can’t help but slow my steps. One must honor such beauty.

Heaving bodies of small birds shuffle through the foliage.

The trail ends abruptly in brush and dirt and clearing: the “Hay Creek Trail u-turn”. The trail now heads southwest. I stop in an opening at the turn. I unfold my mat. I recline. Flat back on mat and earth and stone. I stare at the clouds. Two large ones, wispy at their edges, move swiftly to the northeast. I feel my bones, my muscles, my fatigue. The breeze kisses my skin. I breathe deeply. This is what rest should feel like.

I connect to the Whitedish Divide Trail #26.

Oh my beautiful bear grass!

I hide my skin from mosquitos, wrapping myself in a rain jacket and skirt. This provides significant relief.

My path turns from trail to road and back again. I chose to follow the primary PNT route.I collect water from what I understand to be the final reliable source for the next 12 miles. In total I have 5 liters.

I reach a big open lot by nightfall. It is near the next trail junction. I will find my way in the morning. I will sleep in the dirt lot.

The stars have asked me to sleep, unobstructed, beneath them. I cannot help but comply.

This is the first night I will sleep without a tent in “bear country”. I have my ice axe beside me. My bear spray is steadied in a boot, unhinged and ready for deployment. Though these formalities are comforting, deep down I know I will be alright.

The night is so still and clear, not even the sound of a stream, not even a breeze! The silence! The stars!

I hear something in the distance. My heart pounds. Relax. Of course there are other things out here.

I gaze at the Milky Way. I can hear the stream, now.

Oh, the brilliance of those fiery stars! A fantastical display, circularly framed by the far reaching silhouettes of pines.

Beneath them, I slept.

I opened my eyes in the middle of the night. I heard heavy steps in the distance. I shined my headlamp towards my food bag that was secured to a distant tree. Nothing. I scanned the woods behind me. Nothing.

I began to drift off once more.

The stars seemed to sing: now sleep Earthling, sleep.

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