Pacific Northwest Trail; mile 637.4

Monday, September 9, 2019; day 51

I wake and turn within my sleeping bag. I am cold. It is hard to rise.

I sit on my wet socks to warm them. I am tempted to wear my relatively dry pair, but I know better. They would turn wet and cold the moment I put on my boots.

I plan to eat lightly today, and stop at the cabin in 10 miles.

A bird sings one simple, elongated note. It gives me comfort.

As I strap on my boots, I tell myself that being cold is not that bad. I tell myself that it makes being warm that much sweeter.

I was surprised at how emotional each glimpse of sun and blue sky made me. My gratefulness was like a sudden earthquake, shifting mountains deep within me.

To make these journeys successfully, I have to be both highly demanding and extremely nurturing towards myself. If I properly rationed, it was okay to take refuge for the night.

Mid-afternoon, I reached the cabins.

I explored them both. They were not maintained, but were still very suitable. The smaller cabin was preferable. I settled there.

There were two pieces of wood inside a metal bucket near the door.

I gathered scraps of paper and cardboard from inside the shelter, and old map and guidebook pages from my pack. I searched around for bits of sticks and wood for tinder. I placed my collection beneath the two pieces of firewood, within the wood-burning stove.

I lit the paper. I waited. I tried blowing life into the flame. I tried to create enough heat to catch the wood. I failed.

With a heightened sense of urgency, I moved about to collect more tinder. I pulled out the cardboard center from a roll of tin-foil. I ripped out the “recources” section of my guidebook, along with the back cover. I collected dry twigs from underneath the cabin. I told myself that there was absolutely no way that I should be unable to make a fire.

I poked and prodded and blew and rearranged.

Finally, the flames grew strong enough to consume the wood.

I changed out of my wet clothes and hung them fireside. I put my boots beneath the stove, and my sleeping bag on the floor beside it. I filled one of the pots on the cabin shelf with water and placed it on the stove top to boil. I wondered what I would have done if those two pieces of firewood had not been there. I have never chopped wood. I told myself I must learn how.

I stepped outside to relieve myself. A sound came from the distance. My first thought was cattle. Then I recognized two human formations approaching the cabin.

“Hi. How are you?” I asked.

“Happy to see these cabins” one replied.

I smiled. I felt awkward and antisocial. I had certainly not expected people.

I moved back inside. I shut and locked the door.

I positioned my things a bit more tidily in the corner, and peered through the peep hole.

One of them was taking a saw to a downed tree. It seemed they intended to build a fire in the other cabin.

Them going about their own business put me at ease. This allowed me to realize that warmth must be shared with all that are cold. I unlatched the door and stepped outside once more.

I initiated conversation and invited them in.

Doug and Devin were an uncle and nephew pair out for a few nights of backcountry bonding.

They were extremely kind, and were just as surprised to find me alone in the wilderness as I was to see them. They were the first hikers I had met on trail since Montana.

We all picked our wooden platforms for sleeping, and got comfortable.

I told them the story of my wet sleeping bag, and how I considered turning around; of how I still have 100 miles before I reached a point of resupply.

Devin gifted me his dry sack, Doug gave me a ration of food.

I was so grateful; not only for their amazing gifts–but for the warm conversation and genuine kindness, for kindred human company.

The cabin heated quickly. The fire crackled through the night. I fell to sleep safe and warm within a dry bag, a smile upon my face.

Pacific Northwest Trail; mile 627.4

Sunday, September 8, 2019; day 50

I am concerned with the potential difficulties of navigating in the rain. Fire damage throughout the Pasayten may pose challenging conditions: dead and downed trees, indiscernible trail.

There does not seem to be much elevation change moving forward. If I move quickly, maybe I can make it the 23 miles to the Old Tungsteon Mine cabins.

I make sure everything is in plastic bags. I fill up on water to full capacity and pre-soak a meal. I don’t want to stop until I set up camp, and I want to have enough water to camp at any moment. The frequency of listed campsites in the coming miles is comforting.

It may be a subconscious tactic towards survival, but it seems that post initiation one is always less afraid.

The birds sing and there is a light buoyancy to the air. I laugh at the appearance of my shadow.

I find relief in the clear orange blazing of The Chopaka Trail.

It is not long before the sky dims and the rain sets in. I had removed my base layers in the heat of the morning sun. Caught in shorts and a sleeveless top, I put on my rain skirt and rain jacket and continue.

As I hike, I offer self motivation: you have done this before; the weather is not scary; there is only one option: keep going– find a way–there is always a way.

***

I have set up camp in a dry pond bed, only 13 miles from where I began. Night has fallen. I am soaking wet. The cold rattles my bones. The rain did not cease until the sun no longer shone. I considered hiking in to the night but I was worried about staying warm. My fingers and toes burn as I hurried to pitch my tent, as I told myself it was okay to stop if I tried harder tomorrow.

I eat a dinner of cold mashed potatoes. I curl my body inward, within my damp down bag. My legs convulse involintarily. I am concerned. I check the weather with my satellite device. Tomorrow: 37 degrees and more rain. I am still 102.7 miles from a possible hitch in to town.

Should I have pushed further? Would I have been able to stay warm?

I marvel at the extreme change in weather. Usually there is some warning. I feel foolish and shocked. I was not physically or mentally prepared. My dry sacks have failed me. A wet down bag without an emergency bivy is extremely dangerous.

I suppose the transition from a hot valley road walk to 6,985 ft elevation within the rugged Pasayten Wilderness, is not so fluid.

I hope this weather is but a warning of what is to come, not what is here.

I curl into a ball. I watch my breathe in the light of my headlamp. For the first time on trail, I feel alone. I long for the heat of another. I think of what it would be like to cuddle a cow. I think of what it would be like to freeze, alone in the wilderness. I think about the danger of not being prepared for the cold. I wonder if I should turn back. Then I think of the cabin in 13 miles. I could make a fire. I could dry out my sleeping bag.

I think of the East Bank trailhead, just over 100 miles away.

You can make it there. Just make it there.

Pacific Northwest Trail; mile 614.0

Saturday, September 7, 2019; day 49

I rose and moved to collect water from Palmer Lake.

I filter while reviewing the guide book. Looks like the route soon becomes a “maze of fading old roads and cow paths” until it reaches Cold Springs , and the “jump off point to the Pasayten Wilderness”.

These confusing routes no longer stir fear in me.

I found I was rather talkative this morning; spouting my thoughts verbally to myself in silly voices, humming Nutcracker melodies.

I glance at the easily accessible water spigots protruding from the grassy private property nearby. The sprinkler had been left shooting streams of water all through the night, and continued rhythmically with the break of day. So interesting how we live, with “ownership” of land and water.

As I walk towards Toats-Coulee Road, the people are all smiles and waves and outhouse offerings. People seemed to know what I was up to.

I was not enjoying the lake water, however. Things lose their essence when they stop moving.

Thankful for the cloud coverage, I took a break just before climbing Chopaka Creek Road.

People do not seem to notice much that is not in their path.

I tie my bandana above my left knee. I consider how the simplest measure is often the most effective.

As I climbed the road, I heard ATVs pull up to the lot where I had just taken a break.

I stop to watch and listen.

One of them called out to another, “Hey, how fast can you go up here!?”

“As fast as ya want!” Said the other.

“I don’t know about that!”, the first replied.

“Hey! Watch out for me!” I called.

Judging by their lack of response, they did not hear me. I need to work on my ‘outside voice’.

I began to see the cattle gaurds as a form of childhood hopscotch… which I played often, and was getting rather good at it.

Found myself considering how beautiful this walk would be on a cool clear night.

I longed for the vibrancy of cold spring water.

At 1422, the thunder sounded.

I put on my pack cover.

All the ATVs zoom by me in a rush off the mountain.

I finally come to cold, flowing water. I stop to drink and collect and appreciate.

Cows gather at the cattle guard. Terrified at my approach, yet unable to cross the guard, I watch as they rush off to my left. One somehow pushes itself through a barbed wire fence.

The sky remains clear, giving me confidence as I approach the less discernable parts of the trail.

A rusted barbed wire catches my right leg, entangling as I walk. Surprised, I stop to free myself. Only scratches, no blood drawn.

I connect to a jeep road and continue. Unfortunately, I continued for too long. I was only supposed to follow the road for 300 yards. I turned back and found the correct junction.

I was running out of daylight.

The trail was very faint and difficult to follow in the dark.

I see bright flashes of light in the distance. Lightning. It is not followed by a sound, but strikes my nerves.

In just one more mile, I would come to a clearly defined forest service road.

There is another lightning burst.

The trail has faded away in the night. I am uncertain of where to turn.

Then, something catches my eye. Reflecting the light of my headlamp, is a cow patty. It points me in the direction of a cow path, and I find my way.

As I walk the forest service road, the moon calls my attention.

I stop and stare. I am flooded with joy.

Another flash of light fills the sky.

I am uncertain if I should continue further in to the night.

At 2204, I set up my tent at the Cold Springs Campground. My tent smells fresh, like dryer sheets. It is mold free, from the recent wash and dry.

At 2317, I heard the first drops of rain.

Vibrations of pain shoot up and down the bottom of my feet.

Tomorrow will be cold and wet.

At 0300 I woke to the loud cracking of thunder.

I listen as cows move about in heavy groups in the night.

Pacific Northwest Trail; mile 595.8

Friday, September 6, 2019; day 48

I checked out of the hotel, spent time at the library, and followed paved roads through town to join the Similkameen Trail.

The trail hugged the beautiful Similkameen River. It provided a nice dirt, then gravel pathway before joining Loomis-Oroville road.

Shortly after I joined the road, Border Patrol drove past. They turned around and parked beside me.

“Can I talk to you for a second?”, they said as they exited their vehicle.

“Sure.” I removed my sunglasses and walked towards him.

“Thank you” he said, and asked my name.

He introduced himself, and we shook hands.

He asked where I was from. I offered what I was doing.

He told me that smugglers of drugs, and human trafficking frequent this road. Now that he had my info–should he get a call concerning a pedestrian with a pack–he will know who I am.

He asked where I was headed that night. We discussed Miners Flats Campground, though I had the intention of going further.

As he drove off, I waved goodbye. He flashed his rear light in response. A quick red and blue farewell. This made me giggle.

The road was not busy. It was beautiful.

I howled. I laughed. I was happy to be on the move.

I untie the bandanna from my neck and tie it above my left knee.

I passed the Miners Flats Campground.

A second campground came in to view with the falling night.

I could not stop. There were hardly any cars, no grizzlies, a wide shoulder, clear skies, and I had walking to do.

Star-flames illuminate.

I notice a pair of headlights in the distance that were not moving.

There was a man outside the car, walking along the dry hillside. He was calling something out as he moved forward.

Did he lose his dog?

He continued in my direction.

As our paths nearly cross, I decide to vocalize my presence.

“Hello!?”

There is no response. Then I realize that the truck/pedestrian duo must be herding cattle.

I walked up to the parked truck and spoke with the elderly man in the cab. He told me that the cattle were on the wrong side of the cattle guard. They were trying to get them back where they belonged.

I mentioned to the man that I was hiking a long trail, and was just headed along the road until I found a suitable place to camp.

We both continued on our way.

A short while later a car pulled up and parked beside me. I walked up to the passenger door. Nothing happened. Peculiar.

I was confused as how to proceed.

Then the glass partition disappeared into the door.

“Sorry. I did not realize that I had not rolled down the window.” The man inside continued, “Dad said you were looking for a place to camp?”

I realized that I was speaking to the man from the hillside.

“Yeah. This road seems pretty safe to me, and the night is clear. I was planning on camping at the next campground.”

“That’s like 5 miles from here.”

“That’s okay.”

The man told me that he had some gated property up the road, just after passing the entrance way to Canada. I could stay there if I wanted. I would have it all to myself save for a couple cattle.

“If any one gives you trouble, just say ‘Dan said it was okay’. If they don’t know who Dan is, they have no business being there. Just make sure to shut the gate.”

I thanked him for the offer and continued.

There were not many cars on the road. The cars that did pass slowed nearly to a stop when they saw me.

As I entered the small community of Nighthawk (population: 5), I could hear loud, smooth, folk-y music play from a stereo.

I was curious. I noticed people socializing on a porch. I moved slowly, and tried waving. They were unresponsive. I suppose that was understandable. It was just around 2200, and I was not much more than an unidentified disturbing light in the distance.

I continue.

The dry grasses hiss like a snake at my ankles. It surprises me in to laughter.

Finally, I arrived to Palmer Lake Campground.

I found a little site near the entrance to star-camp for the night.

Pacific Northwest Trail; Oroville

Thursday, September 5, 2019; day 47

I headed towards town by 0720.

I did not quite feel welcomed. No one waved on the road. Not even when I tried initiating the gesture.

There was no warmth in the coffee shop.

I headed to the Camaray Motel.

My plan was to ask if I might pay for a shower and laundry, and have a look at the hiker box.

They were so incredibly friendly.

They brought out the hiker boxes and offered me coffee, and were very willing to let me use their facilities.

I thanked them for their kindness. I mentioned that I had not felt very welcome thus far in town. They were surprised by this, and suggested that it may be due to the homeless population. Also, many of the locals are not familiar with the trail.

As I was looking through the hiker box, a kind couple offered to cover the price of the room!

I was eager to get going, yet happy to accept the offer.

In the hiker box I found loaner clothes (skirt and top!), creamed coconut, nuts, and razors.

Back in the room, I decided to forgo using the razors. It would inevitably lead to an uncomfortable prickly phase. My body hair makes me feel more wild in nature and more rebellious before the eyes of town. I notice who takes notice.

I shower and put on the loaner clothes and head to the laundry room.

I wash all my clothes, my tent, my sleeping bag.

I resupplied, and repackaged.

I sewed two groupings of little stitches along my tent to keep my vestibule shut where the zipper had broken.

I watched the sky turn grey.

I felt shifty in the hotel room.

It was early morning before I slept.

Pacific Northwest Trail; mile 575

Wednesday, September 4, 2019; day 46

I woke to the soft humm of kitchen electronics.

I heated some water for my instant coffee.

I packed up, quickly left a note of thanks on the bulletin board, and was back on the road by 0730.

I turned on to Swanson Mill Road. The cows abounded.

I did not not feel like using my trekking poles. I tied my bandana above my left knee.

I walked an alternate along Mount Hull Road and reconnected with the PNT at Sullivan Lake Road.

Soon after, I joined Trail 100. The trail was maintained by backcountry horsemen.

Along the trail, I missed a fallen sign post and continued in the wrong direction.

I found my way back and joined the Whistler Canyon Trail.

The climb out of the canyon was rewarded with wonderful views.

I came around a bend, and was shown the little town of Oroville.

I wanted to camp as close to town as possible.

I found a flat spot with a bench .7 of a mile from US Highway 97.

Little cacti stick to my pack.

As the sun sets it becomes shady and beautiful.

I watch as the little buildings and houses light up below.

I feel like a silent watcher, viewing the town secretly from above.

The stars and moon greet me as I lay on the exposed rock, beneath their light, high above town.

Pacific Northwest Trail; mile 550

Tuesday, September 3, 2019; day 45

I woke to the sound of a car driving down the paved road behind me. So many car encounters on this journey. I went to retrieve my charger from the bathroom. It is now 0604, I am sleepy.

I begin to pack up my things and collect water from the campground spigot.

Soon Asa was packing up as well.

It felt nice to wake up in the company of another.

He took spoonfuls of peanut butter, and I drank an instant coffee/protein/maca shake as we sat around the picnic table.

Asa was familiar with the Pipsissewa Trailhead, and offered to walk me there.

We chatted a bit longer, exchanged contact information, and hugged goodbye.

“I always tell other cyclists to ‘keep the wind at your back!'”

“That’s a nice thing to say! Thank you!”

I wished him the best of luck in his amazing journey.

Then, we both set off!

I gazed down at Bonaparte Lake.

I travelled through a logging area, and a section where the trail had been cleared of many blowdowns.

As I hiked, I decided to follow the Original PNT Alternate. I would follow the Mount Bonaparte Trail, then join the Antoine Trail, which reconnects with the Primary PNT.

The trail was clear, and I was able to move quickly.

Soon the PNT briefly meets the little community of Havillah. There is a church there that is only .3 of a mile off of trail. It is said to be very hiker friendly, providing hikers with water and snacks and a place to camp. I hoped to make it there before dark. The miles immediately proceeding Havillah were roads, flanked by private properties.

Havillah is a beautiful little community.

As I approached the church, two graceful young bucks and a doe leaped over a distant fence.

The trail magic was more than I had anticipated. They had a little bulletin board at the side yard of the church, welcoming hikers to collect water and camp either outside, or inside the unlocked building.

I was elated.

It was dark, I moved around inside with the red light of my headlamp. Atop and inside the fridge were containers labeled “For PNT Hikers”. They contained a variety of snacks and food and fresh apples! There were even frozen meals for hikers, in the freezer! I could not believe it. It was certainly some of the best trail magic I had encountered on any trail. I was extremely grateful.

I enjoyed the fresh fruit and microwavable meal of quinoa and grains.

I placed my things to charge and set myself up for sleep on the soft carpet.

I fell to sleep in a space of good-heartedness, filled with thanks.

Pacific Northwest Trail; mile 530.2

Monday, September 2, 2019; day 44

I surfaced to consciousness with the lightening sky. So peaceful.

I turn to my side within my down cocoon and watch as the sun lifts and expands its radiant light.

I packed up quickly. I was still interested in visiting the Bonaparte Lake Resort, 15 miles away. I had read that they offer free showers to hikers.

I was glad I had stopped a bit short and slept within the woods. It coos my drive and motivation…unlike paved roads; like those I was about to hike along.

I began the descent towards Cougar Creek Road.

An owl soars within my line of path. Graceful in its heavy silence, it lands on a branch ahead.

I joined the road, and as expected, cut through private property.

I could see a group of people gathered in chairs around a fire. There were beautiful tapestries of cool colors and moonscapes.

One person who was seated, turned and looked my way.

“Hello” I say. “Sorry, I think the trail goes through here…”

“It does”, replied a woman standing beside the tapestries and make-shift kitchen.

The woman introduced herself as Lynn, and offered me a hot cup of coffee.

I never refuse a cup of coffee.

I removed my pack and sipped the hot beverage and chatted with Lynn and Jay and their loved ones. They had purchased the property a while back, and they were slowly moving in. I asked her how she felt about the trail running through their yard. She said that she did not mind the hikers, that it was the hunters that left trash.

I left the encounter smiling.

I continued along the roads.

The air is dry. Locusts cause crackling sounds in the brush. Sweat drips off my body. I dream of a shower.

I move along the pavement, a wavy being wading through heat induced delirium.

I turn on to Bunch Road, greeted by cattle and blinding white gravel.

I close my eyes and lilt as I walk.

Eventually I joined a forest service road. The road was slightly overgrown, which made for a pleasantly cushy, shaded hike.

I soon hit the asphalt of Bonaparte Lake Road and headed to the resort.

I bought a 35 cent bar of soap, and was told where I could find the shower.

A very social guest of the resort spotted my pack and told me that there was someone travelling by bike out on the patio. “Why don’t you go say “hi”, she encouraged.

I instantly knew it was the bike-packer I had seen earlier.

I went to the patio and introduced myself to Asa.

We chatted for a long while around a table on the deck of the restaurant, then we returned to his camp site and chatted some more. We spoke of our journeys (he had started in DC and was also travelling to the coast), and how one seems to enter the travelling community when they pursue these adventures more than once.

We relayed fresh stories of adventure as I let my external battery pack charge in the nearby public restroom.

We spoke of the mantras we repeat to ourselves, and how the locals have been friendlier to him since he started wearing a camo hat.

Asa paused in conversation and looked to the surface of the picnic bench where we sat. “We have certainly covered this table, haven’t we!?” We both looked at the bottles and plastic baggies and maps and sleeping pads that sat in disheveled display. We both began laughing hysterically. My eyes began to water and my belly ached. It was the hardest I had laughed in some time.

I decided to accept his offer to stay at his site. I star-camped, gazing at the night sky and listening to the beautifully haunting call of loons on the lake.

It was the first night I had spent on trail in the intentional company of another.

Pacific Northwest Trail; mile 515.5*

Sunday, September 1, 2019; day 43

I rose at 0600; began hiking at 0730.

I would stop back in to Republic today. With such a slow start en route to Oroville, my food stock would not comfortably carry me the remaining 77 miles.

I feel a bit silly, as I spent so much time there a few days ago, but it seems to me the smartest option. The hitch is close, and I know what they have.

As I walk, I hear the sound of a chainsaw . A figure in the distance plays catch with a lab. Two young men stand beside a pick-up truck.; two more are on the hillside with a saw.

I moved towards the truck and addressed one of them curiously “Are you cutting downed trees for fire wood?”

I could feel his friend staring at my legs. Most likely the dirt…and the hair so long it lays flat against the skin.

“Yeah, and sometimes we cut down dead ones, like that one.” he said, pointing.

“Isn’t that dangerous?”

He shrugs. “We grew up doing it.”

I smile. I respond when they ask my story. I continue to walk.

Oh, my life seems it has been filled with so much road, and only hints of trail!

Cows and calves run down the road ahead of me. It saddens me, how much a domesticated creature fears humans.

I reached Highway 20, just before the Sweat Creek Traihead.

I stuck out my thumb. Soon a truck stopped for me and I was storefront in Republic.

I notice a bike leaning near the front entrance of Anderson’s Grocery. It had a Therm-a-Rest mattress strapped above its rear tire, and two bright orange saddle bags on either side. It was exciting to see signs of other travellers.

I moved in and out of the grocery store quickly. I sat storefront and made peanut-butter/raisin/tortilla rolls.

I did not feel judged. Most people smiled as they passed. Some people engaged me.

As I moved towards the eastbound entrance to highway 20, I saw the bike-packer. So swiftly and fluidly he rolled on to the freeway entrance. I thought to call out “where ya headed?!” but my voice would have been lost in the space between us. I watched him glide away, admiring his ability to move in and out of towns so quickly, so independently. I found myself slightly disappointed that I had barely missed an opportunity to connect.

I picked my post and stuck out my thumb. Only 5 minutes or so had passed before a man I had chatted with earlier that day drove up. He was on a return trip to his campsite after a town run. I smiled widely when I recognized him. I hopped in the back of the pick up truck. Oh, how I adore sitting in the open truck bed of a pick-up, wind pushing against my existence in recognition of my reality, the scenery whizzing by!

I saw the bike-packer. He was focused, struggling to make it up the hill. Now I was the one moving so swiftly. I gave him a wide-arching wave as we passed.

Three hours in and out of town, and I was back to where Highway 20 meets the Sweat Creek Trailhead.

It was very hot.

I joined the trail. It began with a steep climb.

Sweat drips from my forehead. The wind blows. I am enveloped in a sweet sensation, and I smile.

I continue.

The climb grows steeper. Suddenly a motocross bike zooms down. We nearly collide.

I stand beside the trail, waiting to let all pass.

The third rider was surprised by my presence. He –very slowly– ran his bike in to a tree. It was not enough to cause injury. We both saw it coming as he wobbled on his machine in slow motion. It did jar him off his seat a little, clearly causing some embarrassment. “I’m sorry” he said as he stabled his body and bike.

“No. Don’t be. You certainly did not expect anyone to be standing here.” I then apologized, for startling him.

As we both stood there, the last rider appeared. We all chatted briefly and then went our way.

The hike was hot and dry; all golden grasses and clear skies and beauty.

I collected from a spring and ventured forth.

The sun was soon to set. In just a few miles, the PNT would connect to Cougar Creek Road. I had read that shortly after joining the road, the trail travels through private property. There would likely not be any place to camp.

I found a lovely little flat space just before the descent. I spread out my tarp and sleeping mat to lay beneath the stars.

* NOTE: Mileage on the Guthook Application and in the PNT Guidebook no longer match the PNTA Mapset. For continuity, I will continue to refer to the mileage listed on Guthook and the guidebook. The difference is roughly 5 miles (PNTA Mapset mileage for this post is ~521)